Category Archives: Multitude Monday

Thanking away the blues.

I’m having a bad day, so I thought I’d pretend it is Monday — especially since I haven’t celebrated Mondays in awhile… Today I am thankful for:

130. The Honda was fixed — both mechanically and physically for about $300 — we’d assumed at LEAST $1,000 in repair work.

131. Working things out with the Fleur-de-Lys Mansion to have a repeat of our wedding breakfast for our anniversary. They are amazing. If you need a great place to get away in St. Louis, go there.

132. Chat with C about my summer internship. We are both super excited. Can’t wait to be able to tell who “C” actually is!

134. Having a few spare moments to play with my new Kindle.

135. Thinking that maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to go to my sister’s law school graduation tomorrow (SO stinkin’ proud!)

136. Cherry Coke Zero. And no, I really don’t care to hear how these are worse than sugary drinks. I think we can all agree that it is far better than other choices I could be making.

137. A made dinner for me last night. And this isn’t unusual. I *so* win.

138. Folks wanting to read the paper on 1 Timothy 2:8-15 that I wrote for class. It is rather overwhelming.

139. Cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Sometimes you just can’t beat the from-a-can variety

140. Oh, so slowly getting rid of a lot of the things that have accumulated at home.

141. Seeing a random stranger’s engagement photos taken in a room FULL of white balloons. Balloons make everything better.

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Sharing history

On Saturday, two St. Louis churches that have served the midtown area for over 155 years worshipped together for the first time. Third Baptist and Washington Metropolitan AME Zion Church held a joint worship service to build friendships and partner together.

To be honest, I wasn’t particularly excited. I was proud that such an event was taking place, but expected it would be long and poorly-attended and simply be another good event that took up space in my over-packed schedule. But when one is in the choir and married to the choir director, staying home isn’t really an option.

I was right on one count — the service was long, but the beauty and history wrapped in it made it fly by. Our choir joined with the two Washington Metro AME Zion choirs. We sang together while black Jesus smiled at us from the stained glass windows. Third is a multi-ethnic congregation. Washington Metro is a predominately African-American church. Together, we represented a blending of color and denominational tradition.

At the end of the service, we shared communion. The familiar words of “body of Christ, broken for you,” took on new meaning as one of the Washington Metro ministers broke a wafer in my hand to demonstrate the brokenness of Christ.

Communion continued downstairs in the form of a fellowship dinner. We sat next to a woman who lives in the next town over (which makes us practically neighbors in the county). She works with troubled kids, giving them hope and helping them find their strengths.

Apparently, plans are already underway to make the worship service an annual event — maybe even joined by a Catholic congregation — and to perhaps find service projects to work on together in the meantime.

While I’m certainly glad to be part of our churches gathering together for the first time, I can’t help but wonder what has taken so long to do so. I wonder how much our traditions would have been enriched if we’d begun meeting and making friends years ago instead of hiding behind our own church walls and traditions. I wonder how my faith would be different if I’d grown up occasionally gazing at images of black Jesus — who seems so much more real and comforting than the glassy-eyes pictures of white Jesus. May I always be part of a community willing to commune with others.

119. Gifts of leftover food that make lunch-packing super easy

120. Thoughtful people who provide for crazy seminarians in all kinds of ways

121. Warmer weather on our drive to KC

122. A sit-down dinner at Bread Co.

123. Making new friends at the joint worship service

124. An unexpected sleep-in day

125. the song “Transfiguration”

126. Serving communion (one of my favorite things)

127. First homemade chili of the season (yes, a little late)

128. Kitties who are mostly loveable

129. Scrubs and chili dates

(photo credit)

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Practicing fearlessness

“Hi. I’m Jennifer. And I feel called to be a pastor.” Funny how ministry discernment can feel like the intro to an AA meeting (or at least how they are portrayed in movies and TV).

Last week I flew to Atlanta to meet with other Baptist Women in Ministry leaders. In order to fit the occasion, I put on my aqua “This is What a Preacher Looks Like” T-shirt. And I wore it to the airport. It wasn’t until I hit airport security that I realized I was practicing fearlessness. Who wants to be stuck on a plane with a self-proclaimed preacher? It was too warm for a jacket, so I had nothing to hide behind. I stepped up to the metal detectors with a smile, assuming I was a walking TSA target.

