Friday, October 31, 2008

Luggage woes

Vacation started yesterday (WOOHOO!!!) and a friend drove me to the airport so I could fly first to Atlanta and then to Nashville to perform a friend's wedding. All went swimmingly, even with the added bonus of running into a friend on the plane from atlanta to nashville and a friendly man who allowed us to invade his row so we could sit together and catch up. All went well, that is, until it came time to get my luggage. We waited for B's bag and then waited some more for mine, her new beau was ready to pick her up, so we said our goodbyes and I kept waiting. And then no more luggage came, and people began to line up at the Delta door and the Delta folks grabbed the three bags that remained on the conveyer belt. I dug around for my luggage tag and gave an address and phone number for my bag which was to be delivered between 11:30pm and 12 midnight.

My friend picked me up and showed me around Nashville and then we went to her house and watched a movie while we waited for the luggage. It was a no-show. I slept with the phone in case they called, and still nothing. I was lucky that checking a second bag was going to cost $50, so I had taken my smaller suitcase with me and had clothes for today for the wedding rehearsal and the costume party tonight--but my robe, clothes for the rest of the week, toiletries, wedding gift, and hostess presents were all MIA.

This morning we decided we'd head out and wait for the call and come back when we knew they were on their way. That didn't happen. They called right as we were headed out the door, promising to be there in a half hour. Two and a half hours later they showed. Now, I am very grateful to have my robe and not have to run out and get essential items, but still, it ruined all the day's plans with my friend.

Now, this is the first time anyone has lost my bag (knock on wood), so it might be par for the course, but really, if you're gonna be 2.5 hours, just say so, don't tell me 30 minutes! Oh well. I have a robe, I have a costume, and I have a gift--we're good to go!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Training leadership "downhill" style

When I was growing up, we lived about 45 minutes from a world renown ski resort. Fortunately for us, "the mountain" was privately owned by a local who encouraged local kids to ski for just $1 a day with a school ID. I don't remember going too often when I was in elementary school, but do remember my dad teaching me to ski--which meant he would "wedge" backwards and hold our poles out at waist level so I could hold them for balance and then I would wedge between his legs. We went down the bunny hill many times in that fashion. I have no idea how he managed to ski backward with such grace or how he was so patient as to spend the day wedging backward with me rather than actually skiing, but that's beside the point. I was slow to gain confidence on the slopes and he stayed with me as I learned.

I do remember one day when he and my sister went to go do one run on a more advanced slope. They sent me up the hill on my own and now, in retrospect, I know he would have easily met me at the bottom almost immediately. But, at the time, I was scared. I managed to touch the emergency shut off pole when I got off the lift and then freaked at the top. I had to "cop a squat" near the tower while I waited for the rescue team. They brought the toboggan for me, but I told them I could ski, so we skied down to the nurses station where they called my dad on the loud speaker. I remember he came in in a panic worried that I was actually hurt, relieved that I was just a spaz. =) (That's my word, not his....) I'm not sure how the lessons went after that, just that by junior high I took a few more lessons and kept skiing on school trips. I stayed with the cautious skiers while my friends joined the race team.

My brother, unlike me, was taught by my aunt and uncle who lived in Mammoth. By his account, they took him to the top of the lift and said "meet you at the bottom". And from there he skied down. I can't say that I've ever skied with him to know how well he skies, but he does seem to be more confident than I am on the slopes.

So, this isn't just some walk down memory lane, I think this actually applies to church work. I've been thinking about leadership development a lot lately. How do I train leaders? How do I train leaders to then train leaders? What are the qualities and skills to focus on? What are the best ways to teach and foster those skills? And then it dawned on me, for some folks I end up teaching them like my brother learned to ski: "meet you at the bottom". These are the folks that show natural skills and can be "thrown in". I have one woman who subbed for me while I was gone, I didn't "train" her, she had seen and participated in the lesson when I taught her class and she was ready to hit the road running when I needed her to teach the same lesson with another group.

There are others, more like me, to whom I seem to be attached at the hip--guiding them through teaching or worship or programming. They never really gain the confidence needed to excel, stopping and calling for the rescue team when left on their own.

