Sunday, August 3, 2014

bath.

Solveig and Tove,

Last Sunday was beautiful. It was a clash of worlds in the best kind of way.

Baptism is one of those moments when the universal and the abstract become acutely personal and tangible. We gathered for worship on the lawn with stones in hand at 10:00am. These stones represented the heavy, sinful, and worrisome things we carried with us that morning. And then, during the confession, we let them sink into the font. Water rushed over them and the Promise defeated their power. They rested below as I splashed you and people vowed to support you in faith.

Sacraments are supposed to be both mysterious and simple, but sometimes they are just plain confusing instead. So I want to be clear about why you were baptized on Sunday July 27, 2014.

Solveig with a disapproving look. Too bad, honey. God chooses you!

Tove is surprised and whimpers until her hair is dry again. Glamour first.
We care about your sense of self getting tangled up with the Holy Story. You are bound to ask the four big questions: Who am I? Where do I belong? What's my purpose? Where do I find hope? You will find friends, hobbies, and clubs along the way. This is different. Baptism declares your deep belovedness over and over, forever and ever.

We care about your sense of community getting tangled up with Jesus. The fastest growing demographic in America is people who have never experienced genuine community before. Many in our generation are aching for something they've never known and don't know how to describe. The same will be true of you and your peers. And so we are introducing you to the community Jesus creates  across time and space. Your Godparents have made your family a little bigger, signs of the way Christ knits us together as the Body. This community is good, Dear Ones. You don't need to wait to choose it later on - God is already choosing you and that's the whole point. You will find belonging and purpose here from the very beginning.

We care about your sense of God becoming scriptural, not just skeptical. People say all kinds of things about God - usually without being in relationship with God. So we will teach you the story and you will become familiar with God's reputation for coming down, startling systems, and saving us all the time. You will know that God always chooses working with us over efficiency. God finishes things we can't and trumps things we fear. That's a God worth knowing and proclaiming.

Baptism will not remove the obstacles or pain that awaits you in this life. But it does cover you with strength and grace to move through it. It does promise that you are never alone, forever tangled up with a holy identity, home, purpose, and mission. It does mean you are surrounded by voices and hands and hearts that will challenge and champion you. It does declare God's dying and rising love for you - universal and abstract, but also intensely personal and tangible.

You are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. (Whether you like it or not.)  Thank God!

Love, Rev. Mom

Thursday, July 31, 2014

weeds.

I'm learning about the difference between technical and adaptive challenges this week. I'm reflecting about all the quick fixes and surface treatments church folk use to deny systemic issues and avoid real loss. Sounds fun, right?

And so I find myself thinking about church while pulling weeds with Jasper tonight. He yanks them out by the leaves, but the roots remain buried deep between the cracks of stones and steps in our backyard. He's eager to make a pile and have something to show for his work.

I don't blame him. It takes time to get at the roots! Your fingernails get dirty and you need tools from the garage. This is slow work, surrounding the stems with your patience and perseverance before a tug sets them free and they head to the bucket. Going deep is hard.

I'm also learning about how to listen to the longings of others who are not yet in church community. I'm learning things I already know, but have had no language for:

People have come to the church in search of their 'belovedness' - affirmation that they are known and claimed and chosen and saved by a God who loves them fiercely - and instead we hand them importance and duties.
Until our longings match or outweigh our fear of loss, we cannot access the new behaviors necessary for saying YES to the Spirit's call.
Good faith leaders help people recognize their giftedness in, but especially beyond, the congregation.  
The largest growing demographic in America is people who have never experienced genuine community before. They are longing to be listened to and told about their belovedness.
Church goers have long been able to articulate the importance of membership, but not the benefits, the transformation, or the joy. In a corporate sense, they are disconnected from the call they received in baptism to Live, Hear, Proclaim, Serve, and Work for the sake of the Kingdom.
I'm learning (again) that it's easy to pull weeds out by the leaves. It's much harder to poke around at the roots: wondering about systems, listening well, asking courageous questions, and casting a vision that might face some opposition. It's much harder to look at people who are comfortable doing church and teach them how to be the church.

We are a bunch of pastors sitting in a room at the Hilton. Our brains are spinning about our leaders, our challenges, our dreams, and our fears. We are inspired, but tired when we start to think about the work ahead of us. Mission development and redevelopment is exciting, but exhausting work.

But then you go home and you sift through your mail pile. And you find proof that the Spirit is stirring up baptismal promises. It is causing a witness to be proclaimed. It has leaders restless and eager and refreshed by the water and the Word.


I cried reading Carolyn and Stan's letters to my children. They are already keeping promises and being the church and going deep by confessing the power of community and sacrament. They are leaning into the idea that baptism is a new beginning for Solveig and Tove, but also for their leadership and faith.

1 Peter says,
"Be ready to give an account of the joy that is within you."

And so it is not about the pile of leaves, the quick fixes, or the sense of importance. It is about the belovedness. It is about listening to each other and then proclaiming that which is beautiful and holy because God is among us. It is about dirty fingernails and a spade gentle and firm. It is about leaders who can

testify to the joy and go down to the roots.

Monday, July 14, 2014

sleep.

Jasper doesn't nap anymore. 

But he rubs his eyes and his lashes flutter. His pupils roll back and he shakes his head when you ask if he's tired. It's hard running races and playing cars and reading books and dancing all day without slowing down. 

