The Gritty.

ImageI am obsessed with the “Fun.” CD right now.  If you’ve been in my office or walked by my office in the past week you know that I’ve been listening to it almost constantly.  There are several things that I like about it and there are many a time that I’d like to play one of the songs in worship, but the lyrics aren’t the most “clean” shall we say.  However, as Jon wisely pointed out, our lives are often not all that clean.  They’re often pretty dirty and gritty and not quite what we want to show to the world.  Tonight is Maundy Thursday – in other words – the night that Jesus had his “Last Supper” with his disciples.  He knew that some crazy stuff was going to go down in the coming days but he shared a last meal with those who he loved the most.  Things weren’t going to be all rainbows and rose-colored glasses, it was going to get pretty real, real quick – with ears being cut off, betrayal, cock crows, whipping, a crown of thorns, crucifixion.  It’s not the glamorized view.  It’s reality.  May we find God not just in the beautiful and in the high points of our lives, but also in the midst of the struggles and the confusion.  May we remember during this Easter season that it’s not just about Easter Sunday in all of its glory, but that these days leading up to it, happen as well – days that feel dark and hopeless, days when it feels like we’re alone.  May we fully feel that so that we know the true power of the resurrection that’s coming!

Sarah Palin and Baptists

This morning I got the rare opportunity to watch some of the Today Show as a made the bed and cleaned up around the house a bit. I used to be a frequent watcher of the show but with the two kids jumping on the bed and me wanting to play with them in the morning, it occurs less regularly.

Sarah Palin co-hosted the Today Show this morning and it was really funny. I know Sarah Palin is a lightning bolt kind of person – love her or hate her and I always find it fascinating when we get to see people interact that you know don’t agree with each other much less like each other. There’s a segment they do where they’re talking about hot topics, much like The View and they’ve got three people that usually do this segment – Starr Jones, Donny Deutsch, and Dr. Nancy Snyderman with the host asking them questions and them sounding off. I love this segment. I like it when they agree and when they disagree. I like the give and take of someone sometimes conceding and the areas where they’re not willing to compromise.

You know why I like it? I like it because they’re talking and they’re often disagreeing but they’re still obviously friendly with each other. I would like to say this about The View but I think too often there either one side or the other gets villanized and so that’s not dialogue but just yelling over each other.

What made it interesting this morning is that they added Sarah Palin to the mix. It was obvious that one was trying to be a peacemaker for her and spoke up for her while the other two barely concealed their disdain, one more than the other. It’s hard to communicate with people we don’t agree with, yes, but it’s really hard to be in conversation or relationship with people that we don’t respect as people and who we’ve made assumptions about.

Now I’m not defending Sarah Palin….and yes, in some ways I am. Each of these “public” figures that we make judgments about are people too. I’m one of the first people to say that if you put yourself on a national stage than you’re inviting the world to comment on what you do. That’s a given. But to me there’s a line between commentary and being nasty. Talking about someone personally is different than disagreeing with their views or choices. When personhood is brought into the mix – it’s a whole different game.

In a conversation with the Baptist campus minister and one of the Presbyterian campus ministers this morning at breakfast we talked about the assumptions that people make about each of us. Of course if you’re a Southern Baptist or a PCA Presbyterian than you’re conservative and close-minded and you obviously judge people. If you’re a female pastor you’re obviously liberal, you obviously haven’t opened your Bible to read the scriptures, and you must not be the best wife and mother you could be.

I get that we have stereotypes. I get that we all make assumptions based on our experience, the information we’ve been given, our world-view – but if we let that get in the way of digging deeper and really getting to know each other not as labels, views or caricatures but as real, living and breathing people, than we are missing out on just some amazing friendships and conversations but on the gifts of community, fellowship and iron sharpening iron that God gives us.

These two things this morning – watching Sarah Palin on the Today Show and the sometimes awkwardness of the situation and talking with two dear friends in ministry that the theological world would have us on pretty different ends of the mainline denom spectrum – it made both convicted for the times that I’ve been the one to make those assumptions or quick judgments and grateful that God asks us to not just hang out with the people like us.

