Monday, February 28, 2011
For those who have not read the series (and I haven't read the final one, yet) the books deal with a young woman named Lisbeth Salander, a computer hacker and research expert, who is hired by Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist, to help him solve a twenty year old crime case. As the case unfolds the hidden nature of violence against women and girls becomes evident. The book reveals many levels to the issue of domestic violence and the tragedy of sex trafficking of young girls. While the series describes this issue as it plays out in Swedish culture the reality is that this kind of violence is rampant around the world, in every nation and culture.
The fact that I have also recently attended workshops on Domestic Violence, where I learned much about the nature of abuse and violence against women and children (and even that occassionally men are the victims and women the perpetrators) seems to be more than a coincidence. Add to this my recent trip to New York City where I attended the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women and the NGO parallel events that also highlighted the incidious and rampant nature of violence against women and children, and I find there is a theme to my learning these days. A theme that informs how I read this series and how "well" it portrays the problem of systems of abuse.
What I like about the series is the degree to which the author portrays Salander, and some other women, as victim/survivors who go on to seek justice, even if that justice occasionally defies the law. I mean, I like that the author fills the book with strong women who fight back, which is far more realistic than the notion of helpless women victims. I also appreciate the role of the men who are compassionate and caring and who are not only unafraid of the strong women, they seek them out as friends and companions. These are books that portray some very realistic human characters and the strengths they bring to overcoming suffering and oppression.
I encourage everyone who reads these books to become more knowledgeable about violence against women and children, and then to actively work to eliminate that violence, holding accountable the perpetrators.
Lastly, I learned over the course of this week at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women that justice systems are impacting, negatively, women who are subjected to sexual violence, by speaking primarily of the crime as "domestic" and women as "victims" while failing to speak directly and specifically of the perpetrators as criminals. In other words the perpetrators are not being held accountable even in the language used describe the crime.
Please share with us what you think about the series, and or the movies. And, if you are so inclined, share with us your thoughts on the issues of violence against humanity, especially women and children.
Saturday, February 26, 2011
You offer us your salvation for our world of darkness.
You offer us no more hunger or thirst for our barren land.You offer us joy and compassion for our sadness and grief.You offer us calm and quiet for our anxious souls.
Let us accept and receive what you offer us Lord.Let us put our trust in you.
Let us praise you in confidence for your wondrous acts of love.
Let us tell others of your salvation, and compassion
for their lives, their burdens their worries.
Let us show others the kind of Grace Giving God you are.
We pray for those who do hunger and thirst.
We pray for those whose lands are no longer any good for growing crops.
We pray for those whose lives are empty and barren.We pray for those who are carrying loads of sadness and grief.
We pray for those who lives are nothing but worry.
Lord fill your world with your care, grace and mercy
This is posted from the BE4 on the Carnival Inspiration
cross posted at A place for prayer and rev abi's long and winding road
Friday, February 25, 2011
I wonder what a preacher's version of this part of the Sermon on the Mount would sound like. Don't worry about what you will read or what you will preach or what you will pray. Look at the sermon you wrote that week when there were three funerals, your partner was out of town, and your children were sick. Even then the Holy Spirit had your back and the Word of God was received. Consider the honest prayer of a child that is offered unrehearsed, unprepared. Even then, especially then, God's ears are listening. No, do not worry about your way in, your transition statements, your children's sermon. Strive first for God's will and everything else will come as it should.
What are you worried about? What's pressing today as you are making your preparations for worship tomorrow? What do you need to lay down, so that you can seek first the kingdom of God? The faithful and abundant provision of God is all over these texts and all over our own testimonies. Join the party in the comments and help us encourage each other as we prepare our witness for worship.
But even though we're just packing our bags, we're already thinking about next year's cruise and envisioning future topics and presenters. Let's use this Friday Five as a survey of the ring. Please share five topics and/or presenters you might like to see for future Big Events.
If you play the Friday Five at your blog and would like visitors, be sure to share a link here, using the following formulation:
<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>
For a complete how-to, click here. I'll be on my journey to Tampa, but will try to check in with you along the way.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
The couple are in the 30s, it's a first marriage for both, are newly returning to spiritual growth and renewal, have steady jobs, are not pregnant, have dated for about a year -- in other words, there's LOTS to see as positive signs for them. On the other hand... I am sure there are questions I should be asking them...
I'm not a big one for laying down the law - i.e. "I won't marry you if you don't co-habit until after the wedding" but I do want to make sure that I counsel them well. How many of us have been in that predicament where the lust is gone and the cold grey morning of "geez you got old and fat" has come.... or face the financial worries of children, illness, car payments, student loans and... well, you know.
