Tag Archive | transformation

PIF Thoughts (in progress) #5

I believe in one God…

who is alive and at work in the world in every time and place;

who eternally exists in three persons: with unity in diversity, with intimate community, with self- giving love.

I believe in the sovereignty, goodness, faithfulness, love and grace of the Triune God.

I believe in God, the “Abba”…

who is our loving parent and the creator of the universe;

who called the world into being by the Word and inspired us to life by the Spirit;

who claimed Jesus as “Beloved” at his baptism and transfiguration;

who cares for humankind like a hen tends to her chicks, like a nursing mother to her child.

I believe in God the Son…

who is Jesus Christ, Word and Wisdom of God, the kenotic incarnation of God;

who was conceived of God the Spirit and born into flesh by a woman;

who is eternally divine and took on the particularity of the finite world;

who lived a life of prayer;

who restored individuals to wholeness;

who preached a message of justice and reconciliation;

who, through obedience to God and faithfulness to humankind, reconciles us to God;

who is resurrected by God through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I believe in God the Spirit… 

who moved over the waters and is the breath of life for God’s creation;

who inspired the words of the prophets and prays in us with sighs too deep for words;

who effected the conception and the resurrection of Jesus;

who is the agent in justification and sanctification;

who beckons the hearts of God’s children to relationship and vocation.

I believe in one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church…

which seeks to be faithful in practice and prophetic in voice in the example of its head and Lord: Jesus Christ;

which is the gift of God and is the covenant community of the people of God;

which praises God with word, song, prayer and acts of justice and compassion.

I believe that all human beings…

are completely beloved, having their origin in the will of God;

are created in God’s image: intended to be unified in diversity, to have intimate community, to share self-giving love;

are completely broken and live in a broken world;

are too often devoted to that which is created instead of the Creator;

are redeemed through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

I believe that Scripture…

should be seriously and reverently exegeted;

contains the gospel of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ;

has been faithfully interpreted by the tradition in its creeds and confessions;

chronicles the story of God’s action with and faithfulness to God’s covenant people;

is the authoritative witness to the definitive revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

I believe that the Christian life…

begins with opening our arms, turning our face upwards and receiving God’s grace as it rains down upon us;

is living in communion with Jesus Christ as a grateful response to God’s grace;

is being part of the covenant community of the people of God;

is doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with God.

 

NOTE: I’m working on updating my Personal Information Form (or PIF), which is the standardized form that Presbyterian Church (USA) pastors fill out when they are looking for new ministry positions. As I do so, I am reading and writing a lot of things about the church, ministry, and myself. Since not all of these things will eventually wind up in the final version of my PIF, I thought I’d share some of it here. Thanks for letting me indulge.

Meg

PIF Thoughts (in progress) #4

In ministry with every age group, every demographic, I’m struck by the frequency with which I encounter people who don’t know who they are. I’m not speaking of people who have amnesia; I am referring to those who have never learned or who have forgotten (perhaps through the difficult or tragic circumstances of their lives) that they are the beloved children of a gracious God.

Several years ago, the book “The Shack” caused quite a stir by its sudden and almost urgent popularity, but I was not surprised. The millions of readers who kept this book on the New York Times bestseller list testify to the fact that we are starving for the understanding that God loves us, that God comes to us, that God does not give up on us.

God loves us.
God comes to us.
God does not give up on us.
In my estimation, that is the message of the Gospel.

Certainly, my task as a Minister of Word and Sacrament is to provide opportunities for the community I serve to express their love for God and neighbor in meaningful and tangible ways. But in a culture where we‘re too often measured by what we own, what we drive or how we look, I feel strongly that preaching the gospel also means building up communities of compassion and challenging one another to remember who we are: beloved, redeemed, cherished.

NOTE: I’m working on updating my Personal Information Form (or PIF), which is the standardized form that Presbyterian Church (USA) pastors fill out when they are looking for new ministry positions. As I do so, I am reading and writing a lot of things about the church, ministry, and myself. Since not all of these things will eventually wind up in the final version of my PIF, I thought I’d share some of it here. Thanks for letting me indulge.

