Friday, October 26, 2012

Preacher Girl Revived

When I first felt called to ministry it had everything to do with the Word. 

I was in college, young, crazy enough to follow the passions stirred up within me.  I had gotten involved in the Wesley Foundation, our Methodist campus ministry.  We had something we called an outreach group that traveled to different churches singing, performing skits, dramatic readings, anything that could help a rag tag group of students share the Hope that was in them.

I always sang a song and introduced it with a story.

Singing was not new to me.  I had done that since I was a little girl.  But there was something about weaving the stories together:  God's Big Story, in and through and around my story.  It stirred up  within me a Fire that burned bright and whole and fresh and consuming.  I discovered God's Word reverberating against the walls of my own life; telling the story of how that happened, finding ways to show others how it happens for them too burned big inside my gut, that thing I could not get enough of.  I knew there was more to that experience than just singing occasionally with my college friends.

That was the beginning of my love for telling the old, old Story.  I used to tell others that God could call any kind of person into ministry, showing them my own life as example.  If God can use someone who tends to look like she belongs in junior high, someone who has a funny sounding voice, who is a bit on the "I'm just crazy enough to do it" side, who appreciates 6th grade boy humor, who can be scared of her own shadow, yet bouncing off the walls with just a single bite of chocolate, then God can use anybody to share His Word. 

I love that God brought me back to that same Wesley Foundation to be a minister where I first discovered my love for ministering His Word.  And when that season was over, God moved me to a place where I could minister to my family, three little boys and one great big handsome one to occupy my attentions.

He also brought me to our church's preschool to teach in the Pre-K classroom.  Everyday I am surrounded by a sea of four year olds.  Pre-schoolers are at home with my junior high looks, funny sounding voice, crazy personality, 6th grade boy humor, and timid sometimes, bouncing off the walls self.  I get told often, "Ms. Sami, you are so silly!"  I marvel at God's sense of humor.  When I was twenty-six and right out of seminary, He sent me to serve as an associate pastor in South Florida.  Our congregation was full of senior adults.  So much of my work there revolved around end of life issues.  And now that I'm . . . no longer twenty-six . . . my work focuses on beginning of life issues.  Given the patience and creativity and resourcefulness it takes to guide a room full of four-year-olds, this job requires the greater amount of experience.

Every week at preschool we go to chapel.  When I first began last year, there was already someone leading chapel.  Like me, she had a ministry background.  It was nice knowing someone knew my world, knew how crazy life and calling transitions can feel.  It was comforting to know I wasn't the only one figuring out how to share God's Word in a whole new way.  I began helping out with chapel once a month or so.  When this school year started we shared chapel responsibilities.

Several weeks ago my friend announced she was leaving to take a position as a children's minister at a church in her home state.  She would be returning to so many things that bring her deep joy.  I rejoiced with her when I heard her news.  It is bittersweet.  I will miss her companionship, her knowing those parts of this ministry journey that are so hard share in casual conversation.  As we hugged for the last time she whispered in my ear, "God brought you at just the right time."  God brought me, to fill a space that needed a preacher girl.

Last week Tim saw my old clergy robes hanging on the door.  He was a bit perplexed to see them.  I haven't had those things out since I was an associate pastor, over ten years ago.  I explained that they came in handy when telling the story of the Good Samaritan to four year olds.  Funny.  When I put them on during chapel that day, it felt like I was coming home to myself.  Chapel is home to me.  Being the girl who wraps God's Story up with words that connect it to the flesh that we are, well, that's the only girl I want to be.  Even when the flesh I'm wrapping with God's Word has only been on the planet so short a time.

I have no idea where this journey will end.  I just know that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.  And that Word keeps on dwelling and swelling in me, and I must keep sharing it wherever God gives me the opportunity.  I wonder at God's choice for me, in this calling.  I know that in His perspective it all makes sense, and I trust that there will come a day when it will make sense to me too.  My friend affirmed that truth as well.  "It all makes sense now," is what she said.  God had been preparing her for a Harvest she knew nothing about with a path that was out of her ordinary.  And it seems God is doing the same thing for me. 

All I can say is that as I'm waiting for my own land of Promise, it is so good to have a pulpit again.  Even if it is only a music stand.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Joy in the Journey

My little one wants so much to be big.

