Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tell me again why I am Presbyterian?

I want to begin this entry by saying that I really did not become a Presbyterian by choice. I came to a specific church after being a bit of a vagabond, denominationally speaking. I grew up United Methodist, sampled all sorts of religions and Protestant denominations in college, and joined a United Church of Christ Church when I moved to the West Coast. When my daughters were very young (six months and two and a half years), I began to look for a place to call a "church home." It was totally circumstantial that I ended up at a Presbyterian church. Great children's ministry, a pastor just a few years older than I, and about 10 minutes from our house. Perfect combination.

A year and a half after I joined, I was asked to serve on a committee that was exploring different worship types and the possibility of adding a service at a different hour. After much protest, I did. Well, one might say that was the beginning of the slippery slope. So, I sat at a meeting or two and then began to ask questions. One of the meetings I asked, "So, do the Presbyterians and this church have something like the UCC's Open and Affirming?" A peer who was in seminary and also serving on the committee laughed and the rest of the committee looked at me as if I had fallen from another planet. My friend suggested we go out and get a cup of coffee. At that fated meeting, she described to me the history of the PCUSA's long and sordid history of ordination standards. My response was something like, "x$@%S!*, are you KIDDING me!?"

This was also the beginning of my own renewed sense of call (catapult) into ordained ministry. I have so often felt that I have no right to be ordained due to my own frailties and to this day, I pinch myself and wonder if the pastor police will come and find me and accus me of being an imposter. But mostly, it is because I grieve for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are so gifted, called and talented, and have been told that they are not welcome to share those gifts with the Presbyterian Church (USA).

Today I attended the beginnings of the trial that is alleging that the Rev. Dr. Janie Spahr violated her ordination vows and the "peace, unity and purity" of the church by performing legal, same-sex marriages. I recognize that we have been caught in this controversy for many years and that many much wiser, better theologians and pastors than I have argued the issues of inclusive ordination and same-sex marriage. However, I am passionately feel that Jesus really did not intend us to spend our time this way. The legal machinations, the tricks and tools of Roberts Rules of Order, the appellate process and so on and so on, almost make a mockery of "the church."

I really don't know what God intended by having me become a Presbyterian, but I do know there is a church I DON't want to be a part of, and it looks like this:

I don't want to be a part of a church that gives more credence to its rules than to Christ's compassion;

I don't want to be a part that excludes ANYONE from full, valued participation and leadership;

I don't want to be a part of a church that hides in fear;

I don't want to be a part of a church that operates out of scarcity rather than abundance;

I don't want any part of a church that has stopped thinking, acting or giving;

I don't want to be a part of a church that is more concerned with its orthodoxy than the heresies that insure that the church moves into the future;

and I do want to be a part of a church that stands up, speaks up, acts up for justice, peace, compassion and shalom for all of God's people in the name of Jesus Christ!

Thank you, Janie, for reminding us of that.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sometimes this Pastor Thing is Questionable

Disclaimer: I am changing the names to protect the guilty.
Truly, there are times that I wonder why I ever gave up a six figure income, spent the money to go to seminary so that when I graduated I could wait 9 months for a first call (after progressing in a career where I had built experience and credibility), pay some dues and gain experience all over again, so that I could lead a congregation in a shrinking denomination while making roughly 50 percent of what I made 10 years ago. Hmmmm, why did I sign up for this?

I suppose I'm feeling a bit cranky these days. I work really hard and there are a few, maybe only one or two, who think I should work harder, make less and spend less. All the while, standing afar with a raised eyebrow and a scowl. Some see no value in investing in ministry that might actually draw others in, much less serve those who never darken our doors. Someone suggested to me that it is Presbyterians who worry about money. I don't think we have the corner on that market, I believe it is the mainline church in general that is focusing on things that don't matter all that much when held up to the Gospel.

All of these woes and worries distract from ministry. I am reminded of the Psalm from the memorial I did this morning - Psalm 121.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.

Not men, nor angels, nor principalities nor powers....not money, nor mammon nor church buildings.....no thing, no person, no institution or structure.....None of those will uplift or undergird me. None of them will stand in the way.

So why do I do this ministry thing? For the sake of the Gospel alone.

