29 June 2007

Baby Ainsley 365: Cute Mama!

Saturday morning before heading out into the world. Great hat, huh?

Friday Five: Gifts and Talents

Our Circuit (Methodist) is having a "Gifts and talents day" tomorrow- we have a minister visiting from another circuit who has modified the Myers Briggs personality test and added a few things of his own to run a day where we get to look at ourselves in the light of giftings and of the whole church. The idea is to encourage everyone with the news that there is room for you in the ministry of the church- and perhaps to discover where that ministry might be.....It should be an interesting day, and one where I hope people will leave feeling encouraged and challenged...So with gifts and talents in mind here is today's Friday 5;

1. Personality tests: love them or hate them?
I'd have to say neither. When I was working in camping ministry, we did a couple of simplified Myers-Briggs tests during summer staff training for a few years, and it always seemed like the tests either enabled people's aberrant behavior ("you can't criticize me, it's just who I am!") or it was crushing to people who weren't the life of the party ("see, it really IS me - no wonder kids like Johnny Popular better than me..."). I was one of the people enabled the first couple of times, but when I got to management level it was just annoying. I think there is definitely value in self-awareness and self-understanding, but we are no more captive to being INFJ or whatever than we are captive to anything else (other than sin, of course - no personality test is going to take care of that problem).

2. Would you describe yourself as practical, creative, intellectual, or a mixture?
Definitely a mixture. I have my creative moments, but I certainly tend more toward the practical and intellectual end of things. Perhaps you could say that I am creative in regards to vision and holistic stuff - I like to think of ways to use the creativity of others in ways they may not have considered possible. But I'm a sorter and function junkie - I crave order and predictability and cleanliness, which as you can imagine has made parenthood a bit overwhelming at times.

3. It is said that everyone has their 15 minutes of fame: have you had yours yet? If so, what was it? If not, dream away: what would you like it to be?
I'm not sure how to answer this question. Being a pastor with a tendency toward speaking out, I've been quoted often in newspapers and the like. Like many of us, I've come to understand that I'm almost always in the public eye, even when I would rather not. But it's always been in a commentary or protesting role, not for something I've done or accomplished. So, let me dream: I'd love to have my remaining minutes rise from inspiring a congregation or ministry to dream about what it could be and then helping that dream come to life.

4. If you were given a two year sabbatical (oh, the dream of it!) to create something, would it be music, literature, art...something completely different? Share your dream.
Definitely literature. I've had a book idea rattling around in my head for almost two years now, and I'd love to think that someday I could bring it to fruition. But it might take an extended sabbatical or a major kick in the ass to help it happen: being anal retentive, I tend to lose forests for trees and distract myself out of the creative process. It's happened several times when I've tried to get going on this book project. But hope springs eternal.

5. Describe a talent you would like to develop, but seems completely beyond you:
Songwriting, definitely songwriting. I can write sermons, fiction, poetry, what have you, but putting words down with music just escapes me for some reason. I can sing, and I can write, but thus far whatever skill or innate talent allows the two to be combined just hasn't clicked for me. Maybe that would be a better project for the two year sabbatical?

Bonus question: Back to the church. What does "every member ministry" mean to you? Is it truly possible to encourage/implement?
"Every member ministry" is a dream for most of us pastors, and for me it means exactly what it says: that every member of the church would realize that he/she has gifts and talents for the proclamation of the gospel and take it upon herself/himself to develop and use those gifts/talents for proclamation. Is it truly possible? Yes: I've seen it working in various settings. Is it easy? Not in the least, in my particular denomination (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America), because we've trained ourselves to think that only ministers do ministry and everyone else is permitted to stop learning and just watch from confirmation until the grave. It's one of the most frustrating aspects of my job, knowing that folks come to church just to be told that they still have their tickets to heaven punched and ready to go. But I keep hoping that the Spirit will awaken the church to her mission for the kingdom of God in this world, and if that can happen through me, well, that's just peachy. :-)

The picture is our favorite group, Storyhill, singing at a concert in Montana. That's a skill I have developed that I'd love to put to use: singing with Chris & Johnny is a dream of mine!

28 June 2007

R.I.P, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

We're in mourning here tonight: it's the final episode of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip." Thanks to my brother Brian & his wife, who were taping episodes on their DVR and thus discovered that the rest of the first season would be aired, we've been watching the final seven episodes or so this week. Tonight we hope to get through what's left before the series finale airs.

It's really sad that a witty, quick, clever show like Studio 60 has to go to make room for garbage like "Age of Love" and "Wedding Crashers" or whatever the hell NBC is developing for next fall. Hopefully "Heroes" and "Friday Night Lights" will continue to receive support at NBC - two smart, sometimes funny dramas that really have good moments. "Scrubs" is good, and I know "The Office" is great (but I just can't bear the ignorant banality of the boss and Dwight -it's too painful for me), but really, there's nothing else even remotely watchable on NBC, including ER, which should have gone off life support when Dr. Green died.

Anyway, after tonight we won't have any new TV to watch for a while. Guess we'll have to go outside once in a while, huh? :-)

Baby Ainsley 365: Hi there!

A Month of Sundays - the Church in Seattle

Thanks to Lutherpunk for this article (caution: adult language regarding the church follows. It's more than a little disorienting to read "This church is f---ing gorgeous." If you're easily offended you may want to skip this one).

The premise was simple: a Seattle newspaper sent thirty writers to thirty places of worship and had them take notes and write a brief article. It's a multi-denominational array - everything from Ba'hai to the Sea-Tac meditation room and much in between.

What intrigued me was the suspicion with which almost every writer approached the church. Is this something we cause in the "unchurched" naturally? Does it rise out of a series of bad experiences, perhaps even harmful? Are we really so intimidating and banal at the same time?

I hated to read about the crappy music and excruciatingly bad lyrics many of the "praise bands" forced upon worshipers. Is there really a hymn out there that sings "deep inside, I need more of you?" No wonder so many people think we're trying to subvert culture with our own bland form of spiritual must. Friends, let's get this straight once and for all: entertainment is not our business. If you want entertainment on Sunday morning, go to Blockbuster and rent a movie. That goes for bored agnostics and bored people in the pews alike - for crying out loud, stop expecting worship services to be a "show" (and those of you who CREATE that expectation with more focus on music and presentation than content should be ashamed of yourselves as well).

In fact, one can even make the argument that Sunday morning worship services aren't the means by which people come to be believers in Jesus. Frankly, Sunday morning isn't about evangelism immediately - worship is at its nature an interior conversation for the benefit of those who speak the dialect of the local congregation. Sunday morning worship is for us. Sunday morning worship is about equipping the saints for service in the world. It's a time for conversation with God, a time for recharging the batteries of your soul, a time to be reminded that all of us are more than just accidents - the lucky few who come to worship are to be told that the world is God's kingdom and we are privileged to be servants within it.

