Thank you to Gisy for sharing this amazing song with us.
Thank you to Chad for bringing us these messages from home and continuing our study of Ruth.
Thank you to Gisy for sharing this amazing song with us.
Thank you to Chad for bringing us these messages from home and continuing our study of Ruth.
I have a very good friend who said to me, “You know, I’ve noticed you do a lot of things out of a reaction to past experiences.”
Or I should say “I used to have a very good friend who…” because when he threw such a mean-spirited, judgmental hand grenade at me, I did exactly what we’re all supposed to do: run like crazy in the other direction. He should’ve known better, we don’t have time for this sort of closed-minded attack. He’s obviously a bad guy, right?
OK, that’s not true at all. I mean, my response isn’t true. What he said is absolutely right on. I do. It didn’t feel nice to hear.
My posture as a man, husband, and father began as a Costanza-esque commitment to “do the opposite” of my dad. [My perspective has since changed with age, maturity (which is clearly not the same as simply being alive longer), understanding, and grace.] I bristled at the Bridge being called a church for years, so much baggage comes with such a small word. I wouldn’t allow anyone to refer to me as its pastor. Again, a word that carries such heavy baggage from those who have done such damage and misused the position and influence. And the biggest sacred pillar for me was money. The business of God was always so gross to me, it’s the primary reason I ran from God for the first 20 or so years of my life. If you’ve had your eyes open, you’ve heard stories of churches placing dollars before people and buildings before God. I never even wanted to take an offering at all! We don’t mention our orange box and certainly don’t “pass the plate.”
There are a thousand things to find in this small interaction between my friend and I, outside of what he actually said.
I am thankful that I have a friend that is so committed to my growth that he would take the risk. It’s a vulnerable and frightening position that can (and has, as I can personally attest) result in a broken relationship. As we talk so often about, what weighs more; the relationship, superficial and suppressed, or each other’s growth, honest and accountable? I am thankful that he chose me over some watered down and ultimately dismissive version of me.
I am also thankful that Jesus has taken my hand and led me, kicking and screaming, with the help of people like my friend, into a space where satisfying my ego and pride, selfishly protecting the status quo in my own life, isn’t my first priority. It is still sadly a priority I cling to, I’m sure, it’s just not the first anymore. But He has pursued me until I could run no longer and is inviting me daily into a brand new reality.
That’s 2, 998 more to go. Maybe next time.
It’s difficult breaking down patterns in our lives, whether they’re patterns built to expand our arrogance and/or hold fast to the past experiences that we have chosen to define our present and future. This breaking down is terrifying, and nothing that should be done alone. I pray we all have friends like mine, and I pray that we recognize these unicorns for what extraordinary creatures they are.
Yesterday, in the message, I spoke of the concept of alchemy that I heard from Rev. Lydia. Today I want to share her post that deals with that. (If you want to follow her, it’s revlydia.com, and she’s AWESOME.) I changed the format of the poem at the end to better fit this space. I hope you love all of this like I do.
“During this season of Lent, a discipline of not gathering with others has been imposed upon all of us. Regardless of whether or not some of us are introverts, humans are pack animals in that we are most happy when we are connected with others. And for a lot of my congregants for whom Sunday morning church is their one weekly opportunity to see and touch others, isolation is more dangerous for their health than any disease.
But many of you who’ve been reading my writing for a while know that I believe we need to learn the art of alchemy to experience continual joy in our lives, especially in the most dire of circumstances. I share about this in my blog post here, in my marriage essay here, and in my workbook, Elevate Your Joy and Purpose here.
So if I ignite my powers as an alchemist, I can already see the base metal turning into gold by recognizing the following gifts within this situation:
• We have to slow down.
• We get to spend more time with our families. My friend told me that this lockdown has facilitated such good conversations with her husband, reminiscent of their dating years before the chaos of children and careers rushed in.
• We realize how deeply connected the entire globe is to one another.
• We travel less, hopefully making less impact on our environment by reducing our carbon footprint.
• We can get our house in order by doing some organizing, cleaning, etc.
• We can reach out to one another in creative ways.
A congregant sent me this moving poem along this exact theme.
Pandemic What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath— the most sacred of times? Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling. Give up, just for now, on trying to make the world different than it is. Sing. Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life. Center down. And when your body has become still, reach out with your heart. Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful. (You could hardly deny it now.) Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. (Surely, that has come clear.) Do not reach out your hands. Reach out your heart. Reach out your words. Reach out all the tendrils of compassion that move, invisibly, where we cannot touch. Promise this world your love– for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, so long as we all shall live. -Lynn Ungar 3/11/20”
There will be NO Bridge community events or activities (No Sunday services, No book studies, etc) until further notice.
