Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Least Trusted: Religious Leader

"Ruh Roh!!!" as Scooby Doo or Astro would say. I think me, and people like me might be in trouble. The Scientific American with it's sister publication Nature offered an online poll which asked the question "Whom do you typically trust to provide accurate information about important issues in society?" The Scientific American then published an article based on this poll in late September. It listed a number of topics such as climate change, evolution, vitamins and supplements, cancer causes and cures, origin of the universe and food safety. Then it listed eight different categories of people such as family and friends, scientists, journalists, elected officials, religious leaders and companies. The scale was 1 (strongly distrust) to 5 (strongly trust).

The results were fascinating and disturbing. In this particular poll, scientists were the number 1 pick, family and friends were second. The bottom end of the spectrum was telling. Number 5 were journalists, number 6 were companies, number 7 were elected officials and number 8 were religious leaders.

Did you get that? Dead last: clergy and religious leaders were the LEAST trusted when it came to providing accurate information about important issues in society. Now I accept that this is not a random sampling. It is 21,000 people who took a poll on websites supported by Scientific American and Nature. By and large these are highly educated people and may or may not be terribly religious.

However, when religious leaders rank behind "politicians" and "journalists", it is disturbing, at least to me. Not because I am surprised, but because it brings home to me how "religious leaders" have squandered our ability to be taken seriously. Those religious leaders who are in the news are those who tend toward the extremes (can we point to Topeka, Kansas and the small church in Florida recently in the news?).

I know, I know, tolerant, thinking theologians are not nearly as interesting as extremists. Pastors/Religious Leaders have offered cliches, judgments and simple answers to complex problems. Pastors/religious leaders have offered biblical answers for complex scientific problems and thinking people have left the church and any kind of faith.

In the Christian tradition we have only ourselves to blame. Those Christian believers who prefer simple easy answers are often the ones who work the hardest to make sure their viewpoint is heard. Many mainline denominations have been so quiet in order to stay middle of the road, that both the extremes, have walked away.

I believe we need well educated, thoughtful theologians and religious leaders to weigh in on those "important issues" in society. While I acknowledge I am no scientist, I work hard to be well read and to keep up on the ethical, moral and societal issues that we face in this culture. I want to be able weigh in ethically, theologically and yes morally on those things that really matter. The only way that can happen is if I am willing to continue to be part of discussions outside the walls of my particular church that I serve, beyond my denomination and beyond even the realm of "believers".

I am committed to an ongoing discussion with people of faith and people of science and people who do not fall into either camp. I believe we must find ways to continue to address the deep needs not only of our culture, but of our world. I will continue to read, to study and to find ways to share ethically, theologically and morally to make the world a better place. In that I am committed to be

Graced to Serve,




Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Too many deaths

Enough already. Another teenager killed herself last week because of her sexuality. Her memorial service will be held Wednesday in San Diego with a memorial service being held at Howard University where she had been a student. How many more will there be?

There have been so many well written, well articulated commentaries the past couple of weeks. I hesitated to write one more. And yet, the bullying, the comments, the sneers have got to stop. Each generation struggles with this issue. For each generation, it may be a different issue that surrounds the bullying. However, in each generation, voices for justice, for equality and for what is good and right must be raised against the voices of hatred, bigotry and intolerance.

I acknowledge that the "church" doesn't hold the same opinion in terms of sexuality. Some denominations openly accept gay and lesbian persons. Some denominations strongly condemn gays and lesbians. Some, such as my own United Methodist Church, seem somewhat schizophrenic in thier views: i.e. "all persons are of sacred worth" which is combined with "self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in the United Methodist Church."

Even acknowledging different understandings and practices leaves no room for bigotry, name calling, bullying or intolerance. Since not all Christians agree, and all persons are not Christians, we must find a way to protect the vulnerable from attacks by those who are stronger, who gang up on others and who try and force their own theology on others.

I cringe every time I hear some one say, "That's so GAY". While others laugh, I wonder who is joining in so as not to be "outed" by their own discomfort. Crude comments and jokes about other human beings because of their sexuality must not be tolerated anymore than comments and jokes about the color of one's skin.

