Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Facebook faith group



This is a little "Faithbook" Experiment in progress....


A couple of months ago, I joined a health/fitness group to gain some accountability and encouragement for exercise and diet.  We were encouraged to post selfies “post workout” and pictures of the food we ate.  We also encouraged others in the group for making good choices and sticking with their workout.  Each day there were mini-challenges that helped us with fitness (maybe doing 40 squats, or 50 sit ups, or drinking more water).  I didn’t do it all EVERY day, but I did it enough that it has made a significant difference in my health, lack of pain, and weight loss.  And as I did the group, I couldn’t help but think, this is a great model, we could use it for faith!  There were 2 coaches in the group that posted the challenges and helped both with their example and with encouragement and we were there to improve our health.  There were skinny folks and bigger folks, folks who already worked out daily and others who were just getting started.  It was tempting sometimes to compare myself to them, but really, it was about me, doing these things for me, regardless of their size or weight or choices.  It became a great place for me to be accountable in achieving my goals. And, on the days when I didn't want to get out of bed, I had others who posted their work out posts, reminding me it was worth it!

So, as I thought about a faith group, my hope was to have a group of folks with a clear desire to be better/stronger/more faithful in who they are in their relationship with God.  I wanted there to be a place for accountability and encouragement that allowed for some interesting and fun ways to engage faith.  I realize that, like the health group, joining won’t mean everyone does everything every day, but maybe we are encouraged to do something at least a few days of the week and that can lead to growing in our relationship with God.  And, I realize we are all in different places. Some of us may have a daily habit of prayer, others may not. Some may have a place where they serve regularly, others may not.  It’s not about who is the better Christian. It’s about being intentional and accountable in growing for ourselves.  

This is a private group, so what you share isn't visible to everyone of your Facebook friends.  It will be shared within our group and the expectation is that we will respect one another and what is shared.  If we ask for prayer, we should pray for one another without passing on the concern unless we have explicit permission.  If we come with doubts or questions about faith, we should be received with grace and not judgment.  This isn't a group for proving who is right or wrong about scriptural interpretation or theology. It's about helping all of us to grow in our faith.  

This group is not meant to be an excuse or justification for withdrawing from your faith community or church (assuming you're currently active, which is not a requirement).  This is a version of an online cell group.  

Admittedly, while I've done a group like this for fitness, I have not done this type of online faith group.  This is a bit of an experiment to see if it's effective, fruitful, and supportive.  I need your help as we mold and shape the group.  

If you are (still) interested in joining in, please let me know.  For this initial group, I'd like to do a 3 week commitment and see if it's worth repeating. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A little like normal

It was July 1st that I started at the new church.  The first two weeks seemed a bit slow and like I was always looking for something to do.  The next few weeks were incredibly fast-paced and I felt like I was never catching up!  And, as part of and in addition to the whirlwind of responsibilities, get-togethers, and one on ones, was the lingo of new ministries, events and activities of which I had no clue: wet and wacky, bike and build, fiddles, viddles and wine, and more...they were ministries that were known to the staff and the church community. All anyone had to do was speak the name of a group or event and everyone, except me, seemed to know the mass of information related to it--when it happened, who it was for, who was in charge, who helped, etc.  And there I sat, wondering what it was, when it was, who was connected and what, if any, responsibility I might have with said group or ministry. 

 Never afraid to ask a question, I would chime in with "what is that?" and be offered an explanation.  This routine continued each week at staff meeting for the majority of the summer until this one day late in August when finally the words and terms were not foreign.  I now, at least, had a concept of what the event was, when it was, who it was for, and how I might be tied in as the pastor.  

That may not seem like a big deal. It may feel pretty mundane to you the reader, but to me, the one sorting through a 1000 different "new things" in the midst of a pastoral transition, feeling a little less lost helped me feel a little more normal and that was a gift of grace for which I give great thanks. 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Back from Hiatus (maybe)

I was looking at my blog the other day searching for a former post and realized it had been months since I last posted.  I sort of fell of the face of the earth as we tied things up at my last appointment and transitioned to life and ministry in a new town with new people.

Change and transition are hard.  Most anyone will tell you that, and it has been no exception for us (even though we are people who like to bring and experience change).  In the transition things are busy and it's hard to find time to write.  It's also emotional and there's the inclination to purge emotionally posting about anything and everything, which isn't a practice I advocate in general. So, instead, in many ways I've held my tongue.

As I get adjusted and things begin to balance, I find myself wanting to reflect and write.  And I am drawn back to this venue to do just that.  So, here is my first step.  We'll see if I can keep up the discipline for more.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Happy birthday Ruthie!

