I was told this would happen – that I’d experience a wide range of emotions during General Conference.  From the high holiness of worship where we can palpably feel the power of the Holy Spirit moving among us to the angst and frustration of procedures and parliamentary quandary.

Awe.  Wonder.  Grace.

Worship has been inspiring – singing & speaking words of hope and assurance and faith in many tongues, hearing bold words proclaimed by our bishops, experiencing rousing renditions of familiar songs, feeling unity for at least a brief time every morning.

Futility.  Frustration.  Impatience.  Angst.

Plenary sessions have been somewhat agonizing – new technology with a learning curve for everyone, plodding through passage of the Rules using Roberts Rules of Order, debating how to debate.  At one point this morning, our session began to feel like a 3 ring circus where a riot was going to break out.  It was actually painful at times.

While I was asked to write about my experience in my Legislative Committee on Friday, I felt I needed to get down on paper my amazing Thursday afternoon of hope while I was still feeling hopeful.

I am serving on Church & Society B, which is the legislative committee tasked with dealing with petitions pertaining to topics of human sexuality, reproductive rights, health issues, and marriage and family.  Each legislative committee met on Wednesday and elected officers, including sub-committee chairs.  Our committee leadership worked diligently Wednesday evening to divide our 151 assigned petitions amongst the sub-committees.  Today, on Thursday, we chose which sub-committee to join and started our work.

Although my first choice would have been the human sexuality group, I felt led to join the marriage & family sub-committee as it was obvious there were too many folks in the first group.

For those of you who may not have a clue how things work at General Conference, the sub-committees are tasked with addressing the assigned legislation, and voting to adopt, adopt with amendments, refer to an agency or other committee, reject in favor of another petition or not support the petition.  Those petitions will then be brought back up for consideration in the full legislative committee and ultimately a smaller group of supported petitions will be presented to the entire body of General Conference body next week for a vote.  I was prepared for an afternoon of rancor and dissent and contentious debate.  But as we gathered in our group of 17 delegates, the roller coaster of emotions began to shift once again.

Hope.

We shared, we laughed, some of us cried a bit, we were kind and considerate and participated together in a circle of open, honest dialogue that I feel made God smile. We treated each other with respect and it truly felt like holy ground.  Our sub-committee chair did an absolutely brilliant job of navigating the parliamentary procedure in a relaxed and extremely fair manner, being sure every voice was heard and every accommodation was made.

For those of you who want the nitty gritty, we addressed petitions about homelessness, supporting the addition of a paragraph in the Book of Discipline that urges the UMC to be at the forefront of ministry with and to all persons, taking into account the disproportionate number of LGBTQ homeless youth.  We supported a petition about divorce that replaces the term “strong marriages” with “healthy relationships.”  We voted to support a petition that updates the discipline’s language on rights of racial and ethnic persons and another that expands the definition of family, affirming the importance of loving “adults” for all children rather than using the term “parents.”

Granted, those certainly aren’t the most controversial pieces of legislation on our plates.  Our chair was wise to start us out slowly.  But it gave us a place to set a framework for what our time together would look like.  We definitely didn’t all agree and in fact, out of the 4 petitions we voted to support, 2 required the chair to vote as a tie breaker.  So our group was indeed divided on many topics.

But friends, it was beautiful.  We spent time getting to know each other by sharing who we are and what we were feeling thankful for today.  That let us see each individual in our circle as another human being, another child of God.  Bishop Palmer shared in his episcopal address a piece of Jewish mysticism that describes an angel going ahead of you as you approach another person to declare you as a child of God.  We saw those angels standing before each person in the room this afternoon.  It made all the difference.

We prayed together, we listened well, we shared our stories, were worked through wording and amendments in a healthy, collaborative way.  It was as if Jesus could have been sitting right next to any one of us.  It was holy.  And it gave me the hope I needed after feeling like we had wasted hours upon hours bickering over and defeating Rule 44 and after so many things had not gone as anyone expected.

