#Days #relentless #slatespeak #Lent

c5nwu43uoaagif5What is the length of a day? Some days pound on me, relentless, some days never let me go.

http://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Deuteronomy+30

The length of days–heaven and earth are called to witness–will count. When we choose life our time counts even moreso.

Before I had children I would strive to be on time for everything. My parents were not the on time sort, and apparently I used to complain that I was the last child to be picked up from things.

Today I not only have to be late to things, but I have to miss commitments. Things I never would have done before children. But life is more complicated now I have a church, a husband, 3 children-one of whom is autistic-and myself.

WAIT! that meeting was today too? I had it in a different time stream in my mind and didn’t realize it was the same day.

Time no longer runs in straight lines for me, its seems to squiggle and intersect in weird ways. Its like running parallel world at the same time.

Thus obligations and time and everything flows differently.

We count our days, but God is the true reckoner, and God’s way of counting is not in pure math or numbers. Its in experiences and hope, its in the life-giving moments.If I have three children, then God has all children. If time flows different with different children for me, then time takes on meaning beyond seconds and minutes and days. Time has become an out of body experience. But time has also become more meaningful than trying to do all the things or trying to count up my life by counting. Because nobody has time for that. Time has to count with the goodness and fullness of days.

Because, God is timeless, its hard to conceptualize A Being beyond time…

A Being who just Is, for whom Was and Will Be are intrinsic.

 

god-in-time

Time counts differently for God

Time counts differently for God’s people.

Hold Fast to God, but how do I do that? My concept of holding on is to calculate the time I spend in prayer or measure the good deeds that are done. I’m too human, I can only love by keeping track. As evidenced in this 30sec clip  http://thirtysecondsorless.net/author/kstenta/

God loves me, without needing to keep track.

How do I let go of the relentlessness of time? How do I enter the time of Lent?

 

 

 

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#God is at #Starbucks

In my life, I am too busy…

I have always been a Martha, I don’t even want to be Mary.

But in the midst of the children screaming, the messiness of the house and the juggling of the schedules, God is there.

Just like Goodnight Moon, where each and every object is remembered and names, God keeps track of us, and loves us.

God is there in the mounds of paperwork, the long to do list and the phone that is ringing–in every worry that is a part of the church.

I know God is in these things, in the sunny walks to buy milk, where everything goes smoothly, in the car rides where everyone is yelling at each other for no reason. God is there.

But although God is there, the time I get to spend with God, is often not at worship where I’m trying to remember everyone in my prayers, or at home where we say our Amens or at the office where its a game of finish the most things. The moment I get to to spend with God is in the coffee shop–at the Barnes and Noble or the Starbucks, its when I go grocery shopping late at night, its when I get time to exercise.

And so I treasure the time I get to spend with God, taking comfort that God is always spending time with me.

Ch 5: Looking

Hopefully she slept, I peeked in at her and it seems like she was asleep…but the light startled me, so I only caught a glimpse.

I hope she was asleep.

Otherwise why would her eyes be closed?

I did see that she had brownish/blackish hair, it looked a lot neater than mine. Could I even brush myself if I wanted to? It might feel good to use a brush.

If her hair is dark then her eyes would be….I realize I’m growling

The candle had burned down to the nub…I should have replaced it, but it was too scary.

I couldn’t go into her room.

Focus, focus.

Name, I need a name, maybe if I have a name I can start to define thing.

Maybe then I can look at her again.

Maybe then I won’t be afraid to change the candle.

Ch 4: Time

I begin to get oriented. The big whatchamacallit left, and as he passed a candle was lit.

Did I black out before that? I remember all the feelings I had, but I don’t know how much time passed, or if I really, actually saw anything.

The candle is flickering…..

Can something that shape even light a candle? I don’t even know if there are hands or claws or…

my mind went blank at “claws,” probably not a good direction for my thoughts to go. Maybe that’s how I blacked out to begin with.

