Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On Call



Dori and I in the snow. I'm dressed for our [scrubs] message series.

I was recently at our pediatrician's office and we started talking shop. I told her all about my recent mission trip and how good it was and she talked about being on call. She wondered how pastors ever really got a break from their job. In her line of work she has on call days where people can call her on the weekend or at night, but for the most part pastors are always on call.

Senior pastors have it the worst as most people tend to think that their emergency is the most important and can only therefore be handled by the man or woman in charge. And while that might be true, pastors still do have family and lives that they treasure even though they want to help you and heal your spiritual side.

It really is a catch 22 for us to say "no." We talk all the time about how we are called by God to be set apart for this type of ministry but at the same time we cannot and should not do everything. We are also called to be husbands and wives, fathers or mothers, friend and family member. And while things might be okay in the family right now and not in your family right now, if we continue to ignore our family for the emergencies of the world then we cease to have a family to come home to.

The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing and that I can do as I try to live my life for God's glory. But please know that just because your pastor(s) is called by God and is on call to pray and minister to you, that does not mean he or she is at your beck and call.

To me being on call means being at my best spiritually so that I may give my best spiritual attention to others. And when I find the right balance of job, family, health, meditation and fun, I can do just that.

Until Everyone Hears,

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Coming Home



One of the best and worst things about the end of a trip is coming home. I think I violated many traffic laws trying to get back to my family as soon as possible after our mission trip. But even with the quick trip back we still had fun on the end of the journey. I learned more about my traveling companions like Cindy's rough start to life and her interesting college stories as well as Karen's ability to sleep sitting up without drooling or snoring (something I have yet to master).

When I got home there was no big party or fanfare. Yes the kids were excited to see me (for at least two seconds), but basically not a whole lot had changed with them over the past week. I on the other hand had had a great spiritual awakening so it was a bit of a let down to get just a hug and then have them turn back to Sponge Bob and the computer.

Ms. B has been out of her home for four years and I suspect that when she finally gets back in it will be good and bad all at once. She's not the same person she was before the hurricane and won't be even when she gets back into her home. She's now seen many angels and been one herself to many people. She'll be happy to have a new home that is safe and secure but will probably still remember the sadness of loosing something so close to her.

I think that's why we fear death at times. We know that the afterlife is filled with abundance and something far better than what we have here but we know that we'll be leaving something that we've grown to love whether that be people, pets, a career, a home, etc.

I hope that you see homecomings as bittersweet because then you know you've enjoyed your time away and also long to come back.

Until Everyone Hears,

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Neighbors



The greatest commandment is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. (NIDKV new int'l dr-k version)

I've met some new neighbors this week. Some are from Sixes UMC in Canton, GA and some are from Centenary UMC in New Bern, NC. Others are Ms B and her daughter C. I also went to another work site today and met P. P is four years old. She told me she was from Disney World; she has three mommies, and is going to live in the house we were building (along with her grandmother and cousin). She also thought that Eric was superman and that Karen should stop napping in the church van. P has never known life without someone helping to rebuild her grandmother's house in her back yard.

I've also gotten to know my Covenant group a LOT better this week. I know that Bert was uncomfortable that I fed him a hush puppy (even though he feeds people Communion monthly) but that he's getting over his food sharing phobia. I know that even though Keith's wife is nurse and childbirth coach, he doesn't want any descriptions or discussions of that topic. I know that Karen pretends to be Rosa but really is Ms. Daisy. And I confirmed that Joey still "ain't right" and will never be so.

The list of interesting facts about these pastors goes on and on but we did decide (like all good mission trips should) that "what happens in Mississippi, stays in Mississippi". (except for all the good/hard work we did on our sites)

I didn't love these people last week. At least not the way I love them now. Some of them I didn't know and I'm not sure I would have loved them had I met them elsewhere but its too late now. I love them all. I'm doing what Jesus commanded me to do. I'm loving my neighbor. And it seems to me that I've discovered the best way to do that: Spend time together and laugh with each other. Life's short. Laughter makes it better.

I haven't laughed so much on a church trip since I was a youth myself. I've come close on other trips with youth groups but I've always had responsibilities on those trips that distracted me from being able to laugh like I didn't care if I snorted, cried or passed gas while doing it.

Thanks for such a great trip. Tomorrow Cindy, Karen and I head home. I'll let you know where we decide to stop for our field trip.

Until Everyone Hears,

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Journey


"Where will you be when you get where you're going?" - Jerry Clower

I've been on a journey for a long time. A spiritual journey. At times I know every step and direction that I'm going to take. At other times I only know the final destination and how I get there is the surprise.

The mission trip this week will end up being a large part of my journey. I'm having a hard time putting into words the peace that I am feeling today due to God's affirmation of my calling, the connection I'm feeling to my fellow pastors, and the sense of Christian community that I haven't felt for a long time.

For the past few years, I've been anxious to reach the final stage of ordination in the United Methodist Church but I realized this week that I've needed all these years as part of my journey to grow, learn, and live.

I truly feel that I was created "for such a time as this".

I'm on a spiritual high right now. I know I'll hit reality again next week but there will be more mission trips in my future and I'm inviting those reading to join me. Let me know if you're up to it.

Until Everyone Hears,

U

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Where I saw God today...



(what is left of "Ms. B's" barn)

"But he (Thomas) said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

John 20:25

One of the questions we ask at the end of each day on this mission trip is, "Where did I see God today?" Although there are many answers to this question as I saw God in many things, I'd like to share one in particular.

