Sunday, September 30, 2007

Prayer Blankets

We have a ministry where we give prayer blankets to people in our church. We started this about a year and a half ago and have given out at least a dozen blankets.

Someone from the church makes a blanket in whatever way they want - sewing, knitting, crocheting. Sometimes people have brought one that they bought. They just sort of come in as needed in some way that is almost mystical. When we know that there is someone in the congregation who we cant to give a blanket to - we pass it through the church members during Sunday worship. The instructions to the congregation are that people are to pray over the blanket in for whoever the intended person is.

About a month ago, we gave a blanket to Doug who had a stroke. I brought it to him in the hospital and he really was touched by it. Even though he is having trouble "tracking" with his memory he knows that this is important to him. Saturday I got a call from a family member that somehow the blanket - in his moving from room to room in the hospital was gone. And Doug was inconsolable. I had another blanket in my office, so Saturday afternoon I went to the hospital to give that one to him. It did not look like the previous blanket - however, he welcomed it. I prayed over Doug and the blanket and talked about how God loved him and cared for him and the church loved him and this was a symbol of that.

I was concerned because I knew that I wanted to give a blanket to Jo in our church who is now in hospice care. And to my wonder, Merlyn appeared in my office this morning with 2 blankets that had been donated a while ago - that she had embroidered "Karl Road Christian Church Praying for you." Again - as always - the blanket appeared as needed. So, this morning it passed through the congregation and each person prayed over it.

This aftenoon I was so blessed to take the blanket to Jo. And we remarked on the beautiful fall colors and the fact that it was made by Essie, one of our longtime members. Jo is becoming increasingly frail but knew and appreciated the gift. And the whole thing seems perfect in every way. And for me, I am so awed by the moments in my life when I get to pray with people expressing God's love to them that is evidenced in a blanket.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Break Ins

I finally had contact with the policeman who has been trying to connect with me. The church was broken into 2 months ago. Someone threw a concrete statue from the garden through a window into my office and entered. Something scared them and they did not take anything. However, they tried to. They put the printer in a plasic bag and tried to pull out the computer. When I cam in that morning there was glass all over the place and some blood on the bag and on a chair in my office. They took blood samples and amazingly enough had a hit and the person was in jail and is now going to go to trial for this. I had to write up a statement for the police yesterday. He was disappointed that they didn't take anything because it would only be a misdemeanor and not a felony.

This is our second break in in the past year and a half. The other time the policeman told me that it was probably someone looking for money for drugs.

I got an email from my brother Wayne who may be on TV this morning about the break in at his school. He had mentioned it ot me this summer.....and that it might "blow up" which it has. He told us to google "Hanover cheating" to get the story which I did. A group of 50 - to 60 young people worked together to break into the school to obtain keys to a file cabinet and to get test answers to cheat on tests. And now they have been found out. And there is division in the town. Should the police have been called in? What sort of punishment is appropriate? Will this affect the schools (often ivy league) that these students will go to? This is a school system where 90 % of the students go to college and the suspects are probably all priveleged young people. But they did take something - so they could actually be charged with a felony.

I woke up this morning thinking about these two break ins and how different lives can be. And how easily anyone can convince themselves that breaking in is possible and acceptable. And how differently we judge.

I may actually have to go to court in this case against the guy who broke into the church. Maybe I should talk to him and see him as a person. I wonder where all of this is leading.

Just wondering and ruminating.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Monday night

One of the blessings of my life is that I serve as Co-Director of Advance Conference which is our camp for young adults. Last year I realized that many, many of these young people live in Columbus.

So, I made a suggestions to Jennie (a natural leader!) that I would be willing to host a Bible study in my home. And she checked around and found that Mondays at 9 PM was the best time for the group. At my suggestion we moved it up to 8:30 and I led the first Bible study of 8.
After that I told them tha someone else would lead and they did. At the question of how often to meet - weekly, monthly, every other week? The answer - weekly. And so my life changed.
Because practically every week at 8:30 - from 8 to 17 young people come into my family room to study the Bible.