Now, of course, this doesn't imply that the church should be inwardly turned, nor do I mean to say that we can stop trying to make our dialect more understandable. While on vacation we attended worship at an Episcopal church and found ourselves bewildered by the bulletin and how to follow along in worship; if a lifelong Christian can't follow the service, how would someone entering the church for the first time feel? But neither should our worship be simplified for the lowest common denominator. Worship should challenge but not overwhelm, vigorously invite but not intimidate, graciously encourage but not cheerlead, and above all, joyfully proclaim the good news of Jesus in such a way that all present feel a desire to know that good news better.

It occurred to me that when the following is your mission, any hope of an authentic experience goes right out the window:
But look around. There are churches damn near everywhere in this town—old churches, new churches, mega churches, mini churches. And just what, we wondered, is going on in all those churches? What are they saying? What are they doing? What are they plotting?
Yeah - that's the best way to find out why we in the church bother being the church. Had I met one of those writers, I might have challenged them to come back when they were actually interested in what it might mean to be a part of a spiritual community, rather than looking for a reason to bug out at the first opportunity. It's hard to have a conversation with someone who's not listening.

I've railed against our captivity to ourselves and the institutional church for a few years now, thinking that if only we could get past the adiaphora we idolize that things might be different. I still believe this is true: we are in bondage to ourselves, and our addictions to what we've idolized for years (unchanging worship, civil religion, cheap grace, a total lack of family interaction in faith education, control issues, cults of personality, do I need to continue?) do stand in the way of the Great Commission. But I'll admit that I was a little offended at the sullen attitude of the writers in this article, who (it seemed to me) came to worship determined to find fault. Finding fault in the church is easy - at least, it is easy in those churches who are honest about themselves. We can't control the attitudes of those who come to see what we're all about. But we can control our own interactions and how they affect everyone who walks through the door of a Christian worshiping community.

One writer seemed to have the experience on which we should be focusing as God's church. Granted, he has a history in the church; his father is a retired Episcopal priest. But somehow his dread at attending church with his father for the first time in fifteen years was overcome by the sense of community he felt while gathered with the members of one particular congregation. No, he didn't find all the answers (have any of you? If so, let me know, please!). No, he admitted that he's not likely to attend worship again next week. But this was one of his final thoughts:
...now I'm wondering if church might be something more than church after all.

And there you have it - something begins to work. God is still creating, for where there was no faith at all, now there is a question. God be praised, there's a question - and perhaps someone who will try to find the answer.

27 June 2007

Baby Ainsley 365: Telling a Story

Translation: "I woke up this morning and giggled until Mommy came and got me out of the crib. Then I grunted and groaned until I pooped all over the place. It was great! Later Mommy gave me a bottle - I put it right into my mouth and ate the whole thing. Then I laid down on my playmat and waved my arm around until I hit stuff. That was my day!

South Park Avatar

Hmmm - is this what I'd look like on South Park?

26 June 2007

Monday Meme: Five Things I Dig About Jesus

Church Nerd tagged me for this one. Beloved and Ainsley are both napping, so hopefully I won't be interrupted for a bit.

1. Jesus, the Son of God, cried when his friend died. Knowing he would raise him from the dead did not lessen the pain of watching his friends grieve. That is empathy of the highest degree.
2. Jesus got angry with religious leaders who used their position and the Temple for profit. Our denomination has a mission investment fund, where people can invest money that churches use to borrow on for building projects - the investors receive the majority of the interest on those loans. I'm not so sure Jesus wouldn't have a serious problem with this kind of business in the church.
3. Jesus knew that there simply is no excuse for drinking lousy wine (or beer, if he'd known about it).
4. Jesus didn't care about position or lack of it - he treated people according to the grace and love within their hearts. Would that I could do the same.

Long interruption as Ainsley wakes with great wailing and gnashing of gums (she doesn't have teeth yet) and I forget to come and finish this meme. Resumed Tuesday afternoon while I'm reading the newspaper.

5. Jesus did all that he did out of great love and selfless giving. We know so little about how to live in this way that we trust the Spirit to call, gather, enlighten and sanctify us into the way of Jesus. In other words, Christian life is a gift in and of itself - it is not something we can own or possess. The only reason any of us gets to do what we do as Christians is because God the Creator loves us - and Jesus came to show us that love.

There you have it - five things I dig about Jesus. No tags today - this one's gone around most of the blogs I read already. Those of you who haven't been tagged may consider yourselves tagged if you wish. Blessings.

22 June 2007

The Return of Baby Ainsley 365: Giggling with Daddy

Somebody's giggling!

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five: Hot Town, Summer In The City...

...or town, or suburb, or hamlet, or burg, or unincorporated zone, or rural area of your choice---pretty much anywhere but the southern hemisphere, it's summer. (Australians and others, consider this an invitation to take a break from winter for a while.)

1. Favorite summer food(s) and beverage(s)
Wow - how to choose? Can I sum up with "Just about anything cooked over fire or charcoal?" After spending two summers at Tipi Village at NLOM, every June 1st I start to experience a little "tipi seasoning" jones - meat and Lawry's and I'm good to go!

2. Song that "says" summer to you. (Need not be about summer explicitly.)
I'd have to say "Centerfield" by John Fogerty. I grew up in the baseball capital of Nebraska (no kidding!) and every night we were playing they'd open the pre-game music with "Centerfield." There are other great summertime songs that I'm sure many will mention, but that one does it for me. Along with that, you should add a hot dog with kraut and mustard and a cold beer at a ballgame to #1 above - even in the Metrodome, the worst place to watch baseball now that the Kingdome has been destroyed, a dog and a beer and baseball make for a fine, fine evening.

3. A childhood summer memory
Being dropped off for VBS at our church, followed by a sack lunch and a bike ride down to the park for baseball practice. After practice, an afternoon playing at the swimming pool until Dad picked us up at 5:00 or so, when the pool closed for the afternoon. Supper at home, followed by another trip into town to watch the Legion teams play ball. Chasing foul balls, which our mayor would redeem for a dime in the press box. Could life be any better?

4. An adult summer memory
Church camp - gotta be camp! Getting up at 6:00 for a cup of coffee, a cigarette and some reading in a good book before anyone else was awake (I know, I know, the smoking was bad, but it was peaceful and quiet and cool and it's my memory - deal). Cooking eggs & bacon on a griddle over a firepit. Playing guitar & singing at the top of my lungs to get the kids up for worship. Watching 25 4th-6th graders sing "This is the Day" at 7:30 a.m. and enjoy it. (This is the day - that the Lord has made - I will rejoice - and be glad in it!) Bible Study - Crafts - Hiking - Site Meeting - Council Fire - Games - Giggling kids. Like LutheranHusker said, wouldn't life be better if we all stopped every day at 3:00 p.m. for a sno-cone? Finally, evening worship. Gathered around a campfire, playing my guitar and leading worship is where I discovered a sense that God was pulling me toward ministry.

