Thursday, June 21, 2012

To everything there is a season...

Before I get started, I have to give a little mea culpa!   I have presently two followers to this blog--I may have lost them over the past two months--And I had every good intention on getting back on... but the infamous month of May came with every confirmation, graduation, funerals, health issues and life just kept on intruding to necessary things--such is our  parsonage life.  

Soooo, What's going on,  here are some snippets as life and seasons, like Ecclesiastes turn,:

On a serious note, my dearly beloved Emily in going to have gall bladder surgery.  We are thankful that now we know why she hasn't felt well these past months.  Unfortunately in a packed summer schedule, we have to make time for health.  She is in good hands with doctors, family and friends.  Our savior, we trust,  will lead us through this valley.  Your prayers are appreciated!

My oldest, Eliza,  is in summer school, after failing math and Minnesota history.  The first subject I understand--I also  am not a "math person."  I think the Minnesota history was more personal--I am a Minnesota-phile. A little adolescent rebellion in my opinion may be the root.   Interestingly enough, summer school history is strictly about the American civil war--another historical  interest of mine.  Now my "tween," against her will, has to talk to dear old dad about the blue and the grey.  Even though this is not her first love, she has started to see that life could be vastly different and worse than what one has.   That's what makes history important and so misunderstood as one gets caught up in dates and events, not seeing the grand scheme and flow of life.  However, one day when I brought home a video about Robert E. Lee--supposedly to help on a report, she wanted to watch her first season of the "Fresh Prince of Bell Aire."  I guess Will Smith is her historical interest now--it could be worse.

My oldest boy Caleb is just happy that summer is here.  He wanted school to end in April but our district had other plans!   As you may remember, Caleb has Aspberger's Sydrome.  He is high functioning but that does mean any lack of high drama events.   Taking off clothes at school, running away from school, running away from Cub Scouts and Bible camp--and yes, getting to know the police department are snippets of some "entertaining" events this summer.   To their credit, the police have handled Caleb well and have seen that his actions are not a time to launch a family services investigation.  In a previous location, Caleb called 911 saying he was afraid of his dad,  Once all twelve of the county swat time found out Caleb just didn't want to take a bath when mom was gone.   That story was a fun opener for a church service the next day--but I digress.  If Mario Brothers and all similar games  were class--we have an expert.  In our ever changing economy, he may have a marketable skill.  Now that he is slowly accepting his medication again, he may be ready for school this fall. Only the lord knows!

Our youngest three are in perpetual motion, Cheyenne loved school and loved the class she was in.   Special-education in another elementary school than our other kids has gone well.  It's a good school--except its probably the least accessible school in our district!  Cheyenne almost fell face forward at a McDonald's this year!   That was in the Cities for a medical trip.  I has made us much more aware of side walks.  On a positive note, we went to our state park--Myre-Big Island--and traveled on a wonderful accessible path.  While there we saw a white-tailed deer, an absolute high-light of the summer.

Gilly, our "band aid" girl, is just loving life.  Tired of Kindergarten, she is embracing summer T-ball  This year she has mastered running to first rather than third after you hit the ball and runner after the ball rather than picking the clovers in the field!  Dressing the cats, finger painting and buckling her stuffed animals on family trips occupy her time.   Reminds me of care free summers past.

Last, our little Levi is everyone's heart throb.   Our little Red Head just loves singing and repeating everything he hears.  Yesterday, he learned that the weather radio gives necessary news.  When mom wondered out loud about the weather, he repeated in almost a robot voice--"chance of thunderstorms after midnight!"   Maybe he will be a weather man.

That's our summer so far, I'll try to get more themes in my next entries.   But presently, that is how our life, is turning.  As Solomon says, that there is probably "nothing new under heaven."  Luther said that our life's purpose is in constant repenting, or turning to Jesus. No matter what physical or societal direction we turn in the changing seasons, let's trust and pray that he will be our only  direction.  This will give our zigzag life an unknown purpose that is building the kingdom tapestry.   "Your will be done, Your Kingdom Come, on Earth as it is in Heaven."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Will we ever get settled?

Will we ever get settled?

