Wednesday, May 27, 2009

13 ways to deal with me

Today I heard the old complaint "When you get short with me". It's old. Others have said it to me. So it must be true, at some level. But during this conversation these thoughts went through my head:

"What do you do that causes me to be short with you?"
"Why am I the one who has/is the problem?
"Why do I have to have the thick skin, infinite patience and deep understanding?"

So: 13 ways to deal with me:
1) Don't accost me when I walk in the door, or are heading out of the door to somewhere else, expecting a cordial decision. Let me get my coat off! Or understand that I'm supposed to be somewhere. Your bad planning is not my emergency.
2) Please get to the point.
3) Please get to the 2nd point in the same discussion.
4) Don't interrupt me when I'm in conversation with someone else. I'll extend the same courtesy to you. Ask me to get back to you. I will.
4b) I'll let one interruption pass. Two will tick me off.
5) I love to brainstorm and be creative. I can also give advice. I can also tell you what to do. Let me know what works for you this time.
6) Remember what I've told you, especially if you asked for the information/decision. And if you asked, let me know if you're not going to use it.
7) CYA is not a bad thing. Remind me of our decisions/conversations in writing.
8) Don't lie.
9) Be careful about dropping the ball. But at least clean up after yourself. Ask for help if you need it. There is usually a Plan B.
10) No surprises. No unpleasant surprises. Good ones are okay.
11) Ask me to reconsider if you think I'm flying off the handle. My high emotions (temper) has a half-life of about 3 hours.
12) Don't hold grudges about me. I usually move on (although trust may become an issue if we have a history). I spend time in prayer to understand others.
13) Even if it is unpleasant, let's talk face to face. Don't go behind my back. Talk to me (jsut not on the run).

So, it's onward and upward in the realm of human relations!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

a few extra days

A lovely couple of extra days. The Eagle had a test today so I ran him around.

Went out to get a new journal in order to have a space to explore the questions about shall I go or shall I stay? And if I stay, what shall I explore?

If I am having a three-year restlessness - I want to be delibrate about developing the next step, the next project, the next chapter. I've drifted before, and I've allowed others to determine how I spend my time. That's real common in the parish, I think.

Now I have the opportunity to write my own calendar - it's time to spend some time with myself and ask those questions.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

interesting sunday

I was out of town - on vacation in Chicago (very nice, saw the new Art Institute building, drank way too much wine with my lil sis) - until Saturday afternoon and wrote my sermon that afternoon. That is really late for me.

I'm not really happy with the sermon - but the final image came to me at the last minute, and I added pictures for the big screen. I liked the last part, so did others.

So here it is - with pictures.

Easter 7 B, May 24, 2009 – “An Identity to last” John 17:6–19

(An Identity to last – you are the person Jesus prayed FOR)

I teased D. about this Sunday’s topic. I wanted him to dress up like a king – march in with a crown and a purple cape (I’m not sure how I would have found one long enough) and have him knight our youngest worshippers. The king or queen alone can make a knight or a dame – That authority, to change the status of a person, rests only with those with the highest power and respect.

At that point – you have an additional identity – you are ennobled. Just like kings of old could nominate a follower for higher status – so Jesus calls out his disciples in at the end of his ministry. We are given an identity – and identity that lasts – we are called his friends. We are ‘his’ and because of that we are God’s. We are part of God’s family and we are part of God’s on-going mission.

This is the time of year when some people celebrate graduations – significant transitions that hold both excitement about a new future, and a poignant sense of goodbye. Completing high school or college or graduate school ushers the individual into being someone new – it is a moment of identity change. You can’t go back. In the same way those who participate in the military understand – once in, always changed.

And for the church – for the faithful, it should be the same. Once Jesus is real for you, once you have come to know the Lord, you are always changed. You have a new identity that will last – beyond all others – beyond death itself

We are God’s children, Jesus’ friends…and for us Jesus gave his life. And in John’s Gospel, Jesus, knowing what is to come, offers this prayer that we are allowed to overhear. It occurs right after Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. He has washed their feet and given them his last teaching for them. Now he prays to God.

His prayer is for those Jesus leaves behind. It is for those disciples who lived 2,000 years ago and for the believer today…you and me… we who live complicated and layered lives, who carry many titles and identities. Jesus prays for you and me – (1) to remain in him, (2) to be safe, (3) to be one, (4) to be transformed.

He prays that God will protect the believers from the evil one. Jesus sees the evil one as a real threat – should we not at least take notice of this?

We think we are strong, and smart, and too modern for such old-fashioned language – but maybe the evil one knows that and adapts to our blind spot. Lutherans believe that sin is real – but don’t forget, we also believe that we have a most powerful advocate – and can return daily to the miracle of the baptismal washing.

