Friday, June 20, 2014

Kirklevington Park

I saw you.
We were going opposite directions around the track.
You ran, and lapped me multiple times.
I walked.
Both of us red faced with exertion:
92 degrees even in the shade, just before sunset.
You were so brave: tight tank (doubled up on the sports bra, smart choice) and short shorts.
My clothes were loose and long.
Both of us the same height, build, similar weight.
We saw each other and we knew the struggles of the other.
A year ago I would have judged you as harshly as I judge myself. Not today. Today I am proud of us both.
The last time we passed each other you smiled because you knew, as did I:
We are women. We are strong.
We are with and for each other.
We are beautiful, red-faced, hot, and sweaty.
We are women. We are good enough.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Very Happy Birthday

Every year until this one, I've had a "summer break" birthday. That meant that I wasn't in class on my birthday (yay!) and that my friends or I were out of town (boo!). For the past few years I've been in grad school, and that meant I was writing papers on my birthday or have had them hanging over my head.

This year my life is different.

This year I am at work on my birthday. It's summertime, still, which means that as I hand out bus passes to our homeless guests here at the church I'm also handing out cold bottles of water.

This year I am church on my birthday. I'm still writing and reading, but this time I'm writing newsletter articles and doing sermon preparation.

This year I am living my call on my birthday, and that is the best gift I could have asked for.

Nearly 13 years ago, God found me in a circle of my friends from youth group. We were standing on my youth minister's front lawn as she prayed. While she said words of blessing over us I had three thoughts that came to my mind: 1) I could do this!* 2) I want to do this!* and the most important one: 3) I should do this!*
*"this" is defined broadly as ministry; more narrowly defined as being a kick-ass minister of the Word, praying prayers, singing songs, seeking to love the unlovable (which some days includes myself), and helping to build God's Kingdom here on earth. 


Nearly 13 years ago, God found me in a circle of my friends being blessed by a powerful and faithful woman. In that moment, God called me to ministry. Since that night, I have stood in many more circles of friends. I have been blessed by many powerful and faithful women (and men). I am humbled by the challenge, companionship, and hilarity my friends give me. I'm inspired by the powerful, faithful, vulnerable women and men who have shared their blessing with me. My cup truly overflows.

On my ordination day, my best friend gave me a ring that says: "I am not afraid. I was born to do this." I later found out that this is a quote attributed to Joan of Arc (who, coincidentally, was called by God through a vision at age 13, just like me). The ring is not a closed circle, but rather like a jump ring. The openness of the ring reminds me to keep my heart similarly open, but the ring itself reminds me of my commitment to God's call, the Church, and my ordination vows. I wear it daily.



This year on my birthday: I am humbled, blessed, loved, unafraid, and living God's dream for my life.

Thank you, Jesus. 






Wednesday, May 28, 2014

On Matthew 11:28, my newsfeed, and my yoga mat



I cried in my yoga class yesterday. I was twisting and bending in some god-awful pose that hurts-so-good and the tears just started and would not stop. After releasing from that pose, the tears cleared up but my guard was up and I couldn't help but wonder why I had cried. During our final pose, corpse pose, the tears came again. I left feeling shaky, weepy, sad, and confused. I had gone to class seeking a yoga high, and but all I got was a yoga cry. Apparently yoga crying is a thing and not all that unusual, but I'm still feeling kind of weird about it. I was unable to leave it "on the mat" as many yoga enthusiasts say.

When I opened up my facebook newsfeed this morning, this is what I found:

- #yesallwomen is still trending on twitter, giving voice to women everywhere in the fight against misogyny.
- Maya Angelou died today at age 86.
- Cute animals doing cuteness in a cute place. Squee!
- A friend's mother died after a long and difficult journey with cancer.
- Vacation pictures! Gorgeous! (Also, jealous!)
- This blog post. That blog post. All the blog posts.
- A really good sermon!
- Baby pictures! He's sitting up on his own! She has a full head of hair!
- Weird people from high school friend-ing me. No thanks.
- A Buzzfeed list.
- The Onion article.
- Another engagement.
- Multiple women have posted about the loss of their pregnancies.


What an incredible cross-section of the human experience. And it all (even the good stuff) weighs heavy on me today. Even though I'm not writing this from my yoga mat, I feel like crying all over again. My own life, like my newsfeed, seems to hold all the feelings all the time. As I hold all of my "news" items alongside the suffering and anxiety in my congregation, the lives of my friends, and my own life I understand more fully that Jesus' words and promises are for all of us, including me.

Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

How do I lay down this heartbreak, this heavy burden? Was it ever mine to hold? What does it mean to exist in this world and not be weary? I ask because I do not know.

On days like today when I walk through waves of grief, anxiety, fatigue, joy, gratitude, uncertainty...
On days when I just sit in my office and try to find the words to pray...
On days when I contemplate the promises of God alongside the realities of life...
On days when I shake my fist at the sky for the unfairness, the loneliness, the powerlessness of ministry...

Into this day God breathes life and love.
Into this day God walks with me.
Into this day God sees the tears, the shaking fists, the bowed shoulders and God hears the prayers and the sighs too deep for words.
Into this day God speaks hard-to-believe-words-of-comfort:

 “Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Put on my yoke, and learn from me.
I’m gentle and humble. And you will find rest for yourselves. 
My yoke is easy to bear, and my burden is light.” -Mt. 11:28-30 CEB

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Lark

My quest to blog every day for Lent has not gone all that well, but I'm back to it as we prepare for Holy Week.


