Sunday, December 21, 2008

I Heart SNC

If for no other reason than all those guys are HOT.

Amy gave me a Christmas CD (for Christmas, obviously) and opened my eyes to a new old group. Straight No Chaser is a group of 10 guys that sing acapella. Apparently they were a hit at Indiana when they were in college... the group formed about the same time I graduated from McM. Anywhoser... they're hot and they can sing. So check their website! Good times.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Presents

I don't think any of my family reads this blog, so I could probably safely discuss details of their Christmas presents on here. But just in case they do, I'll refrain. Suffice it to say that I have SO MUCH to do in the next two weeks!

This year at work/church we are focusing on giving more of yourself and spending less at Christmas... meaning trying to give more relational gifts instead of worrying about how much money you spent (or didn't spend). I'm confident that my sister and mom will both like their gifts, but I'm still struggling on what to get for Dad. He tends to like more practical gifts, but those aren't exactly relational. Last year I gave him things like "5 favorite meals" - but he never redeemed them. It's hard to redeem things like that when you don't live close to each other.

So the hunt for the perfect idea continues. Meanwhile my neck and shoulders are sore (from activities related to mom's gift) and I'm continuing the search for the best brads and/or tacks for the job (related to Kef's gift).

I just love Christmas!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I Hate Being a Girl

You never know whether you're crying because there's dust in the air, your WI is suffering, you're lonely, your JL is gone or you're just PMSing. I hate it.

Something just blew in and my eyes won't quit burning. It doesn't help that they were watering anyway. I'm missing Jenny L. today... wishing my weekly confidante lunch was still a reality. I wrote her a note to get it off my chest... it just made me cry more.

Then Whitney came in, walked past my door without saying hi, and closed herself up in her office. I know what this means, unfortunately. I haven't seen her since I left to go home for Thanksgiving... a week today. And the fact that she's not speaking to me can only mean that she's suffering in silence about Steve.

So I'm just spending the last few minutes of my day wiping the tears out of my eyes... whether they are there because of girl emotions or whether they are allergies... who knows! But I have a feeling I know why they're there. And it has nothing to do with menstrual cycles or wind. It has to do with the incredible torture of caring too much.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quote of the Day

As cited by Brian McLaren in The Secret Message of Jesus, this statement was made by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in "Where Do We Go from Here?" annual report delivered at the 11th Convention of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference on August 16, 1967 in Atlanta:

Through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder.
Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth.
Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate.
Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that.

The chapter I'm reading now addresses war and its place in "Christianity" (or lack of place). It makes me wonder anew about going to war. And the comments about torture and its use make me all the more thankful today for Barack Obama's dedication to closing down the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

I'm thinking now about the place that the military has in our country. I do appreciate the sacrifice that the men and women in the military make for us. And yet I wonder about whether Jesus would use violence against another, regardless of what that "other" did.

I tried to make these two (US Military and being like Jesus) align in my mind... then realized the major point that I was missing: The United States is not the Kingdom of God. Of course the US has a military force - because it is of the world, not of God. People may argue this point with me, but when it comes right down to it our military is here to protect us, not to defend God's honor. He can do that all on his own - and he has. By sending Jesus as the pacifist redeemer.

Annoyed + Theology = Me Today

Why am I so annoyed by everything this morning? Maybe it's because I'm surrounded by idiots. Oops did I say that out loud? Okay, maybe I'm not surrounded by idiots, but there are a few. And it seems like a few idiots make everyone else seem equally idiot-prone. Before you know it, you feel claustrophobic... like they're somehow going to suck your brain down the drain with them and you can't get away fast enough!!! I'll stick my earplugs in to stymie their attempts.

Okay. Earplugs in.

That rant was completely un-Jesus-like and I'm embarrassed by it. But since it's the real me I'm not going to erase it.

