Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Little More Conversation

I think there will be dust-ups in our collective Christian family until the cows come home.  Experts say some conflict is healthy--vital even--for growth and change; however much of our conflict seems to utilize rhetoric that is neither helpful or charitable.  All sides are guilty.  Much of our language is patronizing.  What to do?

Like you, I've read lots of opinion pieces.  Some are helpful.  Others aren't.  There are people on all sides who make good and not-so-good points.  What seems to be lacking is conversation between the sides.  Where is the back and forth?  The Internet (blogs, facebook, twitter, myface, yourface, etc.) can make conversation difficult because "We're talking at each another rather than with each other." (see Saving the Art of Conversation). 

I developed a 'yes or no' list on how I want to talk with people, especially those for whom it is difficult for me to listen.  It is hard to converse with people who grate our nerves.  It's doubly difficult to learn from them.  I am not perfect, and I have missed the mark many, many times.  I share this list so maybe we can work on some of these together.  You might not agree with all of it, but that's okay.  We can talk about it...can't we?

How to talk to people…yes or no:

Engage in dialogue...yes
Water down my faith...no
Have strong viewpoints...yes
Be rude when sharing strong viewpoints...no
Listen to understand...yes
Listen only to respond...no
Be open-minded to people w/whom I agree...yes
Be open-minded to people w/whom I disagree...yes
Be funny (or at least try)...yes
Masquerade meanness as "funny"...no
Be fair...yes
Be fair without compassion...no
Be sensitive...yes
Take everything personally...no
Righteous indignation...yes
Anger at things that don't matter...no
Love the world God created...yes
Allow the world to define me...no

And since it's still the Christmas season...yes or no:

Say Merry Christmas...yes
Say Happy Holidays...yes
Say Merry Christmas to spite others...no
Say Happy Holidays to spite others...no

We've got to learn to talk to each other online and in person.  This doesn't mean we're doormats.  It means active participation with others to understand and learn.  Actual conversation can birth growth and change.  It is possible to learn a thing or two from people who see the world differently.

So what about it?  Ready to give conversation the good ol' college try?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

25 Cents at a Time

My eye is trained to be on the lookout for coins.  I possess this skill thanks to my dad, who can spot a penny from a mile away.  When we run together he will shout the denomination as soon as he sees it.  PENNY! NICKEL!  DIME!  It's so exciting.  Over Thanksgiving Dad told a tale (apocryphal?) of a floating $20 bill found on the mean streets of Beaver Dam.  

There is a strategy to coin-finding.  Aim your peepers where car doors open.  Check cracks and crevices in the pavement.  Stoplights are a popular destination for well-worn pennies (see below).  My Thanksgiving run yielded 14 coins.  I was ecstatic. 

A penny here. A quarter there.  It all adds up.  

Even though coins are relatively small in value, what a happy surprise to find them!  I used to all but ignore pennies, but not anymore.  I imagine them as little treasures eager to be found.  I even like to pay in pennies (apologies to those behind me in line)!

Sometimes in the church we wonder if calling the sick (nickel), washing the dishes (penny), or involving persons on the margins (quarter), etc. makes a difference.  One Sunday School lesson.  One dozen cookies for the parade. One hour volunteering at the clothing closet.  One hospital visit.  One encouraging word to the lonely.  

Sometimes we may even wonder if we're just spinning our wheels.  Do these 'little' things do any good?

Rev. Fred Craddock said, "We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1000 bill and laying it on the table--'Here's my life, Lord.  I'm giving it all.' But the reality for most of us is that God sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1000 for quarters.  We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there.  Listen to the neighbor's troubles instead of saying 'Get lost.'  Go to a committee meeting.  Give a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home.  Usually giving our life to Christ isn't glorious.  It's done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time.  It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it's harder to live the Christian life little by little…" 

A penny here.  A quarter there.  It all adds up.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Horses with Braces

Tomorrow I go to my new dentist, which reminded me of my first dentist (there were others) in Arlington.

I selected said dentist based on the following:  She and her family were in matching Christmas sweaters on the website.  I felt like this was a telltale sign of "fun" and "good dentist." Apparently Christmas sweaters are not a good litmus test for whether or not a dentist is recommendable.

Disclaimer:  Fantastic dentist and teeth people, congratulations on being wonderful at your work!  This is not dedicated to you.

Let's roll back to 2007, friends.  Following my adventurous day at the dentist I wrote my pals an email version of this:

Today I went to the dentist for two fillings and by fillings I don't mean the silver kind.  Apparently this is not the way Arlington dentists roll.  They roll with white fillings that blend in with your teeth and cost lots of money.  Also why do I have cavities?  So sad.

I try to arrive early to find free parking, but this ends in travesty since all of the twisting and turning leads to motion sickness for Katie.  It's a special kind of amazing to cause your own self to be motion sick. I roll down the window to catch a breath of air, but my tummy continues to rumble.  I park way down the street and fumble around for change, load the meter, and run to my dental appointment.
During the filling process I was to raise my hand if I felt any pain.  By the end I had at least six shots of Novocaine in my mouth.  I feel like that's a lot.  At the end of the procedure my mouth was kinda just hanging out/down…lit-rally.  They asked me to sit up in the chair and rest for a minute. 

Enter the man I like to call Dentist Emeritus.  I feel like he was about 80 years old and apparently he made a major discovery in the world of teeth. He kind of sauntered in the room and had that "I'm awesome" air about him.  He clearly had dental wisdom to share.

My dentist asked me to bite down on something.  Dentist Emeritus was across from the room and said something like "I can see it from here." 

And here is where things got weird:  Dentist Emeritus looks at me and asks "Is your face deformed?"

"What?" I mumble in that mouth-full-of-dental-stuff way.  He's not smiling, but surely he's joking…right?  Oh wait:  Maybe he's talking about my Novocaine-d mouth that was hanging out on the floor. 

I smile and point to the lip and he says something like "No, not that.  I'm being serious.  Is your face deformed?"  

(Mouth-full-of dental-stuff silence.  Crickets for days.  More silence.)

Dentist E continues with disdain. "Who did your braces?" I'm serious.

"Well, I'm from Kentucky so you probably wouldn't…"  He cuts me off.

"Say no more" Dentist E replies.  He then explains to the dentists how orthodontists in Kentucky work on horses.

"They put braces on horses in Kentucky" he says to me. Are you kidding?  I. have. never.  I have never met a brace-face horse.  But guess what?  HE WAS NOT KIDDING.  Nope.

Next, the dentists tag team and tell me they can make this clay plate thing for me to sleep in for seven million dollars.  My dentist looks at me and tells me that as I get older things like my mouth will begin to fall apart and "I don't want to see this happen to you."  Thoughtful!

Needless to say, I left sans clay plate.  

I left the dentist for REI to buy some hiking sandals.  I'm walking around the store and apparently the 6-7 shots of Novocaine in my mouth meant hours of drooling.  An REI worker offers me a Kleenex to clean up the drool.  I love it.  They still sold me sandals.

The end.

*Here's hoping tomorrow goes a bit better!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

We're singing NEW Christmas carols?

