Thursday, August 25, 2011

Flowers for you!

This church loves their building. Really, really loves the grounds of the building too. Sometimes I worry we love the physical church more than the relational church. And then, I have a conversation like this one...

On my way to a pastoral visit, I stopped and chatted with a couple of old farmers who were out tending to the front lawn of the church.

Pastor: Where is the best place in town to get some flowers?
Farmer: are you lookin' in on someone?
Pastor: Yep!
Farmer: (in a friendly tone) What the hell! Take them from the garden! That's what they're here for!
Pastor: Yeah! What the hell! Thank you!

(Farmer and Pastor pick a bouquet of faithfully grown flowers)

Columbia River Gorge

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pray for Forgiveness

Forgiveness.  This concept often gets a bad name, to participate in forgiveness one might think you're being whimpy or passive.  I think the opposite.  Forgiveness is like bulldozing.  Its rough and tumble, it clears the way for something new.  Here's a cutting from this week's sermon, inspired by one women's bulldozing spirit and the POWER of forgiveness.

[recomenation: Half the Sky is not for the faint of heart, but it is a necessary and powerful read.  go it it!]

I recently pulled a book from our church library called Half the Sky... This book told me the story of Mukhtar Mai. Her story begins as many others do, she is an uneducated peasant, whose family is labeled as low-class in her village in Pakistan. A higher class family wrongly accuses her brother of indiscretion and Mukhtar, then thirty years old, goes to a tribal meeting to smooth things over and plead for forgiveness for her falsely accused brother. The elders of the village decide that Mukhtar is to pay the price for her families shame and gives her the punishment of being raped by four men of the village. This added shame leaves Mukhtar with one choice to redeem her family. She, like many women before her, should have taken her own life so that her family might be vindicated.

Mukhtar's parents say NO. They will not see their daughter's life taken, their son judged and the family torn apart by this horrific tradition. So, they do the unthinkable and prosecute her daughters attackers who are miraculously arrested, thrown into prison and Mukhtar's family is sent some compensation from the Pakistan government. It was nothing short of a miracle! Mukhtar takes the opportunity and runs like wild with it. Through the power of her story and her refusal to remain voiceless, Mukhtar has built three schools for girls from rural villages, she is passionate about providing education to all girls. With the support of humanitarian aid, there is also a shelter for abused women, free clinic and legal aid center has all been built because of one young women's strong voice and tireless spirit.

And then, forgiveness occurs. That outwardly focused, passionate love for something so much greater than self breaks in. You see, Mukhtar's first school was built to serve her home village. So the building for the school is within a stone's throw of a small house, which is the homestead of the family of her attackers. Mukhtar fights government censorship, village tradition, oppression from males on every side and works in the shadows of her attackers. However, the forgiveness she extends is as broad and bold as the work she is doing. As Mukhtar is now working so that her attacker's daughters will be able to enroll in school.

Mukhtar forgives for the love of education and for the love of voiceless girls everywhere...with no exception.

Jesus said, “I have not come to condemn the world, but to serve it.” The forgiveness of God is always, always outwardly focused, not to judge the world guilty as charged, but to serve, to forgive to set free. And perhaps we have lost the word 'forgiveness' because we have lost the reason for it as well. It is awfully hard to speak a word of forgiveness to a world that does not acknowledge sin. Sin, is another church word, that perhaps we, people of faith, have not properly represented to the world that cannot hear a word of 'forgiveness'.

You may not be able to point to sin directly, but you can pick up a newspaper read a couple of headlines and name the injustice, the corruption, the systemic brokenness of the powers of the world.
You can think about your closest relationships and know what anger, betrayal, confusion and loneliness can do to your heart. You can consider those who will go without basic needs of food, water and shelter tonight and know the oppressive nature of greed, selfishness and our place in it.

