Thursday, June 26, 2008

Moving day

It's moving day! Currently there is no internet, no TV, and WAY too many boxes! But let's give three cheers for conference movers who haul those babies up and down stairs for you! Say it with me:
Click here to see the new church.
Happy Thursday! I'll write more when I get internet again.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Talking in Circles

So, in addition to the stress of moving, my life seems to be full of silly road blocks. I spent months fighting with my health insurance to provide a service I am eligible for. I've spent months trying to get my auto/renter's insurance figured out and moved to a different office and it's still not fixed. I think 6 months is a bit long to wait for that kind of thing, but then again, I'm just a young fool.

Today I went to take my DVR back to TWC and spent 10 minutes talking in circles with the women there. Turns out TWC sends a bill (with my account on autopay) before they actually charge it to your card. So I was trying to get the charges adjusted and they couldn't figure out what on earth I was talking about. I was so confused. So were they. Finally we got things straight, but OMG was it a pain!

Then I went to the post office to pick up a parcel and get stamps and we were talking about the passport laws. There was a law set up that requires a passport when crossing from Mexico to the US, and it was supposed to start January 1, but was pushed back. I was trying to ask what the new date was, but they were confused. Apparently INS/Homeland security is hassling people who don't have a passport so the post office lady figured it was as good as in effect. I didn't agree. But then she tried to convince me that it was the Mexican border patrol that was requiring the passport. I said no, it was us. She was so frustrated she threw up her hands at the conversation. She thought it was Mexican officials stopping people at the border and not allowing them into the US. Hello?! How does that make sense? They don't really care if people come to our country...but la migra does. It too was circular and confusing.

I'm hoping that once I move I can get out of the twilight zone and things will actually start working and making sense and I can stop having circular conversations.

Here's to new beginnings!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Man the emotions are high this week

This is it. This is move week. And move I shall. Monday I helped a friend pack and move her house. Today I went to my brother's to pick up the things he's gifting me. Tomorrow I'm actually supposed to go to work (go figure!) and Thursday my movers come to take me to Riverside.

It is at the same time exciting and scary as all get out. I have been nauseous for far too long now--partly stress, partly extreme heat, partly added emotion.

My temper is short and the Uhaul guys were lucky I practice self-restraint because they were ridiculous to work with. I think they know that there aren't a hundred other move-it-yourself stores around the corner, so if go to them, you're stuck with them. So they can make you wait for an eternity and they don't care one iota!

And apparently my cry-response is heightened too. As I tried to finish packing the kitchen tonight I started thinking about unloading the cooler, washing all the dishes (since newspaper smears all over things) and all that other happiness that is moving to a new house and got really overwhelmed. One of my parishioners offered a couple weeks ago for her and her husband to help with whatever I might need. I didn't have any good ideas or places to delegate, so I said I'd let them know. Well, you can bet that when I thought of all the kitchen chores yet to be done, I figured it out! So I called, not sure if the offer still stood or if they'd be willing to help without much notice, especially if it meant driving all the way to Riverside. But, fortunately, she was gracious, and excited even!! And I started to cry on the spot. Grace is such a powerful thing--that undeserved generosity and kindness. Quite frankly, it's overwhelming.

I know that the emotions are only going to get stronger as I say my final goodbyes, take leave from people I love, and enter into the excitement and anxiety of all new relationships and a completely new setting for ministry.

It feels (as if I'd actually know) kinda like having a baby--knowing that your world is going to shift dramatically once *that day* happens, but not knowing fully how. I know I've pastored a church before, so it won't be that unknown, but I will be the senior pastor--the jefa- and that my friends is suddenly REALLY overwhelming!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Quote of the Day

One of my friends sent me one of those zillion question surveys with her answers. I laughed out loud when I read this one:

29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? No, I would love to try bungee jumping but I will not stick something in my eye. At least not on purpose.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Reflection or Projection?

