Thursday, May 24, 2012

i'm pitting out already. but then again, i always do.

This Sunday eight Lutheran churches in the Minneapolis area are getting together downtown at Central. Because it's Pentecost. But don't be fooled. We're also getting together because it's Memorial Day weekend and we need each other if we're going to bring that wind and fire to life for the two thousandth time on a cabin weekend!

I'll admit it. We're not very good at getting together in Minneapolis. There's an ELCA church on every corner, but we still keep to ourselves and compete and reinvent the wheel blocks from each other. It's disgusting and I'm totally part of it. So this Sunday I'm excited to break out of that style. We're celebrating Pentecost together in one place. There will be wind rushing and chimes dancing and kids speaking different languages and the Spirit Garage band playing on the plaza. There will be sparklers and tiki torches and violins and a LOT of people.

Zion was asked to participate in this event and I couldn't say no. Zion loves partnering. We have a PhD in teaming up and trying new things. So yes. I'm there. But since many of my members won't be able to get downtown or won't remember to go downtown, I couldn't bear to lock up the church and leave a note. So my folks have a choice - come to Zion at 10am (a retired pastor is filling in) or come to Central at 10am. It's Pentecost either way.

This afternoon I met with three other preachers for the service at Central. We all have three minutes to reflect on a particular portion of the Acts 2 text. Rick Nelson will begin with the Gathering in verses 1 and 2. Then I address the unity and uniqueness of the Holy Spirit's work through language. Then Ben Cieslik will wonder about how we're fed and what for. And then Brandon Porter will bring it home with spoken word, moving out from the pulpit and sending us into the world.

Fancy. Festive. But that's not all. After all this talk about "being the church" together, we'll leave the sanctuary to load trucks for CES. We'll give loaves of bread to those who need them. We'll bombard downtown Minneapolis with the love of Jesus Christ. We'll scatter and blow all over the city marked by our time together and confident that there is more to come. More to do. More to be. More to give. More to receive. 

I'm excited. I will be especially surprised by what happens this Sunday.  I pit out most Sundays because I love my call and have a ridiculous amount of fun with worship...and because we wear silly garb that doesn't breathe in spring or the winds of Pentecost. This is how Scandinavian pastors express their ecstatic faith - with wet underarms during coffee hour.

Sometimes I come home from church and I look like I've worked out. I'm chatty and revitalized. My skin is "glistening". I'm craving carbs. This is when my darling husband interrupts my monologue that is using too many words of Greek or Latin origin to be taken seriously to say, "Honey, I love you. Do you know that you're a huge dork?" Yes. I do. I so do.

This Sunday I will pit out because I will be overwhelmed by the community gathered - so many different churches and gifts and lives gathered as one...but still many. We are together, but only for an hour before we are blown in unique directions for specific work. Work that excites and challenges and changes us. Work that gives us new life and roots us in something much bigger than ourselves. And that's a good sweat.

When mountains of food are handed out and loaded up, Matt and Jasper and I will drive home. And I'll start blabbing about my dreams for God's church and how beautiful the morning was and how powerful the Spirit still is and -

"Honey, I love you," he'll start. And I'll realize how loudly I'm talking while Jasper is falling asleep in the backseat. "I know you do. Thank you for that." I'll put my hand on his leg and remember why I married him. And then he'll smile a smile that means I can keep preaching.  And while I know he'd listen if I went on all day, I'll take a deep breath and roll the windows down. The wind will rush in and that will cover us all with something new.

Friday, May 18, 2012

eating my words

"I get anxious just thinking about all the plastic crap that comes with kids. I don't want people to buy that stuff for us. We have a small house and it will be everywhere. I just want to keep things simple."

- Pre-baby Meta (approx. 4 months pregnant)

Welcome to my future garage sale.
Newsflash, Pre-baby Meta. Life with a baby is complicated and it's not just because they come with a lot of gear. It's because you love him intensely even though he drives you nuts. It's because you and your husband have to crank up the communication skills several notches - neighbors frown upon latch-key toddlers and you need to know who's going to be home when. There's compromise and poop and a lot of under eye concealer.

But you know what IS simple? Chilling out a little bit. It's summer. So hook up the hose and get that wild kiddie pool bubbling. He loves it. You love it. Everybody wins. It's 88 degrees today and I'm eating my pre-baby words. I can't wait for this kid to wake up so we can play.

