February 25, 2015

The Journey Begins

Ash Wed Parker      Many of you know, but some may not, last Wednesday began the season of Lent. This season in the church calendar is meant for a time of reflection, repentance and turning back from bad habits and sinful thoughts, words and deeds. Think of it as a 40-day spiritual discipline before Easter. The season actually 46 days, but we do not count Sunday as a day; Sunday’s are meant to be mini Easters. In most mainline Protestant and Catholic churches, the practice of participating in Lent is held up as the most significant time of the church year. This is a time devoted to journeying with Jesus to the Cross.

On Ash Wednesday, I began my day at Panera participating in, “Ashes to Go.” Pastor Patrick Propst, of Faith Community Church in Noblesville, and I sat at a table and invited people to sit, talk about the meaning of the season, and have ashes imposed on their forehead. People heard words of blessing including the phrase, “From ashes you came and from ashes you will return.”

It was a variety of people who showed up to be “ashed”, a few from Faith Community, a few from my church, Roots of Life Community, strangers, people we knew who went to other churches, children and adults. We also had great conversations with people who did not have their foreheads smudged. One lady, who I had been talking to all morning, when asked if she wanted ashes she shook her head and said, “Oh no, I’m Lutheran.” Well imagine that I am too! “You are?” she said, “I thought you were Catholic.”  I reminded her that Catholics are not ordaining women yet. Ashes are not just for Catholics, they are for anyone, anyone who wants to remember that they are created by God and will return to God. It is just an outward symbol of Gods care for us and gives us a firm start in new journey with God. We begin again and again don’t we?

Many people have asked me during this week why some people give up something they like during Lent. Giving up something that is not inherently good for you, like sugar, red meat, beer, Facebook, or being sarcastic (hard one), are often times chosen as a spiritual discipline through Lent. Some people add something good to their daily life like reading scripture everyday, exercising, doing a random act of kindness each day, writing a prayer journal, or photo journaling is one thing our church is doing. This addition of a thing or act becomes a discipline and moves our ordered lives into more space for God.

I hope you have a blessed Lenten season, and I hope that when you remember to make space for God, there is less space for you know who!

By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.”

February 25, 2015

Hospitality Starts Here

ThresholdWhere does hospitality begin? Hospitality is not just giving dinner parties, or organizing backyard cookouts, it is not just gift giving, random acts of kindness, or offering a cool drink on a hot day, or a hot drink on a cold day, it is much more than an action that we do for another person. Hospitality starts with a posture of openness. Do we allow ourselves to be truly open to other people? Much of the time we find ourselves scared of strangers and people who look or act differently than we do. The result? We do not let them get to know us; we put up walls, defenses, and standoffishness prevails. We live in fear, after all people, love to gossip, tell stories and try to make others look bad,

In order for us to be hospitable, we must recognize that people need to be able to feel safe to receive hospitality. Oddly enough, it starts with our own selves. This must feel like a strange concept being hospitable to our selves? It takes owning up to our own flaws, seeing our own warts and our unique personality that is flawed and sometimes broken complete with scars, bumps and bruises, imperfections that seem to be magnified when we a stumbling to make the best impressions.

We can find many scriptures that back up the call for hospitality, for instance:

“You shall not treat the stranger that sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:34),

 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  (Hebrews 13:2 )

“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:9)

More than the word hospitality, or the overt stories of our call to be welcoming people, Jesus shows us through his actions what it means to be hospitable every time he crosses a geographic, or social boundary. Jesus touches the unclean, Jesus talks to women, he goes to dinner with a tax collector, he breaks the law by doing these things 7 days a week, he encourages the children to come to him, Jesus encourages us ALL to come to him.

One of the underlying messages of the story of God is hospitality, welcoming the stranger. Since the day we were cast out of the garden we became strangers to God. The search is ongoing, and God welcomes us, open arms again and again. We are called to do the same.

Hospitality is a posture and a way of being; it is an action of love. We are called to love, not just opening the door but to cross the threshold of impropriety, and serve. We being by remember that we are also, strangers in a foreign land, and God always comes to us again and again, even when we are unaware.

February 3, 2015

Round Pegs vs. Square Pegs

Round pegMuch of my life, I have felt that I was a round peg put in a square hole.  I fit, but there are these corners that remain empty. One of my personality gifts is that I can insert myself into social situations where I can look like I belong, but in reality I do not fully “fit”.  Being the wife of a mayor has put me in dozens of positions that has given me opportunities to meet interesting people who are unlike me. For instance, engineers and accountants, I am not like them, they actually scare me just a little bit. They are heady, precise, organized and I am not like this at all. Another group where I do not fit completely is with people of high political office, governors, representatives, senators, congresswomen, I can talk with them, but I do not feel equal to them. There are other groups where I have to “fake it,” put on a smile, talk about the weather, or the Colts, or any number of easy topics. Another place where I have often felt like I do not fit in is when a group of pastors meet, because often I am the only female, a round peg in the square hole, I fit but there seems to be something amiss.

However, I have come to the conclusion that it is easier and more fun to be a round peg in a square hole than the opposite. At least I can fit in and learn something from my square peg friends (no, I’m not calling you a square). These examples are my own feelings and my own insecurities.

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a Christian conference pertaining to the state of the Church in the 21st century. The conference was called Christianity 21. There were 21 speakers, some were pastors and theologians, and others were psychologists, writers, and poets. They each were given the opportunity to talk about one big idea that the church needs to pay attention in the coming years or face a certain death. The words I heard were hospitality, communal connectivity, connections, and charity vs. justice, equality of sexuality, white privilege, broken systems and love.

Maybe I sound corny, but at this conference there were a whole bunch of people who were round pegs in square holes. The difference was that they loved and accepted their “type”.  It seems that they needed their vacant corners for wiggle room, for the Holy Spirit, for the questioning and the doubts.

I found my round peg people, gathered in Phoenix, and while they did not look like me, they were mostly younger and certainly more “hip” looking. They talked about subjects that connected with me in my heart and soul. They talked about doubt and faith and how they go together. About two hundred and fifty people attended this conference. The enthusiasm of the round peg people for Jesus, community and church is hopeful and optimistic. I went away feeling like the state of the church is in good hands. I am also going to be relishing the fact that round shaped people have the best of both worlds, fitting in, yet being open to new ideas, and the mystery of God.