Sunday, August 24, 2008


What can you tell me about salt? No, seriously--I'm asking. I'm trying to understand something.

Jesus calls His followers the "salt of the earth." Back in January or February (hint: this is one of those topics I've been mulling over since then which I have been to lazy to blog about), the small group I belonged to started going through the Sermon on the Mount. (We finished it about a month ago, if that tells you anything.)

Now, I've been going to church since before I was born, and I've heard this sermon sermonised in all sorts of ways, and I still remember the first time I heard anyone (it was my dad) point out that salt not only flavours things, but acts as a preservative. The idea was that we were to go to a world that was decaying and step in with flavour and life. Or something along those lines. I found it pretty inspiring at the time. Evidently I still kind of do, because I still long for my life to have that kind of an impact, but the whole preservative thing doesn't exactly surprise me anymore.

So I was surprised when Pete, who was leading the discussion on this passage, brought up something called the "covenant of salt." It's an Old Testament thing, and I don't really understand it very well, because I don't remember ever having heard about it or noticed it before, but apparently sacrifices to God had to be presented with salt--otherwise they wouldn't be accepted.

I would just like to say--I always knew people who like salty better than sweet were right.

No--actually, I would like to say: why?

And then I would like to ask, as we asked in our small group, what implications and significance does that Old Testament salt-fixation have on the understanding of this passage? If we're the salt of the earth, and salt was necessary for presenting an offering to God, then are we, by our interactions with the rest of the world, tacitly presenting them to God all the time? What does that mean? And is there some kind of--maybe not full, but partial--"acceptance" of the people that Christians are around when Christians present them to God? Maybe that's totally heretical, but I can't help wondering. Some kind of probation or something?

I sort of feel like it's another way of saying (also drawing on the sacrificial system) that we are a "kingdom of priests." I know Jesus is the One True Mediator, but I get the feeling that, by virtue of Him, our job is basically to mediate between the rest of the world and God all the time. Not saving everybody else--only Jesus can do that--but sort of representing our fellow human beings who haven't trusted Jesus yet, to God--bringing them into His presence for "His consideration."

I know, I know. That makes it sound like God doesn't see the sparrow that falls or the non-Christian who doesn't know any Christians, and I don't think that's right either. But I do think there has to be something significant about this detail. It feels heady and daunting and surprising to me. As if nothing on earth could be more vital than for every single one of us to get out of our saltshaker. As if everything I think and say and do had better be one big prayer.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Now Where Was I?

In North Orange, Massachusetts, if you really want to know.

Camp Selah (pronounced by these particular parishioners "SEE-lah") is a tiny little camp on the shores of a manmade lake at the foot of Mount Tully, and I spent the better part of two weeks there. The church I've moved to runs a two-week day camp there, but there are cabins and a main lodge and a bath-house, so most of the staff (and some staff-related kids) stayed overnight.

I'm not going to lie. I missed my new bed.
But . . . I'm really excited about working for the church. On Wednesday of the second week, about seven different incidents occurred all at once, and I had the combined dreaded yet strangely affirming experience of trying (alongside the young woman who's managed the camp the last few years) to enact a little discipline, and nip a few situations in the bud. They weren't very welcome situations, but I was encouraged to know I wasn't necessarily just going to cave in over everything. On the other hand, I had numerous moments of thinking, "What in the world am I doing? I don't know these people. They don't know me." It felt decidedly like culture shock and, also like culture shock, I suspect I'm going to feel like that on and off for a while as I learn the ropes.

The people are really lovely. They're warm and welcoming . . . and a little bit wrung out. The church hasn't had the easiest time in the last few years. That in itself is intimidating. On Sunday I wondered aloud if someone might be able to help me move a couch to my new office (I have an office?!), and they showed up that afternoon and moved it for me. Everyone is so accommodating and eager to please that it makes me feel like I have a lot of expectations to live up to. What if I don't please? What if I let them down?

But it isn't really about me, is it? I have a feeling I'm going to get reminded of that a lot over the next few months, in kind ways and difficult ones, whether I want to or not. For now, I might as well try not to take myself too seriously.

