new year

On this last day of 2011, it’s good to think back and imagine forward.

This past year rings with a lovely soul hum.

My core relationships with partner and children have deepened and been freed.  My guy turned 60 this past week with a house full of friends from decades back and being a part of celebrating the relationships that make for life was gift.  My children are all residents of Minneapolis.  Last night two of three did swing-throughs, celebrating full refrigerators and lives.  To be able to share life casually is stunning gift.

The church I am part of tending has stretched and grown.  We trust each other more and most powerfully, we are opening to the wash of grace.  During the past year we rededicated our pipe organ, refurbished our sanctuary, prayed plenty and worshipped more.  We are a people celebrating transformation.

Personally, the decision to eat a vegan diet has changed my relationship with my own body.  The energy I feel is amazing, and the sense of reverence for the fuel that motors my flesh through the day is deep.  It isn’t all that hard.  The gifting is immense.  And, the implications for the health of the planet are real.

Socially, it feels like the world is waking up.  We are realizing the shattering that happens when the disparity between the rich and the poor widens.  People are speaking up and naming injustice and this is good.  Hopefully the movement of Jesus,  grounded on the core teachings of care for all of God’s people, will step up and speak out.

Our state is facing a wrenching watershed.  On the ballot this coming fall is an amendment seeking to ban marriage between people of the same sex.  The money and effort that will be thrown into this melee breaks my heart.  With a world literally starving due to a lack of generosity of heart and resources, monies spent to barricade love seems obscene.  But we will witness and fight and dear God, defeat this travesty of legislative bullying.

The United Methodist church will meet for General Conference this spring and once again seek to open the doors to grace for all of God’s children.  Currently we do not ordain “self avowed practicing homosexuals” and we do not allow our clergy to officiate at same sex blessings or marriages.  It is heart ache.  It is embarrassing. It needs to change, this policy that condemns love lived between holy creations.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will unfetter the clenched hearts that keep our movement bound.

Looking into 2012 I pray for a growing sense of communal grace.  It won’t come without the courage to look at what is and decide what we can do to live the world into healing.

There is so much good.  We are good.  Sharing that goodness in order that all might be blessed seems a good way to live into transformation.

Happy new year indeed.

now

Tomorrow will be the tenth funeral held at RUMC this month.

I find myself amazed at the power and grace of our church.

Each funeral requires a team of ministers.  Our organist provides powerful music to hold families and friends.  Vocalists and instrumentalists share their gifts.  Our communications person produces bulletins to aid worship.  The women and men of the church bake bars and cakes.  Those bars and cakes are offered, along with coffee and beverages and other foods by the people of the church who know how important it is to feed the hungry and offer drinks of compassion to the thirsty.  They welcome all through the doors: community members, families, estranged and beloveds alike.

People come to mark the lives of their brothers and sisters in Christ.  They sing and pray and give thanks for the time spent making life together.  And, they name before God their gratitude for life and life eternal in the company of the Christ and the flotsam and jetsam that is family and friends.

We have shared powerful worship over this past month.

Today, four different people stopped me and told me this:  they are praying for me.  Knowing that hearts get linked and it is hard to say goodbye to so many in such a short time, they offered me the powerful gift of their prayers.

To serve in the midst of such ministry underscores the teaching of Jesus.  He taught that living discipleship is about building the kindom of God on earth.  The time for compassion and grace and blessing is now.

I’m seeing it at church.  And for sure, I am feeling it in this now.

 

 

savor

‘Tis the day after Christmas.  And all through the house there is gratitude.

Three worship services are still thrumming in my body.  Christmas Eve is an amazing time to be church.

For the early (4:00) service chaos is an expected guest.  Kids are amped, parents are excited, grandparents shine with wonder, and all that energy is gathered within the walls of a sanctuary that has for decades held the prayers, celebrations and heart aches of a people.  The dispersed come home to celebrate life.

We have a tradition of inviting one of “our own” church sons to play classical guitar for the early service.  He grew up in the church, a musical son of musical and heart-huge parents.  A month earlier we had been together in the sanctuary to give thanks for the life of his mom.  It was a sweet and achy thing for him to share his musical gift without the physical shine of his proud mom.  And, for all that, she was present.

Richfield UMC has an amazing depth of musical heart.  We shared the witness of strings and voices and organ and children song and heard the story of how it was Jesus was born and the angels wove grace into our hearts.

You could see it in the candle-lit faces of those gathered.  Star shine was taken in and shared.

Christmas day worship was a romp.  We declare Sunday Christmas Days to be “slipper Sundays” so folk came with outlandish feet regalia.  The whole church took a deep gulping breath of nostalgia when one of our children came up for the children’s lesson in his sleeper jammies and slippers.  We sang, we heard the heart speakings of two of our members, we laughed and we celebrated the birthday of the Prince of Peace.  And leading worship in my slippers was delicious!

There are those who feel sorry for clergy at Christmas time.  Don’t.  True, the needful things that must be done are amplified when preparing a church is added to preparing for a home for Christmas.

But the gifts I received will long linger.  Seeing faces lit by candles while singing “Silent Night” is holy communion.  Watching people share love and light is salvation.  Being a part of the song and heart weave that is Christmas Eve and Christmas Day worship is amazing grace.

And, I was blessed with the candle-kissed sight of my own beloveds; children and husband and former husband too.  Seeing those faces in a shared pew on a night meant for knowing that with God all things are possible.  I was in the presence of emmanuel, God with us.

