Friday, December 18, 2009

Some children . . .

Some children see Him lily white,the baby Jesus born this night.
Some children see Him lily white,with tresses soft and fair.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown, The Lord of heav'n to earth come down.
Some children see Him bronzed and brown, with dark and heavy hair.
Some children see Him almond-eyed, this Savior whom we kneel beside.some children see Him almond-eyed,with skin of yellow hue.
Some children see Him dark as they, sweet Mary's Son to whom we pray.
Some children see him dark as they, and, ah! they love Him, too!
The children in each different place will see the baby Jesus' face like theirs, but bright with heavenly grace, and filled with holy light.
O lay aside each earthly thing and with thy heart as offering,
come worship now the infant King.
'Tis love that's born tonight!
Several years ago at one of the churches I served, a couple asked if they might do some special music the Sunday before Christmas . . . "of course if it is appropriate" . . . they assured me it was appropriate . . . tears flowed as I heard them sing these lyrics . . . and it reminded me of another song . . . Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world . . . did you know this is just the refrain to a hymn written to the tune of a Civil War song . . . there are verses, yes, verses . . . and there is an alternative refrain. . . Jesus died for all the children,All the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, All are precious in His sight, Jesus died for all the children of the world.
Powerful words and powerful reminders that Jesus is Lord of all colors of people . . . . as members of the One Family of God adopted by God through the person and work of Jesus Christ, especially His work on the cross can't the Church work harder to end racism and hatred?
Perhaps this is the gift that we need to pursue with all we are.
For God so loved the world . . .

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Instant Karma . . .

John Lennon wrote those lyrics . . . do I believe in karma like the Hindus do, no, but these is a saying my Mama taught me . . . she learned it from her Sunday School teacher when she was a little girl . . . she celebrates her 84th tomorrow . . . oh, what she learned: "be careful your sins will find you out." Is this in the Bible . . . no, I don't think these word are, but I think we have some evidence that there are consequences for things that we choose to do . . . Joseph's brothers, David and I am sure that there are many, many other examples that bear this out in Scripture and I am sure that we have all had experiences of this in our own lives.
Whether this is an example or not it is about what goes around comes around . . . more than 3 and 1/2 decades later (if my math is correct!?) When I was in 9th grade I liked a boy named Billy, a foot ball player . . . he liked a friend of mine, Chris . . . now Chris was a cheerleader, cute and outgoing . . . on the other hand, I eschewed football, was OK looking and introverted . . . Billy and Chris started dating . . . I was mad and wanted to get back at Chris for "stealing" Billy . . . so one day in Home Economics we were baking cakes from scratch . . . I waited for the opportunity to switch Chris' baking power for baking soda . . . her cake failed to rise.
I remembered this incident early this morning . . . I don't bake often but decided to bake some Christmas bread while visiting my family . . . so yesterday morning I got all my ingredients together . . . mixed them together . . . put the loaf pans in the oven . . . an hour later I check them . . . they don't appear to be rising as much as they should . . . after they are baked I look at them . . . flat. Later in the evening we go ahead and have a slice . . . although it didn't rise it tasted OK . . . about 2am this morning I woke up went to the pantry . . . yes, I had used baking soda instead of baking powder . . . and then I remembered Chris' face when Mrs. Neighbors graded her cake . . . "F." Chris and Billy are married and one of the few couples I know of from high school who are still living happily ever after.
Maybe the Golden rule of treating others as you would like to be treated isn't such a bad thing . . . most of the world religions have a similar concept . . . what might the world look like if we were to all live like this?

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's about time . . .

It has been a long time since I have posted. Let me count the reasons . . . computer problems and lack of time . . . the first has been taken care of and the second continues to be a problem . . . really, an excuse . . . I think part of it is that I was kind of bummed out, but there seems to have been a remarkable change in the past two months.
The smaller membership church I partner with is in the process of a spiritual renewal . . . no, not all of the members . . . yesterday after Bible Study I started hearing the complaints . . . I don't like the changes . . . why isn't the choir sitting in the church anymore . . . they are . . . they just aren't wearing robes and sitting in the Chancel anymore . . . they sit in the congregation with their families then gather on the steps to sing . . . we hear better and most of the choir members like sitting with their families . . . they also help the congregation sing better singing among them.
It is sad that this woman can't make the connection between the increase in people who aren't members of the church joining in the life and work of the church . . . in the past half year we are having an increase in Worship attendance . . . in a smaller membership congregation any increase is significant, but we have about 7 adults and about 8 kids who are regular attendees . . . some who have been searching, one who has been way from the Church for about 34 years, three who are children of this congregation and left because of stodginess and were attending non-denominational churches -- now they're back and active! Last Sunday between Church School and Worship we had about 10 kids under the age of 8 out on the front lawn with about 6 over the age of 8 but not yet teens.
But contrasting this woman are others who through the process of moving deeper into relationship with Jesus have recognized that "t isn't about me" it is about the kingdom and are willing to embrace change so that others will come to know Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior.
Advent will be the test . . . our Worship will look different . . . reformed but different is what came out of our 2010 Visioning Retreat.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Moving into the vision . . .

