Author Archive: admin

A Little of This – A Little of That!

On this last day of February I am enjoying my first cup of coffee, sorting out what to send forth in our end of week communication. Several items are on my mind this morning, weather, worship, gratitude for a special anniversary, and political nuttiness done in the name of the Christian faith.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for almost the entire state of Missouri as of early this morning. They are not sure which part of the state will be impacted by a potential significant storm. Unfortunately, the predicted timing is lousy for people who worship on Sunday if it really does start on Saturday night and continue through Sunday.

If we have an active weather event occurring Sunday morning it may be necessary to cancel worship. If the weather is in process it will delay road treatment and be unwise for people to travel. If that occurs, our worship services will be canceled and we will notify the media of our cancelation and post it on our Facebook page. If roads are travelable and our parking lot is in decent shape we will have worship. A messy event will be annoying but not cause to cancel. The four sentences in this paragraph starting with “if” are testament to this issue being very unpredictable.

We have designated this Sunday as Scout Sunday, a day to acknowledge and celebrate Boy, Cub, and Girl Scouts. Ewell Lawson invited us last Sunday to bring any Scouting related items that adults have from our past involvement. Personally, I still have my Brownie pin. Several of our current Scouts will participate in the worship service on Sunday morning.

It is also the final Sunday before we enter the season of Lent, Transfiguration Sunday. The title of the day comes from the biblical story of Jesus going up a mountain with a few disciples where he is transformed before them in a dazzling display. They get an awesome glimpse of his future glory. Even Moses and Elijah make an appearance, a final nod to Jesus’ rootedness in the Hebrew tradition. This year, my interest in the episode has been captivated by the voice of God who announces that we are to “listen to him.” Ah, the listening word.

Finally, today I am grateful to be celebrating an anniversary. One of the most beloved people in my life, Dan, is celebrating his first wedding anniversary today. He married his partner of twenty eight years a year ago in New York where he lives. It was a love fest of great joy. Happy Anniversary Dan and Miguel! Your relationship is a witness to the strength of love lived on daily basis.

Finally, finally, the political nuttiness, I am appalled that any government entity, person or legislative body, uses the title Christian to put forth a concept that our religious liberty, even sensibility, is threatened by people who are labeled “homosexual.” This ridiculous behavior is causing great harm to the relevancy of the Christian Church. I am convicted that Jesus did not die on a cross so that his name could be used to push small minded, personal beliefs that make mockery of the command to “love God and others.” People are free to believe and have opinions about societal issues but they should express them in their own name and leave Jesus out of it.

The Impact of Listening

When I focused on listening as a sermon topic it never occurred to me it would connect to both a current media topic in Missouri and some of my past experiences. In the 1990’s, a friend of mine persuaded me to be involved with an organization in Kansas City. She is a very passionate leader of the group and I was a more ambivalent about the cause. The ambivalence made me a more attentive meeting attender as I had no other role to play than listening. Eventually I did get drawn into group activities but the listening is what made a lasting impact on me.Listen

One person from that group got glued onto my heart even though I haven’t seen or spoken to her face to face in many years. The heart glued person is named Linda. I remember her as a very gentle, soft spoken woman. She and her husband were active in their Baptist Church, both worked at the Ford plant to support their family.

Linda’s life was turned upside down by one horrific thing her fifteen year old son did. It was horrific. Her son participated in killing a young woman. I remember Linda sitting in a group one night, including parents of murdered children, and saying, very softly, that “her son wasn’t raised to do what he did.” It was a mother’s lament, she did not make excuses or deny the horror and pain he caused, she lived with it every day, as does her son. Listening that night, sitting on a folding chair in a church basement, was not easy, and yet I am thankful I was there.

Please pray for Linda. The state of Missouri is trying to figure out how to kill her son in the next few days. After much listening, I am convinced that killing Michael will be yet another horrific event and cause even more pain.

Nothing is as fair or simple as we would like to think. I have come to understand that Jesus speaks right to the heart of this human complexity. He doesn’t offer us simple solutions to our created problems, he offers us love as a rule of living for the sake of our souls.

And/Or

Remember the “and-or” commercials?  Two people discuss that “and” is better than “or,” especially as they consider a Chinese restaurant where they get overcome by a sour dish instead of a sweet and sour dish.  I remembered the premise put forth by the commercial but not the product!  Google is a big help with these types of memory lapses.

