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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Bonjour Paris!

God's plan for our lives has clarified itself again, at least for the coming months. 5 weeks ago the senior pastor of the American Church in Paris emailed us to ask if we could talk in the coming days.
The wonderful view of the American Church Spire beside the Eiffel Tower
We are good friends with him and thought he just wanted to pick our brains on something. We knew that the pastor to youth and young adults in the church had unexpectedly left and returned to the US so we thought he was probably going to inquire as to whether or not we knew someone in our circles who might be interested in the position. Well, that was true to an extent but much to our surprise and delight, he was actually calling to ask if we'd consider coming over to serve as interim pastors to youth and young adults while they got a search process going.
Sharing a new job once again
Our initial response was that we are neither youth nor young adults but we do consider ourselves both at heart so we were intrigued. Scott expressed that the staff had talked about us in a recent meeting and felt that the combination of experience, maturity in ministry and ability to create and have fun could be the perfect fit for this time period. After talking, praying and pondering over the pros (many) and the cons (few), we said yes! We've signed a contract for March 1-September 30 with caveats for longer or shorter periods should the church find a good candidate sooner or later. As we've lived into the reality that we are moving to Paris, both of us have been filled with joy and excitement over this wholly unexpected yet inviting new call.
We are excited to join a church that we love. We've been at ACP many different times, most recently about a year ago when I was privileged to speak at a women's retreat there. We've so struggled to find a church here in the US that to be a part of such a vibrant and diverse church will be a huge spiritual boost for us. We are excited to join a staff that we respect and appreciate. It will be very good for us as a couple to join a staff and not be the ones driving the overall ministry. The thought of having a specific area of call feels exciting and fresh to us at this point. And we are genuinely thrilled to work with the intern, volunteers and kids, parents and young adults at ACP. We were always closely connected to these groups at Immanuel in Stockholm and look forward to pursuing these relationships with intention.
Being in Paris will still allow me plenty of time and space to work on my grant project with the Louisville Institute. Having just returned from the consultation with other grant recipients, I feel more passionate than ever to work on the topic of the welcoming church and being in Paris will open doors for interaction with others that being based in the US would not provide. Doug and I will share the position which means part-time work for us both. I have moved my deadline for my project completion to June of 2018 which gives me plenty of time once we return to continue the writing and research.
We will move to a furnished apartment that the church provides, so the packing up process will not be extensive. And of course, no canine to transport this time around. We will miss introducing the delights of Paris to Tanner but also know that a season without the encumbrances of a dog will afford certain advantages as well. We are working on some French vocabulary through a website called duolingo.com and will take some courses upon arrival. We know the neighborhood of the church and apartment well so look forward to wandering around our favorite haunts, exploring Paris more deeply, picnicking in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower on the Champs du Mars, which is a mere 15 walk away for us, and digging into church life again.
A few years ago on a previous trip to Paris
We'll button up the house in the desert for a few months so if you know anyone who wants to rent the place for a bit, let us know. We're open.
The timeline is quick on this one. We leave Feb. 26, arrive Feb. 27 and start work on March 1. Our Swedish citizenship allows us to enter the EU and live and work without further paperwork which is a big blessing.
I said throughout the election that I was voting with my right hand, and holding my Swedish passport with my left. Little did I know that the opportunity to return to Europe during this very difficult and sad time in the US's history would be ours to enjoy.
 Please do check out the church's website! It's truly a vibrant, exciting, meaningful ministry and we so look forward to experiencing the ways in which we will grow to love and appreciate the dear folks in the congregation as well as being a part the wonderful staff already in place.
Bonjour Paris. Nous nous réjouissons de vivre dans votre belle présence.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Faith and Politics Do NOT Mix