I have now been the partner with this smaller membership congregation for 4 years and 1/4 . . . we have been through many storms together, both natural and human-mad (unrealistic expectations them of me, and me of them, unresolved anger, critical spirits, unforgiving natures, egos, vanity, wandering from the Word) . . . and now we seem to be gelling.
Next Saturday we have our second Visioning Retreat . . . this one building on our last and looking into the new year . . . we will be focusing on Worship, Nurture and Outreach . . . how we are working in each of these areas to be living the kingdom in the here and now.
Our congregation is slowly changing . . . in how we dress, what we look like, how we Worship, how we experience being the church together. . . it is exciting . . . it is scary . . . it is exhilarating . . . it is exhausting . . . above all I hope and pray that it is pleasing to God.
Where will the path take us . . . I pray it will take us to a place of being . . . being in deeper and fuller relationship with Jesus . . . and through our having deeper and fuller relationships with Jesus we will have deeper and fuller relationships with one another . . . relationships where we can rip our masks off and be vulnerable with one another . . . relationships that dare stepping out in faith to be the church in new and exciting ways to those in our community who do not know Jesus the source of life.
Ready for the trip,

Friday, August 28, 2009

It has been a while . . .

life has been flowing swiftly almost like the waters of white rapids . . . and I am paddling as fast as I can to stay a float . . . sometimes the currents are going so fast my breathe is taken away . . . even though sometimes the ride is scary, it is also exhilirating.

The smaller membership church I partner with is moving forward in our transformational process, but it has been sloooooow going and the changes are not what I expected.
Well, I am not really sure what I expected, but I certainly didn't expect that alot of the changes I would be seeing would be in myself . . . in the way I preach, in my becoming more comfortable in the pulpit, and I have learned what it means to live I Corinthians Chapter 13, not perfectly, but more thoughtfully.
It is my prayer that as others go deeper and further with Jesus they will see places and relationship where the Word is transforming them more and more into the image of Christ, Himself . . . listen how Paul tells us what God desires in us . . . So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 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: 1-2

Friday, July 3, 2009

One year anniversary . . .

Today is Anam Cara's One year Anniversary . . . although I have not been as disciplined as I had hoped in blogging nor has the blog had much, if any traffic, it has served, and is serving, its purpose well . . . it is a place where I can share my thoughts as I continue the journey of spiritual growth.
In thinking over the past year, it has been an amazing time of spiritual growth for me as well as for the smaller membership church which I partner with . . . although we have not seen the numerical growth for which we have been praying . . . in fact the opposite is happening as members continue to leave this area as they grow older so to avoid nasty evacuations and to be closer to their families . . . but we are now getting visitors who are sticking . . . and more than this we have people who are really going deeper and further in their spiritual lives . . . it is revealed in how we are living with one another in more healthy ways.
I give thanks to God for God's claim on my life and God calling me to partner with this group of pilgrims living on the banks of the Mighty River . . . may our lives together bring You honor and glory as we live in the freedom that we have been given through Your Son, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Over at St. Casserole's Blog she reminds us that she has celebrated 31 years as an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament . . . in the work I am doing with our transformational consultant I am exploring the concept of spiritual mentoring. I am reading a wonderful book . . . not the one that he is having the small group I am in read . . . I am drawn to it in a way that I am not to the one he is having us read . . . as I savor the pages, I recall all the women in my life who have been spiritual mentors and spiritual friends (anam caras) to me . . . I take delight and joy in counting St. Casserole among these.
Fresh out of seminary she was called as the Associate Pastor to the church I attended while going to college. St. Casserole was the first female minister I had met . . . I had heard tales, but had never actually met one of these strange and mysterious creatures. I didn't know her well back then, but how I loved seeing her in action . . . her first baptism in that church (was it her first? probably) . . . how different it was than the ones I had seen before . . . what was it? . . . I now recognize it as her abounding grace and love for God's children and the joy she experiences as she touches others for and is touched by God in such simple ways.
It was through St. Casserole my own call to ordained ministry was confirmed . . . I had first heard God's call when I was six, but didn't know to what . . . God issued the call again that Sunday when I saw St. Casserole baptize that baby and bring her into the congregation. It took close to two decades to get to seminary as my pastor didn't think God was calling me to be a MOWS . . . funny, how he divorced his wife after she accepted God's call to ordained ministry.
Years later another female MOWS helped reframe this experience for me . . . God had other things for me to learn. This month I begin my 11th year of ordained ministry.
I give thanks and praise to all those women who paved the way . . . perhaps, one day we will understand what it means to see like God does . . . There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3: 28 (NIV)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Summertime . . .

