Ordinary Time: Settling In

As we’re coming to the end of this year’s season of ordinary time, I wanted to write a second installment. If you missed the first, read it here.

brothers having a chat

This past Sunday was the last one (for a bit) where we had the green cloth covering the communion table. Green: growth + life + cultivation + flourishing, all themes of ordinary time. On the northern hemisphere, ordinary time begins with Spring and ends a few weeks into Winter. It’s easy for us to think of metaphors of new life and growth when we’ve got SPRING in our gardens! This year on the southern hemisphere, it’s the opposite! We are ending ordinary time just a few days into Summer. Instead of starting out green, we’re ending it green. All the Spring blossoms have gone and given way to bold summer hues and a hot hot sun. This gives me a whole new set of metaphors as I think about growth. Do we grow more/stronger/faster/significantly at the beginning of our endeavors or at the end? Is it better to start out strong or finish strong? Hmmm… I’ll be rolling those around in my head for a wee while…

a beautiful Spring hike to a nearby waterfall

Ordinary time is a green growing time, and nothing about it has been “ordinary” for us per say, but we’ve seen growth in a variety of ways. This second half of ordinary time has found us settling into our home in a new country, a new city, and learning a new culture by jumping in head first. Part of the idea of “growth”, they say ordinary time is a season of discerning your vocation and shaping your ministry. That part is true. We are discerning what our role is as pastors in Christchurch, and shaping what the ministry of our church will look like. (Although we will be doing that for years! Constantly reevaluating what our role looks like.) One thing we’ve noticed is that people are longing for community.

Moses is so confident on his balance bike these days

How can our role at the church foster a connected community? How can we show people what a loving community of faith looks like? What does it mean to be part of an intimate community that spurs each other on in faith and love? And how can we guide our church congregation to do the same? These are all questions we’ve been asking ourselves these last four months as we seek to grow our community.

one of our local beaches (about 15 minutes away)

We are establishing rhythms and routines and getting a better feel for our city. We are making friends, joining various community groups, and putting ourselves out there every day (hard work for this introvert!). We are cultivating something new. We’re being “grown”, you could say 🙂
So, ordinary time, we’ll see you again. But now we continue our journey through the liturgical year. Next stop: Advent (my favorite)!!

Sunday Observation

I believe in the Holy universal church.

“I live a much more Christian lifestyle than those supposed Christians who meet at that church down the road.”

This sentence has been rolling around in my brain all weekend. I can’t seem to shake it. It was the beginning of a listening session that I was able to be on the receiving end of. The hurting woman told me about the horrible bitterness she had encountered at the church she was talking about (luckily it wasn’t the church I am pastoring), she told me that she didn’t have much respect for Christians, or for church politicking (me either).  She rounded off by telling me that she would never understand why people would waste the time going to church. And finally she looked at me and asked what I was doing in New Zealand. I kind of chuckled and told her I had come over for work, and I half hoped she wouldn’t ask what sort of work I was doing.

She did ask, and I then got to tell her about how I was so serious about being a Christian I had become a professional one. Just kidding. But really I told her that I was working at a church in the area. I told her that we believe that things like shame and guilt and hatred and pain don’t have to stick with you for your whole life and that we believe there is healing from that. But at this point in the conversation I could have told her she had won the lottery and she wouldn’t have heard me. She had checked out of the conversation.

So I find myself wondering about church today as I preached the sermon, and as we prayed the prayers, and as I listened to my wife lead us in singing on her ukulele, and as we recited the creeds, and as our small congregation gathered for tea and bickies afterward.

It is of course trendy right now to say that the church is not the building, but rather it is the people inside who make up the church. I can’t help but wonder if this sentence has lost its meaning to many people. What does it mean to be the church anyway? What does the church do? Why the church? The church has always been, and I believe always will be known for her habitus; our embodied disposition. Those things that we do. When we love our God and our neighbor in actuality it is love that we become known for. Maybe try giving a listening ear or a hug if it is welcome.  However if we simply meet together as a social club that is sometimes full of bitterness and church politics each week then chances are good we will become known for that disposition. If we gather and talk about all the things that Christians don’t do, then we will become known for that. If we gather and don’t talk, or don’t listen, or don’t celebrate, then I think you get the idea.

Maybe you’ve asked the same: “Why church?” It is a legitimate question. One that doesn’t always have an easy answer but I think novelist Flannery O’Connor speaks to it,

“I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed”

Sometimes, when a person in my congregation will come to me and tell me they are frustrated and tired and about ready to give up on God, I won’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say a lot of the time, and I don’t know why frustrating, and horrible and hurtful things happen. I don’t know the answers to these things, but I do know how to hug, and I try my best to listen, and I try to be the body of Christ.