So any wisdom, encouragement, warnings, exhortations... I'm all ears.
Thanks from The Noobie
Muthah+, who blogs at Stone of Witness was the only matriarch who responded this week...
Dear Noobie: Thank you for asking this question because weddings have been a pet peeve of mine throughout my ministry. So take what I have to say with a grain of salt--and hopefully some of the sisters can put in their 2 cents worth too.
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Jan at A Church for Starving Artists reflects today on the dangerous calling of Jean and Scott Adam, who were recently kidnapped by Somali pirates and murdered yesterday.
The story can be found here, and also here. Here's Jan's post:
Dangerous Calling - In Memory of Scott & Jean Adam
The murder of the California couple off the coast of Oman yesterday has received more attention for its example of the escalating levels of piracy than the fact that the victims were engaged in Christian ministry.Scott and Jean Adam spent the last several years sailing around the world involved in friendship evangelism using free Bibles to break the ice and meet people. The dangers prior to sailing on the Horn of Africa had been limited to bad weather and sore backs from lugging the boxes of Bibles.I'm struck by the number of stories of people willing to face danger for their calling - whether that calling is overtly spiritual or not. From a female reporter being attacked doing her job in Egypt to university students bravely protesting in Green Square, Tripoli or Pearl Square, Manama - people are increasingly called to step up even if it could be dangerous.I have had more than one conversation with Western Christians over the years discussing missionary teachers or doctors who've been kidnapped or murdered in the line of duty. More often than not, the response is that we should not be surprised - and maybe we shouldn't even be sympathetic - when these acts of violence occur. It's not as if anyone says, "they had it coming" but there is the definite sense that the dangers were to be expected.Have we Western Christians become so comfortable that we avoid all risk, even if it means ignoring our calling?Some of us won't even risk praying out loud much less take vacation time to distribute Bibles in a faraway place. Many of us aren't called to faraway places or even to pray out loud perhaps, but all of us are called to something scary, something outside our comfort zone. It could be as simple as befriending a pariah or as complicated as selling all we have and moving to India.It's semi-terrifying to listen to God and actually follow. The more we have, the more we have to lose. Ter. Ri. Fying. Maybe this is why I can't get Jean and Scott Adam out of my mind. Yes, they were wealthy enough to own a yacht and be able to sail around the world. But they could have moved into a nice retirement community and played golf. Not that there's anything wrong with that - if that's what God is moving us to do. But honestly, God seems to have bigger plans for most of us.
As I think we can agree, the Holy Spirit is in charge of our best efforts...we are NOT...and of how a sermon affects the hearers.
Below is a video of Teri preaching the sermon. (the text is here, but I encourage you to watch the video as well). Personally, I found it incredibly powerful, and here over a month later I still think of it every day. It reached me "where I live" and spoke to my consideration of what is mine to do in the world, in the way of evangelism.
See what you think. Let us know your thoughts on Jan's and Teri's posts in the comments. Blessings on your days.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
One of my favorite souvenirs from a recent trip to Florida is a T-shirt from an Epcot World Showcase shop proclaiming "KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON."
I purchased it because keeping calm and carrying on is utterly alien to my every inclination. I would much rather stay anxious and preoccupied "clearing away the wreakage of the future."
So Jesus' Gospel message to us this coming Sunday is a real challenge for me. How about for you, and/or your people? How will this text preach in your church, especially in these politically and economically destabilized times?
Or are you choosing one of the other texts...or something completely different?
"Don't be anxious about anything" -- including sharing your thoughts and service/sermon plans here with the rest of us.
Monday, February 21, 2011
Kirstin writes, in her most recent post, "Who Am I?"--
This is one thing I'm afraid of: not being able to be myself. Feeling sad and grieving and frustrated because I can't access the person I've always been, or the person I've worked hard to be. Missing what I had, and won't have the ability to have again. Not having the energy, memory, or resources to respond to the world the way I do now.
Put it in print, so I'll remember. Tell me stories. Tell me why you come here. Tell me what connects you to me. Tell me what you want me to take with me. Tell me who I am, to you.
Please keep Kirstin in your prayers, and if you are a "lurker" at her blog, come out and let her know you are thinking of her.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
our Lectionary discussion from Tuesday. Share your thoughts here in the comments.
And I'll do what I always do: keep the coffee coming and lay the table with goodies that cannot possibly hurt you from a distance, especially those delicious molasses glazed from Tony's Donuts!
Friday, February 18, 2011
For this Friday Five, please list five words that identify your passions, spirituality, and/or life. Describe as much or as little as you wish.
