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As you know, last week was the inauguration day of our 46th president, Joe Biden. As with any inauguration, there was all the fancy clothing that was evaluated, there was singing, there were speeches, there were pledges, and people from all branches of government were gathered together at one place. There were many moments that news outlets and social media have been continually sharing since then...but only one has brought us all together--a picture of a cold Bernie Sanders in a jacket and mittens.
Above is the original picture taken. Since this moment, Bernie has been photoshopped out of the picture and placed in the craziest of places and in the funniest of memes. Below are a few of my favorites.
You can find Bernie everywhere! So many laughs have been had over this meme and over all the photoshop jobs done. And all I could think while seeing this all over social media was..."I'm so glad that we can all agree on and laugh at something together."
For months, we have only seen arguments online, arguments at Presidential debates, and we've been arguing in our own daily lives as we have navigated through the last year of economic struggles and health struggles. It has seemed as though we may never get along again...okay, maybe that was just my fear! Everything has just been so polarized that we have seen friendships and close family relationships have strains and breaks due to the stress and pressure of it all.
Then comes this meme to make everything better. Perhaps laughter is the best medicine after all! It also made me realize that anything, no matter how small it may seem, can go viral in just a second. I started to wonder what it would look like if we made the Good News of Jesus Christ go viral. The Good News that Jesus Christ loves each and every one of us, no matter who we are, what color our skin, how much money is in our bank account, who we love, where we live, how many times we have messed up, and no matter just how unworthy we feel that we are...Jesus loves us.
The Bernie meme trend will come and go. The Good News should never go away. What if we choose to take the message that Jesus loves us and spread it to everyone. What if everything we did spread that message of Jesus' love? Could you imagine just how full of smiles, laughter, and joy this world would be? I think it would look a lot like us sharing an image of Bernie in mittens. It would be us sharing the good we see in the world instead of sharing yet another thing that divides us. I hope that we can be better spreaders of joy in a world that wants us to spread hate, negativity, and bad news. Let's be the light that brings the Good News that can be felt around the world.
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Before I begin this letter, I should start by saying I've never written an "open letter" to anyone before, let alone a future president of The USA. I was inspired to do so, however, because I have been watching the show "Designated Survivor" on Netflix. I'm halfway through watching it, and there's a line where someone tells the president he has "the loneliest job in the world." As a young pastor who has already had to make difficult leadership decisions in her just 4 years of full-time ministry as a pastor, I can relate with the idea. Leadership jobs are lonely...and maybe, instead of constant criticism or critique, our president (whoever it may be at any given point in time) needs more prayer and grace than I sometimes want to give. In my few decades of life, I have been slow to pray for and give grace to any president--and I have been wrong. I want to do and be better starting today. So in honor of inauguration day tomorrow, and my own commitment to be a better citizen and Christian, here's my open letter to our next president.
Dear Mr. Biden,
If you ever stumble across this letter, I hope it finds you well. I'm writing this on the day before your inauguration and I'm sure you're busy getting ready to move into a new place and getting ready to sit behind the desk in the oval office that so many men before you have sat in. I'm sure it is a humbling feeling to know that you will join a long line of presidents before you who have had the responsibility of running an entire country of over 300 million people. As a United Methodist pastor, I can in just a small way understand that feeling of moving, starting a new job, and obtaining more responsibility than you have ever had before. It is daunting and a bit scary.
There is a saying that has been spread around fellow United Methodist pastors and it goes something like this..."At some point in time, everyone will have loved you. Half will be happy that you got here and the other half will be happy when you leave." If the results of this election show anything, it is that those same statistics apply to you. Tomorrow, half the country will be upset that you are going to be replacing the incumbent and the other half will be cheering you on as you take the oath of office. Half the country thinks you stole the election and the other half thinks you won fair and square. In the official Senate counting of votes, rioters and domestic terrorists took over the Capitol building (the very one you will be inaugurated at tomorrow) to try to delay and stop the vote from happening. People are angry. People are sad. People are frustrated.
I do not envy you as you take the Oath of Office tomorrow and officially become the 46th President of The United States of America. Many different people have ideas of what you should do as president. The opposing party thinks you are a cheater. Your own political party thinks you're too moderate. Average, everyday citizens are still hurting from the economic drain of the pandemic. So many people have slipped through the cracks and are looking for you to hear them and help them. You literally have the weight of 300 million expectations sitting on your shoulders.
