Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Whole Hearted Formation...we have Covenants and Mission Statements, do we need a Wholehearted Rule of Life?

I have been truly blessed this past Lent to have stumbled onto Brene Brown and her fabulous work on shame, vulnerability, courage and authenticity.  I cannot even recall which 'pin-a-day' led me to her TED Talk, and then led me to the audiobook and now to dozens of new pins on various Pinterest pages. (By the way, I want to offer that Audiobooks/lectures are wretched for highlighting and copying and pasting.  And the CC transcript is an endearingly frustrating moment by moment chart of sentence fragments.)  

As I read Dr. Brown's books I certainly find compelling meaning for my own journey.  I also find myself thinking about church and camp. Her work has me thinking about the systems of church that stifle vulnerability in search of liturgical precision and act out from places of shame.  I am thinking about the church we are  and the one we are searching to become.  Brene Brown's fabulous work and writings also have me considering the unwritten rules of life that we offer in our local settings, such as congregations and camps. We may need to make them more written and less implicit.  Words matter.  Saying who we are and who we desire to be can help us to become those people.  There may be formation folks and church leaders who want nothing to do with whole hearted practices.  I hope we can love them into daring greatly to be Christ's people in the world.

The leap from the Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto to congregational and camp life isn't very far or very deep, however my guess is it could fill a dissertation with insights.  While not pretending to seek such volume, my Easter and Pentecost goal will be to spend time writing about each one of these phrases and how they manifest in our life together as formation leaders.   Hmm.  Adventure vacation approaching fast...maybe this will be my before camp starts goal.  

To begin, I am going to simply 'remix' the 'Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto' into a 'Wholehearted Formation Ministries Rule of Life'. Most of the remix is moving from the singular to the ecclesiastical local corporate.  The author Brene Brown admits to being Episcopalian (and I guessed it without her confession (what is it that makes us so easily 'identifiable'?)) so I am going to hope that she will see this remix as a holy prayer of thanksgiving.  Rumor is she will be joining the FORMA event in Houston next winter, so I can ask for forgiveness then.  The remix/additions are in italics.

The Wholehearted Formation Rule of Life (Draft 1)

Above all else, we want you to know that you are loved and lovable.
You will learn this from our words and actions–the lessons on love are in how we treat you and how we each treat ourselves.  
We want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see each of us practice self-compassion and embrace our own imperfections.
We will practice courage in our ministry by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our gatherings for both.
We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be ministry values, as well as ministry practices.
You will learn accountability and respect by watching us make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how we ask for what each of us need and talk about how each of us  feel.
We want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude.
We want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.
When uncertainty and scarcity visit, we will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.
Together we will cry and face fear and grief. We will want to take away your pain, but instead we will sit with you and be open to your experience of feeling it.
We will laugh and sing and dance and create. 
We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. 
No matter what, you will always belong here.
The greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.
We will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but we will let you see each of us, and we will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. 
Truly, deeply, seeing you.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Falling Down: Good Friday and the Lenten Pin A Day Wagon

I must confess that while I managed to keep the discipline of at least a pin a day for each word on the list, it was not quite every day.  Furthermore, lately, even more of a falling down on the devotion.  As Lent continued on my mind turned to the work of Easter, to the work of camp and the preparation for the upcoming vacation.

Furthermore, I gave myself a break from Lent as part of my common baseball mini-break.  I let myself fall off of the holy wagon and it has been oh so hard to get back on it.  Part of my reason for letting myself fall (which is more like leaping off the wagon) is that I am trying  to embrace imperfections (ala Brene Brown)  and what not.   An imperfect Lenten devotion seemed like a good idea.  Plus I was working on a Holy Week sermon, so the few days off were not devoid of Lenten meaning, but the pins fell to the side and so did the 'no espresso'.  I was in Seattle after all!

However, it has been that much harder to bet back on the devotional wagon.  Even though the break was short, I have to keep reminding myself that I have a Lenten devotional 'wagon' to be on.   The craving for the soothing beauty of a cortado came upon me as I whirled my way from task to task of Triduum prep.  Just like the first week of Lent, I almost forgot that my abstaining was part of my Lenten commitment.  The pins continue, but the constant reflections have diminished with my energy level.  Which sank as I tried to meet the demands of life and work while my health issue diminished both my calories and their benefits.

It seems like this should all bring me into a deeper Holy Week, yet,  I don't even know. Maybe that whole idea is more self shaming perfectionism.   It feels like it is not deep as other times, but maybe this is like when you suddenly discover you are in deeper water than you expected.  As a few of you may know, wrestling with a sense of shallowness has been my story this Lent.  Feeling drained and duller, which seems like thin still water.  Yet still sometimes the harder we look for profundity, the thinner the experience.  And vise versa.

