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.