Art for the Day

I just found this image (or rather one similar to it) in Imaging the Word. It is entitled All Saints I by Wassily Kandinsky, which not only makes me long for color bulletins but makes me marvel at all of the saints that radiate out of this image and into my heart and mind.

The Least Servant

"The greatest among you will be the least servant" reminds this week's Gospel Lesson. I'm re-reading this verse again and again this morning and trying to figure out what that means for my ministry.

Yesterday, at our regional minsitry meeting, a colleague in ministry lead us through a meditation on our vitality . She asked a question that we were to discuss in small groups. The question was simply: when did church change you? I could only think of stories from my youth. I certainly have those stories, but there haven't been any new stories. I had some of those moments in seminary. I had lots of them actually -- but it scares me that church isn't changing me now. I read this week's lesson and shudder at the thought that my leadership role assumes I'm somehow elevated above it. By Jesus' rationale in the text, this would make me the least. I'm not so sure.

This morning, I curled on Musicman's couch with a cup of coffee to watch the news. A report appeared about making your job recession proof. I've had this fear recently. I fear my job will be the first to go if the church has to do some restructuring of their budget. I admit. I'm scared. I don't know where that puts me in being least, greatest, exalted or humbled. I'm just anxious.


Wander Lust

Last night, I had dinner with three women. One of these women I met nearly a year ago. Another of these women I met through the first woman. The third woman I just met last night. She's our age. She's been in this town as long as we have. Each of us have all been in this small city for nearly two years. As dinner arrived and conversation unfolded, we got to talking about how our time in this city and how we all became friends. And then, we learned that this third woman is looking at houses.

You could have heard a pin drop.

Now, I know that it's a really good time to buy a house (if you happen to be financially capable). It's a buyer's market. Blah blah blah. Musicman's roommates just bought a house. They just moved back to town and were not eager to live with Musicman long term -- which makes sense to me. They're a newly wed couple. Who wants to be shacking up with an old friend? (No matter how wonderful that friend is.) They asked me this same question: "Aren't you thinking about buying?" Actually, I think the question was: "When are you going to buy a house?"

Gulp. I'm not ready. It's as simple as that. One of these dinner companions continued this conversation today when she remarked that she wasn't sure that she was here for that long. I agree. I'm not sure how long I am staying in this town. I'm feeling more confident in my call and falling in love has definitely changed my story -- but I don't know if I'm here long enough to buy real estate. I suspect that I think I'm here longer than this friend of mine, but I'm not sure it would be a wise investment for me to suddenly purchase property. So, I wonder if my wander lust is over. That seems far too final. I can't really believe that. I still have this idea that I'll be in several different congregations all across the country, not only in the snowy north. I even wonder about being a missionary. I can't really grasp that my wandering days are over -- but I guess I wonder. Is this something that's common for our generation? Or is it just me?

Monsters & Beasts

You know that story in Revelation 13 about that thing that comes from the sea? You know, it's read to be the antichrist and misinterpreted as various political figures. There's even an awful book series based upon this misreading. I don't like it. I think it's wrong. For many, many years, I thought this particular text should be hacked out of the canon. Now, I don't think so -- it only took one class in seminary. I had a professor who completely changed my reading of this particular text. That was almost five years ago though. Now, I'm trying to write a story about how I see this particular creature. So, I wonder if you have thoughts. What do you think of this beast?


The Lover

I've always resonated with God as Parent -- like the woman that sprang from the seat next to me in worship this morning to answer the cry of her child in the next room. She has been Mother. She has answered my call and prayers. She has been there even when I don't recognize Her presence, simply because she has taught me to live in Her way.

However, today, as I sat in the silence of Quaker worship, I was urged to consider relationship. Through the rebellious communal silence, I wondered with others about what it means to be together. Not only to gather. Not only to worship. To be together in that way that pushes us to love. To love both the good and the bad. To love when it seems impossible and unexpected. To love because this is truly a gift from God.

It was in this silent pause that I embraced God as Lover. This does a number on my inclusive understanding of God as Feminine, because the Lover goes deep. There is penetration and ecstasy. This is something saints have offered. I always thought it was a little strange. I don't want Jesus to be my boyfriend. I don't want to sing songs of syrupy sweet loving adoration. Or at least, I don't only want that. I want the Lover to go deep inside of me. I want to feel things with the Lover that I have never felt before. I want the Lover to open me to wonders that I have never imagined. Of course, I would be wrong if I narrowed the Lover merely to erotic love. That's not what enough.

