Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Discipleship Emerging

At the end of my last post I referenced that I'd been in transition, in some ways, for a long time. One of those ways is how I think about discipleship and education in the church.

Christian Discipleship is a long-time concern of mine. By discipleship I mean, simply, following Jesus. As with the original disciples, discipleship is about following Jesus and learning his Way (his actions, his teachings, his relationships with the Father and with the people he encountered).

Discipleship can be called by a lot of names - I like the term spiritual formation. Discipleship is about being formed (transformed) into an imitator of Christ. Disciples, according to Jesus, will obey his commands; will love one another as he loved us; will lay down their lives for their friends; will love their enemies; will go out into all parts of the world and recruit ("make"; form, formation) new disciples, teaching them all the same things that Jesus taught to them; will do even greater things (somehow!) than Jesus did; will be one and united with each other by being united with and formed by Jesus (in the likeness of God, by the power of the Spirit).

I'm passionate about it in part because it seems like the key to everything the church is supposed to be - we are supposed to imitate Jesus, to be in relationship with Jesus and let that relationship transform us, and being transformed, we are supposed to be beacons lighting a lonely, scared, angry, bitter, and broken world with the awareness of the presence of Jesus, so that the world is transformed into the peacable kingdom of Jesus.

I'm also passionate about it because it seems we don't do it very well.

On the one hand, that seems an obvious, if unfair, statement. Clearly we don't disciple well - if we did, if people were being shaped into reasonable imitators of Christ, then the Kingdom would break out all over. (It actually is, I believe; but it's easy to miss it, growing as it often does in secret from tiny mustard seeds.) But it's not so much the state of the world, as the state of the church, that says we don't do discipleship all that well.

Most of the world respects Jesus. As Gandhi said, ""I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." Many churches are filled with angry, bitter, willfully ignorant, willfully hateful people. There are millions who claim to be disciples (i.e., call themselves Christians) but don't recognize a need to live sacrificially, to love enemies, to care for the poor, the outcast, and the oppressed, to lay down their lives for the good of others - or any of the other things Jesus is known for. There are millions of others, perhaps, who recognize this - and react with cynicism and despair, rather than hope, or with a sense of moral superiority, rather than humility, or who don't react at all, secure in their belief that *feeling* a sense of compassion absolves them of the need to *act* compassionately.

Many christians - many churches - spread anger, fear, and ignorance. Others spread apathy, or smugness, or self-satisfaction with unearned prosperity. The New Testament says approximately "God is light, and in God is no darkness at all." A lot of churches and a lot of individuals spend a lot of time and effort imitating the dark and not the light.

Over the last couple of years, a new sensibility has been trying to emerge in me - a “new” sensibility that is widespread, ancient, and strong. For me, at the heart of this new sensibility is the conviction that we western, comfortable, middle class Christians spend too much time trying to explain away too much of the biblical witness. I'm not talking about debates about inerrancy and miracles and stuff. Much of that, I think, is a smokescreen. I'm talking about our impulse to soften the demands Scripture generally and Jesus specifically.

God desires, not sacrifice and offering, according to the prophet Amos, but justice and mercy.

To help the needy is your spiritual act of worship. Whatever you have done for the least of these, you have done it for me.

Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

By the way, that lost is from James chapter 1. When James is talking about keeping unstained by the world…in context, he’s talking about two things primarily - controlling how you speak to and treat other people, and about being a *hearer* of the word who is not a doer of the word.

Hearing, but not doing, is a form of being "stained by the world."

Knowledge is important, but it's meaningless unless we act in love. Acting well requires knowledge, but it also requires COURAGE.

We need discipleship that teaches us courage...that teaches us to act.


Free Rice? Free Rice!!

I saw that a friend had referenced this website, which led me to this other associated website. I've added 'em to my link list as worthy whistlers who put a good tune into the dark. These are folks who are "doing", not just hearing, thinking, or pontificating. They're doing good far I can tell.

The fact is, I don't know much about them, just what they say on the websites. The free rice idea, basically, is that if you go to their site and use their content, they will buy rice for poverty stricken folks. Supposedly the money to do some comes from advertisers, who hope you'll see their advertisement while you're online learning vocabulary from the free rice folks.

