Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NoTV day

So the other day I announced to my family that we were having a "no TV day" which included all gaming devices in our home.  I was surprised that a revolt didn't happen right after making the announcement.  

Panic did set in though.
What will we do if we don't just sit an stare at the TV?
What can we do if the only plan for the day was taking the dog to the vet and that surely wouldn't take all day long.
In the morning while loading the dishwasher my son brought me a magazine and said "we may need this in the afternoon when we need something to look at."
Which made me giggle but also somewhat sad.  
He was thinking what I was thinking, "what are we going to look at?"

We spend a lot of time, looking at computer screens, iphones, gaming devices, and TV throughout our day.

We lasted until 4 p.m.  
Harry watched 15 minutes of Sponge Bob and then turned it off and went back outside to play.

You know the kids played a lot in the back yard, using their muscles and creative imaginations to dream up games to play.

The whole family played UNO together for the first time.

And its not that my kids don't play in the backyard or that we as a family don't play games together.  We just do less of it when we have the option to watch TV or play a video game.

I am hopeful that we continue "no TV day."  We now know we can survive and there are actually a lot we can do, more than perhaps we even knew.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

My beloved Cardinals

Today I am experiencing a great variety of emotions.
Today is the day that I cannot turn on the radio without hearing how the Red Soxs won the World Series.
And while I am excited for Boston and their celebration, I am sad for what could have been for my home team.
I love the Cardinals.  And I am not sure why I feel that way.
Most people who come from St. Louis do and this love runs deep in our blood.
It is part of our DNA.
I think in part because St. Louis can be such a divided city in so many ways.
When we meet someone from St. Louis the first question we ask is "what school did you go to?"  And it wasn't until after college that I learned that when people from other cities ask that they are asking about the college you attended.  Not for us St. Louisans.  We are asking about your high school.
And we take great pride in the high school we attended.
My sister gave my son a Kirkwood Pioneer t-shirt and I make sure that he wears it with pride!
The rivalries run deep and maybe that is why we all love the Cardinals so much, it is one thing that can unify us all.
So we watch the post season together in October (because that is what the Cardinals do in October).  And we cheer, sometimes obnoxiously in our family rooms ( I wonder what my neighbors think is going on in my house) and we hope for the best and often times we win.

Just not this time.

But I have to say I am so grateful.
Home didn't seem so far away this fall, when I could see the arch on t.v.
When I could see fans that live in my hometown on t.v.
When I could hear the announcer say, "see you on Sunday in St. Louis."

So I say with a mixture of gratitude and sadness "thank you Cardinals Nation for another amazing year!"

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Worry

Are you a worrier?

I think that I am on some level.

Now I don't lose sleep at night 
over concerns that I have.

But on some level of my consciousness

I am worrying about something
almost every day.

I worry about the church.

The body of Christ.

There is on some level a sense of prophetic worry

because after all faithfulness 
stands at time against culture.

I worry about our level of faithfulness 

to the gospel message.
I worry about our level of response
to the gospel message.

I worry about the number of people in the pews on Sunday.

I worry about our approach to ministry.
And then I wonder if we measure our "success" 
the same way God does.

My worrying about the body of Christ

takes me back to the basics of faith:
community centered upon
worship
prayer
giving
service
and study.

We are called to plant the seeds

not to give growth,
that is God's part.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Growing Up

I am not ashamed to admit that at the beginning of every school year
I get a little sad (well sometimes a lot sad) as I send my kiddos
off to another school year.

There is nothing like a birthday or the start of a school year
to get me melancholy.

This new school year hit me in waves.
We are into our second week and a funk has spread over me.
It probably has something to do with getting up an hour earlier
and battling bed time at night, so most likely I am just plain exhausted.

However ...
when driving to work this morning, I pressed shuffle on my phone and the song,
"Lullaby" by Trout Fishing in America played.
It is a great folksy tune mixed with a synthesizer.
Right after that song came the song "Come Away to Sea" by David Wilcox.  Now I don't have a lot of lullaby music on my phone so the shuffle picking two in a row is a rarity and didn't help me in my funkiness.

"Close your eyes and I'll sing you a song .... lullaby" and that
is all it took for me to get teary eyed
as I thought about my kids,
specifically Eva when she was a toddler
living in Hannibal, Missouri.

