Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Utmost for today

From Oswald Chambers, especially for Debra:

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body's sake." Colossians 1:24
We make calls out of our own spiritual consecration, but when we get right with God He brushes all these aside, and rivets us with a pain that is terrific to one thing we never dreamed of, and for one radiant flashing moment we see what He is after, and we say - "Here am I, send me."

This call has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but with being made broken bread and poured-out wine. God can never make us wine if we object to the fingers He uses to crush us with. If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way! But when He uses someone whom we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, and makes those the crushers, we object. We must never choose the scene of our own martyrdom. If ever we are going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed; you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.

I wonder what kind of finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you, and you have been like a marble and escaped? You are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you, the wine would have been remarkably bitter. To be a sacramental personality means that the elements of the natural life are presenced by God as they are broken providentially in His service. We have to be adjusted into God before we can be broken bread in His hands. Keep right with God and let Him do what He likes, and you will find that He is producing the kind of bread and wine that will benefit His other children.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Christianity for Grownups

I once heard a priest say that it was only when he went to seminary that he realized that his Christian education had ended in fifth grade, and only when he was assigned to a parish that he realized everyone else’s ended in fifth grade too. It makes sense, since after fifth grade parents often stop urging their kids to be part of their church, and churches tend to forget about teaching teens and young adults.

The priest’s point wasn’t to argue for compulsory religious education. Rather, he had realized just how immature Christians’ religious beliefs can be.  With secular topics, such as math and baseball and logic, we all know that a fifth grader simply cannot have the education and experience of an adult versed in the topic. But when it comes to studying God, we often limit our learning to whatever in popular culture seeps into the cracks of our understanding.  All too often, what we wind up with is an understanding of God that is part Christmas angel, part strict (and perhaps abusive) father, part distant star, and just a smidgeon of Real. 

No wonder very few of us actually nurture our relationship with God, much less make it primary in our lives!

What do you believe? Not “think”, but believe: we think thoughts but we act on beliefs. We may think “God is love” but be afraid of His punishment. We may think “Jesus is wise” but not invite him into our daily deliberations.  If you really dug into your beliefs, what kind of God would you find there?

God is a person. We get to know people by getting to know them, as well as talking about them.
The easiest way to know God (who is immaterial) is to study God-made-flesh: Jesus. To study Jesus is to observe him constantly, closely, regularly, and to spend time in conversation with him and about him, and to do what he does, especially in his relationship with his father God. We have easy resources: four first-generation accounts of his life and teachings, plus 2,000 years of letters, dreams, dialogues, and prayers, plus the lives of those close to him, in our own time as well as in his.  We have at least 14 spiritual practices that have stood the test of time and have drawn millions of people into intimacy with God through his son.  

It can help to hear why our more simplistic fifth-grade views just don’t cut it.  “Christianity for Grownups” is our fall series, and it is designed to uncover a few of those childish beliefs we may not even realize we hold.  Christianity for Grownups is for everyone whose faith is blocked or stifled, including people who don’t even believe Jesus matters at all. Come alone or invite a friend. I guarantee you’ll have something to talk about when you leave, and it may even actually be God.

I’m glad to be back with my church and am praying to see you soon.

Pastor Elane

Friday, September 24, 2010

No Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free

Lately I've been learning about my own beliefs: whether I really believe God is trustworthy, what worship is for.  Yesterday I had a brief but enlightening conversation with a new worship environment volunteer, who was preparing to create her first prayer spaces in our Sanctuary.

She wanted to use a picture of Mary, but someone said that would be "too Catholic". She also asked me about why we don't have rainbow flags or other symbols to represent our welcome to gay and lesbian people. I've never had to think about those two questions at the same time before, so I answered them separately. ("Wasn't me -- feel free." and "We don't have any representations of any particular group of people inside the Sanctuary -- notice there's no flag, either.")

Together they raise bigger questions: What does it mean to welcome and actively invite everyone while keeping our focus on God? What do I believe about inclusivity, whether of theology or background or sexuality or class?

1. One's own Christian tradition should be cherished and learned from, and to maintain it as a tradition may require some favoritism toward it. No tradition has a monopoly on truth, however, and none is particularly destructive to one's own. If we refuse a detail of worship or theology just because it's "not ours" or is too "theirs", we risk losing the opportunity to know God better and differently, as well as a piece of truth.
2. That said, not all details of worship or theology are either good or useful. My forcing glossolalia as a practice of our church would be more alienating than illuminating. Teaching that sanctification and beatification are functions of the church meant for particular heroes of the faith (especially martyrs and virgins), would, I believe, undermine everything we understand about the universality of sin, the abundance of grace, and the attainability of Christlikeness.
3. Once you enter the Sanctuary, there should be no Jew nor Greek, nor slave nor free. All of the liturgy -- the work of the people -- should point toward God, glorify God, clarify God. If the chancel is the place of focus for all that -- if it is the visible "location" of the kingdom of God -- then placing a flag of any kind makes the people represented (Americans, gays, Greens, Scouts) equal in importance to the kingdom of God. Anywhere else in the Sanctuary and it singles that group out as especially worthy and welcome.
4. That said, if we truly believe in equality in the Spirit, then we must acknowledge that some groups have been historically and systematically rejected by the body of Christ, and that it is our task to extend the invitation and prepare a heavenly welcome.  So we regularly use non-white-straight-able-middleclass-Americans in our examples, as well as the non-hyphenates.  We may and should designate particular efforts of attraction and affection toward those who would otherwise assume (for good reason) they weren't welcome.  Youth, for example, as well as gays. Working class, as well as white collar. Extraverted, as well as introverted. But that is not the point of worship itself, nor of the meeting of the body of Christ.
5. And, because of 1 and 2, we may decide not only to welcome the stranger, but to celebrate the family: to recognize where we lose sight of the "majority" and to recall them into both liturgy and activity.  So, if we've been talking about "partnerships" we need to work on "marriages". If we've set our sight on the homeless, we need to be sure we're considering the real spiritual needs of the wealthy, and not merely scorning them in our "inclusivity".

