Wednesday, December 16, 2009
One of my favorite things to do is to look for art, especially paintings that were inspired by the scripture we read each week. The paintings draw me deeper into the story. Each artist emphasizes and illustrates something different from the next. For example, some artists have dressed Mary in rich and luxurious fabrics like velvet, while others dress her in rag-like clothes. Some have the angel, Gabriel, larger than life floating above her with Mary cowering in fear. Others have Gabriel bowing before Mary to honor her with the news. Each picture enriches the story of the Annunciation, gives more depth and food for thought.
Often what appears to be a "little thing" might give us a new perspective into the scripture, give additional meaning. Until recently, it was normal for artists to paint Jesus and stories from scripture into their own modern context---think of all the elaborately decorated dresses and costumes Mary has been robed in throughout the years--historical accuracy was not a concern. This allows the story to be real for us--to break into our world and open our eyes and heart to where God is moving in the present. Sometimes we zero in on a particular rendition or image and begin to idolize that image--forgetting that it is just that, one artist's idea. But if we examine many images it can enrich our understandings of the scripture and help us to grow in faith.
As I've looked for pictures of this week's gospel reading, of Mary and Elizabeth meeting, the pictures I've seen show 2 women greeting one another, sometimes with rounded bellies, each filled by a little boy. Yet, they sort of look the same--perhaps it's the family resemblance. Their differences are not striking nor profound--a slight difference in age but not too much.
Yet, when I picture Elizabeth in my mind, I see a woman with grayed hair, tired from the weight of the child, tired from taking care of her ailing mother and father, tired from reading and playing with neighborhood children that could, should have been her grandchildren and yet she is just beginning her journey into motherhood.
Mary, she's young, her face pleads innocence and confusion, and joy, through it all is joy. She has just the beginning of a baby bump, hardly noticable unless you already know she's pregnant. She could be the nursery helper, assisting her aunt Elizabeth on Sunday mornings.
These are two women who have no business bearing children, let alone children that are special not only to their mothers but to the world, to us 2000 years into the future and beyond.
As they meet there are no wayward glances, no scanning of one another's bodies looking for a note of shame, downcast eyes, that recognizes the aberration of their bellies--each filled with an infant son. No, instead there is joy, excitement, and anticipation for the birth of their special babies. They are at home with one another.
Can you imagine the chatter? Have you felt the hiccups yet? Oh, John kicks all the time--I think he might be a great soccer player! Then laughter! The laughter they must have shared--laughter over the disbelief, Zechariah's muteness; tears over the lack of understanding, the lack of belief, the looks, the small cruelties inflicted as they walk down the street. Joy over being together, finding sanctuary in one another sensing that "yes, this IS absolutely real!"
It is no wonder that Mary would then break into song! Have you ever had one of those moments? Have you ever just burst into song because you were overwhelmed by something--good or bad? When the girls were younger we'd make up silly songs for everything and there were (and still are) those moments in which life feels like a part of a movie and you could easily be convinced that someone is recording it? The only thing missing is the background music to cue you in on what will happen next.
Mary's song, her Magnificat, begins by praising God and moves to proclaiming the promises that her son will make come true. Her song is much like Hannah's, it's the classic Biblical reversal of fortunes--the hungry are fed while the previously well fed go without, the poor are elevated while he rich are humbled, the world is flipped upside down.
Good news for some but for most of us in this sanctuary it's sort of scary, at the very least a bit intimidating! But this is what happens, what has been promised by the Most Divine, the Holy One when God becomes man, becomes flesh and bone. When the glorious day arrives and Christ returns for a permanent transformation of all of Creation, the world will be made right--which likely means that our values and priorities will be set straight, that all peoples on the earth will be well fed and have what they need.
No longer will we be driven by fear of war to stockpile weapons of mass destruction. No longer will we feel be driven by greed to stockpile stuff. No longer will we attempt to fill the emptiness--the void that we foolishly attempt to fill with food, alcohol, drugs, money, and stuff. All of our additions and greed will fall away, shatter into dust because God will be with us upon the earth, peace will fill our lives. Real peace, peace that is more than freedom from fighting, the peace that which only God can give will envelope and transform us from the inside out. We will be free from the fears and false idols that distract us from loving our neighbors and loving God with all that we are. God will live among the people, finally, at last, all will be well and joy will stir our hearts evermore.
This is the joy I see in Mary and Elizabeth's greeting. This is the joy that I pray you and I, we will awaken to this Christmas and this is the joy that I hope and pray that we will courageously bring into our world with each day that is gifted to us. We too are asked to make room for Jesus, we too are asked to give birth to Christ, to raise Christ up so that all may see and recognize the bit of Christ, that image of God that lives within each and every one of us. May that living image of Christ be born in us, so that when we greet one another--we too can experience a joy-filled exchange of love and recognize the Christ in one another. Amen? Amen.
We're not really up and running with screen and projector so projecting images isn't great. I'm not sure about making large prints from borrowed photographs of paintings, besides unless they were really big then people couldn't see anyway. Help! Please!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
I fully believe that God is present all the time, that holy moments surround us but we are not awake to them. Each time I kneel at the altar I am awakened--physcially, mentally, and spiritually. As soon as I breathe in the wood, feel my knees on the hard floor, I am transported to a new place. I look at the cross above me and I am surrounded by the presence of God. It is beautiful, awe-full, and tender.
Sometimes I can only stay but a minute--feeling frightened, likely a time in which I need to stay. Other times, like today I wanted to stay longer but wasn't sure of the time and didn't want to be interrupted, so I ended my prayer and walked away.
As I walked away, I realized that I am tremendously priveledged to have a key, an in to the sanctuary any time I feel the need. I can come day or night it does not matter. I wonder if others do the same. I know of a few people who have keys and do come into pray. One comes in late at night/early in the morning before the dawn and loves to sit and pray in the darkness. She says its most beautiful then. But what about the rest with keys--do they know they can come, any time and pray?
