Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What is a Smorgasbord Anyway? And Why Do Some Churches Have Them?

Last week my parents' congregation hosted their annual Swedish Smorgasbord, an event I have never entirely understood.  I didn't completely grow up in that congregation, we moved there when I was in 8th grade, so this is not a tradition I have from young childhood.

When we, Missouri-transplants of predominately German heritage, moved to Minnesota, Swedish and Scandinavian traditions were completely foreign. Lefse was an unknown word, lutefisk is still something that I refuse to try.  My family's entire understand of Scandinavian customs came from the occasional listening to Prairie Home Companion and the Swedish Chef. While we loved the congregation we became members of, and which my parents are still faithful worshipers at, there were many ways those first few years in which we, the non-Swedes or Norwegians, were outsiders.  

Today, almost 20 years later, that Swedish Smorgasbord, still exist in my parents' congregation. The attendance has declined in recent years and there are very few people smorgasborders under the age of 50, even though on a typical Sunday, that demographic is strongly represented.  Now there are many reasons for that  including the lack of childcare, the event is on the pricey side, it is not a "come and go" event.  But I believe one of the main reasons is that the event is so strongly tied to a specific cultural heritage.

Millennials and Gen Xers are more than willing to claim a cultural heritage when alcohol is involved, just look at a bar on any St. Patrick's Day or Cinco De Mayo or a beer garden at an Octoberfest. However in general everyday life, for Millenials and Gen Xers of European decent, it doesn't matter what your cultural heritage is.  We no longer live in certain parts of a city because we are Italian, Irish, or Swedish.  We no longer attend or are unwelcome at a specific congregation or even denomination because of what country our ancestors came from.  We are just as likely to be able to eat, enjoy and cook good Italian food as we are German, Mexican or Thai.  And for many of us, myself included, we are too many generations removed from our ancestors who came over from Europe that we have no particular ties to that cultural heritage or traditions.  We were raised in a society that valued diversity, called our country the "great melting pot" and mashed together Christmas traditions from all cultural heritage.

So when something is advertised as a Swedish Smorgasbord or a Portuguese Festival, it almost always creates an "in-group" and and "out-group".  The in-group knows what foods are served, what customs are maintained, and even what even happens at said event (it is not like the word smorgasbord is used in one's normal vernacular).  And if you are part of the out-group, unless someone takes the time to personally invite and explain, you feel uninvited and unwelcomed because you were not born into the in-group.

Then why are churches still holding onto heritage festivals?  Well some people really enjoy them, especially immigrants and children of immigrants as it reminds them of their childhoods. Then we need to realize that these events are not for all people, and cater the event for them and not complain that each year the age group is getting older and the number in attendance is getting smaller.

Or we can use these cultural heritage events as a foundation, take the best traditions from that event, do away with what is not working (really the world never needs to smell lutefisk again), and open up the event to include traditions from all those who are now represented in the congregation.  Why can't lefse be served next to bangers and mash and a green curry and then have flan for dessert?  Call the event a Christmas Festival.

Or again us the current event as a foundation, but use it as a teaching tool and specifically invite people to come and learn.  Not come and be like us, but come and learn about one specific cultural heritage. Then do again next month or next year but focus on a different heritage. Though this would need to be a less formal and more of a give an take so people can ask questions about where a tradition comes from or why it is important a particular person.

Regardless of what a church does, can we please all agree to get rid of the lutefisk? 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Assembling the Stockings

In 2013, I completed my 13th and 14th needle-pointed Christmas stockings.  I have made them for Bob and myself, friends, and biological and claimed nieces and nephews.  This year I finished Owen's stocking, a Heaven and Earth Design of the Little Drummer Boy, and Logan's stocking, "Santa's Animals Parade" from Dimensions.
Logan's left, Owen's Right

While I love the stitching part of making the stockings, it is always a little terrifying to actually sew them together.  And since often on one of the discussion boards on Ravelry people ask about how to sew stockings together, for my future reference and yours, here is a tutorial on how to sew a needle-pointed or cross stitch Christmas stocking.  

First your supplies: beside your complete top, you will need a cotton fabric for the lining and a fleece or flannel for the backing.  For most of the stockings I have made I have purchased 1/3 of a yard for each stocking's lining and 1/3 of a yard for the backing (though I can normally get 2-3 backings out of one piece).  All the fabric, including the completed tops should be ironed.  You also need coordinating thread, straight pins, a fabric pencil, ruler and a sewing machine.  A rotary cutter and cutting mat are helpful, but not necessary. 
Fabric all gathered
Step 1: Cut your completed stitched piece. The Scariest! Cut your competed top!  (Take a deep breath first, and it will be okay).  I like to have the edge of the pattern be the edge of the stocking, other people want a board of plain fabric - decide what you want.  If you sew on the edge of the pattern cut about a 1/4 to 1/2 board around the pattern.  If you want a boarder, plan accordingly. 
Apparently I can't cut and take non-blurry pictures at the same time.
Step 2: Cut the rest of your fabric. Use your top as a stencil to cut your lining and your backing.  You want two pieces of your lining one with the toe facing the same way as the stocking, one the reverse.  And if there is a right side to your backing fabric, you want the toe to face the opposite direction of your top. I normally cut both linings together by folding the fabric over. 

So your pieces should look like this when laid out in a line. 
Facing up: Correct side, reverse side, correct side, reverse side

Step 3: Get your hanger ready. If I forget a step, this is that step.  You can use ribbon, yarn, corded thread, or fabric.  Personally I use a piece of that backing fabric, cut to be 1 inch wide and 5-6 inches long.  If using fleece you want to sew around the edge of the fabric to keep from fraying. 
Almost forgot to take a picture of the hanger.
Step 4: Pin and sew the tops. You want to lay your top with the reserve facing lining correct sides facing each other and pin the tops together.  Then do the same for the backing and the other lining piece.  So they look like this. 
Wrong sides together
 You then want to line up the tops and draw a line on the backing and lining so you know where to sew.

Before sewing, peel back the corner of the backing piece on the heel side and add your hanger.  It should be placed about 1 inch from the edge and face toward the toe.  
A little tab 
Now you can sew those two straight lines.

After sewing, you can trim the excess fabric and your pieces should look like this:
Starting to come together.

Soon and Very Soon
Step 5: Pin and sew the stocking  Lay your stocking out so the top and the backing are aligned and so do your linings, correct sides facing each other.   


Pin the pieces together around the edge of your stocking
Sew, leaving about a 4 inch gap between the heal and toe of the lining. 