Our part of this mission is to help "Ms. B" with her home. It basically had the roof taken off during Hurricane Katrina and due to rain and flooding, suffered severe mold damage. The house had been reroofed, gutted and cleaned of all mold before we arrived and our job has been to insulate, hang sheet rock, and mud.

Monday I did insulation and mudding. Mudding is the art of hiding and filling gaps in the sheet rock left by studly men who like to beat the crap out of nails. It also includes taping the seams of the different pieces of sheet rock so that the walls and ceiling look like one long piece of wall instead of the many different puzzle pieces that we put together.

My Monday mudding didn't go so well. (I am after all a mudding virgin.) I did okay covering the nails but my seams seemed to bubble a bit and had to be re-done.

Today was a different story. I started by sanding the dried mud from yesterday. The light was really low in the house due to cloud cover so I had to feel the wall with my hand in order to see what more needed to be done. I also found that I could mud the new sheet rock easier and better by getting my hands dirty and feeling the seems with my hands.

I immediately thought of Thomas and how he must have felt when he put his fingers in the holes of Jesus' hands. There's something about feeling what you have done and not just hearing or seing that increases our faith. Because Thomas felt Jesus' hands he belived in the resurrection. Because I could feel the wall, I knew what I had to do.

Before this trip I saw pictures of Katrina's devistation and I saw homes as I drove through New Orleans and Mississippi but until I felt "Ms. B's" pain and suffering it wasn't personal to me.

I now have faith in doing something I couldn't before and I have faith that fixing this house will bring healing. Oh and the 9mm story? Well "Ms. B" has one son that is good-for-nothing and will occasionally try to come onto her property to steal from her. She warned us about this on the first day by saying, "Don't you worry. I just get my 9mm and start shooting. It always runs him off."

I'm not going to worry about "Ms. B." Nor am I going to tick her off.

Until Everyone Hears,

Monday, March 9, 2009

"Oh that is so wrong"


One of the best parts of taking a trip with other people are the inside jokes that seem to happen along the way. Our mission trip started yesterday and by the time we reached our destination 6.5 hours later, we already had several inside jokes that could be summed up in pithy little sayings. Here are just a few (and their meanings):

1) Adult Movies: Rev Cindy stayed at a non-church related retreat center a few weeks ago and picked up one of the brochures. She thought it was interesting that they had marriage retreats there. Upon reading further, she found that the couples stayed in private cabins and were allowed to borrow "adult movies" from the front desk to enhance the pleasure of their retreat. The funny part is that in my house we refer to an adult movie as anything that isn't animated. It will give movie night a whole new meaning at our house.

2) "Karen must be in your car"/"Where is Karen sitting?"/Hank Williams Sr.: On the way down to Camp Love in MS, you have to pass through Montgomery, AL. I've passed through many times before and always thought about stopping at the Rosa Parks historical site. Since my passengers were agreeable to this, we decided that we had the perfect opportunity to find the site and take some pictures of history. When we got there, we went to the street that our directions told us to go to but all we saw was a historical marker for Hank Williams Sr. We did see the Rosa Parks library so we decided to park and walk around. As we approached the front of the library, we noticed that Rosa shared her historical marker with good ole Hank.
So as we are relaying this funny fact to another car in our group via cell phone, Rev Joe in the other car asks, "You have Karen with you don't you?" (Karen is African-American but not the reason we stopped) Rev. Cindy replies, "Yes, she's in the back seat of the van." We've been catching heck ever since about making Karen sit in the back.

3) "If it crawls or slithers, leave it alone.": Getting used to working in a different area can be challenging. For the pastors on this mission trip, it can be scary. We are used to working in offices and visiting people at their homes. And for most of us, we don't handle snakes, ants, or scorpions on a daily basis. So it was comforting that during the orientation session for our work site, one of the first things we learned is "if it crawls or slithers, leave it alone."

So far it has been very eventful, fulfilling, and fun! Today we insulated Ms. "B"'s home, hung sheet rock, and slapped some mud on the seams and nails. I leared a lot and am getting to know the others better. We are working with a crew from Sixes UMC in Canton and Centenary UMC from New Berg, NC.

Tune in next time when I'll explain, "I'll get my 9mm, and run him off."

Until Everyone Hears,

Dr. K

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"I'm on a mission from God."

I'm off tomorrow on a mission trip to Gulfport, MS. I have no real idea what I'm going to be doing there or who I'm doing it for. I don't know much about the people I'll be working with and I'm pretty sure the things they told me to pack won't fit in my mini-van much less a suit case.

For a plan-to-the-details person like me, this would normally be highly frustrating. But for some reason I'm so excited about leaving and really looking forward to this trip. Just a few weeks ago I had a bit of anxiety about leaving the family. I was almost willing to give up the path to ordination just to stay home. But that gave me even more anxiety. So I prayed and talked to people and listened to people.

And then it hit me. You know the scenes from the Blues Brothers'. "We're on a mission from God." And that's what I'm on. I'm on a mission trip next week to show people God's love but I'm also on a mission to do this daily. My family knows that. They are excited for me (in fact they mentioned eating sugar for dinner next week). Sometimes I just have to be reminded of it.

I'll post pictures and notes along the week as I can.

Pray for me and the group of pastors that I'm going with. I hope we have fun. I hope we learn something. I hope we keep respect for each other. And I know that we'll see God at work there with us.

Until Everyone Hears,

How to tell your story

Once upon a time... Everyone has a story. Some people know how to tell it. Others don’t. Sometimes the story gets spun in a new direction an...