Monday, October 31, 2005

I've finally stopped crying. For now at least.

My pastor, colleague, and friend, Kyle Lake, died yesterday.

It's so wrong, so sad, so surreal. Friends from the past stare at each other in shock as our eyes well up with tears. Those who have to provide structure for the chaos are in denial. So many traumatized teenagers. So many grieving friends and family.

I cannot process it all. I cannot believe it. And I'm still waiting for someone to say it was another stupid stunt.

I can't even think of what to say because . . .

because . . .

it is just stupid. As Wes Eades told me last night, the world is just stupid sometimes.

But that's not much help.

As with Katrina and so many other tragedies, the laws of nature intersected with humanity, and humanity lost.

Jen, Avery, Jude, Sutton, Craig, David, Toni, TK, Ben, Jamie, Blair, Jordan . . . I am so sorry. I know I only feel an ounce of the loss you feel. I love you.

Good-bye Kyle. Thank you. I'll write more later. And I love you too...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I totally played softball last night for the first time in 20 years. Okay, maybe 18.

This is a weird story.

So I'm trying to get updated info on single adults ages 22-29 at FBC because we're starting a new Sunday School class for them (us). I've been emailing parents, calling phone numbers, talking to random people who have taken over those numbers or addresses... blah blah whatever.

So there's this guy named Jeb who I heard is currently living with his parents. I called them to speak with Jeb, to get his email so I could forward him the info. So I explain to him who I am, and what I'm doing. I get his email and we hang up. Not three seconds later, he calls back...

"Do you play softball?"

"Umm, not since I was a little girl...why?"

"Well, I coach this team and we need a girl player tonight or we'll forfeit. Wanna play?"

So I have this dilemma in my mind. I'm kind of shy (believe it or not) at meeting new people, I could talk or sing in front of a thousand people, but one on one with peers I don't know... plus, I suck at softball and am totally out of shape. Not to mention, I hardly know this dude. But then again, I need to network, show my parishioners I am interested in their lives... blah blah minister crap.

"Okay, I'll do it. What time?"

"9:15pm Kreig park."

So I get to the field, it's dark, I've gotten lost twice, but I do finally arrive and meander up to the group of people wearing the shirts Jeb had described. Oh god.

"Are you Ann?"


He introduces me to the other players who are dressed in total sports attire: wind pants, matching tee-shirts, etc. I'm in jeans and green tennis shoes...

"Let's warm up." He hands me a mit (because I obviously don't have one) and I steal at glance at his own to see which hand he has it on. The left. I should have remembered that.

He throws me the ball. I drop it. Oops. He throws another. I manage to catch this one, but wince at the sting it makes in my hand behind the glove. What a wus.

"Let's play ball," the ref calls out. So we herd into the dugout, and I am so nervous I could shrivel up and die. What am I doing here?

So I make multiple gross apologies for my ineptness in advance to my newfound teammates. I watch them hit and they're doing pretty well. No grand slams, but they've obviously played before tonight.

Then comes my turn at bat. Oh god, what am I doing here?

But I hit the ball. I always was okay at that (ahem, in the third grade). But as I'm sprinting to first, they easily throw it to the baseman and I'm out. Third out of course. Innings over. Oh well.

The game continues and Jeb puts me in as catcher (he must have noticed my horrible weak throwing arm) and warns me not to get to close to the batter so I don't get hit. Well, now I'm terrified I will (you know only I would return to softball after 19 years and get hit by the damn batter). So, of course I don't catch a single ball cause I'm too scared to get too close. And so the ump starts trying to slow them down and stop them with his legs and feet so that I don't have to go running after them every time. Then he gets whacked hard in the shins cause I miss a ball and it hits him. He has to walk off his injury. I'm mortified and giggling nervously, trying to crack jokes so he doesn't throw me out of the field.

And the rest of the game continued pretty much like that.

I did manage to "score" in the last inning, so that was fun. (I accidentally told my secretary at work that I had scored a goal. "Scored a run, darling," she corrected me.) One of the girls laughed at me cause I like to jump on the base when I land. It's more graceful I feel.

I grew up a dancer, not an athlete.

Although with my brilliant show last night, maybe I chose the wrong career.

Then again, maybe not.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Stupid allergies.

Great weather, but stupid allergies.

I sneezed all day long. Now everything on my face hurts.

Took two benedryl.

Must sleep now...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Man we partied hard last night. I haven't stayed up that late in a long time.

But it was my roommate's birthday (28 years!) and so we threw a 1989 Birthday Bash complete with "costumes" (yep it's been that long), milli vanilli tapes, Super Mario Brothers and St. Elmo's Fire.

As soon as I get the pictures, I'll post 'em.