Don't get me wrong. I still get anxious thinking about the kid clutter. I spent an hour of nap time today packing outgrown clothes in labeled Rubbermaid containers and boxed up toys he doesn't use anymore. I'm still neurotic, but not this afternoon. I'm enjoying my day off and Matt's vacation day. I'm enjoying the shade that's slowly covered the backyard. I'm enjoying a good laugh at all I've learned since Jasper came along.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

This is the Feast

Wednesdays are my favorite part of the week at work. We host the Lyndale Community Dinner every Wednesday at 6:00pm. Not the Zion Church Dinner. The Lyndale Community Dinner. And it really is.

Neighbors, ZOOM House residents, families from the ESL classes at Zion, low cost meal regulars, new visitors, and members of our congregation. Until now it's been funded by grants through the Lyndale Neighborhood Association, the church budget and donations collected at the dinner.

But the grants are drying up. We're having a hard time deciding how to make sure we can serve weekly through 2012 so granting organizations will want to support us again in 2013. Taking a twelve week break because you're $3,000 short doesn't look like an inspiring place to send money. So we're getting creative.

We've asked other congregations, organizations and local businesses to sponsor a Wednesday. That means they'll send a few volunteers to help serve and a check to cover the costs for one week this summer. We're almost halfway to our goal and I'm looking forward to sharing this weekly ritual with newcomers and partners in ministry. It's the most lively and wonderful and challenging part of my week and I'm glad we'll be able to keep gathering all year long.

Some of you have asked for me to share a story or two about Zion here at tangled up in grace. Turns out, most of the stories I want to share happen in this room with these people. There's Devin* who's hard to understand because he's had so many strokes, but I'm learning to speak his language. Last Wednesday he told me that he has a girlfriend up north and Chrissy* here in the cities. I reminded him that Chrissy is no good for him - that she steals his money to buy booze and gets him in trouble with his landlord. Then he asked me if he was committing adultery having two girlfriends. We had a long talk about faithfulness (and the zip code rule, which he found sensible) and then we worked on singing. Devin has a really hard time changing pitches and loves trying to match my notes.

There's a couple that cracks me up. Larry* and Tammy* are the odd couple of dinner. His skin is dark and his a small, wiry guy who reminds me of Flavor Flav. She's pale and beyond heavy set with eyes that barely open and a slow saunter that keeps Larry patient. He's affectionate and funny and loves coming to Recovery Worship. She's shy and loves a second helping at dinner, so she usually stays in the dining room while he sings and prays across the hall. And his prayers are always filled with gratitude for Tammy.

The dinner is a great opportunity for me to mingle with residents from ZOOM House next door. The building has 22 apartments and it's mostly single moms living there. 6-8 of them come to dinner consistently and I'm getting to know their kids by name, too. I've worked hard at laying the groundwork for these relationships and on Wednesday night five of them greeted me before I could come say hello to them. They're comfortable around me. They know my son. One woman asked if we could speak privately, then shared about things going on in her life and asked for prayer. When we finished praying, she had tears in her eyes and said, "I've never had a pastor before. This is alright." Yes, it is.

There are some troublemakers. Sometimes I'm pitting out by 6:30pm because I need to keep Garrison* away Devin's table and Bobby* has shown up drunk or manic. But they all know they can only stay if they're safe and respectful. When that standard is challenged, they have to leave. It gets hairy for a moment and some demand more of my attention than they should. I've written about the underbelly of All Are Welcome and I still wrestle with that constantly here at Zion. It's exhausting. But even the troublemakers know the rules and at the end of the day, all they want is a good meal and a little dignity.

Most people are done eating and just sitting around gabbing when I make the announcement that Recovery Worship is starting across the hall. Some wander in only if they've finished their food. Some come every single week because they love evening prayer or because their group home requires they attend a recovery activity. In that case, I sign their sheet to prove their presence.

Sometimes we have a small group - just eight people sprinkled across twenty hopeful chairs arranged in a circle. But sometimes most of them fill. And we sing a little louder. And it's nice to have so many different people there for different reasons. Because at recovery, we're all the same. We're all coming ready to proclaim God's healing to each other. Brokenness doesn't need to be translated through parables or clever sermon illustrations. We're so clearly broken that it's beautiful. And for 45 minutes, that beautiful brokenness is lifted up and released and we mend a little. I am so alive and forgiven and at peace on Wednesdays at 7:35pm.

We share communion during this service. It's homemade bread and grape juice. Jesse* calls it dessert, probably because he's wandered in late after having seconds at dinner just in time to hear the words of institution and smell the grape juice. Maybe he can smell it so well because he's blind and other senses are heightened. Or maybe he's messing with me. And so most weeks we have 8.5 in worship attendance. Or 14.5. Because sooner or later, Jesse is there and he counts, too. And to be fair, I'm only teasing him when I say that I write .5 in the record book that is kept for fun facts and grant applications.