What about those with no keys? I long to go back to the days of unlocked churches, unlocked sanctuaries that are open for prayer, for refuge. Out of fear, we lock our doors, even in a house of faith.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I say, "I have an inkling that it began with free will but know nothing else." Sin, that is what we're talking about. I want to say, "I don't know and neither do you so why do we play this silly game so that you can decide if my answer is enough?" Instead, I will come up with a fallible failure of an answer that I know we cannot possibly discern. I will play your silly game because I want the status, the honor, you can give me.
How ironic is that? Nearly every week I get up and preach that these honors men and women bestow upon themselves are nothing. I preach that God chooses, prefers to lift up the lowly, the tossed aside and tossed away, those trampled on, those who men and women say are worthless. Yet, here I am prepared to play your silly game so that I can come back week after week and proclaim that God loves the lowly, the weak, the untouchables, and so should we. All while I play your silly game where you determine if I am good enough to proclaim God's love in your churches.
Some days I wonder why I play this game. I wonder if God is truly in this game that we play. This game in which I'm asked to pretend that I have the answers and you determine if these answers are good enough while we both know that they are not. Yours are not. Mine are not. Our human minds are not enough to fully understand.
I take this time to step away from my family, my church, God's people who I've been called by God (not you) to comfort and to lead and to love.
I have to believe that this game we play means something more or I am a fool. Why can't we sit down and talk about God, grace, love, redemption, and where God is moving in our midsts? Those are important conversations. Why do we instead play a game, a quiz where the answers are simply shadows and echos of what might be truth or might be our greatest misunderstanding?
Why not make it truly meaningful, rather than a game in which neither of us know the answers to the questions?
Saturday, November 28, 2009
25-26"It will seem like all hell has broken loose—sun, moon, stars, earth, sea, in an uproar and everyone all over the world in a panic, the wind knocked out of them by the threat of doom, the powers-that-be quaking.
27-28"And then—then!—they'll see the Son of Man welcomed in grand style—a glorious welcome! When all this starts to happen, up on your feet. Stand tall with your heads high. Help is on the way!"
29-33He told them a story. "Look at a fig tree. Any tree for that matter. When the leaves begin to show, one look tells you that summer is right around the corner. The same here—when you see these things happen, you know God's kingdom is about here. Don't brush this off: I'm not just saying this for some future generation, but for this one, too—these things will happen. Sky and earth will wear out; my words won't wear out.
34-36"But be on your guard. Don't let the sharp edge of your expectation get dulled by parties and drinking and shopping. Otherwise, that Day is going to take you by complete surprise, spring on you suddenly like a trap, for it's going to come on everyone, everywhere, at once. So, whatever you do, don't go to sleep at the switch. Pray constantly that you will have the strength and wits to make it through everything that's coming and end up on your feet before the Son of Man."
This is the first Sunday of Advent, the first Sunday in which we awaken to the need to prepare, to prepare for the Christ child that will be coming. We are told by Jesus, himself, to keep on guard, do not be like the maidens whose lamps ran out of oil, not to fall asleep while waiting for the bridegroom to arrive and bring us into the party. No, we are to be awake and aware, prepared. And yet, not so prepared and focused on the arrival that we miss out on the present, on what is before us this very minute.
I liked how The Message said not to get lost in the drunkenness of parties and drinking and shopping. It is as if the composer, the paraphrase of The Message interpreted this scripture solely for this first Sunday of Advent. He warns us not to get lost in the parties, the festivities, the shopping of the season and forget to be still and prepare our hearts for to wait for God to become human flesh and blood.
The Message gives us the perfect image of the excesses we indulge in at Christmas—not merely the parties but the shopping and spending, the “Shopocalypse,” as Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping say.* It’s so easy to lose ourselves in the giving and getting of Christmas, that we not only lose ourselves but we lose the purpose of the season, we forget the purpose of Christmas—not that families get together, that is nice but it’s not the meaning of Christmas, not the gifts, not the niceties in which people may be more kind to one another during the season, this is good but not the reason for the season of Christmas.
I’m afraid that to say, “Jesus is the reason for the season” is no longer enough to explain—we’ve made Jesus into a cute white plastic baby-doll that lays in a manger never speaking hard truths, like Pilot, we’ve tried to strip Jesus of his power and grace and put him somewhere where we can control him. Like Pilot, we do not have the power to do such things—praise the Lord!
The reason of the season, the purpose of Christmas is to stand up and take notice that Love has been made flesh and blood! God has had enough of this long distance relationship with humanity and has become flesh and blood, has become one of us so that we might truly and fully know who God is. God decides that it is not enough to bless the world through Israel but to come and bless the world on God’s own terms, to bless us directly, to seal the gap, to bring the kingdom of God to us here and now, no more waiting! How amazing and wonderful is that?
That is a gift that money cannot touch, that nothing money can buy, cannot even come close to acknowledging. The magi laid down their gifts and laid their very lives before the Christ child. We have cheapened their gifts with $10 bath salts, My Little Ponies, and PS3s.
Instead we are asked to stop the debauchery, stop the insane shopping trips, stop the parties and quiet our hearts, preparing them for what it means that God will become human, that we are waiting not only for the Christ child to be born (again) in a manger 2000 years ago but also for the Christ that will come again and make this world new, give us peace that we cannot even imagine, to right all the wrongs of this world.
Jesus tells us the signs to look for—war and fighting, the earth quaking and falling apart, the world in natural and political chaos. These are the signs that the kingdom is near. Yet, this is the very world in which we live. This is the world that has always been—natural disasters, “man’s inhumanity to man.” God’s kingdom is always near, if only we are awake enough to see it, feel it, and live into it. Throughout Jesus’ life and ministry he tells us, repeatedly, that the kingdom of God has come near to us this day. This very day.
There is more to come—more chaos and more healing by Jesus the Christ. It’s not over yet. Some people are terrified by this promise as it has been “gorified” by books like the Left Behind series, end of the world movies, people selling fear instead of freely offering the hope of Christ, the hope that we find comes to each Christmas.