One of my favorite holiday traditions is Christmas caroling with my family and childhood friends.  Since I live far from my Old Kentucky Home I can't always make it...but this year I'll be there!  I'll be fresh off the plane and under the influence of Drammamine, but I'll be there in body anyway.  

Many of the people for whom we carol were Sunday School teachers, GA leaders, Deacons, and Choir members.  Many are part of my great cloud of witnesses.  It is an evening of joy and reflection.  

Though we're happy most of the evening, there are also times of sadness.  Last year's elderly couple is this year's widower.  We swallow back the lump in our throats and sing, and even when the tears come they are a mix of mourning and gratefulness and family.  Hugs and love and support and community abound.  The whole evening is a gift.                                                                                                        

Some of our favorite carols are 'Silent Night' and 'O Come All Ye Faithful.'  The familiar tunes are nice since carol-ees can join in with the carolers.  We also remember singing these songs throughout the years with family and friends.  Singing these songs together is a gift.

I am excited to sing with my Scottsville Baptist family too.  Our choir is busily preparing for the Advent and Christmas seasons.  We have selected six new-to-us carols to share with the congregation on December 22nd.  At first I think we were hesitant to pick new songs since familiar ones are so loved, but we are trying to step out of our comfort zones!  Way to go, choir!

As we were practicing last night the lyrics to one of the songs startled me.  That's the thing about new songs:  It's difficult to miss the words because we're still stumbling over them!  With new songs, the meaning has a greater chance to grab us.  Consider the last verse of one of our new-to-us songs, 'Our Savior's Infant Cries Were Heard'

For Christ, who was a refugee
From Herod and his sword,
Is seeking now, thro' us, to be
Our children's friend and Lord

Naming Christ as refugee is powerful to me.  I have always known Mary, Joseph, and Jesus fled to Egypt, but never had I captured that imagery by naming them refugees.  Sometimes one word is all it takes to paint a picture.  My mind began racing with the vulnerability of refugees and the care of the least and lost.  It is a powerful song.

I am excited for our choir to share these new-to-us carols on December 22nd.  I am also excited to share a service of Lessons and Carols on December 29th.  We'll be sure to sing many familiar and beloved songs.  

As we sing familiar carols this holiday season, let's make room for new songs, which may have a word for us too.  Listen to the lyrics of new-to-you carols.  See the story with different eyes.  And when we do sing 'Silent Night' let us listen closely to the power of its words--not only for nostalgia's sake--but for the awesome wonder of the Christ child's coming to the world.

Scottsville Baptist Choir

Monday, November 4, 2013

What Millennials Can Learn from Older Folks

Article after article after article after article has been written about how the church can reach millennials.  Many of those articles make good points the church can and should incorporate.  Thank you writers of those articles; however...is anyone asking what millenials can learn from older folks? 

Many say the millennials want authenticity.  I like what authenticity means, but the word has worn out its welcome.  Authenticity is a buzz word much like missional.  Everyone is saying it, but what does it mean?  Everybody wants everybody to be authentic:  Got it!  (...except I'm not sure that's what we really want.  Rather, we want authenticity on our own terms--the kind that jives with our preferences, attitudes, opinions and beliefs, i.e. "I want people to be my kind of authentic!") 

Despite the overuse of the word, let's think about it's actual definition.  According to webster, authenticity is "worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact."  Let's use that definition to frame the question:  What is "worthy of acceptance" in the lives of older folks?

Answer:  A lot.  So what can we (I say 'we' because I'm relatively youngish, emphasis on 'ish') learn from older folks?

They don't retire from missions.  There is 92 year old lady who works the clothing closet and food pantry every week at Scottsville Baptist.  I wish you could see how she treats every shopper with dignity and respect.  I am learning about how much God loves the poor by watching her.  It's inspiring.

They give sacrificially to the church AND non-profits.  Statistics tell us young people are less likely to tithe to the church.  "But they give to other worthy non-profits!" you say.  Fantastic.  You know what we can learn from older folks?  They tithe AND give to Heifer International.  They give sacrificially AND support a child through Compassion International.  They believe in the work of the church. 

They are loyal to the church.  Many are members of one faith community for decades.  They don't run away when the going gets tough or flee at the first sign of conflict.  They recognize the plusses and minuses of the community in which they worship and serve.  Older folks understand commitment.  (Also older folks can't wait to get back to church following illness or a stint in the hospital.  They are eager to return to church and get back to work.)

They do what needs to be done.  I'm a big fan of the emphasis on calling (thanks Frederick Buechner!); however some things need to get done whether we're called to it or not.  Someone has to change the light bulbs.  Someone's tithe has to buy toilet paper.  Someone has to be the treasurer.  Someone has to serve on nominating committee.  The faithfulness and loyalty of older folks teach us not every task is something we are called to do (or want to do!), but it needs to get done.  Everybody has to take turns being the 'someone.'

They built a foundation for us.  I'm grateful for the older folks who taught me about Jesus:  For Mrs. Jackson who taught me about missions; for Ms. Lummy who taught me to be a good listener during worship (or else!); for Mrs. Casebier who modeled humor, grace and elegance and for my grandmother who honors her home church by sending gifts.  Faithful older folks have given time, resources and love.   Perhaps some new models work better in the church today.  Perhaps we need to rethink missions and absolute quiet during worship (!), but older folks have taught us so much.  Don't forget their sacrifices for the kingdom (and us!).

They're willing to try new things.  Not all older folks are willing to try new things mind you (not all young folks are either!), but many are. Don't assume every older person is against change.  Scottsville Baptist counts many older folks among its ranks.  They called a pastor who happens to be a young, single lady (cue Beyonce).  They are willing.

Any time we categorize or stereotype an entire generation, we're bound to miss the mark at least a little bit (as I'm sure I have here). For example, an old person might like to rock out to Chris Tomlin song while a young person might relish the sound of a pipe organ in worship.  So any time we say "this is how we reach the millennials" or "this is what we can learn from older folks" it's not going to be 100% or even 70% accurate.  Every person is different.

Like most people I have ideas on how to reach the millennials, but I don't want to miss out on what the older folks have given us.  Focusing solely on one group or generation (be it older or younger) causes us to miss out on the wholeness of who God's people can be together.  Sometimes older AND younger folks are guilty of simply stomping our feet and demanding our way.  If that's what authenticity means--getting our own 'authentic' way--I'm not so cool with that; but if it means honoring what is "worthy of acceptance" in every age--I can get behind that.

Millennials have much to learn from older folks and older folks have much to learn from millennials.  Let's include everyone's voices in the conversation.

Monday, October 28, 2013

There's a Place for Us

On our best days small churches feel strong and mighty.  We celebrate and build on our strengths and move forward knowing and sharing the love of Jesus.  On our not best days, however we can feel discouraged. Without the funding and programs of larger sister churches, smaller churches can feel as if we are somehow less than.  Is there a place for us?

