Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Miss Meg's God Shack

My daughter's BFF suggested a new name for the church I pastor: Miss Meg's God Shack. Apparently, the Baptist title is much too scary. I can't say that I disagree with her. A church that slaps a Baptist sign outside seems to think that indicates they can do and say whatever they wish. Yes, as Baptist we have the whole autonomous thing, but often that seems like a license to exclude. That is the reason that I belong to the American Baptist denomination. They are supportive of women in ministry, and are far more inclusive than any other type of Baptist that I am familiar with. That does not mean that being a woman pastor in the American Baptist Church is an easy thing. Far from it, but that is another story, for another time.

If I could create "Miss Meg's God Shack," I would have some rules.
1. Our Goal, Our purpose, Our everything would be: Love God. Love People. The end.
    Everyone is people. You are people. I am people. Your neighbor- people. Your boss- people.         People need love, and that what this is all about. If we cannot love people, there is no point in the church.
2. We do not meet in a church building.
    We meet in a shelter, homes, parks, maybe rent a storefront or something. Let's not be a slave to keeping a building running. Yes, old church buildings are beautiful, and I am not saying knock them down, but what does it take to maintain them, and isn't there better use of the money we spend on that? I don't believe God intended for us to build great buildings and become more devoted to the building itself than to the creator of the universe.
3. No skinny jean, smoke machines, strobe lights.
    I do not care what people wear. It is not about putting on a show, it is about Jesus and authentic worship. If that happens singing Amazing Grace acapella, great! If it takes some Kari Jobe, that works too.
4. Have Coffee, will travel.
   This preacher needs her coffee, so wherever we meet, there will be a coffee pot, or carry-in coffee in the midst of us. If you want water, a pepsi, whatever, that works too.
5. Crying babies, kids, people with special needs, and everyone in between are welcome.
    We spend way too much time telling kids to be quiet or complaining about a crying baby; noise means life in the church, and I welcome the noise.
6. Shoes are optional.
    I don't wear my shoes to preach now, so why should I change that. No one else needs to wear their either, unless they want to.

This is it for me. I want to talk about Jesus and love for every single person who ever lived, without exception. I am looking for honest and simple. I think that is what other people are looking for as well, and it has all gotten lost in the- this is what we must do, this is how you must dress, this is how you must act, this is what you must say, or it is not church.

Welcome to Miss Meg's God Shack, where we love God and we love others, the end.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Everyone Dies

Everyone who has ever lived will die one day. As much as that statement sucks, it is true. From the moment we are born, we begin to die. Some of us get more revolutions on this earth than others, although except for those who die at their own hand, we have no idea why this is true. But, everyone dies. 

I went back to my "homeland," Indiana last week for a visit. My father has been struggling with an infection in his foot for several weeks now, and after having his great toe amputated, I decided a visit was in order. I had not been back to my homeland for over a year now. I wasn't planning on going this time, but I needed to go. I needed to see for myself that my dad was okay. And he is okay, healing, but my dad is different. I used to see him as this really strong guy; my hero. Okay, he still is my hero, but he has changed from the person he was 13 months ago. His arms and legs are thin, and as I watched him maneuver using his crutches, I found myself holding my breath. My parents have aged in the last 13 months. I mean, I know we all age, but sometimes it sort of sneaks up on you, especially when you have not seen someone in a long time.

Death is something I know a thing or two about, although I wish that were not true. Before I was a pastor, I was a nurse. The unfortunate part of living is dying. Just in case no one ever told you, life is fatal. One day each and every one of us will die, as much as we fight it. Maybe that is the key to life; knowing that one day this crazy journey will be over, so we damn well better enjoy it while we can. I mean, there are car accidents, people get shot going to work, getting pulled over, going to church, getting groceries, and it is all really ridiculous. Things like that just should not happen. No one should have to bury their child; life should never work that, and yet it does. Is it fair? No. If you have some resource that says life will be fair, please share it with me, I have a bone or two to pick with the author. Want to know how unfair death and life is, just remember there is something called "Pediatric Hospice." "Only the good die young," well I disagree with Billy Joel. It just hurts a lot more when they do.

While on my trip back to the home of Indy Car and Tony Stewart, I went to a funeral visitation. This sweet lady had dropped dead at 65 years young. No time for another goodbye. No time for another hug or an "I love you." There is always going to be another funeral, at least as a pastor anyway. In the 2 years I have served as a pastor, I have officiated 15 of them, I believe. As a way of catharsis, I now announce the number of dead I have burried in each cemetary I pass. I didn't say I always make sense. 