Summer technically begins tomorrow, but temperatures down in this neck of the woods are already in the mid-90's with heat indexes in the 100's . . . estimated to be 110 today.

When I woke up this morning "Summertime" was playing in my head . . . I am not sure the reason . . . yes, I love the song . . . yes, it is hot . . . yes, summer starts tomorrow . . . but as I sang the words along with the radio in my head these words seemed to stand out, "but until that morning, there's nothing can harm you with your daddy and your momma standing by" . . . I wonder -- I know it sounds strange, if this song doesn't resonant with me as it reminds me of God's providential care . . . perhaps, this is a stretch, but this is what sings in my heart this morning . . . how wonderful to realize that I have a Heavenly Parent who is with me even in the heat of life -- and in the heat of life I am not referring to temperature, but those times in life that cause us to struggle . . . God is always with us . . . protecting, guiding, and comforting and even cooling us off when we heat up.

And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high

One of these mornings
You're going to rise up singing
Then you'll spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky

But until that morning
There's a'nothing can harm you
With your daddy and mammy standing by

God's blessings on you,


Monday, June 15, 2009

Taking the plunge . . .

Well, I did it . . . after more than a year of thinking about it I purchased a new car Friday . . . I chose to buy a hybrid . . . hoping in some small way I am being a better steward of the resources God has entrusted to us.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Deep Peace to You
Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the Prince of Peace to you.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Running on empty . . .

For the past several weeks I have felt as if I were "running on empty" . . . actually, one of my favorite Jackson Browne's songs . . . Late for the Sky album . . . yes, I know that this dates me and no I was not 17 in 65! The chorus goes
Running on - running on empty
Running on - running blind
Running on - running into the sun
But I'm running behind
When we began our intentional transformational process and we were challenged to come up with a vision this song started playing in my head. It wasn't so much about me then . . . it was about the yearning all around me that I sense for something more . . . and that something more is really Someone -- I believe there is a strong yearning in people to be refreshed by the the Living Water. When I shared this folks they laughed . . . "let's put an old gas pump out in front of the church with a sign, 'Let us fill you up with Jesus' . . . and as I have thought about this off and on over the course of the following 18 months I have thought that perhaps a better image is an old water pump.
In '69 I was still a kid . . . Hurricane Camille came rushing ashore of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. We were stuck at home without water and electricity for a couple of weeks . . . my Daddy use to load us up in our borrowed Mustang . . . great family car! . . . but two of the family cars were lost to the water . . . although the other one floated --VW bug, in the garage, it didn't run . . . and we would go to the artesian well pump two blocks east of our house . . . it has long since been recapped . . . but I still remember those hot muggy days when we would go over to fill gallon jugs . . . I remember drinking that cool, rushing water . . . feeling it wash over my head as I would wash my hair . . . as I remember it either there weren't many folks in town at that time or folks didn't know about the pump . . . I didn't know about it until my Daddy took me over there.
In these past several weeks I have been longing for refreshing waters . . . I found them this weekend at a Worship Renewal Weekend . . . just as the gushing waters from that artesian well refreshed me after the Hurricane Camille the Living Water that flowed during this Worship Renewal Weekend refreshed me in a much needed way . . . it slowed me down . . . helping me to remind me that (wo)man's chief end in life is to to glorify God, and to enjoy God for ever. Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of even God's work in the local church we tend to forget this and God has to remind us to slow down, to be still and know that God is God.
Thank you God for filling me up this weekend.

