I suppose that’s something, isn’t it?

photo (25) 2
I waited a year for this book. I really enjoyed the first two in the series. This one, meh. I have no desire to even finish it two thirds of the way through. The two main voices are virtually identical making very difficult to follow and it’s frustrating me. I cannot bring myself to open it up again. I’ve already read another book in the mean time.

There is something to be said for consistency. You come to expect something and you want it to be a certain way. When change happens and you’re not expecting it, it can be shocking and unpleasant if it’s not executed well. In the case of this series the author moved from one voice to two and it wasn’t smooth or easy. Change requires planning and this felt more like an experiment gone wrong.

These thoughts on the book had me thinking about the church, change and all the wonderful emotions that go with it. Even the slightest of changes can wreak havoc on an unsuspecting parishioner. From a new minister to having the pulpit moved five inches to the right, people have become accustomed to having certain things done in certain ways. How do we navigate through the necessary changes and help ease people into it? Are we being intentional with change or just letting the wind whip through and blow everything here and there causing chaos and confusion?

I was disappointed in this book but it did remind me that change must be navigated carefully and intentionally so I suppose that’s something, isn’t it?

The yeast…

I’ve been experimenting with bread making this week.  It’s not as exciting as you think.  My husband went into our back room and dug out my bread machine so I only have to layer everything in a precise way and press a button.  It’s pretty easy, or so you would think.  Here is my first attempt.

failed bread
It looks awful, right?  It was even worse inside.  Uncooked and mushy, we couldn’t even make croutons out of this loaf.  What went wrong?  Lots of things I believe.  The first of which was the temperature of the liquid when it connected with the yeast.  You don’t want boiling hot and you definitely don’t want cold.  I think my liquid was too cold.  I also think the recipe I used didn’t call for enough liquid so the bread didn’t mix in the machine correctly.  Nevertheless I persevered and look what happened.

Bread again

This loaf worked.  I made sure that the water was exactly the right temperature.  I watched it like a hawk to ensure that the moisture level was correct and then I ate it smothered in jam.  It was definitely worth the effort and I realized something very important. Yeast is a little picky but when added at the right time, to the right mix amazing things can happen.

Because of my failures and final success with yeast, I started to think about Jesus and what he says about yeast.  Having a better understanding of how yeast works and the multitude of ways it can fail, I realized something important. Jesus says that the kingdom of heaven is like yeast that is worked into flour. When yeast is worked in and the right setting is there, amazing things can happen.  If however the setting is wrong, there’s nothing the yeast can do and ultimately the bread will fail.  It would seem to me that as God’s people we should be trying to keep ourselves open and ready for the spirit to move within us, to be the yeast in our lives and help us expand and grow.

I think ultimately we would say we want this but it’s scary to contemplate. When you look at bread, when you look at what yeast can do, how it changes and shapes the dough, that kind of change is frightening. Do we really want to double in love, in service, in devotion and commitment?  Do we want our churches to double in love, in service, in devotion, and commitment?  I think if they did amazing things could happen but our lives and church and worship would look very different from how they do today.

Are we ready to open ourselves up and prepare ourselves to do God’s work in the world or are we frightened of what that means?  Do you think you’re ready for yeast to be added to the mix?

 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.”  Matthew 13:33 NIV 

A one man fan blade submarine ride.

If you were to enter my house on a warm summer night, you might find me sitting on my back deck with my feet on a chair and some music playing in the background.   Tonight as apparently fall decided to arrive two months early I’m tucked in the warmth of my kitchen, a cup of tea in reach and my fingers on the keyboard waiting for the words to arrive.  The music is on and I am listening to one of my favorite albums, Born and Raised by John Mayer.  Once song in particular holds me captive each time it plays.  I stop what I am doing and I listen.  I just listen.  That song is Walt Grace’s Submarine Test, January 1967.

The song is this wonderful story of a Man who dissatisfied with life seeks to make a change.  ‘With a will to work hard and a library card’ he takes a bold step towards happiness and fulfillment.  There is great debate among fans as to whether Walt lives or dies but in the end I’m not sure that’s really what matters.  I think what matters is that he took a step towards changing a life that was unsatisfying.

