Saturday, June 28, 2008


WOW! It has been quite a week here in Kansas City. One of my best friends moved to her first church job this week (good luck but I am going to miss the convenience of seeing you!), my mom was in town for a long weekend visit, and yesterday we had a group of 250 volunteers working on our construction sites at Habitat KC. I'm exhausted and can't wait for today to be done so I can just chill and let my brain and body take a breather! On the other hand, each of these events are very positive things and while I wish they could have been spaced out a little differently, it seems to just reinforce to me that there are wonderful things happening around us all the time if we choose to see them that way.

My friend moving away could be a sad thing if I focused on the fact that I won't be seeing her as often anymore ("Mandy Monday" will just have to occur less frequently with a long drive), but when I think about the fact that she is doing what she has been called to do and helping a new community of people live up to their calls as well, I can't help but be impressed, hopeful and encouraging.

My mom coming to visit could have been really stressful if I worried about the house being in good shape (we've had more plumbing problems and now a roof leak) or planning out what we were going to do the whole time she was here, but it wasn't like that. Her flight to get here was cancelled, so the airline put her on a later flight that arrived while I was at work, butI have a great boss who basically told me to just go pick her up anyway. So my mom get to spend the day at work with me! We drove around to all of the Habitat for Humanity Kansas City construction sites so she could see how much goes on for a typical Saturday. She got to meet some of our regular volunteers, a couple of the homeowner partners, and some of my coworkers. She also got some time to just sit and relax in my office reading her book while I worked on my email and database stuff. All in all I think she was impressed with what she saw and even made a donation before she left! We got to spend the rest of the weekend just doing whatever we felt like at the moment. One day we slept in late, sat around talking and went out to the Blue Koi for dinner. YUMMY! One day we visited the Steamboat Arabia museum which I have to admit was a lot bigger and better than I expected it to be! We cooked together, did a little shopping, a bit of talking, and yes there were some times where things around the house took priority (thank you to the Reddi Rooter guy who saved the day), but all in all we had great visit. My mom got to see our house (which she helped us buy), we spent lots of quality time together and I think she had a chance to relax that she doesn't get to do at home.

Then yesterday with the Skills USA group, things around the construction sites started off a bit chaotic. It's an amazing thing to have 250+ high school and college students working with one organization all at the same time, but all the more amazing when you think about the fact that they all came from all over the country and we usually deal with about 50 volunteers in one day. They have a national conference that's been coming to Kansas City annually for at least a few years now, and one day is a planned community service project. Timberland helps put the day together (a huge sponsor for the event) and it takes months of planning from all sides. We thought we had everything taken care of, but "the best laid plans..." One of our construction guys had to go to the ER when his pregnant wife had some problems, 2 of our volunteer leaders didn't show up, buses showed up earlier than expected, some dropped off more people than they were supposed to and others dropped people off at the wrong site. I think it was about 10:15 before we had everyone on a work site with something to do. There was a lot of driving around between sites and phone calls to get it all in place, but it happened. For about 2 hours there was a symphony of construction sounds all around as teams worked on a variety of tasks - building retaining walls, putting up siding, drywall, yard care, soffit, etc. Lunch was another bit of logistic challenge but everyone was fed and everyone was picked up and taken back to the convention with too many hiccups. Many of our staff and volunteers pitched in to make this day happen, and while there were some definite frustrating and stressful moments, at the end of the day we had accomplished quite a bit of work and the kids could see that clearly when they left.

I have no idea where this positive lense of mine came from - last night all I could think about was how tired I was and glad that it was all over. Today though, as I sit here in my office having just completed one more volunteer orientation, I can't help looking back on the last week and being awed at all of the things have gone on. There's a bit of pride in there, yes, but I also know that I was only a small part of much of it. I hope you can reflect on your week and feel a similar sort of satisfaction.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Monday morning

Unlike most people, I love Monday mornings. That song by the Mamas and the Papas is a classic, but I just don't share the senitment. That's probably because I don't work on Mondays - one of the things about working for Habitat where Saturdays are the busiest for me. Today I'm especially happy because I got thru church yesterday without any mishaps. YAY! :) I have a lot of people to thank for that and thought, "why not do it on my blog where they and other people will actually see it so they get the recognition?"

First of all, thank you to trouble for proofreading, bolstering my self esteem, reminding me to breathe and actually sitting thru church when I know there were at least 3 other places she would have preferred to be. I love you, honey!

