Posted in Faith, Thanks

Dear Church of the Ascension (I Have Some Confessions to Make),

“We work out our faith with these other broken men and women around us in the pews.”  (Tish Harrison Warren)

Dear Church of the Ascension,

I have visited your church two times.  My husband and I live in New Jersey, but he works in Pittsburgh three days a week and has an apartment in the Strip District, not very far from you.  About once a month, I make the reverse commute and we spend the weekend in Pittsburgh, a city I have come to love and enjoy beyond what I thought possible.

It’s on these weekends that we have walked through your bright red door, been greeted by your people, sat in your pews, listened to your choir, watched your children gather at the feet of your rectors, opened the scriptures, kneeled in prayer and shared bread and wine.  It’s on these weekends that we have been outsiders peeking in on how you navigate this complex world of “church” in the new millennium.

I have some confessions to make to you this Palm Sunday morning, a day where I will be entering into the doors of another church, one where my view is from the inside out, not the outside in, one where we’ve loved and served for many years, one that is also maneuvering the mosaic of “church” in 2019.

Back to my confessions.

Today, I confess that I only visited your church because I was mildly obsessed with Tish Harrison Warren, having soaked up her book, Liturgy of the Ordinary, not only once at a cursory level, but in depth with my women’s group.  When I found out that she had moved to Pittsburgh and was a writer in residence only a mile away from my husband’s apartment, I was determined to visit you.  I felt a little like the paparazzi, as I recorded her talk with the children, received communion from her and talked her ear off as she was greeting parishioners.  It was not my finest moment, but as she reminds me in her book, we are all “limping to redemption,” and I am included in the “all.”

Today, I confess that something changed inside of me that first day.  I wanted to come back.  Not just because of Tish, although her talks that day fed my soul the love that it so longed for, but because as I watched and wondered about this community that “practiced” very differently than what I am used to, it seemed kind and gracious, filled with love for those on the inside and those on the outside (me included), the kind of love Jesus talks about every chance He gets.

Today, I confess that I came back with my husband, this time my motivation not to see Tish (I didn’t even see her that day), but to be filled again with this love you have to share.  I confess that as I sat there, tears welled in my eyes as the message of God’s love for me was communicated from beginning to end, almost as if it was a calculated move on your part.  Here is just a glimpse of the words that leapt from the white booklet and the hymnal I held in my hands:

We started here…
“O love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee.”

“Come down, O Love Divine, seek thou this soul of mine.”

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul,
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
to lay aside His crown for my soul, for my soul,
to lay aside His crown for my soul.”

“Jesu, my love, my joy, my rest, Thy perfect love close in my breast…”

The middle was filled with this:

IMG_0619

And we ended here…
“O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!”

Whether it was deliberately planned by your leadership, God knew what I needed that day, my heart was more open to receiving the love and goodness of God, or ALL of those in sweet combination, my “outsider” self felt beautifully connected to you and your people, and especially to the loving heart of God.

Today, my last confession is one of thanks to you.  Thank you for being a beacon in the middle of my beloved adopted city of Pittsburgh.  Thank you for giving this outsider a place of belonging.  Tish reminds me in her book that “God loves and delights in the people in the pews around me and dares me to find beauty in them.”  I have found the beauty in you.  Your beauty is one that has given me inspiration for my inquisitive mind, daring hope as an anchor for my soul, but most of all, deep, deep love for my longing heart, a beautiful and firm foundation that I carry with me into this Holy Week ahead.  Thank you.   We shout HOSANNA (“Come Save Us!”) together today!

Godspeed, Church of the Ascension!  I will be coming through your red doors again soon!

Esther Goetz

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Posted in Health

The Ta-Da List

“What did you do right today?”  (You’ll find out – keep reading)

Based on the fact that there are about 17,000,000 apps and web sites out there to manage your to-do list, many believe that the crossing off of such a list is top priority.  Get ‘er done.  The feeling of accomplishment and thus a sense of peace is promised at the end of the day when it’s all finished.

However, if I’m like anybody else, and I know you people are out there, I was trained from a young age to spend time at the end of each day focusing, not on what I had accomplished, but on what I had done wrong, admitting it out loud and asking God for forgiveness.  No matter how much good I had given to the world, my last thoughts as I said my bedtime prayers were how I had messed up and what I hadn’t done well and who I had offended (in many cases, this happened to be the God of the universe…yikes).

This line of thinking followed me into my adult years and into my marriage.  I ended most days, as did my husband, with final thoughts of how much I had done wrong.  For reasons I don’t remember, one night I changed it up and asked Allen this question, “What did you do right today?”  Crickets.  More crickets.  Finally, after several minutes, he answered with something like, “I smiled at the store clerk.”  If I know him at all, he had probably been kind, sought justice, served those he worked with, and treated everyone he met with complete dignity and respect, along with all the daunting tasks he had crossed off his list.

Appalled at how much of our day was taken up with negative thinking about ourselves, we decided to make this a best practice for the end of our days.  We spent time each evening before we closed our eyes to sleep asking each other this question, “What did you do right today?”  Instead of only beginning our days (which I do as you can see from the picture above…it’s my actual current list for the day I write this) with a to-do list, we ended our days with a “ta-da list.”

Although this was a really nice way to end to my day, something I enjoyed even more was when I slipped into one of my children’s rooms and watched them as they slept (something that still happens from time-to-time, even though they are literally giants at this point).  My heart would be filled with love, joy and peace (after all, this was mostly the only time there was peace) and no matter what had happened during the day, both good and bad, it didn’t seem to matter any more.  I was completely and utterly in love with them.  I was just happy at the thought of them.

To tell you the truth, this sounds a little like the God I have come to know and love.  While the to-do lists and the ta-da lists matter to us, they don’t seem to matter much to Him.  He has bigger things on His heart that He wants to share with us, His children.  He longs for us to hear His voice in the depths of our soul as He says to us at BOTH the beginning and end of each day, regardless of either of those lists, “I will quiet you with my love.  I will rejoice over you with singing.”  (Zephaniah 3:17)  This is what brings my heart the true joy and peace that I long for.

What did you do right today?   What can you say “ta-da” about?  I would love for there not to be crickets this time around.  Comment below and/or share the link with those who might need to hear this question as well.  I am off now to check some more boxes on my to-do list.

(One last thing, please check out my WORTH THE READ page and then tell me your favorite reads.  I would love to get to know you more!  You can either send me a note on my WHO ARE YOU? COME SAY HI page or comment below.)