*These are interesting times and, while religious services do not fall under last night’s wider shutdown, just because we can doesn’t mean we should. So, sadly, we think it is the wise and responsible thing to do to temporarily suspend our gatherings. Please listen to the experts and agencies and stay inside, as much as you can. This is not forever. I am hopeful that after we see an expected rise in cases, we will see that the measures taken will result in less and less impact and we’ll back to our lives.
But for now, going forward as a community…
*Sunday at 10:30am, I will give the next message in the Ruth series as planned on 3 platforms: Facebook Live (on the Bridge Faith Community page), YouTube Live (on my ‘personal’ page – search Chad Slabach and you’ll see the Bridge logo), and we will record the audio as usual and post on the website afterwards. It might look and feel different, and I hope it’s something I don’t get time to get too polished on, but for now, we’ll keep moving forward there.
*I think it’s REALLY important in times like this (though there aren’t too many ‘times like this,’ are there?) to stay connected, as much as we can, and continue our spiritual growth, continue to encourage each other and be this community. We’ll all go through many different emotions and, though we are apart, we don’t have to be isolated.
That’s all for now. Join me at 10:30 Sunday morning and we’ll continue our dive into these beautiful Scriptures and, in particular, this book of Ruth that has already given us so much.
Stay safe!!! Love. Peace. chad.
P.S. I’ll include, from my last email, a message about what we can do in the midst of this uncertainty: “But do try to stay connected; reach out, call someone, send emails, any way you can, avoid the isolation and loneliness that can come in times like this. Stay connected to your families, your church brothers and sisters, co-workers, neighbors. Take the time. Read your Bible, write in a journal, watch a Facebook Mini, start a book (even one that may or may not be called Chronicles, Nehemiah, and Other Books Nobody Reads;), play a game, listen to new music, eat some great food, call someone, write me a nice long email about you, sleep, exercise, eat well, drink water, and of course, wash your hands, be mindful and present, give yourself a break, give yourself permission. I don’t believe this State of emergency is the “new normal” at all, but I think that sort of connection and care should be. I hope I see you often and hear from you often-er.”
After a desperately needed week off – though it wasn’t a week free of drama and chaos, it was a week off from this space. I do love this space (the imaginary blog space and the psychological space of work, as well as this actual physical space of chair and computer) but stepping away gave me the opportunity to respond quickly and without reservation. It gave me the opportunity to answer the phone and quickly say yes, and that is something we (at least that I) don’t get the freedom to do nearly enough.
I’ll touch on last week soon enough, but I do want to dive into the Visio Divina poem from 2 weeks ago. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please take a second to read my last post, ‘This Branch.’)
So. This branch – “This branch is blowing, sometimes gently, sometimes violently, moved, led, a dance of differing tempos. This branch, before the cool gray shy and behind the jarring, out-of-place power lines, connected to the tree, (the Vine), healthy, crisp, bright, refined, bending, swaying, it is beautiful, an extension of the tree, it’s very nature is, here, now, lovely. As it is.” – is me. You. Him. Her. Us. We are beautiful, lovely, at our deepest essence. Exactly as we are. (Despite the lies we believe distance us and make us something less, we remain made in the image of God, after all, made in, by, and for, love. As Rise Against sings, “We are far from perfect, but perfect as we are. We are bruised, we are broken, but we are ** works of art.”) Exactly as we have been created, joined, connected to the Tree that gives us life and vitality. We are acted upon by our environments, consisting of the world around us. This takes many forms, none intrinsically good or bad, like neighbors, work, viruses, winter, pizza, sex, money, the ocean, etc. The environment that blows us, weathers us, and threatens to sever us from the Tree that sustains us as it reminds us again and again that we are these amazing works of art.
Now, the condensation: “But a stripe from the window, a separation, condensation (cold meeting warm leaving unwelcome evidence of the battle on the glass) cuts through the branch, blurs, dulls, smears, makes the concrete abstract, changes perception, confuses, redefines the branch, the branch loses it’s essence, unrecognizable.” As the environment simply exists, it can engage with itself or other environments in many ways, some of them in conflict, which can change the perception we have of ourselves. We become unrecognizable (I mis-typed and was corrected to “unrecognized” but that is no correction at all, it’s 100% wrong. The Tree recognizes us, no matter where we are, how far we go, or how much condensation separates us.) and confused. We own the notion that we are re-defined by this blur, so we re-define ourselves, which encourages us to re-define others, as “sinners,” or some other broad-sweeping generalizations that reduce the beauty of the branches and the Tree for one unfortunate aspect or behavior.