Unfortunately, not everyone had the same experience I did today.  It makes me incredibly sad to share that as I walked into the room where our human sexuality sub-committee met, I could feel the tension and I witnessed tears streaming down faces and looks of distress and disbelief.  They had not encountered the same justice, kindness and humility.  And so the emotional roller coaster takes yet another turn.

But even so, I feel like our sub-committee had captured the essence of Micah 6:8.

He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness
and to walk humbly with your God?

We worked on issues of justice.  We were kind to one another, even in our disagreement.  Every member of that group was humble.  God was there walking the journey with us.  Let that give you hope for the future of the church.  Even if it was a tiny slice of holiness – I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit at work today.  Thanks be to God.

 

 

 

And so it begins …

May 10, 2016

Here we are.  After a few days of exploring Portland and meeting up with long lost college friends and eating awesome food and lots of running and a little relaxation, we are about to begin on this long and treacherous journey.

I’m sitting in Orientation for First Time Delegates (which was supposed to start 30 minutes ago) and we’ll be in Opening Worship in about an hour.  I’m grateful to be hanging out with our dear friend, Rev. Dr. Laceye Warner, because as we walked around the Convention Center, she was stopped every 2 minutes by all sorts of people.  She knows everyone!  I know I’ll be making lots of new friends (and sadly enough, I’ll probably be making a few enemies as well).

Its great to see some familiar faces and awesome to see so much diversity and folks from so many places around the world.

Apparently we’re waiting on the person who is in charge of this meeting – they’ve been detained.  There’s a faction of folks waiting on this meeting who broke out in a rousing rendition of “This Little Light of Mine.”  The Holy Spirit may be moving among us!

Will share more observations later!

Prepping for Portland

April 26, 2016

T minus 11 days until I depart for Portland.  As General Conference quickly approaches, I’ve been spending more time reading legislation than I ever expected.  But I’ve discovered my preparations have involved a bit more than just reading.

Today was “set up my new lap top” day.  Now I have both text group apps I’ll be using to communicate with my delegation, a link to my work website so I can check messages and clear our my review box every day, all of the Advanced Daily Christian Advocate downloaded (in easy to navigate sections thanks to Lynne Gilbert!), and the Book of Resolutions downloaded on my kindle app.  My Book of Discipline is tabbed in a few key places and my print version of the ADCA is tabbed with color coded post-it notes to section off the legislation by committee.

I have my packing list started, my grocery list for when arrive completed, house sitters and pet sitters squared away and flight information printed.  Pertinent emails have been flagged and filed for easy access.  My map of Portland is ready to go.  I’ve downloaded the PDX Bus app for the Max line & public transportation maps.  I’ve worn out 2 highlighters already and have “buy highlighters” on this week’s to do list.  We’ve been in touch with friends from college who live in Portland to arrange dinner on the night before GC starts.  I’ve laminated a quick reference card of Roberts Rules of Order.  I’ve watched Roberts Rules instructional videos.  I’ve read countless letters and emails from various folks around the country discussing proposed legislation about which they feel passionate.  I’m trying out a few new shoulder bags to see which will be best for carrying my laptop, ADCA books, BOD, water bottle, pens, said highlighters and charger cords.

Except for the legislation reading piece, the rest of this prep work is right up my ally.  I love to plan, organize, get ready for things – to be prepared.  I’ve had our condo rented since August so I’d get a place with a kitchen and washer & dryer with a running path along the river right outside the door only 0.9 miles from the Convention Center.

I’m grateful that my husband, Josh, will be joining me in Portland.  He gets the luxury of coming & going from GC as he pleases and spending time sleeping in, running, relaxing and seeing the sites.  He’s there as a visitor, an observer, with no official responsibilities.  He deserves the much needed break but I know I’ll be a bit envious come day 10 of meetings and voting.

