Sunday, December 21, 2008

Home Longing on longest nights

I'm well aware in this season of joy that there are some very long nights.

When I was 11 in 1982, both of my parent's mothers died within 9 days of each other, right at the beginning of Advent. This has become a part of the family remembrances right around this time of the year.

And then three years ago today, Berkeley UMC in Austin said goodbye to one of its saints--a woman who taught us how to both die and live, Pat Currie. Her favorite holiday was Christmas, but when she learned that her cancer was untreatable, she began cross-stitching an Easter banner for the church. She had each of her daughters and daughter-in-laws take stitches and then a member of her covenant group finished the edges about 2 weeks before her death. She died after having been in hospice for several days on December 21. We had her memorial service--a service of lessons and carols--on December 23 and we dedicated the banner at the Christmas Eve services the next day.

She is close to my heart this year for some reason. It's the first year I haven't been at Berkeley, and I still am feeling that in-between sense of being a guest in my own appointment. By next year, I will be fully there, but this year, my heart is tugged in many directions.

Which hopefully means that all of the tugging can lead me into the heart of God. When my confidence is waning and I'm not sure even which star I've been looking at, much less following, that's when I start to let the God of Impossible Things guide me.

Six years ago, I preached a sermon on Isaiah 64--about there being many different ways of being "not home" for Christmas. There's the not home when a family member is ill. There's the not home when home is different than you've ever imagined. There's the not at home when you're an empty nester for the first time or the not at home when you've lost someone. At those times we long for Home. But the point of the Incarnation is that Home longs for us too. So I hope and pray that Home comes to you this year--and that you turn around and find it there, impossible but true, waiting with outstretched arms.

May your long nights bring Home to you.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

This Blog

I've been hearing more and more lately about how to write a successful blog. Since I'm not convinced that many people except myself actually read this on a regular basis, I am curious to know if there's anything more I can do. Or should I even want to?

And it occurs to me that I seem to be asking a lot of questions lately. Is that my problem? Or is that your problem? Or do I just need to get over my self-fascination and keep writing?

Perhaps my next blog will be entitled "Eternally Curious: the Blog for those who don't know everything yet".

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Blue Rock Concert

So I'm pretty much a sucker for any concert that David Wilcox plays (see: my blog title). Billy Crockett has also been a favorite of mine since college. And when I found out that Billy and Dodee Crockett were hosting a concert in the round at the Blue Rock Studios in Wimberly with both Billy and David and Beth Wood, I jumped and determined that the 4.5 hour drive one way to such an event was not only worth it, but necessary. I even stayed up until just after midnight the day that they started taking online reservations! knew there was a concert geek in me.

In any case, I went with friends Tina and Bill Carter and Laura Merrill. It was an awesome space and an awesome evening. 3 hours went by extremely quickly with a mix of Christmas themed music and songs that commented on each other in that "round" way.

And I thought again about how much great art takes place in community. We'd like to think of the lonely, starving artist. But I think the really cool stuff happens when you get different minds and styles together and see what comes out, how they play off each other (literally and figuratively in this case!).

And we wonder why we get so lonely as clergy people. Where does our creativity come out? And when it does, who do we find to play off of?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Illinois politics

My new favorite line:

The governor of Illinois puts the "goober" in "goobernatorial".

I think that may be true more often than not...for many governors!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


This past weekend, I helped coordinate a workshop on Change in our Conference as a part of my responsibilities as the Co-Dean of the Holy Boldness Urban Academy for our Conference. (That sounds like an important mouthful, but truly I say unto you that the person who has done most of the coordination and work has been Lynette Ramon, who serves as the administrative assistant to our other Co-Dean...I'm just one of the mouths in front!).

We had Lori Smith, who is a lay person in the Nebraska Annual Conference and has worked with them on restructuring and revisioning, lead the workshop.

And I remembered again, in listening to the comments around the tables, how much people long for the idea of change, but are a little afraid of actually doing it...or going through the sometimes painful work of helping birth it.

Birth is not a bad analogy and is one that is pertinent this time of year. Every baby is a change to the family it comes into--not just an addition, but a foundational change. But this Jesus Christ is born, not only to Mary and Joseph, but to the whole of humanity. Our family is foundationally different because Christ is born.

