Archive for June, 2010

June 30, 2010

Psalm 13

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?

When will this pain quit drowning her in the sea? She’s fully aware that life is unkind. This is for sure, but why rub it in?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?

She takes a walk to clear her head. As soon as the tide has past, it washes to shore once again. Beating, beating, hard. Crying out to her, “You are not as loved as the others. You are alone.”  And as soon, as the tide has gone out to sea and the sun comes up, the light works for the dark and brings these bitter waves back again. Saying the same words. Saying them over and over again.

How long will my enemy triumph over me?

She thought she was strong. She thought she could pretend. She thought she could be different from all the rest. She thought she could overcome. But, alas, the uninvited one comes and stays long past time. There is nothing she can do to close this gloomy Inn. In fact, the  guest announces, “I’ve made home under your roof for an indefinite stay.”

Look on me and answer, O LORD my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;  my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

There has to be something, anything, more than the brokeness of this guest.  “Leave now, please, ” she asks. “NOW!” she yells.  She longs for the new. Though she is having trouble saying the words any more. For her head has been buried so long, she’s beginning to believe the light was a lie. She might not recognize it when it appears. If it does.

But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.

She says, “I’m still alive.  I’m putting one foot in front of the other. This must be something.” And the light smiles.

I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.

There’s of all sorts of good around her– smiles of faces unknown, words of compassion from those seemingly far away in place and time, beautiful people yet to be, and there are distractions to keep her busy in the meantime. And, though she may not see it,  there is a presence of concern right there. 

Saying, “Keep walking, keep walking . . . be here in today.”

June 29, 2010

Summer, How I love Thee

Such was the sentiment of my soul as a child growing up. What is better than summer?

Not waking up until I had to, fun field trips with friends, chasing the ice cream man down the street hoping to make it in time to get that red snow cone, going swimming in the YMCA pool with friends and neighbors.

And, even as I grew up, I loved summers in a similar way. Beginning when I was 16, they were always about new experiences: traveling, driving on my own to visit long-lost friends, and  reading around the pool. My favorite part was always a trip to a beach. Though my family is not made up of beach loving people, by college and then graduate school, I had found friends who liked the beach life as much as I did so to make a road trip there when possible (though these trips would always find me with unwanted sunburns . . . ). Summers memories often were the highlight of my year.

But, now as I grown-up with a full-time job it is a lot harder to recite: “Summer, how I love thee!”

I have yet to get the pool. The thought of even getting into a bathing suit is depressing.

There have been no beach trips (though one is coming up soon which is very exciting).

The joy of being out of obligation for a season is gone; for responsiblity is year round now and forevermore.

And, in the world of church work, it is a slow time. Folks are on vacations. It is hard to build the energy and momentum from one week to another. Many come to church on lower energy than normal (is it the heat or what?).  Giving is normally down in the summer as trips take people away and forget to keep their pledging up-to-date.

While I wish there was time to enjoy my favorite parts of this season, the part I keep in mind, especially as it relates to the church is: this too shall pass.

Because really, there is no need to rush through life not enjoying the moments that you can when you can. Before we know it, fall will be upon us calling for sweaters and shoes with socks everyday (my least favorite). In church life, there will be new challenges including the urgency of making sure that things are done and done well before the end of the year.

The summer is a great time to plan ahead and get things completed early so that the fall doesn’t come to bite you. The summer is the time to update the website or clean out the church office or do that stack of filing long gone undone. Important to tend to, but not as fun! 

I still keep driving by the community pools with folks enjoying them with a little bit of envy.

Maybe my new pastor’s creed should be, “Summer, how I used to love thee!” And, “Fall come soon!”

June 28, 2010

A Trip to Baptist Land

Last week, I spent two days immersed in a culture which I had not spent time in for years: Baptist Land.

The Baptist Land amusement park (not a literal park, by the way) that I visited this summer was of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship genre. (I mention this fact because the genres of being Baptist are greatly varied: there are the American Baptists, Southern Baptists, Alliance of Baptists, National Baptists, Progressive National Baptists, Free Will Baptists, and the list could go on and on. When we as Baptists don’t like each other, we spilt and form new groups). 

I had not attended a CBF meeting since its convention with ABC in Washington DC in 2007, but I made the choice to go this year for a couple of reasons. First, I was asked to be a part of the What a Preacher Looks Like book signing on Thursday evening (great opportunity to meet some other fabulous women preachers leading churches). And, second, I attended for the purpose of seeing friends in Baptist life as well as seeing for myself the state of things in Cooperative Baptist Fellowship world.

Our church is not a offical CBF church, rather we are affiliated with the American Baptist Churches, through the DC Baptist Convention. But being originally from the South, many of my friends in ministry are a part of this convention as an affiliation with CBF is one of most practical ways that a church can express its moderate views in this part of the country.

