Author Archive: admin

2015 is Here

2015 is underway.  The baby was born, the wise men visited, and the star moved on to a new horizon.  The Holiday Season winds down and the baby grows up, thanks be to God, the unexpected gift that outlives the season in surprising ways.

For many people the holidays were filled with surprises, some good and welcome, and some concerning.  Perhaps you are glad to stow away Christmas for another year.  Maybe you are already thinking about spring or a visit to a warm climate.  No matter your point of view we are now living “January” in all its frozen glory and so it goes. Tis the season to pay attention to the National Weather Service.

I have high expectations for this year ahead of us.  We closed 2014 with a hearty meal for the hungry at Loaves and Fishes on New Year’s Eve.  Thanks to all who donated, cooked, showed up, served, washed, or talked.  What a great thing to do as the past year came to a close.  It is amazing what we can do when we are determined to get something done.

In the early hours of the New Year a question came to me.  In biblical times it might have come as a vision or in a dream but for me it was a thought that just popped in my head.  “Whose life are we going to change this year?”  I think we are in for a few surprises.

Songs All Around Us

Someone stopped by the church this week to talk to a pastor. She was having a tough time on top of run of tough times.  She was feeling angry at the hand she had been dealt and angry toward God.  She was questioning whether she still had any faith.  Coincidence or God Thing, her appearance was a real surprise after preaching about anger last Sunday morning.  Plus, we do not receive that many “I need to talk to a pastor” visits without a plea for financial support.  She needed to talk and hear some assurance.  We tried to meet her needs.

Fortunately, in telling her story she could also name where she had overcome difficulties in the past, claim she was a survivor and state her two very good reasons for not giving up, her children. She appeared to have the grit that would see her through this crisis and at some point, hopefully, she might understand that feeling faithless is not the same as being a person of faith who sometimes needs a dose of “blessed assurance.”

She deserved her unsettled feelings. She had gone through so many changes that one more bad event brought all her grief to the surface.  She was singing a “Song in the Key of Life” that most of us recognize.  Keep her in your prayers.

On my prayer list is the issue of our camp facilities closing and the changes within our UMC conference camping programs. Change, especially when it is something close to our hearts, is a little death and death needs grieving.  It is hard to decide which is better to know something is dying or hear suddenly of the loss.  With our camping program some people were well aware of the serious issues and decisions that needed making, the rest of us were caught off guard.  It hurts whether it is drawn out or sudden and the facilities closing seemed sudden to many of us.

There are often blessings tucked into our grieving. When I heard that a church I had once served was closing I spent a lot of time remembering many people and events from my time there. The memories were a gift of remembered laughter and sadness.  My camping career only lasted six years but I do value some really good memories and friendships forged through the experiences of those years.  A few weeks ago we sang a hymn to a different, more contemporary tune, someone told me how much they liked that and how the words took on new meaning.  I credit that pairing to a late night sing along at Camp Galilee almost twenty years ago.  I am grateful to have been there and sometimes that is all we can do, remember, and be grateful.

Psalm 30 says it well “weeping may linger for a night but joy comes with the morning.” Life is filled with both.  This coming Sunday our “Song in the Key of Life” will be joy.

Be blessed, Kate

Songs in the Key of Life

No wonder behavior is widely studied and discussed, begging the question why.  How humans and animals act is fascinating and mysterious.  Some behaviors easily evoke annoyance.  Most mornings my cat spends several minutes “complaining” for no apparent reason.  Who needs this before the coffee consumption?  Squirrels evoke annoyance outside of the house.  Someone is systematically destroying a perfectly good Christmas cactus.  Why?  They have an abundant menu available why destroy my house plant?  Who needs this persistent annoyance?

A rational reframe of the situation recognizes most of our world neighbors would love to have these burdens in exchange for disease, corruption, and unwarranted violence.  Having these peccadillos to ponder is a smoke screen for more serious and tragic annoyances where the “a” word should really be anger.  It is even more fascinating to consider what causes us to feel annoyance and most importantly anger.

