Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Be It Resolved ...

Many people who resolved to change their lives on New Year’s Eve/Day have determined it is much too difficult to make those changes. And, it is. It is difficult to stop smoking, to stop eating without thinking, to add exercise that take off pounds and inches we vowed never to have on our sacred bodies. I have had those intentions, too. In my life, the most difficult to keep were those that, today, make me most proud of myself.

Here are a few:

I vowed to exercise on a regular basis and with only a few lapses, have kept that self-promise. The degree of intensity is not as great as it was 30 years ago but I am still keeping on. Thirty-years ago, my husband and I vowed to exercise together. After a few days he stopped, saying that he did not enjoy the exercise. That was the end of his exercise effort.

It was a different New Year’s Day when I decided that I would stop procrastinating and get a career (rather than a job). That career, starting nonprofit organizations, lasted 20 years, though not in the same physical location. The job (teaching as adjunct faculty at University of Colorado in Colorado Springs) was in the same place with changing faces. For much of the 20-year span, I liked the teaching but never felt as though I had what it takes to teach even though my students rated me quite high. The career (the one before this pastoring thing) was right up my alley. Start a program, grow it, watch it flourish and leave it to those better suited to administering.

One day, a June day not a New Year’s day, I resolved to go to seminary. Looking back, I see that this calling combines the things I do best: preach and start new things. I also see that I needed the sometimes painful lessons I learned in the first two parts of my working life to be successful at what I am now doing.

Interesting that it was not a New Year’s resolution that brought me to this God-directed career but a life change that happened when my mother died. I determined that her legacy was for me to take risks. Preaching and unorthodox ministry are risky. What I worry about most - and who would not? - is that I will fail at this. I worry because my vanity would suffer but I worry more because I can’t stand to disappoint God.

How does God deal with those who have been a disappointment? In scripture we learn that God is well-pleased, protective of the people, attentive because help is often sent, and even when the people in the Older Testament forget about the covenant, God remembers and keeps it. Maybe my disappointing God comes under this last: God remembers and keeps the covenant. Even so, I want perfection at this unorthodox ministry and I see that as a person, perfection is beyond my grasp.

My New Year’s resolution for 2011? Don’t worry so much about what God “thinks” and don’t worry about disappointment. The worry would be if I never tried. So far, this year, I have kept this resolution, though it is early times. When I find a grocery line, I stand in it to see what conversation develops. When a door for a dialogue about how I view God and religion opens I take it. And when I worry that God could find someone to do this better, I remember that God has many people who do ministry differently to reach those who are different from those I am called to lead. I think God’s disappointment would come if I did not try. And then, God would understand and love me anyway. How great is that?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

An unsavory topic for a new year

It is the first of the new year - twenty eleven. As I sat watching more television than usual this New Year’s weekend, I was alarmed by a series of commercials that ran over and over. They were sponsored by SPCA and featured many well known actors pleading for financial support for this organization. Watching was terrible and hurtful - just what they wanted me to feel. As I watched, I remembered the years when I was Executive Director for nonprofit organizations that relied on generous donors for the funding to provide services to the poor, the destitute, the homeless, the single mom left to raise her child(ren) with no resources. At the time, I was aware that it is easier to raise money for animals than for humans. The barrage of television “public service announcements” reminded me of the horrifying lot of those who live at the bottom of the social scale - they are below even our animals.

This evening at church (Soul Link Faith Community at 1103 S. Main Street, Mansfield, PA) we begin a three-week series on “human trafficking” - the illegal trade in human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation or forced labor: a modern-day form of slavery. The United Church of Christ and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have both been vocal about this issue over the past year. I am late offering it in this area, but beginning this evening, we offer this series on human trafficking. Tonight, we view “Holly” the story of one man’s effort to save one girl. Several people I know will not be with us as we explore this horrible topic as they cannot bear to see the videos or engage in the discussion. Me too. I can’t stand to see the horrible things we humans sometimes do to each other. But I cannot ignore the problem; educating myself and others about it is the first step to making changes.

At Soul Link we think that God asks us to be aware, to be informed and to take whatever action we can. If you live in Mansfield/Wellsboro area, I invite you to attend this series that includes videos and thoughtful discussions. We may never make a difference in the lives of those enslaved but unless we learn, we cannot do anything. The video begins at 7PM in fellowship hall. We will also gather next Wednesday, the 12th of January and conclude on Wednesday, Jan 19th.