I don't think these guys would let me, anyway.
"Selah," "Muffin-bed," and "Wacky-Wednesday Kids" by jennw2ns 2008.
"Jennwith2ManyBells" might have been by Deb Parks. Or Jean Lunt. I can't really remember.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Reprising the Good of the City

Last summer I wanted to get out of here.

On the other hand, I couldn't forget the fact that one of the reasons I had moved back in the first place was a sort of grudging affection for my city, and a sort of idea that maybe God wanted me to be there. Maybe, I thought, Starbucks was the only reason, and maybe that reason was winding down and I could escape. But . . . maybe not.

In case not, I decided I was going to start church-hopping--not because I'm unhappy with my home church (quite the contrary), but because I was curious to see what God was doing in and around the city. The church-hopping thing didn't go so well, because I actually do like my home church, and because I have a really hard time visiting other congregations. And even if I had been more disciplined about it (which just sounds ludicrous--who ever heard of church-hopping as a discipline?), I'm sure I would have missed out on some places. I probably would have missed out on the church down the street from my Starbucks--even though it is just down the street.

But my pastor's wife knew about it. Furthermore, she knew that they were looking for someone to work part-time to fill a need with their youth. It was only part-time, and when she told me about it, I was still faint-heartedly hoping one of the other full-time (and maybe further-away) jobs for which I had applied would come through. But by the time I got back from my vacation in Ireland and England, it was clear they wouldn't, and meanwhile, I kept thinking about this church and their no-longer-existent youth group.

So I applied. As it turns out, the position title is "Director of Christian Education," and the position itself is about as defined as the interim pastor and I decide to make it. Given the number of things he enthusiastically feels I can and should be involved with, I'm not sure how realistic it is for this to be part-time. But for now it will have to be, because Starbucks is still the way I'm going to get my health benefits.

Anyway, on Wednesday, the pastor offered me the job, and I accepted it. I'm a little nervous. I've visited the church a few times now and have enjoyed the people I've met there, but it's certainly a different type of church than any of the many I've been involved with before (no--it's not a cult, if that's what you're thinking!), and I'll have to move out of my safe home-church community to involve myself in this one. I have very little idea what it means to direct Christian education, and I don't feel I have the charismatic personality usually associated with youth leaders.

But I'm excited, too. Here's a way to seek the good of the city which I never would have thought of myself. And I'm looking forward to getting my creative juices flowing again, planning events and service projects and decorating my office (I'm going to have an office?!) and hanging out with kids. It doesn't seem like an End, necessarily. But it does seem like The Next Thing.

Tomorrow I leave for two weeks of work at a camp owned and run by the church (but outside of the city). I'll get to know some of the adults I've already met, a little better, and I'll get to know the kids for the first time. I'm excited about that, too. It means I won't be around for a while, though. But I suppose that's okay. I haven't been around much all summer, have I?

Friday, August 01, 2008


My second Blog-day is coming up this month, and I just googled my blog; one of the listings that came up is my first-ever post, in which I discuss why I started a blog and in which I mention talking to my friend, Author-Sarah (aka Sarah Arthur, interestingly), "who is a published author, unlike me." (Incidentally, I feel I should "shout out" to the great people who commented on that first post, proving that they were with me at the outset, and all of whom still are. Yay, you!)

Hey! I thought. I'm a published author now, too! I'm not sure exactly how instrumental this blog has ended up being in that process, but I do feel better connected and like I have another community and outlet and forum of accountability, not to mention a whole lot of other people's stories to share in. I like this journeying together, and I like the idea that, even though it's taken a few years, we've all learned things and experienced things and even maybe moved a little bit in our journeys. Things have happened. A lot of times, from the close-up view, it seems like things don't.

Here's something else that's "happened" since my first Blog-day, last summer. Starting Labor Day weekend (ironically), I have a new job.

Oh no. I'm not leaving Starbucks. Seriously? I don't think anyone really leaves Starbucks. I've been at my store longer than any one person has, but in the last year, at least four people who once quit and left have all come back. And anyway, this new job is only part-time. But you know, I've been wrestling with and praying about and mulling over my calling (again) for the better part of a year. This new job looks like it might just be the next thing. I'm really kind of excited. I'll have to tell you about it . . .

What? Now? No--of course not! But probably tomorrow.

Photo by jennw2ns: Thames facing East, without a tripod