The flickering candle is comforting…it marks the passage of time better than the dark does–it makes me think of morning….maybe I should go to bed. Its hard to tell without any windows.

I stand up–I’m surprised that I’m not shaky, maybe its because I’ve spent all my energy on the..confrontation. Ok, good to know for the future, when I go through an emotional rollercoaster, at some point, my body calms itself down.

I peer out to the hall, of course no one is there. There would be no sneaking in this place.

Determined, I pick up the candle and walk. Its only a hallway, I tell myself. Its not as if its a dungeon or the forest. My eyes follow a gold line trim on the wall, the gleam of it comforts me. Dancing in the light.

The first room I open, thankfully has a bed, I lie down. I carefully place the candle on the winged table nearby

I watch the shadows dance on the ceiling until I fall asleep.

Reverse Black Friday Experience

Thursday morning at 6am I went to help with Equinox, which is a Thanksgiving meal program that serves about 10,000 in the Albany area….

I was really pleased to do this for the following reasons

1. My family is not the greatest financially, so I’m more able to give time

2. I have a 5& 1/2, 3 & 1/2, and a just 2 year old at home, so the theory of giving time is good, but not always possible, however my mother in law was in town, so I was able to feel like my husband had back up (he does the kid thing all the time, but he’s also our chef so……)

3. We are in the area….I usually don’t work over Thanksgiving, which means this is when we usually go to family (family comes to us for Christmas)…but this year we did a LOT of traveling…so my eldest asked his grandparents to come up and they obliged…

4. I got around to actually volunteering! They gave me the early shift, which I appreciated because it meant I really had the whole day to spend Thanksgiving with my family.

Immediately this made me feel better about the entire holiday…you know feeling worthwhile and all that…

I worked for two hrs…after which they practically kicked you out, so the next volunteers can get in…

I sorted bread, putting 2 bread products in a bag (trying to pair English muffins with the gigantic loaves so its more even) to be ready to pick up by the drivers who start their runs at 8am….

But my favorite part was the line….I had flashback to Black Friday…there they were over a hundred people sitting in their camp out spots (some since 3am I heard) waiting to be “drivers” to deliver the food…families and friends all sitting with boxes awaiting their food….

If we all did this…lined up one day a year to help people (instead of shopping) what a difference it would be….

Maybe it isn’t all year long…but I like to think how small starts…like volunteering for 2hrs…can make a huge difference

(The food is gathered in city hall since its the only place big enough to hold it all….a formal dinner is served to 500 people and 9,500 people get it delivered)

 

Also! Check out this for more Survival Strategies

A Parenting Parable: A Fig Tree

“Hurry UP!”

Sometimes I can be a tad impatient with my children, especially my “almost” 5 year old. For example last Friday we were late to school because every single thing I asked him to do he said he would and then didn’t. Making me repeat myself over and over again.

Last week I was trying to nap during my children’s nap/quiet time (quiet time for the older boys for 1hr, nap time for the baby and perhaps my 3 year old depending how good a job we did of wearing him out). My mistake was to try to nap upstairs (my window get a nice piece of sunlight to sleep in midday: I’m part plant you know). Every couple of minutes it was “mmmooooo—ooomm–maaaa….how do I spell….” followed by some word that was somehow related to Dr. Suess–which is our current obsession. My problem was I was so tired I couldn’t follow through on my threats so I kept saying “this is the last time” spell it and inevitably he would return….

What amazes me about this all is that my children’s behavior and its significance for me, the fact of whether they are having a good or a bad day is ultimately reflective of the kind of day I’m having.

Jesus tells a parable of the Fig Tree…In it a fig tree that has been growing for 3 years. It grows, its green, it looks healthy, and yet does not produce fruit. The Master declares it should be cut down, but the caretaker (Christ anyone?) says that he will trim it, give it better soil, and to please let it grow another year and see what then happens. The Master agrees….–Luke 13:6-9

…and that’s it…the story ends, not with whether or not the tree behaves better but the two “parents” of the tree, the caretaker and the master, Jesus and God, agreeing to give it better care. Deciding it wasn’t (entirely) the tree’s fault, and that it probably could produce it just needed more time and space to grow, and more nurturing, and trimming of its bad parts….