So, all in all, I got what I came for. I enjoyed meeting new folks and seeing old friends at the book signing.  I enjoyed the opportunity to “run into” old colleagues and classmates and have opportunities to talk about the ways that life has treated us since we last met.

Though probably I’m not in any way qualified to judge Baptist Land as my trip was a quick one, here are a few of my reflections of the time I spent there:

1. I am grateful for my church. We have our issues but there are a lot of wonderful things about who we are! I sat in a conversation on the state of Baptist Women in Ministry on Friday morning and learned that while strides have been made toward women in ministry positions, only 120 Baptist churches in the United States (of the ABC, CBF and Alliance kind) are led by women.  In comparison, there are nearly 120 Baptist churches in one county in Georgia alone!  I heard a lot of bitterness about this statistic in the group, asking the same old questions, “When will the tide turn for us?” I am just grateful to be in a place of service where my gender does not make me such an odd bird. In fact, it’s normative!

2. The CBF, like many mainline groups, is scared of the homosexual conversation. I already knew this, but it was reaffirmed to me again. On Thursday night, during Bill Leonard’s sermon about Baptist history, he described how Baptists have lacked behind on issues of race over the past several centuries. He noted how Baptists in the South were often the ones standing for slavery and Jim Crow instead of freedom for all and integration. He celebrated the fact that this was not the case anymore. Leonard’s follow-up comment to this was, “What is the next horizon of folks that God is calling us to include?” And the obvious answer was one that Leonard did not speak: including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.  Though one break-out session was held on Friday on this topic, the word on the street was that it contained voices that were still trying to prove Biblically that homosexuality is sinful. When will we learn, my friends, that this IS the community of folks God is longing for us to welcome openly to our churches? But, there’s one thing I know for sure, my strong belief about this is only bound to make my more and more unpopular in the Baptist world (but oh well).

3. I am grateful for the cloud of witnesses and mentors who have shaped my becoming and who are continuing to do the same for others. It was a blessing to see the faces of many folks who I have known or known of at different times in my journey. For example, on Thursday evening, I ran into Ircrel Harrison and other former members of the TNCBF staff who gave me a scholarship for seminary years ago. It was great to re-connect with them and say thank you for their investment in my life at that time and future ministry!

Above all, Baptist Land was good, but I’m glad to be home and back at the grind this week in a little Baptist community of my own.

June 28, 2010

Youth Choir Comes to the Plaza

Washington Plaza was blessed yesterday by the 40+ youth and their leaders from First Baptist Church of Southern Pines, North Carolina who worship alongside us. It was a sea of red shirts as the group sang and played handbells in our service and then out on the Plaza following worship.

It was a great day of share hospitality, music and fellowship. I was so proud of how hard the Washington Plaza folks worked, and as you can tell we did not make it into the photographs because we were so busy! 

Too bad it was one of the hottest days of the year so that more could not have enjoyed their music outside after lunch. But, the group members were troopers and we were blessed by their coming. It was nice to make new friends!

The handbell group preparing for worship.

Singing/ Playing the service.


Outdoor concert.

It’s getting hotter now . . .  and time to go home.

June 22, 2010

After the Sermon 6/21/10

I hope to do more reflecting from time to time about the Sunday’s sermons and/or the experience of worship from the perspective of the pulpit. So, I begin this week out of a concern of several of the comments that were spoken to me directly or indirectly in response to the message.

Throughout the month of June, I’ve been going off lectionary to tackle a little known or preached on Old Testament book, Nehemiah. I made this choice for two reasons 1) I don’t believe that the lectionary are the only path for preaching, especially during ordinary time (which is now) 2) Our church is in the middle of a Capital Campaign to raise necessary funds to make some crucial repairs to our building. One part of these repairs will be restoration of the exterior bricks which are leaking water into our building every time it rains. It seemed like a perfect scriptural parallel to study Nehemiah’s wall building while we sought to re-build our own!

This week, was the fourth installment of Nehemiah, and this was our lection:

Nehemiah 6:1-8, 13

 1 When word came to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall and not a gap was left in it—though up to that time I had not set the doors in the gates- 2 Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; 3 so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” 4 Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer.  5 Then, the fifth time, Sanballat sent his aide to me with the same message, and in his hand was an unsealed letter 6 in which was written: “It is reported among the nations—and Geshem says it is true—that you and the Jews are plotting to revolt, and therefore you are building the wall. Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king 7 and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: ‘There is a king in Judah!’ Now this report will get back to the king; so come, let us confer together.” 8 I sent him this reply: “Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head.”13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me.

The sermon was called: “When the Attacks Become Personal” and centered our attention on what happens when growth and new things begin to take root in your community of faith (which is us right now).