To experience the Lover is to experience a passion that cannot be only sexual or drug-induced euphoria (I just saw that movie that denounces religion and openly admit that I don't know what to do with the pot-smoking church in Amsterdam). It's to carve out a space. That's what I noticed about the place I sat. There was an open space in the center of our room. It reminded me of sitting in circles in my seminary chapel. I forgot how much I missed carving out that central space for God. I forgot how much I loved looking up not to see a pulpit or altar -- but to see another person. To see that person across that space and to love her. That's the experience of the Lover. There is a space there. It may not have a clear shape but it is a space where we can see each other clearly and celebrate the divine connection between us. That's what I want to remember today. I want to create that space in all my relationships. I want to recognize the divine presence in each of them.

And in doing this, I want to celebrate the Lover who I see revealed in those that teach me about love. I want to carve out that space as it has been carved out for me. Because somehow, I have been loved. Someone took my hand last night and asked, "What can I do for you?" Not because I needed anything. Not because he could do anything to make me happier. He asked this question because he cared. It's his favorite question. He asks it constantly. I have been annoyed by it. I have turned it back to him to ask what he needs. However, it wasn't until I sat in silence this morning and saw that space that was given to me that I saw that this is what the Lover is. I can't do it alone, no matter how I might think I am the Lover. I am not just the Lover. I need that depth that feels like it could rip me apart. I need that awareness that it can be done for me. I need to trust that love and let it be. This is what I'm going to think about God today. As I do so, this song calls to me as it did to the community I treasured this morning. At the close of worship, we sang these words:

Dear Friends, Dear Friends,
Let me tell you how I feel.
You have given me your treasure.
I love you so.

Dear friends, I love you so. That's what I hear from God today. I will treasure this as I treasure all of the relationships I share. I'm going to look for that space and recognize what God is doing for me.


Opportunity Knocks

This Sunday is Consecration Sunday. The Stewardship gang will be leading every aspect of worship. I have volunteers that will run Sunday School. Everything will go off without a hitch without me. So, my colleague pops the question to me this morning, do I want to take Sunday off?

I opted to sleep on it but how many times is the Associate Pastor going to be given the opportunity to sleep in on a Sunday because she does her job that well? Am I missing something here? What do you think?


A Small Rebellion

So, I kinda kicked ass this morning -- not that I think I did it alone -- but I did kick ass. I said what needed to be said in a horrifying economy in a community where heat is really, really important (already). I claimed that message of rejoicing, which is a small rebellion. When the rest of the world says fear, we gathered this morning to rejoice. It was kinda fantastic, actually.

Yes, Musicman was there. He buried his head in his bulletin or the Bible or somewhere staring toward hid feet during the sermon, so I don't know what he thought. He came through the line of people after worship and introduced himself, "Reverend, my name's Musicman. Thank you for your sermon." I think I fumbled but asked him to join us for coffee hour. That's where I found him after I had hugged and rejoiced with those exiting worship. I'm still not sure what he thought of seeing me in action -- but he invited me to a party this afternoon to which I didn't think I was invited. So, I'm going home to change and head there... rejoicing in the Lord always!


Inviting the Boy to Church

Last night, after calling in sick and spending the whole day on my couch (cough cough), I went over to Musicman's house for dinner. Um, make your own spring rolls? This boy is amazing. Anyhow, one of his old friends is in town visiting. I met her back at his birthday party. I'm still nervous about his friends. I don't know what they think of me or what they think of us. Hell, I'm not even sure that I have answers to either of those questions. However, she was there and she cracks me up. Like spring roll falling back on the plate cracking up. She greets me with this huge hug and welcome. It was wonderful. I felt oddly affirmed... which I only really found amusing when I read this by my friend Father Stacy. See, this friend asked 153 questions when she found out that I was a pastor. Last night, I found out that she's been talking me up because church would be more interesting if people my age knew that there was leadership that (ya know) got it. Again, I'm amused.

Anyhow, this was when Musicman piped up and said he was coming to church on Sunday. I had just asked him if he would be willing -- even though he's gigging all weekend. Yes, gigging is a word for him. However, the next time I'm preaching my parents will be in town and (as I told him) that would just be too much for me. So I asked him to come to church. I swear to God. The boy lit up. He was elated that I had asked him to church. He didn't say anything but he's clearly pleased. And well, I think my sermon needs to be kick ass. It's done and I rather like it but I'm praying for the Holy Spirit to rock the Sanctuary on Sunday. It's selfish prayer, I know. I don't care.