That actually sounds plausible. Crazy, but plausible, and the folks don't ask you or me for money, just to learn some vocabulary.

At the least, you'll learn some can point any high schoolers you know to the site to it as a good review for SATs...and at best, if it's what they'll be helping to feed the hungry.

For free, as far as you or I are concerned. Check it out!


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Turbulent Victory, pt. 1

Lots of thoughts running through my head, still, as alluded to in my earlier “Running Mad” post. It’s been, to coin a phrase, an exhaustively thoughtful month. [I often feel like I have about 4 different trains of thought going on at once, so this isn't that unusual for me!] Mostly I’ve been seeking clarity. This will surprise no one who knows me, and will probably exasperate many of them – as I seem to have infinite capacity for reflection and rereflection and rerereflection (to coin more terms).

By clarity I mean, most basically, clarity about my job situation. But…and again, this will exasperate the more practical-minded among you (hi Dad!)…but on a more fundamental level, I mean that I am seeking clarity about…geez…about all of it, everything. Not just a job, but a vocation; not just looking for work to do, but for good to do; making a life more than making a living.

Not that I haven’t been doing that, or you and the rest of the world haven’t been doing that…it’s just that I obsess about it more. :)

But seriously, the layoff (Thanks Heartland – love ya, really.) and concomitant job search make this a natural transition time. I have to consider not just changing companies but changing careers and where I live, with all the personal and relational upheaval that follows this stuff. (Thanks again Heartland – really.)

Well, I suppose I don’t *have* to do all that. I could just look for another hospice chaplain job, surely I’d find something (there are more than 22 in Columbia by last count – 5-6 years ago, there were about 5). Even if it were just part-time to start, I’d make as much as I’m doing with unemployment, and could and can supplement with other work, whether it be music or waitering, delivering pizzas or telebanking, temp work or…whatever. I could do that, and in the meantime, I could keep working with the students at USC, stay near friends and family, stay in a community where I have roots.

I could stay at my church. My wonderful church took a year and a half to find, and despite being composed of human beings and thus being necessarily flawed (sometimes exasperating – like me), is a great place. It’s a warm community, a place of authenticity and commitment, a place fitfully but definitely trying to learn how to be missional and transformative. That ain’t all that common, folks. It’s a place I can serve, and a place that’s helping me be a better person and a better disciple of Jesus.

So I could stay. I like where I live, I like what I’ve been doing. There’s no dissatisfaction driving me out.

Except that there is, and the truth is, I was “in transition” long before this layoff came down the pike.

But that's for part two...


New Kind or New Way?

Followed up "Blue Like Jazz" with "A New Kind of Christian" - started yesterday, finished about a half hour ago. Like "Blue" couldn't really put it down once I finally started. Not sure I "agree" with everything, especially about how 'necessary' it is to figure out a post-modern model - couldn't we just work on being 'mere' Christians w/o developing a model? However, that POV, which I had *before* reading the book, makes sense to me philosophically - but my emotions and intuition seem to be charging in the other direction, much to my surprise. So much of what is said about this new (ancient?) way of being Christian is so *exciting* to me. I found myself frustrated that I finished so late in the evening that I couldn't call anyone, bounce ideas off them. Checked email after attempting some quiet and prayer - your email gives me excuse to sound off about about new Christians, sorry.

I find myself excited in a frustrating way, really - because I want to *do* something, right now. But I don't know what. Talk to someone? To God? But really I want to do something incarnational, missional, relational...real...I want to be re-ligamented, re-membered - right now!

It's funny, most of the critiques of modernity didn't bother me at all. In fact, most of what I felt reading was a sense of recognition, at times a sense almost of, "yes, of course, but get *on* with it - what do we do?" I haven't had language for it, much of the time, but much of this for me goes back to my first couple years of college, when my friend Micah and I talked about the church, its problems, its inauthenticity, its failure to read *all* of Scripture, its tendency to pick out one thing and elevate it above the rest (whether a liberal POV or a consevative one) with Jesus so often walking a middle way between. (Or maybe, as Mclaren says, a _different_ way above.)

