Friday, March 20, 2009

Our Bags Are Packed, We're Ready to Go

Almost everything is packed now, except for items absolutely essential for worship and last minute work. We've sorted, tossed, given away, cleaned out, filled boxes and bins, each room slowly emptied of its contents. On March 29th, we'll end our last service in this historic building with words of thanksgiving. We'll carry out together the items that most mark us as people of faith: those symbols that center us on Jesus. The big Bible, the altar cross and candlesticks, the cups and plates we use when we remember Jesus' last meal with his disciples in the act we call Holy Communion--these and many other items will be carried out by the people of this community at the conclusion of the 11:00 worship on that Sunday. At that point, the building itself is officially freed for other uses--and it will be put to great use as the new owner, Dr. Richard Moore, continues with his creative remodeling and turns it into a wedding chapel/conference center.

April 1 is our official moving day. We're all making light of the fact that we're moving on April Fool's Day, but it is quite appropriate--we are people of the Good News, the foolishness of God that pours out grace and reconciliation on us and invites all of us, no matter how broken, how unworthy we might feel, how tarnished or unprepared we see ourselves, into new life and new hope.

I have become exquisitely aware this week in new ways that the church itself is most definitely not the building, but the people in it. While we're certainly all looking forward to our new facility--fully accessible, lots of restrooms (if you've never been in the old facility, you cannot understand how happy we are about this!!!), gracious greeting area, fabulous spaces for our children and youth, room to grow, and so much more--the church is not that. The church really is the called-out people, the ones who've decided that we will accept the invitation from God to live as forgiven and reconciled ones, even though we know we don't deserve it. The church is all of us who fumble and fall on our way to learning about grace, who roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty as we seek to serve the world, who intentionally lose our our lives because we've learned that this is the way to really, really find life.

The church is not perfect people living perfect lives, with no room for the imperfect. The church is the place where the imperfections are celebrated as they are slowly transformed by grace into hope for ourselves and others. Real church takes place when we bring all of ourselves, our beliefs AND our doubts, our joys AND our concerns, our victories AND our defeats, our visible AND our invisible selves, our unselfishness AND our selfishness, our goodness AND our badness, our health AND our sickness. We bring it all, and learn to love God and love each other.

Yes, our bags are packed and we're ready to go. Let the new adventure begin!

Friday, March 13, 2009

It's All Around Us

As I write today, it is a cold, wet Thursday morning. I have ensconced myself at a window seat in a Macdonald's near Baylor Hospital, close to downtown Dallas. I just dropped off a friend for his daily radiation treatment in his fight against cancer and headed here to think and write and read a bit.

It's late morning and busy here. Mostly with senior citizens who come and enjoy the low priced “senior coffee” and conversation each each other. I like the atmosphere—people of every color and background, some alone, some conversing, all feeling some level of comfort and warmth and safety. Cleanliness and order rule the day: the tables and floors immaculately clean, the bathroom sparkles with frequent attention. 

A gentleman with a walking stick, backpack and bluetooth set just took the table next to mine, a phone conversation in progress—sounds like important business. An older couple with two adorable, smiling grandchildren wrapped against the wet cold enter. The already pleasant atmosphere brightens even more. One senior citizen, putting his trash in the receptacle, immediately greets them and says, “Give me five!” I offer my own joy and words of greeting. The two small boys simply beam on anyone who walks by. Their smiles are sunshine on this gray, damp day.

Spanish predominates. I enjoy the rhythms of the language even when I cannot understand the words. It's a language of beauty and grace—easy to see why my oldest son fell in love with it and has insisted that his own children learn Spanish first, and then English. This is heritage worth preserving.

A young African-American man converses animatedly with an older man of Asian ancestry. A white woman sits in companionable closeness to her Hispanic friend. The man with the backpack and bluetooth continues his conversation—he's counseling someone not to panic over some sort of health-related business issue. His deep south accent soothes, offering comfort to one clearly in distress.

I grew up not far from this part of Dallas. I remember the days of great racial tension, and being told by my parents not to venture into this part of town alone. I remember a life when this kind of racially mixed company would have been viewed with horror or fear. I am grateful that we have made progress, that we are all seen as human and worthy of respect and dignity.

Jesus spoke all the time about the Kingdom of Heaven being all around his followers. He told them, “if you've got ears to hear, then listen.” I'm gaining those ears. I'm listening. Right off this busy intersection in old East Dallas, the Kingdom of Heaven is all around me. It permeates quietly, supported by small acts of kindness and love and generosity. The changes are often gradual—so tiny we don't even recognize them until suddenly our eyes are opened and we see, “Wow—look what has happened over the years.”

Friday, March 06, 2009

A Special Place in Hell

I have come to the final, irrevocable, unchangeable, frustrated conclusion that there will be a special place reserved in hell for the person who invented that rigid, clear packaging that now entombs so many consumer goods.  I have just spent 15 minutes trying to get to a new hairdryer without bleeding to death by cutting myself on the sharp edges of that material. I now have a new tension point in my back, and aching hands from tying to manipulate a pair of scissors through the impermeable stuff. 