I am in another room - right now the family room. All I provide is the place and the snacks. And the snacks have gotten easier as I learned that bottled water is what everyone wants. Over the past year I have tried all kinds of things - from popcorn, to chips and salso, potato chips, brownings, oreos. Right now as I type this it is chocolate chip cookies and pretzels.

They start every evening with an ice breaker question. Tonight's was - what name would you have (or like to have) if you had been born of the opposite sex. Good question. Then the Bible study and then at the end they share prayer concerns. Sometimes they have listened to music or watched movie clips or even a part of the Simpsons. Sometimes they have questions about the BIble and ask me what I think. Sometimes I don't have a clue and sometimes I have some wisdom for them. I am not in the room but sometimes I overhear the prayer concerns. Over the past year I have heard a lot about job seeking, job changing, financial concerns and family, health and relationship issues.

I cannot overstate how blessed I feel that they are here. To be able to host young people who are hungry for community and for spiritual understanding is awesome. And it speaks to the need for providing space for that. Some of them go to my church, some to some other churches in town and some to no church. In fact, this may be their church right now.

My life changed because I had to change my day off because they are meeting here. And after 15 years of having Mondays off it is really different for me. The rhythem is not the same in my week or in my body. But keeping MOnday as my day off and not being able to go anyplace on Monday was not working either. The other change is that after they leave I am always wired and cannot go to sleep easily. I don't know it the HOly Spirit keeping me up?

This whole thing has something to do with the Christian journey. Something about a willingness to be open and vulnerable and change. And none of it is easy. But definitely worth it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Prayer Walk

We joined with three other churches to do a prayer walk in the neighborhood this afternoon after church. Well, one church did not show up - and two people were from Karl Road and the other 6 were from Epworth UMC. Not a big turnout.

This was the second prayer walk in the neighborhood. The first one had 14 people - this one had eight.

We started at 12:30 with a prayer and walked down Karl Road, a pretty busy street and turned onto Robin Road - went the length of it and then turned around and walked back. We walked in silence. This area is a place where there is a lot of crime.

The area on Robin Road is full of apartments. The first thought I had seeing all those apartments was ....why do we have so few people come to our church? My gosh, there were thousands of people that lived in those apartments. Do they go to church? If so, where?
And second thought - are we supposed to come to them in some way? Always as church we are inviting people to come to do we reach out? Darned if I know!

Other thoughts. I asked Dawn who walked with me and she said that she saw all these symbols.
Broken glass= broken lives; dried grass = thirsty lives; trash = neglect. Etc. Etc. That was certainly there. As well as occasional flowers and a butterfly that moved around us at times.

My prayers were always visuallizing angels on the tops of the buildings and lights coming in to the windows as I prayed for blessing, peace, protection and love for all who lived in these places.

And this experience is like every prayer experience that I have ever had. Is this doing anything? What difference does it make? And always, the only answer I have come up with is that we are called to be faithful.

Maybe the best part of it on a personal level was walking in silence. I am getting to this place of loving silence even though I run away from it. It was not actually silent because of traffic and people sounds - but I could - in not talking and not having people chattering - feel some expression of God's presence.

I will do this again.

sermon on Job

There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. Job: 1:1
Job was the richest man around but in a single day he was wiped out. His world was falling apart.
The Sabeans ran off with his asses and oxen and slaughtered his hired hands
Lightening struck the sheep barn – it burnt the whole flock – not to mention the shepherds The Chaldeans rustled his camels and camel drivers
And a hurricane came and did the final damage – hit the house where his 7 sons and 3 daughters were and killed them As if this were not enough – Job came down with leprosy
The story of Job – in a word is about suffering – and how are we going to respond to the suffering in life?

Suffering – What do you picture when I say that word? What do you picture??
Soldiers in Iraq – People in Iraq………People suffering from AIDs
Someone recovering from surgery;;;;;;;;The suffering of Depression
The suffering of a broken heart…….Physical suffering cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, strokes, …….Suffering from racism, poverty, child abuse,

What is the picture in your head of suffering?
Are you yourself in a place of suffering?
Is there someone who comes to mind?