In my own Christian understanding, I think Jesus was pretty clear about what we say and do. "I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable...and if you say 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire." (Matthew 5: 22)

Of course, Jesus said many other things as well, but it is clear to me, that Jesus believed and preached that our words and actions matter. And I believe they do too. Faithful people of all kinds are challenged to live out faith in a way that makes the world a better place. Not just for those who are "like us", whoever we are, but for all people.

I have said it before and I say it again, words matter. They can encourage life or death, hope or despair, love or hate. I choose again this day, words of life, of hope, of love. I stand against hate, intolerance and bigotry. May I be

Graced to Serve

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Faith, Fortune Cookies and Fortune Tellers

A couple of days ago, the New York Times posted an article on Woody Allen. It was entitled, "Woody Allen on Faith, Fortune Tellers and New York." The article was an interview with Mr. Allen timed around his new movie "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" is being released.

Now I will be honest, I am not a huge Woody Allen fan. His movies have been interesting over the years, but mostly I find myself sad when I watch them. So I usually make a decision to see something else.

I read the article because I usually read articles that have "faith" flagged in the title. I am interested in how we people see, hear, understand and acknowledge faith from a variety of perspectives. I was not looking for anything in particular, just curious as to what Woody Allen would have to say about faith.

I wasn't surprised by he said, but his statements made me uneasy, saddened and disappointed. Here's an excerpt from the article: “To me,” Mr. Allen said, “there’s no real difference between a fortune teller or a fortune cookie and any of the organized religions. They’re all equally valid or invalid, really. And equally helpful.”

REALLY? A fortune cookie is as helpful as faith? Then Mr Allen said, "I was interested in the concept of faith in something. This sounds so bleak when I say it, but we need some delusions to keep us going. And the people who successfully delude themselves seem happier than the people who can’t."

You can read the article for yourself, mostly I found it incredibly sad. I am sure Mr. Allen would say that I am one of those who deludes herself. Instead, I would describe myself and others with faith as those open to possibilities that defy explanation. All the science in the world cannot truly explain the wonder and joy of a sunrise or sunset. There is not way to explain the delight when a child says "i wuv u" the first time or the depth of understanding a long relationship shares.

I could go on. My point is that fortune cookie paper (as fun as they are) in no way defines the values and the faith that guide my life. I would not make a decision based on a fortune cookie or a fortune teller. I would base it on multiple resources within myself, my family and my faith community.

The psalmist writes that all of us long for God, that we thirst, we hunger for the One who knows us better than we know ourselves. I may not always be able to articulate that experience of God, but that does not invalidate it. I stake everything I know to be true and good and real on faith.

"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." One can not see hope, or love or faith. Yet, our lives are infinitely better because of them. In some ways, it is love, it is hope and it is faith that changes lives, that changes our world into a better place. Otherwise, we get stuck into a cynical, dark world view. Nothing changes, nothing matters, no point in trying or attempting to do anything to change the world.

I do not intend to live like that. I have faith that God loves me and loves the world. I believe that faith can generate the passion and the power to create a world where people are valued, are loved and justice and peace reign. I may not live to see it in my life time, but I believe, I know that I am part of a people of faith that have, that do and that will continue to change this world for the better.

Graced to Serve

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Embracing Relgious Freedom

This week, my associate pastor, Christopher Eshelman and I co-authored an article on the controversy surrounding the Islamic Cultural Center two block from Ground Zero in New York City. Pastor Christopher did most of the writing, but we felt a joint statement was important for our congregation. I share it here, because I believe what we have to say as Christians matter.

As you probably know, people fleeing religious persecution in Europe founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony. One of Pastor Christopher’s favorite bits of American history is that what became Rhode Island was founded by people fleeing religious persecution… in Massachusetts. The struggle to realize the American ideal of religious freedom – and for whom – is nothing new. Right now the news is abuzz with “debate” over what should be a local zoning issue. Can a Mosque be built near Ground Zero? But that’s just the inflammatory headline – there is actually resistance to any mosque anywhere from groups like the American Family Association. Fear and distrust dominate the debate. One pastor in Gainesville, FL announced plans to burn Korans… once again religious freedom only matters for those who happen to agree with their definition of appropriate religion. There has also been news of the massacre of a group of medical missionaries in Afghanistan, in part because their murderers condemned them for “preaching Christianity.” Surely that justifies calls to prevent Islam from growing here…. We want to be clear. We disagree.

