I’ve been asking myself questions about work lately.
If it is the place …….then I spend a lot of time at work.
If it is responding to my call……then I’m happily engaged in living out my vocation.
If it is sustained effort to overcome obstacles or accomplish set goals……..then I spend way too much time chasing squirrels!
One of those squirrels is called, “Lunch”. Lunch isn’t really a little rodent with a bushy tale. In our church/school office, lunch is a major topic of conversation, decision-making, fetching, and time. Lunch is great fun here. But sometimes I feel like lunch was the most successful part of my day when I’m pretty sure enjoying lunch is not my true calling or the reason for my employment!
Our building is another squirrel. I check things, monitor, turn off lights, check paper towel dispensers, and watch for water leaks on a daily basis. I participate in service call decisions, maintenance choices, and recently brought Buster, our black lab, to chase an actual squirrel out of the CLC. I’m frequently hopping up to see about something with the building, whether I need to or not.
Squirrel number 3 is my own distractedness. Any little thing and my attention zooms to whatever is bright, shiny, noisy, busy, fun or dramatic. If all else fails, there is always a game of Sudoku waiting……..again, not my real work.
Squirrel number 4: Worry. Do you spin scenarios in your imagination and then get upset about them? Sometimes I wonder if I try to imagine every bad possibility as an assurance that whatever I imagine won’t happen. That is superstition – not faith. It is also my biggest, orneriest squirrel. I’m tempted to name him “Demon”!
Squirrel number 5: Trying to make people happy. This squirrel just laughs at me because all my efforts are futile. People choose their own outlook and their own response to circumstances. I can’t make anyone happy even though they may love for me to try. I can, however, choose my own outlook and response. We have responsibility for our own happiness.
These are just a few of my squirrels. What squirrels are you chasing these days?
It takes intention and energy to identify and move past obstacles. And it takes thought, intention, and discipline to set goals. So……I’m going to smile at the squirrels, discourage their interruptions, and put my head down to the work of the church. Sermon work, chapel services, newsletters, bulletins, community prayer, lectionary group, pastoral counseling, visits, frequent communication, worship planning, personal prayer and continuing education - truly work I love. The squirrels are just going to have to do without me!
On Thursday a Grandma who had come to school to pick up her three-year-old grandson asked him who I was when I spoke to them in the hall in passing. He responded matter-of-factly, “That’s Pastor Marcia. She lives in the chapel.” I was pleased he associated me with chapel. I was surprised to hear him say I lived there!
Later that same day I saw someone who was familiar but whom I couldn’t place. I puzzled over it like a dog with a bone. “Where have I seen her before……? Is she a school parent? Was she at the Waxahachie Project meeting? Oh, wait! I remember now. She works at the pharmacy. Whew. That’s why she looks familiar!”
I was bothered until I had a setting in which to place her. Once I had that setting I knew how she fit into my circle of familiar faces and I quit trying to figure out who she was.
The three-year-old and I were both organizing our worlds by putting people in their places in ways that made sense to us. When we know who is who and what is what, our world feels safer and more predictable and we have a sense of safety and control. We also have a better handle on our own identity when we can put others in life’s landscape in relationship to ourselves.
Religion is another one of the ways people (us) make sense of their (our) world. Religion helps us identify right and wrong. It provides stories of ancestors. It lays out a framework for expectations. It helps us move toward purpose. We become part of something that is greater than ourselves.
Religion also helps identify who is like us and who is not like us……who is other. In this way it frames belongingness. But it also puts barriers up between those like us and those who are other. If we don’t grow up our thinking stays tribal and only our group matters. Our group must win. Our group is more righteous and more superior than other groups. This is sports team spirit writ large and applied to our state, our political in-group, our religion and our nation.
This is natural. But, if we don’t mature in our thinking and grow up in our spirituality, we are in danger of framing others as evil, enemy, or demonic. What, then, do we do with Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, his story of the mustard seed, or his insistence that we love our enemies and do good to those who persecute us?
Boundaries help us organize people by place, help us keep ourselves safe, and make sense out of our world. Yet Jesus spent his life overturning barriers, extending boundaries, and upending everything people understood about the kingdom of God.
