Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mommy, I am glad you're a pastor

My five year old daughter Shannon has taken to going with me to all three churches on Sunday morning. We have good Mommy-Shannon time, and she enjoys being with all the different folks. Most importantly, she enjoys the donuts, in duplicate or triplicate depending upon the day.

As we were leaving service #2 this past week, Shannon was asking me again about calling. She asked me if being a pastor is what God told me to do. I said (again) that this is what God has called me to do. Then she asked if I had to decide also. I told her yes, figuring out the path God wants for your life also means deciding to follow the path. I told her it's a process called "discernment" when a person tries to figure out what God wants them to do with their life, and then doing it.

As we got to the car she said "Mommy, I am glad you're a pastor." These words have been ringing in my heart ever since.

I asked her "because it's fun?" Shannon replied, "yes, it's fun. I think I want to be a pastor too."

This from the girl who last week asked me why I couldn't just stay home and please stop working.

I think most (perhaps all) pastors have a special anxiety about raising kids in the context of the local church. Pastor's Kids (PKs) are renowned throughout the generations for being rebellious, poorly adjusted kids who wither in the spotlight that is their life. Ok, this is a slight exaggeration. But the spotlight part does cause anxiety.

I was talking with a PK who is now a pastor around a dinner table a few weeks ago, and someone asked her for advice about raising children in the church. Her reply was that her parents rule was that church folks were not allowed to expect anything of the pastor's children that they would not expect of their own children. I think that is great advice, and I am planning to tuck it away for future teenage year use.

For now, I am basking in the fact that my daughter enjoys having a pastor for a mommy.

Saturday, May 26, 2007


For some reason, I have been thinking about having doors opened for me. Every so often, I find myself in an awkward situation.

In some cases, I am opening a door for a man and he is completely thrown off by my actions. I don't think about the "rules of chivalry" calling for the opposite unless the man is clearly feeling awkward. Otherwise, I just don't think about who opens a door for whom. I guess in my subconscious it's just the person with the easiest access to the door who opens it, and doors are only opened for others when it makes logistical sense. Otherwise, I think I operate under the assumption that everyone opens their own doors. Nor do I give much conscious thought to which gender proceeds through a doorway first. Again, it's a matter of happenstance and logistics.

I hold doors for folks behind me, and expect likewise, regardless of gender, if the distance between me and the other person would mean that someone would have a door closing in their face if it were not being held.

In other cases, I find myself feeling awkward when a stranger, or someone I have perhaps just been introduced to, opens a door for me. I do project onto these folks a sense of distance and condescension. This is not because I consciously believe that is what is intended. I am just so accustomed to doing my own thing, and I guess somewhere along the way, I have internalized a message that men holding doors for women is rooted in the belief that women need such assistance.

The exception to all of this is that my husband holds doors for me, especially if we are out by ourselves on anything resembling a date. I have to think hard about it, but I am pretty sure my father holds doors for me too.

So here is my conclusion: I am uncomfortable with people holding doors for me unless the person is my husband or father. I think this is mostly because this is what I am used to, and so now, holding a door open feels to me like an intimate action.

Otherwise, I don't want doors opened or held for me unless it would be rude not to hold the door. I don't like anyone else going out of their way to open a door for me- it just doesn't feel right.

I have never had conscious thought about this until recently, and I can't even remember what sparked this. It's not that I have consciously made decisions based on "women's lib" conversations that pre-date me. I think it's just the sense I developed without giving it much thought (until now).

I wonder what the rest of the world thinks about such things (or if it is worth any brain power at all!)

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Sometimes, I just sit back and feel amazed at the people God sends to be a part of the community of faith I am blessed to serve as pastor. So many fabulous, faithful, loving people. It is so awesome to be a part of community that feels to me to be getting stronger and tighter with each passing month.

Case in point: I received an email from a member of our community who also teaches at our Preschool. Her son goes to the nearby Middle School and requires transportation to attend this school, because it is outside of his home district.

Our youth director picked him up from school and brought him to church to be helpful to the mom. As they were driving home, the mom commented to her son "that I felt really blessed to have people that are so generous with their time and energy that benefits me."

The son replied "You mean our church family?"

Mom's comment was "yeah, I guess that sounds kind of hokey, doesn't it?"

And the son said, "well, they certainly do ACT like family"

The mom told me it made her smile. It made me smile too.

I am preparing to preach on Acts 2 this Sunday. It is Pentecost Sunday and it is time to hear the story of the Holy Spirit forming the early believers into the early church. The book of Acts has community that acts like family as a central theme. As one of my friends recently commented this book in the Bible is titled "Acts of the Apostles" but it would be more appropriate to title it "Acts of the Holy Spirit."