5. Describe a wonderful summer day you'd like to have in the near future. (weather, location, activities)
Cool morning breeze. A four-mile run that lasts 35 minutes and feels like two miles. Breakfast with Beloved and Ainsley: pancakes & eggs. A good book to enjoy for an hour or two. A hike in the afternoon, maybe a dip in the lake. Supper cooked over fire or charcoal (sensing a theme?), and I read my good book while listening to the Twins game on the radio (they beat the White Sox, of course).

Optional: Does your place of worship do anything differently in the summer? (Fewer services, casual dress, etc.)
We're worshiping at 9:00 a.m. instead of 10:30 these days, but otherwise most everything stays the same.

Thursday Three: The Loss of Innocence

Bro does a Thursday Three on his blog - this week's was accompanied by a cute story about my nephew. Here's the Thursday Three:

Anyway, for this week's Thursday Three, name some belief or tradition of youth that you held onto as long as you could. It could be similar to astronauts eating hay, or not! As usual, let me know if you play.

1. We rode the bus to school when we were kids. We'd be standing at the end of our driveway when the bus would pop over the hill south of our house, at which point the game was to race up and down our driveway at least twice before the bus arrived.
2. I remember watching the Indianapolis 500 with my dad back in the early '80s and wanting to be a race car driver in the worst way - anything my dad loved that much had to be cool, right?
3. I had a crush on Kelly Ekberg from preschool Sunday School through sixth grade. I mean a SERIOUS crush. One Thanksgiving I told my family we were going to get married and have six kids. Our kindergarten teacher called our parents and warned them that were a little too chummy for her comfort. But we never once kissed and rarely held hands. Aaaahhh, young love. C'est la vie, no?

Baby Ainsley 365: Just Hangin Around

21 June 2007

Ooooh, World Traveler!

Thanks to Ross for this. By the way, small world getting smaller, Church Nerd, one of my camp friends recently tagged Ross, one of my seminary friends, for a meme. How funny is that?

Baby Ainsley 365: Can I Be A Triathlete, Too?

Our friends Jared & Jessi were here this week , which of course is awesome. Jared went to a conference while Jessi recovered from Grandma's Marathon in Duluth. Saturday she's in a triathlon, apparently, but she took some time out from training to play with our little girl. They sure had fun!

19 June 2007

Obits and Testimony

“With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,

and great grace was upon them all.” Acts 4.33

Every month The Lutheran print a series of obituaries in the back pages of its edition. These aren’t the type of obituaries you see in the newspaper: they are simply names and dates of those clergy who have died, followed by a list of the parishes they served during their careers as ordained ministers.

I’m not a person who usually reads the obituaries in the local paper or the state editions of the larger papers, unless something in the headlines catches my eye as I flip through. But I do peruse these obituaries, for several reasons. First, I’ve been involved in the professional side of the church long enough that some of the retired pastors I knew years ago are dying. Second, I’m curious about where some of the clergy I don’t know have served in their years in the parish. Finally, I think about myself and how someday I’ll be one of those names listed, concisely covering the breadth of the ministry I hope to accomplish while I’m able.

I also receive the ELCA news via email. Occasionally that news service will send out an extended obituary if a Lutheran of considerable note dies. Usually this is someone who has served as a bishop, as a beloved teacher of the church, or a person of other noteworthy accomplishments. This obituary is much different than that which is printed in The Lutheran. ELCA News obituaries generally include descriptions of the person’s life, quotes from friends and family members, and information on funeral services and the location of the burial.

I’m of two minds regarding these obituaries. It’s a humbling thought, looking at those lists in The Lutheran, to think that someday the work I do will be reduced to such a short entry. At the same time, is it too prideful to hope that God might accomplish things through my ministry that would warrant a much more detailed obituary? Probably it is, and yet, I shudder to think that thirty-odd years of ministry, should I be so lucky, could be condensed into a paragraph in the back of a denominational magazine.

But then I remember that when I think of those who’ve built my faith and have now gone before me into the sleep of death, I don’t think in condensed terms. In my mind and soul, the obituaries of those persons are full and detailed. Pastor Robert Johnson was a kind, gentle man who made a young man feel welcome in a big church of big people. Dr. Richard Wallace taught me how to handle classroom interruptions with grace, and to preach with weight and clarity. Dr. Gerhard Forde taught me to treasure God’s grace as a gift of freedom, to live justified without guilt and to never, ever allow myself to think that discussing hypothetical minutiae was ministry. These people and many more proclaimed Jesus’ resurrection with great grace, and I will never forget their witness.

Likewise, I must remind myself that, contrary to what I sometimes think, magazines and emails are the temporary memorials. What lasts is the impact we have on people, those around us who are called by the same Holy Spirit to witness to the same resurrection. No obituary could ever describe the impact you and I have on our families, our friends and the world around us. Where we have proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus with clarity and power, we will be remembered – and that proclamation comes through many acts of kindness and grace in the course of a human life. Every day is an opportunity to give such testimony, and no matter what the obituary may describe, what lives in the memories of those we’ve touched is the eternal gift of grace which God gives. Your life cannot be summarized so neatly, but it can be remembered; may your testimony and the great grace of God be with you all.

17 June 2007

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost - "Simon's Big Dinner"

Imagine with me for a minute that you’ve been invited to the big dinner at Simon’s house. You should see who’s here – it’s quite a group of folks. There’s Abraham and Lilian: Abe is a moderately successful shipping agent, and Lilian has raised their three kids to be the nicest, most polite children you could ever meet. David down at the end of the table is Simon’s brother-in-law, a banker. You can always count on David for a big donation when the synagogue needs something badly. Thomas and Miriam are here with Miriam’s mother, of course: Thomas tends an olive farm just outside of town, and Miriam runs the household, tends their sheep and looks after her mother, who can be a bit of a pill. Nathan is here, too, with Ruth his wife: Nathan is a carpenter, with rough hands and a booming laugh, but he’s so tender to his beautiful Ruth you’d think they were still newlyweds instead of celebrating their 20th anniversary this month.

Simon invites the loveliest guests, don’t you think? These are all good people gathered here: they are friends, though they come from different circumstances, and they enjoy each other’s company. You can be sure that everyone will have a good time tonight! When Simon heard that that the traveling rabbi from Nazareth was in the area, he went out looking for him, to learn more about him. When Simon heard him speak, he was intrigued enough to ask him to dinner, and tonight the rabbi has come.

There he is: Jesus of Nazareth. He’s talking pleasantly with his neighbors at the table. Like the rest of the guests, he’s reclined to eat, propped up on his left elbow with his shoulders over a pillow and his feet stretching out behind him. He seems comfortable enough with this group of people, though his gaze has a rather disquieting power; most of the people in the room can’t bear to look at him for too long.