I passed through security with no issues, but ended up in several conversations at the gate. “So you are a preacher?” one woman asked. She was curious to hear about the sort of classes people take in seminary. The woman scanning tickets read my shirt aloud and seemed a bit perplexed – “interesting…” she said, pausing for a moment. “We’re glad to have you.”

On the plane, I ended up sitting next to a woman who was on her way to speak at a Christian conference. While her theology seemed rather different from mine, she encouraged me and even gave me a copy of a book she cowrote with her daughter.

In Atlanta, I had a fantastic time sharing stories with women who minister in a variety of wonderful ways. We all shared struggles of following our callings – from growing up in churches that taught God does not call women to death threats from communities who were afraid of women in leadership roles. There were also stories of great hope – from a church sharing hot food and company with folks stranded in an ice storm to helping college students explore their own sense of calling.

I returned home full of hope and encouragement for the church and for my own crazy ministry journey.

This weekend, I wore my “This is What a Preacher Looks Like” shirt again for the first day of preaching class (granted, covered by a sweatshirt – it was cold!). Allyn and I attended a lecture given by one of our heroes – Walter Brueggemann. Allyn convinced me to take off my sweatshirt and show off my T-shirt. I had a group of (non-Baptist) students ask where they could get their own.

While wearing a T-shirt hardly seems a great act of bravery, it has played a strangely significant role in my journey of calling. Growing up in a tradition where women are not allowed to preach, admitting that not only does God call women, but that God has called me is huge. And scary. Just today I admitted to a minister friend that I’m not sure I have what it takes. She was wise enough to remind me that none of us do. And isn’t that an amazing act of grace?

108. Opportunities to be around people who are not at all like me

109. A kind hotel desk worker

110. For safe travels during a winter weather weekend — even if things didn’t quite turn out as planned.

111. Dinner with friends from the new create cohort — and Kate!

112. Getting to see and meet Walter Brueggemann with Allyn.

113. Cookies and “Scrubs” with the Tankersleys

114. Road trip conversations

115. Hearing my friend Leslie preach on Sunday morning

116. Painting and discussing Bible stories with 4 sugar-filled kids who are creative as all get out.

117. A summer internship dream session

118. Lunch and a chat with a friend who followed me from Jeff City to St. Louis (even if I wasn’t part of the reason!)

(photo credit)

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Love in the Wind

preached at CAC Friendly Baptist Church (a child-led church in East St. Louis) Sunday morning for Martha Stearns Marshall Month
Matthew 5:38-48

Do any of you know people who are hard to love? One of my favorite books is A Wind in the Door. It is the story of a girl named Meg who is very protective of her little brother, Charles Wallace. Charles Wallace is in kindergarten and WAY too smart for his own good. Not only does Charles Wallace already know how to count and identify shapes and colors, but he reads grown-up books on science and math. Do any of you like reading science and math books? They aren’t usually my choice for fun reading. But Charles Wallace had read so much that he didn’t just know more than the other students, he knew more than the teacher. Doesn’t that sound cool? But there was one problem – whenever Charles Wallace would talk about something the teacher didn’t know, the teacher thought he was just making stuff up – that he was using his imagination and inventing it all. And he would get in trouble. Have any of you ever been in trouble for something you didn’t do? It isn’t fun, is it?

That’s when Meg decided to stick up for her brother. Since she was older, she went to a different school, but she decided that she would walk Charles Wallace to his school and talk to the principal, Mr. Jenkins. But her plan didn’t work out well. Meg didn’t like Mr. Jenkins, and as she talked to him, things just got worse. Mr. Jenkins didn’t want to do anything to help. AND he tried to get Meg in trouble.

Mr. Jenkins was hard to love. There have been plenty of people in my life that I’ve found hard to love – from the 1st grade teacher who scared me, to the people who seem to know all the right ways to get on my nerves to the folks who are just downright mean.

