Posted in Campus Ministry, Faith, Life, Methodism, Sermons

Frustrated but Humbled in a Good Way

Do you get frustrated when things don’t go the way you think they should?  Or even more than that, do you feel frustrated when people consistently don’t live up to expectations or react in ways that you feel are hurtful or uncaring or selfish or self-centered?  There’s such a balance in giving grace to people and loving them as who they are and holding people accountable and really encouraging growth.  Jesus gave us an awesome example with that, but wowzers is it hard to figure out how to live that.

When someone messes up it would be really easy just to ignore it or get over it or forget about what has happened, and of course there are times and places for that, but if we’re talking about Christian community – it is not okay to shut people down, to take things for granted, to not welcome folks, to constantly talk about inside jokes that keep people on the outside, to belittle and criticize in ways that are far from constructive and are much more destructive.  Negativity is so contagious.  And for some reason instead of the church being in sharp contrast to that, it seems that it’s easier for it to happen here than not.

At our district clergy meeting on Thursday we talked a bit about the challenges and hostile environment that some encounter.  In a conversation with a colleague about the church politics of the church kitchen, it amazed me how territorial, rude, and close-minded people can be when they’re the ones on the inside/part of the club and someone else is looking in.  And if you think that “we’ve never done it that way before” is a phrase just used in local churches and not campus ministries, I wish you were right – but sadly, it’s not the case.  I think back on my dad’s talking about what it takes to get to real community – the chaos and conflict involved – and I get that.  But can’t we be different?  Or at least can we try to not be as self-centered and hostile as the rest of the world?  How can we worship and have solid fellowship with someone on a church retreat or on Sunday mornings and then turn around and not speak to them in the aisle at the grocery store or the local Target?  It’s so unbelievingly frustrating.

Not that I’m the “are you being a good enough Christian” police?  Not by any means.  It actually usually make me  wonder if I have been a bad “shepherd.”  Do we as pastors really lead by example?  And what is that example?  Yep I know we are called to offer God’s love to everyone.  I get that.  But I also don’t remember Jesus talking to the Pharisees in a lot of flowery rainbows and butterflies language.  Sometimes it was harsh and hard to hear.  He was straight up with them.  This thing – this discipleship – is not just about insiders.  This is not just a club for you that have figured out how this things work – when to stand for the apostle’s creed or sit for the prayer or whatever.  This isn’t about who can complain and criticize and attack people the most because you think you have the inside track or power.  This isn’t about who has the most friends or knows the most gossip.  This isn’t even about the pastors, the singers, the musicians, the people in charge.  This is about something different.  Thank goodness!

Our theme verse for Wesley this year comes from 1 John 3:17-18 from The Message, “If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something abot it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love?  It disappears.  And you made it disappear.  My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love.”  I really like the text.  But it’s really scary to put that on all the Wesley shirts and the posters because if we put that out there and if people walk in and they’re not welcomed and people keep to themselves and are doing their own thing – it’s a bit of a contradiction, right?  A sort of significant one.

How do we practice real love?  How do we live that out?  As pastors or leaders in the church, how do we not take it personally when this is such a challenge in our congregation?  Are they “getting” anything that we are saying or are people tuning in and out and just not catching on?  Maybe.  Or maybe we’re lacking in our preaching and teaching.  Could be.  Do you at some point say forget numbers, forget statistics, forget all of the nit-picking – we are going to try to live out this love of Christ and the heck with the rest of it?

As you might read between the lines, it’s been a pretty frustrating week.  And discernment and reflection in the midst of being tired makes things all the more personal, hurtful, and accentuated.  But the scripture this morning from the Upper Room was a good word in terms of where we are,

“Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
                                                                                                                     -Isaiah 55:6-13 (NRSV)

You know what that tells me?  That sometimes we just don’t know.  It’s not about us or our ways or what we’re doing or not doing.  God’s purposes are being carried out.  God is sowing seeds all around us.  We can prepare the bread, but the yeast is what mysteriously makes it rise.  I don’t think that lets people off the hook in terms of how we are to be in the world if we claim to be disciples of Christ – not by any means.  But I do think that God says that God is bigger than all of that.  God will work, and is working in spite of all of us folks that mess it up.  It’s not about us – at least not all about us.  That is a relief.  Even if we’re expecting a bunch of thorns (and it sure feels like that sometimes in ministry), there will come a cypress.  A couple of those would be pretty awesome!

