Saturday, August 1, 2009

What have you learned lately…

Last month, I told you the general idea of my plans for this month’s Creeksider letter. Being my first anniversary as Plymouth Creek’s minister, I thought it nice to look the year back over, and describe some of what I’ve learned. But before I get going, I want you to hear the back-story on this idea.

It begins with a job interview in Lexington, KY. As you may know, my first church out of seminary was in Lexington, and their interview process was familiar. They reviewed my application, and after a good phone conversation, they brought me down for an interview. I arrived late, because bad weather forced a long delay in our flight. But eventually I’d landed, been picked up, taken to eat my first Kentucky meal (Hot Brown, aka Heart Attack Special), and dropped off at a local hotel that was used as Army HQ in the Civil War, by both the North and the South. At separate times. The next morning, I interviewed with the church staff. Their Senior Minister, my eventual boss, asked the first question, “So Shane, what have you learned since your arrival last night?” Apparently I answered okay, because they extended me a call to serve that church. And rarely a week went by over the next two years that my boss didn’t ask, in one way or another, “What have you learned recently about your church?” I think that was a good habit to pick up, and would encourage you to form your own answers. Then, share them with me and your neighbors. But until that happens, here’s what, over the last year, I’ve learned:

  • Plymouth, Minnesota has a beautiful public garden and walking path- The Millennium Garden. In August, roses and perennials will bloom, so if you’re around, and want a partner for a nice walk, let me know. It’s beautiful. By the way, the Millennium Garden has great flowers, but no vegetables for Plymouth’s hungry residents. Which is why I think you should join me and others in discussing how we can offer our undeveloped land as a community garden for our neighbors. More on that later in the Creeksider (and please forgive this shameless plug!).
  • Saying “Hockey’s like soccer on ice” to a native Minnesotan does not endear you to that person.
  • Resiliency is an undervalued spiritual gift, and an important way many ‘feel the Spirit’ work. You see, Christians often talk of ‘the Spirit’ as something you feel, sense, or ‘just know’ is guiding you at any given moment. That’s accurate in certain contexts; some worship services place high value on powerful, immediate experiences of God’s Spirit. But as Paul writes in Galatians, the fruits of the Spirit include patience and gentleness, attributes that manifest over time, and things you don’t notice best ‘in the moment,’ but after it, in hindsight. Looking back over difficult days, months, years, as you discover how you or others navigated tricky waters (i.e. the resiliency shown), it’s possible to discern God’s help in those extended periods of time. Make no mistake about it- such resiliency, such stick-to-itiveness is hard to achieve and maintain. But Plymouth Creekers have it, and have taught me to access it in my own life. I thank God for that.
  • Hospitality to neighbors, guests, friends and families, before anything else, requires listening. In other words, hospitality demands not only clean carpets and nice treats, but more importantly, curiosity. At least Christian hospitality demands that, because it’s about love, and to love a neighbor you don’t yet know yet means you need to be curious about who they are. That’s risky. And rewarding. And for many shy introverts (like myself), it takes practice. But that can be overcome, which some of us shy introverts are learning as well.
  • Our church has fun, caring neighbors, who play bocce ball on our lawn and look out for our best interests. I hope we will, over the next year, establish closer relationships with these neighbors.

So that’s some of what I learned this year. How about you? Let me know! Until then, in all things,

Grace and Peace,