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  • Storied Church

In the early 2000s, I had my first job at my home church as a youth intern. It was a transitional season in my life. The youth pastor was leaving and the worship leader would be the interim. My friends were all going off to college while I attended a community college. I struggled to be a youth intern in this really emotional season of my life. The job didn't last long. A job I was really excited to get. I hastily quit the youth intern position.

One of the youth leaders a psychologist reached out to me following this and was concerned about my quitting abruptly and offered me counseling for free. I had never been in a counselors office up until that point in my life. So I did it.

It was a great gift to me then and now. Because it disarmed all the baggage that surrounds counseling.

I found myself able to talk about the transitions happening in my life, my struggles, and it gave me a path that was hopeful and not hopeless.

I journeyed with this counselor for the next few years of my life. And some of those years I didn’t feel like being a pastor anymore. More often I wanted to quit and do something else. But he was the one person that always kept me on the path.

One of the main things that counseling has taught me that I learned slowly is not waiting too long till it is too late. This is something that I think we all do…

I quit a lot of jobs in my early 20s. A lot. When I would get stressed and anxious about a job. I quit. I gave up.

What he taught me is the idea of processing before you act and not making rash decisions without talking through it with someone. I learned this the hard way.

Last year before I knew anything about Storied Church… or knew that it would become a reality. I found a counselor. Somebody that I could talk to about my family, community, church life. Someone that would help me process and identify areas of my life that needed addressing.

The greatest part of this work for me has been believing in myself. Because really I came into his office beat up by church life. I didn’t realize how wounded I was and all the baggage I was carrying. I didn’t believe I had the capacity to do this work. I thought I was an imposter. I was pretending to be someone I wasn't.

Having a counselor to journey alongside me has been a great gift to me. And I really can’t imagine a life without someone to help guide my life in a positive direction. It’s not a one time shot… but someone that walks with you regularly.

I don’t shy back from telling people I have a counselor. Most people’s reaction is “why do you need a counselor? What’s wrong?”. The truth is that nothing has to be “wrong” or feel “wrong” to be in counseling. It can also be about being healthier mentally and working on the blindspots in own lives that we don’t realize exist.

If there is an inkling of an idea that this would be good for you. Then do it. Not later but now. We as a church have great resources that could guide you to someone in our community.

  • Storied Church

written by: Sarah Williams

Social distancing brought on by the Coronavirus-craziness has created a mix of forced rest and stir-crazy-productivity around the house for me. I know many of us are freaking out about this new normal, how long it will last, and how many people will have to suffer and die until our world gets on top of this pandemic. To find comfort and avoid cabin fever, I’ve been outside a lot for walks, playing with my dog, gardening, etc.

In the garden, I’ve weeded, watered, mulched, planted bulbs, and prepared seeds. All the while, this quote from Audrey Hepburn keeps coming to mind and giving me hope: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” By the very act of gardening, we are putting that belief into action, to ensure that there will be new life, beauty, and nature to soak up and witness in the coming days. Though we have to endure the wait while the buds and new growth are forming, spring comes breaking forth in new blossoms, fruit, veggies, and greenery. Birds, butterflies, bugs, and us humans are able to revel in the goodness of the garden in full bloom. And, so too, I’m choosing to believe will be the case for all of us, after this wait, reveling in the goodness of everyday life once we get through this Coronavirus outbreak.

I find it so eerily beautiful and poetic that this is happening during the season of Lent on our Christian calendar. The spiritual practice of a season of waiting, of darkness, of knowing something good is coming, but not yet here. Just as Jesus spent his 40 days in the wilderness, we are in a new wilderness with the unknown of this virus. As the virus spreads, we have been forced to better live out Lent with the global slowdown and our governments forcing us to hunker down as we rest and wait.

Lent usually, in our busy, stressful, distracted ways of living, can be hard to live out. One silver lining to the Coronavirus cloud is that it is forcing us to slow down, re-center, reflect and focus on ourselves, our God, our homes, our families, our neighbors, those who need help in our communities. It gives us time to do some weeding out of the bad, cultivating the good, and hoping for what’s to come. To garden is to believe in tomorrow – both in our yards and in our hearts, souls, and minds.

The practice of Lent is to prepare for and believe in the tomorrow of Easter Sunday. As we come near the end of this season of Lent, we’ll be celebrating Christ’s victory over death in a different, socially distanced way this year. Even so, I’m hopeful we’ll celebrate that in a deeper, more real way this Easter with the Coronavirus. Until then, let us garden, both in our backyards and in our souls, with the full faith and belief in a better tomorrow, just below the surface, ready to bloom with new life and beauty.

  • Storied Church

For the past few nights, I have laid awake, anxious. Anxious about the world. Anxious about my family. Anxious about being out of rhythm. Anxious about what if I get this thing… wondering what my outcomes would be… wondering if I do fall ill who will take care of my family? What if my family gets this thing…

what if, what if…

and I am angry and frustrated at leadership that was reactive and not proactive. For a virus that is better stopped being proactive. And people are dying because of it. Hospitals are overwhelmed because of it. Medical workers are at risk because of it.

And deep down I know the truth I know… that this will affect me… it will affect everyone.

I sit here on this overcast morning with the gospel lectionary text of the week. The story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. Asking in the midst of what I and others are feeling… what hope do these words offer to me? What hope might these words offer to the world?

Today this reading has less to do with Lazarus being raised from the dead… and more to do about the comfort and care a friend offers to another.

There is no doubt that Jesus was close to this family of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He deeply cared about them. He was like one of their family.

“The Lord the one whom you loved is ill”… “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” Jesus referred to Lazarus as “his friend.”

Not a follower, not a disciple, but a friend.

Martha and Mary, just like many of us, are frustrated. Frustrated that their friend is nowhere to be seen. Frustrated that when they needed Jesus most… he wasn’t there.

Good friends provide space for conflict and frustration. In fact, that is what draws the roots deeper.

When Jesus finally arrives… Martha’s response with my paraphrase, “where the hell were you?!?!”

Jesus provides a wide-breadth to feel. Jesus lets things get personal. Jesus doesn’t say, “Martha you shouldn’t feel that…” or, “I thought we were friends and friends to don’t get upset at each other.”

He is there, present in the midst of his friend's grief, anxiety, questions.

We find Jesus in the midst of all our emotions crying with us while at the same time saying to them and to us, “it will be alright.”

And saying phrases that are probably more troubling than good, “it is for God’s glory.”

It’s God’s glory that we have a pandemic? It’s for God’s glory Lazarus is dead?

Or is it for God’s glory that God's presence comes forth out of us when our worlds go to hell?

For God’s glory when we sense God’s presence in our togetherness in facing unforeseen circumstances?

So while many of us are anxious, angry, scared, frustrated… I am going to try my best… to let myself be real before a God that is big enough for that kind of stuff… the God we call friend… but I am also going to try to listen.

Jason (enter your name), it will be alright.


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