On to bigger and better things... I'm continuing to read The Secret Message of Jesus and I have to say that I haven't felt so inspired and empowered by a message in quite some time. If ever. Being the type of person who likes answers, I've been painfully devoid of them for a while now. But this book has helped me see things in a new light... a new perspective that makes sense to me. I always thought that Jesus was supposed to make sense and that somehow I just wasn't getting it. In reality, it wasn't me that wasn't getting it. It was the people who were teaching me what to believe.

There's no way to do justice to the content of the book here (you should read the whole thing), but I'll tell you the secret: Jesus' message wasn't salvation. It was that the kingdom of God is RIGHT HERE. RIGHT NOW. Not after you die. Not sometime way in the future after all the wars have been fought and all the terrible things in the Book of Revelation have come to pass. THIS IS THE KINGDOM OF GOD. And the reason we are here is to show it to people. We are "secret agents" for the Kingdom and our jobs are: service, love, justice, mercy, humility and hope. By showing people these characteristics of God, we show them the Kingdom. Not the make-believe pie-in-the-sky would-be kingdom... but the one that already exists on earth right now as we speak.

No wonder the whole message of salvation has seemed odd to me. What hope does it give to someone to tell them that if they come to know Jesus, things on earth won't change for them but when they die they'll go heaven? Um.... why not just say, "There's no hope this side of death, so pray this prayer and then go step in front of a bus and you'll enter the Kingdom of God." ?? No thanks. I'd rather know the Jesus who says, "Know me. Do what I've shown you - live the way I lived. And people all around you will see God and know real hope right now." I like it!

So, theologians and Bible scholars.... tell me why this message is contrary to our "born-again-get-saved" attitude? And is it bad?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Franciscan Benediction

Since I've started blogging here more than myspace, I wanted to requote this... I'm continually trying to remember what it says.

As quoted in the book Prayer by Philip Yancy:

May God bless you with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships
So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger
At injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless you with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness
To believe that you can make a difference in the world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done
To bring justice and kindness to our children and the poor.

Amen.

Change We Can Believe In

"Change we can believe in" was one of the campaign mantras from Barack Obama. It was one of the ways in which he successfully instilled hope in a generation of Americans who had largely become apathetic. I include myself in that group. I hadn't become apathetic about the future of our country (or my own future), but rather apathetic about politics... assuming that it was hopeless. That nothing could be done to change the direction of our government. That my beliefs and concerns and hopes were of little import to the people governing my country. Obama changed that... his own "audacity of hope" giving me the audacity to speak out about politics in a way I have never done before.

But that hope for change didn't come straight from Barack Obama. That hope came from a newfound hope in who God is... and who he isn't.

My faith has been stretched and reshaped in recent years. I've had trouble believing in the God that much of "evangelical, conservative Christianity" promotes. The God who "hates gays" - who promotes prosperity theology and values big business and financial freedom over showing mercy to the poor and downtrodden and hopeless.

Many would have us believe that God is a Republican. I think not. He's not a Republican or a Democrat or even an American. God loves Muslims. God loves gay people and black people and my loud next-door-neighbors. God loves John McCain and Barack Obama. God loves Iran and North Korea and Russia. God started all of this in Iraq... you can't tell me he doesn't love that country.

We've so Americanized God that it seems people truly believe that God cares about our "right to bear arms" and whether or not we fly the American flag. I don't think God cares about that at all... I think he cares about (as MLK Jr. put it) the "content of our character." I agree that the founders of our country were guided by their faith in God. But that doesn't give America (or Americans) exclusive right to Him.

I've rambled... but my point is that the reason I believe Barack Obama offers change we can believe in is because he has a different perspective than what we're accustomed to. He shows a great respect for other people, regardless of their beliefs. Because I believe God loves all of humanity, I believe he smiles when we show that love by listening to one another and respecting each other.

This morning I visited the Awaken service at Martin UMC, a small(ish) church near my house. The message was about change... about how Jesus offers true "change we can believe in." But what does that mean? I would like to go back to the basics of who God is. How is God different from what we believe him to be? And how can he change me?

