Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Spending time

This week, I am spending time in Hershey PA trying not to eat all the goodies that are found everywhere in this luxurious hotel. The reason for this time away is my attendance at a conference for pastor's for three days sponsored by the UCC. Next week, I go to the other side of the state and spend three days with the DOC in a more reflective setting. Both have worship services, both feature speakers, both have time to sleep late and go to bed early. The desserts at Hershey are better, but not better for my system.

My congregation benefits from my time away. This Sunday a one of our lay members who has applied for Seminary will preach while I lead the rest of worship. Then, the following Sunday, I will synthesize my learnings from these two conferences and have a wonderful, insightful message for the congregation. At least I my goal is to make the sermon aweinspiring. Being away gives me a fresh perspective so though it does cost money, it truly is worth my being here. I am not indulging in a chocolate massage - that would be too difficult to explain on the first Sunday of February .

Being gone is refreshing, but I do miss my cats and my congregation.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Moving to Tioga County Penna offered me some experiences I would not have had in my previous life in Denver or Colorado Springs. Here are three of the new:

I ate popcorn for supper on Sunday evening for the first time. Quite a few of my friends have popcorn for supper around here. Just popcorn. Everyone has a popcorn popper. At our Family Movie night last Saturday, we had popcorn and discussed the best way to pop corn. Some swear by the stove method – high heat and a paddle inside the pan to keep the corn moving. Some use the microwave because that way there is no mess. I use an air popper (recommended by the neighbor 4 hourses away - so that my “meal” does not have lots the trans fats I would have had if using the stove and butter.

Another first: When it snows my 90-year-old neighbor gets out his riding snow blower – I think he needs a drivers license for it – and cleans off my sidewalks and drive. He does this for every person in our block. If I had chosen a block for my home, I could not have done better. In the summer, when he has no snow to blow, he uses the driving snow blower to drive around the neighborhood. Our street does not have much traffic except 30 minutes before and after school when the buses go up our one-way street. Not only does my neighbor help the neighbors, he knows every person on the street. This first reminds me: I need to make a cake and take it to him.

My last first, is about communication. When important things happen I learned that word-of-mouth is faster than Twitter. One of my congregation members died on Sunday after alternating between hospital recovery center and home for months. She was beloved in the community and I knew many would want to know about the service. I emailed the congregation, assuming they would not know yet. HA! Even as the day and time for the funeral was still being set, people were keeping Friday afternoon open so they could attend. Our church holds 160 if every person is really friendly and squeezes together. Our Fellowship Hall, another 100 who use deodorant. I am hoping that is enough room.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Lucky partnership

Each Sunday evening after I finish whatever I have done that day – whether it is that I have had an extended day working or whether my workday ended at noon, I consciously turn the church over to God. Sounds audacious as I write it. “Turn the church over to God.” God graciously assumes control so I take Monday off.

God is totally in charge on Monday. Most Tuesday mornings I get up excited to see what has happened while I was off. Did God make the church grow? Have our coffers increased? Is there a new idea for a program to offer the “seekers” our church reaches out to? Occasionally, one of these does happen.

This morning, a cold Tuesday in January, the first Tuesday of 2010, I don’t have a clue that something is different – no potential members have left a voice mail or email; no brilliant new program fills my head to start my creative juices flowing. Just the opposite, I feel the weight of sameness: end of month report; a newspaper article is due; a few volunteer committees want more commitment from me; Saturday, the day I reserve for last minute sermon prep and bulletin publishing, is committed to a community walk. Though it has just started, the week ahead feels overwhelming. Twice, I am to be in two places at once – quite a feat especially considering I just discovered that my perpetual motion machine is on the fritz.

No matter – sameness, no creativity, broken machine – this is the most wonderful calling. Even when I am overwhelmed with detail work, I know that I could be doing detail work in a 9-5 office and be spiritually dead. If I were executive director of a worthy nonprofit, mountains of administrative paperwork might overwhelm me. I could have a board of directors who felt their job was to twist a thorn in my side.

Monday, God took care of the sameness – perhaps bored by it all – while I rested. This morning, we talked about my restful Monday (that means my praying and listening) and I took resumed responsibility for the church. It is far better than it was on Sunday though there is no outward sign of this improvement. Before I remembered to take a Sabbath, this job was overwhelming. Learning to take a day off has renewed my spirit; moreover, my day off is good for this new church.

This morning, at about 5AM, I thanked God for taking such good care of this fledgling community and took earthly control back.