Sunday, December 30, 2012

Walking the ditches of Route 20


December 24, 2012 marked the 100 year anniversary of Lottie Moon's death.  On the 23rd Scottsville Baptist hosted a "Lottie Moon Day."  It was a special day for our church.  We found Lottie's tea cake recipe and munched on these simple cookies.  We examined history in our Lottie Moon room.  We prayed for missionaries and missions.  We sang our faith and our own Lottie Moon (thanks Baxter!) shared a passionate plea for giving.
As I prepared a Lottie-inspired sermon I learned something surprising:  When Lottie returned on furlough from China she took residence with her sister Eddie in Scottsville…and it’s almost across the street from my house!  I couldn't believe it.  I already love the mountain view and my cow friends across the way…but now I learn a Baptist heroine was a neighbor?  EXCITING!  Following is an excerpt from my sermon:
So of course I had to check it out.  You might have seen me walking in the ditches of Route 20 this week.  I was on a mission. I laced up my tennis shoes with glee, grabbed my camera and found the spot.  Only a remnant of the house remains, but it’s there.  The remnant was larger than I expected, but in many pieces.  I brought a few pictures to show you. 
 I really wanted to touch her house--to imagine Lottie going in and out, to imagine Frank Tupper and other friends visiting.  It was great!  I touched history; but when I crossed the street and looked from a distance something struck me.  The area was overgrown and without Bobby’s help I wouldn’t have recognized it.  
As I walked home I realized it wasn't the physical disrepair that bothered me…it was the questions that lingered in my mind.  Is this what Christians have let happen to missions?  Have we let missions be overgrown with weeds?  Have we turned missions into a thing of the past?  Have we let denominational bickering get in the way of giving?  Have we failed to appoint new missionaries?  Have we fallen back on giving?  Do we even recognize the importance of missions anymore?                                          
             I’m afraid of the answers.
Have we ignored the true meaning this season--a time that should be focused on worshipping our Savior and sharing His good news with the world?  OR are we focused on the clutter of Christmas…focused on the things moth and rust will destroy?  Gift-giving is not bad—it’s a good thing, but excessive spending and excessive waste is to the detriment of the gospel.  
Do our hearts burn with passion for missions or is missions like this house—ignored and overgrown?  A thing of the past.  I didn’t even notice the house until someone pointed it out. 
Brothers and sisters, it’s time we take out the weed wackers and pruning shears.  It’s time we cut back the overgrowth and return the church to its mission.  You might be thinking:  “Hey!  Wait!  It’s two days before Christmas!   Let’s talk about joy and get to lunch before the Methodists!”
 No can do today my friends.  Missions is too important.  Today might actually the BEST day to focus on missions.  Jesus—Immanuel “God With Us”—came to this earth to save us, to love us, to bring peace.  We are charged to follow Jesus’ footsteps and join in God’s mission every day.  Brothers and sisters we cannot let missions be overgrown with things that DO. NOT. MATTER. Swiss theologian Emil Brunner famously said “The church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning.”  O…that his words were true!!

I pass that remnant nearly every time I leave my house.  Now I know it's there I can't help but think of Lottie and missions.  What a blessing...and what a bother!  I can't get those pesky questions out of my mind.  Katie McKown, does your heart burn with passion for missions or is missions like this house--ignored and overgrown?  Yep: Missional questions surface every time I leave my house.
That's the thing about preaching:  Preachers preach to themselves too.  Sometimes it's hard to say the words because we know how much we need to hear them.  We know how much we need to live them.  "The church exists by mission, just as fire exists by burning."  O that his words were true.  O that his words were true...in me.  


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lullay Lullay

When the church is quiet I like to sit at the piano to play and sing.  Usually it is a time of worship for me.  I sing and play uninhibited--mistakes and off key as I am! 

This afternoon I found a simple sheet music version of Coventry Carol.  I had never paid much attention to the words but Pandora played it a few nights ago and I heard Herod's name this time.  So I paid attention:

Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay

O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.

According to Wikipedia, Coventry Carol is a 15th century carol from a play called The Pageant of Shearman and Sailors.  The carol refers to the Massacre of the Innocents and represents a mother singing for her doomed child.  Since Friday I haven't been able to get Herod's murder of the innocents out of my head. 

Many have written thoughtful reflections in response to the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook.  I don't have anything new to add; only that I mourn with those who mourn.  And playing and singing Coventry Carol helps me do that.

At the end of each verse there is resolution to the dissonance. Even though the chord is hopeful it is hard to hear.  It is hard to hear over such lamentations. 

The psalmists have much to teach us, and one of those things is singing our laments. Most lament psalms end with hope--even when the lament is spelled out in the most desolate of words.  Even with tears in its eyes. 

Today I sung my laments at the piano, and even though hope was hard to hear--it is there.  It is there because God in Christ is there.  Is here. 


 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Lunch with the Greatest Generation

In need of a blessing?  Have lunch with the Greatest Generation.

