Follow by Email

Thursday, March 27, 2014

29.

I remember when I was 23 and turned 24 and all my friends and I would say, "Man 23 sounded so much better than 24."

Well, I turned 29 this week and things have changed. I no longer talk to many friends because I spend most of my time working and parenting Jake. I also need things I didn't used to need at 23, like vitamins and sleep and nutritious food other than pizza.

But 28 sounded so much better than 29. 29 is one year away from 30. And that's when things really get serious.

Birthdays have never really been a great deal for me. I was born at 12:05 midnight on my mom's birthday, so growing up we always shared a birthday. It was really sweet and cute at first I'm sure, but soon she got pretty sick of the fact that she shared her birthday with me, and even though she always tried to emphasize that it was my birthday, the resentment was pretty clear.

So as I got older I always tried to emphasize that no, it was her birthday.

Eventually I got to sort of dread the day because it was sort of awkward.

My birthday is also usually smack in the middle of Spring Break. Lots of years, we would take family trips that week. So every year, my present would be the trip. Which was awesome, except my brother always went on the trip, too, and he got lots of presents for his birthday at the beginning of the month.

If I was a grateful and giving and graceful sister and daughter, I would embrace this situation and not complain about it. But I was not always grateful, giving, and graceful. So again, there was some awkwardness around my birthday.

Last year, Ben tore his ACL the day before my birthday, and that night, he had to be rushed to ER due to passing out from the pain.

So this year, 29 ... what to expect ...

This year for the first time, due to an incident that happened a few months ago, I wasn't able to see or talk to my mom for our birthday. I was sad about this, but as God always does - God took my sadness and turned it into joy.

I turned 29 this year and what I will remember is not the fear of getting older or the pain of missing sharing this day with my mom, but what I will remember is the loving blessing of all the people God has put in my life and how they shared their love with me this year on this day.

Ben wrapped presents for me from him and Jake, and he even ordered a cake for the Sunday before my birthday and made sure everyone at St. Philip sang after the service -- with the song leadership help from Gemma, our do-it-all church leader and a treasured friend. Thank you St. Philip (more on that later).

I got several phone calls from girl friends spread all across the country, and it was one of those days where with lots of meetings at work and then time with Ben and Jake before church council, that I didn't even get to listen to my friends' voicemails until the day after my birthday.

I've been wondering lately if being a pastor has made me neglect my friendships. I have this whole new web of people now at St. Philip who I spend time with, and pray with, and often the church's needs come before my friendships outside the church. So part of what I wanted to think about today is valuing those friends. I can't name all of the incredibly precious women friends in my life -- guys count too but we're going to focus on the women now because I think female friendships are so important to women today, especially as we balance work and family and marriage -- so here's a few, taken down as I listened to my birthday voicemail messages and texts ... There are many more of you out there and I am so blessed by you all.

To my beautiful friend Lyz. Thank you for your message on my birthday. You are talented in so many ways, as an artist and an art professor - as an impromptu hair stylist for two of your fellow bridesmaids at my wedding - as a singer at my ordination -- even as a chef who helps me find ways to combat sickness. I hadn't realized until recently when I added it all up what an incredible talent you are, beyond the art that has hung in my house. Thanks for being my Lutheran sister.

To my beautiful friend Sonya. Thank you for your message on my birthday. Your kindness astounds me. You are so kind to everyone you meet, and especially to me - your friend since we were 9 years old and our dads taught Sunday School together (remember when Ryan Gust was kicked out from class)? As we've grown up together, I am so grateful and proud of the women we've become. I am so impressed by your loving marriage and the man you've chosen to spend your life with - and by the ability you two have to even run a business together. Thanks for being my BFF (remember our notebook?) since junior high.

To my beautiful friend Jenna. Thank you for your message on my birthday. You could be running from one end of the country to another, practically running General Mills and kicking butt all over the place, and yet I bet you'd still remember to call and check in with every one of your friends. That's just the kind of friend you are: dedicated and caring. I realize sometimes on the phone with you that I'll have been talking about myself for about 15 minutes and I feel awful. Often as a pastor I am called to take the time to listen and care for others, but you have a way of allowing me to open up and share, and I am so grateful for that. Thanks for still being my friend even though I was a ball hog when we played basketball together for MGO Stars.

