Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Spirit showed up!

In tradition and heritage!
I wrote last week of the stole handed down from grandmother to granddaughter.  Here is the new pastor wearing this yoke!

The Spirit showed up on this day in the winds of creativity: banners and floral arrangements and music and photography.  All flowing over the assembly and making us all one.

The Spirit showed up as people: bishop, pastors, friends, family, supporters, and congregational members.  So many people contribute to the kingdom by leading, training, teaching, supporting and encouraging those who are chosen to serve in this way.  It takes a village to raise a child.  It takes a community to grow a pastor.  From lifelong childhood friends to former Sunday School teachers and pastors, from fellow alums to parents-in-law, people came out to celebrate!

And the Spirit showed up as a celebration - a meal around the altar.  Bread and wine for all who gathered.  And later, as a room filled with food and friends and flowers and best of all, laughter: people brought food and set tables and washed dishes and created a space for all to gather and celebrate! The Spirit came as joy and infected everyone present!

To everyone who contributed to the making of this servant, in any way, well done!  To everyone who contributed to the making of this event, thank you!  And to the new pastor, the Spirit is with you, let the yoke lay lightly upon your shoulders and lead you to where you are needed!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


This Sunday my eldest daughter will be ordained as a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  It has been a long time coming. . . about 20 years since she first announced her intentions back in second grade.  She certainly had other aspirations over the years but God never really let loose of her, and here we are.

On Sunday the new pastor will be vested with a red stole. Her stole was handmade by her grandmother, for her grandfather, in 1961 and was worn by him at his ordination 50 years  ago.  Her grandmother, my mother, and I recently reflected on the creation of that stole.  When my dad was ordained, I was 5 years old and my sister was 2-1/2. I asked Mom if she ever imagined, while she was embroidering that stole, that one day a child or grandchild would wear it. She reminded me that you can't even imagine grandchildren when your children are that young.  And besides,  she only had girl children then, and more than 10 years would pass before someone would ordain the first "lady pastor".

The red stole has probably been worn the fewest times of all the stoles she made for my dad. It has such specialized uses: only two Sundays each year -  Pentecost and Reformation, and at ordinations which happen at unpredictable intervals.  Still, each time that red stole is donned, something new comes to the church: the Holy Spirit appears, the Wind of Change blows, a New Energy arrives.

When a pastor puts on her stole she dons a yoke of service. That service is rendered to God in the form of service to God's people. Jesus says his "yoke is easy and his burden light," and so I hope it is for my daughter. In Jesus' day, in the best circumstances, yokes were custom made for oxen which allowed them to work very hard with little pain. I have experienced working under yokes that didn't fit well, where I worked very hard and was rubbed raw in the process, but more often, I have had the pleasure of wearing an easy yoke, work that fit me like a glove and that called to me almost every day. This is what I think Jesus is promising: hard work rendered with joy, and this is the blessing I wish for my daughter as she begins this chapter of life.

With only a few days left before she is ordained, I give thanks for the faith and work of my father and my mother, for the joy of mothering this child and her sister, for the people of this church who helped to form her, and for the work that will be accomplished by this new pastor. A lot has happened since we gathered at the font for her baptism. This Sunday we welcome her into the Lord's family in a new way, with no less joy and hope than we had the first time.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Go Bears!

I read a great story today.  It seems that a woman who works at Baylor University was watching news of the Bastrop wildfires and began worrying about the kids.  Over 1,500 homes have burned leaving around 5,000 people without a place to live.  So she started researching ways that the staff, faculty and students at Baylor could help.  That's when she discovered that the Bastrop High School mascot was the Bears.  Same as Baylor!  So she organized the Bears2Bears drive which hopes to collect a teddy bear for every displaced kid in Bastrop.  This kind of thing just makes my heart sing.  When a whole bunch of people come together to offer what they can, big things can happen.  I'll be watching to see how they come out, but I expect it will be successful.  How could it fail with all those cuddly elements!

At my church, we're working with all the kids on a project we're calling Sock-It-To-Me.  I rolled it out last week for the parents and they put it down on their to do list and I was sure we'd get some socks.  Last night I rolled it out for my 8th grade confirmation class and was delighted to see how the challenge energized them.  They were told that they could buy socks out of their allowance, beg socks from their friends, swap work for socks, or pretty much anything else they would like to do but that there were people without socks depending on them.  "That's EASY!" one of them said.  "Can we bring more than 12?" was another student's question.  And, as I expected, "Who doesn't have SOCKS?"

