Sunday, February 02, 2014

At the Crossroads of Community and Calling

“If my own experience can be trusted, then God does not call us once but many times. There are calls to faith and calls to ordination, but in between there are calls to particular communities and calls to particular tasks within them – calls into and out of relationships as well as calls to seek God wherever God may be found.”
Barbara Brown Taylor from The Preaching Life

I took a “sabbatical” from church a while ago. I felt I needed to step back and think on things – how I felt about traditional church, community, “calling,” the role of church and faith in the 21st century, and all the trappings that accompany those ideas. As a friend of mine on a similar journey replied when asked when she might return to church, I determined I would return “when I miss it.”

Well. I have missed it. The community, that is. I never stopped reflecting on my faith, God/Higher Power/Eternal One/Creator, and my place in this world. I, perhaps, did not miss community so much as I briefly lost the desire to search for the right community for me at this point in my life. I think I might have found that recently.

But let me digress for just a moment. I used to feel sorry for those who said they didn’t “need community,” that they could worship God as easily on the lake on Sunday morning as they could in church. Then I became one of those “lake people.” And I probably had some folks feeling sorry for me that I didn’t “get it.” That’s ok, too. I’m ready to “get it” – community – again, both in the sense of understanding its importance and enjoying the company of others on a faith journey.

My good friend, Marcus, has been pastoring a church in Kansas City on a temporary basis. I visited not long ago because I missed hearing him preach, it was Advent, and I missed community during that season of the church year. I have continued to visit, and may put down roots. As I shared with my mother recently, it is a smallish congregation that is diverse in every sense – black and white, male and female, old and young, straight and gay, reserved and charismatic (in the SAME service!). To which she exclaimed, “just like real Christians!” Yes, Mom, just like real Christians, and real Christian community. That is what I have missed. It is the kind of community I’ve been hoping to be a part of for a long time – which is not to diminish any previous church family I have previously been a part of. But I am at a different place in my faith journey, my spiritual calling, and my quest for a “home” to delve more deeply into both. I find myself at a mid-life crossroads of sorts, and it seems highly appropriate that this is the name of the church community I find myself becoming a part.

As Marcus shared this morning (and he was far more erudite than my summary will do justice), this journey isn’t just a GPS trip from point A to point B, but more like a scavenger hunt in which each discovery along the way, prepares you for your next destination. The quickest way to get lost is to try to speed to the finish line and skip those important intermediate stops along the way, or to merely stay in one place hoping to eventually see the destination in sight.

My latest stop has me at (a) Crossroads, and I can’t wait to find out what I’m going to learn in this new community, and how it will prepare me for my next destination in the journey.

Monday, January 20, 2014

He Had a Dream . . .

I've posted this picture each Martin Luther King Day for the past two or three years - since I captured it during a visit to DC one summer. It moved me then, and continues to do so.

The irony prevalent in that MLK now has a statue memorializing his legacy – his dream, if you will – in our nation's capitol building, and this young child, decked out in red, white and blue, casually stands beneath MLK's watchful eye, never ceases to amaze me. I'm sure as an African American male, he will know prejudice and pain from folks who still don't "get" the dream. But I do hope that this photo reflects that we have made progress.

"Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. That is the interrelated structure of reality."  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Music Theory, Dating, and the Hokey Pokey

We’ve heard it so many times it begins to sound trite and perfunctory – “Art reflects life.” But it does. It really does. And sometimes in the most theoretical sense.

Today was the day to talk to my AP Music Theory class about harmonic function, progression and retrogression, tension and release, tendency and resolution.  Don’t let the terminology intimidate you. If you are breathing, you understand every bit of this at some seminal level. You have most certainly experienced it.  There are actions we take, and decisions we make in this life that move us forward on our personal journey. This forward motion is not without tension and release, and sometimes we experience a brief retrogression before making progress again. Most often, it is the tension itself that moves us forward to resolution.  Harmony in music merely reflects that. It is, perhaps, why certain works of musical art move us so intensely and seem to mirror emotions we can’t quite articulate in mere words. I saw that side of the lesson with fresh eyes after moving through recent personal experiences of consonance and dissonance.

I find myself single and exploring the dating scene again. Again? It’s probably more accurate to say that my “journey” has never included an extensive “dating scene,” so at 53 I still have some new things learn. Nevertheless, I recently found myself exploring a new relationship.  It didn’t pan out, but that isn’t the real story here. The real story is that consonance and beauty may be stable, but they don’t always move us forward. And tension and dissonance may prove uncomfortable, and even painful, but if we listen for those tendency tones, they are driving us actively toward resolution and progress.

The progress I made and the resolution I found in my foray into a potential new relationship was not what I expected at all. But the tension and dissonance in the progression caused me to peel away some layers of protection, look at myself and strength of personhood in a new way, and ultimately walk away from the relationship feeling like I had learned much through the pain and difficulty of navigating some new waters. And the most positive part of the process has been that I’m not trying to wrap myself back up in those layers I peeled away.  The resulting new song has its own kind of stability that I am seeing impact my relationships with my closest friends, my students, and frankly, myself. Rather than regressing, I’m finding a kinder, gentler person that I like being around.

It would seem that in that process of opening myself up to another human being –  vulnerable, and risking hurt –  I learned far more about me than I did about dating, and perhaps that really is what harmonic progression (and the hokey pokey) is all about.