After singing a few carols at the Senior Center Christmas luncheon today, we paused to give thanks for the gals and guys serving overseas.  The room fell silent.  You could hear tears being swallowed back.

A few moments of silence passed and we tried to sing "I'll be Home for Christmas." 

I was struck by the honor of singing "I'll be Home for Christmas" with a gathering of the Greatest Generation.  As we sang I wondered how many among us served in the war?  How many lost a brother or sister?  How many never saw dad return?  How many loved ones' lives have been lost to war?

I am blessed by their welcome to me and their sacrifices for our country.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Creche in a Purse

One of my favorite holiday traditions is to set up creches from around the world.  I have collected them from trips abroad or friends and family have given them as gifts.  I love how each country portrays the nativity scene differently.  My favorite is a simple olive wood carving from Israel of the holy family.

Somewhere along the line baby Jesus from Mexico went missing.  So sad!  I was telling someone about my dilemma and word got out.  A few days later a congregant stopped by the office.  She reached into her purse and pulled out a spare baby Jesus for me. I loved that moment.

Not only was her gift kind; it was also a reminder of the importance of meeting needs.  Teddie heard I needed Jesus and she found a way to get him to me (whoah!  lesson!  sermon illustration!  blog!).

There are people all around us with needs.  And some folks don't even know what their needs are.  Or they're confused about what they think they need.  Wait a minute!  That sounds familiar...

Some folks are anxious.  Others are hungry.  Some are depressed.  Some are lonely.  Some are apathetic. Others are addicted.  Some are confused.  Some need help paying the bills.  Some are frustrated.  And the list continues.  There are people all around us with needs.  And guess what?  We are "those people" too.  How can we help?  It's not always as simple as a creche in a purse, but sometimes...it is.

Teddie heard I needed Jesus and she found a way to get him to me. God help me to do the same.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Welcome to the pasture, pastor.


Tuesday afternoon I planned to visit some of Scottsville Baptist's farming folks.  I was running a bit behind so I had just enough time to change from heels to sneakers, but not enough sense to put on pants. I was wearing a dress and thought tennis shoes and tights would do the trick.

I was so excited.  I had been looking forward to this visit ever since I tasted some of the yummy pickles, beets and turnips the Lanes gave me.

When I arrived we planned to go out to the pasture first.  Karlen showed me to the four-wheelers and pointed to the one I would drive. Katie McKown has never ridden or driven a four-wheeler.  Pat and Mike did not allow such things and as a rule follower (mostly:)) I managed to refrain all these years but...

there's a first time for everything!

Back to the story:  Karlen showed me the four-wheeler I would be driving.  In a dress.  By myself.  With my fake jewels and such.  I was a bit afraid, but threw caution to the wind (Katie style) and did it.
  

I LOVED IT.  We rode out into the pasture and met up with the cows. We drove them into another pasture (all in a day’s work).  The weather was unseasonably warm and we rode toward the sunset.  The sunsets are magnificent where we live.   I couldn't stop smiling.  

Everything was great, but the bull was not a fan of Katie.  Once he saw me he was seriously mooing hard (loud?).  He sort of run-jumped in my general direction.  Up until this point I had only sang of cows jumping (over the moon), but it turns out they do sort of hop a bit. Karlen advised me not to wear bright colors again (She was also probably thinking “Don’t wear a dress, fake jewels or tights either!”)

It was a great day for new adventures.  Great day.  Thanks Lane family for welcoming me to your farm!


Saturday, December 8, 2012

This post brought to you by the letter "T"

My favorite number is 4.  My favorite place to shop is Macy's.  My favorite sport is baseball basketball baseball.   My favorite thing to think about doing is gardening.  And now my favorite letter is T.

God has blessed me with a niece.  We are simpatico. Once when I was trying to change Caroline's diaper she smiled and said "Bible?" as in let's read it now.  ADORABLE.  Of course we read the Bible together right then.  Diapers come and go but the word of the Lord lasts forever.  

Caroline can't quite say "Aunt Katie" so it comes out "T" which I love. Thanks to video chat we get to see one another.   Last time we hugged our computer screens when it was time for bed.  

"Whose house are you going to tomorrow Caroline?"  

"T!!!!!!!"

I wish.  Ben and Jaime, please put her on a Grayhound at once.  Jk, but get here soon.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

It's hard to be vulnerable.

I've been thinking about vulnerability.  Why is it so difficult?  (shakes fist in the air like my granny)

Vulnerability is linked to authenticity and perhaps they are cousins, but they're not the same.  Everyone is clamoring to be 'authentic' but sometimes I think it's only an excuse to do whatever we like.  "This is the way I am.  Deal with it.  I'm authentic."  

Don't get me wrong:  I appreciate authenticity, but only when it's folded within God's grace that grows us.  Sometimes I need a pal to look me in the eye and say "Hey.  Not cool" instead of "Oh well.  That's just Katie.  She likes to dropkick people." 

