Church Bees

Today I feel like Larry the Cucumber’s friend Oscar, though instead of being “stung by a bee right on the lip”, I was stung on my middle toe by a bee resting inside my shoe! A frustrating day for me, yes, but even stranger is how bees seem to follow me in ministry.

Let me start by saying, I am terrified of bees. I scream and move around all crazy when I see them. My first bee sting was at age 10, when a bee got stuck in the pant leg of my capris. I had a long dance rehearsal that night with the severe pain of a bee sting shooting through my calf. I’ve always disliked bees, but that put me over the edge. When we find bees in the house or in my office (yes my office), I make someone else kill them.

With that, let me describe my introduction at my first pastoral appointment. I walked into the well lit room, only to realize it’s not a room, but a side area of the open floor plan sanctuary. We begin to talk, and it’s going quite well, but I hear an occasional low buzz in the corner. I keep thinking I must just be nervous or crazy or something– 23 years old, trying to convince a table full of people that I’m a good fit to be their pastor (by the way, they agreed, and we had a lovely 3 years together, but that’s another story). Finally, the District Superintendent asks if they have any other things they hope I’d help with or lead through, and one person spoke up, “oh yes, the bees”.

Cue the double take.

That buzzing was real. They turned on the lights later and showed me the corner of the 3-story building that the bees had taken over, breeding inside the wall, filling one of the entryways, beating themselves to death on the stained glass window during the day, filling the floor and back pews with dead bees every evening….

Of course my first job as lead pastor, a position I’d been desperately praying for and fighting to find, would be filled with one of my greatest fears!

Within two weeks of being their pastor, the bees were gone. Legally I cannot disclose the methods of removal, as honeybees are protected to some extent in the state of Ohio. For the purposes of this story, let’s just say they really wanted to live somewhere else… like heaven.

Fast forward 3 years… I think I’m a bit braver as a leader in ministry, and ready for a full-time position. I’ve been moved to a large church as the Associate Pastor, and the local high school mascot is the Yellow Jackets. Oh, of course that’s just a fighting sports mascot, right?! Makes for great cheers and cute tshirts… No, they are the yellow jackets because yellow jackets have a ridiculously high population in that area. And my parsonage has roses and lucious landscaping on all 4 sides, bringing them to my home and in my home constantly.

Yet again, I’m in ministry with my greatest fear.

Fast forward another 2 1/2 years to my current position. While we’ve had our share of wasps and yellow jackets around the church and parsonage, it’s been fairly easy to spray the areas and limit the problem. The fact that my predecessor was a beekeeper should have clued me in, but I thought I might finally get to be in my comfort zone with this fear… until today.

For the past couple weeks, the occasional bee has snuck in my office window. The butterfly bushes right outside attract them, I think. Today, rather than tackle the one buzzing nuisance head-on, I decided to ignore it and let it beat itself to death on my windows. Ignoring my fear proved to be an awful decision. Minutes before I was planning to leave, I slipped my shoes back on and took a few steps and screamed. The creature had curled up in my shoe, stung my middle toe and died. I’ll spare you the ridiculous exclamations that sprung forth from my lips!

 

What’s the point? Well hours before I was stung today, I was laughing at the irony of yet another church with bees.

I laughed because these terrifying creatures are for me a reminder of how little I know when it comes to leading people as disciples of Jesus. They remind me that every place God takes me is a new learning curve, which necessitates a new dose of humility. Everywhere I go, God invites me to the challenge of bees.

In contrast,  buzzing creatures remind me that even when I have chaotic seasons of ministry or difficult challenges (like the past couple months of non-stop have been), nothing is worse than a 3-story wall of bees. Very few things scare me more, nothing can overwhelm me more, and nothing can trigger more ironic laughter than that wall full of bees! Sometimes I’m floored at how much we truly are capable of when called by God and equipped by the Spirit. I can lead through “impossible” situations, resolve crises, witness miracles in my community, be a part of lives God is transforming, and so much more.

Even when I have chaotic seasons of ministry or difficult challenges, nothing is worse than a 3-story wall of bees.

So the moral of today’s musings:  Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible with human beings, but not with God. All things are possible for God. (Mark 10:27)

even overcoming a wall of bees

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Who are you really?

Authenticity

I know it’s a trend, both in culture and in churches. Seriously, Matthew McConaughey has really been on the “authentic” bandwagon in recent years.

