Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Still trying to find my blogging rhythm . . .

Well, I don’t seem to have caught a rhythm yet to my blogging . . . It was the same thing when I use to trying journaling . . . I would start the process with such high hopes . . . Go a couple of days without journaling . . . stick it in a drawer and beat myself up. But I don’t have to do that anymore . . . therapy, it’s a good thing!

Why do I keep buying into the propaganda that things slow down in the summer . . . NOT! It seems to me that summer is sometimes the busiest time in the life of the church . . . Or this has been by experience.

My summer so far has been quite hectic yet amazing things are happening . . .

Most thrilling is how church is responding to transformational ministry . . . it really is about being open to the Holy Spirit transforming us as individuals . . . The HS has worked on me in a powerful way to move me to a place where I can let go of things . . . YEA! I don’t have to be in control.

A confession . . . in this process I realized that I liked to be in control. When I worked as a clinical social worker that was one of the things folks liked about me . . . I was willing to step in and take over when things were in chaos or were moving to chaos or when I thought I could do a better job . . . one of my first supervisors invited me to join her on her new job for this very reason . . . it served me well then, but it hadn’t served me well as a pastor.

After ten years in ministry I now understand what it means to equip the saints for ministry and set them free to do ministry . . . it has been a long journey for me to bring this attitude to the church I partner with and it has been a long journey for them . . . however for me it has been very liberating . . . and for them I pray empowering . . . even helping them discover or (re)discover what it means to be the church in and to the world.

In a few weeks we’ll have another Bible study on gift-oriented ministry . . . when I arrived three years ago I started out with a similar study . . . it didn’t seem to work . . . we only focused on finding spiritual gifts not on deploying them . . . DUH! of course not . . . I wasn’t willing to give up control . . . so I look forward to see how God will use this to move the church forward.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but they all come from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve the same Lord, and we can each do different things. Yet the same God works in all of us and helps us in everything we do.

The Spirit has given each of us a special way of serving others. Some of us can speak with wisdom, while others can speak with knowledge, but these gifts come from the same Spirit. To others the Spirit has given great faith or the power to heal the sick or the power to work mighty miracles. Some of us are prophets, and some of us recognize when God's Spirit is present. Others can speak different kinds of languages, and still others can tell what these languages mean. But it is the Spirit who does all this and decides which gifts to give to each of us. I Corinthians 12:4-11

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Maybe not exaxtly running . . .

Mark Twain is credited with saying, "the only person who likes change is a wet baby!" But the fact is that change is inevitable . . . not just because time marches on, not just becasue everything decays, but because God is still at work in the world.

I invite you to listen in on a couple of my conversations this morning . . .

Before Church School one of the men comes in to talk with me. "Lydia, we talked at the men's workday about some of the changes the governing board are discussing to the Narthex."
"And . . ."

"Well, now, the wife and I like them, but . . . it's the pews . . . some folks think we are removing them to make it look like we have more people in Worship . . . having attended the workshop with church consultant I know this isn't the reason."
The fact is that our Worship attendace is pretty good for a congregation our size. It is the highest it has been in the last decade and this is with about 15% of our congregation moving out of state after "the big one." We are having more regular attendees who Worship with us, but have not made the leap to membership -- it is a cultural thing down here, yet are actively involved in the life and work of the church.

Then before Worship starts the Treasurer comes up . . . "Do you know the secretary moved the mail boxes!" This wasn't a question, but a statement of complaint. "We are going through enought changes -- I don't need anymore!"
Is this an over reaction? No, I think not . . . just a reminder to me that change is hard . . . I know this from personal expereince . . . and she and probably more of the congregation than I realize will need extra dosages of love and pateince as we move through this process.

Maybe not running yet,


Friday, July 18, 2008

Baby steps continue . . .

Before seminary I worked in the field of mental health as a social worker. I remember something one of my supervisors said to me . . . “Lydia remember baby steps are safer for our clients and will get them where they want and need to be . . . It may take more time, but they will get there.”

Her words often play in my mind when frustration is growing with how slow we seem to be moving in this process of transformation, but now that first steps have been taken this baby seems to be gaining speed.

The church’s governing board has finally decided to get bids on making some structural changes to our sanctuary building that the church consultant suggested over six months ago . . . changes to enlarge and lightened the Narthex allowing us to us it as a gathering spot for fellowship before and after Worship.

Things we are getting bids on --

taking down the paneling and sheet rocking;
new front doors with glass;
taking out two rows of pews so to double the gathering space;
ripping out carpet and replacing with ceramic tiles;
putting in a drop ceiling with new lighting;
getting rid of bulletin boards; and
having a rack for name tags (another post).

