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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

God is Good, All the Time! All the Time, God is Good!

Recently, my children have been singing and teaching me about Santa, “You better watch out, You better not cry, You better not pout, I'm telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town!” Accordingly, Santa is checking to see if we are naughty or nice and, “He knows when you've been bad or good, So be good for goodness sake!” Why are we good? God is good, all the time and all the time, God is good. Are we?

My children have also recently taught me something about God. My daughter Gracie did not listen to me about something I was asking her to do, so we sat down and had a conversation about it. I told her that I wanted her to listen to me and she said, “But Mommy, I’m listening to you right now!” I said, “Yes, and I am glad for that, but I want you to listen to me all the time.” And I found the Holy Spirit filling me and heard God say, “See…that is what I want from you too…all the time.”

We are called to be good and to listen and to follow Christ. Why? Is it because it’s just the right thing to do? Is it for goodness sake? Is it out fear of not going to heaven? Life is God’s gift to us, what we do with it is our gift to God. How we live, how we listen, and how we do good is not just because God says so and wants the best for us (which He does) but it is also more than that. It’s because we love Him. Listening and being good is how we praise God, how we respond, showing Christ and the world that we love our Savior! In this New Year, on the top of our resolutions, let us remember that God is good all the time, all the time God is good, and let us resolve to respond with loving God all the time!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Prayer

Lord Jesus, abide with us and in us.
Inspire all our thoughts, pervade our imaginations, suggest all our decisions and order all our doings.
Be with us in our silence, and in our speech.
Guide us in our haste and in our leisure, in company and in solitude.
Awaken and fill us with awareness in the freshness of the morning and in the weariness of the evening.
Give us grace at all times humbly to rejoice in your mysterious companionship. Give us courage and energy to cultivate relationships so that the isolated are invited, the wounded are welcomed, and your people made whole in your grace and salvation.
We pray in the name of Jesus our Savior who lives and reigns forever, Amen.

(Half taken from the 1945 Methodist Book of Worship)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Making Friends

Two Sundays ago I did go to worship at a church in the evening but before that I took Gracie to a party for her preschool class- not a birthday party- but a getting to know you party. I was glad I could go to that because I didn't feel I could afford the big splurge of socializing at the local Cox Farms at $9/ person (2 and up)--especially when there are free places. I don't hang around and socialize with the other parents as much as I should on school pick up days... I should. I really should. And sometimes I do - but somedays I have to get somewhere. And some days- I just don't enjoy standing around and chatting when they are in the super cute work out clothes, with what seems like all the time in the world (I acknowledge that is not true... I believe whole heartedly that stay at home moms are amazing- Amazing! And I have my moments of thinking "wouldn't it be great if I could afford that" but then I love love love ministry to- and I do believe comepletely that my call as a mom and as a wife does not conflict with my call as a pastor. I also hate watching and worrying about my kids sticking their heads between these metal bars outside, or falling over bricks that are in the landscaping, or being run over by a car.... I would prefer to chat and have them play in a fenced in area....

ANYWAY- I went to the parent socializing party- and it was fun. I really had a nice time. I didn't completely feel wierd as pastor and working mom. There was at least one other working mom there. And I felt a buddy. I'm always worried I'm going to sound preachy or too churchy.... that I won't be able to be "normal." People started to complain at one point about taxes and I shared about a funeral I did for a woman who worked for the Federal Gov't for 64 years (31 at FBI and 33 at IRS) and I shared how incredible that was and how the people who came I thanked them b/c I realized that folks from the IRS most likely rarely get thanked- Thanks for roads, and schools, and EMTS, and libraries, etc. (seriously- I was not being political- I just thought they work hard and we all work hard and we can enjoy these privileges in our society). The conversation left the negative and that was nice. Hopefuly they didn't think I was too goody goody-- I didn't feel like complaining about the government or taxes... In general I just don't like to be negative...
So maybe they thought I was too Polyanna (wouldn't be the first time I've heard that)

The folks who hosted had a parrot and his name was Wendell. I said, "Oh cool- is it Mr. Wendell?" Everyone had a very blank face- and the owners said, "No." I was like- you know, like the song "Mr. Wendell-- by Arrested Development?" Okay - totally blank faces.
So maybe I'm weird hipster Mom-- or perhaps this is just saying- Beth- you're not in Atlanta or Detroit anymore--- no one got it. Really? Didn't we all grow up hearing "Mr. We-en-dell"? Apparently not.

Its all good though- In the end- my confidance, my understanding of me is stronger than what the others and other parents think of me.

It is hard to make friends as an adult.
Add being a pastor, being a working Mom, and that gets more tricky.

I am friendly- I meet folks at Costco! I met this one Dad recently waiting for pizza and we shared poop and vomit stories! We had just met and we're rolling with laughter over the parent/bodily fluid experiences we endure. I didn't even invite him to church (through conversation I knew he attended another) but I often do invite others to church. Its like I can't turn part of me off- I don't turn off the mom or wife part of me and I can't really turn off the pastor part of me either.

In seminary they say not to be friends with your parishoners. That you can't be pastor and friend. This is somewhat true- but not all true. Yes, you don't want to call them to vent about church or your spouse, whatever. But you can talk about your life, your kids.
You can be real. You can be authentic.

My church is not just the place I serve---my church is also my family--its part of my home.
They have held me through pregnancies, and births, through kids getting sick, and running through church, through my child throwing an all out temper tantrum. I have never felt a sense from folks at my church that "Those are the pastor kids- they shouldn't act that way." I truly haven't. Its pretty amazing. Because I have heard horror stories from other PK's (Preacher Kid's). I am friends with people at my church and especially with the other parents here at my church- I feel a particular bond with them- they have particapted in my children's faith development and my own, all the church made promises at my children's baptisms.

If and when I invite folks to church it is only because I want them to also experience this kind of joy and wholeness of having a community that cares. Yes, sometimes the church fails- sometimes people fall through the cracks- sometimes it doesn't work out -- but sometimes and I venture to say most times- there is an opportunity for real authentic friendship with others in Christ.

Somtimes I feel that so much- that it is hard to make friends outside of church. Not impossible, but hard. I still think its important. And its something I need to be better at.

I have a real heart for the unchurched-- I miss being out in the community more. And I want to be better at doing that. This is what church planters must do each day- they don't have a building to insulate themselve in- they must be out there. And I love that- I can talk to anyone anywhere -- usually-- but why- why is it hard to make small talk at preschool pick up? Its not hard so much as I don't always feel I fit in maybe...

They know I'm the pastor.... but that shouldn't make it hard...
Sometimes I think people hear "pastor" and automatically put certain labels on those of us who are clergy.
If you are a pastor you must be___ you have to _____etc. I have suffered this before. And lost a friend.

Those friends you have before you became a pastor are awesome. They know you- accept you- and sometimes are surprised---sometimes they say, "This makes sense." But they love you.

Or there may be those folks who knew you (not friends/ acquatinces, or even family) and then you go through seminary, etc. and they're like "who do you think you are? I knew you when..." Great stories on this in Mitch Albom's book "Have a Little Faith."
This may be true for others in other vocations too.

Either way-- no matter what- making friends as an adult is harder than when we were kids. Remember conversations like, "Do you like Spider man/Barbie/ He-Man? Me too- cool- we're BFF!"

College was the same. I met friends my first day at college in the cafeteria b/c we all ended up sitting down and having a long conversation around "Saved by the Bell" We could all relate...then there was rush-- but before we were all the same- all new- and all understood certain sacred things- like a crush on Zack Morris.

Today- you meet a friend and it can be more complicated. But not impossible.

At the core people want to be loved, wanted, affirmed, known, seen, and appreciated. We may not come together around the toys, tv, or shows we like (although we may) but we can come together around the fact that we are each made in the Image of God to love and be loved. We all want that and need that- crave it! We put up good fronts- but deep down that is our basic need- as much as food and shelter.

When they meet me they may think I'm a Polyanna- that I'm too bubbly- or that I have strange music tastes(a white girl who loves old school rap?)... those are true statments most likely-- but I'm also more than that. One of my best friends first thought, "Whoa- she is way too southern bubbly bouncy! But she loves me-- she even loves the optimism in me."

It is scary to put yourself out there- but you're worth it. You're loved.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Barnes & Noble

Last night my husband and I went out for a date!! A date! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! (this may sound like an over-reaction...and probably normal for some folks...and some day I hope it is more normal for us....) But for now- it was just so so wonderful!!! We do fun things a lot as a family, but some times it is rare for us to get out. (lol I sound like I'm breaking out of jail!!!)

