Monday, December 17, 2012

Advent Waiting

The violent attack on innocent young lives in Newtown Ct. happened right in the middle of our Advent season.  A season of waiting.  This morning I was starkly reminded of the power of waiting, as I dropped my kids off at school; knowing that many kids are scared today because the illusion of peace had been stripped bare over the weekend.  It will take time to heal.

The sad and horrific event reminds us that we desperately need a Prince of Peace.  We need God-with-Us for our world to change.  We pray this Advent for a day when violence will be no more for all of our children.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hopeful

No one can really prepare you for the life changing moment that happens when you become a parent for the first time.  I can remember holding Eva just moments after she was born.  I felt overwhelmed with love while at the same time, I felt utterly helpless in how I could possibly provide for her all that she would need to grow and to thrive.

No one in my immediate family could have fully prepared me, or coached me about being a pastor and raising kids in the church.  I had heard from adult PK's about the trials of living under the microscope of the congregation, but really had no idea what I was getting them into.

What has taken me sometime to figure out is how to juggle the expectations of being a mom and also being a pastor.  I am not sure my male colleagues have the same struggles, but we women put a lot into our expectations for what a mom, a working mom, can accomplish outside of work, and then you have a congregation that needs to meet in the evenings and early in the morning and at times when you are out to dinner to celebrate with your family (in emergency situations).

I suppose all working moms do the careful dance of learning how to balance/juggle/maintain career and motherhood.

Each time I have had a new ministry position on the horizon, my first worry is about how I will be able to meet the needs of my congregation and my children, from the reality of not being able to be in two places at once.  Will I be able to afford childcare for evening meetings if my husband is out of town?  Who will I get to watch my children?  Will the church offer childcare?  What will I do if there is an emergency on a Saturday and my husband is working or out of town?

So here is the place where I brag about my current congregation, they are so amazing in embracing my family and our needs so that I can minister to them.  When Dan was out of town, one family has on two occasions watched my son, first so I could officiate at a funeral and then to stay home with him on a Sunday he was running a fever.  When my kids have a performance at school and a meeting is scheduled they are okay with me going to the performance.  My husband, congregation and I have gotten into a nice rhythm that is a smooth symphony.  In regard to my congregation I believe it because they would do the same for anyone, not just the pastor's family.  They truly live up to the call to be a caregiver for any child, be it with a crying kid while mom is singing in the praise band, or to sit with a child when dad is reading scripture.

A lot of the solutions to making sure that my kids are being taken cared of where solutions I had not imagined before moving to El Paso.  What used to be a worry is no longer.  And I hold this as an example for how we as a church can move forward into the uncertain future, we may not have all or any of the answers right now but we walk forward nonetheless.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Feeding the Hungry

Part of  my calling to serve Christ comes from my deep passion to meet both spiritual and physical needs in the world.  Those of us in church circles call that having a theology of social justice.  As a pastor I find that most of my ministry falls heavily on the spiritual needs side but on the rare occasion that I can go somewhere to serve, be it in my neighborhood or across borders, I am able to participate in ministry that meets physical needs.  I have been part of missions in country and out of country.  I have seen how people in the third world live.

Shortly after moving to El Paso, Pastor Julian Ibarra the pastor of the nesting Hispanic congregation in my church building, came to me and told me of the desperate need for food, for rice and beans in Cd. Juarez.  So we began a collection that I have been a part of now for four years.  Yesterday I attended their worship service and participated in the blessing of the gifts that my congregation and other congregations have contributed to.

What I found so amazing is hard to put into words.  For someone who grew up in the Midwest I find it to be such a wonderful gift to be able to be part of a worship service held in Spanish, with people who still have ties to those living in war torn Juarez.  Who despite all that has gone wrong in that city, in either their country of birth or their parent's country of birth they still come together and sing praise to God.  They still hold onto a faith that God will help them to make things right.

And while it is more than apparent that I am an outsider when I walk into their fellowship, I am perhaps the only one with that perception.  I am treated like a beloved child of God and my soul is fed when I gather with them.  I thank God for the generosity of my congregation and for the power of God to transform our hearts when we give generously to others. I thank God for Pastor Julian and his keen insight into his community in Cd Juarez, his desire to help those who are hungry and to offer us an opportunity to help.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Exhausted before it even begins

I thought maybe I was just tired from life in general, but then I read my friend David Roger's blog and realized that it is probably more than that.  The whole season of Christmas makes me tired.  And I think it is because I often feel pulled in so many directions between the secular and the sacred of the season. There is just so much to do in an already hectic very full life.  I really don't' want to go through the motions of the season exhausted and more honestly I don't just want to go through the motions.

