When I served a church with a columbarium, I imagined where I wanted my ashes. It’s morbid, I know. But it’s a professional hazard. It’s the sort of thought that we have when we bury people so often. I want to be spread in nature. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I want to become a part of the life and soil of the pulsing ground.
If you’ve been fired or forced out, it doesn’t always mean you need to fold up the cloth all together. It’s incredibly painful. We might feel a spiritual rejection that we’ve never experienced. We may have a loss of identity. Betrayal might become wounds that are so deep that we don’t feel like we’ll be able to love a congregation again. We may feel abandoned by God. But sometimes we just need to need to endure the ache, walk through the rejection, and find a place where our gifts can flourish.
It is a subtle shift that we make in our liturgy and preaching. But it’s an important one. We do terrible things and we must confess our action. But we are good. We are made in the image of God. And in Jesus Christ, we are forgiven people.
The point is, I wonder if this might be a time to remember that God was present in the temple and the tabernacle. I love architecture. I love soaring structures and hope we can find uses for them. But I also realize that they have become a tremendous burden for many congregations to do the sort of love-your-neighbor work that they long to do. Are we moving into a moment when we need those tent pegs in order to be led where God wants us?
There’s something very refreshing about being able to laugh. It disarms the situation and takes away the power from the critic. It reminds me not to take myself so seriously. It gives me perspective on the situation. It helps me not to hate myself, because otherwise I’d be crying or drinking. Or, I’d be stuffing it down into my gut, until the toxicity becomes ulcer-sized.
I recently read The Circle, Dave Egger’s dystopian novel about a benevolent Internet company that eerily creeps into every aspect of our lives, taking it over, one smiley emoticon at a time. Think about it like this: a company encompasses Facebook, Google, and Amazon, and then it begins to partner with the government.
As we know the shooting of Michael Brown was not just one incident, in one town. The reason that the fear and concern grew was because it was that proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the outcry of people who have been living under a system that has targeted young black men.
It’s always bad for the sisterhood when we target our resentment amongst ourselves. And it’s called the Old Boys Network for a reason. Because the Old Boys know how to work together, network their power, and add younger men into their ranks. And we should do the same. There’s no way that we are going to get beyond the one-slot conference tokenism until we put some money, support, and voice around other people in the field.
Boyhood takes 12 years and condenses it into one sitting. With some sort of mystical time-bending power, Linklater does not lose the slow pace. We still have a chance to savor ordinary moments. There’s no Hollywood makeup, smearing artificial age onto the skin. There’s no switch-up of actors. There is the aging process—that alluring rearrangement of the face and body. The effect is astonishing.
Most of us who work in a church can see parallels between bookstores and church. We had small, physical spaces in which we met and built community. We watched as big-box churches moved in, allowing for many more options, but individuals became much more anonymous in the process. Now, we know there are a growing number of people who are leaving church, but the search for God is still happening digitally.
They constructed the rainbow-colored crosses on holy ground. That very soil bore witness to the fact that love could overcome discrimination. It was the same plot where the Rev. Leroy and Gloria Griffith were married over forty years ago.
About three times a week, pastors ask me 1) how to get on the speaking circuit or 2) how to get published. The questions go together, because the answer to how to get on the speaking circuit is usually to get published. Sometimes they are just starting out in the ministry, and other times they are retired. Either way, my answer is the same, no matter what stage of life you’re in: Writers write.