Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Clanging Cymbal

I had a difficult time in my ethics class today, and especially after reading today’s chapter by Emilie Townes. I so want to be a prophetic voice for my future congregation and I want to figure out how I can be an advocate for all the things that I am passionate about. I told Heather before class that I was upset that I couldn’t be a womanist theologian!!! I guess it is because of my white skin privilege that makes me want to be a part of it when really I need to allow myself to actively listen. I may not speak a lot in class, but I am an internal processor and I choose my times to engage carefully. (I’m much better at crafting a speech than debating).

You probably don’t know the full details about my departure from my previous church, but it stemmed from the fact that my Senior Pastor knew I did not agree with him about the current language in the UM Discipline in regards to the human sexuality issues. The process towards terminating my appointment started last spring when I attended a Cynthia Meyer’s forum. I was tagged in a photo and members who did not agree with him started coming to me. I won’t get into the full details because it’s not important anymore. But I find myself at a crossroads knowing now full-well that following Christ is risky business. I feel  that speaking truth is not welcome in large churches that are focused on success and numbers and growth. In those churches it’s all rainbows and unicorns…

So, now I’m on guard at all times, which I dislike… I almost feel like speaking about my passion for justice was easier when I wasn’t in ministry. Honestly, I could never have preached any version of my sermon a few weeks ago at my last church. In fact, I watched the sermon at that church the Sunday after the election and the only thing that was said was how relieved the pastor was that it was over! I could not believe it especially after having just heard Adam Hamilton preach about the responsibility Trump voters had to those who felt like so much had been lost.  He asked them to think about how they were going to prove that they actually believe in unity when they voted for a person who used rhetoric that was so divisive. I think he proved (to me at least!) that leadership is about taking risks and that it is okay to maybe lose a few people along the way. I guess technically, with 20,000 members, losing 200 is nothing! But still, I think he did the right thing by deviating from the sermon series and talking about the issue at hand. I can’t say the same about my previous senior pastor.

I started this semester with the intention of discernment and I believe your ethics class has really challenged me. I want to be a good pastor, not just one who preaches about rainbows and unicorns…. Rev. Lia McIntosh gave me insightful words a few weeks ago, speak for that which you are for, rather than against. That made me think of Paul’s words, if I speak in the language of humans or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong of clanging cymbal. Anger often turns into noisy words that know one hears. However with love, words take on true meaning and are cloaked in the creative force of God…

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

My Daughter

This morning when I walked out the door was the first time since I was 13 years old that I was afraid for my safety simply because I am a woman. The man who regularly goes for his early morning jog terrified me because yesterday as a nation, we said to the world that we believe a woman's worth to be inconsequential. We told the world that we are a sex to be dominated. We told the world that only some are made in the image of God. We have failed the world. We have failed our God who made us all in God's image. Where were the Christian women of faith who thought this was ok.
The simple fact that you voted for a man who doesn't consider you of any sacred worth breaks my heart. You didn't need to vote for Hillary, but you could have voted for someone else. Anyone else.

Today as my daughter and I left for work and daycare, she reached out to me to bring her down the stairs. Usually she wants to do it alone, but today was different. I realized in that moment that it will be my responsibility to assure of her worth. It will be my responsibility to protect her from the savagery of dehumanization that we just approved of.

Today, one of my Korean friends sat next to me. I could feel his anxiousness and I stopped writing. He asked me as he broke into tears, "Do you want me to leave?"

Today, my ethics professor shared a story about her elementary school teacher friend. The children of the school chanted around a Muslim child as they left for the day, TRUMP, TRUMP, TRUMP!

Now imagine children surrounding a child in a German town in 1933 at the end of a school day chanting: Jude, Jude, Jude.

Tell me America? Is this what it means to be great again? Or is this the beginning of a horrific nightmare that doesn't need to repeat itself.

I pray for our entire country. I pray that this is not the beginning of a deep darkness.

Lord, hear our prayer.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Systems and the Deceiver

This summer has been dedicated to developing the spiritual disciplines of devotion and Scripture reading. One would think that if one is a pastor, then one would being doing this on a regular basis.

     Yes, one would think.

