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.