But now there’s a commotion at the door, and what is this? A woman enters, with a jar of ointment and a tear-streaked face! She begins kissing his feet and washing them with her hair, and while she’s anointing his feet, Simon recognizes her. Oh, the scandal! What is she doing here? How can she show her face in public? This is inconceivable, that such a sinner should enter Simon’s house, and what’s worse is that she’s harassing the guest of honor at Simon’s table!

Here we leave our pleasant historical fiction and look at this story from our perspective. The sinful woman intruded on Simon’s big dinner and caused quite a stir. Let’s not pretend, though, that this couldn’t happen in our time and place. You probably would have liked Simon and his guests, and you probably would have been shocked to see the sinful woman intruding on such a lovely party. But God took that intrusion into that dinner party and used it to proclaim a powerful message to all who were present that night, a message that changes lives and creates faith where none had been before.

It’s hard to say what Simon expected when he invited Jesus to dinner. Maybe he was one of those people who just like sharing food and fellowship with interesting people. Maybe he was one of those people in town who everyone knows, and so Jesus just kind of got steered in his direction until Simon could make the offer of dinner. Whatever Simon expected, Jesus didn’t deliver, certainly not in the way Simon had expected.

For starters, Simon thought Jesus was a prophet, and he was wrong in two ways on that one. Prophets aren’t mind readers, and they don’t have sin detectors. Prophets speak for God, and prophets know sin because they have remembered God’s law while we have focused on other things. In addition, Jesus was much, much more than a prophet, and Simon would discover how much more very quickly.

Likewise, the guests at Simon’s dinner party, like many of us here today, may have come with the intention of impressing the guest of honor. They might have come to listen to him speak words of wisdom. They might have even been considering supporting his ministry. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but Jesus was not impressed by the way those party guests were managing their lives – even if they were doing their best to live trouble-free, righteous lives following the commandments. There were probably a lot of very nice people at Simon’s big dinner, and I’m sure Jesus enjoyed their company, but Jesus’ mission did not include meeting the expectations of nice people.

Who was it, then, that understood Jesus’ mission right? The sinful woman. The one who caused all the stir and fuss by interrupting a perfectly nice dinner with perfectly nice people. The one who had no business being there in the first place. The Bible doesn’t tell us what her sin was, but frankly, it doesn’t matter: you know who she was. If you met her at the post office or the grocery store, you’d get out of the conversation as quickly as possible. If you saw her name on your caller ID, you wouldn’t pick up the phone. If you heard that she was having some trouble, a small, petty voice in your head would insist that “well, that’s what happens when you live like that.” Never mind that she might not have had a choice, or that she just wasn’t able to make good choices: she was that woman, and you and I know that when that woman shows up at the nice peoples’ party, she’s going to cause a stir. But that woman was the one who understood. That woman was the one who knew what Jesus was about. That woman came to the party with one thing on her mind: thanking Jesus for what he had done for her, in whatever way she could. That woman was the only one at Simon’s big dinner who got it right.

The nice people may have came to Simon’s big dinner looking to impress Jesus, to earn his favor, but Jesus had only one thing to give to them: forgiveness. Not regard or respect or affirmation or even love at first: forgiveness is what Jesus is about on this earth. In Luke’s gospel, every time the word “sin” is used in Luke, Jesus is forgiving it: that’s the point of the whole story. And that woman’s act of kindness to Jesus is the response of one who has been forgiven and swept up into God’s amazing grace. It’s not the act of one hoping for forgiveness: it’s the act of one who is living in forgiveness. When Simon looked at that woman, Simon saw a sinner. Jesus showed him a person who was forgiven and should be as much a part of the party as Simon. Until Simon experienced forgiveness like that woman did, he wouldn’t understand what she was doing. Once Simon does experience forgiveness like this woman has, he’ll never forget it.

So, we gather today, nice people all. Have we come to impress Jesus? Have we managed our sinfulness, hidden it well behind a successful, trouble-free life? Do we come looking for affirmation or respect from Jesus? Perhaps. The maker of all that was and all that is and all that is to come knows you better than that, and he’s come to this party with one mission on his mind: forgiveness. Forgiveness and restoration are the name of the game, acts of mercy through which God promises we will be remade and reborn, different than we are today. No skin-deep salvation here: great grace comes with great change. The difference between the woman who washed Jesus’ feet and Simon and his guests was not their sinfulness: the difference was the depth to which Jesus’ grace had been allowed to change their lives. Those who thought they only needed enough religion to maintain their illusions got exactly that, but when they saw with their own eyes the woman’s deep gratitude for Jesus’ deep grace, they got very nervous. And so do we.

God isn’t interested in helping us manage our sin: God’s investment is far deeper than that. God’s reckless love dives headlong into forgiveness and promises transformation and renewal, even to those of us who think we don’t need renewing in the first place.

Bonhoeffer called this kind of forgiveness “costly grace.” It’s grace that forgives sinners, not just sins, and gets into us and messes around with us. Costly grace is embarrassing, it can be messy and it makes us vulnerable to all kinds of emotional and spiritual turmoil. Costly grace makes us unpredictable and unsettled because it takes all our presumptions about ourselves and the people around us and turns them inside out. Costly grace takes the burden of our sins away from us, but one of those burdens is the shield of self-righteousness behind which we’ve been hiding for a long, long time, and without which we are incredibly exposed. But here, in God’s church, is a place where it must be safe to be that vulnerable. Here is where God has intended for the forgiven to find a home together. Here is the place where we can be embarrassing, messy and vulnerable, unpredictable and unsettled, because here is the place where that word of costly grace is offered again and again and again. Here Simon and the woman and all of the guests at that party can sit together and applaud as we feast on the promises of God’s costly grace and forgiveness: here there is salvation that goes far past skin-deep. So, welcome to the big dinner. The table is set and the guest of honor says, “Come, all is forgiven.”

15 June 2007

Friday Five: Books, books, books...

Sally sez:

I've just returned from a meeting in Cambridge so I'm posting this late here in the UK (it is 3:45pm).. because I took the opportunity of a free afternoon in Cambridge's wonderful book shops... I only bought a few- and they were on sale- very restrained for me!!!

So with my head full of books I've seen and a long wish list in my mind, I bring you a Friday Five on books!!!

1. Fiction what kind, detective novels, historical stuff, thrillers, romance????

I love lots of different stuff, and I tend to read in cycles: first some sci-fi, then a good mystery, perhaps historic fiction, now fantasy or something different. Favorite authors include Stephen King, Orson Scott Card, Robert Jordan, Ray Bradbury, C.S. Lewis, Douglas Adams and many others, though I will read far and wide depending on my palate at the given moment.

2. When you get a really good book do you read it all in one chunk or savour it slowly?

Must. Devour. Good. Book. NOW. When The Deathly Hallows comes out next month I'll probably take a day off from work to get it all down - I did the same thing with The Dark Tower. I usually pick up more the second time through a good book (and yes, I do re-read my favorites).