We are all broken. We are all sinful. We are all enslaved until we are not. We are all about Christ.

I have seen the enemy

Those of us with eating disorders take a perfectly good plowshare and use it as a sword.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Application done

Now into the mail and back to the work at hand. Whew.

Monday, September 20, 2010

3600 words

I now have 3600 words in my autobiographical essay for Denver Seminary. Whew. Now I can start cutting!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

5 years

Just realized my first blog posts were in Feb 2005. And I still believe most of them.

Why do lists make me feel better?

Sabbatical over.  Household projects not done. Pain a l'ancienne not perfected. Same weight and cardio health. Not up to level on sleep. So what the heck did I do for 13 weeks?

Well, I "be"d, and I read/heard:
2 "You" books (didn't do anything about them but did read them)
The Great Omission
The Divine Conspiracy
Mudhouse Sabbath
Living the Sabbath
The Sabbath
The Sabbath World
The Gospel of the Kingdom
A Testament of Devotion
Acedia and Me (in progress but nearly done)
3 academic articles
CS Lewis sermon
8+ hours of lecture
not nearly enough Scripture
random magazines and parts of books on healthy and intentional homemaking
couple of other books in there from the library and stacks but darned if I can remember what they were
And, sadly, not the rest of The Clinton Tapes, which was just too boring, even for me.

Now, if I can just get the other 2000 words of my DMin application done...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy Feast of St. John Chrysostom

A misused and misunderstood father of the church, brilliant liturgist, foundational homilist. Want an Easter sermon? Try this one on for size:

I'm the one in the back

It's September 13, and off to work I go.

Today's Utmost

The whole of the life after surrender is an aspiration for unbroken communion with God.

Oswald Chambers

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Transcripts, or Homeland Security Has Nothing On SFSU

So, I'm applying for doctoral programs, all of which require copies of all transcripts. That's 4, not including high school and one excruciating year trying to work two jobs, go to school, and put my then-husband through school.  Three are relatively easy to get: go online, give basic facts, request; or print out form, sign, mail.

And then there is San Francisco State University, where I rec'd my MA in Women Studies [sic]. That process, all online:
1. Login to their portal using your student ID and password. As if I remember my ID after 16 years.
2. Look up my ID using my social security number and birthdate. Which seems like enough to order transcripts, all by itself.
3. Return to login and try again, using ID.  Fail.
4. Request password reset by email. Wait a few days.
5. Receive email requiring a fax (not email, not in person) with all that information, plus a copy of my photo ID.
6. Find place to copy ID and fax letter.
7. Receive reset code.
Now this is where it gets interesting.
8. Return to portal and look up ID again.
9. Enter reset code.
10. Choose 6 (yes, six) security questions and provide answers. Choices include such things as "city where your parents met", "your favorite dessert as a child" (Who are they kidding? I was never a child.), "your first TOEFL score", and "your shoe size plus the last digit of your birthdate".
11. Create password, 8-16 characters, with the first 8 including one upper or lower case letter (which is just a letter) and a number or a special character. I admit that various foully witty remarks were considered as passwords.
12. Logout.
13. Find out that password resets can take as long as 30 minutes. Maybe.
14. Login and request transcript?
Did I mention you can't do it in person, apparently?

I'll let you know if I get through. Meanwhile, I need to go talk to the Homeland Security agent outside my door, wanting to know if I really meant to use that password with those six answers.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The challenge of returning

I've been at Mercy Center for 26 hours now, reading, reflecting, resting, walking, waiting. All good; in fact, a taste of what I thought these thirteen weeks would be like 24/7.

Notice I wrote "thirteen" as if it were over.  Ah, there's the rub, to quote a text often confused with the Bible, for with more than a week left I am already distracted by the details of my job. Logos and signage. Sermon titles. Possible class offerings. Who might need a call. Staff meetings.   How easy it is for me to get distracted from my vocation (following Jesus) by my profession (leading a church).  It's an old struggle, but at least today I recognize it for the foolishness it is, and know, deeply, what it is to value the vocation over the profession.

The challenge of the next days is to keep my mind and heart here and now: reading, reflecting, resting, walking, waiting. Playing with Beautiful Daughter. Supporting and loving Wonderful Husband. Re-membering.

The challenge of returning to the church is keeping the vocation in front of the profession. Wish me grace and memory.