Another westerner was beheaded in the Mideast by some renegade lunatics and spurred another mass outcry against their brutal and fanatic behavior. Yet recently, 495 children living in Gaza where killed in that recent tragic situation. Is a child being crushed in a bombed building not as brutal as a beheading?  Our society seems addicted to reactive anger spurred on by the media.  We get riled up by the low hanging fruit instead of reaching higher to examine our anger and gather perspective.  We seem to choose angry rhetoric over lament every time, national posturing over theological reflection.  These responses move me past anger into sorrow, prayer and yearning for a deeper conversation.

These musings are probably too complex to be pitched out in a weekly email.  We have spiritual resources to aid both lament and reflection for issues affecting us individually and socially.  We could use them and we should.  Ours is a faith that has struggled with many of the serious issues facing us today.  Ours is a faith that knows anger and joy, gratitude and sorrow and it can be a guide in how we live through the varieties of our human emotions.  Knowing this resource is ours helps me live through the tragedies constantly occurring around the globe.  Knowing this makes it easier to keep smoke screen annoyances from ruining an otherwise decent day.  I can spend a few minutes listening to the cat complain and I can work at forgiving the squirrels.  I can also take constructive action and put the plants out of their reach.

This Sunday we will start a new four week series in morning worship, “Songs in the Key of Life,” based on the Psalms and our human emotions. The title of the series is borrowed from Stevie Wonder with thanksgiving for his years of creating amazing music about life.

 

 

 

 

 

Let God Occupy Your Space

Houses have occupied my life lately.  God’s house, the church house, and the house I am going to buy today.  Last weekend it was all about God’s house, the church, four days of worship, prayer, study, and fellowship at Annual Conference.  Once I arrived back in Columbia the daily sales routine of the parsonage and preparing to move became very occupying.  I know you understand being occupied as it is an increasingly common way of life for everyone.  We get occupied by many things, physically, mentally and spiritually.

It only becomes a problem when God gets pushed aside instead of sharing the occupation.  Brother Lawrence, a well known monk in church circles, gifted us with recognizing God could occupy us even in the business of mundane life.  He realized that his dishwashing duties could be a spiritual exercise if first he let God occupy him.  Absolutely anywhere and anything can be God’s home.

A simple understanding of grace is that it keeps nudging us into God occupation.  Grace forgives our wandering, invites meandering, and makes the refocus a joy and not a burden.

Keep grace in the house and you will always feel at home.  There will soon be much to share with everyone about selling the parsonage and the pastor moving up the street.

Grace and peace to all houses especially the one in your heart.

“Real Butter”

“It’s been a long time since I had a baked potato with real butter.”  These quiet words were a simple, sincere statement of gratitude.  I recognized the man as a regular at Loaves and Fishes these past couple of years.  Wednesday he stuck around to help us take out the trash when we cleaned up.  His words were touching and I appreciated hearing the deeper implication.  The people who come for dinner at Loaves and Fishes notice when they are served food that is not typical fare at “soup kitchens.”  A little real butter is an offering of dignity and I am grateful that on Fairview Wednesday dignity was on the menu.

We only serve on fifth Wednesdays and that enables us to go beyond typical fare and involve more people.  Credit must be given to Jamie Kochert for keeping the preparations timely and organized. She also had the inspiration to ask a local restaurant to donate the “real butter” and invite Mother’s Morning Out to join our effort.  The parents of MMO donated menu items and three MMO staff members, with spouses and sons, helped us serve.  It was a nice opportunity to get to know them better working side by side.

What really makes our dinners possible are the Fairview folk who always donate and show up to do what it takes to serve a roomful of diners.  Each time we serve, our meals are enhanced by extra effort and additional layers of care.  On the last Wednesday of this April it was condiments, bananas, and real butter!  Thank you for the many ways you participated and spread around some gospel love.

The sunshine of this second day of May is a welcome sight after a week of stormy weather and unsettling news coming at us daily.  I have resolved this morning to let the sun of this day be a reminder that beyond the storms God continues to shine love upon us.  Blessings to all.