I had one of those typical husband, wife discussions or arguments about balance that just went nowhere.  Unfortunately, they have become way to common over these past 12 years of marital bliss (sic)!.  We have a spirited, unique family.   Two from multiracial adoptions.  And three kids with special needs.   There is always something happening at our house!  Now, to be fair, Emily-my dearly beloved in marriage-and I have not picked typical paths for both a family and a ministry.   By all accords, we did not plan what our parsonage would  look like or how it would be organized.   I think we just went with chaos and we are catching up to organizing it  even as we speak!

Since many are new to us, here is a quick synopsis.  In 2000, waaaayyy back when I was ordained, Emily and I were alone--that is alone with 3 cats, a rabbit, 2 hamsters and 3 Duprasis (Flat-tailed gerbils).  Yes we were technically illegal at seminary housing.  So a move to more understanding, Minnesota country living was just what we needed--so we thought.

Not knowing the "offense" our family would cause the "investors" of congregation owned housing, we simply shared our life with the world--a little naive.  We had neighborhood kids stop by to see "our zoo."  Yes, my first call allowed us to stay (so the story goes) but became increasingly  dismayed as we added rats, a chinchilla and neighborhood stray cats and a dog--and (very importantly) two human kids to our menagerie.   The love and support of the church didn't last.   Soon, we started to hide our life from others--especially those who wanted to spy and gossip about the "situation" in the parsonage.  A move  fast became a practical necessity.

Pursuing a another call in another part of the state, we had initially vowed to buy a home rather than get that great "free" housing we pastor's are spoiled with :)  Weighing three call potentials, we ended up in another congregation owned parsonage.  It was nicer than our previous house. And we had new, more understanding "owners"---so we thought.   Actually the first 3 years we thought went by well, without a word about our family mentioned.      However, not long after we added child #3, the illusion started to shatter.  With addition of child 4 and 5, the concern for the animals turned into a concern for our family.  Well, not so much a concern but an ultimatum--"I can't truly be an effective pastor with such a big family."  Good people were there too--who we miss.  But, the time once again, came for a move.  This time, in a house that we owned!  So we moved to another part of the state.   We would own our place so that the congregation  would not worry about our animals or our big family.  After more than 3 years since our move, I believe we have found our place to settle in.

Two things that have made the difference.  One, we own the chaos at our house.   Yes, we have many of the same looks when pets are brought up--but it isn't a congregation issue.  It's our zoo and we like it.  Two, both congregations I serve are used to big families.  In fact, for our age group, we are not the largest family in the church.   In fact, because the churches have gotten "older,"  both are--in theory--desiring young families.   Maybe not as wild as ours :)   But still the desire is there.  No,  by no means are the two congregations perfect--what churches are!   But, for the first time, in ordained ministry, Emily and I have been embraced for who we are, not criticized for what we are not!

Well, that synopsis took longer than maybe  it needed.  But it gives context to the topic of discussion with my lovely partner in parenting.  We still argue about the balance between the two spheres of life.  As a stay out home mom--with some part time work activities, she wants me to participate more at home and not get involved less with those far to numerous after-hour church activities.  The present discussion, still revolves around balance.  We still believe that our kids are a blessing and a blessing to the churches.  Yet, struggle with the reality that our congregations are not used to young kids or families.  Our local church assembly (called synod assembly) is addressing this topic.  I hope it's not too late because congregations are for families.   As technology seems to individualize our lives, we need our church's to embrace this chaos rather than avoid it.

In the midst of the chaos, Emily and I will have to discuss our plan of action for this synod assembly.  Unfortunately, she will not be there because of prior commitments.  That's similar to the responses I'm getting from other young families--nice try synod, but we have other priorities.  I wish the responses were  more enthusiastic but, like children, you can't make someone else feel the way you do.  Our church's need the chaos of young families just as much as these family's need the people of God.

According to Genesis 1, God spoke into the watery, chaos: Let there be Light!   My colleague in ministry Dave, likes to respond, "it was still chaos, only you could see it better!"   I don't know what our answer is for bring the next generation into our church.  In reading Acts this Easter season, maybe it's on our knees, guided by the Spirit.   That type of action, could change our families, church and the world!