I have not agreed with everything you have ever said or done. I am sure there will be moments of your presidency that I will find what you say and do to be frustrating. You will be juggling more things than I care to imagine having to juggle. Your family will not have privacy, and everything you do, everything you wear, and everything you say will be scrutinized and picked apart by the media and individuals on social media. This letter is not to remind you of what you already know. This letter is meant to be a source of encouragement and a prayer for you. As a fellow leader, I am beginning to understand more and more that you have a bigger picture to all the things going on in this country and in this world that would quite literally make my head spin. You will make many decisions based on information that I and all the other average Americans will not have. I may not understand your decisions and I may be angry about it, but...
My promise to you, Mr. Biden, is that I will pray for you. In the moments where you frustrate me, in the moments where I don't see the bigger picture, in the times I hear media scrutinize a choice you made, or see a post on social media that makes fun of you or your family, I will pray for you. I will try to show you more grace than I have any of your predecessors before you. It is far too easy for me to sit back and think I know it all and how to fix things when the reality is, I have no clue about all that is going on nationally and globally. I will pray for the health of your family, cabinet, and staff. I will pray for all members of Congress, the members of the Supreme Court, and your vice-president. I will pray that, as a country, we can all learn to show you (and others in leadership) a little more grace and pray for you a little bit more.
You are about to have the loneliest job in the world, a job you have been trying to get your whole life. As lonely, difficult, stressful, and I'm sure, at times, rewarding that it may be, know you have at least one person praying for you and all the decisions you must make on a regular basis. I pray that maybe one day soon, our country can once again be united and that maybe we can be united in something as simply praying for you.
Good luck and God bless!
Rev. Patricia Lund
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Sunday we saw snow. Not just a little snow, but a lot of it! In my nearly 30 years of living (and in Texas, for that matter), have I had the chance to experience snow like we did on Sunday. It just kept coming down. It even stuck to the ground! I would go outside with Cocoa and a couple hours later we would come back out and our tracks were covered with fresh snow. Limbs in the yard cracked and fell down. I had a few flickers of electricity loss, but nothing that lasted (and for that I am grateful).
Of course, with Cocoa being a whole nine months old, this was her first experience in the snow. I stuck her little jacket on her (to prevent her from getting completely covered in snow) and she wasn't too happy about that. But then, since I knew she'd likely be scared of the new type of weather, I let her walk outside without the leash (which I knew she would love). It was fun to watch her experience the snow. When I opened the door, she started out like she normally does, but then she paused. She sniffed the snow on the ground, felt it hitting her face, and then, she made her first judgment--she didn't like it one bit! It was cold, it had a funny feeling, she was sinking in the ground, and WORST of all? Her sticks were covered up from the snow! (Oh, the horror!) She was not a fan of the snow. But still, she had to potty and inside is not an option, even on bad weather days.
When I brought her back in, she gave me a look that said, "Mom, can you fix outside? It's broken!" We watched the snow fall from the warmth of the living room. She was upset that it kept falling.
I took her out a couple hours later. This time, she was determined to not let the snow get her down. SHE was going to get the snow to cooperate with HER! She marched along in the snow, she stuck her nose in it, and then she would pick a spot and get to digging! She wanted her sticks! I would, of course, try to get her to stop. And in the process, she stole a glove from me and had more fun than I had ever seen her have before! She'd throw that glove up in the air, catch it as soon as it hit the ground, and then whip it around with her head. She repeated that process over and over--she didn't even want to come inside. She finally enjoyed the change in her environment and didn't let the change affect her in a negative way.
Change happens all the time. Much like the snow that fell for hours on Sunday, we cannot stop change from falling in our laps. Sometimes, change is uncomfortable. We are like Cocoa, exploring the change and what it has done to others and figuring out what it means for us. We may want to go back inside and hide under the covers. But we can't do that. The change is already here. While we don't have control over the change, we do have control over how we react to it. We can, once again, be like Cocoa and be determined to not let the change get us down. We can find something new to enjoy (although I don't recommend you chewing on a glove--that would be strange) or find a new way to experience joy in the middle of change.
