server

I was a really good waitress.

Every good waitress knows that the front of the house and the kitchen have to work in harmony together.  It is probably best that diners in fine restaurants are blissfully unaware of the heat and the unloveliness of the kitchen.  Good chefs make great meals.  Good waitresses serve up great meals while creating a sense that there is nothing but peace in the kitchen.

So now I am a parish pastor.  It is a job not unlike that of a waitress.  My desire is that people who worship at the church I serve can be undisturbed by the clank of the liturgical pots and pans that go into cooking up worship and life together.

I am glad I am in the front of the house in this ministry business.  Because truthfully, after three days of being at General Conference, I am not sure I ever want to enter the kitchen of the United Methodist movement again.

Today Rule 44 was defeated.  After hours of technical difficulties with voting apparatus and points of order and amendments and heart-felt testimony, it seems the people called Methodist are not willing to talk to each other.  We seem more inclined to talk at each other using Robert’s Rules as shield.

So it went.  I only wept once.

The rest of the day was spent in legislative committees.  That Book of Discipline that we turn to in the ordering of our life?  Every line of it is up for editing and polishing and so committees are digesting thousands of legislative petitions and after sitting on the floor of one of the break-out rooms (there was no room in the inn for the curious) I fled.

I admit it.  I got out of there.

It turns out I don’t have the stomach or heart for the work in the kitchen.  I am glad that others do.  I am glad that others can craft words that can somehow invite people to taste and see the goodness of our God.  I pray that inviting and inclusive and delicious words flow from this time.

As for me, I went out for ice cream.

Here is what I know.  I am blessed to serve a remarkable church in Rochester, MN.  My sense of doing church there is that the kitchen and the front of the house are all seeking to do the same thing:  we want to serve up grace to the hungry of soul.  I get to work with people who are huge of heart and excited by God’s stirring in our midst and I left the convention center today so grateful for my local church and my place in it.

Christ UMC in Rochester is where I am called to serve up the Body of Christ; in the midst of the hungry and the seeking and the hopeful.

I’m hoping I am still a good waitress.

 

alone together

I went to church every Sunday while I was growing up.

Rarely did I get to sit with my parents during worship. My dad was up in the pulpit preaching and leading worship and my mom was in the choir lending the gift of her voice to the mix. Often I was in the pew company of my siblings. My older siblings tolerated the presence of my younger sister and me. We were preacher’s kids: watched and alone together.

When I did get to sit by my mom for worship, it was a treat. She smelled good. She sang harmony on the hymns. She did more than tolerate me. I could mold myself to her side and play with the rings on her fingers and when it was time for offering, she gave me a dime to put in the plate. I was no spectator. I was a contributor.

My mother’s birthday is this Sunday. She will be 85. What I came to realize is that more than anything else I wanted to sit by her side during worship. I never get to do that, since I am now the one in the pulpit and she lives four and a half hours away. On her birthday I wanted to be next to her in worship savoring her good smell, her fine harmony, and the unnameable gift that is her presence in this world.

I took Sunday off. I will be by my mother’s side as we share a pew and our gratitude to God for the brambles and beauties of life.

And maybe, just maybe, she will give me a dime to put in the offering plate.

light

Outside the sanctuary a bitter wind was howling. On this first Sunday of the new year the intrepid gathered to celebrate the power of light to guide us to new life. It was Epiphany Sunday.

We heard the story of how it was three wise men followed the star.

Most enchantingly, we heard the scripture read by young people. Both the prophet Isaiah and the writer of Matthew’s gospel were given voice by children and youth who call our church home. Their moms and dads had cell phones at the handy to record their young wonders and every person in the place leaned in and leant their breath and energy in order that the story might be told. Through the hearts and sounds of our very own beloveds the story was told.

The woman who directs the Little Angels children’s choirs – preschoolers who sing open-hearted beauty – shared a solo. Witnessing her singers watch their teacher bear witness with shine and beauty broke my heart open with wonder.

What is this glory that we share? What is this light we seek to follow?

On a wretchedly cold Minnesota morning the light of Christ drew us near and we bowed and offered our gifts. We offered the gifts of our presence and our intentions and our longings and our shine and we were warmed in the doing of it.

And the winter did not overcome it.

this year

I am United Methodist by choice. I wasn’t born into the tribe called Methodist. I found my way into the denomination through a church that lived piety and practice. It got my attention.