Back in college, though we sometimes daydreamed about starting a church from scratch, my overall reaction was a sort of cynical despair. I remember Micah and I deciding that we probably only knew of about ten real Christians alive - including Mother Theresa and others we didn't know personally - and not including us. (At least we had that much self-awareness.) My despairing conclusions were put off, though - that is, I didn't fall into despair - because I loved loved loved college. And BSU was the center of that, the most vibrant and active and communal, er, community of faith I'd ever encountered. I loved it, and it kept me in God's presence and in love with people.

And then, in seminary...I really lost it. Me.

Reading Neo's 'dream seminary' really helps put so much of my seminary experience in perspective. I *hated* seminary. I met great people, yes, and learned things I've been grateful for and used in chaplaincy. I gained a much greater sense of, and love for, the whole of the church, not just the American, southern, Baptist expression of it.

But mostly I hated it. There are a lot of reasons for it, of course, and it's all mixed up with pain and my own sin and smallness of being and failure of integrity. But some of it...some of it, is that I think I was mostly post-modern, at a very modern institution. So much of what we were told to do seemed...irrelevant? Not wrong, exactly...just beside the point. So little of what we discussed had anything to do with people hurting. There was no acknowledgement of Christ's desire to redeem the whole of creation, including the creation itself, nature. Talk of other religions centered around apolgetics - usually with a poor understanding of the religion they were arguing with.

Preaching...I didn't want to be a preacher anyway, had never wanted to, couldn't see that it had anything to do with my I wonder, was that because I couldn't preach 'that way'? The way that every preacher I'd ever heard had preached, more or less, the way of modernity - of analysis and word studies and pithy sayings and things that didn't seem real or honest? 

Neo's seminary, one built on a triangle of community (which we didn't have), seminars (we had one-sided lectures - I've told you about classmates asking me to stop asking questions in class), and 'missions' - that would've been exciting. I didn't know the terms or what I needed - but I knew I'd expected something different, and I wasn't getting it, and what I was getting seemed irrelevant, and I began to feel so incompetent, so unequipped, became so lost and angry...

These days, I'm alternately filled with joy and fright. I didn't *learn* what I needed in seminary, and I feel so unequipped for what I feel led to do. Yet, I'm led to do it. And God teaches people by throwing them into the deep end...


Running Mad 2 - A Place to Stand

This post references stuff from my earlier Running Mad post, specifically the following section (italics are me quoting myself) [I often feel like I have about 4 different trains of thought going on at once, so this isn't that unusual for me!]:

"Still trying to let this be a spiritual process of discernment and growth, and not get too bogged down in my many questions. What kind of job should I pursue? Am I chickening out by deciding to look at only associate minister positions rather than senior pastor roles? Should I be thinking about church planting? Do I have the right to take unemployment while choosing *not* to pursue another chaplaincy position? Should I only look at full time church positions, or should I be open to part time church and part time chaplaincy? Should I move, and how far away is too far? Should I look for ways to pursue missional/emergent callings - like missions work, new monastic communities, etc., or just try to incorporate those leanings into more traditional (and more settled, and better paid) church work? Etc. In my prayer time I hear the words 'Everything must change' - but what does that concretely mean? And how do I balance being as pro-active as I can be, while also letting myself be led?"

The last week or so has been busy, mostly in good ways, but busy, and sort of turbulent emotionally and spiritually. Again, mostly in good ways - but all in ways that seem significant, worth attention. I've been doing some unpacking, praying, and processing for the last few days, and feel like I have gotten to something I can stand on - hence the title of the post. But outlining that, clarifying it, is gonna be a bit of a ramble.

By the way, he said (rambling, not getting to the point), I blame high school speech and debate. As a 4 year member and co-captain of the debate team, I was trained to see multiple sides of every issue - and to be able to support any side at need, with logic, rhetoric, and impassioned reason, so that all who heard me would agree with me. Sometimes, that works too well on myself - I convince myself of whatever side I'm coming from at the time - then I look at another side of things, and convince myself of that one, too!

Exasperating sometimes (also fun, sometimes, to exasperate others), but it's also sometimes good theology. Much Christian theology, after all, requires an embrace of paradox and ambiguity. How can God be One and Three? How do you become great by being a servant? How can Jesus be fully human and fully divine?