Authenticity folded within God's grace = good.  Authenticity as a scapegoat for doing whatever we like = not so good.  But I digress.

Vulnerability however is a sort of opening up.  Vulnerability can be a weakness in certain situations, but in the body of Christ it is imperative.  When we are vulnerable we let people in and my goodness THAT is difficult. 

We are conditioned to keep most people at a distance, relegating them to the nosebleeds.  We are even polite about it (!)...masquerading distance-keeping as a way to not burden others.  As a result we are good at justifying it.  We make sure conversations and even prayer stays on the surface.  Often times we are nothing more than what Beth Kennett calls 'familiar strangers.'   How then do we work to share the love of Christ when we do not know it together?

Recently I was at a meeting and vulnerability showed up.  A guard was let down.  A burden was shared.  Everyone paid attention in a new way.  It hurt me to hear his hurt, but his courage also gave permission. I remembered "I'm not alone."  Vulnerability is a good reminder we aren't.  How many more folks would be on the road to healing if only they would open up to the community?

And clergy often need the most help being vulnerable!  We champion vulnerability...for others!  This is not so much biblical, pals.  I don't think any of us need tell everyone everything (such as secrets to delicious cakes and such), but sharing joys and struggles needs to come a bit easier.  And I'm talking to you Kathleen E. McKown.

We can be models of vulnerability by opening up in our preaching and teaching.  Sure--we may get hurt every once in awhile--but the risk is worth it.  It has to be.  We have to open up.  It's difficult...but most worthwhile things are.

CS Lewis says it much better than me: “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

Go forth, Katie.  Go forth, friends.  Be vulnerable.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Friendship defined by Buechner

When I read the November 30 thought by Frederick Buechner in Listening to Your Life I was moved by his description of friendship:

I remember an especially dark time in my life.  One of my children was sick, and in my anxiety for her I was in my own way as sick as she was. Then one day the phone rang, and it was a man I didn't know very well then though he has become a great friend since, a minister from Charlotte, North Carolina, which is about 800 miles or so from where I live in Vermont.  I assumed he was calling from home and asked him how things were going down there only to hear him say that no, he wasn't in Charlotte.  He was at an inn about twenty minutes away from my house.  He'd known I was having troubles, he said, and he thought maybe it would be handy to have an extra friend around for a day or two.  The reason he didn't tell me in advance that he was coming must have been that he knew I would tell him for Heaven's sake not to do anything so crazy, so for Heaven's sake he did something crazier still which was to come those 800 miles without telling me he was coming so that for all he knew I might not even have been there.  But as luck had it, I was there, and for a day or two he was there with me.  He was there for me.  I don't think anything we found to say to each other amounted to very much or had anything particularly religious about it. I don't remember even spending much time talking about my troubles with him.  We just took a couple of walks, had a meal or two together and smoked our pipes, drove around to see some of the countryside, and that was about it.

I have never forgotten how he came all that distance just for that, and I'm sure he has never forgotten it either.  I also believe that although as far as I can remember we never so much as mentioned the name of Christ, Christ was as much in the air we breathed those few days as the smoke of our pipes was in the air, or the dappled light of the woods we walked through.  I believed that for a little time we both of us touched the hem of Christ's garment, were both of us, for a little time anyway, healed.

Reading Buechner's story reminded me of the great cloud of witnesses who have driven 800 miles for me.  One particular Saturday morning breakfast comes to mind today.  

I am grateful.  God's gift of friendship in Christ is a blessing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Check it out: I got a library card!

I got a library card this evening!  What joy.  I'd been looking forward to a library visit and yes--checking it out for the last couple of weeks.  I was overdue for a visit.  And guess what?  The library was fine.  And now I'm done with puns. (Until someone can make a microfiche pun.  I would love that.)

Today I finished a book on cassette (yes tape!) so to the library I went. I checked out two books and put Les Miserables (on CD) on hold.  It's time for French history, Jean Val Jean and Katie to get acquainted.

I guess it's nerdy to be so excited for a library card but I am.  Isn't the library a great place?  As a girl I would go for story time at the library. A gentle soul would read a book and use puppets to make the story come alive.  As a student I would nearly always study at the library.  I love the quiet and discipline (and the occasional shenanigans the library seems to bring out in people).  And best of all?  The library is free and open to all.  Any person can walk through the door and open their minds to an adventure.  Think of all the wonderful places books have taken you.  And what's better than an adventure?

Library love runs in my family on both sides.  My Granny (dad's mom) is a voracious reader so much so the local librarian knows her taste!  She selects books for Granny, Mom picks them up and Granny devours them.  On my mom's side I'm a library legacy.  Grammy (mom's mom) was a librarian.  Gram worked for the St. Louis Public Library and retired from the Shawnee Public Library in 1982.  When she retired they gave her a quilt with a hand-sewn square from each friend.  My favorite square says "Any Time.  Any Place.  Any Book."  My second favorite is a picture of a cheeseburger, so I feel certain Gram and I would be good friends.  Any person honored by a quilted cheeseburger is my kind of person.

