Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why are you here?

When I was younger (and for you folks older than me on here, you can just live with my use of that phrase) I cared a lot about success.  I had chosen the United Methodist Church for my route to success.  I moved up through the system networking and going to planning committee meetings so that I could say that I was at the XYZ meeting with XYZ person.  All the while I did feel that I was living God's call for my life, but caring more about how many names I could drop or how many pieces of legislation I could work on.  Even in beginning stages of my call process I just wanted to be one step ahead of my peers, just to say that I was.  There was no better reason than moving up.  

Recently (as my husband can attest) I have grown weary in the politics of this church, not because of the work that they require, but because I feel like I am now growing out of that phase of knowing more people and serving on more committees that are higher up.  Often I go home from meetings/gatherings feeling as though it is a one upping competition between the attendees.  I believe this comes from me finally realizing that my calling is genuine, and that the only thing I need to be focused on is living God's call in my life as fully as possible.  It is not how many committes I serve on or how many people I know or how soon I will get ordained... none of that matters.  I have felt this way for a long time, but struggled to verbalize it.  

Then I go to chapel this afternoon.  It was my friend's senior chapel service, and I was very much looking forward to it.  She then put words to those feelings I had been having.  She said, "You are not here [seminary] to be effective and successful.  You are here to be faithful to God's word."  That is it.  The only thing I need to be worried about in my life is being faithful to God's word in my life, and helping others to be faithful to their calling in whatever capacity that may be.  I am not here to be effective and successful.  


I am here for the sole purpose of living the calling of God in my life. What a great source of strength and encouragement for the end of this school year.  

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fuck It All

I'll admit it.  I judge people by what they read, and secretly, I hope that they judge me too.  You see, I enjoy eating out, going for coffe, going to movies, shopping, etc. alone (most of the time).  When I walk into a restaraunt or coffee shop, I always scope out the other loners, focusing mainly on what they are reading.  I don't pay much attention to people with computers because it drives me nuts when someone cranes their neck over to see what I'm doing on my computer, so I don't even bother looking at computer screens of others.  I do, however, candidly peer at what the people holding printed material are choosing to read.  If it's a paper, I look to see which one.  Reading the New York Times?  The Other Paper?  Generally I am pleased with people reading newspapers, as I value that print medium.  If that person is reading a magazine, I start to get curious.  Good Housekeeping?  I wonder what your garden looks like.  Cosmo?  I wonder if you have a boyfriend/girlfriend and what they are like.  Vogue?  I wonder if you love Sex and the City as much as I do.  But books... oh books... I love being nosy and looking at what kind of books people read.  If it is a self-help book I want to know your life story.  If it is a finance book I wonder what you do for a living (don't ask me why... that's just what I think).  If it is a classic novel, I wonder if you are reading it for the first time or for the seventh.  My favorite is people who read books about spirituality.  My mind just reels with questions about that person.  Very seldomly do I say anything to the people reading the books, because when I finally get settled in with a good cup of coffee and I book, I don't like to be disturbed.  Today, however, I broke my rule.  

I walked into Chipotle (go figure...) and picked a seat in the sun, at a table for two.  I much prefer the barstools, but I couldn't find one in the sun, and recently I have just had this craving for natural light.  So I sat down, glanced over, and saw the book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott face down on the table next to me.  The book did not have an owner, and I gazed around the restaraunt to find someone who looked like they could be reading this book.  After a few minutes, a woman sat down in front of the book, picked it up, and read for a moment.  Very shortly after taking up the book, she chuckled.  Catching herself laughing out loud, she looked around to see if anyone had noticed.  Seeing that I had, she turned red and apologized.  I told her that it was quite alright, and that when I read anything by Anne Lamott I laugh hysterically, despite my location.  After exchanging pleasantries about how much we enjoyed Annie's writings.  She asked if I would like to join her.  Normally I would decline, but I couldn't resist talking to her about my favorite author.  

We sat and chatted, and I recommended that she read Grace (Eventually) because she had already read Traveling Mercies.  We talked about how much we both enjoyed Traveling Mercies.  She asked me the context in which I had read the book.  I told her that the first time I read it, I read it just because I wanted to, and I have read it many times since.  Mentioning that I read it for class, she asked if everyone I read it with enjoyed it.  I told her mostly, but some people didn't appreciate her language and her humor.  She said, "Yeah, my friends, too..."  and then she thought for a moment and said, "I really like the way Anne writes.  Her faith is real, and it makes me feel as though my faith is more real than my stuffy Christian friends."  I must have had an interesting look on my face, because she continued, "I mean, sometimes don't you just want to throw up your hands and say, 'Fuck it all!'?"  

