Stealing Time

God, remind me to steal some time.

To look at the clouds

to be bored

to take the scenic route…

Tell me how it is ok if the house is messier than I’d like, that it’s good to claim the smaller victories of keeping everyone fed and (at least starting out) in clean clothes…

Remind me that Jesus stole time all the time!

Napping in the storm, snuggling a fig tree, sneaking off to a lake

When you lead me beside the (sort of) still waters of a small lake beach on a stolen afternoon, help me to embrace the experience.

When the power or internet is out and I’m forced to relax…

If the best I can muster in thought is half written sentences…

When time is given, as a gift, remind me that it isn’t stolen.

Remind me that Holy Spirit herself might be intervening.

Whisper to me that I am beloved. And that my worth is not based upon my productivity.

Image: Your Work is Not Measured by your Productivity

I’ll never forget my first year in full time ministry when there was a snowstorm every single Wednesday of November, forcing me to slowdown.

Sometimes, I need that reminder God.

And if I need to take the longer way to Jerusalem, if I need to mull and mutter and forge out some time to relax before I do the next hard thing, that is okay.

Remind me, God, that you built me, and all humans to be this way.

And that Jesus knew full well that breaks for food, laughter with friends, and time with family are essential to our humanity, and Jesus was indeed fully human.

Rest is essential, Sabbath is commanded, time is precious–let me live these truths in whatever way I can, I pray.

Amen

Image of Tweet Robin Thede: We all need to expect about forty percent less productivity from each other than normal and yet somehow everyone seems to expect one hundred and forty percent right now. Working at Proffitting WAP: Chile, they are thinking because we are working reotely that we do not nothing but time since we are sitting at home. However that push for productive is affecting our mental health because there’s no boundaries to decompress

Many thanks to the continuing inspiration of the Nap Ministry: https://thenapministry.wordpress.com/ (who you can also follow on twitter)

Feel free to use/adapt with credit to Pastor Katy Stenta

More Pandemic Prayers and Resources: Top Posts are “In an Abundance of Caution” “The Lord is My Shepherd: What kind of Sheep are You” and “Masks: A Prayer”

Holy Days & Sabbath

On the seventh Day, God decided to relieve the monotony and created Sabbath.

Have you read the studies where if there are no special or memorable days, time goes quickly? And humans remember less? Because human brains are not wired to do the same thing everyday.

How strange is that, if I were designing a creature, I would design it to do the same thing all the time.

And although we prefer a structure and not changing, in reality we do not thrive in this environment.

As evidenced by quarantine: where many are working without stopping and many are stopping without working.

So God created a different kind of day, a memorable day, a holy day.

When I’m stuck, and things seem overwhelming, sometimes I declare a random holiday, to help to bide the time. I will stop everything and turn my focus to crafts or baking or reading a (gasp) new book.

My mom has been marking the silly holidays (Bugs Bunny Day, Hoagie Day, Missing Sock Day), and it has been brightening our otherwise monotonous time.

In Middle Ages the church acted as Union insofar as they declared many, many holidays to give people appropriate rest. 12 days at Christmas, every Sunday and 7 weeks after Easter, plus weddings and funerals. They sometimes would have as much as a half a year off.

The creation of Holy Days and Holy Times is part of who God is, it’s a part of who we are. How are we blessing the ordinary days? What makes things Holy today?

May you find Sabbath, and rest!

Culturenik Doctor Who Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Quote Tardis Blue Illustration Sci Fi British TV Television Show Print (Unframed 12x24 Poster)

 

Kids & Church

I grew up in the church…as a pastor’s daughter….I go to church now as a pastor, but my siblings don’t ..but they might someday, who knows? I don’t think it was about whether they were in or out of church service, I think its about their beliefs and the problem of they aren’t sure how they feel and the church makes it out like “you shouldn’t go to church unless you believe/act/do exactly what we want”

I feel like that may be the answer for them, but for different people, the reasons are different.

Two blogs about children surfaced this week Sunday School is killing the church (which is really about the timing of Sunday School, altho the title makes our poor underpaid youth pastors even worse off)

and The Church Should Be the Thing that Backs Down

Both of these blogs actually are trying to address a larger issue

Which is Families are CRAZY busy!

 

I mean seriously, a parent used to stay at home with the children, one working person households used to be totally feasible, plus kids had more free time. Primary socialization for families (I mean the entire family , the parents and the children) used to happen at church.

