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

Open Sourcing and Laziness

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Ok, so what if this open source movement which started with the music companies and the digital downloading (actually it started with the record button on VCRs but I’m too youngImage to remember that). Was a cultural shift today? If you look at communities sharing businesses, etc. this generation is into open source

Examples include Relayrides, carsharing, CSA, community gardens, couchsurfing, firefox, anything Wiki and of course probably the most famous and one of the first Linux

Opensource means sharing information freely so that the community benefits. Granted making money by sharing your car isn’t a direct example of open source, but the free sharing of when you use and don’t use your car helps to free it up so others can use it (see what I mean). It also can hint at laziness because your are using someone else’s work/resources to get information. You didn’t do the work yet you get to benefit from it!

When it comes to Spirituality, my generation also tends to take a more open source perspective, enjoying all of the knowledge that comes from religion and then choosing what they want to practice (hence spiritual not religious can mean anything from a vague idea of God, to a number of spiritual practices that just to happen to exist via the church). I think this is a piece of culture of millennials that older people are missing. In fact there is a slight movement towards Open Source Theology/Christianity Read Landon Whitsitt’s book  or blog(http://landonwhitsitt.com/2012/11/27/pecans-and-pastors-continued/) or checkout http://www.opensourcetheology.net/ and the Bible without Religion Project http://jimpalmerblog.com/rfv-bible-religion-free-version-by-jim-palmer/.

Which brings me to the “lazy” idea. There is this idea that unemployed people are lazy, and since roughly %40  of those who are unemployed are under the age of 30 I take great offense of this. Every single person I know is looking for a job, those who are employed are either underemployed or unable to make enough to support themselves/their families (this is esp. true for families where one spouse has found employment and the other is more limited in their geographical choices). It isn’t that we are lazy, its that we can’t find work, and we have to make do in the in-between. (And if you think people don’t want to be working, do me a favor and offer someone a job and see what they say)

In the meantime we are making do by sharing, by returning to trading times, goods and services for things instead of money. Something that started as an internet phenomenon (free information: its everywhere) became a necessity as we couldn’t get to work, and the reality that working harder has not meant that we do better/make more money or are more successful. Since we’ve seen through the promise of “work hard and you’ll succeed” (because that’s what we were told growing up).

If you mean we won’t work harder for little to no rewards, if you mean that we don’t have our eye on the prize, if you mean we are less possessive and are becoming instead an open source generation: then yes, I guess your right we are lazy Instead we are doing what we need to make ends meet and then using our extra time creatively.

But I, instead, see it as a cultural shift away from materials and valuing information, a place where timeand space are seen as more definitional than profession or monetary status. Image

Yes, boredom helps creativity, and yes we as a generation are bored, there is little to no meaning in our lives, and all the things we were taught to strive for (no student debt, professional fulfillment, financial security) are inattainable–but that boredom is giving us creativity. And if that is a side effect to our so called laziness, I’ll take it.

I see this as a moment for change…

Go Laziness, Go Openness, Go Millenials, I wonder what we will do next

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REEEEEEEEEE-form

Alright, after reading a disturbing post about the Board of Pensions (disturbing because not 6months ago the board of pensions came to Albany, NY and personally guaranteed us our pensions were fine) I am beginning to understand the rising healthcare cost for pastors with children (from %35 to %65). Seeing as I have three Preschoolers–this is a worry (read more about this http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2012-11/changes-pcusa-dues-structurenbsp)

Then there is the whole CIF/PIF thing, I recently came from a discussion where a church bypassed the formal process and are looking to hire a Baptist minister who holds some ministerial exp and an Associates degree…

Then there’s Sandy (enough said)

And a relative of one of my Pakistani congregants just learned her missional job is going to be cut off and she is going to be sent back to Pakistan, oh and by the way she’s a Christian Minister so guess what there is a death threat against her! The following pretty much sums up her statusImage

Can I just let out a general ARGH?

Here’s what I think

1. Restart, Rethink, Reform

We as a church are failing to reform fast enough. We are failing to connect to my generation, and we are failing to help those who need it

Here’s what we should do

a. Help students with their Loans: the pastors, the congregants, the children of members, complete strangers. If Jesus preaches FORGIVENESS of DEBTS (yes, I went all caps on you) we need to do it.

b. Educate, Educate, Educate: If our way of doing theology (in the Presbyterian and most Protestant churches) then College loans are not only up our alley, but education is too. How can we do more? What classes can we offer the community? What knowledge do we have that we can share? And we should be doing it for free (Take that for ministry)

c. CIF and PIFs are TOO SLOW. They suck the life out of the Pastor Nominating Committee–they are great visioning process but they are a lot of work, annoying and the potential pastor is stuck in a passive role (the pastor gets to be the girl HOPING the boy will as her out to the dance, very empowering for the congregation, not great shakes for the pastor). Plus this is not the only church who tried to skip the process, mine did right before me, and I bet every Presbytery has a recent case of this (let me know if you have) this is a symptom of the problem.

