A Royal Priest

This morning I spoke on what I’m learning from 1 Peter 2:9 and our incredible identity as royal priests. It’s such a beautiful, strange, and overlooked title.

In the academic world, I’ve navigated the most awkward conversations about my title for the last 10 years. Am I a professor? A lecturer? An adjunct? A professor of practice? Am I associate, assistant, full-time, part-time? What am I? 

The lack of a professional title bothered me for years as I worked as a part-time instructor with a PhD who, although not tenure-line, still led grad seminars, worked on committees, designed curriculum and various programs, and served as the course coordinator for advanced writing in the humanities. I’ve had others express embarrassment on my behalf that one as trained as I am would have such a low designation at the university. I’ve had people act ashamed for me. Perhaps this is why knowing I’m seated with Christ has helped in these insecure settings of comparison and ranking.

But outside of the university, when I’m interviewed on the radio or introduced on stage, there’s always still this moment of confusion about my title. Who is she? What is she? Do we call her a wife and mother? A writer? A speaker? A campus minister? A professor? An evangelist?

So when I read of this amazing designation in 1 Peter that, actually, I’m a royal priest, I feel a giggle rise up because those in the royal priesthood have this preeminent, authoritative title far greater than any university or corporate title. It’s the title describing who we are and what we’re doing in any situation. And it’s amazing. It’s better than anything because it’s what we are doing because of Jesus.

Royal Priest combines the highest of titles–both king and priest. Jesus as our great High Priest invites us to participate in a royal priesthood as if we were kings and priests both. We serve and worship Him now and forever as a kingdom of priests.

But as I began to ask what the royal priest does, I found a new identity as I entered any space. If you look through the Old Testament, you’ll find that the priest does three main things: bless, explain God’s word, and lead with the atoning sacrifice. When Peter says we are part of a royal priesthood, I’m learning that this designation means I have a special role in any setting. I’m here to minister and bless! I’m here to explain God’s word to you! I’m here to help you understand the sacrifice! You asked about my title? Well, let me just say I’m a royal priest. Keep it on the down low. I don’t want to cause a scene. 

But are we really to see ourselves as royal priests? Charles Spurgeon explains how Jesus provides our perfect qualifications for the priesthood including our clothing (we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness), the anointing (by the Holy Spirit), and the cleansing (by the final sacrifice of Christ to make us perfect). And now, we are in the world as agents of blessing, proclamation, and explanation of the sacrifice.

How powerful! How mysterious!

Who is she? She is a royal priest serving her High Priest, Jesus Christ.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9

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High Diving

I remember summers at the Stratford Landing pool in Alexandria, Virginia. I remember that one afternoon when I climbed up the ladder, walked down the board, and jumped off that high dive.

I sunk deep into the water, into the kind of deep that presses against you and squeezes your insides and squeals in your ears. I wriggled up to the surface, proud and older.

The first key to high dive jumping is in the choice not to hesitate. For that split second, you could allow yourself to consider how afraid you are, how none of this makes sense, and how you might just drown. For that split second, you could slow down your pace, grab the railings, and begin the frozen stance that leads to retreat. You can’t hesitate.

But the second key to any good high dive situation is the reality that nobody is allowed to climb back down the steps. Climbing down was dangerous, slippery, and bound to create some kind of disaster in the life of the poor soul already beginning his climb up because he’s certain it’s his turn. The lifeguards and onlookers always cheered and reprimanded: “You can do it!” combined with “No going down the ladder!”

In this pool, on this high dive, you jump. You don’t hesitate, and you cannot go back. The real bravery, then, wasn’t even the climb, the walk, or the jump; the real bravery was the first shining step up. Your big toe, joyfully swollen and waterlogged, arrives on the gleaming, wet step.

And you’re off. Like most things in life, beginning was the real test of bravery.

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A Blessing On This Day

Lord, help us experience Your presence today. Help us remember You all day long. Help us to see the way You treat us as Your treasured possession. Help us to notice beautiful things in our surroundings–in people, in nature, and in ideas. Fill us with joy and laughter and deep connection with others. Grant us wisdom and the power to do the things You’ve called us to do. Help us live a life of love.