So yes things may be frustrating when they don’t move or grow or change or act according to what we may think is right.  True.  And I may expect a heck of a lot out of people when I may not have a right to – remember that whole plank in your own eye thing.  But before I throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Before we sit down and say all is lost – it’s good to know even when I don’t measure up or when I feel like I must be the most gigantic hypocritical mess of them all – God is in the mix – bringing beauty from ashes.  May we seek and know God and be challenged to live it out.  For real.  Not just kidding or just during small group or children’s sermon or Sunday school or Disciple group or on a retreat.  We are called to live out this love all the time – a la Wesley’s – “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”

When you claim you’re a Christian whether saying it, wearing it, on your car, whatever – you’ve got to back it up.  We’re not all going to be “perfect” all the time but that beauty of sanctification is that we don’t have to constantly stay in the low pit of negative, critical, spin cycle of sin.  Change can happen.  And God still moves.  Even in the midst.

Posted in Campus Ministry, Community, Health, Music, Prayers, Suffering

It’s been hopping

If I’m ever not blogging it’s because I’m swamped or maybe even more than I’d like to admit – I’m afraid to “voice” something.  A friend of mine who I love commented on my facebook a few weeks ago when she heard about the campus ministry funding cut – something along the lines of “feeling like Job lately?”

Don’t want to go there because I’m not asking for any other challenges headed this way, but after going to Presbyterian’s Ballantyne office for the MRI yesterday I returned to Wesley to find that our air conditioner has officially passed on to the other side.  When there’s an explosion and smoke and then the awesomely amazing Adams Services guy shows you wires burned in two and half the thing on the inside is black and no fans are moving – that’s not a good sign.

It’s an even worse feeling when he has to bring in the “big guns,” ie. the owner of the company to give me the bad news that it’s good and gone and they can’t rig it up any other way.  The thing worked hard for us so I am thankful for that.  I’m also thankful that it’s not too hot so far today and no one tell the Wesley students that there won’t be a/c tonight – we’ll make do and I want them to still come!

I couldn’t sleep for a long time last night trying to figure out where in the world we’re going to get $8,000-$11,000 for an air conditioner and even more importantly for the winter – the heat pump so that it’s not just straight up gas heat.  I looked up grants and wow that us.gov sight is a monstrosity of crazy info.  I know that somehow, someway we’ll come up with the money to make this happen.  Somehow we always do and I know that God and the people that support this ministry are faithful.

For the past two days Mike has been recording with Tom Conlon in the worship/fellowship room at Wesley.  Many have said this room’s acoustics are like magic and even without AC, the magic room came through.  In walking up to the building this morning and rolling up the trash cans and recycle bins I began to ask myself why do I care about this building so much?  Why do I care about this space?  In the sceme of things what does it really matter?  When there’s bills to pay and things to repair – what stops us from just chucking it all?

My answer is both simple and sincere.  There is magic that happens here.  Tears are rolling down my face just thinking about it which makes me either really sappy or beyond emotional.  This is not a Harry Potter kind of magic but one that happens when community is formed and shaped and grows and changes and is found.  This building is so much more than just a building to me because both as a student and as a campus minister I have witnessed the powerful things that have happened here.  We have shared much laughter and some tears, we have shared in worship and I have seen someone’s call to ministry unfold at an Ash Wednesday service, we have cooked dinner as family and have hung out as friends.  This is part of what the students mean when they talk about Wesley being a home away from home. 

Yesterday after getting back from the MRI I talked to a student who has been coming here for 2 and a half years to use the prayer room several times a week.  He’s only been to one Wesley night but he comes and uses the prayer room as often as he can.  Yesterday he stopped me in the hall and said thank you for us providing this space for him and for people just to come and be.

I think about the student groups and the gospel choirs and the other campus ministries that use this place and how this building and the things that it stands for and witnesses to is greater than we know.  Yes it is just a building – with windows that aren’t the greatest, an exterior paint job that needs some help, and a vacant lot that is probably one of the worst parking lots imaginable – but it is ours and it is home to both the sacred and the sacrilege – the holy and the profane – the mysterious divine and the completely human.