To my beautiful friend Ellie. Thank you for your message on my birthday. I saw a photo today on Facebook of you and Jack, both smiling the smiles that each of you have that can light up the entire world. It reminded me of how honored I was to share that moment at your wedding with the two of you, as you read your vows and committed your love to one another. Your adventurous spirit has taken you all over, from basketball stardom to Nepal to teaching at a mostly Muslim school. That adventure inspires me, and yet I'm so grateful for those times when both of our wide-ranging lives bring us to the same place to just hang out together, even for a few hours. Thanks for inspiring me and for those conversations we've shared that have encouraged me to reach for more.

To my beautiful friend Katrina. Thank you for your message on my birthday - and for reassuring me that motherhood and becoming a pastor have not made me a bad friend. You spend your days - and sometimes nights - in an incredibly difficult and intense work environment, as a nurse in the ICU. I remember when I was serving my chaplaincy internship and calling you often to ask questions. I admire your work and the way you minister to patients so much. On the flip side though, despite your important and intense work, you also have taught me how to have fun. From Adult Spring Break and your search for "Kyle," to making sure we won our last Florida Beach Volleyball tournament (despite my sprained ankle), you are a player I'd always want on my team for fun and for the championship. Thanks for being my church friend, my volleyball friend, and my Spring Break friend - all rolled into one.

Friendships are important. Sometimes as we get to this stage of careers and marriage and parenthood, friends become less important. We come home and want to stare at the TV and not talk to anyone. We vent exclusively to our spouses. I find though, whenever I do get that spare 20-30 minutes to catch up with one of my girlfriends, my world changes. I am strengthened, empowered, and refreshed. My friends make me a better me, a better wife, a better mom, a better pastor. I am honored to be in their company.

I was also incredibly honored this week to be among the St. Philip church family for my birthday. As I said above, my birthday could tend to be awkward growing up, and I basically tried to avoid drawing too much attention to it.

But this year, the Sunday before my birthday the whole church gathered in the Fellowship Hall and sang to me. We had a church council meeting my birthday night and they brought me flowers, and cards, and chocolate bars. The next morning, I went to women's Bible study to find a raspberry angel food cake with a 2 and a 9 candle to blow out. We all took a photo together.

And I bet sometimes I still preach too long or make mistakes in the liturgy - but this week this pastor felt so loved. Sure friendships are different inside the church and out - my church members will never know about that one time in Naples, or what happened at MGJH - but I am honored to be in the company of these church friendships as well.

As I think again tonight about why celebrating my birthday, or having it be recognized, has always made me feel sort of uncomfortable ... I think it's because it feels so undeserved. Well I made it through another year - 29 to be exact - NOW CELEBRATE ME!!!

But this is the kind of love true, real friendships give - inside and outside of the church. Our friends - inside and outside the church - love us and they know us. They love us even though we don't deserve to be loved. Seeing that love in action can make us feel uncomfortable or ashamed. Surely I don't deserve such as love this.

But this undeserved love is precisely God's love for us. The more undeserved the more Godly it is.

Undeserved love is what we are about to celebrate this Easter.

"For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us." - Romans 5:6-8

Martin Luther said that Christians are called to be "little Christs" to one another. Thank you friends, inside and outside the church, for being little Christs to me this 29th birthday and showing me such undeserved love.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ready to Receive

Today I'm tempted to begin with one of those messages:
"If you're sitting at your computer reading this blog - turn it off right now and GO OUTSIDE!"

Finally it is beautiful here in Chicago. Sky is blue. No wind (miraculously). And temperatures right around 45 degrees, which is surprisingly balmy after the winter we've had. Californians and Floridians and Vegans (the city not the diet), I can hear you snickering.

It's the kind of day that makes me want to breathe as deep as I can and run around outside in the woods, like we used to in Minnesota on that first 40-degree day in March.

I kind you not - when it was time for basketball practice we'd beg our coach to run outside as a warm-up, and we'd go out there behind the school, down next to the creek, in our basketball SHORTS and shoes, and run around faster than we'd ever run for practice before. Finally it's warm. Finally the ice is breaking up and the icicles are gone and spring potentially is here.

Ignore that snow in the forecast for next week. Live in the moment.

There's a message God has been giving me this week that connects with the recent warming weather patterns. He asked it to me yesterday evening, as I ran upstairs to finish last-minute preparations before leaving for our Wednesday night Lenten worship service.