For Job he cursed the day he was born and prayed to die – but that prayer was not answered
He prayed for the sun to stop shining but that prayer was not answered
His wife – the only one of his family left advised him to turn his back on God and curse him and then go hang himself

But Job was a good and religious man and there were some lengths – that even in the horror of his life – he would not go
But because he was a good and religious man he was left with some awful questions
Why had God let such things happen to him
The question – WHY ME?

He had well meaning but insufferable friends
And all of their arguments come to one point
If Job was being punished in this way – something must have happened that caused it. He must have done something
They believed in a world which is governed in a rational manner by divine wisdom
God was just, God was good
God made good things happen to good people
And bad things happen to bad people

Bad things were happening to Job – there fore he must have done something bad And he should feel guilty
Job angrily rejected this –
As for you, you whitewash with lies; all of you are worthless physicians. 5If you would only keep silent, that would be your wisdom!

You know who they were – a bunch of theological quacks
The smartest thing they could do was to shut up
But they were too busy explaining things to listen – easy answers

Think for a moment about your answers for your own and other people’s suffering
Or worse yet, perhaps – your advice giving – for many of us – it would be our wisdom to keep silent – to shut up
Walter Brueggemann described the friends as “pre-pain”
Until you have experienced undeserved suffering yourself – it is comforting to believe that the universe is a comfortable and well ordered place

Anyway back to the story
Poor Job – not only broken and in pain – but now friends who expect him to be guilty
Job understands that his friends don’t know as much as they think they know
So we have a long discourse as he muses on wisdom
20“Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding? 21It is hidden from the eyes of all living, and concealed from the birds of the air.
Then Job reminisces about the good old days when he and God were “like that”
29Job again took up his discourse and said: 2“Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me; 3when his lamp shone over my head, and by his light I walked through darkness; 4when I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent; 5when the Almighty was still with me, ….

But now Job feels alone
30:20 20I cry to you and you do not answer me; I stand, and you merely look at me.

Giving voice to his pain and his confusion and his lack of answers – where are you, God? Am I talking to myself?
One more friend to give an answer – Elihu
Talks for a couple of chapters –
36:15 He delivers the afflicted by their affliction, and opens their ear by adversity.
Translation – no pain …no gain
Suffering in life toughens us
It is the refiner’s fire – you know God never gives us more than we can handle
Now – not guilty – but grateful? For things that have happened
But before Job can answer this explanation – God speaks – the most gorgeous speech in the old Testament
Composed almost entirely of magnificent and preposterous questions
4“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding.
5Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?
6On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone 7when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?
8“Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?—

On and on – meaning – who do you think you are?
God is not through – perhaps he is like a great cosmic bully or an artist or a singer of magnified proportion
So often we hear people interpret this response of God to Job as an angry response, that God is scolding Job.
There is another way to understand this speech of God. The Hebrew Bible scholar Kathleen O’Connor talks about this speech as a turning point in Job’s life, not because God scolded Job and put him in his place, but because this speech turns the question from why to who and in so doing, God’s word offers Job a new vision.
The answer to the question “Who?” offered to Job hope and healing and eventually restoration. It was in this experience that is recreated for us in this poem that tries to somehow explain the unexplainable – the mysterious and magnificent reality of God
First – Job – faithful – Sunday school – knew God – BUT – never anything like this before. This amazing dialogue with God who ended up putting him in his place – Who God is – who we are –
Great glory of God shot through the clouds
Voice of the one we worship today – you know we only get glimpses, stirrings, nudgings – occasionally there is this! kind of experience when God comes in a powerful way:
I am creator – present before creation
I am sovereign –not answerable to you,
I am the lover – the one who gave his son to suffer for you (more about that later)

