Pages

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Balance

Last week I did a retreat on Balance for UMW and I will be leading the same retreat next weekend for another UMW. The idea of the retreat grew out of a retreat I lead on "Becoming a Woman of Wisdom" where we did one workshop on balance and everyone said, "We need a whole retreat on this!" So I'm working towards a 3 day retreat!

Balance is hard. Balance is hard for anyone- and it has been a "growing edge" for me for a while now.

People seem to have a lot of assumptions about what balance means. At least I think they do... Balance is NOT status quo- Balance is not stagnet--
Balance is being held-
balance is having peace in the midst of turmoil-
Balance is living in Creation when there is chaos-
Balance is abiding--
Balance is assurance.

Recently when someone learned that I had done a retreat on balance they kind of chuckled and said, "That's ironic." It's not that I'm offended by this statement, rather its just that I think it represents the misperceptions we have about balance. I am Beth a child of God- I'm a mom, I'm a wife, I'm a pastor- I'm a sister and a friend. Being balanced means some days I lean more on one of those than the other. But what do I live in- stay in- what never changes- what is always constant- God- and me being a child of God. I will always be a Mom, wife, sister, friend too-- but I was made in the Image of God. I was baptized into the Body of Christ. Even when I stray, even when I fail- God does not. And when I am abiding in Christ, it will all come together.

I may spend a week doing all the great pastor stuff- maybe its a week of long meetings leading up to an event- maybe its a week with a funeral or wedding- or who knows? Some weeks I take vacation and I turn off my phone and if something happens at church I do not know about it...when my children are sick- the world stops for me until they are well. I have screened calls when I am spending quality time with my husband. I love my friends and I will stop whatever is going on to be with them, hold them and love them. I have a husband who is an amazing man--he is a complete and equal partner--when I have a heavy load, he helps me to carry it and vice versa.

We have a community of faith- who are part of the Body of Christ- a community that truly lives out how to abide in Christ - who helps us hold our load too. When we have been hungry they have provided meals, they provide childcare so that we may serve without worrying- in fact we serve knowing that our children's lives are filled with more people who love them! Kind people have helped me with mountains of laundry, housecleaning, and most importantly held me in prayer.

When I think of balance- I know Jesus. And I know that Jesus says, "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Jesus says- lay it down at my feet- give it to me- I know that Jesus says that the load he gives is light. I think of the wisdom of Ecclesiastes I remember that to enjoy life- to really enjoy life and live in the Joy that makes us complete (John 15:11) it means to know there is a time for each and every thing under heaven. There is a season for everything- Sometimes we have multiple seasons within a year, a month, a week, even a day...

Some days I am wiping snotty noses, writing a sermon, cooking, cleaning, cuddling, and loving all in one day. Some days I am visiting the sick, refereeing conflict resolution, and giving time outs to a two year old- all in one day. But each day- I am rooted to Christ and I am rooted in to the Body of Christ and I am living into the completeness Christ offers. Balance isn't being just one thing all the time, unless that one thing is a child of God- encompassing all the ways God calls you. And Thanks be to God for that!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Life in a Fishbowl

It has been a very crazy summer! I have enjoyed the learning experience and the journey God has given me as Acting Senior Pastor- I'm learning a lot- I'm growing a lot- and I'm praying a lot. I have long days. Self care has always been a "growing edge" for me... but it is much harder these days. I've had about 3 funerals, hospital visitations, a lay person need to let go of committee chair responsibilities, and a staff persosn resign (for a great opportunity) but nevertheless... a lot... My dinner time with my family has become sacred - it has always been important- but these days- it is sacred. It is often the one hour break I get from 8am to 10pm (Yes I'm aware that that is bad and I need to get better)....

Anyway- today is the first time since I was appointed here in 2006 that living in a parsonage next door to the church has felt like a fish bowl-- or worse.
Someone came by at 6:30pm without calling, I opened the door, said hello and they came in. I didn' t invite them in- they just came in and started talking. I called my husband down to talk because he knew what this guest was talking about and I didn't. I wish now that I had just said, "This isn't a good time- this is dinner." Kevin is too nice sometimes. But I don't know-- I just didn't think... I took the kids and started bath. I had to be at a committee meeting at 7:30. I soon called Kevin from upstairs and he didn't come up to the third time! ugh! I shared my frustration. I don't think I've been so mad in awhile. I felt so violated by this intrusion and mad at myself that I said nothing and mad that Kevin said nothing. I think we were just caught off guard. This was my time to recharge. This was sacred!

