Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Day ON

Bethesda UMC has had a partnership with Casa Del Pueblo UMC in Columbia Heights for many years now. This partnership began with a work day on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. Folks from Bethesda spend the day at Casa painting, cleaning, doing whatever they need us to do that doesn't require much skill. One of the coolest things this year was how many youth came for the work day.

As we were working, I asked Pastor John about the state of his parsonage (the house that a church owns where, usually, the pastor lives). Many parsonages aren't in the best shape, but knowing how Casa struggles to keep up the church building I wondered what the state of his house was. And Casa's parsonage is in terrible shape. They recently had the roof replaced because there were trees taking root on it. John said one night a few years ago, he was up studying and his wife and baby were asleep in their bed and the bedroom ceiling collapsed on them. They weren't badly hurt, but they had to be taken to the hospital for inhalation of dust. I would guess that many of Casa's church members live in not great or even sub-standard housing, but it made me sad and angry to think that my clergy colleague, who works so long and hard and faithfully, and his family (including little kids) have to live in a place like that. It also made me very grateful for what my family has.

Today Coretta Scott King died. After her husband was killed, Mrs. King carried on his legacy and leadership in the civil rights movement. I heard her say that she married Dr. King because she had fallen in love with him, but she had also fallen in love with the movement. So much progress has been made since 1964, but there is still so much more to do to bring about the Beloved Community. We need to continue to increase justice, love, compassion and equality. So Martin Luther King day will always be a day on for me.

Pastor John and the people at Casa always thank us so heartily for the work we do with them. I hope they know what a blessing it is for us, too, to be partners with them in ministry. Together we are building the dream.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dirty Little Secrets

Last weekend I went to the most amazing art exhibit I have seen in a long time called "PostSecret." Frank Warren started this project in 2001 by handing out postcards in public places like Metro stations and coffee shops and leaving little cards in library books, inviting people to write down a secret that they have never told anyone before and send it to him to post on a blog. In the old Staples store in Georgetown there were hundreds of beautiful, creative and moving postcards displayed.The secrets ranged from funny (on a Starbucks cup: "I give decaf to customers who are rude"), to the hearbreaking (see above).

I think that Frank Warren has tapped into a pervasive need that people have to release their secrets. We used to call it confessing our sins in my line of work. But for some reason people feel more comfortable sending a postcard to a safe stranger than coming to their pastor or church or God. Is it because the church has become irrelevant to so many people? Is it because we have so clearly defined "sin" as particular behaviors (that other people do, of course) and not as a human condition of brokeness that we all share? Is it because people feel like the church doesn't care about their depression or self-loathing or broken heart? Is is because we have spent so much time pointing fingers at "sinners" and condemning people for their sin and pretending that we in the church don't have any of our own that we have forgotten that Jesus came to seek and save the lost? Is it all of the above??

One of the most powerful parts of the exhibit was a display of emails from people telling how writing their secret on a postcard and dropping it in the mail had transformed them. One person wrote that she had sent her postcard in but that it hadn't made it onto the blog. She said that at first she was disappointed, but then she decided to write her confession on lots of cards and leave them on tables at the mall. She stood back and watched as people read the cards, and one person even took the card and put it in her purse. She said it made her feel so good to give her secert away and to see that someone cared enough to take her secret.

Warren said that he still gets 300-400 postcards each week. And I am so glad that people have found PostSecret and are liberating themselves from their secrets. I have said a lot of prayers as I look at these postcards--for the people writing them, for those who are still carrying around big burdensome secrets and are afraid to let them go, and for the church, that we will can learn from these secrets, learn to be a place of healing and compassion and mutual vulnerability.

Check out the PostSecret blog: http://postsecret.blogspot.com/

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Picture Perfect

I've been looking for a picture of myself to put up on this blog. I think you can tell a lot about a person from a photo, so I wanted to find just the right picture. And of course I wanted it to be a good picture. So I looked though all the digital photos we have taken over the last two years and couldn't find a single one that I wanted to use. First of all there were very few of me at all--most are of our one year old daughter Nora. We are crazy proud doting parents who take lots and lots of pictures of our first and only child. And that's fine. She's a lot cuter than me anyway.