So we’re going to somehow make this work.  Somehow.  By the grace of God and a lot of prayer and hopefully some creative solutions.

Today at 1:15 pm we’ll go to the neurologist and see what’s up.  Do I think a tumor has grown back?  Nope.  Was I very tempted to ask the MRI folks yesterday?  Heck yes.  Am I apprehensive?  Sure.

Ann Curry tweeted this this morning – “The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.  These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.  Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elizabeth Kubler Ross

The only way I see this beauty is through the eyes of the community that surrounds us.  We get to the other side by the grace of God, the One who sustains us, and those that God has joined with us on this journey.  As I wait and hear what’s up today and as I begin trying to figure out that ever lovely money question for air conditioners and programming and all that Wesley jazz – I am thankful for the arms that cradle each of us in both the good and the bad, the light and the dark, the joy and the loss.

I’ll leave you with a song that Tom Conlon played at Wesley a few weeks ago.  Love this song.  It’s called “Leaning”…

Here’s his “Sacred Things”

Posted in calling, Music, Vocation

Beautiful Things

I admit that Mike and I are a bit obsessed with Gungor at present.  I really, really enjoy their music and their “God is Not a White Man” video is hilariously awesome.  youtube it.

A couple Sundays ago I played their song, “Beautiful Things” in church and because I just couldn’t get it out of my head and I also think it’s something that is really important for us to “get,” we played it again this past Sunday.  The text was Jeremiah 1:4-10 and it’s where Jeremiah is saying “Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy…” And God responds saying hey – I’ve got this.  Don’t just tell me the I’m only’s because I’ll send you where I need you to go and I’ll give you the words to speak.  I’ve got this therefore – you’ve got this.

During Salkehatchie for many years when the camp director would give out t-shirts, he would place the t-shirts like a mantle over the youth or adult leaders necks and he would say “God is counting on you” or “The Lord is counting on you” and then your response would be “I am counting on God” or likewise. 

For me this was always a little bit an uneasy thing.  Maybe the t-shirts were heavy – just kidding.  But I guess I felt the weight of the statement that we were saying.  Now there’s a part of me that says – hey God is God – God doesn’t need us to do anything – God can do anything God wants.  But there’s another side that says – but God called us – we are to be in on this awesome partnership with God.  We are the agents for change that with the Spirit of God are called to bring God’s kingdom to earth.

Weighty.

I think of the Mercy Me song – “Word of God Speak.”  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTY-UKgLlXs 

Love that song.  Great to help quelch some fears and very true.

But sometimes this fear of being called to this place.  This fear of speaking out in truth and love.  This fear of stepping up to anything can rob us of so much…much more than we realize.  And let me tell you – we pastors fear these things too.  I’m sure professors and great presenters and presidents and congresspeople and all sorts of folks – feel a great deal of fear when they step up to the mic.  How can you not?

But we in this partnership with God – we can trust that we’ll have the words to speak when we need them.  God will come through for us.  If we open ourselves up to the leading of God, God won’t leave us hanging.  I’m calling this a partnership even though I completely realize that what we bring to the table and what God brings to the table are two totally different things and we only bring stuff at all to the table by the grace of God.  But I also say it’s a partnership because we are active and alive and crucial to this spreading of the Gospel – the spreading of the Word of God. 

In seminary I took this class with Dr. Brian Mahan called “Forgetting Ourselves On Purpose” or FOOP for short.  He wrote a book by the same name.  We also read Parker Palmer’s “Let Your Life Speak” in this class and I enjoyed both of them.  For some of us we are so concerned about what our life will say – we’re so concerned about our book sales, our successes, our failures, etc. that we get lost in the mix.  We’re so scared that we won’t measure up or be good enough that we lose ourselves and the whole point of all this in the process.

Zechariah 4:6 says, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.”  This dance that we’re doing with God – it’s not by our own abilities, it’s by the Spirit of God at work in us.  It’s not based on who has lived what’s seemed like the “best” life, but it is based on the grace of God that is alive and well in us.