Anyway- I wanted a free- relatively free date for us. And great friends gave wonderful suggestions. We attempted to make the free concert at the Kennedy Center- (it would have been cool)but kids, traffic, parking [yes if we were smart we would have used metro] were difficult-(and the point wasn't the concert- but time together) if we were really smart we would have taken the metro.... but still we managed to find wonderful free parking by the basin across from the Jefferson Memorial. Other couples were also doing the same thing-- having picnics outside...We had bought pizza fixings so the kids and grandparents (Hallelujah for grandparents!!!) could have fun making pizza and I asked Kev to make one for us earlier and we could take it with us. (I planned this date- so he had no clue other than- make a pizza)

We had a very nice picnic-- there was one couple near us that was very passionate- and I had this moment (if you've not seen the movie "Date Night" do- it is very funny) where I thought---"hmm.... I hope they're not having an affair....or there's no way they're married..." they were like teenagers! In some ways I guess that's sad that this is what I assume (and of course we all know we shouldn't assume...) We did not display similar antics, but we did have a very very good time. In fact I laughed a lot and it felt like the longest time since we'd had a chance to just sit and share w/o being interrupted. Ahh Quality time!! It was so so renewing!

We finished up and walked hand in hand around the Washington Monument where other couples and families and runners were about. Some nice running guys stopped to take our picture for us and we had fun leaning against the monument and seeing our shadows cast by the lights.

We brought our chess board and thought it would be fun to play a game. I had placed a book on hold at Barnes & Noble and so off we ventured. (Seriously, How wild are we? :) Walking into Barnes & Noble without children is a whole different experience. You're not chasing and you don't have the words, "Put that back," "Stop pulling those books out," "No- we're not getting that" catapulting out of your lips. You actually peruse... and browse... and laugh at silly books like one we saw filled with Awkward Pictures (so hilarious- but not spending $12.50 on it!) It felt like an experiment in placing your finger on the pulse of culture.

We had a lot of fun reading and looking and then sat and each had a small (or I guess tall) cup of coffee (the one expense of our date). We came to the table with books we had found that looked interesting to us. I had ended in the Christianity section...
(hmmm Beth- maybe you should read something other than theology...)
And seriously- I do... really-- but I should do better- I am just drawn there.
But I also loved looking at the displays, etc. (that's the whole pulse of culture part)

What is on display? What are people reading? I think I can often and way too often become insulated in "church." I can even become insulated in my own denominational church - I went to a United Methodist college, was a United Methodist missionary, attended a United Methodist seminary and I am now a United Methodist pastor. I read a lot and I go to the LifeWay and Family Christian, and recently have been looking at some Lutheran resources for some family ministry stuff-- but still I am insulated in church.

I kind of have no hobbies (and I am working on this - picked up knitting again) outside of being mom, wife, pastor, cook, cleaner, etc... I do read and that is good- books, magazines, blogs, online newspapers... but I am rarely outside the scope of church stuff-- I seek to be out there more- to know and connect-not just to be a better pastor, but to be a better person- better Christian- who can connect with others and love them better...

I found several books some in Christianity and some just in the first displays you hit- that essentially are books that are propagating agnosticism or atheism.
I really don't get evangelical atheists or agnostics.
Its like spreading hopelessness. What is the point of your book? To make people not believe? To tear down their faith?
To build up humanity as the answer? (I seriously think of the Dr. Phil question- how's that working out for us?)

One of the books I looked at dealt with the problem of suffering-- and researched the issues of it and the biblical responses to it and breaks those responses down to show that they don't work and that God is not really involved (now this is what I can tell from reading the preface, skimming chapters, etc...)

This is that essential question of theodicy that we(all of us) are continually plagued with.
This author was and no longer is Christian, was a professor of theology and no longer is.
He, like me, found Kushner's book "Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People" not satisfying in answering the question.
For me, Kushner takes away a solid understanding of God's sovereignty and that just doesn't work. I'm not giving this authors' name or title of his book- because I haven't read it yet- I can't make assertions or judgments. I seriously skimmed and discussed part of it with Kevin.

Another book is from a fellow who shared how science and reason can offer us everything including morality- and how we only need ourselves and our minds and no God. UGH! (this is my first response--seriously utter disgust)--not for him, not for the author- and I mean that- but for this forsakeness of God. Who do you think gave you that mind and that ability to reason? I love my ability to reason and think and question and struggle- and I believe God gave it all to me! I love that John Wesley included reason in one of the things that is important to our faith- to understanding it and living it out. (Often called the Wesley Quadrilateral -Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience)

I hate suffering and I believe God does too.
God has never given up on me - even when Christ hung on the cross- and felt forsaken by all people and even cried aloud feeling forsaken by God- he still did not lose faith- he still forgave us- he never forsook us, he never gave up. He knew - he lived- he died- for our hope- for the truth that there is resurrection- there is new life- there is eternal life- there is hope- there is forgiveness- there is reconciliation- there is unending grace, mercy, and peace that passes understanding. I wrote in a sermon once that sin isn't God's problem - its ours... Suffering isn't a problem we can solve.... it is a reality that exists- not because God wants it, not always exclusively because our sin creates it, not because God is poking at and testing us... it just is.
I have no easy answers-- maybe I have no "good" answers- and maybe I have none that are "good enough" for folks. This truly is one of my fears I as a pastor- that I won't have good enough answers to help guide people and grow people in their faith. But its not about me- or my answers- Christ isn't Google... you can't find a link to answer everything- there will be no quick fix-- there will be "well that makes sense- okay - now that I have understood everything- sign me up!" No - there is only faith.

I think about Matthew's Gospel and how Jesus is tempted in the desert by the devil.

5Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
" 'He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'[b]"

7Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.

I think it is good for us to question- we question God, one another, the church- we challenge our faith- and that is not a bad thing. I once almost got thrown out of a church because I questioned so much! Seriously!
But sometimes I think we have to think about why do we question? Are searching for answers? And really- would any answer be satisfying? Do we want to tear down what another believes? Are we seeking to open ourselves and others up to more? Are we competing with God- do we think we know better?

I do not believe we can move further in our faith without doubt, questions, challenges- but I also believe we can't expect easy answers- or try to put God in a box- or give up when it doesn't work out for us...

I wondered with Kevin about these books- why do they write them? Do they seek to take away hope- do they know better- do they think that humanity is great and can do better? (again that Dr. Phil question) Does the author seek to rip faith away from believers? And Kevin wondered with me- should we not read this and these kind of books? Do they seek to take away faith and if so is this book evil- is it seeking to do evil?

I take seriously the vows of baptism and membership where I have stood and said that "I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of my sin and that I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves." Is this one of those places? Do I resist this?

And yet- I think and fear and wonder if this is the onslaught of thought that barrages people- If I truly seek to guide, and uplift, and nurture people in their faith shouldn't I know and understand what is that they have to confront- or that is trying to confront them. (of course someone could use this reasoning and say- well I had to watch the porn or do the drugs or whatever so I could understand better...yada yada-- hear me clearly-- this is NOT what I'm saying) I just don't think I should be so insulated that I am comfortable with my "answers" but those answers bounce off those I'm trying to reach.

I am not afraid that these authors or anyone for that matter can take away my faith. I've been to seminary-(there was this joke in seminary that your first year they'd try to steal your Jesus and you'd get Him back your third year!) I never lost my Jesus. Many of these authors have been to seminary too and they are more studied than I am. Do they know better than me? No. I believe. I know. I reason. I feel. I experience. I suffer. I struggle and still I believe. I struggle more and I struggle again and still I believe. I believe more and I believe deeper and I believe wiser and I struggle more and I believe deeper and fuller and wiser. I share this belief with people throughout all the world and throughout all time that God is the God who lives and loves and cares and rules and that His Son Jesus Christ lived, and died, and rose again. He hung on a cross and suffered, he questioned and wondered about people- where were they-why did they do this- and about where God was- and He didn't give up- He didn't abandon us or God He forgave us and He knew that God did not leave him there to suffer and die. I believe in the Holy Spirit who lives and moves, and breathes and guides, and nurtures, and cares. I believe in the resurrection and in the hope of eternal life and in the life everlasting. I believe that no matter what happens God is with me. Some would call me naive or optimistic (and its not like I've not heard that before and believe me I've even been called way worse).