So, the question becomes is it a reflection of the student or the teacher or both? What determines that "just do it" attitude? And how can you foster greater confidence who want to remain forever wedging down the bunny slope?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Army of Women

My friend's aunt works as a research nurse and is helping raise awareness about "Army of Women".

She shared the following:

As a woman, mother, health care provider, and someone who works in research, I was very interested in a news article on the nightly news several weeks ago. The article featured Dr. Susan Love who has started a movement to get more women (and especially more diverse women) involved in breast cancer research. She has started her "Army of Women" to help bring women of all ages, ethnicities, sexual orientation into research studies to help end this tragic disease.

The "army" serves as a bank of potential research candidates. Many of the studies can be done from your own home. You are the one who decides which studies you might be interested in. You must log in to register to participate. The studies are looking for a variety of women-survivors, daughters, sisters, women with no family history, etc. As someone who works in research, I know how hard it is to recruite participants. The idea behind the army is to make that process just a bit easier.

Since the army was launched Oct. 1, 214,000 women have signed up. Their first major study is due to come out the end of Oct.

Please consider joining the Army in support of women everywhere. I encourage all of you to log on to their website for more information about the program as well as how to sign up.

Think about signing up and being part of the pool of candidates or passing the word to friends and family who might be willing to take part.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Yearning for God's voice

God, I need you to speak into my heart and my mind. I need you to quiet those voices that contradict you--whether they're my own or those of the enemy. I need to hear from you. What do you want me to do? I need you God and I want to hear your voice.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The darkness could not overcome it

Depression eats at your soul
corroding acid
etching holes
in your heart
your enthusiasm
your drive
miserable mire suffocating
your passion and desire to live
Deceptive demon lying in wait
Opportunity knocks
silence steals your breath
Melancholy permeates into the crevasses of your mind
Stifling sludge
drowning hope, happiness, and humility
Self-deprecation, loathing, and pity
rising like the tide of a cold winter storm

The only weapon in the darkest of pits is the light of the world
for the darkness could not overcome it
It shines like a lamp on a hill
bright for all to see
Once that light shines it keeps radiating light and offering more

So speak out against the darkness
Claim the light as mysterious and magnificent.
Cast out the demons of depression
by calling on the Prince of peace
the light of the world

Let your faith extend
beyond the moment of pain
let them breath the breeze of hope-filled fresh crisp air.

Fan the flame of your heart's desire.
Live to defeat the darkness
to show the true power of the light
and share it with others who struggle to breathe
Under the weight of isolated silence

For God said I know the plans I have for you
plans for to prosper you
Plans with hope and promise
Trust in the plans God has for you.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, your soul, and your mind.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Stewardship sermon prep prayer

Please God help the words flow from me
so that this sermon might honor you
and draw others into faithful stewardship.
Free me from the stress and from the anxiety.
Clear my head so I can focus solely on you.
In the name of Christ.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Who God asks us to be

Last week I preached on Psalm 1. I didn't think it wasn't anything amazing, just another sermon, but somehow it really struck a chord with folks. I had more specific comments about the sermon in the greeting line than for any other I've ever preached, and then the whole week I heard more feedback about it. It really challenged people to think that God didn't want them to be autonomous and self-sufficient. They were hard words for many to swallow, and welcome reprieve for others. If you're interested, it's now posted here.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fighting Fairly

Today I heard about a dispute in a friend's church and somehow it got me thinking about "fighting fair". I think too often we assume "an eye for an eye" or "turn about is fair play" is fairness. If someone yells, you can yell back--that's fair. But, in the last year, I've realized that fighting "fair" is fighting the way you wish the other person would fight. So, if you don't like people talking behind your back, you don't get to talk behind theirs--you have to address them directly. If you don't like avoidance, don't avoid. It isn't just "doing unto others as you would have them do unto you", though that definitely applies here, but it is also setting an example and allowing yourself to walk away clean. Fighting the way you wish the other person would fight gives you firm ground on which to stand. If you fight fire with fire, then when the smoke clears and you have a chance to actually address the issue, when you say, "but X burned me" the objective third party is going to say, "yeah, and you burned X." There's little recourse when you use the means you want to complain about. But if X burns you, and you choose to remain calm and act in the ways you wish X would, then when you actually address the issue, you can walk away knowing, at the very least, that you acted on the up and up.