I’m still a bit apprehensive about so many unknowns and about so many of the negative things I’ve heard about GC from those who have been before.  The fast pace at which legislation is brought forth before a vote, the mean spiritedness of some delegates toward others, and the “us” and “them” mentality (of which I am definitely guilty).  The world is watching and my hope & prayer is that we will not let them down.  I pray that we will treat each other with love and respect despite our wide range of opinions and passions.  I pray that we will be willing to listen before we speak, to think clearly before we vote, to see Christ in our midst.  And I pray that in the midst of the hard work, long hours and countless time sitting and debating and amending and voting, that we will still feel a sense of peace and sense of hope for the future of the United Methodist Church.  So many are skeptical.  Let’s try our best to prove them wrong.

Some days I wonder what in the world I was thinking.  But I felt God nudging me to step way out of my comfort zone into a place I’d never expected to be and here I am.  God called even me.  And I answered.  Praise be!  Portland, here we come…

 

Shoes, I’d rather not

September 7, 2009

I hate shoes.  If it weren’t for OSHA, I’d wear sandals everyday to work, even in the winter.  As soon as I come home, the first thing I do is take off my shoes (and Josh will tell you that is usually in conjunction with putting on my pajamas – I’m more of a comfort clothes girl than a work clothes girl).

My feet do not like to be cooped up.  But, I must admit that I hate to go barefoot outside.  Enter : Birkenstocks.  My dear friend from college, Melissa, was the first person I remember who wore Birkenstocks.  Now, soon after seeing her pair, I did pick up a pair of “fake Birkenstocks” which quickly became my favorites.  Soon after, I forked over the big bucks and purchase the real deal.  Wow.  Comfortable, completely and utterly comfortable.  I personally like the style with two thinner straps and no heel strap.  My feet feel supported and safe from the elements beneath but still get plenty of air & a sense of freedom.  I’ve had several pairs since those college days – but typically only one pair at a time.  Except while at work or while running, I don’t think I’ve worn any other shoes this summer.

Fall is my absolute favorite season ever and the only thing I don’t like about fall is that it means it is getting too cool to wear my Birks.  I know they make closed toe Birks but to me, that defeats part of the purpose.  I like sandals – minimal amount of shoe covering the foot.  I have a pair of Keens that are great if I’m tromping around in a creek or walking along a dusty path but they are still too restricting.  Now, I have been known to wear my sandal style Birkenstocks with socks.  Yep, totally uncool but hey, it works in a pinch.  The transition from warm weather shoes to cool weather shoes is a difficult one for me – gotta take it slow.

The last pair of Birks I bought (that got me through the past 2 or 3 summers) was with my sister Carmen in New Jersey.  We tried on a million pairs each in every color -that poor shoe salesman was a saint.  We ended up with similar pairs to those we’d worn out previously.  Some habits are hard to break.  For me, I usually don’t even care if the Birks don’t match the color or style of clothing that I’m wearing.  Shorts?  Certainly.  Jeans?  Of course.  Skirts?  Sure, who cares.  I’m kinda glad they’re not as trendy as they used to be because I wear them not for looks but for comfort and keeping my feet cool.

Bring on fall weather.  I’ll  be ready once I discover a new shoe that I’m sure is waiting out there for me somewhere.

Reflections on goodbye

September 7, 2009

Goodbyes are difficult.  No matter what the timeframe.

Do you remember going to camp during childhood?  My own experiences were likely a bit unique among all my North Carolina friends, as I’m a suburban girl.  We didn’t have “camp” in the sense of cabins and a plethora of outdoor activities.  I went to “G&T camps” (gifted & talented, and yes I know that’s sad).  To this day, I have no clue how I decided to go to these for 3 summers during middle school & high school.  None of my friends went.  I just came across this brochure & it sounded like fun.

My first one was Logic Camp.  Yes, you read that correctly ~ Logic.  Mom & Dad drove me to Western Maryland College and dropped me off with a bunch of other nerdy kids & we spent two weeks living in dorms & taking logic classes.  I think it stuck.  I tend to be a fairly logical person.  Actually, my first taste of logic class was in elementary school (which I’ve now learned is one example of how the public schools where I grew up seemed to offer far more than those of my southern friends).  We did a lot of puzzles.  You know the kind:  Mary wears a red shirt and stands next to the boy in green but not beside the one in purple, etc etc.  You end up with all the people in a line by color using the given clues.  In hindsight, I’m pretty sure that all those activities actually do help in real life.  Problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, ability to reason ~ it all started in third grade extracurricular logic classes.  And I learned even more at Logic Camp, as crazy as that sounds.

