Friday, November 30, 2007

"What to Expect?" - some answers.

Courtesy of Tony over at don't call me veronica, I found this interesting post:

What to Expect?

Intrigued by his questions, I thought I'd make a post of it and see what came out.

The questions I have for you seasoned and experienced (or fresh out of the box)church workers are:

what am I getting myself into?
what makes ministry worth it?
should I EXPECT junk or take it as it comes?

I've been a church worker for nine years, seven 1/2 as a [paid] part-time employee. There's are some things in the inner workings of the church I'm not privy to because I'm only a part-timer, but I know more than many because of my working relationship with the senior pastor. I'm sure he says things to me he wouldn't say to others, because he trusts me - and the same goes for me trusting him. I'm lucky to have the relationship with him I do. So many church workers don't and I realize what a huge blessing that is.

So, on with the questions.

What are you getting yourself into?

Something entirely inexplainable. It's messy, it's wonderful, it's frustrating and it's rewarding. You are getting yourself into a lifestyle, not a job. It's an experience that opens old wounds and creates new ones. Being in ministry means being willing and able to constantly self-evaluate and to admit when you're wrong (and be prepared for the several people who will tell you that you're wrong, even if you're right.) It's a life that requires a strange disconnect with the people you minister to, and that also requires a deep, intimate connection with them you won't find anywhere else.* It's a paradox in more ways than one.

What makes ministry worth it?

1.) Knowing you are answering a call. A life of ministry in the church (or the mission field) is a life you should not enter into lightly. You must be called... or you will burn out and burn out fast. In fact, you'll probably still burn out. But being sure of your call is what makes you push past that. (At least it has been for me.) I've been the worship director at my church for all those years and I have not had one break from it. There were times I felt like quiting, but because I was called, God gave me the strength I needed to NOT quit. I know it would be much easier to quit, but answering his call is more important to me. I knew I was called to a certain church for a specific reason. I've never doubted the call (only my ability) and when the going gets rough it can end up being the only thing you have to fall back upon.

2.) The second reason that makes ministry worth it is when it works... especially when you get to see the fruit of that labor. Sometimes it's the smallest thing you do that makes a huge impact. And sometimes the biggest thing goes completely unnoticed. But when that 60 year old congregation member who was completely against change comes up to you after you lead a contemporary worship song and they say, "I saw my sin in a new way today because of that song. I saw God in a new way. Thank you for helping facilitate that." - what can be said? It's so humbling that something as simple as listening to God's nudge on what songs to lead that week can actually help God change a heart. I really don't think there is anything more rewarding.

Expect junk. You'll get it. The junk that comes with ministry is the junk you'd get just about anywhere else. What is all comes down to is our sinful nature and the journey to overcome it. It's just harder to take in a ministry setting over a regular job because you might think that being a Christ-follower means we're all "above" that junk, but we're not. But wading through that junk, whether it's cleaning up your own and helping someone else clean up, is a really astounding experience.

We are called be his hands and his feet. I often think of Rainer Maria Rilke's words in Letters to a Young Poet when it comes to this vocation:

"There is only one way: Go within. Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you to write. Put it to this test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write? Above all, in the most silent hour of the night, ask yourself this: Must I write? Dig deep into yourself for a true answer. And if it should ring its assent, if you can confidently meet this serious question with a simple I must, then build your life upon it. It has become your necessity. Your life, in even the most mundane and least significant hour, must be a sign, a testimony to this urge."

I've barely skimmed the surface of my feelings and experiences about ministry. But this is not a bad start, I guess.

...please forgive any incoherent sentences or typos. It is late and I do not know why I'm still awake...

[*I might need to explain further. If so, let me know and I will post on this topic. It's not an easy one, but one I wish someone had told me when I first started.]

Thursday, November 29, 2007

O Come All Ye Twisted?

I'm holding my sides in laughter, trying not to fall off my chair.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pop Culture Quote Monday

Where the lights from the Christmas tree blow up the telly
His face closes in like an old pork chop

Good luck. This one isn't easy.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pop Culture Quote Monday

I can't believe my grandmother actually felt me up.

I had to do it. Sooner or later. One of the funniest and most uncomfortable moments in movie history.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

It's Christmas Time

Tonight was my first foray into Christmas shopping for the season. My friend Angie and I made plans to have a girls night out and braved the mall scene.

I rarely go to to mall here in town. Not because it doesn't have a lot of options, but because I prefer to shop at local places or smaller specialty stores. Much to my surprise and delight, Grow Nebraska is now renting space at the mall. Their mission "is to maximize the state’s entrepreneurial and small business spirit. " I have a few friends who are part of Grow Nebraska, and have nothing but the highest of compliments about how it's helped them in their business.