No donor fatigue here.  Generous hearts are dancing at the call.  Maybe it's not as efficient to give socks or teddy bears as it is to give money but I think we miss something in the exchange when we just write a check. The kids most certainly do.  Giving goods makes the recipient real.  Knowing that some child's toys burned up in the fire is something a kid can imagine.  Visualizing an empty sock drawer is easier than conceiving of a life without a sock drawer.  This awareness sparks both generosity and gratitude in kids.  It puts them on the path to being compassionate adults.

In the current economic climate we tend toward scarcity thinking, focusing on what we don't have or can't buy rather than on what we still have in abundance.  We are in the midst of deep drought here in Central Texas, but our neighbors to the east are getting flooded.  Maybe there IS enough, it's just not evenly distributed.

Whatever need cries out to you, find a way to respond.  Take your kids along and let them help you help others. Tell them why something makes your heart hurt, or why you want to help in this particular situation.  You will be helping people for generations to come. The Bible says that God loves a cheerful giver.  What isn't explicitly said is that God loves the person in need too - and you're the "bear-er" of that love.  Go Bears!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

You never know. . .

Most of us have touchstone points in our lives - moments when we knew nothing would ever be the same.  Members of my generation can describe in detail what they were doing when JFK was assassinated or when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.  Many members of my children's generation can tell you what they remember about Columbine or when the planes flew into the World Trade Center and how it changed their world view. Big events. Shots heard round the world.

Today I'm thinking about how life will never be the same for hundreds of people in my part of the world.  Wildfires are burning out of control all around us, particularly to the east, in Bastrop County.  This 50-second video from TX Parks and Wildlife shows how quickly the landscape can change.

The landscape of our lives can change just as quickly. I think most of us plan for the future as if we can control it. Events local and global remind us of the futility of such thinking.  I'm guessing that not one person woke up in Bastrop on Saturday morning thinking about where their important documents were and what they should grab if they had to evacuate.  Yet nearly half of those people have had to leave their homes over the past 4 days. Some of them will return to those homes, some to ashes.  You never know. . .

Those of us who are affected only by proximity will go on with our lives without much impact. People affected by the fires will never be the same.  In a lifetime nearly everyone will experience at least one of these unexpected changes in the landscape.  Maybe God allows these moments because these are the times where we see most clearly that we are mere humans, dependent on the Creator who is so much more than all of us combined. I wonder around in this territory regularly; and my list of maybes grows. In the meantime let us turn our faces to God and pray for rain, and for safety, and with thanksgiving for all who have been spared.  Amen.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Calling All Mentors

At one point in my life I asked God to send me a mentor to help me negotiate the rushing waters of being a single parent with teen-aged children. And one showed up. She wasn't around long, but she gave me lots of good tips, and also shared with me some of the things she wished she hadn't done, in retrospect. Mentors are important in life. Along the way we will need many mentors. In youth ministry we call them Triple-A adults: Authentic, Available and Affirming. Those are three big words, big charges.

Being Authentic means simply being who you actually are, not who you think you should be. Being real means a lot to kids. They will trust an authentic adult in ways they will never trust someone who only shows the best sides of his/her life. You can only mentor from your own true center. And you can only be mentored from someone else's authentic core. Like the mentor I described - you have to share your failures and your successes.

Being Available means making this relationship a priority. It means leaving space in your schedule for your relationships. You can't be available if you are booked solid every day. You aren't available if your mind is elsewhere. And, as I've previously written, being available on your schedule isn't really being available at all. If you're called to be someone's mentor, you will find joy in that relationship. It may be inconvenient to be available at times, but it will usually be rewarding
Affirming is the most habit-driven quality so perhaps it is the first thing to strive for if you want to be a mentor. Can you find the good in a person? Not in her clothing or his car - but in him or her? If you watch for it you will find it - the organizational talents, the care and concern for others, the ability to forgive, an endless list of possible gifts. The rest is easy; just remark on it. I love the way you are so _____________. We see ourselves, often most clearly, through the eyes of others.

Who were mentors to you? Along the way I have prayed often for mentors when I was facing a new challenge, and God always supplied.  I am grateful to those good men and women. My life would have been very different without them! One taught me that it was a blessing to be passionate about motherhood. Another taught me about managing people by their strengths instead of their weaknesses. One time, someone gave me the perfect book for that stage in my life. Another continues to remind me to pray before proceeding. One wise woman gave me the courage to start putting thoughts to paper (and later to cyberspace). Some of these mentors were just heaven sent - I didn't even pray for them!

I have also mentored a person or two along the way and that has richly blessed me. The new school year is starting. Schools, churches, scout troops and teams are all looking for mentors. Are you being called?