I suppose part of the reality is that our preparation for the birth of Christ will ultimately be what we allow it to be.  If we place our expectations super high, then we have a greater chance of being disappointed when the day finally arrives.  I suppose what I struggle with is this idea that we somehow make Christmas happen, with our shopping, our decorating, our baking, our parties, our receiving of gifts.  But when it comes down to it, the birth of Christ, the moment of God becoming flesh is not of our own doing.  It is a gift given to us apart from anything we can do to make it happen.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A funeral before breakfast

As a pastor and especially as a mother that allows pets into the home, I am well versed in funerals, both for people and for the animal kingdom.  We noticed yesterday morning that slimy our snail was not moving, and sometimes snails do not move, but this morning he really was not moving and so as I made an omelet for breakfast, my kids scooped slimy out of the tank with our fish net and laid him on a paper towel while my husband dug a whole in the front "yard"  (If you too live on the side of a rocky mountain you know the challenge in digging a grave for a pet.).

As I added the ingredients to my omelet, Harry said about slimy "he was a good friend." Which caused me to pause and to more fully process what was going on.  I said a short prayer over slimy (very grateful that we close our eyes to pray because his presence was turning my stomach) and then they were off to the front yard for his burial.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

In the face of a national election ... just saying

I cannot say that I am all that shocked about the divisiveness in the political state of our nation, because I too live within it.  Somehow we have gotten it in our heads that we are right and the other side is wrong.  Compromise is not held up and we can always blame the other side for what ever is going wrong.  So with that said as a pastor I am eternally grateful that I am part of the stream in Christianity that intentionally leaves our political views at the door before coming together to worship.  For us in the Disciples of Christ tradition, we uphold that God is bigger than any given political party, dare I say that God is bigger than the divisions we create in our human family?  So rather than hearing from the pulpit a mandate to vote a certain way or else ... you will hear from the pulpit prayers for our nation as we go to the polls next week.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Prayer

I recently read that you should not try to make time for prayer you should just pray.  As a child I was taught that in order to pray that you have to have your eyes closed, your hands folded and be ready to talk and listen to God in a quiet space.  I have come to learn that that kind of prayer is only one type of prayer.  Some of my best prayer times happen while I am doing something.  I guess you could call it multitasking prayer.  I pray when I am working out, especially when it gets hard.  I pray when I am folding clothes or making dinner.  I definitely am in conversation with God when I am gardening or walking my dogs, which I unfortunately do not make enough time in my week or month to do.

This morning as I drove into Central El Paso to the church, I prayed.  And I thought about how if my prayer does not result in some action, then I probably wasn't really listening to God.  (Which prompted me to write this blog about prayer and also to make some phone calls to members today.)

Some people feel the need to only pray when things start to spiral out of control.  I have been there, but what I have noticed in the last couple of years, is that life often times is spiraling in some direction that I would rather it not.  My family had just finished up dealing with a pretty serious situation when my son was diagnosed with ADHD.  And what I have found is that his diagnosis is an answer to prayer in so many ways.   We now have a mountain of resources to help him and to help our family live with a little boy that is so full of energy and insight and at times hard to transition into much needed focus onto something else.

So what I find myself praying for, among so many other things for the people in my faith community, is the strength and endurance to deal with the variety of situations that life throws at us, with the grace, forgiveness, mercy and compassion of our God.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Living in the Neighborhood

There has been for some time a movement to live in the neighborhood where you find your ministry to be located.  While that isn't always a possibility, (and you may ask why isn't it and I would answer because of the housing market, uprooting my family, changing schools, and maybe those are lame excuses) I don't think it needs to be an either/or kind of situation.  Meaning that where ever you live, you need to find a faith community there and dig into ministry right there.

I live on the west side of town and find that to be one of my ministry focal points and I serve a congregation that gathers in the central part of El Paso.  A part that once was an affluent part of the city which now sees many homes as multi-family dwellings and lower income housing.  It too is a focal point of my ministry and every time I enter into the neighborhood a voice in my head (perhaps God's) says "welcome home."  I love this neighborhood and I am blessed to be part of a congregation that does as well, some of us that live in the neighborhood and others that drive to get here.

This neighborhood helps me to stay grounded in my ministry much more so than I think I would be if I served a church on the west side of town, not because there isn't need there for gospel living or because people there already have it all together on the west side, but because I need to be here, because I have room for growth.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering 9/11


There are few moments in a preacher's life when she is left speechless.  We are trained to listen carefully and then to bring a sense of God's presence as found in our scriptures to any given situation.  On the day of 9/11, I was three years into full time ministry and found myself at a lose for words.  Tragedy on such a great scale can do that for us all and yet even today I am reminded that when there are no words to explain what we went through and what we continue to remember and return to, God is still present.  I am so very grateful for the heros that responded and my prayers remain with the families who have lived 11 years into the lose of life.  I am grateful for a country who stands beside those who still mourn and who takes time to bring the flags to half mast and to for a moment stand in solidarity with them in their grief.  So 11 years later here are the words that bring me comfort on a day like today.