Okay, I seem to be digressing. But there is a connnection, and it comes back to this idea of embracing paradox and ambiguity. One more example, then: Christian theology is built on the idea of revelation - that God seeks relationship with us, and seeks therefore to be known by us. As Jesus said, as Judaism has said - God has acted in history, and God's acts reveal to us things about who God is and what God is like. God has sent prophets, to continue to speak and reveal who God is and what God is like. That climaxes in the coming of Jesus, who while being as human as you and me is also as divine as God. Jesus and God are one, Jesus says. So by looking at who Jesus is and what Jesus does, we get the best revelation of who God is and what God is like. In Jesus's speaking truth and acting in compassion and seeking for justice, grace, mercy - love - in defying the powerful, healing the broken, befriending the lost and lonely, aiding the poor and hungry, finding the value in the "discarded", dismissed, marginalized people - these traits are traits of Jesus. This is what Jesus is like. This is what God is like.'s central to Christian theology, to any theology, really. And if you believe that God has revealed stuff, then you can be confident in that - really, really confident - and find a faith that you can wrap your life around. Not just a convenient cultural faith, but something so profound, something from God, something that you have to listen to and allow it to change you, not counting the cost.

But interestingly, one of the the things _Revealed_ over and over agin, throughout the pages of Jewish and Christian scriptures, is how limited our knowledge is. Over and over again, in different ways, we are told this. Isaiah 55 puts it like this: "my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

There are other ways its expressed - the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, for example, or the famous "we see through a glass darkly" from 1 Corinthians 13. In the NAS, it reads like this: "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." And a few verses before that, "For we know in part and we prophesy in part"...though love never fails.

God thoughts and ways - God's words and actions - are different from ours. God is different from us because God is better - wiser, smarter, more compassionate, more powerful, more giving and forgiving, more loving than we can imagine. Fundamentally, God is beyond us. The normal theological term for this is that God is transcendent. The very revelation of the community of believers over the millenia is that God is beyond what we can grasp.

And yet, Christians do have a belief in revelation - a belief that though we finite beings cannot cross the gap between us to grasp the infinite, still the Infinite One can, and has, crossed the gap for us. Anything we learn this way remains partial and incomplete - it's notable that the NT so highly praises humility as a fruit of the Spirit, when neither Roman culture nor ours puts much stock in it. And yet it remains revelation, and, Christians affirm, the greatest expression, the most complete revelation, the place where Infinite and finite beings most fully in Christ Jesus. That revelation can be phrased lots of ways - one way is to say that Jesus, called Emmanuel ("God with us"), reveals that the transcendent God is also immanent, powerfully and intimately present with us.

Healthy Christian faith, it seems to me, lives in the paradox and embraces the tension. God is far beyond us, and intimately with us. We must be humble, and remember that we know only in part - and still be so confident of Christ that we are willing to die for him, and that while we live, we shape our lives to further his Kingdom.

So what does this have to do with what I started with? Discernment - understanding the will of God for a person, time, or place - isn't so different from revelation, really. I am called to be humble, obedient, corrigible, to be willing to say at any moment "I'm wrong" or "This was right but it's not any more", or whatever.

I'm called to keep asking my questions. To obsess over them, even - sorry, folks, but I don't think we're meant to be without questions. All the time, we are to be working out our salvation (a word with many meanings, all related to healing, health, and wholeness - as we see in our word "salve". It speaks not simply to "forgiveness of sins", but to becoming a whole person, in body, mind, spirit, and in relationship to God, self, others, and the world.), working it out "with fear and trembling."

I'm also called...and so are faith. To embrace the paradox, to not fear what I don't know, to be willing to take up my cross even if I don't know where I'm headed, to be willing even to suffer for the sake of the Kingdom of love, of God, of be willing to take risks, boldly, confidently, freely.

Where can we stand? In the fulcrum, in the eye of the storm, in the place of convergence, always emerging but never fully formed, carrying the cross....dare I say it, reformed and always reforming...

Stand on the paradox.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

World Hunger Crisis

The world hunger crisis is all over the news this week. In just three years, the price of staple foods like wheat, corn and rice has almost doubled. If we don't do something soon, hundreds of thousands of people face starvation and a hundred million more could fall into extreme poverty. I just took action with the ONE Campaign and you can too, here.