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Yourself in Any Setting

I discovered a new coaching question for personal development:

What settings help you feel most like yourself? What is usually happening in those settings? Who is present? What are you doing? What are you talking about? 

When the people you’re developing find some common elements of what helps them feel like themselves, you can ask how they can bring those elements into any setting of their lives.

I’ve learned what I need to feel like myself when I’m on stage or in a classroom. I’ve learned what I need to feel like myself when I’m writing, parenting, or relating to people in general. The great news is that these elements keep expanding.

I’m most myself when I’m in the role of encourager, teacher, or learner. In new settings, I love to think about who I might encourage, what wisdom I might pass on, or what I might learn here.

I’m also most myself when I’m able to talk about God’s word, grammar, and stories. I also love to prepare food for people, to tidy spaces, and to help others grow into themselves.

When I don’t feel like myself, it’s usually because I’m taking on a role that doesn’t ring true somehow. I’m performing, not living authentically.

I love to ask questions about the things I do that bring me back to the true me.

 

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Dinner with the Amish

Last night, I dined with an Amish family in Rebersburg, PA. Since the Amish don’t want to be photographed, I don’t have a photo to share, but I will say that I loved the evening. It was as perfect and refreshing as you are imagining. As the sun set behind the mountains and the evening air fell cool and sweet around us, I felt alive and happy.

The family served fresh bread and strawberry jam, mashed potatoes, meat, noodles, asparagus, fresh fruit, and rhubarb pie. We all sang hymns around the table, and then we went to observe the horses and the chickens on the farm. I watched a man working in the field and children riding on a cart behind their pony. I listened to our host talk about rising at daylight and retiring in the darkness and how he interacted with the birds and animals on the farm.

The grandmother ran a little store out of her home where I bought a jar of her pickled beets and two bags of dried apples. The host said, “You chew on them. So sweet!”

The Amish love simplicity. They do what is simple, but that doesn’t mean easy or without abundance. It means peaceful and right, I suppose. When it was time to pray, the host said that they say a “silent prayer” instead of out loud. When my friend asked if the Amish pray out loud together, he said, “Yes, in the morning and in church, but at dinner with guests, we pray silently. It is more simple.”

We drove home down winding Pennsylvania roads. We turned off the music. We enjoyed simple conversation. It felt peaceful and right. It was a new kind of abundance.

 

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System Override

I listen to a wise woman tell me that “God can override any system” as the designer and author of all things. He isn’t limited by physical realities.

I remember these words when I approach the high school this morning on this last day of school. To manage traffic, officers stand in place to direct cars despite the traffic signs and lights directing us otherwise. We don’t observe these standard means of controlling traffic when the officer comes. We don’t obey those laws when a higher law comes on the scene.

This Higher Law overrides whatever system surrounds us.

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Always Learning, Always Marveling

Everything stops: the chores fade; the stress of the afternoon dissolves; my mind zeros-in. What’s this? Who is she? How did she arrive here?

I learn she’s a Spotted Tussock Moth, also named the Yellow-Spotted Tiger Moth. Now I know she exists in the world, and it’s a marvelous day.

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Growing from Seed

Now that our journey with the robins has ended, we still have joyful growth to observe with our plants we started from seed. It’s a simple, joyful thing.

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They Jump and Then Learn

I continue to learn so much from my baby robins. I thought they would fledge on Wednesday, but I think I miscalculated. They still stay tucked in the nest, warm and well-fed. I glance at the nest every hour to see if the robins have hopped to the ground.

Yes, they jump out; they do not fly. They cannot fly. They jump and then learn to fly.

Something about that crucial jump encourages me so much as I think about risk-taking, new adventures, and new opportunities. If we wait till we can fly–feeling confident, secure, well-trained, and ready–we’ll never actually make it. We’d never leave the nest because the flying depends upon the jumping and the floundering about to build the muscles for flight.

What’s strange about this morning is the number of birds all around the Winterberry Bush. It’s as if the Northern Cardinal checks in, lending support, while the golden finches fly about, observing. I know it’s not true, but in an animated world, I do imagine nature urging the robins on in a great cloud of witnesses to support what every bird must do at some point. Even as I write this, the hummingbirds dart in and out as if to say, “You can do it! I did it, and look how small I am! You will make it!”

You will make it.

 

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