This encounter was about God’s transcendence
And for Job – the experience was Awe – Fear - holy otherness – of God
Job is a powerful, provocative, poetic book of the Bible that words are inadequate to experience
And that reality is that intellectual answers and theological constructs about life and God will only take us so far.
Cannot explain suffering – can only acknowledge it
we may not know why we suffer and others suffer and the world is so unfair
Frederick Buechner said If you take three facts,:"God is good, God is great, and the innocent suffer "you can only reconcile two of those. You can never, ever reconcile all three. The Bible never gives an answer.
After Job complains and complains, God says to Him, "Where were you when I created the world? You don't ask me those questions."
He says to Jeremiah, "I am the potter, you are the clay. The clay does not ask the potter that kind of question

Secondly we come here with the awareness that we are New Testament people – and that is HUGE
In the Old Testament and the background of the New Testament, when someone had leprosy, blindness or lameness, you avoided them because they were being punished by God.
But in the New Testament, when somebody is suffering, you go to the place of suffering. Where people are being crucified the most, you go the most. Where suffering is, there is God in the midst of those people. Not with answers – but with presence - #508 hymnal
For one who suffers by Howard Thurman - I know I cannot enter all you feel, Nor bear with you the burden of your pain I can but offer what my love does give – the strength of caring – the warmth of one who seeks to understand – this I do in quiet ways – that yon your lonely path you may not walk alone.
We recognize: That at the heart of our faith as Christians is the person of Jesus Christ and the great symbol of our faith is the cross, the way of the cross, the way of suffering to save the world.”
The cross - A place of suffering and a symbol of victory
The cross represents our faith that Ultimately God will not leave evil unanswered. The day will come when all of the crooked things will be made straight and all of the dark things will be made bright and all of the innocent will be vindicated. That is what the cross of Christ is all about.
We suffer in this life and often we want to know more and control more than we get to
Some of you are in a place of suffering right now – and you may be surrounded by friends who are pre pain – and living in a culture that is pain denying
And the message for today is simply =- that you are not alone
There is our God who transcends our little lives and who triumphs over sufferingAnd redeems our suffering God is the one who comes to us in the cross, who comes to us in Jesus Christ. J Jesus is God’s answer to us in our lives.
Jesus comes to us, as the crucified and as the risen, with the power to make a difference.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


I am listening to a book on tape - about Neuro Linguistic Programming. The fact that we can program our brains to think a thought and our actions will come from that.

I believe this - and so did Paul. In Romans 12 he writes about being transformed by the renewing of our minds. And I believe that what we put in our heads and keep putting in our heads can affect everything about our lives.

So when we read the Bible we are hopefully hearing something that will change our understanding about ourselves and the world. We are loved. We are called. God is good and faithful. God provides. And the more we operate out of those thoughts, the less anxiety and the more peace.

I ruminate on that thought in many ways. We are going to be looking into Stewardship campaign in the next few months and always there is the question of how do we present that issue. We are in a deficit situation right now (always have been) and do the people of the church know that? We need to keep telling them that we need more money. And the suggestion has been to say - if we don't give more, then we have to cut back on something. Which I find very uncomfortable.

And my internal programming (core belief) is that there will be enough money from somewhere. We can trust in God's abundance. I have never served a church where the pledges matched the estimated expenses and so I never expect that they will. If our pledges matched our budget, we should increase the budget so that we always have to trust God. And that while it is good to be transparent in all that we do - make sure people know the financial situation - the decision to give is spiritual and needs to come out of that relaitonship with God.

Thursday I was at a meeting with several other clergy who are in churches that are in the midst of transformation. At my request we had a conversation about stewardship and I heard the same thing from all those ministers. And for all of them there was the same understanding that I have. Giving is a spiritual issue and that it is not about budgets or deficits - but about the question: "What is God calling you to give to God?" One of the ministers who has served his church for 20 plus years said - that some years there has been a deficit ($30,000) and other years they collected more money than they needed and that the church goes on and on.

What I believe is that God has given us a vision and that God will give us what we need to fulfill that vision. And honestly, there is a part of me that is wondering how this is going to happen. But I trust that it will. God is so Good.