Maybe you’ve decided that you don’t need the church, and maybe you’re right. But I think its only because the church you’ve encountered isn’t the church that God has envisioned for God’s people. 

Maybe you are hurting today, and frustrated, and ready to give up. If this is you, please know you’re not alone. Please let me (or someone near you) listen to you and hurt with you and be the body of Christ.

On an Island in the Sea

Sunrise hike at Lanikai Pillbox

You may be wondering why we visited Hawaii on our way to New Zealand. Consider this excerpt from Esther de Waal’s book:

“There is a traditional saying of ancient wisdom: ‘A threshold is a sacred thing.’ . . . When I visited Japan I experienced the role of the threshold in a very simple daily experience. Before entering the house, the Japanese stand on the lintel in order to remove the shoes worn outside in the street. Upon entering the house, they put on slippers placed inside the door. This forces a very deliberate and conscious way of standing still, even if for only for a moment, in order to show respect for the difference between two spaces, the outer and the inner; the preparation for the encounter with another person, another household.

“This is very similar to the traditional monastic practice of statio, which also pays homage to the threshold moment, and shows reverence for the handling of space and time. The monk or nun enters the church for the saying of the daily offices, but always leaves him- or herself time to stand, to wait, to let go of all the demands of whatever the previous activity had been, with all its concurrent anxieties and expectations. That stillness permits each one to enter into that space kept empty in the heart for the Word of God. By rushing, whether through a sense of duty or obligation, or to save a few extra moments for the task at hand, they may gain something in terms of daily work. What is lost, however, is the attention, the awareness of crossing over into the time and place for opus Dei, the work of God.”

Sunset Beach on the North Shore

Shave ice w/ Aunt Vicki at The Local Hawaii in Kailua

Many years ago when missionaries left their home countries, they were on a ship for weeks (sometimes months!) before they arrived “on the field”. I’m grateful for the relatively quick trip that airplanes provide (and that we can avoid the seasickness), but I find myself craving that “space in between”. I needed a space to exhale before I could inhale again. Esther de Waal writes about this idea from Celtic Christianity in her book, To Pause at the Threshold.

We swam in the waterfall at Waimea on the North Shore

I was so excited to settle into our new home in New Zealand, but the 7 months we spent fundraising and preparing was hard work! My soul desired rest and rejuvenation for myself and for my family before jumping into this new work of growing a small church in the city of Christchurch.

Lanikai Beach in Kailua

We decided to visit the island of Oahu in Hawaii for a few reasons. It was the perfect threshold for us, it was a good halfway point, and my aunt/uncle/cousin’s family live there! We were able to overcome jet lag and barely experienced any once we arrived in NZ. We also had five days dedicated to connection with each other, with family, and with nature.

Lulumahu Falls at Nu’uanu

Part of our long hike up to Lulumahu Falls!

We slept a lot, ate some amazing food, swam in the gorgeous ocean waters, saw seals and turtles, and went on a few beautiful hikes! One fantastic part was getting to chat with my aunt, uncle, and cousin who’ve traveled and worked with the church all over Asia. I am so grateful for their wisdom and encouragement.

The boys found eels, crabs, and turtles in a lagoon at Ko’olina

Farmer’s Market visit w/ Uncle Rick

Our time in Hawaii was such a treasure and I will remember it fondly for years to come. I hope we can create a threshold-like space between all life’s major events!

Crashing waves at Halona blowhole

Ice cream from Lucy’s Lab w/ cousin Bodhi

Author Gerry Thompson agrees: thresholds are sacred. He says this is why the sunrise and sunset are spellbinding. This is why we ponder the meaning of life in doorways and why we come up with wonderful ideas on airplanes. This is why birds sing their hearts out at dawn and dusk.

Thai food on the beach while taking in the sunset

Acai bowls as big as our heads!

Ever wonder why songs have “intros”? An intro acts as a threshold; separating two experiences as the space in between, it gets you ready and prepares you,  helping you anticipate what is to come. Hawaii was our threshold. And now, Welcome to New Zealand!

Moses holding a jabong (pomelo) at Foster Botanical Gardens

Peace <3
To ponder… What sort of threshold-style practices can you incorporate into your life?

Sunset at Pearl Harbor Marina

An Open Letter to Living Water Christian Church

Dearest Living Water Christian Church,
Before we walked through your doors in Parkville, Missouri, we weren’t planning on staying longer than a few months. We were excited to get to know everyone, and had no idea we’d love you all so much! After the interim position was over though, we couldn’t possibly entertain the idea of leaving you. And we are so glad we stayed!
 