I don't believe because its easy and I don't believe because I now have all the answers and life is easy and I don't believe because I think it makes sense in a logical way and that I no longer have questions and all the answers are here and its all figured out. I believe because I know God is God who loves me and lives in me and is for me and with me. I know Christ seeks me out, saves me, forgives me, and redeems me, and I know the Holy Spirit enfolds me, equips me, guides me, uplifts me- how do I know? How do I know? Really Beth- Tell me how do you know?

There's a great hymn that says, "You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart!" that may sound cheesy to some folks- or again naive and optimistic- but it is truth. When I doubt Christ catches me when I fear He holds me- when I'm pissed off he still holds me. God is more patient than anyone we can ever imagine- we're like two year olds' (or even harder- three year olds' having a tantrum) God can wait us out and is still there! God doesn't leave.

Yes- there is famine and destruction, and horrible horrible things--real things- not just theoretical bad stuff- but really bad stuff- many of my parishioners have seen things I could never imagine, many of the people who walk in to the church each day or who I encounter and millions of people who I don't encounter are living on the hinges of life, they are without food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and sometimes worst of all without hope. Where is God? all the people clamor-- they want a target to blame. Where and how are we? Where and how and when are we accepting the freedom and power Christ gives us? Do we live and believe and do something?

Why do I believe- is it just because I believe I am being saved from hell? Yes and no-- Yes I do believe I am saved from hell- I am saved from from fear, and pain, isolation, and ultimate suffering Yes I believe that. But my belief doesn't begin and certainly doesn't end there or even languish there very long-- I believe I am saved for- saved for a life of service in and through and for Christ and His world.
I am saved for you and you are saved for me- so that we may love.
So that we love God and one another and love the world.
A very insightful preacher once said to me, "What brings you to faith keeps you in faith?" Do you come out of fear? Do you come for easy answers (and when I say easy answers I don't mean just pat answers- in some ways I think any "answer" to the problem of evil and suffering would be insufficient...) if you need this for faith and to stay in faith.... how will you stay in faith? What answer is enough?
Do you come to faith because you are drawn by God's grace that has been always and ever with you (prevenient) that forgives and restores and justifies you and that carries, lifts, and transforms you in a life leading to perfection (perfect in love Matthew 5:48)Do you have a faith that holds you even when answers can't?

Believe and don't stop believing- question and challenge- and read and explore- but don't be shamed, or made to feel stupid, naive, uneducated- we can lose everything in this world- everything- but we cannot lose God---

And you thought I was just writing about Barnes & Noble!

Romans 1: 16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Wife Mom Pastor Life

Today, I kept Gracie home b/c she was having a bad cough. Each year she tends to get pneumonia--- so I'm trying to keep that from happening. We did a nebulizer treatment and I think we'll keep that up...

Kevin got Sophia off to daycare... he went to work and came home not much later... He looked green... and was so sick! He has a stomach flu, fever, all of it!

I tried to do work from home... but it was somewhat hard-- Gracie would just say, "Snuggle me Mommy." Awwwww...and I was tired.... I did some emailing and preparing for my bible study the best I could... at 4 I took Grace to the church and we set up for the bible study... In my office I have this big gourd that a friend's Mom gave me-- and Gracie pretended to be "Queen of the Gourd" and received a Burger King crown from Pastor Ralph (when Gracie says his name is sounds like Papa Ralph)


On the way to get Sophia-- a fire truck went by roaring...and I said, "Let's say a prayer." I said, "Dear God (and Gracie repeated...) Please keep the firemen and everyone safe. Amen.

Then Gracie said- I want to say another prayer-
and said-- "Dear God, Keep the firemen and all the people safe, let there be love in all the peoples' homes, keep them safe from lots of rain. Amen"

Got Sophia-- and I got a nice big hug!!!made dinner--Princess Soup-- babysitter came...

I printed out the handouts for Disciple Bible Study-
--- I was triple booked tonight
Back to School Night- Sophia's class/Grace's class -- I did 15 min in each class
---Originally Kevin was going to go to one class and I to another...
Parent gathering and I did a pastor talk- and then off to finish Disciple-

When I greeted my class- one of the folks in my class heard a/b my day and the schedule and said, "Maybe we should've started next week?" "This is life..." I said- with joy-- I mean I wasn't mad or defensive or annoyed-- just matter of fact... This is life.

It is-- I am wife/mom/pastor-- I am one person and its all good. Like really-- good. Its crazy, its hectic-- kids get sick, husband gets sick-- there are parent and pastor responsibilities...
house is a mess....family coming to visit- it all happens at once...no matter how well we plan- it happens.... but you know what?

God is so good. I feel held in it all.

And they were fine-- I hate that this was the first real class... but this is why I have a great assistant, had a lesson plan, and a 30 minute video... I hated missing their opening discussion....

Tonight:
Gracie's teacher Mrs. Ryan shared a story about Grace-- She calls the kids "Lovey" sometimes or "Little love" and Gracie said, "I'm not Lovey, I'm Gracie Anderson." lol

she cracks me up!

My bible study was really wonderful- a big class-- but great. I worry about how big the class is- about 20 folks now... Ranging in age from 20-70s that is pretty cool. OF course theodicy came up at the very end and we totally ran over. It all went well...I just hope I wasn't like a total spaz going all over the place. It is a big class...there are lots good thoughts, questions, and I prefer discussion than lecture...but in the beginning its hard not to do that a bit I guess-- I just don't like to be preachy...I don't want to sermonize them to boredom...but mostly I did feel that it went well..

I did feel bad about being late to relieve our awesome babysitter.

The girls had so much fun with our wonderful babysitter---
They played dress up with these wonderful clothes our babysitter brought for them while I was three ring circus Mom/Pastor
and were out when I got home...



Checked on Kevin, took his temp, covered him up, cold washcloth for the head, and Tylenol for the fever.... poor thing

there is so much to do...but I am done.

There are always piles of laundry, piles and piles... I feel like that song, "I can see for miles and miles..." I see laundry for piles and piles... but it will all be good.

In the wonderful words of Julian of Norwich "All will be well and all will be well and all things will be well."

This is what assurance, peace, comfort feels...even when there are like a million things I could be stressed about-- I'm not. I know that it will all be well. I am held. Thanks be to God!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Words from Grace

I'm constantly astounded by the things my 3 year old says. Sometimes she scares me how deep she can be and other times she just makes me laugh. Sophia my 2 year old is saying lots of thigns right now too-- and I know that I'm really going to be amazed by her thoughts and ideas once she shares them with me.

In this last week these are some of the things Gracie said:

She woke up in the middle of the night last week- and Kevin went to see what she needed.
He opened the door and there was Gracie, "Daddy, I can't sleep. I have a wedgie."
Kevin is an awesome Dad- and he's good for fixing all kind of things- including a wedgie... lol

Wednesday we came by my office and there was a bag of cookies there that a parishoner had made for our family. There were two big ziplock bags full of oatmeal raisen deliciousness. Gracie couldn't wait to have one and I said, "Why don't we share them with all our friends first." So we shared them with everyone in the office- Gracie carrying the bag and offering, "Do you want a cookie?" Then when we had offered one to all the staff, we found the ladies sorting things for the bazaar, and then we went downstairs to the preschools and offered cookies to all the teachers. She had a blast running up and saying, "Would you like a cookie?" Gracie was skipping down the hall saying, "Mommy, I loooove sharing! There is plenty for everyone!" When we had given cookies to everyone at church- she wanted to find more people to give cookies to- so we knocked on some of our neighbors doors and gave cookies to our neigbhors, and to a police officer- most everyone else was away at work so Gracie said, "I think I'll go take a nap, and when I wake up, we'll find more folks to share our cookies with!"

Friday, Kevin wasn't feeling well so I left work early to take the kids. I decided to take them to get their hair cut (Sophia's bangs were way long and I just decided I don't have the patience to pin them back every day). It's back to school time and it would be nice to have a fresh start! On the way to the mall for the haircut we saw a homeless woman on the side of the road. I had nothing on me except these McDonald's coupons I just took out of the mailbox. They included some things free. So I rolled the window down and gave them to her.
Gracie said, "Who was that lady?"
I said, "She's someone who needs some help. You know how we have a nice house to live in and warm beds to sleep in?"
Grace, "Yes."
Me, "Well some people don't have a house to live in or a bed to sleep in."
Gracie thought about it a minute and then she said, "Well Mommy, they can just come to the church. The world isn't done yet."

