Saturday, January 20, 2018

Thank you, Katherine Graham.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I love the movies. I love the smell of the theater, the sometimes uncomfortable seats, and the hustle and bustle that evening at the movies can sometimes produce. But more than anything, I love the way the stories are told. Sometimes they are fantasy, sometimes animated, sometimes dramatic, sometimes romantic, sometimes scary (I don’t enjoy those…), and sometimes they are real and raw. Movies can tell the stories of those who came before us that have been forgotten and encourage us to look back at our history so that we can see where we have been and what has brought us to today.

Yesterday afternoon, I watched one of those real and raw movies, I saw “The Post.” I must admit when the trailer first came out, I found it intriguing but I really wanted to see the movie because two of favorite performers were acting in it: Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. I didn’t realize when I walked into the theater and sat down in the surprisingly comfortable seat that the next two hours would not only capture my imagination but make me grieve the many parts of history that I didn’t know.

Knowing my love of story, you can probably guess that I love to read. I have read many history books, biographies, and autobiographies just to be able to soak up stories of real-life people. You see, I believe, history tells us where we have been, how we have gotten here, and sometimes it can tell us where we must go from here.  As I watched this film play out in front of me, I tried to find in my memory this story. I tried to think back on all of the history classes that I have taken over my lifetime and the books that I have read, and I could not place this story and it grieved me. By the end of the film, one thought was in my mind, “It is because of this woman and women like her that I have the ability to do what I do. It is because of their willingness to give of themselves to risk everything that they had for something they believed in.” Why do we only hear about these stories once Hollywood decides to write a screenplay about their life?

Yes, this film was a film that was probably a little bit dramatized but it told the story of one woman who was willing to risk her entire company and her life for something that she believed in. Growing up, I heard that women fought for their rights, that they fought for the right to vote, for the right to work, for the right to have equal pay (something that we still work for), and in the church, for the right to be ordained. But I didn’t grow up in the time that this story of Katherine Graham actually existed, so to me, it has always just been a story, been a part of who I am, yes, but a story nonetheless. But yesterday, as I watched the difficulty and the way that Katherine was treated, not just by her adversaries but by those whom she called friends, it allowed me to grasp just a moment of what it was like. It allowed me to see just how much she was risking. It made me think about all that I have taken for granted in my life. I took for granted that I was able to be educated and receive a college degree; I have taken for granted that I have the ability to vote; I have taken for granted the fact that I could be an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. While Katherine Graham may not have directly affected any of these things, it is because of people like Katherine Graham that I can take these things for granted, not that I should.

I stated earlier that I didn’t grow up living in that time, I didn’t have to fight for any of my rights, I didn’t have to fight for my ordination, but I have friends who did. I have friends who like Katherine Graham, gave all that they had so that I and so many others could. And it is those friends and Katherine Graham that I have to thank. Thank you for being willing to teach those who would come after you how to stand up for what you believe in, even if it means risking your job, your company, your relationships, or even your life.

Katherine Graham was a pioneer. She, along with other women set a precedent that would lead us to where we are today. While I didn't grow up in that time, I am growing up in this time and even in the last 30 years, I have watched the roles of women change and I can see that there is still a long way to go, and it makes me wonder, do I have the courage to give of myself for something I believe in? Would I have been willing to say, “publish it,” knowing that I could lose everything? Will I have the courage to stand even when others say I shouldn't? May we not take for granted that which has been gifted to us by the many others that have come before us. May we live in such a way that their gift isn’t forgotten or taken for granted, but celebrated.

Thank you, Katherine Graham.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Getting Out of The Boat...

As I prepared myself for worship yesterday I went over in my head the service and the prayers and words and all of my responsibilities in the service. As we got to the sermon, I found myself so distracted by all that had gone on, on Saturday and all that was going on in the world that it took me out of being able to truly worship, until Rev. Cliff Wright began to preach on the text from Matthew 14 where Jesus walks on the water, and about Peter getting out of the boat. In every way, he was/is encouraging the congregation to get out of the boat, get out of their comfort zone, get out of their complacency. And as he talked about what that might mean, my mind went to what does it mean to get out of the boat in light of current events in the world? So often when I hear that text it seems blatantly obvious. “Get out of the boat, Jesus is there.” But as I listened I heard the biggest issue with getting out the boat: Fear. Not only is there a fear of the water below and drowning, but there is fear in what others will say, fear in getting too far from the boat, fear in the conflicts that will arise, fear in facing our own issues, and ultimately a fear that getting out of the boat will change everything. So what if it does?