 Happy Birthday Ruthie!



 There's no better way to start the day!  At 7:15am she came in and woke me up and told me that I needed to sing her "Happy Birthday" in her bedroom.  I got up and went in to find she had found her treasure chest gift in the living room, moved it to her bedroom, and emptied it of its contents.  After singing "Happy Birthday" she asked if I would help her get dressed in her princess clothes.  I did and she submitted to some pictures and videos.  Until she found the playdoh! Then she wanted her gloves and jewelry off so she could play with her playdoh.

 For the afternoon, we went to her cousin's superhero birthday party and celebrated with him and his friends.  Auntie had mad capes for each kid with their first initial and had masks they could make and wear.  She also made a miniature gotham city for picture taking!

Happy birthday little girl!  You are intelligent, capable, kind, friendly, polite, loving, cuddly, beautiful, fun, adventurous, fiercly independent, and VERY VERY loved. You bring us joy every day and we wouldn't trade the world for you.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Appointment Change

It was announced that this year, I will be taking an appointment change and leaving Wesley UMC.

It was all pretty surprising and unexpected.   I hadn't requested a move. My church hadn't requested a move.  We both thought we were doing good ministry and that it'd continue that way for awhile.  

Last time I moved, I had asked for it.  And after asking I had talked with a couple of DS's to get my name out there and let them know who I was and what my gifts were.  So, I guess I assumed if I were up for a move again it would be because I had asked for it, or at least I would have a clue that I was being considered.  I didn't.  Not one single clue.  (Though I suppose God was planting seeds in my mind that would have suggested moving sooner rather than later, but I was gracefully ignoring that.)  

Anyway, first came a "heads up email" one that said, "You might be getting a call from another DS."  Might, like "might happen but probably won't?" or might like "we've changed your appointment and someone will be calling?"  More like the latter.  I was devastated. I love my appointment. The people I serve are amazing and faithful and willing and have servants' hearts and I was not prepared to leave.  I was out doing visitation, so I did one more visit and then drove home and shared the news with Rick.  We sat and cried together.  It was really tough news to wrap our heads around.  

And then we waited, and waited, and waited. No call came.  Not that night.  I sent the description of ministries at Wesley to the DS to try and help them find the best incoming pastor for Wesley. And then we waited some more.  

Rick had a contract interview for his new church the next day, so I emailed and asked for some clue about where we might be going.  We had no clue.  It could be San Luis Obispo, it could be Hawaii, it could have been in a neighboring city.  I asked "Will it be in the area?" and was told no.  Which, honestly, living in Southern California, didn't help a lot.  I realized after asking the question that what I might define as "in the area" and what the DS might define as "in the area" could be two very different things.  So, we had Rick go to the meeting and move forward recognizing the information we had could not be shared, and we had no real idea if he would or wouldn't be able to take the job.  

So we waited some more.  We waited through Tuesday, and then through Wednesday.  And Thursday came and there was hope of a call, a promise of a call, and then nothing.  It felt a bit like purgatory.  There was a lot of waiting, wondering, frustration, confusion, grief, and no answers.  

I kept wondering why I was being moved. I thought, "But I'm doing good ministry!" Being moved definitely felt like a punishment I didn't deserve.  Yes, I know I'm Methodist. Yes, I know I signed up for itinerancy and that's part of my vows.  I get all that. But that hardly seemed relevant at the time.  And waiting in the land of not knowing didn't help to pacify my concerns.

Finally, on Friday morning the call came.  The DS said, "So, you're moving, yay!!!!" and I said, "You know I like serving where I am right?!"  He said they did and that they also thought it was time for me to spread my wings a little bit and go to the next place.  

I can't say I was relieved when I finally heard the name, I didn't know the church. I knew nothing about the ministries.  And frankly, I was still moving and didn't really want to be.  But, it did help to assuage a number of my fears. It let us map out Rick's new job from my new church and know it was do-able, not ideal, but do-able.  We, of course, checked out the website.  And we waited some more. This time for the introduction, for the confirmation, for the permission to move forward with figuring out the logistics of packing and moving and changing our life around.  

While my initial grief was profound, I have had time to process and to accept this change. I've had a chance to talk with the pastor and meet the SPRC and some of the staff and to get excited about the possibilities of new ministry in a new place.  I've had time to think about and appreciate all of the MANY things we've been able to accomplish in 6 years at Wesley UMC.  I've been able to relish the gift of grace and healing I have received from the congregation at Wesley.  They are amazing.  And they live their faith in unbelievable ways.  And I've acknowledged that they/we are in a good place for a move.  It was unexpected, but we are in a strong and stable place.  A place that won't suffer years of set back because of a poorly timed move.  I have peace about the change.  

