Sunday, August 31, 2008

Likability of the pastor

It's been two months at the new church and so far things are going great. I've been very well received and people genuinely seem to like me. I feel like I've been genuine with people and so I don't feel like their affinity for me is misguided. But still, it's all a bit strange.

#1 It's weird to have everyone like me. And they're so complimentary--all the time. It's like I can do no wrong, or at least have done no wrong. I guess it just makes me anxious about when exactly the other shoe will drop. You know? Like it's great when they like you but what's gonna happen when they're unhappy? Or don't like a sermon? Or a leadership decision I make? What then?

#2 They're supposed to really like Jesus, not me. I want people to come to church because they want to know God or grow in Christ, not because I can preach a good sermon or they like me. And I suppose those two aren't polar opposites, and liking a pastor may in fact facilitate a relationship with God, but still, it's weird. Maybe a lot of it's wrapped up in my wariness to be viewed too highly. I don't know. It's almost like if they hated me and came to church anyway, then at least I'd know that they were there more for God than for me.

On the flip side of all that--I prefer to go to a church where I like the pastor and get something out of the sermons. A good Christian community can get me to hang in for a long time, but if I can't stand the pastor or get nothing out of the sermons, then I'm less inclined to keep going back. And there's no reason why the same wouldn't be true for others and having likability as a pastor would generally be a good thing.

I guess the crux should be the 1st addage in my call to ministry: it's not about me, it's about God. In the early days, that was about my weaknesses--as in, it's not about my lack of talent or experience, it's about God and how I allow God to use that lack of talent or experience. These days, that phrase is more of a reminder of humilty--it's not about me and my gifts or likability, it's about God and God works through me.

(Now it's off to go work on a sermon so God can do just that!)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Graffit Woes

This is the kind of fun you will see on our sidewalks around the church. It's becoming more rampant as the days go by. And seriously, it bugs me. On a brick wall here and there, I can get over it, on the ground right outside the sanctuary--you're working my nerves.

On the sidewalk right outside the office there's a lot of it. All three of these pictures came from there actually. And to be honest, and pardon my language) it's like a pissing contest. Each of these, plus one other are all within 4 feet of each other. My dogs do this when we walk, they smell someone else's mark and then feel compelled to leave their own.

I was not raised in the city and graffiti was a relatively minor problem up in mule country. I do not understand gang culture or graffiti culture (supposing they might be different) and so really I can't interpret this primal negotiation of territory, which really just makes it even more frustrating.

I also have no clue about how to stop it. It's no wonder people get fed up and short tempered. It's a constant battle and is seemingly meaningless.

What gives?

Friday, August 29, 2008

How a parsonage teaches grace

When I was in seminary, I was blessed to have Roberta Bondi as my contextual education adviser my second year. She was fabulous and creative and had us read things like "The Great Divorce" and "The Gospel According to Biff".

One day during class she was talking about grace and shared a story of how she had been 8 1/2 months pregnant and was painting the house to prepare for the new baby. She had a grad student at the house helping her and she got up on a step ladder to paint the ceilings. Being so pregnant she shouldn't have been up there, but she refused to allow the grad student to help her. Years later, upon reflection, her advice was not follow her example and instead to "accept grace where grace is offered".

Since that time, I have taught that lesson to many folks. One man's lesson in grace came when we were in Mississippi doing Katrina Rebuild work, he told me "I just don't deserve all this" (he was a missioner and was speaking of the blessings) and I told him, "that's grace." Another lesson came for an expectant mother, bearing her 5th child while her husband was away with the Navy. When we talked about what she needed, it wasn't material things, it was help. I offered for the church to do a "service shower" where people would gift their service (cooking, cleaning, child care) instead of onesies or whatnot. She began to cry and said she couldn't. I shared Bondi's reflection: accept grace where grace is offered.

In my own life, however, I have been reluctant to accept grace, even when it is offered on a silver platter. I hate asking for help and generally only do in the most dire of circumstances, whether it's emotional or physical help, it's only when I'm on my last.

Well, that is until I moved into a parsonage. The first week I was here there was a constant stream of people here to help. Movers, cleaners, fix-er-upers, unpackers, tapers, painters, yard clean-er-upers. There were easily 15 church volunteers, plus my family, and a handful of friends. Not only did I have to ask for help, but I had to then tell/direct people what to do.