And that makes me think about what is different in my household because of Christ's coming this year. How will we celebrate? But also, what changes are imminent because of this Incarnation? What changes will we have to birth in our own lives and our life together so that this Christ may have sway?

Where is change coming for you?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Reflections on Baptism

As I posted a couple of days ago, we grieved for our loss but celebrated the HomeGoing of Rev. Kathleen Baskin-Ball. One of the things that I learned after her death was that the Sunday before she died, she baptized 37 people at Suncreek UMC in Allen. What a gift to the church and to them--to have one of her last acts be an act of grace in that magnitude!

Baptism has been on my mind lately, and some of it is tied up with Kathleen. I presided over 3 baptisms this past Sunday, and I was trying to bring across some of what it means to baptize infants to our congregation. In the United Methodist Church, the baptism of a child or one who is not able to speak for themselves begins a journey that is completed by confirmation or a profession of faith. But in the meantime, we promise as a gathered congregation to watch over and care for, pray for and teach those whom we are baptizing.

When Kathleen stood before the General Conference in Ft. Worth this past April for the last time, she said this:

"I am Kathleen Baskin-Ball, clergy from the North Texas Conference, Chair of the Committee on Ministry and Higher Education. More importantly, I am the mother of a precious little boy by the name of Skyler, who at four months of age attended his first General Conference; and I'm here to confess tonight that he voted illegally on the floor of General Conference 2004. But now at age four Skyler is watching the proceedings on live stream on his dad's computer at home and so I promised I would wave to him since this is my last time to be before you because it is our last petition to share with you tonight. Woo hoo!

"I want to say one other thing before I introduce the one who is going to give the rationale for this petition. I want to say thank you to my brothers and sisters who are shaping Skyler's young life with such love and who continue--I want to say thank you to all of you who continue to find ways to make the church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ accessible to all God's children. This church of ours, even with all its imperfections and its disagreements and its brokenness is absolutely the greatest blessing in my life, in my family's life.

"I want to say thank you to the Church, for in my battle with cancer these last 14 months, we have known no greater joy than the love and the fellowship of the Church. And so thank you for these last two weeks and for the privilege of chairing the Legislative Committee and for being a part of the love that, no matter what we have done these last two weeks, I believe God will continue to share with the world in a bold and ferocious way. And so the victory will be Jesus Christ's and I believe that and so it's with confidence that I move on to be the church after this event."

What I heard in those words, in addition to her confidence in the love of God, was a love for the Church. And I also heard her saying that she would now turn to the Church and ask to take them up on that promise that we make in baptism...that we will do our best to raise these children in the faith. Because she knew that she might not be around to do it.

And now we face that particular reality. I have no doubt that Skyler will have more love and care growing up, even without his mother physically present. But I also want us to take seriously the other children who grow up in our midst with one or more parent absent. They are all our children, whether they live in our homes or not. They are all loved by God, and we all bear the responsibility of helping them to know and understand that love.

Thank you, Kathleen. Skyler will never be alone...because of Jesus Christ and His Body, the Church. May all God's children have that kind of love and attention in which they know they are loved.

Godspeed and Glory Be

We just received the news that Rev. Kathleen Baskin-Ball has died. One of the ways she lived and loved was by the phrase "Glory be." I pray the strength for all of us to live into those words.

When Thomas Ken died, he requested that his funeral be held in the sanctuary (where they used to do burials too back in the early centuries). The sun began rising through the windows right as they began singing the hymn that he wrote:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above all heavenly host
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Even at the grave we make our song, "Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!"

Calm in the Storm

My husband and I had a great Thanksgiving weekend with my parents and sister and our three collective dogs. And this past Sunday, we got to baptize three children in church and received three more adults into membership.

And then stuff started happening. Confusing stuff. Painful stuff. Stuff that we had no idea was coming. Like a tornado can just appear and then leave with the destruction accomplished.

But I'm thankful for my friends. For my parishoners. For my DS. For all those who seek to minister to people when they want to be on step #832 and they need to just concentrate on figuring out step #2. For all those who don't make assumptions, but simply want to support.

It doesn't take away the pain and confusion, but it meets pain with strength...with grace...and with the love of God.

This is community. This is the Body of Christ. Not trying to manage the situation or the people...but in prayer and supporting the truth and looking for God's grace within the situation.