One of the students at Wesley last night said that she asked a friend of hers from high school to come to Wesley with her.  They were working on in the gym – no big deal – just come on over with me.  And she said the girl told her that if she went, people would laugh at her.  The student of mine told her – no one there will laugh at you, it will be great…and then the girl told her, no not them.  If I tell my family I’ve gone to Wesley, if I tell my family I’ve been to church, they’ll laugh at me.

God did not make us with a measuring stick stuck to us that we may test out who is good enough and who is not.  God did not make us to live in fear and shame from ourselves without way to get out.  God made beautiful things out of dust and God breathed life into these beautiful things and God calls these beautiful things to be the mouthpieces of a new way of life.  No it is not easy and yes we will sometimes be scared, but God has called us to this place, in this time for a purpose and a word for those around us. 

I remember on one of my little brother’s walls as a child, there being a cross-stitched picture that said, “God don’t make junk.”  I think there was another phrase with it and a picture, but all I can remember is the “God don’t make junk.” 

We are each made in the quirky sometimes weird way that we are and that’s beautiful in and of itself.  We had a beautiful, amazingly spirit-filled, beautiful offertory on Sunday in The Journey – awesome clarinet music.  Wow the talent and the amazing gift of God!  We don’t all have to be the best musicians or the prettiest girl and the handsomest guy or the most athletic or the smart one in the family or the friendly cheerleader, or whatever else.  God made Jeremiah.  God called Jeremiah.  God made each and every one of us (hello Psalm 139) and God has called us.

And if you’re like me and you want to see them play the instruments…very, very cool.

Posted in Campus Ministry, Community, Exercise, Fear, Grace, Jesus, Sermons

Hebrews 12:1-2

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right had of the throne of God.”

In this season of campus ministry – you can’t just sprint.  When people talk about ministry and life in general you’ll often hear comparisons of a sprint versus a marathon.  If we’re constantly sprinting – we’re going to give out – run out – tag out.

I have a couple of friends right now training for marathons and they have their run keepers set on twitter and facebook so that everyone is keeping track of their training.  This is amazing to me.  I have a hard enough time talking myself into any exercise, much less training for a marathon.  I admire their commitment – their dedication.

I relate to the part of these verses that says “let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely…”  Sometimes it does feel like there our weights holding us down.  What are we carrying with us?  What is holding us back with all its might?  Is it unresolved hurt or anger?  Is it a feeling of unworth or mistrust?  Is it a sense of betrayal not just of a loved one but even in thinking about God?  Is it fear?

There can be a lot that weighs us down especially in the middle of the night as we wrestle with those things that we don’t want to acknowledge in the day light.  When everything is stripped away – what holds us back from running the race set before us?

We are not called to live a sedentary life.  But exercise and training can sometimes get beastly, especially when you’re not prepared.  Nobody is saying that the race is easy.  Sometimes you need to spend the big bucks on the right running shoes or suffer the consequences.  And in the race of life – sometimes you need to put in the extra time digging into scripture and forming community with one another.

How are we equipped in this life?  How are we ready?  How do we get geared up like Rocky for the fight ahead?  We have to dig into the Word of God.  We have to earnestly seek the Lord by prayer and supplication.  We have to open our eyes and our heart to the leading of God and the many ways God answers us in miraculous ways every day.

We also don’t have to run the race alone.  No one has to sit in their dorm room alone or has to hide in their office during lunch time.  Sometimes it feels that way and again – it’s not always easy.  But we have to band together as community – as church – with each other or we have little shot of making this trek on our own.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says “And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  In our busy world that seems to burst with “stuff” to do and weights pulling at us from all sides, boy do we need to get countercultural sometimes and ban together and get to know each other.

In a society where one could argue we have more opportunities than ever to connect, there are still so many of us that feel like we have to do everything on our own – by our own strength, our own merit, our own smarts, our own everything.  To run this race with perseverance – we’ve got to drop our pride at the door and be willing to step out and reach out to the others running the race with us.  If we just sit with each other on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights or whenever – and we don’t actually get to know one another – how are we being church with one another? 

