Sunday, May 30, 2010

Second Post--Three Pounds!

I have to post again! This week brings me to 23 pounds! 23 pounds! The bad thing is that it's really un-noticable--I've spent the last year gaining these pounds, outgrowing clothes I've already worn, so now they fit again, and to others it seems like I'm just where I should have been. But, the next twenty, will bring me lower than I've been since having these three the next twenty, I'll get to buy some new clothes! Better start saving the money, Steve! So, really other than that I have nothing to say! 23 pounds says it all!

Trinity Sermon

I'm braving the waters again and posting a sermon. I've decided that I will forever use a manuscript--today I went 0ff-paper a bit and said...and I quote, "Do you guys know anything?" Seriously, what kind of pastor says that?!?!?! I was taken as the joke it was meant to be, but still. It will be a wonder if I ever get another job. So, here's my attempt to preach Trinity...please, as I've asked before. Make comments~ Good, bad, or indifferent.

When Evelyn, our second child was born, we knew from the beginning that her temperament and personality had destined her to be a middle child. Figuring that our house was already utter chaos we thought that one more would at least justify the decibel level in our home, and that adding one more really couldn’t be that much different than two. We never could have been more wrong. With two kids and two parents you’re able to divide and conquer; you can take turns helping one, and still have a little bit of time at the end to enter the bathroom alone. With three...three isn’t just adding one more human to the mix, it’s adding an entire new set of dynamics; as others have said, you move from one-on-one defense to zone, and the chaos I thought we needed to justify, seemed to multiply exponentially. When two are gathered, there can be compromise, there can be rational discussion, there can be sharing and cooperation. With three…there’s no longer you and me…but now there are third wheels, two against one, there’s no longer a work-it-out possibility, but a survival of the strongest, the wisest, and sometimes even the whiniest. Two you can work with; three turns your world inside out, upside down, and on its head.
Which makes it kind of curious why God chooses to made known to us in three ways—two could have kept the chaos to a minimum…four, God could have chosen teams…but alas three is the magic number. So, in case you’ve missed it—today’s Trinity Sunday, a Sunday set aside to contemplate the mysteries, the doctrine, the workings of the triune head of God. A doctrine that has plagued confirmation students, seminary professors, and preaching pastors for centuries; one, that while being developed, even resulted in the execution and demise of more than a few heretics who refused to adhere to the positions of the majority gathered. And yet, even this stodgy, ungraspable, boring doctrine, at its very heart can change your own.
Because the whole three-in-one, one-in-three thing reveals to us that God is a God of relationship—which of course we all know about it. Come in contact with one person and you’re in relationship…but, the Trinity, the three persons are nothing like three siblings, or three pew-sitters, or three people trying make a decision. The Trinity is this amazing, co-equal group is one that exists in utter and complete freedom and interdependence. They don’t define themselves over and against each other—saying this is who I am, because you are not. God the Father doesn’t say, I’m the Creator because the Son is not; God the Spirit doesn’t say I’m not the Savior, because I didn’t die on the cross.
Confused yet? That’s okay, because getting the Trinity isn’t the thing…living with her…opening yourself up to him…loving it is. The Trinity is this dance of relationships, this community of living, and breathing, and reaching out and up and in together; one where their very existence emerges out of their interdependent, delight of each other. God is a God of delight…of dance…of living, not alone, but in loving, life-giving relationship.
I’m actually going to quote the book “The Shack” here…because I love the way the author puts flesh onto the Trinity—making God the Father, an African American Baker Woman, called papa…making Jesus, an overalls wearing Middle-Eastern Jew, and the Spirit, a young flowing Asian Woman. Discovering this trio living together in a shack, the protagonist Mack struggles…”then which one of you is God?” he asks. “I am, said all three in unison.” A couple of pages later…papa continues… "'By nature I am completely unlimited... I live in a state of perpetual satisfaction as my normal state of existence:’ she said, quite pleased. 'Just one of the perks of Me being Me.’
"That made Mack smile. This lady was fully enjoying herself...
“We created you to share in that. But then Adam chose to go it on his own, as we knew he would, and everything got messed up. But instead of scrapping the whole Creation we rolled up our sleeves and entered into the middle of the mess—that’s what we have done in Jesus....
When we three spoke ourself into human existence as the Son of God, we became fully human. We also chose to embrace all the limitations that this entailed. ...flesh and blood.”
End of quotes—This Trinity…Our God lives completely in relationship, and desiring nothing more than to be in relationship created us…remember the “created in God’s image” part. You and me were created not to make money, not to be brilliant, not to be beautiful or productive or proficient. But, to live in relationship, to delight in others, to dance with our pew-mates and to dance with God. The Trinity is not some stodgy, archaic doctrine, but is life…a life to which each one of us is invited into.
I wonder what might happen if we delighted in each other, delighted in God, the way God delights in us; what if when the Spirit flowed, we actually danced—in our good solemn Lutheran ways of course…but, what if we let the Spirit enter our hearts and change us…let it blow open our dusty souls and became one who saw delight in the world. And what if having those wide open hearts we then viewed each encounter…each person we met, as an occasion to waltz around the dance floor, instead of an interruption into our perfectly scheduled lives.
I wonder then what might happen if instead of viewing God as one reigning and judging from on high, we welcomed the bowing suitor in front of us and began dosey-doeing with the best of them. I wonder what might happen if feeling the Spirit’s hands at your waist, you grabbed onto the pew-mate next to you and joined the conga line of heaven; I wonder…because you know the invitation is open; the reception hall has been prepared, the guest of honor is there. Now, all you have to do is dance. So, come on, join the dance of Trinity…

