gratitude and grief

When I began ministry at Richfield UMC, I was the first woman appointed as Lead Pastor.  It became clear that there was some swirl of unease and unhappy about that.  It also became clear that there was plenty of ease and happy about it as well.

At my introductory interview, one of the good men seated at the table informed me that the lead pastor always led the Men’s Bible Study at 8:00 AM on Wednesday mornings.  He shared that information as a way to inform me that come Wednesday, I would be studying scripture with men of the church.

And so I did and so I do.

The group of men gathered on Wednesday mornings has powerfully impacted my ministry.  From the grand vantage point of more than ten years of life shared, I am poignantly aware that being able to share life and faith with the men gathered every week has helped me to grow as person and as pastor.

I have fallen in love many times over with the cast of goodness, wisdom and heart brought to the table by each of the men.

Learning to love is not without pain.

“My guys” are dying.  I just concluded the funeral of a man grounded and near illegally funny.  He would take in what was going on around him and with impeccable timing he would lob out a one-liner that split us wide open with laughter.  He was a man who loved tenderly and largely.  I will miss Charlie greatly.

As I was readying to lead a wedding on the day of Charlie’s funeral, I picked up the phone to check on another one of my teachers.  He has been struggling with cancer as long as I have known him.  He has done so with the kind of grace and willingness to be honest about challenge that has marked his being in the world.  The cancer is run amok in his body.  He is dying. 

When I came to Richfield, he observed the antics of some of the not-so-keen-on-having-a-woman-pastor folk.  He saw it going on and took upon himself the role of mediator and protector.  Respected by his peers, he sought to grow understanding and grace and he had my back and forevermore he has my heart.

He lived his discipleship in the trenches of church muck;  heroic Jesus-following for sure.

I’m not sure how to live my thanks for the love shared with these and so many other fine souls whose lives have blessed and stretched me.  I can tell their stories at funerals and hear the hearts of their families as they grieve and share the good news of ongoing life in the heart of Jesus and all these things are true and so too is this:

Love is grand and life is peopled with stunning glory and my heart beats gratitude and grief.

A wonder it is to love and be loved.

don’t know

I don’t know much about a lot of things.

I don’t know how it is governments can poison their own people (or any people).

I don’t know how it is children are victims of gunshot wounds at the hands of those who are barely out of childhood themselves who are armed with metal death.

I don’t know how as the planet continues to wobble in ways more and more dramatic there is a continued unwillingness to claim culpability for global warming.

I don’t know how it became politically incorrect to share sorrows and questions.

I don’t know.

What I do know is that there is Holy Heart beating in the midst of the pain.

I do know that when people come together to remember who they are the world breathes hope.

I do know that what I can do is “love from the center of who I am” (Eugene Peterson’s voicing of Paul, Romans 12) and trust that in so doing I am naming and claiming the source of life.

I do know that in our flailings we are not alone. We can chose love and resistance to thuggery and we can use the wonderings of our heart to get us out in the world in order that grace might be communal heart beat.

Is there any other way?

What would we live that does not have hope in it?

I don’t know.