This brings me to action. To quote a great American movie (National Treasure), "If there's something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action." This is a paraphrase of a line in our own Declaration of Independence. A greatly American document, but seemingly a very "biblical" perspective.

The most uncomfortable moment of Barack Obama's election-night speech for me was when he said:
There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.
Eek. He's asking ME to get my hands dirty. To not just be a commentator, but rather a participant. And God is doing the same. What does that mean? I don't know for sure, and I'm kinda scared of it. Scared, but invigorated. I hope the hope doesn't stop here. I'm praying that God will give me the courage - the audacity - to follow through.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes We Can!

I'm almost speechless... almost. Last night was one of the most amazing moments of my lifetime. There are three times in my lifetime that are noted as "remember where you were" moments: when the Challenger blew up (I was in band), 9-11 (a Tuesday morning - work and staff meeting), and when Barack Obama became President (I was sitting on the edge of my cushy chair). Of those three moments, last night is the only one that isn't noted because of its unbelievable death and destruction, but rather because of its hope and promise for the future.

I grew up in a house where dating outside your race was prohibited. You wonder why I'm single today? It's because there were no white boys in my town. I never got to learn how to date... to be in a normal relationship. The only relationship I was in during high school had to be kept a secret from my parents. What I learned about relationships at that pivotal time in my life was how to make sure no one ever knew about them. Wonder why I'm screwed up and afraid of commitment?

But watching Maya Angelou this morning on the Early Show, I felt such compassion for those who have truly suffered from racism and discrimination... the real victims who endured (and still endure in some cases) real suffering. Like Dr. Angelou, I feel so proud to be an American today, because today we (my generation especially) have taken a stand and said enough is enough. We are ready to move forward, and we're going to drag everyone else with us kicking and screaming if we have to! Think we can't do it? Oh, yes we can!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yeah!

Yeah for productive meetings! I feel like I've finally been able to share my feeling that the church has become less and less about a relationship with Jesus and more and more about things to do. Not only have I been heard, but I've also found that others are thinking the same thing. And that a survey of our congregation shows that they are not growing in their relationship with Christ. So... I feel a renewed sense of vigor about tackling this issue and hopefully arriving at a place that makes me more content with working in the church.

Whew! I'm sure glad because I was dreading having to look for another job.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Feelin' Good

After having the most promising staff meeting in recent history... and after spending a great weekend laughing with my old college friends... I'm feeling pretty good about things!

Work is looking up in that we are talking more about helping people connect with God and less about unimportant stuff.

And I can't tell you how great it felt to laugh late into the night on Saturday. I really need to keep connected with my old friends because they are the ones who can put life into perspective for me and give me a more positive outlook. Not that my other friends can't do that... but right now some of my newer friends are in places of extreme emotion and depression. Life has not been good this year in many ways. I'm trying to find a way to hold onto that happy carefree attitude, while still respecting the grief and turmoil that others are enduring. Not exactly sure how I'm going to do that.

I'm looking forward to what will hopefully be a light, fun evening tonight having dinner with friends. And maybe I'll just think outside the box a little and actually go to that Stars game on Wednesday night.... even though I do have to get up the next morning!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

And One More Thing

"The Economic Crisis" still isn't effecting me in terms of the stock market, but I'll tell you what... I'm having a mini economic crisis of my own! God, time for a little mystery money to fall from the sky. Can you arrange that?!

A Pretend Job

It's not that what I do is bad. Maybe it's just not as necessary as I always thought it was. My perspective on it has changed. There's nothing inherently wrong about committing to prayers, presence, gifts and service. It's prioritizing that over your relationship with God that would be wrong. But the two things can coexist and probably do for some people. Maybe just not for me.

I always thought that my job in the church was working for God. That's where I was wrong. But most jobs don't really work for God... and lots of people are happy doing them. So maybe if I just accept that I'm working for men then the things we do around here will not seem to be a reflection on God. Does that make any sense whatsoever?

