Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Kingdom

In United Methodist world, we have a term for our servants who go out on short term mission trips of 5-10 days. We call them Volunteers in Mission. VIM is the shorthand term. (I understand some have suggested that it should really be called Disciples in Mission, but DIM sounds comical, doesn't it?)

I am serving in my Conference as the VIM Coordinator, working with a fabulous team of laity and clergy. One of the people I have met along this journey is a lay person in New York.

We were chatting by email, and he shared that he has been working to bring together a consortium of churches, non-profits, and secular groups to focus upon the significant challenges that youth in their community face. They have a drop out rate of 28%... and all of the attending challenges that go along with that like substance abuse, etc.

He said that getting folks to the table has been the easiest part. Deciding what one aspect of helping youth they will focus upon has proved to be the challenge. In addition, the most difficult folks in this process have been.... the pastors.

I groaned out loud when I read this. It was a forehead smacking moment because sadly, this is pathetically common. In my reply to him I said:

How hard is it to live out Matthew 25, and Luke 4? I wonder what the world would look like if we pastors could let go of visions of building our own small kingdoms and embrace God's big Kingdom? I think the small kingdoms look so attractive,manageable and fun; and there are so many workshops around on how to build them. The big kingdom is so much more mysterious and messy.. and yet.... and yet.... it is God's

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Peace that passes all understsanding

It is nearly time for my children to awake this Sunday morning. I am putting the final touches on my sermon as I go over it this morning. And Ray is in the hospital, receiving IV antibiotics for an infection that could be very harmful. It has been a difficult few days.

I never cease to be amazed at God's grace poured out in the midst of trial. I have seen it in the folks who have helped care for my children, prayed for us, called us, run errands for us. I have thought again about how God promises to care for God's children. I feel very cared for.

When Ray was first diagnosed on Thursday with the possibility of MRSA, which is complicated by his artificial heart valve, I felt on edge and teary for the first 24 hours. That has given way to God's amazing care for us. I feel a certainty in my spirit that everything will be OK. I don't mean that in the platitude sense of the word. I don't mean I am sure "everything will turn out the way I want it to." I mean that no matter what happens, even if "the worst" were to happen, I know God is with me, is with us, and God always provides.

This is how I am defining the peace that passes all understanding. It doesn't preclude other emotions. Mysteriously, this peace permeates all of it, and carries me along.

So today I am looking forward to worship, to pouring my heart out again before God, and to placing myself and those I love into God's tender care yet is an ongoing process.

I love the words from Isaiah 61 this morning:
1. The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
2. to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3. to provide for those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a garland instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, to display his glory...
10. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
my whole being shall exult in my God;
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11. For as the earth brings forth its shoots,
and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise
to spring up before all the nations.

It makes me want to put on some bright outrageous looking "garments of salvation"

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Sabbath, Yoga, Advent

Monday is the day I set aside for Sabbath. Despite all of my reading, preaching, and blogging about Sabbath, I am not sure I am doing so well on the sabbath front. I do take the day away from the office, away from email, and focus upon my family and upon caring for myself. But I also end up doing a bunch of household chores that need doing. Some Mondays I find I feel more like I have connected and rested than others.

This week was a special gift. Although Ray was in bed with a migraine, Jacob and I had a great day together. It was one of those magical days where he listened to me almost every time I asked something of him. He put his little hand in mine as we did errands. He snuggled with me. He drew me pictures. He soaked in the time in the library with such pleasure it made my heart warm.

Ray was able to get up and felt well enough for me to make the yoga class I have begun taking on Monday afternoons. It has been a great class for me for two reasons. One is that it is challenging, which I like. The other is that this teacher has a habit of asking us to set an intention for the class in a word or short phrase. It is fascinating to listen to my heart to hear what words emerge. This week I thought of my words from last week: hope, clarity, peace. But every time I returned to these words, they came back as hope, clarity, purpose.

Apparently, I need to spend some reflecting upon purpose. Since Advent is a time for just such a thing, I'll take that as a nudging from the Holy Spirit.