The Pastor's Ponderings is a weekly note from one of the pastors that is sent to the congregation. If you would like to be included in the list of email subscribers to the Ponderings, you can subscribe here. Current subscribers wishing to unsubscribe can do that here as well.

Keeping Church Weird

I've never been to Austin, Texas before, but I hear one of their slogans is "Keep Austin Weird." I assume this means, don't let the presence of tourists take away the thing that attracted us in the first place - the cool music, the general acceptance of quirky unusual people, the fear that once something wonderful is discovered it will get all domesticated and made like every other place in the world. Colorful quickly fades to khaki and tie dye individuality becomes a blue oxford shirt. Not that there's anything wrong with a good blue oxford shirt. I have a soft spot in my heart though for the quirky place, the place for the refugee from normal life, the place where 80-year-old retirees and tattooed teens and businessmen and stay at home moms sort of hang out and accept each other - where PhD's and GED's share food and music and life together.

Church can look on the outside like the opposite of "weird." People who are not in the church tend to think that the church is super-civilized and domesticated. A place where we all wear our best clothes and where we're all on our best behavior. A quiet place. A calm place. Not at all a weird place.

However, when you look at the Savior, the one we purport to all be following, the one who brings us all here at such an ungodly hour on a Sunday morning, he looks a little like he might be from Austin, or Key West or some other Certified Weird Location. And I don't just mean the facial hair and the toga and the sandals. I mean the crazy way he tended to proclaim life in the midst of death. The way he ushered in a brand-new weird way of thinking. In a world where the rich seemed to be the ones who owned everything, Jesus came and said, Blessed are...

The poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. The whole Kingdom. Weird.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God....

Weird.

And the part about loving enemies and praying for those who persecute you.

Weird.

And all the going places and healing people and upsetting religious and secular authorities...all the eating with tax collectors and sinners, all that feeding the hungry, all that hanging out with ne'er do wells. He was so weird and so threatening that they crucified him...and on Easter, proved singularly hard to keep in the grave.

That's not just weird...that's "The World Turned Upside Down" (cue fife and drum, if you were in worship a couple weeks ago) ....

I'm so glad to be the pastor of a church that embraces the "weird" and life-transforming truth of the Gospel.

See you in Church,
Mandy


Read more

More than you can handle

Dear Glen Mar Friends,

“God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, you know.” The lady behind me in the store was on her cell phone, on speaker, on high volume. “It’s just the truth.” I bit my lip and vowed again never to do that speakerphone thing to other people in public. I did the mental calculation of whether to speak or be silent as the guy scanned my groceries. She hung up and I thought, “Well, here goes.” I tried to sound nonchalant and not like One of Those Religious Nuts. I cleared my throat. I said, “Hello.” (See, you have to be so erudite, so super-genius-y, to be able to talk to people). She said hi back. I said, “They have nice corn on the cob today….” And then I said, “By the way, I was NOT listening to your conversation or anything, but about that God not giving us more than we can handle thing…”

I said, in my experience, God provided the help I needed to get through impossibly hard times, and when I was driven to my knees, God was there. I may or may not have talked about Elijah and the Broom Tree. She laughed at the funny parts and seemed receptive.

What folks think about is probably 1 Corinthians 10: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” 

In the context of temptation, Paul’s encouragement is to lean on God to resist it and look for a “way out” that is not to sin.

However, when people pull out from this the idea that “God will never give us more than we can handle,” we tend to think every burden and trial and tribulation is a. sent from God and b. for US to bear heroically while God sits by and watches. I think neither of those things are true. Trials and tribulations and tragedies are part of what it means to be human. Sometimes our suffering is the result of our own bad choices, and other times, it’s just because we are human, and we live in an imperfect world. And God does not just add on weight and watch us carry it.

No, God bears our griefs, and suffers with us, and sits with us, and sends the Spirit to pray for us when we cannot, with sighs too deep for words. The burden is not on us to carry stoically the wounds of life. Instead, we should realize that we can lean on God, that we are not alone, and let God carry our burdens, when, as will happen, we end up with “more than we can handle.” The Bible is full of people who ended up with (way) more than they could handle on their own. And they cried out to God for help, for justice, and for comfort (and help with the carrying).

Having way more than YOU can handle is a great opportunity to remember that YOU are not called to “handle” it on your own. “Cast all your anxiety on him (God), because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7.