3. Is there a book you keep returning to and why?

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. Simply put, Tolkien didn't just write a ripping good epic: he created a history and a mythology of indescribable beauty, wisdom and depth. Like many Ringers, I was terrified when I heard that the Rings movies were going into production; I couldn't see how they would ever make a movie that would capture the tale. Thanks goodness everyone involved committed themselves to doing work that would honor the breadth and beauty of Tolkien's vision.

4. Apart from the Bible which non-fiction book has influenced you the most?

Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Aside from being the inspiration for the name of this blog, Bonhoeffer's vision of what it means to follow Christ challenges and comforts me every time I read it.

5. Describe a perfect place to read. ( could be anywhere!!!)

We took a shot honeymoon on the north shore of Lake Superior just after we were married in 2004, staying at a resort south of Grand Marais, MN. We've returned to the resort twice now, and every time I find myself on the front deck in a rocking adirondack chair with a cup of coffee and a good book, reading and watching the sun rise over the lake. That's time I treasure, especially with a newborn who now rules our early morning hours - I can't wait to get back sometime this year (hopefully).

14 June 2007

Eight Random Facts

Now my computer at the office ist defekt as well. At least the zip functions - I can't get to work on Sunday's order of service until I can unzip the fireplaceing zip file that contains the music. Grrr.

So, while I'm trying to get this done I'll play a meme for which Quaker Pastor tagged me yesterday. Here's the rule:

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
3.At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

So, here goes:

1. I love meatloaf, in all its many manifestations. But I never make it because Beloved can't handle overly greasy food. I really want meatloaf for supper tonight...
2. Until my senior year of college, I thought that pastors did some sort of prayer over water used for baptisms to "holify" it or something. When I was the ministry assistant at the Lutheran Student Center at Nebraska, Pastor Larry Meyer asked me to get the water ready for a baptism we were having one morning. I asked him if I needed to do anything special for the water, and he said, "No. Wait! There is one thing!" Ooooh, here it comes, I thought. "Make it warm water - if you use cold water the baby tends to get fussy." Yup - that's the secret.
3. I developed a HUGE crush on one of my counselors at church camp one summer, and wrote her at least two long letters telling her how much I missed her after I got home.
4. Speaking of church camp, I kissed a girl for the first time at church camp. I can still go to the exact spot where it happened, too.
5. I had disgustingly smelly feet from the time I was 13 or so until my late 20s. I mean rancid, peel-the-paint-off-the-walls odor.
Later note: while this is, of course, funny (now), I meant to emphasize more heavily the bizarre fact that I don't have nearly as much problem with foot odor today as I did so many years ago. It's not like I have different feet or fewer sweat glands or something bizarre like that - sometime in my mid- to late-20s my feet just stopped being so malodorous. How does that happen?
6. The song "Silver Medals And Sweet Memories" by the Statler Brothers still brings a lump to my throat
and the war still ain't over for Momma - every night in her dreams she still sees -
the young face of someone who left her - silver medals and sweet memories...

7. I'd like to try skydiving someday, but I'll never bungee-jump or go on one of those rides where they hook you to a cable, pull you up a tower and let you swing - they're too scary.
8. I'd like to own a VW bus someday, like the one in Little Miss Sunshine (minus the screwed up transmission and the broken horn, of course.)

I tag LutheranHusker, Brian, MoSup, Nate S, ThirdFuerst, Lutherpunk, LutherLiz and Church Nerd. Have at it, y'all!

13 June 2007

Unser Computer ist defekt!

Yes, I know we're overdue to post some vacation photos. But our $@#$@Q#$%ing laptop hasn't had any sound for nearly two months, so we've had it into the witch doctor to try and puzzle it out. Today he told me it's a hardware problem and probably not worth the labor costs to fix it. Great. Now we need a new computer? I love buying gadgets, but not when they should have lasted longer!

In other news, I've managed to mess up my back something fierce. Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon sitting and reading because working at my desk at the office was just too painful. This morning when Ainsley needed a bottle at 4:30 my back was so stiff I couldn't walk at first, and beloved wound up doing the early feeding. Went to the doctor this morning and she prescribed an anti-inflammatory steroid and a muscle relaxant. I swear, with all the steroids we've been on this year it's a wonder we don't have East German accents. (thanks folks, I'll be here all week - please tip your waitress!)

10 June 2007

Northwestern Minnesota Synod Assembly - Sunday, 10 June, 6:53 p.m.

No, we're not STILL at the Synod Assembly - we got home about 20 minutes ago. But we skedaddled as quick as the business was completed because we were afraid Ainsley had taken about all she could take. Memo to Concordia College: will you for the love of God PLEASE get air-conditioning for the basketball arena? Wow, is that room miserable when the temps outside get above 80 degrees.

Now, about the election of our bishop. Rolf Wangberg, our incumbent bishop was one of three finalists, all of whom I respect and all of whom I think have some skills appropriate to the office of bishop. But Rolf finished with the least votes on the fourth ballot and was thus eliminated from consideration for a second term. I don't know if I've ever seen anything more painful than the last 30 minutes of our assembly. It was a close vote, and the entire assembly rose to thank and applaud Rolf and the Synod office staff for their work the past six years. There were a lot of tears, a lot of hugs, and a lot of very disappointed friends and colleagues. And before they could get their grieving done, the remaining candidates were forced to continue addressing the assembly so that we could vote on a new bishop. Though it was necessary due to time constraints, it was uncomfortable to say the least.

I never once voted for the Bishop elect, Larry Wohlrabe. I think he'll do a fine job, mind you - as I said, all of the three finalists and, in fact, most of the seven finalists were people in whom I have great confidence and trust. But the transition is going to be awkward and painful and difficult and certainly a time of high tension for our synod. It's interesting to note that on the final day, each of the three finalists finished in first place at least once - the difference being, of course, that the last ballot is the one that really matters.

In other news, I was elected to our Synod Council (did I already mention that?) and a resolution asking the Synod to form a comittee to investigate possible alternatives for future bishop's elections was passed. All in all, a very non-contentious Assembly, marked by a high degree of collegiality and a great deal of camaraderie between voting members, lay and ordained alike. It was long and arduous, but also genuinely enjoyable until the final hour, and I'm proud of our Synod for the manner in which we conducted ourselves this year. Hopefully next year will bring more of the same.

Northwestern Minnesota Synod Assembly - Sunday, 10 June, 12:13 p.m.

Whew - it's been a long morning. Thankfully, worship is completed and all has gone well. Note to self: don't attempt to blog at an Assembly at which you a) are the chair of the worship commission; b) must count the offering after worship services due to condition a; and c) are 1/2 of the care team for a four month-old.

The final three candidates for Bishop have been named, two whom I expected and one which is a surprise. At this point it's neck-and-neck and it's definitely going to be an interesting afternoon.

