It’s been on my mind a lot lately. Home: where is it? What is it? With whom is it? These are the questions I wonder about these days.
Maybe it’s just me; but then I’m guessing the songs about it from the past few years wouldn’t be so popular if it was just me who wondered about home. Check out “Home” sung by Phillip Phillips, “The House that Built Me” sung by Miranda Lambert, “A Way Back to Then” from [title of show], “There’s A Place for Us” sung by Carrie Underwood, and even “Never Grow Up” sung by Taylor Swift. It seems many of us yearn to know our home.
I know I’m fortunate always to have the home of my childhood — where my parents and sisters still live. Home there included endless hours of building sand castles on the beach, leaf houses on the front lawn each fall, lots of Rook (the card game) and now Skipbo. It wasn’t perfect. I didn’t always feel understood. Sometimes I was really lonely. But it was home. With the unconditional love of mom and dad and all my sisters — all their support, encouragement, and belief in me. The older I get, the more I cherish that home. The more I wish I had heeded the kind of wise advice Taylor Swift gives in “Never Grow Up.” “Take pictures in your mind of your childhood room. Memorize what it sounds like when your dad gets home. Remember the footsteps. Remember the words said. Remember your little brother’s favorite songs” (bridge in “Never Grow Up,” sung by Taylor Swift on Speak Now).
But what of those who don’t know such a home? What of those where sand castles and family fun and unconditional love is (or was) not the norm?
What does home look like for those under attack, like the people trying to live today in Gaza and Israel? What does home look like for those who have been forcibly exiled from the land of their ancestors? What does home look like for the immigrant who seeks to build a life in a new place? What does home look like for those put out of their biological families? What does home look like to you? Who is there with you? Because let’s face it: it really is the tribe that loves you, warts and all, that makes home. What has to be a part of it? Are 2.5 bathrooms really more important than peace, safety, the joy of a true haven from the demands of this world? What if home is what you feel in a pulpit — as I often do when leading worship among God’s people? What if home is just you and your cherished pet, or you and your beloved flower beds, or you and your best friend, or you and the indentation of where your loved one used to sleep in the bed next to you?
What if no matter how far we roam, how much good we do, how many amazing people surround us in our lives — what if, even with all that, we are not home yet and never will be until at last we rest fully in the One who is Home eternally for us all?
Home . . . I am grateful for the gift of the one I had in the past, the one I so graciously have today, and the one yet to come at my end.
What about you: what, where, and who is your home?
This week I saw a comic strip. Two people were sitting at a table across from one another. The first person said to the other: “What do you do?” The second person started to tell the first person their very important job title. Person one then said: “No. I mean: what do you do for the world?”
Great question: what do you do for the world?
Job titles come and go. Work responsibilities change. How we go about making money in order to live most probably will be different today than it will be ten years from now. What we do for the world is lasting.
The day I read the comic, I received a photo of a young Native American girl wearing a paper mask. She made it at the Vacation Bible School being led by Presbyterians from Chicago on the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota. The masks were individual creations signifying that God loves each one of us as the beautiful, unique beings that we are! What those Presbyterians were doing for the world was giving a little girl (320 little boys and girls, in fact) the sense that she matters and is loved immensely by the most wonderful One.
Though we all miss him terribly, my teenage nephew has taken to spending his summers as a counselor at Boy Scout Camp. I know he has a ton of fun, but he’s also in service to the campers who attend. He’s part of the team of leaders who are providing the time and space for campers to become better versions of themselves as they grow in confidence, teamwork, and skill.
I know teachers who don’t just teach to the test, but seek to build character. Managers who do what they can to lighten the load for employees — not just for productivity sake but because they recognize when a person is going under. People who commit to visiting seniors weekly — bringing not just meals, but joy to the day of an otherwise isolated person.
I’m not sure we always realize it; but in all these ways, and so many more, we do something so very significant for the world.
What about you? What do you do
. . . for the world?
I believe it was Eugene Peterson who coined the phrase the long obedience in reference to a pastor’s response to God’s call to ministry. Well, 17 years ago today my long obedience began: I was ordained as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the PC(USA). Actually, it began many years before if you count the times in my childhood I wanted to do all I could to love God better, and the ways I grew in faith as a youth, and the day in college when I finally decided to switch to a Theology major by signing up for my first Hebrew class.
It happened on a fluke. I promised God I would go on a sports mission trip because I felt like God had stood by me through my tumultuous experience of high school. Other than God, all I really cared about in those years was basketball, volleyball, track, and trying to make sense of why my saintly grandmother was dying a slow, painful death from cancer. At the age of 19, I found myself in Jamaica seeing the extremes of poverty and wealth for the first time in my life — seeing too that race had a whole lot to do with which side of it you ended up on. In the midst of that, I experienced a call to professional ministry in the church. (If you really wanna know how that all transpired, you’ll have to read my spiritual autobiography someday — when I finally get around to writing it!) Let’s just say, I’ve learned along the way to be pretty careful about any deals you make with God. You may think you’re just giving a week in gratitude for the ways God’s sustained you in the past. The next thing you know, you too may find yourself twenty-some years later breaking the bread and pouring the cup on the anniversary of your ordination!