Pastor Christopher: What many of you may not know is that a major part of my experience of call to Christian ministry happened because of my positive interaction with members of the Islamic Society of Wichita. My encounters with them and their path helped me to rediscover, claim and journey on my own. I experienced God present in, with, and through that community and I give thanks for it. I believe God called me home through those interactions. I am to preach Christ, and him crucified – not to overcome these neighbors – but because this is my path, my tradition, my way of relating to God who is beyond all of our definitions. I believe God intends diversity. I believe it is we humans, not God, who turn that diversity into a sinful cause for hatred and exclusion. Certainly I have disagreements with some of what they teach, just as I do with what many different Christian groups teach. Yet if we embrace diversity, we can coexist and serve God well despite, or perhaps even better because of, our differences.

Pastor Cindy: While my journey is different than Pastor Christopher's my sentiments are the
same. As your representative to the United Methodist General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns (GCCUIC) and as a member of the Board of Directors of Interfaith Ministries here in Wichita, I have a deep commitment to broadening our understanding and appreciation of other religions and branches within Christianity. "Perfect love casts out fear" and as a people that claim to follow Jesus, we are called to look at others with love, not fear. We are invited into deeper understanding as we dialogue about our differences.

The struggle is to not respond to hateful extremism by becoming hateful or extremist ourselves. We get many pictures of what Islam is – often dominated by terror and violence. Before any of us buy into and respond based on those images, this week we are encouraged to consider the dominant picture the world gets of Christianity from those same kinds of sources, whether it is Fred Phelps outlandish hatred, Pat Robertson calling a Hurricane God’s judgment, nooses on a sign at a rally or the tragic results of Timothy McVeigh’s affiliation with the “Christian Identity” movement. Do they represent our faith? We hope not. There are plenty who use our faith to condemn others and even justify violence, exclusion, and hatred. Those who engage in their faith to become better people, caring neighbors, servants of God and community are quite different from those who engage in religion to control, gain power, condemn others, and elevate themselves. The line distinguishing the two has nothing to do with what name we use for God, when, where or how we worship, and what tradition we call home.

During this season of Ramadan, we wish our Muslim friends and neighbors well, and we would be happy to chat with any of our Christian friends about why we do so. Peace be upon us all.

Graced to Serve,
Pastors Cindy & Christopher

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sermon: 07-11-2010 (Joseph - Part 3)

video
Sermon - Joseph: Love Calling
By Associate Pastor Christopher Eshelman

The Reading from our Sacred Memory

video

The New Testament Reading: Ephesians 4:1-8,11-13
The Hebrew Scripture Reading: Selections from Genesis 40-41

By Associate Pastor Christopher Eshelman,
Pastor Cindy Watson and Liturgist Jim Megrail

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Election Day

Today is the primary in Kansas. While the voter turnout is lower during primaries, it will be higher this day because of so many contested races for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and state, city and even county seats. I do not intend to endorse or say who I think the "finalists" should be as we look toward November.

The ads surrounding some of the candidates have been brutal, ugly and have saddened me. I am already dreading the ads, once the primary is over. As a country we are faced with many difficulties and many questions. The problems are complex and can not be answered with a simple fifteen second sound byte.

Perhaps that is the issue. In a complex and quickly changing world,some human beings want fast and simple answers. There is a sense that all of us long for a "simpler" time and place.

The problem is that "we" as a society and as a world can not go back. In those places where they work to control Internet access, people find ways to get information out and stay in contact. The world is becoming smaller and more accessible for good and bad.

As a person of faith, the challenge is not to ignore and to lament the changes, but to find a way to be faithful to the call of justice, mercy, peace and love. The "rhetoric" of faith is one of making real the God who has called to us for generations. In "simple terms" the call is for one to "do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with God." (Micah 6:8) Or put in another way, "Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself, all the laws and prophets hang on these commandments." (Matthew 37-40)

These simple truths have never been simple, but have been the challenge for faithful people in every generation. If there is any "truth", people of faith are called to live in a way that gives witness to a different way of living. Not simple, but committed to bringing goodness, mercy, kindness, and justice to bear upon individual and societal considerations.

So today, I will go and vote and to the best of my ability, vote for those candidates who will work for the common good of all people. I will continue to look for ways to build bridges and to "do justice,love kindness and walk humbly with God."