Friday, May 15, 2009

New thoughts . . .

It is hard to believe how long it has been since I have added a post . . . 

Recently I  have joined a small group from across our presbytery who are doing advanced training in transformational ministry. One of the men in the group asked what our experiences have been with transformational ministry.  The church I partner with is now 18 months into the process . . . this was my response to him. 

Emotionally my experiences have run the gamut from immense frustration to immense joy, but I think now I have learned to be content knowing that it is not about me . . . although, paradoxically, it is about me . . . it is about me being willing to be open to the HS working to help me go deeper and further with Jesus and through me to help others go deeper and further with Jesus. 

Honesty . . .  I didn’t realize my need to go deeper and further with Jesus . . . after all, I am a MOWS!!  A large part of my growth has led me to get off the emotional roller coaster although again in all honesty I still find myself booking a ticket on certain days, but more often than not I don't get on. 

If truth be told the  greatest emotion I had to overcome was fear . . . fear of people not liking me, fear of making people unhappy.  A huge debt of gratitude goes to Tom for helping me reach this place. Interestingly . . . 

there was/is a lot of fear in this community of faith about the process of transformation . . . even the word transformation is fearful for some people here and although Tom gave us other names transformation is very Biblical and I won’t shrink from using the word. But I am couching the word in love and grace and gentleness. 

I haven’t quite figured out the origins of this fear – on the surface, it may be related to the Presbyterian mantra “we have always done it this way” or it may be related to the real possibility that transformation will bring changes in leadership (which we are already seeing), but I am wondering more if the fear is not related to having to look, assess and perhaps find that their own relationship with Jesus is lacking.

I don’t want to be critical of this congregation, especially as I don’t think they are much different than most mainline congregations, but the sad fact is that it hasn’t been about Jesus . . .  it has been about “us.”  Yet, almost every day I see this is changing . . .  in individual lives and by extension in the congregation as a whole.  

Without wanting to sound like an egomaniac it began with me -- really, rather than egomaniac,  it was about me growing more into having and living with a servant heart . . . with my own willingness to invest more than I thought I would and could.  Although it can be energy draining in a physical sense, paradoxically it has also been life-affirming.  God has blessed me with good friends, both near and far, who keep before me my need for self-care.  This is a key – self care.

At one point, late last year, for me self-care meant stepping away for awhile from doing transformational ministry (about three months) to make room for more intense prayer, study and planning for transformational ministry. I came back re-energized and recommitted because this is what I believe God desires for this church.  It was after this break that I was able to see little blossoms of spiritual growth everywhere.  It isn’t huge growth but it is growth and this growth is bringing hope to a congregation that I really believe has been living in a fog of hopelessness for many, many years. 




Friday, February 13, 2009

Frustration . . .

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you feel as if you are being pulled from every single side . . . this is where I have been this week and it ain't fun.
In my last call I served as an AP . . . before the church moved to the Senior Pastor/ AP model they tried the Co-Pastor model . . . it didn't work out . . . from everyting I have read and heard they rarely do, but I think most of this is because they are entered into for the wrong reasons . . . I know this was true in this former situation . . . although they called this pastor the Co-Pastor he was an AP . . . by calling him as the Co-Pastor they avoided the search process. RABBIT TRAIL . . . anyway, I never met him, but someone in the congregation told me that one of their problems with him was that he always felt tomorrow was another day . . . now, at first blush I couldn't see what was wrong with this . . . that is until the person continued, 'he was putting in enough hours as he always thought there would be time tomorrow.'
But you know what . . . I think I must think like that member of the congregation . . . and this, ultimately is what leads to my frustration . . . I can talk the talk, but I don't walk the walk . . . yes, I can talk about wanting to be more like Mary . . . sitting at the feet of Jesus . . . heck, I even used that image today in the prayer I offered after Women's Bible Study -- which, by the way, I did on my day off . . . but to be honest they changed it to Friday as I was going to be out of town for a church thing, but I am Martha . . . I want to be Mary.
It's Friday night . . . moving onto midnight . . . tomorrow I will be working on policy . . . something coming form a committee I chair . . . three people were working on it and when I received the copy of it tonight I was FRUSTRATED so started on revisions . . . I will also begin planning Ash Wednesday services that will lead into a study of the spiritual disciplines during Lent.
As I leave let me share a poem with you that I found on line at AgentOrange -- a strange place to find a beautiful poem that describes the journey through Lent that I want to be able to take this year . . .
winter's like an inside wilderness:
it's broken branches and creaking bones;
it's like a fast from light and heat, a cold retreat.
it's not just beyond the body walls:
there is an inside frozenness, too;
a winter of the heart and soul, dark-cold as coal.
the inner wild is evil-laden,
filled with devils and bright temptation;
marked by love of self and pride, the us we hide.
but there is a way that leads to life:
a lenten journey from dark to light;
a passion path through days of lent and winter spent.