How true.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Tuesdays are always a difficult. I generally rest well on Mondays, and put off most/all thoughts of "work" on that day. I am trying to live into Sabbath, trusting God in meaningful ways.

But Tuesday, my thoughts turn to my unending to do list. As I said, I am still living into Sabbath. One of the things I am still trying to do is keep from being a work-a-holic the rest of the week. After all, I'm not really trusting God if I only trust for one day, and then work the rest of the week like everything is up to me. Clearly, it is not!

At the conference in Indianapolis last week, one pastor had reflected, "like the poor, to do lists are always with us." Yesterday felt especially draining. I went home at 4:30 to spend time with my family because I was out of energy and had a 6:30 meeting. As I sat in my chair at 6:10, I found myself wondering if I was getting sick. That set off a new stream of thought and mild anxiety about my to do list.

But then we had our meeting. It happened to be a Jacob' s Well leadership team meeting. We laughed- a lot. As we discussed the items on our agenda, laughter seemed to fill us at every turn.

By the time the meeting was over, my headache was gone, and the weight of exhaustion had lifted. What a gift.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I had an interesting conversation about "journey" language. Two clergy colleagues were talking about why they dislike this language. One simply because he abhors buzz words, a trait he inherited from his mother. She ranted one day that everywhere she goes, she is told she on a journey... in her faith, in her job, at Weight Watchers, everywhere. "I have a life, not a journey!"

I have always thought of journey language as a great way to describe the spiritual life because it puts emphasis on the present moment, and the process, rather than upon arriving somewhere. When I say the life of faith is a journey, I mean that I expect it will always be a journey with Christ.

The other person in the conversation interprets journey language in the opposite way- since a journey implies a destination, she hears it as implying that right now is not so important and arriving somewhere else is what life is all about....which is of course not what the life of faith is all about. And I agree.

Interesting how we both largely agree that emphasizing arriving somewhere else devalues the spiritual life... and yet use different language to emphasize this. Language is such tricky and important stuff.

We also realized that part of our difference does stem from our different faith traditions. Her Lutheran tradition emphasizes justifying grace- the grace that brings us to faith in Christ. My Wesleyan/Methodist heritage emphasizes sanctifying grace as much or more than justifying grace.

In fact, the emphasis on sanctifying grace, also known as Christian Perfection, is one of the significant contributions of Methodism to the Christian conversation. This is the doctrine that teaches that it as least possible for God to so sanctify a disciple so that the disciple becomes able to love as Christ loves...to be made perfect in love.

One of the questions asked of me when I was ordained was "do you believe that you are going onto perfection?" and my reply was "by the grace of God, I do so believe."

So even though I am loathe to devalue the present moment, for that is the only moment in which God is present to me right now, I do have a sense of growing and changing along the way. I do earnestly look forward to being more like Christ, and try to match my will to God's through spiritual practices.

I would never want to devalue the present for a "grass is always greener" mentality that is so much a part of the consumerist culture.

Yet for me, journey language accomplishes both the task of communicating that life is a daily experience to cherish and a process of growing and changing along the way.

Friday, May 11, 2007


I have been in Indianapolis, IN for four days this week. I was at a young clergy conference that actually made me feel a bit old. At 35, I was one of the eldest in attendance, and I knew only two people upon arriving. Interesting experience. It was instructive to remember what it is like to be in a community in which I am not an insider who knows everyone.

I thought a lot about relationships, friendships, colleagues, etc. One of foundational assumptions of the group is that clergy need to establish healthful, supportive groups of folks beyond the local church. I'm told this makes a huge difference in the health and effectiveness of clergy.

I spent time agonizing over whether I have enough friends, and whether there is something wrong with me that my friends always seem to come in seasons. I don't maintain friendships that last from high school or college (despite my efforts in the past). I have one friend I try keep in contact with from Seminary. We have good years and bad years. After two years of gathering with a cohort of clergy in the Lewis Fellowship (which is why I was at this most recent conference- as a followup to that program) I don't know how many of these relationships will last for the long term either. We are all over the country.

I discovered that I was being rather closed to the experience of meeting folks at this conference because I doubt whether it's worth the effort.

Then, at closing worship, I realized something really important. I am not trusting God enough to provide for my relational needs. If I need friends beyond the local church in order to be effective in the local church, then surely God will (continue to) provide such relationships! This seems really obvious to write, but it was hugely empowering to recognize. So, hopefully, I can stop grieving my apparent inability to maintain friendships over years and distances, and start looking for how God is working in my life and friendships now.