Since then there have been a number of additional things I've needed help with at the parsonage, from fixing the dishwasher, to fixing lights, to repairing sprinklers, to dog sitting, to help getting cleaned up and organized when I just couldn't do anymore. I've had friends, parishioners, and professionals all over because I needed help. Just for the record, I don't need help well. I hate needing help. Even more than that, I hate asking for help. Seriously. Not for others, I'm happy to recruit all the help in the world for the benefit of others, but not for myself.

As the trustees meet and cover church needs, I gave them a list of things still yet to be done at the parsonage. Not because I want to make demands upon them, but because they need to know what doesn't work and what needs to be repaired (and what needs to be exterminated).

Wednesday I talked with one of the trustees about some of the things to be done. He's pushed pretty hard to make sure the work gets taken care of. I keep telling him nothing is urgent and that I could live without most of it being done, but he wants to make sure it's covered pronto. As part of that, he came over within hours to replace an outside light that was broken, which incidentally still doesn't work because the electrical is bad out there, but that's for another day. And then another trustee was over during the day to fix my sprinker. I tried a number of times and between the roots and the trials of plumbing, and my busy schedule, it wasn't happening and I gave in and asked for help. He's been the one to do most of the repair work around the parsonage since I arrived and I hate having to make him interrupt his day and come over.

After he left, I started thinking that I simply wouldn't ask for more to be done. That I would just live with anything else. I know that's how things add up at a parsonage, how when a pastor leaves there's an exorbitant amount of work b/c it hasn't been done in years. I can see the forest for the trees in this case. But really, I don't like asking people to do things for me.

I know, practically, they are doing things for the church--it's the church's house and their role as a trustee or volunteer or whatever, but when you're the one living there it becomes your need...not the church's, and so, in turn, they are helping you.

And so, by my own stubborn nature, on many days, the only thing that reminds me of my own weaknesses and need for grace is this blessed piece of church property in which I live. It's a blessing really, I know it is. Despite my objections. I must accept grace when it is offered, and have a little courage from time to time to ask not only for what is "absolutely necessary" but what would be "nice" and "helpful" for my own personal needs.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

You might be overworked if....

  • Even the smallest tasks seem overwhelming and seriously time consuming
  • You resent phone calls from work
  • You don't have the energy to talk to friends
  • You don't have any "down time" during your day
  • It takes you half of your day off to get work stuff out of your head
  • Your "to do" list for the house has been the same for a month because you don't have time to make progress
  • you can't remember whether or not you had a nap today
  • You have no idea what is on tomorrow's schedule
  • You've lost track of what day it is
  • You start getting work calls at 7:30am and they don't stop until 9:30pm (with a few volunteers for the 10 and 11 o'clock hours)

Monday, August 25, 2008

California Baptist University

Last week I had the privilege of meeting a former member who works at CBU. I wanted to visit the school since it's in our community and wanted to meet him since he used to be a member and I know his parents. Can I just say it's incredible?!

I have to admit that throughout most of the tour I was pretty skeptical. I'm not sure how or why it is that I as a Christian pastor am so resistant to Christian colleges, but, in general, I am. I guess my assumption is that they're crazy fundamentalist and everyone there is there for an M-R-S. or M-R. degree rather than an actual education.

To be sure CBU has fabulous new facilities and is growing like crazy (averaging 300 student increase in attendance every year). They have a lot to offer including a new nursing school and a new engineering department. My guide raved about the music program and said their Tuesday and Thursday rehearsals are open to the public and definitely worth dropping by for.

After our tour with met with some of his colleagues and a representative from a local Christian station and had lunch. It was incredible to be introduced to so many people and events and aspects of Riverside in just a few short hours.

In addition to learning about the school, and meeting tons of employees, I also met the radio guy, the director of spiritual life, have a possible connection for plugging in with the local Latino population, a connection with the area clergy, and a connection for getting connected with the young professionals. My hosts feared I was overwhelmed, but I was thrilled to have so many connections so fast, especially since I haven't gotten out into the community as much as I think I should have.

Then today my host's parents invited me to see the first rehearsal of the CBU choirs. To say they were incredible would be an understatement. They had me in tears from the first time they opened their mouths. It was breath-taking, and they've only been together as choirs for 48 hours. There were 4 choirs, one including an orchestra and it filled me in a way that I haven't felt in a long time. Throughout the year they sing as groups of 6-10 and do Sunday morning services for churches. So, after lunch, I went over and signed us up for November 16th.