Angie was looking for a couple of things - a $10 gender-neutral grab bag gift (They are celebrating at Thanksgiving this year, so she's starting early) and a gift for her grandmother, a woman she describes as "having everything". I struggle with gifts like these, so I wasn't much help to her. A $10 gender neutral gift isn't easy to find no matter who you are, but especially for Angie and I, because we are both believers in the practical side of gift giving. We were both excited at the thought of finding something at Grow Nebraska, because even if the gift is a "throw-away" kind of gift, at least you are supporting a local business man or woman.

Some people might consider my attitude "hippie-like", but I don't have a problem with gift-giving at Christmas time. I don't think it's un-Christ-like, I don't think God's against it. In fact, he probably supports it. After all, he gave his own son as a gift to us at Christmas time. And if it takes a national holiday to get people to be generous one day out of the year, maybe it will lead to generosity one week, one-month, or every day of the year. (In fact, the Christmas program I'm directing at church this year as a sketch that illustrates this very point.) So I'm not against gifts; they are a wonderful things. I just happened to believe giving gifts that are special and unique for the person, or in practical gifts that one can use, because honestly? I already have enough "stuff" around me.

Check to see if your state has a program like Grow Nebraska to help support local commerce. Or look for a 10,000 Villages store in your area. They are a fair-trade store working with artisans all over the world. Their retail employees all work on a volunteer basis in order to keep overhead costs down, so they can provide a fair trade with the artists they work with. I've found many wonderful and unique gifts there. Their products are well-priced, and they have a great selection. There isn't a room in my house that does have something from that store in it -it's all very cool stuff.

Call me a hippie. I'd rather be that than a yuppie.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Small Glimpse

Tonight I got a small glimpse into my life if am able to go into full-time ministry. And it was good.

Wednesday has been church night for me for as long as I can remember. AWANA, youth group, praise team rehearsals, you name it I've done it. Tonight I was there for three reasons: the typical - praise team rehearsal. We meet at 8:15 once youth group is over because our drummer is still in high school. I was also there because the AWANA commander asked if I would lead "counsel time" tonight, which is a short 10 minutes lesson for the kids. Then I was working with some high school students on a sketch they are doing (see the bottom video on my side bar - we are re-creating that).

Counsel time was fun. I did a simple lesson about God's word being a lamp unto our feet and a light until our path by cutting stones out of paper and making a pathway. I talked about how we don't always know which stones to step on because they can be wet and slippery. Then we turned the lights out to demonstrate how walking in the dark is unsafe. Then I turned on a flash light and had some of the kids turn the stones over to see words I wrote on the back like "love" "hate" "joy" "cheating" "patience" "selfishness" "giving" etc. It illustrated that the light of God's word shows us which path to take. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. -Psalm 119:105. It was simple, yet I had such a good time with it.

But the kicker of my night came when I worked with some high school students on the Lifehouse sketch.

The Lifehouse sketch is one that I love. (Take a few minutes to watch it if you have time.) The classic battle between good and evil is made relevant and modern, and it adds an emotional punch without being cheesy or over-the-top. And every time Jesus steps in to fight? My heart stops because I know what that feels like. Tonight as I showed the kids how to fight and struggle I was reminded of one of my favorite moments in literature - the moment when Peter is fighting the White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and it's back and forth and seemingly has no end. He's fighting and just can't defeat her, then with a roar Aslan steps in and takes the White Witch down. And just like the Lifehouse sketch, my heart stops in that moment. My hearts stops... in relief.

I don't have to fight my sin alone, and if I tried I would fail. Jesus steps in for me, gives me strength to overcome my sin, and reminds me he's got my back. And to share that with a few high schoolers at my church is amazing opportunity and awesome experience I cherish with all my heart.

My heart is full of joy and I am grateful for his love.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The WGA Strike

I was talking with a co-worker today regarding the writer's strike. I asked her if she knew what it was about, and she said, "They just want a bigger salary, right?"

No, actually, that's not right.

If any of you download an episode of The Office, Grey's Anatomy, Weeds, etc. - either from iTunes (where you pay for it) or from, where it's free - the writer's don't get a dime. The studios call this "promotional material" and are getting away with not offering residuals for the people that created the product. Promotional? I don't think so. It's estimated that digital downloads create over a billion dollars worth of revenue per year. And the writers of those shows DON'T SEE A DIME.

