Forgive Me Dear Friend

Forgive me Dear Friend,

I’ve stood You up recently.

Avoided really showing up

in the stillness of the morning.

Pretended I needed that extra half-hour of sleep.

Rationalized that You understand.

Your grace abounds.

These rationalizations might be true.

But the truth is…I’ve avoided sitting with You 

in the stillness of morning.

The empty open space of Easter

The Good News of resurrection

taste great.

And yet I know from experience

resurrection

challenges me to embrace 

new ways of being and doing.

I know from experience that prayer

is not a passive practice 

or a one way street.

It calls me out in ways I both love and despise.

Forgive me, Dear Friend.

I embrace the Amen

that is just the beginning.

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Maundy Thursday

Today we honor the first of the last.  The last time Jesus gathered with his friends.  The last meal they shared together.  The last bread broken and wine poured.  The last time simple elements of grain and grape were just that.  Grain and Grape.  After today, they are forever sacrament.  Forever holy.

In my mouth I can taste the bittersweet wine.  This day that consecrates a sacrament that has restored me life.  And exploded it.  This sacrament that tastes like homecoming with an aftertaste of challenge.  

This sacrament that I hold so dear; today I remember that for some this table has meant oppression.  

I tear my clothes and wail at the violence done in the name of the One that feeds people from this table.  The One who came as a Jew.  Who lived as Jew.  Who died as a Jew.  The One who died so the world might live–His name now repurposed as a weapon.  Today I remember that the One is not always in the buildings with steeples or those who wear crosses.  Sometimes the One is in the camps surrounded by barbed wire.

“Where is God now?”
And I heard a voice within me answer him:
“Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows. . . .” (Elie Weisel, Night)

Not Quite What I Was Planning

That six word memoir could be mine.  I suspect it could be many people’s.  Tell me your life story in six words:  Not Quite What I Was Planning.  

Something that struck me this Lent is that this six word memoir could be Jesus’, too.  I imagine the way the story played out was not originally what he planned.  It certainly could be the memoir for all the disciples.  This Jesus.  This Son of God.  This Savior was to free them from Roman oppression not die at the hands of it.  This God-Man was supposed to be a warrior that could rival Jupiter or Zeus.  Not someone who walked toward Jerusalem armed only with prayers and prophetic words.  And yet, that is how the story goes, and if it went any other way, resurrection could not happen.

This Lent I can’t believe the comfort I find in the “not what I was planning” aspect of this memoir.  So much of this past year has not been as I would have planned.  I never in a million years would dream that I would be a step mom b. ordained; c. a book-keeper; and the list goes on.  More than that, if you were to tell me that I would be in a wilderness without a clear career direction and handling health issues, I would assume that I would be devastated.  And yet, I’m not.  It’s as if this wilderness reminds me that gaining life truly does mean taking the risk of losing the old one first.  That God really does show up in the most unexpected ways and places.  And that the Christian life can’t be anything that I would plan.  Where would there be room for Mystery to enter?  How could I possibly preach a story of resurrection if I hadn’t allowed myself to risk?

 

Hello, my name is Megan, and I am a workaholic.

One of the great learnings of 2013 seemed to be the power of accepting and even celebrating my humanity.  Claiming I can’t have or do it all; failing is part of flying; re-thinking how I see success.  You get the idea.  This all seemed well and good until about three weeks ago when I started to experience physical pain.  Pain is not new to me.  It’s not unusual.  What is new and unusual is admitting that I have it.  Admitting that perhaps the best way to deal with pain is not to pop an extra ibuprofen, push through it, and pull myself up by my boot straps.  Perhaps they way to deal with pain is actually to do less than more.

Do less than more?    This idea does not sit well with me at all.  What will people think?  What will God think?  What will I think?  

Somewhere along the line I have learned that work=worth.  I am what I produce during the day.  In this case, no pain, no gain.  The list could go on and on.  It probably would if it were not for my husband who has lovingly held a mirror up to me.  

Rather than getting caught in a sparring match with my old friend, lack of self-worth, the reflection I saw in the mirror was my workaholic self.  A workaholic who not only used work to find worth but who also used work to stay in denial.  That’s right.  One of my favorite places to reside.  Denial.  What I saw in the mirror was that when I am busy pushing through the pain and fighting my demon, I am not attending to the reality.  I am not doing things like going to the doctor, sharing the challenge of questionable test results with people, telling my boss about the reality of my pain, allowing people to pick up my shifts.   In short, reality seems to be the gateway into humanity and community.  Two places a workaholic in denial can’t reside.  Today I admit that I am a workaholic…and it’s no longer working for me.