First United Methodist Church in Pittsburgh took my family in when we were far from home with two young children. They helped me learn a living faith.

It wasn’t because their choir was the best or their preacher the most eloquent. They taught me incarnational church because in a time when AIDS was becoming scourge they were willing to stand in solidarity with those physically and spiritually devastated by loss upon loss. The church was unwilling to practice willful disregard.

I want to unpack that. By “willful disregard” I mean churches who see pain or disruption of creation around them and do nothing to reach into that pain with compassion and care; even the elemental care of naming and noticing.

I became a United Methodist because I saw what church can be and always I long for institutional United Methodism to recall its roots and grounding. The Wesleys taught, among other things, that faith is a practice meant to be lived and willful disregard is not the way of the gospel and not the way of the people called Methodist.

This year I want the church be a place where we will name the ache of racism and generational poverty grounded in racism. I’m praying for a movement that names the despoiling of creation and the devastation that results from the pillage of the sacred in the bodies of women and children and men and the earth. I’m desirous of leaders who choose to use their gifts to work with their faith kin to build low income housing and feed hungry children and provide access to education.

I can’t give much more energy to the soul-sucking debate over full inclusion of GLBT folk. Really, Jesus and the grace offered through him are sullied by the pitched slug-fest over a paltry number of lines in scripture. To squander the gift of the gospel through the barricading of grace is willful disregard.

I want to lead a discipling center where people know that we are not there to play church.

Rather, we are mindfully grounded in the teachings and practices and wonderings of faith and because we trust the invitation of our God and our own foibled and hopeful selves, indeed all things are possible.

All things.

All things.

pilgrimage

A new year dawns.

My beloved has left on a jet plane. He is Hawaii bound. He will join his two older sisters for a sacred time of sharing breath and paying homage to the odd and powerful mystery of kinship.

Cooper’s eldest sister is dying. There have been years of silence and wrangle and now, now the time for transcending hurt has come.

It seems fitting, somehow. In the midst of paradise three people of soul and story will open themselves to the ache of the old and the invitation of the new and their vulnerable courage will free them each.

We are called to such freedom. The compassionate heart of the Christ calls us to such freedom.

A new year dawns.

We are the vulnerable and courageous and life is so very short.

May the time of transcending hurt come to us each.

so much

Gratitude takes up space.

Gratitude swells and transforms and it is alive alive.

The kindnesses of my life sprung from the heart of human grace are tender mercy. Love lives in my home and it visits in the form of children who share life and laughter as well as questions and ache. The tender goodness of thick coffee and attentive hearts are ground for the stretch into the unknown of each day.

The artistry of the Holy pounds in the power of the Great Lake outside my window and it spangles in the still of night and the need to stop and pay homage lives in every “thank you” breathed on every day. Two bald eagles dipped blessing over our heads yesterday. Two.

Where is the space for so much gratitude?

I who have died

Eleven years ago I moved to Minneapolis a newly divorced woman with three grieving children.

We were all nuts.

Somehow we lived, one day to the next. The eldest left for college. The two youngest endured finding their own new ways in a new place, as did their mother. Life was marked by train rides to see their dad and sometimes visits with the Chicago-dwelling eldest. We were careful around each other. We grieved. Oh, we grieved.

And we lived.

Friends were found and life made and gradually it became easier to breathe.

We lived:

Pick ups to and from college for three. A”bonus dad” and “bonus sibs” to acclimate to. More friends, explorations, band concerts, leaving and returning and growing awareness that the bond of love is a rare and precious thing.

Graduations from college and jobs won and left. Partners welcomed and woven into kin fabric. Hearts passionate about healing and justice and beauty and community and the splendor of the earth. Pastor’s kids adept with people and open to life.

And now the youngest graduates on Saturday. There for his walk will be his deepest and most tenacious fans: his mom and dad, his step-Coop, his sisters and their partners and on the next day a raucous cloud of witnesses present to mark the good of it all.

It will be the last big party at this house that has known many parties – some I knew about and many I did not. We will be together, we who have been so blessed to walk from a world saturated by grief into a world near too-full of gratitude.

I can’t speak it fully. e. e. cummings comes close:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
wich is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
e.e. cummings

We are alive.

I thank you God for most this amazing.