Sunday, March 31, 2013

There Were No Easter Baskets

Time just keeps moving us forward. There's no greater reminder of this for me, lately, than holidays. What once was a foregone conclusion; holiday, big dinner, everybody home - has morphed into something that requires a lot of mobility and flexibility.

Such was Easter this year. The boys are gone, off on a mission trip with their dad in New York City. Sarah is in Savannah. Shannon and Sydni came home for the weekend. Tony and I are still here, and everything swirls around us. 

No complaints. Just the way it is. And I'm okay with that.

Easter was an amazing celebration at our church. I read this post today and realized that I have moved past the emotions he describes into something that is grounded in joy and optimism, more so than in recent years. It is tangible and it is good, and today was an explosion of grace and goodness that I still find
Connie Kottman's art
inexplicable; but I accept it for what it is and give thanks for a community of faith that gives us room to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

And a good bit of singing and shouting.

There were no Easter baskets for our family this year, which felt a bit odd. But church and a full table and good conversation made up for the absence of candy, fake grass and chocolate bunnies.

It's been a busy few weeks around here, but I've been taking notes. Here's some links I highly recommend, from writers all connected with PCC in some way:

You can watch today's service here

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Grace Cemented, Glory Revealed

Leading worship with my brother last night was remarkable. So many things combined to create a powerful time of community. Much of it was personal, unique to me; but we were together in community, and I am reminded every time that when God's people gather, something happens.

It's one of the greatest ongoing surprises of faith, this Mystery that shows up. Beyond what we offer and who we are, something essential is formed in our togetherness that is unmatched.

For me, combining the spiritual depth of the gathering with the family present, it was likely one of my favorite moments. Maybe ever. Certainly of this year.

I won't forget.

The band shared communion backstage, before we went out to play. I held the cups and bread on a broken wooden table top and said a few words; the correlation between the intimacy of making music together and the bond of the ties that bind us as believers was paramount in my mind. And, of course, there was my brother, my husband, the bond of family...

We both came to true faith in Christ in our twenties. I will never forget standing next to him at one of the first Passion events - Fort Worth, Texas, 1999. I heard "Agnus Dei" for the first time, sang at the top of my lungs to a Father whose love embraced me in raw, electric, all-encompassing passion. My brother, with whom I had plowed through Methodist hymns week after week in the small churches of our childhood; now we stood in truth, all of the training and preparation of our spiritual education come to fruition. Our harmony was true and clear.

Fourteen years later, we sang an Emmylou song and we inhabited the Apostles' Creed, declaring the power of the faith by which we stand, in harmony, and the truth was cemented, grounded, established, lifted up. Our children stood in the front row, singing, cousin harmony blended with lifted hands. Our parents stood in the center section and worshiped the God who left a trail for them to follow some forty (or fifty) years ago. Even my kids' dad, whose history is bound up in the memories of the unfolding of our lives; he was in the room, singing.

Time goes on, moments slip by, grace is cemented and glory is revealed.  Through it all, God goes before us, wraps the truth of history behind us and settles us in our present moments.

My brother is a gifted musician who has worked diligently to craft his talent into an offering worth of the One who bestowed it upon him. His presence in our community helped usher us into a meaningful, powerful time with God last night.

Several people asked, so: Eric played on this record with Matt Redman in 2003; it's an incredible outpouring of worship, filled with several songs that have become staples in churches in the last several years.

You can hear his original music with Maida Vale here and here; two of my favorite records, with no bias whatsoever. Excellent music.

He currently serves at E3 in Tallahassee; you can find links to his teaching here.

Eric writes here; as talented as he is with a guitar, his words are often profound and challenging.

He has done a lot and he is an amazing person. His wife is a joy and his children are incredible.

But bottom line: He's a child of the King. He is the son of Clyde and Peggy Case.

And he's my baby brother.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

I Can Do Better

Great day today, and I am exhausted. First day I've felt like myself in a while.

I didn't drive for over three weeks. I whined and complained, but it was a blessing. I had some amazing conversations with the folks who volunteered to give me rides. There was something about those snippets of community that was extremely important and unusually beneficial to me.

I'm driving now; I drove to church this morning. And in the message I heard there, Sammy Frame took my unintentional mindless meandering daily way of life, wrapped it in a conviction sandwich and dropped it, conveniently, right in my lap. And then we had the opportunity to share communion together, and things moved and shifted. All for the better. I was powerfully aware of the reality of God this morning, the common experience of a group of people open to experiencing His presence, and the impact of a man who lived and died over 2000 years ago - one that we still remember, and sing about, and talk about, and talk to today.

And I drove home, my phone in my lap, boys in the car, and I thought about Sammy's honest confession that he looks at his phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night and in that bit of identification with the common brokenness of our technologically-obsessed culture I heard "you can do better."

And I know where that came from.

And I started this blog post with a completely different intention, something about not watching The History Channel like everyone else on my Facebook feed, and about being exhausted but grateful because I feel like I'm inhabiting my life again, and about the incredible experience of inviting folks to show up for a Harlem Shake shoot and seeing the wackiest, craziest and creative costumes and props that I could have imagined, and about cooking dinner and eating at the table for the first time in four weeks with six places set, and about surprising, tear-filled conversations and a coming week crammed with meetings and an incredible, music-filled celebration coming next weekend. But my fingers followed my heart and the things rolling around in my brain, and this is what needed to be said.

