Tuesday, September 26, 2006

... and the joy of new life

Last week I posted about compassion. Yesterday at our staff meeting, our music minister, Cheryl, concernedly enquired after the state of my soul, having read this blog. (Ah, those Christians: how they love one another.)

My soul is pretty good. There's been a lot of pain and grief among my people -- loss of beloved pets, postponed manslaughter trials, end-of-life decisions to be made -- as well as the discomfort that comes with change. I had posted about this last thing -- how much pain change can bring -- but I was feeling some of all of it, I think.

God lifted a lot of my own weightiness during my prayer time (and while listening and crying to great Black gospel music).

But the other thing that evened out my soul, and lifted it, was noticing little signs of new growth among the people: new ministry ideas, renewed vigor, volunteering out of desire not guilt. God working in the very cells, renewing and restoring among us.

It's the joy of new life. And yeah, Cheryl, I'm good today -- and keep asking!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Thank you, Lord, for the pain of compassion

Lord, I thank you for the pain of compassion today. It feels like weakness, God. It feels like I don't trust you. But I read about the fleshly Jesus, and his compassion, and I know it is because he trusted you that he could feel it. I pray that when I ache, when I look at someone and suffer in my bowels with him, that it is your compassion I am feeling. I pray that when it hurts, and when I am led to not trust you because of the hurt, that you turn it around and let me hurt because I trust you to help.

Gather your lost lambs, Lord, and draw them into your safety and your salvation. If I'm not the right disciple to point them to your love, if our church fails them or isn't what they need to find you, please just reach out and find them through someone else, so that they're not all alone out there.

Thank you, Lord, for living your compassionate pain among us, and in us, and through us. Even today.


Leaving and staying

The sky is creeping tangerine across a steel gray expanse, and I'm feeling blue.

95% of the time I believe that God sent me to my church to help God turn it around: to help God's people here discover a vibrant, living, active, passionate faith, and to help others find it too. (As I write this sentence I realize what "turn it around" means to me. Who knew?)

100% of the time I know that "turning it around" will mean that many people who have affiliated with the church for a long time but who don't want what God is doing there right now will leave. 95% of the time I'm not happy with that, but I'm okay with it.

Today, I'm living in the 5% of both those things: I'm not convinced God sent me to do this, or that it's the right thing to do, or that I'm doing it rightly; and I'm not okay with the sheep who are quietly wandering off. And they do it quietly... they just slip away, without comment, their memories lingering, their ministries abandoned.

It's not the loss of numbers. I really do not care about that. But I am deeply afraid that God's lambs will wander into the hands of wolves, or simply out onto rocky promontories, alone. If they find another church community and a faith that feeds them, makes them stronger and more at peace, that's wonderful. Go with my blessing. But the potential loss, and lostness, makes me grieve.

Yesterday I was angry at the lack of accountability and straightforwardness. Today I am just sad. It's grief.

Friends, if you read this, please pray for Jesus' lambs, that as they leave our fold they find another that nurtures and sustains them. And if you have an extra prayer left in you, pray for Jesus' church in Campbell, and for me, their rather blue pastor.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Resurrections

My sister-in-law, Caitlin Scott, was inspired by one of my husband Bran's sermons, and wrote this:

Cicadas, just
their empty husk
clung to the rails
of the back steps
in the dog days
of the brick house
in Little Rock
each of the six
crisp, claw-tipped legs
sunk in gray-blue
peeling paint. Backs
arched, torn open
by the insects
bursting out and
up and free, their
of departure
and existence
elsewhere. The child
who found one nudged
it loose, placed it
in our army
in the dollhouse.
We three at dusk
the lightning bugs
heard cicadas
saying something
immense, filling
the failing light
and Gothic oaks
with whispers of
a place to live
and breath and have,
at last, our being.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Responding to revgalblogpals' post:

Friday Five: Brushes with Greatness

1. Tell us about a time you met someone famous.
How about the times I didn't, but mostly slinked past: Gene Wilder (blushing and giggling), John Lithgow (trying to avoid his feeling I was stalking, when we kept passing each other in the grocery aisles).
Or did, when they weren't really: Lea DeLaria, Tim Curry.
Or did, but it mattered not one whit to them: All of Sweet Honey in the Rock, Robin Williams, Maya Angelou, Bishop Tutu (I have been a waitress, caterer, and stage manager in my past). Oh, and Ian Anderson (did I mention I hung with roadies, briefly?)

2. Tell us about a celebrity you'd like to meet.
Meet? None. Have actual conversation with? Bono. Nelson Mandela. Kathy Griffin. Sublime, ridiculous, and in-between. Brian McLaren. God, and, well, God. Jodie Foster. Dallas Willard.

3. Tell us about someone great who's *not* famous that you think everyone oughta have a chance to meet.
Kathleen Fagre, who is an awesome worship leader based in Colorado (http://www.kathleenfagre.com) and funny and humble.

4. Do you have any autographs of famous people?
Tom Robbins -- stood in line for two hours and got kissed. Wow.

5. If you were to become famous, what would you want to become famous for?
Never wanted to be famous, though rich wouldn't be at all bad.
If I were ... I would want to be famous for having done something right and good.

Bonus: Whose 15 minutes of fame was up long, long ago?
Karl Rove (my mouth to God's ears, please) and all the corrupt cronies.
Barry Bonds -- I'm just bored with it
Anyone on any reality tv show.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Witnessing miracles

You know Einstein's saying, "Either nothing is a miracle, or everything is"? My mind tends to believe the "nothing" and my heart the "everything". But last night my mind and heart teamed up with a celebratory, "Wow."

Our friend Philip came home from the hospital after surgery for colon cancer. His doctors took out a big tumor, a foot and a half of colon, and a lot of lymph nodes. His prognosis looks very good -- no sign of cancer in the nodes.

That's not the miracle.

His family is extraordinary. You meet them for the first time and just want to stay quietly in their living room. Their love for each other, and their generosity toward the world, is palpable. It's not niceness, per se. It's love of God and others.

That's not the miracle, either.

There was a glow about Philip, and a peacefulness in the house that was not broken even when the dog started barking and the younger child energized the air. He told us about the surgery, the pathology, and the doctors. How the nodes looked really, really bad, and how amazed and relieved the surgeon and pathologist each time one turned up negative. How wonderful every one of the doctors was. How he'd had no anxiety all along.

How people all over the world had been praying for him. And how he'd felt it, felt secure in it.

We could see him and his family resting in God's hands. Secure. Safe. Illuminated. Incarnate.

My husband and I spent a lot of time praising God last night, thanking God for safe deliverance, for all the praying people, for healing of bodies and souls.

God is active, present, and healing in that family. I don't know why, and why not elsewhere, and really, I don't much care. But today, everything is a miracle, because I saw one last night, and knew it when I saw it.

That's the miracle.