Today is my sabbath and there are a number of things I "should" be doing--which by my sabbath rules (e.g., Do not do anything you "have"/"should"/"must" do), means I shouldn't do them. But with a move NEXT week and annual conference this week and boxes everywhere and a handful of things still not packed, I feel like I should do those things. With only 3 more actual working days in Hemet, I also really want to go out and visit "one last time" some of my favorite folks.

To say the least, it has been hard not to work today. I did manage to take a good walk and now I am sorting through emails/chats, categorizing, and deleting a bunch of stuff. It's not a must, so it's *legal* and it does feel nice to be purging some of that extra stuff that just seems to get in the way.

As I filed things, I ran across an email update from my early months, talking about how I was feeling in general about ministry and many of my frustrations and my grief that ministry was not all seminary cracked it up to be (or at least not as utopic).

Part of the email read:

I think I am struggling with two things right now 1) grieving the reality of the church. It definitely is not what I expected ministry to be, in some ways at least, and I am regularly discouraged by people's apathy or resistance to God's continued transformational work, it's like, they are okay with God's action if (and only if) it brings immediate and clear blessings, but change (especially of the emotional and ideological variety) is undesired.

That got me thinking. A few days ago I had posted about moving from a mindset of urgency and immediate change in the beginning to one of greater patience now. So, now, reading through my email from 18 months ago, I wonder if the church was reflecting my mindset of urgency, or if I had been projecting my issues onto them...

I don't have a real answer at this point, as the thought just occurred to be 5 minutes ago, but I did think it was interesting...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Relationship Building...

As I've been thinking about the Bachelorette and dating, I've had various ideas for activities I'd have the men do if I were on the show. I mentioned the foot washing, but I'd also have us do after school tutoring, a Habitat for Humanity (or something similar). I'd also thought that we should do something that's stress inducing (not like speed-dating with 15 men at once isn't stress inducing enough, but...) that would show how the men act under pressure. Are they leaders? Doers? Arguers? Someone who walks away? It's one thing to see how a man acts when he competes with other men for a woman, but it's another thing entirely (at least I like to think it would be...) to see his leadership skills and skills under pressure. I have yet to figure out what such an activity would be, but I'll keep working on it. As a pastor, I've also thought about doing Bible study together, or prayer group, or small group study, or having them read "The Five Love Languages" (which I talked about here.)

In reality, as intriguing as doing a show like this sounds, I really don't think I could do it. First, there'd be the constant nausea, second it's so rushed--who can make these sort of life decisions in six weeks (especially when you're not focused on just one person, but on a dozen), and third it's forced--there's so much expectation right from the beginning, like it's do or die. But, as I've had all these things rattling around in my head, I did think that it could be a cool young adult small/large group ministry. It could be about relationship building, and you bring in couples that are already dating (or are interested in dating) and meet once a week. On the odd weeks you do a small group study--it could be a Bible study, a book study, trust exercises, communication techniques, affirmation circles, etc. Then the even weeks you do a group date that includes romantic nights out, but also includes touch football, footwashing, tutoring, home (re)builds--stuff that shows you the character of the person you're dating and allows you to work together and see how that goes for you. It's one thing to frequent the movies and restaurants, it's a whole other bargain to figure out how to build a roof, or to deal with your fears or disgust for washing feet, to work in a group.

I've even thought that I could team up with the other UMCs in my area and we could do it together for planning, programming, and teaching and that if we had all 4 clergy involved, we could also advocate for 3 counseling sessions for each couple over a period of a couple months and the clergy could share that responsibility.

The only hang up I have in actually working on this ministry when I get to my church is that about 20 years ago there had been a couples' group and they didn't do so well with the 7th commandment, so I think there might be a lot of hesitation (with some good reason) for doing a ministry like this. Who knows?

I guess I'll keep it on my list of possibilities for the future of the church and just pray about them all and see where God leads us!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Check this out...

I thought this was a powerful and potent post. (Make sure you read part one and two) I learned in seminary that I am not the messiah sent to save everyone--it's not in me, it's in Jesus. Thank God. Nevertheless, I've fallen into the trap of wanting to be the "bestest preacher ever" that RLP describes and when I don't take sabbath or don't take a much needed vacation, this blurring together of facts and forgetting of names and important details happens to me too. And I guess, in some way, I should thank God for that too.