Meg

PIF Thoughts (in progress) #3

The stories of our faith remind us that God covenanted with a community; that we come before God as a community; that the sins, burdens and joys of any individual are borne by the whole community; and that the life-giving, liberating work of the Holy Spirit and the prophetic voice of the Wisdom of God come through the collective voice of the community.

Therefore, I choose to lead by facilitating the discernment of the community. This style is something of a “grassroots” style of leadership and consists of forming a worshipful space where all voices are included, where differences are valued and where the community may draw together around a common purpose to envision possibilities. The tasks of the leader are then to: listen, gather information, empower the group, and keep the group true to its mission. As the group begins to embody its vision, the leader both supervises and serves: setting appropriate boundaries, offering constructive criticism, gently honoring tradition, persistently supporting creativity.

While this style of leadership is a temperate and caring style, the leader must still be willing and able (when necessary) to stand up and give definite answers, share distinct opinions, or be directive in leadership. In such a leadership style, I believe it is vital to also lead by my own example: diligent self-care, active prayer life, enthusiastic response to God’s call, and willingness to get out of my comfort zone in order to meet challenges.

 

NOTE: I’m working on updating my Personal Information Form (or PIF), which is the standardized form that Presbyterian Church (USA) pastors fill out when they are looking for new ministry positions. As I do so, I am reading and writing a lot of things about the church, ministry, and myself. Since not all of these things will eventually wind up in the final version of my PIF, I thought I’d share some of it here. Thanks for letting me indulge.

Meg

PIF Thoughts (in progress) #1

In recent years, the ministries with which I have been affiliated (including my present call) have allowed me the great privilege of ministering to people in transition. Whether those people have been college or seminary students, homeless or hospitalized persons, a congregation or a camp board that is trying to shift its focus, in accompanying them on their journey I have been reminded regularly that God is with us in the wilderness (that place of transition between Egypt and the Promised Land and that the wilderness is indeed a sacred space.

In times of transition, we often prefer to put our energies toward projects and plans that will get us into the Promised Land as quickly as possible instead of taking the time to become aware of the grace that God pours out upon us in the uncomfortable wilderness. However, the stories of Israel in the wilderness teach us not only that God is with us in these transitions, but also that the wilderness is an important time in the life of the community.

It has been my privilege to be present with communities in these most holy times and to nurture the community’s clearer vision, not only of the future but also of the good work that God is doing in them every day. To these communities in transition, the good news is this: though we may feel like we are wandering in a barren land, God is most surely at work and we are invited to see God at work where we (perhaps) least expect it.

NOTE: I’m working on updating my Personal Information Form (or PIF), which is the standardized form that Presbyterian Church (USA) pastors fill out when they are looking for new ministry positions. As I do so, I am reading and writing a lot of things about the church, ministry, and myself. Since not all of these things will eventually wind up in the final version of my PIF, I thought I’d share some of it here. Thanks for letting me indulge.

Meg

High Water Marks

Just outside of town, the empty fields are ringed with trees that have been marked. You can see it even at a distance: a perfectly horizontal line marking every tree for miles.

It’s the high-water mark.

Above the line, foliage is green and growing. Below the line both bark and treeless branches are covered with a grayish-brown film like the haze left on the sides of a bathtub with a too-slow drain.

In a few days or weeks or months, the highwater mark will have faded. While images of the flood will remain lodged in this community’s living memory for quite some time, soon we will no longer be able to point and say, “The water got clear up to here!”

Every time I drive past these two-tone trees, I consider the high-water marks of life: the milestones or transitions or moments that marked both the beginning and the end.

Twenty years ago this month, I was graduating high school: a high-water mark, too be sure. In the fall, my twenty-year class reunion will be held – strangely enough – on the day of the my 38th birthday. There’s some strange irony in that.

In honor of life’s high-water marks, here is a quote from Scott Simon (of NPR). It reminds me that not all of life’s transitions can be marked by a cap and gown; not all of our beginnings /endings are moments for pomp and circumstance.

