Subway Prophet

…and the words of the prophets were written on the subway walls…

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What does it mean to be a dad?

What does it mean to be a dad? This is a tough question to ask on a day where we celebrate fathers. I think it is a difficult question because it is not something we can say objectively. Alright, perhaps the objective answer would be that a dad is the donor of half the genetic material to create another human being, but that definition sounds cold and objective and contrary to the idea of being a parent.

I have been thinking about this question a lot. Through camping with my Field Ed placement and watching the many children run around the woods, while I, a new member of the “adult” group, stood next to their parents watching them play. The experience was much like hearing sports commentators at a football game. The actions were analyzed and predicted: “Oh no, looks like little Johnny is getting Billy wet, five minutes ‘till she starts crying.” Billy, now soaking wet begins to cry. Sometimes the predictions came out wrong: “Oh look, little Billy just hit Johnny in the face!” And, sometimes, parental intervention was deemed appropriate: Parent runs over yelling at Billy explaining Christian non-violence to a 3 year old.

How do you know when to step in and when to stay out? Couldn’t the parent have kept them from playing in the water in the first place? Where is that line between putting your child in a bubble and letting them enjoy the beauty of the dirty, germ infested world? Decisions like these, big and small scare me to death as I look at the future (the very distant future). In churches today we celebrated Fathers day, walking the tight balance between lifting up fathers as metaphors for God’s love and compassion, and realizing that for many people, their father was non-existent, abusive, or a source conflict and pain. Being a parent is a tough job. One which many have failed at, but many more have faced with courage and grace doing the best they could.

Today, I have been thinking about my dad. I was fortunate. Both of my parents were amazing. My dad was always there when I needed him (even if I did not even realize that need), he encouraged and corrected me, and pushed me in ways I did not realize. He was certainly not perfect, no dad is, but he is someone I deeply look up to and respect, even when we disagree.

One night of the camping trip, all of the children were in bed, and the parents were sitting around the embers of the campfire and the crumbs of S’mores enjoying a little peace and quiet. One of the dads was describing how he was unable to participate in as many mission trips since he had a child. But then he paused and said, “but I think that my job right now is to raise my child up, so that when he gets older he can have a heart for missions.” I think that being a parent, raising a child, passing along your values and your faith is a ministry and is a calling. I know that while my dad would often rather be out in the hunting woods than sitting in church and singing hymns, he is for me an example of Jesus’ call to love, hospitality, and generosity. And I thank him for instilling in me those values and more. Being a parent is a life long ministry and calling. But, as with any calling, God is there to equip, guide and direct. I know that when that day comes (in the very distant future) when I am called to have children of my own that I will do so with the grace of God empowering me, and my own father’s example as a guide. Happy Fathers Day!

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What is Church?

What is the “Church?” This is one of the questions I will be asking myself this summer. One of my favorite, and perhaps most complete answers to this question is that the Church is a community. However, it is not just any community. The Church is not a sports team, or a service organization, or a study group. It is, in the words of the famous hymn, a community whose foundation is Jesus Christ. It is a group of people who are united in their love of God and seek to live that love out through fellowship and service to the world.

My internship this summer began with an introduction to the community of First UMC of Birmingham, MI at the Pokagan state park in Indiana. There a group of about 60 people gathered, some in tents, pop-up trailers, and RVs. Others at a nice lodge. I was excited to have the holiday weekend to get to know some of the members better, however, I was not expecting to be so impressed by the congregation.

The weekend, from a camping perspective was a disaster. The weather was cool (cold by Florida standards) and grey for the entire weekend. The only exception was the little bit of sun that peaked through clouds which quickly turned into thunderstorms and a tornado watch that send the whole group into the basement where the power went out for 6 hours. As I said, it was a disaster. However, from a community perspective it was amazing. They say that it takes a village to raise a child, and the children who went camping that weekend were being raised by the village of FUMC-B. Despite the storms and weather the group functioned as a common unit. Watching each others children, making sure that no one was lost. In the middle of the storm and hail, some of the men held out a tarp so that they could grill and cook our dinner. It was impressive (and delicious). When one of the children went missing (she was outside playing with some other kids) the parents immediately came to attention and began the search. At times during the weekend, it was difficult to determine which children belonged to which parents.

However, the Church is not a just a group of close friends. As we sat around the campfire on the last evening when the children went to bed, the parents began to talk about their children. Their commitment to raising their children with a passion for God and hearts in service to the world was inspiring. One man mentioned how much he missed doing as many service trips now that he was a father, but he hoped that in his raising his son to be a Christian that he was doing his mission for the Church. He is.

This summer I am going to learn many answers and ask even more questions, but if that weekend was any indication, my experience here is going to provide me with an opportunity to meet some amazing people who help to build an amazing Church.

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Still here…

Greetings from Michigan! The past month has been a whirl wind of experiences all of which would have made for some great blog posts (and some have been written as drafts and may get published later), but I wanted to introduce my newest post. I am currently serving in my Field Education placement and will be working with a church here in Michigan. As I have different experiences and learn what will be many lessons I will try and think through those theologically here. As I have time and energy to edit and revise some older posts I will, but for now, I look forward to sharing my reflections on my first weekend.