I was in a hurry because we were running late to soup supper, I hadn't been there to pray because Jake and I were waiting for Ben to get home from the doctor, where he had an errant plastic piece of earphone removed from his ear, which is every bit as strange as it sounds. Finally he had some relief from the ear pain that had been bugging him for weeks.

So finally Ben got home, with the sauerkraut I'd forgotten to buy for the Reuben sandwiches we were making two days after St. Patrick's Day, and I threw it on the sandwiches I'd already made and we ate and then I ran upstairs for shoes and then it was off to church.

I remember looking in the mirror - my purple sweater for Lent - my hair that was not having a "good" day - and feeling this question in my mind.

"Are you ready?"

And no I wasn't ready. I'd already missed doing the soup supper prayer. A dear member was in the hospital, one of those folks who always makes sure everything is done at church, a saint of the congregation, and inevitably there'd be something undone before the service because it was something he'd always do without us even knowing it.

Another couple was mourning the sudden death of a dear friend and cousin.

Another woman had brought in dessert for soup supper that morning because that evening she'd be helping her husband prepare for yet another surgery.

The Body of Christ was sustaining wounds and I had been praying and sensing those wounds all day.

The question came again.

"Are you ready?"

This time I realized God wasn't asking it in the way I thought.

So often we - not just pastors I think but all of us - maybe we approach religion and church thinking about it as "Are you ready -- to give, to serve, to do, to change, to lead?"

Maybe some of you wake up Sunday morning and the question comes: "Are you ready for church?"

And the answer is No. I'm tired. I'm not ready to give. I'm not ready to serve, to sing, to listen, to change. I'm not ready.

Wednesday night I wasn't ready in that sense so God reminded me that worship is not just about what we do.

"Are you ready to receive?"

Was I ready to receive? Ready to listen to our song leader's clear, confident voice - carrying the congregation through the evening prayer service - lifting us up and letting us down slowly, faithfully, peacefully ...

Was I ready to receive? Ready to meet near the door a woman who found herself at church even though her husband was still in the hospital. She came for dinner but in her presence she shared with us all the chance to hug her, to ask her how things were going, to come close to her church family and let us embrace her.

Was I ready to receive? Ready to hear a wise, courageous, faithful woman tell the congregation about two difficult, broken relationships by drugs and alcohol and even abuse and the way God had followed her through all of it - bringing her new life and new love, and never leaving her side even in the darkest valley of the shadow of death ...

She told these stories with humor, with courage, with heart - and she spoke about how one day in the midst of it all she said to God, while walking through the grocery store, God I just really need a hug right now.

And sure enough, a few minutes later, someone from the church saw her and came over. They weren't really close, but there was that closeness that comes with sharing faith and sharing church.

The church acquaintance looked toward our speaker that day and said: "I just want to give you a hug."

And our speaker was ready to receive.

And we - and I - were ready to receive her story Wednesday night. To hear it and let it illumine not only her but ourselves as a church and the dead and risen God in Christ whom we worship.

Tomorrow morning. Sunday morning. Tonight when you go to bed.

Ask yourself this question: "Am I ready to receive? Am I ready to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit that comes to me through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Am I ready to be loved?"

Sometimes yes you'll come to church and come to do to give and to serve.

And sometimes God calls us too to be ready merely to receive.

Grace is not grace unless it is received.

May we all - may I - be receivers today, especially as this glorious weather bursts in our hearts.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Wednesday

This wasn't the greatest week ever.

But Wednesday was wonderful ... really it was.

Ben traveled to New York for work on Tuesday, leaving Jake and I to fend for ourselves on Wednesday, as yet another snowfall hit Chicago, and I had our first Lenten Healing service at church that evening, at 7 p.m., right when Jake normally goes to bed.

A few hours before church, I was about to take Jake out to play indoors when I noticed his plate of bananas tinged with green snot he'd just coughed up. Sorry for the visual - motherhood tends to reduce any gag reflex I once had.

So it was off to the dr. We found out he had two ear infections: "Just a part of daycare!" the doctor said gaily. I felt bad. It was his first time to have two at once and I probably should have taken him sooner.

(A day later, Ben and I found out we too had double ear infections. It's a real Amoxicillin party over here).