If I’m having a good day, the hiccups of a 1, 3 and almost 5yr old are minor and workable. If I’m having a bad day every infraction feels like a personal insult.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRG9g5f4tujtVpidSbLAT4Vgmwit9cw7H8qta5FVswcf7r91o3BpgIf I have the wherewithall to take a step back on the bad days then I at least don’t lash out but unfortunately, I am only human. My mom said she used to be really moody/dramatic (Re: my side of the family tends to be) and if one thing went wrong her entire day was ruined. Post-Children, if only a few things went wrong, she knew it had been a “good” day.

So there it is…the promise is that God will follow through on cutting down the bad trees (you know the importance of boundary setting and holding to consequences in parenting), but at the same time, practicing Grace….If my children aren’t bearing fruit that day, maybe I need to look at the care I’m able to give them that day (after all children tend to notice when we are stressed and respond in kind) The focus is not on the consequence but on the gift…let our parenting be the same….not only on my good days, but also on my bad ones

On the other hand on really hard days–where it isn’t about me or the children, but about the world (Newtown and Boston of course spring to mind)–then the misbehavior of small children are put into perspective, and I begin to feel blessed–blessed to be safe, blessed to have children to love, bless to have children who misbehave and are imperfect.

When your in debt…

Maybe this is really obvious to other people, but apparently its not really helpful to go to a big stewardship conference when you are about $100,000 in debt. (at least it not if your me….)

There I’ve gone and said it. My family and I are over $100,000 in debt, and the end seems nowhere is sight. We live paycheck to paycheck, my husband works three part time jobs, I work one fulltime job. I try to tutor (although I’ve let that fizzle recently). We rent out our extra car, and we have wonderful people who we pay (not very much) to help us to take care of our 3 boy-boys. We try to stay off the credit cards, but when bills come they come. And maybe we could have put off having children, but every time we’ve had a child someone has been home (first two were during our summers at grad school and the third was when my husband was looking for a job by my new church) so we know we are saving a TON on childcare. We are done with that (we think) and I guess we could have not had kids, but honestly that so does not work for us. So we can’t really see what else to do……

Here is the part that gets me…We’re not alone. Most people my age are struggling with debt. I’m lucky that I have a job with benefits (which frankly is why we have 3 kids) but really, we aren’t really “making it” so to speak.

So when I went to the kaleidoscope stewardship conference, I really wanted to hear about the United States’ problem with debt, in the context that we pray and promise the forgiveness of debt. I wanted intellectual conversation, theological discussion. I probably would have settled for the fact if someone (besides me and my big mouth) had raised the issue…

What the conference was: A great bag of tricks and tools, and a new set of language to think about stewardship–a training for stewardship teams or world-weary pastors, a way to address money in (primarily) big churches or churches with undergivers.

A nice way to think about these situations are like this (your planting the seeds of stewardship)

328 × 272 – colsdioc.org

What it discussed: Healthy financial practices–including giving, personal relationships, thankyous, ongoing stewardship (instead of a once a year thing), and some reflection about where people do put their money and why it isn’t church (instead). For thoughts about wealth and how it effects judgement read this fascinating article..

575 × 300 – staparish.net

What it didn’t include:

ways to leverage Time and Talent as well as money, (much) theological discuss, what to do if you were in financial distress (or are already in debt), and the fact that we are moving on from institutional religion to something else in Christianity….

The story was pay your debts and then you can get on with your life…..apparently I will never be able to get on in my life.

I guess I pictured the conference to be more about this…

and less about this

367 × 224 – salempresbytery.org

If your interested in my theology of debt read my brilliant post about Ruth here!

But here is the long and short of it.

American’s Don’t God to Church (this report notes that “overwhelmingly, they think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.”)…ok so again an indication our “stewardship” approach should probably be more about sharing what we’ve got rather than raising money for the instituion….