We are nearly a year in to a pandemic and, even though things seem to change and things have changed drastically, we have still struggled to adapt to those changes (and others). Maybe this snow day can serve as a reminder that not all change is bad. Maybe it can remind us that with a change in perspective, we can change things for the better. Maybe the snow can remind us that, no matter what is going on around us, we don't have to change who we are--we can remain strong in Christ and as Christians following Christ in all that we do. So don't run from change, even in this long-lasting pandemic. Learn to find ways to embrace it, adapt to it, and maybe even grow in positive ways from the change that is happening all around us and to us.
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In 2011, I was called to go into ordained ministry. It was a huge calling in my life, and it was something that took years to get through. I thought that would be the only big calling in my life—I thought, “Cool, I’m young and have already gotten my calling? That’s a win!” But as I’ve preached over and over, God doesn’t usually call us to just one big thing. God calls us, usually, to several big things and even more smaller things over the course of our lives. This is no less true to me today than it has been in the past. Recently, I have received a second, big calling from God.
In 2014, the summer after my first year of seminary, I worked at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas as a hospital chaplain. What I haven’t mentioned about being a hospital chaplain is that you didn’t just learn inside a hospital room by doing ministry, you learned in a small-group setting. You had group reflections, discussions, and lessons and you had an individual, weekly check in and reflection with your Clinical Pastoral Education, or CPE, supervisor. Now, the summer I interned, my intern group got lucky—our supervisor was none other than the head of the CPE division of the hospital, Carlos Bell. It just so happened that he was also the soon-to-be President of the nationwide Association of CPE. He was kind of a big deal—and this was a big deal to be trained under him!
Something Carlos really stressed for me was finding my pastoral identity. He would ask me who I am as a pastor and I could never answer him. I didn’t know how to describe myself. But he, being who he is and having seen plenty of chaplains come and go, knew exactly what my identity was, even if I did not yet know. One Friday, during our individual weekly check in, Carlos took me down from the chaplain offices in the Robbins building. We walked down past the elevator I used to take to the skywalk, and kept walking all the way to the Jonsson building, which is where the labor and delivery department is at the Baylor hospitals. In the middle of the entrance of that building is a simple statue. It is of a female nurse in her scrubs. In her arms is a little baby. The nurse is looking lovingly at the baby and the baby seems to feel safe and secure. We stood in front of that statue and he said to me, “Okay…what do you see?” I said, “A nurse and a baby.” He said, “Go deeper…what do you see?” I said I saw the love in the eyes of the nurse and that the baby looked happy too. He said, “Okay. What else do you see?” This went on for a solid 30 minutes of our one-hour session. I grew more and more and more frustrated with him and with myself. There was clearly something in this statue that he wanted me to get, something that was wrapped up in my pastoral identity. He grew even more frustrated with me that I couldn’t see what he was seeing. We walked away from that session equally frustrated with each other. Carlos would never give you an answer—that was always for each individual to discover.
It wasn’t until another 2 or so weeks later that something happened and it finally clicked for me what Carlos saw in me that I didn’t see in myself. My pastoral identity was that of a mother. Mothers care, mothers are loving and kind. But mothers also aren’t afraid to stand up for what is right, to maybe put people in their place. It is an identity that, once I identified it, I was able to grow into it and have continued to refine and grow into that identity each day in ministry. There’s just one, little thing, though. I found it pretty mean, maybe even a little cruel, that this was my identity, but the possibility of having a family of my own was and still is, something that not only remains to be seen but seems a bit of an impossibility.
In the last two months or so, it has hit me harder—this desire to have a family of my own. I have prayed and prayed for a miracle to happen. I’ve prayed for a family of my own. I’ve fought with God. I’ve said a few choice words, not ashamed of it either. Just like many of you, there have been things I have desired and desperately wanted, things I have asked God for and not gotten any answers or reassurance on. But about two and a half/three weeks ago, something changed. I decided to stop having a pity party for myself—because, seriously, I don’t need a man. It’d be nice to have someone, sure, but I don’t NEED one. I can survive and handle things on my own. So I thought to myself, what would be something you would miss if you didn’t get married? I thought, children. I want a family. I then looked up something that has been floating in the back of my mind for years, something I thought about doing once I got a parsonage and had enough room for a family—would it be possible for a single female to be a foster or adoptive parent? A quick google search said, “Yes, you can.” I began to feel a little better—maybe in a couple years I’d be ready to be a foster parent. At the same time, I began to feel anxious—the idea of fostering a child was terrifying to me. So I tried to get it out of my brain.
And I was successful for about 48 hours. Then began a crazy week with children's choir activities and, ultimately, seeing the need in our community. I continued through the week, but I couldn’t get what I saw and what I heard and what I experienced that week out of my head. At about 10 that Thursday night, it just hit me. It wasn’t a voice, necessarily. It really felt like a hit to the gut. I remember bending over trying to take deep breaths to deal with the anxiety of the call God was clearly placing on my heart. God was saying, “Hey Patricia—you want a family. You have a good job. You live in a big house. You’ve got a big yard and an even bigger heart. You’ve got a congregation full of people who love children. You’ve got a dog that loves children. There is need in this community. It’s time—it’s time for you to step up and sign up to be a foster parent.”
The first thing I did is tried to catch my breath and try to search my brain—was this just what I wanted or what God wanted. Then I realized this was never, in my wildest dreams, what I imagined for my 29-year-old self. I also realized this was not “normal” behavior for a 29-year-old, but that’s what a) made it from God and b) made sense for me because I do nothing normal ever! I joked with my mom after I told her that she is probably going to pray to God asking why she got a defective child—that’s how abnormal I do things and that’s how outside the box and outside the norm I go through and live my life.
I cried off and on for 24 hours. The first time I told someone out loud, I couldn’t do it without crying. I reached out to friends who have done and are foster parents. I was hoping they would say, “You’re crazy, don’t do it.” But they just said, “Yup, it’s scary. I was scared too. But I’m excited for you—it’s such a rewarding experience.” I’ve had such great support from all of them already and they have already said, “We are here for you and we will always be a listening ear.”
And I have to say, as terrified and anxious as I am about this, as soon as I gave in and as soon as I accepted this call from God, my life has completely changed. The grieving I’ve done off and on for six months about not having a family of my own has disappeared. While I know this would be easier with a spouse, it’s not impossible to do alone and I can do this. I’ve started thinking about how this time a year from now, my life will look completely different. I’ve already started changing my mindset, trying to get my life together and trying to mentally prepare to raise a child that is not mine and that will not stay with me forever. I’ve got the first year “baby Bible” currently sitting on my kitchen table. I’ve bought a treadmill so I can do long distance runs in my house with the child nearby. I’ve even re-evaluated my food planning and what I eat, focusing on eating better and doing better so that it can be a solid habit and just second nature by the time I have a baby enter my home.
This Christmas, God gave me a gift of a new calling that I just wasn’t expecting right now. And I wanted to share this with you for a couple reasons. First and foremost, because my foster children will become a part of this church family as long as they are in my home and are a part of my life. I will need your prayers and I will need your support. Second, I think it’s easy for you all to hear me say, “God calls us to do things all the time, we just have to listen and say ‘yes’” and think, “Oh she’s just saying that,” or “People in the Bible are from a long time ago, do calls like that even still happen?” Well, I’m here to tell you, yes, God is still in the business of calling people to do seemingly crazy things in the eyes of the world. And your pastor is one of the people God is calling to do something new and outside the box. This is my newest call and it is a scary one…but it’s one I’m choosing to say yes to and bravely face. I, just like each of you, are to listen to, hear, and take to heart the words from the prophet Micah that say: He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
I hope this message gives you some courage today. I know God is calling each and every one of you to something. There are so many people who do not know they are loved by God, who have been cast aside by the world, who don’t feel like they matter, who doesn’t have a seat at the table, and who are in need of help. God is working in their lives and God invites us to act in the lives of others when he calls us to do something new and maybe what may even seem a little crazy! Maybe it’s not something exactly like God is calling me to, but God calls us every day. Are we listening? Are we willing to say yes? Are we willing to go on a wild and crazy ride we never thought we’d be on to do what God calls us to do, no matter what the world may think of us? What is God calling you to do this year? Who is God calling you to be? Who is God calling you to help? Step out on faith, in the full gift of God’s grace, and say yes to whatever it is God is calling you to do. It may be scary, terrifying, and may make you feel a little anxious, but it’s always worth it to say yes and do what God calls you to do.