We addressed a resolution memorializing the ELCA and its worship staff to discontinue the practice of emphasizing gender-neutral language. I know the author of the resolution and consider him a friend, and it's a good discussion to have. However, yesterday in a forum on the new hymnal a participant asked where a warning might be found about the 'intentional inaccuracies' in the psalmody of our new hymnal. Let's be clear: there are no intentional 'inaccuracies.' There is no agenda to lead people astray as to the identity of God - to call God "Creator" rather than "Father" is not heretical. Some spoke very highly of using the name of God, which is a point worth considering, but our friends of the Jewish faith would have a huge issue with the words we call God's "name," wouldn't they? The resolution was defeated after a lengthy conversation, which I think was the best possible outcome; it got people thinking without committing us to a course of action with which there is significant disagreement.

Now we're breaking for lunch and will be returning for the fourth ballot for Bishop. Oh, and yours truly was elected to the Synod Council - whoopee. :-)

09 June 2007

Northwestern Minnesota Synod Assembly - Saturday, 9 June, 1:18 p.m.

We've just cast the second ballot for Bishop. Now that the 'nominating' ballots have been received and a list of candidates has been presented, I did find a name which I feel comfortable supporting. Hard to say if this person will survive to the next ballot, but at least I found a name for which I could vote in good conscience.

Our ELCA Churchwide Office representative presented just before lunch. It seems that every year that particular presentation runs about ten minutes too long - this year was no exception. I'm happy to report that our net mission support throughout the ELCA has risen for the first time in many years - but I didn't need to know how every dime gets spent! :-)

The hight point of our Assembly thus far for me was the meeting of our Runestone Conference pastors just after lunch. Our conference's pastors have been hit hard by illness this year; one has just been diagnosed with a Stage 4 brain tumor, and another is dealing with her husband's lung cancer treatment. It's a lot to carry individually, but we promised those friends and colleagues whatever help and support we could offer: not only our prayers, but also our professional skills as worship leaders, visitation counselors, et cetera. I treasure my relationship with these colleagues; we get along very well and I've always known that I could count on my friends for laughter, support and strength. I hope my friends who are working in the midst of struggle feel the same way about me and our other colleagues.

Ainsley, of course, has been so excited about all the faces and lights that she hasn't slept yet - but Kristin finally got her to sleep in the stroller and is now circling the assembly hall to keep Ainsley asleep as long as possible. Pray for us.

And that's the word from Concordia College in Moorhead.

Northwestern Minnesota Synod Assembly - Saturday, 9 June, 9:00 a.m.

I meant to start blogging last night durning the opening session of the Synod Assembly, but due to a) chairing the worship committee (and thus scrambling to keep wine chalices filled during to communion and just keeping nervous watch to make sure our opening worship service went well) and b) counting the offering with three colleagues ($5981.88 raised for seminary debt relief), I barely had time to get back to the assembly floor in time to fill out my first ballot for Bishop. Beloved, bless her soul, stayed in the hotel room with Ainsley, as opening worship came right at her normal bedtime.

Last night went well. Because 2007 is the 100th anniversary of Lutheran Campus Ministry, we asked some of our synod's campus ministry folks to help lead worship. They played guitar, sang the liturgy and read our scripture passages. Very nice to have college-age folks present with, let's be honest, a gathering of a lot of retired folks (because they're often the only people with time to commit to Synod Assembly. I'm happy to report that our voting members this year are both gainfully employed AND excellent representatives of our congregation.). Our Bishop preached on Luke 5, where Jesus invites Peter, James and John to come and follow him, to start catching people. I counted the offering while the assembly was convened, and by the time I returned to my seat we were just beginning to do the first ballot for Bishop.

It's an interesting experience, electing a Bishop for an entire synod. Some people think a change in direction would be good. Some folks think that if there haven't been any problems, why change? Others have the person in mind they think would be just perfect for the office. Then the representative from the ELCA Churchwide Office says to prayerfully consider the names we're writing down. Folks, if you don't know who you want on that ballot by that moment, you're not going to get a name in the thirty seconds of silence the Churchwide guy gives you to prayerfully consider, not to mention the fact that it's generally a good idea to ASK the person you have in mind prior to the assembly. After all, if the person does become a candidate, they need to be present for the successive ballots. Anyway, we'll find out this morning who's been nominated. Should be interesting.

At the moment, Dr. Richard Bliese, President of Luther Seminary in St. Paul is giving his first Keynote Address, talking about mission and evangelism and leadership, using Joshua 1.1-11;16-18. Beloved is walking Ainsley around the hall to try to get her to sleep. Having fun so far!

08 June 2007

Friday Five: Getaway Island Edition

As always, from the RevGals:

We snitched a bit of time on an quiet island nearby this week. It was a last minute plan, escaping with a minimal amount of preparation. One must have essentials that make it a relaxing time. Perhaps you have had this opportunity to escape, or maybe it's only been a thought to get away. However, suppose you were told to pack some essentials for a trip to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Describe your location, in general or specific terms and....

1) What book(s) will you bring?
2) What music accompanies you?
3) What essentials of everyday living must you take (as in the health and beauty aids aisle variety)?
4) What technological gadgets if any, will you take with you or do you leave it all behind?
5) What culinary delights will you partake in while there?

As a bonus question, what makes for a perfect day on vacation for you?

1. Ahhh, what books to bring? Shall I challenge myself with thick tomes such as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man or Les Miserables? Nope - too heavy. I'll be bringing smaller, much less exotic fare: perhaps my current book, The Children of Hurin, or paperbacks I've picked up on the way, something like John Grisham or John Sandford. Maybe even some Stephen King, though weight does sometimes become problematic. What I really like to do is find a local bookstore when we arrive at our destination and see if I can find something new and exciting while I'm there - in Duluth on our honeymoon I picked up Good Poems, a collection of poetry edited by Garrison Keillor. Wonderful reading and good memories to boot.

2. Can I say that my iPod is like carrying around my own personal radio station? I love it! Though I'm chagrined to admit I was wrong about one thing: the 8GB Nano was not the iPod I needed. It's already full, and I only have about 2/3 of our CD collection burned and copied into it. I should have gone for the 10 or 20G iPod, even though they are bigger and more expensive. Oh, well - now I just need to be a bit more judicious about my music.
Anyway, here are some artists I'd bring on CD if the iPod were on the fritz:
Neil Young - Storyhill - Peter Mayer - Justin Roth - KT Tunstall - The Wailin' Jennys - The Wild Clover Band - The Statler Brothers - Rich Mullins - Stevie Ray Vaughan - Jars of Clay - PFR. There; that should do for starters

3. Toothbrush & toothpaste, contact lens stuff, shampoo & soap, deodorant. If it's more than two days or if there's a nice dinner involved, shaving cream & a razor (though I do keep a toiletries bag fully stocked for my trips to the gym each week, so it's really just a matter of moving it from gym bag to travel bag).

