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Archive for November, 2008

I really should have chosen a light hearted, funny novel to balance the tough, struggles of sorrow that I witness on a daily basis. But, instead I picked up a book recommended by a friend from seminary. I’ve been reading, Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us by Rita Nakashima Brock & Rebecca Ann Parker. I’m only halfway through and I love it. Just one of the many struggles written about is one the of the writer’s testimony to a conflict surrounding her church’s struggle with their own identity and who they would open their doors to and welcome in. Here’s what led me to tears: 

“No one ever stood up at board meetings. The meetings tended to be informal. But Cecil cleared his throat to make a speech. “The Bible is perfectly clear on this question,” he said, speaking with firmness. I held my breath. I had no idea where Cecil was going with this. “Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ and as far as I know he put no restrictions on who our neighbor is…. There will be some in our church family who will not understand such an action. It will not fit with their understanding of what it means to be a Christian or how they read the Bible, and we will lose our relationship with them. But if we don’t do this, we will lose our relationship to God.” Then he sat down. Cecil’s words woke something up in me. He said if holding on to a relationship meant you lost God, you had to let the relationship go. I didn’t know how to do this. I had never considered the possibility that love might be willing to break a bond.” 

The author, who is pastor of this church, goes on to describe what the church went through and how it impacted their community at large. Here is a beautiful paragraph of summary that led me to tears after reading it, 

“Looking back at this time a church member observed that the congregation became strong because it had faced its worst fear: that it would lose members if it took a controversial stand. Many members did leave the congregation. But those who stayed discovered we could weather the loss of important relationships. We recognized that there were many places for people to go to church who believed that homosexuality is a sin. There weren’t many religious communities that were openly affirming, proactively supportive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered folk. We made a choice to provide hospitality where the religious world usually dispensed hostility.”

And yes, I have posted this in hopes that a certain community will read this. It’s a long shot, I know. We are in the season of Advent though. If you can’t live with hope in Advent, I don’t really think you can live with hope at all. So, that’s what I’m reading these days and here’s to hoping you’ll read it too.

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What about you?

Most of you who know me, know that I enjoy a good conversation. I find that the most difficult part of this blog. Most of the time, it is very one-sided. I love it when people say, “I read your blog!” (of course, who wouldn’t love this??) but, I realize that sometimes I need to do more to hear from you too. 

So, in light of yesterday’s posting, I wonder where you are today. What are you “waking up” to in your life right now? Where are the wilderness places in your spiritual journey right now? Not in a wilderness time? Feel free to offer up a word about what brings you encouragement when you did face this kind of situation. 

What about you? Come on! Let me know who you are and where you are….

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It feels as though I am waking up in a “wilderness” point in my life. As Barry and I almost approach the five month mark on this adventure in California, life still seems a little unsettled. My CPE colleagues and I joke that one of my struggles on this journey is for “meaning and direction”. This isn’t really a joke though. It’s the truth. The constant question in my life seems to be “where is God leading me now?” 

A little background information… When it came time to talk about fellowship programs, I knew like most things in *my life* (*well, I could argue about some other certain circumstances but sometimes we deal with the choices that others make for us too.*) that we would have our answer when the time was right. I’ll spare you the details about how we knew this was right but we did. And we followed, making the move across the country. 

So, now here we are…. in a strange place, far away from the familiar friends, places and church family that we had grown to love. I forgot how hard it is to meet new people. I forgot how difficult it is to be wear the “visitor” name badge at church. I forgot how hard it is to find a new dry cleaners, a new dentist, and your favorite chinese restaurant (Oh, how I miss Little Szechuan). Of course, it doesn’t help that we still have an adorable 2 bd/2 ba condo on the market during a terrible housing crisis (email me if you are interested!). It’s more than overwhelming at times. 

I know it’s culture shock but even knowing doesn’t make it any easier. People still make comments about my “cute” Southern accent. It’s still strange to ask patients where home is and realize I have no idea where it is so why did I just ask. But more than that, it’s awful to wonder if we should have made this move to begin with. Did we do the right thing? Was it really the voice of God that led us here? Where is God now? 

The truth is asking the questions brings me some sense of peace. My belief is God is big enough for my questions. I have found solace in the words of my friend Kate Campbell‘s song “Dark Night of the Soul” on her new CD, Save the Day (if you haven’t gotten it yet, go to itunes now!) Here are the words: 

You can pray with all your might
Til you knuckles all turn white
Or you can look the other way
Hope it’s gone with each new day

You can do your best to hide
You can hold it all inside
You can curse and shake your fist
You can ask why God, why this?

There is peace somewhere I’m told
There’s a fire out in the cold
There are wonders to behold
In the dark night of the soul

You can give in to your doubts
Try to figure it all out
You can fight the fight alone
Or do your best to drink it gone

But there is peace somewhere I’m told
There’s a fire out in the cold
There are wonders to behold
In the dark night of the soul

Trust your spirit to be your guide
You’ll come out on the other side

In the absence of the light
Let the shadows hold you tight
And you can let your fear and pain
Wash over you like rain

But there is peace somewhere I’m told
There’s a fire out in the cold
There are wonders to behold
In the dark night of the soul
In the dark night of the soul

Last week, in a conversation with someone I had just met, she helped me reframe this time in my life. She encouraged me to talk about the places that I have seen evidences of the Holy during these last five months. She offered the image of stories in scripture when God led people to a new place and what happened in their lives as a result of the move. These “wilderness” places were ultimately times of growth for these followers of God. 

