Saturday, September 29, 2012

What a difference!

What a difference one year makes! I just returned from something called our fall "colloquium" yesterday. It's a school thing, but it is not really a class. It's more of a planning session for our professional projects. There are certain things we have to do by certain dates, and the school wants to make sure we get them done. We really worked hard on our write-ups (called a propsectus) over the summer for what we were planning to do, and I think we are all in pretty good shape.

Anyway, when I walked into our meeting facility on Thursday, I could hear the conversation and laughter from all the way down the hall...a far cry from last year when we did not know each other and we sat in silence waiting for class to start. It wasn't long before someone started talking about a particularly funny experience in class last spring. Then, we were off remembering our time at Drew last summer...we have shared memories now and that has created a bond between us. Although I am exceedingly happy to be DONE with the actual classwork, I will miss seeing my school peeps on a regular basis. We all hugged each other when we left.

It just made me realize again how important it is to belong somewhere - to have a community somewhere of people who help you get through things - whether it is a class or a major life change. It is important to have shared memories - things that have taken up permanent residence in YOUR mind and heart and in someone else's mind and heart. It is important to be a part of something bigger than yourself.

I am grateful for the opportunity to study with these people - what difference one year makes.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Today, I drove over to Durham to meet my dad at South Pointe. He was running late, but it was a beautiful day, so I sat outside on a bench for about 45 minutes. Usually, I have a book with me to read during times like this. But, today, I opted not to carry one and not even to buy a new one at the HUGE Barnes and Noble. And, I just sat on that bench with my feet in the sun.

I thought, "Nobody knows exactly where I am right now. And, nobody here cares who I am right now." It was a great moment of complete anonymity. So, I just sat and enjoyed it.

It was like a Sabbath.

And, I've wondered if that is what Sabbath is - anonymity. Our importance disappears as God's importance grows stronger.

All I know is that I rested. I looked at all the people walking by. I felt the sun. And, I breathed.

A great afternoon...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

School and stuff

This week, I met for the first time with my lay advisory committee to begin planning for my professional project. It was really kind of a fun meeting. I mean, it's going to be work, but I think I will really enjoy planning a ministry with a group. That's one thing I miss sometimes...when I worked for the State, I always had co-workers. I could pop in their offices at any time to get advice or to plan or to just visit. It's not that way as a solo pastor. It can be a lonely thing, so I'm looking forward to working with a group to do a little ministry planning and then implementing it during Lent of next year.

That has led me to think a lot lately about our church and our strengths and our areas for new ministry. (That's what the project is supposed to address). But, it has also led me to thinking about the nature of church. One term that we have used a lot in school is "missional." By "missional," they mean "sent." So, the church is located in a particular community and should learn its community just like a missionary going into another country. One author says, "The church should stop mimicking the surrounding culture and become an alternative community, with a different set of beliefs, values and behaviors. Ministers would no longer engage in marketing; churches would no longer place primary emphasis on programs to serve members. The traditional ways of evaluating 'successful churches' – bigger buildings, more people, bigger budgets, larger ministerial staff, new and more programs to serve members – would be rejected. New yardsticks would be the norm: To what extent is our church a 'sent' community in which each believer is reaching out to his community? To what extent is our church impacting the community with a Christian message that challenges the values of our secular society?"

Those are great questions. Do Christians really consider themselves not only God's people, but SENT people? Do we search for the places where God is already at work and try to join God there? Do we put our energy and time into reaching into the world with God's love? If not, why?

Lots of stuff to think about...maybe that will translate into lots of stuff to blog about. This I know, the world is changing - and the church is called to serve as the Body of Christ through it, where do we start?

Friday, September 7, 2012

To town

Today, I went to Fleet Feet in Raleigh to purchase new walking shoes. I've been buying them on-line or at Rack Room, and after walking 15 miles in one swoop over the weekend, I realized that I needed some good shoes. Shoes that had been fitted by someone who knows what they are doing. Shoes that would keep my feet happy.

If your feet hurt or are tired...well, the day stinks! So, I now am the proud owner of a new pair of Brooks Ghost 5 shoes. What they lack in aesthetics, they make up for in comfort.

While I was in town, I went to Cokesbury to get our curriculum stuff for church. Boy, I could really drop some money in Cokesbury...first all of the books! I do love to read, and I just want to buy everything that interests me. But, I bought nothing today that was not curriculum related. Then, the communion sets...I mean, I know you really don't need a collection of communion sets, but I love them. And, the robes! Fun - although, I have to say that my robe is made out of a much more comfortable fabric than those I saw today.

So, that was my little trip into the big city.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Very, very small

Over the Labor Day weekend, I did something that I have not done since childhood...if I even did it then. I lay flat on my back and looked at the stars. It was a very clear night. No clouds to cover up any of the twinkles. Just stars as far as the eye could see...and one satellite deliberately making its way across the night sky.

As I lay there taking it all in, I felt very, very small. The things that had been eating away at my peace of mind suddenly felt tiny compared to that big sky. Notice I did not say these things felt 'unimportant.' They felt 'tiny.' And, there's a difference. It's important to do my best in school. But, in the grand scheme of things, my accomplishments, or lack thereof, will be a tiny drop in the world.

That was a rather freeing thought. As human beings, it is the most natural thing in the world to begin to believe that the universe revolves around us. Everything is magnified through our point of view. Our accomplishments look bigger. Our problems look bigger. Our irritations look bigger. Our compassion looks bigger. Everything takes on larger proportions, and everything grows in its sense of urgency.

But, when you look up in the stars, you realize how very, very small we all are.

I am reminded of the verse from Psalm 8:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

What indeed? And, then, I'm right-sized least for a while.