It makes me smile when I look at it.


I'm grateful for the bibliophiles who paved the way for this library-lover.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

B-I-N-G-O

There was a serious lack of bingo at Truett Seminary in the mid 2000s. Happily an ally was gained in Student Services (props) and a Bingo Night was put on the calendar.

I can't remember now why the lack of bingo (excuse me:  serious lack of bingo) was troubling to Kathryn and me, but it was.  Kathryn and I worked together as Teaching Assistants for Dr. Betty Talbert.  It took roughly .5 seconds for us to become pals.  

I thought I was excited about Bingo Night having successfully convinced Student Services I could sell a 48 pack of visors (how can you play bingo without visors?); but then Kathryn strolled in to the Great Hall wearing a wind suit, enormous sunglasses (pre-popularity) and a wig.  There she was starting eyeglass trends and being awesome. Don't you love people who really give themselves to a themed party?  I do.

LaVerne and Shirley.  Yes we did give ourselves fake names.

Earlier this week I had the great pleasure of meeting Kathryn for brunch. Kathryn works for Wycliffe Bible Translators in western Africa and is home catching her breath.  I loved hearing about her day-to-day life.  I loved hearing and remembering her passion for linguistics.  I loved thinking about her sassy self sharing Jesus.  When I think about who Kathryn is and what she does I am so very grateful.  Thanks Kathryn.

I also remembered Kathryn raises all her own support.  If you don't know about Wycliffe please check them out:  www.wycliffe.org.  If you would like to support Kathryn please get in touch with me.

I 4 1 (get it? bingo post) am grateful for Kathryn's friendship and ministry.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Can you hear me now?

Yesterday I visited with a veteran pastor who reflected on Baptist days gone by.  We were discussing divisiveness within denominations when he recalled something shocking (to me!).  Long ago at a denominational meeting Adrian Rogers and John Claypool spoke on the same evening from the same pulpit.  I almost fell out of my seat.  Two very different people were heard by the same audience!  Imagine that.

Would this happen today within any denomination/movement?

Sometimes I wonder if we're losing our ability to hear because we only listen to people who are exactly like us.  Our ability to reason lessens. We watch news which affirms our beliefs and don't listen to the other. In the end we shout at people with whom we don't agree. 

We are a country of folks trying to hear one another.  If we aren't heard we shout louder; it's like screaming into a cellphone without a signal.  "CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?"

Just because we shout doesn't mean we'll be heard.  And call me crazy but we don't have to agree with someone to learn from them.  I still have a hard time listening to some people, but I want to be better at it.

Adrian Rogers and John Claypool spoke on the same evening from the same pulpit.  Would this happen today anywhere?  


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I have a Lottie to learn

I have a lot to learn in general, but in particular I have a lot to learn about Lottie Moon.

Having grown up in a Southern Baptist church I spent many a Wednesday night learning about Lottie Moon.  I remember Mrs. Betty Jackson telling me all about her in 1st grade GAs (Girls in Action).  Lottie was a missionary to China who told people about Jesus Christ.  Her passion caught the attention of Southern Baptists across the country and as such the Christmas mission offering bears her name.
This Christmas Eve marks the 100 year anniversary of her death.

In November I will begin as pastor of Scottsville Baptist Church which counts Lottie Moon's parents, Anna and Edward, amongst its early leaders.  Little Lottie was part of Scottsville Baptist.  What a legacy!  When I visited SBC it was fun to imagine her running around the sanctuary and learning about God.

I am excited to start the journey with the people of Scottsville.  I have a lottie to learn (can't help myself) about them and their rich history.

(By the way-if you can recommend any good Lottie Moon books or materials, please let me know!)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Love These Youthies.

I will miss these kiddos a lot.
Aren't they great?  I love their commitment to costuming.
Tonight they surprised me with a party.  It was full of things I love:
1.  youthies
2.  thoughtfulness
2.  laughter
3.  a surprise!
4.  brilliant costuming (including a bedazzled number just for me--they know how I roll)
5.  homemade cupcakes and cake

It was humbling to watch them do something so kind for me.  This blessing of effort and thought made me swell with gratefulness.  I love how they are fun, caring and follow Jesus. What a beautiful combination!  (Side sermon:  Grown up church, rest easy!  The future is in loving hands.  I see faithful deacons, missionaries, council members, pastors, greeters, ushers, treasurers and more in our group.  Rest easy.)

I have enjoyed watching them grow.  I've known some of them for more than six years.  What a gift to walk with them through such formative times.  I am grateful to God for calling me to Memorial.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Need vs. Want: We Meet Again.

These days I live in a sea of moving boxes.  At first only a sliver of my was life stacked high in a corner, but as moving day draws near I can hardly walk in my apartment without tripping over myself.