So, I’m wrestling and now I’m learning to once again (it’s a lesson for us constantly right?) trust the spirit to be my guide and remembering that even in times such as these, “… the One who began a good work among [us] will bring it to completion.”

Thanks to my new Save the Day CD, old and new friends who have promised to be with us along the way. 

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Not Forgotten

In my current job as a CPE Chaplain Resident, I have the wonderful privilege of meeting some of our country’s finest heroes. I have a new appreciation for the men and women who have served and currently serve our country. I hope that each of you will take a few minutes to thank the veterans in your life. 

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  In thinking about our veterans, I remembered my first trip to Washington, DC with my family in 2005. Of course, my favorite day was the first day we arrived. My mom     couldn’t wait for us to see the monuments. Indeed, they were beautiful. My favorite was the World War II monument that had been recently opened. It was sad to me though, that so many of my friends from PBC would never see the memorial built to their service. 

 

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One of the most moving sights was the memorial built to the Vietnam veterans. In fact, my uncle’s best friend was killed in Vietnam. I had heard about Paul’s death and it’s impact on my dad’s family all of my life. However, when dad found Paul’s name on the wall, it was a beautiful moment. My family stood at the wall and cried. How could you not feel anything in witnessing a memorial to our country’s bravest heroes? 

The greatest fear that I hear coming from the mouths of Vietnam vets even now is that we won’t remember. Statistics show that only 1% of our population is affected by this war. We haven’t heard about it on the news lately. Yes, I do want to bring our soldiers home and soon. The reality is that we aren’t prepared to bring them home and help them to recover through what they have experienced at war. We, as Americans and as Christians, should welcome them home with open arms. We should be giving them (and all vets) a safe place to talk about what they have experienced. We should continue to encourage our government and systems to offer the resources they need. Our women and men need to know that we will be there to support, encourage, love and thank them for their service. We will not forget.

Happy Veteran’s Day to my friends, patients, family and mentors. We have not forgotten!

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Sunday, Sunday

On Friday, a local pastor called and asked if I was available to preach for him this Sunday. Of course, I was elated and gladly accepted the invitation. Barry was out of town and I could work on my sermon on Saturday. I was actually surprised at my excitement about preaching and meeting another new congregation in the Bay area. 

This morning, I traveled about 10 miles from my house lead in worship at New Community of Faith. What a sweet fellowship of believers! I felt so blessed after leaving worship this morning. It was such a wonderful morning and a great way to begin my week. Thanks to Pastor Wesley and the folks at New Community for the invitation to be with you all this morning!

One of the things I realized in preparing and delivering the sermon this morning was how sad (and angered) I have been about the passing of Proposition 8 here in California. I have heard people of faith (from all sides of sexual orientation) talk about the pain around this vote this week. It has been a difficult week for folks in this area. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to gather with people of faith to talk about these issues, pray for all sides and love with one another. 

After church, I rushed over to my other favorite Sunday activity in California…. the Farmer’s Market. I think my friends and family have gotten tired of hearing me talk about how awesome they are out here. I’m not kidding though. I feel lost if I don’t have the opportunity to go! (One of my friends actually suggested that the community at the Farmer’s Market might be my new community when we were having trouble finding a church to attend!) It runs all year long from 9 am-1 pm. I made it to the market about 10 minutes before they were closing. I still managed to grab peppers, tomatoes, squash, strawberries, and grapes! Yummy! I’ll take some pictures soon too. 

I did the rest of my grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s and picked up some beautiful sunflowers for the dining room table this week. Jovi and I just returned from a trip to SFO. Barry’s been gone for a week on vacation seeing friends and family in Atlanta/Savannah. (Yes, he went without his wife!) I didn’t have enough time off saved up yet and want to save it for the Christmas holidays. 

And to top it off… Barry just unpacked the cheese straws that my buddy Bill sent to me. Aw, I love and miss my friends!

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We have heard the Obama family is looking for a new Presidential dog. We thought we’d make a suggestion. Of course, you can’t have our Jovi, but who could resist a face like this? img_4525

Good luck Obamas. We know that you have many more complicated decisions than this one. However, we can testify that a dog is a great companion too. 

Most of all, know that our prayers are with you as you begin making important decisions for our country’s future. 

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My decision to announce that I voted for Barack Obama did not come without reaction. On facebook, friends and family members were curious about why I voted for him. So, I decided that I would dedicate today’s blog to writing about my decision. Feel free to leave responses or questions below in the comment box. But please, let’s not let the comments box become divisive & hurtful like the election. 