It starts with what you think (believe). And I think that God will provide. Wish I knew how.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

easy answers

We have been reading through the Bible this year. And now - this Sunday the book that I will preach on is Job.
I have been preparing for Bible study and reading ahead for the sermon on Sunday. And it seems that Job is about no easy answers in the face of suffering. And I read this and recognize how much I like the easy answers.
In the life of the church I watch people struggle with issues of aging and all the physical and mental deterioration that comes with that. We see people trying to recover from strokes. And then there are the relationship problems that are part of life, the genetic predispositions to certain behaviors. People with addicitons, ADD, OCD, perfectionism. All kinds of ways in which we struggle and suffer and the people around us struggle and suffer.

And I want - and frequently give - easy answers. About lessons in the midst of it. How it strengthens us. God is with us.

Last night in our book group we discussed A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving. Owen Meany knew that he was an instrument of God and he seemed to know that God was going to use him and what would happen to him. There was this wisdom and serenity in the face of it.
And that led us in our discussion to the nature of "call" in our lives. And literally everyone of us could talk about some element of their lives in which they experienced a "call" - to an certain exercise, to a career, to volunteer in a particular place. There are easy
answers to me in those positive experiences in our lives.

It is in the negative - the suffering - that the answers aren't so easy. I get so irrituated when I hear others give easy answers - patitudes about God's will and God only gives you what you can handle. At the same time - my faith gives me my own answers which generally come down to presence of God in the suffering and the trust that somehow God will use this later in ways that I cannot imagine. And God' s soveriegnty and mystery.

However, I am not Job. I have been tested some in life - but I have not personally experienced
the kind of suffering that I see in this world. Would these "answers" be enough?
I don't know.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


If there is anything I have been ruminating about lately - it has been memory. When I am with any of my peers, (people in their 50's) often the conversation goes to memory. There is a realization that we don't remember stuff the way that we used to. I think for me, it is probably right now, a blessing in that I cannot procrastinate. I have to do things as they come up because I can't remember them any more. But there is this sense of this the beginning of something?

Because my high school class celebrated their 40th reunion this month, I had contact recently with someone that I grew up with. I have not seen her for 40 years and was not able to attend the reunion. As we communicated a little bit via email I tried to bring up memories in my own mind of my life (and our life together) from 5th grade through 11th. And I don't remember all that much. One of the reasons why I would have liked to attend was to stir up the memories.
One of my friends has talked about being with siblings and doing "family archeology" and remembering is part of that. Because the events of our lives have formed us in ways we probably don't realize and my interpretation of events NOW in my 50's is often different from when I experienced things at the time.

As a pastor I have spent time this week with two parishioners who have real memory problems. One is in his 80's and the other has experienced strokes. Our brain is certainly a mystery - how some things are retained and others are forgotten. For each of these people, however, when I asked them if they wanted to pray "The Lord's Prayer" there was remembering. Absolute remembering.

As a preacher I often in sermons talk about memory - in the sense of remembering our blessing and remembering our miracles and remembering the very real presence of God with us. And I wonder - especially about the folks who in their later years have memory issues - how they are experiencing God's presence. And maybe that is our task - to visit and help them to remember.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Re Ignition Sunday

Today was "Re Ignition Sunday" - which some churches over the year called "rally day." It is the Sunday after Labor Day when we come back to church. And for us - Sunday School started today and the choir is back again and we are back.

We called it "Re Ignition" because we are restating our vision - ....that we are "Ignited by God, Changing the world"
We went through a long process the first year I was here. I appointed a "Visioning Team" and we met with small groups to discern our core values, our bedrock beliefs and then later our "Motivating Vision." That whole process took about 2 and a half years.

April 2006 We had "Ignition Sunday" when we revealed the motivating vision. Everyone wore their new T shirts - Red, course, which said "Karl Road Christian Church, Ignited by God, Changing our World." It was an awesome service. My friend Mary came and led the children's sermon, Kerry who had just started coming to church signed "I can only imagine" and it was amazing. The whole thing.