I hope your faith and your experience with church is overturning barriers and causing you to stretch and grow in your faith and in your humanity. Ultimately, our identity rests, not in our differences, but in the unity of the Body of Christ as it becomes the gathered family of God.
Recently I have been plagued with a sense of urgency. Everything has to be done RIGHT NOW. It is difficult to prioritize. Everything is important. Everything is immediate. Everything depends on me! If I drop anything the whole universe will crash down around our ears and it will be All My Fault!
A wise friend said to me, “This sense of urgency needs to be addressed.” She wasn’t volunteering to help me prioritize or mark things off my list. Instead, she wondered about the source of the feeling of urgency that had me by the throat.
I stopped. Took a breath. And remembered that feelings are not right or wrong, they just are……they rise out of us based on our circumstances, our life experience, our personality, our relationships and things as basic as whether or not we ate breakfast!
Feelings are also fickle. While some measure of ambient anxiety is in our social, political, and emotional atmosphere all the time, our feelings can turn on a dime. When we are consumed by a feeling (i.e. anxiety, fear, or urgency) it helps to take a look at what is going on and ask ourselves if that feeling is based in a realistic response to current events. My pastor used to point out that we may have a #8 reaction (on a scale of 1-10) to a #2 event. Example: our child spills juice and our face turns red, looks scary, and we threaten him or her with a loud, angry voice. Or someone tailgates our vehicle and we respond with profanity and/or road rage. Such responses are far bigger than called for by the original event. When our reaction is out of proportion we need to check out what is going on in us.
My pastor used to say that we carry an invisible slush bucket of feelings around. If we let feelings build without addressing them the bucket will overflow and we will have a mess. We all carry a slush bucket! There are shootings, road rage, children physically harmed and serious situations happening because people let irritation or rage build until their invisible emotional slush bucket explodes. If we clean out our slush bucket on a regular basis we will have much more reasonable responses to the people and events in our lives.
How do we clean out our slush bucket? Perhaps we need to speak honestly to someone about something they said or did or a problem they created for us. Perhaps we need more rest or self-care. Perhaps we are creating our own mess by failing to budget or plan ahead and then responding badly to others on whom we would like to blame our problems. Maybe we just need to practice saying “No” to people or over-scheduling so that we have the time we need for rest and recreation.
I had postponed a simple task I dislike and the longer I postponed it the more out-of-control all my tasks felt. My sense of urgency about everything was an over-reaction to something I delayed for months that I just had to buckle down and complete.
I am grateful to the insight of a friend who didn’t try to fix anything for me but made an insightful comment. I am grateful to my pastor for his practical teaching. And I am grateful for the nudge of the Holy Spirit grounding me in honest reality at the same time I am surrounded by the mystery of God.
I invite you to spend some time with the notion of a slush bucket; your slush bucket – you are not in charge of anyone else’s! Then, may the Holy Spirit help us dump what needs to be dumped into God’s own compost to be transformed into the stuff of new possibilities!
Sunday, August 26, 2018 we celebrated the 140th anniversary of the first meeting of Disciples of Christ in Waxahachie, TX. The Daily Light (8/29/18) featured us big time with a front page spread that spilled over to page 9 and, best I could tell, had only 1 misspelling: Dispels of Christ. We laughed out loud reading it.
Emily created an excellent graphic and big, beautiful keepsake bulletin for the service. Denise came to walk through a practice with me so the details would be “choreographed” with folks in the right place at the right time for each part of worship. Alicia sent out lovely letters to all the former members for whom we had addresses while Kerry sent out emails to Facebook friends. Judy supervised the food sign-up lists, Marsha decorated tables, Gary and Brad spent 3 days cooking meat, and Stephen prepared the introduction for Rev. Dr. Newell Williams, president of Brite Divinity School, who preached the birthday sermon. Joel Chandler came from Wyatt St. Christian Church to sing to us – wow! Our choir sang an anthem, and Stephen played beautiful service music. Gale provided the prop for the children’s moment, Jonathan took the excellent annual congregational photo and Gary prayed over lunch while Kerry supervised the guest book. We had a stunning amount of fabulous food and more folks than I can name stepped in to help, support, participate, and clean-up. I absolutely love you guys!
