Thursday, June 23, 2011

Serving up the good stuff...

Rebekah at the church door, greeting the Zane family
Quite often, being a clergy-hubby is a spectator event! Fact is, I love to see my preacher-wife “in action.” I think it’s similar to how Rebekah used to describe watching me play soccer. “Derek moves like poetry,” “she’d say. Well, she does too.
Sometimes I’ll stand near the church door when she’s greeting people as they leave after worship. There’s a fluidity and a genuine grace to her interactions that’s fascinating to watch. She engages each individual as if they’re the only person in the world for that moment. She pulls this off with 100% authenticity, and for those brief moments they truly are the only thing in her consciousness. Children… adults… visitors… long-time members… infants; no-one gets missed and no-one feels short-changed.
I remember one Sunday after communion, where the “Hug the preacher” line seemed especially long. One young mother ushered her four-year-old toward the side entrance (like Presbyterians do when they want to beat the Baptists to lunch!). Their conversation went something like this:
Mother: “Let’s go, we have to meet Daddy!”
Child: “But I have a question for pastor Rebekah.”
Mother: “Okay… (sigh)…”
Wait. Shuffle forward. Roll eyes. Shuffle forward again. Speak with the other people in line. Smile. Shuffle forward. Wait. Eventually they make it to the door.
Mother: “Rebekah, Ralphie has a question for you.”
The Preacher (hoping it’s not a doctrinal stumper, planted by Ralphie’s mother): “Ask away, Ralphie, I love four-year-old questions!”
Ralphie: “PastorRebekah-pastorRebekah!!! What kind of juice do we have at communion?”
The Preacher (relieved): “I think I know the answer to that one, Ralphie. I believe we serve Welch’s Grape Juice.”
Ralphie’s eyes opened as wide as could be, and he turned to his mother with a huge smile across his face and his arms spread wide, palms up: “You see,” he said loudly. “I told you we serve The Good Stuff at this church!”
And we do. Every Sunday at worship, and pretty-much every day between Sundays, there’s something inspirational and encouraging going on. It’s all good stuff, all the time around here!
But – most of all – the good stuff is served up by my awesome wife, “The Preacher”. And all I have to do sometimes is to stand in the background and just watch her interact with the people she loves so dearly, so honestly, and with such tender grace.
Rebekah speaking at fpcBrandon

Monday, June 20, 2011

Israel of Bust - The Better Educated Clergy Spouse....

My awesome, amazing, Father's Day gift
Happy Dad’s Day to me! One of the most consistent ways Rebekah (The Preacher) and I have defined “the Good Life” has been our continuous commitment to ongoing and challenging education. We’re not hooked on degrees, necessarily – but we are very much committed to the principle of life-long learning, and most especially when it comes to living as followers of the Way of Jesus.
And, yes, there is an important distinction between loading up on the diplomas (so we have some to hang on the wall)… and actually expanding our minds because we want to be responsible stewards of the gift of learning.
Take, for example, churches that believe it’s important the senior minister comes loaded with the correct set of letters behind his or her name. We’ve even known people here at fpcBrandon who’ve attempted to pressure Rebekah to add another academic degree. D-Min, or PhD? It doesn’t really matter so long as they can refer to the minister as “The Reverend Doctor So-and-So….”
I know preachers who buy in to this too, becoming partial to wearing academic and profession titles on their sleeves like some kind of personal decoration – kind of an ecclesiastical bling.
My preacher spouse isn’t going to earn either a D-Min or a PhD; you can count on it! And, yes, those of you who believe she should get one to park by her name on the church letterhead and the Sunday bulletin, I really did say that out loud! Believe me, it isn’t going to happen!
However, that doesn’t begin to mean she’s not committed to continuing education, all about ongoing study, and doing everything possible to be a more deliberate student of faith. She’s going to keep learning her Bible, she’s going to be continually involved in professional development, and she’s always going to study what it means to lead a discipleship-driven church in the 21st Century.
And… not only is “The Preacher” a faithful student of The Way of Jesus, she’s a huge encourager when it comes to the better educated clergy-hubby (see exhibit A, right here…).
Which all comes as background to explaining the picture that leads off today’s “The Preacher’s Husband” blog post.
Rebekah is going to the Middle East, to participate in two-week seminar sponsored by the Asbury Theological Seminary and led by a cutting-edge New Testament scholar!
Cool beans, granted… but here’s the “preacher-hubby” part. Today, enclosed in my Father’s Day card, I discovered a pile of Monopoly money designed to represent my ticket on the same tour! Yes, you heard it here first – I’ll be going on the trip too. Israel, Jordan, Egypt. 2012…
Here’s the thing. I don’t care if you’re 25, 40, 55 or 70… there’s always so much more to learn, and so many ways that we can grow. In my church, it comes with the territory. And, the way I experience faith, learning is a no-brainer. It’s how we’ve always done things in the family Rebekah and I launched July 18, 1979 – and it’s still going ahead full steam.
I’ll keep you posted on the details. This is going to be awesome!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Updating my identity