I always round up because he is, in fact, Whole.

If you would like to make a financial gift to the Lyndale Community Dinner, you can! Any amount will add up to make a big difference for this summer. Consider volunteering or just come and eat with us. $250 covers all the costs of a Wednesday and $125 is the cost of food. You can feed a whole table of people for about $20 and that's amazing. Make checks payable to Zion Lutheran Church 128 W. 33rd Street Minneapolis, MN 55408 and write "LCD - Summer 2012" on the memo line. Or call me at the church office 612-824-1017 to learn more.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I am and God is helping me.

Today is Jasper's baptism birthday. I chose May Day because it's festive and easy to remember and it points to new life that comes with spring.

I am a baptism freak. I always celebrate mine in December and I love knowing and remembering the day for others. If I'm sitting in the pews for a baptism, I cry with joy. I crane my neck to see. I giggle when babies squeal at the cold water. I squeeze Matt's hand as the pastor marks his or her forehead with an oily sign of the cross. If I am helping with a baptism, I'm amped up for the rest of the day. It enlivens and excites me. I have trouble sleeping that night because I'm so hopeful and happy.

Last year Jasper was baptized at the beginning of Sunday worship at St. John's. I had my alb and stole and microphone all ready to go in the sacristy, but first I joined Matt and my family in the pews. For a moment at the beginning of the service I was a mother in a linen dress awaiting the sacrament. I will always be, first and foremost, Jasper's mom. Sometimes his pastor, too, but never first. (Lord, help him.)

Mark did the liturgy and then I piped up for the actual baptism part. And I didn't cry, which shocked many people there. Even though he was my own beloved one, my voice remained strong and steady. I grinned with delight and was very, very amped.

Then I slipped into the sacristy and put my pastor gear over my mom gear. I preached. My voice likely trembled a little while a preached. And then we feasted all afternoon.

A year later, I remember one thing: Mark asked me and Matt and Jasper's sponsors questions: Will we live among God's faithful people, bring Jasper to the Holy Supper, teach him the scriptures and pray for him? And will we do things things in such a way that Jasper can learn to believe in God, to trust in grace, to share the good news, care for justice and the world?

We answered - in unison, as parents and godparents - that we would and we would ask God to help us.

A year later, we are celebrating. Today is the day, though not how I would have planned or expected it. Today is a Tuesday and, while I usually work late into the night on Tuesdays, I didn't tonight. But Matt did, so it was just me in Jasper. I'm glad to break up Father-Son time these days because Jasper is losing his Mama's Boy persona. He's getting tough and dirty and adventurous and gives Matt more kisses than me. So yeah, Matt. Stay at work tonight and let me soak this one up.

Uncles came over for pizza and beer while we played in the sun-streaked yard. Then we loaded up the car for a special service in honor of cousin Berit. She was becoming a Consociate of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet in St. Paul and we were going to support her story and vows together with lots of faithful people who love God and vocation.

I have watched Matt's recent struggle to reign in a new level of boisterous boy in the pews with great admiration for his patience and great relief that I don't have to sit with them. It looks exhausting. There's no way Matt is being fed by worship while Jasper cries and reaches for me up front and gets bribed with Club crackers to shut up. But Matt persists anyway. He is and he's asking God to help him.

We didn't last long in the pews of this St. Paul chapel, so we played in the narthex. We bounced and read books and ate an orange and played tag and clapped and watched and cuddled. At one point, my shoes were off and I was lying on my back on the floor pretending to eat his nose. He giggled and touched it, as though he was making sure it stayed put. I showed him how to make a snow angel we'll call a tile angel and he thought that was hilarious.

Jasper, this is not what I had in mind for your grand and annual baptism ritual. I wanted to light your candle and read you a story from the Bible and have your godparents over for dinner and sing songs together. But why in the world did I think that would actually happen? And now that we're here and not doing that, that cliche I had in mind sounds a little boring. This will do. We are here in a sacred space with people who believe in God and vocation. We are slowing down and sitting together and for a moment, I am simply your mom in church. I haven't been that very often this year, so this is special.

He was exhausted by the time we arrived home and gladly dove into his crib. I lit his candle for a moment while I cleaned the kitchen in quiet peace. In between the messy chaos of a toddler loose and the peaceful loneliness of a sleepy house, I am and God is helping me.

This weekend we'll watch the May Day Parade from Bloomington Avenue with Jasper's godmother and celebrate new creation. But only for a few moments between my Sunday morning at Zion and a 3:30pm wedding I'm officiating. And that's life. That's the pull. But in between the here and the there, I am and God is helping me.