Sometimes even with encouragement and building each other up, it still gets to be too much.  A student the other day mentioned how he and his roomate had decided last semester they were going to exercise 5 days a week.  They would hold each other accountable and they would encourage each other.  He then said they lasted about a week and a half.  Hey – for some of us – that’s not bad, but a week and a half…sometimes on our own – even if there’s a whole group of us – it ain’t gonna happen if we’re just doing it on our collective strength.

Bottom line – just like the verse says – we’ve got to keep looking to Jesus.  Because none of us are going to run this race perfectly.  None of us are going to always have the nice, shiny, non-scuffed up running shoes and the perfect form.  Sometimes things get tough and we need to know who to look to.  Jesus – the One who sustains us, the One who knows us inside and out, the One who walks before us and beside us each step of the way.  Do the training – dig into scripture, find a community that can support and lift you up – but always look to Jesus – who continues to strengthen our faith through both lifes sprints and marathons.

Posted in Culture, Faith, Grace, Politics, United Methodist Church

Am I the only one?

Am I the only one who is a little miffed at Jon Stewart’s portrayal of Methodists in last week’s coverage of Chelsea Clinton’s wedding?  I know I was on vacation and out of the loop and I didn’t care nor watch any of the Clinton wedding coverage.  I also know that United Methodist Communications folks probably have bigger fish to fry, but there’s a whole lot of people that watch Jon Stewart and although he’s a little whatever at times, he does usually speak some semblance of the truth.  For the 18-35 year olds among us, many of us would choose to watch him, Colbert, or George Lopez than the news.

To see a clip from the episode I’m talking about check out this blog post from another United Methodist pastor.  He even tells you exactly when to start watching.  http://blog.hackingchristianity.net/2010/08/methodism-university-of-phoenix-of.html

If you don’t want to go to the site and see it for yourself here’s the gist – Jon Stewart says, “Being a Methodist is easy. It’s like the The University of Phoenix of religions: you just send them 50 bucks and click “I agree” and you are saved.”  Again, I know this is Jon Stewart and taken with a grain of salt.  Hello, I’m from the state of South Carolina.  We’ve been giving him great material for years.  But I still think this comment is bothersome.

Being a Methodist is easy. 

I’m a campus minister and every summer and during preview days during the school year we as a collective group of campus ministries (WCCM – Winthrop Cooperative Campus Ministries) host a table with the other student activity groups and we sign up students for more information about the various ministries.  It’s always hilarious to me how many students we get from particular denominations that actually emphasize this connection, how many students are looking nicely around and smiling and then they see our sign that says Campus Ministries and they don’t make eye contact, how many times we never see the student if the parent is the one who signed them up, and those that have already heard about our ministries from their home churches even before they got there.  Now that is a study in and of itself.  Inevitably when I leave these exchanges, I think boy, this grace thing that we United Methodists talk about all the time – that’s a tricky thing.  I don’t know if it’s helping us or hurting us in the arena of discipleship.

Don’t get me wrong – I love grace.  Heck my daughter Evy is Evy Grace.  Without grace humanity would be up the creek with no paddle and not even a boat or creek to begin with.  I LOVE the Wesleyan understanding of grace.  Prevenient grace – God draws us to God’s self even before we know it; Justifying grace – We realize that God’s grace is not only abundant but sufficient for us – even on our most sinful and lost day; Sanctifying grace – God doesn’t leave us where we are in sin but walks with us on this journey of faith drawing us forth to living more and more like Christ.  I get it.  I love it.  Seriously.

But dude, I think half of our people think because they have this grace thing down pat, than they’re all good to go and they forget that sanctifying part where we’re supposed to be growing more and more in the ways of Jesus.  You’ve heard of cheap grace.  I’ve never really liked that phrase because I don’t think grace is cheap – it came at a cost and one we didn’t have to pay.  I may not like the phrase but I think we see the sentiment all around us and contrary to what Mr. Stewart may believe, living out a life of faith is not easy.

Maybe if we really believed the theology we say we do, the things that the Wesleys’ lifted up in their teaching, their music, their lives – maybe then it wouldn’t look so easy or watered down.  I also argue that there are plenty of United Methodists and I know other Christians all over the world that are living out the Gospel with all of its radical, counter-cultural, transformational, and tenacious glory all over the place in all the ways they can, by all the means they can, as ever as long they can.

