Matters of Kindness

The other day I found out a new friend was having some pretty big relationship stuff going on.  I instantly thought, “She needs ice cream.”  I was headed over by Salt & Straw but as my meeting was winding down I began to make up reasons why I shouldn’t buy her a pint and write her a card.  First of all what if she was lactose intolerant or on a diet?  Good forbid she was one of those odd people who doesn’t like chocolate.   Would it seem like too much?  Or like I was making too little of the issue?  It’s so much easier to just go about my normal life and not to risk being kind to someone else.  After really thinking about it, I ended up buying the ice cream and writing her a little card.  The next time I saw her she gave me a huge hug and said, “What I didn’t tell you was my grandma died the same day.  I really needed that.  Thank you.” Part of the luxury of being the pastor of this new start is that living kindness gets to be a big part of my ministry of presence in the community.  Where can I give love, show up, care for others, and spread light?  That is the question I get to ask myself every morning as I contemplate the day ahead.  Of course throughout the day I end up in places of doubt, like when buying the ice cream.  These really are times of wondering if my kindness will be properly received and appropriately appreciated.  Why should I bother...

Read This Blog

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina a friend of mine posted a link to a blog entry titled Being Poor by Science Fiction author John Scaliz.  I found the entry captured something important in the midst of that horrible coverage of the people suffering at the Superdome.  As a result I started reading Scalzi’s Whatever blog on a regular basis. In the 8 years since I have been known to quote entries at parties and to refer to the blog in sermons.  I even won a copy of Scalzi’s new book by commenting on an entry with a random number. The other day I realized that I had not checked Whatever in quite some time.  I went back to the last entry I had read and found that it had been weeks since I had been on the site.  That prior visit was a long one, reading many back entries.  I remembered that reading Whatever and a couple of other blogs were part of what I did when I was in my office.  In between writing sermons and updating the church website I’d take a few minutes and cruise the web.  It’s the fine art of procrastinating at work.  And I don’t do it anymore.  It’s not that the content of the blog has changed, but the content of my life has.  I’m no longer sitting in my office in an empty church working away at the computer for long stretches of time.  I’m usually only on the computer for specific tasks or to play Candy Crush while we watch tv. Scalzi’s blog is a good thing.  It’s something I enjoyed...

Tablecloth Hospitality

One Wednesday a month you will find me folding a tablecloth into my purse and heading out to my local.  When Jeff and I first designed our ministry proposal we knew that we needed gateway events.  These were times when people who were curious about the new start could easily spend some time with us finding out about who we are and what we are about.  Theology on Tap was the first event.  With our small leadership team we agreed to meet one Wednesday a month for questions and conversations.  Anyone can bring any topic they would like to discuss.  Sometimes we have a plan in advance because someone has emailed their question and other times we just start by checking in and seeing how life has been going, which invariably leads to a theological discussion.  My favorite was when we talked about the very nature of divinity.  Sitting around with people who are interested in plumbing deep issues of belief, uncertainty, and faith is always a challenging and fun time. We meet in a bar/restaurant because that is a place where people know how to show up.  Unlike in a church where it’s unclear sometimes where you enter, where you sit, and when to stand everyone knows how to walk into a restaurant and sit at a table.  To help new people find us I bring the aforementioned tablecloth.  We’re the only table in the joint with a tablecloth, so no one has to feel awkward about walking up to strangers to find out if they are in the right place.   The content of our time together...

The Holly and the Ivy and the Hydrangea

Our back yard is a little bit of a jungle.  It’s nice to have the arbor vitae between us and the parking lot of the apartments next door.  (P and her two buddies who live there have figured out a secret path which is really what childhood is all about.)  The ivy on the garage and the back fence is pretty and serves to obscure the view through the chain link.  And then there is the giant hydrangea, which besides being my favorite flower, blocks the swing set from the view of the busy road out front.  In the summer our back yard is an oasis in the urban setting of our home. Recently I was inspired by the sun and blue sky to do some yard work.  I began by pruning the hydrangea.  As I worked many of my clippings fell onto a pile of leaves from the large tree that dominates the yard.  The leaves had blown against the base of the hydrangea and now after rain, wind, and snow they were a gray matt.  As I was cleaning up my work and readying to head to the roses I raked up all the branches I had cut and many of the leaves.  There, to my surprise, was the small stump of a tree and out of it were growing stems of holly.  Once someone had planted a holly tree here in the corner of the yard and years later someone else had cut it down.  Maybe that same someone then planted the hydrangea.  A change was made and the holly tree died, but it didn’t really....

Counting

We had a fairly big milestone last week with the Sellwood Faith Community.  People came to the Tazie worship experience who we had never met before.  They saw about us on Facebook and came along because they were interested in being part of a church starting out.  It is a sign that we’re growing as a community beyond the personal connections that Jeff and I have with people and it’s exciting. It counts as a step in the right direction.  And that’s what I’m thinking about today, what we count and how we count it. Which of course leads me to Count von Count, the one who taught many of my generation how to count things. The video above reminds me that when we observe things our observation can effect those things.  How we count and what we think about that number effects the way we view our organization.  I could be bummed that worship on Friday was only 8 people, or I could celebrate that 4 new people joined us.  If I’m bummed maybe I’ll cancel worship or do a shoddy job of planning.  If I’m excited maybe I’ll schedule more events or work harder at learning the songs. As I work on our quarterly benchmark reports for the new start initiative I’m glad that there is a space for narrative in our reporting, but I wonder how my focus on money and people affects the way we are choosing to live out this ministry.  We do need to be held accountable as we make a sustainable community.  It would be easy to just sit around all day...