In no uncertain terms I will discuss tomorrow with calmness, but sternness that this is not acceptable. There should be some part of my day that I can have just for me- just for my family. There should be some part of my life that the church cannot have. I offer a lot, I give a lot-- and I am happy to do so. It frustrates me that i have to advocate for everything- you have to ask for everything- lay out everything. Maybe that is not fully true and it just feels that way. Sometimes it just feels like there isn't anything that is basic--that is understood--that you don't have to fight for...

I'm learning a lot, I'm praying a lot, I'm learning to value my sabbath time and now I will guard it more closely. Good things to learn...it just sucks when you learn them...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Thankful and Tired

I am so tired and so thankful. Every day is amazing and full. Every day I encounter people who show me the joy and light of God--folks who fill me with inspiration and encourage me and everyday there are people who say belittling things because of my age, gender, my mommyness... Through it all God has really enveloped me, held me, guided me. Sometimes you're so tired - even when it is a good tired-- that you just fall down, you just need a good cry, you just need to be held to remember that you're doing okay.

What is it about sitting in a bathroom that is so comforting? I mean something about sitting on and among the cool tile is comforting. Maybe I'm just odd-- but I loved being able to sit in the bathroom, have a good cry, and vent to my husband tonight. Nothing bad happened today- in fact it was awesome- amazing God moments-- but one person said some things that chinked my armor...Why do I let that one thing get me down? Ugh! And you know, that person probably had no idea and no intention...I know that. Its silly.

Maybe the cool tile, the hard and soft of the smooth service-- the quiet of the bathroom- it forces me to be be still. The bathroom is like the Mom's haven.
I just laid on the floor for a while and cried for joy, ,for thankfulness, for tiredness, for frustration and reminded my husband how very much I need him...and he listened...and it was wonderful.

I was thankful today as Kevin and I sat in our church's sanctuary working together on the dialogue sermon we will preach on Sunday.
I was frustrated with him and feeling pressed for time. He was having a rough day and couldn't focus b/c he'd forgotten to take his ADD meds-- and I was frustrated b/c he wasn't focused-- (vicious cycle). But we got it all out- we felt God working- and we got some good work done. It brought back so many good memories of sitting in the chapel at Birmingham-Southern all night discussing everything life: God, family, literature, politics during our early days. We were engaged and married in that chapel. And now here we are again in another round sanctuary sitting on the floor under the cross discussing, debating, interrupting, challenging and getting to the root of what our life means.

Back in the day we made mix tapes. Remember those? There was something so great a/b a mix tape! Even better than a mix CD- you can't skip ahead there is a reason everything is flowing together in a right and somehow perfectly ordained order. I made a mix tape for Kevin with the Sheryl Crow song, "Are you Strong Enough to be My Man" I had had many tell me how passionate, strong, and opinionated I was and that I was "too much" for them. I knew I would never sacrifice my passion and strength.

I am thankful because Kevin is strong enough for me. I get frustrated and impatient, every day I learn what it means to be a clergy couple, parents to two very young children, and the wife of an amazing man who happens to have ADD, but he is strong enough to be my man and God is stronger than the both of us.

We sit in the strength of the cool tile, he listens and hears, we pray, we laugh, we hold one another knowing that we are strong because Christ strengthens us through all things.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Honeysuckles and Mint

What a beautiful day! It was amazing, really. We had 29 people and families join at our 9:30 service and 30 Confirmands join at 11:00. We did a sabbatical Leave taking liturgy for our Sr. Pastor Ralph, who begins sabbatical tomorrow at all services. He's been in full time ministry for 35 years and has a well deserved break. I am very blessed to work with someone who is such a wonderful mentor. A few months back at a Lay Leaders meeting he referred to me as "Acting Sr Pastor" and then said, "We'll find you a fancier title." That sounded pretty fancy to me! The title has stuck and that is what our webpage now says.
Today I felt the power of the Holy Spirit as I watched the altar rail become filled with all the families at 9:30 and as I laid hands on all the 30 Confirmands at
11. And as I stood next to Ralph and prayed blessings upon him and heard the kind affirming words he offered for my leadership.

