I've got a lump in my throat cause you're gonna sing the words wrong

I’ve been thinking a lot about church lately.  And by that I mean more than usual – I am a pastor after all.  It crosses my mind a lot.
But lately it seems that all of my conversations with friends, colleagues, members of the congregation all seem to wander to what the church is doing about this issue or that issue.  Yes it circles around one main issue that is getting a lot of limelight lately in our denomination but we are also talking about other things.
Or more so we are talking about why we aren’t talking about these things.  Why we are remaining silent on race, sexuality, drug/alcohol abuse, main stream media/culture, war, poverty, the middle east … and the list could go on and on.
The thing is though we don’t want to start the conversation because we don’t want to cause rifts in our communities.  We are afraid because our views are deeply personal and if we find out that someone else’s view is differing from us then that will cause a break in our relationship.
Or… Even worse, we aren’t really interested in what the other person has to say at all.  We just want our opinions to be heard and validated.  We unintentionally bully the opposing side because of a preconceived notion of what it means to hold that other view point.
We’ve set ourselves up into camps. We all think there is a right or wrong opinion.  A black or white answer that works for everyone in every situation within this topic.  But it’s so not true.  Everyone has a story behind what they think and why they think it.  We have to be respectful of each other and each others stories.
The way that the Kingdom wins in these types of conversations is when we look for Christ in one another.  When we listen to each others’ stories and try to understand the other person better.  When our only agenda is to understand the person sitting across from us, rather than try to make them think what we think.
They aren’t singing the words wrong.  They are just singing them differently.  Our job is to try and see what God is doing in the midst of both of our songs.

our whispered words are louder than bombs

I have a very clear memory from a solitude retreat I took my second year of Seminary.  It comes back to me frequently, like a still voice from the Spirit reminding me to keep myself in check.
I was taking a walk through the neighborhood by the church I was currently attending (that I now work at).  I was walking past all of these cute houses with kids playing in the yard and I felt that feeling that most single girls of a certain age feel… I want that.  I don’t want to be stuck here in Seminary.  I want to be in my call.  I want to know where I’ll be spending the rest of my life (or just the first chapter).  I want to know who I will be spending it with.  I want to have the wrap around porch where I can sit with my friends and watch our kids play.  I don’t want this – I want that.
Then a line from the Shauna Niequist book I was reading at the time rang through my ears, “Don’t try to fast forward yourself into a future you haven’t yet earned.”  (From Bittersweet).
I didn’t know then that that neighborhood would be one I would drive through several times a week once I received my first call.  That neighborhood would be one I would take prayer walks in with our kids on our All Church Retreat.  That neighborhood would be canvased by me, alongside our leadership team and staff.
That moment floods back to me a lot.  When I see someone or some situation that I wish I had in my life, Shauna’s words continue to ring true in my ears.  It reminds me that I still have a great life to live right here right now.  All that stuff awaits me in the future – maybe, who knows?  I know there are things in life that I want to have, that I want to experience.  And I know that my God loves me and wants to give me the desires of my heart – in his way, in his timing.
I know someone who says that when we’re waiting it’s because God still has something left to teach us.  The immature person in me wants to tell God I’ve learned enough – I’m ready for my hearts’ desires.  But the mature person in me tells me that there are mountains of lessons to learn before I’m fully ready for that next step.  I’m still in process, as hard as it is to admit – it’s true.
Jesus tells us not to worry in the Sermon on the Mount (See Matthew 6).  He tells us to “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, live righteously and he will give you everything you need.  Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Some days I need to repeat this to myself multiple times.  Some days I live it out without reminders.  And plenty of days fall in between the two extremes.  I just continuously remind myself that in a world where I’m told my worth is determined by whether or not I have a ring on that finger and kids in tow, those messages are not from God.  That is a future that I have not yet earned.  For now, I will seek the Kingdom of God above all else, try my hardest to live righteously and trust in the fact that He will give me what I need, when I need it.