Step 6: Trim and Flip Trip off the excess fabric leaving just a small edging near the sewn seam. 
Almost there

Then bring the right side out, by pushing the sock through the 4 inch hole you left in the lining.  
Should I just leave it like this?
Step 7: Hand sew Sew up the 4 inch hole and then push the lining into the stocking
What type of creature wears a sock like that?
Feed Me!


Step 8: Hang and Enjoy!
No mantle here - Bookshelves will have to do. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Spreading Christmas Cheer

December's Newsletter article: 

The movie Elf, one of my personal Christmas-movie favorites, has the line “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” That line becomes essential to the plot as Santa is trying to escape the Central Park Rangers when one of the characters starts singing Santa Claus is Coming to Town .  Soon the crowd gathered, along with people around the city who are watching on TV start singing along and Santa’s sled, which is powered by Christmas Cheer, is able to take off. (Watch the scene here

While Elf is a work of fiction, the movie does have it right that Christmas Cheer spreads and sometimes it can spread quickly and like wildfire.  And yes, a good carol sing spreads that cheer,  (you can easily be sucked into YouTube for hours by looking at Christmas flash mobs and here is a good one to start with) but there are other ways to spread that cheer, and the other ways are often spread that cheer in more long-lasting ways. 

We all know that December can be a time of joy, of hope, of anticipation, of peace, of love, of preparation, of celebration, all due to Christ’s birth. However for believers and unbelievers alike, December can be a time of stress, of frustration, of mourning, of loneliness, of despair and of depression because one is either trying to make things too perfect or because one remembers Christmases past and realizes that their life circumstances are different. 

Sometimes the best way to spread Christmas Cheer is not to sing loud but to love deeply – to care for our neighbors with a Christ-like love for all of our fellow human beings.   Sometimes the best way to spread 
Christmas Cheer is to give of ourselves more – to not waste time and money trying to purchase the perfect gift but to spend time with someone who is feeling alone or stressed this season.  Sometimes the best way to spread Christmas Cheer is to not be perfect – if you allow yourself to be who you are and not try to live up to a movie version of what Christmas needs to be like, you will be less stressed. And if you are less stressed others around you will be less stressed.

But really above all, the best way to spread Christmas Cheer is to worship fully – to take time to pray, to sing carols (preferably not just the ones about Santa), to read scripture, to reflect on where God is in your life today. 

This Advent, this Christmas, spend time spreading Christmas Cheer so that everyone can celebrate Christ’s birth with hope, love, joy and peace, not stress, loneliness or despair.

~Pastor Becca

Friday, November 29, 2013

Can We Celebrate Advent and Not be Such Arrogant Jerks about it?

It is that time of year, Thanksgiving has past which means that Christmas is around the corner.  People (and not just stores) have started to put up trees, lights, and other decorations.  Parties, concerts and other festivities fill our weekends and even some of our weekdays.  Credit cards are being swiped as stores advertise big deals to draw in the crowds, enticing people to spend money on friends and family for Christmas presents.  And the rants on Facebook have started against people celebrating Christmas already and not pausing for Advent.

And it all just about drives me crazy.

Yes I'm not a fan of stores that have Christmas decorations up (not just for sale) before the Halloween candy has gone on clearance, but I'm also not a fan of seeing back to school displays in June.  Yes I don't think people should go into debt in order to purchase the must have toy of the year for their child, but I also think that there are few things you should go into debt for and gifts are not one of them. Yes I get annoyed with the Martha Stewart wannabes who spend so much time and energy making homemade food/crafts/cards and then look down upon other people who purchase those items because they are not crafty, but then again I get annoyed with those people all year long - not the crafty people, just the ones who judge others for not having the same skill sets that they have.

But I get just as frustrated, if not even more so, at the people who rant and rave about how we need to watch and wait and prepare for Christmas by honoring the holiness that is Advent and all those decorations, gifts, parties, baked goods and carol singing are not Advent but Christmas that has come too early and people are bad Christians/worshipers/people if they sing Away in the Manger on December 1st.  I think I get most frustrated by these Liturgical Advent Police because they are Christians who are being arrogant jerks.

Advent is about preparing for the birth of a child, the Christ Child.

While I have never prepared for the birth of a child, I have walked with many friends and family who have.  And I have yet to meet an expecting parent who has not decorated the nursery before the child is born, or who has not gone to doctors appointments to make sure that both the mother and baby are healthy.  Most parents make list of items to purchase or do before or shortly after the child is born. Most have thought about if not even picked out a name before the birth. I have also attended many baby showers and given gifts to children who are not yet born in order to help the parents make sure they have.

Therefore why can't the Liturgical Advent Police see that all the decorating, gifts, parties, baked goods and carol singing are ways that people prepare for the birth of the Christ Child, just like expecting parents prepare for the birth of their newborn?  And instead of being arrogant jerks and being cranky whenever they see a Christmas tree up or a carol sung before December 24, we instead celebrate it and remember that the Christ Child is about to be born.

Yes let's continue, as people of faith, to speak out against the consumerism and one-up-men-ship that this season often brings so that the focus is on the Christ Child and not on who has the biggest tree or bought the most expensive gift.  And let's also try and get people to celebrate Christmas beyond December 25, cause it is not like the day after a baby is born that parents pack up the nursery and put everything in the attic until the next pregnancy.

Let's just stop being arrogant jerks about it, after all Advent is not some liturgical version of "I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant."  We know what is going to happen, we know what we are going to celebration on Christmas Day. So let's start getting ready, preparing and even celebrating knowing that each decoration hung, gift given, party attend, baked good eaten or carol sung just builds are anticipation.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Theology of a Shit Disturber

Warning: In case you can't figure it out by the title, this post contains the "s-word."  In fact is uses shit 31 32 times. If you are not offended, great you have watched a movie or television recently.  If you are offended, good, I'm doing my job as a shit disturber (33 times); please continue reading. 

My dad often calls me a "shit disturber".  In fact he has called me that since I was a teenager, and he probably would have called me that when I was even younger if it was socially acceptable to say the word "shit" to a 5 year old.  When I was a teenager the traditional definition of a shit disturber was probably true about myself - "someone who aggressively or actively agitates or escalates a situation, dialog or event causing undue drama"* - especially with my sister.