As always, let us know in comments if you play. Post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment with the formula I can never print out--click here for the info about it.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
I'm seeking some wisdom on where my personal sense of integrity as a pastor and person of faith meets my future mother-in-law's expectation of what a wedding and reception entails in order to "do it right."
I'm 30, the oldest of two girls in my family and the first to be married. My husband-to-be is 30, the middle of 3 boys, and the last to be married. He has Cerebral Palsy so his mother has learned to over-function for him as a result of his disability.
My hopes and dreams for the ideal wedding and reception: Spend no more than $2,000 on a big church wedding inviting people from my home church and church I serve now (they're about an hour apart and the ceremony will be at my home church) in addition to family and friends. That means possibly 400 people in worship followed by cake and punch for an hour in the fellowship hall. Then, take the family and out of town guests out to dinner, spending $4,290 for 100 people to eat. That is a lot of money, but $42.90 per person (excluding alcohol, but including tax and tip) for a nice meal doesn't seem outrageous to me.
Future Mother-in-law's ideal wedding reception: Spend $14,000 at the local hotel for dinner, dancing, bar and DJ for 100 guests ($140 per person).
Future Husband's ideal: Good food, a beer with his brothers, and dance the night away - plus a happy wife and a happy mother.
You can imagine the great joy that comes from being a student of family systems and trying to be an observer in all of the ensuing drama from our conflicting ideals :) Our pre-marital counseling continues to be money well invested (we started before even telling our respective parents the news...) and we're becoming more comfortable in our changing roles in our families and what that means.
My questions for you ladies of wisdom:
1. How far do I let this shin-dig go from my ideals which I consider to be based upon my economic discipleship? Part of the compromises suggested include me just shutting my eyes to some of the expenses (e.g. the open bar) - I'm having such a hard time letting that go without losing my sense of integrity! (The open bar is also a sore subject for me since I'm a Methodist Minister and would really prefer to have a dry wedding...but it is important to my future husband to have a drink with his brothers so I'm fine with serving beer and wine, but why does it need to be an open bar?). I keep telling couples they don't need to wait 5 years to get married because they can't "afford to" get married because I insist that you don't have to spend buckets of money to get married. And then I go and spend buckets of money to get married? I feel like a hypocrite!
2. I once got stuck out of town because I went to a Saturday morning wedding and my flight back that evening got canceled so I couldn't preach the next day as planned! I insist on not putting my other clergy friends in the same situation and want a Friday wedding. We looked for a Friday holiday (so non-clergy wouldn't have to take off work) and landed on Veteran's Day. A holiday widely observed where I live (the D.C. metro area) but not universally so it isn't the perfect Friday holiday...and it also happens to be 11.11.11. That special date means prices have been jacked up at the hotel my FMIL likes - but not at the places I like because they were simple restaurants to begin with, so I'm getting some resentment from her part on the date we selected together. She suggested a Saturday morning wedding and doesn't understand my insistence on Friday (the concept of a "preacher's wedding" doesn't make sense to this family). I'm tempted to give-in and have the wedding on Saturday morning - as long as all of the out of town clergy can come to dinner on Friday in lieu of staying for a reception that might make them miss a flight. What do my fellow clergywomen think? Stick to my Friday preference out of principle? Or, poll my out of town clergy friends to see if it even matters to them?
Thanks so much for any words of wisdom you may have to offer!!
P.S. A final point of contention that my FMIL hates: I insist on an open invitation to the church I serve followed by cake, punch and coffee in the fellowship hall for at least an hour. I worship with these people week in and week out so I want them there for the WORSHIP service when I get married...but she doesn't understand this and keeps suggesting we not invite them and just have a reception at the church following our honeymoon. I don't care about the reception part of it, I care about the worship part of it! sigh.
Mompriest, who blogs at Seeking Authentic Voice writes:
A viable compromise might be: I wonder if your mother in law would be content if she could host a rehearsal dinner, traditionally the gift of the groom’s family? She could plan that dinner anyway she likes and invite whomever she wants. Then you can have the wedding on the day you like with a simple reception afterward. Then if you still want to take family and close friends out for lunch or a simple dinner you could.
OR she could plan a big post wedding brunch for those who are still in town the morning after the wedding. All of her friends and your out of town guests could come.