Graced to Serve

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sermon: 07-04-2010

video
Sermon - Joseph: Tempest Tossed
By Associate Pastor Christopher Eshelman

07-04-2010: Joseph - Part 2

video
Readings from our Sacred Memory
Galatians 5: 13-15 and Selections from Genesis 39
By Associate Pastor Christopher Eshelman
and Liturgist Deb Ketcherside

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Sermon: 06-27-2010

video
Sermon - Joseph: The Many Shades of Green
By Associate Pastor Christopher Eshelman

Introduction to Joseph (Son of Jacob)

video
Scripture Readings: James 3:16 - 4:2 & Genesis 37 Selections
and Video

By Associate Pastor Christopher Eshelman
with Liturgist Ann Murray
and Deacon Judy Castor

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sermon: 06-06-2010

video
Sermon - Pity Parties and God's Call
By Pastor Cindy Watson

The Introduction to Elijah - 06-06-2010

video
Reading from our Sacred Memory: The Introduction to Elijah
By Pastor Cindy Watson and Associate Pastor Christopher Eshelman

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On the road again

In the last two weeks I have been on the road. My spouse and I drove to Nashville, Tennessee for a continuing education event, then to Durham, North Carolina for an executive committee meeting for the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligous Concerns. Then I was home for twenty four hours before coming to the Kansas West Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

The trip to Nashville fed my soul, the trip to Durham challenged my mind and the trip to Salina where I am as I write this reconnects me to my congregation, the annual conference. In the United Methodist Church, elders are not members of a local church, they are members of the annual conference.

Each year we gather to worship, to work, to ordain and to do business as a conference. While many things frustrate me, mostly I just enjoy seeing people. Folks from churches I have served before, other clergy I have not seen for a year delight me. Then there are the reminders of my commitment to God, my call that must answered, and my responsibility to my sisters and brothers of the conference.

Many things can be frustrating at conference. Someone is always complaining about worship, and honestly, I have been one of them. The building is too hot, or too cold. The food is mediocre, the prices too high. And yet.....it is the gathering of all these people, lay and clergy, visitors, old timers and new timers, that God uses to move this small portion of the church forward.

This year, I am working to be less critical and more appreciative of those who have spent hours and days and weeks preparing for this gathering. I am praying for a kinder spirit and a more open heart that I might here the still small voice of God. I am reconnecting with those I have not seen in a long time. Finally, I preparing myself to recommit to the call that was placed in me at annual conference those many years that I may once again be

Graced to Serve.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring, Sun, and Strawberries

Two weeks ago, I ate the first spear of asparagus right out of the garden. We had dug the pit a year ago in February. It is quite a process to prepare an asparagus bed. We were excited to try and see if we could do the work necessary. That first spear was a delight. We have had two small harvests since then. The asparagus tastes like spring and sun and newness of life.

I have to admit I have always disliked asparagus. Until about five years ago, I refused to eat it. I was in restuarant where my friend Ben Murray was the chef and he had a halibut dish which he served with fresh asparagus. I wanted to try the dish and he said, "try the asparagus. I know you will like it!" And I did! Who knew? I had only had the asparagus out of a can as a kid and it was mushy and slimy. Wow, fresh, crunchy, tasty.

Two days ago, I did something I have never done before. I ate a strawberry right out of the garden. My husband and I planted some strawberry plants this spring. The birds got the first few. I finally bought some old fashioned black net and covered those plants.

The strawberry was warm from the sun. It was bright red. The strawberry tasted of the warmth of the sun and if you will, it tasted red and like strawberry should. Like the asparagus, there is something phenomenal about fruit right out of the garden.

I did not grow up gardening. I come by it late in life. I am not a garden guru, just someone who puts the plants in the ground and hope and pray they will grow and produce vine-ripened tomatoes, tasty new potatoes and onions, radishes, lettuce and carrots.

The winter was so long, and cold and dreary. I am truly grateful for the spring, for the flowers and for the produce of the garden. The older I get, the more delightful and the more tasty the harvest becomes. There really is something different eating in season and out of the garden instead of the unripened fruits and vegetables that come out of season. Those reflections will come later.

For now, it is enough to in the words of psalmist, "The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season...You open your hand, and you satisfy the desire of every living things." I know that I have learned to be thankful and satisfied for the gifts of the garden and of God's good earth. I am delighting in the strawberry, the asparagus and for the fruits and vegetables sprouting in the warmth of the sun.