See you in Church,
Mandy


Read more

I know who YOU are

Dear Glen Mar friends,

VBS prep is in full swing around here and we are PUMPED about it! I was thinking today about Tyler, a 4 year old parishioner from a church I pastored before Glen Mar. Tyler would raise his hand enthusiastically during Children's Time and always had something interesting to say. Once, he raised his hand and said, "I know who YOU are." I said, "I hope so, Tyler." He said, "No, really...I know who you REALLY are." And he leaned forward and whispered, "You are JESUS, aren't you?" I smiled and said, "No, I'm not Jesus but I'm a follower of his, just like you." And Tyler said, "But...you love us! Just like Jesus! And help us feel better when we are scared or sad. Like Jesus! And you say, God loves you...just like Jesus! Plus, you wear a robe!"

I tried to convince him I was not Jesus and he finally said, "OK, OK, fine" and then when he was walking back to his seat, he turned around and winked at me, as if to say, "We both know you ARE Jesus." (I love my job, by the way).

Tyler may have been mistaken about my name, but he was sort of on to something too, right? People ought to say we remind them of Jesus in the way that we act, in our priorities, and the way that we welcome and love one another.

This weekend, we will gather at the Lord's Table to worship the one who calls us all to come and dine, the one who calls us, not just to praise him but to follow him too. I know many are away, but if you are in town, I hope you'll come worship with us. You'll be so glad you did. I'm preaching on a particularly great part of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. And no...I didn't write THAT sermon, that was Jesus. No matter what Tyler says.

See you in Church,
Mandy


Read more

youhaveaplacehere

Dear Glen Mar friends,

As I write this, I'm at Nathan's college orientation program, which is very surreal. It's a reminder to me of God's provision to get Nathan to this point (and me as his mom, too). The program is structured and designed to help kids feel like they belong, and feel welcome. Advice about "finding your tribe" and "self-care," and "being open to the transformative nature of the college experience." The hashtag for this event is #youhaveaplacehere. It occurs to me that being part of a church family can be like that, too. Did you know that everyone has a place in the body of Christ? YOU have a place here at Glen Mar, too. If you need help connecting or "finding your tribe," reach out to Pastor Anna, our amazing Pastor for Community Life.

As I watch Nathan so full of excitement and a bit of trepidation... I think that being a disciple of Jesus brings forth some of those same feelings - the excitement of knowing that we can share the love of Jesus with others, that we can, in fact, change someone's life by being a friend, by fixing a roof, by praying with someone, or by showing with our life and witness that you can be smart and open and funny and kind and loving AND a Christian, too.

I hope you'll join us this week for worship. I'll be preaching on how to follow this Jesus who seems to ask such hard things of us. And, I've been praying all week for the 96 amazing folks we commissioned to go to Hurley, VA last Sunday (Check out the pic on our Facebook page!).

See you in Church,
Mandy

PS If you have made your pledge, thank you! If you haven't turned in your pledge card, there's still time to do so. I hope you'll join me, and others, in investing in Glen Mar so that we can keep changing the world, in Jesus' name.


Read more

How do we live?

Dear Glen Mar Friends,

"How do we live?" is a question that appeared on our Glen Mar Facebook page in response to a meme that I posted about the gospel being not just about how we get into the Kingdom of Heaven after we die but how we live in the Kingdom of God now. Given that, "How do we live?"

It's a beautiful question. My response on Facebook was

We love God and our neighbors in Jesus' name. We care for the least, last, lost and left out. We share our bread with the hungry, visit the lonely and share the good news of God's love. We live according to the example of Christ, who commanded us to love one another as he has loved us.

As the kids (finally) get out of school and we move into whatever summer looks like for us, I would remind us to take time to live out the faith vows we express. We will do this as a church with meaningful, powerful worship all summer long (Y'all come) and mission trips to places like Hurley, VA (we'll have record numbers this year), and Vacation Bible School, where hundreds of kids will grow in Christ and have a great time doing it.

I want to thank you for your generosity of time and finances, your commitment to our vision and mission, and your dedication to what Glen Mar is all about - sharing the love of Jesus with our neighbors, and growing as disciples of our risen Lord, who calls us forth to serve, and to change the world, in Jesus' name.
This week in worship, I'll be preaching on God's "still, small voice" and the lessons Elijah teaches us about life with God.

See you in Church,
Mandy


Read more
1 2 3 4
Share