I could not stop smiling today. My cheeks hurt from the joy of the day and the Spirit's moving...

Once home we all napped! We got both girls down and we slept too. I felt like I should do more... that I should work on the sermon series that Kevin and I are going to share on the Apostles' Creed for June and then I'm going to preach a series in July called Camp Messiah, I should go over the prayer and visitation lists, I should organize my calendar, work on upcoming weddings, or clean the house! I cleaned the house till 1 in the morning Thursday night when Kevin was away for our dear friend Lance's wedding and you can't even tell now! But I napped- and I am so glad I did. We woke up and got ready to go again.

Kevin set up for youth and I took the girls to St. Matthew's for the District's orientation for Conference. I've never gone to the orientation because for the past few years I've been dealing with babies and without childcare. That hasn't changed, but I thought I'd give it a try. We made it through half the agenda - me standing in the way back and hearing all about what to bring, what to expect, upcoming constitutional amendments, and the cost of parking and then the kids began to melt. But it did work for awhile-- My older daughter played very nicely enjoying telling (and then asking nicely) me to sit here and there. She likes to say, "I sit down now.... [and] Mommy sit down here now." It's been a long phase, and I'm starting to give in if she asks nicely...We play musical chairs without the music.

But towards the end we went to the playground. She walked down the aisle in the sanctuary and saw an ant on the window and said, "No ant!" Why is it that you always think your child is so much louder than they actually are? I am one of those parents-- there are some who seem oblivious to the sounds of their children. The slightest peep and I am worried that I am disturbing others. It is fun for a PK to discover a new church. Literally- every church we pass when driving we hear from the back seat, "Church! Church! Church!" "I want to go to church!" St. Matthew's has fun playground equipment and we had fun discovering, but mostly we enjoyed the breeze, inspected bugs, jumped in puddles, and were embraced by breezes of honeysuckle and mint. I love watching my daughter bend down and smell. She really sniffs! She sniffs with gusto! In fact everything she does is with immense passion and joy.

When we got home the youth were playing volleyball in the yard. We got out our water table and joined in the fun! My girls splashed in the water, giggled, and we felt the wet grass between our toes mixed with the spongy carpet of moss. We ate pizza and giggled at dinner. We said our prayers and went to to sleep. Really, an amazing Day! I delight in God's creation! It nourishes me in ways I will never fathom...





I still feel myself hours later- cheeks still sore from smiling and the faintest scent still with me of the honeysuckle and mint from the playground. How precious when the wind blows to smell the sweet smells of summer.
The wind of the Holy Spirit is blowing on this Pentecost Day!
I am reminded to go outside, be open, move outside of myself, and breathe deep. God is here, all is well.

Almighty God, Keep me open to the Spirit moving, let me melted by tongues of fire, let your Holy Spirit ignite me, call me, and use me each and every day that I may serve you fully and share your joy! Amen.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Holy Week Has Begun

I love Holy Week! It's strange-- and I guess sad, but it’s as if I finally awaken during Holy Week! I love the opportunity to walk with Jesus, to journey with him-- I love it and I dread it-- I shout for joy, Hosanna! and I cry out in mournful tears. I know what comes; I know the sadness I will feel. I know Jesus, and that makes it all the better. And at the end of the week- every time—I know Christ even more….

It's Holy Week and the journey has begun. I had an amazing day! My husband Kevin is away with a youth mission trip and I arose this morning to quickly get ready at 6:30 (not bad after going to bed at 1:30 am) I just can’t sleep when he’s away. I fed the dog, let her out and I prepared and packed breakfast for my girls. I packed the diaper bag. I got their dresses and shoes! I loaded the stroller. And then- I got the girls.

We wheeled over to the church- Yes! Praise God I live next door in a wonderful parsonage!

We have an amazing nursery staff- they greeted me at 7:15 as I arrived.