I could go on, but because of the worldly-reality that we live in, I'm not sure anyone needs help pointing to the brokenness of life, the world which operates differently than God intended. This is why, the word of the church is “forgiveness” or we can nuance the word and make it “wholeness, justice, mercy, healing, peace”. Whatever your take on it is, it is a word that needs to be preached, this is what the church stands or dies on!

Because God's passionate love is too big to leave us alone. Because of God's unyielding desire to be in relationship with each person and the whole of creation...because of God's heartbreak and the brokenness we live in, because of God's mercy and compassion for the voiceless and oppressed. God was humbled, and sent Jesus to our world to speak one word, to carry out one mission, to make good on one promise...forgiveness.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Schools out for summer!

I have a history of bad summers. Being tied to the academic calendar for the past twenty-five years, my summers have typically been filled with transition, anxiety, odd jobs, busy-ness and random spurts of fun thrown in. Not terrible, but not spectacular either.

I can remember one summer in college when ALL of my housemates ran off to be bible camp counselors and I stayed in our house and worked odd jobs at my church. Not so fun. Or the next summer when I worked my Dad's summer theater camps, played for a dinner theater production in the evenings and in-between these marathon-piano-bench-days I biked behind my little bro as he ran crazy amount of miles, in very little time in very high heat. The summer was jammed packed (and fun!) and I was so tired I barely remember any of it!

The summer of 2011 makes up for all those other summers.

From the moment we left Minnesota it has been one, wonderful adventure after another! I know I need to say “good-bye” to the summer, but I do not want to just yet! I thought maybe reviewing the summer, saying THANK YOU GOD for the many gifts over the last three months and facing the fall might help me with the good-bye. So, here goes... a brief overview...just try to keep up!

May 29th-June 1st
Drive across the country with the best travel buddy ever! Sure it rained the entire way over, but we ended every night in a (ahem) decent-ish hotel with a hot tub!

June 1st – June 2nd
Spend 24 hours getting unpacked/repacked and tour our new city (The Dalles, OR). This was the whirlwind of whirlwinds. However the welcome we received included homemade chocolate chip cookies, help unpacking and a very quick response when I called someone to let them know the dryer was throwing sparks!

June 3rd – June 18th
Work and play at Holden Village. Beautiful music, incredible people, inspiring views. I cannot really say enough about our time here. The Pastor did have to work hard, but in nearly every off moment I was surrounded by children, playing games, hiking or having meaningful conversation. I also managed to finish two novels which I have not done since...???. The Chaplain (a.k.a our favorite seminarian) entered our lives here at the village, making an already very special place even more so. Then, one other friend from sem came for a visit and we found ourselves taking unexpected hikes and doing lots of exploring!

June 19th - 24rd
Set up shop in our new digs (The Dalles, OR) ! You know that post-move time when you realize you really need various house-hold items and have to stock the kitchen.  So, many trips to the store and too much money spent, but some much needed “boring” time was had. Oh, we threw in a trip to Moltnomah Falls for fun!

June 25th - 27th
Travel of Corvallis, OR to visit a special someone. This is a quaint little town, very close to the ocean. So the Chaplain, Pastor and Princess spent a really beautiful day wandering around Newport, OR and breathing in the fresh sea air.

June 27th - 30th
Three days for orientation, then to pack (again!) and get ready to travel across the country (again!) with the Princess. Meetings, meetings, meetings

July 1st - 7th
Fly to Maryland for family reunion...coast to coast! It was all worth it to see my Grandma for the first time in ten years.  She is a classy, wonderful gift.

July 8th - 30th
Begin to settle into our summer “routine” of work, daycare and visits from our favorite chaplain. As much as I LOVE to travel and have a good adventure. I was thankful for these weeks of sitting still, having time to just explore our city and dive into internship. Preaching every weekend is intense, not to mention the other on-goings of the church. They went easy on me to begin with, but the work load is amping up... I can feel it!

July 31st – Aug 2nd
Travel to Seattle with friends! This was a quick dash up to Seattle, but was really fun as we took in St. Mark's well-known compline service, Pike's market (of course) and a Mariner's baseball game (to celebrate the Chaplain's bday)!

