Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vacations are amazing

But what isn't amazing, is when your camera is busted (which you don't learn until the day you arrive at your destination). So, I can tell you all about it, but I can't SHOW you all about do that, you'll have to check out my friend Skye's totally awesome blog.

The first week of August we joined three other couples (friends from seminary) and headed to Possum Kingdom Lake, in Texas. It was an amazing week of great food, great company, and a beautiful setting!

We played fun games at night (Skip-Bo and Mexican Train!).
We spent a lot of time on the boat-swimming in the middle of the lake, tubing, and just cruising.
We made beer can chicken (a first for me, and I think many there...)
And guess who lost his glasses at the bottom of the lake on the first day? Yes, my husband.

So...we also got to spend some quality time at the Wal-Mart vision center! The good news is that he's in contacts again, for the first time in several years...and handsome as ever!

We watched the sun set one night-it was gorgeous.

We got a little sunburned (ok, as of two days ago I was still peeling...gross!)

All in all, it was a fabulous week! Relaxing and filled with good friend time, which I desperately needed.

And, I finished reading a REALLY GOOD BOOK that I recommend to EVERYONE!
The Year of Living Biblically
by A.J. Jacobs. HILARIOUS! He's a great writer.

So now, it's back to the real world...which is getting quite exciting. New students moved in today at Nebraska Wesleyan University...which means I'm about to get my first dose of "are you sure you know what you got into"-so if I talk to you on a regular basis, be prepared for the semi-frequent freaking out phone calls. But it's all good. I know God brought me here, and for some inexplicable reason thinks I'm capable of leading college-age persons through this phase in their life. Hopefully I have something decent to offer them in the process!

That's all for now. Next time, hopefully something with pictures!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Newness all around

Yeah, I know, it's been awhile. I've realized that not every post has to be a breathtaking, thought-provoking masterpiece. Plus, this blog is supposed to be about OUR LIFE, not just my thoughts on the world around me. So, I'm going to try really hard to update more frequently on what's actually happening in our lives, even if it's just a few sentences about our weekend or something.

So, here's the world's fastest recap:
  • May 15th: Jon and Mara Graduate from Perkins School of Theology
  • May 17th: Jon and Mara move out of their house in Red Oak, TX.
  • May 18th-June 24th Jon and Mara adopt the transient life and rotate between the guest beds of various family members. We had a great time visiting not just our parents but family and friends we haven't had as much opportunity to spend good, quality time with since moving down to Texas.
  • June 24th: aside from this being our 4th wedding anniversary, we moved into our new home in Beatrice, NE
  • July 1: Jon begins his appointment as the Associate Pastor at Centenary UMC in Beatrice. Mara begins her appointment as the University Minister at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln.
More to come!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What, really, what if?

Lately I've felt a bit bombarded by this question. It's been almost a year since the UMC launched the "ReThink Church" campaign, and one of the major components of that was a bunch of questions starting with "what if..." What if church wasn't just a building? What if church was thousands of doors? Many of my friends and colleagues have used this as a discussion starter, and many churches have acted on this in a variety of ways.

This past Sunday, I had the privilege of hearing Donald Miller speak at a nearby church (my reflections on that experience as a whole require an entirely different post...maybe I'll get to it someday. Let's say I learned a lot about why I like the tradition that I'm a part of). A few weeks ago Don issued a challenge on his blog titled "The Single Most Powerful Question You Can Ask". Guess what it was: "What if...?" This was also the focus of what he talked about on Sunday. So, needless to say, over the past year, I've been asking this question a lot, and thinking about honest answers.

Today I woke up with a thought in my head. It was a what if question...

What if the United Methodist Church actually embodied it's connectionalism? To me, this is what it would look like (and yes, this is based on my most recent experiences with the connection...)
Perhaps conferences would actually trust each other! With Jon and I preparing to walk the stage in a few weeks with our M.Div degrees, we have any number of friends preparing to move about the country to pursue first appointments. What I found especially intriguing were the people on both ends of this spectrum: those going to serve conferences in dire need of pastors, and those being turned away from their conference because it is saturated with candidates and pastors. Don't you just wish that we could all realize we're in the same business (making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world)? I have a friend who transferred conferences because of marriage, school, etc, and lost a year in the process because of this move. Why? Because of course, the conferences can't trust each other. One conference doesn't trust that the candidacy process of the other is good enough. And of course, this fact is further illustrated since EVERY STINKING CONFERENCE has their own idea of what candidates should go through for ordination.

Perhaps the Church Universal would be better served. Going further on this issue of conferences in need vs. saturated conferences, I think it would be great if those in need could freely utilize those candidates/provisional members who are in need of a place to go because their conference is asking them to go away for a few years and come back when there's room for them. Wouldn't it be great if some kind of list could be published and the word spread for places in need of preachers? And then good quality, seminary-trained persons called to the ministry could begin their careers in places where they know they could be fully utilized. Hey, maybe they could even explore what it's like to serve in a ministry setting or geographical locale to which they feel called! Imagine that...