So it was.  So it is.

 

Merry!

We walk in Christmas.

We carry in our bodies the presence of Christmas past.  In us are the sloppy kisses of our grandfathers and the amped-up wonder of Christmas morning and the candle glow of decades of “Silent Night” singing.  These are gifts, these body knowings.

We carry too the questions and disappointments of the years.  When was it Santa became parental?  How did we negotiate the sharing of time when new life was grafted into old?  After deaths and the death that is divorce, how was Christmas negotiated and how would hearts ever ease again?  These questions we carry with us always.  Our bodies remember.

And, our bodies know in some deep and wise place that Christmas does indeed walk with us always; that is, the Word became flesh and it indeed dwells among us and through us and with us no matter where it is we find ourselves.

How do we live Christmas?

Mindfully, is my prayer.  As I enter this day before Christmas, imagining the two services of worship to come and the meal shared with family, I pray that my own awareness of the candle glow of the Christ within and with me will light my way.

And, I pray for the wisdom to allow that light of the Christ to light my life.

Merry Christmas, beloveds.  You have blessed me and the others with whom you share light and love.

Merry Christmas.

Generativity

My children do not have children.

I am not in that “grandparent” stage of life; the one where wonder is born while watching life pass from generation to generation.

No, I am living the wonder of watching my children make lives with their lives; their own very lives.

I am blessed with three children.  Two girls and a boy are alive in this world and somehow I got to be a part of their borning.  Their dad and I did our best to love and limit and bless them and then we loosed them.

And they are borning yet.

I just spent our Christmas with them.  Given the realities of divorced families, their dad and I alternate face time for Christmas holidays.  It is his year, so we decided to dine and dig into presents early.

The rituals are beyond price.  The thought put into finding heart gifts is so clear and the joy of knowing that treasures are shared is palpable.

Given that their mom is living vegan these days, I was graced with a Cadillac food processor to shred the heck out of any vegetable that would defy me.

And, from my youngest, an amazing heart gift.  He recorded a CD of original compositions.  The CD carries his voice and his thoughts and his evoking of real through guitar and piano and mandolin and there he is, my son, trusting his parents and the world enough to share his tender and fine heart.

The house is now quiet.  My children have gone to the places that hold them as they make life.

And this heart of mine gives thanks for holding and loosing and borning and the wonder that is love.

 

sermon interruptus

At Richfield UMC we offer three distinct worship services.

One is a “traditional” blended service held in the sanctuary.  We have a magnificent organ and lush music program.  We sing songs mostly out of the hymnals.

One of our services is held in that same space on Sunday morning and it is led in Vietnamese.  They too sing mostly out of the hymnal – traditional tunes with Vietnamese lyrics.

Our other service is called “Living Waters”.  We set out to create a worship service for the many who have been “painfully churched”.  So very often people have encountered boredom in church; a sense that they are to be passive consumers of someone else’s thoughts and convictions.

We didn’t want that.  So we set up the room with round tables and we meet in the Fellowship Hall with coffee cups and we welcome dogs and any other warm body seeking community and mind and heart stretch.

Our shared music is eclectic.  We use hymnal tunes, and we also use current and past secular music that brings the message of the day into our hearts.  We have a superb music leader, Victor Zupanc.  Victor is the Music Director at the Children’s Theatre.  He brings to our worship life a delight in working with different musicians, and a theologically questing spirit.  The man is poetry on the keys, and his spirit infuses our shared song.

One of the things that makes the service so fine is the people who gather.  We know each other, we like to play and question, and the work of the Spirit isn’t just about right answers, it is about finding our own answers to holy and vital soul questions.

Sharing a “sermon” in this context is not a one-way experience.  We share it.  Yesterday was an excellent reminder to me about why I love this service.  Twice during our sermon-slated time together, different members of the gathered asked a great question.  What this does is take us into the place where meaning is made.  Things get real fast when they are taken from one heart into many hearts.

In offering different sorts of worship, our church is seeking to live into transformation.  A great pulpit preach in a sanctuary where the gathered are active participants in the unfolding of the Word is pure gift.  I get to share that every Sunday.

And, I get to share the Word in a setting where collaborative unpacking of the Word is practiced.

So many gifts.  Blessed among women am I.

 

 

 

whew!

Today was Christmas Pageant day at Richfield UMC.  We had dozens of children help lead worship along with fabulous choral music, organ and piano soundings, and carrot cake cupcakes.  Our second service featured music that went into our hearts.  A young woman whom I have known since before she was born shared “Breath of Heaven” and my heart near melted with the wonder of her beauty and the message she shared.  The song narrates Mary’s questions and wonderings when she is told she is to bear new life.  Kayla sang it with her whole self.

I was able to visit one of our home bound members and share communion with him and his beloveds.  The communion set I used was one used by a beloved clergy friend who died a year-plus ago.  Loren was in the room with us as we remembered feasts shared by loving hearts throughout the ages.

And then, I baked cookies with my eldest daughter who didn’t correct me too many times.      Leah has become a wonder baker.  She long ago left her mother in the dust.  She was kind.

My tree is up.  It has no lights, but it is up.  I have many things to do.

But for now, for now I just want to let my heart slurp gratitude.  On this day, I believe the proclamation of the angel sung so long ago to a wildly courageous young Mary:  “With God, nothing is impossible.”

The song of the angel sings yet.  Children shine, communities gather, sweet smells waft, tables of grace are set and shared, and space to let gratitude be is now.