Aug 3rd- now
Back to “routine” fully acknowledging that said “routine” is about to be seriously shaken up. The Princess will start full-day Kindergarten in a mere 21 days. This means playtime is over, the Pastor has to really get to work. If for no other reason then to distract myself from the reality that my baby is in Kindergarten!

                       Ok, I will try to be ready... bring on the fall!

*water-front in the Dalles*  

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Blinded by the...light?

Church member: “I have been a member of this church since 1944.”
Pastor: “That's before my Dad was born!”

Pastor: what would a sustainable model of ministry look like for the finance committee?
Church member: [30 years of history and conflict spewed out in just over 30 minutes]

I have been a part of my internship congregation for a whopping six weeks. I have been charged with leading the congregation through a process of re-orginizing the church so that by the end of this year we have a sustainable model of ministry. This mandate comes from the Methodist district office, so it is not optional!

To put it mildly, it is daunting to think that I would have anything to say or contribute to this church. Many of the active members have been active members since WWII! They can spew forth the history, conflicts, hurts, successes because it is embedded deeply in their hearts. And not just the history of the church, but the very building has been maintained and held dearly by the church members. Sewer-lines, wiring, painting, decorating, donating – has all been done by the core of the congregation; not just for the past decade but the past FIVE decades. This puts my six-weeks with them to shame.

However, we need a vision and we believe that God has a mission.
What is God's mission for this church?
Can we see the vision?

This church, like churches all over the country are functioning just like they did in the 1950's. The 50's were great, the church thrived, God was good! However, time marches on, it is now 2011, the church is struggling...yet, God is still good.

This is a serious case of the blind leading the blind. 

[a more generic internship update: I am six Sundays in and we are gearing up for the school schedule. So far I have only been participating in the Methodist congregation of my site, in two short weeks I will be fully integrated into both the Methodist and Lutheran congregations.  Teaching Bible Study (starting with Philippians) and Confirmation has the Pastor a little nervous!]

*Coming up...saying good-bye to our favorite seminarian (he's going back to MN soon), a visit from Grandpa, and the Princess' first day of school!

Thursday, August 4, 2011



I can be a little skittish.
I do not watch horror movies (or even the commercials for horror movies) and I am pretty protective of what my little eyes see or my ears hears, simply because I do not think my imaginations needs any further material with which to freak me out! Perhaps it is because I am skittish, or perhaps its for some unknown reason...but I have never referred to the third person of the Trinity as the Holy Ghost, she has always been the Holy Spirit to me.

"The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’  (John 3:8)

The Holy Spirit is a gift given by Jesus to people of faith. The Spirit moves where she will and invokes faith, empowers children of God to live according to God's will and desires and inspires us to see the world as God does and to love others as God does. As people of faith, we do not do this on our own, and (let's be honest) we do not often do these things well.

Lately, I've been sensing ghosts all around me. I went to the office today to find my garbage emptied, recycling gone and the pastor's bathroom cleaned! Then, I came home for lunch and found my lawn had been watered and mowed. We recently were in Seattle for a couple of days and when while we were gone our house had been sprayed for ants and someone stole some of the Princess' bedding in order to make her matching curtains. And cherries just keep showing up on our kitchen counter whenever we're not looking!

Based on these recent happenings I have come up with two hypothesizes

     1.  There really is a friendly ghost here in the Dalles, it is sneaky, yet very thoughtful!
     2.  The Holy Ghost (or Spirit) is at work among the people of God in this community! 
         These men and women of faith are being moved by the Spirit, inspired by the movement of the Trinity and are responding in faith. No, it is not all windstorms and burning bushes, the work of the Spirit is so often simple, 

I think it is time for me to prayerfully consider how the Holy Ghost is haunting, I mean, inspiring me to move and show God's love in simple, hidden and humble ways.