Once when my mom visited us, and all of us were out in the front yard
along with all of our neighbors, too in their front yards,
and she commented that she felt like she had stepped back in time
into a Norman Rockwell painting.  All of us outside raking leaves and having
pleasant conversation as our children ran from yard to yard playing with one another.
It was almost like the set up for a musical where we all joined in together
singing.

There is something so simple about toddlers.
No complex homework or social environments to navigate.
Afternoons are always quiet with snack and nap time.
At least that is what I choose to remember.
In my moments of memory lane, I try not to remember the temper tantrums,
or the mishaps with potty training,
or the blow out diapers,
or the refusal to go to bed ...
I like to remember all the good calm times.

Since I am a pastor and spend a lot of time at the church building,
it is hard to not let my "funk" seep into my entering the building.
My melancholy for a simpler time in the church.

When as some of my members like to say,
"we opened the doors and people fell in."
Which I believe predates even me.

I grew up in the decline and even though I was young, I can remember the adults
talking about how my Sunday school class was smaller than my brothers
which was smaller than my sisters (I am the youngest).

I can remember the adults having serious conversations, late night
meetings at the church about what needed to be changed to get the numbers back up.
Wondering what we did wrong.

Sometimes with my kids, I get this desperate sort of feeling to try and remember their past.
To remember what they were like when they were small.
How they felt in my arms, how it felt for them to fall asleep on my shoulder,
how their feet made a noise in the middle of the night when they came in my room, across the hard wood floors to cuddle.

And I forget to live in the present, with the wonderful memories we are making right now.
I forget that it is right to celebrate who they are right now and to be with them
as they dream about tomorrow.
Kids have this great way about them, where they do dream about tomorrow and
what it will bring.  Desperately at times wanting to grow and leave the past behind.

Sometimes I feel like I am standing on shifting sand,
or like I am on the shore unsure of when high tide is coming in.
If I set up my spot here, will the tide wash away my towel and bucket and shovel?
Will my sand castle be taken out to sea? Or will it stand to see another day?
Maybe I shouldn't even be staying on the beach,
maybe the sea is the better place,
but then I get hit by the waves and I am reminded that there is so much in this world
stronger and bigger than me.  Which isn't all that bad to be reminded of.

Sometimes I feel like the only thing I have to hold onto are the people who come to worship,
and learn, and serve together along with the bible.
I suppose that it is all we really need.  God's word, God's presence and others that
have that same call in their lives.  To follow Jesus.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Clinging to a Rock

Let me start with a fundamental reality about myself.  
I am seriously afraid of heights.
More specifically I am afraid of falling.
I am ultra competitive when it comes to sports.  
So I usually don't step up and try unless I know I am going to win.

So enough with the confessions ...

Back when I lived in Jefferson City, Missouri the YMCA right next to the church I served as Associate Pastor built an indoor rock climbing wall.  We took our youth one night as part of a lock-in.

I figured I would try it out to show good leadership and "take one for the team", showing my "bravery" by climbing the shortest wall possible, in the quickest amount of time,
without crying in front of my youth.

After my first climb I was hooked.

I loved the adreniline of climbing, of facing my fear head on.

After having our first child, Eva, Dan and I stopped indoor rock climbing until ...

Last month when I was in St. Louis on vacation, Dan and I took our kids indoor rock climbing for the very first time.  It was amazing!

As I look at photos of me climbing it reminds me 
of how much of indoor rock climbing is clinging to a rock.
You find a hand hold or a place to put your feet that is much smaller than ideal, 
one that can give you the edge up the side of the wall.

Rarely do you get the luxury of having your whole hand grabbing onto something 
or your entire foot on something.

So you find your balance as best you can.

I try not to look down, only up.

And yes, if my daughter climbed to a certain height,
I of course had to climb higher.  
(Sorry Eva one day you will smoke me.)

The BEST part of climbing other than making it to the top for me,
is letting go at the end of a climb.

Falling safely down.

So much of our lives entails clinging onto things or people or situations or routine.  And we might even use all of our energy trying to hold on, wearing ourselves out.  
Wearing others out in our stubbornness.  
Fearful of letting go.

The thing is, at least with indoor rock climbing, even if you let go, you can always try again.  And the places that used to challenge you, those hard to reach holds, one day after practice become stepping stones and not barriers to moving forward.