In the case of Nehemiah, what happened to him at this juncture was personal attacks from his enemies. They saw no other way to gain control but to begin to speak slander about him.

Several people asked me after the sermon, what I was referring to? Had this happened to me? Was something wrong at the church that they needed to know about?

I understand the tone of their concern because often many preachers air concerns or ill feelings about a congregation without just coming out and saying them. But, such was not my intent at all, for I am not that type of pastor.  I was just preaching the text.

But, yes, I’ve had personal experience with personal attack in a variety of settings (even though many of you think I might be too young to have), just like many pastors and other leaders in corporate settings too who are working toward organizational change. It is just a part of the human experience!  We all can relate to times when those who don’t like us speak untruths about us in order to “get their way.”

Above all, I wanted to proclaim the reality that if we follow after the ways of God, there are some times when the path of faith will become rocky. It might become so rocky in fact, that those who do not like us can do nothing more than lie. Yet, the HOPE we have as people of faith that even in the midst of difficult personal trials, God is with us and does not take orders from those who are not walking in the light. 

This is good news to help us all make it through another week! As always, I love to dialogue about sermons, so shoot me an email or come by to see me if you want to chat more.

June 21, 2010

Family Fun Night Photos

If you missed us this Friday on the Plaza for the Family Fun Night, you have two other opportunities to join us this summer, Friday, July 16th and Friday, August 20th!

We had fun meeting our neighbors, eating hot dogs, playing games and dancing along to the tunes of Mr. Derby!

These are some of the highlights:

June 21, 2010

Blame It On God

I recently heard a tv interview about former Washington Post weekly columnist, Sally Quinn about why she has now ventured into the world of religious dialogue through Post blog, On Faith.

It was noted that Quinn has no religious affiliation. Such a fact came to be, said the narrator of the show, as a result of Quinn’s father’s experiences in World War II liberating Nazi concentration camps. Quinn was forever shaped by her father’s commentary on the evil in the world as expressed in Nazi Germany. In response, Quinn proclaimed: “There can’t be a God because how can God let this happen? I stopped believing in God.”

Yet, Quinn’s sentiments are far from outside the norm.

I was just at a wedding reception yesterday where the topic of conversation I found myself in was about someone’s friend who stopping coming to church because she was not sure she could believe in a God who let horrible things happen in the world.  When things go bad in the world, just blame it on God, right? It’s an understandable answer.

And, there are countless stories like this . . . maybe even this is your story too.

You might not be interested in church or religious expressions because of the age-old question: “Why does God let bad things happen in the world?” which never seems to be answered.

While I understand and sympathize with the pain of loss, the pain of realizing that the world is not as pretty as many of us first thought it was or hoped it could be, and the pain of feeling completely out of control, I have chosen not to blame God.

I make such a statement not without much thought or reflection. I make such a statement not just because I am a minister and it sounds good if I do so. I choose not to blame God for “bad things” in the world because of the theology of sin and grace that blankets all I do.

The world, as a result of sin, is a broken place. We are beings who can’t help but make choices as individuals, as systems, as nations which aren’t good for us. This means that our earthly world is fallen from the purest of goodness, God, and will continue to be a fallen place until the end of time. Thus, wars will continue to break out, hurricanes will happen, oil spills will destroy lives, deaths will happen much too soon, children will go hungry and as much as we seek ultimate connection with others, we will be alone in the messes of this world and of our own making.

The brokenness of our world just is. And, it is one of the most undesirable parts of being human.

Yet, this does not change the altogether otherness of God who is lovingly sustaining, caring and loving us even as we life in this imperfect place that brings us so much pain.

Why does not use God’s sovereignty to step in and make things all better again?

I don’t know.

But, what I do know is that the first tear cried when we are walking through our own vallies of the shadow of death is by our Creator.

I know that there is no other person who holds us in our pain that a God who loves us more than we could ever imagine.

I do know that there can be some measure of good from even the most messed up of circumstances, good that teaches us about God’s best intentions for us.

And, I do know that blaming God rarely helps me move through difficulty. Grieving does. Time does. The blessedness of community does as well.

So, while I respect the viewpoints of the Sally Quinns’ of this world, I will hold fast to my theology of brokenness and goodness of God shinning forth in the darkness.

There’s some hope to the Sally Quinn story, though. When asked by the television reporter if she called herself an atheist today, Quinn remarked: “I don’t call myself in anything. I’m a work in progress.”

And, I agree with her about being a work in progress: all people of faith are. 

My hope for her and all those I know who share with me their “blame it on God” stories (and who knows I might be tempted to write one of my own again sometime soon), is that we will come to see that the love of God is wider, and deeper and longer than all the evil of this world. It is this love that has been and will continue to sustain you and and now and forevermore.

