Saturday, September 26, 2009


My view of the world is based upon a continually-changing set of theories. My way of thinking, my values, and the purpose of my actions are based on more solid, less changeable things, but the way I see the world is shifting constantly because of changing experiences and attitudes, and I like to formulate expendable theories based upon those shifting views. Here are a few of my more recent theories:

1) There ought to be a periodic table of people, based primarily on reactivity. Some people are extremely reactive, and whenever they're faced with stress or anxiety, they blow up or boil over. Other people are mostly stable, but react to specific situations or other elements badly. The goal for leaders is, I think, to be like Noble gasses, almost completely non-reactive. Leaders need to inspire, true, but when anxiety is introduced into a system, when people are freaking out, the job of leaders is to remain calm, to respond instead of reacting. People should be required to at least be aware of their people-periodic number, and to warn others so that they can be treated accordingly.

2) The creators of the movie The Wizard of Oz were secretly inspired by the Epistle of James. (Note: this is the movie. The book was more likely inspired by a bad acid trip.) Think for a moment about the last scene in Oz, when the wizard is helping the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion. He tells them that they already had the gifts they were looking for, but it was as though they didn't have those gifts because they didn't evidence them. Once they have claimed and demonstrated their gifts in their journey to help Dorothy, they are given tokens that reaffirm their possession and use of the gifts. The wizard tells the Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man in turn that they already have what they were looking for, "But there's one thing they have that you don't have," and presents them with a token marking their gifts based upon their actions. Perhaps what James is trying to say is, "Where I come from, there are people who all day long do nothing but faithful things. Those people are called Christians. You are like them, but there's one thing they have that you don't have: evidence. So, in honor of your acts of faith in Jesus Christ, these are acts of piety and grace. Do them, and all the world will know you have faith.

3) Someone, somewhere needs to invent a neuter personal pronoun for the English language. She and he both imply gender, and it objectifies. This leaves me with no adequate pronouns for describing my as-yet-unborn niece or nephew or God. It leaves me at a loss for words more often than I'd care to mention. If a new pronoun is not added soon, I'll have to think of my own. I'm leaning toward "teb", but I'm also taking suggestions.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Two weeks ago, I decided that fall had arrived. I turned off the air conditioning, threw open the windows, and breathed in the crisp air of an autumn evening. For the last fourteen days, I've smiled smugly to myself, thinking about how green I've been and how much I must be saving on my energy bills. But the summer decided to return for a last laugh, and tonight I found myself sprawled on top of the sheets, with the comforter thrown aside, still too warm to sleep.

Suddenly, the heat and the sleeplessness cast me into memory. I remembered other nights of temperature-induced insomnia; at my grandparents' house, at age nine, lying as still as I could, listening to the cicadas chirp and the frogs sing, and willing a cool mountain breeze to wake the air from its steamy stupor. After 60 Minutes, Murder She Wrote, and a bowl of ice cream, I'd be sent to bed. And as much as I wanted to be obedient and just go to sleep, the doldrums of hot air prevented me from sailing off into slumber. So I'd stare at the ceiling, straining my ears for the chiming of the grandmother clock, the whooshes of passing cars, and the faint murmur of Granddaddy watching TV in the basement.

In the stillness, it almost seems possible that tomorrow I'll wake up to the smell of blueberry muffins and bacon, nine years old again. I almost feel like tomorrow I'll go swimming, play Scrabble with Grandmother, eat fresh blueberries, and fall asleep waiting for the thunderstorm to cross over the mountains and bring cooler temperatures through the screened windows.

But here no grandmother clock chimes on the quarter-hours, and I'll wake up tomorrow to an alarm instead of the smell of bacon. Tonight i miss being nine.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Reflections on a Quarter-Century

I turned twenty-five today. It's a bit strange, because I feel simultaneously very old and very young. A part of me is shocked that I've now crossed the very last threshold of "now you're old enough to do everything," and is amazed that I'm really that old. Another part of me can't believe that, with all the stuff I do every day, and the average age of the people I work with and for, I'm only just now turning 25. It seems as though most other people my age are either a) established, married, and thinking about a family, or b) in school or recently finished and out partying it up every weekend. I am neither of those--a fact which surprises even me.