4. I will bring my cell phone, Palm Pilot and iPod along, but only the latter will be used. By the time I return, the first two will be deader than Lazarus on the third day.

5. I will try to sample the local cuisine and look for non-chain restaurants if possible. On the north shore of Lake Superior, for example, there's a great little gas station/restaurant/arts & crafts store that makes the worlds biggest & best sourdough pancakes; we discovered it thanks to a friend's recommendation. That's the kind of cuisine I like if I can get it - and I always do.

A perfect day on vacation begins with a sleeping wife & child in a cabin somewhere in the woods. I wake up at 6:00 a.m., make the coffee and sit down with my book or newspaper and read for at least an hour in uninterrupted silence. We have breakfast at some comfortable hour and then Beloved plays with the Child while I continue reading, and we quietly enjoy a morning together in the sunlight, with birds singing outside the window. In the afternoon we go for a hike together, then we come home and shower before heading into town for dinner with friends or maybe just some window shopping at the local artists district - pottery, crafts, antiques, that sort of thing. After a good dinner, we go back to the cabin for a movie after Ainsley falls asleep. After the movie I open a beer and read until I feel like falling asleep. Thus ends my perfect day of vacation.

07 June 2007

And then there comes a bit of resurrection

Sometimes you get exactly what you need to keep going - a reminder of why you're here. I got one just five minutes ago:

Luke 7:11-17 (NRSV)
11 Soon afterwards he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went with him. 12 As he approached the gate of the town, a man who had died was being carried out. He was his mother's only son, and she was a widow; and with her was a large crowd from the town. 13 When the Lord saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, "Do not weep." 14 Then he came forward and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, rise!"
15 The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. 16 Fear seized all of them; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen among us!" and "God has looked favorably on his people!" 17 This word about him spread throughout Judea and all the surrounding country.

The man was dead, the whole town was feeling bad. They all turned out for the funeral, to support his widowed mother. A compassionate crowd refused to allow her to be all alone to say good-bye to the last of her family. She also was the one on whom Jesus had compassion. Jesus joined the town folk in their feelings, but he had an additional gift to share.

He shares the word of life. "Young man, I say to you, rise!" It is Jesus that makes this possible. It is Jesus that changes the future from sorrow to joy.

You participate in this ministry, transforming despair to hope, loneliness to community, alienation to reconciliation, death to life. Where will you focus your compassion today? Whose future will you change with the word of life that is within you? Who, because of the work you do, will say, "God has looked favorably on his people!"?

Lord Jesus, change our funeral processions to joyful celebrations of life. Your life is in us. Release it through our words and works – life-giving words of forgiveness, life-giving compassionate acts, life-giving pauses with those who sorrow. As you have given life to us, so empower us to be agents of grace to others. Amen.

Sherman Bishop
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Westlake, Ohio
Master of Divinity , 1980

"Whose future will you change with the word of life that is within you?" I don't know, but I do know that's what brought me into this in the first place - and all the troubles that go along with this calling don't overcome the simple joy of speaking words of life. Like he old beer commercial said, "Thanks - I needed that."

The reflection in question came through GodPause at Luther Seminary - for more information, click here.


We had a great vacation. After three days of leaving work behind (yes, it does take that long sometimes) I was able to really relax and enjoy spending lots of time with Beloved, Ainsley and some of our best friends. I'd like to post some pics from our trip out east. But that post will take a while to put together, and between AinsleyCare, practice for Inherit the Wind and this weekend's Synod Assembly (for which yours truly is the chair of the worship committee), it's not likely to happen soon. Here's at least one for you: eating lunch outside Fanueil Hall in downtown Boston.

But I may have time to do it while I'm AT the Synod Assembly. Beloved is going to bring her work computer along, and if wireless is available in the assembly hall (which I think it is), I'll blog during the big Lutheran meet-up in Moorhead. The Bishop's term is up this year, so it's a three day assembly due to the election, my first. Should be interesting.

I LOVE the part I've been given for Inherit the Wind. I'm playing E.K. Hornbeck, the Baltimore Herald journalist based on H.L. Mencken. How often does a Lutheran pastor get to call someone a "Barnum-bunkum, Bible-beating Bastard!"? My only concerns are that a) we have lots of people missing lots of rehearsals, b) we have even more people that have one or two lines and STILL aren't off book, c) and there are some rather abrasive personalities rubbing against each other right now (seriously, someone came offstage last night to question why I had exited the scene, when my stage directions clearly said that I was supposed to exit. And she was not. Get your shit together, people!). It will be interesting to see if we can pull this off by the 22nd; I think we can, but it will take a lot of work.

And now, a moment of silence for my running blog, Go Big Rev:

Why keep two blogs when you could easily do just the one? I'm not sure, but no one's reading it and frankly I'm not that interested in doing any more that what I've done here previously. Anyway, running posts will be back here soon as I start running again (today, I swear). I'm planning to run the North Country Marathon in Walker, MN in September, so training will start today.

Just saw an iPhone commercial on ESPN. covetcovetcovetcovetcovetcovetcovet...

There are days when I wish that this was an anonymous blog, because I'd talk about stuff far more openly. But this isn't the place to discuss what's got me really disheartened this week. I would, however, ask for your prayers. Some stuff is happening that just ain't right.

But we're back home - until we leave again. Such is our life right now. Yay!

06 June 2007

Pouring Yourself Into Joy

"My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and 
become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you;
abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I
have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your
joy may be complete." John 15.8-11

I'm writing this from an upstairs bedroom in a little house in
Swampscott, MA, just north of Boston along the coast of the Atlantic
Ocean. My family and I have been traveling for the past 9 days; our good
friends Lee Ann and Stefan were married a week ago today, and they asked
me to officiate the ceremony. So we decided to make a vacation of the
trip and see some friends and some sights we hadn't seen in a while.

Of course, part of the expectation for officiating a wedding is
presenting a homily/sermon/message of some fashion. Stefan and Lee Ann
had chosen the verses above for their gospel text, and I was struck by
Jesus' hope for his disciples. He didn't hope for happiness or material
blessings or even health: what Jesus hoped was that his disciples would
discover complete joy in following the Father's commandments and bearing
much fruit in the world. Jesus hoped that his disciples, whom he also
called "friends," would discover complete joy in pouring themselves out
for the good of one another, and that in so doing they would discover
what it means to abide in the love the Father, Son and Spirit have for
one another and for all of creation as well.