You taught us love. And not just little love that gets forgotten or misplaced or miscommunicated, but BIG love that overflows and overwhelms and lights up the room.
You introduced us to our new Turkish friends and showed us how to be comfortable in unfamiliar situations. Many rounds of hokey pokey, BINGO, and bellies of baklava later, we are grateful for the laughter and memories shared.
You helped shape John as a Pastor (and laughed at his jokes!) and  taught us how to be creative in a worship service. Watching videos, reading poems & telling stories, participating in dramas, creating artwork to display up front, and even dancing down the aisles for communion on Pentecost Sunday! As Hosea says, “God is so createful!” And we are certain God delights in the “createful” worship at Living Water.
You are people of grace and hospitality, who welcomed us before we could say the word “hootenanny”. You showed us how to bless others and to receive blessings ourselves! Thank you for your generosity.
You strive to care for your community well, and are always working toward a more intimate relationship with Christ. Thank you for inviting us into your circle and making Living Water feel like home.
We cherish our time with you and miss you already!
May the Lord bless you, keep you, and make his face to shine upon you.
With love and thanks,
The Carrs

Not So Ordinary

I find myself in the middle of ordinary time, a season in the church calendar celebrated as a green, growing time. A time to cultivate new rhythms, establish rituals of growth, wholeness, and flourishing. It’s also a time of discipleship, attention, vocation, ministry, and creativity.

It’s not a season meant to be “ordinary” or “boring”, simply a season of everyday, presence, and intention. This year, ordinary time started at the beginning of June and will lead us all the way to the season of advent in November.It takes up half the year, and rightly so, as we are gifted this time and space to cultivate, create, and flourish. On the northern hemisphere, this season starts during Springtime, when we are anxious to close the door on Winter and watch new flowers blossom. We move through Summertime, when we cultivate gardens, harvest produce, and take vacations, creating space for rest and rejuvenation. It takes us through Autumn, when children begin school and we notice their growth, when we establish daily rhythms of “getting back into the swing of things”.
 
In just over a week we’ll be on the southern hemisphere, moving from Summer in the U.S. to Winter in New Zealand. Though these seasons will change, the seasons in the church calendar are the same. Summer and Winter are completely opposite each other, but it will be ordinary time in both the U.S. and New Zealand. This is encouraging to me during our huge transition!
This ordinary time has brought us new classes in our Master’s degrees, weekly playdates with friends, constant travel to different churches as we fundraise, and a vacation on the beach in Alabama. We’ve had three successful fundraising events, eaten countless meals with friends (old and new!), logged many hours in the car, spent much-needed time with familyand recently packed up 9+ bags for our move.
Nothing about this season has seemed “ordinary”, and I notice in my heart a craving for rhythm, routine, and daily rituals. Some themes for our family’s season of ordinary time are relationship, presence, and ministry. As excited as we are to officially ARRIVE and begin our ministry, we realize that this time of preparation is part of the ministry and we are striving to stay in the present moment and soak it all in. Intentionally staying present has made this season all the more enjoyable!
Stay tuned for more blog posts as we get settled <3

Holy Yoga: One Year Later

“Am I doing this right?”, I asked cautiously and hopefully as I got into crow pose for the first time. “YES!”, my new friend encouraged excitedly. I only lasted a few seconds, maybe 1 or 2 breaths, but I was so thrilled.
One year ago today I had just returned from Holy Yoga retreat, a week spent in Williams Arizona at Lost Canyon campgrounds. That week held more for me than I ever imagined. I went excited to receive my 200hr Yoga Teacher Certification, but I left with far more. A greater physical and spiritual awareness, a sense of healing, a closeness to my Creator, deep and lasting friendships, a wealth of knowledge, tools to deepen my practice, and a supportive prayer community found me that week.
“You’re doing it right!” was a phrase I needed to hear repeatedly during my retreat week. I kept looking around at the other yogis, hoping my posture looked just like theirs, and quickly realizing it didn’t. I was reminded by the instructors that “if you’re engaging the right muscles, you’re doing it right.” Eventually I will gain the flexibility and strength so that the posture “looks right” but until then, I’m engaging the right muscles so, I’m  doing it right.
I’ve spent a year doing yoga regularly, having only before practiced while pregnant with my second baby. There were some limitations to my prenatal practice but there are no limitations now… except for the ones I set for myself. There are a lot of times where I just *think* I can’t do a posture but once I finally try it, it’s not so bad! There are plenty of muscles that still need developing so that I can work on more advanced postures but for now, I like where I’m at. I’m really enjoying the journey and I realize I can’t be in this to “master” certain postures. There will never be a day when I have finally “arrived”; it is a constant strengthening and improving of myself.
I love this physical journey of yoga because it is so akin to my spiritual journey and relationship with Christ. Walking with Jesus is literally that: a journey, a path. There will never be a day when I have “arrived” to a metaphorical destination. He meets me where I’m at and we just walk together. Following Christ is a development of my spiritual muscles, daily drawing closer to  my Creator, daily recognizing my brokenness, and daily following his example. I’m doing it right, because I’m seeking after him, listening for his voice, and saying YES when I feel called to something. (Lately, New Zealand and Creating Space.)
A year later, I can hold crow pose for a few more breaths but there is still plenty to work on. I’m not worried about it though, and I don’t compare my journey with anyone else’s. I’ve got my intention set on Christ, and I’m enjoying the journey, both physically and spiritually.
Think about a time when you have been most physically tested. What about a time when you were challenged spiritually and mentally? Looking back, how have you changed since then?

