Waking this morning to the newspaper’s announcement that the state of New York has made same-gender marriage legal was a heart-whoop for me. As Minneapolis and other cities are celebrating Gay Pride, I am filled with hope that fullness of communal life is possible for all of God’s children.
One of this morning’s activities for me was writing a newsletter article explaining to my church the reasons why I signed a petition that puts me in opposition to the UM stance on gay marriage (according to our polity, our pastors aren’t supposed to officiate at same-sex marriage services). It seems surreal to have to explain that grace is boundless.
After the marriage amendment foolishness is defeated in God’s country (that would be Minnesota) the heart-whoops will be a constant and communally felt. And the United Methodist Church? The Spirit is a powerful force for hope and healing. Fear cannot withstand Holy unbinding.
I’m readying myself for 12 whole days of vacation at the cabin. I am discerning which books to pack (who cares about clothes; it’s the books that take precedence!). I am imagining quiet and water and time with my beloved and sun and space in which to fully know myself to be creature in God’s creation. Climbing into that log womb gives me new life. Morning coffee on the dock is holy communion. The swirl of life subsides and in the stillness the Holy speaks.
So, hope is real, rest is in the offing and I’m taking off my shoes and grateful to stand on the holy ground that is my life.
Oh freedom, indeed.
Sometimes the beauty we find one with the other is too much to take in.
This day is one of those times. Hearts were open; both giving and receiving through the dance of wisdom and good-swapping that is living in community.
In her book “Leaving Church” Barbara Brown Taylor relates a learning she had as she was nearing the end of her tenure as a local church pastor. She writes of being at a social event surrounded by church members. Knowing as she does that she is soon to morph out of the wildly odd role of parish minister, she finds herself interacting with people at the gathering in a wholly different way. No more are they a part of the clamor and hue that can often accompany interaction with church folk. Instead, she finds herself marveling at how fine it is to interact and be with people both interesting and connected with her life and the life of creation.
Her tale was cautionary for me. Since reading it I have sought often to mindfully stop the race of my mind and open myself to the now of the Christ in those around me.
Today the Christ was legion. It seemed that each person I encountered had a heart for the dance of life and a willingness to reflect upon it.
After days of such shine, I am troubled not at all by the hand-wringing so often present in our thinking about the future of “church”.
Church is. Church is found in the hallowed joining of heart to heart. In those places we are told the Christ is present.
I believe it.
It’s getting tense here in Minnesota. We aren’t alone.
The ideology war with its thuds of rhetorical chest thumping is starting to scare us but good. Democrats and their seeming love of throwing money out the window and Republicans with their seeming love of order sans compassion are in a stare-down that could mean chaos here in weeks. The state government threatens to grind to a halt if compromise cannot be reached.
We have no idea what ripples will turn into tsunami pain for many if this shut down occurs.
Both “sides” cheer their standard bearers on but oh, there are lives in the mix held together by the strands of services offered by programs in danger of being slashed. So too are lives held together by a functioning state government.
I have no answers. What I know is that in this, as in so many things, the answers are found not through lobbing imprecations across tables and airwaves, but through sustained and respectful honoring of the boundless truth that is breathed through creation by the heart of the Holy.
What we are taught by Jesus is that we are to love our God with all we have and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. That means my neighbor’s children who need food, care, and excellent schools. That means my neighbors who are elderly and my neighbors who are Republican and my neighbors who are Democrats and my neighbors who reflect the shine of the Holy. Their well-being is mine to claim as my own. That’s God’s truth.
I seek to believe that people of both parties run for office because they care about liberty and justice for all. They are asked to do painfully hard work. So I’m praying. I’m praying for them and for us all that we might become a people with un-stuck hearts, open ears, willing spirits, and humble wonder.
We have been given so much. How will we live?
I was married for 23 years to a very fine man.
We grew up together. We got married right out of college when neither of us knew what we wanted to be when we grew up and we adventured and played and parented and learned about life.