Jesus fed the 5000 and the 7000. Jesus also said that his disciples would do even greater things than he did. That's always been mind-boggling to me. I don't know about you, but I haven't had much success at healing the blind or raising the dead. (I'm still bitter that those classes weren't offered at seminary.) But it occurs to me that this is one way in which we can fulfill his trust in us - by doing something to feed the hundreds of thousands who are in such need.

Be a blessing if you dare.

From The New York Times: In Haiti, where three-quarters of the population earns less than $2 a day and one in five children is chronically malnourished, the one business booming amid all the gloom is the selling of patties made of mud, oil and sugar, typically consumed only by the most destitute.

“It’s salty and it has butter and you don’t know you’re eating dirt,” said Olwich Louis Jeune, 24, who has taken to eating them more often in recent months. “It makes your stomach quiet down.”

Be a blessing if you care.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Interview Report

So I had my conference call interview with the church in Texas last night. It went well, I think (whether or not I wanted it to!). It was a conversation with 5 search committee members (3 men, 2 women - both of them in the choir) and the pastor. We talked for about 45 minutes - they asked some "practical" questions about how long it's been since I've led a choir, how comfortable I am with things like handbells and praise teams, etc. - and some "interview" type questions, like my philosophy of ministry or what the best thing about me is. To the latter question, I responded that there were so many good things it was hard to choose, and I reserved the right to think of other things about me that were even better down the road...

(I said the best thing about me was that I was always learning and growing. I had to say the worst thing about me too - which I said was sort of the flip side, in that I'm always thinking and pondering and considering and sometimes forget to act on what I'm thinking.)

Anyway, it was pretty relaxed, they seemed nice, they seemed to respond well, they even laughed at my jokes without me having to explain that I was joking - which is pretty rare!

In short, I liked them. Darn it! :)

So we're agreed to keep working the process and see what happens next. The position sounds like it's heavier on music than discipleship (in contrast to the job description, which is pretty evenly divided), and I'd talked a lot about how doing "just" music wasn't enough for me. We'll see what they think of that as they talk it over. I know it'll be something I have to pray about. I've often thought that I miss immersion in music ministry, but...Over the last 6-12 months I've also found myself looking back on my most active music ministry years, and questioning how much time and effort went into a half-dozen weekly rehearsals, special programs for Easter and Christmas, worship planning, etc. Back in the day, service for the kingdom meant singing with several ensembles, accompanying a couple of choirs, playing handbells and clarinet, singing solos, etc. None of that did much to aid the poor, the hungry, or the oppressed (Luke 4:19ff), so was it time well spent? I have my doubts.

I love music ministry and would like for it to be a part of my life. But I don't know that I want it to be my primary focus. It's too - engrossing, too easy to get distracted into being a musician and forgetting to be a disciple.

I'm probably making things overly complicated again. :) Anyway, the interview seemed to go well - ball is in their court now as they decide if they want to keep going and if so, they will probably be asking me to fly out to visit sometime in the next month or so.


Sunday, April 20, 2008


Just a short post tonight - I've got an interview tonight with the church in Texas. Since it's so far away (!) the first interview will be a conference call with the pastor and the search committee. If it goes well, the next step would be for them to fly me out there to meet them in person.

The question is - do I want it to go well? I'm just not sure. It's a LONG way from my friends and family. But I'm excited about the job and the possibilities.

Chris needs much discernment! Say a prayer, folks. Hope you're all well, too.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

REALLY kickin' muzak

Well, after yesterday's shameless self-promotion, I thought I'd share some *really* good music with you. My friend Dusty (from Furman) shared a link with me that I'll pass on to you. Here's what he wrote:

"I just wanted to let you know I have posted a new song on my SongU web page. It is titled "The Music We Dance To", and is co-written by an outstanding lyricist, Mike Daniels. The singer on the track is my very own cousin, Alan Johnson, a singer and recording artist in Nashville, TN.

To get to the song, use the following link, then on the main page, click "Songs" on the left, then select "The Music We Dance To" You will be able to open the lyrics and play the song as an mp3."

Here's the link.

Please note, it is copyrighted. Enjoy listening to Dust's stuff for free - while you still can, before he makes it big! Play it, don't steal it!

