Word of the Week

Who doesn't like to fast forward?

I think one of the greatest inventions in television is the DVR box that comes with most standard cable subscriptions for an extra $10 or so a month.

With it, no longer do you have to watch commercials you don't like, or any commercials for that matter.

You don't even have to be at home to watch your favorite shows, as long as they are set to record.

And best of all, the days of spousal fights over who controls the remote are over. With the gift of the record feature, both you and your partner can watch what you want-- just maybe not at the same time.

But before I sound too much like an ad for a cable company, hang with me-- a point is coming.

Not only do so many of us have DVR or other recording devices boxes in our homes, but I think there is something about the fast forward feature that has taken over more than just our television remote controls. We live in a world-- in our place of privilege in a country like America-- where we get the luxury to fast forward through parts of our lives that we don't like.

Some parts of life are easy to fast forward through if we just apply ourselves.

Calling ahead for seating at restaurants to avoid the wait at the door.

Filing our taxes online to avoid the wait on April 15th at the post office.

Earning miles or signing up for reward programs with airlines to avoid the wait in the security lines.

Other parts are more difficult.

Sir, we've found a spot of cancer in your lungs.

Miss, we think your child is going to have to repeat the 3rd grade.

No, dear, I just don't think we're ever going to get married.

But regardless of the circumstances rarely do we ever want to sit with annoyance, traffic jams, or life altering news longer than we have to. We have to get on to the next thing. We are ready to get on to the next thing. We want the fast forward button to help us. Sometimes we eat too much, drink too much or sleep too much in an attempt to get there faster.

I think this is the same way that most Christians feel about Holy Week. We want the fast forward feature. Where is it?

We've just experienced the highs of "Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" from Palm Sunday. And if we go to worship on Easter we'll be asked to exclaim, "Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed! hallelujah!" Happy stuff, right?

But what about Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday in between?

Though I'd very much like to fast forward through the hard stuff of holy week: taunting, betrayal, hopelessness, pain, suffering and abandonment, I don't think as Christians that we can. Our story is as much about the hard stuff as it is the joy. And so, this week:

We are asked to sit with Jesus in the upper room when Judas betrays Jesus for some silver coins.

We are asked to stand with Jesus as Peter deigns that he knows Jesus three times.

We are asked with Jesus as he takes the cross to Calvary-- to die upon a trash heap for criminals.

We are asked to observe the pain in Jesus as he cries out to God, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

We are asked to wait with the sobbing women on Saturday as their Lord has died and they have no clue what to do next.

Intense, right? Yet, we can't just fast forward through this emotional journey. We must set aside holy time to live it. There's so much to take in as we go one step at a time.

My world is the fast paced, traffic filled, takes you 45 minutes (if you are lucky) to get on the other side of town environment of DC. It's a world of people who are savvy and excited about enjoying life. It's a world of independent, overachievers who want to make a difference in something that they believe in. It's a world where at every point you turn around you'll find a room full of overcommitment people multitasking. (Seen anyone at dinner with a cell phone in hand lately?)

The energy that surrounds my city is contagious.  Not only is DC a populated urban area, but politics is a part of life in everything that happens around town. It draws you in quickly and invites you to join its own rhythm as it did for me the first time six years ago in the summer of 2005.  Living in a city and region such as this is truly exciting, no matter what party is in office! There's always such fun things to do. There's always such fun folks coming through town. It's a great place to live . . . don't get me wrong.

Yet, with all of this being the case, I've been pondering lately how the lifestyle of "every weekend booked weeks in advance" "working every night until 8" and "a day off, what is that?" is simply too much.

This spring I've had the opportunity to travel more than normal-- both for professional events and vacation-- each of these trips which just happened to be in peaceful places: Sedona, AZ, in the mountains of Ashville, NC and then recently to Harper's Ferry, WV. Being in a place where you can hear the birds and see the rich colors of the trees and stare up at the brightest blue sky, has slowed me down to the point of being reminded that DC culture of let's out achieve everyone else is just not normal. And, it might be too much.

From the pastoral lens that I see life through, I know that God has called each of us to life that is abundant. Not abundant in the sense of getting everything we want like some tv preachers are frequently speaking about, but having a life that is rich in relationships, rich in quiet time, rich in jubilation, rich in contributions, and rich in time to process life's harder moments. But, finding balance in all of this and being in an emotional and spiritual place to receive it, takes having "time out" days that grow into "time out" lifestyles. For simply learning part of what it means to be human is realizing our limitations.

Limitations is not something that the idealistic crowd and the churches that pastor such folks often want to hear, but it is true. Unless you or I woke up this morning and found out that our name was God, the truth is that we can't do everything our heart desires even if the desires are seemingly good.

So many folks in this town take to heart the words of Gandhi who said, "Be the change that you want to see" thinking that this means we have to be EVERY change we want to see and then proceed to tire ourselves out with more than we can really do that well anyway. Yet, does it have to be like this?

Based on our life situations and personalities, all of us have a pace that is comfortable for us, even if our employer, family or friends seek to run faster, longer and harder than we ever could.  A focused life of simplicity is a courageous choice and comes as we are ok in running our race differently. Are we able to seek out our own abundance even as others might look at us at committed, lazy or unavailable?

Because in the end, we might just realize that in answering invitations to go and do by saying, "No, it's just too much for my week" we find the freedom to actually enjoy the life we are currently living.