I'm not trying to encourage fighting, but disputes happen, and conflict is not something to be avoided, it is a reality we need to deal with constructively. So, when conflict happens, though your instinct may be to retaliate with the same weapons (slander, gossip, avoidance, rejection, exclusion) that were used against you, remember fighting fair is not returning in kind, it is handling the situation in the ways you wish it had been handled from the beginning.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


This is so apt in my life right now. I was thinking the other day about how much affirmation I get at the church "good sermon", "great prayer", "but we need you to preach". I get a lot of affirmation in this current community and have had a good bit of healing from last year's trials. I was also thinking how most other folks probably don't get as much affirmation at their job as I do at mine. And then I figured maybe God calls those who need a little extra boost of self-esteem.

I have also had my fair share of complaints--people threatening to leave the church, people leaving the church, and people just plain mad. I don't do well when people are upset. I am one of those OH people Andy describes. It doesn't matter if everyone in church LOVED the sermon, if one calls to complain, that's the one I worry about and that's the comment that carries over into next week.

A year or two ago my dad (who is always very affirming) decided he was going to try and not affirm me as much so that I could try and hear my affirmations coming from God and not worry about what my dad thought, but worry about what my Father thought. To be quite honest, I was not a fan of his grand plan. I like affirmations. My mom is huge on affirmations and I kinda got accustomed to being told how wonderful I am rather than all the things I do wrong and will never get right. And, let's be honest, how often do I (audibly) hear God's voice telling me I rock?!!?

I am not sure my dad's experiment changed me too much, but it did at least raise my consciousness about where I was seeking approval. Lately I have seen fruits, blessings, and good things coming out of the ministry here and I believe those to be God's signs that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing that "she who has been faithful in a little will be given more with which to be faithful". I see where being faithful with a little allows space for more and am trying to faithful with that too. And really, those are probably God's affirmations of the work we are doing here at Wesley.

None of that changes the fact that I am an NAR, but maybe it lessens it to a degree.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wedding jitters

I performed my first wedding last week and it went really well. Before hand I was super anxious that I would mess something up or that I would do the ceremony but that they wouldn't actually be married. My concern stemmed from the fact that the state never officially granted me authority to marry people. Sure, through my ordination/commissioning they do, but there was never a letter from the state saying "you can now legally perform marriages" or a knighting of sorts that would give me any sort of idea that the state actually recognizes me as an official authority for this sort of thing. So I worried that I would do the service and 10 years from now something would come up and the couple would find out they weren't actually married.

In addition to this anxiety, I also had a horrible nightmare where I basically made a mockery of the whole wedding, completely humiliated the bride, and ruined the day--so much so that the bride interrupted the service and asked security to escort me out. It was bad.

Fortunately when the day came my dad was here to help calm my nerves and send up a few extra prayers. When I got the church the wedding party was running a little behind, which was actually fine because it gave me a chance to shift from "completely nervous nutcase" to "in charge, calm the situation, assure everyone pastor". After a late start we did the service and everything came off without a hitch.

The next week I sent in the marriage license, signed and quadruple checked, and so I assume they are now officially married in the eyes of the state.

But the story doesn't end there, well, mine doesn't anyway. Because a couple days later I was talking with our wedding coordinator and she was telling me about someone who was married, had a couple kids, and then the wife went to change her name and found out that she wasn't legally married--the pastor never turned in the paperwork!! CRAZY! So apparently my paranoia wasn't completely uncalled for. So now there's a possibility that I would do their (re) wedding so they can be official.

But for now, it's planning my friend's wedding (actually just the homily), which is in two weeks!!! Only 17 more days Buddy!

Three cheers for the roofers

THE ROOFERS ARE HERE!!!! I am very excited about getting a new roof and the prospect of NO MORE RATS! Man, would I be a happy camper to never see a rat again. There's about a dozen guys that showed up as soon as the city ordinances would allow it this morning and got to work. I'm not sure how I will work at home these days with pah-pah-pah ringing through the air, but we'll make it work. The only other dilemma is that all kinds of nastiness builds up in your roof over 50 years and when they take it off, all kinds of stuff floats in the air, and I seem to be allergic to some of it. Oh well. At least there is a new roof on its way!!!