An open wedding ceremony that includes the congregation is totally appropriate, whether or not your MIL understand this. Your congregation is part of the community that will support you in your marriage. I once attended a wedding that took place on a Sunday morning in the midst of the regular Sunday worship, just like we add a baptism to the service, this couple added wedding vows. It was awesome! And was a powerful acknowledgment to the congregation that they were significant in the lives of these parishioners. (It was a second marriage for each and they met at church). I also attended a wedding on a Sat. of congregation members/friends for which I was not invited to the formal reception but for which we had cake and beverages at the church afterward. It too was lovely and a good reminder that weddings are public events that celebrate the covenant being made between the couple.
Ultimately it is your wedding and should reflect your integrity and desires, even as you try to respect some of the wishes of your future mother in law. I think it’s great that you want to honor your MIL’s desires – I hope she is able to (mostly) fulfill her expectations in a way that doesn’t compromise yours – perhaps by taking over the plans for the rehearsal dinner or a morning after brunch.
From Muthah+, who blogs at Stone of Witness:
I read your letter a couple of times. I have never married so I have no experience of in-laws, but having celebrated many weddings, I offer a few comments: I believe it is traditional for the bride and her family with the clergy to design the wedding. I applaud and support your desire to have a simple celebration.
I also support your desire to involve your congregation because they do become your family and it helps them invest in your relationship with your husband. Perhaps his family can see the community of faith that will support your marriage and their son. And even though I am a ‘whiskey-palian’, I support your wine and beer limitation at the reception.
I am wondering if your fiancé can speak to his mother. It is something he needs to do for the future of your relationship anyway. I know it is hard for a boy to buck his mother, especially when the relationship is as it is. But if he can take his mother in hand it might confirm your relationship together rather than set ‘enmity between mother and daughter-in-law.’
But it might help if you ask your mother-in-law what her wedding was like and what she might have wanted at her wedding that she didn’t get. It sounds like your mother-in-law might be trying to work out some of her own needs in your wedding. If that is the case, see if there is something in her loss you might be able to offer her in yours. I have found parents are often working out their own needs in the ceremonies of their children. Offering her something she can treasure in your wedding may help her bond with you.
My prayers will be with you.
And from Ruth (not a Moabite) blogging at Sunday’s Coming:
You know the bit of the Bible I find it hardest to understand ?– the bit where the daughter-in-law, Ruth, speaks such incredibly tender words of love to her mother-in-law!
‘Wherever you go I shall go. Your people shall be my people, your God my God’ etc...
I find it hard to believe a daughter-in-law can feel like that about her mother-in-law. The relationship between these two women can be the hardest to negotiate in any family.
They can clash over how the husband/son looks & dresses; how to cook; how to bring up children; and – starting it all off: how to get married.
So I have some questions:
- Who is paying the bills? The person paying gets a big vote on how their money is spent, in my book.
- Who is getting married, here (I know the answer to this one, but many grooms can tend to opt out & I sometimes (gently) remind them ‘this is YOUR wedding’)
- Does your FMIL understand your job & your relationship to your church (& therefore your hopes for inviting them to the service) - if not, is there some way to help her?
- Where will the $8-10,000 dollars go if it is Not spent on the bigger wedding? Is there a way of involving FMIL in this?
- Could it be that she thinks you’re trying to ‘deny’ yourself & doesn’t understand you genuinely want the money put to better use & that you really want the simpler day?Is there some way of telling her about it in a way which makes it clear this is positively what you want?
Wishing you happiness, the love of Ruth the Moabite, and the negotiation skills of Jacob, son of Isaac & Rebekah & all the grace God can give.
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. Everything that we have—right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start—comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. That's why we have the saying, "If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God." (I Corinthians 1 - The Message)So what does "The Preacher" do after watching the construction crew begin demolition at church? Easy - she comes home and rips out the floor of our shower. My wife is a classic "I was just going to clean the grout but I might as well rip the tile out and start over" do-it-yourself-er.
Of course, she has every right to rip out the tile because she's the one who put it down in the first place.
Here's how Rebekah rolls: A few years ago she was picking at a loose tile on the shower wall when she detected moisture underneath - and, of course, some nasty black mold. If it had been me I'd have filled in the gap and left well enough alone.
But nooooooo...., not Rebekah. She went to the garage for - I thought - some putty. Ten minutes later I heard this loud CRASH! Next she came out for goggles and it was game on. By the end of the week the entire bathroom had been reduced to concrete flooring and wall studs. She dragged out sub-standard cabinets, trashed the worn flooring, pulled down all the tile, threw away the corroded fixtures... and the misshapen door... and the stained sinks... and the cracked toilet.
If a job's worth doing.... The only tasks that got subbed out were concrete - a graduated pour for the new walk-in shower pan - and an electrician to wire the can-lights from the attic.
