The truth is, until we have taken the time to discover and affirm who we really are and what we really want, we are left with only negative identities and negative passion…We are comfortable with rebelling, but fearful of creating. Laurence Boldt
I get a treat delivered to my email box each morning. It’s a piece titled “Inward/Outward”. Each day brings a brief quote and reflection.
This morning’s has to do with rebelling or creating. It’s a glass half full/empty issue. If we spend our days ungrounded in what it is we want and believe in, we are discontent with near everything. It will never be enough, since we measure “enough” through the lens of discontent and a sense that something or someone ought fill the space inside that awaits our reflection and vision filling.
I think it is so. What we’re trying to do at church is provide small groups and study circles with folk who want to make choices about how it is they will organize their lives. We’re hoping and believing that if life is grounded on the teachings of Jesus, an unfolding into grace and grounding will emerge.
Through gathering at table and opening ourselves to each other and the teachings of our faith, we move into the power of discovering and affirming who we really are. And we increasingly find supports to choose to live from a place of power and possibility shaped by the who-we-really-are of Jesus living.
Our church is alive and moving into a deeper place of Spirit life. This new life is amazing grace.
My prayer is that we can evolve into the sort of Body that knows and affirms its identity and in so doing shares it lavishly with creation. My prayer is that we can invite into communities of small groups the “half-fulls” who will join us in knowing the power of the God who calls us each by name.
The time for creating is now.
For the next few months, I will be spending my Saturday mornings with 20 or so people doing that thing we don’t do much of: talking about money.
Darn, it is a loaded thing. In the household I grew up in, it was somehow unseemly to talk about it. Money (and that other big elephant, sex!) was not talked about. It was my parent’s to deal with, and ours to know that it was high stakes stuff, based on the tension and shame that somehow seemed to surround it.
So I have made my way through much of life with a sort of distaste-love of money. I love the power of making choices. I don’t like the feeling of not-enough that inevitably rumbles when I lose my moorings and give myself over to what my culture wants me to know: Namely, I will never have enough money, and never having enough money means that I will always be found wanting at some core level.
Yuck. What this class I am taking at church consists of is the teaching of a get-yourself-healthy-financially guru named Dave Ramsey. It is brilliant. Though he shares not many of my feminist sorts of sensibilities (at least, based on some of his har-har not so funny jokes) the man has a mission and he shares it effectively. Financial Peace. The two can go together.
I’m taking the class with my 23 year old daughter. The class is being led by two men in their twenties. There are folk from outside the church and inside the church learning ways to live a relationship with money that empowers rather than enslaves.
I followed that class with a training on adaptive leadership, and the presenter there talked about the power of words. Rather than talking about what we don’t have, or about abundance – which means there will always be unattainables – he suggested the word “sufficiency”.
What do I need in my life? What is sufficient for me and my house?
The questions are great. The class is great. The power of taking money out of the closet and into the places of my life that make for hope and healing is mighty fine.
We’ll be offering the class again in the fall. I’m bearing witness here. It’s great.
Today was flat out fun.
I got to go in and see the Sunday bulletin and Annual Report go to press. I got to preview slides used for worship and rehearse in my heart the rhythm of praise that will be shared by hundreds in two day’s time.
I got to have lunch with my daughter.
I got to have time at a coffee shop to read and think a bit.
I got to have coffee with a young adult who is a cauldron of ideas for our ministry and saints-be-praised has the follow-through capacity it takes to make things happen.
I got to visit a church member and wrap her in a prayer shawl made by the hands of her sisters in Christ.
I got to come home and hug my beloved before he left for a weekend church retreat.
I got to write a sermon I am excited to preach.
And now? Now, I get to choose from the stack of books awaiting my reading or the dog who is always ready for attention. In short, I get to while away these crazy rare unclaimed hours in any way I choose.
It’s been a great day to be in the midst of the buzz that is church and life.
And oh, what a gift to have the time to savor it.