I think after today I'm sold. No more scary stereotypes, at least not for CBU. It's amazing to see and hear about the work they are doing, the ministries they are involved in and the dedication they have both for their students and for the work of the kingdom.

If you live in the area, definitely check our choir rehearsal Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-4:30, and if you're anywhere near the area, mark December 12th and 13th for their Christmas concerts. It's worth it.

The little things

This morning I went out to feed the fish and what to my wondering eyes did appear but a beautiful lily next to the lily pads. I'm not sure why but I love this flower and it makes my heart sing. There are other flowers in the yard (C & M, Iris, roses), but this one took the cake. It made my day for being so simple and pure and lovely.

May you find a small thing today that shines upon you.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mamma Mia

Today for my sabbath I went to the movies and finally saw Mamma Mia! I had heard mixed reviews and thought it was decent. It wasn't my favorite, but I'm a huge sucker for musicals and choreography....oh yeah, and Colin Firth, so it was good. My favorite though had to be the end when they come out singing on the these silver beauties!

And then for the second act the guys join them in some hot 70s body-tars (or whatever their called) and I just about fell out of my chair. It was awesome.

That combined with recent episodes of "Rock the Reception" have made me crave some musical-like choreography on that far-off-man-yet-to-be-determined-marrying-day. What I wouldn't give to have this man dancing in a hot pink and blue 70s jumpsuit...

Or maybe I'd settle for my dad, brother, and brother in law....yeah, actually, on second thought...that'd be WAY more awesome! (Yes David....I would tempt you like that...maybe T and S too....)

But in all seriousness, I'm set to officiate at a friend's wedding and the rehearsal is Halloween and we are supposed to dress up as a music star....I am VERY tempted to find one of these 70s beauties and go as Cher...very tempted. All for you buddy. (That is still on right?!!?....the dressing up part I mean....'cause I'd hate to show up like what's her name in "Legally Blonde"....)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Off the wagon

This morning I sat and caught up on some blogs. One of those I read was A Home of Her Own on Fidelia's sisters. It resonated not just for the woes of running a home (she owns hers and mine is a parsonage, but there are woes none the less). But it also resonated because of the ways her "plan" had not been fulfilled.

Throughout the years and my plethera of hours not on dates, I have often wondered if I am called to singleness. It some respects it feels like a silly question, afterall, I have felt like I was called to be a mother since time began, but maybe I've misunderstood that calling too. And I've always assumed that being a mother would somehow also involve having a husband...silly me. When I was in junior high school I created a fantasy where I would be married at 23 and would have a size 3 body when it happened. (just for the record, the latter would have required years of anorexia...if not reconstructive surgery to change the size and shape of my bones). Nevertheless I have wondered, maybe every single clergy person has...I wonder if I couldn't fulfill my call better if I didn't have additional attachments and obligations. I wonder if maybe I'm just supposed to be in this space of singleness and to be okay with that.

I go through stages of wanting to date and stages of wanting to not. A friend of mine from seminary and I call it "getting on or off the wagon". The wagon being dating. I'm regularly off the wagon. Sometimes it feels like a parade, me sitting on the curb watching the wagons go by, and other times I have no ideas the wagons are even there because they don't even catch my eye.

For the past week or so I've been craving "us-ness", not having a significant other or even nudging my way toward marraige, but us-ness. Maybe those are one in the same, I don't know. I'm sure they're interlaced at the very least. I'm not craving a date or someone to have on my arm, but rather partnership, the interplay between two people, the sharing of responsibilities, the dialogue about decisions, relying on someone else for some things. That's what I'm wishing for these days. I want us-ness. I want to be an "us" but not for the sake of being cute, or even simply to not be alone, but I want to be an "us" so that "we" can work together, share, nurture, and comfort one another.

I suppose I do want to get on the wagon, but I think it might be a different wagon than I've always ridden before. Strangely I'm not even sure I'd know it if I saw it. And since I'm not prone to "test-driving" wagons, per se, I'm not sure I can even go with an I'll-know-it-when-I-see-it policy.

The other catch to getting on a wagon at this point is that it generally requires knowing someone so you can be invited to get on, being new in the neighborhood/church/city/community my options are limited....wait....I don't even have options at this point, what am I talking about?! So yeah, there's empty (or half empty) wagons driving by...