He already thinks he is.  If his brothers can do it, he believes he should be able to also.  This is especially true when we are playing outside.  For a months now he would climb up on the biggest bike he could find, helmut ready, waiting for the crazy thing to move, his little feet dangling above the ground.  Big brother's wheels have often proved too big.

So much like me.

I already think I'm ready for the plans God has for me, dreams to be more and do more, longings to fulfill a destiny, fulfilled by purpose, living out of a burning passion that is kindled every day.  I want to be further along than I am.  And I forget that God has plans.  More than one.  That those plans include a guide for what fills in the blank between now and the thing I was made for.  Some dreams are just too big now to live.  But there are some smaller ones that will do just fine.  For now.

In digging through the garage one day, Jeremiah found the littlest bike.  Over the last few weeks he has been trying to master it.  His feet stretch as far as they can to rest on the pedals, but they reach enough.  And his coordination lacks the strength to pedal with strength and speed, but he can still make the crazy thing go!  And and after days of practice, he can finally do it without me walking behind him giving him the big push.  I wish you could have seen him yesterday--the huge smile on his face, the light in his eyes, the thrill of accomplishment in his excited chatter--oh he was so proud!  It was like his whole body was begging me to see:  "Look Mommy!  I'm riding a bicycle!"

And so happy.

It makes me think that sometimes I have to relent and find the dream I fit. 

I've thought much about these in between times.  What exactly does one do when waiting for the Promise?  I mean, I love that verse that says God knows the plans He has for us to give us a future with hope (Jeremiah 29:11).  But what about the in-between-times?  What about those days, months, and yes, even years, when we are waiting for dream?  So while I love the stirring words of futures and hopes and plans, it can be depressing sometimes.  What I really need is something to get me through.  A smaller victory while I'm waiting to grow into my "big wheels."

And that's why I love Jeremiah 29:5-7.  I love its honesty, its gentleness, its matter-of-fact encouragement: 
Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce.  Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease.  But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
What are we supposed to do while we are living apart from the Promise?  We are called to live as a child of Promise.  We are called to grow, and multiply, and live well, seeking to know the One who is the Promiser.  And when we can do that, the Promise has a way of finding us.  We no longer have to spend ourselves finding it.

I love that Jeremiah could relinquish the desire to ride big brother's bike.  It was what enabled him to discover the joy of riding the bicycle that is all his own.  Able to make the thing go on his own. 

And this is where I am too.  Trying to find a way to pedal along.  Full of the joy of the journey. 

Even while I'm waiting to arrive at a greater destination.

I'm just so thankful for these sweet traveling companions.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Happy Feet

I wonder sometimes what it looked like when David danced before the Lord.  Then I had this moment the other day, listening to a song, its words a catalyst to the hope within me.  I couldn't help myself.  I danced.

It tickles me when I think about when first heard the song.  Can I just say it's not religious at all?  Nope.  Not one bit.  I think I first heard it while watching the Disney show "So Random."  I didn't think much of it then.  Then I heard it again set to old Disney cartoons featuring Goofy.  I just kept hearing the refrain, "You've gotta keep your head up, oh.  You gotta let your hair down, eh."  My curiosity was piqued.

Mostly because I was encouraged.

This week I downloaded the song.  As I stood in my kitchen listening to it, my heart felt uplifted.  What does one do when a song from the wrong station moves the heart to worship?  Well, one worships. 

Because it touched that tender spot in me that wonders how this is all going to turn out.  All the unanswered questions.  All the loose ends.  All the conundrums I can't solve right now.  The song said what I most needed to hear in that moment:  "You are gonna turn out fine," followed quickly by, "But you gotta keep your head up."


There is always a "but" isn't there?  I am reminded of Psalm 121.  It begins:

I lift up my eyes to the hills--
from where will my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
I seem to forget I have help when I look down.  There truly is something about raising my line of vision to what is higher than me that helps me move to higher ground.  I've exhausted possible sources of help in the low lands. None of them are really helpful.  Only God is inexhaustible.  I forget that I can look to Him sometimes.  I forget that He already knows I'm gonna turn out fine.  I forget that He's the only One who can convince me. 

So when I heard that silly pop song with upbeat words with an upbeat rhythm, I was reminded.  That life does not have to be determined by my present circumstances, but can be transformed by the One who is always Present within my circumstances. 

And when I remembered, I looked Up, heart full, head hopeful, feet happy.

In the middle of my kitchen I danced.