Every Sunday they greet me, they feed my girls, and they change them in their Sunday best. My girls are there from 7:15am to 12:30pm.

I dropped them off and made it in time for the prayer meeting with our "curmudgeons." We have a group of men who are known as Christ Curmudgeons and we meet for prayer about 7:20 on Sundays.

I met with our Sr. Pastor, gathered my notes, put on my robe, and managed to cover the under-eye circles.

Worship was amazing: 8:15, 9:30, 11!
The best part of Palm Sunday is always having all the children from Sunday School parade through at 9:30 and 11 waving their palm branches.

It was awesome! I was so excited to be there and to do the Kingdom Kids message! Some preachers don't like doing the kid's message-- I love it! When I was a kid, I often felt dismissed when I asked theological questions....(which I did)- I love nurturing a hunger for God in them!

Worship ends and I print the sermon I finished at 1:30am (hoping I can memorize it b/c I am trying something new for the contemporary service). I decided to write snapshots of eyewitness accounts. I did all the lectionary scriptures and interspersed monologues. Way new for me!

SO- I picked up the kids- one was already asleep and one was melting down. Too tired for lunch… down to sleep they went. I made a salad and sat down with my sermon. I packed their bag for the nursery again b/c I needed to be back at church by 2 to help set up for our spring concert. One of my wonderful friends Andrea came so that kid # 1 could finish her nap (she's a 12-3 sleeper). I take the baby back to the nursery, and we set up for punch, cookies-- a delicious reception!

Our Spring Concert began at 3pm and was amazing!
It was "The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace" by Karl Jenkins.
The choir and orchestra were unbelievable and one of our very talented members created a video to go with the music! Oh MY!
The mass is a movement of music that asserts that war is sometimes necessary, but we should have more peace and less war. The video images displayed military might, peace marches, war, and rebuilding peace. I had to leave during the "Charge" portion as the images of bombs dropping and war overcame me. I went to the chapel and I sobbed, I cried out to God and prayed for forgiveness. Forgiveness for all the violence, all the pain, the suffering, the death. I couldn't watch the bombs drop-- I just couldn't. I have all the respect in the world for those who work for our peace and protection and at the same time I am so tired of war and destruction. I made it back in the sanctuary after I pulled myself together. Unfortunately I missed the very end to go set up for the reception. Do my male clergy counterparts serve punch? It is who I am- not because I am a woman, more because I’m a southerner, but completely b/c I’m a Christian who loves to share hospitality. I love hospitality and I enjoy the surprise of -- You're a pastor!
I felt so strange at the reception- I wanted to process all I had seen and heard and yet instead I found myself greeting people. I exercised my back burner...and met some amazing people!

Okay- Next- picked kids up at the nursery (Andrea had brought Kid #1 to the nursery after her nap- but Oh Thank God for naps!) Stroll home- change- pack kids bags (milk, juice, baby food, formula, bottle, diapers, wipes, cream, pjs!) Off we go our friends' Brian and Rachel's house who have generously offered to watch my children in addition to their 3 girls. I change their diapers- gotta be dry- give hugs and kisses and head to preach the contemporary worship service- Heartline. I set the altar and prepare for communion.

I was super nervous about doing drama monologues- way out of my comfort zone- but so fun and so moving for me and hopefully it was those present-- we only had 16...Our contemporary service has been going for awhile-- I keeping hoping more will come! Usually another associate pastor preachers here, but he is with another mission group for the week in New Orleans.
We ended worship powerfully and I was thankful for the way God is ever present and for the Holy Spirit guiding me.

8:30pm -Off back to pick up the girls and take the home.

So thankful for good friends. Baby is asleep and my lively toddler was enraptured by the beautiful angel wings she was wearing!
I traded the wings for a piece of paper (Good trade!) and got everyone in car seats.


9:15pm
Home again- off to bed- milk, (no story tonight- it is late!) prayers, kisses, and hugs.

Everyone is down.
Praise the Lord for guidance, power, and sustenance!
I thank the Lord for friends, and community, for fellowship and being moved when I didn’t expect it—for working and restoring- for forgiveness and grace!

