"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.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Shower the People

{Thoughts in a series as I transition from one congregation to the next}

When I think back on this time of in-between, I wonder what I will remember. Will the stress of moving be what I hold on to? Will I cling to the good-byes and the hellos? Will I remember all the conversations with not one, but two churches, that had to happen in order to go? Will I remember all the anxious prayers and the "thank you, thank you, thank you" prayers that have gone up from me?

Maybe.  But what I hope I remember from this time is just how much love I've experienced.  The church I'm saying goodbye to has poured its love out on me, from the moment I announced my departure.  It's given me a chance to reflect and appreciate all the times we have shared together and to remember the ways I've both loved and been loved.  There have been tears (lots of tears) and hugs and goodbye dinners and "are you sure you won't stay?" conversations.  There's a goodbye party planned.  And if I ever doubted, these people are helping me remember that I mattered to them.  Of course it's not about that, but it's nice to know all the same.

But this church isn't the only source of love.  The church to which I am going is also making my mind spin with how much they love me-- and most of them haven't even yet met me. And maybe it isn't even that they love me, but thats how they treat their pastors--with love for the light of Christ those pastors bear. I've been blown away by the gestures of kindness and caring that I've already experienced, and I haven't even arrived yet.  One family has offered us a cottage to stay in while the manse repairs are completed.  One lady asked us for a wishlist so that church folks might contribute to the small items necessary for the move. Another lady always asks about our pets and tells me how she is looking after the plants we already brought up there.  The manse restoration project has turned out to be quite a labor of love, which has become an "all hands on deck" event.  And 28 people piled in cars and the church bus and drove an hour and a half to come see me as I was received at the Presbytery meeting.  Folks don't just go to Presbytery meetings because they are fun...

Yet, even these two churches are not responsible for all the love I'm feeling.  My friends and family and sweet husband are filled with words of "I'm proud of you" and "I'm so happy for you", even as they give me space to grieve the transition while  knowing that I'm simultaneously excited for the destination.

I wouldn't choose to spend much time in between.  But if I have to be in this place, then I'm really grateful for the love.

Maybe James Taylor has it right:  "Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel. Things are gonna work out fine, if you only will..."

Craigslist Galore! (Or a theology of "stuff")

{Thoughts in a series as I'm transitioning from one congregation to another}

My husband loves the show "Hoarders".  It makes me want to run for the nearest shower to get the feeling of the creepy crawlies off of me. I keep saying, "How can anyone let it get so bad?"

And we're not anything like that, but wow...does stuff ever accumulate!  We've lived in one house for four years and have amassed more "stuff" than I would've ever imagined.  When we moved in, we looked at all the room we had and said to ourselves, "We'll never fill that up!"  But of course, we have. Now we have to deal with it-- either schlep it to the new place, or trash it, or sell it.

I choose selling it.  I've put all sorts of things on craigslist-- things that were just cluttering up our lives-- things that, at some point, we must've believed were important.  My husband had 11 complete seasons of "South Park" (which is probably 11 more than anyone needs!) We had tacky "newly marrieds" furniture that we stuck in a dark nook.  I had a huge bag of yarn--which doesn't even include the good stuff that I'm keeping.   It's such a strange thing, but I'm getting a great sense of satisfaction out of selling these things that have just been lurking in our house.  Sure, it's great having extra cash (though perhaps we sold our refrigerator a week too early, but eh...) but it's more than that.  It's a feeling of liberation.  I like knowing that I'm not going to be unpacking stuff I don't care about in our new home.  It feels like a chance to unbury ourselves and start over, with only the important things.

Happiness isn't in stuff.  It's in watching your doggies snore peacefully on the couch.  It's in taking the journey of a lifetime with the one you love the most. It's in learning to make peace with your surroundings and believing that your life might just be better simplified.  For everything else, there's craigslist.

A Liturgy of Tears

{Thoughts as I'm transitioning from one congregation to the next}

The office--no longer "my" office-- is almost completely packed up.  Anyone who would peek inside would think me ready to go.  The bulletin no longer bears my name, but says only "Members of the congregation: ministers". There's no longer much proof that I was here--that I loved people in these walls, that I married and buried and baptized their loved ones.  It's quiet, maybe too quiet for my taste.  The only sound is the sound of my tears gently falling on the farewell liturgy I'm trying to finish.

But the joyful liturgy of transition I had in mind just won't come.  It's not ready to be written.
For now, there are only tears.   Holy tears.

Tears for the ones I love, and for the ones I haven't loved enough.
Tears for the opportunies we've found, and for the ones we've been too scared to realize.
Tears for the great memories made, and for the ones that aren't so lovely.
Tears for the amazing work of the Holy Spirit in our midst, and for the times we felt like a valley of dry bones.
Tears for a bright and lovely future as we go separate ways, and for a holy rememberance of the past.
Tears for all the broken hearts, and for the ways they've been bandaged up.
Tears for all the things done, and for the ones I wasn't brave enough or strong enough to do.
Tears for my next love, and tears for my first.

Tears, always, because I've loved, and learned what it is to be loved.
Tears of joy and grief and love and hope and trust--these are my offering of tears.  They're all I have right now.  And right now, they are enough.

Until now, I haven't noticed how powerful the words are.  But today, maybe I understand a little bit.
Maybe some of the biggest words in all of scripture are these:  Jesus wept.

And maybe it's the ability to weep with and for, and not the "Reverend" in front of my name, that makes me a pastor.