I'm sure as the week goes on I'll find some sort of theological connection to make...

On Discipling new believers

The sad truth is I was not taught to disciple anyone, including inviting them to accept Christ. One time in seminary I arranged a meeting with one of the bishops and when I asked for ways to disciple someone in the faith he kinda flipped. He didn't go crazy, but he did seem to make some pretty strong assumptions about what exactly I was asking for...I think it had something to do with being at a southern seminary. Anyway, he was so concerned with me Bible beating someone so they would convert that he didn't actually answer the question of how to disciple someone (with my assumption being that the discipled person would want to be discipled). My evangelism class was not much help in that department either. I was fortunate to do a WMEI trip to Cuba and see all the ways not to do evangelism (imperialism) and to have a very charismatic experience while I was there that changed the shape of my lived faith. But again, there was no training for how to actually disciple someone in the faith.

My church experiences weren't much help either. No general or specific instruction on what to do. Is it any wonder our church is shrinking when we do not prepare people to disciple other people?! (I've been active in at least 7 churches and no one has taught discipleship....and I don't mean the Bible study).

So now, here I am, pastoring a church that wants to grow and we need to disciple people in the faith in order to do that and I have few to no resources. I have lots of resources for folks that have been believers and active Christians for years. I have lots of books and classes on how to stretch people in their faith and take them to "the next level" but I have nothing to help a new believer learn the basics of the faith.

We have only a handful of new believers in the church right now, but presumably we would like more and we will only keep them around if we do some effective discipling. But first, I am concentrating on those that have been in the church forever to make sure they are comfortable with the doctrines, know the passages, and can talk about the faith to someone else. But not having been a "new believer" since I was 5 years old, I am not real equipped to deal with the basic questions that need to be answered. I have too much presumed knowledge in my head that I don't even think of--things like "Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Phillipians, Colossians, and Thessalonians are all named after the people that lived in particular cities." That's pretty much a no-brainer in my book, but not for someone unfamiliar with the Bible.

So these days I am relearning the basics so I can teach the basics and I am calling on as many resources as I can to better disciple people in the early stage of the faith. If you have any resources/books/tools you use, I'm looking for suggestions.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Only 2 more days...

I've had a few posts swimming in my head the last few days, but tonight as I sit and study for a Bible study I have tomorrow, all I can hear is rats running up my walls and across my attic, and all the posts have vanished from my brain. The infestation seems to be getting worse, at least it sounds that way. I hear them more often, and more vocally, at more hours of the day, and really, it's not pleasant. Two days ago I caved and bought more poison despite the fact that the exterminator comes and has set traps and placed poison. But Tuesday the roofers come and start ripping off those old shingles and the hope is that those nasty critters upstairs will high tail it OUTTA here! Man that would be AWESOME.

I feel like I've exercised a great deal of tolerance up until this point, but I think I've about had it. The roofers will be here all week and I'd like to hand them BB guns to take aim at these nasty vermin while they're up there, but suppose that might not be the way to go. Mr Exterminator comes Thursday while the roof is still off to hopefully finish the job.

Honestly it's hard to think, or ponder the world, or write a sermon, or even a simple devotion when there are critter feet pattering up your walls and across your ceiling.

Please God make them go away.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Monday, October 6, 2008

Often we talk about doing ministry. We talk about attending to the needs of people, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and then God says, "you're pretty good at talking it up, let's see the rubber hit the road..." and you're called to actually do something. Today was one of those days. Repeatedly actually. This morning after Bible study, I met with the chair of outreach. We were talking about possible mission projects, ways to expand our ministries, teaching and practicing prayer, and thinking about some long term projects/advocacy we could commit to. In the middle of that talk a man arrived at the office asking for, "the pastor". My secretary knew I was in a meeting and hesitated at first, but I had already gotten up to answer the door and heard his request. I introduced myself as "Debbie" and he greeted me and then again asked for the pastor. "I'm the pastor." Oh. Ok. So we talked about his needs and his request for prayer. His wife was still outside and I invited them both in to come and pray. I told the church member I assumed he'd be up for putting our conversation into practice and talking with and praying for this couple. They came in and shared their story. We talked and we prayed. And we set up a plan for them to get the money they needed without us having to give out cash.