All Americans have to deal with debt (sequester anyone??), ESPECIALLY those Millennial/Nones we (us religious people) are so desperate to connect with….

We pray for, Christ promises and we attest to the forgiveness of debts.

Anyone else notice that Christianity is dropping the ball here?

I vote we find a way to REALLY address debts and the feeling of worthlessness it induces (again read my Ruth post for more on this)

And since I’m one of those in deep debt. I pray we do it soon!

 

Graph from the fascinating article linked above

Open Sourcing and Laziness

Image

Ok, so what if this open source movement which started with the music companies and the digital downloading (actually it started with the record button on VCRs but I’m too youngImage to remember that). Was a cultural shift today? If you look at communities sharing businesses, etc. this generation is into open source

Examples include Relayrides, carsharing, CSA, community gardens, couchsurfing, firefox, anything Wiki and of course probably the most famous and one of the first Linux

Opensource means sharing information freely so that the community benefits. Granted making money by sharing your car isn’t a direct example of open source, but the free sharing of when you use and don’t use your car helps to free it up so others can use it (see what I mean). It also can hint at laziness because your are using someone else’s work/resources to get information. You didn’t do the work yet you get to benefit from it!

When it comes to Spirituality, my generation also tends to take a more open source perspective, enjoying all of the knowledge that comes from religion and then choosing what they want to practice (hence spiritual not religious can mean anything from a vague idea of God, to a number of spiritual practices that just to happen to exist via the church). I think this is a piece of culture of millennials that older people are missing. In fact there is a slight movement towards Open Source Theology/Christianity Read Landon Whitsitt’s book  or blog(http://landonwhitsitt.com/2012/11/27/pecans-and-pastors-continued/) or checkout http://www.opensourcetheology.net/ and the Bible without Religion Project http://jimpalmerblog.com/rfv-bible-religion-free-version-by-jim-palmer/.

Which brings me to the “lazy” idea. There is this idea that unemployed people are lazy, and since roughly %40  of those who are unemployed are under the age of 30 I take great offense of this. Every single person I know is looking for a job, those who are employed are either underemployed or unable to make enough to support themselves/their families (this is esp. true for families where one spouse has found employment and the other is more limited in their geographical choices). It isn’t that we are lazy, its that we can’t find work, and we have to make do in the in-between. (And if you think people don’t want to be working, do me a favor and offer someone a job and see what they say)

In the meantime we are making do by sharing, by returning to trading times, goods and services for things instead of money. Something that started as an internet phenomenon (free information: its everywhere) became a necessity as we couldn’t get to work, and the reality that working harder has not meant that we do better/make more money or are more successful. Since we’ve seen through the promise of “work hard and you’ll succeed” (because that’s what we were told growing up).

If you mean we won’t work harder for little to no rewards, if you mean that we don’t have our eye on the prize, if you mean we are less possessive and are becoming instead an open source generation: then yes, I guess your right we are lazy Instead we are doing what we need to make ends meet and then using our extra time creatively.

But I, instead, see it as a cultural shift away from materials and valuing information, a place where timeand space are seen as more definitional than profession or monetary status. Image

Yes, boredom helps creativity, and yes we as a generation are bored, there is little to no meaning in our lives, and all the things we were taught to strive for (no student debt, professional fulfillment, financial security) are inattainable–but that boredom is giving us creativity. And if that is a side effect to our so called laziness, I’ll take it.

I see this as a moment for change…

Go Laziness, Go Openness, Go Millenials, I wonder what we will do next

Image

REEEEEEEEEE-form

Alright, after reading a disturbing post about the Board of Pensions (disturbing because not 6months ago the board of pensions came to Albany, NY and personally guaranteed us our pensions were fine) I am beginning to understand the rising healthcare cost for pastors with children (from %35 to %65). Seeing as I have three Preschoolers–this is a worry (read more about this http://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2012-11/changes-pcusa-dues-structurenbsp)

Then there is the whole CIF/PIF thing, I recently came from a discussion where a church bypassed the formal process and are looking to hire a Baptist minister who holds some ministerial exp and an Associates degree…

Then there’s Sandy (enough said)

And a relative of one of my Pakistani congregants just learned her missional job is going to be cut off and she is going to be sent back to Pakistan, oh and by the way she’s a Christian Minister so guess what there is a death threat against her! The following pretty much sums up her statusImage

Can I just let out a general ARGH?