What made me think of the “and-or” idea was the story of Martha and Mary in Luke’s gospel, Luke 10:38-42.  One sister is distracted by her many tasks while the other sits at the Lord’s feet and listens to what he was saying.  The busy, distracted sister wishes her sister would help.  She makes the mistake of complaining to Jesus who commends the listening sister.  This passage has caused the over worked and unappreciated a certain level of distress.  After all, Jesus was their welcomed guest. I typically assume Martha was bustling around trying to whip up some dinner and her unhelping sister gets the commendation.  Doesn’t Jesus need to eat?  What about hospitality?  These sisters are always great fodder for relevant discussion.

As individuals and a church we get caught in and-or conundrum.  I am thinking of all the necessary busy work (cleaning, repairing, basic services) that keep us off the path of just listening to Jesus and living the “better part that will not get taken away.”  There is a ton of social pressure to be “and” people when we only have energy to be “or” people.  Often times the “or” forces us to give up something we really value and we feel guilty about our choices.  Now that is a sour dish to eat.

I am not prepared to offer any resolution to this perplexing dilemma.  I relate to Martha and Mary, just like many of you.

On that note I wish you all a little love this Valentine’s Day.

Ready or Not – Expected or Not

Christmas.  Hope.  Peace.  Joy.  Love.  Weather.

Six heavy with meaning words.  Ready or not, expected or not, Christ is born into our world and every year we have Christmas, with or without celebration.  Hope, peace, joy, love, are possible and sometimes that possibility can only come from God, we muck it up.

Weather is a different story. It comes ready or not but we have zero control and over and over again we are taught this lesson. We can prepare and respond but we cannot control.  Maybe the story is not that much different.

We have already felt the effects of weather on Little Bethlehem weekend.  We canceled one night and had almost five hundred people join the nativity on the other two nights.  A good time was had by all and it took “all” to pull it off once again. From bucking hay to baking cookies, with costuming, acting and singing in between, it does take all of us to create the Christmas experience of Little Bethlehem. “God Bless You One and All”

Interesting side note: I have been bemused by our current church cat that had his first brush with holiday frenzy.  It has not gone well.  He seemed irritated by the hub bub of Little Bethlehem and by Sunday was nipping at people.  On Tuesday we had to post a sign warning people of his dicey mood. I trust he will return to being easy going after the holidays.  He reminds me of many people I have known over the years.  “Christmas got us by the throat again.”

This Sunday we are planning to present a lovely Cantata during the morning services.  On Christmas Eve we will have a 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. candlelight service.  It is possible that weather will disrupt our weekend but that is totally unknown at this time.  If we do have to cancel any services we will notify the local media (KOMU, KMIZ, KFRU, Columbia Tribune website as well as the Fairview Facebook page).

Unless I can tell you face to face, I wish for you the blessing of Christmas, God with us.

Traveling mercies for all who will be on the move, wherever you are, I trust there will be some form of comfort and joy.  

Stirring Up Memories…

Advent and Christmas stir up a lot of passion in people.  We all have our likes, our dislikes, our love, and our “really strong dislikes” about “the holidays.”  No matter what our opinion, it is what it is, and it happens on a yearly basis, be it our favorite time of year or the something that “gets us by throat” as Archie Bunker once said.

We all have our favorite things that symbolize Christmas to us.  I have been musing about the evolution of mine over the years.  These are my current favorites of the season: nativities, Christmas lights, and stars, especially the Moravian Advent Stars and the “Bethlehem star.”

I like nativities that reflect a specific culture or are made from unique materials.  Once I wanted to collect them but that desire has long passed, I just enjoy the ones I have and how they ended up at my house.  A lot of memories go along with Christmas things which is a clue to why there can be so much passion stirred up, or not.  I have no childhood memory of having a nativity in the house.  We did not have one in my family Christmas boxes.  I have made up for it in adulthood by keeping a few on display all year.  They move to the top shelf in December.

