Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When the Saints

Several folks are absent from social media today to call attention to 27 million women, men and children caught in modern day slavery.  The End it Movement helps us understand the where of slavery:  "In brothels.  In factories.  In quarries.  Working as slaves.  In 161 countries.  Including our own."  Because modern day slavery feels far away the weight of it can be difficult to grasp.  It is not actually so far away though.  It is here.  It is there.  It's everywhere.  

One of my favorite Christian recording artists is Sara Groves.  Her lyrics express great hope in Christ while also shining a light on injustice.  This balance is needed.  Sometimes Christians speak of injustice without remembering the hope of Christ.  Sometimes Christians speak of the hope of Christ but forget the plight of others.  Sara Groves' songs are raw and real, but in the end the hope of Christ prevails.  Her lyrics and music are needed. 

The first Sara Groves song I heard was "When the Saints." She sings of Paul and Silas, Jesus, Mother Teresa, Jim and Elisabeth Elliot and young girls huddled on brothel floors.  I knew of prostitution, but I naively imagined brothels as a thing of the past--something only in Les Miserables and other novels.  This is not the case.  When I saw Sara in concert a few years ago she gave testimony of young women rescued from brothels by the International Justice Mission.  All I could do was weep.

We began singing "When the Saints" at Memorial Baptist.  It is amazing the bugs God puts in our ears through the songs we sing.  Yikes.  It is easier not knowing about such horrors; yet hiding from injustice doesn't make it disappear.

Since this language was part of worship I spoke to our teenagers about it.  It was difficult talking with them about such atrocities.  You wonder if you're exposing them to too much too soon.  Such things are a matter of prayer and discernment. 

After our discussions we attended a conference where IJM set up a mock brothel based on the brothels they had seen with their own eyes.  There were menus to make ordering and buying people easier.  The only word I can think to describe the experience is harrowing. 

27 million people are caught in modern day slavery.  Join me in praying for these beloved children of God.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Olan Mills to the Rescue!

Olan Mills went kerplunk (I think) but "LifeTouch to the Rescue!" doesn't have the same panache. 

If you're a cradle roll member you've sat for at least 472 Olan Mills sessions in your lifetime.  During my last photo shoot I was asked to rest my hands under my chin and sort of relax on a mirror.  Since I'm not a senior in high school I said "No thanks" but the photographer wouldn't relent.  So I rolled back to 1999 and let my hair down (figuratively speaking).  YOLO... right kids? (first and last time I will type YOLO) 

I laughed the entire time.  The photographer didn't love that.  Anyway, I wish you could have seen them trying to sell me an 8 x 10 of that situation. 

A pre-Sam pastel-inspired photo of the McKown family circa 1985/6.

I love looking at old church directories.  Not only is it a stroll down memory lane--it's a chance to smile at the great cloud of witnesses who molded and shaped me.  When I'm in Kentucky I look at directories from the 80s and 90s.  I see GA leaders, Sunday School teachers, friends and characters (!).  I close the book feeling grateful. 

Sometimes though it is hard to make a new church directory because it's an acknowledgement of change.  In the old directory, the Rains family beamed.  In the new directory, Mrs. Rains is widowed.  Pastors have changed, people have moved to new cities, tragedies have occurred.  Life has happened.  A new church directory is an acknowledgement of change.

The happy side of a new church directory is also acknowledgement of change!  Babies are born, new families and individuals move to town and there are marriages to celebrate. Pastors have changed, people have changed, celebrations have occurred. Life has happened.  A new church directory is an acknowledgement of change.

At Scottsville Baptist we're gearing up for a new photo directory.  Perhaps it sounds small to focus on something as simple as a directory, but I think it can be significant.  Those who have effectively joined "First Baptist Bedside" can see photo directories as a time of recommitment--because at the end of the day you have to decide whether or not you'll be included in the pages.  You've got to suit up/dress up/man up/woman up and consider if being a church of one is really working for you.  And you have to decide whether or not you'll be part of forming the next generation. 

For those of us who are part of the church every Sunday a directory is a gentle reminder that our photos might comprise a great cloud for someone else 20, 30, 40, 50 years down the road.  When the next generation flips through the pages, what kind of church will we have left them?  Don't you want to be part of what God is doing now--and by extension--in the future?  I hope so.

It's just a photo directory?  I don't think so.