The preacher dry-walled, she laid tile, she installed flooring, sinks and toilet. She did the cabinetry and the finish carpentry. She was the plumber. She put in fixtures. She even learned how to "sweat" pipes. Our son, visiting at the time, ran out to the kitchen with his eyes wide open. "OMG, dad," he exclaimed, "I can't believe you let mama get a blow torch!"
That's right - and I wish I had this photograph - The Preacher was sitting on the floor in front of some exposed plumbing, blow-torch in one hand and cellphone in the other, talking to her brother in Orlando. "Okay, I've got the blow-torch lit and the solder alloy ready to go... what do I do now?"
No mold left behind: Thinking about it, I have to acknowledge the theological and practical truth that Rebekah's approach reveals. The bottom line, for her, is "Deal with it" over "Look good" every time. Never-ever cover up anything that needs fixing, and that applies most especially to the things that grow in dark places.
Rumors, gossip, innuendo, assumptions... rot... mold. The principle remains the same.
The preacher I live with values honesty, and accountability, and at church she cultivates a staff atmosphere that is open and supportive and encouraging. The elders are trained as a ministry team; they love one-another; it's not about them it's about Jesus. We don't patch over problems, but clean things out and start over if that's what it takes.
My preacher spouse doesn't play games, or dress things up to look nice when they're not, or cater to anyone's ego, or do the "politically correct" thing, or hold on to membership numbers because 600 looks better than 500 on the resume....
Sometimes it costs a lot to refuse to play the games.
And that's all right because eventually - if you simply fix the cosmetics on top of the mold - instead of a solid, functional structure/bathroom/church, there's going to be a fragile shell with a lot of nasty gunk underneath. That might look good on the surface, but it's got nothing to do with the Kingdom of God.
And that's not ministry - that's decorating.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
How does God expect us to live in this world? Our lessons this week address that big question.
So how do we address that question in our congregations? What are some complicating factors? How do we communicate the robustness of a Christian rule of life while avoiding ideas of "perfection" that are both unrealistic and damaging to faith? And where's the good news in our texts this week, anyway?
What are your great expectations for Sunday's worship focus and sermon message? As always, please share your thoughts here.
Monday, February 14, 2011
Rachel Hackenburg's Writing To God: 40 Days of Praying With My Pen (Paraclete Press, 2011) is a gift that lasts for 40 days and beyond. It is designed to be used for any 40-day period, with a special section of "Prayers and Prompts for Holy Week."
Rachel, Pastor of Grace United Church of Christ in Lancaster, PA, is a newer member of the RevGals ring. I resounded with her blog posts at Faith and Water, and was delighted to be asked to write a review of this book.
Paraclete Press sent me a review copy and I immediately began using the book in my morning prayer practice. I loved it. In the past, I have done Morning Pages (from The Artist's Way), 750Words.com, and Praying in Color. All take me outside of myself in an important way, in that they are either not prayer (the first), or a foreign-to-me way of prayer. This book specifically pairs writing prayer with daily writing activity.
As "a words person," writing my prayers is something I have done all my life, in an attenuated form. That is: If I am praying for you, your name is bound to be written somewhere on my desk, my shopping list, even on my hand. Probably, many places. I explained the practice to a college friend by saying, "by writing you down, I keep you safe." I understand prayer differently, now; there is no guarantee of safety...but writing something, making it The Word, makes it real and embodied for me in a way that other prayer methods have not revealed.
For each of forty days, Rachel pairs a poetical reflection on a daily matter with a scripture, and prompts the reader to write to God to correspond to the passage. I found it a fresh way of seeing scriptures, many of which are so familiar as to be flat.
There is also an index of Scriptural Praying Prompts, matching the days of the 40-day cycle with the scriptures from which they are drawn in the order they appear in the Bible.
Rachel says, "Praying through your pen is not about finding the right or perfect words for prayer; it's about connecting your whole self in an act of physically produced prayers. It's about practicing prayer daily in the safety of a book's pages. It's about exploring the fullness of words as you journey with Jesus through the trials and passions and joys of life. It's about enjoying your conversation with the Holy, creatively, freely, sincerely, in mind, body, and spirit" (p. x).
The book may be purchased through Paraclete, which offers a discount for ordering multiple copies as seen on their webpage for the book. This would be a wonderful tool to use with a church group or a group of spiritual friends. It could be used in any season, though the 40-day structure and the Holy Week feature make it ideal for Lent. I recommend it!
If you have read this book, or read it in the future, please share your thoughts in the comments.