In our Gospel reading for today, Jesus says “you’ve heard it said ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” That’s how it should be, right? We can just love our friends and families and Chaplain Drew and Melissa… and we’ll just hate all the people who pick on us or mess with us or look at us funny. Isn’t that what we do most of the time?

But Jesus wasn’t finished. He continues, “But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Have you ever heard people say “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree?” What does that mean? It means that a child is a lot like his or her parents. I’m often told I’m a lot like my Dad. We have a lot of the same interests. We both like music, writing and computers. We laugh at the same things – often jokes that no one else finds funny. And we are both preaching today. We both feel God has called us to ministry.

Jesus tells us that our relationship with God should be the same way. We are children of God – we were made in the image of God. Just like people can look at us and say “you have your mother’s eyes” or “you have your daddy’s nose” or “you two must be sisters because you have the same smile,” people should be able to look at us and see hints of God.

And what qualities does Jesus tell us God has? I’ll give you a hint – it is in verse 45. Yeah, it says “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

Have you ever seen a beautiful sunset or a pretty flower and heard someone say that God was painting you a picture to say “I love you?” That message is there for all of us – even those who want nothing to do with God. God loves all of us anyway.

If we are God’s children, we need to love others, too – even those that are hard to love.

Remember the story with Meg and Mr. Jenkins? Meg decides she has to learn to love Mr. Jenkins. She struggles, because she really just wants to complain about Mr. Jenkins. But she finds that when she starts really paying attention to the good things that he does and finding the things that make him unique and special, he is easier to love.

And, by the way, if you are wanting to read the story, I didn’t give anything away. It is a great adventure with dragons and time travel and an opportunity to save the world – and I’m giving a copy of The Wind in the Door – and the book that comes before it, Wrinkle in Time to the CAC so you can get a chance to read it for yourself.

If we want to learn to love our enemies, we can learn from Meg – sometimes it is easier to love someone if we think about what makes them special – what is good about them. After all, God made them and loves them, too. Sometimes, it is hard to love them on our own. Remember that Jesus also said to pray for those that persecute us. Do you know what persecute means? It means that someone is treating you poorly because of something you believe or something about you. Charles Wallace was persecuted because he was so smart. When we pray for people, something cool begins to happen – we begin to see people as God does. When someone is hard to love, we can pray for God’s help and begin to pray for that person, too.

Let’s be the kind of children who look like the God who lovingly created us. May we not fall far from the tree.

101. An amazingly weekend with Baptist Women in Ministry friends in Atlanta

102. A chance to hear the stories of other women who are called to ministry

103. Mellow Mushroom pizza AND incredible chocolates

104. Coming home to dinner with the hubby

105. Opportunity to preach at CAC Friendly Baptist Church

106. Receiving an amazing plaque from two sweet girls

107. Getting to share L’Engle books with kids

(photo credit)

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Reaching 100

85. Free Redbox days (last week we saw “The Social Network”)

86. Date night to the Olive Garden

87. Serendipitous collapsing of a book shelf, which actually resulted in a better-looking room.

88. Hair cut! I love having my hair washed and played with.

89. Getting to meet and hang out with most of the World Impact St. Louis folks at our “breakfast for dinner” night.

90. Introducing little Mona to our two kitties.

91. Weekend at home! They are few and far between.

92. Sitting with my good friends, the Wiggers, at church on Sunday.

93. Fun Valentine’s Day painting pottery and eating an Allyn-cooked meal.

94. Chocolate lips sitting in my mailbox — a coworker’s traditional gift

95. A Real Simple magazine waiting at home to be read on the plane tomorrow

96. WARM WEATHER!!!

97. Trying new recipes — made two types of scones (for breakfast for dinner night) and peanut butter blossom cookies with dark chocolate Dove hearts

98. Free tickets to see one of our favorite (okay, there is really no contest here) Hebrew Bible scholars.

99. Knowing that Allyn will not know about the above tickets for another hour — and knowing he will be excited about it.

100. Friends and family who do little things to make me smile ALL. THE. TIME. =0)

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They will know that we are Christians by our T-shirts

preached at Holmeswood Baptist Church (Kansas City) Sunday morning
Isaiah 58:1-9
Matthew 5:13-20

Is it just me or does today’s Gospel passage read a bit differently than it did before this week’s weather? I don’t know about you, but a week ago I was taking inventory of my cabinets, making a list of canned goods, candles and batteries. I wanted to make sure that my husband and I had something to eat and a source of light and heat in case we were snowed in and lost electricity. I had a mental checklist of all of the candles and flashlights in the house and tried to calculate what was “enough” – what was required for adequate preparation. I didn’t personally stock up on salt, but I’m certainly glad those responsible for keeping the roads clear did.

