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!)

Not just “Virtual” Community

My mom had surgery this past Monday.  It’s at least a 4 week recovery so we appreciate the prayers!  I talked to her Monday afternoon when she got out of surgery on the phone and one of the first things she said – “Prayer request” and she asked that we would pray for her recovery, doctors, etc. but mostly that people would be able to hear her with her hoarse voice after the breathing tube during surgery.

What is the fastest way to send out a prayer request?  Pray of course -duh.  But a great way to get a lot of people praying – facebook.  Suddenly there were clergy people, friends, church members from all sorts of previous churches, family – all praying with a sentence typed into a status. 

I’ve been to the church conferences and I’ve read the articles about “appropriate” technology and the ones asking if this virtual community is really killing our real life community, etc.  I get that.  I understand that people need to go outside and build relationships and engage in hands on experience, dialogue, etc.  But, I also think that social media offers a great chance for building community with people you may have lost touch with, people who you may not have ever met but you share communities in common, or people that maybe are just acquaintances but that you care for, support, and pray for.

A colleague of mine said that if he has a bunch of mutual friends with someone on facebook he’ll go ahead and friend them and will explain to them – if we have this many people in common and paths that have crossed, inevitably we will be friends.  Something to think about.  And then there’s the thing going around facebook now saying that we can’t possibly know everyone we’re “friends” with and asking these same friends to post how we’ve met.

I know that some of these are generational, societal, even security questions about what information is shared and how comfortable we are about sharing openly and honestly on the internet where as the lovely Social Network says – things are written in ink not in pencil.  But I hope that we are able to support each other whether near or far, whether close friend or acquaintance, whether we talk every day or it’s just a Christmas card or we had some powerful shared experience long ago.

I truly believe that this community is not just a virtual community, but that it’s real and alive.  I don’t think it always is and I know there’s exceptions to everything but I know that I can personally say that I’ve been moved by people’s support not just in cards or letters but in emails and comments and any other electronic communication.  That is just as meaningful to me as anything else.

Maybe everyone doesn’t feel that way?  How does the different form of community affect our love and support each other?  our pastoral care? 

Listening to a sermon online?  Watching a worship service from a podcast?  Having a small group discussion on skype?  What do these mediums to do the essence of our faith?  I certainly don’t have all the answers and I definitely don’t have the inside track to all of these different technologies but I do think that wiping them away as things that don’t build “real” community is a disservice and a shame when they can be a powerful resource for hope, healing, comfort and love.

What have your experiences been with virtual community?  Yay or nay?

Oh Christians…

So it’s been pop culture Christian overload lately with Glee last night – Dear Cheezus (one of the main characters praying to a grilled cheese sandwich that happened to be burned with the face of Jesus into it – very random considering that the news was covering a woman who found the face of Jesus in her MRI but neither here nor there…) and watching the movie Easy A a few weeks ago. 

Christianity is so often a parody or stereotype but I’m glad to see television, movies, and media really trying to engage in the conversation even in random ways.  In Easy A Christianity becomes the hate/bashing/judging yuck of quintessential stereotypes, and yet I think that’s how a lot of people associate us.  If I was playing family feud right now (new obsession thanks to my wonderful students who hounded me until I accepted an invite) what would the number 1 answers be for – describe a Christian?  I hope we would not do too terribly, but I have a sinking suspicion that it wouldn’t be all that great.

A recent Pew study just came out in Christian Century and it was saying that one of the challenges for declining worship attendance/church membership is that the group that most self-identifies as having “no religion” are 25-34 year olds http://ow.ly/2OFU9.  It’s a good article and I like that it is looking at worship attendance instead of typical church membership because it seems that less and less people want to actually “join” even though we are great at “joining” things and “liking” things on facebook.  There’s just something about doing it in real life that seems to freak people out or turn people off or make them think that there’s this big commitment or wapow! sudden change that’s going to suddenly happen.

The study also looked at why people are attending church less frequently.  Is it demands on time?  Is it lack of commitment?  Is it cultural/social/any kind of relevancy?  Is it a time or schedule thing?  Is it inconvenient?  Does it not meet our criteria of being a “good enough” use of our time?  I don’t know.  Maybe it’s all of these and a ton more that no one wants to admit or say outloud. 

I had lunch with a student today and we were talking about Wesley.  In case I haven’t told you this is what some would call a rebuilding year for us.  I kind of don’t like that language and am not sure if I even want to type it, but we graduated a huge group of seniors last year and in many ways those were our leaders – the people that showed up consistently and really rocked it out.  That can have a big impact on a group.  Trust me.  We’ve also had a lot more people with night classes and schedule changes and blah, blah, blah.  Bottom line – you can’t please everyone and there’s no good time for everyone to meet.  Maybe we should just move it to Sundays at 11 am – just kidding.  Anyway in our conversation we talked about the balance of wanting Wesley to not be a place of stress or people feeling like they have to come even if they’re swamped with schoolwork, etc. but also the kick back of not wanting Wesley to always be put on the back burner of whatever comes up in the many other activities these students are committed to.  You want to give grace and you want people to not be overwhelmed, but then again do you want to make it so easy for them to pop in and pop out that they miss what it means to be committed to something?

Is that how we treat our congregations or worshipers?  Do we notice when some of them are missing or just randomly show up once every other month?  I’ve never been someone that says we need to bow down to the sticker chart in the sky of how many times we’ve been to church over the past year, but I also think I’m a bit guilty of not taking seriously the commitment of being part of a community of faith or of realizing that worship, community, and the body of Christ matter more than we sometimes give it credit or rationalize away.