I've also got some thoughts related to money...but I think I'll save that for another day.

What are your thoughts? What does the answer of this question look like to you?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Health care=human care

I'm sure that what I have to say carries absolutely no weight in the matter, but this whole health-care thing has weighed pretty heavily on me. Partly because I've spent the last few days digesting what different types of people (ideologically, religiously, economically, etc) have had to say and how they respond to what has come out of the work in Washington, D.C. And partly because I've been amazed at some responses, and saddened by others. I've spent a lot of time reading various articles, from a variety of sources, from blogs to mainstream news media, trying to form my own opinion on the matter.

Plus, I'm United Methodist, and I wholeheartedly agree with the statement that "Health care is a basic human right...We believe it is a governmental responsibility to provide all citizens with health care" (you can read the full text of ¶ 162 V here).

So here is my take, and I am curious as to yours...

To start out with, I know the current system isn't working. I know it because so many people suffer as a result of the way things are set up now. I know that I have suffered, medically and financially, because of the current system (but not near as much as so many other people living in this country).

I have heard many, many arguments against this bill but there seem to be two main ones.
The first resembles something along the lines of the sentiment, "The government is taking over". To this I respond: When is the last time that you complained that the government requires you to have car insurance? Or complained about the fact that you drive on paved roads every day? Or the fact that (in most places in this country anyway) you have clean water to drink? Besides, the options aren't what they once were when this reform was first considered-there is no longer a public option, so you won't be forced to be treated through "socialized medicine" (please sense the sarcasm here...)

The second argument seems to revolve around "money issues". In so many ways, money just makes me sick. Yes, I understand some hospitals and doctors may suffer monetary discomfort, a decrease in salary, etc. To them I want to ask the question, are you paid enough to support a decent standard of living? If the answer is no, my response is to seriously consider exactly how you are a steward of your money. Too many people (or perhaps more appropriately, companies/businesses) profit based on the loss and suffering of others, and anything that can be done to stop that, seems like a step in the right direction to me. Are you being asked to pay more in taxes as a result of this bill? Suck it up. The reason you're being asked is because you can afford it. If you think you can't, think of all you have. I guarantee there are things in your life that can be minimized or cut out altogether.

If you want to know who this bill truly affects in its benefits, I found this article to be a fantastic source.

The bottom line is that discussions like these (or is it politics in general?) bring out the worst in people, which is why I so often veer in the opposite direction. Plus, I really just don't like confrontation all that much. It really makes me angry to see people be so disrespectful towards one another, and both sides of the aisle are more than guilty of this. I feel (and I know everyone doesn't) that health care is a problem that needs to be addressed. I wish we could do it in a civil way. I wish people could weed out the fear-driven tactics that they acknowledge as "fact" and could think on their own two feet. I wish that so much opposition to the steps that our government is taking weren't rooted in selfish desire.

I don't often get involved in political conversation, in part because I know I have a lot to learn about our political system, but also in part because of my role as clergy, and I don't think the church should tell people how to vote. But I think the root of this issue is one that the church has a lot to say to-the fact that all persons should be given the right to health care, and not just if their pocketbook says they can have it. I think Jesus would agree with the place that this bill is nudging us (I really appreciated Gordon MacDonald's comments on Jesus' focus on healing, found here). So let us all remember that this is just the beginning-and no, what we have is not perfect, there is still much discussion and revision to happen-I just pray that it happens peacefully. And I hope that we as a country can realize that everyone does deserve this right.

What are your current feelings and reactions to all the discussion this has stirred up?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Deliver me

As it is just now a few hours before the Ash Wednesday service, I'm starting to feel like I always feel as we enter the season of Lent...I have realized how much the mood of the liturgy affects my own mood. Which is good, cause that's what it's supposed to do :)

As I am sitting in the office, trying to get some work done, I've been listening to David Crowder Band a lot lately. Just as I was thinking about my mood getting lower and lower-it's not that I'm super sad, just finding myself entering the penitent attitude that begins Lent-the song "Deliver Me" came on.

Deliver me out of the sadness
Deliver me from all the madness
Deliver me courage to guide me
Deliver me Your strength inside me

All of my life
I've been in hiding
Wishing there was someone just like You
Now that You're here

Now that I've found You
I know that You're the One to pull me through

Deliver me loving and caring
Deliver me giving and sharing
Deliver me this cross that I'm bearing

Oh, deliver me

Jesus, Jesus how I trust You
How I've proved You o'er and o'er
Jesus, Jesus precious Jesus
Deliver me
Come and pull me through
Come pull me through

I think for me, this is a good song to begin reflecting on the season of Lent and God's role in my life. While I've discovered God, and lived joyfully into that discovery for the past few years especially, during this liturgical season of Lent I am called to specifically examine this. What do I need to surrender to God at this point, to encourage this relationship and dedication to my Maker even more? I know for certain I am being called to a greater prayer life, in consistency and content. I hope to discover great new things through Scriptural study and through the spiritual disciplines class I am leading at church in the coming weeks. While I haven't come to the one thing I truly need to be "delivered" of, I know it's there, and some earnest searching will lead me to the answer. In the meantime, I trust that all I do in God's name I do because I am called to do it, and that I am no longer trying to hide anything from God. So my prayer right now, God, is to be awakened anew to your call on my life. Continue to bring me into the light, so that I may understand what I need to shed and what I need to take on to continually grow in my faith, trust, and hope in you. Amen.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Life, death, hope.