I've been thinking a lot lately about our use of the word "church". We think of the church as the body of Christ, or maybe the institution, or maybe simply the building. And more often than not, when I use the word church, folks think I'm talking about the building or the institution. So I've been wondering about using "the body" or "the body of Christ" for when I talk about the church--meaning the people. Maybe just for awhile until we (those at my church) get accustomed to think of ourselves as the church, rather than the church being the building or the institution. I have that song "I am the church, you are the church, we are the church together..." running through my head now. Maybe it'll be our theme song!

Monday, June 9, 2008

On deeper roots

This year has been one of harsh climate, metaphorically speaking. Thinking of myself as a plant, there have been extreme heat waves, words and actions that scorched, and even someone who did a lot of "hack-n-whack" that did a bit of damage (per se) to my branches. Nevertheless, as I was thinking of things the other day, I thought, "What happens when your branches and leaves are under siege?" And the answer I heard was, "You develop your root system." When there's too much heat and the visible plant gets burned and battered, generally, the root system goes deeper--seeking water and nutrients and expending energy that will not be wasted.

And I'd like to think that's what's happened for me--I've grown a deeper root system. I'm more established, more grounded, can call on help/nourishment/refreshment from places deeper than the eye can see.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sometimes we do damage

Overall, I think most of us would agree (Christian or not) that Christianity is generally a good thing, about promoting goodness for people (of all shapes, colors, and creeds), and yet, sometimes we do damage. Obviously, with the Crusades, we did more than "damage". We (whether we participate or not) also often are known for berating people about their damnation so that they might believe. Those are the obvious ones. But I think there are more subtle ways *we've* done damage.

The other day I was talking with a woman about her faith journey. She had a number of things on her mind and hoped I could help. The first thing we talked about was forgiveness. She shared that someone near to her told her, "You need to forgive X or you won't be forgiven and you will go to hell." Well, yes, scripture does say that we have to forgive in order to be forgiven, but I think that simple-matter-of-fact statement takes a number of things for granted.

#1 It was not a given that the person I spoke with, let's call her Georgia, hadn't forgiven X. Her "adviser" simply assumed she hadn't.

#2 Forgiveness can be a process. The words "I forgive you" can be given simply and quickly, but the emotions tied to unforgiveness can take time to work through.

#3 It puts the onus of the forgiving--the weight of the sinful actions--on the victim. The victim now becomes responsible for the abuser's actions. I'm not saying that victims shouldn't forgive, but I am saying that all too often when someone has been hurt/abused/mistreated we hand them the responsibility (and the damnation) for forgiveness (in other words, he harmed her, and now she's damned to hell because of the wounds he left...that may be overly simplistic, but hopefully you get the idea). That's a bit lopsided in my mind. The abuser has a responsibility and accountability in this too: repentance (which means a changing of action, not just a simple "I'm sorry").

I walk with a pastor/pastoral counselor regularly and she shared something really interesting about forgiveness and the scriptures. She said that often when forgiveness is mentioned in the New Testament (I don't know about the Old) that it has to do with debt, and the owner/powerful/money-holder forgiving the debt. In other words, it calls those who have more (property, money, power) to be forgiving (lenient, giving, merciful) rather than the other way around. I'm not sure exactly where to go with that from here, just that I thought it was interesting.

Another thing Georgia mentioned in talking with me was pride/humility. Mostly she talked about how hard she is on herself and then she talked about feeling "good" when she had helped someone in need, and then feeling bad that she was being *prideful*. My heart broke for her. She couldn't/wouldn't even allow herself to enjoy the good feelings of helping someone. I can't help but think the church is partly responsible for this one too, in that we preach against pride so much and for our "sinful nature" that we've forced a skewed view of ourselves. If we aren't constantly critiquing ourselves for our faults/sins/misgivings, then we're edging on pride. But I think that's wrongheaded. My counselor in seminary gave me great advice about humility, he shared that humility is not the opposite of pride, self-deprecation is. Humility, rather, is thinking neither too high, nor too low of yourself. So to be humble is to both know your faults and to appreciate your gifts--a happy medium of sorts.