Last night the political theatre was opening night stellar.
There was the sight of assumed foes coming into the House chambers two by two in order to take in the speech of the President. After all the wrangling that erupts all too often in elevated stress and little progress, our leaders wanted to make a statement about playing and working well together. Sign acts matter. Let’s hope they do.
It’s hard not to be lumpy in the throat when watching the pomp and circumstance of the State of the Union Address. In one room are the persons we have entrusted to represent us. Say what you want about them, but the people dutifully or enthusiastically clapping in that room last night have traded in much of their lives in order to be a part of the workings of government.
I heard a commentator on NPR rue the day when the spokesperson role of the President changed. He (or she) used to be heard as the President of the United States. During the speech, he was perceived as speaking for the country. Now the president is heard as the spokesperson for his party. Rebuttals and counter statements are stoked throughout the speech in order to be shared by the other party’s appointed spokesperson.
Increasingly I feel less hope for unity. As a confirmed Pollyanna this concerns me a bit. I feel less hope because the rush to proclaim doctrine is seemingly more important than the desire to be still and listen and learn from each other. The sexiest sound bite wins; the one most sure to inflame, while lives continue to be decimated by inequities and solutions seemingly beyond the power of our imagination and will.
But oh, as the hand shakes were shared and the vision proclaimed and the camera full of the visages of people who love their country, there was hope and wonder.
Truly, God bless America.
People who are willing to work at life are glory.
There is this notion peddled by our popular culture that life is meant to be dedicated to the pursuit of happiness. To be unhappy or challenged or stressed or vexed has come to mean that somehow there is some deep pathology within that must be danced from. And dance we do: we shop, we drink, we over schedule, we watch hours upon hours of television in order to numb the niggle that will not leave us.
The niggle is holy. The something-is-not-right-here that wakes us in the night or clenches our belly is holy attention clang. What that niggle means is that we are called to turn and tend and learn.
Lots of folks find ways to dance from that learning. Others learn to listen and do the sometimes agonizing work of exploring the meaning of the niggle.
Joseph Campbell maintains that the purpose of our life is not to find happiness, but instead to find and make meaning.
There is such grace in the vision of life as meaning making. It implies journey rather than resolved landing point. It implies falling down and getting back up and suffering and soaring and leaning into beloveds and our God.
Life is about making meaning. Growth is optional, I suppose, but to choose soul numbing over growth seems a profound squander of the gift of life.
Jesus walked lonesome valleys. He taught us we can’t walk them by ourselves. We walk in the company of the Holy and our soul kindred. This walk into wholeness in the way of Jesus is exactly why we are church. Growing soul through the gift of community is why we open our doors each day.
Niggles are learning gift. Thank God for companions on our soul’s journey into meaning.
Change is tricky business.
It means life and it means stress and it means deep breaths and a remembering of the net of grace always present.
Our church is undergoing changes. Our sanctuary is changing due to an organ rebuild. Every day brings new details to tend and take in. We have an amazing crew of church members who are coming to know each other and (I hope) enjoying the thrill of making beauty in the soul living room of their church.
Yesterday our Associate pastor shared the information that he is to leave us in June. This is hard, since being pastor in a church means building relationships that bless. Anxiety surrounds such announcements: where will he go, how will we craft positions to continue the growth of our ministry, and how do we gracefully bless him on his way?
Churches have often been likened to families: the good the bad and the ugly of families. It’s a metaphor that is sometimes helpful.
Because we know that in families, changes have to happen. Homes get adapted (thank goodness avocado shag carpet is no longer in vogue) and members of the family are loosed into the world with (we hope) grace and gratitude for relationship shared.
When we are healthy, we remember that our call in life is to change and grow, adapt and learn. We trust the presence of the Holy in the midst of that unfolding.
And on really good days, we remember that anything that does not change in life, be it plant, animal or relationship, dies. So we name our anxieties and befriend the changes in our lives, because the Spirit moves us to abundant life.