Nora--Thanksgiving 2005.

In our photo albums there are some pictures of me with Nora. And some of me in various stages of pregnancy. But, as it turns out, in the pre-Nora era, Marcus and I didn't take all that many pictures of each other. I mean, why would you take pictures of the person you wake up next to every day when you can have a picture of the Eiffel Tower or 25 pictures of the Cubs/Cardinals game at Wrigley Field?

Wrigley Field, Cubs vs. Cardinals, August 2004.

And I am not very photogenic. I tend to blink every time there's a flash, and my smile is crooked. So even when I found a picture that had me in it, I would look at it and say, no, not that one. My hair's too frizzy...or I don't like what I'm wearing...or look at that big pimple--no way.

Most people don't like looking at pictures of themselves. We automatically focus on the things we don't like about ourselves--our hair, our weight, our skin, our clothing. Whatever it is. And other people might not see it, but we can be so darn hard on ourselves.

For Christmas this year Marcus and I had a family portrait and a portrait of Nora taken at a hoity-toity photo studio in Bethesda. It was hilarious. They told us what we should wear (jeans and a light colored, preferably pastel, shirt--to which Marcus replied you've got to be kidding). Then we went to this studio where they had a big white tarp suspended from the ceiling and spread out on the floor where they had us lay, kneel, squeeze in close, tickle the baby while the flash went off like the red carpet at the Oscars. We got our prints, and they were beautiful. But as we looked at them, we noticed they were touched up. The little bruise on Nora's head that she got from bumping into who-knows-what while trying to walk was gone. My skin looked better than it has for 15 years. And no frizz. They were really good pictures-- almost too good.

So I am posting a picture here of me. My friend Phoebe, who is 8, took it in Atlanta last fall. It's not a great photo. But it's real. And what I most want people to know about me... I'm real, too.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Is there enough time in the world to read everyone's blog?

I think that 'blogs are an incredibly interesting phenomena. Kinda narcisistic. Kinda voyeristic. Fun to read. A great distraction.

As it turns out, some people that I know, and really respect, have great blogs. I have a friend with a knitting blog; another who has a haiku blog. We have a blog for our neighborhood. Several of my clergy colleagues have also started blogs. Dean Snyder, the pastor at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, DC, has a great blog (www.untiedmethodist.com), as does my friend Amy Butler, the pastor at Calvary Baptist Church, also in Washington (www.talkwiththepreacher.blogspot.com). In fact, it was Amy's blog that made me want to start my own.

A friend asked me (when we were talking about someone else who had started a 'blog) is there enough time in the world to read everyone's blog? Definitely not. So why would I add to the ramblings of the blogesphere?

Here's why:

1) I hate to journal. Seriously. I can never make myself do it, even though I know that I should because it is a spiritual discipline that so clearly counterbalances my overly extroverted personality. But I hate to go back and read what I have written. It always sounds trite and boring and self-indulgent. But if I knew someone might read my journal, would I be more self-reflective, and more disciplined, too.

2) I think people will read this blog (once I get up the courage to tell people about it, that is). Because everyone likes to feel a little bit famous, and if someone writes about you on the internet that's almost like being a celebrity. So I hope that my friends and family and members of Bethesda UMC will read this blog, if only because they are hoping I will say something nice about them.

3) My life is interesting. That sounds totally arrogant, and I don't mean it that way. Because it's not just my life that deserves to be written about--so does yours, his, hers, ours. But for me, being an almost 32-year-old female pastor, wife to a government lawyer, mother to a one year old, friend to lots of cool, interesting and diverse people, the daughter of parents living in Arkansas and California, and making a home in an urban Washington, DC neighborhood while serving a fantastic church in the suburbs makes for a lot of interesting stories--at least I think so.

4) And because maybe my stories will make you think about your life, your relationships, how God is moving and present in your world. And maybe then you'll start your own blog, too. If you do, let me know. I promise to read it.