Thursday, September 20, 2012

lessons learned from wearing kick a** shoes

About two years ago I wrote this blog post about shoes...kick a** shoes to be exact and the shocking revelation that my footwear was just plain boring.

just another Sunday morning
the Trinity church ladies
This past week a dear member of the church gave me a huge hug during greeting time and said (perhaps a bit too) enthusiastically; "you're wearing makeup!  You look so beautiful!"  It was just a bit of lipstick, I actually think much of it had been left on the rim of my tea cup, but I smiled and said thank you, and blushed just a little.

Truth be told, I have never given much thought to such things.  Balancing four kids, a career, grad school for a few years and a tight family budget didn't allow for such luxuries.  Recently, however, I have been challenged to broaden my horizons, and thus I have been a bit more bold, investing in some new (even sassier) shoes, and even taking time for a swipe of mascara and yes, on occasion some lipstick.

Along the way I have learned a thing or two about wearing kick a** shoes...

1) comfort matters - a lot.  If you're going to wear heels and stand in them a few hours, then spend the extra money on good shoes that feel good.  It's bad form to limp as you follow the acolytes down the church aisle and up to the chancel area.

2) you're going to have to adjust your stride if you're wearing high heels.  This one has some interesting ramifications.  I usually walk pretty briskly, but in heels I find that I have to slow down.  I may not get to my destination as fast as I used to, but this does have the added bonus of forcing me to take my time and pace myself.  Another novel concept!
rule # 4
take care of your feet already!

3) it's a challenge to wear serious kick a** shoes and carry a back pack full of computer, books, etc.  Balance is everything when wearing serious heels - once you start to get shaky things can get out of hand practice and rethink how full you pack that back pack!

4) it's important to give your feet a break.  I started wearing heels only on Sundays, and have just recently added another day or two each week.  But my Keens are always ready in the wings and a very well broken in pair of Clark's walking shoes too.  Variety is the spice of life when it comes to foot wear - for me anyway.

Kristin is a rockstar when
it comes to kick a** shoes
5) don't be afraid to cull through the closet and get rid of shoes.  There are all sorts of organizations that can use gently used shoes.  Iowa's Women at the Well's clothing closet comes to mind instantly, but the same could be said of Goodwill, and in Waverly Trinkets and Togs.  (A lady came by the church earlier this week looking for some size 11's.  I went home and pulled out a pair of snow boots, sneakers, and some walking shoes to give to her.  What do I need with two pairs of snow boots anyway?)

Now these insights might seem silly to gals who have been wearing heels all their lives, but for me its a brave new world.  The reality is that I enjoy wearing my sassy new shoes.  Once the snow flies I know that I will return to more sensible footwear, but for now, why not kick up my heels and go for it?!

My challenge is for you to find healthy ways to express your self too...


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"...take up your cross..." Who me?

To follow is my sermon from Sunday, I post it today because I am continually challenged by the red letter words of Jesus...including, and in particular this week, the whole 'If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up ones cross' part.  Who really likes to deny oneself?  (And frankly I fear that too often this passage is used as a way to suppress questions and honest discourse about ones wrestling with everything from suffering to day to day living.) 

After doing some reading this summer and listening to Peter Rollins I approach this passage through  another lens.  I humbly offer and appreciate the opportunity to enter into conversation about the red letter words of Jesus.   (You can hear an interview with Peter Rollins on Homebrewed Christianity by clicking here)



The Gospel of Mark Chapter 8:27-30, 34-35

 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’  And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’  And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him...

'If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it."

As we look over the scope of the Gospel of Mark, chapter 8, Jesus feeds 4000 men, women and children - people who would have gone to bed with empty stomachs were it not for his compassion and the miracle of God’s abundance.  It is amazing how 7 loaves and a few small fish were transformed into a feast – a feast fit for a king – or a messiah perhaps?

A few verses later Jesus bantered with the Pharisees who were begging for a sign; 'prove to us that you are the ONE from God'…they hoped, but dared not believe.  They couldn't wrap their minds around the concept because Jesus was going about it all wrong… he didn’t look or act like David did – remember David, the anointed king – the man after God’s own heart – the man who not only killed Goliath the giant but was a man of the sword his entire life? This is the script they were relying on – the way it was supposed to go down – and if the messiah didn't appear according to their preconceived notions, then, well he obviously wasn’t the messiah now was he?