However, finding time to just be with God is often difficult. One June 7, 2016 I began reading and writing out the Psalms. As of today I have made it to Psalm 18! I know, there are more than 18 days between June 7 and July 21. I could give you all the excuses for my slacking, and there are good ones, but I'm just going to "give it to God" and ask for forgiveness and continue to try my best to continue this discipline. 30 minutes every day to start my day! When I've got Ripley, things are harder, but life is hard sometimes and making room for God on a daily basis should be number one on the list. I'm working on it God, I promise! You see me!

It has taken me two days to write out Psalm 18. It is 50 verses long! I know, I know Psalm 119 has 176 verses, but I'll tackle that when I get to it. Hopefully the next one hundred Psalms will prepare me!

These first 18 Psalms have really been about being delivered from one's enemies. Enemies? Do I have any enemies. I am a white woman, living in twenty-first century America. I have never been to war. My country is not technically on the verge of violent war, maybe ideological, (and my husband would probably suggest otherwise), but there is relative peace here. I think there is a deep desire in this nation to want to work together for real peace, but we are trapped by our systems where the deceiver dwells.

The deceiver? Yes, satan, the devil, the tempter, whatever your name for that presence, that's the one I'm speaking of. The deceiver is so blinding, so sneaky, so devious. Sometimes even within our churches, the deceiver is crawling around dismantling the work that we are trying to do for Jesus Christ. The deceiver lurks in our attempts to make mission statements, visions for the church, discipleship pathways, mission partners, ministry opportunities, condolence meals... you name it. Anytime there is an exertion of control and power, then the deceiver scores another point on the scoreboard. This happens in every church, and our jobs as pastors and leaders is to recognize when it is happening. However, so often we see only our successes and tend to dismiss anything that doesn't fit in with OUR vision.

See that, OUR vision. OUR control.

That, my friends, is the enemy.

Psalm 18 is all about the victory over the enemy. Yes, VICTORY over the enemy. And what is the victory, God's reign not only on earth, but in our hearts and lives.

In those moments when the enemy seems to be winning. When our lives seem to be consumed by the drama of our lives, God will be there to deliver us. We have to be able to recognize within the systems of our churches where the enemy is ensconced and shine the bright light of Christ on it to eradicate it from its nesting place. When we do that, then we will be better equipped to call out the enemy in our societal systems.

Psalm 18: 30-32
Everything God does is perfect;
    the promise of the Eternal rings true;
    He stands as a shield for all who hide in Him.

 Who is the True God except the Eternal?
    Who stands like a rock except our God? 
 The True God who encircled me with strength
    and made my pathway straight.

From the Voice translation of the Bible

Peace my friends.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Things and happenings...

So I love that when I sign in for the first time from my new computer on blogspot, I was not asked for a sign in id or password. That is curious. Maybe I need to find a new blog provider? Anybody could post as me apparently and that would not be ideal!

For tonight though, this is me. Angie, Cap't Coco...

Over the past couple of days I've been reading from an assigned book in my preaching class, The Fully Alive Preacher by Mike Graves, my preaching professor. Most reading for seminary (and school in general) is taxing. I can always think of a million things to do instead of reading my assignments. But this book is great. The chapters are long, but they divided up into one to two page vignettes that offer insights into the discipline of being a preacher ...Of being a preacher. Who knew I would ever enter into this world of being a preacher... but here I am.

The title of my blog is Coco's Drama Free World.

Coco is a nickname derived from my maiden name that my lead at Worlds of Fun called me by. I was Coco for 5 years. It waned, but I picked it up again when I entering into the cyclist world of Kansas City. I called myself Captain Coco because, obviously, I am a pirate!

Drama, because life tends to be thoroughly dramatic. I don't think we can escape it. Drama just happens and it is apart of being human. This does NOT mean that I embrace drama; it simply means that I try to tackle it head on when it rears its ugly head. And boy does it ever rear.

What I've learned though is that you have to take things in stride (Apparently I'm channeling my inner horse tonight). 

Squirrel! So my professor's book has been invigorating. It reminded me of how much I really enjoy writing. As a preacher, my task is to find the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, as it is lived out in society. In heartache, in joy, through the tears, through the laughter, in the mundane, in the whirlwinds... in the drama of life.

Life is about living into each moment and figuring out where God is speaking to us.