That took me back to all that has happened over the past week. The thing that bothers me most is that this is not the first time this has happened. This is not the first show of hate and it is likely not the last. With that being said, it is happening more frequently, or maybe its always happened, its just that we are so acutely aware of this evil and its being talked about more and more. But what if getting out of the boat in this instance in time isn’t too far from the ways that MLK, Mandela, and so many others who have fought this fight before, got out of the boat?

Martin Luther King once said:
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
Through violence you may murder the liar,
but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
Through violence you may murder the hater,
but you do not murder hate.
In fact, violence merely increases hate.
So it goes.
Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

There has always been darkness and at different moments in history we have seen more darkness than at other moments. Right now, the world seems eerily dark. There is violence and words of hate. There is a possibility of nuclear weapons being used. There is brother fighting brother, and families disowning families. There is disunity not just in the country and world, but also in the church. There is such darkness. But we have the opportunity in this moment to step out of the boat, to step out of our comfort zone and reach out to one another. Instead of responding with hateful words or name calling and blaming, to offer words of love and hope. Instead of responding in violence, respond in love. Is it easy, not at all. In fact, I would venture to say it is one of the most difficult things we have ever been asked to do. But I do believe that “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not [and will not] overcome it.[1]

You may read this and think she isn't actually thinking about the issue, she is skirting it so that she doesn't have to say its wrong, it is wrong. It is wrong, hurtful, and so painful and it teaches others that it is ok to speak of another person harmfully. Or maybe your thinking, she is just being optimistic, this is an impossible task. Trust me, I agree with you, it completely seems impossible and it might get worse before it gets better. But I believe in the words of Paul as he prays for his readers in Ephesus, “now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine…[2]” God can and does move in and through us, if only we are willing to get out of the boat. I don’t know what getting out of the boat looks like for you, but I am beginning to see what it means for me. Yesterday, I witnessed a people who seemed ready to get out of the boat. I agree with Rev. Wright's question: Will you join me in getting out of the boat? Knowing that it will be hard, but that God is there to be the light in the dark and lift us up when we begin to sink. May we be a people of light not willing to let the light be hidden, but shining it bright for all to see.

[1] John 1:5, NRSV
[2] Ephesians 3:20, NRSV

Sunday, November 27, 2016

All of Me

Tonight, I found myself in the sanctuary.
It was quiet and dark. But once your eyes adjust, its simply home. It’s a place where I encounter God, and know that God can hear me, and that God is simply present. Not that God isn’t always present, but in that place, I KNOW.

As I sat in the quiet tonight, I finally had peace. It was a peace that I have been longing for. A peace that has seemed so distant over the last 6-9 months.

I originally went to the church tonight to grab my backpack that had homework that I needed to complete for class, but I found myself throwing the bag in my car and walking into the quiet sanctuary.

Typically, I find myself there when I have something to think about or a major decision to make, or when my sermon just won’t come to me, but tonight I didn’t expect to find myself there. I had a plan, and the plan fell through.

Over the last six years I have had to deal with the plan falling through, the plan that I had once made for my life, but its like someone said yesterday, “you want to make God laugh, tell God your plans.” For the most part, I am fine with where I have landed, but there has still that part of me that isn’t.

This morning I was talking to a friend in the congregation who was going to be helping me with something important later, and she said to me, “I am not worthy.” My response was quick, “none of us are worthy, but God finds that we are worth it, that is the beauty of grace.” As I responded I thought about what I had just said.

For the most part, the last six years have been moments of myself telling myself that I am not worthy. Almost five years ago, my plan changed. That change for me brought a lot of turmoil. Like any change, I had to relearn who I was, and what I was supposed to be. Not only have I dealt with a broken relationship, but I wrestled with my call. I know that God has called me to be a disciple, but I have often questioned, has God really called me to be a pastor?