So, maybe just for today, there might be a moment, if even just a second when we can put the blame game away.

June 18, 2010


If you are a faithful reader to this blog, you know that I haven’t been posting as much as I normally do in a given week. I keep thinking I should be writing posts about this or that, but then, I don’t find words to write them.

I could easily blame it on the craziness of the upcoming summer season at church, or our recent move to a new home (coming home to a house project every night after work), or a variety of other things. But, I won’t.

Instead, I would just say that it is because I have wanted to be quiet.

Seems kind of odd for a leader, who is always up front, speaking out, being asked to do things in a public way to embrace a period of quiet. “Isn’t it your job,” you might say, “to be speaking as much as you can in forums wherever you can for the good of the cause which you support?”

Yes, it is my job to do these things and I try my hardest to be faithful to the public relations hat I am asked to wear. But at the same time, it is also my job to be authentic as a leader: to speak only what is real, what is truthful, what I am compelled to say instead of just filling up the airwaves with words for the sake of words.

Authentic ministry is the kind that lasts, I believe. Instead, what I see in pastors and other service oriented professionals is burn-out and lots of it. We keep speaking and speaking from a level that is not truly who we are anymore. And, what’s right with this??

There is a time to speak, and there is a time to listen, isn’t there?

It’s not that I’m being overly reflective or introspective (for these have faults of their own), but just quiet. Or at least trying to be.

I am glad for the gift this intention is. . . .  of doing only what needs to be done and nothing more . . . of seeking to hold on to what is good and let the rest fall away . . . of having brain space to listen for places where new insight longs to come in my life and in the lives of those in whom I seek to shepherd as their pastor.

So, come be with me, if you’d like in my quiet and know that I’m grateful for your support on this journey no matter if many words are shared between us or not.

I hear the birds singing now.

June 15, 2010

Family Fun Night

For those of you involved last year, you know that we had a fabulous time partnering together with the Friends of Lake Anne to meet more of our neighbors on the Plaza. And, plans are underway to host these evenings again this summer.

Mark your calendar with these dates: June 18th, July 16th, and August 20th from 6:30-8 pm.   The first one is THIS Friday and it is going to be awesome. Word on the street is that some member of the congregation is going to be a clown . . .

Yet, volunteers of all sorts are needed to make it happen again.

Your contribution to the event could include:
* Face Painting
* Giving out prizes
* Organizing a group game of Twister
* Cooking hotdogs or making lemonade
* Setting up tables
* and the possibilities are limitless based on your gifts!

Consider coming out this Friday night to help with one of these tasks and/ or just be around to meet our neighbors. It’s going to be a great community outreach event again. See you on Friday night.

June 14, 2010

Ten Thoughts about Sunday

Ten things that made me smile about this past Sunday:

1. I heard laugher and lively discussion coming from the NEW Sunday School class that began this summer. They’re studying stories of faith and were tackling the Martha/ Mary tale this past week. Love seeing new folks come to a study class on Sunday mornings.

2. LaTia sang in worship. Need not say much more! Her spirit and voice added such a dimension of worship to the service. Loved it!

3. Someone said to me “I want to join the church? How do I do that?”

4. Collection for our Capital Campaign (which began 2 weeks ago) is already up to close to $9,000! Exciting stuff to see folks from all walks of life caring about what it means to “Build Our Future.”

5. We gathered as a community around the lunch table to share in a semi-annual church business meeting (Yes, we’re a congregational church so we have all church business meetings a couple of times a year so that everyone is informed about the church and gets a vote in the process . . . ) AND there was peace and unity of thought.

6. We approved a plan for deacon ministry. Deacons will be re-appearing at Washington Plaza by the end of 2010. This pastor is so excited to have help with pastoral care.

7. We approved the contract with the construction company that will be making the needed repairs on the facility in the upcoming months.  Let the construction begin (once the funds for the loan come through in the next couple of weeks)! Watch out Lake Anne Plaza. We are leading the way in the exciting things going on at the Plaza this year.

8. A large crew of us headed downtown in the afternoon to share the good news about our progressive and welcoming congregation at the DC Metro Area Capital Pride Festival. I was so happy to have such a diverse and fabulous group church members with me passing out brochures and telling people about our church. Thanks to Victor, Ellis, Katia, LaTia, LaShonda, Ken, Don, and Alex for supporting this great outreach opportunity!

9.  I got to celebrate over dinner with two of my favorite people my five-year anniversary of living in DC.  Though a simple thing, it was a great occasion to remember and with gratitude for all the many ways that the past five years have changed my life’s direction in more ways than can be counted. What a happy dinner!

10. The day was over and I slept very well.

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