And yet here is Jesus – feeding people, healing the blind, caring for widows and orphans – speaking with gentile women for heaven’s sake AND doing his best to sidestep the very power structures who were put in place to keep the peace… what was he thinking? How was he going to get any traction politically without the right connections?

So with this bit of back story we can see how this morning’s exchange between the disciples and Jesus is really important for us to consider – as people of faith – as people of the cross – as people who live here in Waverly, Iowa in this time and place.

Remember from birth every Jewish boy and girl was told that some day, SOME DAY, the Messiah would come – and the Messiah would rescue them – toss out the oppressors, bring about wide spread institutional changes that would allow for freedom of religion, economic prosperity and safety and security. They KNEW this – it is what the people had YEARNED for, prayed about, sought out for hundreds of years.

Against this backdrop Jesus asks; 'Who do you think I am?'  They responded a bit haphazardly; some say…and they repeated what they had heard.  'But who do YOU say that I am?'  He asked more pointedly – and Peter answered; 'you are the Messiah.'

And then, He does the unthinkable – Jesus says; 'don’t tell anyone…'  Why did he say don't tell anyone?

Perhaps its because they didn’t want to hear it – because they weren’t ready to believe it could be true…because, as Jesus recokoned rightly, he didn’t look like what they thought he should look like…because He knew that  God’s plan for the world wasn’t to live by the sword or by any power structure known to man for that matter – but to live into a life of empowered by God’s love, mercy and grace.

Wow – think about this – and how this kind of thinking impacts us today – here and now - because I don't think we get it even now.  Let me ask you...who do you say Jesus is?  OR, phrased another way - what do you tell people about Jesus when you are outside of church?

We know the rest of the story – we know in our heads that Jesus IS the Messiah – that Jesus is the 2nd person of the Trinity – that Jesus IS our Lord and Savior - but how do we live this out in our hearts, with our hands, and our feet?

I want us to consider that this isn't the only question Jesus was asking.  Perhaps, just perhaps even more important than what we believe is the question HOW do we believe?

For too long we as a society – as a church – have concentrated on what we believe to be true; we champion right thinking for everyone! We have tried to pound it into our heads, into our children, into those people outside our doors.  We have lectured and taught and even, sad to say, guilted people into agreeing with our truth about Jesus – to the point that those who don’t believe ‘rightly’ are tossed out and those who express doubt are silenced and those who are on the fence are scoffed at or scolded until they’re old enough to quit going to church or say they are over it all -and maybe they’ll get back to it some day – and this isn’t new to us.  Peter chastised Jesus, the messiah, for not toeing the line.  What is wrong with this picture?

Jesus was fully aware of the work that he had to do for the sake of the world.  It was part and parcel with the realities of God-with-us – Emmanuel – he HAD to be condemned, tried, convicted, and crucified for the sake of the world – and we don’t really like to think about this – we don't really like to think that an innocent man died for you and I. But he knew that it was necessary to break down the barriers that had for way too long separated us from God.  Why is it that we still don’t live into this precious gift?  Perhaps because we don't understand fully what it all means?  

I would add that its because we don't know HOW to live into the gift, as people given a fresh start, as people given "the freedom to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, repent of our sin.  As people who are given the freedom and power to resist evil, injustice and oppression in all forms and as people who confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, who put our trust in his grace and promise to serve him as Lord in union with the Church."  (We really say all of this whenever we baptize someone - see our Baptism vows beginning on page 33 of the hymnal).

And so I challenge us to consider how our belief functions – does our belief make room for us to live as people who experience the very depth of our humanity…to be more connected to others and be liberated Christ followers in our ordinary day to day lives.  Does our belief structure free us OR does it destroy us? 

Paul writes about this in his letter to the newly forming church in Galatia that people who live as Christ followers are like a tree laden with fruit – and these fruit are a gift of the 3rd person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit… 

Paul wrote:  the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 

The fruit of the Spirit are reminders of our blessings and our blessedness – and encouragement for how we are to live and function as children of God – as disciples of Jesus, the Messiah.

Another way to look at belief vs function - its like two people who have started to get serious about exercise – one is doing it because they are enjoying it – finding satisfaction in their new found activity – and the other is exercising because they are afraid of dying… in other words; are we followers of Jesus because we want to live more fully in the here and now or because we're worried about what will happen in the hereafter if we don't toe the line? 