Yesterday Scottsville Baptist had the privilege of hosting the Kelly and Cates bell ringers, a group of adults with special needs who lead worship through their gift of music.  This group is from Fredericksburg Baptist, a wonderful church with a history of missions and generosity. Tommy, their director, conducts music by using color-coded cards.  By watching the colors change these friends are able to joyfully ring bells to beloved hymns and other songs.

Following one of the hymns, Tommy shared the beginnings of their ministry.  A woman named Margaret Ingram invited her neighbor to church.  The neighbor's daughter had special needs.  The neighbor asked "Is there a place for my daughter?"

Fredericksburg Baptist got to work and started a "Special Friends" class for persons with disabilities.  The ministry grew and today Fredericksburg Baptist has two residential homes for adults with special needs.  In addition to music ministry, many of these folks live at the Kelly or Cates Home near the church.  All that to say: The ministry of the Kelly and Cates bell ringers is possible because of Fredericksburg Baptist Church and Margaret Ingram.  Thanks Margaret for inviting your neighbor to church.

A happy twist to Tommy's story is Margaret grew up at...Scottsville Baptist Church!

On our not best days small churches can fall prey to comparison.  That church has x.  We only have y.  On our best days however, we celebrate our strengths.  We rejoice in the privilege of raising young women like Margaret, who invited her neighbor to church.  Today a ministry to adults with special needs thrives.  We rejoice in the privilege of raising young women like Lottie Moon, who followed Jesus to China for the sake of the gospel.

This is not to toot the horn of Scottsville Baptist Church.  We have growing edges just like everyone else!  This is not a "Look how great we are" post.  It is, however a reminder that God works in small spaces and places.  No matter the budget or number of programs, God can still work...and God does work in small churches, friends!  Margaret and Lottie are sisters to celebrate.

During the service a blind gentleman with perfect pitch sang West Side Story's "Somewhere."

There's a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us

He sang with pure joy.  There wasn't a dry eye in the room.

I could almost hear Margaret's neighbor asking "Is there a place for my daughter?"  Fredericksburg Baptist Church said "Yes."  Yes, there is a place for persons with special needs.  Peace and quiet and open air waited for Margaret's neighbor at Fredericksburg Baptist Church. Thanks Fredericksburg Baptist.

Likewise, there is a place for small churches.  We may not see "results" tomorrow or even next week, but perhaps we are part of something we cannot begin to imagine.  Be faithful, small and mighty churches. There is a place for you in God's kingdom.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How to Stop a Running Toilet

A couple of months ago I heard a noise in the church building.  It sounded like running water underneath grates in big cities.  Have the ninja turtles finally arrived to recruit me as the next April?  Per "All Creatures of our God and King" animals are welcome, but no turtles were found.

Maybe there's a leak in the kitchen? Nope.  No leak. 

Perhaps it's an issue in the restroom?  The women's bathroom was quiet as a mouse, but upon entry to the men's room I found the culprit:  The urinal was running like a madman and screaming for attention.  Eeeeek. 

What do I do?  Call the deacons, of course!  I called the deacon chair and he walked me through a solution.  I essentially punched the urinal in just the right place (yes I did) to stop it from running.  It worked!  Also I'll take "Things They Didn't Teach Me in Seminary" for $200, Alex.  The urinal was fixed and I felt like a champ.  I think I told 3,400 people about it. 

A few weeks ago another toilet was running and I observed someone quietly slip into the bathroom and fix the problem.  He fixed the problem and then did another 5 servant-y things around the building.  He didn't tell 3,400 people or ask for accolades.  He quietly fixed the problem and went on about other business of serving the church.

I wanted to post a clever facebook update.  He wanted to go unnoticed.  This is probably a lesson for me, yes? 

On Sunday we ordained two new deacons and reflected on Jesus' servant ministry in John 13.  Jesus shows us what love does by assuming a posture of humility and washing the feet of the disciples.  Let's be honest:  The disciples' feet had to ripe with nasty, and yet Jesus washed them.  Jesus teaches us about servant ministry by washing feet.

Likewise, servants in the church wash feet.  Servants aren't afraid to do the dirty work.  There is no task beneath the servant.  Servants take initiative and get things done.  Servants see someone sitting alone and make conversation.  Servants reach out to those perceived as strange or different.  Servants see a coffee spill on the floor and clean it up.  Servants do thankless things that may appear small.  Servants sacrifice for the good of others.  Servants fix the running urinal without fanfare. 

The church can improve in many ways, but whether you know it or not--there are secret servants all over the place.  It's a treat when you get to see one in action. 

Thanks be to God for folks who humbly serve to God's glory.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Running and Writing

Running and writing are kinfolk.

Sometimes a sermon comes like a freight train.  Other times it's like drinking out of a bathtub with a straw.  Can I get a witness, preacher pals?  Running is the same.

Last week my long run was painful.  My back hurt, my feet hurt, side stitches attacked and by mile 7 I wanted to lay down and eat cupcakes. Don't worry:  I finished the run, but it wasn't pretty...which is probably why I haven't gone on my long run yet this week.

I guess I'm afraid of another miserable run.  And this week is a big deal because it's 10 MILES.  That's two digits folks.  I've never run 10 miles.

I have a big writing assignment due next week.  I've spent the morning questioning, praying, and freight-train-AND-drinking-out-of-a-bathtub-with-a-straw writing.  Some of it is drivel.  Some of it may be helpful.  I've never had an assignment like this before.

Running and writing are disciplines.  Sometimes writing doesn't feel good and you have to tie your leg to a chair to get the first draft. Sometimes running doesn't feel good and you have to lace up your shoes and get out the door anyway.

But oh my goodness...the other times.

Sometimes writing does feel good and it helps you understand yourself or God or the world better.  Sometimes your writing even helps others.  Sometimes running does feel good and you feel like Giselle in Enchanted.  You dance and sing and run and rejoice. You echo Olympian Eric Liddell's words:  "When I run I feel God's pleasure."

Running and writing are kinfolk.  And whether it's a 42 draft sermon or 2 draft sermon OR a 12 side stitch run or Eye of the Tiger run, I'm grateful for both disciplines.

See you later.  The pavement is calling!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Prom 2013

Because the lovely ladies of Fidelis Class dined at my home on Sunday evening, I was privy to their conversations about the upcoming Senior Center Prom.  I knew about the prom since one of our deacons coordinated the door prizes, but this was an opportunity to ask questions about dates, dancing partners, and dresses.  FUN.  

I arrived at the prom a little after 11:00 this morning with the intention of staying thirty minutes.  Two-and-a-half hours later I finally moseyed out of the gym.  I couldn't leave!  So. much. fun.  There were suits, sequins, hats, and dance moves as far as the eye could see.

Oldies were spun until the DJ transitioned to standard wedding fare. PS:  You haven't lived until you've rocked the Cupid Shuffle with senior citizens. 

"What did he (Cupid Shuffle singer) say to do, Katie?"  

In singsong:  "Clap, clap, clap, clap your hands!"  So she did.  GLORY!  

Scottsville Baptist was there in full force.  Our folks were dressed to the nines and cut several rugs.  We talked and laughed and danced in our seats.  We motioned Y-M-C-A while enjoying Henry's famous mac and cheese.  What a great day.  Some days--like this one--the call to ministry is full of joy.  I'm grateful.