I chuckled and said that more often than not, that is what I want to say.  She said something to the extent that she can't handle people who have faith that is happy all of the time.  She likes knowing that sometimes faith confuses people, and they feel hurt, betrayed, or left alone by God.  She appreciated Anne's candid struggles, especially around raising her own son, Sam.  It was only then that she asked me what class I read the book for.  When I told her that it was for my spirituality class, she said, "Oh, so you're in seminary?"  I told her yes.  She said, "Is it weird that I don't care that I said 'fuck' in a conversation with you?"  That is what really got me thinking. 

That is the kind of pastor I want to be.  The kind that can be trusted to hear genuine struggle, not caring if someone says, "Fuck."  I want to be the person who can be honest in not only hearing, but in conversation. And do I say, "Fuck?"  Yes, sometimes I do.  

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Don't get your hopes up

It is a phrase that we often hear.  We audition for something? "Don't get your hopes up."  We go to a job interview?  "Don't get your hopes up."  We turn in a paper?  "Don't get your hopes up."  

Hope has been on my mind a lot recently.  I am waiting to hear about a new life opportunity, and the word hope has been flying around our house a lot.  My husband will say, "Maybe you'll hear something today."  To which I reply, "Meh, I'm just trying not to get my hopes up."  

But then I went to class yesterday.  The members of this class were reflecting on their theological experiences during this past season of lent and holy week.  A good friend of mine brought up how much she enjoyed a sermon from a friend who said that the tomb was not empty.  The tomb was full of hope.  I didn't really give it a second thought until I was laying, awake, in bed revisiting the issue.  

I think, in general, hope is something to be avoided.  If a person has a sense of hope, and whatever was being hoped for is not fulfilled, the person experiences something similar to loss.  So should we really deny ourselves the experience of hope just to avoid the possibility of experiencing loss?  That's the real question that has been on my mind.  

What I know is that for my soul... my spirit... I cannot function without hope.  I have hope that there is something beyond this life, with all its hopes and losses, and that something is worth the wait.  I have this hope that comes from the tomb that is empty, yet full.  

Monday, April 6, 2009


I generally try to steer clear of the idea that we see Jesus in other people.  While I don't see this notion as harmful or incorrect, it just weirds me out a little.  What I have experienced in the last few days, however, is a characteristic of God demonstrated in the fabulous man that is my husband.  

The last few days have been really embarrassing for me in my marriage.  Some of the details are too personal to share, but let's just explore these last two days in a way that will not mortify me even more.  Like I have mentioned before on my blog, I am still in what some would call the "newlywed" stage.  We have proudly survived nine months of marriage, but there are things that we have never experienced of one another.  Little quirks are constantly being revealed, and sometimes, those newly revealed things are not always so cute.  For example, Garrett is learning what it is like to live with a woman who has a curly head of hair.  The shower drain in constantly covered with the hair that I (almost) always forget to pick out.  All of the *cute* little habits have been discovered, and the ones left to discover are not always fun.  

So Garrett and I were driving tonight, and something just didn't "settle" right with my stomach (if you know what I mean).  So as I tried very politely to tell Garrett to step on it so we could get home, the speed limit and slow people searching for house numbers prevented the arrival at home from occuring as quickly as I would have preferred.  It sucks to be sitting next to the person you love most, with a growling and unpleasant stomach situation, and feeling embarrassed.  This is just one example of my embarrassement... you don't need to hear any more... 

But yesterday, as I am crying on the shoulder of my husband because I am so embarrassed, he said something profound to me.  "Something like this is not going to make me stop loving you."  I am astounded by the things about me that he endures.  What a hero.  And I have been reflecting a lot on what this tells me about God's love... 

I have always known that God would love me through any crap that I could do.  I could make bad choices, and God would love me anyway.  I guess what I haven't
always internalized is the fact that God loves me in spite of my embarrassing things.  Even the things that my husband misses out on because they are that embarrassing, God knows, and loves me in spite of.  God knows and loves all of us.  Every part of us.  Every embarrassing or selfish or hidden part of us, God knows and loves us.  God has to.  It is part of the job description.

God is love.