I was just in awe- nope, the world isn't done yet.

Here are our new haircuts, and the lollipop we got for being still:

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Our Lives, God's Hands



So - I preached on Sunday...but I preached to myself all week leading up to it. I struggled, really struggled... not sure how vunerable I'm ready to be in the blogoshere.... but I'll say now- that I need to remember to stay on the wheel.

Here's my sermon from Sunday:
“Our Lives, God’s Hands”
Jeremiah 18: 1-11
September 5, 2010
Rev. Beth Anderson

This is a powerful and hard word from the prophet Jeremiah. He speaks boldly, harshly and it can be hard to hear his words about God’s justice…

Imagine if we could not only hear but also see….. to go and walk with Jeremiah down to the potters house…
– we can see the potter working tirelessly at the wheel
– the wheel is spinning
– the potter’s hands in the wet and muck of clay
– –we see the clay spoil in his hands,
– But The potter keeps it on the wheel
– His hands wrap around, pressing, pushing, moving, holding, guiding, molding…
– We see the potter rework the clay into another vessel
o working and reworking it, until it seems good to him
– He will make a good vessel out of this
– The potter has it- in his hands- and it will turn out just as he has planned…

Can you see the potter at work?
Can you see yourself?
On the wheel—spinning- drenched, muddy- but held by the master’s hands?

The Lord says to Jeremiah speaking of the nation of Israel, “Can I not do with you, O house of Israel just as this potter has done? Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so you are in my hand.”

You – your life--- no matter how muddy, how soaked, no matter how fast the wheel is spinning—is held in God’s hands.








Pottery in Jeremiah’s day wasn’t just for beauty- pottery was not art for arts sake, although it may be beautiful it was for a use.
It was not just lovely to see- - it was made for a purpose.
It was to be
used,
filled,
carried,
poured out,
and filled up again

people would be fed from it,
thirst would be quenched with it,
things may be planted and grow in it





We hear in this word from Jeremiah that God is not done with us yet—if he was – he wouldn’t continue to rework the clay- he’d give up on it- toss in the fire- but NO he keeps working it.

This is good news –this is a word of hope…

It is ….as long as we are interested in becoming what God is creating us to be.

But its hard work to become what God wants us to be.

It means we have to stay on the wheel,
It means we have to listen and be guided by his hands
It means that we have to be yielding, pliable
It means we cannot allow ourselves to be hardened to God’s will







God says, “At one moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, but if that nation, concerning which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will change my mind about the disaster that I intended to bring on it. And at another moment I may declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, but if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will change my mind about the good I had intended to do to it.”

God has plans for them- he intends good.

And yet- these lumps of clay are still responsible for their own destiny.

Their choice toward repentance or further desertion and discard of God’s will can change the plans—the hope God intends.


I think about the story of Jonah- how Jonah is sent to Nineveh to cry out against them because of their wickedness.

He doesn’t want to go—he attempts to flee, but God is working in his life,
shaping circumstances,
attempting to lead him there.
Jonah finally relents and yields to God’s call. He goes and shares God’s judgment with the people of Nineveh.
He is sure they will continue in their ways- but something amazing happens!
The people all believe, repent, everyone -even the king repent, fast, and put on a sackcloth. They all surrender to God’s will.

Chapter 3 verse 10 of Jonah says, “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their wrong ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.”




We know God’s mind- his hope, his desire, for us is good.




In fact God declares “For surely I know the plans I have for you…plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”(Jeremiah 29:11).

God’s mind did not so much change, as the people did. They chose what was right. They listened and learned.
They obeyed, they turned, repented, and were to be shaped into the people God was calling them to be.


God’s hands are always guiding us- guiding the vessel he created to be created into the purpose he has.
Ephesians 2:10 says, “ For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (NLT)
A masterpiece takes time to be created, to be turned, reworked.


The passage in Jeremiah reveals that divine justice does not exclude the possibility of human repentance. Rather it demands and expects it!

A full humble human response to God’s will can and will open up a wholly changed prospect for the future. (Interpretation, 113)
Our future is not in stone- it is not yet hardened and it is not yet thrown out.
There is hope.

God has spoken to the people through Jeremiah over and over.
He has pleaded with them to repent, to turn from the sin, injustice, and infidelity and over and over they reject him.
Over and over they do what is evil in God’s sight.

Doing what is evil in God’s sight—as verse 10 defines is “not listening to Gods voice.”

Just before God leads Jeremiah to the potter’s house he had instructed Jeremiah to “stand in the People’s Gate” and exhort the people to honor the Sabbath by not bearing a burden on the Sabbath day—And what did the people do? “… they did not listen or incline their ear; they stiffened their necks and would not hear or receive instruction.”
They became hardened.
They were no longer pliable, able to be molded and shaped.

If they had chosen to honor the Sabbath – they would have taken the time to let their burdens down, to stop, to listen,
to know God’s will, to be held by God, and be guided….
The imperfections would have needed to be let go, they would have had to turn and turn – repent means to turn from what is wrong- They would need to turn on God’s wheel, to be moved and molded by His hands--but NO—they were too busy- they brushed by Jeremiah as he stood at the gate- they didn’t have time.
They rushed by God forsaking his call, his concern, his commandments,
his ways and his will-
-- they jumped off the wheel…. they didn’t want to hear it- they wanted a quicker fix.


I think about what would have been if they had stopped—
- if they like the clay had stayed on the wheel and been held and molded, and pushed, and worked over---
it would hurt—
it would be demanding, bits of clay get smoothed over and fall away
-some parts would need to be let go
—the things that they needed to deal with
–all that needed letting go, changing, reforming, transforming the sins, addictions, grief’s, fears, wrong ways—they would have been
lifted from the vessel
--worked out, by the Potter’s hands.

They jumped off the wheel
- they could do it better
- they wanted to spin faster
or harden now
- they could create their own purpose – didn’t need the Potter’s hands.




Sometimes being on the wheel of our lives feels like too much to handle.
Either life isn’t moving at the pace we want or it feels too fast…
we don’t allow God time to work
– we want to be done.


Do you ever notice that we’re striving for what’s next?
We’ve made plans, created goals, benchmarks, milestones to accomplish and we think we’ve arrived…
only we get there and …then what?
We make lists and accomplish them and then what?
We strive to get there….
to some pinnacle of achievement only to find that
we really haven’t submitted
our lives to God’s hands.
We haven’t surrendered it all to God’s will.

Somewhere in the midst of this life of ours- our plans took over.
Somewhere the wheel filled with the demands of the world—spinning
—and we no longer trusted
that God would--- could, work.

Somewhere we took over…

We believed but did we live?

So much of our faith has
“become about a statement of belief,
but scripture doesn’t call us
to make believers, but disciples.”
Our belief has to come to life.

We must live it,
practice,
and follow God’s will.

Over and over people
—not just Jeremiah’s crowd
--all of us-- refuse to yield
—choosing self over God
- our will over God’s.


There are consequences for rejecting God’s will. There is judgment—there is justice.

Judgment is not anger, it is love, it is protection---it is hope—it is seeking to mold us and make us into the work God intends.

Judgment is the carrying out of God’s justice—it is about integrity, truth, and the fair treatment of all.

We refuse, harden against, forsake, rebel against God’s will and there is consequence. Consequence caused by our choice. It is the same for all -God doesn’t pick and choose.

When we here verse 11 and hear God say,
“I am a potter shaping evil against you and devising a plan against you”
it can sound like God is all about judging – coming after us—
But God’s judgment isn’t about
plotting against us.
God is not a master who has us as puppet on strings.
God isn’t against us.

God has his hands on us,
in us,
through us,
holding us
—shaping us—
God is willing to get dirty,
to bend over us working and working and working
God is in this
God has created us
God wants this vessel--- this disciple
to come out right-
God has no timeline- there is no moment
if/ when the vessel starts to spoil that
He’ll give up





Every good and wonderful thing
that is here- all these things that this stole tells the story of- all these moments of clay that have shaped my life
- I didn’t plan any of them
- —they were God’s hands on my life. He had a plan. He still does.
- I have to listen – to hear it
- and let Him mold me and live it!


No matter all our attempts to jump off the wheel…
God out of merciful love,
out of a justice that loves and wants what is real and right
and true and good says,
“Stay – stay on the wheel,
turn and repent- listen
and let me shape you- turn and turn
– let my will work in you--- hear me while I hold you.