So Jesus prays that God will be with us in the world. Jesus then asks that the disciples will be one. And Jesus prays that we will have joy.

All these things are mixed together – it’s clear that the continuing presence of God is a gift, the grace of God, that will move in us to be united – to love each other – and that in process of being united we will find joy. Personally, I think we find this in worship – when we gather with a common purpose and learn to put ourselves aside for a short time, to focus on the One great Gift of God. Someone once said that singing is the only time on this side of heaven when many can occupy the same space.

Jesus’ final request is that we be sanctified in the truth.

Sanctification is a word we don’t use often. Remember, it means purified or made holy. This is not something Lutherans have been comfortable with in reference to ourselves, because we are usually focused on the reality of not being perfect before God. But here it is – in Jesus’ prayer – that we be set apart and shaped by the truth.

Last Sunday John and I finished watching Masterpiece Mystery, and since it was some time like 9:20 – we stayed to watch the next program. You know how PBS catches you that way. The program was about glass-blowing. A famous artist and designer called his friends together to re-create some of his most beautiful glass designs.

We were fascinated – these talented artisans took ordinary stuff – sand, chemicals, black wooden tools, simple iron tongs and snips, and pulled and manipulated and blew and even danced with the molten glass to create objects of stunning beauty. Out of ordinary stuff of life comes incredible beauty. There, I realized was a parable for our sanctification.

That is what Jesus desires for us, that we become things of beauty
– that our lives – the ordinary stuff of our lives
– the relationships, the stories, the work, the sleep, the time alone, the time together – the joys and the sorrows, the high celebrations and deep, deep sadness – all work together to make us more like Jesus – to set us apart , to make us fit for God.

This happens when we walk with God on a daily basis. We have to submit to the tools that he uses. It happens when we consciously turn toward God and accept God’s love. We turn our lives over to him as the stuff of his art.

It is the living life fully, with all its joys and sorrows, we open ourselves to God. In the process God transforms us – puts us into the furnace that is life, and dances with us to make us his own work of art.

May we all be protected from evil. May we truly love one another. May we have true joy! And may you be set apart -- sanctified – be a beautiful vessel in service of God. Amen.

Images are of Dale Chihuly Glass. The film was "Chilhuly in the HotShop" Watch it if you can - it's fascinating.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

reflection on sundays in may

Last Sunday was Mother's day and this Sunday was confirmation. This year I'm stuck in pensive reflection because of what we don't have. My son did make brunch and show up for dinner and he said happy Mother's day. But . . . it's not about his looks, but he looks like a street person. But . . . it's not about accomplishments, but he has no job and isn't looking for one. It's not about money, but we've been putting about 1/4 of his dad's income into his support. He's not in school. He's waiting for a court date.

Confirmation hurts because he was never confirmed. He was already in trouble with the law by 14. Sometimes fellow clergy have said: "I want to talk to your son - I'd like to get to know him." And I think they think they can 'reach him' - because, you know, they are so good with troubled young men. The only contact MP had with him was picking me up at the house a couple of years ago, at the end of one of his rages and hearing his profanity-laced diatribe at me. He hasn't suggested speaking to my son since.

Tonight I laid out two courses. One course is to connect with someone I know who is a former job coach. She has been supportive and not judgmental toward us. If he would do this and work the program, we would continue support. The other course is that I identify a time for him to vacate his apartment, move him into his car, and clean up the apartment so I'm not liable for damages.

He said: Okay, I'm leaving now.

Considering his history, I should be happy he didn't come at me in a rage. If he is borderline I should expect some kind of crisis now - we'll see. If he's sociopathic, he's work this offer to his own advantage. Do I think he's take it at face value and see it as the helping hand it's supposed to be?

Unfortunately, that's not been our experience.

These Sundays do not speak to heart.

Friday, May 15, 2009

opening the door

I've always had some reservations about having friends from our churches. A few times, it's worked, but never lasted. Other times, the friends turned out to be folks who wanted something - wanted some level of influence, or an inside track to complain, or something like that.

Rarely have I found folks who just wanted to get to know me, or us as a couple.

We may have found that. We accepted an invite about two months ago. And returned the invite for folks to come here - and they did. And we had a great time, played games, spoke some about our son, and were honest, and did not feel shamed. It felt really good.

We did not speak of church at all. Like real people, we acknowledged our faith, we prayed over the meal, and mentioned faith now and then, but not the institution, not the issues, the stress, etc.

A lot of things felt right. They were willing to come by us - often these couple relationships fall apart because it's one-sided - we may invite, but they never invite back, or we have been invited, but they won't come to where we live.

Being honest about our son - yes, he was in treatment for AODA, & in the 'place up north' that people from this state know about - and there was no silence, or even 'oh, so sorry.' It just was accepted. That was huge.

So, a good evening. Yes. Praise God.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

little things

It's the little things.

