Saturday, February 28, 2009

High Anxiety

Ordination interviews are just around the corner….like 4 days away. Most of the process has been low stress for me. Sure, there was high stress when I wrote my commissioning papers 3 years ago, but once they were in it was smooth sailing. My first interview was a cake walk, 15 minutes with only one theological question (for which they basically handed me the answer), and then I knew 5 minutes later that I had passed. After that there was nothing to worry about because ordination was 3 years away and I had ministry to do. This fall the stress started again. Paper writing time. I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. Did I mention I wrote?!?! SEVENTY FIVE pages of reflections on my ministry and their questions. Thanks to my readers I got my papers edited and in ahead of time, so I could enjoy Thanksgiving weekend. Since then I have been stress free. I could have worried about the interview and all that, but why?!? I couldn’t change my papers at that point and didn’t know what the Board thought, so why stress it?!

I also believe in the process, and more than that I trust the Holy Spirit. I believe that God can make it work. If I’m supposed to pass and I don’t, God will make it work. If I’m not supposed to pass and I do, God will make it work. If I’m not supposed to pass and I don’t, God will make it work. If I’m supposed to pass and I do, God will make it work. You see? God will make it work. I trust that God will continue to use me in ministry no matter what the outcome on Tuesday. And that’s been my philosophy all along, which has generally meant, no stress.

That is until last weekend when it struck me that my interview was less than two weeks away. Then on Wednesday of this week I got my Board responses. Generally, they seem good. There weren’t any comments like, “(wo)man you really jacked this one up and are going to have to explain yourself up a storm if you want to pass this year.” But I’m still stressed.

There’s a lot riding on this….it’s my full ordination, it’s the official stamp of approval from the conference. And at the same time, there’s not a lot riding on it, I can come back next year after I’ve grown in ministry and I won’t have died from it. So really, it’s ok either way. I’d just really like to make it through this year because I have WAY better things to be doing next fall than rewriting papers I’ve already written….

Needless to say I need prayers for peace. And I need more prayers for the Board, that they would be wise and discerning (whatever that might mean for my ordination this year). I’m debating reminding my congregation that this is the week. On the one hand, I want their prayers, I believe that prayers make a difference. On the other hand, I don’t want to have to tell 100+ people that I didn’t pass while I’m still grieving the fact that I didn’t pass….To tell them is to risk. It’s a big risk. And I suppose that since our theme this year is “Stepping out in faith to share God’s love” I should take that leap of faith, trust in my call and the way God has worked through me in ministry, and hope with all my might that the Board affirms that this coming week, oh yeah, and ask for those coveted prayers…

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

El Torito

So tomorrow, February 25th, El Torito in Riverside is doing a benefit. Some portion of the money they make that day goes to a charity or special organization. I know that's vague, but I put in on my calendar months ago only with the reminder to eat there that day. So, if you're in Riverside and want to share the wealth (wherever that might be) go to El Torito for lunch or dinner!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

They Might Bring Their Friends

In a meeting a week or so ago, someone said, “Yeah, but if we do that they’ll feel too comfortable and then they’ll bring 20 people with them.” I was sad that this is our outlook. I say “our” because I don’t think this person is alone in her sentiment. Many have expressed to me a concern that having homeless visible in the front of our church will only attract more or that allowing disruptive youth to come to crew for Christ will only encourage them to come back and bring more disruptive friends. I’ve heard concerns that if we feed hungry people that more hungry people will come. What those concerns express is that we only want certain people to come and feel welcome enough to bring 20 friends we wouldn’t think twice if J &P or F brought 20 friends. We’d accept them with open arms if those 20 people act and react like J, P, and F.

But what if the man covered with tattoos and piercing with sagging pants came in…are we convicted we want him to bring 20 friends? Or are we fearful they’ll do drugs or bring guns or be gang members? Or the woman who pushes the shopping cart full of cans and bottles—are we ready for her to bring 20 friends? Do we embrace and welcome her in the fullness we welcome D & P or are we concerned she might feel too comfortable and spend more time here and be tempted to bring 20 of her cart-pushing friends?

Living the Gospel of Christ means welcoming all people—regardless of how they look, even when we are fearful, especially when we aren’t exactly sure how to minister to them. In God’s house there is no such thing as “too comfortable” or “too many friends”. We may feel more justified guarding ourselves against someone with tattoos or a shopping cart, but we are no less prejudiced than when we guard ourselves against someone because of the color of their skin or their gender. Prejudice is prejudice, and prejudice has no place in the house of God.

I do not mean to imply that this will be simple or easy for us. Quite the contrary, for if we are honest with ourselves, living the gospel in these ways is tremendously difficult. We must conquer our fears and battle our prejudices in consistent and ongoing ways. But the Gospel is not promised to be without challenges. God does not tell us, “Go visit the imprisoned when you feel safe and comfortable doing so.” Christ simply tells us to visit the imprisoned.

