Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Home again

Why go there? It’s a question one comes to expect when doing mission trips. The same question must have crossed God’s mind as infant Jesus grew in Mary’s womb and adult Jesus went from early “success” (huge crowds) to final distress and the tomb. Imagine God in a more Grecian context, with divine buddies laughing at the holy folly of thinking that mess could be cleaned up, or puzzling internally, in our Hebrew formed fashion, over this strange compulsion to “save the world.” It’s that same apparently nonsensical pattern we follow when we give up vacation, pay the expense to travel, loose sleep, strain muscles, work on a shoestring budget, problem solve fixes contractors give up on. We go into the world’s failures. We are drawn into the heart of God. What good did the cross do? Is it just a reminder of human cruelty, of how hard we push away God’s love? What good does a week with untrained adolescent roofers, dry-wallers, and carpenters do? Isn’t it just spitting in the wind of the next hurricane, or the overwhelming poverty of a 3rd world country, or what rational people know those people out to do? Today’s Sojourner’s email (subscribe at sojomail@SoJo.net) carried a thought from Langston Hughes that I hadn’t heard before: When peoples care for you and cry for you, they can straighten out your soul. -from his short story "Last Whipping" What strikes me about this today, three days back, is the way our souls are cared for on our trips. When Lynn and Pat and their teams return form Zambia, their souls are polished and glowing. The Dulac team was immersed in the soul care of their homeowner, Johnnie’s prayers and faith stories. Doug and Jeff’s roofing crews received home-cooked soul food. Chuck’s dry-wallers received the gift of competence and confidence with a glimpse of a homeowner whose faith has carried his family through generations of travail. All of us were swept up in the glory of a home dedication where we workers were Ms Yolanda’s guests. We were cared for by those we went to take care of. It’s good to be home, whether in the melting hills of Maine, or the bunk houses of Louisiana, home in God’s heart. Dear God, we pray that You will make this house a home again, where Your love dwells. We pray that those who enter its doors will praise you. (Litany of dedication for Yolanda’s home)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

from your red-necked pastor

Greetings from your red-necked (and pink-armed) pastor, as well as the rest of the crews in Dulac and Slidell. Today was the turning point of the week. Mission trip Wednesdays are where we "hit the wall" and push through to renewed energy; when team turns into family and humor abounds. What a joy to discover there's not a whiner in the bunch! Today, while Jeff, Doug, and Chuck led their teams to conquer unfathomably angled multiple roofs and equally cockeyed dry-wall challenges, Susan Baker and I took off for the Bayou to check in with team 2. Under Eric's supervision, they had just completed a 2 1/2 day insulating project----undera house. Imagine seeing a beautiful flowing stream jumping with fish and overseen by cardinals, herons, egrets, and other regal water birds. Well, seeing it when you crawl out from under a house sitting on six high stacks of cinder blocks and regain mobility in your neck! The Dulac group is living in an Indian (Native American) community just down from "shrimpers row" and saw their first alligators up close and personal at 1:00 pm today. We have so many stories to share with you about what God is doing in these communities and what resources we are discovering in and among ourselves. Each night after dinner we spend a few minutes bringing scripture and Kents Hill Core Values together in conversation about what the day is teaching us. Today was also the turning point toward home: 4 days done, and just 4 to go. While we're not quite ready to reconcile ourselves to snow again (we assume you have a little left), you are all much in our hearts and prayers. We wish we could share this experience first hand with every one of you and pray that a mission trip is in your future. (And not just because you haven't really lived until you've eaten in Chez Nona for a week). We count on your prayers as well, for our safety, for us to take in the extraordinary witness to Christ we experience in our interactions here, and for the temporary community that forms between teams from Muncie, Indiana.....Debuque, Iowa......Missourri, Arkansas, Italy......where else do strangers offer to do each other's dishes? Please pray also for the situation in Northern Ireland where people are standing up to say "enough," no more violence. ....for Peter and Lisa DeWolfe who are working in a clinic in Bethlehem for the next few weeks. ....For the increasing stress on those who wonder about job stability, or what their next one will be. For the Joy of having a faith community to see us through all times, and for the Holy Spirit to inspire and direct us. In Joy, Karen

