Saturday, December 13, 2014

Prayer of a Pastor in Advent

O Lord my God
I am so very tired.
Everywhere I look there is work for me to do.
When I rest I wake refreshed for a moment and then feel guilt.
There is so much to do.
I want time. 
And I know you have given it to me.
Forgive me.
I cannot do all the things.
And even worse I cannot do the things I know I should do.
There seems to be no energy in me.
I long for you and the sustenance I know you give.
I pour myself out with hope to serve you.
I wait longingly for rest.
I know hope and I know joy are coming.
Forgive me and help me forgive me.
I pray others will forgive me when I cannot live up to all I should be.
I pray you will wipe away the shoulds from my life.
Forgive my failures. 
Free me to serve without fear.
Release me from the bondage of all I do not know, my fear of unknown, my worry, my desire to fix all I cannot fix.
Let me rest in you.
Come, Lord Jesus, Come.
I am waiting for you to come and 
shine in me with radiant energy so that I may serve you.
Use me and let my life be, my call be, let me be,  used according to your will.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thoughts on Hospitality

I’ve learned that hospitality is risky.

  I have to risk vulnerability, rejection, judgment, dismissal.  

  Hospitality means that I desire connection with another.  I desire that we will connect, that we will love one another as sisters and brothers in Christ.  

Hospitality is full of hope and anticipation for what God may do in our relationships.  

The hope that I may open myself willingly to others and that they would receive me and reciprocate.  The hope that in reaching out my heart will grow in connecting with others.  

Anticipation is not the same as expectation.  Anticipate does not know what will happen but welcomes the newness and unknowing with joy.  Expectation defines what I want to happen.  Expectation is not necessarily bad, in fact I think it’s really good to have clear expectations for many things.  

Yet, I’m not sure expectation has any role in hospitality. 
  I’ve been thinking that expectations in hospitality and in offering myself to others, in offering space to others, in opening myself to the world—just seem to be unhelpful.  Either I limit what God will do or become disappointed and hurt by others.  If I am truly offering hospitality—wouldn’t it mean that I do not have an expectation of them?  Wouldn’t it mean that I put it out there and let it go?  I can still hold to anticipation, but perhaps I should stop expecting others to react, respond, reciprocate in various ways.  It seems like true hospitality must be without expectation because it has to allow space for the Spirit to bring comfort, change, peace,… whatever is needed.  How can someone feel truly welcomed if they feel they are expected to be a certain way?

Perhaps the only expectation for hospitality is the expectation of authenticity.  Yet even that can be hard for people. 
  Do expectations force people to be certain ways?  As in, “I have to be authentic because she wants me to be?” 
I always go back to the tattered notebook paper which had Nouwen’s definition of hospitality written in black marker that hung in my office as a missionary:  “Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer space where change can take place.”
Even this expects something—a change.

Reminds me of chemistry- which I was horrible at but had a teacher who tireless worked  with me and worked so hard but just struggled so…. But chemistry always has a reaction.  Things come together and you expect a reaction to occur.

If the hospitality I offer—is open, selfless, just an offering of myself  and what I have--  can I want a reaction? 
  Sometimes we want healing, we want reconciliation, we want a growing deeper, we want a movement forward...
Most always wanting connection – certainly grounded in my extroversion. (yes there are times I want to just sit in bed and do nothing and be with no one, or walk in the woods with just me and my dogs... but I feel as though I have a yearning, an urgency to be connected -- not for the sake of being connected but connected with the purpose of sharing Christ.) 

I value connection with others.  I value connecting with them as people, as children of God—we may have nothing in common—but somewhere, somehow we are connected…  and that must mean something.  

Perhaps that is the one thing we have in common and from there—couldn't something grow deeper? 

Certainly we will not be connected to everyone in the same way – the same depth—but something of hospitality and connecting with others must be this purpose, this power- in seeing and saying, “I see you. And in seeing you I acknowledge that you and I have been created and we have the possibility of unity."
(wasn't there something like this in that movie where people were blue?)

 The possibility of unity is not something for us to work at or make happen- but for us to listen deeply enough to hear God speak, to be still enough to feel the Spirit move, to in some way realize that we have both been redeemed and made new by the same Christ who lived for me and you and died for me and for you and rose for me and for you.

Hospitality opens the door to connection and yet connection does not mean “I like you” or “I agree with you.”  
But somewhere it must mean I value you.  I value who you are, I value that you were made for a purpose.  I value that you have gifts.  Inherently, hospitality must honor another person.  
Honor who they are as different from me and honor who we are together as connected with me. 
  Honor seems to be a way of loving the child of God that is in you—The Christ in me sees the Christ in you—and as children of the kingdom/kin-dom connected through the blood of Christ – we are family and we love one another. 