...guess I'll just go back to dreaming of us-ness for now....

Friday, August 15, 2008

My own Joy Fuller doll

The theme this year at Annual Conference was "the cup overflowing with joy". Part of the celebration and invitation to joy included very funny skits done by one of our clergy who used to be a stand up comic. She came out as a very eccentric "Joy Fuller" talk show host. She wasn't just "joyful" she was "joy fuller". Part of what she did included making a nativity scene out of toilet paper rolls. She also added one of the bishop and one of herself. Later in the weekend someone added a whole entourage to the bunch. Well, when we got back to the church (well, rather, after I moved to the new church), our annual conference delegates gave a report and part of their report was on the theme and Joy Fuller, at which point I received my own joy fuller doll....dressed to match me in my vestments, and even with highlights in her hair "as a suggestion for what [I] could do with [mine]". It was pretty hilarious. I laughed so hard I cried, or maybe I laughed and didn't know if I should cry....anyway, here she is.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

worship Mosaic

In talking about the woman at the well, one of the days we talked about true worship. We studied the passage where Jesus says there will come a day when you worship neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem and those who worship the Father worship in spirit and in truth. I preached that night and as part of the worship service we created a fabric mosaic. I used Batik fabric and each print represented a different aspect of worship and then the youth picked a fabric and placed in around the cross (the center of our worship). It represents how worship is something we do, not something presented to us, and it is different every time based on who is present and how they contribute. While we were up there I sewed it together and then we added it to our worship space.

I had planned to use batting and then add the backing and binding, but seeing it with the light behind it was pretty stunning, so now I am debating a sheer back so it continues to look like stained glass...

Too many concessions for youth this week

Last week I drank a nasty concoction for the sake of the learning and fun of youth.

This week I let a 13 year old do my hair...this is what I ended up with!

Then I let her do my make up. I sort of banked on overdone eyes and bad lipstick. I did not bank on pre-halloween styles...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The new dog earns her keep

Friday before I left for camp I got up dark and early to go have breakfast with a friend across town in time to make it to pre-op across town in another direction for a parishioner. I wandered into the kitchen, fed the dogs and turned around to go get myself ready, only I wasn't the only one there. There was a furry little rat scampering across the floor.

I quickly hollered for the new dog to come to my rescue. She eagerly came running, no clue what she was after and sought aimlessly to find the rat she could neither see nor smell. I'm not quite sure how this rat became odorless but somehow my dog who can smell me come in the door from across the house could not find a rat 3 feet in front of her.

I directed her and redirected her. She finally saw it and chased it and it was quick, I ran around the corner and closed the door--only it swiftly passed right under. So I opened the door again so the dog could find it. It lay hidden behind a trashcan in the bathroom and I kept debating going to get something to aid in our endeavor. A broom? maybe, but I have to leave the vicinity and if it moves and the dog doesn't see it then I likely have a rat in the bedrooms...not cool. Downfall #2: I am barefoot, if I scare it with the broom and it runs, it could run over my feet. Also, not cool. So instead, I opted for the next best thing: a large picture frame wrapped in a towel to serve as a nice big barrier between it and me.

After situating my impromptu barrier I still had to coach the dog to find this little critter, which meant getting dangerously close for an encounter. But, finally she saw it and went after it.

Being a good Labrador, she didn't kill it on the first go--by nature she's not supposed to. But by nature, I do not want to deal with a half-dead twitching rat so I tried to coax her into finishing
the job. She instead thought this was a fun game and started barking at it like she barks at her tennis balls so she could play chase again. Here is my little heroin waiting for round 2:

It took awhile and much coaxing, but finally she finished the job. I think I might just keep her. =)

News flash: the "exterminator" came today. He was very nice, but the extent of "extermination" was him setting several traps in the attic (after he emptied out 5 rats...). Period. That was it. What about the kitchen? garage? Under the house? Nope. Just 5 traps in the attic. Great. So, even though my darling dog got one, there are plenty more. Oh yeah, and those little ones I saw in the garage and thought were mice, probably not--baby rats...great, they're breeding. Not like that's a surprise to any of you, but I was sort of enjoying my delusion that after we got one in a trap and the dog got this one that we were done with this fun. Sadly not. Apparently we get to play the rat game for many months to come. At least this one is no more.

