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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rock Polishing

Children love to start collections. I'm not up to speed on what things that kids collect now, but back in the dark ages when I was little, my brother and I collected stuff like coins, stamps and rocks. One year he got a rock polisher for Christmas. It made the most mundane rocks look shiny, smooth and precious.

But what I remember even more was the sound the rock polisher made as the tumbler rotated round and round, its tiny little motor growling steadily as the water and sand and rocks rumbled inside. All the grinding, clunking and swishing had a hypnotic effect. I knew something almost magic was going on.

Lately it feels like several "rocks" in my life are tumbling around, rearranging and jockeying for space in my calendar. For the most part, it's a fun and fascinating process, and it feels like some lovely, polished rocks will get to emerge at some point, regardless of how unremarkable they may have looked before they went into the tumbler.

All of these current projects function separately, but they collectively come together in my heart and mind in wonderful ways. First of all, my role with the Free Methodist Church in Southern California has expanded to 3/4 time. In addition to the work I've done since March 2009 with individual Free Methodist lead pastors on strategic planning and leadership development, now I also get to pursue the development of pastoral leaders at Christian colleges and seminaries. I am also collaborating with some very creative denominational leaders, developing a plan for planting ministry in new cities within California. All of this will include more recruiting and training of college interns, partnerships with various faculty members and some writing and research. It's so fun for me it almost doesn't feel like work! (Though I sure don't mind getting paid to do it...)

I am continuing at Providence Hall, though my hours have tapered back quite a bit. Tuesday I start up teaching the "Foundations of the Christian Faith" course again to 9th through 12th graders. I will also train the new Foundations teacher for our new grades 7 and 8, which will be very gratifying for me since he is someone I had as a pastoral intern this summer and as a student in the past from the Westmont Mayterm course I taught in 2009. I am happy to say that I seem to never tire of being with teenagers. This fall we will start off studying the Gospel of Mark, and I will have the privilege of teaching them some fundamental principles of hermeneutics, which is just a fancy way of saying that we will talk about how to think as they read the Bible, and not just take the word of others.

These two responsibilities can fill my time quite adequately, but I am a little surprised that some other "side jobs" have bubbled up this summer. I just finished two different workshops this past week, one with Fuller Seminary and the other with a church here in town, talking through Strengths-Finder and ministry as a team. Those projects will continue for a few weeks as I do follow up. I'm in conversation with another non-profit in town who is interested in the same thing. Plus I am still working with two churches (one in Seattle, the other in Central California) through Youth Ministry Architects.

Last but not least, it looks like I have more writing projects coming up -- some more articles in Youthworker Journal in 2012, a monthly column in YMToday on spiritual disciplines, and a lead article for the Free Methodist national magazine in October. And a chapter in a book on youth ministry by Will Penner coming out sometime soon. Pinch me, I'm dreaming!!

Earlier I brought up the rock polisher... as I said, there is no real overlap when I work on these projects, and scheduling all of them in can prove to be quite a juggling act sometimes. They might even crash into one another once in awhile, much like the stones in the rock polisher. But collectively, they all tumble together and form some deep things in me. A couple of days ago I read this:

In his book City of God, Augustine of Hippo wrote, “The heavenly city, while it sojourns on earth, calls citizens out of all nations and gathers together a society of pilgrims of all languages. In its pilgrim state the heavenly city possesses peace by faith; and by this faith it lives.”

I loved these words because they reminded me that as followers of Jesus, this earth is not our real home. Rather, we are on a constant journey as resident aliens. As Paul says in Philippians 3:20, our citizenship is in heaven. So we navigate the tension of living in the "now and the not yet. Between coaching and consulting and writing and teaching I get to talk to believers from many different church traditions, with an occasional seeker along the way, and I am encouraged at the many "pilgrims" I meet as I do this. Together, in our own ways, both small and sometimes large, we are helping to build the heavenly city that Augustine talks about. I delight in being part of something so much bigger than my small little corner of the world.

Last week I picked up a book that I am taking very slowly, just reading a tiny bit each day, titled The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks. I am fascinating by the spiritual disciplines of the early church, and each quote in this book packs a punch. This one from two days ago is still with me:

Poemen said, "To be on guard, to meditate within, to judge with discernment: these are the three works of the soul."

Poemen was apparently a humble leader of a group of monastic hermits in the 5th century in Egypt, who guided his community in hard work, prayer and study. I liked this simple sentence because it called me to not lose sight of my real job as I work on these various projects and responsibilities: my highest calling, for eternity, is to know and love Jesus Christ. So I am to guard against temptations and distractions, to meditate and stand still enough to hear Him, and to be wise in my decisions, thoughts and words.