When I was a teenager, I would often feel bad whenever my dad called me a shit disturber as it often came with a look of despair and shame.  But as I have grown up, I am more likely to hear a laugh from my dad as he dubs me, yet again, a shit disturber, an agitator of the peace.  Now I'm more likely to be called a shit disturber when I'm poking fun of him, most often about his age. Therefore, I proudly wear the badge of "shit disturber."

So what do I consider a shit disturber?  It is someone who causes trouble but not just to cause trouble, but to create change in the environment.  It is someone who breaks rules because sometimes the rules are fairly arbitrary and really are not helpful.  It is someone who asks thought provoking questions and get you to not just think outside the box, but to throw out the box.  It is someone who has fun doing these things because they realize the world is not going to end if things are not done the way that is has always been done, or at for as long as people can remember. 

A shit disturber is a trouble maker; a bad kid; a prophet; an agitator; an essential part of the body of Christ. 

At the Rethinking Evangelism conference when we were asked to go to assigned small groups and have a conversation with no more than 4 people, 8 of us went down the street to a bar to form our own small group and discuss evangelism over a few beers.  When someone said jokingly that we are rule-breakers, and another said we are trouble makers, I responded "No we are shit disturbers."  When I started to explain, one woman (who shall not be named to protect the guilty) immediately thought of the Pool of Bethesda in John 5

People in need of healing, the invalid, the blind, the paralyzed, would wait beside the pool for it to be stirred, often by wind.  Once it was stirred they would get in and wash themselves and afterwards many became healed. In the story, Jesus is a shit disturber because he healed on the Sabbath.  And while angels are often cited as the one who stirs the pool of Bethesda, sometimes people would stir a pool or bath too.   

In other bathing site, especially those with fresh water, a shit disturber was needed to keep the bathing area clear of debris.  Literally a person was actually, physically stirring the shit that collected in the pool or bathing area, so that the scum, algae, leaves, debris and even feces would sink the the bottom or be skimmed off the top and therefore fresh water could be made available for people to bathe in. 

The shit disturber was an essential part of the ritualistic bathing practices. Without the shit disturber, the water would be stagnate and cause disease instead of heal and cleanse. And shit disturbers today are an essential part of the body of Christ.  Without the shit disturbers, the church become stagnate and causes despair instead of new life.  

Unfortunately for a long time shit disturbers have not been welcomed in the church.  The kid who asks too many questions in Sunday School or confirmation class is kindly asked to leave.  The adult who stands up for an outsider is shun herself.  The pastor who tries to push a congregation to grow and change either gets burnt out or run out of town.  The bishop who...well let's face it we haven't had shit disturbers as bishops for a long time...until recently.   

The church, especially the mainline church in America and Europe, has for far too long not wanted to disturb the shit.  The church liked the pedestal of honor we were given in society and because we were on the inside looking out, it has taken us a long time to realize that pedestal has sunk into the ground. And just recently, in the past few decades, some pastors, theologians and church workers have woken up and realized that the church needs to change.  Some Christians have realized that we are no longer acting as Jesus' hands and feet in this world but as a country club that thinks that everyone wants to join our exclusive membership but in reality no one even wants to peek in the doors. 

Because we have not wanted to disturb the shit, the church has stood by and let tragedies like the Holocaust, apartheid, and wars go by without saying a word publicly so that we do not insult anyone.  Because we have not wanted to disturb the shit, women are still not considered able to equally minister to God's people in many Christian denominations and for those in worship, Sunday mornings are one of the most segregated times of the week.  Because we have not wanted to disturb the shit, many teens, young adults and even older adults have walked away from the church because they do not feel like it is a place where issues in their daily lives are being addressed.  

We, as a church, need to reclaim the job of shit disturbers, and hold those people up.  We need to lift up the kids who ask challenging questions in confirmation class. We need to honestly answer people who have thought provoking questions after a sermon instead of sweeping those questions aside (even if the answer is "let's get together for coffee later in the week and talk about that").  We need to realize that if we are not making people a little uncomfortable, we are not doing our jobs as preachers of the gospel and caretakers of the world. And we need to realize that shit disturbers are not a new thing.

We need to lift up biblical stories of shit disturbers, of people who told God's message like it was and as a result both preached God's message and made enemies of those who did not like what they had to say.  Stories like of Nathan blunting telling King David "you are that man!" when after David had sex with Bathsheba, Nathan told David a story and King David was the one who said the man's actions are worthy of death (2 Samuel 12:1-14). Or the story of the healing of Naaman when Elisha's servant plainly told Naaman, who was complaining about how simple the cure to his leprosy would be, said "if the prophet has commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?" (2 Kings 5:1-19).  The prophets are a great place to find shit disturbers!  And then there are all the moment when Jesus was mocking the Pharisees and Sadducees, including the famous line to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-42). 

Yes Jesus was a shit disturber!  And no I'm not comparing myself to Jesus.  But I will proudly own the title shit disturber and know I'm in very good company.

*definition provided by Urban Dictionary

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Get Out of the Building!

This is my November newsletter article: 

There has been a push for the last decade or so for pastors to get out of the church building.  To work at coffee shops, to hold meetings in public places, to spend time in the towns and neighborhoods in which they are called in order to do ministry to the greater community and not just church members.  Some pastors have embraced this challenge openly and are more likely to be found at the local Starbucks than in their office (myself included only I’m at Tusk & Cup).  Others have gone hesitantly and have scheduled specific times to be away from the office.  And others still have determined there is not a need for them to leave the church building or it is not practical for them to leave.

Those of us who have left the building have developed relationships with people we might not have otherwise because they are people who would never enter a church building unless there for a wedding or funeral.  We have found new avenues for doing ministry some of which you Bethlehem now benefit from such as a bible study at the Redding Community Center or a stronger partnership with the Georgetown Community Cultural Center.

And now pastors are realizing it is important for not just themselves to leave the church building, but for the entire congregation.  When congregations do true outreach and leave the church building to serve their neighbors faith is strengthen and community bounds are built. 

On September 8, ELCA congregations across the nation participated in a “God’s Work, Our Hands” Sunday as they did service projects in their community to celebrate the ELCA’s 25th anniversary.  We did not participate since that was Hammonassett weekend but we are doing a day of service on Sunday November 10 to celebrate our 105th anniversary.

On that day we will be leaving the building during worship to go participate in a variety of service projects all to benefit Georgetown and Redding.  Please join us on the 10th as we leave the building, as we serve our neighbors and as we build community relationships. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Surveys, Interviews and Service

So apparently I don't know how to do a schedule post on Blogger as I wrote this 2 weeks ago.  Oh well, here it is now. 