My prayer for Lent is that I learn to slow down . . . to learn to be as the title of a book reads, "A Mary in a Martha World" . . .

What is your prayer for Lent?


Sunday, February 1, 2009

The congregation I partner with has been involved . . . or we say we have, in a process of intentional transformation. I say "we say we have" as I haven't seen any real commitment on the part of the congregation . . . we said we were . . . more than 1/2 the congregation signed a commitment for openness to transformation when we began working with an internationally known consultant in church transformation over 18 months ago . . . but I had begun to wonder if we were only giving lip service to being open to the Holy Spirit working in and through us to capture this new thing God is wanting to do here . . . to use this church in building the Kingdom by reaching out into our community with the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
As I wrestled with this, I realized that I was judging the congregation while not really looking at myself . . . I spend about two months in prayer and reflection asking God how I needed to be opened to the Holy Spirit so to be in a better position to help lead God's people through this process . . . in the process, I was lead to an unlikely book of the Bible (Nehemiah) and to Andy Stanley's book on visioning.
I have spent the better part of three months now kind of engrossed in Nehemiah -- three weeks ago I began preaching a series on The Building Blocks of Vision (much of the credit here goes to Stanley), provided the Session a Bible study on what it means to be spiritual leaders based on Nehemiah, and am in the middle of planning a Visioning Retreat for the Session and congregation as we seek God's vision for this church.
You see I had forgotten the first key to transformational ministry -- it begins with the individual, even, and perhaps most importantly, the pastor allowing herself to be transformed by the Holy Spirit . . . Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2
I don't know where this process of transformational ministry will lead this particular congregation . . . I pray that we will continue to go deeper and further with Jesus . . . there are signs that many of us are on the way . . .

Friday, January 2, 2009

Learning to tell time . . .

Tomorrow in recognition of the beginning of a new year, I am preaching from Ecclesiastes 3: 1-14 about the cycle of life . . . moving into the cycle of life of the local church . . . this comes on the heels of my finding out that the church where I was a charter member and who I was under care of in seminary is closing its doors in March of this year . . . if the presbytery approves it.

Before Katrina there was a move to do this . . . membership was around ten . . . although no longer a member of that presbytery I heard that a fairly new member of this smaller membership church made an impassioned plea on the floor of presbytery to keep it open . . . and her plea was echoed by the pastor of a sister church (mid-sized) about 20 miles away . . . so Presbytery kept the church open . . . after Katrina God graced the presbytery and this church with funds to bring in a bright and forward thinking Minister of Word and Sacrament . . . the church yoked with another church in the same town . . . the yoke didn’t work -- it was one-sided . . . the church changed its name . . . and the woman who gave the impassioned plea to keep the church open, her family and her sister’s family left the church shortly after Katrina . . . the church wasn’t able to help them the way they wanted after Katrina . . . Remember, membership was about 10 -- most of them her family and Katrina had done a job on the entire area.

As I have shared this news with folks here they have offered their condolences . . . telling me how sad I must be . . . but I’m not . . . I am nostalgic . . . but more than this I think “what ifs?” . . . what if the organizing pastor hadn’t left? . . . what if after that we had called so and so . . . What if we really understood what it meant to be a church . . . like many churches it was, for a large majority of us, about us . . . not about those outside our doors. When we were doing the mission study for calling a new pastor I remember the fights . . . over whether or not we really wanted to grow . . . If we really wanted to fulfill the mission of the Church and the local church . . . to go into the world and make disciples . . . It is the same struggle that continues in so many congregations, including this one . . . Yes, we want to grow as long as we don’t have to change.

But life -- whether a human life or the life of a local congregation, is about change . . . we are always changing . . . Change is inevitable . . . The question is will we manage change depending on God’s leading us through or will we change drag us kicking and screaming or worse yet passively into the future . . . If the church is alive and organic then they have life cycles just like human beings . . .

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

This new year I pray that we will learn to tell time,