My second G&T camp was an art camp at St. Mary’s College.  I don’t remember a lot of specifics except that it was like 105 degrees, humid & there was no A/C in the dorms.  We soaked wash cloths in ice water & laid them on our foreheads with a fan blowing on us at night to help us cool off enough to fall asleep.  My final project was some sort of sculpture/mobile/shadow box contraption that represented my life – all 12 or 13 years of it.  I don’t think I got as much out of art camp as I did logic camp in terms of real world knowledge.  But, I still had fun & felt very grown up.

My last G&T camp was at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland.  My first trip to Ohio.  We were all doctor-wanna-be’s and we did all kinds of cool science/human physiology type activities and hospital volunteering.  I wonder how many other fellow campers actually became doctors.

Back to goodbye.  You get dropped off and meet your roommates.  No one knows anyone else.  You’re in 7th or 8th or 9th grade.  My point is – it wasn’t easy to take that step and leave home for 2 weeks with complete strangers.   We spent most of our time counting the days until we got to go home & sleep in our own beds, in air conditioning, with our own families and our own friends.  We felt like we were actually in college as we pranced around campus, acting far more mature & grown up than reality.

Then there’s the dance.  You know the one ~ the night before the final day of camp.  How could it be?  Is it really time to go home?  But these are my best friends.  And, there’s that cute boy that I haven’t built up the nerve to talk to yet.  I wanna stay (said in a whiney pre-teen voice).

We spend the whole time counting the days until we get to go home & then we come to the final night and none of us want to leave.  We dance into the late hours of the night. We stay up all night & put off packing until the last minute.  We promise to write daily.  This was in the days before email, cell phones, texting – we actually wrote letters.  [Big aside: I remember getting a letter from a boy at medical camp that said something about me reminding him of his idol Celine Dion.  He had sprayed cologne on it.  Needless to say, I never wrote him back.]

But, the point is – the goodbye was hard, even after only 2 weeks.

Then comes high school.  You spend four (or likely more if you count kindergarten through 8th grade) years together.  You probably only have your own little circle of friends and you don’t interact act much with the other 400  students in your senior class.  You may not even like most of them.  But, you go to class together, homecoming games, dances, club meeting, orchestra performances – you get the picture.  Suddenly, it’s time for graduation.  How could this be?  Is it really over?  Am I really leaving all 411 of my closet friends ever?  I will not survive another day without them.  The goodbye was hard, even after 4 years.  (But I am blessed to still be very close with a certain few of those high school friends, so for them, there really was never a real goodbye.)

Then comes college.  Now, this one is the true tough one.  You actually live with these people, learn with them, cry with them, pull all-nighters together (for study & for fun).  Some of us worship with them, go on mission trips with these friends, contemplate our vocation together.  College friends typically become some of the closest ones yet.  Not sure about you, but I didn’t really spend those times counting the months or years until it was over.  I know I had it good – basically no bills to pay, lots of freedom & free time, lots of hard work and studying but plenty of fun and plenty of growth and meaningful life lessons.  Pretty sure it wouldn’t make me too sad to go back.  Graduation comes again and that feeling wells up inside.  The goodbye was hard, very hard.  Four years of complete togetherness.  Very very hard.

We’ve all had numerous other experiences since those college days with goodbyes.  The job you worked for just a few years, but long enough that you grew close to some co-workers (and thanks to Facebook might even still keep in touch with them).  It was hard to say goodbye even after such a short time.  The vacations where you met a cool brother & sister who grew up in Greece & offered lots of hospitality and plenty of amazing conversation, but the goodbye was hard after only a few days.  The building teams to poor rural areas of Guatemala where you barely knew anyone’s name but the people in the village all came out on your last night to pray and cry and say goodbye.  That one was hard too.

