A few weeks ago, I was feeling nostalgic. It was the fifth anniversary of my family’s pilgrimage from Southern California to suburban Chicago for my interview weekend at First Congregational Church of Western Springs. It feels odd to call it that, though; it wasn't so much an interview as a time of holy conversation, prayer, worship, laughter, feasting, and fellowship. The terms of my call were unofficially worked out at a kitchen table while the Super Bowl droned on in the other room.
I got "saved" at a Carman concert when I was 12. It wasn’t the first time. But it was the first time I asked Jesus into my heart publicly, at an altar call. My friends and I became disciples overnight.
I wasn't, however, a disciple of Jesus—at least not directly. If I was discipled to anyone in middle school, it was to the pop stars of the contemporary Christian music scene.
A few years ago, my family started sponsoring a child through World Vision. I knew that the organization was generally evangelical, and that we are generally not. But this massive parachurch organization does good work, and I trusted them enough for a minuscule portion of that good work to be on our behalf. For 35 dollars a month, we’ve been contributing to the health, education, and general welfare of a little girl in Haiti, who was born the same day as our older daughter. Whatever theological differences I have with World Vision seem immaterial to this.
Theological differences may be slightly more material for some of the organization’s conservative supporters.
I entered parish ministry with a fair amount of idealism, particularly liturgical idealism. Inconveniently, the liturgical proclivities I picked up in seminary were not especially popular with my first congregation.
This became clear as a sleigh bell during our first Advent season together.
Like Lauren Winner, who admits in the foreword to Consider the Birds that she is “not really interested in birds at all,” I’m not especially enamored of feathered creatures. It’s not that I revile them, but I have perhaps been shat upon once too many times. I am, however, a fan of Debbie Blue, one of the founding pastors of House of Mercy in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Shortly after Glennon Melton was plucked from obscurity thanks to a series of enormously viral blog posts, Scribner beat out nine other major publishers in the bidding for her first book, Carry On, Warrior.
I’ve been an associate minister for two years. I love associate ministry. While I understand that it is a stepping stone for a lot of people, I feel deeply called to this role--both in general and in the specific context of the church I serve.
I used to be in solo ministry. When I made the transition, there were surprisingly few bumps--in large part due to my wonderful colleagues. And one of the big differences between solo and staff ministry is the increase in opportunities to work collaboratively.
With every cycle of our respiratory systems, we are sustained by the same intimate inspiration God exhaled into Adam’s muddy lungs. That breath permeates every cell of our being, nose to toes, invigorating our bodies and minds and souls until it is ready to be released, silently, from the same nostrils through which it came.
This is as ordinary as oxygen and carbon dioxide, and as extraordinary as spirit and miracle.
I was drying dishes and absentmindedly singing the song that had been stuck in my head for days when my husband suddenly came barreling down the staircase and into the kitchen. Looking frantic, he asked me what had happened. We were both confused; he was convinced that I had cried out in pain, and he fully expected to walk in on a grisly cooking incident.
We quickly realized the source of the miscommunication. The song I’d been singing was Lady Gaga’s “Judas,” and I sounded like a lady in distress as I belted out, “Judas, Juda-a-a.”
By the time I was admitted to the maternity ward and lashed to a bed with an IV line, my labor had progressed. With each contraction I felt as though the pain would suffocate me. When the nurse suggested she should call the anesthesiologist, I reluctantly agreed.
The texts for this week are challenging. The Gospel reading, an excerpt from Jesus’ high priestly prayer, is difficult to read aloud. It feels awkward to eavesdrop on Jesus’ intimate moments with God, and one can get lost in the anguish of a savior about to die.