“Let life change you. You’ve worked hard and learned a lot. But if you live well, you’re going to know love, loss, confusion and failure—life’s truest teachers. Real life can shatter certainties like a delicate cup in a tornado. Keep learning. Be inconsistent. Don’t have a rich, full life only to wind up at 40 with the same convictions you had when you were 20. Let life in.” (Scott Simon on NPR)

Beyond “cheap” and “easy”

When I first bought my house (which is a fixer-upper), someone told me the golden rule of hiring remodeling help:

There are only three criteria that count for any kind of service professionals (or amateurs, for that matter): good, fast, and cheap. You will never find anyone who meets all three categories. The best you can hope for is 2 out of 3. Which two, is up to you.

That has, so far, proven true.

The electricians were wonderful to work with, did quality work and were reasonably priced.

The roofers were very quick at their work … but my roof is still leaking.

I recently organized a Lenten study on food ethics for the congregation I serve. As part of my research, I listened to a lecture by Eric Schlosser (author of Fast Food Nation) who pointed out that the selling point of the fast food industry is that they are fast, cheap and easy.

I occurs to me, in both cases, that fast and cheap are thought to be desirable characteristics in everything from hamburgers to handymen.

I don’t have more hours in the day than anyone else, and I have less money at my disposal than many … and so I am often seduced by the wiles of the quick and inexpensive.

But this is the season that challenges us to consider that, perhaps, we were not made to embrace the easiest, fastest or least expensive. We were made for so much more.

The staggering beauty of trees in bloom, the grandeur of fields of purple, the lushness of soft, moist grass, the majesty and ferocity of thunderstorms … nature in springtime forces us to concede that God does not settle for quick and cheap.

I suspect that God doesn’t expects us to settle for that either. What if, instead of fast and cheap, we sought to surround ourselves with things of another quality:

Beautiful
Interesting
Rare
Mysterious
Delicious
Melodic
Abundant
Important

My grandfather (who passed away before I was born and, of whom, I only know the legends of family) was famous for often saying: “It only costs a dollar more to go first class.”

Spring (and, of course, Easter) challenge us to a “first class” way of thinking, challenging us to embrace what is Beautiful, Interesting, Rare, Mysterious, Delicious, Melodic, Abundant, Important.

This Easter, may the risen Christ transform our lives … and our choices.

Trade Ya’

In a phone call yesterday, a friend shared some exciting news: he has decided to keep chickens.

His suggestion – since he knows of my excitement about the garden I am planting this year – was to suggest trading some of the eggs from his chickens for some of my tomatoes.

(I’m flattered by his confidence in my ability to actually keep a tomato plant alive long enough for it to produce a tomato!)

My response was: “This is country living at its best!”

As I give the matter more thought, though, I am forced to retract that statement.

This desire to trade isn’t a trait born or developed only by folks who inhabit rural areas. I’m convinced that it’s a trait that is born in each of us.

Don’t believe me? Sit down at lunch with some elementary-age students and watch the mealtime bartering.

Need more proof? Check out a flea market sometime.

Human beings seem to have an innate need to pass on the things they no longer want or need, or the things which they have in abundance.

The great number of flea markets, estate sales, food swaps, thrift stores and consignment shops around the country seem to indicate that, in addition to the need to pass on, we also have inherited a willingness to receive those items that have been offered.

I suspect this is our survival instinct showing itself. Somewhere deep inside us, our cells remember (even if our conscious minds do not) that we were made to live symbiotically.

In modern America (although, probably not limited to here), it seems that too often, symbiosis is disdained in favor of individualism, living simply and interdependently is dismissed in favor of hoarding and stockpiling, and talking heads seem to suggest that the attempt to live more cooperatively is somehow insidious, that it somehow undermines the “American spirit”.

But those attitudes cannot negate the fact that, whether we accept it or not, we live in a web of connectedness. Embracing that web leads to richer fuller lives for all of us, while attempting to disengage from the web diminishes our common life.

But it’s not easy. Living in such a way requires that we live honestly, offering up both our gifts and our needs to the larger community.

Sometimes, I’m not sure which is more difficult: claiming the knowledge of our own gifts so that we might offer them up without hesitation, or admitting to our need or weakness, so that others might have the opportunity to support and sustain us.

Either offering requires courage. And there are days that I just don’t have it.

But I think I can at least start with a tomato.

 

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