A few weeks ago my congregation went out into the community on a Sunday morning to survey neighbors about the community.  You can read a little bit more about that experience here.

Those surveys were not one off experiences.  This past Sunday was the first in a three part series of interviewing some of the people who went into the neighborhood.  Why are we doing interviews?  To share the stories and the excitement.  Everyone who went out to do surveys came back to worship with a sense of excitement and ideas on how we can do ministry in and with the community.  And those stories were shared on that day with the other pairs and our cheerleaders who stayed back at the church building to get out lunch together.

Some stories have been shared in personal conversations but most of the congregation who were not in worship on our Survey Sunday have not heard the stories.  They have not heard the excitement and ideas about ministry.  They have not heard about how God is calling us as a congregation to work more intentionally in the community to make Georgetown and beyond a better place to live.

It is important to share these stories because soon that excitement and some of those ideas are going to be put into action.

On November 10, as part of our anniversary celebration, we will be going out into the community during our worship time and beyond.  The goal is to provide 105 cumulative hours of community service in order to celebrate our 105 anniversary.  We will be collecting food for a food drive, planting spring bulbs at the community center, picking up trash and sprucing up Main Street, cleaning the yard at the community center and making and sending Thanksgiving cards to the town's homebound members.

God is calling this congregation to do ministry in this community.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Becoming Addicted

Friday I ran into one of my neighbors at the post office.  It has been awhile since we have talked but one of the first things she said to me is that she has seen me running lately and that she can tell that I'm "getting addicted."

I think my neighbor is right.

Last week I wasn't able to run outside on Monday or Tuesday and I was really looking forward to running on Wednesday afternoon.  But as they day went on, my afternoon became busy.  At 4:15 as I was talking to Bob on Skype before he went to bed, I realized that I just needed to run and hopefully he would still be awake to talk to in an hour when I returned (it would be after 11 at night for him).   After my run, I felt the stress melt away, I was ready for an evening of meetings.  Really the run is what I needed at the moment.

Then on Saturday I ran my longest run to date, 8.69 miles.  My goal was 8 miles and my GPS had stopped working for a bit so it wasn't giving me an accurate reading.  When I mapped my run afterwards I realized that I should have run longer and gotten 9.

For I have found the mythical runner's high.  The first few miles of that run were rough since I had eaten a lot the day before, but by mile 4, I was going strong.  By the time I finished my run I probably could have run further if I was motivated to reach a certain mileage.

My addiction is currently coming across as two short term goals:

  • Right now I'm very close to 300 miles since I started using MapMyRun in May, so I'm hoping to reach that milestone within the week
  • My long run goal for this week is at least 10 miles. 
I'm also thinking long-term.  Bob just ran his first half marathon this weekend, the Paris 20K (okay a 20K isn't a full 13.1 miles but close enough at 12.4) with a great time of 1:35:55.  I also know a few people who have run full or half marathons over the past few weekend.  If I'm running 10 miles on my own this weekend, well it is not a whole lot more to 13.1. 

But my addiction is not always good.  I'm headed to Philly Tuesday-Wednesday and I'm already thinking about how I can get a run in while there, even though the agenda is packed.  I know I'll get antsy if I go 48 hours without running now.  I might start tweaking out and showing other withdrawal symptoms: moodiness, agitation, insomnia.

This all leads me to ask: Is there a Runner's Anonymous? 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Nobody's Perfect

This was my newsletter article from the October Bethlehem Star, a few days late...oops.

An unintentional theme that came up in my preaching in September was that we are not perfect.  God did not make the world perfect; but the world was and is good, which means God is still in relationship with us.  Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob and Esau were not a perfect family – far from it – and we do not have perfect families, but we are part of God’s family.  Moses was not the perfect choice to go to Pharaoh and free the Israelites from Egypt, but God gave Moses the abilities that he needed to go to Pharaoh.  Likewise, we are not the perfect people to care for the poor, orphaned, widowed, sick, immigrant, refuge, homeless and hungry, but God will give us the abilities that we need in order to do God’s work and ministry in this world.

Often we expect ourselves and others to be perfect.  We get upset when our children do not get an A on a test or report card. We get frustrated when our order is messed up at the restaurant or coffee shop. We become irritated when we have to wait too long for a repair man or in line at a store.  We become annoyed at ourselves when our bodies do not function as well as they used to.

Isn’t it good to actually hear and know that we are not perfect? If we remember that we are not perfect we be gentler on ourselves and others when we fall short of perfection.  For, there are many reasons why we are not perfect. 

And those reasons we will hear about in October.  We will hear that the Israelites grumbled and complained in the wilderness. We too get so caught up in current discomforts that we grumble and complain, unable to see what God has done for us . God calls Samuel even though Samuel does not realize that it is God.  We too fail to hear God calling us.  God anointed David as king even though he was the youngest of Jesse’s sons and deemed so unworthy that he is left out in the field when Samuel was coming to their home.  Many others have deemed us unworthy and we sometimes buy into what others have said about us, thinking that we are not able to do good. Solomon builds a temple for God thinking he can contain God.  And we too think that we will find God only in church and fail to realize that God is everywhere. 

We are not a perfect people.  But we are a people claimed by God.  We have been given grace and forgiveness over and over when we fail to be perfect regardless of the reasons why we fail. Because no one is perfect, but we are children of God. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Dressy Dressy Dress

"I don't think I have ever seen you not wearing a dress" ~ Jeff

A friend and colleague said this to me at the Hammo Youth Gathering the other week, which is held at Hammonasset State Park.  I was appropriately dressed in jeans and a hoodie since we were camping and while I sure that Jeff has seen me in jeans before, it has probably been almost two years.  

Yep over the last few years a strange thing has happened to me: I went from a girl always most comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt to a woman that wears dresses most days.  

This is even stranger when you take into account that for many years, pretty much from middle school through college, I refused to wear a dress other than for the occasional appropriate event, like prom.  My mom dubbed me "the jean queen" as I wore jeans to school, to work, to church.  I wore jeans in the middle of winter and in the summer,at least jean shorts.  Shortly before I graduated from seminary I bought 2 dresses to wear to my graduation and my sister's wedding, and those two dresses pretty much doubled the number of dresses in my closet.  And that was pretty much the state of my wardrobe for the 3 years that followed.  

But for Easter of 2011, I decided to wear a dress instead of clerics for worship.  Easter was fairly late in the year and it was years since it was warm enough for me to wear an Easter dress as it is pretty much never warm enough to wear a dress on Easter in Minnesota.    