We may not like what we hear.
We have to deal with the wrongs in our lives,
with the hardness of our hearts,
but God will pour over us everlasting water,
We will be moveable clay,
He’ll keep his hands on us and we can be malleable—as his water falls on us,
He will perfect us at the right speed,
He will work us knowing what we can take, and we must turn and turn
from our hardness,
turn from our rebellion,
turn from our will and turn into his,
turn into his work
– into the masterpiece he seeks to create- turn more and more into his image
- his purpose- his plan.


Thanks be to God. Amen.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Prayer Today

Gracious God,
Surround me in your strength, fill me with resilience. Light the fire of passion with which you called me and use me as your instrument. Give me the ability to let the struggles of the day pass over me or make me stronger. When unkind words seek to tear me down, let them vanish from me and let me not dwell on them. Let me sit with you Lord, Awaken my ears to hear, my heart to be warmed, and my hands to do your work. In the name of Jesus who call and equips and in whom I put my trust, Amen.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Our Deepest Fear

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.


Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.


It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.


We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?


Actually, who are you not to be?


You are a child of God.


Your playing small does not serve the world.


There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.


We are all meant to shine, as children do.


We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.


Is is not in some of us; it is in everyone.


And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.


As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
--Marianne Williamson

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Life of Joy



I preached my first sermon after Ordination on June 20- Being called and chosen is a "Life of Joy"
Rev. Beth Anderson
John 15: 1-16
A Life of Joy: Called, Chosen, Connected


As I tried to decide what text I would preach on this day- on this first Sunday preaching as an Elder in Full Connection- on this first Sunday after being ordained, I couldn’t help back to this text in John. It is the text that Messiah’s mission and vision is rooted in and it is the text that tells us where our roots are. It tells us how we live a life of joy. Complete joy. It tells us who we are and whose we are. It is a text of remembering and growing, of how to know how to deal with change, and how to know where you are going. It is a text that guides and focuses. That leads and comforts.

Monday was the fourth best day of my life.
I have had a lot of wonderful days and some hard ones too- but these four mark these moments of call and completion- of feeling and knowing God had chosen and set me apart. Have you ever sat down and written out your very best days? Those moments of complete joy? Those days where your cheeks hurt from smiling so much? Those days where you didn’t realize you were exhausted until your head finally hit the pillow…but you still didn’t want to close your eyes because everything was just too good to be true?


July 27, 2002 I married my very best friend and the love of my life- Kevin.
I was called to be his wife. We met in an odd way- in the middle of a street at a music festival. He chose to come and talk with me out of anyone else there. He asked me the time. What did I find out months later? Anyone know? He had his watch in his pocket!



March 7, 2007 Grace was born. She is grace- she pours out generous, unsolicited love. God called me to be a Mom and Kevin to be a Dad. I spent the first few weeks just staring at her with tears of joy.




June 25, 2008 Sophia was born. She is wisdom- she is insightful, observant, and intuitive to everything around her. God called us once again to be her parents and for her to be ours. One of the midwives at my practice said that your first child teaches you the depth of your love and your next child teaches you the breadth of your love. Having my beautiful daughters has taught me that God can stretch me more than I imagined, God has taught me that love never offers scarcity only ever widening abundance.




And then Monday- June 14, 2010 Ordination- The Bishop laid her hands on me saying, “Almighty God, pour upon Elizabeth Spencer Anderson the Holy Spirit, for the office and work of an elder in Christ Holy Church. Amen.” And she said, “Elizabeth Spencer Anderson take authority as an elder to preach the Word of God, and to administer the Holy Sacraments in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

A friend of mine asked me if I felt differently- and I do.

I felt changed when I was married- I was now Mrs. Anderson- I wear a ring- a circle that never ends showing my love that is eternal with Kevin’s. The pastor who married us took his stole and wrapped it around us our hands as we prayed symbolizing that we were tying a knot now together and with Christ.

I felt changed as a mother- I was Grace’s Mom, Sophia’s Mom—they had been bound to me and still are. I have new marks as a Mother- they show as lines of smiles, some of worry- I wear jewelry made of noodles and bumps/bruise of being climbed on, and eagerly embraced.

And now I feel changed - I am fully ordained as Reverend, as elder – I now where a stole-symbolizing the yoke of Christ— a yoke is used to pair oxen together as they pull a load, plow a field, and go about their work.

The stole symbolizes the fact that I am “yoked” I have “teamed up with Jesus” in the work sharing and spreading the kingdom. I share in a covenant with in the Order of Elders to pray, conference, and intentionally nourish one another in the means of grace.


I have new names- I have new symbols, I have new responsibilities, new joys.


Covenants change us-
We make a covenant when someone is baptized in the church, we make a covenant when we join the church, and when we marry.
We say and declare, “I choose you” when we covenant.

In baptism God says, “I choose you and we as the church remember our own baptism and say we choose God and we choose to love and encourage one another in the body of Christ.” The pastor lays hands and baptizes you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


In a marriage a husband and wife choose one another for all time.

Covenants mean we are teaming up together.
They mean we are now abiding together.
They mean we are not alone.
They mean we are connected in a new and more powerful way.
They mean we are stronger together than alone.
And that is what this John 15 text tells us- Jesus says, “You did not choose me but I chose you.”

When our daughter Grace first started saying full sentences she would sometimes run over to us and throw her arms around and say, “I love you too!” completely out of the blue. We hadn’t said anything, yet she comes over and says, “I love you too!”
It got me thinking that- anything and everything we do is a response to what God has already done for us.
Anything we do is an I love you too to Christ- who first loved us.
Anything we choose now- is a response to Christ first choosing us.

Jesus chose you- He came and lived and died, and shared all this for you- so that His joy may be in you- so that your joy may be complete- so that you will love others the way he loves you- so that you may bear fruit for the kingdom- fruit that will last…


Tell someone next to you- Jesus chose you! Jesus chose you!
Say to yourself- Jesus chose me.

Our choice now is will we abide, will we love, will we bear fruit?


Will we choose to be changed?

Christ chose us – and we can choose a life of joy when we respond to his love.

The response flows first from his love – from Christ choosing us.

When we remember that Christ says, “I chose you.”
We remember and know that it isn’t about us- we remember that
the power
the love
the grace
- doesn’t come from us.
It flows and responds back- it becomes a reflection of what Christ has done in us.

The word of God came to Jeremiah the prophet and he said, “Ah Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said, “Do not say I am only a boy; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid…for I am with you to deliver you.” (Jeremiah 1: 6-8).

Have you ever felt like Jeremiah?
Do you say I’m only? Only young, only old, only a mom, only a dad, only single, only divorced, only widowed, only rich, only poor, only a kid, only a teen…
When I began answering my call to ministry, I was in my first years of college and I had been drawn to the chapel, to the hymns, to God’s word, I was feeling called to ministry—but didn’t understand how that could be possible…and my chaplain spoke with me and began asking if I had considered a call to ministry—I thought- yes, but How could God want me? There was just too much wrong with me that I could list… too much that was , “But I’m only this or that.. only me.”
And its just that –that Jesus says, “I choose! I choose you I want you- all of you.” The only thing you are to Christ is his chosen to be redeemed, to be changed, to be built up for the kingdom, to abide in him, and bear fruit.

Its pretty hard to wrap our minds around- especially if we’ve been told we weren’t wanted – weren’t chosen by others… especially if others said we were too much of this or not enough of that…

It’s easy to think we don’t have it in us- that we don’t have the words or the skills, the knowledge, or the strength. It is easy to become weary, to feel not good enough, to be weighted with all that is left undone, all that remains to do—that’s all shame.
Its all the weight of going it alone- its fear- its worry
- it consumes us rather than completing us.


And Christ is here to make your joy complete.
And Christ has come and called you --chosen you and filled you
And given you the Word that has cleansed you so that you may say,
“I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God
for salvation to everyone who has faith.”

God
Calls out to you- saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”

Christ
Chooses you-saying, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”

Christ connects you- - saying, “Abide in me.”

Christ uses you for the sake of the Gospel-saying-
“Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit,
because apart from me you can do nothing.”

You are called, you are chosen, you are connected!

Will you choose to abide?
Will you bear fruit?
Will you choose to be changed?