And finally:  What prom is complete without a professional photo?

Prom 2013:  Scottsville Baptist!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Halfway there.

This morning the deacons and I are headed to a lovely church in the mountains on retreat.  Shout out to the Methodists for loaning us your building!  You have immersed us with kindness.  Polity joke FOR THE WIN.

I'll be here all week day.

Today we will read, reflect, listen, pray, consider, brainstorm, and dream for the future.  I'm eager for us to build on our strengths and grow together.

Growing means leaving the comfort zone.  Yike.  That is difficult.  It's difficult for you and it's difficult for me.  I've been thinking about my personal comfort zone, and wondered if staying there is helping Scottsville Baptist?  Probably not!  So, with the help of a coach I'm trying to sprint out of mine.

So...here goes.  Surprise to me and you:  Katie is signed up for a half marathon in November.  As of tomorrow I'm halfway finished with my training.  I'm halfway there.

It's true:  I am slow as molasses.  But HEY (say in Si's voice):  I like molasses so we good.  And I finally have something in common with Eminem:  Eight MileS.  It's a big deal.  It's a slow deal, but a big one.  I am not what the kids call an athlete.

On Friday I banged my knee on the porch door.  Way to go, Grace McKown.  I can only hope my knee will bruise like my arm when it got caught in the metro door (shout out WMATA).  THE bruise (of my life) was a brilliant display of spring colors.  Ride the metro with me now. I'm very aware of "Stand back.  The doors are now closing."  Those words are real.

I digress.

Despite the fun of a multicolor bruise on my knee, I am praying this won't mess up my training.  Apparently I really care.  I'm invested. These 10 weeks have really stretched me, lit-rally and figuratively.

I almost didn't sign up for the half because I was scared.  Scared I couldn't do it.  Scared I would fail.  Scared of what others would think if I did fail.  But luckily my coach (shout out Ken Kessler) encouraged me to flee my comfort zone.  Nearly every Sunday I beg folks to do the same...so why wasn't I willing?  Today I will do the same at the deacons' retreat.  I need to be willing.


So here I am:  Halfway to the half.  I'm still scared.  I'm still worried. But I also feel LIKE A BOSS.  And, however cliche it sounds--I've realized being out of my comfort zone is great.  It's new.  It's exciting. It makes me feel really good.  Of course it's not without bruises, but it's making me better.

I might come in last place in November.  I might have to walk a mile or two.  I might curse the day my coach was born (I kid, Kessler).  But I will be there.  I will try.  I will do my best.

So church:  Even if we're nervous about leaving what's comfortable and familiar, let's step out on faith.  It might be fun.  It might be great.  It might be scary.  It might be exciting.  Of course it won't be without bruises, but in the end--it'll make us better.

See you soon.

Monday, September 2, 2013

I'll have a party today.

Who does Jesus say to invite to parties?  During the children's sermon we read Luke 14:12-14 find out:

Then he turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.”

We talked about inviting the unpopular kids, the kids who sit alone at lunch and those who aren't invited anywhere.  When I was wrapping up our time together a little girl raised her hand.  She quietly and sincerely said "Billy and Suzy aren't invited to birthday parties.  I'll have a party today and invite them."

And then I melted into a puddle.  I'm out.

I love children.  She heard Jesus' words and was ready to act.  This afternoon.  TODAY.  

Thanks be to God for the challenging words of children. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Better Encouragement

A long time ago in a land far away a lady heard a not-so-good sermon.  As she and her friend exited the church building, her friend shook the hand of the preacher and said "Good sermon." 

Later that day the lady asked her friend "You thought it was a good sermon?  I did not." 

He nodded in agreement.  "Neither did I." 

The lady's mouth dropped open "Then why did you say that to the preacher?!" 

He thought for a minute.  "I don't know...that's what you say to preachers!"

I think of that story when someone says "good sermon" to me:).  Don't get me wrong:  It's encouraging when folks are kind and generous, but 'good sermon' is akin to the automaton response of 'fine' to 'How was your day?'  Maybe the sermon was good or the day fine, but the response makes it hard to know.

It's not that preachers want praise or a high five or fist bump.  We don't write sermons to make you feel good or happy or mad.  We want our sermons to be faithful to God.  We want to be faithful to the text.  We want to guided by the Holy Spirit.  We want to give glory to God!  And sometimes, quite frankly, the whole process is like a wrestling match with God (see Jacob:  Old Testament).  We come away having encountered God (thanks be to God), but not without a limp.

Most preachers would rather hear "I'd like to talk with you about the challenge you suggested for our congregation" or "I encountered God this morning.  Can you meet with me this week to talk about it?" or "Thanks for reminding us of God's promises" or "I've been praying about God's call on my life.  God was nudging me during the service.  Can we talk?" or even "I don't know if I agree with x.  Can I call you tomorrow to discuss?"  These responses help us know you are engaged in worship. 

Perhaps the best encouragement I've received is at Scottsville Baptist.  One of church members emails me every Monday morning to give specific encouragement.  I don't think this person knows how much these Monday musings mean to me.  Even if the email is brief, it packs a punch with detail.  Sometimes reflections are shared.  Other Mondays it is specific encouragement to me personally.  Other times he/she tells me about conversations with friends based on what was gleaned from worship.  Sometimes he/she shares about hardships.  It's different every week, but it's always specific.

I am grateful for that encouragement and giving preachers specific personal encouragement is kind, but there's actually a better way:  Nationals tickets!  Cupcakes! 

I KID.  

The better encouragement is sharing how you are growing in Christ.  The better encouragement is seeking God in worship.  The better encouragement is being faithful to God's call.  The better encouragement is seeking ways to engage God's mission and talking to your preacher about it.  The better encouragement is to let your preacher know how to pray for you.  There are others.

You are probably doing these things already (growing, being faithful, engaging God's mission, etc.) so consider challenging yourself to encourage the preacher by sharing with him/her on Sunday.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

If Trees Could Talk

I woke up this morning craving history and a road trip.  Happily, I live in Virginia where history abounds!  August has been wonderful yet busy, so I took today by the horns and set out on an adventure.  I love an adventure.

I chose to visit Appomattox Court House where the Civil War ended (Newsflash to Katie:  The surrender did not actually occur in the courthouse, but in Appomattox Court House at the McLean House. Apologies to my 4th grade educators whom I'm sure taught me this.) Earlier this month my friend Christy and I vacationed in Charleston and visited Fort Sumter where the Civil War began.  In a matter of weeks I've gone from beginning to end of the Civil War.

The McLean House, where Robert E. Lee surrendered to US Grant (The house was actually dismantled to be displayed in Washington, D.C.; however it was never shown.  Using many of the same bricks the house was reconstructed in Appomattox Court House in the 1940s.)
Fort Sumter.  The boat and land tour were most instructive.  Please visit if you're in SC!
At Appomattox Court House there is ample room to hike the grounds which provides time for reflection.  I thought about the horrors of war...then and now. I thought about slavery...then and now.  I thought about racial tensions...then and now.  I thought about injustice...then and now.  I thought about all the families who've lost a husband or son or dad or brother or wife or daughter or mom or sister...then and now. I thought a lot.