So we went to CVS, picked up Jake's prescription, and headed off to church. Believe it or not - the first-ever service I had as a pastor without Ben there to watch over Jake.

I'd never done a Holden Evening Prayer service before, had no idea of the flow.

I walked into church to do the prayer before dinner, and quickly I realized how different it was to do ministry without Ben. Instead of being able to talk with everyone and prepare for worship, I was being pulled into the nursery, then down the hall. Jake loves seeing everyone from St. Philip, but he also loves Mommy's attention to be on him - 100 percent.

Even as the evening began though, I could tell something was different. God was here - this Wednesday - in the darkness, in the snow, as Ben's flight home was cancelled ... God was here.

Because here it was - this crappy, cold, snowy day in March; and the amazing folks of my congregation came together anyway because THAT'S WHAT THEY DO and they care about this church and they care about each other. Everyone formed a circle to pray before the service and as I prayed it was one of those times where your prayer is being answered AS YOU PRAY IT. I prayed for our church, for love, for care - and that love and care was happening as I prayed. Brand-new members, a few couples and a widowed woman who brings her grandchildren; stood right next to congregational stalwarts who have held this place together since 1968.

You wonder what makes a church? The building? The sanctuary? The hymns? The music?

I guess a sign out front tells me it's a church, but what makes us a church community could all be felt in that moment of pre-dinner prayer.

The ones preparing the dinner waited patiently in the kitchen for the AA meeting to end right at 6:30, and then as the meeting attendees rushed out, the soup rushed in like a well-oiled machine. At least one man stuck around, not for dinner but for service, and in his quiet acceptance God's bridge was being built - from one meeting to another.

The mood was relaxed; folks ate soup; our pianist, song leader, and flutist rehearsed in the sanctuary and reassured me that they had all this under control.

They did.

See that's the crazy part. I preach every single Sunday at St. Philip, and I pour myself into the texts every week, learning, gaining, sifting the Gospel through study and story and images and I love it.

But something different happened this Wednesday.

As the service began and I really had no idea what was coming next; I welcomed everyone and then I was following along with the rest of the folks in the pews - I heard the music with them and as it moved along slowly, mindfully, beautifully - I became not just the pastor of St. Philip but a part of St. Philip.

I didn't preach yesterday but instead read a selection from Matthew 9 about Jesus' healing a woman who had suffered bleeding for 12 years. That was followed by a testimony written by a couple in our congregation who had undergone much suffering and much healing in their 30-some years at St. Philip. Their son suffered drug addiction; their son-in-law nearly lost his life in a motorcycle accident; only to have the husband be struck with cancer a few months later.

This couple is of the quietly courageous sort, outwardly jokey and jocular and inwardly gentle and powerfully faithful.

I did nothing that service but read their words, as they felt they'd become too emotional to read aloud.

It was an honor to read their words and an honor to sit after that and let the music carry us through the rest of the service again. It was so effortlessly faithful that in the exchanging of the peace at the end of the service God's peace seemed to have blanketed the sanctuary just as completely as the morning snow had blanketed our roads that morning.

As I walked out I was greeted by four kind folks who'd spent their service in the nursery with Jake, whose music was not quite so peaceful and calm as the flute I'd been listening to in the sanctuary. Apparently Jake heard my voice and would not be satisfied the rest of the service. But they hung in there with him nonetheless, making me see that my family may consist of more than just Ben and Jake.

So Wednesday, simple, calm, peaceful, surprising, tiring as it was - Wednesday was for me a turning point - the beginning of a new chapter here at St. Philip - where the heart of this little church attaches itself to my heart, changes my heart, and changes me even as I change it.

See sometimes when you start a new call as a pastor, or when you start any kind of new job, there's a sort of honeymoon period - where you meet folks and they meet you and you slowly tell jokes and stories and warm up to one another before the hard times come and tough decisions and conflicts twist up our hearts.

We didn't really have that here - not because it was anyone's fault - but just because of circumstances and tough financial decisions and the early, sudden departure of a longtime, talented staff member. We met each other somewhat in the midst of turmoil, and sometimes that's not the easiest way to meet - even if we can grow closer through it.

So I'd been praying to God, especially earlier this week, for a glimpse ahead or a vision of what we might work together to drive St. Philip to be.