There aren't caveats and special allowances, just a mandate to go and serve and feed and clothe and visit. And the hope would be that "they" would feel so welcome that they invite 20 friends!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Kendall Payne

I spent the week at the National Pastors’ Convention this week and it was wonderful. It’s been awesome. There have been great speakers (including Will Willimon, Rob Bell, and Bill Hybels) and some great musicians (Tommy Walker, Ken Medema, Sons of Korah). One artist who struck my fancy was Kendall Payne. She is a wonderful artist. She has this beautiful song called “Fail” that’s actually a love song. She shared how in her first week of marriage her husband informed her that there is a “proper” way to put the toilet paper on the roll. She had never heard such a rule. After he showed her she broke into tears and she realized that she would fail him in thousands of ways and he would fail her in thousands of ways. And later she wrote “Fail.” It’s beautiful and honest. It’s a real love song—one that doesn’t focus on a utopian view of love that can’t be maintained, but instead acknowledges that we fail one another ‘again and again and again’ but that we can still persist together despite those failures. She also played a beautiful song called “that’s why there’s grace” which is the title album of her newest CD. I recommend that one too. She also debuted a song, which was wonderful. I’m just sad it was a debut because that meant I couldn’t get it on one of her CDs, but I’d encourage you to keep an eye out for her and for it….the title is something like “he could ask the same of us”.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Gratitude List

A few weeks ago I added another prayer concern to my mother's list. It was a teen from a friend's church who attempted suicide. She said she'd pray of course, and then joked, "you can share happy things with me sometimes too."

So, in an effort to share "more happy things" I made a gratitude list. It's not exhaustive, but it does cover a multitude of things for which I am grateful:

  • worship that is blended
  • Friends in ministry
  • a friend's miraculous healing
  • having half of our active congregation involved in weekly Bible study
  • trust of the church members
  • ability to share with people in the midst of their grief and trials
  • a healthy dating relationship
  • Seeing how much I've grown in setting boundaries
  • good health, specifically weight loss and muscle tone, as well no more back pain and no knee pain
  • ability to finally share on the spot when I'm angry or upset (rather than bottling it up inside)
  • Active church ministries
  • having ministries that matter so much that it warrants conflict
  • having a praying family

Spoiled girl

Some of you might say I'm spoiled. And some of you might be right. =) In the last week or so I have been blessed time and again by my parishioners. Last Monday at Bible study one woman brought me a freshly picked salad from her garden!! Right after that another women handed me a quart jar of homemade wild rise and potato soup! Thursday night a woman brought freshly picked oranges from her yard.

Sunday a man brought fresh grapefruit, oranges and tangerines. Today he brought an avocado and more citrus. Another woman swung by the office to bring me homemade spaghetti sauce.

Can I just say I LOVE these kinds of gifts. I love food first off, but it's so nice not to have to cook and to have them be so thoughtful. And they bring portions that are just the right size...not enough to feed an army, just enough for me for a meal or two or for me and Mr. Man for a meal.

I feel so loved when they bring me little goodies. And even if I'm not spoiled (or if I am) I know one thing for sure: I AM BLESSED!

Monday, February 2, 2009


Sometimes I get tired of saying no. I'm glad these days I can at least say it because I'm not sure it was fully a part of my vocabulary a few years back, but sometimes it's just exhausting.

Currently it's one of the homeless guys. He's always asking for something, and it's generally with no regard for what kind of imposition or affect it will have on anyone else. It's all about him, and it's about to drive me nuts. Because as much as it's not right for me to be saying "yes" to all of his demands (and no, they're not all "demands" per se, but his persistence and insistence tend to convert them into demands), it's becoming frustrating to have to say no all the time.

Last week he came over on my sabbath. I was cleaning and getting ready for company and he rang the bell. I wouldn't have answered, but there was music on and a friend in the kitchen--so I couldn't just not answer. Anyway, so I go to the door and we had the following conversation:

Me: Hey, what's up?
Him: Not much, what are you doing?
Me: It's my day off.
Him: Yeah mine too!
Me: (and....?!?!)
Him: Yeah, I was thinking I'd go shopping and stuff.
Me: (blank stare)
Him: (look like, " wanna take me?")
Me: Sorry dude, I'm cleaning and getting ready for company.
Him: Oh yeah. well, okay.
Me: Have a good day.
Him: yeah, ok...bye.

I know he knows it's my day off and I can't figure out for the life of me why he would think I want to spend my day off taking him shopping. I felt guilty for saying no (though I had no logical reason for that guilt) and then I was angry that I even had to say no.

Later that night I was at the church making copies. It was late and dark (and I had someone in the office helping, which is rare) and he banged down the office door. I went and answered and he wanted me to let him into the showers. I said no. I re-explained that the trustees hadn't made a decisions about the showers and I wasn't going to do any more showers until they did. He gave me more of the same about how it cost too much at the YMCA etc. I get that. Really I do. $10 for a shower is crazy. But it's not about the money for us. It's about the fact that after a trustee let him in once, then he decided it was my job to let him in from then on much so that when he missed his appointed time one night (*yes, I realize I created my own beast when I let him in once when it wasn't ok'd by the trustees yet...) and then came the next morning to my house to ask me to let him into the showers. Sorry dude. (I've got meetings and a life.) "Well, when can I get a shower?" I don't know. I'm out all day and in meetings all night and not around tomorrow. I don't know when you're gonna get a shower. (But you've figured that out for 10 years on the street...I'm guessing you can figure it out again...)

I'm tired of saying no. And yet I know that if I say yes, just to relieve the guilt and frustration of saying no, that I will only create a bigger monster that is harder to deny in the future. It's a nasty cycle of which I am NOT a fan...