Simple, But Not Easy

Palm Sunday was canceled last year due to a snow storm that came through Sunday morning.  Not this year.  It is April, getting green outside with seasonal blooming and allergies.  All very fitting for a faith season called Lent, an old word for “spring,” and a yearly time to recall and reclaim the depth of what it means to be a Christ person.

Christ person?  Yes, someone who lives the pull of Christ to embrace a life anchored in knowing and following the man from Galilee, known to us as the Son of God.  Following him and knowing God through him is not a cultural label or a set of American guidelines for a nice life.  Seeking to know and follow Christ is experiencing the living presence of God.  It is expansive grace that invites us to unbind from superficial and fleeting values and see the world through eyes of love and trust.  Too often it has been used as just a “map quest” destination route instead of a pathway of living.  Following Christ offers us opportunity to live joyfully in a world that never escapes the hurt of being alive.  A Christ person knows scars are a part of real wholeness.

As such a person we take a deliberate pause every year to remember the core story of our faith.  Jesus was born into a world that needed new eyes to understand “God.”  He became the feet, the hands, the voice, bent on teasing us into God’s vision of a “kingdom” where love was deregulated from human tampering.

It did not go over well with those whose power and tampering felt threatened.  The worst of human behavior was then played out in silencing his voice; scheming, betrayal, denial, power struggles, and ultimately violence unto death.

From this coming Sunday to the next we remember these events that altered our world.  It starts simply, with an optimistic arrival, celebratory palm waving, at the capital of Jesus’ religion, Jerusalem, in time for the festival of Passover.  Events turn ugly fairly fast.  We call the ugly events, holy week, as Jesus takes on the worse human behavior in God centered passion.  He literally goes all in to show us God’s true face.  From Friday to Sunday morning ugly seems to win, but that is not how the story ends, in fact, it is just the beginning.  Palm Sunday will lead us into the depth of the story and the following Sunday we can really celebrate.

Before the Easter celebration, we will gather around the communion table for a “Last Supper,” we call this Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, from an old word that means “commandment,” a new commandment to get back to the basics of loving one another.

Simple but not easy, God helps willing.

A mid-Lent Catch Your Breath

It’s been a quiet week in Lake “Como-be gone”.  A mid-Lent “catch your breath” kind of week as only can happen in a university-college town. The traffic has been light on Fairview Rd and at Fairview UMC.

Our scriptures are very clear that time to rest or halt regular schedule is good a thing, good for the soul, especially. In some nomadic culture the tradition when they are on the move is to stop for a few days in the journey so their souls could catch up with them.

Nowadays, a lot of people claim to be spiritual but not interested in “organized religion.”  They probably want soul food without the additional have to do on their list, as in “have to go to church.”  Claiming to be spiritual could be one way of expressing a desire to have some time for their soul to catch up with them, without the accountability of a community. The “I’m spiritual” self-designation is probably like weight and height on a drivers’ license, more an expression of a longed for ideal than reality. It is a nice sentiment but makes no time for soul catch up.

This line of thinking leads to a couple of interesting pondering points. The first is more a musing on my part as to what would make a church a place of soul catch up? What would it be like, or how is it already, a place that nurtures catch up time? The second point is less musing and more a condition: In a rapidly changing, evolving society, where are we doing the harder work of figuring out how to spiritually, morally, and ethically, live with our changes? We are continually reacting to the reality that just because we can do something, should we. As we journey deeper into a technology driven living we need some time for our souls to catch up. This too is a fertile field for a church, especially one relevant to our everyday living and decision making. Just thinking.

That is the news from my part of “Como-be-gone.” Be well and hopefully a little caught up. There is a lot coming up as we move into the final weeks a Lent, please pay, and pray attention.

