Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Here I sit, waiting for the phone to ring. 
The doctor could call any time today, letting me know if I’m all clear and good to go or if I’m about to enter the world of chemotherapy and the fight for health and life. Perhaps that's a little dramatic, the chances of the latter are extremely slim...but that’s what the doctor thought about my chances of having a molar pregnancy* after last week’s procedure to remove the tissue in my uterus that was not, to my dismay, going to become a living, breathing human being.
The first time a plus sign on a stick had us fooled it was devastating but quick to be resolved. This time, four months later, has been much more of a waiting game.
As I wait for the phone call, I’m trying to get some work done…which is something I’ve been unable to do much of for the last week or so. The current task: trying to choose a sermon text for Sunday. I know, my timing is awful, but Monday I got the news about the molar pregnancy, Tuesday I went to the hospital for blood tests and x-rays, and now it’s Wednesday.
There are times when one of the lectionary texts sticks out like a shining gem, but there are others, like this week, when the choice is harder to make. Will it be the story of Elijah who goes to a mountain to seek God and finds God not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but in the silence; or perhaps the theological discourse of Paul in Romans 10, laying out a framework to understand how God, through Christ and finally through Christ’s followers who bear his good news, makes salvation available to all; or will it be the classic tale of Peter attempting the feat of walking on water with Jesus, and the not-so-common perspective that perhaps Peter should not be commended for getting out of the boat?
Once I choose a text the next big question is whether or not I’ll be able to preach it without referring to my current situation (whether directly or indirectly) and becoming an emotional wreck in the midst of my sermon. I think my best sermons have been those through which God has dealt with me as I study and prepare, and I know God is dealing with me through these texts, but the emotional nature of the issues at hand seem too intimate and delicate to share.
I realize it is okay to show emotion while preaching, but if I’m a choked-up teary mess I won’t be doing anyone any good. I’m feeling much stronger, though, then I was last week as the gravity of the loss set in. I’m ready to move on, ready to fight if need be, ready to do my job and contribute to the world again.
If only I could get that phone call…

*(For anyone wondering what in the world a "molar pregnancy" is, this is a pretty quick and simple overview

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Heavenly Gardener: A Good Friday Reflection

Today is Good Friday, the day Christians remember the suffering and death of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Today is also Earth Day.
When I first realized this coincidence, I found it a little disappointing.  I like Earth Day.  It’s a nice day to remember to care for God’s creation, and I happen to be one of those people who can get excited about “going green.” So when I first noticed that Good Friday and Earth Day shared a square on my calendar I found it rather unfortunate.  I can’t celebrate Earth Day on Good Friday!  Good Friday has to take precedence here!
But as we studied the book of John throughout the season of Lent, I came to see this coincidence a little more fondly.  It was because God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, not to condemn the world, but to save it!
John’s story of Jesus takes us all the way back to the Garden of Eden, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” John goes on to tell us that Jesus is the Messiah, the one sent by God, the one coming into the world.  
The one through whom all things were made would now be the one through whom all things were made new.
We tend to think of Jesus’ death in terms of Jesus and me.  It’s about my sin, my forgiveness, my salvation.  Of course, these things are true, but God’s saving work through Jesus Christ is so much bigger than that!  In Jesus, God was reconciling all of creation, making it new, ushering in the reign of His Kingdom.  Jesus was about God’s business of bringing heaven to earth.
In Jerusalem, as Jesus was approaching his death, he said to his disciples, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
Jesus died on a cross and was buried in a tomb, a tomb that was in a garden. On the third day when Mary came to the tomb she found it empty.  Jesus had been risen from the dead, but before she realized that she actually saw Jesus and mistook him for the gardener!  What a revealing mistake. Jesus was the fleshly revelation of the Heavenly Gardener, the Giver of Life, the Creator.  Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God was bringing the fruit of new life for all of creation.
Today may we let Earth Day remind us that Good Friday is about more than Jesus and me. God’s salvation, through Jesus, is for the world – all people, all creatures, all things new.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

One Face

I knew, walking away from her apartment, that I would not be able to sleep tonight. Silly me, I still tried.  But I'm back up now as all I can see when I close my eyes is her face.

Tonight a small group from Nexus started a community surveying project at Trinity Palms, the apartment complex we began meeting in a couple of weeks ago.  We're going door to door, asking a few simple questions about what people see as the biggest in need in their community, what individual/family needs they have, and what programs they would like to see offered. 

Hers was the first apartment we visited.  My husband, John, and I went to the door, knocked, and she cracked it open suspiciously, wondering, I'm sure, what these strange white people were doing on her doorstep.  As we introduced ourselves and began to talk with her the door opened more and we could see her pretty face. She didn't have the look that many do in these neighborhoods, hard and worn out. Instead she looked young and fresh.  But in the few short minutes we were at her door, she gave us a glimpse of her life that her face did not reveal.  She had recently gotten a DWI, lost her job, and because of this her three elementary aged daughters were staying in another state with her mother. 

Who makes this kind of confession to a stranger? It was given in response to the simple question of how many children lived in the home (there was a pink bike outside the door). I think of all the people in the world who try so hard to hide their mistakes, trying to keep the darkness of their lives under the radar of even their family and friends, walking around with hard faces and heavy hearts. Yet here she was.

I can't help but think of the lectionary text from Ephesians 5 for this week, "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light."

By the end of our conversation we discovered that she had not yet found a church home since moving to Trinity Palms (transportation being an issue) and had seen our flyer the week before and meant to come but didn't make it. She had told her grandmother on the phone (who was asking if she'd found a church yet) that sure enough when she can't get to church, the church had come to her...and now the church was at her doorstep.  Now, I'm not the type of pastor that just goes around asking strangers if I can pray for them, but as we were about to leave I felt that urgency not to just say we would pray for her, but to actually pray with her. And after a simple prayer for her and for her girls, her eyes were full of tears.