Unless we change the economy (are you helping by justly paying your church workers? or asking them to only work the hrs they are paid for? If not your church is PART OF THE VERY PROBLEM YOUR COMPLAINING ABOUT) …….we need to look deeper.

Let me tell you something, almost every stay at home parent is one because they can’t get a job that will actually contribute to the family monetarily….i.e. childcare, work clothes, gas, etc. eats all their pay

Almost every person I know is being told to work harder (put in more hrs, be more available, don’t complain about anything ever) in their job (or risk losing it) with almost no prospects of moving up

Almost every person I know with children has more demands for homework and time than ever before…plus you are never supposed to let your child play out of your sight ever again (assuming you are a middle or upper class parent) because that is “bad parenting”

Want to know why parents put their kids in babysitting/Sunday School during church? They need a break

Some parents even send their children to Sunday School and don’t even bother going to church themselves (gee…what need is that signaling) More than once I’ve heard of a church with a “problem” with it being just used as a free babysitting service.

Why is it those activities that happen not on Sunday Morning are rarely attended by kids? Usually parents have some other activity they have to attend, like sports or family time or other things (I would say “How dare they” but I don’t think everyone would hear my sarcasm)

Its tough to be a family…

And the church offers very few family resources…almost nothing to parents about parenting, few things where the entire family will ENJOY the activity (note letting children come to something IS NOT the same thing as welcoming them)

Plus most church meetings are over bedtime, which makes it really hard for a parent to come unless they pay a babysitter…even onsite care won’t help to defeat bedtime. (as my colleague Ryan Timpte says)

Deeper issues

1. Families are busy

2. We treat children as a commodity

3. Families are rarely given truly family appropriate activities to join

4. Parents are tired

5. The Weekend doesn’t exist for most people (Saturday used to be a day off too, rarely is it)

Can we reclaim Sabbath? (do we know what that means to different people and how to build that?)

Can we work with families?

Can we support parents?

Can we help the economy and idea of overwork–even if its just in our own church environment?

Can we address these problems as opportunities….because until we do, we will continue to make claims of “such and such” killing the church. And as Katie Bombalurina Mulligan said

1. We are a resurrection people, so death is not an existential crisis for us or our institutions (easier said than realized, but yeah)

2. No one thing is “killing” the church

3. The church isn’t actually something that can die. It’s an institution that might end, but the people inside are what is living.

4. The articles are written with lazy generalizations (this too is a lazy generalization. back atcha).

5. There are so many different forms and ways of doing church. if you feel yours is unfaithful, go try some more ways. and then some more.

6. If we’re going to animate the church as a living entity, then the church is supposed to die, because nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky (~Kansas. or Ecclesiastes. Take your pick. Also, that rhymed.)“

Something to SERIOUSLY consider when discussing “those cutesy beings who are the future of the church”

or as I prefer to think of them “These children of God who have so much to contribute”

Holy Complaining Batman @unvirtuousAbbey

And so, God gave us complaining. As we look at the Hebrews in the desert, we notice they do a lot of complaining. Here they are, stuck in the desert, and they are hungry. So they complain, they grumble, they mummer, they complain. They realize that they are truly on their own now, they are free (through God), and in that freedom they are responsible, so they start to complain, they cast blame on their leaders Aaron and Moses (which, as Moses points out, means they are really blaming God)…

There are two kinds of complaining in the world. The overwhelming negative complaining……and then there’s the kind of complaining that bonds us together, the kind that makes us feel like a family.

When I was in College, my second week of Freshwoman year was 9/11. Through it I found lifetime friendships, and from that suffering we embraced one another, had giant sleepovers (because we couldn’t sleep in our parents room even though that’s what we wanted to do), and gave out hugs freely. This was my first, and best interaction at Oberlin. Immediately my friends and I’s motto started to be “always room for one more” causing us to continually scoot back and open up our table to the outsiders…and it mostly remained our motto (even for those who were so socially inept they had trouble even among us nerds and dweebs, although granted, THAT was difficult)

This kind of suffering bonded us together, because we walked with each other and felt some measure of the same horror that the other felt.

When my sister was joining a sorority, I was partially fascinated and partially horrified, here these kids were, afflicting one another so that the new group could “bond” thru shared suffering. That is how powerful suffering was..(my sister started to stir rebellious talks of decency and rights and never did make the soriority).