Check out this post at it's home @...

Updating My Identity… always!

Still in the mode of self-discovery...
If you’re a regular reader, then I apologize for the lull in recent posts here. There are two reasons for this:
  1. I’ve had such a lot to say on my “The life-charged life” blog there just hasn’t been time to post over here
  2. Sometimes I’m not sure that there should be two separate blogs. My “The life-charged life” is the life of a preacher’s husband. There’s no distinction, so where do I post?
And that is – essentially – the point of today’s entry. Being “The Preacher’s Husband” is not a role I either can or should slip in and out of like my “Sunday best”. When I wake up in the morning and my feet hit the floor on my side of the bed I don’t reach out and chose a persona; it’s not “Which hat am I going to be wearing today?” I already know who I am (once my head clears), and it goes something like this:
  • Child of God – loved, redeemed, set free
  • Follower of the Way of Jesus – it’s how I am responding to the fact that I am a child of God
  • Husband and father – privileged and responsible
  • Writer – this is my calling; this is how I share the Good News of transforming love and healing grace
  • Citizen of the World – it is a gift of wonder as well as a constant challenge
  • American – to whom much is given, much is expected
  • Member of the local church where Rebekah and I serve…
All of these points of identity (and a dozen others, I’m sure) are constantly at work both above and below the surface of my consciousness. My identity impacts my behavior. And, at the same time, my behavior from day to day reveals a lot of the truth about “who I really am.”
Spiritual Gifts: At our church – First Presbyterian of Brandon, Florida, where Rebekah serves as senior pastor – we encourage members to take a standardized “Spiritual Gift Inventory” on a regular basis. The survey is not a one-time thing, our giftedness really does shift and clarify over time.
So I went through the exercise a couple of weeks ago. I was surprised at a few of the areas where I scored higher than in times past. Then I was interested to see that I only scored low (tragically low!) in two domains.
  • The first low score was in the “fix it” department. Evidently it’s not a great idea to ask me to participate in church workdays where any skill with tools is necessary! No surprise there. I’ve never been mechanically inclined and we have long since established at my house that it’s cheaper to call a plumber, electrician, appliance repair profession etc. than to let me loose. ‘Nuff said.
  • My other low score (tragically low) was in the area defined as “MERCY.” Mercy has to do with things like working the soup kitchen, visiting people who are sick or in prison, delivering Meals-on-Wheels etc.
My first response was one of embarrassment. But then a friend told me it’s not the best thing to attempt to pro-rate our giftedness, as if some gifts and skills are better than others. I’m awesome in some areas. Other people are amazing where I’m not. It’s Okay.
So maybe it doesn’t sound all “preacher-spouse-ish” of me to be so low in mercy. But I can’t be all things to all people, that’s never a strong move. And aren’t I the guy who’s always saying I haven’t been called to be a clergy-hubby to prop up anyone’s cultural stereotype?
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” (1 Corinthians 12: 4-6)
Continue to call each one of us, Lord, and help us to embrace the gifts you’ve shared with us. Melt us, mold us, fill us – and then use us. Amen