Now we are 18 months later and we are into it. We are still intentionally working at becoming more diverse by implementing our early worship service. Charles preaches that service and he is really inspiring. Deric is the muscian and he is wonderful. And we have some people who are absolutely committed to this worship - but we are not particularly growing. Today, 2 new people came who were literally walking past the church (in the rain) and joined us. Every week we have from 10 - 15. We are also continuing to help the schools out through providing snacks for the teachers. This is our 3rd year to do that and last year it seemed like we had less food brought by our members.

Now, here is what was interesting this morning. I woke up dreaming that I was in a conversation with someone from a church who was doing a visioning process. They were so excited about it. And I said to them - the visioning process is just the beginning. The hard part is implementing the vision. The day by day living it out. I woke myself up saying those words this morning!

And that is the reality. Our vision is that we are called to be an intergenerational, diverse, open and affirming church. And engaged in ministry here in the neighborhood where we are located.
And we are becoming that. Slowly.

I preached on Nehemiah and the people building the wall around Jerusalem today. And I was preaching to myself - as usual. It takes perseverance to live into the vision. And to not get discouraged. It takes Rally days - or re-Ignition days. It takes prayer, and remembering God put us here and encouraging each other. It takes faith.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


yesterday I ended up watching 2 DVD's. The first one was "Comedian" - the documentary about Jerry Seinfeld putting his act together after the end of the run of his sit com.
To put act together took months as he went from comedy club to comedy club to try out material and put it together with just the right words and timing and gestures. At first his act was 5 minutes and then 10 and then 20. It was laborious. And hard. There was one snippet where he stopped in the act and could not remember what comes next.

And, of course, he is a multi millionaire who did not have to do it for money. But he is a comedian and that is what he does. There were also parts of talking about the craft with other comedians.

It reminded me somewhat of what we do preaching. One thing I noticed is that everyone has their own style that comes to fit them. His was so meticulous. And he was always evaluating all of it. The difference of preaching is that every week it is a different sermon. And that is not all of what we are doing during the week.

But the smilarities are that we do have to find our own style and what works for us. I preach with a manusrcipt and often every word that I have written is spoken. Sometimes I go off of it - but not much. Over the years I have experienced preachers who preach without a manuscript who have acted like that style is somehow better - more guided by the spirit. And what I liked about this DVD was that there was none of that with the comedians. No one was trying to say - do it my way. Everyone knew they were each trying to find their own voice.

One other enormous difference between comedians and preachers. When comedians are effective - it is obvious - people laugh! When we are effective we often do not know it. I don't know how many times I have finished a sermon and thought - "oh well, I tried" - or "maybe I needed to spend more time" and afterward was told that I was "speaking to them." And of course, the compliments we do get are always suspect. "Good sermon, preacher" what does that mean? At this point in my life, although I get a fair amount of feedback from parishioners, I try to listen to my own voice about the whole thing.

The other documentary I saw was "Grizzly Man" about Timothy Treadway who lived for 13 summers with the grizzly bears in Alaska. He saw himself as loving and protecting them and being in a relationship with the bears. Eventually a bear killed him.
It was the story of a man who came to find himself less comfortable living with people and more at home in the wild with his image (delusion) of who the bears were and their relationship with him. It was interesting and I found myself thinking about the ways in which people project feeling and relationship that aren't true. Maybe it is a stretch, but it reminded me of my father and his feeling about his company - as if it were a person that cared for him. Later in his career, the company did not care at all about his well being. It was not a person - it was an institution.

Anyway, just some random thoughts.
Gotta go to a prayer retreat and on the sermon.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

daily life

A day in the life
Tuesdays are always big days for me. I do a worship service every week at the retirement center next door. This week, because I did not preach on Sunday I pulled out a sermon from about 10 years ago. The text was - "Come to me, Take my Yoke, Learn from me, for my yokie is easy and my burden light."
An amazing thing happened as I preached this sermon. I found myself inspired again. Learning over and over again the central truth of our life - that God will take care of us and we can trust God. And I recognized as I am speaking words to these seniors that I have grown to love over the years - that I need every day to hear "to come, to take the yoke, to learn." And so I do.

A busy day in the office. Putting together flyers for a retreat in December, a youth event in 10 days and planning for a retreat on Saturday.