Reading Challenge XVIII & XIX

Oh, right, I forgot that I read too.

I finished two books somewhat recently. The first is the more popular fiction entiled Memoirs of a Geisha. I didn't like the character. I was annoyed by the happy ending. This also taught me that I don't have to continue writing my novel about the rapist character that I hate. I can trash him and start with a more lovable character.

The other book I finished is one that I'm using for an adult version of Confirmation as it seems our parents don't know how to talk about their faith (who can blame them, I had to go to seminary to do it). It's not the most fantastic resource out there but I got lots of inspiration from it -- if that's the kind of thing that you are looking for.


Paul urges this really strange counter-cultural mandate: Rejoice in the Lord always. And again, I say, Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4). I find it darn near impossible not to think about Empire when I think about rejoicing right now. Who would rejoice in the power of the Emperor? And why do Americans seem inclined to believe that everything is going to be fine once the election is over? Or is that my own failure to rejoice?

Well, I just don't know -- but the one thing that strikes me this week is that we Christians don't know how to rejoice. We talk a good game. We claim its important but none of our liturgical elements (outside of Easter) talk about rejoicing with joy. This is a profound mystery to me. And that's not just because I'm a giddy girl (did you see how cute he is picking apples on Facebook?).

Joy is something I believe should be there. It's something that I hope we find. All the time. That's right. I said ALL OF THE TIME! Because, you know, God is good. All of the time!



Last night, I went to hear a certain songwriter from my hometown. Yes, she and I grew up in the same place. I've always wondered who she's singing about in this song because chances are I know the family (if not the actual person). Of course, she still lives in New York and sang about it. As I listened from the second row surrounded by friends from my new home, I couldn't quite escape this feeling of homesickness.

This is not something that happens often to me. I am the wandering soul. I have travel lust. I rarely want to be stuck at home. I want to explore as much as possible. This feeling of homesickness is not familiar. However, there it was.

As she sang about the Hudson, I got to thinking about my conversation earlier in the day. I was rather pleased with how the conversation went. I was able to model conflict management while speak honestly that I don't do this with my own parents (mostly because I don't need to do so). What hit me while listening to sweet lyrics was that familiar nagging that I don't get to have that mother-daughter relationship. I know. This is old news. No surprise to you. However, it was one of those strange moments where I grieved the fact that my baby sister is getting ready to go to college. My step-mother has that special relationship with her -- but I don't get it. We have a great relationship. Don't get me wrong. I love her dearly -- more than she knows probably. And yet, I can't help but wonder if I'm missing out on something because of a technicality. My mom isn't home. She's not somewhere that I can call her and say I miss her. I related to this woman in my office yesterday by talking about how it is to parent a child when your mother isn't around. I know this territory. I don't know (or not as well) how to be a daughter. I guess that's what I'm missing today (at least a little).

But, really, only a little. As you know, there is this boy in my life. There is a boy who's friends invited me over to watch the debate tonight. I consider this a big deal since I've met them twice. And really, I can't be all homesick and whiny because there is this boy in my life that makes me smile radiantly. That's right. Radiantly. It took me until last week to tell him my family story and he keeps asking questions. He's really close to his family and my story just isn't the same. The way I relate to my family just isn't the same. However, there is something unique about sharing this with him. He makes it safe. And really, who can complain about being homesick when you feel that safe? Right. I'll shut up then.


Feeling Awkward & Young

In less than 30 minutes, a member of my church is coming to my office to talk about her daughter. She's struggling with her college-age daughter's decisions. She's eager to improve their relationship. And in seeking support to make these improvements, she's turning to me.

It was important for her to emphasize yesterday that it was a compliment. She wasn't trying to belittle me. She wanted me to know. And yet, she's looking to me as someone that understands her daughter's actions simply because of my age. I want to believe her. I want to feel affirmed by this thought -- and yet I'm 10 years older than her daughter. I made decisions differently and continue to do so. I feel incredibly awkward about this counsel. I want to be able to offer the presence of God in the midst of this broken relationship. And yet, I'm not sure I've got enough authority to do so. It seems that this woman is turning toward me as a daughter rather than a pastor. I understand that -- but I don't know what to do with it.