As we talked more about her good feelings, I told her they were a gift from God--the way we know we're doing what God would have us do. I told her I know that I am truly living my call when I teach and preach and help people, and I know that from the tremendous sense of joy I feel. I shouldn't negate that feeling, and neither should she--it's a gift from God.

It's often in the subtleties that we are misunderstood, or that we misunderstand, and often, when we do harm. Sometimes it's semantics, and no we can't be responsible for every possible take on every possible word we use, but we do have to be careful, especially if you're a preacher of the word--God's word. You're words often carry greater authority, greater meaning, and a sharper edge and you must proceed with caution. We are responsible for the well-being of the flock, and often that means navigating pronouns for the divine, offering space for healing, and time for forgiveness, and grace for all.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Cardboard Testimonies

I thought this was a powerful way to share testimonies. Now I have to figure out where and when it might fit for worship...

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


...I just wish I could call in sick.

I'm getting my own church!

I've gotta be honest here, it regularly blows my mind that the cabinet decided to give me, the youngest (clergy) member of the annual conference, a senior pastorate. But they did, and so now I'm packing and planning and turning my life upside down so I can make a move.

In the last couple of days I've had a lot of exchanges with the Senior pastor trying to make sure i have my head in the game (so to speak). I learned of my appointment months ago, but only had a handful of questions, now that the time is immanent, I have a zillion!!

I'm fortunate that he's worked on the website (because if I were in charge, it would not happen, not for a year or something before I could take a class, or two, or three). **Note, if you are in seminary, take the time to take a web design course (even if it's just auditing it). You will greatly benefit from it. It would be nice to believe that there will be sufficient techies in your church to cover that ministry, but don't bet your paycheck. Take the class, learn the basics, then you can do updates, new pages, or a completely new site.

Trouble is, the web address isn't super simple and easy to remember (it's one of the gbgm ones) and it's not accessed enough, so it's on the last pages of any search. So, we have low visibility with anyone trying to find a church. So, if you have a free minute, take the time to click our site so we can start moving up in the world!

Here's to new beginnings!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Date possibility #1

Thinking about the Bachelorette and all that would entail I was struck that most of the dates are on the romantic or fun side, which is great, but they wouldn't necessarily tell you all that much about a person's character. So I started thinking up my own dates (*you know, if I lived in a imaginary world) that would hopefully give me a better glance at who the men were at their core. Some need more time, but I'll start with this one:

Foot washing clinic for the homeless in downtown LA. This one would be a group date (meaning many of the guys) and hopefully my friend H, from Atlanta, could come and oversee things, as well as give me her two cents (she's good for blunt, honest opinions). The night would be plain and simple, down and dirty. Dinner together, prepared by a couple of guys (maybe with some assistance from a regular at the shelter) from the donations that are on hand at the shelter--nothing fancy schmancy. Then we'd do foot clinic for an hour and a half or so with 6-10 stations. Each guy would have a station (or he could greet folks and mingle or wash tubs) and would wash feet, scrub them, cut toenails, cut away corns, dry, lotion, powder, and give new socks to each person who came through. I could either sit with each guy throughout the night trying to help, or I could be a point person, or I could simply have my own station.

This would show lots of things about the guys--how they relate to strangers, how they relate to the homeless in general, how willing they are to do some undesirable task for the benefit of someone else--a total stranger. And, when I'm with them, helping or otherwise, if they focus solely on me, or if they actually continue to engage the person their working with.

Extravagant dates and romance are nice, but when they're so over the top, they're hard to beat and almost impossible to repeat. What happens when you're stuck with just the ordinary everyday stuff?

Get out and vote!

No on 98/Yes on 99!