And I’m not even going to start writing about saying goodbye to loved ones when they die.  Not even going to go there.

All of this is to say that no matter what the timeframe, goodbyes are always difficult.  It’s something that I think about a lot and something that seems so universal.  I’m just not looking forward to one big goodbye that is inevitable in the next few years:  my beloved Crash & Boomer are becoming old men and I know what lurks behind another day and I’m dreading it.

Goodbyes are difficult.  No matter what the timeframe.

Half A Lifetime Ago

August 26, 2009

So Josh & I went for a long run today.  We started with our usual lap around the Duke cross country trail & then meandered our way down Towerview to Campus Drive.  After passing the bridge, newly decked out with bright paint to welcome the class of 2013, we headed on a loop around East Campus.  As we ran by Southgate, the memory flood gates opened.

Seventeen years ago this month, I moved into Southgate, my freshman dorm at Duke.  Sure doesn’t look any different today.  It’s amazing to me the irrelevant details my mind can recall and the important details that remain forgotten forever.  I see my father carrying the rose colored carpet from the guy selling rugs on the corner of 9th & Main all the way back up to my dorm room.  I see Travis, my bleach blond haired FAC from California (except you shouldn’t ask me what FAC stands for…I’d have to guess Freshman Advisory Counselor) helping us unload Dad’s pick up truck.  I see smiling South Carolina girl Beth, arriving as the last of my two roommates (some things never change), and I remember realizing I had a friend for life in her.  And, I hate that I remember passing up the opportunity to go to my first Durham Bulls game that week with all the Southgaters.  Instead, I was a good little Duke student ~ I attended the planned science lecture in Gross Chem (why anyone with the last name of Gross would allow a building to be named after them is beyond me).  I was (OK, and still am) a rule-follower.  It was a planned lecture ~ how could I skip it for something way more fun?  A moment I would love to relive and a detail I would just assume not retrieve so easily.

What I cannot recall is the exact moment that Josh & I met.  We are both certain we met that very first week at Duke, during orientation, most likely at the Wesley freshman picnic on East campus.  (Interestingly, we were in charge of that very picnic our senior year and in honor of our first one, we again had burritos from that famous Mexican place in Chapel Hill with habenaro-soaked ground beef that burns every inch of your digestive system whose name I can’t recall – see, only room for so many details.)  “Wesley” was the United Methodist campus ministry at Duke, and being the good little United Methodists that we both were (and continue to be I might add), we sought out a place where we could belong and started that search week one.  Hard to imagine how different all of our lives would be if that hadn’t worked out.  Wesley went on to become a significant formative group for both of us and our closest friends.   But, I digress.

So, we must have met that day at the picnic, right?  We were both there, along with probably 15 other freshman checking out this campus ministry.  We had to have spoken, introduced ourselves, exchanged names.  Details neither of us can recall to this day.  The following weekend, we both attended a Wesley freshman overnight hosted.  We spent an entire 36 hours together at the Episcopal Center on central campus, hanging out, watching  movies, eating & talking.  But, I still cannot recall even having a conversation with this guy who eventually became my best friend and now my husband of twelve years.  I do, however, recollect sitting in a circle and listening to each person share how they got their name.  Josh’s parents had a dog before they had him, so the dog got the name initially intended for their first born male:  Sam.  I’m thankful that was the case.  He’s just not a Sam.  See, I remember plenty of particulars.  Sure do wish I can remember the exact moment I met the future love of my life.  I guess I can’t feel too bad ~ he doesn’t remember it either.

The freshman memories, for the most part, came back big time during this quick trip to Durham today.  I do have to say that thinking back to August of 1992 and realizing just how many years ago that was is almost painful.  I am 35 years old.  Seventeen years ago?  Just about half a lifetime ago.  At least we can concur with that old tobacco ad (which I argued vehemently against in my freshman UWC paper), “We’ve come a long way baby.”  Indeed, half a lifetime long.