Monday, May 24, 2010

I love those ugly feet...

So, Steve has really the ugliest feet I've ever seen--his toes don't actually come out of the end of his foot, but more like from the top of them; his parents wouldn't buy him shoes when he needed new ones, and I think they kind of got crammed in there for so long, they got all deformed. Of course, when we were dating, I thought them--dare I say--kind of cute; they were unique, different, and made him who he was. However, as the years have gone on, they just seem to have gotten uglier and I try to encourage sock wearing as much as possible. First of all, know that Steve has agreed to my sharing his ugly foot synodrome, for illustrative purposes only...he does not want people staring at his feet every time you meet him...
So, here's the thing, for the past several (and I mean several months) I haven't liked his feet at all--actually I haven't liked Steve at all. I don't know if it's because we're making all these eating, spending, disciplining the kid changes or what, but we have hardly been able to be in the same room together. We'd call it "tag team" parenting...claiming we were just so busy that we had other things to do and couldn't be home. But, honestly we simply didn't like each other; he was frustrated with my score keeping (Me: "I've done 12 loads of laundary today, what have you done besides sit at a desk all day" Him: "I have a meeting, see you later."); he was annoyed with my cranky complaining (see earlier posts), and my inability to make a simple decision; and I...I was simply annoyed with pretty much everything--with his inability to let me know what he's really thinking...with his love of golf, his continually being right, his......well, I'll stop there.
Anyway, this past week, we fell in like again. I'm not quite sure how it happened. We were fighting about the kids, about money, about work, and he said something, and I said something, and we both started crying...and all those defenses and scorecards and should'ves melted away. It sounds cheesy, but since then, we actually like being together. We parent together, we clean the house together, we work together...even his feet seem to smell a little better.
To be completely cliche--this marriage thing is really hard. When we met each other 14 years ago, and married a few months later, we didn't know each other at all. We were still kids, dreaming of a perfect life, with the perfect partner. And to be even more cliche--we didn't find the perfect spouse, but we found the one who was perfect for us. Steve--you're perfect for me; you're Kansas, I'm the Rocky Mountains, and together we make one hell of a pair. I love you more than anything... and there is absolutely no one I want to journey through life with; So, my dear crazy looking feet boy, I adore you...and I will love you forever and unto eternity...
To the rest of you...sorry for that little moment... It's just so nice to be in like again, to feel at home and content and like I'm right where I belong.
I promise next post will not be so detailed--I'll talk about God or Jesus or the pains my children are being, and be clever and witty and brilliant :) Until next time though, I'm going to enjoy being married to the man of my dreams.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hope you marked your calendars...