Years ago before seminary I served on governing boards as a lay leader and couldn’t quite understand the minister’s emphasis on the appearance of the facilities . . . his words now come from my mouth . . . “yes, I understand that church is more than a building, but how the building is taken care of and how it looks says something about our relationship with God.”

A recent Minute for Transformation by one of our members used this post from the Blog GOD REVOLUTION by the Reverend James Kim over at Trinity Presbyterian Church in The Colony, TX (

Most homes have two ways of living: regular living, and "guests are coming" living.

We all know what regular living is like. That's our everyday life and everyday living. And then, when we know guests are coming over, our regular living goes through a transformation.At least in my home it does. My wife goes on alert and she begins barking orders and the rest of us come to attention to obey her orders . . .

clean up your room
take out the garbage
vacuum the house
clean the floor
straighten the living room
do the dishes
put on the coffee maker

And pretty soon, the house is in shipshape order. And we're ready to receive guests.

I mention this because churches function like our homes. We get real comfortable doing things certain ways. And we forget what it's like to be a guest or a visitor. And worse, we forget that we're expecting visitors.

A church that doesn't expect visitors has some serious problems.But a church that expects visitors and doesn't get their house in order is just plain dumb.Getting our church house in order is much more than having a clean place. It's an attitude and an expectation that visitors are indeed coming over because our people are inviting people. And just as we go out of our way in our home, church members need to think intentionally about how best we can welcome, receive, and host visitors in our church homes.

So, you expecting any visitors this weekend?

We are and we have had an increase in visitors and repeat visitors since this process began . . . coincidental?

Apollos and I are merely servants who helped you to have faith. It was the Lord who made it all happen. I planted the seeds, Apollos watered them, but God made them sprout and grow. What matters isn't those who planted or watered, but God who made the plants grow. The one who plants is just as important as the one who waters. And each one will be paid for what they do. Apollos and I work together for God, and you are God's garden and God's building. 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 (Contemporary English Version)

Learning to run,


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Transformation . . . baby steps

Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:2

For the past three years I have partnered with a smaller membership church (122 members). Last October, we, along with several other churches in our judiciary, begin a process of intentional transformation with a leading church consulting firm.

It has been a difficult journey . . . often I wondered how committed the congregation was to the process . . . our consultant had warned us that 1/3 would be against it, a 1/3 would be neutral and a 1/3 would get it . . . I wondered when we would see the 1/3 who got it . . . well, we are beginning to see them . . . it is amazing!

Preaching every Sunday I often wonder, “is anybody listening?” . . . every once in awhile there is the predictable “good sermon” . . . although more often I heard the whispers of displeasure . . . why all this talk about change and transformation? . . . doesn’t she think we are good enough?

Frankly, one of the most difficult parts of the journey is that it is based on personal spiritual transformation . . . based on having and sharing a personal relationship with Jesus . . . . . . going deeper and further with Jesus . . . Jesus was a name I rarely heard roll off the lips of those in the congregation . . . much less did I hear about their personal relationships with Him.

Then something happened to change all of this . . . In the adult Church School class we started studying Leonard Sweet’s “The Gospel According to Starbuck’s” . . . all of a sudden people actually started talking about Jesus and their relationship with Him . . . amazing . . . more people started attending . . . then there was a growing buzz about this new thing that God is doing . . . People seemed to be excited.

And then Wednesday night I met with the Vision Team and heard some amazing things . . . Things that came right from words of sermons that I though had fallen on deaf ears . . . Hallelujah! . . . God is at work and as one woman said . . . ‘For 3 to 4 years now we have been worried about what we can do to get people to come to our church. We can’t worry about this anymore -- we need to work on personal transformation and let God do the rest. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to prepare us to get comfortable with the stranger who will come to visit with us on a spiritual level and the only way we can do this is going deeper and further with Jesus ourselves.’

Wow! Our God is awesome! I can't wait to see what happens next on our journey.

Keeping the faith,


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Be careful what you ask of God . . .

"I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills . . ."

So begins the film “Out of Africa” -- the story of Karen Blixen’s 17 years in Kenya running a coffee plantation, There is one scene where Karen Blixen, played by Meryl Streep, and her lover, Denys Finch Hatton, portrayed by Robert Redford, are walking through the coffee fields when Blixen says, “be careful what you ask of God as He may anwser you.” I thought of this scene yesterday as the non-profit Board I sit on had another meeting . . .

The previous post ended with a prayer that God would use Sunday’s sermon to direct my course . . . well, God did . . . it wasn’t where I wanted to go! Saturday I had written my letter of resignation from the Board . . . just in case . . . you see, I had decided that I didn‘t want to deal with . . . the childishness . . . the she said, no, she said . . . the underlying currents of racism . . . the disillusionment with two people for whom I had a great deal of respect.