Secondly, thank you to RevHipchick (she is no longer seminarymamma since she graduated almost a month ago). Not only is she one of my best friends, she's also a great ear for my sermons. This is not the first time that she's listened to my writing and offered great advice to make it a sermon I was okay claiming and proclaiming. She's also one of the people for whom I was filling in this week and had several conversations with me about all the detailed questions I had (because that's the kind of person I am). She walked me thru everything and helped me feel more comfortable, even taking the time to have a long phone call the night before while she was out of town. Thanks, chica!

Thirdly, I have to thank PastorRed since he was the one who actually asked me to cover Sunday morning. He's the interim pastor for this congregation and I know he's still finding his rhythm there. While he was going to be at annual conference he could have asked other people, including retired ministers in the congregation, to cover the pulpit. Not only did he ask me, he gave me time to mull it over. Believe me - I did not say I'd do this very quickly! Thank you for your patience and confidence in me. :)

Lastly, but no means leastly, thank you to the rest of you out there who offered advice, support, encouragement, etc. Some of you are in the blogosphere, some of you are personal friends here in KC or from OKC, and some are family members who are still figuring out how I of all people managed to become someone who would be seen as any kind of spiritual leader. I've always known that I had good people around me and it's in times like this that I'm most thankful for the community God has allowed me to build through the years.

I know some of you have asked what I was preaching about - the lectionary text was Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26 and then I added Hosea 6:1-6 since Jesus quotes it in the Matthew reading. For some reason this congregation generally is only using one text each week (which I have theological issues with, but I worked around it). If you want to read a copy of it, I can email it to you. Just leave me a comment or send me an email. The title was "What do you see?" and generally talked about how we're called to show each other love and mercy because that's what God has already done for us. A basic idea, but one that needs to be heard repeatedly. :)

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Tomorrow morning I get to play preacher and I'm SO nervous! It's always been amazing to me to think that I have the same seminary degree that many pastors receive in order to be ordained and yet I have never felt equal to them in a professional sort of way. There are probably several reasons for this, of course, but mostly I think it's because I've never really led a worship service in that kind of role. The only preaching I've done was for my preaching class - and I don't think anyone would say that I was stellar or a natural at it. Ask me to come talk to a group of people in an office about Habitat for Humanity, I'm fine - I'll even volunteer to do it. But ask me to preach to people and I get VERY anxious. I don't even want to pretend that I have any kind of authority more than the people in the pews. I don't have it and I don't want it - whether I claim it for myself or others bestow it on me. I think that's one of the fundamental flaws with a lot of organized religion - we always seem to be putting a hierarchy on it when I'm not convinced God sees things that way. The only thing I have on John & Jane Doe in the pews is that I've read some books that they maybe have not. And I know there are books that they've read that I have not.

So anyway, I bet you're wondering how I got into this position in the first place. Well, it's Annual Conference weekend here in Missouri which means that all the church leaders are meeting down in Springfield leaving the rest of us to fend for ourselves. Churches all across the state are using "guest preachers" from among the masses of retired clergy, students who aren't yet a part of the conference on an official level, or other oddballs like myself that don't necessarily fit into a neat category. I'm seminary trained but not officially connected to this conference. I haven't been commissioned as a Deaconess yet (hopefully in April that will happen), and even then I will basically get a nod of recognition from the Bishop before claiming my seat on the conference floor. That's one of the cool things about it - I work as a part of the Annual Conference in which I serve, but my "chain of command" it actually outside of the conference hierarchy and lies with the General Board of Global Ministry. So, with no church position and no obligation to attend annual conference, two friends of mine who work at the same church (one as associate minister and one as interim pastor) asked if I would fill in for them while they're gone. I wanted to say no, but there was a part of me that thought, "No, you should do this. You don't get the chance very often and it will be good experience for you. You can grow from this." I dragged my feet on making a decision for about a week and a half before I said yes. And I've regretted it ever since.

Filling in for the pastor and associate is more than just writing the sermon - why didn't I think about that before?! I'm supposed to say prayers and lead activities that I've never had to do before (and in my Catholic upbringing, I never thought I would). I'm the one people will look up to to know when to sit or stand, when to say Amen, etc. and I'm not sure that I have a clue what I'm doing. It's not like I haven't been to church before, but I've never really paid that much attention to what it would be like to be the pastor. My only saving grace is that this is a small church, and when we've been there in the past to support our friends, everyone has been very friendly. I think they know that this isn't something I normally do and will be very gracious. I know that after the fact I'll be able to laugh about it, but right now I'm just dreading tomorrow morning. I know we've got some pastors out there - any advice for me?