My prayer, my hope tonight is to embrace those moments of awe and even those moments of torpor and find the ru'ach of God. The wind, the breath, the Spirit of God. 

 Genesis 1:2 - 
וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ וְחֹשֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵי תְהֹום וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּֽיִם
The Tree of Life version has the closest translation... my opinion

"Now the earth was chaos and waste, darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the Breath of God was hovering upon the surface of the water."

Ah... God is the one who brings order and peace to the chaos. It makes you breath in deep the refreshing life that comes though that commanding surge that first said, let there be light!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Wired for Community

Last week I was driving home at that time when the sun was just setting behind the tree line. If you drive west ever at sunset, you know that when the sun is about to slip behind the trees there is a moment of temporary blindness.  All you see are the rays of a brilliant sun. On this particular occasion as I drove up the crest of a slight hill, a cyclist broke the summit from the other side. In a moment of panic I swerved slightly in order to not hit him and the two other riders behind him. As I looked in my rear view mirror I saw that none of them wore helmets. I continued driving slowly and wrestled with myself internally, "Do I go back? Do I say something?"
I pulled into the turning lane and second guessing myself pulled back into the driving lane. Then I flipped on my blinker and decided that I needed to turn around and talk to them. I pulled into a neighborhood, turned around and hesitated before making my final decision to go and talk to the kids. 

I followed them down a side street and pulled ahead of them to give myself enough room to get out of my car and address them. 

As they swerved from left to right up the street I called out to them, "Do you know that when riding you should ride with traffic? I didn't see you. I almost hit you!" 
The kids retort was a typical teenager response, "Well I saw you." 

And he continued to ride on. I followed him and told him that that wasn't the point and that I am the one in the large rolling piece of metal that could have hurt him had I not swerved."

He proceeded to apologize and I told him that he needed to be safer on the road and to wear a helmet. I wasn't concerned with his apology as it didn't hurt my feelings, but that had I hit him I would be the one apologizing to their parents.

As most teenagers go, they of course didn't want to hear from some strange adult on the side of the road and kept moseying right along.  But I had to say it, I had to approach them so that they at least heard it somewhere that cyclists when riding on city streets should ride with traffic.

As I've reflected on this situation, I have asked myself, why did I do this? What prompted me to get out of my car and confront teenagers. The answer is because I have been apart of the Kansas City cycling community. As somebody who has used a bicycle as my main means of transportation, I am an advocate for safety when out on the road. I have attended and assisted with bike safety training for children because I feel that so many just see the bicycle as a "fun" piece of equipment. However, it is a vehicle as well and needs to be operated in that manner. Bicycle safety must be taught at a young age. 

Community is so important. We are all a part of different communities and they are essential for us to thrive. God created us for community. God has intended us from the very beginning to be in relationship with one another. When God created humankind, God created us both male and female so we would not be alone. In community, we learn what it means to be in relationship with one another and ultimately with God. When we surround ourselves with people who value the same things, we ultimately end up holding ourselves accountable to one another.

John Wesley, the founder of the unintended Methodist Church, understood this concept. He created bands, class and society meetings where people could meet to hold one another accountable to their spiritual faith walk that would allow them to grow closer to God. It is in small groups where our faith grows. 

In these small communal settings we learn to study the Word together, pray together and live out the gospel together. Together we grow closer to the heart of God.
Creator God,

You are the One who brought order out of chaos.

You are the One who created us in your image. You created us, both male and female because you knew that through relationship we thrive. Through our relationships we learn what it means to be in relationship with you. This life that you have given us is such a blessing God and we want always to please you and live into the lives that you’ve given us.

But you know how we are. Sometimes we remove ourselves from one another. Sometimes we hide away from those that can help us grow closer to you. When we find ourselves looking inward, we pull ourselves far away from you. We fracture into pieces and we go our separate way. Forgive us God for all those times when we lose sight of the life you’ve intended for us.

As a part of a community of your followers God, you taught us that when we come together we should pray for one another. So today, God we take these moments of silence to lift up to you all those who are suffering whether in mind body and spirit…

Teach us God to walk in your path. Teach us to be your presence in the lives of those we meet daily.

We ask all these things in the name of your Son Jesus Christ who taught us to pray…