I still remember celebrating at the table for the first time on June 1, 1997. My first baptism when the beautiful little baby squirmed so much I thought I might drop her. My first funeral in honor of a woman who put up a fierce fight against cancer. My first battle in a congregation, and my second, and my third. This life is a challenge; too many pastors have the warrior marks to show it. I’ve seen the statistics firsthand: I know many wonderful pastors who quickly have found another way to make a living. I don’t know how I’ve made it thus far, other than I’m a little bit too stubborn to let myself become road kill on the highway of life due to anything — including the church. And while I’ve known my fair share of difficulty in this preaching life, I think today was a great way to celebrate my ordination: I sat after worship today with a saintly bunch at a local restaurant as we belly laughed together for about an hour while dreaming silly ways of how we could reach out in our community. (I think they think I’m kidding about moving our bible study to the local Hooters.) It was such a gift! The way they have opened their hearts to me — the way they want to learn — the way they accept me as I am, no matter how out there I can get — the way they inspire me with their devotion to one another and to embodying Christ’s love in this world. They give of themselves in remarkable ways, as I’ve seen of so many church folks over these years as a pastor.
Today I find inspiration in ALL of the AMAZING people I have met through my life as a pastor and in my own heart that more and more wants to live up to my vows to serve with all my energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.
Here’s to the next 17+ no matter where the journey goes!
Today the conversation at Lunch Bunch somehow turned to gardens. In particular, one person was relaying how hard this winter was on her beloved gardenia bush. It died and she was going to have to get her son to come take it out for her — it grew far larger than she could manage by herself. It brought to mind the three dead shrubs right out front of my friend’s condo (where my puppy Rufus and I temporarily are residing in the guest room). Several times I have wondered when the condo landscape company will come replace the eye-sore of the dead bushes. Last week I was so tired of looking at these dead bushes that I asked my friend when they might be replaced. No telling was the answer, and I rolled my eyes thinking that if I had any jurisdiction over those bushes, I’d NEVER allow them to be dead out there for who knows how long. I was convinced the landscape company must have no idea what they’re doing!
Tonight we were sitting out on the front porch right behind the dead shrubs reading before the sun went down. It’s a great treat to just relax with inspiring words at the end of a long day. (Check my GoodReads to see what ones I most enjoy!) Rufus was on my lap but he wasn’t having any of it. He was doing nothing but squirming. I know he only just turned one year old last week, but why can’t he ever just sit quietly on my lap when I want to unwind??? I’d finally had enough and put him down on the ground. As soon as his little paws hit the ground, he was digging his nose into the dead leaves under the dead bush. Great. Another good reason for the thing to be ripped out. Though I tried to get Ru to leave it, he burrowed his little snout deeper into that dead bush. And the next thing I know two baby bunnies popped up from no where! Suddenly it all made sense why a rabbit was sitting on the porch before we went out there to read. Her babies were being bedded down for the night under the bush I thought was absolutely good for nothing.
Her act left me thinking. What I see as an eye-sore, that momma rabbit saw as home. What I wanted upgraded for a new thing, that momma and her babies knew as the perfect spot for their greyish-brown coats safely to blend right in. It makes me pause to consider what else I might be missing in this world — what else I might overlook because I want it to be one thing, but beautifully it is exactly what another needs. Hmm. I can spend some time pondering that. It’s a good reminder on perspective — a good reminder to look again just in case a wonderful surprise is hiding from plain view.
What about you? What wonderful surprise might you be overlooking?
Today I have practiced Sabbath: my time to stop, to cease, to allow the voice of God to define me — not any others. I keep Sabbath according to creation from sundown to sundown every seventh day, but more on that in another post.
This Sabbath included an early morning at the Nashville National Cemetery. I’m not the most patriotic type and would prefer we didn’t expend dollars and lives on the things of war, but I promised I’d join with our church choir for this community performance. And I do love to sing.
I learned today that inspiration can sneak up on you when you least expect it. I never would have imagined how easily tears would come to my eyes and how my arms would get all goose-bumped during such a ceremony. It started halfway through our first song (“God Bless America” — though I pray God blesses all other lands as well; but I really did feel a sense today that this is the land that I love). Later when we sang a tribute to each branch of the armed forces, those who have served came forward to stand right next to us. I was the soprano at the end of the line so an Army veteran came to stand next to me. His left elbow brushed up against my right elbow while we sang. After the song, it took a while for me to collect myself enough to turn to him to extend a hand of gratitude. All I could muster as I looked him in the eye was the simple phrase: “Thank you.” I guess it was something about their willingness to sacrifice for the benefit of others — or maybe be drafted, but go anyway. My maternal grandfather served, though he never saw a frontline. I learned today that while I may not always like the decisions of our country’s leaders, I am inspired by the courage and generosity of our country’s men and women.
Sabbath proved to be a time of creativity, rest, and unexpected inspiration! Thank you to all who willingly serve.
23 May 2014
Several years ago, I completed one of those late-night, self-help quizzes that asked what was the one thing I had to have in my life each day. At first I thought of my family and friends, my beloved toy poodle, and even world peace. But the more I thought, the more I realized that something in me craves inspiration. Daily. My soul needs to be inspired each day as much as our bodies need daily bread. Whether it be a wonderful story, beautiful music, or rousing words; each day I need to be inspired!
For a long time I’ve been looking outside of myself for such inspiration. Everything from the quiet of the morning from my back patio to quotes from famous speeches to soothing words of the Psalms of the Bible. Daily inspiration has come to me from all sorts of sources. And today, I’ve decided it’s finally time I listen to the inspiration arising inside of me: the phrases that sustain, the images that come, the feelings that ground me in a knowing that cannot be challenged. Today I begin the process of mining inspiration that comes through the living of my own days that it might be sustenance for the living of ALL of our days. I hope that the insights shared here may bring us all the hope, love, and joy we each need to live inspired every day.
Join me in this feast of bread on our journeys!
And while we’re at it: how about you? What inspiring words or images from your journey do you have to share today?