But God didn't give me a glimpse of the future. Instead God gave me a true view into the present, and just the stuff this faith community is made up of. Nobody's perfect - not me, not St. Philip - but the thing that we both are is here. Week in, week out, snowstorm, plumbing explosion - people show up for God and show up for their church.

And sometimes we stand in a circle and pray a prayer that's being answered as we pray, and sometimes we enter a service we didn't plan, we didn't preach - and the church whispers to its pastor: "We know love. Let us love one another."

As a polar vortex winter slowly succumbs to spring, the last pieces of snow on my heart are melting, too. I don't know all that's ahead for St. Philip, but I do know that powerful love - the love of one another and the love of our Savior Jesus Christ - is in the cards.

Perhaps this is not the end, or even the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Gym Smell

Some kids grow up on the farm. Or in front of the TV. Or in the shopping mall.

My husband Ben forever has an affinity to Auntie Ann's pretzels and buying a large drink, because whenever his mom took him shopping, the treat was always to go to Auntie Ann's. I also learned that no one south of Minnesota pronounces it AUNNN-TIE Ann's, but that's beside the point.

Anyway, I mostly grew up in the gym.

My dad was the Recreation Supervisor for the City of Plymouth, which meant he oversaw everything from tee-ball to Adult Men's Wallyball. That was a thing in the early 90s.



From about age 2 or so, I loved going with my dad to "check on programs." I'd sit and throw a ball against the wall while he helped calm down an irate men's league basketball player who SWORE he didn't travel on that layup.

I read children's books as he handed out t-shirts to the Co-Rec Volleyball Champions.
In fact, I think one of my first new vocabulary words was "co-rec."

Soon enough, I got into playing basketball and later volleyball and spent most of my youth shuttling from practice to practice in elementary school and junior high and high school gyms across Maple Grove, Minn. I'd pull on my knee-high tube socks and Nike flip flops - no sweats or snow boots even in winter - and run into the gym in time for killers and Mikan drill and endless rehearsal of the motion offense we never quite managed to run in an actual game.

I'll be the first to admit I wasn't the best "practicer." Coaches hated me because I tended to slack off midway through; my mind wandered; I had the hardest time finishing the free-throw drills because I just couldn't focus.

Still I loved the rhythm of the gym. It had a smell. Leather, and sweat.

It was a real coup when my dad got the keys to a brand-new high school gym in Plymouth and we'd go over there to play whenever we wanted. I'd walk in and instantly feel comforted, at home, sometimes even more than my home itself.

I'd grab a basketball out of the metal rack and turn it around in my hands, feeling the bumpy leather and giving it a few bounces, feeling surer and surer with each turn.



I gotta admit the gym smell still gets me every time. Like the smell of my grandpa's cologne that lingered on his leather gloves long after he died; the smell of sweat and leather and athletic ambition that clings to the gym clings to me even today whenever I walk onto a court. The days of basketball and volleyball practice and tagging along to "check on my dad's programs" are long gone, but the feeling of comfort and hope and possibility I once found in the gym lingers today.

I found my first community in the gym. It's where I fit. Besides church, all my best friends come from basketball or volleyball teams.

When I moved to mid-Missouri for college, I felt isolated until I joined the Mizzou Club Volleyball team. I walked into the gym and in a place where everything was strange and new, the gym was familiar. It smelled like gyms always smell. A setter on the team named Erin Allen befriended me, and eight years later she was reading the Bible passages at my wedding.

Months later at Mizzou I was rearranging my class schedule to make sure I never had class after 3 p.m. That's when the good players came to play basketball at the Rec Center, the hallowed gym where Ben and I met, flirting with the words: "You got 5?" "I got next."



Later, when I moved to Florida, I spent days searching for "programs" until I found an Open Gym for co-rec volleyball near Sanibel Island. I drove nearly 45 minutes to get there, and once I did again Florida felt more like home. The drinking fountains still tasted slightly metallic, the sound of the ball echoing against the gym floor made that same hollow noise it did back in Plymouth, Minn. At this Open Gym I met Rich, who helped me get on a 4's volleyball league where I met Nora, and seven years later I was serving as the officiant for Nora and her fiance Josh at their wedding.