I like The Message’s paraphrase but it misses one very important piece, listen to these words in the NRSV,
Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day catch you unexpectedly, like a trap.Do not let your hearts be weighed down with the worries of this life. Do not let your hearts be weighed down with the worries of this life. Yes, we have a tendency to party and indulge in excesses and this includes the excesses of worry and fear. There has been much selling of fear regarding the end of the world, the hope, the peace have been left out and pushed aside. Fear sells not only movie tickets and books but also all the stuff we don’t need, stuff that doesn’t protect us from the things we should fear—greed, sin, the things that turn us away from God, lead us into ourselves rather than turning to God’s grace and love. Fear sells but God’s grace and love heals, repairs, changes lives, gives hope, gives us eyes to see and ears to hear God’s message of love and hope.
We are not to live our lives in fear of what’s to come anymore than we are to live in debauchery and indulgence. We are to live in the grace, the love, the hope that is present in the Kingdom of God in which Jesus brought near to us 2000 years ago, and that we prepare our hearts to experience in a new way this Christmas. If we are to experience this again, we must stop what we’re doing and quiet ourselves, preparing our hearts and minds, wake up to the kingdom around us and wait with beautiful anticipation. Amen.
Friday, November 27, 2009
You see, in high school, I had a crush on my Chorus teacher. He was a young guy, and he had gone to college with some cousins of mine, and over the summer between 9th and 10th grade, we ran into each other at a series of pre-wedding parties, and I fell DEEPLY in like. You?
1) Did you ever have a crush on a teacher?
I've always crushed on teachers and professors. In 1st grade I crushed on my teacher, Mrs. Fry. I absolutely loved her and everything about her. In 6th thru 8th grades I crushed on her brother Mr. Fry (no joke! it's a small world, especially in KS) as we learned history from him. In high school I developed a major crush on Mr. Pappas who taught Psychology. Then my freshman year of college I heavily crushed on my English professor--Mark. I shared my poetry with him and he took an interest in my writing. We went to dinner a few times and talked about writing, he took me under his wing. I thought it was more but I was so wrong. We stayed in contact for a few years. I still get excited when I see one of his books for sale. Sometimes I think it would be hilarious to tell him that I'm a pastor now--if he would remember me.
2) Who was your first crush?
3) Have you ever given a gift to a crush?
That's it, I love it. I might alter it bit for the church
I'd have to work with it but you get the idea.
Good job, AMC! Now, can you replay the Godfather Trilogy during the day so I can actually watch it?
Monday, November 23, 2009
This Saturday, Merkin and I indulged in 2012. Neither of us can resist a disaster flick (except Armageddon)--especially one that was made by the folks of Independence Day. It was great fun even if a little disappointing. Both of us were stoked to see the falling of the Jesus in Rio De Janeiro--it's an amazing landscape and to add disaster and a crumbling Jesus would have been amazing. However, that was only seen from the small screen of a television set during a news report.
I did not attend 2012 for some insights about the end of the world, humanity, or the Christian faith. I attended 2012 for some mindless fun and cool (albeit cheesey) special effects. That said, there were 2 specific scenes of destruction that have stayed with me. The Vatican crumbling down and the Washington Memorial nailing the president.
Yesterday was Christ the King Sunday. As we proclaim Christ our King we get this whole kingship thing screwed up in our heads. That Christ is king is ironic, its subversion at its finest but too often we forget this. Instead we talk about heaven having streets paved with gold, jewels for doorknobs, etc. We picture Jesus in a gold crown and glorious robes. Yet, this was a guy born in a cave/barn shared with animals; a God-man who died on a cross rather than call upon the heavenly powers that be to curse his persecutors with Old Testament wrath and fury.
All of this we forget and we build monuments, cathedrals lined with gold, silver, filled with gorgeous artwork, all to remember that Christ is our King. We build these cathedrals and monuments out of our need to create beauty and art. We build these cathedrals and monuments to honor our God and other heroes.
And yet, in 2012 we watch as people gather before these monuments and cathedrals in their time of desperation and prayer only to be destroyed, killed by them. The adoration and praise that is channelled into the building of these monuments and cathedrals was terribly misdirected. Time, energy, and cash was funnelled to these projects instead of helping humanity, giving to the least, and hence giving to our Lord and Saviour.
As the priests kneeled in the Vatican and the walls came crashing down around them, you wondered if they felt foolish worshipping a god that wasnm't there. I imagine that was the intention of this particular scene, yet I did not wonder about the absence of God. I wondered if in that moment they realize how misdirected they had, we have become. Rather than worshipping the living God, we spend too much time, energy, and money crafting institutions and memorials. Those things we create and craft only serve to come crashing down around us, crushing us rather than helping us to experience God--they kill us.
The president watches as the tip of the Washington Memorial points directly at him and topples ontop of him and the White House. What is he thinking at this moment? Is he wondering if the money spent on a humongous spike would have been better spent on the people of the United States providing health care? food? housing?
Probably not, afterall it is a scene in an end of the world disaster flick. But it made me think of such things, it made me wonder if all the "stuff" we've crafted and created to honor God has done more to make us forget the subversion of Christ the King and led us to imitating our governments and culture. All the stuff contributes to our drift (sometimes a deadheat run) away from the "un-King", Jesus the Christ.
Sunday, November 1, 2009
I've caught the flu. It stinks and I'm ready for it to be over.
However, today the SyFy channel is having a V marathon. ABC has remade it and begins airing the new version on Tuesday at 7pm (central). I was 11 when the original series aired. I was fascinated by it. There couldn't have been a better day for me to be sick--at least I got to watch the miniseries over again!
It is just as compelling as the first time I watched it, even if the graphics are laughable. I'm interested to see how they will change things with the new version.
A few things I've noticed is that in the orginal the leaders tend to be women. The main alien leader that appears is a dreadful woman who uses her sexuality to get ahead--of course she is sleeping with her boss. She is as beautiful in her human form as she is vicious. The leader of the resistance is also a woman. She too is beautiful (and blonde--the evil alien is a burnette of course!) but uses her mind rather than her sexuality. Eventually men come in and take over but she remains strong and a leader throughout the story.
They make overt references to the holocaust and needing to hide people away from the aliens. In the first shows there is a survivor who convinces his son and wife to take in a family. As I watched I thought about the very few survivors left--that in and of itself scares me. I wonder if we will forget. Sometimes it seems as though we've already forgotten.