This new space raises for me the ways in which I am still living there and here.  I love the creative liturgical opportunity I have here, yet I find myself surprised st every turn. Oh right, I say.  After so many years in a more regimented and elaborate setting I have forgotten there are a multitude of ways to offer the motions of Holy Week.  My dull brain falls into auto pilot and then trips on the silliness little surprises.

Today's pin of the day is wait.  Perhaps it is in itself its own little surprise trip.  All this tired angst about not feeling as deep or as smart as I used to and I get the reminder to wait.  The reminder to be still.  We cannot rush these things.  They many never be as we expect.  Be still, and wait upon the Lord.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Let Go: Palm Sunday and Our Mob Mentality

I didn’t understand it at all.  We had been such good friends.  Why did she stop talking to me?  Why did she insist that ‘I knew why’, when I absolutely did not.  Why was I so easily let go, so suddenly cast aside?  Perhaps you have been there too.  Perhaps you have been the one who suddenly let go of a friend. Perhaps it was recent, maybe it was a long time ago.  We do these things to each other because we are imperfect beings, desperate for love, anxious for acceptance.  We with busy unexamined lives, we are so easily swayed by the crowd.

There this idea, called mimetic theory.  To incredibly oversimplify, it is a theory with two parts.  First, is the part about the mob-mentality.  About our innate desire to copy the behavior of those around us.  The second part of the theory is about how human societies respond to the chaos caused by this mimicry and mob-mind.  How when things seem to be spinning out of control we try to restore a sense of order through a scapegoat.  Not just anything will do.  Only something or someone we care for, someone who is both insider and outsider.  Beloved, yet different.  This one, this adored friend will be cast out.  And for a moment calm and order will return.  

Scapegoating is a process that continues because it 'works'.  We, those of us in the mob, when someone or something is cut down, we absolutely feel better.  Yet, only for a time.  Yet I believe that something changed with this Passion story.  Jesus. Beloved. Innocent. Scapegoat.  In a chaotic festival season, he was sacrificed by the power of the mob.  And like always, for a moment, the quiet returned.  And then, surprising us forever, he returned.  His death changes our view of all victims, all scapegoats. 

The complexity of why Jesus died for our salvation, it isn’t something that I necessarily comprehend in an articulate way.  Yet it is something I trust.  In a world of chaotic choices and passionate mistakes the love of God made flesh will not blend in with the crowd.  We do not have to look for complex theories to understand this day, this week.  We only have to pause and recall the way in which we find some people ‘to good to be true’, and the relief we feel if a ‘Pollyanna’ fails.  

For us to be at peace, Jesus’ life is given up.  Not in the vengefulness of a despotic God or any other unsatisfactory notion.  The passion, it is a mystery, and it has been done for our sake and for our salvation. God endured the worst of the world we inhabit, put to death in the middle of our most chaotic blindness.  Yet from the middle of our hellishness, he forgives us.  He invites us out of the mob, out of the chaos.  He invites us into a new reality remade by his love.

Palm Sunday, RCL, Year A
April 12, 2014
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church: Walla Walla, Washington

PS: I must admit that I leaned heavily on the wisdom of Archbishop Rowan Williams in his book Tokens of Trust.  Furthermore to learn more about mimetic theory and Christian theology I suggest the works of James Allison and Gil Bailie.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Re re re re re re: several Lenten Pins

The prefix RE means again or possibly again and again.  It may be one of the most powerful prefixes in the Christian lexicon.  As is evidenced by the whole week of RE words for the Lenten Pin a Day.  Again and again we are called to name regret, reject idolatry and shaming, to offer relief, to remember him in the breaking of bread, to experience renew(al), to honestly repent of the wrongs we have done, and over and over to return to his way.  A few quick thoughts about the week of RE.

Regret and Repent

The denial of regret in our culture is dangerous to self and dangerous to faith.  If we cannot name that we did something wrong, which we imperfect people do do, then something has gone quite deeply astray.  There is a difference between shaming and regret.  There is also a difference between getting lost in the darkness of regret and never turning around to the light and new choices.  However a culture without regret is a culture without the practice of faithfulness.


How does the practice of a Holy Lent help us to reject the practices of injustice and evil that seep into our lives?  What forces do you need to reject?  How does it change your perspective to align yourself with the one who was scorned and rejected?


Pop pop fizz fizz.  If only relief were so simple as a fuzzy tablet and an extended gulp.  Let us make a list of relief workers and organizations and bring them to prayer and action.


To put the material of the story together again in bread, wine and community.  We have been in an extended conversation about the use of local wine in the practice of communion.  In the middle of  red wine country it makes deep sense to me; but there is push back.  It is a reminder that in our remembrance, in our sacramental acts of union with Christ and each other we all bring such a varied array of interpretations, hopes and expectations.  It is a beautiful, if also complicated mystery.