Who are the people that you make assumptions about? Do you think our country is more “split” or contentious now? Have we made things too personal and mean in our attacking? Does the rhetoric we use have anything to do with the fact that God made each of us as people of sacred worth? Even the people that we may not enjoy? Or is that right out the window?

** What do you think about Facebook’s new “EnemyGraph” application? Are you going to declare your “enemies” or “archenemies”? (that’s a whole different post!)

Miraculous

ImageI got a phone call on Friday after a long week of good, fun, tiring and yet rewarding work.  It was not a number that I or my phone recognized and I’m usually tempted to let those go to voice mail since you never know if it’s a survey or a wrong number or who knows.  But for once, I didn’t.  It was a student who had something to give me.  A pastor of hers knew that she was a student at Winthrop so she wanted to pass something along to me.  That’s all she really said.  So I had no idea what this could be.

When she stopped by Wesley, she handed me a beautifully colored picture.  I love rainbows and bright colorful things so I liked the picture instantly.  She then said that it was a Mandala and as the picture says on the back – it’s a contemplative practice.  Rev. Annie Edwards who I don’t know, created this for me during my brain surgery in 2010.  She started it at 11:45 am and finished it at 1:30 pm – truly roughly the time of my surgery.  As she writes on the back, “This was done for you during your surgery, with love and compassion.  Your Dad is my friend.”

It’s beautiful and something I’ll treasure.  As are the prayer shawls, books, pictures, everything that has been passed along to me that I can share with others.

I am admittedly sometimes flippant about the surgery and I in some ways am pretty successful at brushing it off.  In my day to day life – I don’t walk around with a sign around my neck that mentions it.  When I get an invitation to the survivor’s dinner for Relay for Life, I am more often than not – surprised.  But I think, as is often the case with the things that we are flippant about, most of my bravado comes from a place that is truly grateful and humbled by the outpouring of love and support – so much so that I don’t know if I can express how much it means or how much even when it’s not at the forefront of my mind – that I depend and rely on the prayers and the Spirit of mercy and grace that I feel ever present.

It’s not something that I’m afraid to talk about, but it is something that’s deeply personal.  So yes, I keep it on the About Me part of the blog – though I’ve debated that – and it becomes a part of the fabric of my life.  Not definitive of all of who I am, but yes a defining moment….among many.

One of the things that struck me on Friday was yes, the picture, but also what the girl from Winthrop who I’ve never met, said to me as she delivered.  She talked about what a miracle it is.  I asked her what she meant and she said, “You.  It’s miraculous.”  No, this is not a big head moment.  I’m not slapping myself on the back. But part of me did want to slap my forehead at the “Doh!” moment.  I don’t know about you but I think it’s easier for me to see the miracles around me – my students, Spring, healing of friends and family, the birth of a child – but it’s harder to see ourselves in that way.  I don’t know if we can even wrap our minds around that.  But we can sure as heck be grateful.  And hugely grateful at that.  For the prayers of so many, for the love that encircles us, and for the hope of the resurrection.

During this Holy Week, my hope is that I not rush straight to the resurrection but that I take time to attend to the twists and turns between Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday and that I’m attentive to all that is the darkness and despair of Good Friday because we all have felt and walked and witnessed times like that.  And that when I hear the Good News of the resurrection on Easter morning that I feel both the impossibility and the miraculous and the ever present and real hope and promise that it offers.  May we know and see the miracles in each of our lives, our communities and the world around us and may we claim and treasure them!

 

**  Dad’s reflection on this time period – Holy Saturday Redux – http://wtmcclendon.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/holy-saturday-redux/  I think about it around this time of year…and I appreciate his honesty.

Affirmation and Calling

It’s been an interesting process the past couple of days as our search committee at Winthrop Wesley interviews candidates for the Director/Campus Minister job. I have been thankful to not be directly a part of the process and able to spend time at the end of each candidate’s interview times being able to answer questions and affirm them.