How do we live this hospitality?  Seeking connection, forsaking expectation, hoping with anticipation, open for God’s presence to dwell with us so that we are freed from fear, so that we can truly be our authentic self, with the hope that connection will be birthed?

For so much of who I am, I believe this to be my deepest longing.  Not to run and retreat from others even when the world has been hurtful… but to experience the truth of what I know must be possible because of Christ.

Christ came for all the world and died for all the world. 
  The World is my Parish. 
At Pentecost the reality of unity was experienced— All Speaking different languages, and yet the Spirit made them One. 

Hospitality- Connection—Honor- - Unity 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A Call, A Confession, and A Covenant seeking Unity

These are my thoughts and hopes for the church--

In a world where divisiveness is rampant, there is little to model unity and we believe the church is being called to reveal to the world a way to move forward in the midst of difference.  

While resolutions are being put forward to change the wording in the Book of Discipline, and statements are being made suggesting schism,  we desire to create plans and possibilities for moving forward even without complete resolution and agreement.  Yet still moving forward in the messiness of theology- in the messiness of what it means to be church.   And are we yet alive?  We believe we are and can continue to be.  

How can we inspire and share with others that even in all of this, it is still worth it to be this messy, imperfect, Body of Christ, that may muddle through and loving one another especially when it is hard to do so?  How can we reveal that we do not give up- that church is not just an idea, but a reality of people who come together to love not because it is easy, but because the Holy Spirit makes it possible and our lives are richer for it.   How can we reveal the kingdom of God when we are so focused on our own animosity and disagreements?

We do not argue over how we understand the trinity, the divinity of Jesus, the mystery of the sacraments, the truth of the resurrection- why should we debate this? These were Wesley's essentials, if we cannot think alike we can love alike and "if your heart is with my heart, take my hand." 

We confess that we have failed to listen to one another and we have allowed our egos to rule, rather than our hearts.  Too often, we seek to be right, rather than to learn.  We seek to claim who is on God’s side rather than to love.  We repent of our earthly desire to win debates, and ask God to help us love one another even when we do not agree.  We commit to pray for God to work through us to create a third way where we may be one in unity in the midst of our differences.

We covenant together  to Love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength and with all our mind and to love our neighbor as we love our selves, not because we agree with our neighbor, but  because we were Created by love to love,  Jesus calls us to love, and the Holy Spirit empowers and equips us to love.  

We covenant to focus our time and energy on the mission Jesus Christ has given us to make disciples and to transform the world.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Stop Complaining Start Engaging

It's my day off and I should be paying bills and cleaning my house, but as I was wasting time on Facebook I got myself a little worked up.  

One of my greatest pet peeves -- is the complaining I hear so very often in the church.  I get it. Seriously- I do.  And I know I'm Pollyanna and all that, but I understand the need to let off steam.  Yet what really bothers me is that we-- mainly clergy- complain about the same things -- all the time.  Have we prayed about it as much as we've complained? Have we offered to productively and effectively engage in helpful ways as much as we have complained?  Have we considered the hard work and intentionality of those who are working behind the scenes who we are often taking for granted?  

I guess this is striking a chord for me today- because of the shutdown and I have heard so many people say things like "The shut down really isn't affecting anyone" or "those folks in Washington don't really do anything."  For me- - those folk aren't bureaucrats who do nothing-- they are my friends and former parishioners who serve, protect, and care deeply about their country and her citizenry. Its easy to complain when you don' t know the people personally.  But they are people who work hard and care passionately.  

So-- perhaps my ability to let one more clergy ranting on FB go is kind of soaked up by the last 10 days of the shutdown.

When clergy get together -we have to let out stem-- that is good and important- our time together should be renewing, life giving, and give us energy for the call we share.  I especially feel this way when I gather with clergy women friends, covenant and prayer groups- there is laughter and joy and it is spiritually uplifting.  

Yet there are several times when I gather with clergy and I hear complaining- lots of complaining- that leads no where usually about -- the ordination process or boards, agencies, and apportionments.... 

And this where I am am just done. 

Stop complaining and get engaged.  

We are Methodist- like it or not- and well-- I pretty much love it most of the time.

