Monday, February 20, 2012

We voted 'yes' to 'no' to 'yes'. Wait...what?


We had our synod assembly this weekend. It was fun to represent Zion with two wonderful members. It was fun to network on behalf of Zion's ministries and mission. It good to see friends from seminary and to reconnect with representatives from St. John's. If you're an extrovert and a church nerd...this is Mecca.

We elect a new bishop every six years, so this assembly was unique to my short career in the Minneapolis Area Synod. We still had our annual business which includes a keynote speaker, Bible study, and updates from our nationwide and global work through the ELCA. Most congregations in our synod support Lutheran Disaster Relief, which has a reputation for showing up all over the world and sticking around to serve long after the media disappears. We still have crews bearing Christ in Pakistan, Japan, Haiti and Joplin, Missouri. We celebrated exciting tales of growth and wonder happening in mission starts that engage immigrant communities, congregations sharing space with other worshipping communities and stories of hope from the churches that worked together in North Minneapolis after the tornadoes last year.  We prayerfully voted for a new bishop and anticipated her valuable leadership moving forward. It's all inspiring.

I groaned on Friday when I saw news trucks parked outside the church.  I knew they weren't there to cover our radical action regarding malaria relief in Africa or our growing partnership with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. They were there to cover our vote concerning one resolution.

Before I continue, let me be clear.

  • I oppose the Marriage Amendment Minnesotans will be voting on this fall. I think all citizens deserve equal rights. I love and support my GLBT brothers and sisters seeking legal protection for their relationships and families. 
  • I now serve a congregation that is "Reconciling in Christ", which means the congregation voted about ten years ago to be open and welcoming to GLBT people, celebrating them as they are. This means a majority of people in my congregation believe that being gay is not a choice or a behavior, but a natural identity. Being "Reconciling in Christ" is a piece of Zion's larger calling as an "All Are Welcome" congregation because we are a diverse community made of young and old, gay and straight, rich and poor, mentally ill, shy, chatty, blind, walking, wheelchair bound, etc. 
  • I get grossed out when I see pastors posting a lot of politically partisan statements and articles on their Facebook pages. I'm married to a wonderful, intelligent man who does not vote for the same politicians I do...so I would never tell people how to vote from the pulpit or suggest a particular stance in a prayer because "All Are Welcome" also means that we welcome a diversity of politics in an assembly of respect, acceptance and love. 
  • When we vote at the synod assembly, we vote representing only ourselves. Not our congregations or our families, though these things come to mind as we raise our cards.
And so I groaned when I saw the media trucks because I knew, once again, the ELCA would be classified by something divisive in the public sphere instead of all the wonderful ways we are united and ecumenical. This entry is my meager attempt to show that there was something unifying about this vote, regardless of how the media and critics described it.

You see, we weren't voting about whether or not we "like" gay marriage. We weren't voting about whether we're overjoyed or bitter about the 2009 ELCA church wide vote. We were voting to uphold a decision we'd already made in 2004 about the rights of all people and the call to speak up for minorities lacking equal rights. We were voting to proclaim an opposition to changing our constitution in such a way that excludes a particular group of people forever.

It's less sexy and less newsworthy to explain it this way, but it's true. That means that some people who personally oppose the idea of same-sex marriage voted YES with me. That means some people who think homosexuality is a sin voted YES with me. That means that a lot of Christians who believe a lot of really different things stepped outside the politically divisive stuff for a moment to do something big. 

A moment after these green cards were raised, there were some red NOs in the air. I won't pretend that we were all in agreement. And thank God. Because if we all thought alike and acted alike and voted alike, we would not be the diverse church God calls us to be. We would not be able to challenge each other and debate scripture as well as we do. 

So I hope that more YES than NO means there will be respectful dialogue and hope in the wake of this vote. I hope that more YES than NO means there are people who feel excluded from most kinds of church have finally found a place to be welcome as they are. I hope we will continue to be a church where there is healthy discord and a place for everyone at the table. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

blast from the past



In high school I set a goal. I wanted to visit all seven continents before I graduated from college. And I did. Australia was the big finale. I went with a January term study abroad group during my senior year, which included many friends and people who became friends. But mostly, there was Molly. I'd known Molly several ways for several years and before we left for this trip, we made plans to stay in New Zealand for an extra week.

