Coloring Inside the Lines

This past week has been an anxious one.  I’m not sure if it was the gas company inspector telling us he thought we were lucky to have survived the winter due to the unsafe condition of our furnace or the 7 hours I spent navigating our taxes, but I was having a tough time.  So I tried to fix it.  I took long hot baths and then felt anxious about not spending time with my family. I ate chocolate and then felt anxious about my health.  I prayed and then felt anxious that my prayers were sucky.  I felt anxious about a news story on a college student making ricin in his dorm room so I researched if that was possible to only end up down an internet wormhole involving the anal scent glands of beavers and the cyanide content of almonds.  I am now anxious about what the NSA thinks of me.  I slept and walked and tried all the usual things that help me cope with my brand of crazy.  Then my dear friend reminded me of my coloring book.  I had bought it when dad got sick as a way to relax.  It’s all graphic bird prints, ready for a little brightening up from my trusty set of colored pencils.  So the child and I spent part of Saturday coloring together. While it helped me a bit what was really great was having a friend who could remind me of this and who is my friend no matter how stressed I may be or how wacky my internet searches become. We all have our stuff and...

Drinking Alone

Today I had my semi-regular meeting with the other United Methodist Church planters in the area.  We get together every few months to support one another, share ideas, and check in with our supervisory team.  As we shared today one of the phrases that got used to describe church planting was beautiful chaos.  It really is this amazing experience, full of highs and lows and twists and turns. I experienced this just recently.  In February we had good turn outs at our two gateway gatherings.  These are events I hold monthly for those people in my network who are interested in the community.  It’s a way for people to dip their toes in and check out what we are all about.  One of these groups meets in a local bar one Wednesday a month and has been doing so since this fall.  In February we had a great conversation about justice as the social expression of love.  It was energy giving and there were new people there that others in the community had invited.  It was beautiful and so affirming of what we were doing.  In March I spent the Wednesday night drinking alone.  I stayed for an hour, hogging a giant table all to myself, waiting for no one.  Some of the people were busy, some didn’t feel like coming, and it might be that this ministry has run its course.  As a planter I have to be attentive,  but not anxious.  Willing to adapt, but not so quick as to pull the plug before we’ve really started.    And that’s the chaos part of church planting, of...

So What Do You Do All Day?

I just got back from a few days hanging out with a bunch of 30something pastors.  As we engaged in small talk over the dinner table the first night one of my new acquaintances asked, “So, what do you do all day?”  Most people know the basics of the work of a pastor, planning & leading worship, preaching, teaching, and visiting.   Ministry in a church is also varied and I’ve found myself doing everything from fixing a broken desk to offering solace to a family in the wake of a father’s suicide.  Pastors also regularly engage with their community, meeting with nonprofits and other churches to create opportunities for others. But what does my job as a pastor look like when I don’t have a church building to maintain or a congregation that needs care? One part of the Sellwood Faith Community plant is to engage with people in the community.  This means that I volunteer at the school in many roles, I talk to the owners of local businesses, and I participate in community events.  This creates a wide network of people I know and takes a huge amount of my intentional effort.  As I settle in to life here in Sellwood it’s easy to stop that work of meeting new people.  So every day I walk in the neighborhood, and I say hi to people.  I stop by my favorite restaurant and chat with the owners.  I visit with the moms at pick up. The next piece is creating space for some of these people that I know to talk about the big issues of life...

Turn, Turn, Turn

It’s fast approaching the church season of Lent.  This time of the church year was created as part of the early practices of the people to help prepare themselves for Easter.  The idea was to focus on spiritual growth and to make yourself right with God.  The season begins on Ash Wednesday which just happens to fall on March 5th this year. Seasons of the church year are a unique way to mark time.  Each season developed over the millennia to what it is now, but all started as traditions and rituals to help people connect with God.  When we don’t know the deeper meaning behind the seasons it can seem like just going through the motions because it’s what we’ve always done, but for me there is a power in being called to a time of getting ready like advent or a time of sacrifice like Lent.  Pentecost is the season of renewal, epiphany is the season of light, Easter actually lasts for 50 days because we have so much to celebrate, and ordinary time captures the day to day regularness of life.I know that we are in a season of pentecost in our own ministry as we continue to live into this time of planting a new faith community.  Sometimes the season of our soul does not match the season on the church calendar, but with enough practice we can connect those seasons to the reality of our lives and be spiritually enriched and supported as a result.Often as part of Lent people give something up.  It’s a way to help yourself pay attention by denying a...