Here’s what I think

1. Restart, Rethink, Reform

We as a church are failing to reform fast enough. We are failing to connect to my generation, and we are failing to help those who need it

Here’s what we should do

a. Help students with their Loans: the pastors, the congregants, the children of members, complete strangers. If Jesus preaches FORGIVENESS of DEBTS (yes, I went all caps on you) we need to do it.

b. Educate, Educate, Educate: If our way of doing theology (in the Presbyterian and most Protestant churches) then College loans are not only up our alley, but education is too. How can we do more? What classes can we offer the community? What knowledge do we have that we can share? And we should be doing it for free (Take that for ministry)

c. CIF and PIFs are TOO SLOW. They suck the life out of the Pastor Nominating Committee–they are great visioning process but they are a lot of work, annoying and the potential pastor is stuck in a passive role (the pastor gets to be the girl HOPING the boy will as her out to the dance, very empowering for the congregation, not great shakes for the pastor). Plus this is not the only church who tried to skip the process, mine did right before me, and I bet every Presbytery has a recent case of this (let me know if you have) this is a symptom of the problem.

d. Co-Pastor all the way. Jesus sent out all of his ministers in pairs, and yet we have this weird-thing-we-call-normal the solo pastorate. Here’s the deal. Give both pastor’s 20hrs (assuming its a fulltime positiong) give both pastors healthcare coverage (yes, I know its a cost, but we should be creative and find ways to do it) and relieve the burden and loneliness of pastors. Plus we cut our unemployed number in half—I think there are something like 300 jobs for the 1000 pastors in search of a position. Not cool.

e. Plant, develop, etc. Ok so 10,001 worship communities was launched but the website has ALMOST NOTHING ON IT (Sorry this seems to be another Cap-worthy remark). What are we doing about that? Do people outside GA know about this? How about people outside the Presbyterian church? Are there grants? THis seems to be a potential risk-taking and exciting venture with almost nothing behind it. (Who is the point person for this anyway?)

f. Be Kid-Friendly for reals. Where are the children in all of this? Do you relegate them to the youth group, do they leave service, are they cutely put up in the beginning of service? We need children, but we need them to propagate what we have. What do children today need? How can we serve that? How can we value children for who they are now instead of who they will become (ps most of this is from the Christian Ed dept at PTS ie Osmer, Dean, Cady and Douglass).

g. Screw pensions. Ok, not for those who have been planning for them and are over the age of 40, but if they aren’t working maybe we should (and I mean we as the United States and the PCUSA as well) own up to the fact that they aren’t going to work anymore instead of cutting healthcare to promise money that we can no longer promise. If my choice is healthcare for my 3 boys now or pensions later, I’m choosing now, because I have got to take care of my children first. Pensions are secondary.

OR screw healthcare–maybe Obamacare is the way to go, I’m not sure, but we need to respond to somethings

h. and as for Sandy and Pakistan, here are all of these very personal/internal things I have to deal with and there are the two clear missional things that I should be dealing with, and I barely have the time and energy to keep up with my life, my revolving door, my neverending debt, my generational difference with 90% of PCUSA and the mainline church in general to do the work that comes at these very important times of crises.

We need to Reform. I was hoping GA would talk about the young, homosexuality, pensions, hiring rates, CIFs and PIFs, children and the church, social media etc. in some way that felt like a forward motion–I am still unsure as to whether or not any progress was actually made

The call is out there, the new generation is working hard–help us along…( for more info on the generational divide read here.)

please