None of this easy to do, but it is always worthwhile. Augustine again taught me on this last night as I read this before I went to sleep:

Augustine of Hippo said, “Let us leave a little room for reflection in our lives, room too for silence. Let us look within ourselves and see whether there is some delightful hidden place inside where we can be free of noise and argument. Let us hear the Word of God in stillness and perhaps we will then come to understand it.”

I am so grateful for all of these opportunities. They are creative and challenging, and I am especially thankful for the gainful employment in such a bad economy! But ultimately, they will amount to nothing if I do not put first things first, and fix my heart on the Lord. If I do this, he persistently polishes the rough edges of my stony heart and makes something beautiful. Amazing.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Do Not Move

As someone who moved not once but twice in kindergarten, then again after first grade, second grade and fifth grade, I vowed that I would live in one place as an adult.

I have had the very good fortune of being able to do that. I moved to Santa Barbara in 1979 to go to college, and have never moved since then. Thirty-two years in one place is a wonderful thing. I recognize it is an enormous gift, one that so many will not have the option to have.

But I also think that in our fast-paced, hyper-mobile culture, we don't really even value such stability any more. But some of the reading I've been doing lately is really challenging me to keep exploring the implications of stability. Many of us believe that in traveling we are able to embark on a journey that helps us discover ourselves, and hopefully God as well. But what is becoming more and more clear to me is that stability has allowed me to be on an inner journey instead, going deeper and deeper over the years into intimacy with God. As Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove says in The Wisdom of Stability, "I love the idea that the stability we are made for helps us establish 'roots of love,' binding us intimately to our landscape and the people who share life on it." Such 'roots of love' help me to tap more steadily into the Spirit too, who in turn teaches me to love others generously and persistently. While I have grown much over the years, I still have so very far to go!

These things have been turning over in my head, so as I read this quote last night, it spoke to these ongoing musings on staying in one place:

Somebody asked Abba Antony (St. Antony the Great of Egypt), “What shall I do in order to please God?”

He replied, “Do what I tell you, which is this: wherever you go, keep God in mind; whatever you do, follow the example of Holy Scripture; wherever you are, stay there and do not move away in a hurry. If you keep to these guide-lines, you will be saved.”

Chew on that.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Claire, We Hardly Knew You

One year ago we said goodbye to Claire Michelle Carey. It has not gotten easier in the year since then.

A few of us got together last night to recall some favorite memories. We laughed and cried and occasionally sat silent in speechless grief. Such a beautiful life taken from us far too quickly. The loss still stings.

Yet we will never be the same. She touched us all in powerful, delightful, challenging ways. She was stubborn, she was smart, she was creative, she was a tireless and faithful friend.

Today in church, Denny my pastor preached on the story of Joseph in Genesis, primarily from chapters 45-50. He recalled much of Joseph's story, one full of privilege, betrayal, imprisonment... and redemption. In the midst of many unjust and painful experiences, Joseph remained faithful to God... no doubt still shaking his fist at times in sadness and confusion.

I have heard this story many times. Heck, I've taught on it more than once! But this morning as I listened, what I noticed was a poignant time of remembrance, grief and reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers, who betrayed him so many years before.

Imagine this scene:
Joseph could stand it no longer. There were many people in the room, and he said to his attendants, “Out, all of you!” So he was alone with his brothers when he told them who he was. Then he broke down and wept. He wept so loudly the Egyptians could hear him, and word of it quickly carried to Pharaoh’s palace.... [later in the chapter] Then Joseph kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and after that they began talking freely with him. (Genesis 45)
Weeping and kisses. Laughter and agony. That's what happened last night as we remembered Claire... we both we giggled over her ornery ways and bawled as we looked at the giant hole she left in her departure.

I have discovered as I have gotten older that so much of life is filled with pendulum swings between heartache and hope. Yet we cannot really ride this rollercoaster without being willing to go on both the highs and lows. And truth be told, the pain makes the joy all the sweeter.

During the service, my housemate Ruth, also a dear friend of Claire's, led us in worship. One song in particular seemed to sum up the entirety of what I feel today. Here is a link to the original song. Below are the lyrics. Listen to them more than once. The depth of truth in them is dazzling, and put words to things I can barely allow myself to believe. But in Jesus, it is possible. I cling to him more than ever. We miss you Claire. We ache over your absence. You are loved, and not forgotten.

