Word of the Week

Have you ever found yourself in a place where your own advice or bossiness has come back to annoy you?

Maybe your child or friend reminds you of something you said when you thought they weren’t listening. Or, for a public speaker like me—it’s haunting to have your thoughts “on the record” because you never know when a friend or colleague is going to offer your own words back to you. Trust me it has happened. MANY TIMES. (Laughing out loud)

To this quandary enter our word of the week: humility. A word that means a modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance or rank.

As a child I was taught to be humble is to be quiet, small, and not get in the way of the men in charge.

But the older I got, I realized that such teaching was a tool of the patriarchy meant to silence voices that are not of the majority opinion.

This kind of humility is not what am I talking about today.

Rather, I want you to think about humility as a tool in our lives that offers us perspective-- perspective to see beyond what is in front of you, perspective to know who you really are, perspective to live honestly.

How often have you gotten an idea in your head about your life that you were so sure about, but then as time unfolded things didn't go exactly as you planned?

How often have you proclaimed a belief with gusto only to find yourself later questioning what you offered so passionately?

How often have you had good intentions, but then failed those who needed your love and support the most?

We are ALL on a journey. We are all doing the best we can.

We are all making mistakes that can hurt others, even unintentionally.

We all start down roads only to find our lives taking turns we might not have ever expected. We all fail at relationships. We all say the wrong things at the wrong times sometimes.

Humility is a way of life where we acknowledge this. Humility gives us and others permission to be HUMAN.

As you seek to walk in humility this week, I'm wondering what do you need to tell the truth about?

Where do you need to say, "I'm sorry" or "I'm doing the best I can?"

Where do you need to forgive a friend or family member for not being what you hoped they would be for you?

Because here is what I know: when you live with this kind of humility your life gives permission to those around you to be just as they are!

And how beautiful communities full of people like this can be-- I certainly want to take my place among such a community. What about you?




A whole new way of looking at "my labor" came many years ago when a friend introduced me to a quote from Barbara Brown Taylor's book, Leaving Church.

"The call to serve God is first and foremost the call to be fully human."

I copied it right away from the email she sent and put it on the bulletin board above my desk at the office.

I looked at it often trying to figure it out in my own context of professional ministry. What did responding to the call "to be fully human" mean?

I wasn't quite sure, but I loved the idea of letting the competing forces as a minister go-- the stuff I did on "church days" vs. the stuff I did on "off days."

I loved the idea of more balance, more harmony in how I moved from task to task (not just the ones I was "paid" for).

Sure, I had a job description and goals, but could being a human being be my life goal? Because I liked being a human being who was also a minister, not just all those piled on expectations.

So, just for kicks I tried an experiment of living by these words. This is what I noticed:

Bottom line: more of us ministers need to let our humanness show.

And I don't think this lesson is exclusive to pastors. Maybe it is a call to all people of faith.

If you want to serve God-- be a human being!

But instead these are the messages that the church is known to project:

"Oh no, don't join Rotary Club. That will take time away from the Property Committee at the church."

"Oh no, don't serve as a PTA mom at your child's school. That will mean you can't come to the women's Bible Study on Tuesday mornings."

"Oh no, don't give your money to Habitat for Humanity. That will mean less money you can give to the church."

But why does it have to be so much of an either/ or?

Yes, Christian community is important. Yes, being a part of worship on a regular basis helps us give God, God's proper place in our lives. Yes, the sacraments are important and the work that can only be done in the church.

But, there's a great big ole world out there. And if we're trying to be human, we've got lots of ground to explore, people to visit, and moments of rest to take (because God took days off too).

Serving God is not a check box that will fulfill solely within the confines of any church activity. It's a way of life.

It's how we treat people.

It's how we show up for people.

It's how we use our time and resources to move forth good things in the world both for others and ourselves.

It's how we say we're sorry (because we all make mistakes).

And it's how we give ourselves a break.

We're only just human after all.

Let me introduce you to a great story of what the ministerial life is all about from my pastor and writing friend MaryAnn. Check it out here:

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/35585025]

After watching it again this week, I was reminded again of one of my favorite Barbara Brown Taylor quotes from her book Leaving Church:

“. . . the call to serve God is first and last the call to be fully human . . . Like every believer I know, my search for real life has led me through at least three distinct seasons of faith, not once or twice but over and over again. Jesus called them finding life, losing life, and finding life again, with the paradoxical promise that finders will be losers while those who lose their lives for his sake will wind up finding them again.”

How are you being human this week?

A season of Sabbath is upon me and I'm gonna take a nap. Might even turn off my phone next week . . .