It's funny putting my life in boxes.  It's funny how much of it I don't need.

I've been fine this week without the frames and socks, the quilts and pillows, the mysterious FRAGILE box and the summer clothes.  I live in a tiny apartment and yet I have so much stuff.  How much of it do I actually need?  Sigh...need vs. want:  Cliche (yet important) argument and Katie meet again!

Don't get me wrong; it would be impractical to get rid of everything.  I won't wear summer clothes this week but I will next June.  I don't need the frames now (or ever) but they hold photos of people I love.  Those familiar faces will be an especially welcome sight in a new place.  I'm glad for the things I have--especially cherished treasures from loved ones and friends.

It would be impractical to get rid of everything but I do wonder if I've got the right balance.  Are there more 'wants' than 'needs' in the boxes?  Yes.  I'm sure of it.  What's the balance between good stewardship of stuff vs. seemingly endless accumulation of things we think we need?

No answers.  Just questions.  Back to packing!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Staff Infection (the good kind)

Today the Memorial Baptist staff treated me to a fun day.  It was great. We piled into our beloved minivan and hit the road for Washington, D.C.  I had no idea where we were going.  I love surprises.

Because I'm a history dork the staff selected President Lincoln's cottage for a visit and tour.  They know me!  During the summers the Lincolns lived in the cottage.  The President would ride 45 minutes on horseback to reach the White House for work.  He was escorted by no one--even in the midst of the Civil War!  People feared for his life but the President treasured the time alone (so surmised our excellent tour guide.  I concur.).  I can only imagine the prayers he prayed, the things he thought, the worries he carried.

For lunch Artemia secured an excellent neighborhood eatery-The San Antonio Bar and Grill-which especially thrilled the Texans.  As everyone knows it's best to keep the Texans happy.

We finished the day with a stop at Fro Yo.  Following is an unimportant yogurt opinion:  Fro Yo and Sweet Frog are infinitely better than Pinkberry.  At Fro Yo there is a veritable plenty of flavors AND we have the freedom of lever-pulling.  Elsewhere the people behind the counter control the yogurt.  To quote Cher from Clueless "As if!"  All yogurt however is a win due to live cultures (whatever that means).  I'll move on because this is turning into a first world problem situation.

I'm grateful for this day.  I'm grateful for the history, the fajitas and the yogurt but more than anything I am grateful for these people I love.  Every one of them.  We are colaborers but we are also friends.  Here's a non-exhaustive list of why they're awesome:

  • Belinda is teeming with hospitality.  She makes every person feel special because she believes every person is special. What a gift in this day and age!  Belinda learns folks' names because she cares.  I love that.  
  • Sally and I started within weeks of each other at Memorial. Sally is one of the most humble human beings I've ever met. She truly wants to live for and like Jesus all the time.  It's beautiful really.  
  • Artemia is a gifted listener and a wondrous minister.  She can lead, preach, sing, teach, number-crunch and party-plan.  She'll bend over backwards for anyone.  She makes the world brighter for so many people.  She sacrifices for folks.
  • For me, the word Richard is synonymous with the word kind.  "How can I help you?"  Richard has asked me 3.4 million times.  What's more:  He means it.  He is loyal and gentlemanly (in that really respectful and awesome way). 
  • Drew is a wonderful pastor.  He is funny and loves to laugh.  He is a great storyteller.  He asks good questions and is a great leader.  Drew's passion for missions is infectious.  It has been a joy to get to know him.
  • Ruben loves the church so very much.  He cares for the building and the people.  He makes me laugh and he's a prankster. I will miss hearing him sing on Friday afternoons whilst he vacuums.  No one blasts Enrique Iglesias like Ruben.  
  • Ricardo carries with him a sense of joy and peace.  His smile is warm and he is unfailingly friendly.  Ricardo is kind. 
  • While we don't see Bill Johnson daily, I appreciate his pastoral care and love of improving things to make life easier for everyone.

  • Thanks Abe!  You're the best.
These are the people with whom I spend my days.  I am blessed.  Thanks for treating me to a special day.  I felt and feel loved.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

A Childhood Dream Come True

I can't believe it happened.


I HAVE A GAME BALL.


Once again:  I have a game ball.

I was elated.  Stoked.  Thrilled.  Over the top excited.  I called my dad.  I called my brother.  I still can't believe it but it's true! It really happened. I HAVE A GAME BALL.

I can remember toting my Macgregor glove (why no capitalization of the 'G' friends?) to Saint Louis Cardinals games as a girl hoping for a chance to catch a ball.  Last night the childhood dream came true!  And it was a Nationals game ball.  And I love love love the Nationals. (Please excuse my excessive use of 'love' for such a time as this.)

For non-baseball fans, to what can I compare this joy?  It's like a guitar pick from The Edge.  It's like a piece of the net from March Madness. For game show fans (too much?):  It's like a Pat Sajak AND Vanna White autographed a piece of the Wheel.  A game ball--especially a scuffed up ball--is pretty much the best thing ever.