And experience a life of joy?
It’s a life where you are teamed up with Christ?
A life where you can be complete in the joy of Jesus Christ?
A life where you no longer feel the shame of what others have to say
- because you can stand and say, Christ chooses me! I am not ashamed!

That’s what happens for you when you choose to abide in the Christ who has already chosen you.

Let us Pray:

Jesus, We love you too! Let our lives reflect our love for you. Thank you for loving us, thank you for choosing us. As you have chosen us, let us choose you. Let us answer your call to follow your commandments and love one another. Let us be yoked with you and one another bound together with you in the Body of Christ so that we may be fruit that will last for your kingdom. Let us here at Messiah always remember you, follow you, and share your joy with all the world…living a life of joy. In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, all your children said, Amen.

I invite you – if you’ve been struggling- or if you simply need a reminder.
I invite you to come and pray as we sing this final hymn
“Oh, I Know the Lord’s Laid His Hands on Me.”
I invite you to come and to feel that the Lord has laid his hands on you,
Christ has called, chosen, and connected you to him.
I invite you to know and abide in him and live a life of joy.
I invite you to know who you are and where you belong.
I invite you as you reminder you are chosen.
I invite you to chose a life of joy abiding in Christ.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Storytime Joys

Tonight was so fun getting the kids down. Of course it was all my energy- but good energy. We've all been sick- with the exception of Gracie. Sophia with pneumonia, ear infection, and pink eye. I had a sinus infection that is now an ear infection and Kevin has the sinus infection- but WE ARE On the MEND! Today Sophia was without fever, Grace was in a great mood! And I cooked dinner! I had the energy to cook a dinner! WOW! I have done little other than make a small thing and heat up other stuff or throw in a pizza and steam veggies... Now I didn't make some wonderful Food Network worthy meal- but I made a delicious pasta sauce with lots of veggies and Tortellini (which Kevin and the girls love!) It was yummy. I also love a meal that is all in one bowl!

Also the girls played with Play Doh while I cooked. Gracie had gotten a Word World Play Doh set for her birthday that Kevin and I were a little worried to bring out- with the fear that play doh would end up in the parsonage rug....Guess what!? It didn't. I was so tired and really needed to cook- I pulled it out guessing it would be a fun fun activity- and it was!! I put aluminum foil over their little table and asked them to play with the play doh only there...and they did! At one point Gracie brought it into the kitchen and I reminded her where I wanted her to play and she said, "Okay,sorry Mommy." I said- its okay- you don't need to say your sorry. She is such a sweet sweet kid!

Afterwards- I let the girls play a bit and cleaned up sort of and then we went to take a bath- I lured them upstairs with the hope of bubbles. Last night I got a bit of energy and cleaned the bathtub and our bathroom so now that was clean- really clean- not just Clorox wipe clean- but scrubbed clean. I had left the counters, floor and toilet so while the girls played in the bath - and shared SO well! I cleaned the rest of the bathroom. It was awesome! Gracie kept saying- "Here Sophie, you can have this one." very very sweet. And Sophia kept hugging Gracie and rubbing bubbles on her. They were so so sweet. Then Gracie swam (after we removed all toys) and she "taught" Sophia how too. Adorable!

Off to bedtime- I had the hairdryer which they each loved running around me laughing in the warmth. Sophia especially liked it hitting her bottom :) Then stories- they picked out three- "Are you My Mother?"; a Care Bear book about Sharing; a book called "Violet's House"; and "A Pocket for Corduroy" --ok so four - Sophia also brought up "Bear Snores On" towards the end and we compromised that I would read Sophia "Bear Snores On" and Gracie would wait for me in her bed and I'd read her "A Pocket for Corduroy" after that. Sophia decided she didn't want a book- read here- Sophia threw herself on the ground, pounded the floor and screamed for Daddy...then when I put her in the crib said Mommy hold me - then when I held her screamed for Daddy... so she went to bed- after three binkys (God willing we will break this soon). Kiss goodnight to Sophia and an "I love you" over screaming and off to Grace's room.

This time I turned off the light and we read by her night light (who she calls "Guy") and we read "A Pocket for Corduroy" - I read it twice and then when she said read again- I suggested she read it. "No- you Mommy." Okay- so I start reading. "No- I read it!" Okay, that sounds great. She opens the book and stares at the first page and says, "I can't understand!", in a very frustrated tone. I said, "That's okay- I'll help you." So we read it again while I read a few words at a time and she repeated. So So cute. And there are some tough words in that- like "hesitantly", "Laundromat", and a few others...After half the book she didn't want to repeat after me any more, because she kept yawning! (note to self- this is a good way to get her to sleep!!) But when it was time for me to go- We said our prayers, sang our song, and off I went! It was huge! Usually she wrestles on top of me- sits on top - and says, "I got you! Now you can't go!" Nope- I just walked out easy as can be. She asked for water a minute after- of course. But nothing after that. Since we got back from CA last week- we have not had easy nights going down.

Storytime is my favorite part of the day-- I love mornings too- we all snuggle in bed and watch Sesame Street, Higleytown Heroes, or something...but at night- we are all clean and smelling good in clean pjs, they are silly, we're awake but getting tired, they sit on my lap and I read- or I sit and they run around while I read until they eventually do sit. Grace is sitting down to listen more and more. And its so fun to interact with the story!

I love when I read "the baby bird jumped" and I ask the girls, "How do you jump?" And they giggle and jump! I love asking her questions about the story and hearing her take on what we've read. I love hearing them say, "SNORT!" and laughing hysterically. I love reading the Sharing book (I can't remember the title - I think its something like "The Day Nobody Shared"- and asking Gracie about sharing and she goes off on a tangent about how she and Sophia shared something or other.

Bedtime is sometimes really hard- Sophia of course was screaming and crying but was out after I closed the door- She was asleep before I finished the first reading of "Corduroy"- but tonight- bedtime was so lovely. Storytime was a gift. A gift to read with Grace and hear her saying the words on the page and excited about wanting to read!

I love how I just went and checked on Sophia and her behind is way up in the air, her head in the corner, her mattress is elevated since she's been sick. Her poor bum has been hurt by this illness so she is airing out tonight atop a few towels. She sleeps soundly- a few coughs, but less than last night, after four days of medicine, and a nice baby vapor bath, and a bit of neosporin under her raw nose. She sleeps without even the snore she's had earlier this week.

My sweet sweet girls, nestled in their beds, after a joyous fun with play doh, a dinner where everyone had at least 3 bites and a bit more (this is huge some nights), and a fun bubbly bath, stories and stories, songs, prayers, kisses, and lots of love.
Thank you Jesus for my girls.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The importance of Sisters

A wonderful friend shared this with me and I found it incredibly powerful, so I share it with you now:


We All Need Sisters
Moms, daughters, daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law, grandmothers, aunts, nieces, cousins, and extended family, all bless our lives!
A young wife sat on a sofa on a hot humid day, drinking iced tea and visiting with her mother. They talked about life, marriage, and the responsibilities of adulthood.

The mother clinked the ice cubes in her glass thoughtfully, turned a clear, sober glance upon her daughter and said:

"Don't forget your sisters,' she advised, swirling the tea leaves to the bottom of her glass. 'They'll be more important as you get older. No matter how much you love your husband, no matter how much you love the children you may have, you are still going to need Sisters. Remember to go places with them now and then; do things with them.'

'Remember that 'sisters' means ALL the women in your life... your girlfriends, your daughters, and all your other women relatives too. 'You'll need other women. Women always do.'

What a funny piece of advice!' the young woman thought. Haven't I just gotten married? Haven't I just joined the couple-world? I'm now a married woman, for goodness sake! A grownup! Surely my husband and the family we may start will be all I need to make my life worthwhile!'

But she listened to her mother. She kept contact with her sisters and made more women friends each year. As the years tumbled by, one after another, she gradually came to understand that her Mom really knew what she was talking about. As time and nature work their changes and their mysteries upon a woman, sisters are the mainstays of her life.

THIS SAYS IT ALL:
Time passes.
Life happens.
Distance separates.
Children grow up.
Jobs come and go.
Love waxes and wanes.
Men don't call when they say they will.
Hearts break.
Parents die.
Colleagues forget favors.
Careers end.


BUT... Sisters are there, no matter how much time and how many miles are between you. A girl friend is never farther away than needing her can reach.

When you have to walk that lonesome valley and you have to walk it by yourself, the women in your life will be on the valley's rim, cheering you on, praying for you, pulling for you, intervening on your behalf, and waiting with open arms at the valley's end.