And I realized that I felt more comfortable wearing a dress than clerics in leading worship.  That summer I started to wear dresses on occasion, or skirts and blouses.  Though by fall I switched back to slacks and clerics.  But the thing is, I really hate wearing slacks.

Then in early winter of 2012 I went to the outlet mall with the intent to buy a black knee length dress to be a bridesmaid's dress for a wedding.  Well that day I bought 5 dresses, only one was black.  Shortly after that I started wearing those dresses not just on Sundays but during the week too.  And then I started visiting consignment shops, and the number of dresses in my closet has exploded.  In fact I recently counted, I have over 50 dresses, it is a little disturbing.

But not just my closet has changed over the past few years.  Along with the change in wardrobe, my personality and outlook on life has changed.  I no longer feel like a kid, but an actual adult (though I'm still a young adult).  I feel more confident in who I am, including my pastoral authority, something that a piece of plastic in an ill-fitting button down shirt never gave me. I have claimed my beauty, though I don't think it come from my physical appearance, but that confidence and authority I possess. When wearing a dress I feel prepared to take on the day and to enjoy all that it has to offer, much more so than when I wear jeans.  I know that I stand taller and straighter in a dress than in jeans, slacks, or even a skirt.

But probably the best part of wearing a dress:  I know that even when I'm having a bad day I will receive at least one complement on my dress or that I look good in it.  And that will bring a smile to my face.

So I guess it is time for me to clean out my closet of all the slacks, since I won't be wearing them again anytime soon. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Nobody was Killed in the Making of the Post

This past Sunday, I put the lives of the members of Bethlehem on the line, I sent them out into the neighborhood to interview people about what they like most about living here and how we can make the community a better place to live.  

Okay so I don't think anyone was really ever in danger, as I am more worried about being attacked by an animal in Georgetown than being attacked by a human.  But to hear some of the hesitation when this was first discussed a few weeks prior in worship, you would have thought every neighbor has a gun and will shoot at someone before having a stranger step on their property.  

And yes it is natural to be hesitant when going door-to-door to do anything, whether selling Girl Scout cookies or talking about our faith.  And I'm quite positive that the number one prayer that is said by a religious person going door-to-door is "Dear God, please don't let them be home."  (Meanwhile the number one prayer by the person inside is "Dear God, please don't let them realize that I'm home.") But we weren't talking about our faith, we weren't going to invite people to worship or to try and convert people to our faith.  We were going simply to ask people about the community.  

Not so shocking, worship attendance was a little low on Sunday (in all honesty I was worried only 5 people would show up for worship), but still the majority of us went out to the neighborhood, while the rest stayed back and prepared lunch.  We were only gone about a half hour and most pairs only talked to 3-4 people, but the attitude of everyone when we returned was quite different.

Instead of the trepidation and a bit of fear many of us had before we left, people came back excited. Conversations flowed as people shared stories about who they talked to and ideas on how we can do ministry in the community.  "Hey, let's get a weed whacker so we can take care of the weeds on the side of the road that the town has been neglecting." "Can we get a basketball hoop at the church so the neighborhood kids can play in the parking lot instead of on the street?" "We already have a great relationship with the Georgetown Cultural Center, but how can we foster that and make it better?" 

There was an energy at Bethlehem afterwards as we shared communion and lunch, one that will carry on for the next weeks and months as we discern our guiding principles for the congregation.  

And there was even a willingness to go door-to-door again, because by some great miracle, we all returned alive. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Getting Out of the Comfort Zone

This is my newsletter article for the September Bethlehem Star

Not my actual view or chair
I have two chairs in my home that are my chairs – they are the chairs that I’m most likely to sit in and I love being able to curl up in a blanket and read in them or work on my computer or watch tv.  And while I would never tell anyone (other than Bob) to get out of my chair, when I sit other places in the same room things just aren’t the same. Those chairs are my comfort zone.  

I’m sure I’m not alone.  Most of us have a comfort zone.  We love to go to restaurants where we know what everything on the menu is.  We enjoy listening to music or watching tv shows or movies that seem familiar.  We tend to read the same one or two genres of books.  We like doing activities that we know we are good at because we have done them before.  We enjoy our comfort zone.

Often it is good to get out of our comfort zones.  In fact it is often needed.  It is good to try new and different foods, often that is our first introduction to a culture.  We can’t guarantee that by listening to music, watching a movie or reading a book that is different than what we normally prefer that we will like it, but we are broadening our understanding of the world and sometimes we do walk away with a new favorite.  When we try a new activity, whether it is a sport, hobby, craft or event, we find new connections to talk to other people and sometimes new passions for ourselves. 

God calls us to come out of our comfort zones, to do things we would not ordinarily do in order to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, support the orphaned and widow.  God calls us to get out of our comfortable chairs and ask our friends and neighbors about what their needs are. 

It is scary to get out of our comfort zones, to do something new.  And sometimes we will protest the entire time and refuse.  But God is asking us to state our fear and do it anyway.  And instead of living with the fear, we can live with the grace of knowing that God is with us, the grace that comes from doing God’s work in this world.

So what do you say, will you set out of your comfort zone with me?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Overwhelming Church

This past week during a visit from family members I had pretty much the same, but individual conversations with one of Bob's siblings and his wife.  It was basically about their church lives, or lack of church life, now.

About a year ago they moved into a house about 15 miles from the church they were previously attending and pretty much used the move as an excuse to stop attending worship at that congregation. This is a reasonable excuse in the upper Midwest where there are about 100 congregations within a 15 mile radius.  The congregation had been wonderful to them when they first joined and especially during the birth of their son - for a few weeks fellow congregation members brought them dinner every night so they did not have to figure out how to feed themselves on top of learning to take care of a new baby.

However they quickly began to feel overwhelmed.  My sister-in-law liken the congregation to a clingy
boyfriend that doesn't take the hint that you aren't looking for the same level of commitment.  They would be asked to help out with various events - not because they had the gifts and skills needed for the event or were passionate about the project but because they needed 8 more people to have this event happen and can't they be 2 of the 8.

They would often say yes but out of guilt instead of out of a sense of calling or that they personally were needed. And if they said no they still felt guilt because they were made to feel that it would be because of their lack of attendance that an event would not take place.  They were made to feel like just warm bodies to fill a slot instead of followers of Jesus called to use their ability to show God's love and grace to the world.

Unfortunately I believe that my family are not the only people to experience an overwhelming church.