You don’t press the easy button and then suddenly become a Methodist.  Now that would make a funny new UMC commercial – true.  But it’s a balance.  Grace comes to us freely and without merit.  That in some ways is really easy.  You just call on the name of Jesus and viola – it is that easy.  A free gift – not earned, not based on gold stars we’re collecting on a sticker board in the sky.  How many people do we see in the gospel accounts as they encounter Jesus and suddenly their eyes are opened and they realize he is Lord?  That part – the ah hah – when we get it – is as easy as accepting it and knowing it.  But the living it and breathing it and trusting it and stepping out in faith – that’s a process.  That’s a lifetime.  That’s a step by step, day by day. 

So yes, Jon Stewart I think you are hilarious.  Yes, you are right that there was way too much news coverage of the Clinton wedding.  But yes you bothered me in your comments about our denomination.  Then again, maybe we should be bothered.  Maybe we should think about what we stand for.  Maybe we should think about how we’re living out our faith and how we’re living out such a radical Gospel.  Seriously, maybe that should be our new ad campaign.  Ready or not?  Easy or not?  What does it mean to follow Jesus?  What does it mean to be a United Methodist?  What do we actually stand for?  Not just what we stand against a la Anne Rice’s rant, but what do we clear as a bell, beyond a shadow of a doubt, stand for?

I’m not going to go there with the Anne Rice thing at this point but for a response I really liked and thatresonated with me, here’s one by Karen Spears Zacharias.  http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/current-events/op-ed-blog/22453-an-open-letter-to-anne-rice

Posted in Camping, Faith, Family, Journey, Lost, Spirit, vacation

Journey for Parts Unknown

We went on “vacation” last week to Garden City Beach with my family.  Some dear, dear folks have graciously given us use of their condo since I was 6 years old and that has been the greatest blessing!  Enoch has been talking about the beach all summer and it was great for Evy to experience it as well!  The first day she was like ew…sand…yuck, but by the last day she was sitting in the mud as we dug a huge pool, river and pond.  I know, I know – who digs a river…and yes, in high tide, someone probably fell over in that deep hole we dug as the “pool.”  But it was good times!

Why is vacation in quotation marks?  Because when you take a one and a half and three year old to the beach or anywhere for that matter on “vacation” is it really vacation?  Trying to get them to sleep, follow directions, eat, nap and overall keep them sane and occupied is a near miracle and is certainly not restful for anyone.  Last week’s lectionary text from Hebrews (11:1-3, 8-16) begins by talking about faith and uses Abraham as an example as he is given this promise of God and sets out on this journey with his wife Sarah across parts unknown sleeping in tents and not knowing what the next day will bring but having this promise.  Dude.  We can’t even make it to the beach without a gazillion toys, snacks, books, and all of the “stuff” that we need to survive for less than a week. 

On the way to the beach (we left on a Sunday night) and I was exhausted.  Like for real tired.  The kids were asleep cuddled up in their child seats with their stuffed animals and I wanted to fall asleep so badly, but I’ve always been the one to drive to the beach and Mike doesn’t know all the cut throughs to get down there the non-GPS way.  So here I am awake telling him to go down Old Marion Road, no not that light, the next one, etc.  And I’m thinking oh wow – Abraham had no map, had no GPS, had no clearly marked laid out plan, and yet he took off, packed himself and his family up, and trusted God.

That is CRAZY.  There are many of us that are anti-GPS or even anti-google directions or anti-maps.  Some of us like to wander.  Some of us like to discover.  Some of us like the journey.  (Not with two toddlers, mind you…but you get the drift.)  J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “Not all those who wander are lost.”  Dad actually picked up a t-shirt with those words while we were at the beach.  Of course we gave him a hard time for that because that’s what we do since he loves his Mt. Mitchell camping extravaganzas, but I must say that I secretly liked the shirt a lot.  And I’ve always loved that quote.