The same happens in life, you have to let go in order to move up.

Dreams

When I was a kid, I liked to dream a lot about what my future life would look like. 
It played out in many different ways,
with friends and with dolls. 
I would play secretary with my mom's extra office supplies of paper, 
typing machine and folders.  
I think I "worked" for a doctor, keeping patient files in order. 
Then when I attended high school the conversation was about what college we would go to and what we would major in.  
Everything we did and studied was preparing us for our future.  
So in some regard we felt like we had some sort of control over it, 
our hard work would get us to where we were headed.

I have noticed this same pattern emerging with my own children.  
They dream about their future, play it out in ways that I won't share 
because that is their story to tell and not mine.

But their telling or playing out of their future has got me thinking about how little control we actually have over our future: in that there are so many variables that we really won't ever have control over.

For instance I have heard others say,
and have said myself before having children,
"when I have kids they will surely go to bed on time without any complaining."  As a mom of an 11 and 7 year old that is a laughable and an absurd dream.  
Or "when I have kids they will eat everything on their plate and won't be picky eaters"  
or "my kids will only watch 30 minutes of t.v. a day."

Somehow in our dreaming of our future we dream about how others will act or treat us
or respect us.  And life is much more messy and complicated and hard than that.

Never did I ever dream that I would have a son with ADHD and dyslexia.  

Never did I ever dream that I would love being a mom as much as I love being a wife and a pastor.  Not because I didn't think I would love motherhood,
but because I never pegged myself as a homemaker
that bakes cookies and falls into those traditional stereotypes 
of what a woman does at home.  

Never did I dream that my children's meltdowns and tantrums would completely throw me off and reveal a side of my personality that I would rather have much more control over.

Never did I imagine that I would love someone exponentially more than I love myself (other than God).

Never did I imagine when I answered the call to serve God through pastoral ministry that the church would be going through major changes and shifts...

When I was at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Orlando, Florida I heard about two bold and courageous congregations that have gone through major changes.  
One might not seem all that big, 
but they moved offices and made space for a nursery across from the Sanctuary and got rid of their pews so they could change the worship space as needed 
and even changed the direction that the congregation faces on Sunday morning. 
Now if you are not part of an established congregation this might not sound huge 
but for those of us who have grown up in established main-line churches this HUGE,
this is moving mountain kind of talk.

The other congregation sold their large and hard to maintain building
and went in with two other congregations from other denominations to purchase a green building that houses three worship spaces.  
Now get this, they rotate who uses each space throughout the year. 
This is HUGE.  
And as the presenters shared their reality, 
others in the room were thinking deeply and wondering out loud,
"but how does that work?" 
"We've never done church that way before."  
Or more sadly "my people would never be willing to make that much change in their church."

Both congregations have lived into the concept of honoring their past
without trying to live their past. 
They have lived into being part of a new dream,
knowing that it might not look or be just as they had imagined it to be: 
Because God rarely dreams dreams for us that are exactly the way we envisioned them to be.  So we have to be willing to change 
and to let go so we can live in the present 
with our eyes on the future.  



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

I don't judge

Yesterday I had a conversation with a colleague in ministry, with our children present with us.  As we tried to get our work done (while our kids were running around us) we got off topic, onto the topic of parenting.  And she said something so amazing, "I don't judge."

It seems that so many parents do judge.  We judge on whether or not a mom decides to breast feed or bottle feed her baby.  We judge a mom on her diaper choice (cloth or disposable).  We judge a parent based upon when solid food is introduced.  And that is all within the first six months of becoming a mom!  We judge one another on how and when a child is disciplined especially when we have little to no background on the child's development and how their week has been going.

We especially like to make the judgements when a parent has a child out in public, in an unfamiliar environment.

We like to judge.  But why?

Does it give us some satisfaction that we are doing a "better" job than someone else is?  Or that we have made the right choices?

As a pastor (who has kids) it was so refreshing to hear a mom say "I don't judge."  Because we have been in situations where we feel like we are under the microscope, as if a pastor has these amazing children or quite the opposite.

Yet we judge even when that really isn't our job.  We tend to judge much more than just our parenting, we tend to judge all of the choices people make.  And while we might think we don't judge, a lot of us do.

When we allow that judgement to seep into our congregations it erects walls rather than building bridges.