I cried today as I grieved the violence of our humanity and unplanned tears rolled as I shared monologues of an onlooker, Pilate, a soldier, Simon, and the Centurion….
I stood at the cross.
I was there.
I am in Holy Week.
And I walk with Jesus.
Thanks be to God for the journey!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

You should have been paying attention...

So yesterday, I was visiting a parishioner in the hospital. I pushed the up button, walked in the elevator and pressed 4. A man came in after me and I asked what floor he needed. He said Ground Floor, so I pushed “Ground Floor.” Bing! We’re at the 4th floor and he says, “What floor is this?” I said, “Fourth.” He said, “You should have been paying attention! I needed to go down!” I didn’t say a thing; I was a bit shocked and just walked out. It sunk in as I walked down the hall.

My first reaction- “I should have been paying more attention!” Umm, shouldn’t you have noticed that the elevator light above the elevator was lighted to go up? Or, possibly you noticed that the 4 button was already pushed when you came on the elevator?

Then I started to think—still somewhat annoyed….This is what we do, isn’t it? This is what people do? Something doesn’t go the way we want and we blame and guilt someone else. Right now it’s happening nationwide with the current economic crisis. The government blames the banks, the banks blame CEOS or loan holders, most people blame a lack of regulation coupled with anger at those who took loans they couldn’t afford. They thought they could afford it—at the rate they got- but the rate went up and so they couldn’t….Maybe they blame themselves for not thinking through the consequences of an adjustable rate mortgage, maybe they blame the bank for giving them the loan in the first place- who knows? Wherever we are- hopefully when it comes to this we’ll stop worrying about blame, and just work towards a recovery.

But not just in the credit crisis- we blame a lot. We don’t tell the truth enough and we don’t take responsibility.

Sometimes it seems easier. If we blame something or someone else we don’t have to hurt anyone’s feelings, we don’t have to come down one way or another with a decision, but ultimately we don’t tell the truth. We don’t take responsibility for our own actions or lack of action.

And now it is Lent. We journey to Good Friday where Christ took complete blame and complete responsibility at the same time for everything--- He didn’t need to do it, He was often rejected for doing so- still today He is rejected for this ultimate sacrifice. It came of pure love. No co-opting, no begging, no pleading, no manipulation. He freely gave, and freely took the pain, guilt, blame, sin for the whole world.

I just laugh thinking about the elevator situation. It is silly, it is benign, but it is powerful. My prayer is that it will remind me to be observant, aware, and responsible for my own actions and that I will not attempt to take on what is the responsibility of others.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I am Thankful

Its been a hard week. A little more than a week now my oldest daughter has struggled with pneumonia. It has been horrible. I have been sick too with a mean sinus infection often leaving me to feel as though my head is in a vice. But I am thankful. God is good. I have felt strengthened in my marriage. I have an amazing husband who works really hard to be the best he can be. He is an unbelievably awesome Dad. In the middle of the night he has gotten up with the baby so I can focus on the doing breathing treatments every four hours with the pneumonia-stricken child. Breathing treatments that she hates! She writhes and screams and points to her crib and says, "Mommy Sleep!"
But I am thankful.
They are making her better.
I went to the doctor with her on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and today. We thought she was doing better on Thursday and then Saturday she was the worst she'd been and then we got the steroid and anti-biotic.
I am thankful for good medicine and good doctors.
I was frustrated with my own feeling of inadequacy, with the lack of education, and my inability to ask all the "right" questions. But I am glad that I have doctors who do not attempt to throw hard medicine at a little one quickly. I understand the reasoning and I appreciate it-- even when it is hard.
I am thankful for my sister who came to help so I could be at church on Sunday and not be so much out of the loop. God used me a lot in the few hours I was there and I am thankful to be in service.
I am thankful for prayers! Oh I am thankful for all the prayers from my church, friends, and family.
I am thankful for Larry who brought us delicious food.
I am thankful for Rita who offered (and I accepted-huge!) to do my laundry when it seems the washing machine has broken.
I am thankful for Lorie who came and helped pick up the playroom my nieces destroyed and vacuumed too!
I am thankful for the peace I feel.
I am thankful because feeling peace I was able to then fold nearly 3 hours worth of clean laundry which then made me feel even more peaceful.
I am thankful for feeling better. I am thankful for my netty pot (what a great invention!)
I am thankful for a church and Sr. Pastor who understand the needs of sick babies.
I am thankful for God who loves us, who is sustaining me each and every day even when I am sleep deprived, my nose is raw, my tummy growling, and my sinuses stuffed- God is here - the Holy Spirit whispers soothing peace to me.
I am thankful. As I write this my dog sleeps at my feet and my husband snores, my children sleep safe in their cribs on this day at 1 in the morning.
I pray for children throughout the world who have no beds to sleep.
Who have no parents to be sleep deprived.
I pray for those who have no family.
I pray for those who feel all alone.
I pray for those who fear connection.
May God work in us, ignite us, and connect us to see, hear-- to awaken to the reality of love that is here- that comes in these powerful glimpses, these amazing people, these angels among us. Amen!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gleanings from the Table

