I am so Grateful

As I prepare to host my first Thanksgiving,  I’m reflecting on all the reasons in my life to be thankful.  One of those is my work.   I realize so clearly how lucky we are to be able to engage in this new start ministry.  Jeff and I had been dreaming and scheming of starting a church for almost 10 years.  To get to the place of even believing it was possible a lot of people taught us about faith, showed us how to have holy dreams, and adventured with us.  Since claiming that dream we have been trained and challenged, supported and nudged. We would not be here today without the faithful people of Grace United Methodist Church in Elgin, Illinois, or the folks of Trinity and First United Methodist Churches in Salem, Oregon.  I am thankful everyday for the foresight of the people of Sellwood United Methodist Church in building this parsonage.  We come to this place not as isolated followers, but as part of a large network of communities that loved and planned and dreamed as they risked for God. I so appreciate my clergy colleagues who say lovely encouraging things to us, and who are there to listen when this work gets overwhelming.  I truly believe that we do not succeed in having a rich and deep life on our own.  I’m am privileged to call you friends. And I’m thankful for you who read this blog, who share our journey in this way, and who help me to reflect on the beautiful work for which I was made and grown. Many blessings in this...

No Welcomes Here

Several years ago Jeff and I needed to buy a new doormat.  He found a nice simple one with the word welcome written in a curly script across the surface.  “Nope.” I said.  “Vampires.” He replied.  You see Jeff knew that my favorite tv show was Buffy the Vampire Slayer and in that show’s universe a welcome mat was all the invitation a vampire needed to enter your home.  This is why I love him.  He understood that for a fan of that show getting a welcome mat would be foolish.  We got a color blocked one instead and it served us well for years. Now I know vampires aren’t real, but it is still true that I’ve never been a fan of plastering my home with the world welcome.  I love to host people for dinner or have folks to stay, but welcome to me is more than a word.  Recently we had a colleague stay the night for a meeting here in Portland.  To get ready for his arrival I scrubbed the shower curtain and got down on hands and knees to sanitize the floors.  He would probably have said it wasn’t necessary, but for me it’s not welcoming to have your guest shower with a moldy curtain or have to wonder why his feet are sticky.  I didn’t think that he would think me less competent or that a little mold would affect our friendship, but it was all part of truly being welcoming.  We never once said to him, you are welcome here, but we did prepare so that he would feel welcome.  Like many...

Being a Servant Sucks

I volunteer at my daughter’s school every Thursday and often I get to do fun things like work with kiddos in a reading group or decorate the bulletin board.  Most of my day is full of boring, but manageable tasks like copying, laminating, and cutting.  Sometimes however I am asked to do something I just don’t want to do, not for some lofty moral objection, but because it’s unpleasant or boring. I always try to accept these jobs with grace.  Remembering the reason that I volunteer is to free up the teachers and the staff to do the jobs that matter, namely educating and caring for kids.  But sometimes I’m resentful.  I have a master’s degree I want to say. I’m better than this work, is really what I mean.  But I’m not.  It is work that needs to be done and I have offered myself to do it. Last Thursday I found myself hunched over a file drawer bathing in the hot exhaust from the copy machine.  I was sweaty, doing a super boring task, in an uncomfortable position.  My thought about half way through was that this was an odious job and I knew that I could get out of it.   I could complain and say I didn’t want to finish.  I could slow down and just waste the rest of my time until I could leave. I could not say anything and just do the next job on my list.  I didn’t do any of those things, instead I plowed through the rest of the filing and went on to the next, thankfully less tedious,...

Community That Matters

This work that we do is slow and full of disappointment.  One thing I’ve been obsessing about lately is a couple who came to somethings, but who are clearly not engaging.  I find myself dwelling on them and wondering what I could have done differently to provide a proper welcome.  Then there are nights when no one shows and I spend my time feeling like a fraud.  Here I am using my gifts and the resources of the annual conference (the United Methodist regional body) trying to build a community of no one. What gets me through the slowness and the disappointing times is that I deeply believe in what we are creating.  That’s what gives me hope, that is what eventually draws me away from my obsessions and worry.  I know that we are on to something important and rich.  I have seen God at work here and know that lives are being changed.  At SFC God is being made manifest.  I can feel that the Kingdom is at hand.  On Tuesday I had an amazing conversation with a stranger who is now a friend. On Halloween two members of our community dropped by the house just to visit and connect.  On Saturday at a celebration of life for a member of the neighborhood people were able to grieve and touch something holy.  These are just a few of the things this week that show me how we are part of something bigger than ourselves.  This community of deep hearted people willing to risk in love is not something that just happens in an instant.  It takes real...