On this Valentine's Day, here's a big heart and lots of love and thanks to our RevGalBlogPal contributors. These are the folks who create, edit, and manage the posts you see here every day, as well as doing the behind-the scenes work. It could never happen without them!!! And it's all volunteer...for the love of the enterprise. All of us have found community and support here and want to share that with others. If you have time, send these folks some thanks and love in the comments. And if you'd like to get involved in this type of work to support RevGals, please email email@example.com.
Sunday Prayers: MomPriest and RevAbi
Sunday Afternoon Music Video: Mary Beth, Michelle, Sally, Singing Owl and Cathy
Monday Meet & Greet and 2nd Monday Discussion: Songbird
Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Juniper and LutheranChik
Wednesday Festival: Mary Beth
Thursday Ask the Matriarch: RevHoney and EarthChick
Friday Five: Kathrynzj, Singing Owl, Jan, and Songbird
Saturday 11th Hour Preacher Party: Songbird, MomPriest, Diane, and SheRev
Photo source: The Dominknitrix
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Taste and see the goodness of the Lord! My spiritual director quotes this psalm and pulls out a box filled with chocolate (and other good things) to share at the end of each of our conversations, a physical reminder he says of all the graces shared that we cannot see. The hardest part for me is always to choose -- dark chocolate or lemon, fire or water -- and to remember that joy comes in each.
What did you choose to sing today?
And walk in your ways
To observe your commandment
Love God, love self, love others
Bless, O God, this land and
All the lands of the earth
Fill the minds and hearts
Of leaders with wisdom
As your servants may we labor
For Your purposes, building
Reconciling, growing – peace
May we work together
Sister and brother, brother
And sister, as God’s field
God’s gift to you, to me
Loving God, we seek to follow your desire
And walk in your ways
To observe your commandments
Love God, love self, love others
Crossposted on A Place for Prayer and SeekingAuthenticVoice
Saturday, February 12, 2011
"If you choose..."
"Offering your gift at the altar..."
"Go, be reconciled..."
Our readings offer us many choices. Where are you being led? What ideas are rising up in you?
Will you ponder what "commandments" mean and what it means to "keep" them? Will you discern something about the way human beings hurt one another and what it means to seek reconciliation? What about forgiveness?
...and what about all that we "desire" in life, and how those desires may (or may not) pull us away from what God desires of us?
There are many different directions in which to take these texts. What are your choices and offerings?
I have lots to offer: coffee, tea, hot chocolate, eggs, pancakes, toast, muffins. What is your pleasure? Please, pull up a chair, let's share!
Friday, February 11, 2011
In two days my husband and I will have been married (ulp!) forty years. And, of course, Valentine's Day is coming soon so I'm thinking about love. For today's Friday Five, tell us about five people you love, people who will remain in your "heart" forever. This can be a friend, teacher, family member, mentor, pastor...
It's always helpful to post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to click here.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Tuesday, February 08, 2011
What do you do with a lie?
What do we do when we are confronted with the harsh, sharp reality that the friendship and relationship we thought we had with a person isn't what we thought? What do we do when we realize that the trust and words, laughter and love, even, we had with someone feel like a fraud. What do we do when we are confronted with a truth we had been willing to ignore, explain, or excuse, until a particular moment?
A painful moment, actually, for most of us, when this truth appears. Perhaps it's the email or text from the other man or woman that cannot be understood as anything but what it is. Perhaps it's the final straw, the argument where truths are spoken that hit us like cold water. Perhaps it's the moment when, after a struggle within a friendship, one has the chance to claim responsibility for a hurtful action (usually something done to the other, but not to the other's face), but passes the blame or denies the event or words.
And in that moment, we know. We know that what had been will likely never be again. We know that the love and trust have been damaged. We know that the moment when the lie appears, it cannot be undone or untold.
What do we do with that moment?
That moment is rarely just a moment. That moment is usually the apex of several moments over time where we heard that voice within us, or we heard that voice from friends, who wondered aloud about things that didn't feel honorable and right to our very souls. We might have explained away the other moments. We might have ignored them. We might have taken on the blame for the dissension and problems.
"This is just me. I need to try harder."
"I'm being difficult. After all, s/he would never betray the friendship like this."
"All relationships go through rough times. It's a phase."
Maybe it is. We hope that, don't we, that all rough patches are just a phase, that our trust in another was well-placed and our love for the other, friend or otherwise, was worth giving. So we believe.
Until circumstances don't allow us to believe anymore. Until the moment when the lie shows us the truth, that our trust was not well-placed and that our agape or philio was not returned in a healthy, differentiated way.
So what do we do?