Maybe this will clarify: Colossians 3:23 says "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." That verse says to do things as if you work for God... in other words pretend. Let's try that for a couple of days and see what happens

Monday, October 20, 2008

Deep Breath

I've come to realize that I just hate October in this church. We spend so much time, energy, focus and money on getting people to commit to the organization... why?? What difference does it make if you check the little boxes and set up your auto-draft if you don't have a relationship with God? Oh, you could say that we're assuming that everyone who does make a commitment does have a relationship with God. But maybe that's not really the case. Since nothing about "stewardship month" actually has anything to do with a relationship with God, maybe the whole of our membership is duped into thinking that by filling out that form they are securing their salvation for another year! Maybe they fill out that form out of a sense of obligation to "the machine" (as I've come to call it) instead of out of any compelling move of the Spirit. I know that guilt made me fill that form out last year. But I'm not doing it again. The man-made machine may think that's blasphemy, but thank God they are not my final judge. I don't want a relationship with a machine. I want a relationship with God. And he has yet to ask me to check little boxes and sign my name.

So *inhale* - *exhale* - I'll take a deep breath and drag myself through the last of this month. Look for God in all of this... and hope that somehow I will find enough of a reason to continue on at this organization... if not by my membership then at least via work.

I've Already Forgotten

It only took one staff meeting... and now I've already forgotten what any of this has to do with God. It's a good thing no one reads my blog or I could get myself into trouble!

What does this have to do with God?

After some thought over the weekend, I think I've come to a decision about what my goal (at work) for 2009 will be: to answer the question, "What does this have to do with God?"

My reasoning is this: there is not one thing we do in the church that is required in order to have a relationship with God. I've never thought about this before, but that's my take-away from the book So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore. So what I would like to do in the coming year - if not for others, then simply to give myself a reason to show up here - is to make a "God Note" for everything we do that explains what this activity has to do with God. None of the things I promote and advertise to our congregation are requirements. They are all optional, and for the past three years we have rarely (if ever) explicitly connected them to anything spiritual. Maybe people do that in their own minds. But I would like to endeavor to make our communications more God-centered instead of activity centered.

I would hope that I can find the spiritual meaning behind each thing within one or two degrees of separation. By that, I mean that a lot of things don't seem overtly spiritual (i.e. playing golf), so you might have a degree or two of separation between God and the activity. Using that example, what does playing golf have to do with God? Playing golf brings you together with other people who share that interest (1st degree). Coming together with other people gives you the opportunity to share your faith walk together (2nd degree). In this case, playing golf also has to do with raising money for missions (1st degree). The money raised goes to help draw people to God by meeting the physical needs of those less fortunate (2nd degree). So in this example I've been able to find two ways in which the golf tournament has something to do with God, and both things are only a couple of degrees separated from God.

Of course I don't plan to be this lengthy when doing this in reality. I don't want to make E-News any more of a chore to read than it already is. What I'm thinking is that there will be a "God Note" link beside the title of each article, which would then go to an explanation of what that item has to do with God. I've also thought about including some sort of devotional thought each week, but again that adds to the length of E-News. An alternative would be to start a "God Notes" blog, RSS feed it to the home page of the website, and use that to explore the spiritual (God-related) aspects of the things we're doing in this organization.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I'm tired.

I'm tired of trying to change people's minds. I'm shocked at the racism and bigotry and fear-mongering that exists... and that it exists so prevalently in people that I actually know and love. But you can't pick your family, right?

I'm tired of worrying about money. If I could just have a $50,000 windfall, my life would be much easier. But I suppose there will always be a crisis of the moment... if it's not about money it will be about something else.

I'm tired of working hard to communicate about things that most people don't seem to care about (myself included). I'm supposed to be coming up with some sort of goal for next year, and I don't even know where to begin. My goal is to not quit my job... because if I consider this meaningless, some other job isn't going to be any better.

I'm tired of being philosophical. I'd like to be Pollyanna... not a care in the world. If only I didn't think about things so constantly. Most people don't... or at least if they do it doesn't seem to really effect their outlook on the world. Moods like this one make me wish I'd stayed 6 years old my whole life.