There is a hispanic man, a gardener (of course) who helps a family escape (the same one the holocaust survivor helps). Their youngest daughter cries and cries, and the man gives the family a bag of what looks to be Hershey kisses. As they thank him and seem suprised by his knowing what would quiet her down, he shrugs his shoulders and says "I know a bit about this." My heart sunk as I heard these words because life is no better for illegal immigrants trying to escape to this country, if anything, they are probably worse.
A few weeks back we saw an updated Children of the Corn. It was absolutely HORRIBLE. They ruined the story from the very begginning, there was no guessing, wondering what was going on--they played it all out. They made the couple a mixed race couple and the black woman was a hateful screaming thing. The white guy was a vietnam vet who we were supposed to feel sorry for. How's that for racism and stereotyping?
I hope the updated V is better but I don't have a lot of faith in that. I will be sitting in front of the tv come Tuesday night, assuming I don't have any meetings to attend (which is a pretty big assumption).
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.’
Today is All Saints Day in which we celebrate and honor those whom we are joined with through our Christian faith and have passed on. Often we think of saints as only those people whom the Catholic Church has called saints, but as Methodists any Christian who has passed away is now a saint. It’s a day to honor the dead.
In Mexico it is called Dia de Los Meurtos or Day of the Dead and it spans 2 days. At the same time as the Day of the Dead the monarch butterflies are begging to fly through Mexico to reach their hibernation home on the trees in the mountains of central Mexico. It is believed that on the backs of the monarchs the spirits of the dead are brought home. The first day is the day that children who have died arrived and then the adult spirits come on the 2nd day. The night of Halloween, All Hollow’s Eve is spent waiting for the spirits to come. It is a joyous celebration. The graveyard is decorated with the favorite foods and drinks of their loved ones—a feast is prepared for the spirits and made to help them find their way home.
We don’t deal well with death in our culture. We usually understand that it is something to fear. Often when we see the Mexican skulls decorated with gorgeous paintings and even gemstones, we are taken aback. It scares us a bit, it does not offer any comfort. But in the Mexican culture it is a way of embracing and no longer fearing death—almost making fun of it.
As Christians we should not fear death, we have been promised a joyous and wonderful day in which we will be hugged and greeted by Jesus the Christ, himself. God’s face will shine upon us! A day of rejoicing it will be!
Our scripture, our periscope, for today says, promises:
‘See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.’
Granted, we don’t know when this day will arrive—we don’t know if it will be on the day of our death or at the end of time as we understand it, but this day has been promised to us.
God has not given up on our world that seems to worship violence and war, bringing people to death’s door far too soon. No, God continues to work to restore creation. God gave birth to our world, lovingly crafting even the wings of a butterfly, as well as the moon the many universes that surround us—nothing too small or too large to overlook. Everything precious and good. Somehow sin and brokenness found its way into the goodness, the sacredness of creation, but God is not done.
We often think of restoration as bringing something back to it’s original state, but God’s restoration of creation is a promise to not only restore but to make it even more glorious than it ever was, more glorious than we can even imagine. All the words, all the images we can come up with, fall short.
One of the most difficult things for me to understand is that this will happen in God’s time, not ours. Many have given up hope that this will ever come true. It seems that every generation has believed that they will be the ones to watch and experience this world as it comes to its end. Some believe that they can manipulate things and make it come quicker, but the scripture is clear—the city of Jerusalem will come down to earth from heaven. God brings the Holy City to us, to earth. God does this, we do not build a second tower of Babel to meet God—no, God brings the Holy City to us, God as with Christ, breaches the gap between the Sacred Divine and our brokenness. God comes to us, yet again, this time making all things new, beyond our wildest dreams and imaginations.
In this new world, there will be no more brokenness. There will be no more sin. The lectionary writers didn’t think we could handle the entire pericope; they cut this scripture short at verse 6a. Perhaps they thought saying that no fornicators, no liars, no adulterers were going to be allowed in this new creation. Perhaps they thought I’d get up here and shout that you were going to burn in hell if you lie, if you idolize something or someone, if you have affairs, if you practice magic. I’ve heard people do that, but I don’t believe that is what these last verses are truly saying. If all that was true, if we were going to burn in hell for being liars, adulterers, idolaters then what was Jesus about? We are Christians and God has gifted us grace, undeserving, unmerited grace that transforms our lives.
The point of the last verse is that along with no more death, no more crying, there will be no more sin, no more brokenness. There will not be liars, adulterers, idolaters because they won’t exist. All of that will be wiped away and transformed into something far greater, far more wonderful than we can even dream or imagine.
In this new and awesome creation, God will make all things right, we will be redeemed and transformed into the people God has always known we could be, even if we couldn’t do ourselves. Let us remember as we partake of the communion bread and wine, that we are not alone, we do not do have to rely upon ourselves, that God is with us. Thanks be to God!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
but the bigger I get the smaller I feel
The more I want to be seen and less and less
The pictures I take reflect the beauty around me
caught up in it all I have my picture taken
and suddenly I can no longer see
See the beauty
for a minute I felt it
it felt good
it felt inside of me
So how does another picture
make the beauty fade so fast?
Like a caricature of who I once was
overinflated on the inside
but its gone inside and shrunk everything else while it's gone larger than life can hold
in my body
Now to shrink the outside
to grow up and not out
that has got to be possible
But then I see those pictures
and think it's just not possible
to make this caricature real
but I desperately
want to be in a picture of beauty
and still see me
I want my body to be able to hold my life and not take out my knees.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Ok, so I know that's not entirely possible.
HOWEVER...Diana Butler Bass spoke yesterday (perhaps my favorite, I think I might be a church history nerd) and pointed out that in psychology they say that the greatest predictor of future action is how people have behaved in the past. There fore, if we want a glimpse into our future then we need to examine which part of our church history to which we are most similar. When, where, who had similar issues, similar people, etc...