And, as of July 1st, I will begin at Valencia UMC, and I thank God (and the cabinet) for that opportunity.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Does Membership Matter

I was scrolling through email and deleting the mass emails that I get regularly (sometimes I read them, sometimes I don't) and saw an article title that got my attention: 'Does Membership Matter Anymore?"

I appreciated the article because it resonates with me.  His questions are questions I ask myself regularly. It speaks to so much of how I feel and think about membership in my own church. I wonder, "Why bother?!" when people who never "join" but actively participate already consider themselves members because they have a sense of belonging And others, who never attend, or give, or help, are tied to the church because they grew up there, or their family is still there or they attend once a year and are still considered "members" even though for all intents and purposes they aren't acting members.  Honestly, we have out of town visitors who participate more intentionally. 


There have long been critiques of churches who "padded" their membership roles by allowing anyone and everyone to join the church.  One joke I heard when I first started ministry was "Back in the day, if you golfed with the pastor, you were added as a member."  I definitely think membership should mean more than numbers.  We offer membership classes once or twice a year and invite people to join.  But we don't set strict requirements (after all, how could we when we have people who participate minimally that are considered members?)  And, as I mentioned above, we have others who have never officially joined the church, but attend regularly, give generously, help in active ministry, and consider the church "theirs".  So what's the difference between the one with the title and the one who doesn't?  And what is the reason for advocating for church membership?  The title of member doesn't make us a better disciple. It doesn't make the Bible easier to read.  It doesn't make the marginalized less off-putting.  And it doesn't guarantee relationships that matter or strengthen us. 

So if the title of member isn't what transforms us, what is? And why should we continue to advocate for membership?  Don't worry, I'm not refusing to allow folks to become members. But I do genuinely struggle with what our role is as the church and what difference it makes to be a member or not.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pad Thai


This recipe was originally found on Allrecipes.com.  I used input from several reviews and did some of my own thing and came up with the following recipe.  It was delicious and pretty easy to put together! 

Pad Thai (Modified recipe)



Ingredients:
1 (12 ounce) package rice noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sesame oil (optional)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken
breast halves, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 green onions, chopped
1-2 Tbsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp olive oil (plus sesame oil if desired)
4 eggs
3 tablespoon white wine vinegar
6 tablespoons fish sauce
5-6 tablespoons white sugar
Tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
3-6 drops hot sauce (optional)
1-2 tbsp peanut butter
1-2 cups bean sprouts (optional)
1-2 cups shredded or thinly sliced carrots
1/4 cup crushed peanuts
1 handful cilantro chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges
Directions

1) Boil water. Add rice noodles and boil 1 minute. Turn off heat, let sit 5 minutes.  Rinse in cold water. Drain. Set aside.
2)
Heat 2 tbsp oil (and a couple drops of sesame oil if desired) in a wok or large heavy skillet. Saute chicken, with garlic, and green onions until browned. Season with salt and pepper. Remove, and set aside. Heat additional oil in wok over medium-high heat. Crack eggs into hot oil, scramble, and cook until firm. Stir in chicken, and cook for 5 minutes. Add carrots. Add softened noodles.
3) Mix vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, peanut butter, hot sauce and red pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. Mix while cooking, until noodles are tender. Add bean sprouts, and mix for 3 minutes. Add cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. Mix and serve hot.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sermon accomplished!

Earlier today I posted about my struggle in writing my sermon on John 19:1-16a. It may not be Working Preacher worthy, but here it is. As I researched and read for this passage, I found the internet world woe-fully silent on this passage (ah the irony) and figured that despite it's failings, at least there would be another something out there to help another pastor somewhere along the line.  

Preaching struggles

Sometimes it's hard to write a sermon. Sometimes I lack time to study. Sometimes I lack the drive. Sometimes I find too many things to do instead of preaching.  And sometimes it's a hard text to work with.  Last night as I worked to put words on paper I found I had writers block. So I started here instead:



I’m having a heck of a time trying to make something come from this scripture (John 19:1-16a). I’ve spent more time with it than I have any text in recent months.  And yet, it’s not giving me anything back.  It’s just not working.  Normally as I start to retell a story it comes to life and in that life is Gospel, sometimes satisfying and sometimes unsettling, but the story comes to life. But this story sucks.  It doesn’t inspire. It doesn’t reveal God. It sucks.  At the very least it doesn’t give life.  And maybe somewhere in there there’s hope or good news or something. But it isn’t coming clear to me. 

The manuscript is being revised and finished for worship this morning. Hopefully I will get it posted later today.  May God's Word speak to you today!