Ten years ago, I would never have envisioned myself here at this point in my life. In fact, ten years ago, I thought that at 25 I'd be working for a newspaper, probably out west somewhere. I thought I'd be married, living with my spouse in an apartment or first house. I thought I'd have a dog and dishes that weren't from my parents' house in the seventies. Fifteen-year-old me would never have imagined I'd be a pastor or that I'd be single.

On the other hand, I've done some incredible things that I never would have dreamed I could have done. I finished not just my a bachelor's degree, but also a masters. I got to study in South Africa, do mission work in Peru and Brazil, and travel in the Middle East. I've driven halfway across the country by myself, lived in four different states, and flown halfway around the world. I've been with people when they've died, officiated at funerals, presided over communion, and tomorrow I'll baptize someone. I've been blessed with incredible opportunities and wonderful friendships.

My first quarter-century has not been what I expected. But I have loved it. Not every minute, of course, but a lot of it. And I refuse to regret any of it, because I do not have a long enough view to make that kind of judgement. Everything that has happened thus far has made me who I am and brought me to this place in my life. And I like who I am and where I find myself, so I cannot regret the things that brought me here. I have been given opportunities, and I have made choices, and so far I am pleased with the outcomes.

At twenty-five, with probably sixty more years of life ahead of me, I simply hope that at the end of that time I will have the same attitude: thankful for the blessings, and glad to be who and where I am.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Observations from Week...10-ish?

1) As a pastor, I am a member of both the United Methodist Women and the United Methodist Men. I even played around with that this week by attending the UMM meeting and being the only female in the room. I find the gender identity label play in that fascinating. (Did you think I'd just put my thesis on the shelf and leave it there? HA!) Does that mean that clergy are without gender by virtue of our position? That being "clergy", wearing a robe and taking on that identity disclaims us from a gendered identity? Or is it some sort of transcendence of gender, where being clergy means we are not limited to one or the other side of the artificial gender binary that the system of UMM/UMW assumes? The likelihood is that I'm overanalyzing what was designed to simplify the organization of the church, but I still think it's interesting to consider.

2) I fixed the wobbly-Britney-Spears-microphone problem thanks to the advice of theater guru and all-around-cool-person Colleen. I learned to avoid the robe-tripping problem by wearing my white robe, which is hemmed to be shorter than the black one. Impromptu speaking, however, remains a skill that eludes me.

3) At the end of my 12-hour-day today, I knew that my brain would go into catch-up reprocessing mode as soon as I went back to my apartment. I didn't want to face that right away, so I went to distractionville: Buffalo Wild Wings on game day when I knew that the local team was playing. I nibbled on wings, sipped my water, and basked in a room so noisy and full of television screens and action that it was impossible to hear my own thoughts. I couldn't get sucked into thinking about my to do list for the next day, evaluating myself on the day's activities, or thinking about the busyness of the fall schedule. For a few minutes, I shut my brain off and enjoyed the distractions of three football games at once, the shouts and jeers of excited (if slightly inebriated) fans, and the sharp scent of buffalo wings. Only after that respite did I head back out into the evening air and allow advance planning for the next day to creep back into my consciousness.

4) The youth had a dunk tank for their kick-off event. I avoided becoming a victim of the contraption using the excuse of dry-clean only pants. I never thought I'd say this, but I was saved by the suit.

5) The acolytes at the church are mostly middle-school students, so I often notice that they are wearing shorts and flip-flops or jeans and sneakers beneath their black robes. I love it. I love that they're comfortable enough in the church that they don't feel like they have to dress up to be there. I love that they come to serve as they are. And I love the symbolic blending of the inside-the-church sacredness of robes and the sacred ordinariness of the clothing the youth wear every day.

6) I am consistently impressed by the way the people of the church use their gifts to serve in many, many ways, often without people noticing or commending them. I'm working to find a way to celebrate that more often in the church, but in the meantime, I continue to take note of them, thanking God for them in my heart.