We listen to the truth, and in some circumstances, speak our truth, even if that truth is only safely spoken to God and our very own souls. A reality is often the lies from the other tell us s/he will not respect our truths. Our truth may be we second-guessed our instincts and our truth to capitulate to someone else, to hope the relationship would work somehow, someway. Sometimes we denied our truth for the lie because we simply couldn't work with the truth. Women stay in bad marriages for the insurance. People stay in oppressive jobs because they can't afford the loss of income. People stay in bad friendships or relationships because they are fearful of loneliness.
An interesting truth about God - it takes darkness to expose the light. Light a candle in the middle of bright sunlight, and it's difficult to see. Light that same candle in the pitch dark, and there it is, shining brightly and mightily. Perhaps for us to see our truths about how we relate to someone and why we are still engaged with another person whose actions are undifferentiated, perhaps smothering, and even hurtful, we need the darkness of the lie.
And in that moment, when we are overwhelmed by the darkness that is hurtful and sorrowful and even at times dangerous, we feel the truth. Sorrow will not kill us. Resurrection always comes, albeit only after we've laid in the tomb for a while. Some relationships are not good for us, and the Godly thing is that they end.
In the darkness, we wail and cry. We doubt ourselves and wonder how we could have believed the lie, why we didn't see the signs (or pay attention to them). In the darkness, we sit. Until we feel strong enough to discard the lie and admit our truth.
Until we feel strong enough to go forward with a new question: What do you do with the truth?
What a happy coicidence that, with Valentine's Day coming up tomorrow, people have "hearts" on their minds: Because Jesus, in Sunday's lesson, asks us to take to heart, to internalize, the Law that our recent Old Testament lessons have been telling us are the basis of a healthy relationship with God and with other people. And he challenges us, as one Bible commentator puts it, to "connect the dots" between our external actions and our guiding thoughts and feelings.
What connections are you making with our texts as you pray and plan for Sunday worship? As always, we welcome your comments and insights here.
Monday, February 07, 2011
Sunday, February 06, 2011
in clouds of mercy.
Reach into the tragedies of this earth,
Especially the chaos and despair in (Egypt)
Help us Be Salt, enhancing your love
your compassion in all creation
Guide the leaders of nations – in grace
Teach us, your people to be Your heart,
your love abundant.
Like a mountain of love reaching to the heavens
A gift of the Holy Spirit given, that we may be
A place of refuge in the dust, hope in darkness
In your light may we see, may we be light
Merciful God, be with us all, - this day
The sick and the dying, the worn, and fearful
And all who suffer.
A fountain of mercy pouring forth
You who lift us up, known before birth
By the Spirit of God,
Salt of the Earth,
Light to the world.
Gracious and Holy One, we give thanks
For all the blessings of this life
Miracles of grace
Of birth, of air and water
Of food, song and prayer,
Enlighten us, salt from salt,
bread of life
cup of your delight.
Crossposted on A Place for Prayer and SeekingAuthenticVoice
Saturday, February 05, 2011
A rabbi was wandering through the forest one evening. As he was praying and walking along, he lost his way and found himself in front of a military base, where a guard brought him out of his reverie by shouting, "Who are you? What are you doing here?" The rabbi replied, "How much do they pay you?" "Why do you ask?" the guard wondered. "Because," said the rabbi, "I need someone to ask me those questions every day.
I don't know why, but as I think about the gospel reading from Matthew today, and especially the promise that we are salt and light in our communities, I think about these questions. When I think about the challenging questions of the prophet Isaiah, "Is this not the fast I choose....?", when I think of the words of Paul, "I chose to know nothing among you except Christ and him crucified..." I think about these questions.
Who are you? What are you doing here?
I don't know about you, but I need someone to ask me these questions every day.
So, what questions are you asking this morning, as you work on sermons, prayers, children's sermons, bulletins, family events, baptisms, cleaning the house, etc.?
I have blueberry pancakes for breakfast, just because I like 'em. And orange juice. And fair trade coffee, with vanilla. I'd also like to direct you to a great discussion of the texts here. Come and share you questions, your food, your brilliant light and tasty salt.
Friday, February 04, 2011
These two things have me reflecting on the gifts and perks of ministry and what else I would put on that list.
What about you? What are 5 perks/gifts of ministry for you?
Please let us know if you played in the comments and if you can check on the person before and after you. I will do my best to check in, but will be traveling to the above mentioned worship service.
Not sure how to link? Here's a how-to.
Thursday, February 03, 2011
Today's question is probably its own best introduction...