I enjoyed touring the buildings, but what impressed upon me most was the trees.  Some of the trees are hundreds of years old and were there during the war.  I spent a good deal of time examining this tree.  It is just across the way from the McLean House.  If trees could talk, what would it say?

I won't try to tie a bow on the hard days of then and now, but I do have great confidence in the newness of Jesus Christ.  He can make all things new.  He can make all people new.  I believe that.  And ultimately, all will be made well.  The trees that have witnessed the darkness of then and now will rejoice with peace:  "You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Protestants love Potlucks

The pulpit exchange was a wonderful success!  I'm grateful for all three congregations.

I enjoyed getting to know the Presbyterians and hope I didn't scare them too much.  What a joy to fellowship with sisters and brothers...even when the AC doesn't work!  I was on my best behavior and wearing my robe like a good Presbyterian, but it became mighty hot up in the clouds where the pulpit is:).  I decided to take the robe off--lest I be a hot and sweaty Baptist preacher (just what the Presbyterians ordered!).  I hope no one heard a Baptist disrobed in the Presby pulpit.  SCANDAL!

Thanks to Rev. Gordon Lindsey, pastor of Scottsville Presbyterian, for writing a fantastic article about our pulpit exchange and picnic.  The Scottsville Monthly featured Rev. Lindsey's story on page 3 of their current issue. 

(Please forgive my literal butchering of the article.  Katie is not an Internet all star.)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

That's What Makes You Beautiful.

Yep.  That's a title of a One Direction song.

In case you don't know, One Direction (1D to the truly enlightened) is a boy band that makes tween girls squeal with delight.

Last summer I took students to a mission camp called Passport.  On the last night a Variety Show is held.  Singing, dancing, joke-telling--you name it and a student does it.  The talent level may vary:), but everyone is welcome to participate.  I like it.

So it came as no surprise when one of the students sang "That's What Makes You Beautiful."  Most students sang with a friend or used an accompaniment track or played an instrument; but this fella had none of that.  He had a microphone, a CD of the song and a dream to be on stage.  That's it.

He took the stage and his nervousness was palpable.  Bless his heart. The music started and he was instantly frozen with a deer-in-the-headlights expression.  There he was before hundreds of teenagers--just a sweet, small middle school boy paralyzed with fear.  The CD went on singing without him.

The students were silent.  Little fella was frozen.  Adults like me were fah-reaking out--desperately wanting to help; but no one knew what to do...

but then something happened.

A rather cool looking high school guy slowly approached the stage, raised his hand high in the air and began jumping up and down in the most enthusiastic display of support I've ever seen.  He was alone for awhile, but that didn't phase him a bit.  He was jumping, smiling and encouraging the little 1D wannabe.

The singer was frozen for a moment more and then a huge grin filled his face.  He found the words again and he joined his #1 fan in jumping up and down. They were alone in their glee for about 10 seconds when hundreds of teens flooded the stage in love.  I wish you could have seen it.  It was beautiful.

I have been thinking about the word 'beautiful' lately.  Sometimes I use it synonymously with pretty, but I'm not going to do that anymore.  I want to reserve beautiful for moments like this one.  I want to use 'beautiful' to describe Christ's love in action, or when I can see Jesus' love on the face of another.  Beauty comes from the inside, and can make the outside more radiant--but the genesis of beauty is what's inside.  And let me be evangelical-y and say it this way:  If Jesus is in your heart, your gut, your being, your splankna (my favorite Greek word)--beauty will spill forth.  Beauty will be in your hands and feet and words.  Beauty will be personified by your actions.

THAT's what makes you beautiful.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I Yam who I Yam

Yesterday I read the results of my Keirsey Temperament Sorter II Corporate Temperament Report (otherwise known as a personality assessment).  It's...interesting to read about yourself.  There are the "Absolutely this is me and I like that about myself" moments and the "Really?  No.  That can't be me.  Okay...it is.  I wish it wasn't...but that's me" moments.

One telling description of my personality had this to say:  "[She is] forever looking for, and reacting to, the best in [her] company, office, school, church, and so forth, and [she is] happy to tell people about all the good things [she] see(s)."  Yes!  That's me:).

...BUT  that's not to say there aren't hard days.  There are.  There is stress and worry.  There are days when I wonder "Can I really do this?"  There are days I wonder about the church and its priorities.  There are days.

...BUT (and this is a bigger but...he he) I choose to focus on the best in people and churches.  Several years ago Bill Smith (shout out!) pointed me to Kennon Callahan's "Twelve Keys to an Effective Church."  Callahan and Smith's ideas guide me still:  Focus on what you're doing well and do it even better!  Celebrating strengths builds excitement, community and joy.  Rolling around in weaknesses drags people down.  And when we celebrate the good, the weaknesses organically (hip word alert!) improve.  I believe that.

So imagine my joy this morning when I read a wonderful article about VBS and our very own Alice Glass in the Rural Virginian.  I'm celebrating Scottsville Baptist Church's strength of ecumenism and leadership right now!  Happy pastor.

Here's an excerpt from Langden Mason's article:

"I sat on the soft red cushion on the back pew of the Scottsville Baptist Church and was impressed by all the children who filled the pews in front of me. There were Baptists and Episcopaleans and Methodists and Presbyterians and Catholics. No matter the denomination, all of them were ready to partake in the festive and learning experience known as Vacation Bible School.

It seemed only yesterday my cousins and I were spending a week with my Grandma Mason and attending this very same VBS. I recall Mrs. Glass, who had and still has the patience of Job, helped us memorize the books of the Bible...

So thank you, Mrs. Glass, and thanks to all of you who have volunteered your time this summer and summers past to a small yet vital American institution known as VBS. Though the media tends to dwell on school shootings, gang violence, and other forms of juvenile delinquency, VBS was and still is a week where we can experience children of different races and denominations standing together singing of God's love and providing us all with the hope of a bright, harmonious future."

Read Mason's full article here:  http://www.dailyprogress.com/ruralvirginian/opinion/dont_get_me_started/jesus-loves-the-little-children/article_144e375c-ed79-11e2-9055-001a4bcf6878.html

Monday, July 8, 2013

Preach it, Preacher.

Scottsville Baptist was blessed to welcome Shannon Rutherford as preacher on June 30.  Not only did her sermon include Elijah and Elisha (go ahead and try not to confuse them), it was also thoughtful, practical and full of God's Spirit.

I couldn't help but be nostalgic.  It is a special kind of blessing to listen to a dear friend proclaim God's truth so beautifully.  Nearly ten years ago Shannon and I were assigned to the same covenant group at Truett Seminary.  We later led a small group at Calvary Baptist and subsequently moved into the neighborhood of our church.  I lived in the big blue house/BBH.  Shannon lived in a cheerful pink house.  It makes me smile to think of those days.