What I’ve found from a lot of them as well as from some of my current and former students is that our church is not always in the practice of affirming our young, capable and qualified leaders if their calling is something other than that of the local church.

As a member of a District Committee on Ministry and as someone who was loved and affirmed in my calling and in this process, I’ve seen some of this from both sides. I felt some of this as someone going through trying to articulate something that didn’t necessarily include a steeple or a pulpit. But, call me crazy, I thought that with all of the research talking about young people going into ministry and with it being over 10 years since I went through our process that things had gotten better. That committees and boards were more open to young people seeing church in sometimes different ways and wanting to live out their calling in ways that doesn’t always fit the life-long career path of previous generations.

I have people tell me all the time that they feel called to campus ministry and want to work with young people but that their committees on ministry or their senior pastor or those giving them counsel on how to get larger appointments with higher paying salaries warn against this because of their career or how they’ll be perceived or pigeon holed asking questions like, “Why would you waste your gifts there?” Yes, I have really heard this.

It feels like we just want to lift up people that look like and talk like us…40 years ago and we want them to follow our exact life map. We’re talking about the Call to Action and vital congregations and I’m all about us having that conversation, but changing our general agencies in no way completely solves the problem of our relevance or our connection with the world. If we ask the same questions that we asked 40 years ago and we expect the same answers, leaving no room for change or growth or a flip the script moment, we’re setting ourselves up for great failure. Not as a Church, not as a body of Christ, not as a movement but as a system – a structure that exists to continue its existence.

In contrast to all of this our amazing intern Erica just got back from her interview process with the General Board of Global Ministries for the Mission Intern program, which would train her to be a missionary 16 months internationally and 16 months domestically. She had an awesome experience. She felt affirmed. She felt heard. She felt like it was actually intentional and discerning and open…and she is bubbling from the experience! Hers is not the most traditional road to ministry, but it is such a rich and wondrous thing to witness. It’s exciting. It gives me hope for our church. Hearing about her wanting to share the Good News of Christ makes me excited that the United Methodist Church sends out missionaries all over the world – with all of their quirks, oddities, diversity, and high caliber!

I want to be able to encourage young people into ministry – whether ordained or in great UMVIM or GBHEM or World Race or whatever opportunities. I want to know that yes, they are questioned and people help them discern and give them counsel, but I also want them to be affirmed that God has called them to serve God’s kingdom – not in a particular venue or in specific cookie cutter ways. Not hating on the cookie cutters because I love them and I am related to them, but we’ve got to lift up our young people and listen to them and hear their hopes, dreams, and passion. We’ve got to see and believe, not just say that all of these ministries are not just valid but just as “important” as the other. And this can’t just happen in our campus ministries. Our students can’t just be affirmed here, in the safety of our communities. The larger church has to be willing to affirm this calling as well and there has to be room made at the table.

I’m sitting here listening to Erica tell two of our students about her experience and what she could possibly do and it’s so contagious that we all need to hear it. We all need to hear this joy and passion. We all need to have a chance to sit down with a group of young people and listen to how they see the world and how they view the church.

So a huge thank you to all of those who have affirmed some of us crazy folks that love the local church – absolutely love it – but are called to serve in a variety of ways. A huge thank you to those that see quality, solid people and don’t say things like – you don’t want to serve there, you want to be able to move up our system, why would you waste your gifts with such a transient and changing group. A huge thank you to those that support these crazy ministries that we do and who believe in the work that we are doing. A huge thank you to our advocates who have stepped into the gaps, who have tried to translate for us, and who have journeyed with us.

May each of us experience times of affirmation and calling, as well as time of challenging and questioning. AND may we as a church realize that some of our larger struggles are not just structural, but so much more. Help us Lord to not just break glass ceilings in our particular ministries but may the greater church realize the gifts, graces, and beautiful ministry that is happening throughout our connection as we seek the already and not yet of your kingdom.