It is February 1, 2017. It has been a rough start to this new year. I have found myself unable to write because my thoughts are quite muddled and filled with despair. I scroll through Facebook, which admittedly is filled with people who think mostly as I do and find the despair and sense of outrage so overwhelming at times. Looking at my conservative friends defense of this administration causes me such consternation that I have to avoid it. I am inspired by people's willingness to stand up for their beliefs in tangible ways. I have begun to sign petitions and while I find the news depressing, I know I must continue to expose myself to it in order to stay informed. I will admit that I have yelled obscenities at the television more in the past 12 days than over the past 12 years. I find the commentary from Trump's minions dishonest, delusional and completely out of touch with what our nation and world really need right now. The hypocrisy is overwhelming at times and I really wonder how people can actually think Trump's presidency is a good thing, still the "lesser of two evils" of the folks we could've elected. The very fact that he has pulled his team to the very far right when clearly we are a more centrist nation and then continue to put forth robotic followers who are clearly not fit for the positions they are being asked to assume, only fulfills my concern that Trump doesn't give a damn about anyone but himself and those whom he has made powerful and wealthy. I laugh with sadness when he speaks of the people who have been forgotten, being forgotten no more. Well guess what Mr. President? I am feeling quite forgotten.

Awhile back our local newspaper ran an article that basically stated that the majority of Republicans in congress profess to be Christians while the Democrats were slightly more diverse but still overwhelmingly profess Christianity as their faith tradition. So what. It doesn't seem to translate to anything meaningful in terms of policy. And Trump's faith doesn't seem to drive any decisions he's making at this time. Sound judgmental? It is. And here's why.

I am so far detached from the ideology that represents this current administration that I find it hard to believe that people support it. And yet, they do. Adding yet another layer of confusion for me is the support of the so-called Evangelical community. Simply put, I DO NOT GET how any God-fearing person could support the direction that this administration is taking our nation. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND how a person of faith can prioritize making abortion illegal and preventing same sex couples from entering the covenant of marriage over economic justice, care for the vulnerable, humility, honesty, and tact in leadership. I WILL NOT ACCEPT an American Christian worldview that prioritizes America over fulfilling the gospel mandate of caring for the marginalized and vulnerable. Trump's agenda of pushing American exceptionalism flies in the face of the the very core of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Scripture affirms over and over again these tenants: Humble thyself in the sight of the Lord and God shall lift you up. For the first shall be last and the last shall be first. We are called to a live a life of sacrificial service and that means we give up certain things in order to reveal the grace and love of Jesus Christ. There is nothing in Trump's agenda that remotely indicates this kind of service or humility. He continues to drive his agenda on fear when clearly scripture says to us that perfect love casts out fear. And it's hard to love when our first choice is to separate people through walls and immigration orders that block people out. Keeping America safe at the cost of treating the whole humanity with dignity and respect may be a political agenda that people desire but please, do not claim it as being driven by your faith in Christ. Own the fact that your nationalism perhaps means something more to you than the sacrificial life that Christ truly calls us to.

Christianity is not a religion of separation. The Apostle Paul speaks of Christ breaking down the dividing walls that separate us in his letter to the Ephesians. So whatever your political ideology might be, leave your religion out of it if it doesn't uphold the very core of the gospel of Jesus Christ: Care for the vulnerable, concern for the immigrant and foreigner, economic justice for all, a global world view that doesn't prioritize one nation over another, and upholds honesty, dignity and respect as values that Christ wants us to exude.

Over the past two weeks I feel that I have lost some faith in my faith. Not in God. Not in my beliefs, but in my faith community. I cannot understand how conservative Evangelicals can continue to sell their souls to this administration (Yes Mr. Pence, you are at the top of my list here) in order to pursue a very short-sighted agenda regarding legal abortion that will likely never be taken up through the law. Remove the log out of your own eye instead of grabbing the speck out of another's. As a nation, if we seek to legislate our moral concerns, we will fail. The only way to truly keep America safe is to show love and respect for humanity...the whole of humanity. Sadly, to me, this is sorely lacking in the direction our nation is headed.