All this to say that everyone dies, sooner or later. So be sure to love the ones you have. Hold them close. Appreciate them. Tell them you love them. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Labyrinth

I joined my women clergy group today for a retreat. There was this part of me that really didn't want to go, just because I have so much  work to do, that I felt like I should really stay at my office and work. I am thankful that I went anyway. I had a great time with my fellow clergy women. We walked a labyrinth that was at the church we were at. I had never walked one before. On my way to the labyrinth, I found myself singing a little ditty from David Bowie's 1986 movie, Labyrinth.

I am just going to say, that everyone should experience a labyrinth at least once, but you must truly honor the spirit of it. Do not take your cell phone, or it will mean nothing to you. You need your only distraction to be the voice of the Holy Spirit. As I entered the labyrinth, I was singing the David Bowie song, but God quickly changed the song. I watched the path in front of me, so I would not veer off the path. I started praying, and How Great Thou Art started playing in my head. I was singing to myself and praying for people in my life: Andy, Jacob, Jillian, John, Roxanne, Rebekah, Delores, Ben, Alex, Don, Nancy, Penny, Rich, Dail, Mark, Margaret, Maggie, Joshua, Nick, Nate, Father Chris, Craig, Andrea, Ken and Nancy, Rev. Mike, Father Mike (newly ordained), Andy Spry, Joy, George, Courtney, Nathan, Liz, Ryan, Bob, Carol, Cindy, Lynn, Nick, Lynn Shades, Lynn Bort, Lynda, Cheryl, Janet, Barrie-Lynn, Debbie, Cindy, Janet, Sheila, Jim, Jerrod, Victor, Marcus, Genie, Atreyu, Nana, George, Mamaw, Mom and Dad, Matt, Carmen, Iyrelynn, Kenzie, Bella, Pete, Cherie, Katie, Dakota, Misty, Nathan, Rani, Phyllis, Stuart, Rain, Merle, Emily, Cody, Ken. More and more names would pop in my head as I walked and sang, and prayed. Each name given to God.

What became clear to me, the longer I walked was that everything really was going to be alright. I am not sure how. I am not sure what all that means, but I know that really everything is going be be okay. I have to seek God first. Look to please only our God, and declare God's name great, and the details would all be worked out in the process. It is really is going to be okay.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Thoughts on Holy Week

I just completed my first Holy Week as pastor. Going through this week as a pastor was very different than as a parishioner. I have never filled a pulpit in the place of a pastor on Easter Sunday. Every pastor wants to be the one standing there on Sunday morning to proclaim, "He is Risen!" I didn't realize the emotions that I would experience during this week. Thursday, I found myself on my knees in the santuary, crying out to God for much needed forgiveness. Sunday morning, I was pacing in my office as if it was the first time I had ever preached a sermon in this place, I was that nervous. It is just because I want to get it somewhere close to right. It is far too important for me to get wrong.

My son, Jacob, was the one to bring me back to earth. After locking the church doors, I walked to the house, and thanked my family for being patient with me this week, and I congratulated them on surviving our first "Holy Week." Jacob said, "Isn't every week a Holy Week?" Leave it to the kids to be the one to get it right! He is absolutely correct. Because of Easter, every week is a Holy Week. We have a chance to get it somewhere close to right every week, not because of a bunny, but because Jesus loved us to death.

Thank you, Jesus for loving each and every one of us so much that you died in our place. And thank you, for making every week a Holy Week.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

But We Aren't Catholic!!!

Tomorrow we celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of 40 days of Lent. Since announcing that we were going to have a Community Ash Wednesday service, the one comment I have heard more than once is, "But Pastor, we aren't Catholic!" I am very well aware that we are not a part of the Catholic church. We are not even what Robin Williams called "Catholic lite, Episcopalians. All the pomp and circumstance without the guilt." No, we are American Baptists if we must label. So the question at hand is, "Why observe Lent if we are not Catholic?" My answer is, "Why not?" 