As a person of faith & clergy, I approach the decision to vote very seriously. While on staff at a church, I chose to talk about the issues and not the people. I have always believed that persons “of the cloth” have a responsibility not to influence a person’s choice but to be prophetic in how God calls us to live as persons of faith. After making my decision public over facebook and receiving a round of questions in return, I realize that people pay attention. Now, I’m writing this as I watch news coverage of the election so that means I’m not trying to influence your vote but simply let you know where I stand. 

I will begin by saying that I did not vote for Barack Obama in the primaries. The person I voted for did not win and therefore, in some ways, I had the opportunity to look at both candidates as possibilities. With each day of the campaign, I became more aware of how much I admire Barack Obama and the choices he has made. I appreciate his faith (yes, he is a Christian) and his strong connection to his heritage. I listened to him and his passion for wanting to be a change agent in this country. Yes, he is charismatic and his charisma attracts people to him. His message is one that we haven’t heard in a long time. Clearly, it has motivated people in my generation to get involved, get out and vote, and most of all, believe in our country once again. 

I respect John McCain. I think he has stood up many times in our country when we (or the powers that be) should have listened to his boldness. However, I wonder where the “maverick” has gone and where the boldness. I do believe that his choice in a vice-presidential candidate really helped clarify my decision. I’m sure that Sarah Palin is a nice person to be around. However, I do not believe that she is capable or qualified to be President. I think that his decision was based on the fact that he could gain votes from the “religious right” who openly said they would not otherwise vote for him. 

There are so many issues that are important to me. But here are a few of the main ones:  

Foreign Policy is important to me:   To quote Jim Wallis, of Sojourners, “From the biblical prophets to Jesus, there is, at least, a biblical presumption against war and the hope of beating our swords into instruments of peace.” I do not see McCain’s foreign policy of “walk softly and carry a big stick” as a solution to dealing with problems from other countries. In my current job, I see war injuries every day of men and women who are my age and younger. They sacrificed a lot for our government’s desire to retaliate and it breaks my heart. (I think there is a great deal we owe & will owe these men & women but that is another blog for another day.) I appreciate John McCain’s own sacrifice to this country as a vet but that could not be my reason to vote him into office. Barack Obama’s desire to renew our country’s diplomacy and rebuild alliances is where I believe foreign policy should start. As I have traveled to many countries, the need for this becomes more and more evident. 

The Care of Creation is important to me: For candidates to not even be willing to admit that global warming is a problem that we are facing breaks my heart. There are clear directives in scripture about our responsibility as Christians in caring for the earth. We are not doing our part. Unfortunately, I think it is going to take more education, legislature and ultimately for it to effect our wallets for people to do anything about it. Barack Obama is at least willing to admit that it is a problem and that we need to start doing something about it. 

Life is Important to me: This is not just about the issue of women having a choice in what is done to their bodies for me. This is about all people having a chance at life. For me, this includes women’s health issues, healthcare for all, and the death penalty. Yes, my prayer is that no one would have an abortion. I remember all too vividly the day a friend of mine in 9th grade told me that she had an abortion. It broke her heart just as I believe it broke the heart of God. But, I believe that she still had a right to that decision because it affected her own body. And one last thing, I can remember as a child, my grandmother’s fear about Roe vs. Wade being overturned. She said to my mother, “I would hate to know that women and young girls will go to the dirty, back alleys to have unsafe abortions as they did in my day. That’s just scary to me.” Me too. 
Healthcare is something that is too important to me as well. EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE, not just those who can afford it. I wish both candidates had promised to do more about the regulation of health care companies because I think that’s where the problem really lies. Everyone deserves the same health care. It angers me to hear stories about people not receiving the top health care just because they are limited. 

Neither candidate agrees with me on the issue of marriage equality. My opinion and belief is that the government needs to get out of the business of marriage licenses, etc. The government should be about granting civil unions. The church should be about blessing and affirming marriages. There is something wrong with the fact that Brittany Spears can get married and divorced in 48 hours (or was it 24??) but my gay friends who have been in a committed, loving relationship to one another for over 7 years can’t have the same rights & privileges that Barry and I enjoy as a heterosexual couple. 

Furthermore, as a Baptist in tradition, I believe strongly in the “priesthood of all believers” and that each person can go directly to God. That’s one of the reasons there are so many different flavors of being Baptist. However, I will say that this week I became more ashamed as ever of the propaganda, name calling and simply lies that were written about in the blogs of SBC pastors. I will forward you those links privately if you wish, please let me know. 

I believe that to compare Barack Hussein Obama, a man of God and strong character to a harmful terrorist is wrong and unjust. I believe to not vote for him because he is African American is wrong, unjust and only speaks further to our country’s deep seated racism. 

As I sit here watching the results, I don’t know what will happen. None of us do. I pray that we all did our part though in making informed decisions regarding what’s best for our country and our future. I pray that no matter what happens and who becomes our next president. We will remember it is our job, as people of faith, to pray for our country’s leaders.

And just in case there is any doubt that I can have friends with a variety of beliefs, I live with someone who believes (and votes) very differently than I do & I love him anyway 🙂 

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