I'm tired of this presidential campaign. Can't we just elect Obama and get it over with?! I'd like to move on now. Let's get to the hope part.

I'm tired of needing to go to the restroom every 30 minutes. Maybe I should stop drinking.

I'm tired of the transfer unit in my color copier going out every other week. Let's try a little quality control, people!

I'm tired of 2008. Is it just me or has this year lasted for-freakin'-ever??

I'm tired of being bitchy. I need a happy pill, and quick!

I'm tired of being here. I just booked the last of my vacation days, so maybe that will help.

Mmmkkk. I think that's it. :)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Question: How is the economic crisis effecting you?

Answer: It's not.

Oh, I could buy the argument that it effects everyone. But in all honesty, it's not effecting me personally. Why not? Because I have a solid income, a solid mortgage (which I pay every month), and very little money invested anywhere (and even the "little" is in an IRA that I won't need for many years to come).

The biggest thing that effects me is the never-ending bad news. It frustrates me because I know things will turn around. I know it's not the end of the world. But the way you hear about it on the news you'd think it's the apocalypse! The thing that makes this bad is that if you tell people that things are terrible, they will believe you!! People are going to believe what they hear on the news. They're going to hear about the doom and gloom, and then what? Then they stop spending money. And that only makes things worse.

So why don't we try this: stop talking about it for a while. Let the markets do what they will, but leave the media out of it. If people really need to know what the market is doing, they can find out without hearing it on the evening news. Stop editorializing about it and making predictions you can't substantiate. Stop starting every single morning with bad news... or rumors of bad news as the case may be. Just stop it. All you're doing is feeding the frenzy and the fear... making people think things are dire when the reality is maybe things are okay for most of us.

I do think that the presidential candidates need to be able to answer for how they will help the economic situation. That's going to be part of their job, if elected. But it's not the only part of the job. There are many other things at stake here. The economy just happens to be the "crisis of the moment" - but sooner or later something else will replace it. Something will be more important, more devastating, or more interesting. And we'll forget all about the current thing and look toward our leaders for help and hope regarding the next thing.

I just hope that we can all keep things in perspective. Hold on and know that this is going to pass, and when it does we'll all still be living our day-to-day lives just like we are now.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

So I was helping a friend get her blog set up and I realized how much I like the blogger interface... I've been using MySpace for a while but I'm a little tired of all the fluff. Maybe I can get back into blogging here... we'll see.
I watched Dr. Randy Pausch deliver his "Last Lecture" - it's a little long but worth the watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo. This is a series of lectures given under the auspices of "what would you say if it was your last chance." In his case, it may just be his last chance. He has pancreatic cancer, a disease which progresses rapidly towards death. My PePaw died of it back in the late 70's when they had far less treatment than they do now. Anywho... worth the watch.
In other news... the forthcoming tax rebate checks are on the brain lately. Mine is already designated to go toward dental work that I need done, but you may not have decided what to do with yours yet. Here's a thought that my church is doing...
Take Your Rebate Check on a Giving Spree!

Beginning in May, many of us will be receiving a tax rebate check in the mail. It is designed to stimulate the economy. The government hopes we will spend our checks quickly and freely and give our economy a boost. Some will spend their checks on consumer goods, some will save them, some may use them to pay off debt but no matter what you do, we’d like to suggest you remember to give 10% to the church and we will take that portion on a Christ-honoring Giving Spree!

We will take that resource and use it for good: clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, bringing justice to someone in need. Our plan is to use the funds you give to meet the needs of children in our community. We will work with GRACE and others to seek out the most pressing, important and immediate needs.

Please make a note on your gifts, “Tax Rebate Tithe”, so we will know where to direct these funds.

Our staff originally had the idea of using 10% of the rebate for missions, then we came across the "Giving Spree" idea originated by Ariah Fine.
He's also written a book... I may have to check that out too.