After his baptism, Jesus barely had time for his robe to dry before heading off into the wilderness for 40 days and nights of praying, fasting, and temptation by Satan. These 40 days take us up through Jesus' passion, betrayal, and death on the cross. Jesus gave up so much for us so that we might live, he endured so much pain and agony, isn't the very least I can do? Why don't I give up something for him? Who cares if I'm not Catholic!? This is supposed to be a sacrifice, so I am not talking about giving up something little. I know there are those who give up one meal per day, and take that time where they would have been eating to pray and meditate. Some chose to give up a bad habit, with the plan that they will not pick that bad habit up again. Others give up television or Internet, or even the ultimate death, social media for the 40 day period. 

I encourage you to think about it, but more importantly, to pray about it. This year I am giving up pop or soda, which ever you call it. Let me tell you, this is huge for me. I am a pop drinker, multiple, every day. So this is a sacrifice for me. As I grumble about my caffeine withdraw headache, I will stop to remember the little bit that I am doing, in comparison to the wonderful thing that Christ did for us. Because giving up pop, is really a little thing in the grand scheme of things. How much is the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior worth to you? Are you willing to give up something that you may be able to appreciate the Lord's Passion in a new way, even though we aren't Catholic? What is Jesus worth giving up in your life?


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Free Beer!!!

There are so many people in the church who are obsessed with the number of butts in the seats on Sunday. It is important that we have people there, we do have bills to pay, and we really do want to share the love of Christ with others. I admit that attendance is something I pay attention to, but it is winter time in Central New York and so there are at least eight members who have headed to warmer places for the winter. Really, who can blame them?

The question that is in the back of everyone's mind is, how are we going to attract new people to our church? We need young people. Young people are the future of the church. But, young people are not coming, not even those who grew up in church. We wrongly believe that young adults are going to return to the church after the finish college or when they get married.  Perhaps that is the way it used to be, but no longer. Most young adults do not even want to get married in a church. They are perfectly fine with having a great location, and having a friend go online and pay $19.99 in order to be "ordained." (Let me just say, as a person who has well over $100,000 in school loans in order to get a bachelor's degree and then complete a 91 credit hour master's degree, that online crap is a slap in the face).

I was thinking about all the different things we could do in order to attract others to our church. We are going to start offering a free lunch to the public one day a month. There is a Zumba group that meets in the church three evenings a week, although none of the group attends the church. Weight watchers rents the building one night a week, as well as the WIC program. None of those people attend our church, so we must be doing something wrong!? 

The other night I was having one of my preaching dreams, and I woke up wondering if we advertised, "Free Beer," on the sign out front if people would show up. I am thinking it would. At minimum, it would get attention. The problem lies thusly, if I put that on the sign then I would be obligated to offer said beer to the masses. If I did not offer the beer, then someone would most likely sue for false advertising. I could tell them that they had to wait until after they listed to the message, but then I would have people who had drank and then got behind the wheel of a car, and I am not okay with that, even if it is just one beer. If someone had an accident, I would never forgive myself. 

The conclusion I have come to is that we love the ones we have. Love them with all we have. Please, please, please share the Christ with others. If others feel welcome, if the love of Christ is flowing from us, then they are going to want to be a part of us as well. Be authentic, and unapologetically be the person that God called you to be! Maybe even invite them over for a "Free Beer."

Grace and Peace,
Pastor Meg


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Resolutions

Happy New Year! Welcome, 2015! Now that I have the obligatory part out of the way, here goes.

I am not a fan of the New Year for one reason;resolutions. It's a New Year, and so here we go, making a bunch of promises that we are never going to keep.  This year, I am going to lose weight. This year, I am going to take better care of myself. This year, I am going to stop smoking (example only, I don't smoke). This year, I am going to blog or journal every day. This year, I am going to spend more time in study and get closer to the Lord. While these are all well and good, they are nothing more than good intentions. The next thing you know, you have $200 worth of new gym clothes that you have never used, a key tag for the gym that you are not sure how to use, and it's May. Great intentions, but our follow through, not so much. 

So instead of setting yourself up for failure, only to find yourself extremely disappointed, make smaller goals, and because we all need a little praise now and then, be proud of yourself or tell a friend. If you could find an accountability parter, that is even better. This week, I will take a walk. This week, I will eat healthy meals, that I prepare at home, three days out of the week. Those who are planners, like I am, can really plan the heck out of something, it's the follow through that gets us. That is why the accountability partner is essential.

What are my goals for 2015? To be patient and wait on the Lord. And to take better care of myself, however that manages to be accomplished

Grace and Peace,
The Barefoot Pastor