Yeah so that high lasted about three hours after the last post. Today I'm moody and cranky, and so is Steve (so much for living with Kansas), and it's a free eating day and I feel/look/am acting like crap (only put in the bad word here, but b/c I pretend to be a pastor, I'm not going to actually say it.). Anyway, I wrote a bad sermon that I refuse to post, although amazingly enough it preached well---the Spirit took care of that one, so any accolades or criticism wouldn't mean anything. And, I'm going to fake being sick tomorrow (don't tell Steve), so I can just sleep in all day and forget about all the dirty dishes and dirty laundry still waiting for me. So, there you go, no words of wisdom, no witty comments, no attempts at sarcasm. I'm going to eat a brownie, now. And for 13 seconds, that will make me feel better.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Soon, I'll be able to make a cake!

So far, I've lost a stick of butter and now...a bag of sugar! Wahoo! A bag of flour and some chocolate chips and I could be baking a cake! I like thinking of it in food...because who in the hell needs a bag of sugar on their thighs?!?! Not me...well, at least not be for long! I have been on this program for an entire 34 days! 34 days! I've never stuck to anything for 34 days (except my marriage, but there was quite a bit of paperwork involved in that one--love you honey!). It feels to good to wake up each morning and to know that food has no control over me. That I am choosing what to eat, when to eat, and I'm eating because my body needs it, not because I'm trying to fulfil some other need.
I'm not sure if I've said this before, but the other day I got in a fight with my dad (something I never mom, sure (sorry mom), but not my dad). Anyway, I went to the car, wanted so badly to drive and get a frosted chocolate chip cookie, realized I couldn't, and so you know what I did? I cried. I actually cried; I couldn't eat to numb the pain I was feeling, and so I did what normal people did. I felt it; I let it out; I called my dad and apologized and I moved on--all without gaining a single ounce!
So, guess what has the power over me now? Absolutely nothing! Well, maybe Jesus...but this is a losin' it post, not an unholy pastor Absolutely Nothing!!! To recap in 34 days, I have lost 19 pounds. Only 55 pounds to go, and I might even make it to my driver's liscense weight that I lied about at 16...
And to top off the day, thanks to some wonderful friends (thanks Casey and Jeremy), tonight I go on a date with my adorable husband; we are going to a movie (packing our own snacks) and then grocery shopping (can't be all romantic)...It is so nice to feel like things/life/my mood in general is headed in a positive direction! What a great day! (Mark this in your calendars, I'm bound to be cranky rather shortly :))

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Finding the Unbalanced Center