In blogs that have appeared in response to Rachel Held Evan's post about Why Millennials are Leaving the Church, people have addressed the desire to do ministry not just fulfill roles. It is when we are asked to just fulfill a role that we have a hard time finding Jesus in churches.  Yesterday Rozella White, the ELCA Young Adult Ministries, in her address to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, discussed her response when people ask "Where are the young adults? How can we get young adults in our congregation?"  Often people want young adults in their congregation just for institutional survival.  They are tokens who are supposed to be seen but not heard as they cover the missing demographic. They want young adults to fill in slots as a warm body so the church can continue to move on as it always has.

This isn't true for just young adults, but for all new members.  Sometimes congregations are so excited for fresh faces, fresh hands to do the work, that they reach out too overwhelmingly to new members. Evangelism becomes code for getting new people to take over the work you are tired of doing.

But we are called as a church to not be the overwhelming church were we ask people to fill slots and preformed roles in order to maintain the status quo.  We are called to be the church that allows people to explore their assets, their gifts, their skills, their passions in order to use themselves to be the church, to do ministry in this world.

Unfortunately I can't say I am blameless. And here I repent my sins. I know that I have been the overwhelming church - I have asked new members to do too much, to be on too many committees, to help plan too many events, to be the warm body and fill a slot instead of using their gifts for God's work in their world.

But I'm learning. I'm learning to protect new members, to not ask them to do anything for at least a year after they join, but allowing them to join the congregation in ways of doing ministry that they feel called to. While I can't go back in time and fix my past mistakes of being an overwhelming church, I hope to stop future mistakes as I never want to be the clingy boyfriend.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Stewardship for the Younger Generations

Last week I attended "Stewardship for Adults Under 40" conference at Luther Seminary.  It was another FABULOUS conference with a lot of great speakers and ideas presented.  And coming right off Rethinking Evangelism (that I wrote briefly about here) I didn't think I could possibly have two great, thought provoking conferences in a row that gave not just great ideas but good theological and biblical grounding in the topic, but I was wrong.

However it was far from the same conference.  First off the vibe was much different.  We were in a smaller space, with less people, but we packed the space.  The average age of the attendees were also younger which probably lead to greater conversation on Twitter and which, for me, enhanced the experience.

But to the meat of the experience - thoughts and ideas that I have taken away from the conference.  Well this is what I posted on Facebook last Wednesday when we were wrapping up:
Ideas from Stewardship for Young Adults Under 40: Giving kiosks. Online giving. Debt exercise. Budget planning/mentoring. Give outside the church, use kickstarter for ideas. Tithe elsewhere for 2 months. Dollar cross. Sermon series on money, not just giving/fundraising. Credit card cross exercise. Tax filing parties. Connect members with lawyers for estate planning and wills-ask for gift. Admit there is need not just in town but also in congregation. Liturgy for job loss and new hire. Website -use the word donate or give. Tell personal giving story, including struggles. Giving circles. Give to the max day/month. I plan to give online note for offering plate, email Mon with details on how to do that. "I give to..." social media badge. THANK THE GIVER regardless of amount.

One friend replied that these ideas seem more about making giving easier than discussing the reason why we give.  And yes some of these are to make giving easier (i.e. giving kiosks and online giving) for a generation of people who don't carry cash on them and most of the time have no clue where their checkbook is (that would be me). But many of these ideas are about addressing the entire view that we have towards money and giving in our society and in our faith.  They also encourage giving without the entire approach being solely about begging for money (which let's face it, many congregations are guilty of).

Talking about debt, admitting that most people in worship on Sunday mornings owe money to someone, is often a taboo that we don't talk about in churches, much less in worship.  If it is ever mentioned, it is about the price of seminary education and that is why pastors need to be paid, and occasionally we talk about student loans in general.  But the average indebted American has $15,000 in credit card debt and another $32,000 in student loan debt (Bob's and my student loan debt is well over three times this number).  Admitting that each one of us has to make choices every month about which bills we pay is a healthy and positive thing.  Just realizing that you are not alone can often make one's spirit feel freer and allow us to feel more connected to the Body of Christ and not that we are cancerous mole that needs to be removed. It also means we can then start talking about systemic issues and how this burden of debt is affecting the Body of Christ.

Encouraging worshipers to give to their money to God by tithing is something that has been part of the church forever (if it wasn't just flat out law).  But many people today see this as a way for the church to have money and be financially sound instead of a spiritual practice.  Instead, by encouraging people to give that money to another organization for 2 months shows that the offering a congregation collects on Sunday is not about paying the bills (but let's also admit that is how the bills do get paid).  Instead the act of an offering is so that people can give back to God what God belongs to God.  It is a spiritual practice.  And if we encourage tithing solely for the sake of spiritually and not for personal gain by the congregation, we are encouraging people to learn about why they give.  And if after 2 months that person decides to continue giving to that other organization and not give a dime to the congregation (well first off I doubt that would happen, but maybe they give half to the church) so what? - we have encouraged giving in and through faith which is what Jesus calls us as church leaders to do, not to paid our personal coffers.

Another idea that was brought up was church endowments.  Many congregations, especially in Mainline denominations, are living off their endowments today and those endowments are dwindling.  Endowments are most often set up when someone remember the congregation in their death, by giving a gift in their will.  But many young adults don't have a will (again that is fact haven't even really considered it since I don't have kids) and many older adults wills might be out of date, or they were never asked to consider the church in their wills.  We need to start to asking people to remember the church in their wills.  Again not just because we want their money but because through their death, the church can continue to do ministry for future generations.  But that also means making rules about how endowment money can and should be used.  Most people are only able to give modest gifts in their deaths and therefore want their money to go to directly doing ministry, not to just sit in a bank account so the congregation can slowly live (or die) off its interest.  Therefore congregations need to invest time developing endowment policies that use money to enhance ministry in this world and in their community.  And many congregations do not have endowment policies and therefore the money is sitting in a bank, waiting for a rainy day, instead of being used to do good in this world.

I have so many more ideas and thoughts that are still rumbling through my head from my two weeks learning about evangelism and stewardship.  And in many ways I don't know where to start but I don't want those ideas to get pushed to the back of my mind as I get back into the normal swing of things and get caught up from almost 2 weeks away.  So for now I will start with telling my story and thinking about my spending and giving habits.  My credit card is now bearing a new Sharpie drawn cross which was done during worship this past Sunday and each time I have pulled it out I've thought a little bit about what I am spending and if I'm using God's resources wisely.  And each time we pause, even for a second and think about our spending and our giving, we are thinking about stewardship and about the reasons that we give because it all really belongs to God in the first place.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

What's Your Story?