And we like that.
It’s not as though I relish pain.
It is really cold here in Minnesota. It is in the double digits below zero. My grand old house, full of windows and never apt to kill us because of carbon monoxide poisoning due to its leaky-sieve ways, is working mightily to hold warmth. My car responds with an are-you-kidding-me groan when I start it up. Sweaters and Smart Wool socks are the arraignment of choice.
It’s really cold. And, it is stunningly powerful, this cold. It is reminder that living in Minnesota cannot be done without a goodly dose of humility. We are able to live in this wild place only if we are aware that it has teeth in the form of mosquitos, wild critters, and deep deep freeze.
We can domesticate so much. This cold is not one of those things.
So finding warmth is a must. Shelters across the city are full to capacity. Energies are put to creature survival needs. Those of us out and about assess the bundled up presence of others and together we have a sense of the power of enduring while facing the challenge.
I don’t relish the pain. But I do relish the reminder that I am a creature alive on the land and respect for my limits is a must.
I’m blessed to have home, blessed to fear not about finding warmth, blessed to be reminded that I’m guest in the grand gift that is Minnesota.
I have been asked to preach at a service of ordination.
I’m terrified and thrilled and moved and honored and oh, so hopeful. The woman being ordained has been a pastor for years. She has led and blessed and moved and witnessed as a whole woman of God in a denomination that welcomes her wholeness.
But she had to search far from home to find that denomination. Because she is a same-gender-loving woman, she has been forced to wander through many places of parch and pain until she found herself in the Metropolitan Community Church where she was welcomed and is welcomed and there she has been.
And, her heart kept calling her home; home to the Lutheran church which, until a year or so ago, would not welcome the full glory of her being.
She is coming home on Sunday. She will be ordained in the ELCA, a denomination willing to pray and ground and be in the way of Jesus; inclusive and welcoming of All God’s Children.
This is weeping material for my heart. I feel such gratitude for her courage and tenacious belief that the church can be grace. I feel hope for a world in which the church is willing to be living grace. I feel humbled by the preaching task and honored and I pray so very fervently that some day my church, the United Methodist Church, will allow the floodgates of grace to open for all of God’s beloveds.
We need that washing of grace.
I spoke recently with a young woman who is going through a painful transition.
She is claiming some space from a long-term relationship. Part of that space claiming is moving to her own place. I think I’ll say that again: Her own place.
How many of us have had such a thing? For many, having physical space to claim as our own has never happened. We bump from home to college to friends to partners and often, so very often, we never have the chance to breathe in space that is not peopled with the needs, wants and desires of others.
I am proud of this young woman. Proud because she is listening to the wisdom of her heart; the wisdom that tells her it is time to learn new things about herself and about life.
And oh, I join the others who have expressed envy. I am one of the have-always-lived-with-others who sigh deeply when hearing about her studio apartment. I love my life and my people and the gift of my man next to me each night.
And, yet there is this always within me; a longing for that place of my own arranging, my own adorning, my own.
Maybe that’s what the spiritual journey is all about: Finding that place. Not a place we control, but a place where we know that the arranging, the adorning, the inhabiting is ours.
In such a place, we settle in with ourselves and with our God and know ourselves to be home.
I have spent most of the morning listening to insipid recordings on automated phone machines. I would scream, but no one would hear me!
It feels dehumanizing. Clearly, I wouldn’t be making calls if I didn’t need to speak with the party I am calling. Jumping through the “press one” hoops is like entering a maze. Desperately you hope for resolution, but the possibility that you will be wandering for hours in the world of transfers, accidental hang-ups and dead ends is real.
There ought be a special prayer for those who have to summon the courage to get service. Whispered with fervor, maybe the prayer would have much to do with patience granted, robotic sensibilities keen, answers, and – dare we ask for miracles?? – a HUMAN voice on the other end of the line.
God grant me the serenity…………….