My pal Erin surprised me with excellent tickets to the game.  We were just behind the dugout.  That in itself was enough to delight me for the next week.  I love love love (can't help myself) surprises and this was a great one!  I could see the expressions on the players' faces. When Tyler Clippard (bless him) returned to the dugout dejected and downtrodden we stood and clapped for him.  I think he made eye contact with us.    I gave him the "You'll get 'em next time" support look.  I think he felt that.  It's a stretch, but I think he felt that.

So:  The ball.  How is it mine you ask.  One of the Brewers' players foul tipped the ball.  The Nats ball boy picked it up.  As he ran back to the dugout I stood up, smiled and politely said "Hello!  May I have the ball?"  We made eye contact and for some strange reason he tossed it at me.  This is when things went into slow motion.  I see the ball hurling toward me (thank you ball boy!).  I reach for it but wait:  A man in front of me snatched it for himself.  Nooooooooooooooo!  Noooooooooooo mister!  GIVE ME BACK MY DREAMS.

Ultimate sadness...

Until the man turned around, handed me the ball and said "This ball was meant for you."  I gushed.  I thanked.  I gave a passionate explanation of the significance of this ball.  It was a bit much for him.  I think he was done about 15 seconds in but I needed him to know.  Thank you mister.  Faith in humanity restored and childhood dream come true.

Thank you mister.  Thank you ball boy.  Thank you Erin.  Thank you baseball.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Here I Am Lord

One of my favorite hymns is "Here I Am Lord." The lyrics are rich with trust in God.  Sometimes I tremble when I sing it:  "Here I am Lord...I have heard you calling in the night...I will go Lord if you lead me..."  It is quite a thing to tell God "I'll go if you lead me" and mean it.

For awhile now God has been leading me to be pastor of a church. God has whispered, sung and spoken the call--but lately God has been shouting! The gracious folks of Scottsville Baptist Church in Scottsville, Virginia have called me to be their pastor.  I am thrilled to begin the journey with them.  The entire process has been grace-filled and humbling.  I am grateful.

Anyone who listened to pop music in the 1990s remembers "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."  As I depart for Scottsville I leave Memorial Baptist Church.  Leaving a church you love is an acute kind of pain I wouldn't wish on anyone.  I trust God's leadership and am eager to serve God's church in Scottsville, but I will miss Memorial.  Never have grief and excitement captured me so fully at the same time.

More than grief or excitement however, I am grateful.  I am grateful for six wonderful years at Memorial.  I am grateful for God's call to pastor Scottsville.   I am grateful for God's people in both places.  I am grateful and blessed.

The last line of "Here I Am Lord" promises "...I will hold your people in my heart."

That I will.  That I will.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Here's to the men that we love! (that we love!)

Once upon a time I was in a sorority.  One of the highlights of my week was circling up.  Circling up is Greek speak for singing shoutin' songs real loud for all campus to hear.  If you have a solid 10-15 ask me about circle up and I will happily oblige you with a song or seven. Following is one of my favorites and I'd like you to imagine it with gusto:

Here's to the men that we love!  (that we love!)
Here's to the men that love us!  (that love us!)
But the men that we love aren't the men that love us so to heck with the men here's to us!

It is possible the word was not 'heck' but you get the idea.  I guess this song isn't very nice, but it was especially poignant in those unrequited love like times in life.  Sigh...moving on.

Today however I want to convey the opposite sentiment.  Today I'm only interested in the first line:

Here's to the men that we love!  (that we love!)

On Wednesday I was surrounded by men who sacrificed vacation time to prepare a meal.  Men in the kitchen!  I love it.  And guess what?  It's normal to see men working in the kitchen at Memorial.  It's normal to see men teaching Vacation Bible School and preparing meals for homebound members.  It's normal to see women and men laboring alongside one another doing most things at Memorial. While normal, this is no small thing.

Here's to the men that we love!  (that we love!)

I don't appreciate these men simply because they are willing to do traditional "women's work" but I can't get over the simple beauty of the visual.  Do these men understand how important their seemingly small choices are--that little eyes are watching?  I'm so happy our little boys will expect to serve alongside little girls in all capacities.  I'm so happy our little girls will expect to serve alongside little boys in all capacities.  They will expect it because they see it.  It's that simple.

If we want all persons called by God to serve in various ways in the home, church and world, children will have to see it.  We can say lots of things but lip service is just not enough.  Children will have to see it.

If we want all persons called by God to serve as they are called, children will have to see it.  When children see it...little girls will know they can carry heavy things should the Lord bless them with strong muscles.  Little boys will know they can work in the nursery should the Lord bless them with the gift of nurture.  Little girls and boys will know they are able to serve as deacon should the Lord bless them with leadership and wisdom.  By our example little boys and girls will be able to be faithful to God's call.  They will be free to serve as God calls because they've seen it.  They're counting on us to serve as we're called and needed.

