summerIn summer’s last days, I have the sense of time zipping past – the days feel fleeting.  Our bloggers offer a vision of things that last, some of which may be a little too permanent.

Jan Edmiston is questioning what to do when your church sign is a tombstone.  Does it – unintentionally or not – reflect an approaching death?  “Here’s the thing about choosing a tombstone as your church sign:  it’s disturbingly and unintentionally indicative of your church’s culture. Yes, it says sturdy and maintenance-free but the truth is that – while The Church is sturdy – the church must be flexible and wide open and changing to suit the ministry needs of the community…Instead, the 21st Century Church needs to call culture shifters who will love the people out of old models into a new way of following Jesus for these days.  We need visionaries and prophets and dreamers – along with those who know how to do enough management to keep the ministry thriving.”  Tombstones last.  Some things about church should not be so permanent.

No one gets here alone, Laura Stephens-Reed reminds us, recalling Malcolm Gladwell’s work on outliers, people who excel in a particular field.  The outliers always have unseen advantages in timing, location or cultural support.  She asks, “What, then, are the hidden forces that have contributed to our success? And how might we help others to see their own advantages and opportunities? One possibility is to map out our lives, starting with the present day and going backward to examine (to the best of our limited vision) the factors that brought us to where we are. Who mentored us? What were our lucky breaks? How did our birthdates, cultural heritage, physical makeup, access to options, and location shape our trajectories?  If we can unearth the forces at work in our lives and give up the narrative that we got where we are under our own power, the implications for widening our (individual and congregational) understanding of and call to mission are huge.”  This kind of support gives us a lasting gift.

One of the people who paves the way for others is Cindy LaJoy, who has an online ministry called Blue Collar Homeschool, for families who have kids who are not college-bound.  “I am passionate about all kids being supported.  Sure, that might be obvious, as I have several who will struggle their entire lives, and our “wins” are often not “wins” in the eyes of others.  That being true, I know how important those key breakthrough moments are, I know how tears come to a mom’s eyes when she has worked for YEARS to make something happen and she finally sees success.  I know what it is to have kids who don’t have challenges but are outside-the-college-box thinkers but others simply look at you as if you have failed your child miserably because “This kid ought to be in college.” yet no one sees how college might stifle who they were meant to become.  This isn’t about being anti-college, far from it!  But it IS about celebrating the wide variety of paths  in addition to college that are out there for kids to choose from.”  These wins provide an enduring foundation for adult life.

A  trip to the Emergency Room prompted Sarah Hennessey to think about the places where Jesus shows up.  Reflecting on the loneliness of being in the emergency room, she recalls the healing of the experience in prayer, as an image comes to mind. “I’m alone, sitting on the bare, cold floor. A security guard waits outside the room, keeping watch. Then the door opens and Jesus walks through. Jesus looks like a farmer woman. She’s wearing blue jean overalls and has black curly hair that overflows her tender face. She looks at me and smiles and suddenly, I don’t feel so alone. Jesus walks in the room and sits down on the floor behind me. She encircles me with her arms. I lean back and place my head on her heart. I am surrounded with love. All at once, we are in a beautiful field umbrellaed by a bright blue sky. Instead of a bare, tile floor we are sitting on the soft earth with our feet and hands digging into the dark, rich dirt. We stand up and she takes my hand. We are running in the field filled with stunning wild flowers. I feel free and happy. I know Jesus is with me.”  The vision of Jesus, present and loving, has lasted beyond the aloneness of the emergency room.

Drink deeply from the present moment, Beth A. Richardson encourages us, knowing that the present moment is the only moment.  She gives us the gift of a sacred pause, inviting us into the moment where she is:  “Drink deep…with eyes…with ears…with nose…with mouth…with hands…with heart…I sip coffee, dark and smooth with a hint of cinnamon.  The wrens scold me as they carry food to their young the bird box on the front porch.”  Just a moment, but the sense of peace is lasting.

As summer is fading, other things in our lives are more enduring.  What’s short-lived for you, and what is staying with you?  We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

Rev. Mary Austin is the pastor of Westminster Church of Detroit, a diverse Presbyterian church.  She is about to take a kid to college, and is musing on what parts of parenting continue on, and which parts (thankfully!) come to an end.  She blogs from time to time at Stained Glass in the City.

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