That's all the time I've got for tonight - later.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Kickin' Muzak

Ok, not kicking, really. But I mentioned in the last post that I'd been asked to send some examples of me doing music to the church in Texas. I didn't really have anything recent, so a friend from church, John Hardee, volunteered to stay late one Wednesday night and help me record on the sound equipment at church. We could record on CD which I could then convert to MP3 files and email to Texas so they could hear me.

Well, we did that, and despite some hurdles that had to be overcome (we were at the church until almost 12:30 am!) got the recordings made. It was very spur of the moment - no practicing, and my voice, singing at midnight, is kind of hoarse. But the quality's better than I expected. And, since I've got 'em in handy digital format, I thought...heck, might as well post 'em!

I'm trying to find the balance between being pleased at the generl sound quality and dismayed by the vocal snafus, which I continue to blame on the late hour and anything else I can think of besides, you know, my singing. :)

Anyway, first we've got me singing Steven Curtis Chapman's "Be Still and Know" - which is a cool song. I learned it for my sister's wedding back in November, with some text changes to fit the occasion. This is the original text.

Next we've got a medley I put together of an old alternate melody of "Amazing Grace" that we used to sing in BSU, alongside "Shine Jesus Shine." Unlike the first song, I'm accompanying this one, and I arranged it, and kind of am proud of that, since it's the closest I get to creativity in music. I'm pretty happy with the piano arrangement, all things considered, but the vocals had some real trouble, especially at the end - this was the last thing we recorded and my voice was just exhausted (along with the rest of me). *sigh* Are the faults bad enough that I shouldn't send it to anyone?

Finally we've got me singing and playing "I Will Bring You Home" by Michael Card. Nothing else much to say about that, except Michael Card is one of my favorites, and this is one of my favorites of his.


Running Mad

So, it's been awhile since I've really written anything, hasn't it?

One of the reasons I keep putting off my triumphant return to the blogosphere (as I work towards conquest of the world) is that I felt the need to write a long, in-depth explanation of what I've been doing for the last 4-6 weeks, and my internal process, and why I haven't felt up to writing much...

...but I haven't felt up to writing much, which sort of defeats that plan. I suppose I haven't felt very much like I was going to take over the world - more like the world was trying to stomp on me and I was trying to keep out of its way. :) Lots has been going on, much good and much less so, but all of it time-consuming and thought-requiring, and I just haven't had the energy to write about it yet. Especially since my writing had mostly been at midnight on the church computer, and I needed to get back on a better sleep schedule.

Anyway, realistically it seems more practical...and more just start writing again, without compelling myself to first do the big explanation.

That said, I now begin the big explanation. :) Yes, I contradict myself, but that's ok. To illustrate this, I call into evidence Uncle Walt Whitman.

Me: So, Walt, is it bad to contradict yourself?
UWW: "Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."
Me: Thanks. I understand about being large. You can step down.

Me: Next witness, I call Ralph Waldo Emerson to the stand. Ralph Waldo Emerson, is it bad to contradict yourself?
Ralph Waldo Emerson (he refused to let me abbreviate his name): "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
Me: Thanks, and who are you calling a hobgoblin, you revenant ghoul? You know you're dead, right?

Me: For my next witness, I call Patsy from "Absolutely Fabulous" to the stand. Patsy, is it bad to contradict yourself?
Patsy: "Don't question me."
Me: But, I need to know if...
Patsy: "Don't question me."
Me: But what if...
Patsy: "Don't question me."
Me: Ok, thanks, you can step down.

So there you have it, I can contradict myself if I want. It's my blog and I'll make no sense if I want to, so there. Don't question me.

Seriously, I do want to do some catch up - it's been a tumultuous time and there's a lot for me to process. I just don't want to require myself to do ALL of it at once in one post. Now that I've told myself I'm not doing that, I can get on with things.

A new friend that I've met during this blogging process sent me a great quote from Jane Austen: "Run mad as often as you choose; but do not faint." It feels like I've been running mad the last several weeks, and I've felt on the verge of fainting at times, but I'm still going.

1. I'm still job-hunting, and beginning to receive some interest from churches out there (about time! I know it's a slow process, dealing with search committees made up of volunteers, but it's hard to stay postive when you send out dozens of resumes with no response for the first month or two). This has been for a variety of positions - the church that's been most interested is looking for a joint music/education position, which I think I'd really enjoy. Just music wouldn't be enough to really keep my interest, but on the other hand, I can't imagine not having music ministry be a significant part of my life. And I'm really hopeful about the education/discipleship routes that are opening to me. My passions are for worship and for discipleship, and the opportunity to focus on those things in a congregational setting is really exciting.