Now, I want to dig a bit deeper into the whole pick up your cross thing and follow me thing that Jesus says – because this is something I have struggled with for years – I have often pondered what is my cross? Who is my cross? Is it my struggles with those things that burden me? Or perhaps a relationship or two that I have not made peace with? Let us consider this thought… 

Peter couldn't take it when Jesus predicted his death.  He was trying to wrap Jesus up in bubble wrap to protect him from himself – but if he had listened, truly listened, he would have heard Jesus saying that he HAD to die so as to cast aside his identity and those earthly things that labeled him:  Mary’s son, Joseph’s son, carpenter, Nazareth, rabbi, teacher, leader of Peter, James and John… and when he did so, he would clothe himself in our humanity.

And the only way to do this was to pick up the Cross – literally – the cross - for the cross represented a total loss of identity – the Romans were darn good at killing people – and they found that the best way to suppress a people was by killing them, but they didn't have to wipe out an entire town, all they needed to do was do away with a key leader or two with the most gruesome way to die, on the cross.
For when one was nailed to the cross one was stripped naked, no longer Greek or Jew, slave or free, man or woman – just bare humanity – and Jesus, on the cross – while his humanity was bared, His divinity was also exposed.

Just as Christ lost his identity on the cross, in a scary very real way we are invited to do the same – to shed the stuff of this world that we hide behind – that we use to define us – and identify with our deepest identity!  We are created in God's image, you and I.  We are beloved of God…His beautiful child... bearer of God’s light and love into the world…how awesome is this?!

Kinda scary if you think about it – for this involves heart knowledge, and I fear we don't do this very well.  And yet if we consider taking up our cross to be embracing our true humanity and that part of the divine that is within us - see how this is so liberating?

God is not found in running from the world, running from our fears, running our enemies, running from our jobs, our addictions, our relationships.  God is found in facing the crosses that are before us – confronting the realities of life – the good the bad and yes, even the ugly.  I know its hard to do so, but when we do so – when we authentically embrace life then we are able to plumb the depths of our humanity and then we are able to be closer to God.  

When we pick up our crosses we see God in the ordinary when we embrace the ordinary messiness, yes, even our doubts we are actually given a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven.

So let it go – to use the old cliché  – 'let go and let God' – let go of needing to be in the know – of worrying about right thinking – and live as someone who trusts God to set the course – as someone who is more interested in how to live as a Christ follower than as a person who is doing everything just right…because this often prevents us from living into the very light of God! 

Let it go and own the beautiful, fragile messy places of your life - fully anticipating that God will show up.

And allow the fruit of the very Spirit of God to be your guide - the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

In the name of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – Amen.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

S A T U R - D A Y Night!

I grew up a deprived family didn't have a color TV until I was in high school - that's the late 70s!  

My grandfather was an early adapter - he had a TV as soon as WGAL went on the air back in 1949!   They had a color TV as soon as they came out too - I remember because we went to their house to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, and if memory serves me correctly, my dad would slip over on Monday nights to watch Laugh-In.  I suppose Goldie Hawn looked better in living color.

It wasn't until my mom was away on a trip that dad brought home our first  color TV, along with a new living room set (orange naugahyde - it was all the rage in the 70's).  TV was pretty safe back then...we only had 4 channels to choose from so we were more content, believe it or not.  Ahhh, the good old days when the big three networks ruled and shaped our culture.

I lived out in the country, and didn't have my own wheels (another poor me moment) so I spent most Friday and Saturday nights at home.  I didn't mind too much - we'd watch The Love Boat, Fantasy Island and I remember the Bay City Rollers had a show for a season.  

Of course the really big deal was staying up till after the news to watch "Saturday Night Live," back in the golden years of John Belushi, Chevy Chase,  Jane Curtin, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, and on occasion Steve Martin...oh my!  Must see TV indeed!

We were allowed to crash on the orange naugahyde couch (it conveniently converted to a sleeper sofa) and stay up till SNL was over.  More often than not we'd fall asleep before the closing credits rolled.  But it was good and life was good too.

Tonight Ethan is on a date, Hannah just got home from work and is upstairs in her room watching a movie, Justin is on his computer in the man cave, and I am on my laptop in my room - feeling a bit wistful...with so many different ways to entertain us all, well, we don't huddle around the campfire, er, television any more.  