Occasionally, there are issues on the ballot that seem innocuous, but actually make a difference. I believe that 98/99 is just such an occasion.

Both Propositions 98 and 99 were put on the ballot to limit immanent domain – the capacity of the government to buy property in the public interest. But Proposition 98 throws in some other stuff that isn’t good.

  • Prop 98 sets up roadblocks to keep local activists and even public agencies from protecting California’s natural resources.

  • Prop 98 abolishes rent control statewide – and prohibits future generations from any form of rent stabilization no matter what the economic circumstances may require.

Prop 99 bars the seizure of private homes for redevelopment by private developers – but it also protects renters and undeveloped land as well.

Here is why Prop 98 is bad:

  • It’s an environmental minefield – It allows property owners to sue whenever any rule, ordinance or law imposes costs on an owner – even if the regulation would help save lives or the environment. It could undo coastal protections and land use planning.
  • It hobbles local planning decisions – It encourages people to seek reversal of open-space designations, zoning plans, urban limitation lines, and restrictions on polluting industries.
  • It puts property rights over people rights – It offers incentives for developers and other land holders to build in spite of neighbors, regulations, zoning ordinances, master plans or other reasonable protections against environmental degradation or exploitation.
  • It takes away local control – It substitutes statewide law for local cities ability to make the laws they need based on their situation and circumstance. Local communities could be prevented from developing any laws regarding housing, building, development or planning.
  • It abolishes housing protections – It makes it impossible for cities or citizens to stabilize rents or protect rental properties and trailer parks, and it makes it more difficult for a community to initiate community economic development strategies.



**Disclaimer: these views are not endorsed by the UMC or Hemet UMC specifically, they are my own personal views and not a representation of my church. Take them for what you will

Monday, June 2, 2008

The girly 15 year old in me is back....

I'm not sure why, but I've started watching this season of the Bachelorette. It's a bit weird because I've never been drawn in by this particular series. I've watched bits and pieces over the years, but not enough to ever really see how things transpire. But this time around, I'm hooked. I watch DeAnna and all the men that showed up to see her and I can't wait to see what happens the next time around. It's also a very interesting social experiment to try and sift through. I'll admit, I have my favorites. And I'm half inclined to be a nutty woman and send a letter to one or two of those who have left and invite them back to California. Don't worry, I haven't jumped off the deep end yet, but with few dating prospects in these realms, it doesn't seem all that crazy.

Last week I had my best friend from seminary here with me and we watched together. Her husband hates the show, so she was glad to sit down with me as we commented on the guys, their attitudes, their character, and their looks. This week we caught up about things online. It's silly, I know. I can admit that, and mostly I'm ok with it.

We even joked about her nominating me to do the show. I laughed and said I couldn't do it. So many decisions in such a short period of time. Not to mention the fact (I'm not sure I've shared this before...) that when I get really anxious (especially in dating situations), I throw up. It's charming I know, one of my less desirable attributes to be sure. So I could only imagine how anxious I would be at dating 15 men at break-neck speed. I'd easily lose 30 pounds and ruin my esophagus.

Not to mention that once upon a time I met a script writer for the Bachelor and he shared some behind the scenes details about the goings on of the show...and, um...yeah, not so much.

Though tonight, watching amazing dates of Cinderella-esque carriage rides, helicopter tours over LA, and a visit to the observatory...not to mention the line dancing and camp fire I might be game just for some really incredible dates! I think that's probably the wrong motivation, but I'm just being honest.

As we chatted my friend suggested that TBN and JCTV could team up and do a Preacher Bachelorette. I can only imagine what I would get! Let's just hope that the applicant screening people were on my side! 'Cause seriously, that could be really strange and awkward.

Wham Bam Thank you Ma'am

No, this isn't a post about that. Geez. I'm a pastor, give a woman some credit!

It's just the most appropriate title I could think of for the way I seemed to enter ministry two years ago. A lot of the ways I approached things was in a rapid-fire, get things done fashion. I wanted to see results, and pronto. I was ready for a worship revolution and a ministry explosion, and quite honestly, I was super frustrated when neither of those things happened.