 I love our ecclesiology and our connection and I love that there is an ordination process that cares deeply about the clergy person and the churches where they get sent.  I love that we are not alone.  There is no parachute.  You are not left alone unless you choose to be.  Your church cannot fire you.  The Church invests in you deeply.  If things aren't going well there are resources to help.  The ordination process reveals this care and concern and commitment.  Residency Events and workshops, and papers, and process are not hoops to jump through they are opportunities to grow as a clergyperson so you can do all that God has called you to do.  The Church- the Conference- the Connection does not have to care this much-- but they do.  They are paying for you to do all of this.  (yeah you pay for a lot too-- but that reveals your commitment.... trust me I've paid for a good bit of psychological tests... yes I'm still paying student loans... yes we've got to work on that part)..... 

 Yet in the midst of it all-- this is a vocation where God chooses and calls you and choose back.... enjoy and get all you can out of these opportunities.  When we're wounded- (too often by our churches) we need each other and we have a Church Connection that is here to love us and help us through it. 

Do we lose good people because of our system and polity- Yes.  Is it perfect?  No.  

Does the "system" wound people-- yes it can be wounding... it can be hard.  Is that the intention?  No.  
Is healing and moving through to a stronger place possible?  Always.
Does our system and polity and ordination process need valued, caring, theologically astute, passionate people to engage and be part of making this better?  Absolutely.  

Is it moving and changing fast enough? Not always.  Because trying to work together with this many people is really really hard work.  But I think it's worth it.

Today I was on FB and saw discussions and complaints about how "boards and agencies are irrelevant" and they "just suck up apportionment dollars."  
Instead of thinking about how boards and agencies suck away apportionments- how about utilizing them more fully in our contexts? 

As a former GBGM missionary and as someone who has traveled to Mozambique, stayed at Cambine to help build the school there (through a service-learning trip with the Methodist college I attended)  visited the Methodist Hospital in Chicuque and experienced seeing the comparison of the other hospital (government hospital had nothing--no separate quarters for HIV/ or TB no separate wards for women and children- no beds, no meds-- compared to UMC hospital where they had supplies, beds, separate wards and even lovely kid- friendly decorations). 

 If we are not seeing the relevance of these boards and agencies - if people don't see the value of apportionments and connectionalism -- perhaps its because our leadership isn't helping make that connection for them-- and we are missing a vital part of our ecclesiology

Take a group to NY, DC and do a seminar--educate our congregations about the missions that are possible- the lives that are changed-- the difference we make - all because of apportionments. 

 I was able to serve as a US-2 Missionary because of apportionments - where 500 homeless folks were served meals, connected with resources, and empowered.  Churches throughout the area were engaged and brought into mission through this work as they were empowered and equipped to bring lunches, and come into relationship with those who are homeless to know more than a face- a name- a person- a sister/brother in Christ.  Because of apportionments we come together as the Body of Christ to do awesome work of the kingdom.  

There are US-2's, Mission Interns, Mission trips, seminars, agencies who serve the poor, colleges and universities,  all in your own area - who exist and do the work of the kingdom all because your own church exists-- that you likely don't know about and aren't teaching your churches about.  The local church is the most significant place where disciple making occurs-- and these board of agencies are the most significant ways we are sending disciples into the world in engaging, powerful, ways that change lives. 

 Is your church not engaging the community to become more diverse-- perhaps the Commission on Race and Religion has resources for you?

Seeking to empower women- to educate and connect women in your community with women in the world-- perhaps work through UMW and COSROW

Wonder why our faith calls us to engage in the world around us? Wondering what our faith says about ---- anything?  Read and learn the Social Principles- Do a bible study on them- take a group to GBCS-- learn and grow.  Do you have people in your church criticizing the "liberal" GBCS-- listen thoughtfully and and engage them compassionately.  Find where they are passionate and help them live into that passion to serve Christ.

Equip your Worship Team with GBOD resources, attend the School for Congregational Development, engage your Evangelism/ Welcome team with resources.

Visit New York and take a a tour of the UN and attend a seminar, visit the chapel there that is across from the UN building.   Read and prayer the UMW Prayer Calendar and send notes and prayer for missionaries.  Invite a missionary to speak at your church-- local, national, international.  Take your Youth Group to visit and help a mission.  Teach your youth about the US-2 and Mission Intern program.

Hit by a natural disaster- or helping people who are/ were-- connect and engage and participate through UMCOR. 

Name anything that is happening of any significance in the world and the Methodist church is there.
The World is our parish.

Do we have a perfect system?  No-- but it is not irrelevant- and it is powerful.  As United Methodist we have a particular way of understanding grace, doing church, and living mission in the world.  It doesn't mean that its the best way-- or the only way- but for many of us it is where we have been called and where we feel led to passionately serve Christ and His Kingdom.

I am certainly not advocating some "if you don't like it - leave" way of thinking.  I'm just tired of complaining that goes no where productive. We all need to vent- and we all need to share our ideas to make things better.  But rather than constantly criticizing and complaining, perhaps we should try engaging, asking questions, learning about what we do and why and we can be part of it and part of making it better.

