Friday, February 20, 2009

Revgalblogpal Friday Five: Taking a Break Edition

Songbird writes:
Where we live, it's February School Vacation Week!

Yes, that's an odd thing, a vacation extending President's Day. But it's part of our lives here. Some people go South or go skiing, but we always stay home and find more humble amusements.

In that spirit, I offer this Taking a Break Friday Five. Tell us how you would spend:


1. a 15 minute break
Refilling my glass of water, staring out the window or if it is warm enough stepping outside and taking a deeeeeeeeeep breath.

2. an afternoon off
Check and see if any of my friends are around to meet for coffee, relax with the laptop and potentially nap.

3. an unexpected free day
See #2 but make the nap definite!

4. a week's vacation
I am particularly terrible at the 'stay-cation' although my hope is that moving off campus will help that. I am a Jersey shore girl so give me some fresh ocean air and sand no matter WHAT time of year. I also enjoy bringing Will to new places or visiting my sister and her husband.

5. a sabbatical
My hope is that when I someday achieve the sabbaticalit will include time in a warm, spiritual place and a trip to Scotland.

On a side note, I too grew up in an area that did two weeks of spring break - one in February and one in April - rather than giving us a Columbus day here and a President's day there. For my money that makes MUCH more sense!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

2/15 - Go Therefore

The Word proclaimed to the congregation of DPC on the preacher's last Sunday as their installed pastor.

Matthew 28:16-20
Psalm 30

I don’t know what to say.
Hard to believe although after almost 400 sermons maybe I have actually said it all. (Nah…)

We’ve been through a lot – you and me – but what more can be expected from a journey together that began with my very first day in the office Monday, September 10, 2001? The next day DB, JB and I ran over to the manse and watched a tv that was propped up on a cardboard box while I worked the kitchen phone to find out exactly where in Washington D.C. my sister was. CB was reminding PW and I the other day that she and L drove down to Florida for my ordination which came later in the month.

I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up,
and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.
O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.

Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.

We’ve been through a lot - you and me. I can only imagine how some of you felt as the news got out and a brochure went around with my face on it telling you who the committee had found to be your next pastor… what was the minister store all out of balding, white guys?
And yet even though some of you were shaking your heads you gave me a key to the church, pointed out where the pulpit was and gave me a chance.

Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.


We’ve been through a lot – you and me.
You have learned that I provide a laugh track to my own jokes.
I have learned ‘THAT’ smell is the smell of money.

You have learned that if you wait them out, eventually the seminary student becomes your pastor worrying more about you as people, and less about when we start singing Christmas hymns.
I have learned that Commandment #11 is: ‘Let There Be Peace on Earth’ SHALL be sung on Christmas Eve.

I hope you have learned that faith sometimes takes everything we’ve got – heart, mind, soul and strength.
I have learned how to use every one of them.

We’ve been through a lot – you and me. Both corporately and privately we have each had our time in varying degrees of valleys and on various heights of mountain peaks. This hymn, Psalm 30, is a lectionary gift to us today. It is an opportunity as community to reflect on where we have been and where we are going.

It is a glorious hymn of victory from defeat for who among us has not been in the pit?
Who among us has not wept through the night?
Who among us has not felt at times like the Lord is hiding?

The secret of the life of faith is placing the negatives of life within the context of the bigger picture of God’s faith and love and creative good-will. We must make the conscious choice to exchange mourning for joy, to exchange silence for praise. And yes, although most of us do not make the choice to suffer, it is up to us to make the choice to suffer no more!

Why? Because as one commentary put it: “despair can make faithful people manipulators who weave their life story with threads of sarcasm, anger, and cynical niceties instead of threads of hope. In that despair, pride can settle into the soul and chase away the need for a Savior.i

Threads of sarcasm and cynicism… why whatever is that commentary talking about?

I fell into that very trap.
When Baby Snowpea died I began to turn to the grief for energy. The wound of my heart became what I worshiped rather than my God. In fact, I kept God out of it. I did not want God to take the blame for what had happened… nor did I want God’s comfort. Better for me to hold on to the grief with tentacles of sarcasm and anger.

As most of us do when struck by grief, my focus narrowed and it became impossible to see the big picture. Finally a counselor helped me recognize my bitterness and my deep sad and I was able to once again lift up my eyes to the big picture.

The key? Forgiveness.
I had to forgive myself for being human, for letting my family down, for letting my congregation down, for letting me down.
I had to forgive.

I’ll say it again: the secret of the life of faith is placing the negatives of life within the context of the bigger picture of God’s faith and love and creative good-will. We must make the conscious choice to exchange mourning for joy, to exchange silence for praise. And yes, although most of us do not make the choice to suffer, it is up to us to make the choice to suffer no more!