In all seriousness I went through a serious stage of grief upon entering the ministry. Not only was my congregation hurting and fairly caustic, but my dreams and visions for what ministry would be did not manifest. Seminary had built things up to some sort of utopia and I was a bit peeved that no one bothered to be honest about the realities of endless meetings, mind-numbing politics, and infuriating entitlement.

In the midst of so much all at once, a new job, a loss of my student identity, a major move across the country, no close friends nearby, and a very stressful new position I dredged through a mire of depression, self-doubt, and difficulties. Early on I pledged to stick it out for at least 6 months, hoping that something would get better. And gratefully, it did. Slowly at first, and then at about the six month mark things really started improving. My people were seeing hope for their church and its ministries and they were taking ownership for new programs and revitalizing old ones. It was fabulous. Not problem free, but so much better than the early days.

The passage of time brought many fruits and new things happening at the church. It has been an exciting year of ministry working with these beloved people. This year has brought trials of its own, but God's grace, mercy, and truth have prevailed, and by golly, the adage is right, what doesn't kill ya makes ya stronger!

Reflecting last night really showed me the blessing of time in ministry. While the quick turn around, change and results can be inspiring and motivating, they're fairly superficial and there's no guarantee that they will last. But the things that take time to cultivate and nurture, those things will endure, I can see the deep roots, the strong foundations, and the amazing fruits.

All of those things are excellent fodder for making a change. Not that I couldn't have made the change a few months ago and been fine, but this has just given me so much perspective, so much enthusiasm for forging relationships and taking time at Wesley. Slowing down and letting the process of discernment and collaboration work.

I can't say that I won't be chomping at the bit for a least a little bit of "wham bam thank you ma'am" action--meaning seeing new things pop up without having to wait an eternity, but I think I can wait with greater patience this time around knowing how good the results can be if I just give it time.


This prayer is fabulous! Thanks for sharing buddy.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The greatest gift of ministry

For the past year I have been blessed to work with a youth team of 5 adults. One by one they signed on (starting a year prior) and over time they have each up'd their commitment to the youth and the ministry. For the last 8 months we have been meeting to strengthen their skills, their Bible knowledge, and their confidence in working with the youth in faith matters.

The greatest blessing in this ministry has been watching each person come into his/her own in ministry. For a couple it was moving from reluctance in leading Bible study to "if I have the Serendipity Bible, I can do that by myself, no problem." That may seem minor, but they have their own confidence and self-assuredness that wasn't present early on. Some would do it, but only in case of emergency or only if I were there to help, but now they enjoy it and feel comfortable in it.

For another she started in programming. She'd help with the fun stuff, as long as I didn't make her lead Bible study or stand up in front of the church. Even she has moved leaps and bounds and she is a front runner in the ministry. It's unbelievably powerful to watch her blossom in ministry.

I have always loved kids and enjoy their wonderment and learning, how they just latch onto things and are sponges in absorbing the world around them. And at the same time I love teaching adults, helping to insert new and interesting knowledge into their lives. But this is a new experience--it's the best of both worlds, both the giving of knowledge and the sponge like growth. This is what makes ministry worthwhile.

Okay, well, actually there are lots of things that make ministry worthwhile--helping in a time of need, offering counsel through a difficult situation, accompanying people in their faith journey. But this business of being around long enough to see true development and blessing over time, this is what ministry dreams are made of!

I couldn't ask for a better gift as I get ready to leave this place: seeing how much people love to be in ministry, having them claim it for themselves, offering to do more, and a willingness to be stretched in new ways and being blessed because of it. Wow. I'm awestruck. It's an amazing and incredible feeling.

What's a girl to do?

Having spent the whole night/morning doing the lock-in thing and youth camp-style worship with my youth, I now have the rest of my Sunday off and hardly know what to do with myself!!! Any thoughts?!? Which recent movie do you recommend? Any great ideas for how to enjoy the rare liberty of a youth-group free Sunday?