Its scary, but it also shows us how God utilizes complaining to ease our suffering and bond us together. I believe that God does not cause our suffering, I believe there is REAL and present evil at work, but I believe God suffers with us. I believe that she gave us Christ to witness, endure and walk with us in that suffering, and I believe that complaining can be a way to bind our concerns.

So when the Hebrews Complain, their surface complaint is that they are hungry, their real complaint is that they are free, that they are concerned, that they are facing the unknown and that they feel like no one is with us….

This shared experience, the whole community grumbled… is exactly what makes them not alone in the world. Because they are all complaining about the same thing, they start to coalesce , coming together as a true community and group–not one that is just universally oppressed, as they were in Egypt, but as a community that has to work together to survive and thrive, one that has to practice cooperation and trust (Truly this is why church is so important)

This is why Grumpy Cat is so popular, because he is voicing complaints that different communities can relate to! (in a caustic and snarky way), but that kind of complaining becomes confessional–we think hey, I feel like that too!

That is why we have Confession, that is why we have Joy and Concerns, because God gives us the opportunity to Open our Mouths, to admit when we feel like we are running on empty, that we are malnourished, and yet burdened, that we are expected to take on heavy loads, when we are at our limit.

And then, God does what we don’t expect.

God doesn’t condemn our complaining, mark it as sin, and then wash our mouths out with soap for our disrespect.

Instead he fills our mouths with food, so that we can’t complain. He fills our mouths with bread (living eternal bread through the communion with Jesus Christ), and meat, he fills our mouths with praise, giving us a chance to complain, helping us to come together as a community through that shared experience, and then gifting us with enough nourishment to sustain that community.

So come to church, complain (some), and share in each other’s crevices, so that they become not the cracks that make us fall apart, but instead the edges on which we grow!

PS for some Good Holy Complaining follow @unvirtuousAbbey on Twitter

Exodus 16:2-5

In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions. On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.”

John 6: 30-33, 41-42

30 So they asked him, “What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’[c]

32 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heavenand gives life to the world.”

41 At this the Jews there began to grumble about him because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

What’s Good about Church

I know the church is theoretically dying, that its full of old people, judgmental and is out of date….but here is what I like about church

1. The Music<–need I say more, no where else am I permitted to belt out the hymns I know, sort of know and fake knowing with no commentary on my performance and more commentary on how “fun” the music is!!!

2. Insta-Community: Its not perfect, but this is an intergenerational community that intentionally hangs out once a week, and (in better situations) more. Moving to a new community, church is still a great way to feel supported!

3. Sabbath: The rest of my life seems to be about “me” “my situation” and “where we are right now” from monetary woes to relationship troubles to personal epiphanies (yay), the church is a place to take a rest from myself and take Sabbath, to focus on the community.

4. Hope and Joy: Very few places are a haven to practice hope. It is much easier to critique society and the people within it then to intentionally practice hope (even while we acknowledge our deeply rooted brokenness and imperfections). The demands to be perfect are WORLDY, the celebration of life to be  joyful and hopeful are Christian (i.e. Good news! For more on this read my LOL Pastor post)…We not only confess what is true now, but hope, pray and preach of the community that can and will be thru Christ….think about that.

5. We are a bunch of like-minded people striving to experience something different: Most churches are 99% one race and 1% another. Yet, even though we aren’t good at it, and even though churches can be trapped into being an “us” “them” relationship, our call is to preach to the ENTIRE WORLD. (or one of my new favorite phrases…all creation).  To experience God is to experience something fundamentally different than oneself, the very fact we are open to that experience gives me hope for the church.

6. Relationships: I know of no other place than in Worship that we get to work on all of the relationships in our lives–we give ourselves time to figure out how to better our loving of our neighbor, self, enemy, friend, stranger and God. HOW COOL IS THAT? The only thing close is therapy, and that tends to be more specific. Yet in church we give at least an hour a day to work on ALL of the relationships in our lives (to me this reason alone is worth it)

7. Faith: Church is a place to come wherever you are on your faith journey (despite advertisements to the contrary). It is a community of differing beliefs that come together to build the richer and deeper experience of faith. If you don’t believe everything or even anything one week, you have a community, holding onto faith for you whenever you need it….

8. Empowering: Got a local passion or need? Church is a great way to funnel a real and hands on mission. If you feel called to so something, then the church is designed to equip, volunteer for and experience that mission. When churches falter on mission, its because they often lack the motivation or energy for a project, but if you are feeling compelled church can be a great place to real-ize that call….