As I await the harvest to come, I am

Graced to Serve,

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The power of community and connection

This morning in worship the church I served celebrated a 25 year event called Worship Caravan. The basic premise is to bring youth together and plan a worships service, then take it on the road. Sounds simple, but in truth is incredibly intense and somewhat complicated.

When it started at West Heights, the youth gathered with the adults for 3 days, and wrote the dramas, the liturgies and a good deal of the music. Then they headed out to share what they had created with churches, with senior living facilities, and all over the continental United States and Canada.

There is not enough space in this blog to share all the stories, what is important is how many lives have been touched and changed by this mission and ministry of West Heights. Youth are not always trusted to create worship. Yet at West Heights, that is expected. They work to find a theme, then begin to build the service around it with music, with scripture, in this day and age with video and with drama. The Psalter talks about singing a new song generation to generation. In a sense that is exactly what Worship Caravan is all about.

They youth grow, learn and deeper their spirituality and their friendships. Those relationships years later still are strong. The lessons learned continue on in their lives as they go to college, go to work, begin families and end up all over the world.

This past weekend, there has been time for sharing, watching old videos and putting together a reunion choir consisting of Caravan alumni and current youth. Three directors put together five anthems in about five hours. In worship we heard from several of the former caravaners and directors how caravan changed their life and still today is part of their spirituality.

Community and connection forms us as individuals at the most basic level. It helps us identify who we are and who we long to be. Worship Caravan provides that community and connection for our youth and for who they become as adults. It is Christianity at its best: teaching and creating worship, forming bonds, connecting our young people into community.

I am grateful to be part of a congregation that values such an experience and have supported for twenty five years. My hope and prayer is that Worship Caravan continues on for many more. I am grateful for all the adults and youth that have committed themselves to Caravan and for their willingness to share their time and talent with others.

I am truly thankful to be a pastor at West Heights....and I am truly Graced to Serve.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sermon: 03-28-2010


video
Palm/Passion Sunday, Last Sunday in Lent

Sermon - Pathways to Prayer: Focusing Our Spirits
By Pastor Cindy Watson

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Words Revisited

My very first blog, back in June was on the power of words. My reflections came after the murder of Dr. George Tiller in his church Reformation Lutheran on Pentecost Sunday. The basic premise was "words matter".

So here I am revisiting that idea. Words matter. Anyone who says differently is not thinking or behaving ethically or morally. I will be the first to say that each human being is responsible for their own behavior. However we can not pretend that peoples behavior can and often is influenced and motivated by another person or persons words.

People that have the power to influence: Teachers, Celebrities, Preachers, Politicians; have a responsibility to choose their words wisely. The words spoken and heard, the actions taken and observed can motivate others for good and for evil. Any person who states that "my words" or "my actions" don't matter is, if you will, a few fries short of a happy meal.

The current debate in this country around health care reform and in my state of Kansas around cuts in education and other services have become garbage heaps of lies and innuendos, half truths and name calling. I have been sickened by the violent words, the racial slurs, the pointing of fingers and the inflammatory ways opposing sides have engaged one another.

As a Christian I say, Enough! As a citizen of this country, I say, Enough! Disagreement, differing views are not bad. It is through the conflict that an open place for dialogue can form. What I will not tolerate is the bald faced lies, the shaving of the truth and the name calling that draws such deep lines in the sand that there is no room for compromise and for the creativity that will find a solution that might not make all happy, but at least widens the circle.

The loudest voices will always get attention, but perhaps it is time for those of us who don't scream and shout to make our wishes known. Now is the time to tone down the hateful rhetoric, to call out those who be divisive, to make a place and space for people to find their way into a deeper partnership on the things that matter.

Each one of us has the power of words. We can use them to make the world a better place, to add more and more peace and more justice. Each one of us can tone down the rhetoric and ask others to do the same. We must do it. For words matter and I choose for my words to create a better place and space for dialogue.

