Author Archives: Syndal Leigh

About Syndal Leigh

Avid reader and peppermint tea drinker, softball coach, and crafter who has a love for roasted cauliflower and pizza and is learning the best things in the world are simple, sometimes countercultural, and extraordinarily normal.

20 Core Values for a Long and Effective Pastoral Tenure

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Rev. Shane L. Bishop

I wrap up my twentieth year as the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church (Fairview Heights, Illinois) on the final day of June.  We have grown every single year from just over 200 to over 2,200 in worship.  It has been a good run.
 
Here are twenty core values that have propelled me to two effective decades in one location:
1. Remember your call. When things get tough, remember why you got into this.
2. Keep your marriage strong. If that is bad, everything is bad.
3. Stay in the Word. Reading the Bible from cover to cover every other year or so is a great discipline.
4. Keep learning. Read. Attend conferences. Get a coach. Keep getting better.
5. Never forget you are in the people business. You can’t just sit in your office and be brilliant all the time. You have to add value to the lives of…

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Silencing Voice

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I’ve felt different for some time.. the freedom I’ve found, my small voice, suffocating, being shoved down, shoved back. Clawing to survive, being forced inside, blanketed, weighted. Held down from all angles. Crying for oxygen, for some ounce of gentleness.

And then I am stuck. Inside the lies, inside the time of what was and what should have been, could have been. Replaying the words, spoken to me and over me. Might as well have been written in me, one me. It shaped me, made me, built me and broke me. Sharpie.

It burns in my stomach, pounds in my head, rips my defenses. Not this again.

The numbing spread wide, covering my inside. Just when I think I might break, rest.

The illusion of safety, was just that. Illusion. No weeping for now, no tissues needed. Too gone for that in this season.

I ask and I ask but I know, ” I’m too much”. Caught in the twist, no one to take responsibility for this. Left in the mess. Alone. Forgotten. Cries with no sound fall on deaf ears abound.

Quiet. The stillness. It lurks. Fear at each turn. They tell you to mourn. You want to do good, can’t seem to make it right.

You think and you think. Because there must be a link, that makes me different from them. How’d you turn out so far gone in the end?

This little girl trapped in a body much to old for her.

She looks around at her peers, her friends known as family. Most with spouses and kids on their way to owning houses. They got 9 to 5 while she sits alone dying inside. quiet inside not yearning one bit.

For she, she just wants to belong.

She holds a small candle, deep in her heart. No one sees it there. Sometimes she’s afraid it’s gone out. The black is so dark.

Ridicule she’ll receive, if they even know or see. So fragile. So small. Because she’s much to old to hold onto hope that long. So she can never admit her deepest sadness exists.

Words I Won’t Forget

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lived toward •

When asked about it the day before, I requested that there be no special party or hullabaloo on my last day at work. I asked that the hubs and I have a joint one when we go. No special something just for me. The flowery speeches and attention mostly make me want to slide into a hole.

But, on my last day, when two of the girls I manage disappeared for an hour or so, and came back with two big cartons of bakery cookies, it was clear that this was going to go down like much of my time at the office: I can say what I will, people will smile and nod, and then mostly they will just do as they see fit.

In the afternoon, with no notice whatsoever, (again, typical) most of the staff gathered around a table full of cookies and snacks to fare me…

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Seeking Shalom

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Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength. -Ralph W. Sockman

So here I am, the day after the election results. There’s a lot of feels. And yet last night I read a few books to a five year old, I made dinner and homemade bread and muffins. I fed my people. I listened to my housemate’s grief and tears over how torn she is over the elections. She works in one of the inner city schools. The students are scared. I went to receive a medicinal injection for an injury yesterday. The doctor said he hasn’t felt a day this dark since post Sept. 11th. Maybe that’s a gross overstatement to some, but it feel legitimate where I live. He was very sad. His family was grieved. He apologized to me and hoped that I could continue to get the care I need to live semi-pain free. I’m not sure what will happen. I don’t have much confidence in the nation or the church. I cried a lot before bed last night.