9. Everyone is Welcome: This is a struggle for churches and individuals…church’s often hold a few curmudgeons, some fussers and one or two explosive personalities. Why? Because we are trying to practice universal love–like a family you may not like everyone in your congregation, yet you are working hard to get on with them. And this is a volunteer organization, we aren’t putting up with each other for money or a promotion (most of the time), we are doing it because individuals are important, because there should be room for everyone and because we value the fact that you are practicing your faith, even when it doesn’t look exactly like mine. We falter, we have power struggles and arguments, we say stupid things…but we also a a safe haven for the sick, the bossy, the imperfect, the tired, the annoying, the messy, the uptight, the mentally ill, the ostentatious , the loud, the meek, the ones who think they are perfect, the slow, the way too fast, the sick, the short, the tall, the bad singers, the mumblers, the addicts, the religious, the areligious, the sometimes/allthetime/onlyChristmasandEasterattendees. We don’t do as good a job as I’d like, but that’s because (let’s face it) these bunch of crazies are the ones welcoming you at the door, and heaven knows we have our own brokenness to struggle with…but we’d love to welcome yours too!

10. People like to talk about God–even people who don’t believe in God, like to talk about who God is (and isn’t) where God is (and isn’t) and how that plays a role in their lives. My friends would often broach the subject: in bars, at parties, during or after movies, on walks, wherever and whenever they are…..People like to talk about their spirituality…..Church is a place to do that…a place to kick around your ideas about what may or may not exist, to do the spiritual work of figuring out where you stand and (more importantly) what implications that has on your life…..

PS for another good read check out http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nakedpastor/2013/08/its-our-fault-millennials-are-leaving-the-church/ on who millennials are (not just why they are leaving the church). Here is his comic….why millennials are leaving the church cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

 

A True Story

A teacher and a nurse are left with a faltering church. The teacher is practical and into appearances and the nurse is into rule following and order. Both women help to run the church for 40+ years. In all probability should either of them not have been there the church probably no longer exists.

Neither woman likes the other (in fact there are rumors of the women’s mother’s hating each other), but they are there the two pillars of the church. In walks a policeman. The policeman is new, and yet he gets to irritate both the teacher and the nurse. The teacher hates how he wants to lay out everything in rules, the nurse hates that the policeman likes to always be right.

A new pastor walks in and insists that God wants all these people to be a church.

The people all wrangle, manipulate, yell and complain.

But the pastor says that God put everyone in this church for a reason.

Much more goggosomen,grumblings murmuring and mutterings occured (See John 6:35-51 about goggosomen)

Then the pastor insisted that the church continue to be a church

Then an argument broke out, it might have been between the policeman and the teacher, or the teacher and the nurse or any combination of said participants.

Words were said, aggression became passive for some and active for others.

And in the end the pastor looked at her scripture, threw out her sermon and preached on the Golden Rule in light of the fight that had taken place not ten min before service.

Jesus commands us to love God, anyone who has loved a person with depression, addiction or bad days knows that love is hard work. Happily Ever After is just the beginning of the commitment.

That is what we are doing here as a church–we are vowing to be together forever, to love no matter what and to work on our relationships.

Who here doesn’t have relationships they need to work on? Church is a place to work on those through the empowering and life-changing love that is personified in Jesus Christ.

And every Sunday, every time we gather, whenever two or three gather in Christ’s name–the tone should be that of a wedding, for we are renewing and living out our vow…

The story doesn’t end happily ever after–because the church is too busy, too busy renewing their vows, working together and attempting to love one another no matter what.

Because whether or not the church needs us, or whether or not the God needs us…

The church wants us, and God wants us….God wants to love us, God wants us to reflect that love unto the world so that our entire being is changing…..

And that is something the pastor will avow to till the end of her time!

Image

(funny thing, all these professions are public sector jobs, note the above comic portrays a teacher, a policeman and a nurse)

Deuteronomy 6:4-94Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 

 

Mark 12:28-34

28One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question

Psstt….Meet me at the well…..

Once when I was working as a Children’s Coordinator the pastor told me that I really needed to try to look bored more often….

Image

This was a great point in fact, because I love to be busy (I guess I’m in a good profession for that).