I can do better.

I intend to focus this week, to live with more intentionality. I want to live into the wild and reckless notion of trust rather than the simple, more negligible notion of faith.

I want to do better, and I have a chance to do just that.

Even as Sammy reminded us today of the danger of associating our validity with blog comments and 'likes' on FB and website stats, I am posting this...and, quite honestly, hoping you WILL read it and like it and respond. That's the truth. I'm not sure it's a good thing, but it's the truth. And I'm going to think a bit more about just what that means for the way I say I want to live my life. I think it's true, that I can do better. And I think it requires some changes....

If I commented on my own blog, I'd note the irony; if I'm going to change, why not just start? Close the computer, turn off the phone, quit posting on the blog. Live differently.

Don't just write about it.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Feminism And The Right To Be Broken

I've been discovering some delicious and delightful new stuff on the good ol' Internets these days. I cleaned out my Google reader list when I realized that 20 or 30 posts were piling up on some blogs, and I just kept avoiding reading them. Which made me feel guilty. Which is ridiculous, because it's not like it's a school reading list that somebody decided was compulsory. I chose and bookmarked them myself, for goodness' sake.

So I emptied the list and started over. And I've done a little wandering around a few rabbit trails in the past few weeks and stumbled upon some cool stuff.

"Don’t let me tell you a story in which I get to be the savior. You deserve to be the hero of your own story. 
Don’t let me silence you by speaking your story for you. Let me make room for you to tell your own. 
Don’t let me close the skin over a wound that isn’t healed. You can bleed as long as you need to. 
Don’t let me caulk all your cracks with compliments. You are not always pretty. And you don’t need to be. 
Don’t let me try to fix you. You have a right to be broken. That’s how the light gets in." - Esther Emery, who blogs here.
I've never considered myself a feminist, but I know that my mom raised me to reach for more than she was able to attain. I remember her telling me, consistently, "You can be anything you want to be." I grew up believing that...but along the way, I absorbed quite a few cultural messages that dictate and drive expectations and attitudes based on gender. I didn't realize it then, because I really believed I was free and empowered to do and be whatever I wanted.

Until I wanted to play Little League with my cousins, and I wasn't good enough. I wanted that, and I'd grown up doing everything right alongside Jimmy and Joey. But as we grew towards adolescence, the scales started to tip, and I started to see and understand that there were certain things that boys would do, and I would not. Could not.

Because I was not a boy.

That being said, I've never felt hindered by my gender - but quite frankly, I've had it fairly easy. I'm a type-A, go-get-'em girl with a lot of natural leadership abilities. I can make my way alright. I benefited greatly from the feminist movement. I am an independent adult woman in 2013 who has not faced a tremendous amount of interference because I am female (notwithstanding the Southern Baptist version of the Christian church, which continues to mess with my mind to this day. But that's another blog post, one I think I already wrote...)

There are things in this world that don't work as they should. Whether it's because of gender or race or religion or orientation, we are well aware of our differences, and who's got the power, and what they tend to do with that power, and whether it hurts or helps. Being human is messy. Loving one another is messier still. Often, to very difficult and ugly degrees.

David. Coury.
Just an aside: Courey and David are hanging out tonight. They are best friends, but opposites in so many ways; different in appearance, in race, in family situations, in age even. They watch Xbox and surf youtube and enjoy one another's company. When David's in control of the playlist, we hear a lot of Jack Johnson, John Meyer and Mumford and Sons. Now David's in the shower, and Courey's playing Frank Ocean and Otis Redding and Kanye West. They are so different, and our house is full to the brim with their energy and their differences, and there is no conflict, other than whose feet stink the worst and what game they're going to play, and it's a beautiful thing.

This post is all over the place, and I'm not sure it makes sense. But I was struck by Esther Emery's take on feminism, and how she connected the dots between a desire to help and educate and fix and change and the simple truth that we can never own another person's story. As a pastor, I am privy to a lot of personal moments in people's lives. There are tears, and confessions, and expressions of sorrow and grief and doubt and despair, and I gotta confess: my first overriding desire, every time, is to just. fix. it. That's my own messy humanity. And somehow, these things are connected in my mind. Get past it, clean it up, make it look good, pull past the pain. And I can't help but think that my misguided desire for repair is the antithesis of what lies at the core the push for a level playing field, for all of us to stand together on the level ground at the foot of the cross.

I want to be a feminist, in that I might seek justice for those who cannot speak, and listen to those who need an ear, and help bind up the wounds of the broken, and be the unique woman God created in me. I want to honor my mother's dream for her daughter, as she navigated the new-found freedoms of the 50's and 60's and imagined a bright, new world. I want to hear a wild mix tape of Kanye and Mumford, black and white, extroverted and introverted, silly and serious. I want to be a feminist if it means empowerment and acknowledgement and the desire to see everybody as valued, to help remember that Jesus loves us all, the broken especially, and we are all broken, so do the math.

And I want to release this ridiculous notion that to be a successful feminist - or woman - or pastor - or friend - I must fix what is broken. I want my first response to be respect, born of love and listening and honor of every person's journey.

Learn to live in the midst of the mess. See the beauty in the broken, as my brother says. 

Let the light in.

That's what I want to do.