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I have wrestled with God.  I have wrestled with God in my personal and professional life, in my life in the beautiful Church, in my vocations, and in how I invest my intentions and my strivings in the world…I find myself wanting to hold onto hope, hoping and believing that life is better with God, and I also hold close to my heart that life, even in the church, can be painful; we can feel unseen. Some of us as people of color, even women of color, ordained by God for good things, feel unseen, feel like we’ve hit a ceiling of some kind. Is it oppression? Is it an accident? …a part of me doesn't understand why I see what I see and why others don’t see. Maybe we find ourselves second guessing because, for some of us, this happens when systemic injustice and conscious or unconscious bias and racism are veiled with kindness and the love of God. Life in the world we live in is complex, nuanced, complicated. It is rarely as clear as we would often wish. Can we acknowledge and release our grip on what has historically and systemically felt safe? Is God possibly inviting us to see, to see anew? To embrace a new thing God is doing?

I believe my God, OUR GOD, is more expansive than our constructed social boundaries… our God is safer than the fears that come with change… our God will not leave me nor the faithful remnant of God’s church… so perhaps uncertainty, perhaps our wrestling, is an invitation to grow in Christ instead.  Doesn’t the “structure” of our faith provide the freedom to ponder, ask hard questions, and acknowledge our systemic holding-down of others, whether intentionally or “by accident?” Doesn’t the firm foundation we have in Christ invite and empower us to live differently and do something differently that breaks the cycle of systemic oppression and racism inherent in our systems, structures, and ways of being? Isn’t our God big enough and safe enough for us to be learners and to humble ourselves under someone we haven’t learned from in the past? Can’t we ask the Holy Spirit to teach us what we cannot see on our own?  This is the work of the Spirit working in and through others. In John 14:26-27, the “Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” This is the foundation for remaining and abiding in Christ, pruning things that are not of God, and pruning things that are good so that God can invest, focus, grow, and intentionally bring new life.

On this journey of Lent that we have been on together, we find in the gospels, in the passion accounts of Jesus’ journey of his last days to the cross, stories of courage, despair, failure, hope, political collide and theological inspiration and we are invited into Jesus’ journey. It is an invitation of accompaniment, transformation, and empowerment. Dr. Amy-Jill Levine says there is history, risk, and stability in the passion story of Jesus’ journey to the cross. It is also a story of atonement, of “at-one-ment,” being at one with one another, being reconciled to God and reconciled to one another.

What is God’s invitation for you today? Where do you need growth; what are your blind spots; where have you missed reconciliation? Who have you missed restoration with and a mending within ourselves, our communities, and our churches? Where do we need healing? A turning from and a turning to? In what way is God inviting you to inward transformation and outward action today?

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Rev. Lisa Ishihara serves the students, faculty and staff as the University Chaplain at Seattle Pacific University. She oversees University Ministries, which is comprised of the John Perkins Center, Campus Ministries and Church and Community Connections. Chaplain Lisa is an ordained minister of the Free Methodist Church and a spiritual director.  She has served in Christian Higher Education for the past 14 years prior to serving in the church and in management for Target Corporation. On her sabbath, she can be found taking a walk in a beautiful place, having a meaningful conversation with a friend, baking some kaki bread while listening to some pop or jazz or just taking a timeout to watch her favorite movies or shows from her couch.

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