After they left, the church member and I continued in our discussion. I don't typically say God "tests" us. I don't believe God puts big hurdles in our path or tries to derail us. But I do think there are times when we have to put our money where our mouth is and show we can do more than just talk about ministry. Today was one of those days and I was glad for it. Glad to remember that it's in the doing that we actually make a difference and that in the midst of our teaching and advocacy we have to continue to do.

Today was also a day where I was reminded I can only do so much. Reminded that I have limits (a fact I am never very fond of) and that sometimes I simply can't be in ministry. I guess I should rephrase that. Sometimes I can't be in ministry the way I would like. Sometimes I have to do minsitry by saying no. I hate saying no. Even more than that I hate the reasons that make me have to say no. I hate alcoholism. I hate rage. I hate homelessness. I hate the lack of mental healthcare. I hate drug abuse. I hate violence in homes.

I hate knowing someone needs serious and ongoing help, ministry, and support and having to turn them down because they "need too much" and we are not equipped to provide it. In the midst of saying no, this person who needs so much retorted, "Don't you think God would be mad at you for turning me away from a church?!" It tore my heart out. I don't think God was thrilled I turned him away. But I also don't think God was thrilled that he acted in such a way that we simply could not receive him at that time. I don't think that God was thrilled that the sacred space we had created for so many had been violated. I don't think God is ever thrilled when our relationships are broken and the only form of love we are left to share is "tough" love.

Purina makes a difference

Purina Cat Chow is donating $1 for every person who completes their breast cancer quiz. The quiz is short (only 6 questions or so) and is designed to promote awareness. So, when you have a free minute, click here and help donate to the cause.

At home Sabbath Space

Just an idea....thanks C!

Friday, October 3, 2008

What's a girl to do?

It's days like today I wish I were a man. Tomorrow I will be performing my first wedding, tonight is the wedding rehearsal. In addition to nerves about the wedding and screwing things up on this couples "happiest day", my mind is racing through clothes, hair, and make-up decisions. Do I wear my hair curly or straight? Up or down? Eye shadow or none? Dress or a skirt? Fall colors, black, or bright? Leg or no leg? Heels or flats? Nail polish or not? I wish I were a guy, that I could throw on a nice suit, comb my hair, and call it a day. There's no simple option in my mind.

Tomorrow is simpler because I get to wear the robe, but still questions about hair and make up, as well as outfit for after the ceremony.

I should probably ask BTFM, but she already thinks I am clueless. So, maybe not.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Maybe I haven't evolved much....

Growing up, my dad used to watch a lot of National Geographic shows. I remember one that was on African monkeys. One of the ways locals would catch them is to put a chunk of salt in a hole. The monkey could get it's hand in the hole, but once it had grabbed the salt and made a fist, it couldn't get it's hand back out. Wanting to leave, but not without the salt, it would be stuck, unwilling to let go.

Lately, I feel a lot like that monkey. There are things I want (stronger leadership, better preaching, team ministries, more outreach, inspired worship, etc, etc, etc) and in some ways, I have my hand around them. I've grabbed hold to (at least) pieces of them, except, now my hand is stuck. I can't *keep going* with all there is to do, because I'm unwilling to let go of *the prize*.

I'm back to working long, intense days without much break. I'm back to feeling continuously stressed and overwhelmed by all there is to do. There's not just church things, but also a house to clean, dishes to do, a kitchen to paint, 2 quilts to make, etc. Oh yeah, and relationships--friends to call back, dogs to walk, and sanity to maintain. Maybe I feel more like an octopus with lots of hands clutching lots of rocks and indignantly I refuse to simply let go.

I know, "you can't do it all", but whatever. I've never been very good with that one. I like to do it all, do it all well, and do it all without help. My indignant independence might be my biggest vice. Just maybe.

So, the question becomes, which *rock* do I let go of? Or do I have to let go of all of them?

Did I mention, I really do not want to let go of them?!?!

Here I am. A stuck monkey.


This week's sermon is up! It's shorter than normal because we are doing a bilingual service for World Communion Sunday and translation takes time!

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