Vanity of Vanities

For several days now, I have been meaning to highlight my hair. My stylist told me it was time. He was horrified by my roots. I wasn't so much -- but I believed his wisdom. So I went and bought a box of highlights (as I have done several times in the past). This time, I thought I would try a new product similar to the product I had used before -- but new nonetheless. And cheaper. I think that matters with the end result.

After rehearsing with a bride and groom for their wedding, I came home last night and opened the box. Twenty minutes later I became a bottle blonde. Oh shit. I'm sorry for the profanity -- but not only will I be in the pulpit today, I will officiate a wedding and tomorrow I will meet Musicman's friends. And I am a bottle blonde. This is offensive because I was a blonde. I've gotten darker and darker into my 20s and I started to fight back. I never wanted to fight this hard.

Luckily, I am also terrible at this so I can flip my hair to create another part (an unnatural part) that shows my more natural color. Yes, I am Cruella Deville. I look almost as menacing as she does in her sports car. Almost as angry with myself.

I'm so horrified by my own vanity and must admit that I'm really not sure what to do about this. Do I suffer with this until my hair grows out even though I just got a haircut? Do I go back to my sylist and cry after the long weekend? Or do I just laugh at my own stupidity and get over it?


That's It! I QUIT!

If you were to tell a story about your ministry (in its current or a past setting) and choose an ending, what would happen?

I was recently told a story (of which I don't have all the details) about a colleague in ministry that was serving as a solo pastor in Rural America. Some members of the church called a meeting behind her back. Sigh. This is sad enough, but the reason that they called this meeting was to discuss the fact that she listened to too much secular music. They thought that this should change. She didn't leave, but if she did. This would have been it.

I'm looking for stories like this one. I'm wondering about those moments when you almost threw in the towel because of something that happened during your ministry. Did you want to leave the church? Did it force you into thinking about leaving the ministry altogether? Do you have some strange fantasy about eating, praying and loving all over the world? If you were to tell a story, how would it all end?


Reading Challenge XVII

I'm so sad that I just finished the last sentence of Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle. It was just wonderful. As I've already says, she inspires me. Her words make me want to write more. They challenge me to be a better person and live more faithfully in tune with Creation. And now, I'm just sad that it's over.

She has inspired me to actually order a CSA box over the winter months. She got me to make a summery potato salad for my dinner party on Sunday night. Um. Yum. That same meal was created with all local foods and gluten free. I love bread -- but one of my guests is very allergic. And now, I feel compelled to read that book sitting on my shelf that will make me feel badly about eating everything -- but I think it's time for a real novel. Summer isn't over yet, after all.

From the Mouths of Babes

Little Mary and I had a wonderful phone chat about our Children's Sermons for this past Sunday. We decided what we would say and how it would sound. As always, I rely on the children to lead me. I changed my direction slightly from what Little Mary and I had discussed. I asked that question from the text, "Who do you say that I am?" and invited the children to respond with their names.

Then, I talked about Peter. He was given a special name that signified his relationship with Jesus and the ministry to which he was called. So, I asked them about nicknames -- special names that are given to us by people that love us. I got some cute responses until I turned back to Nicholas. Nicholas is coming into his own comedic timing, at 4 years old. Nicholas replied,

"Well, sometimes my mom and dad call me crackpot."

I have no idea how I recovered from this -- perhaps I just started the prayer. However, I think that this might be the one and only time that "crackpot" is said during any of my sermons.

When Crazy People Come to Church

How wide do we open the door?
Do we dare to let these children of God in?

Yesterday, my colleague received an email from a marginal member who every so often lashes out for something desperate. She needs grocery money or her car is broken. She calls the SP and begs. This has happened twice now. He makes a phone call on her behalf and apologizes that he can't do anymore. Neither of these phone calls have worked out -- but both times she has sent an email to announce joyously that God is protecting her and sent her angels that took care of her. This time, it was a whole family of 5 that showed up and played badminton with her in the backyard. For those of you that have children, is this something you do with your three children? Really? I don't think so. I asked the SP if he thought she was making the rounds among the churches. I pegged this family as Baptist from the other side of town. They're nicer than we are.

This is actually what bugs me. It's one thing to invite the "crazy people" into worship and welcome them "no matter where they are on life's journey" -- but it's totally another when these people are calling the pastors at home. It's the pastors that have to decide how to negotiate these relationships so that all parties are safe, healthy and well.