Graced to serve.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sermon: 03-21-2010

video
Fifth Sunday of Lent

Sermon - Pathways to Prayer: With All Of Me
By Pastor Cindy Watson

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sermon: 03-14-2010

video
Fourth Sunday of Lent

Sermon - Pathways to Prayer: Relating Anew with the Living God
By Associate Pastor Christopher Eshelman

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sermon: 03-07-2010

video
Third Sunday of Lent

Sermon - Pathways to Prayer: Experiencing God with the Whole Person
By Pastor Cindy Watson

Sermon: 02-28-2010

video
Second Sunday of Lent

Sermon - Pathways to Prayer: To Search and Seek
By Pastor Cindy Watson

Sermon: 02-21-2010

video
First Sunday of Lent

Sermon - Pathways to Prayer: The Invitation
By Pastor Cindy Watson

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Some thoughts on Saint Patrick

Tomorrow, many will be "celebrating" Saint Patrick's Day with corned beef and cabbage, wearing green and drinking copious amounts of green brew. Not any thing wrong with that, I like corned beef and cabbage, green is one of my favorite colors, but I do draw the line on consuming anything that is artificially made green.

I celebrate Saint Patrick's Day being grateful for Celtic Spirituality and for the wholistic approach that they bring to faith. While it is difficult to separate the man from the myth, Patrick was at the very least a diamond in the rough. His education was lacking and haunted his ministry as evidenced in his Confessions. He was a slave and ran away only to be called back by God to his place of enslavement.

Celtic Spirituality has a blessing for everything: for the fire that provides warmth and energy for cooking, for the home, for the hearth, for the field, for the plow, for all aspects of life: sickness and health, life and death, seasons as they come and go. From the moment one awakens, to the moment one falls asleep there are blessings and prayers to be said and shared.

In the book Celtic Blessings and Prayers, Making All Things Sacred, Brendan O'Malley writes, "The purpose and effect of a blessing over any object or activity, person or circumstance is not so much to alter the symbol or inner life of its reality: it is to thank God for the gift of its existence and use, and to offer that use back to him."

In our current culture, there appears to be far more curses shared, than blessings. Hateful words are hurled in order to try and create a reality that may or may benefit all. Sound bites are offered in order to provoke a reaction as opposed to creating dialogue and deepening understanding. Shouts, angry faced mobs drive any debate on any issue. Cursing seems to to be the order of the day and I long to hear a word of blessing, of hope, of faith.

I wonder what might happen if in the midst of the Saint Patrick's Day festivities people "blessed" one another. What kind of celebration might bring more light and hope and faith when people are blessed for their struggle to understand, blessed in their journey, blessed in their differing life situations and blessed as beloved children of God.

So I offer a portion of Saint Patrick's Breastplate as a blessing. Attribute to Patrick, but used throughout the ages may it's words be a blessing:

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to life before me,
God's shield to protect me.

With that blessing, I am grace to serve.

Monday, March 1, 2010

In the midst of life....death

Part of a pastor's life is to be part of the most intimate moments of life; birth, transitions, graduations, marriages, baptisms, and death. There were two deaths in the congregation I serve this day. One, while having been ill, was sudden and unexpected. The other had been in hospice just two weeks.

There is an ancient Native American saying that goes "death always comes out of season." My twenty eight years of ministry has proved that statement to be true. Whether one is waiting and walking that "valley of the shadow of death" or whether something unexpected occurs, death is always "out of season."

Now I will be the first to say there are worse things in life than death. Death is often a blessing after a long drawn out illness. Death can be just a semi-colon in terms of a life well lived and now a person transitions into a new life.

And yet, death is always unexpected and brings grief even in the midst of a thankfulness for a life well lived and love shared. Today, I was privileged to be at bedside when that final breath and small sigh was taken. For that person, there is no more terrible pain, but for those who remain, the path to life without someone they love dearly has begun.

In the days to come, plans will be made to celebrate the lives of those who have loved and made a difference. Memories will be shared, tears shed, prayers said. My "job" if you will, is not to make things better, but to give voice to unique and unrepeatable spirits, to be the presence of the Divine in this valley of the shadow of death.

I am honored to be and do those things. But mostly, I am grateful to be called to this ministry. And I am privileged to be

Graced to serve,

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ready for Spring

The last two days have been a welcome relief from this long winter we have been having. Stan Finger in the Wichita Eagle, blogged last week that this is a historical winter. Since recording temperatures in Wichita it the last 1880's, there are never been a winter where we have not hit sixty degrees. As of today, we still have not gotten there yet.

