Mightily and with Remarkable Subtlety

Thank you for your wonderful hospitality and the opportunity to take a peek at the incredible things that God is doing in and through you both. It is a joy and honor to witness such healing…  God is moving both mightily and with remarkable subtlety here.

This is a quote from a note a friend left us after a visit in our home.  I put his note on the fridge and continue to come back to these lines.  Yesterday morning I read them again; “God is moving both mightily and with remarkable subtlety here,” then walked back down the hallway saying aloud “as He should!  As. He. Should!” 

What an honor to have someone see God at work in and through us “as He should”!  This idea makes my nose tingle and tears spring up in my eyes.

Jesus is mighty and remarkably subtle.  From his birth to his death and everything in between.  The healings, the stories, the jokes, the tears, the compassion, the friendships.  This was the life of Jesus, and it is what He has entrusted and promised to us, His followers.

Jesus did not lead with might and remarkable power.  He did not lead with weakness and remarkable subtlety.  There was a mixture.  Both strength and weakness.  Power and powerlessness.  Might and subtlety.  So often we try to emulate just one half of the Jesus contradiction.  So often we miss out on the fullness of Christ dwelling among and in us.

Mighty and remarkably subtle.


Last Saturday we had our 10th foot clinic, and we hosted it here in our home.

Our last guest to arrive was an older gentleman who I have seen many times over the last year, but is painfully shy, so I’ve not gotten to know him.  As he began to take his coat off, he handed me a paper bag, shyly making it clear what was in the bag was for us.  I looked inside and with tremendous gratitude exclaimed; “A turkey! You brought us a turkey!”

On Wednesday of that same week another friend from the community came by with a ham.

A ham and a turkey.

We’ve been given cans of cranberry, pasta sauce and apple sauce.  We’ve been given sweaters, a box of macaroni and cheese and a big bag of soy nuts.  Melvin came in one night and gave us the movie “The Hurricane” but then realized he’d left the DVD in his player, so he ran back to get it.  I love that movie!

Bob lives in the nursing home 3 doors down.  He stops by once every two weeks with a pile of resources for us to read through.  Literally a pile.  From church bulletins to neighborhood maps to free newspapers.  This man looks out for us!

When I moved here I self-assessed my role as “pastor to the pastor-less“.  I think I was on to something because the way our community members give back feels a lot like the ways our churches growing up gave back to our family.

I remember an elderly man who gave us his government issued powdered milk for our cats and Velveeta cheese each month when I was a little girl.  I remember a big box of Archie comic books donated to my brother and I from a young couple in our church.  I remember every holiday and birthday the many ways church members looked out for the pastor and his family.

It is a deep affirmation of what I felt brought to Uptown to accomplish when a neighbor rings the bell and hands us a frozen ham or comes to an event with a can of apple sauce to contribute or buys us an ice tea maker from the thrift store because she really likes iced tea and thinks we should make it.

Pastoring the Pastorless is tapping into a well of creative, thoughtful, and sacrificial resources from a segment of society that has only been given permission to receive.

Our community members have made a shift from receivers to givers.  Our doormen faithfully run up and down our stairs to let in guests when we have parties, co-hosts get beverages and help set the tables, friends invite other friends and our kitchen is filled with many extra hands peeling potatoes and chopping carrots.

Mighty and subtle.

A man who has not been entrusted with a real knife or been served food on a real plate for years, gets to set the table and help host a real Holiday Party.

An elderly woman who’s life possessions have been locked up in storage since she became homeless years ago sits in our kitchen and makes a batch of Christmas cookies to share with new friends.

An orphaned 58yr old who is the youngest of 13 consistently helps us host events, recalling through story after story the identity he found as momma’s helper.

Something is happening in the walls of this apartment and it’s impacting each person who sees and hears about it.  It’s hard to put your finger on it because it just looks like a Christmas party, or it just sounds like friends sharing a good laugh.  But it’s mighty.  It’s mighty indeed.  It’s the Word Made Flesh.

He was in the world,
the world was there through him,
and yet the world didn’t even notice.
He came to his own people,
but they didn’t want him.
But whoever did want him,
who believed he was who he claimed
and would do what he said,
He made to be their true selves,
their child-of-God selves.
These are the God-begotten,
not blood-begotten,
not flesh-begotten,
not sex-begotten.

The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

2 thoughts on “Mightily and with Remarkable Subtlety

  1. OH MY!! I am in a flood of tears as I have tried to read this to your Dad, who is fighting back his own emotions from what I just read/cried through to him! We are so thankful to know most of what you write of…where you live, the apartment, the gate, the stairs and many steps, the street, the neighborhood, the close nursing home, the faces of people you named and refer of in mentioning them and how they eagerly get involved in helping…the one an orphan, the elderly one with stored belongings for years, the greeters, the kitchen hands, the needs giving to the others needs and finding gifts to bless another’s need (or love shared and offered through food served, prepared and eaten on service of quality…as each one being important and special)! Paul and I are SO thankful to have been a pat of the sharing of smiles, laughter, shyness, openness, food and fellowship, and we look forward to doing it again! Sher this is a terrific piece of your heart written and shared! Thank you! Hugs and kisses with so much love from your parents!

  2. God is good!! Even though JUSTembrace is directly helping the need of Love, Acceptance, Friendship, Help, Nourishment and Trust in Uptown Chicago, it has reached across the states. The purpose and ministry of this marvelous organization and it’s members has truly touched my heart! To see the faces and hear the stories of the people that have been affected gives me the strength and courage to try and do the same here in Washington, DC. Even though I may not be able to do this on the same scale, helping one person at a time can be just as rewarding!! I made an attempt at helping two different people this Holiday Season and have been rewarded ten fold by the acceptance of our help and the gratitude showed by each person!! God is SO good!! I have been feeling less than Christmasy this year because so many people have forgotten the true meaning of the Season by thinking it’s the commercialized giving that this holiday is about. Thank you Sherilyn Sheets for bringing the Spirit of CHRISTmas back to me this year thru your ministry at JUSTembrace!! May God continue to bless you & your ministry throughout this holiday and the New Years to come!!

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