I admit that I have no idea how to do this. This is a little too close to home for me. I don't know how to relate to my brother -- and he's family! How can I possibly know what is fair both for me and these children of God that wander through the church doors? I fear that this will be one of the greater challenges to face the church in the future. And yet, I don't know what to do with it today.


Ethical Eating

So, I'm reading a book that seems to be all the rage in my community. It seems every time I turn around, someone else is reading it. Unless, of course, they are reading one of those vampire books.

Anyhow, this favorite author of mine is inspiring me -- as she always does. I'm thinking about how I eat, where I eat and how it reflects my commitment to God's created order. I'm soon heading to the Farmer's Market, but this is a gift that is offered to our community only in summer months. We don't get to have it much during the winter -- perhaps because the climate here is a little less than hospitable. So, I just did a little research on Community Supported Agriculture in our area. It turns out that there is one farm that offers winter shares. But, I've never done this before. I'm not sure the questions to ask. Or if there is something I need to know before I slap down a deposit to see three cheers for the farmers and local produce. Is there anything?


An Observation

Reading and sunning myself on the beach is not only an excellent self care practice -- but invites time for me to reflect. Something about the waves washing over me allows me to reconnect with myself and all of the good stuff that makes me tick.

So, as I was enjoying my new favorite beach today, I realized something about myself. I have a strange ability to overreact. This isn't a horribly terrible thing in most circumstances -- but I do tend to process aloud. This confuses people perhaps even in the blogging community. It also confuses people that I'm rather honest. I say what I feel. I don't hold back often (which is a new skill I'm exploring as a pastor). This is not really about Musicman as much as it is about my current call. I've had lots of questions about whether or not I'm leaving both inside and outside of the church. My reaction has been to overreact.

But, today, as the waves rushed over me today, I allowed them to do just that. Let all of those things to which I'm overreacting just wash over. And let it be. Just let it be. Yeah...


Not Sure What to Say

I mean, there are lots of things that I could say but it's not something I want to blog about. It's too personal. Too wonderful. Too surreal. And I'm just not sure what to say about it -- but I wanted you to know that things with the Musicman are really rather perfect. Even though he was away all last week, he made me dinner on Monday and may again tonight though our plans are yet to be determined. He's sweet and compassionate. And I'm still ridiculously giddy. Really. It's ridiculous.

Otherwise, I did a funeral today. It was another one of these older members that fell away from being active but wanted the Senior Pastor (who is again on vacation). Remember how well that went last time? I wonder about how these conversations go among family members. I imagine that there must be some sort of pep talk that they give each other. "Yes, she looks young but it'll be OK. Mom wasn't that ____ any way. She would like it." This was essentially the comment that I got from one of her son's today. I apparently led the perfect worship experience. In the same moment, the family was able to laugh and cry. I used their stories in a meaningful way that spoke to who there mother was in God's eyes and who she will always be for them. Aside from being super giddy about a boy, this is the most wonderful feeling. This is exactly why I do this work. I love this. Right here. This feeling of knowing that we can give each other a moment of grace -- even in death.

Another church member died this week. He is much beloved and has been struggling with brain cancer, but on Sunday he finally let go. Tomorrow will be his funeral. Tonight, there will be viewing hours. A church member called me to say that she had tickets to the local minor league baseball game tonight. She wanted to know if I knew anyone. (She knew I wouldn't be interested). Instantly, I thought of a couple who has been really down on their luck with money concerns. Free tickets and their parents can care for their daughter? Lord yes. She nearly cried on the phone. And I'm thinking, today is a really good day.


Preaching Party

I'm officially jealous of my YCW friends who were in DC last week at Deep Calls to Deep: Embodying the Sermon. It sounds amazing -- and I think I'm missing Teri and Amy a wee bit. Yes, wee. That's a Scottish-ism.

So, the Gospel Lesson this week has me thinking that I want to host a preaching party but I won't compete with the online version tomorrow at Rev Gals. Still, if anyone wants to, I'd be delighted. I've just realized that I can't guilt Songbird as she's not here. Sniff.