We disciples are the fruit of a frontier movement whose mantra was, “Unity is our polar star”. On the frontier, European denominational distinctions didn’t work. It made no sense to have separate worship services and spaces for far-flung neighbors. Church needed to bring people together rather than drive them apart. We never succeeded at overcoming the barriers that separate groups, but unity is still our “polar star.”
The beautiful Disciples identity statement says: We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness in a fragmented world. As part of the one body of Christ, we welcome all to the Lord’s Table as God has welcomed us. FCC Waxahachie has the second part down. Our communion is served from an open table with hospitality and inclusiveness. We are also good on the awareness that we are part of “one body of Christ” knowing full well that the differences in the body are as dramatic as the difference between a toenail and nostril in a human body. As amazingly different as body parts are, they are still part of the one body and needed for the health and functioning of that body.
It’s that first part of our identity we long to grow into! How do we become a movement – people on the move – for wholeness in a fragmented world? And how do we take our open, hospitable communion experience out into the world? That is work that changes everything! We are talking about wholeness not just for individuals but for our communities, our society; the whole social, political, and economic fabric of our lives.
What would it look like to be on the move toward wholeness? How would it feel to be in a community that is honest about its brokenness, self-critical of its motives, and reflective of its past? What would it mean to live so that we no longer cut our heads off our shoulders, separating our physical and spiritual realities? How would our health improve if we quit being afraid all the things we are being trained to fear? What would we try if we accepted the risk of failure?
This Sunday is the first Sunday of our 141st year. May this be a year of moving toward wholeness. May we be a community that helps bind the fragments of life together in ways of healing and wholeness.
Blessed are You, O Lord our God, king of the universe, creator of all that is good. Anoint us with hope, vision, and the mission of wholeness so that Your light shines in the darkness through us, and the darkness does not put it out!
I can’t thank you enough for my 2 weeks of vacation and 4 weeks of sabbatical! Gale and I traveled by air to Alaska with John and Nessa (youngest son and the love of his life). We saw humpback whales, harbor seals, sea otters, sea lions, puffins, bald eagles, Tundra swans, moose, caribou, muskox, wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, a porcupine and my brother-in-law. We stayed in interesting bed and breakfast establishments. On July 4 we took a flight-seeing tour of Denali National Park in a 185 Cessna that held only the 4 of us and the pilot. We visited a charming Russian Orthodox church, Native American cultural center, museums, The Ulu Factory, and the Anchorage Botanical Gardens. We ate fireweed ice cream and saw birch syrup being collected. We drove along Turnagain Arm and boated out into Prince William Sound. We visited Exit Glacier and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. And we spent a total of 14 hours flying there and back!
It is common for Alaskan summer weather to be overcast and damp. Our weather was beautiful! The temperature was in the low 70’s during the day and the high 50’s at night. The sun shone and the places we stayed had black-out shades to make sleeping easier since it gets dark for a very short time in the wee hours this time of year.
Denali (in native language “the Great One”), also called Mt. McKinley, is the highest peak in N. America. It is so massive it creates its own weather and is completely snow and ice covered. It is usually shrouded in clouds and visible less than 20% of the time. Alaskan residents say, “Denali is out today” when conditions make sight of the mountain possible. Gale has visited when Denali was hidden his entire trip. While we were there it was visible for the first 7 days!
Alaska and Texas feel like different countries. The summer workforce in Alaska is filled with Russian/Polish/Ukraine young adults and Native Americans. The people we saw looked like hikers/climbers /bicyclists or people who were really into eating bear meat and berries. We didn’t see a single What-a-Burger until we were back in Texas!
I am reminded that God’s creation is more diverse, colorful, and adventurous than I normally notice. I am also amazed by the wide variety of background, language, and experience spread out among the people of the earth.