Often my first response is the question: “Am I doing this because people said I would be good at it?” (Though truth to be told, there were many more people that thought I couldn’t even be a Youth Minister, much less a pastor of a church, but I did not know that until recently, thankfully!) And often times that was enough of a question to make me question my call as a whole.

Over the last 6 months, I have been working on Commissioning work. If you don’t know what that means, It is the next step towards ordination after Seminary. The last 6 months have been the hardest for me to stay on this path, that I DO feel that God called me to. It has been eye-opening in so many ways, and difficult in others. It has brought up things of the past that have hurt me, and brought out my deepest fears of failure. It has made me feel completely vulnerable in every way. There have been many moments when I wanted to give up and walk away because it was hard, or because I felt that I was a mess (apparently, many that I have spoken to have felt this way when doing this work, makes me glad to know that I am not alone.) Even once I turned it in, I felt sick to my stomach, always fearing that it isn’t enough.

Tonight, I sat in an empty sanctuary, just thinking. God (and the people that God has placed in my life) has gotten me to this point. God pulled me through some dark moments, where it seemed light would never shine again. And here I sat, afraid. I began to sing It is Well, and I realized that it is ok. Even if I don’t get commissioned, it doesn’t mean my calling ceases to exist, it simply means I have more learning to do. I found peace, and in the day that we began advent, I found hope.

For some reason, God has called me to this. God has gifted me with the ability to preach and God has gifted me with the ability to love people. And hear me when I say, I truly do love what I do, and I truly do love what God has called me be. But I still have a lot to learn no matter what and I am beginning to really understand that being a disciple truly takes all of us, and for me to be a pastor, it has taken and will continue to take all of me. Ultimately, all of me is what I gave God many years ago, I pray that I will not try to take it back. I pray that God can truly have ALL OF ME.

I guess I should probably finish that homework now...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Escape Plan

I have an escape plan. My escape plan does not usually help the situation; usually it just puts it aside for a moment, and allows me to step into someone else's shoes. It allows me to see the world from someone else's perspective. But mostly, my escape plan reminds me of hope and joy. When life gets particularly hard, I escape to another world. A world where the good guy always wins, a world sometimes full of animation, a world where people fall in love, a world where the end is usually another beautiful beginning, my world is a world of fiction.

If you haven't guessed, my escape plan is movies and books. One time when I was having a particularly bad day, and needed an escape, I walked into a theater and simply asked, "What movie is about to start?" The movie was Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, That was just poetic. There are other days when it has nothing to do with my mood, I just want to see a good movie; today was one of those days. I went with some friends to see Mr. Holmes. The movie was fantastic and it was filmed in a beautiful location, and oh yea, it was British. It was profound and truly beautiful, I left the theater with tear-stained cheeks and something to think about for a while.

My other escape plan, books, can really only happen during summer and winter break, so because I begin school in a couple of weeks, I am trying to finish all of the books that I have started since the Spring semester ended. The problem I have is that I keep beginning to read other books and never actually finish the ones I start. So in trying to finish one, I picked up another: Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It was one of those books that I had been told I should read many times, but just couldn't get on the bandwagon. But I picked it up at the bookstore, and began to read. I read it cover to cover in about two days. It truly changed my life. It was a book about redemption. Redemption that seems to be only in the form of a man loving a woman, but in reality its about teaching a woman that she is worthy of being loved, not just by a man who adores her, but by God. The interesting thing is that God teaches the woman this through her husband. It was an unconditional type of love that was truly a gift from God.

Why is any of this important? I have had a good life, but for a long time I have found it hard to remember my own worth and at the same time to receive the grace and love of God. Interestingly, the books and movies have reminded me that God shows me my worth and ultimately, has shown me God's love through my friends and family. It wasn't what I anticipated, but for me it has been a source of redemption. 

My mom says, "God's timing is perfect, wait on God's timing."Often times, its hard to wait for God's timing, but my escape plan has shown me time and time again that I have all I need for right now, and the best thing that I can do is live my life to the fullest, and to love God and everyone around me. And for me, the best way that I know how to love those around me is to be present in their lives, and to allow them to be present in mine. I hope and pray that those whom I love will know how dearly loved and cared for they are, just as they have shown me how loved and cared for I am.