Image

The Pastor then told me the story of Jesus at the well. He told me to think about not only Jesus’ ministry of presence but also his ministry of waiting. There he was, waiting at the well, for someone who needed water to come….and thus a friendship was born.

Image4Now he had to go through Samaria.So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon. When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the townto buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”–John 4:

Hearing from the moderator today, he noted that he is making a point to be present (either himself or the vice moderator) at the committee meetings…a strong choice for presence, and one that echoed the hard questions given to him on the floor.

It took four votes to elect our moderator (the youth/seminary advisory board loved him). There seemed to be some dispute because he is abiding by the letter of the law regarding gay marriage, meanwhile his running mate signed a marriage license in her state during their campaign.His response to this was that he wasn’t going to put aside 10 years of friendship over a difference of opinion. i.e. part of being friends means being present for one another–choosing to be present even when our choices differ.

During the Hymn Sing at GA we sang “Go to the World” the final verse is

“Go into the world! Go as the ones I send, for I am with you ’til the age shall end, When all the hosts of glory cry Amen!”

What a friend we have in Jesus, who promises to be present no matter what we do.

So here I am, present at GA. On the one hand I’m not “Doing” much, I have little to no agenda about the meetings, and have not been commissioned, chosen or asked to do anything.

On the other hand, I am here, I am present. I am witnessing the work we are doing, praying for all of us who are doing it, and keeping my eyes and ears open for the Holy Spirit. I have waited, hoped, and possibly even made some new friends

Guess I made it to the well Pastor Kevin! (at least for GA)Image

 

The Feeding and Care of Pastors….

Pastors only work one day a week, and it’s a half day, Right????

I think my new thing is to ask for an budget for weekly exercise. I find it hard to find the time, energy and money to exercise. Yet if I sign up for a class I inevitably attend, enjoy it and ultimately get sick less, which is a win on all fronts…oh yeah, and to continue to ask for more staff–I always think we need more staff, because I am feeling overworked

In fact, I find in general that anytime I overwork, I get sick. It’s just the way my body works. Not eating or sleeping regularly? There’s no getting away with that….I just get sick, get an enforced day off, and am not happy while I’m at it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabbath

So that’s it, eat, sleep, and hopefully exercise. Contrary to popular belief pastors do not  work only half a day, its more of a on-call-and-thinking-about-your-job-24/7-type-of-career. When we say that we are called, we really mean it!

Maybe the confusion comes from the following facts

1) I love my job

2) I truly care about all those in my ministry

3)I have work-a-holic tendencies.

Add it all up and it means that when I’m working, I don’t always look to be hard at work. It is hard to separate my “work” self from my “home” self (maybe because they are almost the same thing), and I have trouble setting time aside for myself.

Take last week, Monday I worked all morning fielding phone calls for the Farmer’s Market Grand Opening, that afternoon and evening I prepped more stuff for the opening and wrote the bulletin. Tues Morning I ran our Mugs and Hugs Playgroup, immediately after lunch I came back to help to set up then I stayed until 6pm for the market. That night I worked on a bulletin for a funeral.

Wednesday I spent the morning home with the family (normally my open door office hrs), that afternoon I spent with a family for their visiting hrs at the funeral home. That night I finished the bulletin for the funeral.

Thursday I conducted a funeral and burial (at the graveyard), accompanied the family for lunch, that night I packed for a trip

Friday I travelled up to Silver Bay for a retreat of Presbytery (the governing board) and slept over. Sat I returned early due to babysitting difficulties (after the 2nd sitter called out with the stomach flu I gave up), Sat night I prepped for worship/Sunday School.

Sunday=Adult Sunday School and Agape Worship.

Image

Then there’s all the things I wanted to do: prepare more stuff for the farmer’s market, pick up signs from the shop, plot out my scripture passages for the next month, visit all the shut ins (this is esp. due because I’ve been sick), visit some of our community connections, foster relationships, pray more, oh and rest up since I’m on meds for laryngitis (remember how I said I get sick when I don’t take care of myself…well point made God), this doesn’t even include any of the personal stuff I wanted to do…

How do I resolve this? I think I need to set stronger boundaries, but I also need to train my congregation to take better care of me. I am the most likely to take care of myself if someone else reminds me to do so. My husband helps with this, but I still have a long ways to go to doing it “right”. Someday I’ll get the Jubilee right, in the meantime, I’ll strive to keep a better schedule…..Imagel