I don’t have any idea how coherent this explanation of this Visio is…probably not very. Maybe it’s so difficult to convey because any revelation, any truly soul-altering experience, is ultimately a personal exchange between you and the Divine. An intimate moment beyond words… that we try to use words to catch and maybe in the attempt to capture, loses its nature or its heart.
Maybe I should delete this whole thing, maybe sharing it profanes it’s purity. But you already know I won’t. I won’t delete it because maybe its purity is instead magnified in the overwhelming goodness of a God who would meet us in a branch and smudge on a window. So, on that chance, I will post it gladly, in all of its jumbled inadequacy, His goodness displayed in my weakness, as a Word Offering (like a drink offering of the Old Testament) to the God that so thoroughly provides.
Thank you Sue Eikenberry for bringing us this message on community. It was great to have you and your husband with us this morning.
So, there is a bunch of uncertainty in the world and that is impacting every facet of our lives. I just want to be clear and open in regard to our community.
We WILL meet tomorrow at 10:30am and our guest speaker WILL be there. If it’s not wise for you to come, we will post the message immediately after service so you can hear her message (I can’t wait to hear what she has for us!). However, there will be some noticeable changes. We are a community that gives lots of hugs and we will not do that for the next few weeks. We will be respectful and intelligent relationally in regard to touch and space. Every week, we end in a prayer where we “grab each other” (i.e. hold hands in a nice big circle), we will not do that for the next few weeks, either.
There are a few things I’d like to say about all of this.
I will be active on our social media outlets. We may have extra time, enjoy it – read your Bible, write in a journal, watch a Facebook Mini, start a book (even one that may or may not be called Chronicles, Nehemiah, and Other Books Nobody Reads;), play a game, listen to new music, eat some great food, call someone, write me a nice long email about you, give yourself permission, live.
We want to be responsible AND we refuse to live in fear, and I think in our community and our lives, that can look different for each of us. No one knows how to operate in something like this, there is no blanket guidebook, so we will step gently. In your own lives, be wise and practice self-care. Sleep, exercise, eat well, drink water, and of course, wash your hands. Look out for your family and neighbors. Be mindful and present. Give yourself a break. Give yourself permission.
(Actually, those seem to be pretty good ideas for life not lived in a state of emergency, don’t they?)
One more thing: There are many emotions related to this. As always, I encourage you to engage them all as they come, without assigning value to them. You may feel fear, gratitude, relief, anger, confusion, frustration, and on and on and on. They are all completely natural and expected. Walk into them and move on to the next when you’re prompted. Give yourself permission.
Hopefully, I’ll see you tomorrow. If I don’t, we’ll still love each other like crazy.
Love & Peace.
At our contemplative retreat last Saturday, we engaged in a practice called Visio Divina (Latin for “Divine seeing,” or a phrase I loooove, “praying with your eyes.”) We find a picture or an object or, maybe, anything at all and we focus on that object and ask the Spirit to guide our thoughts. We have spent quite a bit of time in a sister practice called Lectio Divina, where we spend time with a Scripture passage and ask for the same sort of guidance of the Spirit. This was our first time with the Visio part.
(I wasn’t sure I would be ready today, that I had lived with and processed enough, to share this, but maybe that’s the point. Maybe it should feel immediate and unfinished. Maybe that is part of the journey, and a valuable part.)
My object was a branch seen through a window of the Bridge, and here is a poem that I wrote about that branch:
sometimes gently, sometimes violently,
a dance of differing tempos.
before the cool gray shy and behind the jarring, out-of-place power lines,
connected to the tree, (the Vine),
healthy, crisp, bright, refined, bending, swaying,
It is beautiful, an extension of the tree,
it’s very nature is, here, now, lovely.
As it is.
But a stripe from the window,
condensation (cold meeting warm leaving unwelcome evidence of the battle on the glass) cuts through the branch, blurs, dulls, smears, makes the concrete abstract, changes perception, confuses, redefines the branch,
loses it’s essence, unrecognizable.
It could be a million other things, none as wonderful as the branch itself…
It feels good to simply leave this here and return to it next time.