quote of the day

Competition is fine and can spur us on to greater achievements, but it is important to remember we don’t need to compete in all areas of our lives. It is important to remember this in regards to our relationship with God. We don’t have to compete for or earn God’s love by winning a competition. It is truly good news that God is generous and has enough love to share that it won’t run out; there is enough for all of us. We all are loved by God, just as we are! We don’t have to win gold, silver, or bronze medals to gain God’s love. All of us are loved - those who win medals in competitions, those who don’t win medals when we compete, and those who watch the competition from the sidelines are loved. As we watch the Olympics, let us all remember that God’s love is a freely-given gift we don’t have to compete for.

~Rev. Mindy

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Drink Up!

Our theme for the week at camp was "Drink Up" based on the woman at the well in John 4. We spent the week doing chunks of the chapter at a time to explore that woman's story. Each day of camp had a different drink up theme...."Drink's living" "Drink's legal" "Drink's refreshing" "Drink's social" "Drink's in you" "Drink up...with Christ". The program team tried hard this year to integrate everything into the theme so that games, curriculum, learning stations etc all had a water/drink theme. So, as part of that, on Monday morning during our worship time it was "Debbie Drinks Disgusting Drink."

Now, I have
never been the type for gross or stupid tricks. I've always stayed on the straight and narrow and normally would scoff at such an activity. But, it was for the youth, and the worship team promised they would not give me anything living (like the goldfish they really wanted to add in). So Monday morning came and they blindfolded me and started adding things item by item. They got the kids to play it up and "Nooooo...." "Nasty!!" "Not that!!!" through the whole creation process. I knew half of the battle was the mind game since I was told nothing non-edible would be added in. I mentally prepared myself and tried to settle my nerves.

When the time came I plugged my nose and "drank up!" To be honest, it wasn't bad, it was smooth and sort of sweet, until I got to the salsa chunks. (Fortunately I had a heads up about those). After a few chugs I started to shake, I'm not sure why, but I was definitely shaking, and gagged a couple of times even. But I kept it down and drank about 3/4s of it. To be honest, I was proud of myself--I chugged (something I never do), I drank craziness (something I
never ever do), and I did not ralph. That was a serious accomplishment.

After they took the drink away and I unplugged my nose the smell and sting of pickle juice rang strong through my sense and just about forced me to give it up. But I survived. They offered to show me the ingredients and I declined knowing that would do me in.

That's my crazy camp story. And here's the photo to prove it:

Monday, August 11, 2008

life is a blur these days...

There's a lot going on and I have at least half a dozen posts rolling around in my head. But for now a brief recap will have to suffice--
  • 4 weeks at the new church and so far so good.
  • Being a senior pastor at a healthy church rocks--love, encouragement, and lots of homemade jam!
  • Meeting my new niece and my new goddaughter--incredible!
  • Writing curriculum for camp in the midst of a move was not the smartest idea I had this year.
  • Asking for help and advice while writing said curriculum was one of my wiser moves.
  • Camp Rocks!
  • The amazing mierda (pardon my spanish) that so many of our youth live through is unreal. Seriously unreal.
  • Getting an antivirus program for my computer (finally)--definitely a plus.
  • Having said program unleash some sort of viral nastiness on my computer--not so much.
  • Wiping the computer completely clean and starting from scratch stinks--SOOOO bad!
  • Finally having my computer back and slowly regaining my e-life...getting better.
  • I have now planted 2 blueberry bushes, 2 boysenberry bushes, several blackberry starters, fresia, and now several watermelon, squash, and peas. I have no idea if any of the last group will produce fruit this year, but I had extra soil and found the seeds my brother had given me, so I figured it was worth a shot.
Still on the agenda for August:
  • Hispanic pastors' retreat
  • Family camp
  • LOTS of church member visits
  • Doctor's appointments
  • finding a vet
  • finding a dentist
  • fixing the sprinklers
  • painting the kitchen, back bathroom, and pantry
  • breaking down the boxes that remain in the garage
  • FINALLY getting the exterminator out to get rid of the dang rats.
  • Organizing the office/craft room at the house
  • Imagining myself with a life and trying to figure out ways to implement it
  • Write a zillion thank you notes...okay, maybe only 30, it just feels like a zillion.