A poem about names and fear…

It’s funny that I’m not great with names — (just in case you didn’t know, pastors are supposed to be good at names).  I used to be better at names while I worked as a camp counselor because I would always ask every camper where their name came from or I would give them a nickname and when I gave it or had a story I was better able to remember it.  This morning as I taught Sunday school I asked everyone in the class where their name came from.  One husband from a couple who had been married for over 30 years shared the origin of his name from a French novel and his wife exclaimed, “I NEVER KNEW THAT!” It was precious.Michael shared a poem with me today that connects with my love for knowing where people’s names come from.  It also connects with the fact that I’ve been very afraid recently.  Last night I got to a parking garage in downtown Nashville.  I went by myself to see TN Rep Theatre’s production of Sweeny Todd.  (This is kindof a secret garage connected to McKendree UMC downtown, in which I have special privileges to park — it’s in the middle of downtown but it’s quite desolate.) When I arrived at the garage I was scared to get out of my car.  I quickly opened the door and got out of my car. The smell of congested air and piss wafted and I just as quickly jumped back in the drivers seat.  Then I thought of last week — walking back to my car from the symphony — parked on a side street downtown — and saw the passenger side door bashed in and my purse gone.  I thought how thankful I was that my property was damaged and not my body.  Then was nervous to walk downtown — through the cold, misty, darkness and cat calls.  Then I thought about the fact that the show is about murder — hilarious as it might be — I had no idea how I would get back to my car later that night.

So I turned the ignition and drove home — Sweeny Todd is playing until Nov. 2nd — so I will have another opportunity to see it with friends.  A friend reminded me when I called her on the way home that sometimes it’s okay to be scared.  Next week in church we are discussing Jesus’ question, “Why are you Afraid?”  Jesus obviously knows how scary this world can be — but Jesus asks this question because even though it’s okay to be afraid Jesus doesn’t want me to live a life debilitated by fear.  “And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age,” Jesus reminds me at the end of Matthew (28:20b).

Also this poem is a good reminder for me and I think you will love it: “Fear Of” by Devin Kelly

A poem to read on a vocational journey

This week in Current (West End UMC’s Wednesday night programing) we are talking about Vocation. I am interviewing two people I respect highly about their own vocational journey.

Last week I posted about my own musings on vocation. This week my mentor, Michael Williams, sent me this poem and in the email he wrote, “It came as a gift to me and I pass it along as a gift to you.” It is a gift to me a beautiful interpretation of the story of Jonah and the many ways I both miss and live into my calling.

Prophet
by Carl Dennis

You’ll never be much of a prophet if, when the call comes
To preach to Nineveh, you flee on the ship for Tarshish
That Jonah fled on, afraid like him of the people’s outrage
Were they to hear the edict that in thirty days
Their city in all its glory will be overthrown.

The sea storm that harried Jonah won’t harry you.
No big fish will be waiting to swallow you whole
And keep you down in the dark till your mood
Shifts from fear to thankfulness and you want to serve.
No. You’ll land safe at Tarshish and learn the language
And get a job in a countinghouse by the harbor
And marry and raise a family you can be proud of
In a neighborhood not too rowdy for comfort.

If you’re going to be a prophet, you must listen the first time.
Setting off at sunrise, you can’t be disheartened
If you arrive at Nineveh long past midnight,
On foot, your donkey having run off with your baggage.
You’ll have to settle for a room in the cheapest hotel
And toss all night on the lice-ridden mattress

That Jonah is spared. In the space of three sentences
He jumps from his donkey, speaks out, and is heeded, while you,
Preaching next day in the rain on a noisy corner,
Are likely to be ignored, outshouted by old-clothes dealers
And fishwives, mocked by schoolboys for your accent.
And then it’s a week in jail for disturbing the peace.
There you’ll have time, as you sit in a dungeon
Darker than a whale’s belly, to ask if the trip
Is a big mistake, the heavenly voice mere mood,

The mission a fancy. Jonah’s biggest complaint
Is that God, when the people repent and ask forgiveness,
Is glad to forgive them and cancels the doomsday
Specified in the prophecy, leaving his prophet
To look like a fool. So God takes time to explain
How it’s wrong to want a city like this one to burn,
How a prophet’s supposed to redeem the future,
Not predict it. But you’ll be left with the question
Why your city’s been spared when nobody’s different,

Nobody in the soup kitchen you open,
Though one or two of the hungriest
May be grateful enough for the soup to listen
When you talk about turning their lives around.
It will be hard to believe these are the saving remnant
Kin to the ten just men that would have sufficed
To save Gomorrah if Abraham could have found them.
You’ll have to tell them frankly you can’t explain
Why Nineveh is still standing though you hope to learn
At the feet of a prophet who for all you know
May be turning his donkey toward Nineveh even now.

My favorite lines: “How a prophet’s supposed to redeem the future, Not predict it. But you’ll be left with the question Why your city’s been spared when nobody’s different,” How I love that this poem challenges my indifference as much as it does the indifference of my city!! I look forward to the conversation tonight and hope we will unearth some of the challenges of the journey as much as joys.