The wedding we traveled to witness took place in Washington, D.C. over
Memorial Day weekend. We used our time in Washington to see many
things: the monuments along the National Mall; the "Rolling Thunder"
motorcyclists riding 500,000 strong to commemorate our nation's veterans;
several of the museums in the Smithsonian system. We also took time to
go to the National Archives and view a copy of Magna Carta, the
Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Most of what we saw
was supposed to be inspiring, but due to the crowds gathered for the
weekend, the overwhelming garbage such crowds inconsiderately left behind
and the intense heat and humidity, we weren't really inspired by much of
what we saw. In fact, by the end of each day in Washington we felt more
relieved that we were home safe than inspired that we had been out in the
first place.

Obviously, this is not what was intended when those artists and
statespeople began planning the buildings and monuments to commemorate
the notable achievments and sacrifices upon which our nation was
founded. But when such things become just another goal to achieve, it is
impossible to be inspired or even affected by the experience. When a
view of the Lincoln Memorial becomes just another item on your list of
things that will make your trip "complete," well, you've just lost any
kind of significance or meaning you might find in that memorial.

The Declaration of Independence states that all people have inalienable
rights, including the "pursuit of happiness." I've come to believe that
this right to pursue happiness is not as wonderful as we may have come to
believe, that simply pursuing happiness is in many ways the same as
trying to get to all the monuments - the acquisition of your goal can be
more deflating than inspiring, especially if the goal was only a thing
you wanted in the first place, nothing more.

I said as much to Lee Ann and Stefan in my wedding sermon. I told them
what I've come to believe, that going through life pursuing happiness
will lead to an empty life and an empty marriage. Jesus never asks for
his followers to be happy: he asks for his followers to experience
complete joy. Joy is not achieved: it is experienced. Joy is not
attained: it is revealed. Joy is not a thing which we can grasp: it is a
revelation to us through the work of the Holy Spirit, who gives us eyes
to see the wonder and mystery of life in whatever circumstances we may
find ourselves. Joy is something to which we surrender.

I've experienced joy many times on this trip with my family. I
experienced joy when I watched my friends bind themselves to each other
as husband and wife. I experienced joy when we all gathered for food and
drink the night before the wedding and caught up on all that had happened
in our lives since we'd been together last. I experienced joy
introducing our four month-old daughter to friends who hadn't met her
yet. I experienced joy rocking my daughter to sleep (especially when
that rocking was preceded by a good strong crying fit). None of these
things were items we achieved - they were portions of our life which have
born fruit because we and our friends have poured ourselves out for each
other over years of friendship. Had we been given the time, I'm sure we
would have known deep joy honoring the memory of those who poured
themselves out for the sake of the nation we love, and I'm sure that time
will come when we visit Washington again. But our joy has come from
realizing that where we love, there we find joy, and that abiding in the
love God has planted in us is the only thing that truly brings joy into
our lives.

Friends, I implore you: don't settle for being happy. Look around you
and find what you love, and pour yourself into it with all your heart.
There you will find that pursuing happiness ends and experiencing joy
begins, and in Christ, I pray, your joy will be complete.

05 June 2007

Home...Or Not

We're home, sort of. I'm back in Barrett for one last day of vacation (well, catching up on bills, cleaning the house, buying groceries, etc - but I will play a round of golf today!). Beloved and Ainsley have stayed in the cities to be with her sister and brother-in-law, who are going through a really rough time right now with some medical stuff. Pray for them, if you would.

Of course, I'll provide a full spread of pics and stories from our east coast vacation soon, but Beloved has the camera at the moment. Until then, I'll leave you with this shirt, which I've just GOT to get sometime soon:

Thanks to LutheranChik and GoingJesus.com for a good laugh this morning.

01 June 2007

Friday Five: Visions and Dreams (and Travel!)

Checking in from Swampscott, MA while Beloved and Child sleep next to me (typing. very. quietly) I know, I know, I wasn't supposed to post while I'm on vacation, but I love doing the Friday Five. I figure if it's something I enjoy I can do it away from home on vacation and not feel guilty.
Sally at RevGals sez: Wow this is my first ever Friday Five.....and I hope you'll like it...My house has been full of young people all week, young people who have just left school, young people with an eye on the future. Their laughter energy, and hope are infectious, so with that in mind- this Friday 5 is about hopes, visions and dreams. So take some time out re-visit your hopes and visions...
1. Think back to the time you left High School, what were your hopes visions and dreams for your life/ for the world?
How funny - this past week or so marked the 15th year since I graduated from Wakefield Public Schools in Wakefield, NE. When I left high school I didn't really have a vision for the world, per se - my vision for the world was no larger than myself, honestly. I wanted to be a professional trombonist, whether that meant I was a member of a major symphony orchestra or a jazz musician (hey, if Wynton Marsalis could do classical and jazz, why couldn't I?). Failing that, I thought I could handle being a band director. I wanted to get married early and have kids by the time I was 25, and I couldn't WAIT to get out of rural America.
2. Have those hopes visions and dreams changed a lot, or are some of them still alive and kicking? (share one if you can)
Hmmm, let's see...I didn't last two years in dedicated music study. I haven't picked up my trombone in almost three years. I saw Mr. Holland's Opus during my freshman year of college and realized I couldn't be a band director. I was barely married at 25 and divorced by 28. I am married now, and have one beautiful daughter, but we still live in rural America. What was the question again? ;-) Seriously, the dreams I've been given have far surpassed the dreams for which I once hoped, and I couldn't be happier.
3. Hebrews 11:1 " Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. " Comforting, challenging or frustrating?
Yes. Sometimes all at once.
4. If resources were unlimited, and you had free reign to pursue a vision what would it be?
Wow - I'd definitely go back to the music dream, but a little differently. I'd be focusing on writing and singing, learning guitar and hammered dulcimer and the pennywhistle, writing Celtic and folk music in the vein of Storyhill, Rich Mullins, the Wild Clover Band and many of the others in the Music Links to your right. I'd also find time to write novels and poetry about faith and following Jesus without my work being trapped by "Christian" as an adjective or genre boundary (Rob Bell is SO right: "'Christian'" is a great noun and a lousy adjective").
5. Finally with summer upon us- and not to make this too heavy- share your dream holiday....where, when and who with...
Well, the present holiday has been a pretty good one! We flew to Washington DC to celebrate a wedding with friends (I officiated, a high honor) and we stayed in DC for a couple of days for sightseeing. Tuesday we drove from DC to Boston to see more friends here in Swampscott. Yesterday we "toured" the Samuel Adams Brewery (shouldn't the word "tour" imply actual motion? Lousy "tour"; great beer), and today we'll take Ainsley for a hike along the Freedom Trail. Tomorrow we're going down to the Fenway Park area to experience game day (and the Yankees are in town, no less - BOOO!). Unfortunately, tickets are impossible to find, so we'll just be outside the stadium, but still, we get to see Fenway Park! AJ has been an incredible traveler, though this will definitely be the last major trip we take until she and any siblings that may come in the future (no, that's not a hint - we just want more kids) can really enjoy the experience of traveling.
In other words, it's been a dreamy trip, definitely the vacation we hoped we would have. See you all again in a couple of days!