Something about her just fills my heart with compassion and a desire to do something, to help.  I want to be her friend. She's struggling to find work, relying on public transportation and public internet access that is not close by or easily accessible and limits her time to an hour. I have ideas, lots of them, not just to help her, but also the people living in the other apartments we visited, others without work, many concerned about safety for their children. Somehow this is exciting to me, but I should be feeling overwhelmed (I'm sure that will set in eventually).  This was only the first night.  Collectively, our group spoke to 12 families out of 390 inhabited apartments in this complex.

I have to remember that success will not be in fully meeting the needs of every family in the complex (as much as we hope God will use us to help many). But if every person in our church who knocks on these doors ends up with one face they can't forget, one person they deeply desire to help, to love, to disciple, to befriend, then this project will be a great success.

Light will shine in the darkness at Trinity Palms.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Our Loss and Our Joy

I lost something this week.  The joy that comes with the little plus sign on a stick was short lived for John and I.  Each day that passed seemed to be confirmation that all was well, that the plus sign told the truth, but even as we shared the news with family and close friends, there was that voice of reason that said, "something could go wrong, something often does, it's really too early to be sure."  I had friends who had recently suffered this loss, friends for whom I had cried and prayed. Would it happen to me?

In the midst of the anxiety and the uncertainty there was a persistent joy and hope. I daydreamed about cozy little hats and blankets, about quiet early morning moments, about the noble vocation of motherhood.

When we arrived at the doctor's office I knew things weren't right. "Why aren't you excited?" asked the nurse. From one room to another things went from anxious to hopeful to complete despair. Nothing was there, or at least not in the right place. Surgery? Today? Thank God for the continuing advancement of science and medicine. Surgery was not necessary, but still we found ourselves checking into the hospital and soon, for the first time in my life I was lying in a hospital bed.

Between the poking and prodding, temperature and blood pressure taking, and the wonderful people who came to visit, it wasn’t until the next morning that the reality set in. For just a few moments I was alone as John had stepped out to grab a cup of coffee (after a virtually sleepless night on a couch with nurses coming in each hour and talking as if it was the middle of the day).

There’s something about the early morning, when you first awake. As the room comes into focus and a little bit of light comes through the shades, you ponder what the new day will hold.

Yes, I had lost something.  And in that moment there was no hope or joy of the possibilities of tomorrow. All I could see and feel was the brokenness and despair of that day. John returned and seeing my tears quickly set aside his coffee and climbed into my bed to hold me close.

As difficult as it is to lose something precious, something dear, something full of hope and joy, the tragedy would be much greater had I not been able to recognize what I have. For my precious family and friends who care for and support me, for those dear ones who shed tears on my behalf, for my church, this community that prays for me and loves me and fills me with hope and joy, and for my sweet and loving husband who so truly and faithfully loves me as God loves the world and as Christ loves the church - for all of this I am thankful.

Some who read this may wonder why I would share such a story so freely. I want others who experience a loss like this to know they are not alone. I also learned some important things about community that may help others along the way. While there are many good reasons to keep early pregnancy (as well as miscarriages) secret, I found that having shared my good news with my family, close friends, and church community, I was able to then receive the much needed love, care, and support in my time of loss.

The nature of my faith is that my story is never mine alone. Many have gone before me, many will come after me, and God has given the gift of community to share my story in the here and now. In fact, no longer is it just my story, but our story. Joy and pain, loss and gain, celebration and mourning are to be shared experiences, shared realites.

Unfortunately, not everyone is comfortable with sharing the pain and loss and mourning of others, and those who open themselves to share will find that the discomfort of some adds to the pain as they shy away in your moments of darkness.  But others will rise to the occasion, share your tears and your burdens, and be present for you in body and voice as God is in Spirit.

There is risk in opening yourself and your story to be shared with others, but there is great joy in it as well. And there is joy in knowing our story is part of a greater story with characters such as Hannah and Sarah and Mary...and the list goes on with the names of those who have also adopted this story as thier own and shared their piece of the story with me in community and friendship. Today I find comfort in mourning my loss as our loss and celebrating their joy as our joy.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

About the Blog

I've always found fascinating the way grass will grow...up through the cracks of concrete or on top of a heap of trash and rubble. I see it as a reminder, a testimony, that life often pops up in the most broken and unlikely places.

I'm a pastor (just a rookie pastor, actually) in Dallas, TX. Our journey as a new church plant began in October of 2010. We're a community looking to see where the green grass is growing, where God is bringing life out of broken and unlikely places, so we can go and join in, maybe push some of the concrete away, clear some trash and rubble, maybe plant a tree, maybe even a garden. And yes, I'm speaking figuratively...we are young and we do care about being "green", and we've even helped plant a community garden, but this is not the heart of our mission. All around us there are people who are hurting, lonely, hungry, marginalized, and for them we want to be bearers of God's grace, peace, healing, and life.

On a personal level I'm married to a wonderful man named John. We don't have kids yet, but we do have two awesome dogs, Tank and Annabelle. We're also setting out on quite an adventure this year as we move in with John's mom, Sondra, and 16 year old sister, Logan. As challenging as this situation might be, I'll be keeping an eye out for that green grass. I know it will grow, it always does.

My intention for this blog is to create some space for reflection and to share stories about my journey.  I also hope it will help remind me, even when times are hard, to keep looking for where the green grass grows.