Creation is beautiful, fearsome, elegant, raw, comforting, life-threatening, and colorful…….and God is in all of it. And God’s people are beautiful, fearsome, elegant, raw, comforting, life-threatening and colorful. How wonderful that we are all God’s people!
A while back Outlook updated and changed itself all around. Outlook didn’t ask my permission to do this. Instead, it expected me to embrace with joy the changes it imposed to my email. I should be delighted to unlearn and relearn. I should be excited about the fact nothing looked like it had looked. I should be able to follow new directions with no hesitation and want all the new features for which I had not asked. Clearly, Outlook believed it was making these changes for my own good.
The nerve! Why couldn’t they leave well-enough alone? Change for changes’ sake is great for kids but I’m a grown up. I wanted my email to look and work the way it had before the changes. I wanted no surprises. I believed I shouldn’t have to change if I didn’t want to change. And if I’m paying for it I should have some control. Shouldn’t I?
I shared this with a very wise pastor friend who listened to my tale of outrage and then said, “Hmmmm….do you suppose that is how folks feel when we change things at church?”
All of a sudden I was on the other end of the change continuum……..the one pressing for change, switching things up with the order of worship. The one making changes for our own good. I was happier being mad at Outlook than I was relating how I felt about email changes to how others might feel about Sunday morning worship changes.
Change is hard. Change can also bring a breath of fresh air into the room. Change can make us mad but it can also wake us up to new possibilities and give us new tools to engage our challenges.
I begin sabbatical in July 1. My sabbatical study is to visit as many different worship services in our community as I can. How do they do things? What is the experience of hospitality like? Is their signage adequate? Is navigating worship there clear? Is it a place I feel welcome? Do they use media? How do they use media? What is the music like? How do I relate to the message? What is their visitor follow-up like?
The outcome of this sabbatical experience may bring changes to our Sunday morning worship. I hope it won’t create the angry reaction I had to the imposed Outlook changes. But truth be told, things change and the pace of change is coming at breathtaking speed in our world.
May our worship be rich, relevant, fresh, tradition-based, and honoring to God in all ways. We will trust the Holy Spirit to help us hold steady even as we journey on a way we can’t quite see. And may our church witness to the goodness of God in ways beyond what we can even imagine now.
Blessings as you navigate the changes in your life!
I fooled my fitbit yesterday! I’ve never tricked a piece of technology before. Makes me feel youthful and smug!
It happened this way: I got home around 3 with lots of sunshine and great weather. Gale got the riding lawnmower out of the shed and took me through the annual remedial lesson on how to make it go.
I took off in sleepy turtle speed and never figured out how to go faster. But that’s ok. If riding mowers have springs, this mower doesn’t know about them. It isn’t cutting anything if the driver isn’t being jarred loose from preconceived ideas. I bounced and lurched through mowing the side yard and back acre. I’m happy to say I didn’t nick tree bark, blow clippings into the garden or fall off the mower.
The mowing took a couple of hours and when I went inside I discovered all that bouncing around made my fitbit think I was walking! I registered 13,750 steps for a day I spent mostly sitting down. This improves my stats with the daughter-in-law who challenged me in fitbit land to see which of us could log the most steps.
There is something gleeful about successful foolery – even when it is unintended! It feels cool to sound smarter than we are or appear to be harder workers than we are. And, to tell the truth, most of us probably like the appearance of exercising much more than we like actually exercising.
All of the trickery and cleverness in the world, however, doesn’t fool God. The health of my body is no secret to the Holy One regardless of how many steps my fitbit counted. Cleverness may conceal poorly done work from others and a smiling bit of donation may cloak us with the appearance of generosity but these things don’t hide our stingy self-centeredness or our lack of hard work from God even one little bit.
The danger of trickery is that we may actually fool ourselves into thinking we are more (or better, stronger, smarter, healthier, kinder) than we are. There is no harder work than the work of self-reflection and the exercise of honest repentance in the face of our personal truths.
It’s Advent…….a time of preparation and waiting. We are getting ready for the arrival of Jesus and the celebration of God’s redeeming work in the world through Jesus.