Unfortunately the church is in West Texas, about 1800 miles away from my family, and in a town of about 15,000 people. Neither prospect is that appealing. But I've said I want to be open and be willing to go anywhere I'm sent, and I *am* single, so maybe running off to Texas wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Anyway, we're proceeding to look into that. I'm a little confused, though - the church contacted me 3 times in the first week of contact, and I spent about 3 hours that week, all told, talking to the pastor on the phone. I really enjoyed talking with him and felt a compatible spirit, and was excited by what he told me about the church - including a lot of challenges and problems in the church, which he was really open to discussing, which did a lot to give me some sense of confidence in what they were saying to me and how they were dealing with me. They had me send some recordings of music stuff, and wanted to check my references. The last I heard from them was a 2 line email (in contrast to the friendly and effusive phone calls they'd been using to communicate) saying that they needed to speak with more people than I'd listed, people who could talk about me as a worship leader. ? They still hadn't talked to all the references I'd given - including neglecting to talk to my minister of music, a woman who routinely has me sub for her with choir and congregational leadership when she's out of town! They hadn't yet talked to my pastor, either, with whom I work to plan and lead the service when the minister of music is gone.

So I was real confused about what they were asking for, and if I was imagining the change in tone. I emailed another reference or two, plus explained my confusion and pointed them to Anna Beth and Stephen (Min. of Music/Pastor, respectively). There's been no response and that was a week ago.

So I don't know what's going on there. But regardless, it's taken a lot of my time and my mental energy thinking about it, communicating with them, communicating with reference folks, getting a church member to help me throw together some recordings that I could send to them, etc.

I've also heard from a church in NC, but that's a youth/music position which isn't nearly so appealing. But NC is much closer to family and friends than Texas! The church I'm most interested in, so far, is moving very slowly but let me know I'm still in the running. That's a pure discipleship/education position, and it's pretty far away too - Missouri - but it's an exciting church, with a lot of local, state, national, and international missions involvement. And when I say missions, in their case they do a really good job of balancing evangelism with social action - an exceptionally good job, that requires an impressive level of intentionality and commitment. That church *is* far, but it's in a small city rather than a really rural town, and that too is more appealing to me.

Lots of other places I'm looking at, but those are the three that are talking back to me, so far.

Other stuff I've been doing which I (probably) will talk about later in future posts:

2. Still trying to make ends meet, with difficulty. During this "interregnum" between posts, one of my unemployment checks got lost in the mail, which caused a lot of hardship for a couple of weeks (they had to wait 15 days before they could reissue the missing check) and required me to ask my parents for money. That was embarrassing (they were great about it, but I'm 34 and didn't like needing to ask) and disheartening. So it was hard to find the energy to write, and to feel like it wasn't a waste of time when I should do something more productive.

3. Still trying to let this be a spiritual process of discernment and growth, and not get too bogged down in my many questions. What kind of job should I pursue? Am I chickening out by deciding to look at only associate minister positions rather than senior pastor roles? Should I be thinking about church planting? Do I have the right to take unemployment while choosing *not* to pursue another chaplaincy position? Should I only look at full time church positions, or should I be open to part time church and part time chaplaincy? Should I move, and how far away is too far? Should I look for ways to pursue missional/emergent callings - like missions work, new monastic communities, etc., or just try to incorporate those leanings into more traditional (and more settled, and better paid) church work? Etc. In my prayer time I hear the words "Everything must change" - but what does that concretely mean? And how do I balance being as pro-active as I can be, while also letting myself be led?

4. Still trying to enjoy myself some and make a positive contribution to the world while I'm at it. I keep looking at other things I could be doing - throwing a party, volunteering with the Council for the Aging or the Mission downtown, for example.

I'm still struggling with all that - some days I'm really positive and some days I'm not - but I'm still fighting the fight and walking the walk. I trust that all of you are as well. Keep coming back, more to read soon!

Oh...Patsy notwithstanding, you can question me if you want. :)