Monday, July 5, 2010

A new day, a new start

So, I am moving on to a new phase of life. I have begun a new 28 day cleanse, but this time it's about even more than just being attentive to my body. I've lost 27 pounds since last fall, but I have not done what I have wanted to do in terms of writing. So, I'm going to be at it again. This time I am doing a program that is provided exclusively by Arbonne International. It has more flexibility in terms of eating and the product tastes really good. Shakes, tea, vitamins, a cleansing product for 7 days called Sea Source, etc.
Many things have improved...my cholesterol, my Vitamin D levels, but my Blood Pressure has gone up. Don't really know what that is about and I'm going to see the doc tomorrow. It is frustrating to say the least!
I also feel I need to break out and begin some new things. I'm feeling more bold these days. I look forward to communicating with you all in the next 28 days!!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday, February 15, 2010

Angel Cards - no idea what day - Responsibility

Ugh, I have been so irresponsible about writing the silly blog. This, of course, is why the irony of the angel card on my desk is so darned ironic. Responsibility. Ha! I laugh in the face of responsibility! I don't like to admit that a 50 year old woman, pastor, mom, wife, daughter, friend, should be more responsible than I am. Grown up, even. Seriously, what is this aging stuff all about, anyway? I am certain this is all complicated by the fact that I see so much of what is ahead of me. Hospitals, nursing homes, deaths, memorials.....it can begin to make a person a bit on the depressed side.

Responsible for what? for whom? when? Do I always have to be responsible? Wiktionary says responsibility is, "Answerable for an act performed or for its consequences; accountable; amenable, especially legally or politically; Capable of responding to any reasonable claim; able to answer reasonably for one's conduct and obligations; capable of rational conduct;" Oh, come on, seriously, is this really what it means to be responsible? I've failed, I feel anything but responsible. I want to be a child. To play. To run and not be caught. I want to play the prodigal for as long as I can.

This is probably irresponsible writing....who knows who is reading this?! Oh, well, it's my stream of consciousness speaking - I'm not responsible!

Monday, February 1, 2010


I am not "feeling" the writing thing for the moment. I may feel different tomorrow. Today one of the dearest members of our congregation died. Now, I think I have probably done close to 50 or 60 memorial services in my 8 years of ministry, and I want to say, that in some way, I'm really good at death, dying, bereavement and comfort. I have been in numerous rooms and homes with dead and dying bodies and it does not freak me out. I find something very beautiful in death. I see so many similarities to the birthing process of a mother. This morning when I went to see M. she was struggling to breathe and was in a fair amount of distress and struggle. I left her room around 12:30 pm. They had just administered some morphine and in the 10 minutes before I left, I could see she was beginning to ease a bit. I got an email that she had died around 2 pm. Once the tension was released, the process of dying was quick and, I hope, relatively painless.

All of this being said, I'm sad. M. was 89 years old and she went to church her whole life. She told me numerous times that she was ready to go home. Her husband died last July and her daughter died a number of years ago. She loved her family and was a very smart woman. She had her mind until nearly the end. I will miss our talks. She would always apologize for being a burden. I would always tell her she was a gift. I know she was ready, but I was not.

I really don't understand why God wants us to feel this sort of pain and loss. It makes no sense to me and as a minister, well, that's a pretty risky thing to say. All of this turmoil could simply be the after effects of turning 50 in October. Whatever the reason, I don't like it.

Poets say it best. From Mary Oliver's "When Death Comes:"

When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world

- Mary Oliver

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day 0 - Dance

Tonight I volunteered for Company C Ballet. I think there are few things that make me feel as alive as a "spectator" as dance. I feel the range of emotions....deep passionate love, leaping out of your skin joy, a sadness that the body expresses that extends far beyond words could EVER begin to evoke, just to name a few. There is something that is magical and captivating about this particular company. They are fresh, different, new, dance fusion of ballet, contemporary, modern and jazz. Their choreographer is brilliant and he demands a tremendous amount of physical endurance as well as artistry from his dancers.

My favorite work of the night was "Akimbo," which is an adjective meaning with hand on hip and elbow bent outward: to stand with arms akimbo.They did that, but oh so much more. The piece was lyrical and rhythmic, all at the same time. One of the other things that struck me was that this program had more duets and solos. I think dance solos are difficult, but the solos this night were magnificent.

I am always trying to come up with more and new ways to describe this company: raw, fesh, exciting, youthful, mesmerizing, real. When I say real, I mean that while they are superb dancers, they aren't "perfect" in that stiff, artificial, "hold your breath because if someone makes a misstep it's going to be disastrous" sort of way. With all the distress in the economy, the disasters and wars and famine throughout the world, and a general decline in appreciation for the arts, I fear that someday we will lose the ballet. But with all that is turned upside down in our world, isn't that even more reason we need to keep it?