And with 100+ choices (and still nothing worth watching on TV) it's a challenge to come to a consensus.  Sure, we all watched the Olympics this summer, and we'll watch a football game on Sunday afternoons, but the times have changed.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, its just reality.

Sometimes I wonder what changes my children and grandchildren will experience in the years ahead.  And I'm not just thinking about entertainment, or technology.  I wonder if my children will have the security in their jobs that I have now, or the ability to do half the things that I have been blessed to be able to do.  

And truth be told I wonder if we, the church, will be more sensitive to the financial and emotional stresses that families are facing with rising gas and food prices, I wonder how we will use our assets to maximize our outreach to those who are in need; the least, the lost, widows and orphans.  I earnestly pray that we will rise to the occasion...and be a place of peace, hope, love and extravagant generosity.

And I am grateful for technology - for websites where I can watch great skits from the 'good old days' like this one... cheeseburger - cheeseburger - chips anyone?  Perhaps a Pepsi to go with it?

in Christ, together,

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lyle said there'd be days like this...

Rev. Dr. Lyle Vander Broek
Univ. of Dubuque Seminary
Professor of New Testament
After a summer of preaching about the life of David, culminating in a sermon about David and Bathsheba (which of course included a conversation about SEX which made everyone a bit nervous) I jumped back into the lectionary this week, and the gospel of Mark.  I was looking forward to a return to the gospels - and the Gospel of Mark in particular - because this is the book that I spent a semester in seminary studying - in Greek no less!

Wouldn't you know that the lectionary passage for this Sunday was Mark 7:24-30.  The passage known as the 'Faith of the Syro-Phonecian woman'...or the day when Jesus dissed the gentile woman and called her and her sick daughter a dog (ok, so it was a little dog in the Greek - but you get the picture).

Jesus left that place and went into the region of Tyre. He didn’t want anyone to know that he had entered a house, but he couldn’t hide.  In fact, a woman whose young daughter was possessed by an unclean spirit heard about him right away. She came and fell at his feet. The woman was Greek, Syrophoenician by birth. She begged Jesus to throw the demon out of her daughter. He responded, “The children have to be fed first. It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

But she answered, “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”
“Good answer!” he said. “Go on home. The demon has already left your daughter.” When she returned to her house, she found the child lying on the bed and the demon gone.  (Mark 7:24-30 CEB)

If you really think about it, it's enough to make your blood boil - that is until we take time to understand the context of 1st Century Jewish folk - and the pivotal role that the woman's response has on the entire Gospel message.  In a nutshell, her patient and measured response leads Jesus to expand his original vision of preaching, teaching and healing to encompass the entire world!

"Show of Hands" poll week of 9/2/12
I like this - a lot - until I start to wonder who we, as people of faith treat like 'little dogs'... we all know 'them' the 60-70% of America who don't worship in a church or synagogue or mosque any given week.    

As I ponder the why's of such abysmal participation in our faith communities, I can't help but wonder if it's because we have lost sight of what we are to be about.  Jesus was pretty focused on preaching, teaching and healing.  We sure do have a plethora of preachers, and we seem to do teaching pretty well too.  But how about this healing thing?

Do we believe, truly believe that healing happens?  Do we think that healing ministries are just for quacks and kooks - and thus not happening in a spiritual sorta way any more?  Have we abdicated all healing ministries to doctors and nurses and such?  OR - are we so intent on wearing a mask pretending that all is ok, that we neglect to convey the realities of our broken and hurting world - that suffering IS present in the world, that people DO need the healing that comes from our loving triune God...that healing is more than fixing folks physically, it's also walking alongside others emotionally and spiritually to health and wholeness?!

This is where I see the greatest needs in my Monday through Saturday ministry.  And the good news is that God does love us more than we can fathom - that Jesus' death on the cross allowed him to enter into and heal our brokenness and he will never, ever, ever abandon us, and the Holy Spirit is with us too -  wooing us and nudging us to be bearers of light and hope and peace with those whose paths we may cross.

Yes, Lyle said there would be days when we'd much rather be at the VFW hall, where everyone knows everybody's name, where community is formed over a cold one and a friendly game of cards - but God has put me in the church and so I shall continue to try to be faithful and seek to invite others to join in this beautiful, messy, holy journey.  

Where have you seen God at work in your life this past week?  Let's grab a nice cup of tea (or coffee if you prefer) and talk about it.

in Christ, together,