Exhausted parents (and please let me know if there are any other kind of parent out there) don't need judgement, they need grace and love and compassion and forgiveness.

Because honestly we are hard enough on ourselves for all of the times we couldn't keep it together and have lost our tempers.

God teaches us that judgement isn't ours, our job is to love one another, to offer grace and compassion to one another, as Christ would.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Gratitude

It never ceases to amaze me
how my best laid plans for the morning
can be overturned by a grumpy,
ADHD son.
For about two months we had pretty smooth mornings,
not ideal in any stretch of the imagination, but smooth.
You see with a child like Harry, you have to be constantly encouraging,
constantly reminding,
constantly watching
because he can get lost in his play with Legos or army men
as the minutes fly by and when you try to redirect his energy and effort
WW III can be unleashed without any warning.
It is probably the same for every child,
it is just exasperated with a child with his special needs.
Just when I thought I had a handle on
not sweating the small stuff,
this morning it sort of blew up in my face.

So as I was driving to the church this morning,
 with some sadness in my heart,
I thought back to worship on Sunday.
Harry had this crazy hair,
that was sort of sticking up in every direction,
thanks to the thickness of it and the length of it.
He had on an outfit that you would wear to the gym, one of his favorites.
Right before worship he overheard me asking who the acolytes were for the day.
We didn't have anyone picked out and he exuberantly said,
"Can I do it mommy, please!!!!????"
So I agreed and he and another child from our church
carried the light of God into our sanctuary,
ceremonially marking the beginning of our worship service.
The best part was at the end of service
as we were singing our final song,
Harry came bounding up the stairs
(without shoes on)
to take the light of God out of the sanctuary,
reminding us that God's light is out in the world.
He was so excited to be part of the service,
to be able to make a contribution.

And as I thought about that,
I remember back in the day,
when I was old enough to acolyte in my home church,
 it was a totally different story.
We were to march in at a certain predetermined pace.
Our actions were to be as precise as a soldier's
and there was NO room for errors.
The fear of God was so strongly placed in our actions
that I did not last as an acolyte.
The anxiety over took me and there was
no joy in it at all.

I am so grateful to be part of a congregation
 that appreciates the presence and participation of our children,
 just as they are,
shoeless at times
and definitely joyful.  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The point of church

It seems to me that in the clashing of modernity and post-modernity,
of an ever expanding world view,
with an ever increasing speed to be informed about anything,
and I mean anything under the sun;
that the question about the point of church is on the radar.

I wonder however, how new the phenomenon really is,
(and as someone who has studied church history, I already know the answer ... i.e. not new at all)
yet we treat it as such.

So I have to wonder why it is we feel like we are going into uncharted territory?
(Something I admit to saying from time to time).  Maybe because we are.

Is it because prepackaged church programs aren't bringing new people in?
Is that we are finally learning that church should never have been constructed as a business,
modeling itself after the successful business models of the day?

Yesterday I got a call from a local news channel that wants to "brand" our church
and publicize the best ministries in an ad
that will run on their web site.
I don't think the salesperson's pitch was any different for the local businesses she called that day,
than it was for the church.
And maybe in the the world of advertising it shouldn't be.

But in the church it should be.
Jesus Christ and those who follow him shouldn't be a commodity to brand and advertise.
The model of success should not mirror the business world.
There have always been those who have been bold enough to question
 the meaning behind anything we do in the name of Jesus.

You see I am not opposed to letting people know about my church,
I just wonder if we have grown too accustomed to seeing church as something we attract people to,
in the same way a business attracts customers.
When was the last time someone from Target or the local grocery came to your house
or started a conversation with you at the park about shopping at their store?
Probably never.  Businesses attract, we come in, we exchange money for their services, and go home.

The point of church is not to exchange money for a service and then go home.

Church = the gathering of those who follow Christ.
It is about inviting others to follow Christ along side you
and that just doesn't happen inside a church building.
This type of invitation comes from relationship not from advertising.

And I think when we get our heads and hearts around the
point of church then we will better understand
how it is we invite others to be part of what we do.

It might even change how we do ministry together when
we are gathered in Christ's name.




Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Follow up on giving it up

So we are into week two of our Lenten discipline of eating what we have and not just running to the store to buy the ingredients of what ever we are craving in the moment.  What I have learned is that this is actually something I can do!  Which is huge for me.  I have taken time each weekend to prepare meals for the whole week, last Saturday it only took 2 hours of my day and now I have home cooked meals ready for dinner and left overs for lunch, this is great.
You know it really does save money.  I am amazed at how much it saves.
And while I would usually not be too enthused about having Minestrone three days in a row, it is actually best on the third day!
The question now is whether or not I can keep it up.  I always find myself enthusiastically throwing myself into something new only to lapse and return to my old habits a month or so down the line.  God willing this Lenten discipline will turn into a new habit that honors our household budget and continues to raise awareness in our family that food is a precious commodity. There are far too many food insecure people in my own community and because of that we surely shouldn't be throwing food out.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Give it up for Lent!

Each year, 40 days before Easter, I am faced with the same dilemma, what to give up for Lent.   Last year my family ate beans and rice for dinner on Monday and then donated what we would have spent on a larger meal to a local food pantry.  It was a good practice to have, however, my family really loves beans and rice so it really didn't feel like much of a sacrifice for Lent.

So this year, we are going to try and eat what we have in our fridge and pantry and menu plan around that.  We throw a lot of food away each week.  Partially because we menu plan based on what we are hungry for and not on what we already have. I know it is a bad habit to get into, especially the habit of throwing out food that could have been eaten but has gone bad.

My hope is that this new practice will help us also curb our appetite for instant gratification and allow us to be more creative with what we already have.  I'll let you know how this one plays out.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Pope announces his resignation

All right, so I have taken about 24 hours to listen and read before responding to the historical news that Pope Benedict XVI is resigning.  The last time a Pope resigned was 600 years ago, so it is pretty news worthy.  His reason for resigning of course peeks our interest.  He says that because of his health he is not up for the challenges of his job.  And that has unleashed criticism.  Really?

Ministry is hard at best, I can only begin to imagine what the pressure and challenges of ministry are for a Pope. Some say that his timing is bad because after all tomorrow we enter into the season of Lent.  But I am not sure there is ever a good time in the liturgical year to retire.

But I wonder more about how it is in our society we come down so hard on those who say "no" or who decide that they cannot do something, so they need to step down.  I haven't come across any articles that speak about how when you feel God is calling you to do something different, then you better follow.

Understanding our limits and also allowing someone else who has the time and energy to lead to lead is healthy.

Maybe our focus should be on our Catholic brothers and sisters who are facing something that not even their grandparents or great grand parents faced.

So I'll say it, grace and peace to you all as you go through this transition and may God lead the church universal into tomorrow!


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It doesn't always get better?

I have been listening to NPR's piece on "Losing my Religion" this week as I get ready for my day.  I have been looking into the rise of the "none's" (those without religious affiliation) for a couple of years. So I find the information to be quiet informative, especially to hear how so many people are struggling with the faith of their childhood that in many ways painted a black and white theology, where questioning wasn't welcomed; where blind faith was accepted.

I didn't grow up in such a tradition where questions were not welcome, in fact my first run in with a religious group that shunned those who question came in college.  I got kicked out of that Bible study and eventually found my way to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) that has a rich history of debate and questioning not just of the meaning behind biblical texts but also how the biblical texts informs our decision making today.

As my exposure to more fundamental Christian has grown I have also been exposed to a type of theology that teaches us that with faith life will get better, literally.

This doesn't jive with my current reality.  Horrible things happen to us and to our family members.  Last year was a particularly difficult one for my family.  What I have found is that while there is so much that happens to us that is beyond our control, what we can hold onto is a faith in God who is with us through the hard times.  The Psalms are rich in this type of theology, of God being with the persecuted.  The individual stories in the Bible are woven together by a larger narrative that tells us that God hears the cries of the oppressed and is present with them.  So while faith doesn't keep us from harm, it can help us to deal with the bad things that are flung at us and in a way being able to control how we react can help things get better, at least our perspective on life can improve.

The Bible is also rich in stories about the power of faith communities coming together to discern God's call in their collective lives.  So my hope and prayer is that for those who have been damaged by people in the church that have told them that they have to believe a certain way to be "in", to keep looking for places where they instead will be welcomed with all of the complications of their lives and all of the questions in their heads into a community of faith.

Temptation

Matthew 4:1-17 Back in the early years of my ministry, I led a group of senior high youth through a 30 hour fast. It was a trend a...