I’m writing this just hours after Luther Seminary’s “Rethinking Evangelism” conference ended and thought I would write some initial thoughts (this is also my newsletter article for August), and hopefully in a few days I'll write a few more deeper thoughts and ideas that have come out of these past 3 days.    

For the most part the old ways of doing evangelism were just overall bad experiences both for those evangelizing and those being evangelized to.  Many of us can remember a time when we have been asked something along the lines of “if you die tonight, do you know if you are going to heaven?”  and most of the time those memories are followed by the awkward, frustrating or annoyed feeling that questions like that bring up in us.  We know of times when we have been encouraged to ourselves to go door knocking or have had others stop by our door hoping to win souls for Christ.  The most often prayed prayer of a door knocker is “Please don’t let anyone be home” and the most often prayed prayer of the person inside is “Please don’t let them realize that I’m home.”

Evangelism has become a dirty word.  We avoided it, we don’t want to do it, we claim it is the pastor’s job and even most pastors (including myself) wish that it was not needed. 

And this is why we need to rethink evangelism. 

Because evangelism is not about door knocking, it is not about winning souls for Christ, it is not about conversion, or getting people to come to our church on Sunday.  Instead evangelism is story.  Evangelism is about telling our story, about why we are Christian, and about how Christ and the Christian community has changed our lives. For how can we tell someone how important Christ should be in their lives if we don’t know why Christ is important in our own lives.  And so we must take time to learn our story, many Christians have never taken the time to think about why God is important in their lives. 

But before we ever share that story with the person we are trying to evangelize too, we must first take the time to listen to their story.  Where are they at in their lives?  What are they struggling with?  What brings them joy? And then, only after we have truly and authentically listen to them, then we can share our own story.  And this is evangelism – sharing the good news, telling the good news, telling why God is important to us.  Not convincing them, not winning their souls, not getting them to church on Sunday, but building community by sharing our stories and listening to theirs.  

Friday, June 28, 2013

Fruit of the Spirit Tree

This summer, Bethlehem's worship theme is Fruits of the Spirit.  We began the first Sunday of June, hearing the words for Galatians 5:16-26 and Colossians 3:12-17 which list the Fruit of the Spirit.  And each week since and throughout the summer we will focus on one of those fruits in our scripture readings, hymns, preaching and prayers.  

As a way to visually remind us of the Fruits of the Spirit, each week a symbol of that fruit is added to an actual tree that is decorating our sanctuary - a heart of love, a smiley face for joy, a peace sign for peace, etc.  

But the tree in our sanctuary is actually a tree that fell down during Hurricane Sandy, so there is no leaves on it.  In order to make the tree more lush, we started with a bunch of green ribbons to help represent budding leaves.  And in worship each week, we write down pray request and God moments on paper leaves that are later tied to the branches.  These are a visual reminder to us that we receive the Fruits of the Spirit when we have moments of seeing God and God's works in this world, and our Fruits are strengthen through our prayers.  

Four weeks into our summer series and the tree is definitely looking like a nice spring tree.  I'm excited to see it full by the end of the summer. 

The tree is ready for Sunday with a turtle to represent patience. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Running til the End (of the Story)

Recently I took up running.  I've never been a runner, no one in my family is a runner - well Bob ran some while in the military - I've tried running before, and that normally lasts about 2-3 weeks before I give up and go back to being a walker, elliptical exerciser, or just a lazy person.

But a friend is doing a 200 mile relay race in September to raise money Camp Calumet and in order to help her train she has signed up for various 5Ks, including a Run or Dye in Hartford in July.  The other year when a different friend ran a Color Run (same idea, different name) I said that if I ever ran a 5K it would be one where by the end you look like an Easter egg and nobody cares about the time, just that they are coated in color powder.  So to support my friend, I signed up to run a 5K.

And here is the odd thing - I can run a 5K fairly easily - I actually have been running at least a 5K 2-4 times a week for the last two months.  And I have even increased my distance, now running 4.25 miles on most of those runs.

Now most runners I know, take a while to find their groove - their pace, their route and even what they listen to while running.  Many find music helpful to their running, keeping pace with the music.  Others enjoy the sounds of nature.  Well I tried the later and immediately get bored, and the former doesn't work for me as I have bad cell reception were I run meaning listening to Pandora or Spotify on my phone doesn't work.

Instead I have found NPR podcast.

Yep that is me, listening to radio personalities like Ira Glass, Peter Sagal, Jad Abumrad or even those who are on the radio for the first time telling personal stories on The Moth.

And I have found myself doing something odd for me, the non-runner, and lover of NPR.  Instead of being one of those NPR listeners who sit in the car in the driveway as they wait for the story to finish, I run until the story has ended.

Isn't that a great metaphor for life - that we should run until the story, our story, has ended?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Am I a Helper?

A week and a half ago, on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I was sitting in my living room doing some prep work for Sunday's worship service, while Bob was upstairs in the office working as well.  And then a major event took place.

It was fairly quick, in just seconds a series of sounds came from the neighborhood - the revving of an engine, the squealing of tires as breaks were slammed, and a loud crash.  The crash was so loud you could almost feel it.  I knew instantly that it came from very, very, very close by.  I jumped up from my chair, looked out the window - saw a completely smashed up red sports car and another SUV with what looked like smoke coming out.  I grabbed my phone, my shoes and ran out the door.

By the time I ran across the lawn, only seconds after the crash, the driver of the SUV, a middle age woman, was yelling about helping get her mom, the front passenger, out of the car fearing the car was on fire and she was trying to pull her mom out of the front seat.  I immediately helped brace the mom and lie her down as gently as possible on the embankment in front of the house, among the daffodils which were starting to turn brown around the edges.  I then called 9-1-1.  While I was being transferred to the right person, I heard another neighbor yell that 9-1-1 was on the way. But since I was with two of the injured, I was giving them updates about their conditions.  Over the course of the next few minutes, which seemed to take forever as the EMT, police and other emergency personal arrive, I grabbed a pillow for the mother, helped the father call the other daughter on his cell phone as he was too shaken to dial, help the daughter try and be a little calmer, and generally just checked out the family, the entire time actually feeling like I was being unhelpful as I didn't know what to do.

