air fizz

It is an expectant world.

Ok, maybe I am projecting my own anticipation of the joys of a Memorial Day weekend with church bookended by cabin time.  I don’t think I am alone, though, in the fizz of happy in the air.

I love this weekend.  It’s the kick-off of summer (even though May and April in Minnesota have blasted us with heat).  People engage in conversation about plans and looking-forward-tos and the romp is on.

I’m waiting for Rachel to get done with her work so that we can throw the creaky dog in the car and head for the cabin along with the millions of others who will be on the road tonight.  We will plant gardens and put the dock in and rake but really, those are diversions from the main events: reading, sleeping and sunning.

My mom, who three weeks ago was skittering around on health thin ice will join us for an overnight.

My cabin neighbors will have stories to tell.

Sunday we will baptize a new sister in Christ.  We’ll engage in the necessary pain that is remembering the reason for the holiday.  We’ll name the blast of Pentecost and sing some songs and go off to the revels that await us each.

Fizz.  True that.  Bring it on!

 

 

shout out!

I wove my way out of church tonight.

There was a fourth step training going on.  There was a band practice and an Adult Council meeting and piano lessons and connecting and church was doing what it is meant to do: hold people as they unfold.

Our church is alive for so many reasons.  One of them is because we have an amazing staff.

We’re in the blessed season of asbestos abatement and new boiler(s) installation and new pipes and summer program launching and community carnival hosting and each of these things is midwifed by the best staff a church could hope to call their own.

Our staff encounter all manner of things in their work.  They handle walk-ins and myriad requests.  They strategize and equip and pray and laugh and field grumblings and all of this they do knowing that at any given moment the things they had planned to do could get sidelined by what might come through the door or over the phone.

To a person they are committed and generous gifts.

It’s good to work with people you like.  It’s even better to team up with deep souled folk who lend heart and grit to Richfield United Methodist Church in order for grace to shine.

Oh, we are blessed.

 

look who’s bothered!

Today I officiated at the funeral of a long-past member whom I have never met.

He grew up in the church and had moved from Mpls years ago.  It was important to his family to have the celebration of his life in his home territory, so they called to see if Richfield would host.

Of course.  That’s what we do.

It’s always a bit of a sniffing-out session when folks who are not members come into the church with a sense of what they want.  As the planning session went on, I was thinking of preacher and theologian Thomas Long’s discussion of funerals and how they have changed in the minds of many.

Often, Long observed (and I agree), funerals have become pep rallies for the deceased with precious little nod to the mystery and vulnerability that is life and death and resurrection and grief.

I liked this man’s family.  I liked what I heard about this man.

And, I was jangled a bit even before the service.  We had agreed that maybe “Me and Bobby McGee” would best be shared in the fellowship hall following the worship service.  That was good.

We had agreed that three eulogists would speak and they would be aware of the great good of being concise in their comments.

And, as in so much that is life, I had to let go during the service and trust that many unknowns would conspire to honor a life and give thanks to God for it.

But I had to wrestle with white-hot anger during the course of one of the eulogies. The man speaking used language that hurt in that sacred space.  He told a joke that jarred in the air that has held so many prayers.  I was torn between wanting to be gracious and wanting to welcome lighting bolts from the sky.

Here’s the thing.  I like to have fun as much as the next person.  I don’t believe that God despises laughter and I do believe that being able to celebrate the life of a beloved through anecdotes that provoke laughter is soul gift.

And, we gather in sanctuaries for services of life, death, and resurrection for a purpose.

We gather to bring our bruised and confused hearts before God and to offer them up for holding.  Eulogies are a chance to express our wonder about the gift of the deceased.  Stand-up comedy has its place.  So too does humility.

Trembling before God is a spiritual practice that requires reverence.

Reverence matters,  especially when the mystery that is life and death and resurrection is before us.

There is a powerful healing that happens when we step off the stage and acknowledge that all that we are and all that we live is directed by grace.

Reverence and wonder were missing today and life goes on and the family was pleased by oh, I missed the chance to worship.

Me.

I’m bothered.

I think that’s a good thing.

strength

Spirit is a nebulous and visceral thing.

My mother is now home.  In less than two weeks she has gone from the ICU to a regular hospital room to a transitional care facility to home.

Today, one day after returning home, she motored herself up to her church for her regular volunteering gig.  It was Thursday.  That’s what she does.  Of course.

I find myself celebrating the grit of the woman.  She is tiny of stature and humongous of will.

There are still diagnostic questions to be answered.  She is aware of that.  And, she will drive the discovery when she feels it is time.

In the meantime, we who claim her as mom and love are taking deep and grateful breaths.  Mom is out in the world.  We each encounter our days with a deeper sense of ground.