I think we both grew in God's grace during those years. (I hope anyway.)  Looking back neither Shannon or myself could've imagined the journeys on which God would call each of us--the good, the difficult, the great, the redeemed and the now.

Thanks Scottsville Baptist for welcoming Shannon so warmly (well done!).  Thanks Shannon for preparing and delivering a wonderful sermon.  Come back any time.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sprinting in My Heels

More than once now I've darted from the sanctuary mid-service to retrieve a forgotten item.  Our sanctuary is detached from the education wing, so this darting requires a sprint across the church yard.  On Sunday I was wearing HIGH heels (not to be confused with regular high heels) when I remembered I had forgotten something.  I wonder what the congregants thought as I exited stage right like a teenage gazelle.  Is Pastor Katie sick?  Does she dislike this hymn?  Did someone yell "Cake"?  Well...none of those.  Yesterday I forgot a prop for the children's sermon.  The other time...I forgot my clothes.

At my first baptism in Scottsville it was a busy day.  It was a happy day (Easter!  Baptism!  Decorating the cross!  Church family photo!) but one with many moving parts.  I think in details, but when there are many I tend to lose track of one or two.  Following the baptism I hurriedly made my way to the dressing room only to not find my dress.  "WHERE ARE MY CLOTHES?" I whisper-yelled to myself and the skies. 

Here's the thing about being a pastor who happens to be a lady:  Fishing galoshes aren't made for dress-wearers.  Come to think of it I've never seen a trout or bluegill fisherperson hit the rivers in a fashionable frock from Target.  I get it, we cool, but still...maybe there's a market for fishing galoshes for the pastor who happens to be a lady?

Anyway...I opted for a t-shirt, shorts, waders and baptismal robe.  I would change immediately following the baptism.  These waders were a gift of a smaller friend, so they are a bit like tight swimsuit overalls on me.  It's a bit o' a struggle to breathe, but we good.

Post baptism it's a goal to get thee back into the sanctuary as soon as possible, so the whole no-clothes situation put me in a serious bind.  I had three choices:  1) Channel my inner Petrine self and preach in wet galoshes.  2) Wear regular black robe over t-shirt and shorts.  3) Sprint across the church yard whilst worship continues and search for my clothes in the education building.  I chose 3. 

Somehow I managed to bring high heels into the changing room, which was a blessing since I could free myself from the swimsuit overalls-galoshes-waders-situation.  Clad in a black robe, t-shirt and shorts and patent leather pumps, I bounded across the church yard in search of my grown up clothes.  Luckily I found my dress and made my way back to worship in time.

So yes.  There's a reason this blog is called Hermeneutics in High Heels. 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Keepin' the Presbyterians on their Toes

On July 14 Scottsville Methodist, Presbyterian and Baptist churches will exchange pulpits for a day.  The idea was born out of a lunch Bruce (Methodist pastor), Gordon (Presbyterian pastor) and I shared.  We were thrilled and hoped our congregations would be too.  They were.

I'll be preaching at the Presbyterian church which is all kinds of amazing to me.  Not only are the people kind (shout out), it gives me an opportunity to roll around in Baptist goodness.  I saw a group of Gordon's folks at the local Italian restaurant this week.  Following is our exchange:

Them:  "I hear you're preaching for us soon!"
Me:  "I can't wait!"
Them:  "We're excited!  So will you pound on the pulpit?"
Me:  "Oh yes.  I will also throw out all of your liturgies."
Them:  (Look of horror)
Me:  "And probably scream a lot."
Them:  (Concerned)
Me:  "And be extemporaneous."
Me:  "Okay.  See you soon!"
Katie drops mic and exits stage left, leaving concerned Presbyterians in her wake.

I think they knew I was kidding, but it's fun to keep people on their toes.:)

One of the treasures of Scottsville is its ecumenical spirit.  A few weeks ago we were hosting a group of GAs (Girls in Action) in the Lottie Moon room when I noticed a newsletter from 1960.  It was published by a number of churches in our community with articles, reflections and ways in which they cooperated.  Even 50 years ago our little town recognized the beauty of God's diversity.  I love that.

I'm grateful for a tradition of cooperation and love amongst many of the churches in our town.  I'm excited for July 14 and look forward to worshipping alongside the good folks of Scottsville Presbyterian.  I hope you'll join us.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sing. Sing a Song. Sing it Loud.

The title of my blog post is inspired by The Carpenters whom my parents love.  In our first (and hopefully not last) karaoke appearance my brother Ben and I did a smashing rendition of the Carpenters "Top of the World."

We were teenagers.

There's nothing like singing The Carpenters to a room full of peers in the 90s.  I like to think Ben and I are still that relevant.
Trend-setting began in the late 80s.

I love to sing.  I have what I like to call a "choir voice," which means "keep me in a group of folks unless you're in a serious bind."

When I was preaching in India one of the pastors asked me to please sing a solo.  "No thank you," I said forty-six times.  He would not relent.  At that point I embraced the situation and gave it all I had.  I even dragged the microphone cord around the stage and tried to have fun.  If I was going to sing a solo, I might as well give a full 110.  Go big or go home, right?

I love to sing so the first time I saw someone not singing in the church it was confusing.  Since then I've discovered non-singers in every church I've visited/joined.  Why is that?  I suppose some folks are paranoid about their voices.  Maybe someone said "You can't carry a tune in a bucket" and they haven't opened their mouths since.  Perhaps they are embarrassed.  Maybe they're too cool.  I don't know.

Non-singing church friends, let me encourage you to follow the advice of Karen Carpenter:  "Sing!  Sing a Song." You can leave out the "Sing it Loud" if that makes you nervous.

Remember:  You're not auditioning for American Idol:  Simon Cowell isn't waiting in the vestibule. Don't imagine the back of Adam Levine's pew rejecting you:  You're not a contestant on The Voice.  Friends, you are part of God's chorus.  Sing as response to the God who loves you unconditionally.  Don't worry about what others think (a lifelong endeavor for all).  Focus on singing to God and God alone.  You're singing to the one who knows how many hairs are on your head.  You can start by simply mouthing or reading the words while others sing. Work your way into singing to the Lord.

Finally, have fun.  Even if singing isn't your favorite thing to do, enjoy yourself.  Drag the microphone cord.  Smile.  "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music..." (Psalm 98:4.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Rachel Shultz, excellent person and artist

Rachel Shultz is pure joy.  She is one of those people you wonder about, as in "Really?  Are you this kind?"  Yep.  She is.  I like Rachel.

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of hearing her sing at the piano with the also excellent Lori Bailey. LOVELY.  I joined in singing hymns and praises, but soon sat back and listened in awe. Wow!  My favorite thing about Rachel as an artist is you can sense and feel her love for Jesus.  

Rachel is also humble.  She is uber talented and travels all over God's green earth leading worship.  I know her schedule is packed, and yet she offered to visit and lead worship at Scottsville Baptist.  I love that.  I want to be people like Rachel.

Please check out Rachel's music on Itunes.  Her EP "Pieces of Me" is $4.95.  Take a listen.  Rachel as a person and artist are worth your time.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Day, Dad.