d. Co-Pastor all the way. Jesus sent out all of his ministers in pairs, and yet we have this weird-thing-we-call-normal the solo pastorate. Here’s the deal. Give both pastor’s 20hrs (assuming its a fulltime positiong) give both pastors healthcare coverage (yes, I know its a cost, but we should be creative and find ways to do it) and relieve the burden and loneliness of pastors. Plus we cut our unemployed number in half—I think there are something like 300 jobs for the 1000 pastors in search of a position. Not cool.

e. Plant, develop, etc. Ok so 10,001 worship communities was launched but the website has ALMOST NOTHING ON IT (Sorry this seems to be another Cap-worthy remark). What are we doing about that? Do people outside GA know about this? How about people outside the Presbyterian church? Are there grants? THis seems to be a potential risk-taking and exciting venture with almost nothing behind it. (Who is the point person for this anyway?)

f. Be Kid-Friendly for reals. Where are the children in all of this? Do you relegate them to the youth group, do they leave service, are they cutely put up in the beginning of service? We need children, but we need them to propagate what we have. What do children today need? How can we serve that? How can we value children for who they are now instead of who they will become (ps most of this is from the Christian Ed dept at PTS ie Osmer, Dean, Cady and Douglass).

g. Screw pensions. Ok, not for those who have been planning for them and are over the age of 40, but if they aren’t working maybe we should (and I mean we as the United States and the PCUSA as well) own up to the fact that they aren’t going to work anymore instead of cutting healthcare to promise money that we can no longer promise. If my choice is healthcare for my 3 boys now or pensions later, I’m choosing now, because I have got to take care of my children first. Pensions are secondary.

OR screw healthcare–maybe Obamacare is the way to go, I’m not sure, but we need to respond to somethings

h. and as for Sandy and Pakistan, here are all of these very personal/internal things I have to deal with and there are the two clear missional things that I should be dealing with, and I barely have the time and energy to keep up with my life, my revolving door, my neverending debt, my generational difference with 90% of PCUSA and the mainline church in general to do the work that comes at these very important times of crises.

We need to Reform. I was hoping GA would talk about the young, homosexuality, pensions, hiring rates, CIFs and PIFs, children and the church, social media etc. in some way that felt like a forward motion–I am still unsure as to whether or not any progress was actually made

The call is out there, the new generation is working hard–help us along…( for more info on the generational divide read here.)

please

Money=Symbol

I still remember when the stock market was falling. I had just decided (luckily) to stay another year in school, and the market was doing horribly, and everyone was running around like chickens with their heads cut off saying “the sky is falling, the sky is falling” no wait…that’s chicken little. ImageThey were actually saying “The market is falling, the market is falling” which of course just made the panic and therefore the downturn of the market worse…

2 things get me about this

1. If someone with authority had just said, Stop, calm down, let’s take the time to think about this–instead of throwing money at the situation as quickly as possible things might have gone better (and I am totally bipartisan in my blame here)

2. Money is not what we think it is…

Anyone remember when gas was under a dollar a gallon? When I was 10 (that would be 19yrs ago–yes you may do the math of how old I am 🙂 ) I remember gas sometimes being as cheap as $.89

And when I asked my congregation if they can remember one cent candy, most of them could (alas that was before my time) ImageThe point being that a dollar is not really a dollar, and that money is just a symbol.

To us it means status (yes)Image but its more than that, we trust the value of the dollar, to us it means security something we can depend on. But you know what? Money is not security. People like to think about money in the bank, or land ownership as guarentees. People like to talk about job security (is there such a thing). Heck, we even have a system of money that is named Social Security.

Do you know that our dollars aren’t backed by silver anymore? It used to be money was the symbol of the silver that backed it up in the treasury–now its backed up by nothing.

So what I have a question, what makes money an effective symbol? Probably its quantifiable and tangible nature. We have put a piece of paper out to symbolize commerce, and so we are able to better conceptualize it.

This is why tithing is so important, it isn’t just about giving money to the church–its about your relationship with God. If you give money to God regularly, then you are going think about God whenever you deal with money, hence changing the very way we deal with money in the day to day–it changes the symbol. (Maybe this is why research shows the only way money makes you happy is if you give it away see amazing TED Talk http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_norton_how_to_buy_happiness.html for more)

Now…what if God was our security? What if we depended not on pieces of paper but on God to bring us through. What if we, in essence bank of God.Image

How much God do you have on you?

Do you have enough to get you through the week?

Can you share some God with me today?

Need more God, better go back to the bank (Church) where theres enough God to go around..

As the church, are we “generating interest” in God? Are we growing our funds? Are we accruing more God through our actions?

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Because after all, God doesn’t grow on trees…

PS Scripture Matthew 19, note 2 things 1. When the man is foolish, Jesus loves him first before he responds in ANY other way, Jesus loves him & 2. Jesus promises to increase everything a hundredfold–which is great because it clues us in to the fact that this love isn’t really quantifiable…hundredfold is a better interpretation than a hundred, because it isn’t exact, it is more a SYMBOL of what is going happen (besides who can handle a hundred spouses, speaking as a married woman who finds polygamy BIblical yet crazy, I couldn’t even handle two 😉

Anyway, the point being, Possessions are just symbols

17As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” 20He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

28Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

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….

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

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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

 

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