In the last few days I’ve read a lot of articles discussing theology, what the church doesn’t have, who we should blame and why we are failing.  I’ve seen lists giving me the 10 things we are doing wrong. I’ve watched as discussions happened between friends regarding these issues and I’ve been disheartened.  There’s a lot of talk.  A lot of people thinking about what’s wrong.  A lot of blame and shame being passed around.  Some of it’s warranted and some of it’s encouraging but a lot of it is just another instance of missing the point.  It’s not enough to talk about change, we have to actually commit to it.  It’s not enough to wish things were different, we have to make them so.

Walt decided to make a homemade submarine, a walk towards certain death some might say in order to fulfill a dream, to accomplish something more.  Jesus did the same thing. Jesus walked towards certain death to fulfill God’s dream of reuniting people with God.  Maybe as a church we need to dream big and walk towards it without fear.  Maybe we need to walk towards certain death.  We could throw all our money and resources out into the world without any idea on how we are going to pay for things or keep what we know going, to see what happens.  If we feel like we’re walking towards certain death maybe that’s not so bad.  In death comes resurrection.  In resurrection comes life.

At the end of the song Walt’s life receives a call planned on receiving with the news she never expected, what if that call is Walt having arrived in Tokyo?  What if it’s Walt saying he did it, he took his ride?  What is Walt survives?

What is our song about?  Will anyone receive a call from us saying we did it, we took our ride?  We need to dream, to prod and explore where we are going.  We have to let go of fear and walk boldly into the world knowing that clinging to life means we will lose it and losing our lives means will will gain everything.  As a church we have to be willing to lose everything, to leave it all behind to follow Jesus.

I’d like to think Walt survives and if you’re looking for me in the next few months you’ll find me in my basement doing some building of my own…

Moving the blog.

I really love this blog.  I’ve enjoyed it as a place to discuss and dream.  In this place new friends have met old, stories have been shared and people have connected.  I really have enjoyed my time on wordpress.com.

That said I’ve felt a prodding lately.  Opportunities have come my way that I’ve sadly had to pass up. I was feeling a little constrained in terms of design and personalization and wanted more from the blog.  I kept feeling like it was time to move but wasn’t listening to those feelings.  I was ignoring that urge and just kept plugging along.  Until now that is.  I’ve finally decided to listen.

I’ve found a host, I’m taking the leap and I’m going to build the site I feel is right for me.  At first you won’t notice a difference, the domain name will remain the same and the format will be as well but as time passes and I get a little more comfortable I’ll be able to personalize it, I’ll be able to make it more of what I think it should be and I’m excited about that possibility.

That being said I’m absolutely terrified.  I’m terrified of failure, of having made the wrong decision.  I worry about losing all of my followers and you are lovely people, I don’t want to lose you.  I wonder if I’m misinterpreting this prodding and have gone off in a direction I shouldn’t go.

Ultimately I cannot live a life in fear, I must take that leap of faith and I think now is the time.  When we are frozen in fear we are frozen in place and that is never a good thing.  Without movement there is no growth, without growth there is no opportunity.

If you have subscribed through email I should be able to keep that going.   I hope so anyways!  If you have subscribed through wordpress.com we may lose touch for a while.  I hope you come over to my site http://ministrytomotherhood.com and visit.  I’ll have a subscription service set up or you can catch my RSS feed through your reader so we can reconnect.

It’s time to make the move.  It’s time to act in faith knowing that what comes next will be another interesting adventure…

Frozen in fear

I have been accused in the past of having high expectations of people.    That I think they are capable of more then they actually are.  I’ve been told that I should just accept that some things won’t change.  I doubt God endorses this philosophy as God is constantly pushing people to change, to be better and to trust him.  This is seen time and again in the Bible and in our own lives if we’re honest.  God wants good things for people, for all people and that rarely lets anyone off the hook when it comes to change.