Diana Butler Bass then gave us a few suggestions as to what people are currently saying about that (she offered the examples and I'm offering some issues/people/way of life):
- Early Rome--pre-Christendom, multiple faiths living together, a government that rules with violence and proclaims it's leader the son of god, wealth belongs to a very small few and most people struggle just to get enough to eat.
- Reformation--a time of great change in which many are frustrated by the Church and some of its practices, the Church seeks to eliminate those voices which are different, the Church is nervous about losing its power.
- Middle Ages--this was Diana Butler Bass' suggestion, she didn't go any further than to say she sees some similarities with our time and theirs. I really want to know more of her thoughts on this...do you know if this is any of her latest book?
- 18th century/John Wesley--another suggestion by DDB in which I would have liked to have heard more. It excited me because of the Wesley thing. I see the similarities as far as there are lots of small groups of people who are frustrated with the church and these folks are meeting on their own, some having this be their church while some do both their formal church and their small group. These folks are concerned with living out their faith and not having it be a head-game so to speak.
What do you think? I'd really like to discuss and hear your thoughts.
On a personal note, I think I'm falling in love with church history because it reminds us that we are just a speck, another blip on the screen. We've lived through this and thrived before and we will again. DDB said that "history is the basis for wholeness." I think she's onto something with this.
DDB quoted John Meechum (please forgive me if I'm off on the spelling), "History is to a country what memory is to an individual." She asked us to insert church for country: history is to church what memory is to an individual. This applies to both Church and church. Then she went on to talk about what happens when an individual loses their memory, she reminded us about Alzheimer's and how painful and scary it is for both the person and for their loved ones. She goes on to say : Loss of memory is not funny, it is fatal. When you lose your memory you lose your sense of self. You lose your family. You lose your community. You lose your body’s ability to even function.
As a person who watched a loved one suffer with Alzheimer's for approx. 15 years, I know what she's talking about. I also know what it's like being on the side, the worry, the sadness, the hopelessness.
We can't afford to lose our memory--that is what will keep us going, growing, and thriving (ps. I'm not talking numbers here, I'm referring to spiritual growth).
So where do you think we're going? Returning?
Saturday, October 10, 2009
what about those of us “placed” in staid places? we need to break through the crusted layers that keep Spirit out. peel those layers and Diana Butler Bass would have us help them remember who they were when they began—the good and the bad, put it in context with the Church, and then know where to go.
this can be difficult because when people are comfortable there is no need to peel back layers “that might hurt”. pastors need to be brave to do this. churches need to be ready to not worry about growth for a while, not numbered growth but spiritual growth. can the conference handle that? can our churches handle that?
some days I think I’d be up for working a full or part time job in order to have a church like this. but that means not making a new church, not making it easy. not that making a new church is easy—it’s not but it’s another challenge, another grape, another grapefruit. it’s transformation. are we ready for transformation and rebirth? let’s stop birthing new and start growing down (thank you Alyce Barrywood for that!). can the conference handle that?
I don’t want to go anywhere other than where I am. but I want to be a part of transforming this place, these 2 small churches. that’s what God is calling me to in this minute and I have resisted it. I’ve been afraid to be honest about what I’m here to do. I’ve been afraid if I said it out loud that they wouldn’t want me anymore.
but I think that’s what the churches want as well, to experience Christ in their lives as churches, as people, as a family of faith, and as individuals. I think these churches want real transformation. it’s scary though because we want to have enough money to make it, to pay the bills, we want to meet those standards set before us so the conference won’t move us, close us down. fear, not faith have guided us this far. I think I’m finding my faith again. will you come with me?
This is a quick moving conference and rather than wondering when the speaker will stop talking, we left wanting more! So far we have heard from:
- Shauna Niequist talked about "currency earned through brokeness"
- Carla Barnhill is our guide through weekend, giving us thoughts and bits of her wisdom as well.
- Phyllis Tickle and Nadia Bolz-Weber "interviewed" one another which was not only highly entertaining but filled with LOTS of great information. Phyllis Tickle says we're in the "great emergence" which happens to be the latest "rummage sale" of the western church. Every 500 pears or so the western church has a big shift in which they reevaluate where they're headed and what they are taking with them. currently we are in the first "rummage sale" in post-christendom (no longer is the church and ...
grrr!! i lost connection and didn't realize it! so i've lost over half of my post and we're about to start once more! i will have to do this later. hence i'm going to be brave or stupid (you decide) and have a partial post.
know that is is awesome!
Thursday, October 8, 2009
i laid down on the couch thinking i'd catch just a few zzz's, not being able to sleep for long on it. uh, not the case. i woke up 3 hours later! additionally, i had to pull myself out of the sleep. i hate doing that. they were some bizzarro dreams of a maze til i could finally know where i was. for a moment, i began to worry that the dream was real but finally i busted through to reality.
i wish i could describe the process better. i wonder--do others dream and wake like that? i begin deep in a dream, knowing it's a dream and that i want out of it. sometimes i can immediately wake up but there are some dreams that take longer to get out of and they warp into some bizzaro worlds before i can make it out and wake up.
now, that i had a LONG nap, i need to get working so that i can hit the road tomorrow and get to Christianity 21! woot! i can hardly wait!
i'm so glad i'll be in St. Paul/Minnapolis instead of Kansas City/Overland Park! sorry seminary friends but i'm thrilled not to be drinking the Hamilton/COR kool-aid!
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Homecoming is when all the folks who used to attend church here come back for this Sunday and it's a grand celebration with a huge dinner afterwards. I don't know why those folks only return for this particular Sunday but they do and as long as I'm here I'll support this celebration and welcome them home. These are a few pictures taken at the worship service.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
don't think i'm that dumb
it couldn't be missed
ugh! being mom to a 14 year old girl is hard. it's one thing when i'm frustrated with my own daughter and another when the urge to protect one of my girls pops up.
ugh! little girls thinking that they are better than they are and trying to make others feel as low as they can. why do they think pushing someone else down will make them better?
the mama lion in me is screaming with rage, i want to lash out at the little girl(s) who makes my girl miserable. what is wrong with me? is this normal? i thought i was the grown-up but i'm feeling like a raging 15 year old or something crazy.