As spring continues to emerge after a cold and difficult winter, I've been listening to Josh Ritter's "Lark" a whole lot.

The chorus sings:

I am assured, yes
I am assured, yes
I am assured that peace will come to me
A peace that can, yes, surpass the speed yes,
of my understanding and my need. 



In the wilderness, it's hard to remember the trees that rustle as if to kneel and listen
Or the priestly green answers dressed in labyrinthine

I've had a hard time hearing the heartbeat of a lark, or a lark in my heartbeat. 

The chorus of "Lark" makes reference to Philippians 4:7 (the peace of God passes all understanding). The verse preceding states "Rejoice...The Lord is near." As Holy Week approaches, we grow closer to Jesus. He's coming to Jerusalem and the palms are rustling in anticipation.

The Lord is near. Rejoice. Peace is coming. Christ is coming.
Maybe soon I'll find the lark in my heartbeat.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What does freedom look like to you?

Early this year, I was challenged to find a word of the year. What came to me was freedom.
What does freedom look like to you? I keep finding all sorts of images that resonate with me. Here are a few:

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Still Beautiful: She Came Down

I was thrilled to be a guest preacher at First Christian Church of Georgetown, Kentucky this past week and I've posted the audio file of my sermon here, along with the most perfect photo from back-on-pointe!
It's 16 minutes long and I read the scripture (2 Cor. 4:7-12) within the sermon.
The major sources (other than scripture) that I used were Kristine Culp's book Vulnerability and Glory: A Theological Account, Amy Frykholm's See Me Naked: Stories of Sexual Exile in American Christianity, and I reference Carol Barnett's incredible composition "The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass" musically and verbally. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Preaching With a Broken Heart

Shortly after my most recent move, my long-time boyfriend and I ended our relationship. The very next week, I was scheduled to preach.
As a part of a multi-pastor church my colleagues graciously offered to step in and preach in my place, but I was stubborn. I decided that I wanted - no, NEEDED - to preach.

All week long I struggled with the gospel text. In between jags of crying, I tried to read commentaries but I couldn't focus. I made notes. And more notes. And more notes. But all the notes were just interesting facts I learned about the scripture and little questions to ask. Nothing substantial had come to me, and when I needed the gospel to speak to me I just could not hear a thing. As I stumbled, tired and exhausted, through the week the sermon still would not come. I had no idea what it would mean to preach the gospel on that text.

I read articles online. But mostly I just prayed. I prayed for my broken heart. I prayed for my ex. I prayed for my church and apologized to God in advance for what I knew would be a really crappy sermon. I prayed without words. With sighs too deep for any vocabulary I might be able to find.

Nothing.

On Saturday night I ventured out of my apartment in sweatpants and a baseball cap, trying to hide my puffy skin and red eyes. I got it in my head that if I went to Chick-Fil-A I would order some yummy food with a side of sermon inspiration (this has nothing to do with Chick-Fil-A's religious commitments and everything to do with their milkshakes and waffle fries). As I sat in the drive-thru line I called my mother. Surely, if Chick-Fil-A could not supply my sermon inspiration my mother could help me out. The first words out of her mouth were to ask about my sermon.

I told that I had basically nothing. And then she dropped a wisdom bomb on me. She said, "McKinna, I get that your heart is broken. But that relationship was for three years, and you've been working toward being a minister for thirteen years. This is your call. You have a job to do. Your job is to preach the gospel. So figure out what sort of gospel you preach with a broken heart, to other broken hearts, and you just preach it. Do your job."

So I got my waffle fries and a side of sermon wisdom and renewed call and went home. I opened up the lectionary texts, switched to the Epistle, and started writing. I wrote the sermon I needed to hear. I got angry at my ex, I used the anger to focus, and the words poured out. The text was from the letter to the Colossians, first chapter, verses 15-17 (CEB):

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the one who is first over all creation,
Because all things were created by him: both in heaven and on the earth, the things that are visible and the things that are invisible.
Whether they are thrones or powers, or rulers or authorities, all things were created through him and for him.
He existed before all things, and all things are held together in him.

In sermon writing, I was forced to find the gospel that I wanted so desperately to hear. I remembered all the times in the last 13 years that God had stood by me as God called me to ministry, over and over again. At a moment when I felt so empty and exhausted and wrung-out, God's word breathed life into my weary spirit. I wrote through the night until 3am, slept until 6, finished the sermon and preached it at 8:30am. My thoughts were scattered; I was scared to death that I hadn't written complete sentences. I briefly considered asking the senior minister to preach the sermon for me. I cursed myself for leaving my emergency anxiety medications at home. I cursed my ex. And I prayed.

Then I stood up and preached the gospel I was called to preach. I did my job and the job healed me. The gospel healed me. The Holy Spirit moved and made my crappy, last minute sermon into a brick to build the Kingdom of God.Truly, in God all things DO hold together, even when your world is falling apart. And thank God for that.

[Now, I don't really advocate always preaching the sermon you, the preacher, need to hear. If you are your only audience then you might want to reconsider your sermon. But, maybe every once in a while it's okay. When our own lives are falling apart, when our hearts are broken, we are most succeptible to the gospel's healing power. I don't know why the actual gospel text wasn't speaking to me. I have a feeling nothing would have worked if not for my mom's stern and wise words. But when you're preaching with a broken heart, I do think it's necessary to trust that in Christ all things really do hold together. And worst case scenario, you preach a poor sermon. There are worse things, I hope.]

Photo credit: http://civa-artists.ning.com/photo/in-him-all-things-hold-together-colossians-1-17?context=user