Sometimes our wandering is part of the journey.  I was thrilled to return home and get our latest Entertainment Weekly out of the mailbox.  I love that magazine.  I do!  Call me crazy but I love stories and I love a magazine that talks about movies, tv, broadway, and books and has great columns with critical thinkers.  Good stuff.  Anyway – so there was a surprise for me in this issue.  I thought my days of getting little nuggets about the tv show Lost were over, but little did I know that with the new collection of dvd’s coming out, I’d get another gift of an article.  Some of you are like why in the world are you still talking about that ridiculous show and others of you are thinking I need to go get me an Entertainment Weekly.  But seriously it totally made sense to me and this text and this place that many of us are in – this journey.  Carlton Cuse one of the Executive Producers who wrote the show’s finale with Damon Lindelof were talking about how the finale was polarizing – some people happy with it and some people feeling like they wasted 6 years of their lives watching it.  He says, “It seems that the people who embraced the show as a journey and were not fixated on answers probably had the better experience with the show.”  Call me crazy but I completely resonate with that right now in terms of real life…

I’m not saying that we don’t wrestle with the big answers and the twists and turns and the why’s because as I’ve said before – God can handle those and God will give us what we need, but I am saying that part of this is the walk that we are on.  Part of this journey, this path is faith.  Faith that some of the big answers will take care of themselves and some may never get answered on this side of life, but faith that the journey – the life of faith that we lead – is enough.  It’s really easy to talk about faith and a lot harder to embrace it.  It’s really easy to talk the big talk about taking the scenic route and trusting our instincts or the leading of the Holy Spirit, but it’s a lot harder to put our money where our mouth is and not take the GPS.  Sometimes our faith leads us in scary directions with no quick Curious George DVD to plug in and a feeling of vertigo, and that’s tough and it’s scary and it’s real, but sometimes those scary places lead us to mountains of the highest heights and views we couldn’t have imagined and memories we will cherish like my prissy and beautiful little Evy with gritty and slimy beach sand all over her happily playing in the muck and loving it.  If we get stuck in place or if we’re too scared to move or if we stick our heads in the sand or are too busy to notice or care – yeah life seems pretty point a to b to c to d, turn left here, stay straight, this is how you get to your next destination.  But if we let go and let the Spirit lead…yep, we may have some twists and turns, yes, turbulence could be ahead, but what a ride.  What a faith that speaks.

Posted in Culture, Faith, God's Providence, Grace, Movies

Feed the Birds

The kids were watching Mary Poppins the other day and I was struck by the story of the lady feeding the birds.  Mary Poppins is talking the kids into being excited about going with their father to work the next day and she starts telling them about the lady as she holds a beautiful snow globe of it.

In talking about the father in the story and of course of you know the movie he’s kind of a tough rules and order-oriented dad, the kids ask why people don’t stop and give lady money or why they don’t see her altogether.  Mary Poppins answers, “Some people don’t see past the end of their nose.”

Some of us don’t see past the end of our noses.  If we’re too busy in the goings on of life it’s easy not to see the world around us or the needs around us.  I read an article (http://homelessness.change.org/blog/view/please_dont_feed_our_homeless_many_cities_say)You give and last night about some cities outlawing or making it really difficult for people to feed the homeless in their cities.  Wow.  I’m not even going to get into the statistics of how many of our homeless are veterans or are mentally ill or the many, many folks who have found themselves homeless for the first time in the past couple years in our economy.

But a challenge to each of us is to see past the end of our noses and our own little worlds and to see what we can do.  It’s easy to see issues like hunger or homelessness or human trafficking or immigration or education reform as these big, huge things that we can’t make a difference in.  But all those commercials that say that all of us together, all of our little drops in the bucket CAN make a difference – that’s not just Hollywood or a pipe dream.  That’s real.  What can we do today?  What are you passionate about?  What has God given you a vision for?

Trying to see past the end of my nose…

“Feed the Birds” Lyrics

Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul’s
The little old bird woman comes
In her own special way to the people she call,
“Come, buy my bags full of crumbs;
Come feed the little birds,
Show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do
Their young ones are hungry
Their nests are so bare
All it takes is tuppence from you
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag
Feed the birds,” that’s what she cries
While overhead, her birds fill the skies

All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares
Although you can’t see it,
You know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares

Though her words are simple and few
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you
“Feed the birds, tuppence a bag
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag”