"All words are symbols that represent unspeakable realities. Which is also why words are magical." (Donald Miller tweet)

Monday, November 06, 2017

a new conversation

Ugh, I am just sickened today. And angry.

Sutherland Springs, Texas. 27 people dead. Another - another - mass shooting south of our border.

And the same conversations. Gun control vs mental health vs religion vs racism vs politics vs founding fathers vs thoughts and prayers.

We live in a world now where "thoughts and prayers" are scorned, by the way. I'm of the "DO something" ilk too, but I sure would hate to live in a society where no one even pauses to express sympathy or pray in horrible moments. I mean, I get it. People are so angry and frustrated. Nevertheless, the conversations look the same to me, circling around, going nowhere.

I'm watching for a new conversation.

There are moments in history when someone tenaciously leads a new conversation, does something different, and changes the world. William Wilberforce. Martin Luther King Jr. Agnes Macphail. Mother Teresa. William & Catherine Booth. Martin Luther.

Someone who rises above the paralyzing bickering and the helpless handwringing and the sickening politics of the day. Who is ridiculously committed to doing what is right, to finding a solution, to changing their world, no matter what.

No. Matter. What.

I'm watching for that. Praying for that.

But meanwhile, I can't simply sit on the sidelines, watching and praying.

I'm responsible for my own time and my own place in history. I can't just wait for someone else to rise up. Nor can I toss up my hands and give up on the world, withdraw into selfish preservation of what matters to me only. I don't have that option.

I'm responsible to live today, tomorrow, the next day - here and now - as a wholehearted follower of Jesus. Tenaciously doing good, loving people, welcoming the marginalized, comforting the hurting, giving generously, keeping my word, forgiving offence, calling for truth and justice, loving those who don't love me. I committed to that long ago, and it won't change.

May my world see Jesus in me today.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Thanksgiving

Yesterday (October 8), I spoke on a tough topic at our church, as part of our "What If Jesus Was A Quebecer" series. You can listen to it here, once it's uploaded, but one of the core ideas was, "Quebecers fear the return of religion."

And understandably so.

It's become quite a meaningful series (for me, anyway). A year ago, the sociological nerd in me jumped at the chance to read a current book about Quebec culture, highly recommended by two born-and-raised Quebecers. Now, a year later, unpacking how our faith interacts with that, and ending up in deeper space than I ever imagined ... well, it's meaningful.

And a little terrifying.
What business does an Ontario girl have,
talking about Quebec?!
I'm thankful for the behind-the-scenes
Quebecer focus group
that has helped to keep me on track.

Yesterday, I was amazed - AMAZED - at the overwhelming response. "Bang on, pastor ... we lived it ... my family lived it ... I'm understanding myself better through this series ... so glad to be in a church that talks about this ... so glad we are going to be a church where it's safe to make mistakes ..."

Thankful for that. 

Yesterday afternoon, we shared Thanksgiving dinner with a family that felt like our own. Lots of loud laughter, overlapping stories, a shared heart for the things that matter. (And food. Oh the food. Including turnip that tasted like apple crisp!!!)

Thankful for that. 

Today, I'm off to Evangel's Thanksgiving Community Dinner - I heard it's the 23rd year of it, I think? We expect to serve around 600 meals in 3 hours. I'm not actually needed there, because we have tons of people helping. Last year's dinner was the first time I heard the phrase, "It's what we do, pastor,' said with a matter-of-fact shrug and a smile. My goal is to be, somehow, mildly helpful while also staying out of the way of all those who know exactly what they're doing.

It's Thanksgiving weekend. And I'm thankful. I truly am. I'm thankful to be part of a church that is filled with memories, as well as dreams for the future. I'm thankful for friends and family. I'm thankful for turkey and pie. I'm thankful for the crisp-yet-warm air of a Canadian fall day.

And I'm thankful,
because that crisp fall air, every year,
reminds me of Ukraine,
and I smile,
knowing I will be there again soon.
#landilove

And so, a Thanksgiving prayer...

"My Father ... Thank You. For dreams. For history. For family.
For our church community. For friends. For our city.
For purposes that matter.
For a life filled with shared moments, and a beautiful world in which to share them.

Thank You for a roof - a lovely one! - over our heads.
Thank You for our food.
Thank You for Your loving presence in our lives, for grace,
and for the always-challenge to live better.

Be honoured through how we live today.

Amen."

Monday, October 02, 2017

about my church

Yesterday at the church I get to pastor - it's here if you're wondering - I lost count of the number of encouraging comments and feedback that came my way. And woke up to more this morning. All ages, all backgrounds. Some who have been here since nearly the beginning (Norma!) and some who were with us, literally for the first time.

From 6:40 AM, when I said the day's third "Good morning!" to a band member (the first two morning greetings were whispered quietly to Jeff and Andie, of course, who weren't quite awake), until 6 PM when we locked up and headed home, it was a GOOD DAY.

Next week is Key #4 of "What If Jesus Was A Quebecer?!" If you haven't been part of it, the REAL question is: how does our faith interact with our culture? We're using Cracking the Quebec Code as a bouncing-off point, helping us to look at the culture we're in, and then figuring out from Scripture how we might respond to or interact with that as followers of Jesus.

We've ordered in ... and sold out of ...
multiple copies of this book three times.

Truthfully - this is one of the most thought-provoking series I've ever done (for me, and apparently for many of you too). Yesterday's had a lot of silent moments.

For me too.

But the silent moments are often the important moments, the honest moments, the thoughtful moments.

They're also the uncomfortable moments.
I know.

But ... I'm grateful for those silent moments. They matter.

And ... I'm grateful for the depth of commitment and celebration that result from those moments.

When we imagine ... imagine ... if Quรฉbecers said, "When the going gets tough ... Evangel shows up! Followers of Jesus show up!" And we erupt in cheers at that thought.

When 105 of you respond immediately to say, "I'll be there! I'll help!" at our Community Thanksgiving Dinner, a week from today.

*shrug*
"It's what we do, Pastor."

On Thanksgiving Monday!!!!

I'm grateful for worship leaders, singers, band members, in-the-media-booth-ers, who went above-and-beyond yesterday to not only practice and lead two full morning services, but then ate a quick lunch, and came BACK to practice, and then lead an amazing all-worship night.

And all the other staff and volunteers
who ALSO made it all happen.
I saw you.
I'm thankful for you.

I'm grateful - just completely delighted - that a couple of other churches heard that we were having an all-worship night, and simply came to join us, without us even knowing. How great is that?!

We made some new friends.

And I was grateful to come home and take a moment with The Boy (aka Spike), to pray together, thanking God for the day.

It was a short prayer.
I happened to be holding Andie's food while we prayed,
which led to her whisper-whining while we prayed,
which made us start laughing.

Have a fantastic week, mes amis.

Monday, September 25, 2017

headlines

Mondays, the news headlines tend to hit me a little harder than other days. Likely because Sundays are high intensity, and Mondays begin slowly.

I become saddened. There's a lot of pain out there. Today I got on my knees beside my bed and prayed. For America. For Ukraine. For Germany. For Caribbean nations. For Venezuela. For Mexico.

For Canada.

For our world, beautiful and broken. We only have this one, for now. I know "this world is not my home" - but it is, at this moment. And so I grieve for its brokenness. And love its unexpected beauty. And laugh with its moments of joy.

And I pray.

God -

Be present in our world. Heal. Protect. Help. Restore. Defend. Have mercy. Bring justice.

Amen.

This week, whoever you are, whatever you believe...

Do good for someone. Even just one someone.

Show love to someone. Even just one someone.

And today,

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord turn his face toward you, and give you peace.

Monday, July 24, 2017

a soapbox and a sports analogy

Every now and then, I pull out a soapbox, step up onto it, delicately clear my throat, and express what's on my mind. Ever so gently.

Through a bullhorn.

Last week was one of those times.

Actually, it was two of those times.

If you missed the two written expressions of what was on my mind, they are just below this one. The first was called, "chocolate, coffee & conversations". The second was called, "this is happening".

Shorter (less-nuanced) versions
were threaded on Twitter.
@PattiTheMiller

A lot of people responded. And boatloads of people read it. Those two posts may have been my two most-read posts in all my years of blogging, by far.

Miracle-of-Note: Not one person messaged me to say that women can't or shouldn't be Lead Pastors in #PAOC.

Not.
One.
#thatsafirst

Soooooo ... this is happening.

And I'll leave you with this.

For now. You never know.
I might have more to say later.

Local churches: The ball's in your court.
District offices don't choose your pastors.
National office doesn't choose your pastors.
You do.

You.
Do.

*lowers bullhorn, steps gently off soapbox, carries on with previously scheduled day*

#NeedforLeads #yeswomencanbepastors #yesLeadPastors #thisishappening #sharefreely

Friday, July 21, 2017

this is happening.

The other day I posted a whole #NeedforLeads thread on Twitter, based on my last blog post. And then ... well I guess I wasn't done. ๐Ÿ˜ณ So, I'm just gonna keep going.

Again - this is #PAOC-specific.
No disrespect to those in other traditions
who have a different view.

What makes me sad: Anytime I post something like this, I hear from women who tried - they TRIED - and couldn't find a pastoring path. Frequently and explicitly BECAUSE they were women. Trust me. I know the stories. It happened. It still does. It was/is terribly harmful and wrong. Bottom line is, some of us maybe have some repenting to do.

Not you of course.
Someone else.
๐Ÿ‘€

What makes me glad: There are more and more people saying out loud that #yeswomencanbepastors #yesLeadPastors. And there are more and more female Lead Pastors clearing that old path again for others. I'm proud to be one of them, but I'm not the only one. Not by a long shot.

Somebody called me a "trailblazer" yesterday.
I prefer "weedwacker". 
Just tidying the existing path.
๐Ÿƒ 

And here's what I see: There are more and more people looking startled when I talk about this, saying, "What? This still happens in PAOC? This is a non-issue, for goodness' sake. Why is this still a thing?" And most importantly - "What can I do?"

I'll come back to that.
๐Ÿ“Œ 

Here's what I suspect: More and more people in congregations are fine with the idea of a female Lead Pastor. They don't care. Some of them LOVE the idea. If they aren't sure, they just have a few honest theological questions, and they genuinely appreciate answers. 

Congregations who DO have female Leads
tend to celebrate it publicly, by the way.
#foodforthought ๐Ÿค”

And here's what I think: This is happening. It's tipping. There are FAR more women in staff pastor positions than there used to be. They are joyfully qualified and competent worship leaders, preachers and visionaries. They care deeply about people and God. And their Leads will shout from the rooftops that they get the job done. These women are *this close* to being Leads. 

So this is happening. 

Soon.
Maybe now.
That's what I think.

So to answer the question, "What can I do?"

*deep breath*

Leads: Let your board and congregation know that PAOC doesn't have gender-specific credentials, and we have no debate about this. It's settled. Celebrate that we are a fellowship that DOES believe women can be pastors. Remind them what a huge, positive statement that is to our world. If/when you ever leave - leave your church fully comfortable with the idea that their next Lead could well be a female. 

Boards: Don't be afraid. ๐Ÿ˜Š I know there are voices out there that disagree, that worry that maybe it's wrong. But PAOC isn't one of those voices. We've taken a long time and worked this through, with wisdom and humility and accountability. We are convinced it's right. If you need some resources to help answer the questions, ask. And don't be afraid of your congregation. 

They might be just fine. 

Church Members: If your church has a Lead Pastor vacancy, let your Board know you'd be open to a female OR male Lead. Your Board carries a heavy responsibility and they don't want to get it wrong. Help them know you're ok with it. 

Only if your church has a vacancy, though.
Don't do that if you currently HAVE a Lead Pastor.
That's not kind. ๐Ÿ˜•

Leads - Talkin' To You Again: Initiate the conversation with your staff pastors, especially the female ones. If they aren't ready to be Leads, help them get there. Maybe push them a little. We have a #NeedforLeads. 

Female Staff Pastors: Um ... how do I say this ... ? Step up. It's time. Take the risk. Yes, if you tell your Lead you might be ready for more, the conversation might get awkward. Yes, you might question if you're ready to Lead - we all do. Step up anyway. Yes, you might get hurt, and people might say ridiculous things. Don't get bitter. Own your space, deal with your own issues, and keep moving. Learn to lead a board meeting, to create a budget, to navigate conflict, to think big-picture and long-term. Talk to your District Sup. If you're not ready, get ready. We have a #NeedforLeads. And the need is growing. This isn't a luxury. We need you.

Listen - this is happening. It's tipping. We're closing in on the tipping point. 

And hey - if in 10 years it turns out I was wrong, just come to Montreal and I'll treat you to a nice bowl of hot, melted chocolate at Juliette & Chocolat. ☕

It's the least I can do. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

coffee, chocolate and conversations

Last week, I went for coffee. Which is not, in itself, unusual but this coffee was accompanied by a conversation.

Actually, we were at Juliette & Chocolat, so my "coffee" was a hot chocolate.
Which is to say, it was literally a bowl of melted chocolate.
Try not to be distracted by that.
It's just what we do in Montreal.

That conversation has had me thinking for the last few days.

The conversation revolved around the widely acknowledged, nation-wide need for Lead/Senior Pastors in our slice of Christian faith - Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC). Boomers are slowly retiring, and there are a lot of them. Simple demographics, right? 

The conversation also revolved around women who are pastors, usually in a staff position.

A lot of my conversations revolve around women who are pastors.

I mused between sips of melted chocolate (stay focused - don't get distracted), "Are there female staff pastors who are on track to becoming Lead Pastors?" And the response was, "Maybe a few. But they're waiting quietly. Or it hasn't occurred to them. Or they think it's arrogant to consider it. Or their own Leads don't want to lose them."

I got a little speech-y, as I sometimes do.

Possibly because I had reached the end of my bowl of chocolate.

And then the question came back across the table to me. "Well Patti, YOU have two female staff pastors, right? Could they be Leads?"

I gasped. "I just GOT them, and they are AMAZING! Don't take them away!" 

And my friend smiled and said, "That's what all the Leads say."

#Boom #OhComeOn #TotallyGotMe #NeedForLeads

So.... two days ago, I told those two amazing women (both of whom are quite happy as part of our team) that I would be thrilled if they stayed forever, but the truth is, there's a need out there, and the truth is, they each absolutely have the potential to be Lead Pastors at some point. And I told them that if they ever wanted to explore that, they were welcome to talk to me about it, or talk to our District leaders, start working out what the path might look like. 

And then I tweeted this:

"Hey #PAOC female staff pastors:
The need for Lead Pastors is growing in Canada.
There's no reason you can't be one of them."

The response was ... significant. 

So I'd like to put a couple more thoughts out there.

One for other Leads - yep - #LookinAtYou.

"Hey #PAOC Lead Pastors:
The need for Leads is growing in Canada.
Female Leads are still a minority, so the path for your female staff pastors can be unclear.
They need you to show the way & encourage them to consider it."


That one's #TooLongToTweet. This one fits. 

"Hey #PAOC Lead Pastors:
Female Leads are a minority, so the path for your female staff pastors can be unclear.
Give them some pointers."


Here's another, for Boards that just aren't sure if it's ok... #WeveNeverDoneThatBefore

"Hey #PAOC Boards:
Our fellowship fully supports women as Lead Pastors. It's NOT controversial for us.
There are churches across Canada being pastored by women.
There's no reason yours can't be one of them."

I'll have to shorten that one to 140 characters somehow. 

And back to those female staff pastors I was talking to in the first place: #WhatDoIDo

"Hey #PAOC female staff pastors:
Have the conversation with your Lead, with your District leaders.
It's not presumptuous.
It's normal."

Coffee. Chocolate. Conversations.

They lead to #GoodThings.