#ThrowbackThursday: Accept No Substitutes

#ThrowbackThursday: Accept No Substitutes

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Reblogged from 2012.

I didn’t make it to church this morning. I had every good intention last night, and planned out the morning as I lay in bed so I could squeeze in a shower and smell nice, the babies would eat breakfast and take a nap beforehand.

I know, I know, the road to hell…anyways. The babies went down for their nap, and so did I.

But I continue to mull over what Christine had sent me a while ago – a blog post called “The Desert Mothers Didn’t Change Diapers. But Maybe They Should Have,” written by Penny Carothers, a guest writer on Don Miller’s blog Don Miller Is. She articulates exactly what I have been feeling for a while in terms of thinking that my spirituality, my faith life, my devotional life, my connection to God needed to be a certain way. But, she challenges that obligation, and offers the possibility of “the sanctification of the ordinary” in these words:

[It] has got me thinking: what if there really is a different way? What if God intended the hug of a child to mirror the numinous moment others achieve through meditation? What if attending to the needs and the play of children – really attending, not reading the news on my phone or folding laundry while I listen with half an ear – was a window into the spiritual? What if all I really needed to do was simply be present? After all, God calls himself a lover and a parent, and perhaps there is something to learn in embracing my life rather than trying to escape it so I can have real communion with God.

It’s still a little shocking, but perhaps the most spiritual thing I can do may be to embrace my life as a mother. Not a spiritual, metaphorical mother, but a snot-wiping, baby-chasing, diaper bag-toting mother. Because sometimes it’s not the bible stories or the lectio divina, but the Help! and thank you that a relationship is built on.

So, I put on some classical music for a little bit. The babies and I listened to their Pap’s sermon from last Sunday on my Iphone. We played with rattles and cars. I sang “Spirit of the Living God,”to them. We played with kitchen paraphernalia. I threw them up in the air a few times just to hear them squeal and laugh. I played some more hymns and worship-y songs on the piano. We ate lunch.

It wasn’t church, and I really believe there is no substitute for the communion of saints each Sunday, but I was still blessed by it. I believe I can still worship through attending to these moments, and of course, there’s always next Sunday.

Streams Run Uphill Blog Tour: Week 1

Streams Run Uphill Blog Tour: Week 1

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So thankful for the words and support, and honest engagement for those who’ve posted so far about #streamsrunuphill. It’s so hugely important to me that these writers and stories are heard widely in the church. Please spread the word so that the resource becomes available and known especially to those young women of color!

Caryn Riswold

Dan Wilkinson

And for Unfundentalist Christians for reposting at their place.

Publishers Weekly
Ministry Matters by Bromleigh McClenaghan

More to come including:

Sarah Bessey
Krista Dalton
Kathy Escobar
Young Lee Hertig
Adam Hollowell
Grace Ji-Sun Kim
Kathy Khang
Carol Howard Merrit
Micah Murray at Redemption Pictures

This American Life Tangent: Who Holds the Patent on Church?

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I’m really honored to be part an incredible group of folks to share and write about topics concerning ministry and leadership over at the new Presbyterian Outlook blog.

My mom and I were driving back up to her home with the kids with the plan to stay there for two weeks. These sorts of visits become a pseudo-break for me, and I have to maximize every second while I have the extra help. Normally on the drive up I would listen to the Indigo Girls and sing along at the top of my lungs. Instead, while the kids are mesmerized by Curious George 2 on the iPad strapped to my headrest by a bungee cord, I am listening to podcasts, one of which is This American Life.

I randomly chose “When Patents Attack,” thinking it would likely not hold my attention for long. But of course, I was wrong. I got sucked into the story of journalists who explored their current usefulness and controversial nature of patents especially in the context of the tech industry. Apparently, patents have become basically an obsolete way of licensing in the US. Its original intent was not simply to protect the creative inventor, which is what originally came to my mind, but a way to share information. For instance, the cotton gin would never have become what it is without the patent because Eli Whitney would have kept it locked up in a dark shed.

And yet, today the purpose has become so diluted by legal and technical gibberish to mask the uninspired creations of scientists and engineers that hardly understand themselves what is being licensed and for what purpose. “Patent trolls” are companies that amass huge troves of patents and make money by threatening lawsuits. The journalists who covered this story eventually discover a hallway full of empty companies with no employees.

Read the rest at The Outpost and check out the other blogposts!

The Cure of Souls: Speaking of Response

The Cure of Souls: Speaking of Response

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This post is part of a series called The Cure of Souls: A Spirituality of Care and Compassion
written by Kate Wiebe. Look for her posts twice a month, and a list of them here.

Warehouses full of water.  Truckloads and mountains of clothing.  Hundreds of unaffiliated volunteers (people who have no relationship with a trustworthy organization or faith group and simply show up).  Despite relief agency campaigns to assure the public that donations of things and simply showing up would not be helpful after the tornadoes in Oklahoma – still they came.  “Disasters within disasters,” these practices of excess tangible donations and hundreds of extra people in a disaster zone are commonly called.  Why? Because the logistical mess of coordinating storage and processing of all the things and finding housing for the unaffiliated volunteers and tracking their credentials or affiliations only detracts from the actual needs and ability of the local leadership and the disaster relief agencies that are encouraging local response.

Going or giving things promptly to the site of a recent disaster can be very meaningful for many people. It is part of the reason that so many people self-deploy after an event.  “I just felt like I had to go there and do something to help,” you can hear countless people say after mass tragedy unfurls.  Similarly, people who feel this instinct to go, but cannot for whatever reason, can feel trapped and wanting to be useful.  They mean well, but their own need to give gets in the way of checking to see if what is being given is needed or listening carefully to what is being asked for.  This kind of giving can too easily become focused on the person who is giving, and their need to give, and not the needs of those who are suffering.