And this daughter is thinking plenty about how it is such strength got planted deep into the soul of Barbara Jane Fawcett Macaulay Forrest.

I thank God for that strength and for her ability to wield it.

All is right in the world.

My mom is in it.

 

tender

I got the phone call on Saturday.

My mom had been admitted to intensive care in Duluth.

I got in the car.  With me was my eldest daughter, Leah.  After explaining to her bosses at the wondrous bakery where she works what the need was, they sent her on her way with a bag full of cookies and hearts full of concern.  Both travelled well with us.

We got to the hospital and there was my tiny mother hooked up to many things.  Her medical issues were many; the presenting chief among them was pneumonia.

There was church to do the next morning.  The culmination of a new thing – a spring stewardship focus – was on the docket.

I needed to stay in Duluth.  My heart could not imagine leaving.  So I called a good and tender man who agreed to preach, leaving me free to be daughter and sister and mom.

My mother was moved the next morning to a regular room.  This is good.  They are seeking to understand how her health got so fritsy and what those spots on her liver are and there are questions that need answering and plans to be made but this I know:

Tenderness is an exquisite thing.

I feel it holding me and my mother and our family and while seeing She Who Must Be Obeyed hooked up and weakened is the stuff of child angst, I know her to be wise and strong and she will encounter this as she has the rest of her life: with surety and grace.

And we who are her children will live as we have been taught.  We are led by a woman who taught skating lessons for years.  And when we fell really hard and she saw it, she did not come swooping up to hold us in our pain.  She was present from across the rink, assessing our ability to get up and skate on.

She believed in our strength.

With surety and grace we will learn our way.

 

love

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.”  1 John 4:7

Love.  It’s a word thrown around easily.  I do it.

And then life unfolds and the power of that word is body felt.

Love connects us, one to the other.  It transcends miles.  It thrums in an ache of such intense pain when our beloveds are vulnerable.

Cancer diagnoses, illness, the vulnerability of our body and soul selves.  There is risk in the communion of this thing called loving.  Sometimes the raw ache of it feels impossible to hold.

My mother, who has challenged and blessed my heart, is in the ER far from me.  I hold her.

A beloved sister friend who is medicine for the heart of the world has been diagnosed with cancer.  I hold her.

This thing sprung from the heart of God. This thing called loving.

It is everything.

And so speaks Sophia (who goes by the name of Mary Oliver):

West Wind #2 

You are young.  So you know everything.  You leap

into the boat and begin rowing.  But listen to me.

Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without

any doubt, I talk directly to your soul.  Listen to me.

Lift the oars from the water, let your arms rest, and

your heart, and heart’s little intelligence, and listen to

me.  There is life without love.  It is not worth a bent

penny, or a scuffed shoe.  It is not worth the body of a

dead dog nine days unburied.  When you hear, a mile

away and still out of sight, the churn of the water

as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the

sharp rocks – when you hear that unmistakable

pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth

and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls

plunging and steaming – then row, row for your life

toward it. 

~ Mary Oliver ~

Thanks be to God for the agony that is love.

agree to disagree

Sidelined by sickness, I am watching the General Conference of the United Methodist Church as it is live streamed (www.umc.org).

Just finished was heart breaking and real debate on the floor.

The issue?  A statement proposed that named the reality that we disagree over the issue of same-gender love.  No news.  But controversial and threatening?  I guess.

To that effect, an amendment was made.  It wasn’t radical in that it would do away with language which is soul wrench for many.  What it said was that we disagree, we people called United Methodists.

The link is below.

http://www.umc.org/atf/cf/%7Bdb6a45e4-c446-4248-82c8-e131b6424741%7D/05-03%20DCA%20NEWS%20&%20FEATURwww.umc.org

I came into the discussion late and claim the what-I-don’t-knows.

I can only describe what I saw on my little computer screen while a Minnesota spring storm was raging outside.

I saw people who love their church come to their feet to beg for open doors and hearts and minds.  I saw witnesses in rainbow stoles who circled the Body in prayer and witness.

I saw people tussling with each other about bragging rights to who is orthodox and who is successful and really who cares when a church built upon the heart warming of grace offered to all – even sinners like John Wesley and me –  is unwilling to name that we disagree?

Here is what I know.  The mission of the United Methodist Church is to make disciples for Jesus the Christ.

People in my church make disciples of ME by the ways they model ministry.  They are gay and they are lesbian and they are straight and they are celibate and they are a multicolored rainbow transforming the world because they belong to a church that welcomes all who seek to live the teachings of Jesus.

All.  The United Methodist Church is bigger than our fears.  This I believe.