Listen: (verb), origin before 950; middle english; also see: hear

This week, I find myself in the midst of many things. First, I’m in my second, count it, second week of Shake it Up Cafe Vacation Bible School. The first one was with Rehoboth Presbyterian Church and now I find myself waking up at 6:30am to drive to Oglethorpe Presbyterian. Second, I’m in the midst of finishing my paperwork for candidacy with the Greater Atlanta Presbytery. Third, I’m attempting to get ready to go back to McCormick for my final year of seminary and also get ready to help teach and be taught. Last, I’m attempting to answer the question that’s on form 5a of the candidate paperwork: In what church occupation are you interested in at this time?

My answer: something easy to digest and what you want to hear, whatever that might be.

The good Christian girl answer: wherever God leads me.

Reality’s answer: a job that pays the bills and doesn’t put me living in the boondocks of America for the next 10 years alone with my two dogs and 6 birds and a few cats thrown in there. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that God will lead me there, in fact, I know it. The the question is: how will I listen?

I think about listening and I am reminded that everyone listens everything differently. This comes from people’s background, moods, etc. When someone talks about certain things I don’t want to listen, then I shut it out, I might get upset about it if it’s not to my liking or I might buy right into whatever the person is selling because I like it; there are so many possibilities for how we decide to listen! So while I’m writing my statements to the questions for the presbytery, I have to wonder: how people will be listening?

Every word has to be perfectly arranged in place and meticulously thought out about why it’s used and what’s it doing there. Take my faith statement. Honestly, I make a bold claim that humans have freedom to make decisions apart from God. Some might say that this contradicts the statement right before it where I claim that God is all-powerful; but it doesn’t. And unless you’re having a campfire in my head, then it probably is pretty contradictory. But I promise you, it’s not!

Let me explain and maybe you can listen to what I’m saying.

First, God is all-powerful. No, God won’t create a rock so large that God’s can’t carry it or move it. God isn’t that stupid and also it’s not possible, because God is God. Second, I do think God has plans for what God wants us to do, but we have to decide as to whether or not we’re going to do it. Take the typical minister’s struggle. It happens before you actually accept the call to go and do this thing called ministry for real. We all make excuses as to why we should do other things, and you fight it, and it’s hard to fight, and eventually you give in and it gets easier (not in every way). God’s call in your life might be hard to accept whatever you are called to do (priesthood of all believers, just google it), but once you’ve given in to it, things get a bit easier in some ways (again, not in every way). But here’s the point: if you are adamant that you aren’t going to answer that call and do something else, then you’re just not going to and God will work in other ways through you.

Why? Not because you outsmarted God or because you’re big enough to resist God, but because God is a bit smarter than you or I and will always win out in whatever situation you find yourself in. Whoever said that we make our own destiny, was right, but didn’t count on the fact that God outsmarts us. Every time. We can make our own destiny in this life, but God can do with us what God wants while we’re making that destiny.

So, all of that being said, we have some free agency in this material world of ours. Now, let’s get on to the topic of evil. People do acts of evil. I suppose that your God nay-sayer could say that if God were all-powerful, then God could simply not allow those evil acts to happen; but that’s not how it works. In case you didn’t know, there are things that God knows that we don’t. God isn’t allowing those evil acts. We’re making the conscious decisions to do them and each time we do, we pull ourselves away from God. This isn’t just a “God-should-do-all-the-work-in-my-life” kind of deal here. It’s a two-way street. We’re called to live a life in communion with God, our neighbors, nature and all of God’s creation, which is everything. We’ve done a crappy job so far and we’re not getting better at it (That’s just my own personal opinion; you might think that the way we treat each other and our earth is acceptable, but I don’t and it’s my blog, so there.)

Each time we do an act of evil (and when I say acts of evil, I mean lots of things; basically, anything that ain’t right), we separate ourselves from God; and just because you might think you are close to God, you might want to really think about that means. You can be close to God and still pull yourself away from God. I know plenty of people who are close to God but in fact they turn their noses up at others who don’t dress as well as them or to those who are simply different than them. Yes folks, these are acts of evil. When I think of people who are Christians, who would put me down for reasons I deem ridiculous, then I don’t want to like them. In fact, I want to hate them. That’s an act of evil. I’m capable of it and so are you. Call me Jean Calvin, but we’re not all made of roses and cotton candy. We’re jerks a lot of the time. God didn’t create jerks. God created things that were good because God called all that God created as good. So, we’re good; but we’re also capable of being jerks.

What’s really important is that we know we’re jerks and that we are capable of evil and of that ever salt-rubbing-in-the-wound word, sin. We are capable of these things and when we act on them, we’re not only jerks, but we’re jerks that are pulling ourselves away from God. I think it upsets God when we don’t welcome our neighbors (check your Sodom and Gomorrah, the ultimate story about hospitality, not homosexuality), when we turn away those in need (the poor, sick, etc.), when we enable others to keep living in their own sorrows without attempting to empower them to take charge and help themselves (Jesus meets the leper who doesn’t take the initiative to get himself into the pool and let’s everyone else go first so he’s stuck living in his life as a leper when he should probably be a little more pro-active; it’s in the synoptic gospels, read it). I say I think because I cannot say for a cold, hard fact what on earth God is thinking, but I think I have a good idea from the God I know…

So, did you hear what I said? How did you listen?

In the end, what isn’t important is how people are listening; what’s really important is that I say it at all and pray to God that someone is listening. The people of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta won’t read this, unless perhaps you are Rix or Jill; but those people in the presbytery will be in a room with me when October rolls around. And I can only hope that they decide to listen and that I am able to say it to the best of my ability without boring people too much.

Maybe this is what I should bring to my meetings.

Now that I’m done with this form of procrastination for my paperwork, I’m going to go for the ultimate form of procrastination: sleep.

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