Archives for June 2015

Do You Believe This? — SheLoves

Wonderful themes going this year over at SheLoves. This month? Permission — a topic I absolutely loved writing about because I think it’s so important, especially for women. Please start that piece here and then follow the link over to one of the richest places on the internet.

Henrietta Mears

I had a boss once who used the phrase, “Better to ask forgiveness than permission.” That little sentence used to bother me a little, having lived the formative years of my life as an oh-so-obedient eldest child, one who asked permission for everything. I spent way too many minutes (years?) of my life worrying about where to go, whom to ask, and how to find permission to try most anything and everything.

But if there is one thing I’ve learned well in the past few decades, it is this: permission is highly overrated. Too often, the word has been dangled over our heads (our female heads, most especially), and with eyebrows raised and fingers pointed, we’ve been asked, “Who said you could do that?”

I grew up at the tail end of the ‘behave like a lady’ thinking that permeated North American culture for generations. Like children, women were to be seen, but not heard, ‘respected,’ even revered, but not fully included nor even invited into the story of the 20th century church.

But in 1950’s southern California evangelical circles, there was one woman who changed that trajectory dramatically. Her name was Henrietta Mears and she was a dynamo. She broke through barriers right and left. Though I never knew her, her life made a mark on mine. And then there was Roberta Hestenes, an ordained Presbyterian pastor and seminary professor who singlehandedly began to change the way many streams of evangelical mid-twentieth-century Christianity viewed women. She never asked permission for anything, she just quietly followed God’s lead and taught us all some valuable lessons about personhood, calling and obedience.

 

So in the spirit of solidarity with such women through the ages, I’d like to pause a moment and remind us all of what we do not ever need permission to do. Are you ready?

Click here to join the conversation – it’s a good one today.

Cloudy Days

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It is June in Santa Barbara, California.

That means clouds. Lots and lots of low-hanging clouds. Apparently, the heat in the central valley does something magical to the sea air, dragging in lots of creeping fog to lay its head all along the central coast. Mornings and evenings are darkish and very damp, occasionally to the point of invisibility through the front windshield of your car. Most of the years we’ve lived here, I sort of tolerate this kind of weather. It’s not my favorite, but it is frequently redeemed when all that fog burns off about mid-afternoon, revealing blue skies and shadows, showing off the loveliness all around us, loveliness that somehow seems less visible in the fog and clouds.

When I sat down to write my semi-monthly newsletter yesterday, I was surprised at what came to me. (You can subscribe through the pop-up or by using the link at the end of this post. If you are subscribed and are not receiving these letters, be sure to let me know. I can get them to you if I know you’re missing them.) In the letter that went out early this morning, I wrote about the presence of sadness in our lives, even in the midst of deep joy and contentment.As you might guess, I spent some time reflecting on this hard journey with my mom. Somehow, writing about sadness seems appropriate in this kind of weather. 

I will quickly add that this year, I’m deeply grateful for all that cloud cover. Why? Because we are working harder physically this year than we have in a very long time. We’re pulling things out of corners we’ve forgotten about, we’re lugging old, broken pieces of yard furniture the entire length of our acre lot, we’re filling up not one, not two, but THREE recycle containers in a matter of hours. And cool weather makes all that work a whole lot easier to do.

As I often do after a particularly rich sermon, I chewed on the truth that Jesus must have carried a great deal of sadness when he walked this earth, too. We all do, you know? It’s always there and it needs to be acknowledged. Not catered to or unduly emphasized, but owned. Why? Because to be human is to be sad, at least once in a while, and sometimes it’s good to let that sadness breathe a bit. 

We are enjoying a marvelous series this summer on how Jesus read the Bible, which means how Jesus interpreted the Old Testament, the only Bible available to him in first century Palestine. This happens to be one of my very favorite topics, one I believe to be central to our understanding of how we are to view and use the Bible we have today, so I am greatly enjoying what we’re hearing. I had hoped to be one of the preachers in this series, but life intervened and that will not be happening. At this moment in time, ALL of my books are in boxes, not to be unpacked until sometime after August 10th, so preaching will be impossible for me this summer.

In years past, I would have been heartbroken about that truth. I used to love preaching, more than almost anything else I did as a pastor. But a switch got turned sometime during my last year of professional church ministry and that deep desire just sort of dried up. Sometimes I am puzzled by that. But most of the time, I am grateful. It was sometimes difficult to be a part-time associate — a role I felt called to and grateful for — when I loved preaching so much. Part-time associates do not preach often. Of course they don’t –it’s part of the deal, you know? But I loved it and I longed for it.