Our sanctuary is decorated with blue paraments – cloths that adorn the communion table, pulpit and lectern at the front of the church. The ribbons going on the bell banner each Sunday are blue and I preach in a white robe and blue stole.
When I grew up, none of those things decorated my Disciples sanctuary. The cloth on the communion table was maroon with gold fringe regardless of the season and the preacher was a guy in a suit. People in my congregation in the 50’s and 60’s would have called some of what we do now “fal de ral” and blasted it as being fancy or showing off.
In the beginning of the Disciples movement, there was nothing fancy in worship. The space was plain with the communion table on the same level as the chairs so that the table was open to everyone. The pulpit was on a platform above the communion table to show the importance of God’s Word.
So, when did Disciples start doing things that seem fancy? When did preachers start wearing robes and stoles? When did colors become part of our church seasons?
The beginning of the Disciple movement in the early 1800’s was all about restoration. Our founders felt that denominations were sinful because the church was established to be in unity. Restoration of the oneness of purpose experienced by the earliest Christians was the goal. The Disciples threw off the taint of denominationalism to get back to what they thought was “primitive” religion……religion the way the first disciples practiced it.
Gradually, awareness dawned that we cannot know exactly what the early experience of worship was like nor can we repeat it. Nostalgia, not spirituality, leads people to believe they would be better off if only they could return to the “good old days.”
Scholarship moved toward a realization that it is impossible to recreate the past. God’s church is moving forward and we are called to join with God in God’s ever present, ever changing expressions of mission, witness, and worship for our time and place.
We are growing in awareness that God’s church is multidimensional and amazing in its depth and breadth and kaleidoscope of expressions. No one understanding completely captures the Church. Disciples have their focus but so do other groups. This led to our participation in the ecumenical movement in the 20th century. Ecumenical comes from a Greek word meaning household. The ecumenical movement sought to embrace the whole “household” of God. It concerns all churches and their relationships with each other as well as the relationship of Christianity to other world faiths.
Exposure to the way other churches did things began to influence the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Women clergy realized wearing robes when they preached helped show their authority in a way that was attractive rather than strident. Awakening to the way churches like the Episcopal and Catholic churches incorporated seasonal themes and colors helped us move toward colorful and interesting worship spaces. Paying attention to liturgy – the components of worship whether verbal or nonverbal – allows us to experience worship in ways that acknowledge our bodies and spirits just as preaching engages our minds.
Is our way the only way? Of course not. Can we get too carried away with ritual and decoration? Absolutely. Will we always practice worship in exactly the same way? Not if we want to continue to express a relevant and life-giving worship for the new day in which we find ourselves.
I love being a Disciple of Christ. I treasure the differences among Disciples churches and with other churches. I am excited about trying new things. I believe we all need tradition to keep us grounded. And we need new experiences to keep energy and enthusiasm going.
I hope you experience our worship as an unfolding journey each Sunday as we are called to worship, gather, and then move toward the remembrance of Christ through communion and focus on God’s word through the preaching. If you have questions about why we do what we do, ask! I would love to hear your ideas and share mine.
May our worship reflect our best work together as a congregation that loves God and continues to journey with Jesus not only when we are together at church but in every moment of our lives. When we leave worship, let us be the church in the world wherever we find ourselves.
Blessings on your day and your life.
We are the church of corn……..754 cans of it! We signed up to provide 400 cans of corn for Waxahachie Care Thanksgiving baskets. Corn started coming in boxes, cases, and individual cans. First Christian Day School children saw our stack of corn in the breezeway and began bringing corn to help it grow. Soon, it was a tower that grew and grew! We have provided the corn for both Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets given by Waxahachie Care to those in our community living with food insecurity.
There are lots of reasons people are hungry. Some make choices that lead them into a lack of necessary resources. But what about the working poor? What about people who were born in the wrong place, through no fault of their own, and struggle in the margins to survive? What about children? What about people who never dreamed they would be in need? Two years ago every client in Daniel’s Den, our transitional shelter for homeless women, single mothers, and married couples, had a college degree. For most, events outside their control tipped the scales that threw them into a morass of poverty and struggle.