Turn to Grace and Trust

I wish Fred Phelps, patriarch of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, who died yesterday, no eternal harm.  But I confess that his hate filled rhetoric fuels my emphatic interest in baptismal vows that ask if we will renounce, reject, and resist evil and spiritual forces of wickedness.  For the sake of Christ’s church we need to find and speak faithful words that do that.  The family Phelps have slandered the grace of Jesus Christ and received plenty of media coverage for their actions. I am convinced that their extreme behavior has caused current Christianity much harm.  For example, a grad student recently told me he does not admit to being a Christian for fear his colleagues will think he “hates gays.”  Whoa Nellie, that is a bad public image.  We need to renounce rhetoric that feeds that kind of negative thinking.

Our baptismal vows ask us to do and be more.  The scriptures are very clear that we are called to love our neighbors and our enemies.  Not so easy when they spew hate.  The best I seem to do is feel sorry for people who live to hate or harm.  The narrowed minded behavior of people that spread hate in the name of Christ is not prophetic, it is sad.

On the third week of Lent our “vows” turn to grace and trust. I know “spring break” has arrived on the scene, so I hope you have time to consider how we can accept the saving that Jesus offers us on a daily basis.  Do we trust God’s grace? Do we accept Christ into the nook and crannies of our lives?  Is it possible to bring that grace into the irritations and challenges of sharing this world with all sorts of people?  Good questions, big enough for a lifetime and worthy of a little attention.

It’s Friday, thank God, share some joy and the signs of early spring, it has arrived.

Answers and Absolutes

Deep questions are swirling through my house. Is it time to put the gloves away? Did he really say chance of snow on Sunday?  Admittedly these are not really deep questions just are weather questions and weather questions are often difficult to answer. As scripture says, “the wind blows where it will and no one knows where it comes from.” We can study and guess but mostly we have to wait.

Weather questions and deep theological questions have a few things in common. Often we understand it best after the fact, in reflection. In both, there are forces at play that we do not always understand-we see through a glass darkly. Sometimes, we have just enough information to intuit an outcome or at least sound a warning siren.

The theological questions at my house this Lent are most engaging and I feel fortunate to spend time with them. They are deep: What is evil? Where does it come from? Who makes the call between evil and good?  What does it say about God? What does it say about humans? What does it mean to renounce and resist evil forces?  Deep.

We live in a world where people are attracted to “answers” and “absolutes” and easy solutions, we are busy and distracted taking care of daily life. Jesus does not always make it easier, he asks questions and tells nuanced stories.  He invites us on a journey and then heads in directions we do not want to go, the traveling is not always easy.  He offers love and acceptance and then pushes us out into a cold, cruel world. I love that about him. It reminds me of stepping out into the blowing wind all wrapped up in a warm comforter.

Here we are in the middle of March gifted with sunny days to enjoy and with days to get out the hats and gloves when the weather changes, because it will. It seems like the perfect weather for Lent, keeps us on our toes.

Lent Begins

Lent began on Wednesday, Ash Wednesday. On Shrove Tuesday, Fat Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday at Fairview, my niece sent me a text asking about the date of Easter, “why does it change every year?”  The variable date stems from a long practiced church tradition; Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox.  Back up forty days and six Sundays and we have the date for Ash Wednesday.

This year I am issuing an invitation for everyone to make an effort to increase your God awareness level. The biggest obstacle to faith is inattention. It is that simple. Find a way that works for you to pay attention and you will be more aware of God moving in your life, you will be more “spiritual.”  Spirituality is the practice of paying attention and responding. Giving up something will not automatically make you feel God’s presence unless you are alert to what is happening within and around you. We pay attention to what we love and we respond to being loved.

Here is a very easy thing to do. Give God three minutes every day, three listening minutes. Turn off distractions and stop thinking for three minutes and just be present to God.  Surely everyone has three minutes to give God some full attention.

Something different is being added to our calendar during Lent this year.  Several years ago a friend asked me to go see “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Starlight Theatre in Kansas City. Of course I said yes and quickly added a small caveat, “I know all the words, I will sing along.”  I had shocked my friends in 1973 by urging we go see the movie when it hit the theatres.  The music touched me even before I really knew anything about Jesus Christ. Given this background, we will be having a Jesus Christ Superstar sing-a-long to said movie at the church in the coming weeks.  I hope a few folk will come and sing along I have already acquired the DVD.