We know we can turn to the church when the chips are down and we don’t know where else to go, but where do we go when we’re happy or things are going well or when life just gets too busy?  Is “church” the first thing to get cut from the to do list, when a better offer shows up?  Nope, we’re not getting extra brownie points here, but we’re missing out too.

You don’t just go to church for the numbers or the “memberships.”  You go because there’s something about intentionally sharing and being in community with people you wouldn’t necessarily spend 10 minutes with outside these walls.  There’s something about letting your guard down and being family that is sacred.  There’s something about breaking bread and opening up to someone that can’t be undervalued.  It’s not always easy.  It’s not always convenient.  It will often challenge you.  And maybe sometimes you do feel shut out, unwelcome and frustrated.  But you don’t chuck it all over the little things – or it must not have meant that much to you to begin with.

Watching Glee last night and still actually being within that age range that the Pew study was talking about – I don’t  think it’s that people don’t care about religion and maybe it doesn’t even have to do with commitment level (even though I think this has some to do with it for all ages), but maybe our Christian story is not as clearcut for everyone.  Take for example Donald Miller’s blog post about the Blue Like Jazz movie http://bit.ly/aUcLb2 .  It’s hard to find backers for a “Christian” movie that’s not a typical clear-lined story.  I hear completely what he is saying.  But there are a lot of Christians that don’t have a hallmark movie story.  Not that there’s anything wrong with the hallmark movies or those of us that fit that mold, but there’s also nothing wrong with a little Lifetime thrown in either.  Just kidding.  I’m not advocating the drama, but I’m saying that maybe our Christianity sprinkled with a little pop culture (GleeEasy A – don’t forget Saved – and many more) speaks more to the fact that people are trying to sincerely search, question in deep ways, and claim both a brain and a foundational belief in the Gospel.  It seems like the conversation is changing – but I’m not sure that everyone is realizing that or if it’s changing at all for some folks.

Christianity doesn’t always fit neatly into certain parameters, and I don’t think Jesus did either.  But he did challenge and he did call forth something different – something not always easy and something you had to commit to.  May we not just show up for worship or believe on the inside, but may we also live out, question, challenge and nurture our faith in a variety of ways!  Looking forward to continuing the journey with you!

So if Family Feud asked you to describe “Christians” what would you say?

Miley Cyrus…oh my…

Yesterday was one of those crazy campus ministry days.  This weekend we’re hosting our first wedding rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, wedding and reception.  Wow!  We hosted our first wedding reception two weeks ago and it was beautiful!  I have no doubt that today’s wedding will be just as beautiful and special.

I’m so glad I’m writing this today and not yesterday.  Yesterday morning when I got to Wesley the air conditioning unit was making a buzzing sound.  I could hear the fan going in the building but the two fan blades in the actual unit weren’t moving at all.  As y’all know – this is the hottest month that newscasters have on record and this is South Carolina.  Needless to say – it was hot!  We have a now close relationship with Adams Services.  Adams does heating, cooling, electrical, and plumbing so between all of those things we have plenty of chances to see them between fixing up Wesley and trying to continue to maintain The Wesley House.  They are all great guys and I trust them completely.

They got here a little after 1 and thankfully had a temporary fix for us by 3 which was great.  Yes, they’re going to fix it more next week when I’m on vacation and yes, this is still only a temporary fix because this unit is old and decrepid and we need to eventually by another unit – you don’t want to know that price tag.  Bottom line for me though – it was fixed!  It was a little warm for the rehearsal/rehearsal dinner last night but when I got here this morning it was a nice 72 degrees which is miraculous for this building.  And now both families are decorating away and fellowshipping with each other and it’s beautiful…..and cool.  Nice.  Praise God for a cloudy day!

So why is the blogged titled Miley Cyrus you may ask?  Well all day yesterday I could only think of one song and it was Miley Cyrus’ “The Climb.”  Some of you may be shaking your head and saying that I am crazy for thinking of that song by a teen pop star/blah, blah, blah.  However – I like the stinking song.  Disney mistakenly sent us the Hannah Montana movie and although our kids aren’t nearly old enough to see it or care a wit about it, it wasn’t half bad.  And I’m a little embaressed to admit that but who cares.

In campus ministry land I do often feel like it’s the climb.  It’s an amazing and awesome climb 98% of the time.  I love, love, love my “job.”  It’s hard for me to imagine doing anything else.  But let me tell you, yesterday when the air conditioner is broken and I hear the pricetag for fixing it and next door at The Wesley House, we’re fixing a bathtub, front door lock, and calling Comporium to fix a cable box…things feel like an uphill battle trying to keep this property in shape and accessible.

What makes it all worth it though is things like today.  Yep, this property stuff drives me crazy, but it’s worth it to see this wedding today!  It’s worth it to have gone next door to Wesley House this morning to borrow the vaccuum and see one of our new residents at home in her new room and her facebook status, “is an OFFICIAL resident of the wesley house. love my life. 😀 😀 :D”  That makes all of this other junk worth it!

So maybe it is the climb.  And maybe it is Miley Cyrus.  But it sure did speak to me.  Thank God there’s no limit to what God can speak to us through.  In this life sometimes we have to keep climbing and bounding over the hurdles thankful for the daily mercies and blessings that come our way even in the midst.

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
“You’ll never reach it”

Every step I’m taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

The struggles I’m facing
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I’m not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I’m gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

‘Cause there’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb, yeah!

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Somebody’s gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb, yeah!

Keep on moving, keep climbing
Keep the faith, baby
It’s all about, it’s all about the climb
Keep the faith, keep your faith, whoa