If you hate stories people tell about "the most amazing week of their lives" or "how awesome college was", never ask me about my week in New Zealand. I remember pausing countless times on this trip and thinking, "This is the happiest I've ever been". I was in transition in several ways that winter and something about this trip grounded me or set me free. I'm still not sure which.

We slept in hostels and on buses. We played things by ear and rented mopeds in the pouring rain and I went skydiving. We danced to Beyonce's Crazy in Love a billion times and picked up guys with bold faced lies. (There's a Scottish guy somewhere convinced he kissed John Deere's granddaughter.) One of our favorite days was spent river surfing in rapids near Queenstown. We dragged our hostel roommate, John, along even though he promised this wasn't his thing. And it wasn't. But he did take a few pictures and promised to email them. We were in and out of touch for the next several years, but the pictures never surfaced, so scrapbooks were completed without this page.

Until Thursday. They suddenly arrived by email on Thursday. A mere eight years late! Molly and I giggled as the memories rushed back. These shots make us feel pale and old...but so happy for the women we were and the women we've become.

I think it's time to make room in the scrapbook for these two.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

fake it 'til you make it

This cupcake poster pretty much sums up my week. I had glorified plans for last Monday and Tuesday - my miniature Sabbath between jobs. A massage, errands, cleaning, baking and planning for Jasper's birthday party were going to leave me feeling both productive and relaxed before my first day at Zion.

Instead, Jasper got his first ear infection. He was snotty and clingy and up all night. We didn't figure out why he was so miserable until Tuesday morning and by then all my ideas had flown out the window. Instead we cuddled up in our sweatpants and thanked God for antibiotics.

I forgot how exciting and exhausting it is to start a new job. A woman I admire says taking in all the new information is like trying to get a drink of water from a fire hose. The next few days were long, exciting and busy. I came home glad for all the new names and stories I'd learned, but too tired to entertain Jasper while making dinner. Thus, he has now developed an affection for Kix off his highchair tray set on the floor. Yes, I know. It's resembles a doggie dish. But it means he can crawl around, explore, and snack as a free man while dinner gets cooking.

On Friday Matt and I agreed to look for a new daycare option. There are a few good reasons, but one in particular that made Friday hard. It made pulling Jasper out of a place he's known for almost a year feel really crappy because I love our lady...but I love Jasper so much more.

So we have spent the last two days scrambling to find a new plan for Mondays and Tuesdays until Jasper is old enough to attend St. John's Childcare in the fall. And while we've made some progress and we're grateful for the flexibility of our Village, we still don't have a plan. It was in this vulnerable state I attended a baby shower and watched two friends ready to join me in this chaotic and emotional realm that both breaks and strengthens my heart every day.

Later I met Matt and Jasper at the Metrodome for a Gopher baseball game. I was standing in line to get Jasper a pretzel (oh, let's be honest, I wanted the frickin' pretzel) and chatted with a mother and her 4 1/2 year old daughter. The little free spirit had dressed herself and had wild energy to spare. She sang Disney songs and twirled around us. Mom looked tired, embarrassed and about five months pregnant.

Sometimes when I get tired and embarrassed, I cope by showering someone else with the kind of love and humor I'm quietly needing. So I let her have it. I told this stranger how wonderful her daughter was. I told her that she's an amazing mom. I told her that I have a brother five years younger than me and that I remember everything about him being born and growing up. I was a good helper and loved him and he's still one of my best friends. I told her it's going to be great. Her shoulders shook and she reached for my hand. "I needed someone to tell me that today. Thank you." And then we both cried a little bit, sewn together by our fears, our fatigue and the truth about how beautiful we both are. I walked away thinking about my sermon for tomorrow: about the brokenness we all carry around and how admitting our pain in front of God and each other is New Life.

We stayed for a few more innings, Jasper enthralled with the bright lights and the players' pretty girlfriends. And then it was time to change him. We went into a bathroom stall so I could go first, but I'd forgotten that there's one thing about peeing while holding a baby I can't do by myself. Par for the course, I thought. 

When we came out of the stall, I saw my soul sister and the Little Mermaid.

Hello again. Would you mind holding my baby while I button up my pants?

The truth is, I am beautiful and I'm a great mom and things are going really well. But I need a little help with the buttons. Some weeks I need a lot of help...like when I start a new job, drop our daycare lady, and have Jasper's snot on all of my clothes. And on those days, I'll ask for that help. I'll cry a little. I'll give thanks. And then I'll fake it 'til I make it.