We have a rule in our house: always wash the dishes before we leave on vacation. This may seem ordinary enough, I’m sure many of you may do the same thing. But for me, the mere act of getting out the door on time is difficult enough—you can’t imagine how tempting it is to say, “leave it, just leave it. We will be back soon enough.” But the person who leaves the house is never the person who returns to it. We become a new person because of the journey and nobody wants to come back and clean up someone else’s mess.
Fifty years ago the world watched as one of the greatest victories of the Civil Rights movement unfolded on the stage of Selma, Alabama. March 1965 was the Super Bowl of the Civil Rights Movement. The stakes were high—the right for unencumbered voting for African American voters was on the line in this growing city. Almost no African Americans were able to register to vote given they had to undergo literacy tests, civil tests, poll taxes, as well as having others vouch for them. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of that great victory that culminated in the march from Selma to the Statehouse in Montgomery and compelled President Johnson to issue and sign the Voter Rights Act.
As the season of spring erupts all around me in the blooming tulips and blossoming trees, I am hearing about people starting new adventures as well. Several of my pastor friends are starting new congregations, and others are teaching historic churches how to create new life. I have friends who are beginning new jobs after long periods of unemployment, and others who are moving into new companies with new responsibilities of leadership. Each of us at some point will enter into a new environment and begin the work of creating a community within. Whether we are involved in new church starts, new jobs, or starting a new venture, I have been thinking about the questions, “How do we create a new community?” and “What makes a community sustainable?”
An experiment in creating a community: a tropical fish tank
Our daughter won a goldfish at a county fair two years ago and remarkably it was still alive at Christmas. As her parents we decided that she was mature enough to have a tropical tank as her Christmas present. For five months now my daughter and I have been hard at work creating a tropical fish tank of community fish. In a very tangible way this experiment in creating a tropical tank has my daughter and I discussing how to start a community, what makes up a good community, and how it can sustain itself. Continue reading “Creating New Communities: Spring flowers, tropical fish tanks, and new church starts.”→
These past two weeks I have been battling bronchitis.
One morning when I was very sick I woke up with no voice. I had but a whisper to talk, and that too was strained. The morning routine with our 13 year old and 11 year old is an intense schedule. They each have to move through showers, breakfast, backpacks, packed lunches, and chores all in the space of 1 hour. The last 10 minutes are especially rushed with me yelling, “don’t forget your lunch!” and “hurry up you’ll miss the bus!” or “practice piano before breakfast.” Suddenly with no voice and no energy the “mom voice” did not exist and my children were on their own. Fortunately they made it to school on time with all their stuff in tow.
The urgency of needing my voice back was compounded by the fact I had to teach a class on the book of Nehemiah that evening. I was trying to imagine teaching the class without talking much. It wasn’t going to work.I realized that without my voice, I had no profession. No voice meant no ministry.
For a brief moment I realized how dependent I was on my voice. Without a voice pastors cannot provide counseling, we cannot teach, we certainly cannot preach. Our work is based on the art of communication and building relationships.
Fortunately, my friend Swati came by and took me to the clinic where they gave me a breathing treatment and diagnosed me with bronchitis. Within 5 minutes my voice returned. I had thought that my voice was gone, but what was actually gone was my breath.
In Hebrew the word for “breath” ruah is the same word for “Spirit” (to learn more click here). It is the Spirit of God who dwells within us that is found within our own breath. We breathe in the breath of life and the Spirit of our Creator with each breath. When our breath leaves us at the time of death, then we say that our Spirit is gone. While I still could breathe, I had not the strength to speak. My voice was weak because the breath flowing through me was not strong enough to speak. My air pathways were constricted—too tight for the ruah to flow. Thus, my spiritual power as I understood it was certainly weakened.
Every year in our home the advent of the Christmas season begins with a war. It is an epic battle between our daughter and son. My husband brings up the holiday decoration boxes from the crawl space and the kids rush to find the box with the nutcrackers. Over the years “Santa” has brought the children nutcrackers of all sorts–girls and boys alike. We have ballerinas, angels, warriors, elves, firemen, and bakers to name a few. Additionally I have little nutcracker ornaments as well. The kids open all the ornaments and pull out the giant nutcrackers and set up the battlefield with the large nutcrackers as generals in the back and the small ones as their army. Play by play, nutcrackers lie dead on the floor until the children declare the game over or I get fed up and ask them to clean up the battlefield so we can sweep the floor. Continue reading “Holiday Blues, Christmas Wars, and Finding Peace Within”→
As we watch the Occupy movements around the US in Oakland, Chicago, NY and beyond take shape and morph into various complaints about the state of our economy, I cannot help but think about my own economics. The origins of the word, “economic” means to manage one’s household. The larger economy has affected my own household economics. Eight months ago my ministry position was eliminated due to a budget shortfall, thus I launched in a new “Search and Call process” to find my next congregation. Churches move very slowly. For example, I applied for a position as soon as it opened in May. I made it to the final round when they called another candidate in October–six months of waiting for me (and that was fast for a church!). After submitting my “resume” to many positions, receiving multiple phone interviews and coming very close to landing a new ministry position, I have learned the hard way how my situation is no different than many people who have been in search of work longer than I.