I'm pretty much as uncoordinated as they come. Dancing means sticking two fingers up in the air and kind of...well, you know, dancing! Steve hates to walk beside me, because I'm always pushing him into a snow bank, or off a curb, or into oncoming traffic. I blame it on the fact that I never crawled; my mom blames it on the day (at three months old) I rolled off the bed head first into a garbage can...she claims she did not take a picture with my feet kicking in the air, but I bet someday I'll find it!
And honestly, this unbalanced-ness (new word...) follows me from my feet to my head. So I do what all of you do...try to balance it. You've read the books--how to regain control of your life; don't let work overwhelm you...take a walk in the park; get on that tightrope and get yourself balanced. So, I do the best I can...okay, I've spent two hours working, now I need to spend two hours with my kids. I've volunteered at the school; now I need to spend some time writing a sermon. I've talked to my mom on the phone, now I need to go grocery shopping. I've eaten an entire chocoate chip cookie covered in frosting, so I need to spend three (okay thirteen) hours on the treadmill.
Here's the thing--don't buy the books! Being balanced is literally a bunch of crap! Not only is it virtually impossible, but getting there would probably kill you. Damn, the scale's tipping more towards self-care, I better go play with my kids; too much time spent on this week's sermon, I better say amen, and get to grocery shopping. Two extra minutes spent with Steve, my poor congregation isn't getting their fair share.
I overhead my sis-in-law teaching Evelyn some yoga poses the other day, and she was trying to balance (go figure) on one leg. But, instead of telling her simply to hold her arms out and balance, she told her to look at one object in front of her and stay focused...there's a name for it (Lora, if you're reading, what is it?!?!). Anyway, so to stay balanced (or in my case to forget being balanced altogether) focus on one thing...focus on one thing....
So, what if instead of being balanced, we're focused...we're centered? What if, instead we take all those things we're supposed to do: writing sermons, tucking kids in, going to text study, making dinner, taking a nap...what if we gathered all those things and did them while centered on...centered in Jesus--in the only One who makes all those other things actually matter. What if instead of wondering if I'm doing everything good enough, or balanced enough...that instead of living overwhelmed with guilt and "I'll never get it all done-ness," we simply lived lives centered in Jesus.
And, honestly, I'm not sure exactly what this looks like. Because at this point I'm not balanced, focused, or centered! I run around trying to get everything done; I feel guilty for what I don't do, guilty for I do; I think I work too much or work too little. But, you know what I want? I want to be content; I want to be the woman that God created me to be--one living deeply centered in the One who created me. I pray that for each one of you, and I ask you--how today might you live centered in Jesus? Maybe our good Lutheran answer would be--you live in Jesus, because Jesus lives in you.
Shalom, my friends...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sermon for Sixth Sunday of Easter

I enjoyed preaching this sermon. It was one where everything felt right; where people left saying..."good sermon pastor; no, I mean it, really good sermon." As if all the other times they say it, they don't mean it. From now on I'll only count the people who say it twice. reminds me how preaching is an event--that's it truly is a conversation, a dialogue. Because I could preach this tomorrow, or you could read it today, and it could fall flatter than...well Kansas. I love that Spirit that blows when the time is right...