I didn't actually know many of the 70+ people who came in my house last night (other than my 3 roomies, our resident boyfriend B, my ex KC, a friend i met online, and some friends of B's that I've seen at Mosaic once or twice.) And i did walk into my room late last night (read: this morning) to find Coop asleep in my bed. I guess she arrived at the party late and already tired, so she just crashed.

All in all, it was fun, the house has already been cleaned, and Mel had a great Birthday.

Rad man.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

After getting dumped by my latest "boyfriend," worrying relentlessly about my sister in med school, and suffering through FOUR fever blisters, I finally got my sermon written and delivered it this morning at First Baptist. Enjoy...

This is a tricky passage. Quite frankly this is a tricky chapter. We read earlier in the service the verses preceding those designated here by the lectionary. And the story tells us Israel is in trouble. But let’s go back a little further. In chapter 19, Moses went up on the mountain to receive the ten commandments, and in chapter 32 he returns back down to find the people that God led out of Egypt, the people God protected with clouds by day and fire by night, the people He brought through water safely, delivered from the Egyptians, and finally fed with food falling from the sky, Moses returns down the mountain to find the very same people who experienced all those things worshipping a fake cow built out of gold. Classy.

How quickly we forget what we have been given.

And how often we experience that same loss ourselves. We support our spouses through law school and then they leave us for their secretaries. We raise our children to the best of our ability even when we didn’t know what we were doing and in a fit of discontent, they drive out of our driveway and out of our lives. We give our money to an organization that we really believe in and respect, only to watch it be convicted of embezzlement. Or we love our churches only to discover that they too are filled with forgetful people who fight and split to start new churches not under the conviction of outreach, but under the influence of separatism and anger.

How quickly others forget how much we give them. And how quickly we too forget what we have been given.

Mortified at the naked prancing of his leaders around the idol fashioned out of bracelets and trinkets, aghast at the people bowing and chanting, praying and beseeching the oversized calf that three weeks earlier hadn’t even existed, Moses throws down the stones with God’s laws of love for the Israelites and stomps off to exchange words with his disobedient, forgetful people.
And God has a few things to tell them too.

In verse 3 of chapter 33 God says to the Israelites, “You go on up to the beautiful land that I have prepared for you. You go on up there you ungrateful people who I used to consider my own. But I’m not going. For if I were to go with you pompous, prideful people, I would become so angry I would destroy you.

Whoa. Quite a contrast from the “God is so good, God is so good…” that we sing in children’s choir. “I am so angry with you that were I to go with you, I would consume you,” God says. And the people get the message.

Realizing their folly at placing their trust in an object made of their own hands instead of in the love of a real and relational being, they rip their clothes, throw off what jewelry they were still wearing, and begin to weep and cry, mourning their loss.

All seems to be a lost cause. Yes, the people got out of Egypt, yes, they will have a beautiful, bountiful land to live in, but at what cost? They lost their God, their livelihood, their life.

But hope is not gone, for Moses puts aside his own initial anger and goes to talk with God.

“This nation is your people,” Moses reminds God. “How will anyone be able to tell that I and these people are yours if your presence is not with us? How will we be a distinct, unique nation, designed by your Hand if you take away your presence? Please God,” Moses pleads. “Please go with us.”

The people knew that without God’s presence they were lost. And they were at a loss as to how to get God to come back. But luckily for them, reminiscent of Abraham who pleaded with God on behalf of Sodom, their leader Moses pleads with God on behalf of them.

And God agrees. And God chooses to go with them.

Well, that’s one heck of a story, you may complain. What a fickle God to choose a people, deliver them, and then when the going gets tough, God gets going. Give me a break. Why did I give up my Sunday morning for this? Why would I want to participate in the worship of an inconsistent God like that?

And all of a sudden, we become just like the people in the story.

However what if the point of this chapter is not necessarily to tell us about God or God’s nature? At the time this chapter was written (which actually covers several hundred years because it is composed of three or more fragments of different stories pieced together by one author), but at that time 2700 years ago, the Israelites were still developing their theology of God, who God is, God’s nature, God’s relationship to people. The Old Testament reflects their developing theology. So I think this story may say less about who God is and more perhaps about who Moses is.

This is a story of a leader who saw the fickle nature of the people he had been given to lead, and instead of abandoning them in anger, he goes before the almighty God (who we know could have destroyed him with the blink of an eye) to argue their case.

And that is a beautiful story of leadership: a man who would put his own neck out on a limb for his people. Moses was afraid. In verse 12, he frets because he fears tackling the task of leading the people into the Promised Land alone. He tells God, “Hey, you haven’t sent anyone to go with me!” And he reiterates (perhaps to encourage himself even more than God), “I know you love me,” he says, “so please, go with me.”