In that case, I had to forgive myself. In other cases, I have had to make the choice to forgive others.

I am convinced that the secret to the life of faith, the most powerful commodity in this entire earthly kingdom, the key component to happiness in this world, to lifting our eyes to God’s big picture rather than remaining fixated on our own narrow minds and narrow worlds… The absolute key to living a life of joy and hope…

Is forgiveness.

That’s it.
Forgiveness.

We cannot celebrate the saving action of God in the present if we are harboring ill-will from the past.
We cannot dance in the light of the morning, if our hearts remain in the dark night of self-righteousness.
We cannot put on the fresh garment of Christ, if we insist on wearing the sackcloth of indignation.

And the hardest part of forgiveness? The more right we are… the harder it is to forgive.
Satan works like that. Satan is very good at getting our eyesight narrowed so that it can only see who’s wrong – certainly not us, and can no longer see what’s right.

You have to forgive.

It’s a battle for your very soul and you have to forgive.

It may be the hardest thing you have ever done. I am convinced it is designed that way on purpose.

The secret of the life of faith is placing the negatives of life within the context of the bigger picture of God’s faith and love and creative good-will. We must make the conscious choice to exchange mourning for joy, to exchange silence for praise. And yes, although most of us do not make the choice to suffer, it is up to us to make the choice to suffer no more!

I will extol you, O LORD,
for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me.
O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
O LORD, you brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.


Sing praises to the LORD, O you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.


This Psalm is a reflection on where we have been as a people of faith and where we are going. It is also a call to each and every one of us to ask ourselves in the various situations in our lives – present and future – are we the faithful…. Or have we fallen into the trap of being the foe?

The secret of the life of faith is placing the negatives of life within the context of the bigger picture of God’s faith and love and creative good-will. We must make the conscious choice to exchange mourning for joy, to exchange silence for praise. And yes, although most of us do not make the choice to suffer, it is up to us to make the choice to suffer no more!

Go therefore…. And make disciples of all nations.
Go therefore… and exchange mourning for joy.
Go therefore… exchange silence for praise.

Go therefore… and love one another.
Go therefore… and heal each other’s wounds.
Go therefore… and forgive.

Make the choice to suffer no more!








Sing praise to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name…

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – Amen.

i David L. Bartlett & Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Preaching on the Word. Year B, Volume 1. Anne H. K. Apple (Pastoral Perspective). p. 348.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

See You Later

It's been one month since my last post, mainly due to internet access issues and over-scheduling. The majority of my over-scheduling had to do with attempting to be in two places at once. Finally, I caught a clue and realized I could not be the pastor here and there at the same time - a 'revelation' a bit harder to come by since the two churches are in such close proximity. A friend and colleague encouraged me to throw down the boundary and abide by it and life got better.

I have spent the better part of the month visiting with folks and walking with DPC as they get ready to enter Phase 2 of their transition - The Search. A small - and old - book from the Alban Institute wisely counseled that although tempted to hide in one's office and pack under the guise of 'administration' the better break-down of time spent is 25% administration, 75% personal interaction. It encouraged me to make personal contacts and to make them especially with the folks who I think would leastt like to see me. And it was absolutely accurate.

I was either affirmed and given a positive note to leave my relationship with them on or it was confirmed that whatever was going on was purely about them, and not me. This step was a crucial one for a healthy transition and one I might have skipped, because let's face it - when you have a 'next thing' to get to... you want to get to it!

Now I am pondering tomorrow's sermon. The 'buzz' is the place will be packed and they cancelled the nursery because no one wanted to staff it. I feel a bit like I am preparing #1 on David Letterman's Top Ten List as we all know #1 is usually a disappointment as compared to #3 or #4. But God is good, all the time... and even now I refuse to sacrifice myself on the altar of the perfect sermon. It will come in it's own time and it will be something the Holy Spirit can work with, I'm sure.

After worship is a reception - catered no less - over in the Parish Hall. After 7+ years of occasionaly rough roads here I am going to enjoy the accolades and the thanksgivings and give them back in return.

There is no way I am getting to MPC without DPC. I am a better preacher and I will be a better pastor and Head of Staff because of the folks here.

So that is the update from this neck of the woods. Hopefully the internet will stick around so I can continue 'processing' in this forum. I like throwing up scraps of sermon research and thoughts and 'conversing' with Teh Internets on a more regular basis so we shall see.

In the meantime my family and I are headed ever closer to stepping over the boundary from one congregation to the next. See you on the other side...