Like with his Lincoln ad campaign:

Or in his new venture with Wild Turkey Bourbon, about which he told the New York Times :“The great news is that Wild Turkey hasn’t changed in all these years — it’s totally authentic. And that appeals to millennials. Because they can smell fake. Some manicured, bearded hipster soliciting them? No, thanks.”   Read the full article here

So for my millennial friends who, according to McConaughey, crave authenticity, I have a confession to make… I am authentically a hot mess.

If your’re not familiar with that lingo, picture what happens when your pot of noodles boils over. You’re left with that white foamy water bubbling and crusting over on your stove. #hotmess literally. And it’s incredibly difficult to clean off. I might know from personal experience… multiple times. (click here for tips on how not to do that while cooking)

Urban dictionary defines hot mess as not being prepared, clumsy, and just all round scatter brained; Or messy hair; extremely disorganized; in need of much improvement

Oh yes, I can relate to that. For example:

  • my hair will never be “professional”. It’s barely “not frizzy” and way too thick to wear short. So long and big and unpredictably curly is my go-to look
  • I cannot grasp the art of being on time. Maybe within 10 minutes of the start time, yes. But the only things I’m on time for occur at work, which is next door to my house.
  • I have horrible skills at matching my outfits. Perfectly coifed and coordinated is not in my vocabulary. In my world, not naked and no holes is a successful day. Days when I can acceptably wear sweat pants are the best!
  • If I did not have a planner, we would never have groceries, or go to the doctor, or turn in important paperwork. The planner is a new life rhythm, and I love it! Important things aren’t forgotten anymore, though they might be written on scrap paper and shoved into the zipper pocket of my planner.
  • I never know what time it is or how long something takes to accomplish. See above for how this affects my timeliness.
  • I’m much better at starting things than finishing them. Check out my #beforeim30 post to see what projects I’m determined to finish. (Upon review, my husband pointed out that my goal was a “30 before 30″list, which I have yet to finish compiling)
  • Some days I forget I’m a pet owner (don’t worry, my family makes sure they eat). By the way, we have 2 cats. They have the same genders, ages, and personalities as our 2 children.
  • I consistently spill coffee on my dress clothes. Multiple times in the same day. Typically on Sunday mornings when I am about to stand in front of 125 people and preach. And we record video for online and home bound distribution. Feel free to watch. Maybe make a game out of spotting the coffee stains…
  • Though I have spent a lot of time learning about basic gardening, I tend to feign ignorance rather than admit the ridiculous amount of plants I regularly kill by accident. I can’t even grow a sunflower (true story).

On a different day, I’ll share some of the joys and gifts in my life, which I am aware of and celebrating, but take a moment to sit in your “hot mess” life with me. We all have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and people around us. Culture, background, age, gender, profession, even height come with expectations, most of which we cannot live up to.

So here’s where the hope is: In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul writes to the church that the people need to stop panicking about their current realities. He begins the discussion in the context of marriage, especially a partnership where only one spouse converts, but continues in talking about ethnicity, daily practices, relationship status, and position in society (slave, poor, free, etc). All of these things are a part of your life, yes, but don’t make them the binding issues in your life of faith. Verse 17 says “And don’t be wishing you were someplace else or with someone else. Where you are right now is God’s place for you. Live and obey and love and believe right there. God, not your marital status, defines your life. Don’t think I’m being harder on you than on the others. I give this same counsel in all the churches.” (MSG) I’d even say, God, not your current position in life, defines the expectations you should live by.

I cannot be anything more than my chaotic self. I cannot be anything less than my true self. I’ve spent too many days cowering, questioning, and living a lesser version of myself than God created me to be. As a pastor, a wife, a mother of 2, and a daughter far away from family, I don’t have space to be fake. It’s too hard. I don’t have time to live up to other people’s ideals. It’s too far removed from my way of life.

I’m a hot mess, I’m unique, I’m authentic because I’m exactly what I need to be in this moment.

Verses 29-31 continue, saying: I do want to point out, friends, that time is of the essence. There is no time to waste, so don’t complicate your lives unnecessarily. Keep it simple—in marriage, grief, joy, whatever. Even in ordinary things—your daily routines of shopping, and so on. Deal as sparingly as possible with the things the world thrusts on you. This world as you see it is on its way out.

In the grand scheme of God’s plan, we don’t need to waste time being complicated, being something we’re not. God wants us– as followers, as leaders, as simply people– to be the most whole version of who we were created to be. With authenticity, we have space in our lives for our calling to grow in holiness and to serve the world in the name of Jesus Christ. Even if this world lasts far beyond our lifetimes, our own time on earth is too short to be anything but our God-given selves, messy hair and all.

So there’s my authentic, ridiculous self,  Truth time: who are you?