Jesus, I come.

Out of my bondage, sorrow and night,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy freedom, gladness, and light,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of my sickness and into Thy health,
Out of my wanting and into Thy wealth,
Out of my sin and into Thyself,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of earths sorrows, into Thy balm,
Out of lifes storms and into Thy calm,
Out of distress into jubilant psalm,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of unrest and arrogant pride,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into Thy blessed will to abide,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of myself to dwell in Thy love,
Out of despair, into raptures above,
Upward forever on wings like a dove,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Out of the fear and dread of the tomb,
Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
Into the joy and light of Thy home,
Jesus, I come to Thee;
Out of the depths of ruin untold,
Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
Ever Thy glorious face to behold,
Jesus, I come to Thee.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Today was one of those days... personally, I am doing well and am deeply grateful. But all around me I see and hear things that are heart-breaking and hard.

I got not one but two emails today from people who needed help finding a counselor for a sibling in a very difficult and painful marriage.

Another friend from church is facing terminal illness.

A friend of a friend is unexpectedly faced with raising her newborn alone.

Somalia rages with famine and devastation that could be, in large part, avoided.

Meanwhile, this Sunday is the one-year mark of the all-too-early loss of my dear friend Claire.

As I brought each one of these before God, all raw wounds and filled with fear, this was the psalm that I came to - Psalm 46:

1 God is our refuge and strength,

always ready to help in times of trouble.

2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come

and the mountains crumble into the sea.

3 Let the oceans roar and foam.

Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!


4 A river brings joy to the city of our God,

the sacred home of the Most High.

5 God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed.
From the very break of day, God will protect it.

6 The nations are in chaos,
and their kingdoms crumble!

God’s voice thunders,
and the earth melts!

7 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.


8 Come, see the glorious works of the Lord:
See how he brings destruction upon the world.

9 He causes wars to end throughout the earth.
He breaks the bow and snaps the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God!
I will be honored by every nation.
I will be honored throughout the world.”

11 The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;

the God of Israel is our fortress.

As I read over each line, adding my own words and prayers, I remembered that I have mistakenly read verse 10 by itself in the past, not realizing that that particular verse, so peaceful-sounding on its own, is actually just a quiet and firm commandment in the midst of swirling chaos and fright. In it I hear, "KELLY, pull it together! Of course you are overwhelmed. These are far bigger than you are. Quit looking at your circumstances, and look at me instead!"

Then I remembered an equally stunning prayer that I read last night, that had a similar effect on me ~ it put everything in perspective:

Lord, train us to hear your voice. When it is time to grieve, help us to grieve. When it is time to rejoice, help us to rejoice. When we grow weary, be the strength in our weakness. And may your most beautiful and perfect will, not ours, be done. Amen.

I really should not be surprised when there is such agony and distress. This world is horribly broken. This is not how things were meant to be. In spite of all that, I will be still and know that He is God. And that I am not. Rather than try to carry it all on my weak shoulders, I will lay these fears, concerns, questions and pains before the One whose shoulders are far broader and arms are much more able to carry these heavy, heavy loads. Be still.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

¡Viva La Fiesta!

Many things are working in my favor at the moment... It's sunny here, but not overly hot, it's the week of Santa Barbara's annual "Old Spanish Days" (better known as "Fiesta), and best of all, I live in the Land of Avocados. (Did you know that 90% of this country's avocados come from the CA coast?)

In preparation for some Fiesta Food Sampling later this week, I made this recipe for dinner tonight. That's right, people. I had chips and dip for dinner. I feel great about that.

I must add that this particular recipe (alternatively called "Guacamummus or Hummamole," though I go for the plain and simple "Guacamole Hummus") has some advantages over traditional guacamole, if you can imagine that. The hummus provides some protein, the overall recipe is far less fattening, and honestly, it's a little less rich so it settles in my tummy more easily. Just sayin'.

My housemate found this in a Martha Stewart magazine... we enjoyed ours this evening with Trader Joe's Organic Blue Corn Tortilla Chips.


1 avocado, peeled and pitted

1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas, drained

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/4 cup chopped red onion

3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

2-3 tbsp olive oil

1 lime, juiced

1 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp. salt (more or less to taste)


Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add in a few extra tablespoons of water to thin out the consistency if you’d like.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

John Stott Memorial Page

If you are also a John Stott fan (and several of the comments I've received from my previous blog post indicate that you're out there), spend some time on the memorial website established by his foundation... in the photo album are two shots of him birdwatching in Santa Barbara :)