Monday, October 5, 2009
i'm tired and cold. i really want to go snuggle under my covers.
tonight was spent watching Merk cheer and the both jr. high and JV boys stomp the Trojans in football. it was cold and then it began to rain/sprinkle. i'm not that hardcore.
Val said she was feeling crummy. she was warm to the touch. it's terrible but right now i'd be happy to have a day at home with her if she's too sick to go to school.
hmmm....i don't have any hauntings to write about today. perhaps tomorrow.
i can still recover and finish the challenge strong with the rest of the month.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
1-2 From there he went to the area of Judea across the Jordan. A crowd of people, as was so often the case, went along, and he, as he so often did, taught them. Pharisees came up, intending to give him a hard time. They asked, "Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife?"
3Jesus said, "What did Moses command?"
4They answered, "Moses gave permission to fill out a certificate of dismissal and divorce her."
5-9Jesus said, "Moses wrote this command only as a concession to your hardhearted ways. In the original creation, God made male and female to be together. Because of this, a man leaves father and mother, and in marriage he becomes one flesh with a woman—no longer two individuals, but forming a new unity. Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by cutting them apart."
10-12When they were back home, the disciples brought it up again. Jesus gave it to them straight: "A man who divorces his wife so he can marry someone else commits adultery against her. And a woman who divorces her husband so she can marry someone else commits adultery."
13-16The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them. The disciples shooed them off. But Jesus was irate and let them know it: "Don't push these children away. Don't ever get between them and me. These children are at the very center of life in the kingdom. Mark this: Unless you accept God's kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you'll never get in." Then, gathering the children up in his arms, he laid his hands of blessing on them.
Divorce, it’s a touchy subject. Apparently it always has been. In the Hebrew tradition there were a few reasons for divorce—all of them allowed the husband to divorce his wife but she could not file for divorce. A wife was at her husband’s mercy. Once divorced, she would have nowhere to go; it would be unlikely that she would be accepted at her home.
The odd thing that Jesus says is that a woman could ask for divorce. This wasn’t a part of the Israelite culture that historians know of, so one wonders why Jesus mentions a woman divorcing her husband. However, Jesus honored women, treated them as equals—perhaps this was another way in which he understood them to be equal, that a woman might desire to divorce her husband due to lust and desire for another.
Humans lust for the new, the prettier, the more beautiful, the smarter, and the stronger. Lust and betrayal are not limited to men or women—we are all susceptible to them. We are all susceptible to hardening our hearts, to turning against the ones that we have loved.
Children remind us how to love. Children love freely and without reservation. This scripture jumps from divorce to children. Children are often the ones most hurt by divorce and yet they continue to love in the face of great pain and anguish. This is what Jesus did on the cross. He continued to love in the face of betrayal, pray for forgiveness for those who hurt him, who crucified him.
Holy One, let us love and believe not like adults who have hardened our hearts but like children who love unconditionally, let us love like Christ with forgiveness in the midst of ultimate betrayal. Amen.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Pumpkins, costumes, scary stories, signs of the harvest, wheat stalks, hay bales.
Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bagels, hot apple cider, hot chocolate with marshmellows floating in it, baked apples, chili, roasting chiles (i so miss Denver this time of year!), cornbread.
The sound of leaves crushing and crunching beneath feet.
Oooh, I LOVE it! Thank you God for autumn and October!
By the way, I am committing to blogging each and every day this month, and the blog theme is haunting/haunted (see the side bar) so it should be fun and even deep on some days.
As my wonderful Virginia would say, "coffee break's over!"
Sunday, September 27, 2009
This morning I retold the story of Esther to the congregation. The sermon title was Holy Disobedience and I had planned on talking about how God calls us to be a part of upsetting the status quo when it is unjust.
I wanted to say that in our world 1/3 of the population is concerned with an epidemic of obesity and the other 2/3 is dying from starvation and malnutrition. In the United States, a small percentage of people have health insurance that they can actually afford to use. Many others have insurance but their deductibles and payments are so high that they still can't afford to use it. Many others, most of which are probably children, have no health insurance at all and do not, cannot go to the doctor until a problem has reached crisis level. We have some huge problems.
As Christians we proclaim to be on the side of God, that we are interested in doing God's work, in following Jesus the Christ. Jesus preached that God would overturn the status quo--that the hungry would be fed, those that mourn would be comforted, etc. On the flip side, those who are not hungry would experience hunger, those who laugh will experience sadness, etc. Our status quo is in dire need of change.
There's a lot of talk about the USA being a Christian nation. If we are to be a Christian nation, then shouldn't we be taking care of the "least", the hungry, the poor, those who mourn? Shouldn't we at the very least provide healthcare for all of God's people, which means all of us because we are all the children of God? I would be thrilled to be part of that Christian nation.
Esther risked her life for the sake of her people. We do not even risk our money for the sake of taking care of our people. Esther made a potentially deadly sacrifice, while we risk nothing. We are not a theocracy, we are not a Christian nation. Yet, if we Christians stood together, ready to sacrifice to at the least provide healthcare for all people in the United States, we might begin to look like a Christian nation some profess that we are. Do we dare stand for Christianity rather than democracy? Do we choose to be Christians or Americans? Is there room for both?
I don't quite have the words right...yet. I'm working on it because they must be said. I think I've earned their trust, I hope that they will be able to hear me when the words are finally right.
Friday, September 25, 2009
It's been or felt darn near impossible to sit down and pray. I haven't been up for much lately. Yes, that sounds like depression. Perhaps it is. But I'm not feeling sad, I'm not crying. I'm just not feeling much of anything. I take an anti-depressant already. It's not a matter of getting meds. I'd love to stop taking the meds but jeez, if I'm having issues on meds I'm scared to stop!
Hmmm...I'm gonna stop blogging since I'm just complaining.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Halfway down the stairs
Is a stair
Where I sit.