Here's to the men that we love!  (that we love!)

It is no small thing to serve the Lord as we're called and needed.  Thanks faithful men for paving the way for the littlest ones to hear God's call.

I hope it goes without saying I appreciate the work of the faithful ladies (girl power!), but today I wanted to highlight the fellas. 


Monday, August 20, 2012

Rock Climbing is Scary.

Do you know what some people don't like?  I'll tell you:  Some people don't like being scared in front of other people.  Coincidentally, do you know what Katie doesn't like?  I'll tell you:  Katie doesn't like being scared in front of other people.  

Let me rewind a bit:  The McKowns are not a camping bunch.  We'll do it, but we're more of a "give-us-beds-and-a-continental-breakfast-and-every-fifth-year-a-concierge" family.  The great indoors is a lovely place, people.  

But as it turns out some people in this world enjoy camping and thanks to dirt loving friends I am warming up to the outdoors.  When I asked a pal what pre-wedding shindig she would like she responded "Let's go camping!"  GREAT.  Because who doesn't cook vegetables over a fire to celebrate upcoming nuptials?  


I kid.  We had a great time.  I have awesome friends.

Anyway we were on a steep hike to Spy Rock this weekend.  The view is magnificent.  Pre-magnificence however you have climb a large rock.  For the REI crowd this would be considered a warm up.  For me this was the hiking Olympics.  I am ter-ri-fied of falling.  

Luckily there is a kind dad who accompanies the youth on this trip.  Most years he has happily busted out the cheerleader elevator hands and boosted me up a bit.  But this year I was determined to do it myself.  We approached the rock from a different angle.  This was my year to shine.

At one point I was frozen against the rock.  At least forty-seven times I said aloud "I'm scared."  And I really meant it.  It was rock-climbing without the harness.  There were no cute colorful clay targets to grab onto--only God made crevices in the rock.   Finally I mustered all the courage that was muster-able within me and did it.  Folks I am still alive.

On the way down the mountain I heard myself say "I don't like to be scared in front of other people" to the adult chaperones.  Hello moment of honesty!  After I said it I was embarrassed mostly because it's true.  Hello pride!    

Most of us don't like to show our fears.  What is (or at least seems) easy to others is hard for us.  And when word gets out we are vulnerable:  What will they think?  What will they say?  What will they do?

Though it's difficult being vulnerable with one another it is essential to the church community.  We are not fearless people.  We are not perfect people. We are scared.  We are broken.  We don't have it all together so let's stop pretending.  I'm preaching to myself people!!!  

Being vulnerable can hurt or embarrass us but most of the time it won't. Trust me.  Usually vulnerability will allow people to come alongside us.  It allows people to give us a boost up the mountain or at least cheer us on when we take a chance. When we are vulnerable with one another we share the load.  We carry the burden together which I've heard somewhere else...oh yes...the Bible.  

So I'm off to rock climb again tomorrow.  

Just kidding.  JK as the kids say.  But one day I will rock climb again and the support of my sisters and brothers will help me up the mountain.  Cheesy...but true.  (And I like cheese anyway so it's all good.)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Can you help keep the lights on?


Part of what ministers do is help those with needs.  Some folks need rental assistance.  Others need food or gas money.  Some folks need a new appliance.  It can be anything.  

Sometimes this is a beautiful part of ministry:  a need is presented, a need is met and folks get back on their feet.  Occasionally these folks want to become part of the church family.  It is times like these your heart is so full you fear it will explode with love (and if it's my heart:  love and glitter).


The Arlington County Department of Human Services is helpful to us.  In many cases we work together to help folks get back on their feet.  Good things happen.  It seems like people don't fall through the cracks as easily.  Sometimes we can help and things work out; however other times we cannot.



Because other times you have to say no.

Saying no stinks.  Even if you discern 'no' to be the best decision it still stinks.  Actually it really stinks.  This part of the call is painfully difficult.  


I often wonder if I've done the right thing when I say 'yes' or 'no'.  There are lots of tensions in helping others.  Most people want to help the poor, but how?  The best thing we can do is pray for God's wisdom (every day and in the moment).  Mix that with available resources and our own wits and we hopefully come to a solution. 


For me it's not about whether someone deserves to be helped or not.  Who among us deserves the good in our lives?  Many times we don't deserve the bad either.  It's not about who's deserving and who's not. It is, however about being a good steward of the funds the church has entrusted to us to share.  There is a limited amount.  There are many in need.  

The persons who call on us are just like us.  They are people in need only their needs are visible.  Many of ours are hidden.  Some of these persons are in desperate need.  Others are not.  Some of these persons are kind.  Others are not.  Some of these persons are truthful.  Others are not.  They're just like us:  They are us.  They're people.