I think I was in about third grade; I was running on the pavement during recess and fell…not one of those fall and dust yourself off kind of falls, but the kind where you can’t get back up and you look down and blood is running down your leg. I remember seeing my knee and seeing not skin, but little tiny rocks sitting in a rather deep hole that the concrete that created. And for some reason I did not cry; I calmly let the playground aide walk me into the school, get something to clean me up, and call my mom. I sat there patiently, trying to be strong, and not to pay attention to the gauze at my feel. Until, I looked up and saw my mom walk through the door. And instantly I started to sob—and the tears fell down my face, and as much as a nine year old could, I fell apart. Seeing my mom, broke down all those defenses and barriers, and wanting to be strong, and I just let go.
Now, it’s not so much with my mom when that happens, but with Steve. I’ll be having a really bad day…one where the kids are crazy and I still have a sermon to write and I want to eat everything in the house…and I can manage to hold it together, leave everyone mostly unharmed, and the chocolate untouched…until he walks through the door. And in an instant all those defenses and barriers melt away, and I just let go, and cry and want nothing more than to be held and cared for.
That’s home…a place, a person, a situation where there is no longer anything keeping you from the other. There is no longer fences and words of hatred. There is no longer me and you…but there is us, standing together, living together, loving each other. Stay with me here on this rough transition…Jesus is our home. He is the one who has shattered those terrible walls between us; he is the one who has built bridges and torn down fences; he is the one who sees us after we’ve fallen and wounded our knees, our pride, our heart…and who reaches down, picks us up, and holds us close to his chest, like a mommy cradles her learning to walk toddler. Jesus is our home—the place where we no longer fear the chaos, the pain, the fall, and where all those defenses and barriers crumble and we can simply let go, and live in that peace that he so desperately longs for us.
Except…and I’m not sure about you…but, that peace that he claims for us, doesn’t exactly feel readily available. I don’t think leaking oil wells and dying fish, or bombs in Times Square and two deadly wars in the Middle East or high unemployment and low market values leave many of us deeply feeling that peace which surpasses all understanding. And, at the very least it leaves me doubting if Jesus really knows what he’s talking about.
But, here’s the thing…remember last week we heard Jesus’ Last Lecture: that we’re to love one another. This week, Jesus is in the exact same position. He is still just hours away from being handed over to the authorities, and days away from being crucified…and yet he still says to his dearest friends “do not let your hearts be troubled. For my peace I give to you…” What if? What if Jesus knows a little more than I thought? What if Jesus knows exactly what’s going to happen—that he will end up dying on a cross, that the disciples will suffer at the hands of their enemies, that we will experience pain and loss and skinned knees and broken hearts? What if he knew all that, and still knew exactly what we needed?
We needed someone to walk with us. We needed someone to journey with us as we fall on the playground and as we venture out into the world. We need someone who will look at us with all the defenses and barriers that we can muster and can walk through the door, look us in the eyes and there is nothing we can do but let go. Because that’s what we have…we’ve been given the most amazing of gifts—the Spirit who journeys alongside us, who holds our hands through the valleys and shadows of death and who emerges on the other side, showing us the new life at our fingertips.
Jesus knows exactly what a painful world this can be. But, he also refused to let it consume him, or us. Do not let your hearts be troubled, he says. Know that death is absolutely not the end; pain is not what will define you; instead…instead I will. And even though I am leaving, you are not alone; I send to you a friend, a partner, an advocate, a Spirit that will be your home…a home without walls, without barriers…a home where your defenses will fade away and you can simply let you.
That Spirit is in this very place this morning. What if we listened to her? What if we moved out of the way and let her blow at will and create among us the home that each one of us so desperately needs? What if this place became the place, where you would walk through those doors and immediately your shoulders would loosen, your heart would quicken, your soul would awaken? What if you ascended those stairs and the walls from the week would crumble and your defenses would fade? What if you walked down this aisle and saw Jesus sitting that middle pew over there, you felt the Spirit encircle your body, and in an instant you let go, and the tears began to fall…and here in this place your heart was no longer troubled and peace overwhelmed you and in a moment God picked you up, brushed you off, and held you close?
Here is a promise…the Spirit blows among you. Now…what if?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Jesus' Last Lecture

So, I've decided that I'm going to post my sermons. I have to actually talk about something that is applicable to the "pastor" part of my title. For me there is nothing better and nothing worse than preaching. I long to be the one who proclaims God's gracious love in such a way that people actually get it...actually respond to it. I think maybe once or twice that's actually happened; more often than not, I end with a weak 'amen' and an eyeroll to go with it. So, here is where the rest of the world comes in. "Critique me," she says..."but do it lovingly and patiently." Because, although I'm supposedly a grown up, I have yet to figure out how to keep one negative critique from overshadowing ten positive ones. Oh well...

The following sermon was preached May 02; what's that the Fifth Sunday of Easter. I owe a big debt to Professor David Lose for his comments at His "32 words" were the jumping off point for my musings...

I don't normally title my sermons, but if I did, this one would be Jesus' Last Lecture: Love One Another.