Tender, she said again. Tender is kind and gentle. It’s also sore, like the skin around an injury.-Brenna Yovanoff

Today I had double physical therapy (two therapists, two locations). Both my therapists were hurting. One is gay and has a baby who is adorable. The other is Asian, married to a white man, and they have one bio daughter and a Haitian daughter. My physical therapy assistant told me today about what her holidays are like. She’s from another country. One that doesn’t value women. She discussed with me very detailed pains from her childhood that led her down alcoholism and that on the day she decided to wish her father a Happy Father’s day, he emailed her right back to say “Thanks, I’m going to shoot myself today. Bye.” She shared with me what it’s been like for her in this country. That one of the few people who have loved her died in August and that the holidays will be exceptionally difficult. The election has brought up a lot, for many people.

I flat out told one of my therapists who’s gay, “I know you know I am a christian. I know you have shown great care for me. I want you to know I care about you, your rights, and your child. And I am so sorry for the way Christians have spoken about your sexual orientation. I am so sorry”. She’s a lovely woman. She’s terrified because the soon to be vice president believes in therapy to re-orient someones gender identity and sexual orientation. This form of therapy has been proven to be DANGEROUS. Nearly all centers like it have been sued because so many individuals have committed suicide while in it. Her assistant is terrified because even though she’s a legal immigrant, she regularly faces discrimination.

My other physical therapist was angry. Very angry about the election. She can handle the discrimination she faces daily as a minority, but her 7 year old can’t and shouldn’t have to. She’s afraid of the day someone says something to her husband about either his wife or children and he reacts angrily. She’s had a lifetime of learning to be gracious with discrimination and racism. He’s never had to. He’s a white man, who now deeply loves women who are not white.

Oh that gentleness! How far more potent it is than force! -Jane Eyre

So last night I read books to a 5 year old. She played her very first game of “Go fish” with me. We yelled GROAN in the parts of the Mo Willems book there those letters are very big (Waiting is Not Easy by Mo Willems is a favorite of mine!). It felt so good to groan loudly, to let it go so big that I needed a drink of water to cleanse my throat.

I said goodbye to a friend and her family as she left today for a big move out of the country. I snuggled the most squishy baby I’ve ever met. I soaked in his giant smile. She has asked me several times to move out of the country with her family. Because outside of America, family means something very different. I prayed for her and I thanked God for her and I fed her and I wept with her and she held me.

I made muffins to give to a friend who was up all election night sick from the news. I did everything slow, by hand. The muffins, the bread. No mixers, nothing. I needed to slow down life. Slow down the world. Focus on caring for those around me. To listen, to give, to sacrifice, to grieve.

I choose gentleness. Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice, may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only  of myself. -Max Lucado

And as I cried in bed late into the night, I thought about the things that terrify me about this world, this country. And let myself soak in the soothing parts of that day.. GROANING, feeding, mixing, praying, togetherness, stories I didn’t know. And I thought that’s just it. That’s what it means to be a minister of reconciliation. To bear witness to one another’s pain, to sit in it with them. And to let it soak so deep into your bones that it compels you to love others more fully, to seek Jesus more passionately, and to live more gentley. Life is hard. People are fragile. And I want to focus on restoring, even when the world feels bent on breaking me apart. Shalom.

As we come to grips with our own selfishness and stupidity, we make friends with the imposter and accept that we are impoverished and broken and realize that, if we were not, we would be God. The art of gentleness toward ourselves leads to being gentle with others-and it is a natural prerequisite for our presence to God in prayer.-Brennan Manning

Fosterless

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A spoken word re-wind never finished:

 

I’m broken inside; screaming, I cry.

But nobody hears.

It’s deafening, this pain. 

I keep trekking for gains,

But I’m losing my stance,

trying to keep pace with this grief dance.

So much I didn’t know. So much I couldn’t show.

