Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Christian Century: Ambiguous Labor Pains



We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now (Romans 8:22).
This year at Vacation Bible School I told the story of Jairus’s daughter. My plan was to have one child pretend to “sleep” and then be raised up by Jesus. But it turned out that all the children wanted a chance to be Jairus’ daughter. So around I went, taking the hands of “sleeping” children and touching their foreheads and saying something like, “Get up! Jesus makes you well.”
As I went around raising these children and sending them off to craft sheep out of marshmallows, I could not help but think of all the children who will not be raised up. I thought of my friend who had recently miscarried. This week, I think as well of the little ones on Gaza’s beaches and on our own borders. Pregnancy, birthing, raising children, losing them—all these acts leave me speechless. 
Get the rest at The Christian Century Blog!

Devotional: Scripture and the Bone of Song

I am often frustrated with scripture. It is mysterious, contradictory, out dated (on an initial read), contains varying genres, and upon reading large portions of it I feel quite sleepy.

The thing is I want more from my scripture. I want it to leap off the page and speak to me! I want to shimmer with energy in my hands. I want to see the world through the eyes and words of the author of whatever portion I'm reading. Instead, I end up with interrupting thoughts about my to-do list and a yearning for coffee.

My favorite singer/songwriter wrote about the canon of classic songs in a piece called "Bone of Song," which is linked above. 

As I've been hearing this song lately I thought that he could have been writing about the canon of scripture, too. He writes about finding an old jaw bone as he walked in the woods and when he runs his hand along it he hears songs (the fall of Troy, Auld Lang Syne, Magnificat, Your Cheatin' Heart) and though some of the songs are written in foreign tongues and dead languages he can read it all the same. There's a blessing written on the bone, older than all the rest saying, "Leave me here I care not for wealth or fame. I'll remember your song - but I'll forget your name."

I wonder if the Bible itself might be akin to the Bone of Song of which Josh Ritter sings. Full of varied music by many composers and poets, etched into the collective memory of a people who have interpreted the words differently throughout the ages. This holy text cares not for wealth or fame. It doesn't even care what I want from it. It is just here, waiting to be discovered, ready to sing if I'll listen.
The refrain of the song is this: "Lucky are you who find me in the wilderness/ I am the only unquiet ghost that does not seek rest."

Perhaps I have been approaching my Bible in the wrong way. Though it is old and her authors are long dead, perhaps she does not seek to rest and be still. Perhaps she is unquiet and waiting to be heard. Perhaps she is waiting for me to let go of my own "stuff" - expectations, desires, even my name - in order to hear the whisper song of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps I must leave my comfortable desk chair and wander in the wilderness before these words will speak.

God of Song and Living Word, You are unquiet. You are speaking. Help us listen. As we turn to your Word, let us set aside our own desires and expectations and listen instead for what you might say. We know that you hear our prayers and know our hearts. Let us also know YOUR heart. Amen.

Sermon: Crazy, Courageous, Changing Church



Check out my sermon on Romans 8:18-27 here.
This was delivered two weeks before our new senior minister arrives and excitement as well as anxiety is high. In the sermon I mention that every minute a woman in this world dies of complications with pregnancy or childbirth. You can help make a woman's birth a bit easier by making it more sanitary and giving her the right supplies by donating a Safe Motherhood kit here.

The scripture is below:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

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.