nobody loves me quite like you love me

A few posts ago I wrote about a writing contest that I entered over at Hello Giggles.  It was a writing contest call “Tales from a Bestie” and I wrote a piece on my former Roomsmate and how we met.  It felt good to right it, to reflect on our first weeks and months of friendship.
I was not, however, chosen as one of the finalists.  Although I read the posts that were chosen and they were seriously good!
I did, however, get an e-mail back from them asking me to pitch some ideas for the website.  They said they liked my voice and thought I had an interesting point of view.  Which was cool to hear since I tend to think my point of view isn’t all that special.  But maybe because I see it everyday.
I’ve been trying to put myself out there more, in the writing world.  I’m trying new things and making myself put my ideas out there.  But it’s hard, friends.  It’s hard to look at the world around me and think so many thoughts but then to write them down in a way that others would be interested/challenged/whatever.  But I want to keep trying, so we’ll see.
I have other writing news that I’ll be sharing in the next couple of days, but for now, here’s the piece I wrote on the Rooms, for your reading enjoyment.

Relationships are full of moments.  Significant ones that change everything like a cannonball into the deep end and insignificant ones like a drop into an ocean.  Most of them go unnoticed in the real world.  There aren’t any orchestras following us around to swell and crash when something is happening that we should take notice of, like in the movies.
Imagine with me for a moment – picture a grad school orientation in a small room full of chairs and a podium, the walls lined with coffee, tea and assorted pastries.  It’s late August in Chicago which means you could cut the humidity with a knife, every window in the room is open but it doesn’t help the stale summer air circulate.   As I walk in, I instantly feel the social pressure of the situation.  A room full of mostly twenty somethings all wearing name tags and mingling.  Everyone is subtly eyeing everyone else – sizing each other up if we’re all being honest here.  I look around and across the room I spot a girl my age but much more put together.  She’s chatting with a group, laughing periodically and I feel a pull toward her.  I immediately know that this girl and I are going to have a story.  Either we are going to come out of this program as best friends or we are not going to get along.  Later when it’s time to break into groups, I end up in her group, where I learn her name – Hilary.
The next day there is a breakfast for the whole school and the professors.  I end up sitting with Hilary again and at the end of the introductions and announcements over eggs and coffee, I decide to through out an offer – “Wanna walk to get coffee before whatever’s next?”
“Sure, can we stop at my apartment first?”  To which I respond “Sure.”  And that was it.  The moment we became friends.  I’d later come to find out that Hilary hated coffee – everything about it.  So her agreeing to go with me was a bit of an anomaly.
Fast forward two months, Hilary comes over and tells me we need to talk.  We go into my room, close the door and she is grinning from ear to ear.  We had been petitioning our campus housing to let her move into the third bedroom of my apartment.  We had finally gotten a yes and we celebrated the moment we became roommates.
In a lot of ways, Hil and I could not be more different.  She is a pastor’s kid who moved from the south to the west coast before coming to Chicago.  I didn’t become a Christian until High School, moved from the east coast to Colorado before moving to Chicago.  She is up to date on fashion and trends while always being perfectly accessorized and before we moved in together I couldn’t even paint my nails efficiently.  She is a pop music queen and I have a tendency to be a bit more indie inspired.  She loves movies with car chases and lots of action where I could watch chick flicks everyday and never get bored.
But at the same time, we always found common ground in the strangest places.  We both knew all the words to every song on Robyn’s 1995 release Robyn is Here.  We both loved to dance it out when stressed.  Neither of us were morning people and need caffeine before we can even think about talking to each other.  We’re both into craft beer and love to find pubs or neighborhood bars to frequent.  She’s a planner and I’m a follower of plans.  We just tend to fit together in the oddest of ways.
There was this one moment that seems to sum up our interactions – we were driving home from church in my car.  As we listened to music and talked through what homework we needed to do that day I asked her to remind me to do something when we got home.  She pulled out her phone and added a reminder to remind me.  I laughed and said, “One of my favorite things about you is that you set reminders to help me remember stuff.”  And she looked at me in disbelief and said, “That’s one of your favorite things about me?”
But the truth of the matter is that yes, in that moment I realized that she was the type of friend who went above and beyond to help her friends.  This was just a small example of it.  She was constantly helping me become a better person, a better friend, a better pastor.  It was a moment when I realized just exactly how much I appreciated her in my life.  That mundane moment that really didn’t mean a lot was the moment when I realized she was the best kind of friend, one who cares deeply about you – not because what you could do for her but because she loved you.
I’ve heard that it’s hard to live with your friends but once again, Hilary and I were an anomaly.  Although I am positive we often got on each others nerves, we also had no qualms about just coming out and saying what was annoying us.  It’s not that we didn’t fight, it’s that we fought out of a place of mutual respect and aimed for compromise.  I remember a few tense conversations standing in our kitchen, each of us refusing to turn away until it was resolved.
One night in particular, I was in my room crying over some dumb guy.  We had been at a party and I came home early to wallow.  She stood in my doorway giving me that look that I knew meant she had something to say that I did not want to hear.  When I asked her opinion she gave it to me and I was right.  She essentially told me what I already knew – I was wasting my time on someone who could care less about me.  It was within that quiet moment that I realized she wasn’t ever going to sugar coat something that I needed to hear.  We didn’t need the sugar coating anymore – we were Besties – the fact that we loved each other unconditionally was all the coating we needed for the hard truths.
Our friendship has had hundreds of other moments.  Good moments – dinners out, birthdays celebrated, new crushes discovered.  Hard moments – hearing that she was moving away, new heartbreak, big life changes.  And all the in-between moments – runs to the store, car singing, texting about the latest bit of celebrity news.  Each of the moments are treasured.  She is one of the best people in my life and regardless of the fact that life has taken her to the west coast and kept me in the midwest, we continue to be the anomaly in each others’ lives.  She is one of the only people who can call me on my crap and keep me laughing while she does it.  She’s a beautiful friend and I hope we get a million more moments together.