Yeah- I'm Pollyanna-- and I still think there's  a lot to be glad about - and if not-- we should try to find a way to help- work together- and get glad.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Saturday Night PK

Around 8 Tonight my daughter Gracie broke down crying because, “Mommy!   I just want to serve and I’m too little to do anything! Everyone at church says, “No you’re too young.  I don’t want to be a kid anymore- you don’t get to do anything!”  We began talking about how tomorrow we start planning our revamp of Children’s Church.  We will have a rotation of volunteers and a rotation of children taking turns leading different things (just like at school- line leader, etc.)-- she excitedly began planning-- "Yes Mommy- one week someone can read scripture, another person can give a short sermon, someone can be an usher,  another person be the musician….AND  we’ll have our own bulletins!”   We already have the coloring children’s bulletins in service- but we’re going to be making a basic bulletin with pictures to go with each section (Prayer, offering, Song, etc.) and laminate them for weekly use.  She went on, “And we’ll have our own computer with a screen….. but Mommy!  We don’t have candles!”  Me- “We’ll make a little chapel area with an altar and candles and everything.”  “Awesome!!!” she said.  She was then so excited she decided she would “prepare” by practicing in her room.  She turned her dresser into her own “altar” and put a picture of Jesus (the laughing Jesus picture) and sat her “Jesus books” all up around the dresser. 

Watching her was overwhelming and powerful.  And I could see myself—overcome with passion and frustrated that I can’t always do all my heart yearns to. 

9- She’s been restless…unable to go to sleep because she wants to play music – (she got a recorder at the church yard sale) and wanted to play it in church tomorrow – “Mommy, I just want to play it to praise God.”
No I told her—you can play something in church when you’ve practiced.

9:30 She walked into my room- picked up the hymnal and said—“I’ll just read these hymns then! And it will be like a lullaby to go to bed.” 

That didn't work--She started reading the Psalter and shouted! "Mommy - I know this!  We read this in church!  We could use this when we plan our Children's Worship!" 

I'm sitting here- desperately needing to finish my sermon.  

Begging her- "Please Gracie- you really need to go to bed now. Your eyes are getting purple underneath. I know you want to be at your best tomorrow and you can only do that if you are well rested.  (I'm talking to myself there too!)

(Her Daddy is with the other daughter getting her down.) 

Lord, Thank you for my beautiful, wise, grace-filled, deep daughters.  Thank you for their passion, joy, and precocious sense of wonder.   Give me energy and strength and motivation to bring the word you've placed on my heart and head and which I am seeking to still get down on paper this evening.  May you be glorified in all I do, Amen. 


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Holy Moments

Holy moments- tonight Gracie handed me her bible and asked for a story.
We recently got her the "Jesus Calling Bible Storybook" 

As I was searching through to pick one she said, "Can you tell a bible story that is like a lesson you taught us today?"  It took me awhile to figure out what she was asking and she was getting frustrated but we stayed with it.

And I finally got it and said, "YES! We talked about patience earlier-- and not rushing through your work, but taking your time.

She said, "Yes MOM!  So is there a bible story about that?"

This children's bible included the story of "Patient Job"

So I read this story to the girls.  (This is my version)  Much of this is paraphrased in my Mommy Storytelling. 

Job loved God.
Job had lots of awesome stuff.
He had a big family.
Land, animals, and everything he wanted.
He praised God.

The Bad stuff in the world said to God, "Job only loves you because he has lots of stuff."

Gracie shouted-- "That's not true!  He does love God!"

Job lost all his fancy stuff.
His land, big house, all the cool things he had.
He even lost his family.
Things weren't so good.
But Job still loved God and he praised God.

Job's friends were not helpful.
They said- "You must have done something bad to lose everything."

Gracie shouted-- "No!  He didn't!"
 Me-- "That's right.  He didn't do anything.  Sometimes bad things happen.  Sometimes life is hard.  And its not because God doesn't love us or because we did anything.  Sometimes bad things just happen."

Well.  Things didn't get better for Job.
He even got sick.  He felt really bad.
He did not like being sick.  He was sad.
He prayed to God.
-------------------At this point Sophia says, "Mommy, hold on - I want to pray to God now."
                           We stop and she prays, "Thank you God for this day.  Thank you God for our food.   Thank you God for Mommy letting us sleep on the floor tonight.  Help us to sleep great and have a good day tomorrow and sleep good tomorrow too."  Then she just looks at me and I whisper "Amen" and she said, "Yes! Amen!"