I'm United Methodist and had a really disastrous first appointment. Part of it was stuff with the congregation's "system", part of it was my own circumstances and issues (pregnancy and birth of my first child, postpartum depression, my husband and I doing a "long-distance marriage", inexperience, etc), and part of it was contextual stuff that was out of our control. I left the parish in May 2008, and in the nearly three years since then, have a) completed a CPE residency, b) seen a pastoral counselor, and c) begun a blog as a way of sharing my thoughts and connecting with others. I also gave birth to my second child. My marriage has been greatly mended, as have my spiritual life and psyche.
Since just after Thanksgiving, I've been sensing God calling me to return to parish ministry. I'm currently on a "family leave of absence" and will remain on it through June 2012, with the plan to begin a new appointment in July 2012. My mission for 2011 is to do whatever I can to prepare myself vocationally, spiritually, and emotionally for my return to parish ministry. My current plan is to a) sit down with my pastor, tell him my story, and explore ministry opportunities in the current congregation I attend, b) to attend as many Church Council meetings as I can, and a good amount of committee meetings, c) to read several books on family systems, church administration, and leadership, and d) to seek out additional preaching and worship leadership opportunities. Because United Methodists are appointed, I will be somewhat at the mercy of the Cabinet (Bishop and all of the District Superintendents) and need to prove to them that I have what it takes to be an effective pastor.
I was wondering what additional advice or commentary the matriarchs might offer for someone in my position, especially in light of my current action plan. I'd also welcome any suggestions for books on church administration and leadership.
Joy and peace,
Wounded & Healing
From Jennifer, who blogs at www.anorientationofheart.blogspot.com
From Jennifer, who blogs at www.anorientationofheart.blogspot.com
Dear Mending One,
You sound brave and forthright in your desire to gather lots of information and experience. As a pastor, a mom and half of a clergy couple, I empathize with the struggle you experienced in your first call and the “perfect storm” of circumstances that made it so difficult.
While I understand that the DS needs to be persuaded that you’re ready to re-enter ministry, I feel sad that it either feels like or has been articulated to you that you must “prove” your fitness for ministry. I would hope that there might be gentle ways to re-enter and continue to explore parish ministry.
Do you live in an area where you could serve as an associate pastor? Are there possibilities for serving a healthy congregation that would embrace the opportunity to serve alongside someone who is recuperating from a lot of trauma? It may be a fantasy, but I think such settings exist, and I hope there might be someplace that allows you to be authentic and serve from a place of health and regained wholeness.
As far as books are concerned, there are lots of good ones out, but my experience is that one is most successful when one listens and learns as much as possible about one’s context before relying too much on imparted wisdom from great authors. It is often just as helpful to have a trusted colleague or mentor upon whom you can call for advice and off whom you can bounce ideas.
I hope this helps and I pray for every good thing to be part of your next call.
And from Muthah+ www.stoneofwitness.blogspot.com
First of all: Get yourself a good woman pastor as a mentor. This is a pastor you respect and who is willing to be frank with you. I suggest a woman pastor because some of the issues you faced were women's issues. A sister pastor can often help you see what is cultural, what are your issues and what is just plain absurd. With the support of others you can address your naivete and your fears.
2. Attend to your spiritual life. Make time for retreats and prayer even when all heck is breaking loose. Do not let your self be 'guilt tripped' into trying to meet your parish's needs when you cannot meet your own. Confidence is rooted in your relationship with Christ. "If Christ be for us, who can be against?" becomes your mantra and you can face anything.
3. Attend to your family's needs. You do not do your flock a favor by ignoring your family. Witness to the importance of family love to your parish. Do not accept their criticism of your family--and there will be those who do--just ignore it and go on with what you and your mentor map out. It is the hardest thing to do, but you can do this. One of my colleagues said, "Parish ministry is not for sissies." It is tough business, but God has called you to be tougher.
4. Listen, Listen and Listen some more! The reason why our congregations are so messed up is because no one is listening to them. They have had experiences of God. They just don't know what to do with them. Help draw them into acting on their faith in ways they never have. Call them to live holy lives--not just righteous lives. Invite them to know the presence of God through bible study, faith sharing and Christian friendship.
5. Stay close with colleagues who will support you in this ministry and LAUGH with you at the craziness of this life. The laughter will keep you sane and remind you that the JOY of Christian ministry is greater than any other thing you might be able to do. Treasure those moments that are good. Keep a memory book of baptisms, or successes. It isn't for anyone else but you to look at, and return to it on bad days. And in all things, give thanks.
If you have insight or encouragement you'd like to share, or reading you would like to suggest, please use the "Post a Comment" function to do so.
May you live well and made whole through God's amazing grace+