Happy day to my dad, who is one of my favorites.

Maybe Mike McKown seems serious, but here is a picture of him with nachos so I'll let you decide.

What a guy.  These nachos are in an adult size batting helmet.  

Can you feel his joy through your computer screen?  I thought so. From my dad I learned to celebrate life's gifts like nachos and baseball. Go to a game with this man.  As soon as your ticket is scanned Mike is on a mission:  That mission is nachos.  He swears up and down no park will ever surpass the amount of sour cream at Busch Stadium, but he may have met his match at Miller Park.  "He gave me 3 scoops of sour cream.  THREE SCOOPS!"

Dad oozes happiness about the most interesting of things:  nachos, assorted electrolyte beverages, baseball, jerseys, making cassette tapes of his lines for church plays, exercise, shopping & corresponding people watching, nachos, etc.  What a fun guy.

If I could only use one word to describe Dad it would be good.  Dad always tries to the right thing, which is so very admirable to me.  He is unflinchingly fair which was frustrating as a child (let's remember when he was a ref at my game and called five fouls on me!); but actually he was helping me be independent--a real gift.

Dad, I sure do love you.  Happy day!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Short Confession

Sometimes it's hard to know if you're doing enough as a pastor.  On Monday I helped orient a batch of young ministers (as the "still-young-but-less-young-than-these" minister) and I told them to work hard--harder than they worked in college or seminary.  Following my presentation, the seasoned minister advised them to work smart.  That is better advice. 

As I've reflected this week though, we really shouldn't be measured by our work ethic or smarts.  This is not the rubric of success (though we should work hard and smart!).  Success is being faithful to wherever, however, whenever God calls.  Success is being faithful.

I hope I remember that.  It's difficult.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

We need more Instapartying.

Soon and very soon Ashley Gill will tie the knot with a rather excellent man, a one Mr. Brian Harrington.  I am privileged to be a bridesmaid in the wedding.  I can't wait to celebrate two wonderful people being wonderful together until death do them part.

Ashley and I have been friends for a long time.  The best word to describe our pal-ship is fun.  We have had 14 years (egad!) of fun: BSU, education and espanol classes, Kenya, BBH, Sigma Kappa, drive-by-caking:  you name the place or group, Ashley Gill and I had fun there with those people.

One of my favorite memories with Ashley is the discipline of Instaparty.  Instaparty is not a real word BUT IT IS A REAL THING.  I don't know whether or not my seminary pals and I invented instapartying, but we were at least pioneers.  When Merriam-Webster asks me to define instaparty for official inclusion, I'll say "An instaparty is an instant singing and dancing party that happens to other people when they least expect it.  Sometimes they like it; other times not so much."

Sometimes Instaparty recipients are amused.  Other times disdain is expressed (see Raintree Apartments, fall 2006.  I'm looking in the direction of Georgia, River).  Part of the fun is knocking on a door and asking yourself:  Amusement or disdain?  Who knows?

The impetus for our first Instaparty was exhaustion from exam preparation.  One night Ashley, Christy and I were stick-a-fork-in-us-done with studying.  We were worse than charred steak done.  Do you understand our done-ness? We were done.

I can't recall who, but one of us said "We should dress up in prom wear and surprise classmates with a boom box and dancing."  And then the other two said "Excellent idea" (one of the many reasons Ashley and Christy remain two of my favorite people on the planet).  So we put down Mounce's Greek and, in a New York minute, became Waco chic.  Instead of reading Kierkegaard, we were ready to kick it hard.  (Now I'm done.)

Before piling in the Altima (RIP) we decided to invite new friends, Tiffany and Meagan, to join our fledgling Instaparty adventure.  This was a risk of biblical proportions in the early stages of friendship.  There was a 90% chance they would think us crazy (the bad kind); however you can kind of tell within seconds of meeting someone who will be an Instapartying kind of friend and who won't.  We felt they fit the bill, but you never know.  People are tricky.  Amirite world? (Lesson)

We nervously dialed their number and said, "Hello Tiffany and Meagan:  We are tired of studying.  Would you like to show up unannounced at classmates' homes with a boom box?  And then we will do some hollering and dancing?"  We put ourselves out there. 

Tiff and Meg waffled for about 3 seconds and then threw caution to the proverbial wind.  To say Ashley, Christy and I were elated is an understatement.  We knew these would be lifelong friends.  Here is a photo from that evening:

L to R:  Christy, Katie, Meg, Tif/Tiff and Ashley.  Note Ashley's space glasses,  Tiff's jazz hands, Meg's ascot, my flash disk necklace and Christy's sweet frames.
We had a lot of fun.  Life is grand when you make friends who don't shut down your good crazy--they capitalize on it.  Ashley Gill, you're a blessing!  I can't wait to share in your special day.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Character of the Presidents

On my drive home to Scottsville I finished up a four cassette series on the character of Presidents Reagan, Johnson, Carter and Nixon.  Each of the lectures was presented by a person with a favorable view of the particular president (usually a staff member or political wonk); but even so I found the series to be mostly fair.  I felt like I got to know the presidents as people instead of the cardboard cutouts they are often made to be.

I especially appreciated one of the anecdotes about President Reagan.  As he was wheeled into surgery after John Hinckly, Jr. attempted to assassinate him, President Reagan said to his wife "Honey, I forgot to duck"--which was a kind of subtle grace in the midst of chaos.  And as the surgeon put an oxygen mask on his face, President Reagan removed it to smile and say "I hope you are all Republicans."

I mean...that's funny. 

The surgeon, who is reported to have been a liberal Democrat, said "Today, Mr. President, we are all Republicans"--another subtle grace in the midst of chaos. 

Grace in the midst of chaos is a gift.  These men who have served as our presidents spend many a day in chaos, and I got to thinking we could be better givers of grace to them.  Of course they make mistakes and it is more than fine to vigorously disagree with any of them; however I hope we remember they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.  I really hope we remember that.

Whether it is President Carter or Nixon, Johnson or Reagan, Obama or Bush--I hope we make room for a little grace.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wisconsin: Where It's At.

The Patrick-McKown Family Reunion is coming up!  I can hardly wait.  This year the reunion is in the Badger State.  Speaking of:  On behalf of all people who love cheese allow me to thank you, Wisconsin, for who you are.  Your efforts in the cheddar and pepper-jack worlds are unmatched.

While Wisconsin is known for cheese, the Patrick-McKown clan's main culinary emphasis is pig.  Pig is our thing.  We dig the pig.  We're dorks for pork.  I'll stop...though I could continue.  Every year we lit-rally live high on the hog. 

I'm finished now. 

I still remember Granny's first pig pickin' ('g' unnecessary).  Every year she adds a new element of excitement to the pulling of pork festivities. Last year Granny wore a tiara.  Awesome!  The apple doesn't fall far from the pig's mouth.

