Saturday, September 18, 2021

Potato - Potahto

Wedding Party - 40 years ago
September is one of my favorite months for many reasons. One of  which is the recognition of my marriage.  (YouTube Channel link)  This month is also gaining popularity with other couples as  indicated by a wedding I am conducting.

In years past most "legitimate" wedding ceremonies occurred within the confines of a church building. The idea was God's blessing on a couple would only occur within the walls of a church building. Also, an ordained clergy person, appropriate music, and dignified conduct were indicative of the sacred and in some traditions sacramental ceremony. Plus, the venue was free or relatively inexpensive while being familiar to most people.

Hillsboro United Parish
I do not remember a particular time when the wedding ceremony, venue, and structure began to change. However, the change, in my estimation has been significant. Rarely are wedding ceremonies conducted in church settings. Numerous venues abound in urban and rural settings. Now most church buildings charge a fee for members and non-members alike. There is often a list of "dos + don'ts" that is significantly greater within a church than in the rented venue. Officiants (no longer limited to clergy) can instantly receive online, legal credentials to satisfy the laws of individual states to sign a marriage license. The comfort level provided to those attending in a venue setting is greater and often more familiar than in a religious structure. Music is unrestricted. It is as diverse as the DJ's ability to download from a streaming service. 

Setting for recent ceremony.
The ceremony in which I was most recently involved included the couples' canine as the "flower + ring bearer." The outdoor venue in a quiet, rural, farm setting fit the nature of the couple. The relative simplicity along with the venues cats, chickens, fruit trees, and fall garden produce provide a unique and relaxed setting. Plus, the fee included multiple days for set up and take down without feeling rushed to get out of the way for the next event. 

Which setting is more appropriate for a wedding ceremony? Is God's consecration of a union greater in a structure set aside for religious functions or a repurposed barn and farm? Is there a correlation between setting and sanctity which directly impacts the longevity of the relationship? Is there a benefit to an officially recognized religious professional conducting the ceremony? 

Reception/meal area
My perspective is found in today's title. The ceremony and setting are not the basis of a relationship. Who is chosen to speak words, manage the flow of the event, and sign a civil, legal, government document has minimal impact on a relationship which began months or years previous. Money spent to facilitate and entertain a gathering of family and friends does not provide dividends which keep a relationship strong yet flexible. It is the willingness of a couple to understand the changing dynamics of a relationship over time which is important. The family and friends are to be mentors. They provide applicable interpersonal resources to assist the couple in daily decision making. And surrounding all of these dimensions is the grace-filled, forgiveness focused presence of God.  The gifts or blessings of the Divine are not limited to place or person. God's ability to positively impact the pleasure and perseverance of the relationship cannot be relegated or regulated. 

Life and relationships are continuously commingled. I discover perplexity and promise both by being in relationship and publicly celebrating the journey of others in their relationships! This cannot be contained by place, custom, or language. 

Valley of Fire State Park  (northeast of Las Vegas NV)

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Now Hiring

Labor Day weekend is an appropriate time to think back on jobs I have endured and embraced over the decades. I invite your comments about great work experiences or those from which you walked away, as well.

My shortest official job was 5 hours. It was a summer job during college years. The pay and hours seemed attractive. So by sunrise a friend and I were transported to the job site. We began scraping stones off of a previously sealed flat roof. It was being resurfaced and the stones reused. We used long handled scraping tools and a great deal of muscle to get the job accomplished. It was slow, tedious work. The brown cotton jersey gloves offered minimal protection, but that was what we were told to bring. The morning humidity rose with the sun. Sweat, which in my life has always been abundant was streaming off my forehead and down my back. My hands were hurting and my clothing was drenched. As my friend and I ate our scant lunches in the air conditioned comfort of the school on which we were working, the decision was made to walk back to the roofing company's parking lot. 

A person stopped along the road to ask if we needed a ride. Being blistered, hot, hungry, smelling of sweat, and defeated it did not matter to either of us that the driver was stoned. I never received a paycheck for the hours worked. And I did not care!

Bailing hay and straw for a neighbor, shoveling livestock manure, night shift sanitation at a meat processing plant, adjunct educator on middle, high school, and community college levels, summer park staff, addiction treatment center chaplain, barista, grocery store orientation trainer, emergency medical technician, hospice + healthcare chaplain, educator/facilitator for a multi-county domestic abuse treatment program, race director for an endurance event organization, farm crisis responder/advocate, and window washer are jobs that have dotted the decades providing tax documents. 

If you have read posts from the past months, you realize my primary occupation for decades has been pastoral care. As of now I have served 16 congregations in various capacities. It is a vocation of flexibility, diversity, and relationships. In many ways it has been hard to specifically define. I have the luxury to adapt it to fit my situation. At times flexibility is a curse. Overall, the vocation has served me well. It has been more than a job. It has allowed for creativity. It has stimulated my wanderlust. It has allowed me to never settle into a mind/spirit numbing routine. 

As I hear the recent rancor about lazy people getting too much money from unemployment, I cringe. A person I know posted their disgust on social media about not getting a chalupa at 7pm due to a worker shortage at Taco Bell. The post stated how awful it is that people do not see the value of a job. Teenagers should quit living off of their parents, as well. It seems as if work is now a transactional enterprise. Other people should work so I can benefit and do so at minimum pay. If my day is inconvenienced it is due to the laziness of others. I have every right to expect great customer service even as I view the worker as inferior to me. When did work lose its respect and dignity? I have done things for a paycheck. Such jobs serve a purpose, but they do not lead to long-term fulfillment. What is wrong with taking time to investigate what fills our being and not just our wallets? I view labor and vocation as relational more than transactional. We all have diverse interests, skills which ebb and flow, and dreams waiting to be explored. Labor is a part of life, but is does not define life. Work IS NOT life!

I often refer to this Hebrew wisdom from the book of Ecclesiastes, "So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun."  (8,15  NIV)

Again, I welcome your comments about your work experiences. If you want to view my bi-weekly YouTube videos click on the link.  Thank you for reading!