“The brick walls are there for a reason,” he said, “They are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something….they’re there to stop the other people.” That’s just one of the things that Randy Pausch wanted to pass onto his children. Another “apologize when you screw up and focus on other people, not on yourself.” I’m sure most of you have heard of Randy’s Last Lecture. I saw him on Oprah, there’s a book, and the lecture has received millions of hits on YouTube. Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Melon when he discovered he had pancreatic cancer and was given just months to live. And so, he decided to give what most professors give after decades of teaching, his Last Lecture. A lecture that millions have heard, but one that he wrote simply for his children—so they would know who their father was, what he wanted out of life, what he longed for for them, how he imagined the world to be. He lived for more than a year, well past what was expected of him, presenting over and over again the people of the world this amazing gift.
Although maybe not to this extent, I would imagine that most people, when faced with their own mortality, when knowing their physical body will no longer be present, they want to leave the world, their family, their children …a piece of themselves—words of wisdom, letters of love and hope, gifts of a life faithfully and gracefully lived.
Today, we hear Jesus’ last lecture. But instead of a 30 minute monologue, or a sermon peppered with all the things we’re told we should do, Jesus’ last lecture is short, to the point and narrowly focused. Knowing he has just hours before he’s arrested and just days before he dies, he distills his years of preaching and teaching into a mere 32 words—words meant to humbly challenge and guide us. “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." Love one another, not invite one another, not don’t sin so much, not give more money to the church, not make sure you worship correctly or sing the right songs or say the right things…but love one another.
Love one another. At first I have to admit I wish Jesus would have made his lecture a little bit longer. A few more details couldn’t have hurt, a few questions answered. Does he really think I’m supposed to love those people? Does loving someone mean helping them no matter who they are, or what they’ve done? Will loving get me loved, or am I going to end up hurt in the process? Can I show love by giving money or taking out the trash or challenging someone’s behavior? 50 or 60 words at least might have given us slow-on-the-uptake followers a little more insight.
But, then, I realize that I’m probably being a little overdramatic…because if Jesus said love one another, he probably simply meant love one another. Don’t ask questions or try and analyze it. Because , I’m pretty sure for most of us, deep in our hearts we know what love means…we know what it looks like….we know when it’s given to us.
And honestly, you are a group of Jesus followers who knows how to love—it’s what brings me back here Sunday after Sunday—the love you show each other inside these walls is amazing-- you give your gifts of time and money and talents, you gather together around the table sharing a meal that strengthens and nourishes, you hear of each other’s needs and you lift them up in prayer. You forgive when mistakes are made and encourage when times are more than tough. And you even get yourselves outside these four walls as well--you invite, you open your doors to your neighbors, your serve pancakes and share your resources with the community.
That’s what love looks like…it is not just loving your children when they behave or your pastor when she preaches well. It’s not just loving your congregation when they work in the community or your parents when they give you what you want. You are loving, not because you’re great and wonderful, but because Jesus first loved and loves you. Jesus loves you…no matter what you’ve done or who you are. And so you in turn love others as Christ loves you—you love the others that Christ loves, you open yourselves up to the love that Christ has for all creation.
Loving as Christ loves, means living in ever-widening kingdom that has broken deeply into this world, a life-giving, loving kingdom that embraces not just First Lutheran in Lee…a kingdom that embraces not just those who look like you, or talk like you, or act like you…a kingdom that embraces not just Lutherans, not just Christians, but a kingdom that embraces…a Christ who loves the entire world. So, yes we do a pretty good job of loving…but, I know…God knows… there’s more left in us.
And so just like Peter who was given this vision to love even those nasty, awful, God-denying Gentiles…we are given a vision to love, to welcome, to serve, to live with all those people we think are more than a little suspect…it means we’re called to love even those people who refuse to learn English, to love and serve even those who drink too much and work too little, even those who have stolen your family or your job or your reputation; we are called to love even those who won’t or don’t love you. We have been given a vision to do that most terrifying, awe-inspiring, difficult, empowering command to Love one another.
This next week, I invite you to be more acutely aware of those painful, beautiful acts of love—of those places where you love the difficult, and where others love the difficult you. Be aware of those times when Jesus stands between you and another…begging you, commanding you, longing for you to live confidently in the promise that he first loves you, and as a loved one, calls you to love all those others you meet.