Sometimes, they will even break the rules and walk beside you...Or come in and carry you out.

The world wouldn't be the same without women. When we began this adventure called womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible joys or sorrows that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other.

Every day, we need each other still

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Best Mother's Day Ever!

I had an awesome Mother's Day!
Sophia and I had a fun time (my early riser) at the Men's Breakfast! I then had a pastoral meeting at Starbucks afterwards, but Kevin brought the girls to me in our new Radio Flyer wagon!! (this thing is so awesome- seats, seat belts, cup holders inside and out- and it was "tricked out" with princess chairs, bubble swords, and kites) Earlier this week I told Kevin that I wanted to have a fun family day out with a picnic. We had SO much fun at Burke Lake Park! I'll put up some pics soon!

We came home, napped, and then went to dinner at Austin Grill! We had a giftcard! (I love using those for the right times :)

We dropped off Kevin so he could see West Springfield High perform "Fiddler on the Roof" at least 5 of our youth are in it! And I took the girls home for baths and bed!

We did well- Sophia did not poop in the tub today! The other day- Thursday this week after covering themselves in yogurt at lunch we were a bit sticky so we took baths but in the middle of the bath- Sophia pooped- Everybody out- Clean the tub! But while I cleaned the tub and they ran around naked and she let a bit more go...so after cleaning tub- I cleaned the carpet. All the while I was saying to Grace and Sophia, "Don't touch it!" and Grace kept saying, "We don't touch it and we don't eat it! We don't touch poopy and we don't eat poopy! Its yucky!" I said yes that's right! strange to say but quite correct... But we had a great bath then and a great bath tonight.

But after our bath tonight while I was getting Gracie in pjs Sophia pooped! aghh - I did get her to the potty- so that was cool- and was able to clean up poop and encourage on the potty at the same time. And teach Gracie about encouragement. I'm next to Sophia saying "Great job!" and I asked Gracie to "encourage" her too and say "Good Job Sophie" and Gracie did it and I said- you are encouraging her can you say "encourage" and she said, "Yes! I like to encourage!" sooo cute.... all the while Lucy found her way to the piece of poop that I couldn't get to just two feet away and ATE it!!! Crazy dog!! Not that this hasn't happened before- but usually it involved her finding a stray diaper... and never in front of us- I thought- well there you go Gracie already knows about how we shouldn't eat poop!! lol We all said, "Bad dog! and Gracie put Lucy in time out!" hilarious! After cleaning up the carpet, I got Sophia into diaper and pjs and Gracie brought Lucy back to me- leading her by the collar. Gracie: "Mommy, Lucy is sorry. She's ready to come back." I said, "Okay- Lucy sit down. Do you know what you did? (she looked very remorseful) We do not eat poop! That is a no no- now shake, okay- we forgive you- but do not lick us! ugh"

After getting the girls down- I actually brushed Lucy's teeth! It was just too gross for me to be around her. I know they have special doggy toothpaste- but I don't have that- I didn't use enough to hurt her- but enough to clean her... it was just too gross.

After everyone was in pjs we read books- one of our favorites now is If Jesus Came to Visit Me, we also read a book about Dinosaurs that was Kevin's as a kid-it is awesome- helps you sound out their names and tells about what they ate etc., and a book about Beavers, and then the girls preceded to tuck me in- by covering me with every blanket, led prayers, sang to me, hugged and kissed me goodnight, all the while jumping on me, rolling over me and each other, and giving me every stuffed animal in the room. Grace said several times, "Sophia is SOOO cute!" Sophia was crawling up on our big red chair to get more animals that were up on top and Gracie kept saying, "Sophia, be careful," in this very caring hushed voice.


The girls finally went to sleep after snuggling together in Sophia's bed for about 10 minutes. Grace kept saying "Two more minutes" and then when I said it was finally time she said, "Mommy, just one little minute." Then it was time for everyone to be in their own bed and crying ensued.
I snuggled with each one a bit. Sophia played a game of wanting to snuggle in the rocking chair, then the big red chair, then on the floor, and then said, "House- play with house (doll house) No time for bed- crying-- I love you! Sang our song and left with crying.
Then on to Grace- we snuggled and she kept whispering to me and laughing- this girl was made for sleep overs! Then we sang the good night song- I sang to her, she sang to me, she sang our song for Sophia and for Daddy...then I said time for me to go to bed.
She laid on top of my head- it was like a classic wrestling move! While "pinning" me she began to tickle me and say "You're stuck! You have to stay heeerrrreee!"(imagine said sing songy) I could not stop laughing!!! But I finally peeled her off of me- hugged and kissed- prayed one more time- and left. As I left she said, "Mommy WAIT! I have to tell you something (this is her new thing) Yes? "Jesus loves you! And Jesus loves me, and Jesus loves Sophia, and Jesus loves Daddy, and Jesus loves Grandma, and Jesus loves Pop Pop, and Jesus loves Uncle Rick, and Jesus loves Lucy, and Jesus loves All the people." Its really impossible to stop smiling around here...


Epilogue:
Sophia went out about 8:30 and about quarter till 9 I heard Gracie crying so I checked again- she had pooped in her pull up! of course- POOP! but How cute was she! She said, "Sophia had a bad poop and now I have a baaad poop! Mommy, sometimes that just happens! Poop happens!" I lost it! I was rolling on the floor laughing so hard!

Clearly- the best day! Best Mother's Day so far! Every day around her can feel like mother's day- with Kevin for an amazing husband and girls like mine!
Thanks to God for my awesome family!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Growing in Grace and Wisdom


Part of may day today was rough. Really really rough. But that was the later part of the day. But other than this rough spot I had an awesome day with my girls.
I started the day attending an amazing National Day of Prayer Breakfast! Will write later on that...
Then I had an amazing day with Grace and Sophia.
Then the rough part.
But then I took a prayer shawl to my friend and neighbor.
Then we went out as a family- We walked around shops, ate at CiCi's Pizza (kids were free for Mother's Day coupon!), and laughed a lot. It was great for us to get out and play. We needed it.

The joy of my day- comes from God and my family. I felt God working in me throughout the day.
My girls- Grace and Sophia teach me, cheer me, and give me the gifts of witnessing God's presence.


The girls said and did so - so many cute things today.

I grabbed a scrap piece of paper and jotted them down- here they are:

I was vacuuming- stopped for a minute- and she pointed and Sophia said, "Messy Messy Messy Dog Hair's messy" and thought- how true!!! but Lucy is worth it.

Gracie soon woke up and liked helping me vacuum. She especially liked to turn it off and on. She turned it off and said, "Mommy, I'm going to talk for "one small little minute" and she told me that I had two eyes and pretty hair. Then she turned the vacuum back on for a few seconds....Then said, "Mommy, now I'm to talk for a BIG minute." And we had a longer conversation where we then decided to stop vacuuming! :)

Shortly after that Gracie found a piece of paper she had colored on earlier today, picked it up, and ran over saying, "Look! It's AMAZING!" and I said, "Wow, It's AMAZING?" and she said, "Yeah, I do that sometimes."


The other day Sophia and I were snuggling in the morning and Daddy had gone to the guest room. Gracie woke up and and came to snuggle too and Sophia was so excited reached out to hug her and said, "I love you Sissy!!!"

SO cute!

They truly keep me going- they make me smile when other things don't.

Thanks to God for children- they truly do show us the kingdom of God!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The downside of Passion


I am passionate.
I'm passionate about Jesus and sharing his love and helping others to see, know, experience, and share His love.
So- I'm passionate about the kinds of things that help me to do that!

We have a new website we have launched and I'm passionate about that because it helps us to share the power of Christ and how God's transformed our lives, given us grace, and blessed us with more than we can imagine. I want people to see the community of contagious joy that is so prevalent at Messiah and this new site will help us do that more effectively, and so I'm passionate about it. It isn't just a website- its a venue to those seeking real community, real, change, real life that is more worth living than they've ever imagined! Life is so much more...palpable, real, sacred... The great hymn "He Lives" says "And life is worth living just because He lives!" Its hard to understand that for some people, but they can see it in our lives, experience in our love, and see, know, experience God's love too!