Join the writer's strike by not downloading anything until the get what is due them. It will be there when the strike is over... you just might have to wait a while to see it. And the short videos I've included below give great explanations. This isn't about a bigger salary for them. They just want a share of a profit the studio is going to make anyway.

By the way, the average writer's salary is $200,000/yr. That's a lot, but compare that to the studio executives that make 20 million a year and I wouldn't cross the line, either. I can only be on strike in my little way. (I haven't been able to watch Samantha Who? and it's eating away at me. But I will not watch until this is resolved.)

The writer's aren't being greedy. They have earned this.

Pamela Ribon, one the writer's of Samantha Who?, is keeping us all up to date on the strike activities on her blog. If I wasn't a regular reader of hers, I would've have thought the same as my co-worker. So that's why I'm posting this. Spread the word. No more downloads! Solidarity!

Eric over at the merge posted this today. Thought you would all enjoy it. Sometimes it's good to have a reminder like this now and then. (And sometimes I wish I could get the people in my congregation who don't like the new OR old music I lead to understand this.)

Pop Culture Quote Monday

"Safe, no he's not safe, but he's good".

From a book that was eventually made a movie. One of my favorites, actually.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Bracing Myself

Today I had an admissions interview with Covenant Seminary.

After the disappointing financial aid package I received from Bethel Seminary, I went through a sort of "grieving process". My heart was set on Bethel for a number of reasons, and when I received a total of $600 in financial aid for a school that would cost $60,000, there was no way I could go. My five stages:

Denial: They are kidding, right? There is no way this package is "need-based". I'm just getting so little because I applied late. A phone call to the financial aid office set me straight. That was all the planned to offer me.

Anger: You've got to be kidding! This is ridiculous. Who can afford to take out that many loans? Is this because I'm a woman? Because of my age? Because I'm from Nebraska? No one said grief was a rational process. (I didn't really think that last one, but right now it feel appropriate to be a martyr in this state. Sorry little Huskers.)

Bargaining: Okay, God. I get it. If I quit my job and find someone to mooch off of, then I could get more financial aid next year. Should I do that? That was never going to happen. I'd go crazy.

Depression: Why must it be this way? Why me? Why give me this call and then have it end up this way? What did I do wrong? This was a strange one for me, because it hit me the hardest the weekend I was scheduled to move into seminary housing, then hit me even harder two weeks later when I got a call at work from an old friend wondering what I was still doing at my job. When I told him what happened, he said, "Why didn't you call me so we could go get drunk?" (I have strange friends.) I told him because I didn't want to talk about it. I thought if I didn't, the sadness and reality of it would go away. I'm sure he could hear in my voice the trembling undercurrent of sadness.

Acceptance: It's probably not meant to be. I just misread an important spiritual lesson for a "call" - it was probably just wishful thinking that I was meant to live an extraordinary life when in fact I was simply meant to live this one. Then a stranger approached me at the local barista's who had overheard me talking to a friend about seminary. This happened the week I knew I needed to make my decision to go or stay. This conversation lead me to apply to another school. Covenant.

So hear we are. The interview was positive. I've been accepted, he told me about 2/3s of the way into the conversation. (Though I do not have a letter yet...) And he told me I would have a very good chance of getting an excellent financial aid package.

So I'm bracing myself for yet another disappointment. I know better than to get my hopes up.

But this feels good. Like it might even work this time.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him. -Psalm 37:7

Monday, November 05, 2007

Pop Culture Quote Monday

It's a movie this time...

Noelle: Disappointment doesn't kill
Abby: Right... rejection kills. Disappointment only maims.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Defining Moments

As I "prepare" to enter my third year of blogging, I decided to reflect back on the past two years of writing. With life's typical ups and downs, I'm so glad I stared this experience so I have those defining moments to look back on. Reading some of my old posts was a little shocking, because I can't believe I was that honest with myself. And I realized just how much writing about these ups and downs brought insight and clarity to my heart and my head.

Never Underestimate God
Repair or Replace?
Being the Better Person
Being Someone Who Matters
The Shield of Faith
Landmarks and Going Through the Motions
Not Being Good Enough
Little Reminders
Small Victories

These aren't my best posts, or even my favorite posts. They are what I consider "landmarks" in my walk with Christ, and a record of the attempt to live out my life in the best way I can.

I have this blog to remind me of where I was, and just how wonderful it is to be where I am now.

I don’t believe You brought me this far to give up
So everyday I keep on fighting for it
Sometimes it’s hard to tell if I’m faithful
Or a fool to believe You’re still leading me
-Jason Gray's "This Far"