A visit to the hospital to see someone who is close to my age who had a series of strokes. His memory is not working and he is not "himself." I prayed for him. When I saw him on Sunday he seemed to be doing better, but not today. It is hard to see all of this. I say words of hope and pray that God will work a miracle.

This evening meetings and more meetings. And we talk about a security systerm after the church was broken into, and planning for Advent and money for camp scholarships and how to manage two services on Sunday and not get in each other's way. This is the stuff that drains me - but I know it is also the lifeblood of church. It is everyone's church and amazing things can happen when we gather together around the table.

I am grateful for the people who take time on a Tuesday night to sit and sort through these mundane details - that if not taken care of will end up becoming real problems. I have read books by Eugene Peterson and I think when he pastored he did not go to these meetings - let the church people run the church.

I have always attended because that has kept me connected in different ways. But I am tired tonight from all of it.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sunday Monring

It was so good to be back in church because I had been gone last week.

We have two services and the first one is preached by a young male African American. He has been preaching at our church for a year. I serve as the worship leader and do the invitation to communion. His preaching is very good. And while we have under 20 people in worship it is always (!) a good spiritual experience for everyone who is there.

Today Deric the musican was late and I always start on time. So I started with sharing joys and concerns and heard so many testimonials to the power of this little service that we do. It really has touched our lives. And I just feel blessed by it. The problem, of course, is that it is still - after a year - so small. And our finances in the church are shaky. There is a long story to the way this has come to be....but the bottom line is that it is worship, real authentic worship when we come together. And I believe that this is what God wants to us. And I truly believe it is going to grow. That is something I just trust and expect to happen. I have never been in a situation that was like this before....but I live in faith.

Our second service is much more tradtional. We tried something very different for us. A friend told me her church did this once and then repeated it every Labor Day because it was so inspiring. It was having three people speak about their faith in the work place. We had a lawyer speak, an auditor for the IRS and a teacher. And it WAS inspiring. I heard how God led people to their jobs and gave them power and hope to do their jobs.

When the teacher spoke I was so moved, I found myself in tears. She happens to be the cousin of a movie star and I was struck by the fact that she - in 20 years of teaching - has probably touched more lives in a real way than her cousin with all the mega fame that he has. The Kingdom of God is really upside down.....and that is just a little example.

So, I feel blessed by all of it. But by next week I will be happy to be preaching again.
I miss it.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

margot ruminates

This is the beginning of a new way of processing my life and ruminating on the mystery of God at work in the world.

Today is the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. It is the end of the summer and it has been a very busy summer.

I have been to Knoxville Tennessee for a mission trip, the outer banks for a family vacation, to Chautuaqua Institute for retreat and renewal, to Camp Christian for Advance conference and last weekend to Chicago for a wedding. Every experience has been wonderful in its own way and I have been so blessed by it all.

But now I sit in my family room doing that thing that I do to rest and regroup - watching Law and Order - and take a breath.

The life of ministry is - I think - different from many people's. There is first of all, the business of no weekends. When others are resting, we are gearing up for the big day. There is the challenge of work that bleeds over into the rest of my life. On one hand, in my head, I am often "working" when others think I am not. Thinking about the sermon, about projects, about issue....sometimes it seems like it never stops. There is the reality that the stuff of ministry - "God sightings" for a sermon, running into parishioners with problems can happen any time.
In my worst moments, I can get run down and feel depleted after a while. In my best moments, like today, I am grateful for the fulness of it all.

I remember one time in a sermon talking about having a "front row seat" to the way that God works in people's lives. Probably an overstatement. But surely I do get some glimpes of God's activity in people's lives. Ministers get to hear the stories about how people met, how they survived illnes, how they heard God's call in their lives. Those stories inspire me and keep me going sometimes. One thing I have learned in 20 some years of ministry - is that faith IS contagious. Our sharing our God stories can really make a difference.

And so, I guess this may be where I want to stop this first rumination. That must be what I want to do here. Have another venue for the God stories that are part of my daily life.
Share them and maybe somebody will share theirs with me.