It's the things I don't control.

I can only control how I respond.

It's having this conversation.

Confirmation Coordinator: "We had a pretty good year. I only wish we had some goals or some vision statement so we have a sense of the bigger picture of what we're doing. Parents don't seem to understand why we ask for what we ask."

Me: "Ah, when you started last summer I gave you a file with all the work from the task force that looked at that issue in 2007. There were all the notes, the final vision statement, the yearly goals and objectives and the 5 year plan. I also sent you the orientation PowerPoint with that same material on it to share with the parents."

Later that week: Confirmation Coordinator: "Oh, I can't find that yellow file, do you still have that material?"

And yesterday, when I looked on the computer - all my confirmation documents are gone. Just gone. Not there. Not in back-up either. I don't know what happened.

It's having this situation. Tonight I have to discuss faith statements with 4 high school students. I was told that student X had her statement in, and it was a good one. I said to student X last week - looking forward to seeing your statement and talking to you. Now I was told yesterday that student X doesn't have her paper in. MP said to me - I'll call. Today at staff, MP turns to Youth Director and says: "did you call?" Youth Director, who was at church with me until almost 9 last night. "No I didn't, but I texted them just now - 10:30 a.m."

I can only control how I respond.

I desire to give people a piece of my ear. But that would only make folks look at me as a shrew. I'm sitting tight until I can formulate how to respond.

How to say truth in love - "you ignored the materials I gave you, and the work that I and others had done on that very topic of vision and goals. I'm sorry you felt you weren't supported that way, but the materials were there for you."

"I'm disappointed there wasn't earlier and firmer followup with these statements. I counted on you to do what you had said. Between Monday morning and Tuesday bed-time I put in 21 hours, and you put in 7 - but I would have made the phone calls if you had asked."

And there are more troubling situations on the horizon. Sigh. the questions remain - how am i best to do the work?

Monday, May 4, 2009

annoyance and maturity

Not responding out of annoyance is a sign of maturity.

Pastors are supposed to be mature.

So, don't express annoyance with the baptism family that just requested a complete schedule of who presides and who does music for 2 months, so they can get the pastor they want preaching and the music they like. At least they didn't ask for the schedule to be changed. Yet.

Especially when I am pretty sure I've never seen them at the type of service they claim to prefer.

Of course, I'm the pastor they are trying to avoid. (They are not explaining why - may be gender, may be style, may be pleasing other people.)

Mature adults do not let being annoyed dictate their actions.

Sooo, I'm going to calm down and deal with this later.

Did i say that all this has occured via e-mail? Sent very early this a.m. to forstall the phone call I promised to make?

Does it sound like there may be something else going on that isn't about me or about the church?


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sermon - Good shepherd & deep magic

A shorter than usual sermon, since the Gideons were speaking. (and our Gideon was - Excellent! Great stories, great delivery, passionate!) The sermon inspiration was "Tough Love" by Richard Moore, on-line at the Winderemere Centre in England)

Easter 4B, May 3, 2009
Acts 4:5–12, Psalm 23, 1 John 3:16–24, John 10:11–18

What a gift these lessons are! On this Sunday we think about our Great Shepherd. We are far from shepherds, and most of us far from sheep. The reality of this occupation in the time of Jesus was much different from our Sunday School story or the religious art we see. It wasn’t an image with clean feet and robes and a nicely trimmed beard. Shepherds were rough, mostly solitary, and fierce.

Fierce and tough. Look at what Jesus says. The shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Not that the shepherd just takes care of the sheep, not the shepherd just gets them fed and watered – this Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. This is how we know we are out of the realm of pretty pictures – out of the realm of typical occupational behavior. Most shepherds would NOT die for the flock – they would let that wolf take one or two.

No, this is more. This is a prediction of the Passion – pointing to the cross. This is pointing to the extraordinary events that would follow in the life of the disciples – Jesus would go to the cross, and he would be glorified. In the gospel of John glorification does not mean what we might think – It does not mean beams of light and power and angels bringing good news. In the gospel of John ‘glorification’ looks a lot like defeat. Glorification – the goal of Jesus life and ministry – looks a lot like death by execution. Death on the cross. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.

Now the cross was not loved, not seen as a symbol of anything but pain. For centuries the cross was not part of Christian Art, was not painted or depicted, did not become part of jewelry. It was too painful. It was there, it was known about – but it was part of the mystery of what God has done – for us.

Because Jesus was a volunteer. He chose this path, and demonstrated God’s fierce love for his people. God acted – decisively – in love and power. That is what Jesus is pointing at. That is love.

"We know love when we see it" – and we see in Jesus, the Good Shepherd, doing more than providing, although he does that, doing more than comforting, although he does that – he saves – he gives away his life. He lays down his life.