I think this is why I get so frustrated with the church.  Presbyterians in particular are notorious for halting any hint of change with debate and discussion.  We table absolutely everything.  We claim we are waiting on the Holy Spirit but I have a feeling the Holy Spirit is dancing about in the room and no one is willing to see it. We are afraid of doing anything for fear that it might be wrong or it won’t work.

This fear is killing us.  It’s paralyzed us.  We aren’t doing anything for fear of offending or losing people.  We do this delicate dance around this issue of change and growth.  We never want to talk about what needs to be done because we are afraid.  In my reading this week I came across a passage in Deuteronomy where Moses reminds the people of God that God is always with them.  That God in fact goes before them:

“It is the Lord who goes before you.  He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed.”  Deuteronomy 31:8 NRSV

We need to remember that God is going before us.  Our trust should be in God, not our processes.  We need to accept that movement is part of faith.  Movement and change are built into our history.  There is only one constant, God.  That constant is the thing we should cling to.  We need to push through the fear we feel.  God has moved on and is expecting us to catch up.  It’s time to let go of our attachments to what we know and move forward into the unknown believing that God will provide.

Do you think that’s possible?
Will we find the courage to follow God into a new {different} life?

How Auto-tune ruined the world…

Ok, that might be a stretch.  Auto-tune hasn’t really ruined the world but it’s ruined music in a lot of ways.  There was a time when the unique qualities of a singer would be showcased on their recordings.  Now everyone sounds the same and anyone {talented or not} can claim to be a singer as we can technologically enhance their vocal performance.  When you remove the rough patches and unique vocal qualities you’re left with something that sounds generic and boring.  It’s nothing anyone has never heard before.  It’s nothing special at all.

This morning after gymnastics I took my son to the Bulk Barn and we had fun picking up a few supplies to help us make some dessert for Easter.  I was slightly horrified as I turned the corner and found a cake pan shaped like a cross with instructions on how to beautify it with flowers.  I don’t know about you but I really don’t want to eat a dessert shaped like a torture device.  It just doesn’t seem right to me.  Instead of accepting the cross for what it is, we’ve prettied it up and thrown some bunnies and eggs around it.  It’s like we’ve auto-tuned Jesus.

Have we auto-tuned Jesus?  In many ways I’m afraid we have.  We come in on Sunday hoping the minister will say something that inspires us. We have self-help books that are tailored towards what we want to hear.  We avoid the hard texts because they can’t be meant for us.  We’ve personalized things so it’s exactly what we need and want.  We’ve auto-tuned the whole process.

When we create a faith that is comfortable and exactly what we like, it’s not the faith that we started with.  When we leave out parts of the message that are difficult or challenging we’ve changed the picture and ultimately the message.  As Christians we need to deal with the heavy stuff too.  We need to deal with the picture as a whole.

As a church I wonder if we would be more effective if we dealt with the difficult things.  What would happen if we addressed the need for evangelism and the mainline church? What would happen if we addressed stewardship and the overabundance of churches for the population we sustain?  What would happen if we discussed the importance of living in the world not separate from it?

If we started having these difficult conversations I can guarantee you one thing, we would begin to see passion once more.  Passion that has been sorely missing in our churches and our faith.  For too long now we’ve accepted the status quo as being okay.  We’ve auto-tuned our faith to the point that we no longer experience the rich depth that is contained in it’s history.   It’s time for us to embrace the whole story once more.

Landslide

I have a lot of friends who write blogs.  I would say 99% of them are about their personal lives with a hint of Jesus but there are some that are more specific in their direction.

One of my friends recently started a blog called “The Next 500 Years” and his first post {which you should check out} is a bit of an introduction to where he’s going to go with the blog.  He talks about this time of transition in the church as being like the moment when you are at the top of the roller coaster and about to launch down into that giant dip.  It’s the moment when you are absolutely terrified {even if you know what’s coming}.

I like the roller coaster imagery but for me I see it as more of a landslide.  An event that is years in the making, waiting for that one thing which will send everything sliding down the mountain.  No one knows what will happen.  No one knows what it will look like once the event is over.  There is only one guarantee, change is coming and things will never look the same again.