I'm passionate about the new organ we are getting! We have a loaner organ now that does 30% of what the new organ will do. I am not a musician, or a singer (really) I love to sing (but not alone in front of people!-however I will if called to). I love to sing and praise God! I can make a joyful noise! I even sang in the Gospel Ensemble at my home church in Detroit- Central UMC. I actually had my own "Sister Act" moment when my choir director got a sound out of me that sounded amazing!
For me the new organ is not just an organ- it's part of our mission to share God's love and joy with the world. I am in awe of our Music Ministry - we have over 200 people actively involved in our Music Ministry and our community concerts reach over 1000 people a year! Just last night in our P.o.L.O's (Parents of Little One's) Small Group one woman shared how the part of her faith that brings her the most joy is sharing her faith through music- when she plays in the orchestra, hand bells, etc. We've raised $125,000 so far for the organ fun- and we are a third of the way to fully funding this important part of our ministry!

I'm passionate about the upcoming Women's Retreat, about holding people when they are going through cancer, guiding a couple as they begin he journey to marriage, celebrating a new child in the world, holding and crying with someone when they have lost their son and helping them to celebrate his life...

I'm most passionate about my beautiful girls and the joy they bring me! Today Gracie offered a "Princess Prayer" for lunch: "Dear God, thank you for princesses, for Easter, and candy, and eggs, and for me, and Sophia, and Mommy, and Daddy, and Lucy (our dog), and for loving me, and food. AMEN!" We ate princess soup... I love that I get a whole day with them on Thursdays just me and them.

So what's the downside to passion?
Exhaustion, having to get all the other stuff done (laundry, bills, grocery shopping, all the paper that has to be filed!!)
But that's really nothing compared to the biggest downside of being passionate--
A lot of times people seem to be passionate, excited, intrigued, ignited to want to know more when I share what I'm passionate by.... and that is awesome! But sometimes they aren't. Sometimes I am met with indifference. Sometimes I see apathy. And that is really tough. I don't run into it a lot (and I'm very blessed by that). But when I see it does get me down. It doesn't take away my passion... no-- but it does frustrate me, it does test my patience.

Let me be clear- apathy and indifference isn't the same thing as people who disagree with me- no I love them (and I love the indifferent people too...it just requires extra grace). And maybe sometimes its not a fully blown indifference.... Part of me struggles knowing that I have high expectations and that I can be a perfectionist (clearly not about everything if you've seen my house!) But about the important things... I want things done right (that doesn't mean things have to be done my way) but I want things to glorify God!

I want things to invite people in- I want my life and how I live, and I want the church to be a place of invitation, welcome, a space for peace to come, for anxiety to be lifted, and for Christ's light to reveal beauty, and the Holy Spirit to guide, equip, and transform people to live in and into the kingdom of God. Now I know that I can't always do that- not alone-- I need God to nudge me when I need to rest, retreat, and when I need to be pushed and I need the Body of Christ through my faith community to do that too. I have wonderful people who kind of serve as "protectors" and they see me when I'm getting exhausted and remind me to rest... But they can't protect me from encountering those downsides to passion.

The website is an example-- we're not able to do everything I'd like it to do- or we don't have all the pictures I'd like to have up...or whatever-- I have to be patient. That's hard because I'm passionate about.

When you're really really passionate about something-- part of that is because you have this deep deep belief that there is something at stake!

This is important--for a reason-- and it just burns in you- you have a fire in you! For me that fire is the Holy Spirit just flaming - just wanting to love people and love em' really love em' - to love them like Jesus loves them. And I just want people to see it, know it, hear it, and experience it.

What's at stake? People feeling the isolation, alienation, separation, lonliness, fear, darkness, chaos, distress, shame, hurt, ...and so much more of not experience recognizing, seeing, knowing, experiencing God's presence in their lives.

The biggest struggle with it all is when others don't see the value or importance of something that I see value and importance in. It will always happen- and part of me loves this challenge and part of me struggles deeply with it. And it happens all them time- with websites, organs, being in a small group, having faith at all...but the worst thing is when people don't see the value and importance of one another or themselves.

That's the hardest- because God sees it- and God is really passionate about loving us and seeing us the way God created us- in His image.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Theological Education

Obviously, I have not written in a while-- mainly a lot has happened since October-- The biggest being I wrote my Ordination Papers, went before the Board of Ordination and have been recommended for Ordination- June 14!! And then there was Lent and Holy Week!!
SO I'm back-- and hopefully will be more active.

Lately- I've felt the need to reflect on theological education.

Theological Education is a gift.
I am thankful for my theological education-- I glean from it in my everyday life.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, God equips in ministry and works through this education-- so that I may keep working to equip others in the work of ministry.

I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to experience this, throughout my experience in seminary I kept thinking, "I wish everyone got to do this!"
Of course- not everyone does- nor would everyone want to read Cyprian, Luther, or Kierkegaard. At least- they might not think they want to-- but perhaps when shared they would be surprised to learn, hear, experience, the power of these words, concepts, and experiences of God.

I love my Disciple Bible Study class and we are having a great time together! They are reading sermons of John Wesley, asking tough questions, but more importantly-- they are sharing-- and doing so in a way that reveals they want to know more, seek to grow further, and depend on one another in deeper ways. I am thankful for the ways they teach me and the ways we learn together.

I feel frustrated when people use their theological education in ways that shame others, condescend to them, rather than use it to share, to equip, to ignite passion for Christ. I am annoyed with people use their education to boost their own sense of power rather than to empower others.

Last summer, Kevin and I attended a worship service on vacation where the Youth Pastor (who was in seminary at the time) used a slew of theological terms including Theotokos - a term for Mary, the mother of Jesus. Just threw it out there, like theological name dropping. Kevin and I looked at one another and rolled our eyes, the people in front of us whispered, and family sitting next to us checked out. For me this feels like a lack of humility on one's behalf and lack of respect for one's parishioners.

Lately, I feel like when I witness this kind of behavior it makes me angry-- because it feels so belittling. Our congregants are smart, faithful, incredible people. There is a failure in theological education when we become too cocooned in "theological elitism" that we can't or don't or refuse to relate to "normal" folks. DO we forget that we're normal? That we aren't special just because we've attended seminary, been licensed, commissioned, or ordained? Set apart and called doesn't mean better.

It is wonderful that we have been given the gift of study, that some of us have gifts of biblical and language studies. I love that I'm dorky enough to enjoy reading Wesley's sermons- that I love checking out reading 22 books on Job (and suffering the library fines that comes with)-- but just because everyone doesn't enjoy that doesn't mean I'm smarter, or more ... closer to God.

Gnosis- is the Greek word for knowledge--- people were called Gnostics who believed they had special knowledge. So often, it seems that sometimes we (all people) act, talk as if they are Gnostics. But the Gospel is not hidden-- we are not preaching the Gospel if in doing so those who hear it feel stupid, ashamed, limited, unworthy of being able to know the Gospel. We are all limited- we are all in need of learning more. My chaplain, Rev. Stuart Jackson at Birmingham-Southern used to say, "In Christianity, we're all in first grade." But sometimes I think we don't act that way...I love the story from Acts chapter 8 where Phillip goes and meets the Ethiopian Eunuch who is reading the bible and Phillip talks with him and helps him to understand what he is reading. They come by some water and the eunuch says, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?"And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing." Why shouldn't I be baptized? The salvation of Christ is not open just for some, but all- the ability to know God is not limited to only certain people- there is no sign that says, "You must have this masters degree, or know the original Greek/Hebrew..." These are good things, and they are able to help equip ourselves and others to know, experience, and share the Gospel. But we do a disservice when we act as if it is a requirement to know God, to have faith, or to be considered smart.

It is my job to interpret this kind of stuff and to make it accessible to others. Its my job to demystify, to help people know they can understand God's Word, they can experience a relationship with Christ, they can read the Bible and understand, they can think deeply.

Its my job to help people understand they are part of a "priesthood of all believers"-- to experience that they needn't be an "expert" to think theologically.

Its my job to teach my congregation to think and reflect theologically on their lives, their faith, and to learn to be gleaners of God-experiences-- to be theologians in their own right and to be empowered to know, share, and teach among people in their communities sound theology.

If they don't understand in some way--I've not succeeded. Not everyone is going to have the same reaction and have the same passion- some will be fascinated by the Wesley's sermons, or Biblical Criticism, or want to learn more about the archeology surrounding Jerusalem, or they may doubt and ask more questions-no mater what-- my hope is that they will be ignited in passion, that they will grow deeper, and that they will pass this on to others in inviting, approachable, ways that meet others where they are and love them.