And in the Gospel, this kind of love is transferred to those who believe. We are not just recipients of this love, we are to embody it ourselves. Love one another, as I have loved you. This fierce love, this powerful gift, is for you and me.

Love is tough. It is the sort of love that is embodied (literally) in the shepherd who provides for the sheep and protects them with his life against wild beasts. We know love, says the apostle John, when we see it - and we see it in Jesus laying down his life for us (v16). But that means that those of us who live because of that love ought to live by it.

In the same family of writers we hear: 16We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us — and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. 17How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?
18Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

In truth and action – think of the ways, the many ways we can love in truth and action – you heard about the work of the Gideons, still necessary – maybe even more necessary these days.

The first Sunday of the month is food ingathering day – but any day, every day, there are hungry people in our community. We are worried about the flu – but shouldn’t we be even more concerned about the children who are malnourished and needy? Should we not be thinking about ways to help families get health care coverage, to improve and correct the inequities in our rich society?

I have other sheep, says Jesus. Yes, he does, and we have been given a responsibility to learn fierce love, to extend the blessings we have received to them.

To be “in Jesus” and to have Jesus abiding “in us” means that we will be those who, having experienced God’s love in Christ, live it out

in world-transforming, community-shaping actions
that are the work of the same Spirit that was “abiding” in Jesus.
If we follow the Good Shepherd, we will be shepherds to others and to the world.


I wonder how much of the power of the passage from the Gospel of John as been de-fanged by our seeing it relationship to Psalm 23. Look at what Jesus is saying - that's way beyond the shepherd of Psalm 23 - this is about more than safety and reward and comfort. This is about life and death and fighting off the wolves and letting the wolves kill the shepherd for the sake of the sheep.

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" - The Good Shepherd will die for the sheep.
"he leads me, comforts me etc." - The Good's Shepherd's blood will save the sheep.

This is deep stuff.
Deep magic.

Sunday afternoon

Beautiful day weatherwise. After church went walking with the Eagle and saw gardens with tulips, great watercolors and then rested. Grilled out. Talked to lil sis back from the land of magic.

At church a number of 'issues' came and went. Most concern other people. My mantra is - 'I guess I'm out of the loop.' I don't fix things. Someone didn't cover his/her tracks very well. I knew I could a) defend that person, b) step in and do the job, c) say hmmm. I chose c. I hope is a sign of self-differentiation and not just conflict-avoidance.

And I'm not going to get exercised over someone else's need to be everywhere and do everything. That's the other side of our system - gotta be here, gotta do that.

Just be.

It would be a good time to read me some Friedman, i think.

Friday, May 1, 2009

happy May day

From RevGalsBlog - Friday Five

1. Are ritual markings of birth marriage and death important to you? I find funerals still interesting - and I'm growing as we have "funeral immersion" at times here. We had about 1 funeral per week last year, although the pace is slower this year. Interesting enough, the most concrete criticism at yesterday's evaluation was about a funeral that I handled - well, made some unfortunate steps due to withheld information by the family. I thought I had made my amends at that time. (Well, when you are planning a funeral and speaking to 'the wife', and no one says anything about the first family, and the obit doesn't come out until the day of the funeral (they ran a announcement only) and it's VBS week . . . ) One mistake - 25 thank yous. You know which one gets the press.

I feel less happy about current baptismal practices. For so many of the people I deal with it's an obligatory ritual, less about God, church and discipleship than welcoming a child to family, about being respectable in someone's eyes, and an occasion for party and gifts. I do the pre-baptismal meetings and just haven't found a way to convey the wonder of this moment. I'd like to make a DVD sometime.

2. Share a favourite liturgy/ practice. Part of me is so moved on Ash Wednesday. It's the phyiscality of the gesture of placing the ashes, the equality, the solemnity, the beauty of so many coming - for their own reasons - to receive this mark. I love enpowering lay people to be the markers - I think that blessing is a great form of priesthood of all.

3. If you could invent ( or have invented) a ritual what is it for? At the time of my early hysterectomy I wanted a ritual to say goodbye to the womb. Burn sage grass, dance under the moon (it was december!) or something. I did drink tea with a friend. But we need an end to childbearing - hope of childbearing ritual - dealing with the grief and relief and joy in the future.

4. What do you think of making connections with neo-pagan / ancient festivals? Have you done this and how? Not too sure. But on Monday am meeting with a young couple who wants to include hand-fasting in their wedding. We'll talk about including God and the grace of Christ in this ritual - which I understand is a pagan/Celtic tradition. I see it as a version of vows (they 'tie the knot, or others tie for them) - and as Christians we place all our vows under God's grace - not just our own efforts. We also need to address the 'conditional' aspect of the knots.

5. Celebrating is important, what and where would your ideal celebration be? I wish I could be at my funeral.