Oh well. Enough whining. Back to the Bible. I wonder what others are thinking about this assertive woman. I preached a very pastoral sermon last week. I'm thinking about talking about health care, but wondering what this text really says about health care. Is it too narrow to use the woman's bold claim to assert a Biblical call for universal access? Do I have to get into the economics? Or can I take her lead and simply assert the moral claim that "even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table" (Matthew 15:27)? I'm not sure about this logic, but fascinated that Jesus says that something isn't "fair" (Matthew 15:26). What does it all mean?


Grace is Gone

Philosophy Over Coffee has been writing lots of cultural reviews recently. I don't tend to do this often -- except for the Book Challenge. Perhaps nothing cultural has sparked my interest lately. That is, until tonight.

The above title is not a theological statement. Never you fear. It's the title of the movie that I watched tonight on what seemed to be my first night of being home on the couch since returning from Scotland. All I wanted to do today was be on my couch watching movies. It's the ideal activity for rainy weather -- of which we are having far too much this week. Anyhow, I found this movie on Netflix. I believe it was a recommendation because I heart John Cusack. Grace is Gone is a story of a father and his daughters after his wife dies in the Iraq war. The movie is the story of how he tells his children this tragedy. Gulp.

I'm grateful for this very realistic and honest depiction of grief. I want my dad to watch it. I turned off the movie and could only mutter through my tears, "I love you Dad." And I do, Dad. I love him so much because I remember this moment and I can't imagine how hard it might have been for him. It's not that I've never thought of this. I have just never watched a 124 minute movie that portrays this situation. The only thing that bugged me was the eldest daughter. No, she was older than I was. She's 12 in the movie. I was 7. The younger daughter is 8 -- and though no story is the same, this is a bright 12 year old girl. She would have figured it out. She knew. Whether or not she fully knew, she would have known that her mom wasn't OK. There is no clue of this. And this is what annoyed me about the movie It's told from the perspective of parents that have no idea that their children actually do know what they are going through before that reality is voiced. Otherwise, fantastic movie. I highly recommend it. I wish I could figure out the appropriate venue to offer it in my ministry -- but I got nothing right now. Perhaps that's because I'm still a little jetlagged.

How It Ends

Over on Fidelia's Sisters, the column featuring the life and times of one Alexis Daphne Vina is coming to an end. We are going to create a new column that will be featured in that same space -- coming in October. As the editor, you can be sure that I will be soliciting thoughts and ideas from you for this column. (Yes, you YCW. You!)

This presents the interesting opportunity of choosing an ending to the short-term ministry of one divorced, solo pastor clergy woman in a semi-rural context. As you can read in the most recent edition of her life and times, something is up. But, what could happen from here? How should the story end?


The Unity Candle

I hate it. I think it's over done and boring -- but the couple whose wedding I will pronounce at the end of the month do indeed love it. So, I'm looking for suggestions about how to do this awkward ceremony where their families each light a candle and light their big ol' pillar candle to symbolize their new family. I prefer that everyone gets up out of their seat and touches the couple and says some words, but I can't always have my way.

So, I found a liturgy at Reformed Worship, but I'm looking for other suggestions. Do you have any? Can you recommend something? Can you email me something brilliant? I would be eternally grateful. Or you can read the horrid thing that I created with great reluctance...

Before the ceremony, the florist would arrange the three candles on the altar – one pillar candle in the center (not lit), flanked by two taper candles that are. During the ceremony, the minister would invite the parents forward to the altar after the couple has offered their pledges, and before they offer their vows.
The minister would offer the following words:

Jesus reminds us to not hide our light under a bushel, but to put it on a stand so that it can give light to the house. With this reminder, ______ and ______ let the light of their love shine before the whole house with this symbolic candle.
In this candle, two lights come together as one. Before ______ and ______ found the love celebrated in this single light, they walked as children of the light. They were taught to shine by their parents to find all that is good and right and true.

On this day, when these two children of light become one, the families that have nurtured them and prepared ______ and ______ to freely give themselves to each other, pass the light of their family to form a new light.

[Parents take taper candles, one for each family, and light pillar candle together.]

As ______ and ______ begin their own family, shaped by their parents and their God who taught them to be children of light, they give thanks to God for the families of which they are still a part and into which they bring each other. Let this new light shine through out the whole house!

Naturally, the two flanking candles are not extinguished since they represent the two existing families from which the bride and groom come to form yet another family.