Once the emergency personal arrived, I backed off, stood with the neighbors and eventually went back into the house, and at some point I grabbed my pillow from the lawn and returned it to wear it normally sits on my living room couch.  Hours later, the cars were towed away, and a week and a half later a bunch of sand remains on the street in front of my house that was laid down by the clean up crew to help absorb the gas that had leaked from one or both of the cars. But that was about all that was known about what happened to the people in the crash.

Neighbors were asking neighbors if they heard any updates.  A small picture of the cars with a brief description of the accident was in the local paper, but no updates about those who were injured. Then on Sunday, I heard from a parishioner that the mom and dad live at the senior housing complex just up the road and the mom was in their nursing unit and I was told her name.

So on Monday I went to visit.

I went mainly out of my own curiosity - How were they? Would they be okay?

But what happened, well, I received a huge gift.

I walked into the room and another daughter was visiting.  I said "Hi I'm Becca, your family's accident happened right in front of my house." Before I could say anything else, the daughter's eyes welled with tears as she said "Oh I have to give you a big hug." and I was immediately embraced by this stranger. It was not one of these quick hugs but one of those bear hugs that you give to someone after they have rescued you from harm.

Her mom was sleeping but her daughter and I went into the sitting area. Over the next half hour I heard about how her parents and sister were doing physically and emotionally but mainly I heard a lot of gratitude.  Myself and other neighbors were call guardian angels and how I was dubbed the "young woman with the pillow".  The mom has some major broken bones but she is determined to get better and do her physical therapy, the dad is back home and the daughter who was driving is physically fine but both daughters have been filled with so much stress due to seeing their parents in the hospital as well as financial stress related to crashed cars and missed work days as they have spent time at their parents' bedsides.

At one point she said "My dad is just really angry about the other driver and I have to keep reminding him 'remember what Mister Rogers said.'" It wasn't until after I left and was retelling the story to some neighbors and Bob, that it hit me what she was talking about.  She was referring to the quote from Mister Rogers that has made the rounds after various tragedies:
When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.
And I realized she was calling me a helper.  Me the person who in the moment felt like I was so unhelpful - un-knowledgeable about what medical attention to give, unable to make the emergency vehicles come quicker, unable to turn back time and make the other car drive at a normal speed. And yet she was calling me a helper.

It is really humbling.  I'm not a helper, I'm far from a hero, I was just one of the people who were home when the accident occurred. But maybe we are often the most important helpers when we feel the least helpful, solely because we are there.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Triumphal Entry

This past Palm Sunday was the 4th year that my congregation has had a dramatic reading of the passion narrative in which guides us through worship.  The children and youth of Bethlehem has taken this on as one of the main services of the year where they lead and really I only have an emcee role along with presiding at communion.

Four years ago when this first began it started for two reasons - 1) The children used to have a Christmas pageant on Christmas Eve, which was pretty much universally disliked by everyone.  Parents hated it because many of them work a half day on Christmas Eve so getting their children to the church by 3pm was difficult.  Older people hated it because they often could not hear the children or couldn't follow what was going on.  While they would have loved to watch a Christmas Pageant at another time, having it on Christmas Eve made them feel like it distracted from the holiday.

2) I wanted to try something new which involved rearranging the order of worship, and I knew if the children and youth of the congregation lead the service, much more flexibility would be given.

Yep, that is me - using children as a shield!

But in 4 years it has become one of the favorite worship services of the year.  We hear of Jesus entry into Jerusalem when we gather outside or in the community room.  We process into the sanctuary singing All Glory Laud and Honor and then we continue to hear the story of Jesus' last week before he dies and we respond with acts of worship after the various parts of the reading.  While the order varies a little depending on what gospel we are reading from the responses are similar.  After we hear of Jesus' Last Supper, we have communion.  After Jesus prays in the garden, we pray for the concerns on our hearts and minds.  After Peter denies Jesus, we confess our faith with the words of a creed.  And at the end, when we hear of Jesus' crucifixion and death, we respond with song and our sanctuary grows darker and our song becomes sadder.

But being me - the one who uses children as a shield, I can't leave things be the same year after year.  SO this year we had a visual surprise when we came into the sanctuary - a carpet of clothes, palms and flower petals that carpeted our entry.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bread as the Body of Christ

Right now the smell of baking bread is filling my home as 6 loaves of French bread are baking in the oven as I type this.  Four of those loaves will end up as bread for communion or part of a communion meal during our these next few days of Holy Week. The other 2 loaves will go to families who tables I have been invited to for an Easter meal.

I make bread often, normally at least once every other week, and one of my favorite moments in the baking process is while kneading the dough.  At some point the dough almost comes to life as it starts to push back at you.  You push it forward; it resist and pushes back as the yeast comes alive.  It is this kneading that essential to the bread making process; it is what causes the yeast to activate and what creates that great texture that makes bread-a-holics like me want to dive into fresh baked loaf.

I was struck this morning as I was kneading the dough, much of which will become communion bread - the body of Christ, how much this is a metaphor for the church - the Body of Christ.  So often my job as a pastor is to push my congregation and the church universal, the Body of Christ, to change and move out of its comfort zone.  As a result, the church often resist and pushes back. But it is this back and forth, this kneading of the church, that changes the church for the better.  It is what causes denominations to talk to one another and realize our differences are really minor compared to the ministry that we are doing.  It is what causes individual congregations to become more welcoming.  It is what makes people in the pew grow in their faith as they start to question what they believe and why is it that we do certain things.

Yes, as pastors, that push back becomes exhausting, just like kneading dough can cause hurt a baker's wrist.   But it is knowing that it is needed that keeps bakers kneading, and it will hopefully keep pastors pushing, so that the Body of Christ, both bread and the community of believers, can be as good as it is suppose to be.

Monday, March 25, 2013

It's been awhile

I haven't been posting on my blog for awhile.....since well.....August.  That is a really long time.  And a lot has happened since then.

Basically I think I stopped blogging because I was mainly posting my sermons, but I have started not writing my sermons.  In fact for a long time prior to when I stopped posting them, I would write one sermon but the one I preached was similar but also entirely different and I would hardly look at my manuscript while preaching.  And when I did, I found it distracting - I would have the perfect sentence written but would stumble remembering it so then I would have to quick find it, scanning my manuscript and then stumble over and over again.

So I have been figuring out what to write here and I guess the time has gotten away from me.

But I have a few ideas, and you will see a few in the upcoming week as I share what Bethlehem is doing for Holy Week.  It means that I won't be posting regularly - each Monday or whatever, but at least hopefully more often than once every 7 1/2 months.

See you soon!