Words Matter

A few weeks ago I listened to an NPR story about words…specifically vocabulary words on the SAT.  Apparently, the college board decided it is time to revise the vocabulary portion of the test.  Rather than having lengthy sections with synonyms, antonyms, and everyone’s favorite–analogies–filled with pedantic words, the test will focus on more practical vocabulary.  In part this revision is to accept the reality that test-taking tools, rather than a robust vocabulary, are better keys for unlocking the mystery of the SAT.  Part of the revision is an attempt to better assess words students are more likely to utilize and to admit that truly grasping the nuances of language cannot be measured through a multiple choice test.  Though I see the point to all of this, I believe that I, like Jerome Shostak, am in mourning for the loss of the love of words.

As someone who has spent a lifetime and a career with words, I believe that words matter.  What we say, what words we choose to express ourselves matter.  Whether it be in an intimate conversation with a friend or partner or preaching a sermon, words matter.  I know there are people who rail against the pervasive plug for politically correct language.  I agree that simply to change your words to sound smart, acceptable, or popular does not capture the power and beauty of language.  I agree that our language will always fall short of capturing what it means to be human and dare I say how to even begin to describe God.  Even though our words may simply point to a deeper reality, I believe there is something in the practice of trying to find the best semantics and syntax to communicate a thought.  Imagine if the only image in the Bible for God was an old white man with a beard.  The Psalms would not be nearly as rich, powerful, or profound with only one word.

Recently, I heard a leader in the church say that theology, or the words we use for our faith and our understanding of God, don’t matter.  I can’t imagine a time or context where the words we use in church matter more.  In a culture that depicts the Bible as a bludgeon or as superfluous historical narrative, surely what we say and how we say it matters.  The words we choose; the words we don’t choose.  Carefully choosing words is not about being erudite or esoteric.   Carefully choosing words is one way of making meaning of our world and an attempt to share that meaning with another.  What could matter more?

You CAN’T Have It All

One of the big lessons of 2013 for me seems to have been “You can’t have it all.”  This might seem harsh, sad, or defeating at a first read.  But I have to say I actually find this lesson to be freeing, empowering, and relieving.  For the first time in my adult life I am neither in a career or striving for a career.  The breathing space of the last three months has opened me to realizing that the myth of wonder woman having and doing it all is just that…a myth.  At least for this woman.

It’s true, I am a recovering perfectionist.  A perfectionist who isn’t focused as much on perfect details, spelling, or cleaning but perfection in terms of expectations of myself.  I may need to cut myself slack in ways and places.  But I also believe there’s a gift in this perfection…the gift of accepting and acting on…you can’t have it all.  Perhaps I could keep fighting my own nature, and try to regularly repeat…”this is good enough; this is good enough.”  But for me that mantra didn’t seem to do much more than get me up and on the hamster wheel daily.  Until my unexpected sabbatical in the wilderness, I didn’t realize how divided I felt day and night.  Until my unexpected sabbatical in the wilderness, I didn’t realize how much of the last three years were spent fighting my own nature to prove that I could in fact have it all.  Until my unexpected sabbatical in the wilderness, I didn’t realize that in the world of blended family, time is gold.  Nights, weekends, and holidays especially.  That’s where forming family happens.  The good, the bad, the irritating, the idiosyncratic.  In my specific case, I didn’t fully realize how much career had prevented me from being present during these moments.

Much of the last three months have been grieving the loss of the myth “I can have it all.”  Fighting with God, fighting with myself.  Letting go of the myth that career and vocation are the same thing.  As my family and I travel into 2014, I walk with anticipation into a new sense of self and vocation.

Megan’s Sermon Preparation Recipe

Image1.  Thaw biblical passage in crockpot brain at least one week before “Sermon Sunday.”  Cover passage with prayers and turn on lowest setting.  Allow the passage and prayers to simmer, blend, and breathe.  Breathing time is essential.  

2.  Meanwhile,  puree thoughts, feelings, poetry, moments of life, and pop-culture references that relate to passage in your spirit and mind.  (At this stage, someone outside the kitchen might question this ingredient.  But this is one of the most vital parts.  Trust God and yourself for this puree.  It will be different each time–that’s what makes this sermon “home-made.”)

4.  Smother the passage and prayer stock with the puree.  Continue to allow slow simmer.

3.   When passage has mostly thawed, begin prep. work of other ingredients. Read and research what others have said about passage.  Discard what does not resonate; chop-up remaining exegesis, and stir in with the passage and prayer stock.

4.  Turn up the heat slightly and wait until stock starts a rolling boil.

5.  Once the stock is boiling, turn the heat to low.  Stir.  Allow stock to simmer and thicken.  (There is no set time for this.  Again, trust is vital at this stage.)

6.  When stock is thick, pour off remaining juice and ingredients.  

7.  Sample.  

8.  Discern the best way to serve this dish on Sunday morning.  Add any additional seasonings to enhance.

9.  Say grace before serving and sampling.

**This recipe for sermons preached for supply positions.  For weekly sermon recipe, see worship/sermon preparation recipes.