But God had a different plan . . . as words sprayed from my mouth Sunday morning they were piercing my heart . . . as I spoke about the ecumenical Body of Christ coming together about 20 miles from here to speak out through prayers, hymns, and hugs against the hatred bred by racism . . . God said, “you are right where I want you to be” . . . it isn’t where I want to be, but it is where God called me.

So there I was yesterday for a 3 and ½ hours meeting . . . it was not an easy meeting . . . Yet, somehow I found words that I didn‘t know I had . . . words of compassion for those who had disappointed me . . . words of healing for conflicted relationships . . . words of hope for what God is able to do . . .

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20,21 (NIV)

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Wrestling . . .

with decisions.

Finished the sermon early (2am) this morning . . .

The LORD God has told us what is right and what He demands:
"See that justice is done,
let mercy be your first concern,
and humbly walk with your God."
Micah 6:8

As I have wrestled with this text I find myself wrestling with a situation in my own life . . . seeking what God would have me do. It is hard . . . to know what is right . . . what is pleasing to God. What, in the long run, will benefit the purpose of God in this community the most.

The dilemma . . . I serve and am an officer on a Board of Directors of a non-profit. I am one of the younger members . . . we, the younger members, see the potential for good that this agency has to make a difference in the economic and life-circumstances of the "least of these" in our community. The problem is that there are three members who have been on the board for, at a minimal of, two decades (yes, two decades) who see no need for change.

They do not see that they have created a "welfare state" for both the agency staff and for the clients . . . rather than empowering folks to reach for their God-given potential in life, we have allowed them to stay where they are . . . increasing salaries (profit-sharing, too boot) fro the employees and increasing the amounts of subsidies that we give clients for paying bills. We do not encourage folks to take advantage of programs that would help them become self-sufficient.

After several months we decided (on a split vote . . . young vs. old) to hire an Executive Director to help move the agency forward. She started June 1 . . . at a called Board Meeting Tuesday "the olds" wanted to fire her. They think she is causing problems . . . in actually she is trying to maintain the "rules" that the Board set up . . . the problems are being caused as rules are now being applied equally to all employees regardless of race.

The new Executive Director is a young African-American woman, extremely bright and talented with a deep love for this community and the downtrodden and a vision of how we can move to offering a "hand up" instead of a "hand out." The Board, with one exception, is lily white and there is even talk of "kicking the one African-American" off the board as his daughter works for the agency . . . did no one know this when he was nominated and elected to serve?

It isn't so much that they want to fire her . . . it was the racial undertones of the conversation at the last Board meeting . . . the worse of it coming from a minister and another minister's wife . . . both people who I had a great deal of respect for until that moment.

How do I remain faithful to God's call through Micah?

Sermons are to convict us of how we are to live as Christ-followers . . . as it is preached tomorrow I pray God's Spirit will speak to me in this particular circumstance and that the Holy Spirit will strenghten me to walk the path God calls me to walk

In His service,


Friday, July 4, 2008

First step . . . changing metaphor

Well, I took the big step yesterday . . . entered the blog-a-sphere. Setting up the blog was easier than I thought . . . although, I still need to learn some of the finer points . . . still can't figure out inserting pictures . . . it will come in time. Now, though, starts the harder part . . . figuring out what to blog . . . finding my blogging rhythm.

Last night while working on Sunday’s sermon I kept hearing odd noises with no idea of their source . . . for a few minutes I wondered if someone was in the attic . . . no, not possible . . . I wandered around the house . . . nothing. Then it dawned on me . . . fireworks . . . Early Fourth of July Celebrations. Certainly there will be more tonight!

This morning when I woke up my brother was on my mind . . . he passed away February 4, 2001 after a four and ½ month battle with cancer . . . when he received the diagnosis it was already stage 4. My Mother, sister and I cared for him at the family home . . . although painful it was a truly beautiful experience . . . and even though we knew what was coming there was a lot of laughter.

I wasn’t there when he passed . . . it was on a Sunday . . . I was at church.

He knew it was Sunday . . . he had asked the hospice nurse. He asked my Mother to come sing to him. She did . . . as he was taking last breathe our Mother was singing . . .

Morning has broken like the first morning;
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning!
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word!

Morning broke for him . . . perpetual morning . . . truly that was his independence day.

Today as we celebrate the Fourth in our own unique way let us remember where we find our true freedom . . .

In Christ,


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Diving in . . .

to the blog-a-sphere. So, please, be kind.

I have no illusions that my voice (words) floating through cyberspace will change the world, but my hope is that each voice that responds to this site may serve as an anam cara (soul friend) for me . . . nudging me closer and closer to the person God is calling me to me.

This blog will be constantly transforming as this novice blogger learns more of the mechanics of how to blog. Over the weekend I will add my profile.

God's blessing on you this day,