Part of our adventuring had to do with seeking to support each other as we sniffed the winds for vocation. Jim knew his calling strongly from the get-go: he wanted to write musicals. He wanted to write musicals that would play on Broadway. So, we sought colleges for graduate work, took ourselves and our then almost two-year old to Pittsburgh where he studied at Carnegie Mellon, had another babe whilst in Pittsburgh, and moved to Duluth where we completed our child flock with son Jameson.
While I tasted the maybe-good of seminary (of course I loved it) and commuted for five years from Duluth to Minneapolis to get a Master’s of Divinity, he supported the adventure.
We were good for each other. And maybe most heartbreakingly, it came to be clear that being good for each other meant being not married to each other.
In the time since our divorce, Jim has devoted himself to his muse and to his craft and now he has a musical opening off-Broadway. Our children will be there for opening night and while I will not be there physically, my heart and wonder will be there. I suspect that the tears that would be rolling down my face will shine on the faces of our children.
It has been a relationship of applauding, one for the other.
It continues yet.
Break a leg, Jim Olm.
What do pastors do? Well, on this Tuesday I:
Met with the Nominations Committee to staff all committees.
Wrote worship for two services.
Spoke with a parishioner about a pastoral care concern.
Interviewed an incoming intern and discerned with him how to match his gifts with the needs of the church.
Dropped in on a birthday party for one of our small group leaders.
Fine-tuned a job description for a full-time Spiritual Formation Director. Planned for how and where to post said position.
Answered tons of emails and questions.
Recruited some children’s sermon providers.
Ran a staff meeting; more birthday cake for a staff birthday (hard work, someone has to do it!).
Had a meeting with a parent about baptism.
Wrote articles for the newsletter.
Prepped for a Bible study class on Isaiah.
Made hospital calls.
I think that is it.
Part of what makes the vocation of ministry so fulfilling for me is the jumble of gifts that get tapped and adventures that get entered into.
A day in the life is never dull.
Three years ago our church welcomed a new pastor. The new pastor was new to the church. He was not new to me.
Max and I became friends during seminary. We gravitated toward each other because of a shared love of good coffee, deep laughs and the zing that is life in community. Max visited my family in Duluth, and when I heard about my move to Richfield, it was Max who hosted me and my family as we looked for a new home.
So when it became real that he was going to be appointed here at Richfield, I was excited for the church to partake of his goodness and light.
It has been three years of enjoying his voice in song and leadership, his great ability to connect with people and the ring of his laugh.
And, he is moving to pastor a church excited to receive him.
Tomorrow, on Pentecost Sunday, we will bless him on his way. We will worship and hear him preach and share a meal together in fine UM pot-luck style (only one English-speaking service tomorrow at 9:00; the Vietnamese service will be at its usual 11:15 time in the sanctuary).
Poet Anne Sexton wrote that “The joy that isn’t shared dies young”. The joy we have shared whilst in the company of Max will bless this church into its future. It has a life that will sparkle the air for always.
So we pray traveling mercies and gratitude for joy shared; taken into heart and unloosed through our own willingness to live light and love and our intention to share the communion of joy so often as ever we can.
Being felled is such good.
It has been a tumultuous sort of time for me. I’ve been bumped physically and professionally (fear not, all is well) over the past month or so. Both created tailspin of great introspection and self-searching about life and my being in it.
And, both brought to the forefront of my being the importance of reflections of the Holy in human form. There are many of us – I surely am one – who get rolling in life and the tasks and duties of the day become so intense that the sacred stuffs of relationships get put on the to-do list of some future day when there is time for such seemingly non-essential tending.
Foolishness, that. What I discovered when faced with recent challenges is the stunning beauty of hearts and ears open and able to hear pain. Sitting in the company of those willing to mid-wife wisdom through the power of their presence and care is reminder to me that relationships are the core of any richness I might name.
I am blessed. I am blessed with people who are able to hear pain and listen without seeking to solve. I am blessed with people who know well that answers are to be lived into and questions sometimes the most holy of teachers.
Human beings crave a sense of belonging. We need a place we can call spirit home; a place where, as Parker Palmer puts it, “it is safe for the soul to show up”. I am held in many such places.
As I name my gratitudes, the circles of care that sustain and hold shine in my heart. May it be so for us each.
May it be so.