And in the true form of a leader who loves his people, “and please God, go with them too.”

This story is a challenge for me. I’d imagine it is a challenge for every minister. I can’t imagine being the pope and having the pressure of being the priest of millions of people. I can’t imagine the daunting task of pleading their case before God. Fortunately though, I’m Baptist. And as Baptists, we have this beautiful little distinctive called “priesthood of the believer.” Now, this theology can mean several things. It affirms that an individual, you can read the Bible and interpret it for yourself using the brain God gave you. You don’t have to rely on a priest to tell you what the Bible says and what precisely it is supposed to mean. Priesthood of the believer also means that as a child of God, you can go to God whenever you want and wherever you want in prayer. You don’t need to rely on a priest to do it for you. You don’t have to go to the church, to the confessional and to the priest to talk to God. You have the authority as a child of God to pray to God in sorrow, anger, joy or confusion whenever and wherever you want. And priesthood of the believer then, allows you the privilege to petition God on behalf of your “people,” your community as well.

You are a lucky congregation. I’ve been here at this church for a whopping month and a half and in those 46 days, I’ve experienced many things. I’ve seen you rally together at only a moment’s notice to raise over $10,000 in one offering one Sunday to help victims of Katrina. I’ve watched you give up your Labor Day to gather and store items to ship off to evacuees of Katrina and then of Rita who we didn’t even know was coming. I’ve seen you get off of work to walk the neighborhoods of Austin to learn how FBC can better serve its community. I’ve seen you give up sleeping in on Sunday morning to teach or even just attend Sunday school, committed to your friends that you may only see once a week. I’ve seen you give up two Saturdays in a row to build Habitat houses. I’ve watched you open your checkbooks when you noted a need. I’ve seen you writing cards to those homebound or in the hospital. I’ve seen you offer your gifts of music, organization, economics, all your expertise and passions to help this community grow emotionally, worshipfully, exponentially, spiritually.

And I’ve seen some other things too. I’ve seen you bicker and argue and mumble under your breathe. But that’s nothing new. We are people living in community, and we get tired, haughty, distracted and forgetful of the love we’ve been given.

We can be so beautiful and we can be so blind.

You are lucky too, not only to be living with one another in a community who loves each other, but you have people that you have called to work full time as your leaders, and I want to tell you this morning that they love you very much. Roger, Louise, Dorothy, Kevin, and Doug are all committed to leading and loving you. Marshall, Ginger, Janet, Judy, Kathy, Jack and others are all committed to serving and loving you. And I want to affirm in you today that even though I have been here only a short while, your love overwhelms me, and I too am committed to serving, leading and loving you back. You are a lucky community and I think Moses would have been proud.

You see, I bet there are times when God looks over at us and thinks, “what in the world was I thinking loving a people like that?” Perhaps there are times when God wants to abandon you, me and us as a whole. It’s na├»ve to think that today we are doing so much right in our materialistic, individualistic world that we never disgust God.

But when we get off course we can take heart, for we have not only the pope and the priests and our pastors and ministers to intercede before God, but each other.

And because God loves us and is committed to his children, God’s presence goes with us.

I met with a man earlier this week who told me a story. He said that many years ago, he became involved in a lawsuit, the victim of someone who wanted to rake him over the coals, milk him for all he was worth. And he wasn’t worth much. In fact, he couldn’t even afford a lawyer. So he was going to defend himself. But the night before the trial, he ran into an old friend who happened to be a very affluent, effective and prestigious lawyer in the state of Texas. As they were talking, my friend asked his old friend for some advice on the case. The man replied, “Well, who’s your lawyer?”
“I haven’t got one.” my friend said.
“Well you do now.”
So the next day they were standing in court, my friend the defendant and his lawyer, and then the prosecuting lawyer and his client. The judge shuffled in, rustled around with some papers and finally looked up. His eyes opened wide when he saw the famous lawyer defending my friend. “Sir,” he said, “What is a man of your reputation doing working on a two-bit case like this?” And without batting an eye, the lawyer said, “Judge, I’m working pro-bono. I believe in this man and I believe in his case and I’m here to defend him.” Almost immediately, the prosecuting attorney began to move to dismiss the case because of the power this lawyer brought to the room. Later that night as my friend drove home his eyes welled up with tears as his thoughts turned from his generous lawyer friend who defended him to his Savior Jesus Christ who would one day stand beside him before an even greater judge to intercede on his behalf.

First Baptist, we are a people who need to continue interceding for each other and for the world around us. This world is hard, and we cannot combat it alone. We need to continue to be people petitioning God on behalf of each other and begging for God’s presence to remain with us. For it is not a budget or a building or a program or a pastor who will either ruin us or make us more, but a community of people interceding for each other and begging God to go with us.

