Brokenness in t…

Brokenness in the Real World “When we fall, as we always do, we pick ourselves up and start again. And when our trust is betrayed the only response that is not destructive is to trust again. Not stupidly, you understand, but fully aware of the facts”

Madeline L’engle a quote of Grandpa Austin’s p. 144 of “The Young Unicorns”

When your in debt…

Maybe this is really obvious to other people, but apparently its not really helpful to go to a big stewardship conference when you are about $100,000 in debt. (at least it not if your me….)

There I’ve gone and said it. My family and I are over $100,000 in debt, and the end seems nowhere is sight. We live paycheck to paycheck, my husband works three part time jobs, I work one fulltime job. I try to tutor (although I’ve let that fizzle recently). We rent out our extra car, and we have wonderful people who we pay (not very much) to help us to take care of our 3 boy-boys. We try to stay off the credit cards, but when bills come they come. And maybe we could have put off having children, but every time we’ve had a child someone has been home (first two were during our summers at grad school and the third was when my husband was looking for a job by my new church) so we know we are saving a TON on childcare. We are done with that (we think) and I guess we could have not had kids, but honestly that so does not work for us. So we can’t really see what else to do……

Here is the part that gets me…We’re not alone. Most people my age are struggling with debt. I’m lucky that I have a job with benefits (which frankly is why we have 3 kids) but really, we aren’t really “making it” so to speak.

So when I went to the kaleidoscope stewardship conference, I really wanted to hear about the United States’ problem with debt, in the context that we pray and promise the forgiveness of debt. I wanted intellectual conversation, theological discussion. I probably would have settled for the fact if someone (besides me and my big mouth) had raised the issue…

What the conference was: A great bag of tricks and tools, and a new set of language to think about stewardship–a training for stewardship teams or world-weary pastors, a way to address money in (primarily) big churches or churches with undergivers.

A nice way to think about these situations are like this (your planting the seeds of stewardship)

328 × 272 – colsdioc.org

What it discussed: Healthy financial practices–including giving, personal relationships, thankyous, ongoing stewardship (instead of a once a year thing), and some reflection about where people do put their money and why it isn’t church (instead). For thoughts about wealth and how it effects judgement read this fascinating article..

575 × 300 – staparish.net

What it didn’t include:

ways to leverage Time and Talent as well as money, (much) theological discuss, what to do if you were in financial distress (or are already in debt), and the fact that we are moving on from institutional religion to something else in Christianity….

The story was pay your debts and then you can get on with your life…..apparently I will never be able to get on in my life.

I guess I pictured the conference to be more about this…

and less about this

367 × 224 – salempresbytery.org

If your interested in my theology of debt read my brilliant post about Ruth here!

But here is the long and short of it.

American’s Don’t God to Church (this report notes that “overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.”)…ok so again an indication our “stewardship” approach should probably be more about sharing what we’ve got rather than raising money for the instituion….

All Americans have to deal with debt (sequester anyone??), ESPECIALLY those Millennial/Nones we (us religious people) are so desperate to connect with….

We pray for, Christ promises and we attest to the forgiveness of debts.

Anyone else notice that Christianity is dropping the ball here?

I vote we find a way to REALLY address debts and the feeling of worthlessness it induces (again read my Ruth post for more on this)

And since I’m one of those in deep debt. I pray we do it soon!

 

Graph from the fascinating article linked above

Life, Fairy Tales, God, Children: How Katy Works

Why do I go to church?

You know, most people my age don’t go to church

Most of them don’t even believe in religion

They may believe in God, but if they do it tends not to be the “standard” version of God

These people are usually identified as “nones‘ (which is kind of a detrimental name, even though I know it isn’t meant that way…maybe we should be calling them/us something else) Something like 75% of people my age don’t affiliate in their religion

(for more about why I include myself, a pastor, in this at times, please read my post “I don’t Know What I believe”)

But I believe in God….Life is just too short to be meaningless…

Meaningless is just too hopeless to be believed

And people are just to wonderful to give up on….

And because of these truths, I believe in God….I know that not everyone believes what I believe, and I don’t mind (usually). As long as you aren’t preaching hate as gospel, I’m pretty ok with most beliefs…after all I’m not the one who is going to judge whether the fig tree is bearing fruit. That is up to the boss.

What I do worry about, is my generation in terms of willingness to try to religion. Have we given up? Do we truly think it has nothing to offer? Does the bad really outweigh the good? Do we think that we can only find our own spirituality outside of church? (What does that have to say about church, but what does that also have to say about us).

I recently learned that millenials are those of us born between 1980 and 2000. Here is what we have in common.

We grew up in a boom, but came into maturity in a economic downturn/depression

We are the children of baby boomers

We tend to be called hipsters

We don’t have a lot of life opportunities: jobs, marriages, having children–>we have to put these things off

We were all born in a pre 9/11 reality

We grew up with Harry Potter

We like individuality–but tend not to rebel, but instead go off our own way

We are thought of as ungrateful and lazy

We don’t have a strong religiousity

Yet here I am: mother, fairy tale enthusiast and pastor. Here I am, trying to figure out if I have a strong enough call to conduct a ministry via sci-fi and fantasy that I need to invent something to do this.