And yet, a few days after the storm has passed, it is easy to forget our reliance on such basic things. I never needed my candles. And what good is the salt once the roads are clear? It merely creates a mess when we track it into our homes and places of business. In a world of neon color and low-sodium diets, what is the point of being salt and light?

I think Isaiah and Jesus spoke words about light and salt to worlds that are not much different from our own. At this point in the book of Isaiah, the prophet is speaking to a people recently returned from exile. The understanding is that Jerusalem had fallen because the Israelites were being punished by God. They may have worshipped God – but they also bowed down at the altars of many other so-called gods. And even now that they’ve been restored, the Temple still lies in ruins, a sign that all was not well with or for these people of God.

And we remember that Jesus was born into Roman occupation. The Israelites were looking for a Messiah who would send the Roman Emperor packing. Even in the story of Jesus’ birth, we are reminded of the occupation – “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.” The Ceasar – the Emperor — was in charge and making demands on the Israelites. No longer the promised land, is it?

Here in the United States, we don’t know much about occupation or exile. But I imagine we all know what it feels like when life seems out of control – whether it is the death of a loved one, waiting on a diagnosis, the loss of a job, being stuck at home – or maybe worse, away from home – in the middle of a blizzard. We watch Egypt in a time of political unrest over President Mubarek. If you understand what it is like to be in crisis or to have life spiral out of control, you understand the mindset of the people who first heard these messages. In times of crisis, we begin to struggle with identity – who are we? How do we go on now? What will define us in and through this situation?

The Israelites in Isaiah’s day were apparently pretending that everything was fine. “Day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God.” They were fakes. They were the folks acknowledging that they saw the Emperor’s beautiful new garments when they were only gazing upon his royal undies. “We’ll just pretend we never left and that the Temple is still here. If we all smile nicely, no one will ever know that we don’t have it all together.” In case you haven’t yet figured it out, I’ll let you in on a little secret – NO ONE has it all together… not even Pastor Keith. (Sorry, pastor!)

I don’t know about you, but I find hope in knowing that none of us has all of our ducks in a row. (Perhaps the proper phrase here at Holmeswood is “geese in a row?”) And beyond that, it is precisely the sort of people with ducks all over the place that Jesus calls the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

The people of Jesus’ day were trying to figure out what it meant to be God’s people and follow the covenant when under occupation. There were differing ideas about how to go about it. The Sadducees decided that cooperation with the Empire was best and embraced their new culture. Zealots were ready to take up weapons and fight the Romans. Many of the Pharisees realized that they were greatly outnumbered by the Romans and didn’t stand a chance in battle. They thought the best method was to separate themselves from the world and practice Torah quietly. I think the Pharisees are often given a bad reputation because Jesus seems to come into conflict with them a lot, but I think the church today often relates better to them than any other group – and for good reason. We often, perhaps mistakenly, label them as legalistic, but the Pharisees were simply interested in following God. They believed the way to be close to God was through the Torah – through the Scriptures. As Baptists, we are often called “People of the Book.” We’re Bible people. The average Pharisee was probably more like one of us than we realize.

And aren’t we trying to figure out who and what we are? What does it mean to be Holmeswood Baptist Church? How do we be a “different kind of Baptist?” What does it look like to be a missional church? Isn’t it easier just to cloister ourselves off and go about studying the Bible and worshipping God?
About 10 years ago, singer/songwriter Justin McRoberts designed a T-shirt that simply stated “And they will know that we are Christians by our T-shirts.” I’m not sure if he had the shirt in mind, but in 2004, Derek Webb wrote a song called “T-shirts” that follows the same lines. In it, he states: “they’ll know us by the t-shirts that we wear; they’ll know us by the way we point and stare at anyone whose sin looks worse than ours, who cannot hide the scars of this curse that we all bare; they’ll know us by our picket lines and signs; they’ll know us by the pride we hide behind; like anyone on earth is living right; and isn’t that why Jesus died — not to make us think we’re right.”