Granny, Christmas 2012.
Nearly all of my cousins will be there, which makes me happy.  What a motley crew in the best sense of the cliche, amirite cousins?  I don't see my cousins often--we live in Kentucky, Texas, Wisconsin, Virginia, Alaska, California, Illinois, Ohio and Minnesota--so it's a great opportunity to catch up and get to know one another as adults.  Most years we run a 5K and sometimes we wear costumes.  We don't mind the long stares from innocent bystanders either.  I like that.  Last year Iron Man and friends even made it into the Ohio County (KY) Times.  EXCITING.

Wisconsin contingent, 2012.

Running in formal wear, 2011.
I'm grateful for my family and look forward to seeing them.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Delightful Afternoon at Lakewood Manor

Nancy and John Elliott are names I hear often at Scottsville Baptist Church.  John was the pastor from 1952 until 1968 and they are the first family who lived in the parsonage.  A few weeks ago Nancy stopped by the house and shared stories and memories.  It was a happy afternoon.

At Nancy's invitation I preached at Lakewood Manor today (a Virginia Baptist Homes Retirement Community). And my goodness: What a blessing.  I was able to meet many folks and was honored by their words and encouragement.  Allen Brown, a Virginia Baptist music leader, was running sound. (wow!)  A few years ago I was blessed to travel with Allen and others to India to work at an orphanage in Kerala.

Dinner was off the charts.  The food was great, but I couldn't have asked for better company.  I sat at the table with five strong Baptist women who truly paved the way for me and others.  I loved hearing their stories. Among these stalwarts of the faith were missionaries, WMU leaders, an IMB employee, BTSR volunteers, pastors' wives, Virginia Baptist committee members, Virginia Baptist Women in Ministry leaders, church historians, etc. etc.  One of the women was John Claypool's sister so I was able to tell her how much his writings have meant to me.  They asked good questions and were eager to hear my story.  We spent a great deal of time laughing which brought an extra dose of joy to my day.

Nancy then gave me a tour of Lakewood Manor.  It was a treat to hear her involvement in all facets of Manor life.  We paused for a picture. She is quite delightful.

I am honored to be part of Scottsville Baptist Church's rich history.  I am grateful for Nancy and others who have welcomed me into this family with loving, open arms.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Snapshots of Covenant

I'm having a difficult time writing about the Installation Service. Words are funny, are they not?  Sometimes they rip out of me like the Tasmanian devil. Other times words are as slow moving as a turtle. Perhaps the day is difficult to capture because it meant so very much to me.  

Here's the-Installation-in-a-somewhat-large-nutshell:  I am blessed to be pastor of Scottsville Baptist Church.  I'm grateful for all the ways they bent over backwards to make Sunday special.  I cherish the words of covenant we spoke to one another.  I'm excited about the future.

Here are some pictures to do the talking for me:

Dorothy Somerville, Co-Chair of the Pastor Search Committee, gives a touching welcome.  I mean...people needed tissues (people = me).

Judy Smith reads beautifully from Isaiah.

Albevanna Clergy Group sings "The Summons."  I meet with these fellow travelers every Wednesday for prayer, singing and Bible Study.

The congregation sings "I Love to Tell the Story." Thank you for leading in worship, Richard Buerkle!

Pam Chisholm prays like she knows God real well.  Stand on your head if you're surprised.

Bill Smith being Bill Smith (that is, being awesome).

Speaking words of covenant.

Seeing your name in icing never gets old.

There are more pictures to treasure.  I'll share soon.  Feeling grateful.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cool Cats

These hipsters are coming to visit tomorrow.  I can't wait.

This is probably post Carpenters concert. Pat and Mike love themselves some Carpenters.  Can't you see the "On Top of the World" look in their eyes?

What's not to love about this photo? Their tresses are out of control...basically they're a Pantene ad. Their mix of patterns is fun.  They're wearing lovely smiles...and best of all?  They look oh so happy.  They still look this happy.

Mom, Dad and Katie will have a whirlwind of fun which is just the way I like it.  We'll enjoy time in Scottsville and catch a Nationals game in D.C. (Please oh please let them win.  Bless their hearts--they're in a bit of a slump.)

My brother Sam will join us and on Sunday Scottsville Baptist will install me as pastor.  Many favorites--old and new--will be there.  I am blessed.  Everyone is welcome to join at 4:00 p.m.  But first I must finish a sermon about a sheet from the sky filled with animals!  Never a dull moment.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Handbells and the Holy Spirit

When I arrived at the association meeting I parked on the lower level of the lot.  As I was walking toward the building I noticed several parking spaces near the door labeled ELDERLY.  (How considerate. Shout out Broadus Memorial!)  And of course...all around me elderly folks are NOT parking in those spaces.  They're walking up from the lower level with me.  This is a classic move by the Greatest Generation—always thinking of others, always assuming someone else could use help first. We have so much to learn.

I walked inside and found a seat.  I am embarrassed to admit this...but I was not looking forward to the afternoon.  I was tired and not in the mood for an extended meeting.  I share my initial hesitation because it was—hands down—the best association meeting I have attended.

The moderator conducted business at the beginning and end in a timely fashion and the lion share of our time was spent in worship.  Both speakers were exceptional.  The first speaker was chaplain of the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women.  I wish you could have heard her.  Julie's frank, yet compassionate words about the prisoners to whom she ministers was inspiring.  She works in the prison every day and organizes worship services on Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening.  Worship attendance averages between 150 and 250.  "The gym is transformed into a sanctuary." Her words painted a picture.   It's like we were there.

Julie has organized a worship leadership team of inmates.  There is a choir, praise dance team and (are you ready?)...two handbell groups.  When Julie told us prisoners were playing handbells I was out.  Tuesday afternoons were my favorite as an elementary schooler because John Cashion picked us up for handbell rehearsals.  I loved playing handbells, so the thought of prisoners knowing God's love and playing handbells?  It got very misty in the back row.

So there I was tearing up...at an association meeting...on a Sunday afternoon...because God's love is that surprising and beautiful.  Julie said the women come hungry for the Word and God shows up at the prison.  It was inspiring, friends.  Julie told us "In the midst of this hellhole, God is alive and well."  Thanks be to God.

The second speaker was Dean Miller who works at the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.  Dean gave an excellent presentation on More Than Nets.  I was impressed by project's holistic approach, which not only provides mosquito nets to protect Ghanians from malaria—the project also provides education and funds for church planting.  Hundreds of churches have already been planted by sisters and brothers in Ghana.  Physical needs are being met and the gospel is being preached.  I hope Scottsville Baptist prays about joining in this mission.

We closed worship with communion.  It was special to receive the elements from clergy pals, some of whom I study the Bible with every Wednesday.  As soon as the benediction was offered I couldn't help but blurt out "That was amazing" because it was.  It really was.

I was preparing to leave when lo and behold—a room of snacks was announced.  I mean...icing on the literal cake.  They even had the good cheese.  God bless them.  One of my clergy pals whispered "If we play our cards right, this could be dinner."  For about 12,000 reasons it was a great day to be at a Baptist association meeting.

People lingered and enjoyed one another's company for a long time.  I was handing out my business card like it was going out of style because the Holy Spirit was up in that place.  It was a nice afternoon.
Thanks to all those who planned the meeting.  Well done.  I can't wait for the next one.