So losing that driving desire felt like a deep confirmation in my discernment process about retirement. It was like God said, “There will be new things for you to love, Diana.” And there have been; yes, there have been. This space is one of those things, and I am sorry that life has intervened to the extent it has in recent months. I am not able to make as many contributions to this space as I would like to. Hopefully, that will be resolved sometime next fall.

I am also thoroughly enjoying the newsletter. I allows a bit more personal interaction than the comments space (although I do love the comments space!!) and I may find it the best place to write about my journey with my mother. I also enjoy writing bi-monthly for our denominational magazine and monthly for SheLoves. I miss Deeper Story dreadfully,  but am grateful for the occasional connection with writers there via our private Facebook group. 

So losing that driving desire felt like a deep confirmation in my discernment process about retirement. It was like God said, “There will be new things for you to love, Diana.” And there have been; yes, there have been. Like this space (which I have been badly ignoring during this time of heavy lifting!), the newsletter, the articles I write for our denominational magazine, SheLoves, and anywhere else that will have me.

I think what I loved most about sermon-crafting was the writing. It was also the part that I hated the most, so go figure! And that is an interesting parallel to the joy/sadness thing, isn’t it? Both things are true. Most of us who write have a true love/hate relationship with the whole process. And all of us who live must become accustomed to that constant mix of joy and sadness, ease and difficulty, wonder and discouragement. 

Life is complicated.

But isn’t it glorious??

 

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Pentecost — One Week Late!

DSC04430As I noted in today’s newsletter (you can subscribe below), this is a crazy-making time in our lives. We’ve got a major move underway and a big family vacation right in the middle of it all. And I’m still (at least, partially) in recovery mode from several weird medical experiences of the past few months. So this post is about a week later than I had hoped it might be.

Through it all, we keep on truckin,’ by the grace of God and a whole lotta stubborn determination. One week ago we traveled south to be present for our middle daughter’s oldest son’s confirmation. Wesley is 17, just finished his junior year in high school and is contemplating college, right around the corner. How in the heck did that happen? Wasn’t he just a tiny kid who looked almost exactly like his mama?

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While we were there, we managed to sneak in basketball games for each of Wesley’s two younger brothers and I had the shopping joy of browsing a JC Penney, a store which my town hasn’t had for years. They have definitely upgraded their women’s clothing section!!

But the true highlight of the weekend was that Confirmation Service. We always love worshipping at Knox Presbyterian in Pasadena CA, and are regularly inspired by their creative worship and solid preaching. It’s been a good home for our kids and that makes this particular set of parents and grandparents very partial and very grateful.

It was Pentecost Sunday — a great day for welcoming young adults into full membership of the church. Two of the five kids were also baptized — a wondrous splashing of water from a beautiful wooden font.

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But the standout surprise moment for us happened during the children’s sermon. Pastor Matt invited the confirmands and about 3 of the littler kids to take hold of round, disc like objects which he had stashed up front. They were in shades of red, orange and yellow and as the kids began to handle them, I could see that they were circles of crepe paper streamers.

And here’s what we did with them. The kids tossed them out as far as they could, then the congregants picked them up and tossed them behind themselves until the back pew was reached. Then the back row tossed them toward the front until all the rolls were completely unspooled. It looked fabulous!

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Then we were instructed to raise those streamers above our heads and stomp our feet as fast as we could. “And that,” said Pastor Matt, “is just a small picture of what it must have been like when the Spirit showed up at Pentecost.” Wind and fire. Oh, YEAH!

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It was the perfect set-up for the kids’ vows and the gentle reading of a piece of their own personal credos, each one reading a portion that wove together into a modern version — a confirmation student version! — of the Apostle’s Creed. 

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At the end of the service, some helpful ‘stage hands’ moved forward a large white easel and a table spread with colored (washable) paints. And during the singing of the last hymn, we were invited to come forward, dip our thumbs into red, orange or yellow paint and make a mark on the sketched-in flames drawn on the easel.

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Everyone was involved, a bodily experience of community that I found profoundly moving.

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It’s not the most gorgeous piece of art you’ll ever see, but it is a lovely representation of this particular fellowship of believers and their commitment to be in this thing together.

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In the quiet space after the service, I snapped a photo of the finished flames, set against the draped cross. And I thanked God for this motley, crazy thing called ‘the church.’ We are far from perfect, but sometimes . . . sometimes, we get it right.

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Joining this with Jennifer, Lisha, Laura.