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 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 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?"  


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.