Thursday, June 26, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
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
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
Monday, June 16, 2008
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...
Friday, June 13, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
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
Monday, June 9, 2008
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
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
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
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
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?
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.
SO WHEN YOU VOTE, PLEASE VOTE NO ON PROP. 98 AND YES ON PROP 99.
99 ENDORSED BY UNIONS, AARP, CA LEAGUE OF CITIES, LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS, POLICE CHIEFS, FIRE CHIEFS, COALITION FOR ECONOMIC SURVIVAL, SMRR
**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
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.
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.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
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.