Christmas lights have certainly changed over the years.  I will always be fond of C7’s and C9’s but that Magic Tree at Cherry Hill is pretty impressive.  The lights of Christmas have meaning on many levels and we need them in these short, cold days, most of all we need “the Light” which makes everything look different.  Several years ago a wise theologian type guy said that the lighting effects of technology would become as significant in the 21th century as candles have been.  He told a story about sitting in a filled arena where the resurrection of Jesus was symbolized by one tiny laser beam piercing the silent darkness.  As the light grew so did the celebration of the five thousand youth in attendance.  I get that completely.  Laser, candle, C7, I like them all.  For the not so holy ideas of Christmas, I have fond memories of my father putting a red C7 on the nose of a mounted deer head. It was very festive. We thought it was funny.  What is really humorous is my Dad was not a hunter, that particular deer was hit by a car at Fort Leonard Wood and someone stuffed it and gave it to him.  As I said, Christmas evokes a lot of memories.

This musing has gotten long so anything I have to say about stars I can save even till January 6, the Epiphany.  I hope this stirred up some memories for you.  What are the symbols that speak to you this time of year?

If you are a holiday minimalist I invite you to light a candle or add some meaning to all the lights you see this time of year.  May hope and peace be with you as we await the coming of Christ, again.

Mythbusters

This past week, a person who is a church administrator, “she who should not be named,” had a bad day at the office. The criteria for a bad day being, emotional upset and crying. When questioned about her bad day I was informed it was, in fact, the result of church related work. Once again, she had to respond to a plea for assistance with, “the church is not able to help you,” which occurs several times a week. This particular time ”she” went in search of help for a stranded, broke woman with five children. She called local agencies and other churches, none of which was able to offer assistance, hence the upset.

The reality is most churches cannot pay peoples bills, put them up in hotels, or do any number of things that are requested. Sadly, these requests bump up against the words of none other than Jesus Christ. “She who should not be named” knows her skin is thin to the plight of others and she knows that the church really does not have the resources but that does not make the situation easier to experience.

Of course, this is a multi-dimensional problem. The church, ours included, have helped countless people over the years. And yes, our good will has been taken advantage of by those who “work the system.” But, the requests just keep coming in, every day, and we have to say no. There is no easy solution and I am not asking for a quick fix. What I am asking for is that we separate myth from reality.The social safety net is frayed, shrunken and broken in places, there is not a lot of empathy for people who make bad decisions or never have a chance or catch a break. Our myths of plentiful help and the ability for anyone to be ”self-made ” make most of us feel we deserve our lot in life but maybe we are just the lucky ones. Say a prayer for those on the front lines, those asking for help and those saying no help available. And please, pay attention to the bigger picture and what is really going on and not just the words that make us feel better. I believe Jesus would appreciate our honesty.

Why?

It is our human nature to ask why.  Why can’t I do this?  Why would they do that? Why are we here?  Why did God let that happen?  Why is asked about both trivial and profound issues all the time.  We want to know why something happens or why it does not happen.  Knowing why seems to help us struggle with hard events.  Sometimes we like the answers and sometimes we do not.  Sometimes there is information that provides comfort in difficult situations but other times there is no satisfying answer.

As a pastor, I have been asked very hard questions and often the only honest answer I can give is I don’t know, or worse, there is no answer.  I had no answer for the woman who lost a child to cancer.  Our reality is that there are things we can know and things we cannot know and learning to live with both situations is a fact of life.  The apostle Paul talks about this in the first letter to the Corinthians, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.”  Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  There are things in life only God alone can see.

Last week in morning worship I talked about science and religion and basically said I was in favor of both. Not that interesting, unless someone takes the bible very literally all the time, which I do not.  Science satisfies my curiosity about our material world and faith satisfies my soul.  I have witnessed and experienced that learning to trust God with the unknowable is a pathway to peace.  Knowing what is knowable or provable and what is not, is the big catch, along with accepting what we can fix and what we cannot fix.

What concerns me is our human tendency toward arrogance about ability and feasibility, especially where it concerns the practice of medicine and healthcare. These are life and death conversations that deserve our responsible attention even if they are hard and emotional.  These are also conversations that the body of Christ should be willing to have and to promote in our complex world.

Kate

I’m Not the Hero!

“I give it all to God, I’m not the hero. I was terrified.” I just heard the story about the woman who said these words this week. I will take her witness any day over a football player kneeling in the end zone. (Nothing against football but it is a game.) These words come from Antoinette Tuff, the woman from the Georgia elementary school office who talked a gun man into laying down his weapons. I believe she is a hero for humanizing a terrible situation enough to dissuade someone from taking horrific action. What makes her a hero, to me, is her selfless act of vulnerability, compassion, and courage. She saved lives by treating someone as a human being, like her, and penetrated his veil of despair and violence. I do not know her, but I hope she is an active follower of Jesus; she certainly acted like it.

