Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tree hugging in any event?

Our local 63-bed hospital announced plans to expand! It is adding a state-of-the-art emergency room. Many in our community are upset. These are generally not folk who are hostile to change but they are averse to changing beautiful landscape. I have been the recipient of several “stop this growth” emails. As a self-identified liberal - a tree hugger - people automatically identify me as one who will protest cutting down trees on our town’s main street to retain the stately nature of the main thoroughfare.

I live two blocks from the hospital and drive by the trees and manicured grounds daily. I would love to be part of saving these trees. Since they are part of my new home community, I have taken pictures of them for my kids and others so they could better see what my community is like. The trees are an awesome tribute to those who planned our community more than 100 years ago -- these may have been citizens who sought beauty in what might have been Pennsylvania coal country. They do offer that promised beauty and a park-like atmosphere for those of us who walk around the community. These trees nourish my soul on bleak days, offer shade from the unrelenting summer sun even as they provide a place of quiet solitude for the family suffering a long wait for news of how loved ones are faring inside the walls. For these reasons, I love the trees and the park atmosphere.

On the other hand, the addition of an emergency rooms equipped to care for a dying child or the stroke of a father or the gun-shot accident that happened while cleaning one of the ubiquitous guns I see perched on the back window of pickup trucks cannot be all bad. The addition of this new technology offers hope to individuals who otherwise might have had to be air lifted to a hospital one to two to three hours away from those who love them. The addition of this emergency room will provide a room for children to use as they sit through long waits and it will provide sufficient accommodations for adults who too sit long hours. In this new addition, I do not see my soul being fed – I see my soul being saved. What I also see is my health being guarded, my life being protected.

One hundred years from now when this addition has more than served its purpose and plans are announced to remove it, I hope that a blogger will write about how this emergency room addition offered solace and comfort and life-saving to a community that had vision enough to go ahead and build despite some opposition. Speaking as a sociologist, I understand that society does not like change. Speaking now as a Theologist, I remember that Moses led a people who did not want change into change. I always remember that that community grew into the change it so feared. I expect we will, too.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Taking care of me has been on the top of my mind for several weeks. I guard my one day off each week with the fierce pride of a mother guarding her cub. And woe to anyone who has the audacity to plan a meeting for that day – well, this is mostly true. But, seeing one day as the only day off is somehow disheartening. The day is filled with washing, cleaning the bathrooms, vacuuming, grocery shopping, cutting grass in summer – I am exhausted writing the list. It is not relaxing.

I have been fighting to find ways to have a bit more time off – without just cramming the work I do in six days into five – that would mean five very long days. So I hit on the idea – work not more than ten hours a day for four days and take off two afternoons or two mornings making those days four to five hour-days. The first week I tried this new system, I failed miserably and felt dismal. The second, I was somewhat more successful. Ah, the third is showing promise!

Here is what I learned:
* not everything needs to be done perfectly;
* sermon helps are there for just that "helping: I purchased books that are designed as sermon-writing helps. Using these resources is not cheating and saves four hours each week;
* finally, some things can be done later

The solution is not perfect – but it is better. What was looking and feeling like burnout is feeling more like tired but with potential – I know that I can adjust, do a bit less, demand less of myself. Solo pastoring – even as a church planter – can wipe one out, make one stronger or make one think smarter. I hope I am ending up in the smarter category.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Velvet Hammer

I frequently charge my congregation to be Jesus People in our world. Being Jesus People is not easy. It is my challenge to them – and myself – to do what Jesus would do if he were here, now, in this corner of the world.

Being a Jesus person includes keeping our eyes, ears and hearts open to all whom we meet as we go the grocery store, or as we walk through a neighborhood or as we talk to a sales person on the phone [this last is particularly difficult, as you know :-)]. Being a Jesus person forces us to see God in everything and it forces us to not allow hurt or poverty or want go unnoticed. It means that we feed the hungry whatever food they need for their journeys. It means that we listen even when we don’t want to hear the sadness being voiced. It also means that we talk less about ourselves and more about others as we go through our day. And, it means seeing God in ourselves. Jesus did all of this – more – as he proclaimed the gospel of God. Even when he was tired, he put others first. When he got short-tempered, he remembered to care for others. When he was in the company of his disciples and they did not live up to his expectations, he understood and went on with his mission of proclaiming God through his actions. Even alone, we are told that he kept God in the forefront.

Proclaiming myself a Jesus person seems counter to my liberal Christian stance. For my actions, being a Jesus person means not allowing suffering stand, not letting laws meant for the Ancients rule our contemporary life. It also means going quietly – hoping that those I meet will see that I don’t hammer them over the head with God and judgment – rather, what I do is a testimony to what I believe. I fail too frequently often leaving a person wishing I had said or done something else. We all have those moments. The good news is that being a Jesus person offers me forgiveness for what I failed to do or for things I did and gives me an opportunity to try again.

Dear Readers, I challenge you to be Jesus People in your corner of the world. You, like I, won’t get it right every time, but mostly, your actions and words will say that you are not only Jesus People, but God People, spreading the reign of God with a velvet hammer.