Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Melting (Down) on Memorial Day

It was a big weekend.  My boy turned 4.  My dad and step-mom visited from Tennessee.  It was a 4-day weekend.  And I was homeless…kinda.
On Friday morning, our air conditioner stopped working.  It was 78 degrees for the birthday party.  It’s been 80 degrees in the house the last few days.
We spent all of Saturday out and about to avoid our sauna of a home.  Sammy and I kinda-sorta “slept” there that evening; we pawned off the kids on family members.
We spent all of Sunday out and about to avoid our sauna of a home.  We all spent the night at my mother-in-law’s.
We spent all of Monday and Monday evening at my mom’s.
We may sleep at home tonight; we may not.
We hope our air conditioning will be fixed tomorrow.
And I don’t like any of this!  I don’t like living out of my car.  I don’t like eating out this much.
I am thankful for family who has hosted us during the day and overnight; that has saved us LOTS of money.
But I want to go home…and sleep in my 70-degree bedroom with the fan running, on my queen-size bed, with my pillow…and eat there…and let the kids play in a kid-safe, toy-filled space…and let the kids sleep in their beds…and bathe in my shower…and stay up after the kids go to bed instead of going to bed with them.
And I’m convicted by words I recently read:  All these people were living by faith…And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth…If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.  Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
“These people” were Abel, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham.  And God is not ashamed of them because they have their sights on a different home, because they identify themselves as aliens and strangers on earth.
I don’t like feeling like an alien.  I don’t like being away from home—even when I’m 8 miles away at my mom’s house instead of mine.
I miss home.  I want to go home.  I’m going to pitch a fit or meltdown if I don’t get home soon.
But those God is not ashamed of don’t think about where they’ve left.  They’re living on faith, and they’re anxious to get to a heavenly home, not a white rancher on two acres with a new swing set in the backyard.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Cloud of Witnesses

I'm still reading Hebrews.  I know it's taking me a long time, and I'm okay with that.  I love to read, and I read slowly.

I finally read Hebrews 11, the only chapter of Hebrews I'd read before tackling the whole book.  It's a well-known passage about the heroes of the Bible, the great cloud of witnesses, those who have gone before preparing our way, showing us how to be people of faith.  I was so humbled by list of Bible heroes and their brave feats that I felt nauseous.  I am so painfully short of their example.

As I reflected on that chapter in the Bible, I was reminded of another cloud of witnesses--people who have witnessed my attempt to live a life of faith, people who have inspired me and stood with me. 

I say with full disclosure and no exaggeration that I would not be in ministry today without these people.
(I must also acknowledge my husband here.  Without his steadfast support and faithfulness, even when it was really hard, I wouldn't be in ministry today.  I probably wouldn't be lots of the things I am today without him.  He, and other members of my family, surrounded me and protected me when I was hurt and vulnerable.)

When things got really hard in my ministry setting years ago...When two shrinks told me to quit my job for my own well being (apparently chronic stomach problems and night terrors are not typical work hazards)...When I wanted a 9-5, mindless, meaningless job free of responsibility and leadership and creativity...When I was not sure who I was anymore...I stayed because of these people.
One of the shrinks was also a professor of mine who knew me quite well.  When I explained to him my pastoral attachment to this group of students, he agreed I should stay until they graduated.  The plan was to quit soon after that time, and to re-evaluate my ministerial calling in a year or so.  He thought that would be best for me, while still affirming the pastor he saw within me.

By the time that group graduated, I was on the mend mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Walking away from ministry was no longer on the table.

That group loved me, accepted me, entrusted me with their secrets, their doubts, their questions, their faith journeys, and their stories.  That group believed in me when I'm not sure many others did; I certainly did not.

That group is more than ten years younger than me.  They were teenagers at the time.  My husband makes fun of me for counting these people as friends now; he tells me to find friends my own age.
But I wouldn't be where I am today without them.  I wouldn't be at this church.  I probably wouldn't be working with teenagers.  I probably wouldn't be preaching again.

I have been blessed by several clouds of witnesses in my faith journey.  Today, I am grateful for this cloud in particular.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Being in God's Hands

Well, it’s been a while, but there’s still not much time to write.   So, a quick word about something I find amusing…
I’ve been reading Hebrews this year and really enjoying it.  I found chapter 10 so applicable, that I’ve camped out in it…for months.  I keep re-reading it and soaking it up.  It’s like what our theology professor called “marinating.”  She’d challenge us with difficult theological ideas and readings, and then ask us to respond.  When we didn’t, she said we were marinating in the ideas.  But we never were prepared.  We just stayed in the marinade, much to her dismay.
So, I’m coming out of the marinade of Hebrews 10, and leaving you with a few words on Hebrews 10:31:  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

This makes me re-think a few churchy mantras, like…
·         A favorite children’s ministry song:  "He’s got the whole world in His hands.  He’s got the whole wide world in His hands.”
·         The Footprints poem that decorates millions of restrooms:  "The times when you have seen only one set of footprints, is when I carried you.”
If falling into the hands of the living God is a dreadful thing, then I’m not sure I want my whole wide world in his hands, and I’m not sure I want my suffering self in them either.