Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I've been letting Rich Mullins songs run through my head this past week, especially some of his older stuff. The very first album that I couldn't stop listening to of his was "The World as Best as I Remember It, Volume I", which contained a song called "Calling Out Your Name".

Sometimes, a lyric or two will start running through my head, and that's usually a sign that there's something deeper there to dig into. Today it was "shakes us forward and shakes us free," which, as it turned out, came from "Calling Out Your Name." The lyric surrounding this line is this:

From the place where morning gathers
you can look sometimes forever till you see
what time may never know...what time may never know
How the Lord takes by its corners this whole world
and shakes us forward and shakes us free
To run wild with the hope...to run wild with the hope...

The hope that this thirst will not last long
that it will soon drown in this song not sung in vain
I feel the thunder in the sky
I feel the sky about to rain
And with the prairies I am calling out your name.

I had a shaky weekend, what with my own worries about our family finances and what was a bit of a downer Sunday (for various reasons). I feel like there are so many significant concerns popping up all over the church that I can't quite deal with them all at the same time.

But then I wondered if this is being shaken forward. And maybe even shaken free. There are so many things I long to be shaken free from. And so, today, I am calling out to God and praying that I might be able to be shaken forward...and take a few people along with me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Entering a new church paradigm

Not "new church" as in a new church start...but a new paradigm for me, at least.  St. Mark, where I currently serve, is by far the largest congregation I've ever had any kind of leadership role in, and I'm discovering that some of my assumptions about what I expect of myself as a pastor are never going to be true here.

Take, for example, knowing every single person in the congregation by name when I see them.  I had the sudden realization that even after we have a new directory, there's still going to be a huge chance that I won't be able to hold 300 names and faces together, especially if we begin to add more and more people.  

That's a complete shift for me, and it reminds me of what I knew when I first came to this church:  that I could not be central to everything that was happening there--that I had to train and lift up leadership among the laity because they had to be intimately involved.  

The whole thing is a shift simply because it involves me letting go of control, and I've got to figure out how to do that without also giving up pastoral authority and leadership.  To me it's one of the most difficult tasks as a pastor, and I think learning to do it will be my challenge in the next few months.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Being Back

I spent the last part of this week at Duke Divinity School, back for training as an alumni recruitment rep. My basic job is to be in contact with those who have inquired about, applied to or been accepted at Duke Divinity, and once a year, they bring us back to give us an update on what's up at the school.

This year more than ever, I miss being here. I'm about 8 years out, and the changes and additions are incredible. I was trying to identify why I feel so different here than I do in other places, and I think it was because I was most myself here. I think at heart, I'm probably a student (will someone please hand me a reading list?). But I think it might also be that I can identify more times of discernment here than anywhere else--the kinds of discernment that were foundational for me.

It's completely different in many ways--much of the faculty has changed; the library, chapel and even classrooms are remodeled or newly built. I love much of the new construction--the art installations and the opportunities to be in the light and airy hallways.

It's like the place of my standing stones. Joshua told the people to set up stones to remind themselves of the story and God's work after they crossed the Jordan. I sense that this is the place I will return in order to remember my story, even though my ministry is not likely to return here.

Where are the places you return? I have a few more, but none that I have spent so much time in--not even my undergrad institution. Where do you know yourself best? Where do you know God best?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Economics and Panic

When the people saw that their stock portfolios delayed to come up from out of the Recessional Valley, the people gathered around and told their favorite candidate, "Come, quell our anxiety and fear with a quick fix solution that will allow us to keep spending above our means."  And the candidates said to the people, "Bring us all your gold."  And the candidates took the gold and cast an image of solvency; and the people voted, saying "This is the right person for the job!"

Truly, our job in the midst of this economic crisis is not to panic.  To pray without ceasing.  To love one another.  To know that the Lord is near.  And to TRUST--that God is still in our midst. We are called to be faithful, not just fiscally successful.  

I had my moment of panic today.  I'm still paying off student loans based on my stock portfolio, and my ability to do that is severely compromised now.  

But I'm preaching on Sunday, and this is the text:  Exodus 32:1-14 and Philippians 4.  Aaron panicked and gave people what they wanted.  Paul reminds us that our primary job in the midst of crisis is not to panic, but to pray.

I'm praying now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Anniversary Cake

A whole month! This is not the way I wanted to do this, but I will try to catch up.

The intent behind this blog is to record short bursts of thoughtful activity instead of leaving the thoughts in my brain and trying to think of them later--call it my own Pensieve (and read the Harry Potter books if you want to know more about that!).

In any case...anniversary cake!

Clayton Karrer and I got married last September, and I will admit that I became rather insistent about saving the cake topper. I loved both our cakes (he had dulce de leche buttercream frosting on top of chocolate cake, and I had white chocolate cake with white chocolate frosting and raspberry filling), and I wanted to have some later. We didn't even get to have a full slice of the bride's cake at the primary reception, though we got a little bit later on at the close friends and family gathering (they saved a couple of our sheet cakes).

In any case, Clayton (who had been married once before) warned me when our anniversary was coming up that I needed to prepare myself for stale cake--that it was never as good after having been in the freezer for a year, getting dry and freezer-burned.

Clayton still has a lot to learn about me.

That cake topper had been wrapped in three layers of plastic and then with tinfoil on top of that.

We got it out, bit into it, and it was every bit as moist (if not more so!) and delicious as the day of our wedding.

He said, "This is better than I thought!"

Yes...it is. It just requires some care.

May all our marriages be so.