7) I haven't exactly found a rhythm to church life, but I have found a sort of tide. There's an ebb and flow to the weeks, and to the month. While Sunday is not the most important day of the week, it is often the busiest, so there is a sort of buildup, starting with midday on Tuesday, as Sunday approaches. Monday morning seems to be a day of tying up the previous week's loose ends and setting the first steps for the new week, and things are *usually* calmer on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. Likewise, the first week of the month is usually the most hectic, with meetings almost every night. In the second week things begin to slow down. The third week starts a little busy, but usually lulls toward the end, and the fourth week is most often quiet, as the calm before the storm of another first-week-of-the-month. Of course, the tides aren't constant enough to be relied upon, but at least some semblance of a pattern is emerging for me. It helps to give hope when, after the insanity of the first-week, I know I can look forward to the calm of the fourth-week. However, I'm pretty sure that the liturgical seasons that overlap that schedule will change it around. Advent, for instance, is three weeks of building up to the fourth week of the month. It's not routine, but routine would probably be boring, anyway.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

An Offering

You may have noticed that I haven't posted in a while. I could blame this on the distractions of my senior pastor going on vacation, the visits of multiple family members, and a police standoff/shooting in my apartment complex, but those aren't the reasons. In fact, I've sat in front of this computer screen several times in the last few weeks and typed half-posts, but I kept losing the thread of my thoughts halfway through. All of the thoughts seemed half-formed, and I couldn't seem to draw them together coherently.

I'm still struggling, so instead of offering you my half-formed thoughts tonight, I'll share with you a written gift that was given to me today.

Since my birthday is coming up, two of my friends, fellow-clergy who share my love of clergy and theology, brought a feast to my apartment. They gave me things to set my table (placemats, cloth napkins with napkin rings, and a vase of flowers) and brought a delicious meal. Then, as we sat down to our feast, my friends produced a liturgy, which we read aloud together. It touched my heart with its humor, creativity, and kindness. I hope it does the same for you.

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.
Lift up your hearts.
We lift them up to the Lord
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God
It is right to give our thanks and praise.
It is right and a good and joyful thing always and everywhere to give thanks to you,
Almighty God, creator of heaven and earth, Lauren, and new friendships.
You formed us in your image, breathed into Lauren the breath of life 25 years ago,
and in-spired a new generation of clergywomen con-spiring in re-creation.
When people of the church turn away, pointing to God "over there",
when Jack Lemmon fails,
your love remains steadfast, right "here" at work in us, through us and the world.
You delivered Lauren from the captivity of licensing school,
made covenant to be her God, God of the kazoo and yoyo.
You sent her to breathe in the good air of this place,
blow bubbles in the traffic,
a prophet preaching to stuffed animals and the people of the south side,
until justice and righteousness flow down like the hem of her bridesmaid dress.

And so, with your people on earth and all the company of heaven, we praise your name and join their unending hymn:
Holy, holy, holy, Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Holy are you and blessed is your Son Jesus Christ.
Your Spirit anointed him to preaching a "wonderland" to those living in "cardboard,"
to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind
(without a Britney Spears microphone),
to make toasts at wedding suppers, to suffer the heat of festivals,
to shake hands of Galileans and Pharisees,
and to announce that the time had come when you would save your people,
all while leaving his cell phone and calendar at home.
He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and drank coffee with sinners.
By the baptism of his suffering, death, and resurrection you gave birth to your church,
delivered us from slavery to sin and death,
and made with us a new covenant from the bath water of the Spirit.
When the Lord Jesus ascended into the "mystery divine," "hanging out" in the colors of a sunset sky,
he promised to be with us always in the power of your Word and Holy Spirit.

On the night in which he gave himself up for us, he took bread, gave thanks to you,
broke the bread, gave it to his disciples and said: "Take, eat, this is my body which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me."
When the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples,
and said: "Drink from this, all of you: this is my blood of the new covenant,
poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
And so, in remembrance of these, your mighty acts in Jesus Christ,
we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving,
as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ's offering for us,
as we proclaim the mystery of faith:
Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Pour out your Holy Spirit on us gathered here, Lauren, Sarah, and Amy,
and on these gifts and on this life birthed, raised to new life, and coming into the Kingdom.
Make these gifts of table and the gift of new friends be for
breaking bread, dining with the Risen Savior of the Galaxy,
opening our eyes to traveling new roads.
"Spirit show up," make us one with Christ, one with each other,
and one in ministry to all the world, until Christ comes in final victory,
and we sit picnicking by the waters of life in eternal sabbath.
Through your son Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit in your holy church, all honor and glory is yours, almighty God, now and forever. Amen.