Who’s on your tour?

Hey ladies, I’m wondering — Who is on your tour?

I’m sitting on a train heading back out to the ‘burbs from downtown Chicago where I just saw an amazing concert – Four Voices. Joan Baez, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and the Indigo Girls, Emily Saliers and Amy Ray, have joined artistic forces for this 11 city tour. As soon as I saw it advertised I knew I couldn’t miss it for anything. The women did not disappoint. 

Early in the show they noted that among the four of them they represented more than 170 years of music-making. They first met 25 years ago when Baez invited the Indigo Girls to participate in a fundraiser concert. Saliers and Ray agreed to participate and brought Carpenter into the event, too. Their friendship was born and has included mutual support and admiration ever since. 

The women on stage tonight represented two or three generations of American music, at least three different genres, and several discographies worth of life experiences. Some might try to describe them as competitors, but I don’t think they’d stand for it. At one point tonight, Baez said, “I love these women and I love the work we do together.”

As much as I loved the music, and I loved the music, I think I loved this witness even more – women supporting women across generations as they move through their careers and callings. Women across generations supporting each other, learning each other’s songs, singing together sometimes and at other times letting each one shine on her own. 

Which brings me to my question, a question that doesn’t have to be exclusively for women, but one that I think is particularly important for women in a culture that still leans heavily toward patriarchy — Who is on your tour? Who are the people on stage with you – sometimes singing along with one of your songs, sometimes sitting behind you in the dark, sometimes letting you add your voice to their art? Who is in your multi-generational support team? Who reached out a hand to help lead you along and to whom have you offered a hand as well? 

One of the women on my tour, the Rev. Carol McDonald, was with me tonight, and I couldn’t have been happier than I was sharing the evening with her. She invited me on her tour a while back and has been a friend and mentor ever since. She prayed me through difficult times and pointed me in new directions when the time was right and I didn’t even know it. She has introduced me to women of all ages who are smart and faithful and hard-working, many of whom I consider part of the tour, too. Best of all, I know she isn’t just doing this for me. There are so many of us who have been blessed to join this particular tour.

Do you have people you’re on tour with? Do you a group of friends and colleagues who help you navigate your career and calling? Pastors and preachers, musicians and artists, doctors and teachers, mothers and executives — we all can benefit from supportive colleagues and friends as we go about our work of changing the world. 

They pay attention

I sent the little kids outside yesterday morning to pick up up the trash in the driveway from our 4th of July fireworks.*  When I went outside to see how they were doing this is what I found.IMG_5674

Of course it went up on Facebook immediately.  And Twitter. “This is what happens when you send the pastor’s kids out to clean up the trash from the fireworks.” And now it’s a blog post.  As one does. Continue reading

Something happened – a response to General Assembly Overture 50 

A year ago today, right at the start of worship, two elders of the church I serve stood beforeIMG_8905 the congregation to communicate a resolution that had passed that would make permissible, upon routine session approval, marriages between any two people for whom it is legal.  In other words, the session made the statement that weddings between same-sex couples would be considered and approved according to the same process and standards as weddings between opposite-sex couples.  Our church would not discriminate against same-sex couples seeking God’s blessing on and the church’s recognition of their marriage.  The sermon I preached later in that worship service is here.
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The gospel is political.

KEEP CALM AND DON'T READ THE COMMENTS Poster
I read the comments.  I know they say, “Don’t read the comments,” but I read the comments, and now I feel like I need to respond.  The current comments that I read were on a Facebook post under a link to a Louisville, KY news station’s report about the response of the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to a church asking for a review of Donald Trump’s membership in the PC(USA).  (Spoiler alert: Although he was baptized in a Presbyterian congregation, he’s not currently a member of a PC(USA) congregation, so there is no membership to review or, as the headlines are implying, revoke.)  Mulitple comments, however, didn’t even address this specific question.  Instead they made declarations like “…we as a church have no business in politics.” And that’s what fired me up.

PC(USA) Stated Clerk responds to questions on Trump’s membership.”Leaders at the Presbyterian headquarters in…

Posted by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Friday, December 11, 2015

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Love first

“Strengthening us to… love” — From the collect in Midday Prayer, PC(USA) Daily Prayer App
“Loving can hurt” — Ed Sheeran, “Photograph”

In worship last Sunday in a time of quiet reflection following the sermon I invited the congregation to listen for God speaking to them about a way they are called to love, a specific individual or a general group, with a particular action or a more all-encompassing attitude.  I listened, too, and with the rest I jotted down what I heard.

love first

This nudging came to me in the context of my first Sunday back leading worship after sabbatical.  I had been back in the saddle, so to speak, for about a week, and my mind, thoughts, and prayers had been (still are) spinning.  I feel different.  I want to lead in a different way.  Life went on while I was gone, in some ways that I expected it to and in some ways that I didn’t, and I’m trying to figure out where I fit, how I will respond.  I have new insight into vision and direction for the church that I want to move forward and bring to life.  I am rested and energized, but sense already it will be easy to tip into overloaded and overwhelmed.

And the nudging from God that I heard was to love the church first.  Now that doesn’t mean change may not be part of my calling, or pieces of our life together might not need to be improved.  Not tolerating was most certainly part of what was spoken to me.  But what I heard God saying is that love comes first.

I imagine (or maybe I just hope) I’m not the only pastor who sometimes gets caught up in trying to do “all the things” in my work.  I don’t just mean tasks like email and phone calls and scheduling and writing.  I mean even spiritual sounding things like serving and preaching and praying.  They are good things, and they look and sound and feel like faithful things. But I heard God telling me they have to start with love, and I needed to be reminded of that because loving isn’t always easy.

A prayer I prayed from the order for Daily Prayer at the conclusion of my silent prayer this morning reminded me how hard just loving can be.  Loving when we disagree, loving when we feel slighted or disrespected, loving when trust has been broken, loving when we are reunited after time apart, loving when we have competing interests, loving when we are growing, loving when we are changing, loving when the future is uncertain –  it’s all hard work.

Yet this is my call, as a pastor, sure, but really as a disciple of Jesus. In easy times and difficult times and all the times in between, my call is to love first. It must be the beginning of all I do, and if I’m beginning anywhere else, I am starting in the wrong spot.  It is helpful to be reminded of that, and it is great encouragement when the call sounds daunting, if not impossible, to remember that I even need strength from God to accomplish it.