Say cheese!  Be part of the church directory and most importantly:  Be part of the church.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Passport to your National Parks

Last weekend I told my college pals central Virginia is the loveliest place I've lived.  This is practically anathema when you come from the gorgeous state of Kentucky, but I can't get over these mountains.  And when the mountains and the sunset join forces it's over for me.  The oranges were brilliant and the purples...oh the purples.  It was as if God dipped a brush in Lent and painted the sky.  

Since it's Presidents' Day I decided to do something historical.  On Saturday friends suggested we meet for lunch and Fredericksburg was chosen as the destination. I was thrilled because in addition to seeing friends I could visit a Civil War Battlefield!  I love history AND I get a stamp in my National Parks Passport!  As a lady who enjoys crossing things off lists, imagine what excitement a stamp delivers.  

After speaking with helpful park rangers, I hiked through the hallowed grounds.  It sounds cliche but any time I have the privilege of being amongst such history I'm in awe.  I am a tactile learner so touching the trees and walking alongside the trenches makes the story alive again. So many thoughts come to mind: War and peace, death and life, freedom and cost.  There is much to ponder.  I learned about Stonewall Jackson and stood where he was fatally wounded.  I thought about Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee and US Grant.

On the way home I trudged through Tale of Two Cities (I'm trying pals of Charles Dickens) and then talked with my niece on FaceTime.  I am grateful for a day of beauty, friendship, family and history.  I'm grateful for a day full of life.  Thanks Presidents' Day for being awesome.   

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Considering the Lilies

Do you ever have days when you can't seem to concentrate on the task at hand?  This is how I felt earlier today.  My lack of concentration was likely a confluence of things:  It's Ash Wednesday.  I'm reading a thoughtful book.  I'm worried about a colleague.  I've got a couple of ideas from clergy group kicking around in my head.  It's raining.  The Shrove Tuesday pancakes were delicious, but I couldn't sleep last night.  A friend is extremely ill. 

It's worry, it's joy, it's balance of tensions, it's exhaustion, it's gratefulness, it's grief, it's sorrow for my sins.  It's all of that.  What do you do when your mind is racing?  I don't have magic answers, but  sometimes when I can't think I wonder if the Holy Spirit is inviting me to concentrate on something else.

And later today I got that something else from a church member.

When I returned from a meeting there were flowers on my desk.  One of the congregants picked these beauties from her garden following the Ash Wednesday service.  They're lilies.

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. ... 

I enjoy flowers, but I can't say I've ever considered them.  Today in considering the lilies I am reminded of the newness of God's mercies.   I am reminded of the blossoms of grace in my own life.  I am reminded of cheerfulness a gift can bring.   I am reminded of the intricacies of God's creation. I am reminded of the simple beauty of the Creator.

It might be a holy coincidence.  It might not be.  Either way I am grateful.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I Love to Laugh. Ha Ha Ha Ha.

As a girl my favorite scene from Mary Poppins was Bert, Mary and the kids' carousel ride.  They hop on the ride when all the sudden the horses detach from the carousel and they gallop to the races!  Little Katie's (the girl, not the calf who bears my name) imagination ran wild. Could this happen in real life?  Sadly it hasn't worked...yet!  Maybe one day; however other brave souls will need to find out for me.  I am prone to motion sickness so a carousel ride is a serious risk.  I know, I know:  I'm awesome.

As an adult however, the shenanigans at Uncle Albert's house are my favorite!  I love to laugh!  Ha!  Ha!  Ha!  Ha!  Loud and long and clear!  Bert and Uncle Albert get to talking, then to laughing and all of the sudden they rise to the ceiling.  The Banks children can't help but join them.  Even the table and chairs make their way up.  They continue to float so long as the jokes keep rolling.  I would love to be on that ceiling.  I dearly love to laugh.

When I interviewed with Scottsville Baptist we spent a lot of time laughing.  When I left for Arlington later that day I remember thinking "That didn't even feel like an interview.  I had such a good time!"  I was me and they were them.  What a gift...but would they call me back?  I had a great time but I did a lot of being myself and laughing.  (And I happen to be one of those people who can't stop laughing once I start.  One time 'booty' was read aloud at the 8:30 service at Memorial and I lost it.  'Booty' was removed from the 11:00 service.)

To my happy surprise the pastor search committee did call.  And soon thereafter the church called and most importantly...God called.  I will always remember that interview.  Recently I spent some time with the committee and told them how much that day meant to me.  I am grateful.