There isn't any
I'm not at the bottom,
I'm not at the top;
So this is the stair
Halfway up the stairs
And isn't down.
it isn't in the nursery,
it isn't in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head:
"It isn't really
It's somewhere else
— A. A. Milne“Halfway Down,” When We Were Very Young
She also posted these questions:
Thinking of your childhood as a stairway, when did you feel (and how did you feel then)
1. at the bottom?
when boarding the school bus...i dreaded getting on the bus every morning. a boy from down the road would come and wait at my stop with me and the older kids would tease us that we were boyfriend and girlfriend. i hated it, plus it made my stomach drop to find a place to sit down. it was scary and agravating all at once.
2. at the top?
this might sound strange but when i would comfort my dad after my mom left or on those nights that he and my step-mother would have a terrible fight. it made me feel strong to tell him that everything would be alright.
later when i moved in with my mom and could walk home from school. i loved that. i felt grown up but not so much that i didn't like to stop and do goofy things, or play in the gulley between our house and the neighbor's.
4. At this point in your life, where would you place yourself on your own stairway?
not quite halfway up the stairs? that's hard to assess. after the rigamarole (sp?) this week/the DCOM interview i discovered that i'm further up the stairs than i thought.
5. Identify a place for you that "isn't really anywhere" but "somewhere else instead."
at our house it's called "sitting on the curb." when things get really stressful joel or i will ask if we need to go and sit on the curb. it's a great place for a time-out, to calm down, to assess the situation, to relax a bit, etc. sometimes it's a literal place and others it's not.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
I was going to add prayer beads to circle my Mary, Blessed Mother tattoo and add a bit more color to the original. However, I canceled the appointment because I ordered an orange 16 gb iPOD nano--4th generation. (prices dropped when the new iPOD was released) I thought I should choose one or the other because we didn't have money for both. I was being fiscally responsible.
This made my husband, Joel, very happy. He's not too keen on my desire for more tattoos. He says he didn't sign on to marry the painted lady. He didn't sign on to marry a preacher but he's doing fine with that.
As my appointment date gets closer I get a little sadder. I was really looking forward to seeing Jessie, hearing stories, and adding the finishing touches to Mary, Blessed Mother. If I get commissioned this spring (I'm optimistic) I'll likely get the tattoo finished--finally after 2 years!
This past weekend I watched a show on MSNBC called Hooked and it was about people who get tattooed. I thought it might hold some value but it wasn't very insightful and offered the armchair analysis one would expect to hear at the end of Maury Povich Show or something like that.
Sometimes people think its odd that I, being a preacher, would get tattoos. I simply tell them that our bodies are our temples, and I want mine to be covered with stained glass!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
yesterday i interviewed with DCOM (district committee on ordained ministry) and during the interview i mentioned that even though i consider myself a writer i find it nearly impossible to write out my sermons (ok, perhaps not THAT bluntly but that i don't write them out) and that for the past year i haven't been able to write.
one of the Elders got this quizzical look of shock on his face. as if that was the strangest thing he'd ever heard. then i popped in that i do write daily email devotionals for the folks at church so it's not like i'm not writing at all. but i keep flashing back to that look on his face.
have i changed? have i simply been too busy? what is going on with me that it's stopped? it's not completely unusual for me to stop writing. when the girls were little i had stopped for several years, the joke was that all my creativity was being zapped by them and put into raising children--after all, what is more creative than that?
perhaps i simply lack discipline.
the DCOM approved me to move on towards ordination and go through the conference interviews this coming spring. but there were some issues i need to work on and they were kind just to offer 3, there are a few more that i would add. one of those is meeting with my mentor once a month and this is related to becoming more disciplined.
i think part of my discipline needs to be writing for myself as well as writing the daily devotionals. i've been feeling drawn towards writing/crafting/creating curriculum. the pull is getting stronger too. currently i'm creating lesson plans for our Kids' Klub that meets on Wednesdays. we're studying the Apostles. at the small church we've not had "church" per say, but have been talking about the development of the Bible as we know it and some early church history. it's been really fun, i absolutely love it. the folks are totally interested in it but i haven't found curriculum that has been very helpful. we don't' have a mainstream book store around--we've got to go 1.5 hours for that and it's difficult to get a sense of it from an online bookseller. i would love to see some of the videos Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan have put out but they are crazy expensive. in other words, i may not need to write curriculum--it might be out there (if so PLEASE leave your suggestions in the comments!).
another thing i noticed yesterday was that i actually enjoyed the interview! i haven't been so intellectually engaged and challenged for such a long time. it was really fun! i know this spring isn't going to be fun--too much will be on the line to enjoy it. i knew most of the folks interviewing me yesterday and know that they want the best for the church, as well as for what's best for me. i trust them.
i've rambled quite a bit and need to get back to my pastor stuff! thanks for "listening" and peace be with you.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I shouldn't be complaining because Joel has been home more this week than any other week we've been here. Perhaps that is why tonight felt so exhausting.
Val has quite a bit of homework every night. It sucks. It really really really sucks. She's got some ADD issues but they're pretty much under control but it makes homework a huge struggle. She's a kid that needs lots of space and time to run off her energy but most of her time is spent avoiding actually completing her homework. She does ok IF i sit right by her and watch her do it. If I'm readying, working, or anything else she won't do it. It makes me crazy! I can't just sit there and watch her work or not work. EEEKKK!
There there's that thing about having 2 other kids to take care of and help with their homework.
In addition, Wednesdays are simply long days. I go to work at 8:30, leave for lunch, come back to prep and have Kids Klub, go home and fix dinner and then back at church for meetings or Bible Study and home around 8:30 or 9pm.
My wonderful secretary has resigned. She's been working too much between the church and her work at the school. It's a good call for her. It seems that we won't be replacing her. They aren't expecting me to simply take over all that she does (that would be way bad!), they are reasonable about that but they are expecting volunteers to do the rest. They do want to give me a raise so I guess that is good. Truthfully, I'll miss her input. She's not leaving the church so I'm probably being over dramatic about it right now.
Kids Klub was lots of fun today. It was a great first day and we had several new kids which is fun and exciting. Sunday we begin Youth Group again. I hope it goes as well or even better.
Lastly, I'm craving ice cream. We have it in our freezer but I'm trying not to eat it. This summer I've gained at least 10lbs and need to start eating well and losing weight. Why not start on a night I'm stressed right?