And God is faithful, and so must we be.

On the front cover of your bulletin is an excerpt from a song by Lori Chaffer called Hush. I think the words and the story it tells is beautiful:
When you feel like the days just drone on and on
And you feel like the night’s so quickly gone
And on the inside you feel like your heart’s just gaping wide.
And on the inside you feel like no one’s on your side…I am.

I am. I am.


Ann Pittman
October 16, 2005
First Baptist Church Austin

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

lynnette tagged me...

5 things I plan to do before I die:
1. sing in professional broadway show
2. get married
3. own a huge fish tank full of turtles
4. return to france
5. publish a book

5 things I can do:
1. sing
2. write
3. preach
4. organize stuff
5. speak frankly with my mother

5 things I cannot do:
1. play the banjo
2. run a mile
3. date republicans
4. make myself invisible
5. eat fish

5 things that attract me to members of the opposite sex:
1. creativity (i'm addicted to artists! musicians, photographers, you name 'em i've loved 'em)
2. intelligence and openness
3. strong arms
4. sense of humor
5. maturity and wisdom

5 things I say most often:
1. g.m.a.b.
2. that's fabulous
3. #@&!
4. the babies!
5. that's lame

5 celebrity crushes:
1. Toby McGuire
2. Jimmy Fallon
3. the guy off of Prison Break
4. Tiger Woods
5. Beonce

5 people I want to do this:
1. Michelle
2. Sarah Pitre
3. Jen A
4. Steph Krall
5. someone i don't know who reads my blog...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

I guess I should say a few more positive things about the weekend other than my financial woes. After all, I have a job that allows me to pay off that costly weekend, right? Right.

So what else happened you ask? Well, mom and I went to Austin City Limits together compliments of the church. (Yes, I am really digging all the free stuff I'm getting from students - Dali Lama ticket, and from congregants - 2 tickets to ACL.) So we got to hear Death Cab for Cutie and Jet which was really fabulous. We left before Oasis (sigh*), but I'll survive.

Plus, the boys' new CD is really amazing. Parts 2 and 3 especially. Tracks 11-19 are comprehensively the most creative, lyrically solid and generally innovative pieces I've heard in a long time. And I live in the live music capitol of the world. Kudos to you boys, you've seriously outdone yourself.

Big Phil was in town with his wife Stephanie whom I haven't seen since their wedding in January. Bwack flew them in for the concert. Plus our Rita evacuee friends, Josie and Lance were stuck in Waco to their chagrin but our delight. So it was a blast from the past with regard to community.

Carol loved FBC too. She thought the church was visually stunning (it is), and even though the service was different (it was an ordination service for a young woman finishing seminary), mom cried and so I knew she loved it.

Minus the car trauma, the weekend was fabulous and I'm so glad mom got to come down.

I love you...

Crazy Carol came to visit me at the end of September. Her birthday was the 26th, and we spent the day eating lunch at Buzzard Billy's in Waco, going to the DCB CD Release Party ("how sweet that David's throwing me a birthday party") and taking my not-so-trusty vehicle to the car doctor after it broke down on the highway. Yes, that was a costly endeavor.

My car quit working at the most convenient of times as is always the case. While shopping with my mother, I had just purchased my first two real pieces of furniture, pictured above. One is a delightful vanity and the other a chair for me to sit in while I play nintendo. That of course set me back a couple hundred dollars. But it was worth it and afordable. What a big girl I am.

Plus, it was mom's birthday. So we had to get manicures together (in fifty-blah blah mumble years, mom had never gotten one!). Then lunch with my poor (literally) friends two of whom were refugees, and then, just when i was getting so proud of my money management and spending it on my mom and friends just cause i could... "um yeah, yer starter's gone cuz there's a leak in yer valve probly caused by yer belts which shoulda been replaced at 60,000 miles."

17,000 miles later, mom and i are driving down the highway at 40mph in 108 degree heat with the windows up (cause they're broken too) and the air conditioner turned off for fear that the shuddering the car was already doing might actually shake the car to pieces. yikes.

All that to say, in one weekend i spent $1,100. Never before in my life. And hopefully not again for a long while...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Paul Chambers died, and another part of my life is gone.

That's a closed door I guess. I've always entertained thoughts of moving home when the money or the motivation ran out, moving into my grandparent's basement, scrapbooking, volunteering and dancing for Paul again.

But that will never be.

I haven't cried. God, I cried a river when Cliff died (yes, his lover. die now and then read on you homophobes), but i was a little girl then, and i would dance on the same stage as David Parsons at the memorial performance and watch "Caught" from the wings. And it really was glorious.

But Paul is dead and who dances now?

Saying good-bye is getting harder, and I am becoming more stale...