Thinking we have the right answers is not the fast that God chooses. It is so easy to come to church, do a few spiritual things and convince ourselves that we are somehow superior beings. That somehow we are deserving of God’s blessing. If other people would just see how good we are, they’d want in. No! As soon as we draw the lines of in and out, deserving and undeserving, we have missed it. Jesus would tell us that we will never enter the kingdom of heaven; Isaiah would say we are fasting to admire ourselves, as if we were a group that practiced righteousness.

Instead, Isaiah tells us that God chooses the fast that looses the bonds on injustice, undoes the thongs of the yoke, lets the oppressed go free. God chooses sharing our bread with the hungry, bringing the homeless poor into our houses, clothing the naked…

To be salt and light in our world, we must shine light on the injustices in our world. We must see those that are hidden from the eyes of society. We must ignore labels and erase dividing lines and embrace those who believe themselves to be unembraceable. Then, and only then, will our light break forth like the dawn.
And if we are to be known as the light of the world, we have to risk the light – Our Matthew passage tells us to put the light on the lampstand – not under a bushel. But when we do that, it becomes unprotected from the elements – we can no longer guard the light from the wind and rain – or snow. If we choose to be salt and light, we choose to be the salt and light for all. Not just ourselves and people like us.

One of my favorite images from the news this week is that of Egyptian Christians making themselves a human barricade to protect a group of praying Muslims from the protests that were raging around them. I saw a copy of the picture on a blog in my google reader “staff picks.” I point that out, because the staff picks rarely include anything that stands out as particularly Christian or religious. And yet a picture of Christians protecting Muslims – along with a long line of comments mostly from a Christian point-of-view – made the cut. Might this be a bit of salt and light?

Holmeswood does a great job of engaging the community. I read your monthly newsletter and talk to your ministers. Your list of missional ministries is impressive. I encourage you to let your interactions through those ministries be an opportunity to see the humanity of others – and of yourself. Be the salt of the earth and light of the world to each other. Marcia Riggs, professor of Christian ethics at Columbia Theological Seminary writes “Disciples who do not engage in such practices that humanize life on earth will be like salt that has lost its taste.”  Are you salty?

They will know that we are Christians by our T-shirts? As Derek Webb says, “love, love, love is what we should be known for; love, love, love; it’s the how and it’s the why we live and breathe and we die.” Amen.

75. Allyn went above and beyond in taking care of me this week.

76. Snow days that make being sick and away from work not seem so bad.

77. Riding a train for the very first time.

78. Being picked up at the train station by my friend Kathy

79. The Herron household for giving me a great place to hangout while waiting for Kate to get out of class.

80. Getting to spend time with my buddy Kate

81. Seeing friends and making new ones at Holmeswood

82. Getting home even faster than anticipated (even though by bus, not train)

83. Learning to make cinnamon rolls and french bread with the Bonnie and Monica.

84. Getting to eat the french bread (and soon the cinnamon rolls!) with Allyn.

(photo credit)

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Just thanks

Allyn and I both seem to have the flu. Due to that, the real post I had planned will be postponed. Today, just thankfulness…

63. A working car

64. A dad that rescued us when our car decided not to work last week

65. A fanTAStic towing company who made us smile in the midst of an otherwise unpleasant situation. If you are in the St. Louis area, check out Asset Towing.

66. Gifts of blueberry muffins and chocolate milk

67. The blog of my friend, Ashley Haupt. Read it.

68. Some special friends who were an amazing gift of grace this week.

69. Chad Thomas’ gift of music (the new Iron and Wine)

70. Time to hang out with the Tankersley clan

71. Alkaseltzer Plus

72. Hot tea

73. A snow day tomorrow giving me extra time to recover

74. A husband who brings me cough syrup and Alkaseltzer Plus even when he is also sick.

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