I got so gym-crazy in Florida I even joined the old Naples YMCA, and I spent nearly every Friday afternoon doing "hoops" with the Daily News sports staff. Ron, a 6-foot-3 copyeditor got the group together, and everyone laughed as me and Hotard, a reporter from Louisiana, engaged in jump ball battles and foul wars.

Later at Luther Seminary we played basketball every Thursday night at the nearby middle school. Joe was the fairest gym organizer yet: everyone got equal playing time and no one got left out. It was true PastorBall, even when Ben nearly came to blows with an aspiring minister/rapper who goes by Agape.

In Vegas there was women's volleyball in an old rec center near downtown Vegas; in California it was stay-at-home mom/substitute teacher open volleyball at Renaissance, a quick stroller ride from our apartment.

Eventually I put together that comforting feeling, the leathery ball, the leftover sweat smell - the GYM had for me become my COMMUNITY. Everywhere I moved, until I found that unique "gym" place, I didn't really feel at home. I didn't fit in until I got to the gym.

When I met the Call Committee at St. Philip, one of the most exciting parts for me was meeting Ellen, a Senior Olympic volleyball champion who knew all the best open gyms in the area. But I was adjusting to a long commute, Jake in daycare, and a new job, so my gym time in Chicago early on was limited. I joined X-Sport Fitness in Arlington Heights, but it never really clicked. Most nights I put on my gym clothes and ended up sitting on the couch watching reality TV instead.

This week on Tuesday night I think I might've found it.

We joined the Park Center gym in Glenview, and I put my boots in the locker room and went out to run around the track above the gym. As I did I saw below me the women's volleyball league and it felt like home. The rhythmic bouncing ball, the guys on the other end haggling over 3-pointers, the vending machines and scoreboards and sweaty smell. I was home.

It was the best run I'd had in awhile, so after stretching and a few sit-ups, I hurried downstairs into the gym itself and walked over to some girls from the volleyball league.

"Hey are you guys in the women's league? We just moved to Glenview and I was wondering if they ever have open gyms?"

We all introduced ourselves, and they told me where they played for open gyms and how to get involved in the league. I left feeling so great, like I'd finally found my community again, even though I hadn't played a game yet.

As a pastor, though, I wonder about how even I find my COMMUNITY somewhere else beyond the  church, and I wonder what's happening at the gym that might not be happening in our faith communities.

I feel at home at church, too, but I guess churches can have a higher threshold to enter the community.

At the gym it's easy. Drive successfully to the basket, serve a few aces, leap above the net -- you're in. You're cool. You're "one of us." No one cares what you look like or what you're wearing if you can dunk. There's no pretense, no "well we do it this way here," it's just can you play or not?

Eventually, a kind ambassador tells you "the rules." 16 by 1's and 2's. No open hand tips. Whatever it is. You're integrated into the community and eventually you make friends and build relationships and it becomes a home of sorts, where you go to find your peace.

The faith community of Jesus Christ is meant to be this, too. Welcomed in softly, comfortably. The only thing that matters is if you can play: if you will open yourself to the presence of God and invite that in however it fits for you. Come up for communion or not, however the Spirit moves you. Raise your hands, sing, sit, stay quiet, go out for coffee -- doesn't matter. You're in.

And eventually someone pulls you aside and offers you the Peace and explains to you "the rules." For God so loved the world that He gave His only son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life ... For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

And eventually you meet people and make friends and build relationships and the church becomes a home of sorts, where you go to find your peace.

Maybe your place isn't the gym. Maybe the smell of gym socks makes you sick but you've got this coffee shop that is YOUR PLACE. Or this cafe. Or this park. Or this library. Or this bar. Whatever.

What's your sacred place? Where do you feel home? Where does this overlap with your church and what are things that happen in this place that don't necessarily happen in church?

It's the season of Lent and confession and contrition, so I'll end this blog with a confession of my own.

Sometimes I think I feel more "at home" more "community" in the gym than at church.

I'm going to pray about that this season. I'm going to examine what changes or what needs to change - about myself, about my own openness, and about my faith community, and where we might be more open, more forgiving.

And I'm going to ask where Jesus is in all of this: where I find Jesus in the gym and how I can take that Gym Jesus to meet Church Jesus and Cafe Jesus and Bar Jesus and all the places where our Savior Saves Us, despite us, with us, and in all our communities.

Where's your community, and what's your advice to a Pastor looking to make Church feel more like a sweaty, smelly gym home?