"Graceland" is the name of my favorite song and album. It's by Paul Simon, but more importantly, it's what "home" sounds and feels like to me. We always listened to this album as we traveled from my home in Tennessee to my parents' childhood homes in Florida. But today, it's also a pretty good snapshot of my theology. Somewhere I really believe that the Christian journey is all about a wild trip to Grace-land. As I see it, Grace-land is the place where God is waiting to meet even us–with all the baggage and brokeness that we tote with us. Grace-land is the place where we will be received with open arms, even though our attempts at “getting it right” have been miserable failures at best. But, I think, every step we take is a step on the journey to Graceland.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

White Heaven

I'm a girl who loves color-- big, bright, blues and greens and yellows.  I wear it, I decorate with it.  I seek it out in all things.  I guess that's the photographer in me coming out.

But today, I'm grooving on white.  White of my gently purring cat's fur, as she snuggles beside me.  White of the cool, crisp sheets.  White of the sunshine fresh comforter.  The gentle white light of the sun that's pouring in over me--and changing my world.  The quiet, uimposing, white noise of the fan.  The memory of the brilliant and lovely white snow that we saw earlier this week.

White demands nothing of you.  White has no agenda to make you feel a certain way-- unlike the cool blues and hot reds that try to pull you along.  White just lets you crawl in, and cuddle up, or hunker down.  And gently puts you back together until you're ready for the energy of a few bursts of color.  White lets you imagine, to paint your own picture of lovely-- to believe that something, anything, is pure and good, if only for a little while.

Certainly it sounds trite and preacherish--but there is a sense of the holy washing over me.  A white holy that meets me where I am, and holds me til I can offer something back.

It's white heaven, here between the clean, crisp sheets and the sunshine infused comforter.  Even the cat knows.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pancakes and Ashes

We had a great turnout for Shrove Tuesday Pancakes.  We always have a great turnout, because we Presbyterians firmly believe that "If you feed them, they will come."  And God knows, we all want to be fed.

But Ashes just aren't as much fun as pancakes. Who wants to think about sin and mortality.  Even syrupy sweetness can't make that palatable. Still, a few will come.  Maybe they come because they want to support the preacher.  Or maybe because the doors are open, and they feel like they should be there.  Or maybe because it's strange and different, or because it's a statement of who you are to wear a cross on your forehead.  Or maybe because they want what's real--even knowing that Ashes aren't nearly as much fun as pancakes.

I always want to make a "no ashes, no pancakes" rule, or ask faithful pancake seekers to promise to show up for ashes too.  I want people to realize that the journey to the cross is hard, and that it isn't paved with pancakes.  But of course, I don't say that.  Because, every year, as I wear my "St Pious--keeper of all things" hat, I realize that I'm not a saint, nor am I pious, nor should I be the keeper of all things.   And so every year, I have this fight with myself. Apparently, at least on some small level, I value works--even though I preach grace.

But Christ takes me anyway.  And just as I take off my Tuesday Jester's hat, and put on my Wednesday robe, I remember the words I will say.  "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.  Repent and believe the good news."  And I have to repent and believe the good news that God didn't come for just the ones who show up every time the doors are open.  I have to believe that Christ didn't come just for the ones who are brave enough to receive ashes on their foreheads, but just as much for the ones who are too scared to think about their lives that way.

"My grace is sufficient" are the words that never fail to echo in my ears. Sufficient for pancake eaters, for ash wearers, even for pastors who forget, and would like to make rules about how to be holy.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Christ comes...

I just crawled into bed, after what felt like the longest and most tiring weeks of my life.  It was 7:30 on a friday night.  It should have been my day off, but it was consumed with a committee meeting-- for which I was responsible for preparing and running. My sermon hadn't even been started, but I had grand plans for writing it in my pjs, with a cozy blanket and a cup of coffee.  That's no way to spend a Saturday, or get a much needed day of rest, but at least I could work from the comfort of home, and maybe catch a nap and do some of the laundry that's piled up. It was a lovely, workable plan.  And it held the wishes of a "traditional" 9 to 5 job at bay.

Of course, I've realized, that there is nothing 9-5 about being a pastor. Which is why I shouldn't have been surprised to get a call that one of my congregants was in the hospital...an hour and a half away.  He had stopped breathing at dinner, was on life support, and they weren't sure what the future held.  They needed Christ.

But I was so bone-tired exhuasted that I couldn't even see straight, and my first thought was "I'm running on fumes and no gas station in sight.  I don't have anything to offer them, because I have nothing myself." I wept, being so overwhelmed and dried out.  Yet we went and spent Saturday in the hospital with them.  I got an email from one of the family members that night that said "Thank you, thank you, thank you for being with us.  I was at my lowest, and didn't even know I needed you, but you were Christ to us."

I once heard a speaker say, "Don't be like Christ.  Be Christ to the people you meet. Go where Christ goes, say what Christ says, and sit with the people Christ sits with.  Because Christ lives in you, you are charged with being Christ to the world." That's a big responsibility.  And sometimes it asks more of you than you believe you have to offer.

But here's what I saw again this weekend.  Just when you're busy giving it your all to be Christ to someone who needs it most, someone will be Christ to you.  It may come from a husband who holds you as you woke up crying because all of it was just too much right now.  It may come from a congregant who looks at you and says, "I have been praying for you all week" or from a family who asks if they can take you and your husband out to lunch following Church.  Maybe it comes from a church lady who says, "Tell me what I can do to help you out. You have a lot on your plate, and I don't want you to get sick because you don't have time to take care of yourself."

Sometimes you're busy being Christ to the world.  And sometimes the world is busy being Christ to you.  And in that way, Christ comes.  Christ always comes to those who need him most.