And Back to story----(my poor husband- how hard it is to be a parent and be ADD!) 
His wife said, "Why do you even still believe in God? Believing in God isn't doing anything for you?  Just give up!"

Gracie sat up-- "That's not a good thing to say!" God still loves him!"

Me-- "You're right Gracie- she wasn't being encouraging there, was she?"

Gracie- shaking her head no.  (finally getting a little tired-- Sophia is listening and looking at other books in the corner).

Finally God spoke and reminded Job of all God had created.
God scolded Job's friends for their bad advice.  (stopped to discuss what "scolded means")
 God reminded Job of how God always loves and his always with us even when times are hard.
Because of Job's faithfulness God gave Job all that he had lost and more
Job lived a very long life and praised God every day!

 We all have problems and there is lots of stuff in this life that will make us turn away from God- especially when we're hurting.  The best praise you can give God is to trust in Jesus when you're having a hard time.  God is always here for you to talk to about your problems and God will help you with them always.  Jesus always wants to give you peace.

Then we talked about examples of being patient.
How could we be patient with things-- like school work, toys, etc.?
How could we be patient at school?
How could we be patient with our family?
-----------this was the best part-- talking about ways we could all work on being more patient with each other.  Waiting to brush teeth -- (i.e. not pushing your sister off the stool).  Sharing toys.  Patiently listening for folks to share their story at the dinner table.
When I ask Daddy to to something - like take out the trash- I have to wait until he has time.  (that was my example- that sometimes he's in the middle of something else and I need to wait.)
Kevin was so sweet and said, "Mommy does a lot of things for us that we don't ever notice.  So we can show patience by thanking her and waiting for what we want, speaking kindly rather than whining."  

They kept raising their hands and thinking of ways they can work on patience.

We had such great discussion.

I am so thankful for these moments.  For holy conversations that will lead to more conversations.
For moments that build foundations of faith.

Here they are- asleep on the floor-- (how is that supposed to be fun?  If I were 5 or 6 I would remember)


Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Psalm for Ministry

Almighty God,
You gave me this call and you filled me with passion and you set me on fire.
Make me strong Lord, that I can withstand whatever comes.

Guard my heart and hold me.
May I be courageous like the prophets and strong like the apostles.

Let me not waver in the path you have set me.

Give me openness to hear and strength to love.

I yearn too much for the love of your people.  
I pour out my heart.
I want so much for them.

Burn pride away from me.
Let me be content.
Even within the urgency, the passion, the purpose, the joy, the excitement I feel in ministry--
Let me be patient and content.

I see so much.
The urgency of mission drives me.
Let your love continue to burn with passion
And let your patience soothe me

Wash away the pain of ministry.
I am broken for you and I feel the brokenness of your world.
I seek to build up the kingdom so all may know your love, your grace, your unending joy....

There are days when ministry hurts.
And all I can do is cry out for you.
Heal me Lord Jesus.
I am not whole without you.
I will lean on you.

My strength is in you Lord.
My hope is in you Lord.
My joy is in you Lord.

I am who I am.
And I am yours.

Its seems like everyone thinks being an extrovert is easy
- bubbly, joyful, friendly, outgoing---

The hard part about being an extrovert is so much of your energy comes from those around you-
it doesn't mean that you don't have confidence on your own, it doesn't mean that you're needy, it does mean that you put your heart out there- it does mean that you are vulnerable and exposed.

I suck at being guarded.
And it hurts.
But this is who I am.

Lord, I have always been intense.
  I've always been passionate.
And It's always been "too much" for some folks.
Or not enough for others. 
 Let me be okay with that.

Because no matter what-- I'm just right for you.

Lord, You called me and chose me and you set me on fire.
Nothing will quench your fire within me.

Let me burn brighter for you.
You are the reason I am here.
You are the reason I serve.
You are the One I adore.

Nothing stops your love for me or for anyone else.

Pour your love down on me.
Let a mighty epeklesis fall.
Your Spirit guides, protects, forms, and fans the flame.

I will not burn, I will shine. 
I will not perish, I will live in the resurrection.
I am  hard pressed, but I will never be crushed,
I am confused and  perplexed,
 I do not always understand your people 
and I allow too much of it to hurt...
free me despair and defeat;  
I am not abandoned by God and I will not abandon my call.
 When I am struck down, I will get back up. 
I am not destroyed.

Christ has Died. 
Christ has Risen. 
Christ will come Again. 

These words of mystery are my hope. 
Because Christ lives I will live.  
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. 
I can live out this call. 
Because You go before and behind me. 
Equip me, Lord. 
So that I may equip your people for this powerful and passionate life of ministry!