I love the Dixie Chicks rendition of the Fleetwood Mac hit “Landslide”.  It’s something I listen to often and there is one line of lyrics that particularly hits me with regards to life, transition and inevitable change.

“Well I’ve been afraid of changing ’cause I built my life around you”

Sometimes I wonder if we {as Christians} have focused and built around the church buildings instead of Jesus.  Maybe that’s why we’re so scared of changing because we’ve been focused on the wrong thing.

Whether we’re at the top of a roller coaster or sitting on the side of a cliff that’s just about to let go, change is coming.  We might not like it.  We might not want it.  But it’s coming.  I’m looking forward to seeing what the change will bring.

It’s time for a turnaround.

I just discovered a book called “Brand Turnaround: How Brands Gone Bad Returned to Glory and the 7 Game Changers that Made the Difference” by Karen Post.  It was suggested to me by Kobo Books and I really couldn’t figure out why.  I read religious books, the occasional biography and a lot of fiction.

According to the description the organizations that Ms. Post studied all experienced “a widely publicized meltdown that threatened to put them out of business and each one is going strong today. Why? They took charge with conviction, creativity, and smarts.” and there are 7 steps we can learn from them to turn around a broken organization.

As I was thinking about this I realized how brilliant Kobo is and how they must read the blog.  I’m always talking about the imploding Church and how we need to move forward.  Someone must’ve figured I needed this book.  We need a turnaround.  This might be the place to start.

In the summary Kobo told me the 7 steps needed to re-brand and refocus.  I thought they could be useful.  Here they are:

#1: Take Responsibility
#2: Never Give Up
#3: Lead Strong
#4: Stay Relevant
#5: Keep Improving
#6: Build Equity
#7: Own Your Distinction

Looking at the list it actually is quite useful for us in the PCC right now.  We’re looking for strategy.  We’re trying to pick ourselves up.  Recreate ourselves.  Or are we?  Mostly it seems like we’re flailing about and this might be the direction we require.  We need some direction.  We need these rules.

Think about it:

#1: Take Responsibility
 Have we taken responsibility?  Are we willing to see what we’ve done wrong and where we could have made better choices?

#2: Never Give Up
This is so important.  We need to shed the defeatist attitude and adopt one of hope.  We are Christians after all and the resurrection is a core part of our belief. We need to believe in it.

#3: Lead Strong
We need to be and develop strong leaders.  Strong from the pulpit and strong from the pew.  We must not live in fear.  This is absolutely essential.

#4: Stay Relevant
I think this should probably say become relevant for most of us.  Those churches and people who have developed positive ministries in the Post-Christendom period should be looked to as an example for the rest of us.  We should learn from each other and most importantly learn from the world what is important.

#5: Keep Improving
We must not stop improving.  We must always look for things we can improve on.  Is there a way to make people more comfortable when they enter Church?  How can we more effectively reach people in our community?  Is the message being translated in a powerful, positive way?  I could go on {and on} but I trust you get the point.

#6: Build Equity
Not surprisingly there’s a lot of equity in the name Jesus.  In some ways we have created a ‘brand’ based on him.  We really shouldn’t focus on building brand equity for the PCC but instead look at the value we place on our faith in general.  Why do we meet?  Is there a reason people should actually join us?  Will those outside benefit from coming in?  Would they want to come to us over anyone else?   We need to start seeing faith as something of value.  We need to start empowering our members to live out the message of Jesus.

#7: Own Your Distinction
We need to be distinct.  If we aren’t, what’s the point?  There are thousands of churches in our country.  There are dozens within our cities and towns.  What makes our church, the individual church we attend matter?  Would it be missed if it wasn’t there?  Is there a distinction from others?  At this point I would say if there is no distinction and too many churches perhaps we should look at why we operate this way.  There has to be a reason, something that makes you special.  Finding this is often the key to finding your passion and purpose.