Not the kind you see in the movies or hear about on the radio.
The real kind.
The kind that gets beaten down and bloody, yet perseveres.
The kind that hopes even when hope seems foolish.
The kind that can forgives. The kind that believes in healing. 
The kind that can sit in silence and feel renewed.
The real kind of love.
It's rare and we have it.
Chelsea Fine (Sophie & Carter


Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?  I will, with God’s help.  We were blessed by the annual visitation of our Bishop this weekend and therefore we were able to do the strange thing of Baptisms in Lent. As much as my perfectionist was disturbed by this notion I was deeply moved by the beauty and appropriateness of the readings on this fifth Sunday of Lent.  Ezekiel and the Dry Bones.  Lazarus called back to life.  Continue, Return, Proclaim, Serve, Strive.  Even when it twists your brain in funny ways, God calls us into life.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

No More Horrendous EEH: the Resurrection Party Plan

There are congregations that offer an EEH, and there are those that do not.  In a large congregation that does continue the EEH it can overwhelm any well meaning family minister.

All that junk, all that controversial candy, all the work and effort.  Nearly a decade ago I was faced with an awful experience of an EEH.  The marvelous morning celebration of the resurrection had gone on longer than expected (which it usually does).  The EEH had been included in the advertisement regarding Easter Sunday.  Basically, it turned into a capitalist frenzy monopolized by folks who just showed up, and there was nothing left for the sheepfold of young folk who had sung and served their hearts out all morning.

It was an example of everything we try not to be as earnest practitioners of the way, the truth and the life.  I was determined to never play that terrible game again.  After several evolutions I have found myself with something that seems to work: the Resurrection Party.

There is seeking and finding; there are eggs and surprises...there is even candy (if you choose).  However, there is not the ridiculous celebration of crud.

Resurrection Party for Easter Sunday

Supplies (enough for each expected child - I choose to over plan this a bit)
  • Mailing labels,
  • Variety of Plastic Eggs, 
  • Special Identical Eggs, 
  • Living potted flowers, 
  • Clear packing tape (maybe),
  • Paper or plastic Cups (depending on the size of your potted flowers)
  • Candy or special final treat
  • Flashlights (donated collection or mini-finger 'rave' type), 
  • St. Patrick's Breastplate gift coin  (or any small something that is good for all children and inspiring)  I like this coin because it is a fantastic saying to share, the coin is gender-neutral and can be put on a string and worn.

Choose thirty words or sayings that celebrate the practices of the Christian faith.  Like this set.
  • Print out one set on plain paper and cut it into individual sayings.  Multiply as needed.
  • Print out two sets on label paper (this set is the standard Avery).

The first round:

The paper sayings and mini flashlights go in a variety egg.

  • Place these eggs throughout a nave or a parish hall or gallery.  Somewhere with lots of light.
  • After each child chooses one egg, they must open the egg.
  • Then they will use the light and the phrase inside to find the matching phrase in the next round.  
If mini-lights are not feasible then keep a basket of flashlights by the door of round two.

The second round:

Use the identical eggs.  By which I mean the same size and type.  They can, of course, be different colors.

  • Place the gift coin inside the egg. 
  • Close the egg and cover with a phrase label.  These may need to be taped down with clear packing tape.
  • Round two should be hidden in a dark inside area: like the Sunday school.
  • Cover the windows (if you can) and turn off the lights!
  • Hide these eggs throughout the darkened space.  
Children must use the light to hunt for this second egg. The second egg must have the same phrase as the one they found inside the first egg.

The third round:

I really love this part.

  • Place individual living potted flowers in cups.
  • Place a phrase label on each cup.  Which also may need to be secured with packing tape.
  • Place these throughout a garden area or around the outside of the building.
  • Children must find the flower with the matching phrase.


A table with candy and/or fruit or cookie or cake treats and even punch.  This way parents can help choose the treat.  


At a previous congregation the first eggs went in the parish hall.  The children did see these first eggs were NOT BE ALLOWED TO TOUCH THEM all through Children's Chapel.  Then they went back to the nave, the children, not the eggs. Out of sight, out of mind.   In my current setting the eggs are all over the place in fairly plain sight in the nave.  For the whole service.   They were given clear instructions that they cannot go find an egg until the last note of the postlude is played.   This created quite an impact.  So much so that it was discussed the next day at school. 'It was so hard to not go get one.'  'I had to wait for sooooo looonnng before I could play.'  :)

Due to my adolescent Texas self, I have a springtime love of cascarone.  Which are now easily available for sale in Walla Walla, Washington.  So the first egg is now a cascarone.  Which if you don't know what that is, it is a confetti filled egg shell.  Which you smash on each other or throw at people.  The young people get one.  The parents are given two.  Pure explosive delight, confetti all over the lawn, and no calories.  I highly recommend it to your Easter celebration.