"Blessed are those who mourn, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven ... Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."  (Matthew 5:4, 10-11).

"The spirit of the Lord God ... has anointed me; ... to provide for those who mourn in Zion - to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle the praise instead of a faint spirit." (Isaiah 61:1,3)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

My Neighborhood

This is our Casas Por Cristo build in Cd. Juarez September of 2011.  You can see the chicken cope next to the wall being carried.  It looked very similar to another building on the same property for a young family.


This morning I took Mesa into the office and avoided I-10 and the view into Mexico.  But as I listened to the radio I heard about the violence in another part of the world, of families huddling in the middle of the home praying not to die from bombs outside and I had to think about my neighbors across the border.  Cd. Juarez isn't a safe place to be and the poverty there is staggering.

So when I opened my email this morning I was struck by the contrast in one email  that showed an impoverished family and read about how Kevin ( resident of Cd. Juarez)did not go to school today because he had no food to eat to give him the energy to get through the day; then the rest of my emails were all from retailers that I shop at with the latest sales and deals.  How I respond to my neighbor's need reflects how I understand stewardship, how I understand faithfulness, how I understand mercy and ultimately how I understand Christ's purpose and mission.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Being needed

You know so much of parenting is about being needed.  At the start it is overwhelming but as our kids grow they need us less and less.  I think that is how it is supposed to work.  Well this year Eva started 5th grade and I was all prepared to drop her off on the black top, give her a hug (because kisses can be embarrassing in public) and then walk away.  This is our 6th year of dropping her off for a first day in public school so I am somewhat use to it and have had many opportunities to adjust to her growing independence.

Today I was pleasantly surprised!  I think in part it is because of her hectic schedule as a 5th grader with a home room teacher, a teacher for enrichment, a teacher for language arts/history, a teacher for math/science, a P.E. teacher and an orchestra teacher.  Most of my anxiety over the past 72 hours have been over my little girl that to me is still 5 (even though she is 10) knowing where to go, being able to carry all of her supplies, and to make it through the day!

So we got to the blacktop, found where she needed to line up and she asked me stay!!!!  Then when the bell rang, she asked me to walk her to her room (I think to help her carry her supplies).  But as I looked around I  didn't see any other parents in line with their kids.  We talked about how I thought I would be the only parent walking her to class, so she confidently grabbed the extra bags of supplies I was holding and said "I got this mom."  So as she got ready to walk in, I leaned in for a hug and she kissed me!!!

Just knowing she needs me but can do it on her own was the best part of my day!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Olympics

Wow I cannot believe the Olympics are over.  My family (well everyone expect Harry) was obsessed with the Olympics, we had it on all the time.  Harry however was not all that thrilled that the rest of us were staring at the t.v. for hours on end.  So I am sure he is happy they are over and our family can begin looking at one another again and not just at the t.v.!

We of course "ewwwed" and "ahhhhed" over all of the amazing things that the athletes were able to do.  And then what really caught my attention were the numerous silver medal winners that were so disappointed in what they did (or were unable to do?).  Now I understand that they came to win gold, but seriously?!? Second in the world isn't good enough?  I know it must be hard to handle disappointment with the world watching, so perhaps as we label it as bad sportsmanship we should also have a little bit of compassion for these young athletes that are just going through the emotions we would rather not have the world see us display.  Michael Phelps admits to going off and screaming after not winning.  

Part of the story of the Olympics is including the agony of defeat, even if you still get a medal, as well as some humility that we can't always be on top.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Saying good bye

This year I know an overwhelming number of people moving from El Paso (I say overwhelming because at most I have one friend move at any given time).  This year it is different, people in the church are being relocated, Eva and Harry's friends moving all within the next two months.  So tonight I am going to my second farewell celebration in one week.  To my friends and members of my faith family hitting the road for a new town and a new adventure, I wish you the best, God's peace go with you!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A hospice for a butterfly

The other day I got home from work to hear my kids with great excitement tell me about the butterfly that they had rescued in the back yard from being a bird's dinner.  The butterfly, known as Buddy, had a damaged wing.  So my kids got our butterfly net house out and put Buddy inside so he could heal.  What we learned after a couple of days of rest and relaxation was that Buddy was not going to be able to fly again for any long distance.  Eva and Harry really wanted to make sure he did not become a bird's dinner, so we decided to keep him and take care of him as his life came to an end.  Buddy finally died last night and I have to admit I am proud of my kids for caring and taking the time to help him out.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Grass is Always Greener

The phrase the grass is always greener on the other side has been going through my mind lately, perhaps because here in the desert, this Missouri native has neighbors with greener grass.  But it also is somewhat of a reflection of how I have felt lately, especially as a pastor in a congregational setting.  At times it seems like the grass is greener in the past, when we opened our doors and people fell into the church.  When Sunday was carved out for worship and nothing else. (?)  Perhaps I am remembering a false history that gives me the the illusion that church should be easy and getting people through the doors as effortless.  That understanding doesn't really work with the gospel. 

All it takes is to gather with my faith family on Sunday or on any given evening and I am able to see the "green grass" that we do have, the passion for serving Christ, the compassion for those in our neighborhood, the desire to meet real needs (both physical and spiritual) and to trust that God will be with us reminding us that success is not defined by numbers and by huge buildings but by Christ who "6 Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.7 But he emptied himself by taking the form of a slave and by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human,8 he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.9 Therefore, God highly honored him and gave him a name above all names,10 so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth might bow 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  (Philippians 3:6-11)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Driving By

Yesterday I went to El Paso' Holocaust Museum with Katherine. When I gave my name at the front desk the lady asked me how I had heard about their museum and my response was "I drive by it everyday." And that got me thinking (of course since I was in the place that displays, remembers and tells the story of great tragedy lose and violence) that many just went by the ghettos, the posters that proclaimed the Jews to be the cause of everything going wrong in their country, and then by the concentration camps. I think that is one of the hardest things to grasp, that violence against whole groups of people is still happening today and I just go about my daily routine.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"I"

There is no "I" in church. Yet somehow we have allowed the consumer mentality of our culture permeate how we view, encounter and approach church. Many people even say when looking for a church that they are "church shopping." We look to see what the church can offer to us (I have looked to see what the church can offer me.)

The problem with this is that it exemplifies the individuals. Church is about community and it is about service. Christ Jesus came to serve rather than to be served. Church then should be approached with the intent of how we can serve God. How can we be part of the community we call church through our service, should be our guiding question.

Forgiveness


Desmund Tuto wrote "Forgiveness does not mean 'forgive and forget.' It stares the beast in the eye, names the hurt, and refuses to return it, seeking not to punish, but to heal." Enough said ... words to live by.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Mondays in Lent

Each Monday and Lent we have decided to have a simple dinner of beans and rice. We then take the money we would have spent on a meal and are donating it to the local food pantry. Last night was a success, however I did not make enough food, but maybe that is the point.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Anonymous letter

Dan and I received an anonymous letter from a neighbor today. I won't go into the specifics other than they called us a name (not a nice one). And we decided from the start that we would not allow their anger be the guiding force behind our response. So we sent a letter back and signed it, you may be wondering how we would know who it was from, well the content made it very obvious.

Our letter is an invitation for a conversation rather than a word bashing. I'm not sure how it will pan out but it has brought to light the reality that when Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, he isn't just referring to the neighbors that make us happy, but also the ones that make us confused, sad, and angry. If love is our guiding principle, then conversation where we can listen to one another must happen. While it isn't always easy to work on solutions rather than to lash out at others, it is what I feel my family is called to do and to be.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Take it on for Lent

OK it has begun, the 40 day journey to the celebration of Jesus' resurrection. My hope is that this year what I adjust and change in my life during this time will allow me to experience the story of the resurrection in a deeper more meaningful way.
I feel pulled toward creating more of a spiritual center in my home this year. So one of the things we have adopted is to take time each night to read scripture together. This might seems strange coming from a pastor, you might assume that this is already a part of our daily lives and it used to be until we moved to El Paso and our lives seemed to go into hyper drive.
Last night, Eva and I pulled out our Children's Bible that is broken down into 365 stories and began with February 22nd's entry. We began by sharing thoughts about our day and taking time to actually listen to one another. (By the way Dan was in an airport and Harry was fast asleep, I'll try to do this earlier in the day so Harry doesn't miss out!) Then we read the story together.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why Ash Wednesday?

Why Ash Wednesday?

This morning a friend asked me a similar question. So it got me thinking on my morning commute into work. Why Ash Wednesday? A simple enough question, with a perhaps simple answer: for me this day marks a special day in the life of our faith community where we come together, collectively to remember that we frequently miss the mark, in other words we sin. Today reminds us that this faith journey we are on is not one where we are in it only for ourselves, but we do have shared responsibility as communities of faith, as members of the human race. So much of scripture reminds us of our connectedness to community and our need to be mindful not just of ourselves or our nuclear family, but of everyone.

Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are all flawed. I think about my own desire to have everything just so. It bothers me that the paint on my walls have white marks showing through, it bothers me that my car desperately needs to be washed, but today it is OK, because the dirt and imperfections are a reminder in a small way that I am not God and that life can be very messy.

Today (like any day should be) we are invited to come as we are: To be open to being honest and vulnerable, to not have it all together.

So today we place ashes on our foreheads to remember that we need God, our community of faith needs God, because of our brokenness and of our world’s brokenness. We gather today to acknowledge that we need healing and our communities need healing.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Overworking

"To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects ... is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism ... kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful." Thomas Merton

Thanks be to God that I work for a church that understands the value of not working in excess. Now of course we have our busy seasons and late nights, but I am given ample time for rest and time away from the demands of ministry. If anything they give more than I take.

Twelve years ago when I was ordained, a wiser, more seasoned pastor asked me that if I do not take time for rest and for my family, then who will witness to our congregants that they too need to take time for rest and for family?

Who would have thought that taking a sabbath is prophetic?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Not so good day

We all have bad days. Sometimes it seems like one thing after another happens and we don't even get to see any light. At least that is how I sometimes feel. If I could watch a replay of some of my days I think I would laugh at the comedy of some of them and my reaction to a series of unfortunate events. As a mom and dog owner, each day is ripe with possibilities. Just when I think I can sit down and read a book, someone is eating something they are not supposed to be eating, or touching something they are not supposed to be touching, or even more alarming when I do sit down and it is quiet, I come to find that the quiet time was a time of creative drawing in marker on my tile floors! A lot of my time at home is cleaning up every one's mess. I just try really hard not to make more of a mess with my words, when my day ends up not going in the direction I had planned. I think it all comes down to perspective.

One thing that stands out for me, which makes or breaks my perception of my day, is whether or not I had a positive attitude despite of the chaos around me. When I am able to be in the chaos without letting it consume me then I can rejoice.

So I find on days when I find myself at the end of my rope, I look at Philippians 4:4-7 "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Holistic Lent

On Wednesday, February 22, we enter once again into the church season of Lent. I recently read an on-line article using the imagery of our church community being midwives as we help to each other along in this period of introspection, transformation, and new life.

Lent isn’t just a time for personal introspection, a marathon of letting go and challenging our self-will. It is a time to be mindful of everyone in our church, as together we prepare once again to receive the Good News of Jesus resurrection.

Once again, we have young people in our congregation preparing themselves for baptism during this holy season. There may be some of you who are discerning a path to ministry in the church. Our congregation is still in a period of discernment during this season as we pray and clarify God’s call to us in our location within El Paso.

This year during Lent, we will provide in our worship service time for silent prayer in the sanctuary along with prayer stations throughout the sanctuary. I hope that this will heighten our communal experience of prayer with God in worship.

As a congregation that has mission at its core, I think that we can tweak how we approach Lent this year, based upon Isaiah 1:16-17, which reads “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” As we prepare to enter into Lent, rather than give up something simple like chocolate or your favorite soft drink, maybe give it up and then place aside the money you would have spent on those items and then donate it. You might even take a certain week-day meal, let’s say Monday’s evening meal and have beans and rice for dinner and put aside what you did not spend as an offering to the Food Pantry.

Or maybe you want to give up a Saturday morning of catching up on your favorite TV shows that you have DVR’d and instead go out to Jardín De Milagros to help plant the spring/summer crop.

I hope you can join us for our Soup and Study on Wednesday at 5:30 starting on February 29th. We will be looking at the topic of Abrasive Grace from the perspective of the book of Galatians.

What do you plan on giving up or doing to help someone out this year?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hearing God

I was at the food pantry this afternoon with both English and Spanish speakers. We had our work set out for us, a HUGE amount of milk came in that we had to box up so it could be refrigerated. We probably worked for about an hour and half solid to get this done. I think we were all pretty pleased with what we accomplished so while working on something else one of the Spanish speaking men showed me something and said a few words and I understood and we both laughed (because he was making a joke). And this reminded me of being in Nicaragua, working hard and getting just a few words across during the day. It seemed sufficient. Which made me think about how so often we may just hear one word from God, or get a certain feeling of God's presence and it is more than enough and we walk away with a smile on our face.

Waiting

Daily reading: Isaiah 40:1-11 Monday December 10, 2018 Focus passage:  Go up on a high mountain, messenger Zion!  Raise your voice a...