my earth is somebody's ceiling

I had a friend ask me the other night what the ratio of men to women would be in my ordination class.  I thought that it would probably be about 70% men.  We then went around the table and talked about the various ratios of men to women in each field represented at the table.  Architecture, Marketing, Accounting, Computer Sciences, Ministry.
Some talked about the absence of women in their fields when they began schooling.  It was eye opening for me, the youngster at the table, to think of a time when women didn’t even number among graduates in some fields.
You see, I look at this 70-30% within my total ordination class and I still think, that’s pretty good.  I know if I only thought through brand new ordinands, that would be a much more equal number but we are also talking about those transferring their credentials from another denomination.  Generations before us when women being ordained was much less common.
I’m thankful for the denomination I serve in because of their affirmation of women in leadership – all levels of leadership – in the church.  But there are still churches in our midst that wouldn’t dream of hiring a female pastor, or have a female Chairperson, or even allow a female to read the Gospel in service.  Even when I struggle to find my voice in a still male dominated denomination, as I struggle to see myself reflected in our own leadership and at our own events, I think of other traditions that are far more conservative.
I met a woman recently who was called to ministry.  I could see it in her presence, but she is part of a tradition that has been determined in their decision on women in ministry.  She spoke of the pain of being told she couldn’t serve both verbally and through the actions of the church.  That the gifts that she felt the Spirit had given her would go unused in a lot of ways.  But she was faithful to her tradition.  She had grown up in this tradition and wasn’t willing to give up on it because of this one discrepancy.  One that I would see as a deal break but that she is willing to suffer for her faithfulness.
Her story blows my mind.  I lament at the heartbreak she feels but I also applaud her courage to not run but to stand firm.  Not causing a riot but slowly and patiently allowing God to work through her in this church.
With all the gender equality work that has been done in our country and with so much left to do, I applaud women who have worked hard to have rights in the workplace.  I applaud women who haven’t been afraid to be the “token” or the minority.  And I applaud women who are still fighting.  As much as I think there is still a glass ceiling, even in my own world, I realize that the earth I stand on is someone else’s glass ceiling too.