(In the Life of the Church)
(While Josh is away on sabbatical, Craig will be writing the newsletter. Which means you should expect less Harry Potter and more Hank Williams.)
When I was younger, I loved the story of God choosing Samuel. Not because I had any particular desire of being like Samuel, or even knew much about his story. But what I did know was that within this call narrative was the statement that "man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7.) This is clearly a verse that appeals more to younger people, whose hearts haven't had much time to become cluttered and dark. For the rest of us, we can at least take comfort in knowing that God doesn't take outward appearances too much into account. (Unless you are Evangeline Lilly or Brad Pitt, in which case you should probably be a little frustrated.)
Earlier this summer I spent a few days with my friend Mark from Baltimore, who was on sabbatical from his pastoral role at his church. We went on a "Beer and BBQ Tour" of Central Texas, talking shop in the car along the way. We both spoke fondly of our churches, as well as being candid about those things we are not too fond of. We talked about the treasure of being in a position unique to all professions-- where we are invited into the most sacred moments of people's lives, from when they enter this world to when they enter the next. Their baptisms, graduations, marriages and the birth of their own children. But we also remembered that we are thankful for being invited into the dark moments as well-- the sickness, abuse, marital strife, secret sins and struggles, the anger. In fact, these can seem more special than the others, because we are sometimes the only people invited into these moments.
And we both laughed at this experience, common to pastors: We see someone at church who acts more strange around us than they did the week before, and we can't quite put our finger on why this is so. We go home and wonder, what was up with that person today? It was as if he/she was embarrassed to be around us. And then we remember: Between those Sundays that person told us of some secret they have, or we mediated a conflict between them and their spouse or roommate, or we found out that they fell into the trap of (whatever) again, for the thousandth time. And then we get it: They think that when we are looking at them, we are seeing those things, the things that are on the inside, not the outward appearances.
Mark joked that "If, when I looked out on my congregation, all I saw were the secrets I knew about each of them, I'd be running out of the building like it was on fire, screaming and pulling my hair out." (Imagine if we were Catholic priests, who congregants are required to go to and share all their secrets.)
We know too many secrets, and have enough of our own, for them to be what we think about when we see you on a Sunday morning.
This is why, aside from professional counselors, the people probably least surprised by the tragic death of Robin Williams this week were pastors. Because, in addition to what we know by experience about the unseen parts of people lives, we also know from experience that those with the most crippling insides are often those that bring the most joy and happiness to people on the outside.
Which brings me to this-- You should know that whatever you are dealing with, those feelings on the inside, are, in the words of the Mr. Rogers video we watch every year, mentionable. In the "old days," mental illness and other hidden issues almost always a death sentence. Lon Williams, the Father of Hank Williams Sr., was a perfect example. After returning from WWI with PTSD symptoms (known then simply as "shellshock,") his wife couldn't handle the burden so she sent him away to a veteran's hospital to live out the rest of his days, and she told anyone who asked that he had died.
(Whew! On my last day of writing the newsletter, I finally found a place to work in a Hank Williams reference.)
You may feel like what you are dealing with is reason to be sent away, or to spend your days in seclusion. If that is the case, know that you are not alone. Aside from asking people where they see God at work in their situation, this is my favorite thing to tell people who are struggling-- That they are not the only ones dealing with whatever they are dealing with. In fact, they are not the only ones at UBC, dealing with it, and are probably not the only ones in their circle of friends who are dealing with it either. This knowledge often brings slivers of hope that were not present before.
So, if you are dealing with depression and can't see any way out;
If you can't get along with your spouse and think this may be the end;
If you've clicked that website or thought that thought a thousand times too many;
If you are struggling with homosexuality, or if you are struggling with following Jesus in the midst of a community that labels your sexuality a "struggle;"
If breaking cycles set in place decades ago seems futile;
If you are crippled by jealousy, envy or hate...
Know this-- We are a community that values honesty, truth and authenticity. So find someone here you trust, and let it all out. And hear these words from pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber:
“...God's grace to me is that my brokenness is not the final word ... it's that God makes beautiful things out of even my own crap." (not the actual word she used.) "Grace isn't about God creating humans and then acting all hurt when we inevitably fail and then stepping in like the hero to grant us grace - like saying, "Oh, it's OK, I'll be the good guy and forgive you." It's God saying, "I love the world too much to let your sin" (or secrets, I would add) "define you and be the final word. I am a God who makes all things new.”
HELP NEEDED-- TODAY
We are in the final stages of garage sale prep, and could use a LOT of hands helping us sort and price today. I (Craig) will probably be here until later this evening. If you have any amount of time to give, we have plenty of ways to help you spend it.
Garage Sale-- TOMORROW
Because of Baylor students moving back to town and parents doing school-shopping, this garage sale is turning out to be a HUGE deal. If you haven't already signed up for a slot to work, PLEASE email firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know he hours you can give. As I said last week in the announcements, because many of our congregants are folks with little to no (to negative) income, the Garage Sale is the single most important fundraising activity we do every year, and we need all hands on deck.
Work is Worship: August 17th
Betsy and Jana will be cleaning up coffee mugs after the service, but we need folks to make coffee beforehand and to greet.
Emily would like for you to keep the art projects your kids have been working on this summer at church and bring them back by AUGUST 24TH. On August 31st we will have an Art Gallery featuring these masterpieces. If you have any questions, email email@example.com.
If you have a concern or an idea for UBC that you’d like to share with someone that is not on staff, feel free to contact one of our leadership team members.
Chair: Jana Parker firstname.lastname@example.org
Kristin Dodson: email@example.com
Kaley Eggers: firstname.lastname@example.org
David Wilhite: email@example.com
Jamie McGregor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Byron Roldan: Byron_Roldan@baylor.edu
Teri Walter: email@example.com
UBC Finance Team
Do you have a question about UBC’s financial affairs? Please feel free to contact any of your finance team members.
Tom Haines: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Taft: email@example.com
Josh McCormick: Josh.McCormick@dwyergroup.com
Chris Kim: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tom McCarty: email@example.com