Thursday, March 5, 2009

John's Cross View

Lenten conversation #1 Mark 1: 9-15 is the the Gospel of Mark's version of Jesus' baptism. For years I've heard, and made, comments wondering about Jesus' experience hearing himself called God's beloved son. Sometimes we imagine what the bystanders may have seen or heard or thought. But this year I find myself wondering what that might day have been like for John, the baptizer. Ask God to accompany you in your reading and reflection. Read Mark 1: 9-15 through slowly. Hint: Its best read aloud. Imagine what the day might have been like, how the water felt, warm, chilly, still, moving.... Who is around? What sounds do you hear? Read Mark 1: 9-15 slowly again. Imagine that you are John. What are you doing in the water? What do you see? What do you feel and think as Jesus approaches? ...as Jesus stands in front of you? ...as you speak? ...as you hear God's word? ...as you watch Jesus return to the shore? Read the passage a third time. What difference does this make in your life? Who have you baptized? Why did God choose you for that work? What prayer do you have for Jesus, headed for the work that leads him to the cross? Spend a few minutes in prayer asking God how you are meant to serve and witness to the beloved today. Then post your comments on John's experience using the comment icon below.

Mid Week Meander-Seconds

I'm being more diligent with my seconds this winter: ...eliminating second helpings unless it's salad, ...taking care of my Christmas amaryllis so that it will, hopefully, bloom again, ...tossing table scraps into the worm farm. An obituary in Sunday's New York TImes reminded me of how important "seconds" are in leadership. In a culture that cultivates "first," seconds are actually the people who get most of the work done, responding to vision put out there by more visible leaders. The article was about a woman I'd never heard of before, though her father was one of the most famous world leaders of his day. HER name was Rhena Schweitzer Miller. Rhena Sweitzer Miller was the director of the hospital her parents opened in a chicken coop in Gabon's rain forest; the wife of a skilled heart specialist, and the mother of three. IN the 1960s, she opened her home to Ibo children when there was no longer room for them in the overflowing hospital. She told the New York Times that the children had to sleep two to each bed, but "They have beautiful foam mattresses from the United States, and a staff member has been painting children's drawings on the cots." HIstory holds onto names of the "firsts," but much of God's kingdom work is down by "seconds," not second in quality or potential, but second because they are behind the scenes. And in fact, Jesus paid special attention to the need for those who would lead to put themselves "behind," in line. Many of the voices worth attending to in Lent's scripture work behind the scenes where their names may never be on the front page. But Christ knows them and knows their worth. (BTW, Do you know who Rhena's father was? post your comment!) Keeping in Touch... In order to be wise stewards of the congregation's financial resources, your Finance team now makes property and health insurance as well as pension payments automatically. This saves us over $2,000 a year, but also requires fiscal discipline to have the money in checking for withdrawal each month. In the winter, when energy costs are highest, it is difficult to do this and make payroll. Please help us by keeping as current as you can with your contributions to the "household account," our operating budget. If you find your financial situation changing, please don't be shy about letting Melissa Emerson (Finance Secretary) or Karen Munson know. Pennies matter in small church planning! Come be blessed in worship this week by the ministry of Rev. Russ Peppe, and by Peter's view of the cross. Diane Folks will host a traditional Fellowship Time this week. Please keep in prayer: *The UMVIM teams to Dulac and Slidell, LA as we travel and begin our work. *Mill workers affected by shut downs this week. *The United Methodist movement's effort to minister in the current economic climate, with those enlivened by Christ, and to those who need it most. *All seeking a new vision of community. In the Joy of Serving Christ with You, Rev. M