There is so much to do after a disaster, and many people often do not realize how very much there is to do right in your own backyard, especially if you are not in a current disaster zone.  Responding locally after a distant event can produce great ripple effects of healing, and can avoid creating mini-disasters in disaster zones.  Also, if you are someone who feels strongly about giving to or going to a disaster zone, please consider joining a reputable disaster relief agency ­– the Red Cross and the many faith-based and denomination organizations that exist are all great options.  Each of them provides ways to give or to get involved in going to a disaster site.  By working through these organizations you will save yourself and those on the ground a great deal of head and heartache.

For those who are interested in learning more about how to respond locally after a disaster occurs somewhere else in the country or the world, here are some examples:

–        Often, trauma events strongly remind people of troubling events from their past. It may feel counter-intuitive to create programs to address past events, especially in light of a recent incident.  Yet, creating local venues to share within trustworthy and safe relationships can help individuals move through the hold memories keep and lessen infringe on future events.  These might include small-group meetings, prayer groups, or therapy sessions.

–        Education can help squelch rumors.  Providing forums for learning about mental health, natural storms, and effects of violence on persons and communities, as well as common law enforcement, emergency response best practices, insurance practices after disaster, and social work practices, can all help to diminish speculation and inform persons about next steps. For example, hosting two or three town-hall or congregation meetings can ease anxiety and increase senses of trust.  Topic-specific adult and youth education classes also are very helpful.

–        For people who feel strongly about doing something physical in response a mass trauma event, consider responding locally in honor of victims and survivors.  Dedicating services can increase moral and inspire more good works.  For example, service providers might donate building supplies, repair services, or labor locally and designate that work in honor of a recent event.  Deacons and layperson caregivers might take bake goods to local people or groups in the name of recent victims or survivors.  Prayer shawls can be delivered to local persons who may have been through a similar kind of event as the one in the current news.  Towns and cities who are impacted by disaster, and receiving skilled care from disaster relief organizations, often value the cards or notes from distant places that share about how certain services and care practices were dedicated to the victims and survivors.

–        Plan a rebuild trip.  Rather than going to muck out basements or put up dry wall first-thing, instead look up the many faith-based and NGO relief agencies that provide long-term response, and see about participating in a long-term effort already in motion.  For instance, after the most recent event in Oklahoma, you may plan a trip now to Missouri, Alabama, or New Jersey, or any of the many other states that had disasters in the last year or two and who are all still in stages of restoration.  Or, if you are focused solely on the current event, consider planning now for a trip to take place in six months or a year, when more substantial rebuilding efforts will be underway.

In these days of mass media, local communities become deeply impacted by distant events.  Keeping eyes, ears, and hearts peeled to how service providers, individuals, families, and lay caregivers can best use their skills and passions to respond to local impact can greatly increase resiliency, decrease anxiety, and make growth contagious.  

Three Words: Trust Each Other

I’m at a General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC) meeting right now – basically, the board for PCUSA. At the moment, I’m sitting in the hotel room in the dark while both babies are miraculously snoring (I know it won’t last) and Andy is out with a good friend for catch-up over a locally brewed beer. I figured he’d done a great job as Mr. Mom while I sat in meetings doing something amazing called Having-Conversations-With-Other-Adults, I thought I might as well let him play a little. I’m pretty cozy so I can’t complain.

I gave the opening devotional on Wednesday and talked about aspen trees, the babies, and Good Morning America. GMA does a series periodically called “Your Three Words.” People send in videos or pictures of themselves holding up something that shows their three words for the week, for their life, for their dreams, for whatever, but usually around a theme. Everything from “THANKS FOR CARING,” to “BE A DONOR,” to “WE GOT SNOW.” I love how much life is packed into three tiny words. So, I invited the folks during the devotional to pick three words that would speak to them about faithfulness, and write them on the back of a postcard that had leaves, and hold onto the card as a reminder throughout our meetings.

I didn’t get a chance to write anything at the time. But as I sit here and think about all the conversations and decision-making around Special Offerings, Peacemaking in the Middle East, 1001 worshipping communities, $$$$$, mission, and vocation, my three words suddenly emerge: Trust each other. There’s something about this that’s so deeply rooted (pun intended) in community and connection that I can’t escape the necessity for it. Trust. It’s something so incredibly hard to do sometimes – to, in essence, give oneself over to someone else, to God, to spouse, to family, to your team, to your church…To allow that other to handle your fragility and vulnerability, to allow that other to even possibly make a mistake that hurts you, to allow that other to make a difference in you.

And sometimes it’s really simple. Like, tonight when we were trying to decide to go to the group dinner – a very swanky dinner and time of worship together. I had planned on going with Andy and the babies. But they were fussing about 10 minutes before we left. OF COURSE THEY WOULD BE FUSSING. And Andy said he should just stay back with the babies so they could sleep soon, and I could go without worrying about them. But, I trusted myself more, and said, Let’s just go and see what happens. I really wanted Andy to see Dave Davis, and for him to see the babies.

We went and stayed for around 30 minutes. Before we could even dig into the salad course, I could see that Andy was right from the beginning. They were crazy tired. And letting everyone know just how much. So we packed up and left. Another lesson in trusting your teammate, your partner in life, especially the father of your children who was really in the baby-zone. Trust means I don’t make decisions alone.

These are dynamic times in the church – with the recent passage of 10-A (amendment in ordination standards) and nFOG (new governance), as well as ECO (alternative denomination) – and I can’t imagine a more challenging call for me personally – Trust. Each. Other. Be honest. Be engaged. Be humble. Be open. Be gentle. Most of all, be hopeful.

Because no matter what the differences or conflicts, no matter what the season, we’re in this together.