Trusted and loved, but it couldn’t last.

Too broken to keep, too rejected too deep.

Lost and alone, 

Turned 18 with no home.

I suffer from their choice, I’m left with no voice.

The system failed me, why couldn’t they see,

I was just young and alone,

Just wanting home,

the day I turned 18

Hope ended for me.

To love a girl who has lived through trauma

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A girl who has lived through trauma has lived through a situation where her body, her mind, her self was not her own. Where she felt disjointed, ripped from her self, safety, and sanity. It was a moment, an experience, a something where her trust was smashed, her worth was gone and all there was was pain.
A girl who has lived through trauma is the girl who was pushed into the deep end of the pool when she didn’t know how to swim, but somehow found her way to the ledge anyway. She walked through a forest fire and didn’t succumb to the smoke, but dealt with the burns and made it out in spite of the flames. She found herself in free fall but refused to break upon impact.

She survived. She did.

But the thing about trauma, is that even when it is over it never really goes away.

And sometimes trauma is loud. Sometimes it’s the monster banging at the windows and screaming gutturally and demonically inside of nightmares. It’s nails on a chalkboard and an earthquake that rattles everyone’s floors. It smashes everything in its wake and forces, no, demands that everyone acknowledge its terrible, terrible presence. She won’t have any choice but to sit with hands clapped over her ears making sounds that are barely human because she just wants everything to stop and it won’t.

But other times, trauma is quiet. It’s sneaky.

It’s the feeling that she is being watched or that she is walking down the street with the word ‘victim’ painted on her forehead in red and everyone is privy to her secrets. It’s the nagging fear that if she goes to sleep her dreams will be anything but restful. It’s the little whisper saying, “You will never be whole again,” that itches its way into the back of her mind and repeats over, and over, and over. And you won’t even see it because she convinces herself that she is the only one who knows that it is there.

It’s the feeling that she is a 100,000 piece puzzle of black and grey and everyone staring at the mess realizes that putting her back together is simply not worth the effort.

So when you love a girl who’s gone through trauma, you’re saying that you see the worth in helping her bandage the wounds. You’re saying that you see the worth someone else tried to bury. You’re saying you are not afraid of the bad days and you see the beauty in the good days. You’re saying that a lot of things may scare you, but trauma isn’t one of them.

When you love a girl who’s battled trauma, you’re really saying,

Love, let me help you heal because I believe you can.”

Loving girl who has managed to make it to the other side of a traumatic experience is like deciding to restore an abandoned house. She has the framework and the good bones, but you may need to spackle holes someone else left behind on the the walls. She has the the makings for beautiful, light-filled windows, but you’ll need to replace a few of the cracked panes with new glass. She has the door frame, she just needs a door.

She’ll make a lovely home one day, but there needs some care in order to make a space.

See, loving a girl with trauma in her history is not some choose your own adventure or some level in a game you need to beat. It takes time, it take patience. It’s not something you ‘win at’ it’s something you deal with day by day. It takes a level of commitment because reality is, loving her is not simple.
She is inherently complicated. She is stained with memories she wishes she did not have but that she will never be rid of. She is pieced together and the stitching may be tighter in some spots than others so you have to be careful to not unravel her with one careless tug.

But she is brave. And she is strong.

And when she realizes that you are choosing to love her, and not hurt her, she will love you back with the same kind of tenacity that it took to walk through fire.

And she will hold out her palm and show you the burn marks and instead of apologizing for bothering you with their appearance, she’ll trust you to hold her hand anyway. End link

The Problem with Church Membership Covenants – bad doctrine hurts God’s people

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Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

The Old Testament is full of covenants God made with his people: Edenic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic. If those aren’t familiar to you, don’t worry. The point is that God makes covenants – a type of binding promise – with his people.

Today we live under the new and lasting covenant Jesus established. It had been promised in prophecy centuries before.

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:31-32.)

Under this New Covenant, God enables you to know him intimately.

“This is the covenant I will…

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