These are some of the things that crossed my mind at dinner tonight.
No one told you before being a parent that:
1) It would be easier to feed the 7 month Sophia in a straight jacket. We don't have a straight jacket-- instead my husband Kevin used one arm to hold an arm down and I did the same while filling her with baby food peas. It's fun to watch her take the spoon and for peas to fling everywhere...but when you have meetings to run to after and a sermon to write-- it is less fun.

2)Dinner time music used to be some hip new band or cool background music Kevin found, then with Baby #1- now our Toddler Grace it became NPR (our only time to really get some good news). Now we listen to the Sesame Street Platinum favorites! My favorites are "Doing the Pigeon" by Bert and "Monster in the Mirror." The latter is quite theological....

3)Themed Bibs: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter will not just be used on those special occasions. You have a clean bib? You use it. Tonight we dined with Grace wearing a Halloween bib and Sophia happened to get an Easter bib. Hmmm... Death and Resurrection?

4)Prayer without Ceasing: Grace loves to bless the meal and say AMEN with a head nod always. We pray several times throughout dinner. We all hold hands. Sophia is sitting on the table in the Bumbo seat, "BABY! BABY!" We must MUST have her hand. But that's not all-- "DOG!!DOG!" We call the dog. We need the dog' paw too. Then we pray. Everyone holding hands. Everyone connected. Every five minutes.

5)And speaking of the dog-- Wonderful Built in Hoover! We never realize how much until we actually go out and do our best to pick up always wondering, "Did we tip the waitress enough for all that?"

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Simple Life

What is the simple life? No, I’m not talking about another reality show or a quick read magazine that assumes to tell us how to keep life “real simple.” When a lot of people hear simplicity, they think in extremes, often hearing instead “forced poverty.” Theologian Richard Foster, wrote “Asceticism and simplicity are mutually incompatible…Asceticism renounces possessions. Simplicity sets possessions in proper perspective.” The goal of simplicity is to be able to say with Paul, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want”(Philippians 4:12). To experience the peace of simplicity and the joy of contentment God calls us to release addictions and tear down burdens so we may live in the freedom Christ offers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Prayer for Simplicity and Contentment

Almighty and all powerful God,
We fill our lives with work, projects, and pleasures and we have become weighted
down. Lord, we confess that we too often align contentment with mediocrity.
We have allowed our lives to be anchored to a debt of materialism rather than
Christ. Let us unclutter our lives, unbind our hearts, and seek you first.
Liberate us, let nothing separate us; let nothing come between our soul and our Savior Jesus Christ, In whose name we gather and in whose name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

John Wesley?

Kevin Watson at deeplycommitted.com has started an experiment to see how much social capital Methodist bloggers have. This experiment was prompted by the feeling among some Methodist bloggers that United Methodism does not always do as good of a job as it could at getting the Wesleyan message out there, particularly on-line. So, he wants to see how many views a YouTube video can get if Methodist bloggers work together to promote it. The experiment is to see how many hits the video will receive in two weeks.

If you want to participate you can: First, watch the video below. Second, copy and paste this entire post into a new post on your blog and post it. Third, remind people about this experiment in one week.

Based on the results of the experiment, Kevin will get in touch with the folks at Discipleship Resources and let them know the ways in which Methodist bloggers are often an underused resource.

Here is a link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ISKTrScpzQ