When we plow through the day without pause or rest, it can hit us like a ton of bricks. Or, in this case, like a plastic picnic table.



We spent the 4th of July weekend up north with 14 adults, 3 kids, and 5 babies. Parents were always bouncing or rocking someone to sleep. They were cat-napping when they could. We shushed each other so little ones and sleepy adults could find peace around the clock. Sleep was lust-filled - we wished away fireworks and late night campfires. We dozed on the couch or crept away for something more substantial.


Sleep is illusive with little ones. I wake up every morning eager for 9:00pm, vowing to turn in earlier and sleep harder than the night before. Without good rest I am cranky and distracted, sensitive and very inconsistent in my parenting.

And so I am grateful for the strides we've made this month with the girls. They are sleeping well. They wake up looking rested. Even after those tearful nights of crying it out, they awoke with joyful smiles and warm eyes. Last night they fell asleep at 7:00pm flat on their backs with their arms over their heads. When I crawled out of bed at 6:30am today, it was silent. Our three little ones were still dreaming while we prepared bottles and the coffee quietly dripped.

Teaching another person to sleep - to notice and own the basic rhythms of this world - is so much harder than I thought it would be. With Jasper and again with the girls, it stirs up compassion and vulnerability, frustration and fatigue, self-doubt and hormones. We take two steps forward and one step back. Teething. Travel. Illness. Daylight Saving Time. Thunderstorms. Attitude. But in-between the hurdles, they get it! They learn to self-soothe. It starts to click. And while there are so many more challenges ahead, the house is quiet for a moment and there is hope.

I'm an hour late, but off to bed. Today has hit me like a plastic picnic table and I surrender.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

paint.

If Zion had a summer day camp, it would be really lame. Three kids would come and it's hard to play Ships Across the Ocean with three kids.

So thank God Zion doesn't do summer day camp alone. Instead, we come together with 9 other congregations - an ecumenical hodge podge that gathers in kids and volunteers from all over south Minneapolis and beyond. It's a beautiful thing to see these kids from small churches create something big together.

It was this warm fuzzy that got me thinking about the art projects we do at summer day camp. Could we make something that celebrated the uniqueness of each child and church, but also our compository charm?

My sister-in-law's brain and heart are built for moments like these. She comes up with gorgeous ideas and then has the courage to let it get loosey goosey when kids and chaos intersect The Plan. So I called on her wisdom and creativity.

We talked about all the ways it could go while taping ten canvases. Orderly and colorful concentric circles. Moderate amounts of paint. Clean borders. And then, on Friday morning, paint happened.



Do we have to do circles?

But if we really are all unique, we can't just stick to circles, lady!

God wants me to make a beautiful blob.

No one will know what I'm drawing except for God - and the Holy Spirit, of course. It'll be our secret, but everyone else can enjoy it because it'll be nice to look at.

I'm going to use all the colors so it jumps out at you!

Just a triangle. Just because.

I'm telling a story with my loaves and fishes. Just like Jesus told stories.

The sun is radiating. Like the Son with an O. Get it?

We sent the canvases home with each congregation, still a little damp. This morning the blue tape was peeled off and children stood proudly before their spiritual villages - showcasing squares that were theirs and squares that designed by others. And then they explained that they were part of something bigger - something present even in other congregations and neighborhoods and denominations.

And, whether they knew it or not, their paint was the sermon.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

ya yas.

I am blessed with aunties and godmothers and more.

By more, I mean women who have always been in my life - women my mom has known since college or women who are distant cousins but awfully close anyway. Even my brothers' mother-in-laws have fallen into my village of wise and compassionate women, good at cheering me on and loving my life. It's pretty amazing.

When I found out I was having twins, I was terrified that this life would be too much for me. It sounds a little silly now, but I was certain I would get fired and slowly die under a pile of Hostess cupcake wrappers, my friends all wondering what had happened to me. I knew I'd be a hot mess - and I am - but I underestimated the Ya Yas.

Liz & Tove
Women came around me with diapers and meals and long afternoons of baby holding. They prayed for me, sent supportive emails, and loved my girls with the same confidence they've always loved me. These women are more than family members or friends of my mother: these women are my Ya Yas and I'm not sure I'd be this happy in my skin as a woman today without them.

In watching these women with Solveig and Tove, I started thinking about the next generation of women who will surround them. They will have wonderful grandmothers, aunts, and cousins. I have fabulous friends they will grow to love through FaceTime and play dates. But in the midst of so many things, experiences, and people they will have to share, I wanted to give them each a Ya Ya all their own. I wanted to make our family a little bit bigger - by adding a woman who will be uniquely theirs.

Molly & Solveig
Molly and Liz were easy choices. These are strong, vibrant, funny women who will champion my daughters along the way. (They are also just weird enough that, after confirming that I am indeed making this honor up out of thin air, they still agree to be Ya Yas with wholehearted enthusiasm.) I am already grateful for their special attention, the affection they give the girls, and the new layer we've added to our own friendship.

I wish the power of these female bonds for every little girl. It seems to matter that we grow up with lots of different kinds of women in our lives, each being true to herself and each supporting another as she does it differently. Because it is through the different generations and choices and expressions we become more attune to ourselves and more in awe of the wideness in which we all get to be Women.