In a lot of ways I am “old-fashioned” for my age. I am young, married, have three children and an “old-fashioned” kind of job that carries with it healthcare and a pension (at least for now). And yet, I feel the pain of those around me. I too am physically weighed dow

n by student debt that I’m terrified I’ll never get rid of, I too understand that completeness and fulfillment will not fully come from my employment (hmm…that should be on the list above).

So I guess I’ll keep at it, hang onto the understanding th

at my concept of religion and my relationship with God is helpful to some of the people in my life, and that people will or won’t join churches on their own, and its not my responsibility.

Still–and take this for what its worth–I like church and I believe in God…

Katy likes it! Hopefully if/when you are interested you can find a place that fits you too!

The thing about committees is…

I know a lot of pastors who are trying to redo their committees, but the truth is I just don’t have any at my church.

Well I have two the deacons (our hospitality and care ministry) and facilities (the same four guys who have been taking care of the church for decades)……and that is about all we can support.

So when I want to have an Easter Program, do Christian Ed, Run a Farmer’s Market (which we did last summer and will again this summer), or do a play of Charlie Brown Christmas, run a breakfast/dinner, etc. The buck stops with me not a committee.

The session (my governing board) is 6 people, usually I have about 5 devoted people and 1 person who is too busy with “life” to be able to put a lot of time in. The session makes lots of decisions, but they also end up leading (almost) everything that isn’t already designated to the other two committees.

We only have 30-40 adults participating in church so about 6 who are too elderly (too being a relative term our facilities committee as a 70-something year old on it) and unable to do things. 6 people on session, 4 on facilities, 6 on deacons, plus 5 or 6 people who attend but aren’t really members (for whatever reason, probably so they don’t have to be on session, although technically these people could do committee work, but you don’t want to overwork the newcomer right)

((Too often we focus more on the structure of the church than the welcome for our new membership……))

Somehow the buck always stops with me. The session makes a decision, and often it reads as “we will support you as you do that” instead of “how can we build a team to do that”

I am not casting blame here. The church is only 30-40 people, some of whom are too infirm to take up the mantel of leadership, some of whom lead in spite of their age, some of whom attend but aren’t members, and the rest serve, and serve and serve…

So the question is, is there a way to do this without committees? How do we do all the “work” of the church that needs to get done? How do we streamline? How do we garner support? How do we get the community on board?

Committees are out, I’m ready for a new way to plan!

God, Heresy, Illusions, Emergent Christianity, you know the small questions

If you are a hard case theologian you know about the deep debate between emergent Christians (McLaren, Rob Bell, Brian Berghoef, etc) and the more (what is a non-insulting term for traditional, because I totally do not want to discredit these scholars) academic Christians such as James K. A. Smith

If your not, then this post will hopefully help. Here are some of the important conversations going on about whether emergent Christianity is a pick and choose/fluffy type of theology or alternatively, whether the tried-and-true-Christian scholars are providing too many answers on behalf of God instead of letting God give the answers….(that’s it in a nutshell, you can skip to the bottom if you don’t want the in-depth version)

One back and forth is about “God doesn’t need our help” and a more emergent understanding/refutation here.

One of the things hot under debate is giving up God for Lent, which tries to take seriously the critiques of Christianity. An article about Giving up God for Lent is here. This is something I am trying and a critique that it is a movement for intellectual (eggheaded) theologically trained (clergy) young (millenials)…which he definitely has the audience right, I am all of that–oh and I really appreciate the respectful tone of this critique…

RESTART HERE IF YOU’VE SKIPPED DOWN!!!!

As us young folks try to struggle with what church means to us–ie the emergent church, and what it could mean to the nones….I find all of this debate and forethought invigorating. Sure we don’t have the answers, but I think that looking at THEOLOGY as the source of our institutional woes (as opposed to programming, attendance or money) is a grand start.

To me the answers are to start doing the things we know the church is good at, and then build from there (strength based training anyone? anyone? ). How can we be community centers (we used to be good at that) how can we form relationships with our neighbors (we could be good at that) how do we work for social justice (I always say that human rights issues should be the ones all Christians can agree on)….

And yes we have gone through such questions before, What if God was one of us? Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell, The Quest for the Historical Jesus come to mind. But remember, whenever people are thinking and talking about God, they are, in essence, working out their faith–and isn’t that what we at the church want to encourage? Questions, speculations, riddles and wonders about God? It’s certainly Biblical…

My church is taking its slow, we are starting farmer’s market with no ulterior motive for members or money (or at least attending to when we think about these ulterior motives) and simply getting to know the neighborhood. We are thinking theologically about our church space (we are blessed with a “great location” it would be great if we could prayerfully use it), we are consciously trying to accept people whereever and whoever they are through the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit (Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?)…

I don’t know where this is leading, but hey, at least we are talking about it–I’d be even more excited to see these “opposing” viewpoints working and praying together, after all doesn’t the body have different parts for different reasons? (1 Cor 13:1-13)

When your heart is breaking….