Pastor Matt

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Count the Scars, Tell Your Story

My little Gilly loves band-aids.   I think she views them somewhat as stickers--especially the kid ones with Sponge Bob and Dora on them.  With them, she shows off her "owies" and tells you how she got each one.   In many ways, it's more than just mere scratches she points to.  She is telling me stories about how life.

Now, unless we have unlimited cash--which we don't, Emily and I could let her go through 3-5 boxes a day.   Left unrestrained, she would do it!  So we try to give her a criteria about band-aid worthy "owies."  Maybe a in a small way, teaching her a little stewardship of resources along the way--not a bad lesson.   However today, I am having second thoughts.

On a monthly basis, Pastors of our conference--called Blue Earth River--meet for fellowship, communion and mutual encouragement.  Many of these gathering are okay and not necessarily something to write home (or blog) about.  Today, for me, it was different.  My neighboring colleague  Pastor Mark hosted and preached today about the scars on Jesus' Body in the encounter with doubting Thomas  (John 20).   Aside from the actual miracle of the resurrection--main point of the story, Mark focused on the scars Jesus and we carry after healing.  They are healed, but the scars are stories of love and pain.

Mark speculated whether we can " just move on" from those scars--they're healed, or whether we need to acknowledge the pain of those wounds each one represents.    Some wounds may not even be visible but emotional or spiritual.  Suffice it to say, I started think about Gilly's wounds and my own.   There have been many cases in my "professional" life as a pastor that I simply ignored the pain and the hurt I have gone through.  I remember in a previous place, someone was concern about my emotional health.  I felt the need--quite wrongly--to just soldier on.  The person said--quite wrongly--that I was showing my ability to be a professional.  Hah!  Quite the opposite.  Now I would say that I was a  horrible example of being a follower.  Jesus' scars showed through his resurrected glory.  Maybe ours need to also?

So I take this time to repent to my little 6 year old.  I will listen to her stories about hurt and pain.  I will bandage her "owies" no matter how unimportant they seem to me.  And yes, maybe budget for some extra band-aid boxes for as long as she needs them.  Scars may be healed, but they are important to Gilly, myself and Jesus.  In sharing our stories, maybe we can bandage our woulds and rise to Easter glory.

Pastor Matt

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

He Is Risen!--We Have Lice!

I look forward to Easter--like any Christian would.  I look forward to the message of resurrection and life that compliment the intensity of Lent that has just past.  What I was not expecting were resurrected lice in my daughter's hair this Easter.  Now, truth be told, this is our second bout with the critters.  A few weeks ago, we did our unintended spring cleaning--washing sheets and pillows, stuffed animals (we have a lot)  quarantined in plastic bags on the upper bunk of  the girl's room.   Now, the first time it all reminded me of Lent--not Easter weekend!  Lent was passing (so I thought), not to be intruding on our resurrected celebration (s).  Ugh!

Now, I like resurrected animals, humans, Jesus especially but not the louse!  I know my daughter's head has become critical habitat for them in Freeborn County.  We also knew that lice was a bit of a problem at our school since our arrival.  The notices, sometimes weekly, about kids in our children's class having these pesky critters, are too numerous to count.  Unbelievably, to me, this is our first encounter for our family.  Our family of 7--five kids under 11--have been through a lot already.  Why not add this to our family's been there, done that list?   But something inside me just wants a break--especially during Easter.

Or maybe its the glow of Easter that just helps us through.  Yes, the history of the world is to turn on the death and resurrection of Christ.  But in many ways, the world before and after Easter is kind of the same. I have the same job and family (thankfully), the same burdens, the same people that were dead before Easter have not experienced the resurrection, and the same world with its hope and corruption, wars and peace still remain.  But the Good News, as I see it, is our life remains with a resurrected glow.  As I say in funeral messages, we live through the tough times not from them.  The Holy Spirit gives us the power and opportunity to say that this trial, "This death is not the final word of my life."  Resurrection is!

So in that spirit, even though we were banned from our family Easter dinner this year-call it "holy quarantine" we proclaim to the darkness and yes lice of the world, "He is Risen!"   That maybe reverses the beginning title, "Have Lice, but He is Risen."  It makes all the difference!

Pastor Matt