In Retrospect: My Word for 2016

Aside

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? I never have, but thought this year might be a good time to start because I’m really good at adding things to my already full plate. When I was trying to come up with a resolution for 2017 I just kept thinking of things that were more fitting for a bucket list. Visit a new country and continent (New Zealand in July, check!), master a new song on the ukulele, eat leafy greens with every meal, and visit all our favorite Kansas City places before we move. These things also remind me of my to-do lists where I write down things that I’m already planning on doing so that I can check them off. I’ve already decided we’re moving to New Zealand, so does that count?! And we’ll already be visiting all our favorite KC places before moving, so that probably doesn’t count either… Another thing I thought of was inspired by a fellow Holy Yoga instructor that I follow on instagram. She is committing to doing ten sun salutations every day in 2017. Wow! “That is a great workout”, I thought. Doing ten sun salutations would tone my arms, my abs, get my heart rate up, and would be amazing!

But then I thought, “Hmm… would I actually do that?!” Or would it just be another thing on my list that I never accomplish so it gets moved to the following week? Would I forget for a whole week and then start the next Monday with the burden of completing 70 sun salutations to make up for what I missed?
I’ve already confessed that I expect a lot from myself and so I’m thinking I have a couple choices here:
1) Commit to ten daily sun salutations and fail.
2) Not commit to ten daily sun salutations.
Maybe I could do it every day in January, maybe even February too. But I also know we’ll be traveling several weekends to speak at different churches and staying in other people’s homes. I know we’ll be MOVING TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD in July and our days will be messed up for a bit. I know that parenting is hard, and there’s often no time “on my own” to complete ten sun salutations. I know that challenging myself is good, but I’ve found it’s also wise to have realistic expectations. When would I do these sun salutations? After a long day of momming and teaching where I DREAD this commitment? Or setting my alarm early so that I wake up angry about missing an extra half hour of sleep? No. As much as I want to see myself commit to this and succeed, I just can’t do it. Not this year at least! As yoga has taught me, I’m learning to LISTEN to my body and not force it to do something that would eventually cause damage.
Almost everyone I know chooses a word instead of a resolution for the new year. Some call it a phrase, a mantra, or an intention, but it’s basically something that you focus on and it can encompass many things. The end of 2015 was hard for me (and I’ve talked about that in a different post), but I was not prepared to select a word for 2016.
Retrospectively, my word for 2016 was “renewal”. My emotional and physical health has been renewed and because of that, my relationships are stronger, my marriage is better, I can offer myself grace, and I can extend more grace to others. My expectations for myself are becoming more realistic, I’m getting better at letting go of things that are unimportant, and also at focusing on things that are truly important to me and my family. This renewal didn’t occur in one simple moment, but has been an ongoing transformation that will continue throughout my life.
We will see what 2017 brings and what word I find myself holding once December rolls around, but for now I feel myself moving from “renewal” to “embrace”. 2017 will involve SO MUCH CHANGE that may make me feel compelled to go hide in my introvert’s corner, but I want to be an active participant in this change and truly embrace it. I don’t know the extent of what my family will be embracing in 2017 but i know it will include a new home, a new country, maximizing time with old friends and meeting new ones, getting rid of meaningless stuff and acquiring new things, creating fresh routines, and finding what’s normal for us. It will require a boldness to move forward when things are difficult, a humility to lean on each other and those who have offered their support, and a faith to continue trusting God with our lives.
(photo cred: Hannah Beers at harperrosephoto.com)
Happy New Year!
Embracing 2017,
The Carr Family