I've made the decision that if I ever have to purchase something wrapped like that again, I will insist that the personnel from the store actually open it for me.  Perhaps if we all do that, the store owners will stop ordering things in such packaging.  And if the store owners stop ordering such things, the manufacturers will stop using it.

C'mon, folks. Let's start a revolution.  This is ridiculous.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The "Who's Who" Application

Recently, I received a letter from something called the "Cambridge Who's Who" telling me what an important person I am and that my candidacy to be included in this prestigious directory has been approved. All I have to do is visit my personalized website and fill out the application form there and I'll be in. 

Well, it is about time someone recognized how important I am and acknowledged my growing celebrity!  Yes, this is written tongue-in-cheek.  I get these things all the time, and they are a great way to lose money in the name of vanity and recognition.  I was speaking of these one time to a friend of mine who has achieved much prominence in her field.  She said that she arranged for her cat to be nominated and included in one of those scam "Who's Who" books.  No accomplishments required--just a willingness to part with some money to purchase some fame.

Last week, at what we call our Midweek Miracle program for children and youth, the theme for the evening was "Celebrity Night."  It was great fun, and everyone walked the red carpet when coming in, pasted stars all over themselves, and learned how do to celebrity introductions.  One of our most creative nine-year-olds fashioned an elegant evening gown out of craft paper, completed by two of the younger girls who managed the sweeping train attached to the dress.  We all had great fun play-acting as sought after celebrities. 

But as the evening drew to a close, I looked at the adults who had just given up hours of time and energy to create this miracle time for the children and youth.  Here were the real celebrities:  The kitchen crew who manage to cook and serve a fabulous meal each week, and make sure there is enough left over to deliver meals to shut-ins around the neighborhood; the table parents who patiently teach the children manners and courtesy as they form family groups with unrelated children; the Bible study leaders who bring such wisdom and knowledge to their task that our youth became so engaged in discovering the Bible that we couldn't even get them to stop for their next activity; the worship skills leaders who tap into what seem to be bottomless wells of creativity as they lead the children with drama and visual exercises that help them retain God's word in a way that they can share it with the congregation on Sunday mornings; the recreation leaders who never run out of fun games that teach our young people that they can have great fun without having to divide themselves into winners and losers. 

These are the quiet and faithful people who take seriously the commands in the Bible to become disciples of Jesus Christ.  They live out their lives as disciples with zest, joy, companionship and service.  At the end of each Midweek Miracle evening, we all look at each other knowing we are physically tired yet infused with the energy that comes from a job well done.  Would that there is a "Who's Who" for these faithful saints and all the others around the world who seek to live out the God-infused life!  But perhaps there is one--perhaps these are the ones whose names are written in God's book of life, the ones to whom God will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful in little; now be faithful in much."

That's the best recognition of all.

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Walk Through

One day last week, I just needed a break and decided to take a quick walk-through of the new building which will soon become the physical home of the United Methodist Church here in Krum. As I wandered through the rooms at 1001 E. McCart, the construction workers good-naturedly offered a chance to go to work with them.  Having no skills in that area at all, I happily declined, just being delighted to see what is happening.

A long-held dream coming true for us--hard to believe that we are so close to the move.

The current building at the corner of 2nd and McCart pulses with memories.  Baptisms, marriages, funerals, messages, Bible study, service, love, meals, teaching children, laughter and joy, tears and shared sorrow, babies born and others going onto eternity, all done in holy connection with one another.  I've only had three years here, and in those three years have come to a deeper and deeper appreciation of the ways this group of people live as the hands and feet of Jesus in this community and in the world beyond.  So many lives changed, so much good done in the name of Jesus.

And now we will move.  Our last Sunday in the current location is March 29. On that day, as the 11:00 service ends, we will carry out of the Sanctuary all items that are part of our worship life.  The Bibles, hymnals, the cloths that drape the altar and the pulpit, the wall hangings that represent the movement of the Christian year, the candles that give us the light of Christ during worship, the candlelighters that bring in and take out that light, the baptismal font where the waters remind us that God has called us to be his own people--all this and more will be carried out and packed so that it might be carried back in at the 9:00 a.m. service on Palm Sunday, April 5.

Yes, a long-held dream is coming true as the following week we occupy space that is fully accessible to all, that is especially geared for the nurture and care and spiritual education of children and youth, that gives us space and light and reflects our hope in the future because God is with us.

All are invited to join us in these last four weeks of worship in our current space.  Come and share those sweet memories there and then help us build new ones of transformational living in this transformational move to 1001 E. McCart St., next to the Blanche Dodd Intermediate School.  Blanche Dodd, herself a lifetime member of this church and a woman of service and love, would be proud of us.