I haven’t even read the book yet and I love these points.  I don’t know if they’re the actual answer but I bought the book on Kobo.  I intend to read it further and see if it could be of any use.  We are entering a time when things will have to change or we will cease to exist in the form that we know.  The church will continue, I have faith in that but the PCC is broken and it’s time we started the process of healing.

I’m not trying to be negative.  I think it’s important to note here that throughout the history of faith God healed broken people many times.   He led the slaves out of Egypt and created a nation.  He freed people from exile.  He rose from the dead and freed us from disconnection from God.  Just because it feels like the end doesn’t mean it is.  We are a resurrection people.  It would be good for us to remember that.

Moving from selfish to selfless

When I went to the bookstore last week to get some spiritual reading, I noticed that most of the books were about self-improvement.  The titles ran together as I founds books that promised to teach me how to pray better, lose weight God’s way and become a better Christian/Spouse/insert occupation here.  These all sounds like good things, right? We should want to improve and draw closer to God. We should want to be really good Christians.

That phrase, “we want” is prevalent in Christian Culture.  I often say it myself on Sunday “Lord, we want to be better people” or “Lord, we want to become the Church you want us to be”.  I’m sure we do want that, I do anyways.  But are we doing anything?  Are we working to make our ‘wants’ happen? What is our motive and primary objective with all this talk of self-improvement?

To be a Christian is often defined as being a believer in Jesus but it goes beyond that.  In order for us to truly be ‘Christian’ we must follow him and his teachings.  Theoretically I could believe what Jesus said but never put it into practice.  This isn’t really a Christ-centred life. Before Jesus left he gave us two tasks as his followers.  He said:

  1. Go make disciples.
  2. Teach them everything I’ve taught to you.

This might seem like a simple summary of Matthew 28:16-20, but that is our task as set out by Jesus.  We are told to go make disciples. We are to teach them the message.  That’s our job description in a nutshell.  Are we doing this?  Are we doing what Jesus asked of us?

In my own Church numbers are dwindling daily.  Presbyterianism is far from the coolest thing out there and we struggle with change.  We are opposed to it, afraid of it and it’s glaringly apparent to anyone new who enters the doors that there is an unsettled feeling among us. Some of us cannot conceive of a future that is different from what we know.  There is panic in our midst.

This panic is perhaps the thing I find most challenging about ministering in our time. We have entered a period where change is viewed as the enemy and we feel we must hold firm to what we know.  We make fun of other styles and structures.  We think that we have all the answers.

I know that not all change is good. Change for the sake of change brings trouble and there are some things we must hold firm to {the Gospel for example}.  The trouble is, we are holding firm to things that are not Biblical. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that worship must be a certain style or we must belong to one denomination.  Christianity is messy because it’s filled with people.  The rules and structure that are in place are there to help us understand and worship in our time.  Our worship service should be reflective of the work, mission and needs of the community it serves.

What the Bible does say is fairly simple.  Go out into the world and make disciples.  Baptize and teach.  Do it again, and again. Jesus doesn’t say how, he just says do it.  So we must.  We must do it.  How we do that depends on many things, and there is no one size fits all answer.

Personally I am comfortable worshipping in many formats.  I love a good old fashioned worship service.  I like the energy a contemporary service brings.  I love the buzz that modern worship brings with it’s sense of new possibilities.  All of these forms are authentic and meaningful to the people they reach.  All of them are needed and should be valued.  Each has a place in the Christian community.

I wonder if we are ready to move from selfish to selfless?  We are clinging to what we know and what we love at the expense of the mission and ministry of the Church.  We need to be willing to share the message.  We must move beyond ourselves.  We have to be willing to take risks {both personally and as a group of followers}.   There needs to be the willingness to change even if we, ourselves are not called into it.

Maybe once we’re willing to take risks and start thinking creatively we will see a new path and be given a new vision.  When we limit ourselves and fail to carry out the message we shut out God’s voice and prevent the fulfillment of our mission here on earth.   It seems to me that we need to move out into the world and introduce ourselves once more.  We should start doing what Jesus asked us to do.