Part of what has made this winter so long for me has been the unrelenting fog and grayness. I do not really mind the cold, but I need, I crave sunlight. While I enjoy the fog for its mystery, the day in and day out fogginess and remaining grayness truly began to wear on my soul.

Today, however, I had an opportunity to work with my husband on the outside of the house. There were a few spots that need some scraping and some touch up paint. While waiting for the primer to dry, I made a cup of tea and sat on the deck with my face toward the sun. I have not sat outside in the sun since last November. I walked out to the garden and noted that the chives are beginning to poke up through the brown grass. In the front, the tulips are beginning to send up some leaves. The days are getting longer. While it is still chilly, the warmth is beginning to creep back.

In the Christian tradition we are in the season of Lent. For western Christians it is a forty day period (not including Sundays) that leads up to Easter. Often words are used to describe this season as "long, dark, penitential, sober, somber" a time of penance and fasting. The final days of Lent are focused on Jesus' last hours before his crucifixion.

What is interesting about this convergence of weather change and liturgical season is the meaning of the word Lent. Lent means "spring". That's it. No huge deep philosophical or theological meaning. Spring, lent means spring.

In some ways the season of lent has been difficult for me. I have not problem focusing on the "evil" in the world. It takes very little time to find examples of our inhumanity to one another, or injustice at work. However, as the days get longer and warmer and the green erupts from the ground, it becomes harder for me to be somber. I want to be outside, enjoying the sun and the energy and the new life. Focusing on grayness, on penance and on fasting when the bounty of spring is erupting is almost beyond what I am capable of.

Perhaps, Lent is a preparation for the joy that spring brings. Maybe, if I was willing to really do the hard work of penance, of weeding and cleaning out the weeds and the clutter in the garden of my soul, it would be ready for the sunlight, the love and the life offered through the Easter experience.

So I will try and hold my heart and soul in patience as I walk these lean days of Lent. I will focus on ridding myself of whatever is not helpful or hopeful. Then, when Easter comes, my heart and my spirit will be ready to burst forth in new life and energy.

I remain Graced to Serve.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sermon: 01-17-2010

video
Sermon - Does Faith Matter: The Question of Violence and Hatred
By Pastor Cindy Watson

Sermon: 01-10-2010

video
Sermon - Does Faith Matter: Finding A Path
By Pastor Cindy Watson

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Response to Haiti Earthquake

The devastating earthquake this week in Haiti has stunned everyone who has seen the pictures of the tragedy that continues to unfold there. The desperation of the survivors, the thousands of victims, the rubble and the need for food, water, shelter and medical care. Already millions of dollars have been donated to the Red Cross, United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Doctors without Borders and countless other relief organizations.

Last night as I watched the news, I found myself strangely offended by the news coverage. I know that the best way to get information out is through pictures and stories so that the world will respond to the need. However, I found myself wondering if the news was crossing the line showing a child screaming in pain while the reporter held his hand. Then they had person after person asking where the help was, asking "Why is no one responding?"

The world is responding, but of course it can never be fast enough for the hurting, the hungry and the thirsty of Haiti. The sheer logistics of getting aid where it is needed is overwhelming. Aid is arriving, as I type, as people read what I write. However, it doesn't stop the pain of those without medical care, the fear of those whose children are thirsty and hungry and the unbelievable grief of a nation mourning the loss of thousands.

I am choosing not to "watch" any more. I do not want to be voyeur into other's pain. What I will do is pray, that the relief efforts continue to pour in. I will pray for order and peace in the chaos as the aid is being delivered to those who desperately need it. I will give generously and often in the next few weeks.

Here is the link for the United Methodist Response to the earthquake. It includes a way to give to UMCOR. One hundred percent goes to Haiti.

http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umcor/work/emergencies/ongoing/haitiearthquake/

Charity watch is an organization that keeps tabs on charities. UMCOR has received one of the few A + ratings. The link invites you to go to their website.
www.charitywatch.org

Finally, our children will be putting together Health Kits....they are simple really, but needed in tragedies like Haiti. The supplies for them are listed in the link above or on the church website www.westheightsumc.org
If you would like to help by bringing supplies, or by making health kits, I would invite you to drop them off at the church, 745 N. Westlink, Wichita, Ks.

In prayer, and in hope, I continue to be

Graced to serve