I know it's been a long time, my dear reader (s?) Whoever you are out there, I guess it doesn't really matter...this is what's on my mind!

Last week I assisted at a funeral, which was done at our church. We were fortunate to be able to reach out to a family who did not have a church home. So our church was full, way more full than it was earlier that morning at worship, with almost no one I knew, and almost no one who regularly attended our church. Which was beautiful.

The funeral was for a man-a father, husband, brother, a man who was obviously loved-who lost his life suddenly because of a heart attack, at a time which people kept referring to as "too early". In so many ways, that is so true-when life is at its fullest, its richest, who expects it to end suddenly? And it makes it that much more difficult to deal with loss when it comes at a time not just unexpected, but when we are given the chance to lament all that should have been.

It isn't easy to witness the pain people feel, knowing that there are children who will grow up the rest of their life without that father there to guide them, coach them, love them. It's extremely difficult to see a community of people in mourning over the loss of life, because this man touched their lives in one way or another.

For me, this was just an intense time. The questions I heard all around me, about this man's loss of earthly life, were the same questions people were asking about Haiti. And so many times, these questions leave those of us who are left to ponder them asking what we can do, to support the family, to show love to the unloved, to provide for those who are in such great need.

When I came home last Sunday night, this funeral still on my mind, I watched Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. That darn show is like my guilty pleasure-I have to watch it without Jon because he hates how ridiculously emotional they make people get and the ridiculous things they do to homes. I just love it. I love feeling excitement along with these people, I get so caught up in their stories. This family was struggling with a mother and wife whose cancer was at the point that it's not curable. She's going through chemo but knows the likely end. Jewel came along to help out this week, and at the end sang her song, "Hands" for the family. And that song spoke volumes to me about what I've experienced lately, from the devastation in Haiti, to the mourning I witnessed earlier that day. Here's the lyrics (I'm deleting some repetitiveness):

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we're all OK
And not to worry 'cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won't be made useless
I won't be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
[My hands are small, I know
But they're not yours, they are my own
But they're not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken]
Poverty stole your golden shoes
It didn't steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn't ever after
We'll fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what's right
'Cause where there's a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing
In the end only kindness matters
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
We are never broken
We are God's eyes
God's hands
God's mind
We are God's eyes
God's hands
God's heart
We are God's eyes
God's hands
God's eyes
We are God's hands
We are God's hands

I think in the end, it takes this kind of attitude to see beauty in despair, to see resurrection and new life in death. Earlier the previous week I was at a memorial service for one of our church members who passed away from Alzheimer's- a much different setting. The pastor who preached ended on a wonderful note, and I'll try to sum it up, but I know I don't do his words justice.

Sometimes in these times of sadness at the loss of life, we feel really far from God's grace and God's love. We feel like we're in hiding or something, being so far from God. But God has a way of hiding away amazing things. God hides huge oak trees in tiny acorns. God hides amazing women in little girls. And God hides eternal life in death.

I think when we ask ourselves about devastation and loss, we ask the wrong questions. Or, we ask the right questions but assume the wrong answers. While there is absolutely nothing good about the loss of life from the earthquake, it has been amazing to see the outpouring of support coming from so many different types of people. While there is absolutely nothing easy about the loss of a good man, it was incredible to see the support his community offered to one another and to his family who is left on earth.

I guess in the end, I am okay with these things. Yes, I cry over them, I mourn loss, I scream sometimes at how unfair this world seems. But in the end, I have to look around and realize that if I am not God's eyes, hands, heart, mind, and if others around me aren't willing to be the same, then we're forgetting a great promise that was given to us. God's kingdom is coming. We see glimpses of it all around us, but we know it's not yet fulfilled until all this hurt and suffering is gone. We have a small understanding of it now, but we can't even imagine how glorious it will be to experience when not one of our brothers and sisters in Christ has to worry about finding food, water, or shelter, or what it will be like always to rejoice in the glory of eternal life, rather than worrying about the finality of this life on this physical earth.

In these moments, my faith is akin to hope. It is fully aligned with the meaning of hope. My faith, in these times, is found in the hope that God will remain true to the promises made to God's people, that the kingdom of God will be realized on earth as it is in heaven. "Here and now, dear friends, we are God's children. What we shall be has not yet been revealed; but we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Those who have this hope purify themselves as Christ is pure."