Part of the how is remembering people are people, and even if we can't (or shouldn't) pay the light bill we can have a conversation.  We can look folks in the eye.  We can point them to the Department of Human Services and offer to help them get a social worker.  We can invite them to share a meal.  We might say 'no' to one request, but say 'yes' in other ways.

I don't want to be stingy or naive.  Helping folks in physical need is neither easy nor black and white.  Sometimes I wish it was...but perhaps that's what makes the journey meaningful?  We have to work hard and be creative.  We have take time, sit down and ask questions.  We have to pray and trust and hope.  Recently a man stopped by and had me in stitches.  His personality made me smile.  I am made better by my interaction with him.  

I'm not saying anything new.  I'm only saying it for me today.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

Neee-ther.  Nigh-ther.  Eeee-ther.  Eigh-ther.  Let's call the whole thing off.  (In singsong voice please!)

Because I am super cool I've been thinking about pronunciation lately. Okay that's not true:  I always think about pronunciation.  I think it all started with the name Augustine.  I guess lots of things started with Augustine.  But I digress.

It's mission week at Memorial so lots of people say the word "roof" since we're doing home repairs.  Say that word aloud to yourself right now.  Was it "ruff" or "roooh-f" or "roo-uf?  I had a friend in seminary who would say "to err is human" which is all well and good but it sounded like "to ur is human."  Turns out you can say "err" or "ur." Aren't words beautiful and fascinating?

Are there words you mispronounce or say in unorthodox ways? I pronounce the word crayons "crowns."  Earlier this week I tried saying cray-ons but it just felt wrong.  For the life of me I cannot say the word rural.  I think I've said "sherbeRt" all my life though there is only one "r" in sherbet.

If you read this far it's one of three things for you:
1.  We are kindred spirits.
2.  You are bored.
3.  We are friends.

Happy week to you!

Friday, July 13, 2012

By our love

I am grateful for a week with students at camp.  I love them already but being with these rascals 24/7 actually grows that love.  They're hilarious.  They're silly.  They're thoughtful...my goodness are they thoughtful.  They love Jesus and they want to follow him.  They love one another.  They even get angry for the right reasons.  It's pretty awesome.  

Sometimes adults pull a "get off my lawn" attitude with students.  Yes they throw things.  Yes they eat amazing amounts of candy.  Yes they can be distracted easily.  But (and this is a big but and yes that STILL makes me laugh) they are also generous.  They want to do right.  They love fully.  They want to make a difference.  They want to follow Jesus.  They listen and I even think they are respectful.  

PASSPORT has introduced several new songs to us.  One is "By Our Love" by Christy Nockels.  It's a challenge for sisters and brothers in Christ to be known by love.  That's what we all should want, right?  Is that what we want?  I hope so.  

The first verses are sung in first person, but the final verse is addressed to children--asking them to stand in God's truth, to reach beyond their comfort zones, to be known by love.  And I think it's asking we trust they will do just that.  Do you trust the next generation to carry the gospel message?

If that's difficult for you I'd like you to try something.  Get to know a teenager.  I'm not asking you if you've seen a student:  I'm asking you to know him.  Find out which sports she plays.  Call out his name when you pass by him on the way to Sunday School.  Stop by the youth room--even if it smells like pizza and teenager poke your head inside and tell a joke.  Call a student on his birthday.  Pray for all students of your church.  Every day.

Even if you're not called to youth ministry please please please invest yourself in the life of a teenager.  Think about it this way:  It's an investment in future deacons, lay people, pastors and churches.  It's that important, friends.  

Catch the pillow when they throw it at you:  It'll be okay. Take time to know them and be part of their lives.  Then they will know you by Christ's love.  And in turn they'll want to be known by Christ's love.

Take a listen to the song.  It will bless you.

  
Thanks PASSPORT.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Take Me Out to the Ball Game!

Three Nationals games in three days:  Huzzah!  1-2:  Not so huzzah; however the all-star break will be restorative.

I love baseball.  Game day excitement is palpable.  The metro is filled with red, white and blue.  The city is actually abuzz with Natitude which is welcome relief after so many years in last place.  Don't get me wrong: I loved the Nats when they were losing too...but first place feels GREAT!   

I love cheering for Ryan Zimmerman.  I love keeping score.  I love the smell of hot dogs (in general, but especially at the ball park).  I love jumping up in excitement when a sweet play is made.  I secretly love feeling superior when I sing "cracker jack" instead of "cracker jacks."  I love watching fans dance in glory.    

I blame my family.  I can't remember a summer I didn't go to Busch Stadium. We would arrive hours early just to watch batting practice.  The St. Louis Cardinals were it.  My favorite was watching Ozzie Smith do a back flip before the game.   My family continues to practice absolute loyalty to the Cards, while I've made room on my scorecard for the Nats.  Most of them have disowned me, which is painful yet I appreciate their loyalty.
KM color blocking at an early age.

If you haven't already please enjoy America's past time this summer.  It's a great game.