If you returned to school this week, like the city of Columbia, I hope you were graceful and patient with all the transitions taking place. Last Sunday, we handed out cards so that everyone school age around Fairview has a person who has “got their back” with prayer. If you missed the opportunity to get a name this year contact the office and we will set that up for you.

I was grateful for my recent days away but glad to be back in the arena where the formation of people like Antoinette Tuff can happen. She gave it up to God and gained a world of life.

Blessings,

Kate

Picture This…

Picture this, especially if you were not able to attend morning worship last Sunday, a group of well intentioned people trying to do good things for others. Unfortunately, they were not very good at what they were doing. So intent on themselves and agendas, they miss the need in front of their face and respond poorly. That was the scene put together for us by Melissa Jackson Burns to spark our thinking about serving the name of Christ. After the scene was enacted by an above average cast, for the sake of full disclosure I was one of seven members, the congregation was invited to share impressions and thoughts on what they saw and heard. The talk was both insightful and interesting. It was an innovative way to proclaim the gospel and one I hope we have more of in the future.

Like many parables, pointed stories, or exaggerated examples, the scene had authentic moments that most of us could identify with, even as they made us cringe. The gospel calling is clear, we are to look beyond ourselves, and our needs, to reach the least, lost and excluded. We are to share the good news of Jesus, inviting everyone to the waters of life and a place at the table. The command sounds simple on the surface but it quickly can get complicated. Let’s face it; most things we struggle with are complicated and multifaceted. Our desire, and need, to serve people can be hurtful. Giving a dollar may be supporting a habit and offering too much help may keep someone from learning to meet personal needs. It is easy to offer a quick fix, a few goodies, and ignore the long term effects of our best intended actions. Even worse are those that readily donate the unneeded and unusable items that just cause more work for volunteers.

There is a growing trend to reexamine what we do and how we do it and one I feel is long overdue and important. Both those we serve and those who contribute to the efforts deserve our thoughtful attention. I know when I donate money I want to do so knowing it will be used wisely and truly make a difference.

We will not be having special scene this week but these conversations and invitations to think will continue in both worship and other settings as we strive to be faithful and serve from the heart.

Blessings, Kate

Revive!

I have a project this summer, one I want to finish.  I have owned the project for a dozen years and have moved it three times.  It was purchased at a time when I thought I needed a project that would keep my hands busy and provide purposeful relaxation.  A spare time something to do, that would take a while, be challenging, and end up functional.  So far, I am two for three. What I did not expect is that it would be fodder for theological thought.

Restore

The project is a Hoosier style “old kitchen cabinet.” One close look and I knew it had been “rode hard” and served in more places than a kitchen.  Covered with layers of old grimy white enamel paint it has been messy, laborious, and maybe a waste of my time. The first of my labors revealed it is not made of “good wood” even though it showed a little oak as a tease.

After my initial dedication I lost my ambition to get it finished, it was such a mess, perhaps beyond redemption. Three moves later my attitude adjusted, I have reclaimed the project determined to make it functional.

Today, the project takes up half the garage and still challenges my insufficient skills. Last weekend the endeavor took an unexpected turn, the part I was working on fell over breaking several of the darn thing’s nicest features, glass knobs and a window that had survived everything except my good intentions.  As I stood looking at its brokenness my mind went into overdrive trying to process what to do next, a true exercise in humility and self-forgiveness. One part of me I wanted to put the thing on the curb and walk away.

What I chose instead was to keep at it and adapt my plan and vision for its completion. The project was never going to be a nice piece of furniture, its origin and hard past completely eradicated. The “break” gave me permission to just go for it and get creative. The process is what has become important in itself; with problem solving, limitations recognized, and potential realized. The cabinet is what it is, I am doing what I can, and above all I am not giving up. It will be a grace cabinet, reclaimed, accepted as is, fixed and fussed over, a part of the household.

In the next few weeks our worship will focus on our call to serve and how we have to do it with heart and mind, willing to honest, adaptable and hopeful.

Blessings, Kate