Yesterday my heart broke….It was a difficult day with sad decisions and a good look at how temptation effects our lives….

Isn’t it interesting how it is easier to believe and remember evil than good? (for more on Good and Evil look here)

If you preach a sermon 90% about gospel and 10% about sin, most people remember the sin portion.

Why is evil so much easier to connect with? I think some of this has to do with our insecurity. Ted talk The Power of Vulnerability tackles this issue with storyteller/researcher Brene Brown.

In fact a lot of people I know don’t believe in Hell (Christians obviously included)…

So why then are the “less happy” endings more believable??? Why is it that “truth is hard” is the “real world” mantra

I don’t think life is shit and we struggle through it the best we can. I don’t think life is brutish, nasty, short. I think there is MORE than that.

But when my heart breaks, when difficult decisions are made, when people don’t show love and care towards one another, when people-hate-the-sin-not-the-sinner, when they fall back on smile-Jesus-Loves-you, when they use religion (as the TED video says) to provide answers instead of exploring faith), when people struggle with addiction, when parents don’t take good care of their children….

When these things happen, when its clear that the world is not perfect because of our self doubt, it is important to remember Jesus made us and loves us exactly the way we are…

Jesus believes that we are equipped, as those made in God’s image and as co-creators, to spread the good news…

https://i0.wp.com/radiofreebabylon.com/RFB%20Images/CoffeeWithJesus/coffeewithjesus500.jpg

How do we know this? Because Jesus spent time as one of us. Jesus went to the desert and endured the Devil telling Jesus …you are not good enough, you are not a success, you can’t help in God’s work, you need (food, drink, success, fame) Me, the devil, to get there…Matthew 4:8-10 (Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”). And Jesus says, no, the way is through love and God, its through knowing myself as an intricate, important and beloved part of God’s plan and I don’t need to be perfect/in control/married/successful/rich to do that…I just need to be grounded and centered on God (Matthew 4:10Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.) Take that evil. Yes, evil exists, yes life is difficult, no I don’t think we have to accept the chains of temptation, we don’t have value our “Success” the way the world does. Instead we can depend on God (we don’t need to dull the pain or even control it), we can know Christ has been there, understands that we stumble and loves that about us, because we are stumbling on his path, we are doing the best we can, and we are created in his image. We participate in Lent, so that we can participate more fully in Easter–we participate in Lent, because its a part of life, but we also participate in it so we can acknowledge that EASTER wins!!! All the time, everytime (even during Lent, Easter creeps through on Sundays!!!) Easter like Christmas, needs to be lived (see my post on Being Christmassed for more)

comic

Please note: I discuss heartbreak and difficulty as a tangible part of life (for more look at Anne Lamott’s thoughts here)

BUT: The Good news has written the ending for us, and we can Participate in God’s Celebration…we don’t have to just watch or hum along to God’s Concert–we can party and scream all the words<<——–THIS IS THE MESSAGE, try to remember this, don’t walk away already forgetting the good news

Good News: Jesus is the Savior

Better News; So you don’t have to be (subtext you get to help!!)

So the hard decisions were made, I am continuing to pray, to live into hope, to put into practice God’s love and care and to trust that my participation although it feels small is important and that the love I show has had meaning…and really knowing that heals my heart even as its broken (just as God heals are brokenness in a broken world)…I wonder if this is how Christ feels when he makes loving and difficult decisions on our behalf…Good news JESUS is the savior….Jesus loves ALL of us, no matter what. Amen.

Les Mis: In any other story Javert would be the hero….

and other reasons why Les Mis is awesome

1. Its about real people struggling through their problems, and dealing and coping with them as best they can (they don’t end with a happily ever after or a death, instead life keeps going)

2. The love interests are not the main characters–like Disney’s Sleeping Beauty the story isn’t really about the young couple but all the people connected with them

3. …and yet it is a love story, its a story about seeing God because “when you love you see the face of God” not because God is not just the emotion love, but because love is real and hard

4. The music–not only is it brilliant but the entire musical is a fugue–all parts of one whole piece, threads in the tapestry, reflecting the reality of what life really is (One Day More=point and case)

5. In any other story Javert would be the hero–he even gets the hero’s ballad, he is just in the wrong story, because he has the wrong prespective, and he’s on the wrong side. How often is this true that people are doing things because they REALLY, REALLY believe in them, but still somehow they are wrong…CHRISTIANS everywhere should take notice. There is no such thing as a checklist for Christianity or living life right, faith is a struggle, life is hard and choices are not so easily seen…

6. Ultimately is a story about grace

Here is my synopsis of Les Mis: Grace, it makes bad guys into good guys and good guys into heroes.

7. Death, Resurrection, Grace, Psalms (You know that song “Turning through the years, note how the words don’t change but the meaning does–too bad it was cut from the movie its totally a Psalm), the coming of the kingdom (hint: the barricade is between heaven and earth) and of course love.

1st Cor. 13:1-13

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Luckily my church saw Les Mis last week and got to touch on some of these themes, and guess what the lectionary was…God is so Good…I will close with scripture to ruminate 🙂

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