Anyway, hopefully I'll get off my duff and start blogging something intelligent or at the very least interesting or entertaining.
Peace be with you.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Friday, July 31, 2009
1) On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being I can’t do this now I am about to jump into a pit of plastic balls at the mini-mall and 1 being I can’t do this now until I can get all of the fonts on my blog to match – where are you? unfortunately, i'd say a 2. that might be a surprise to some of you but it seems that with each time i became a new mother i lost a bit of silliness and spontaneity. i remember playing with Merkin--finger painting, crawling on the ground, building houses out of moving boxes, making up silly songs. all of that got less and less with each child. it makes me sad that Merkin was the only one to get the fun mom.
2) What is the silliest/most childlike thing you have done as an adult? hmm...probably acting like a zombie in the grocery store. i'm not sure what it is about grocery stores but they just beg me to act like a goofball. when we lived in KC we'd act like zombies or Frankenstein shopping and then run the cart to the car as fast as we could (not always but after checking for safety--of course!)
3) Any regrets? not for things i've done but that my younger girls won't have the same fun memories that Merkin will have
4) What is the silliest thing you have ever seen another adult do on purpose? at a kid's swimming party some very large men where diving off the board and into innertubes. i kept expecting someone to get stuck but it never happened. man, that was hilarious and they were having a great time.
5) What is something you wish you did when you had the chance? standing up in a super yummy restaurant and shouting "bravo! bravo!" while clapping to thank the chefs--we didn't because we were worried about possibly getting banned from the place!
BONUS: For our ‘I told you so’ sides – what thing did you skip doing and you’re really glad you did! going way back--a friend saved me from getting a really goofy tattoo
Saturday, July 25, 2009
It's been a long day but it was good to say good-bye and be allowed to honor my friend. Amazingly, the tears waited until after the service and committal. I was able to sit in my office and cry.
I'm anxious about the morning, looking out and seeing where she'd normally sit.
However, I am truly blessed by the love and gifts we've shared.
I appreciate your prayers and thoughts.
Tomorrow will be another whirlwind of a day. After church there is an afternoon filled with fun and friends from the church. In a town not so far away, there is a water park which only costs $2.50 to get in! So a bunch of us are headed over for some water play and relief from the heat.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
Friday, July 24, 2009
This woman was my "stand-in" mother. Her door was always open for me (and many others) to come in and hide. We could just sit in silence or we'd chat it up. I wasn't her only "kid," she took in more than anyone probably imagined.
I don't want to say goodbye. I don't want to show up for church on Sunday and know that she won't be there to sit with the girls and tease Joel. She won't be there later in the week to talk. She won't be there anymore at all. I just don't want to say good-bye.
I think I needed to let it out, to just acknowledge how much this will suck. I love her and will do my best to honor her and be there for her kids, biological or otherwise.
I love you, good-bye.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
It feels like I am constantly behind. It's driving me a little nuts these days and yet, I'm not doing much to "catch up." Life just moves fast!
My baby girl is staying with her grandparents for 2 whole weeks! I really expected her to come home before the time was up but right now it looks like she will make it! I'm glad that she is having a great time and they are keeping her pretty busy so it doesn't sound like she's missing us yet. I hope she won't. I hate the thought of her crying and not being there for her. It's probably one of those times/things in which it's more difficult for me than her. I hope so! After all, I'm supposed to be the grown up!
It's also been fun just hanging out with my 2 older girls. Last Thursday we went to see Land of the Lost. I thought it was safe--it was PG-13. That means it's safe for kids 13 and up right? Uh, no! Not quite! It was hilarious but it was also completely inappropriate!
Thankfully, most of the sex jokes floated above Val's head but I'm guessing that my Merkster understood but I did not ask! I'm not sure that I want to know! Don't get me wrong, she's a good kid but she is in Jr. High and they talk quite a bit!
Anyway, that's the update from the Karrsonage. Peace out!
Saturday, June 20, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Jennifer recommended this book, which I got because I always value Jennifer's reading suggestions. The author of Life is a Verb, Patti Digh worked her book around these topics concerning life as a verb:
Thursday, June 18, 2009
His words demonstrate more than anything I could say.
There is not a place to which the Christian can withdraw from the world,
whether it be outwardly or in the sphere of the inner life. Any attempt to
escape from the world must sooner or later be paid for with a sinful surrender
to the world. (Ethics)
The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them. (Life Together)
From God we hear the word: “If you want my goodness to stay with you then serve your neighbor, for that is where God comes to you.” (In the anthology, No Rusty Swords)
Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others, we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as ourselves. (The Cost of Discipleship)
There remains an experience of incomparable value . . . to see the great events of world history from below; from the perspective of the outcast, the suspects, the maltreated, the powerless, the oppressed, the reviled ---- in short, from the perspective of those who suffer . . . to look with new eyes on matters great and small. (Letters and Papers from Prison)
Christianity stands or falls with its revolutionary protest against violence, arbitrariness and pride of power and with its plea for the weak. Christians are doing too little to make these points clear rather than too much. Christendom adjusts itself far too easily to the worship of power. Christians should give more offense, shock the world far more, than they are doing now. Christian should take a stronger stand in favor of the weak rather than considering first the possible right of the strong. (Sermon on II Cor. 12:9)
There is no way to peace along the way to safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture. (Address at Fano)
The followers of Christ have been called to peace. . . . And they must not only have peace but also make it. And to that end they renounce all violence and tumult. In the cause of Christ nothing is to be gained by such methods. . . . His disciples keep the peace by choosing to endure suffering themselves rather than inflict it on others. They maintain fellowship where others would break it off. They renounce hatred and wrong. In so doing they over-come evil with good, and establish the peace of God in the midst of a world of war and hate. (The Cost of Discipleship)
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
If Men Could Menstruate by Gloria Steinem
Of course, intellectuals would offer the most moral and logical arguements. Without the biological gift for measuring the cycles of the moon and planets, how could a woman master any discipline that demanded a sense of time, space, mathematics-- or the ability to measure anything at all?
If we let them.