In Jesus’ day a few people were fabulously wealthy. However, the great majority were very poor. According to Dr. Brandon Scott, one of my professors, forensic anthropologists studying the bones of first century Mediterranean people believe the average calorie intake of a non-elite person was around 900 calories/day…….on a day when they got to eat! Famine was always right around the corner. When Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread…” I believe he meant just exactly what he said. We don’t need to spiritualize that statement from the Lord’s Prayer. We need to translate it into action designed to combat hunger!
Our opportunities for helping combat hunger extend to rice and beans for Mike’s Kids – part of Southwest Good Samaritan Ministries sponsored by the North Texas Area Disciple Men. We are also participating in Night of Wonder to provide Christmas needs, including food, for needy families on all 13 of our public school campuses.
We are blessed to be able to share. May God help us see opportunities for sharing that makes a real difference in people’s lives. And may God guide us in growing a culture of generosity that includes strategic political action to combat the economic systems supporting food insecurity on a global scale. Let’s be part of the work that can lead to everyone receiving their daily bread!
Last Thursday some of us participated in that great event: Senior Day at the Texas State Fair. We met up at the Hampton Rd DART Park and Ride, bought our $2.50 senior all day DART passes and traveled on the Red line to the Akard Station, switched to the Green Line and rode to the Fair. As we got closer, the train became more crowded. From Akard we stood and used hand straps or bars to keep our balance. The ride was smooth and if we were jostled we just bumped into some nice person who joked with us about the crowd on the train.
As first-timers, this was all new to Gale and me. We got our senior passes, bought coupons to pay for rides and food, and started the trek to see Big Tex.
Even though it was midmorning there were already folks in line for Fletcher’s Corny Dogs. Gale and I were instructed by the more experienced in our party; “Thou shalt eat a Fletcher’s Corny Dog at the Fair”. Apparently this is written in the Gospel of Texas along with, “If lost, find Big Tex and wait for the rest of the group.”
We tried to see everything. We tried to taste new things. We spent time in the animal barns and watched an excellent horse demonstration. We saw an amazing butter sculpture and looked at stuff that won red, blue and purple ribbons. We heard multiple languages as folks from other countries explored the fair all around us.
We ate too much, got funnel cake powdered sugar all over ourselves, and had a great time getting worn out. We found a friendly stranger to take a photo of our group and clambered back on DART to ride back to our cars.
Recently our sermons have come from scriptures in Matthew’s Gospel following Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem on the last week of his life. He was surrounded by his disciples. They were rural guys from the sticks finding their way in the big city. It was Passover. The city had the atmosphere of holiday, carnival, religion, and bazaar. There were crowds everywhere, many of whom spoke other languages and some of whom arrived on the DART camel caravan. Street vendors were hawking everything from food and fabric to doves while money lenders offered specials on coupons for Senior Day at the Temple.
The disciples, big-eyed in the big city saw the sights, elbowed each other and pointed out the amazing things around them. They just couldn’t get over the magnificence of the temple. They even pointed it out to Jesus (Matt. 24:1). Wow! We can imagine how they felt. Crowds. Noise. Sights to gawk at. The best animals for sacrifice. An atmosphere of holiday, carnival, religion, and bazaar. A little “Ooooh”, a little “Aaahhh.”
But Jesus had his mind on other things. He wasn’t interested in animals for sacrifice or trinkets or food. The Midway didn’t grab him. He bypassed the butter sculpture and didn’t stop for a picture with Big Tex. He saw what we miss: the corruption of leadership, the heartbreaking needs of destitute people, the struggle for true health care, the gap between those who have more than enough and those who can’t subsist or support their families. He knows what is in the hearts of people and he knows what is in the heads of people and his heart breaks over the resistance to God in both hearts and heads.
He didn’t come for the sights. He didn’t come to show us around. He came to show us the way, the truth, and the life. He didn’t come as a tourist. He came as the Son of God
Rev. Marcia Hagee
She graduated from Duke University and the University of Missouri-Columbia studying Psychology and Religion. She earned her M. Div at Phillips Theological Seminary and was ordained by the Oklahoma Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).