A Morning Spent in the Back Office

This morning I got to spend in “the back office” for the first time in forever. And it was excellent!

As a fourth-string drummer, I rarely get called upon to fill in in worship and praise bands, especially since our own church’s praise service disbanded about four years ago. But Jerry was desperate, clearly, for he had reached out to see if I could sit in with the band at Old Bridge Church for their 11:11 worship service today. And what made it even sweeter was he also invited my daughter Sarah to play and sing along. The picture above is from rehearsal; Sarah is the guitarist off my left crash cymbal.

It was challenging: none of the songs were ones I knew by heart, and several I hadn’t heard before. (I clearly need to broaden my playlists.) But we made it through, God was praised, and no one threw rotten fruit. So I call that a win.

I truly love drumming in praise worship. I love being a part of bringing praise to the Lord, in perhaps inspiring those in the service to experience God’s presence, and generally to be able to share the experience while helping be a part of creating it, if that makes any sense.  And so when I was invited to be the drummer for this spring’s Emmaus men’s walk, I was thrilled.

It has certainly occurred to me that there is a significant risk that once I join the pastorate this summer, occasions like this one will be even rarer than they are today. And there’s a piece of me that mourns that. Oh, sure, it’s still possible I’ll get to play in worship. Who knows. But as any regular activity, as something part of my ministry? I have a harder time seeing that happen.

Drumming isn’t the only thing that will change, and perhaps disappear, once I am licensed this summer. It is an entire season of change that I will be coming into, and doubtless other facets of my life and ministry to date will change, will fade, will even go away entirely. And yet I take comfort in knowing that despite it, God will be praised. Maybe I won’t be the one behind the kit anymore. But it’s never been about me–or at least, it shouldn’t have been. It’s about the four hardest words in English: Thy will be done.

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Anxious: Guess We’re Doing This!

Ten days ago (yep, I’m still processing this somewhat), the District Committee on Ordained Ministry (DCOM) for the Alexandria District, Virginia Annual Conference, of the United Methodist Church, formally endorsed me as a Certified Candidate for Ordination, and moreover approved me for licensing as a Local Pastor as soon as July. Yep. This year.

I had about an hour-long interview with the ~dozen or so members of the DCOM, who asked lots of questions about my fitness to lead, my understanding of the sacraments, and so forth. (Although interestingly, never asked “Why do you want to become a pastor?”) They asked about my devotional life, my self-care habits, how I developed the sermon I posted to YouTube. They also asked what kind of appointment I’d be seeking, and I told them I’m still committed to the idea of finishing my Federal service in another ~5-plus years while attending seminary part-time, so a part-time posting nearby that allows me the chance to be mentored and get my feet wet, make some mistakes and have someone there to help me understand them–that would be perfect. Later that day I had an email from the DCOM chair that I had been approved.

Part of me wanted to laugh, part of me wanted to cry, part of me said “You fools! If only you knew how unready I am for this!” And so I think the right word is “anxious.” I’m anxious in the sense of, what have I gotten myself into? How can anyone possibly think I am able to do this? But also “anxious” in the sense of, let’s get to it! Let’s go, let’s get started, I’m anxious to begin!

I still have to go to licensing school, ten days in May, but for all intents and purposes, I will become the Rev. Eric Kleppinger as of annual conference in late June. And then…the adventure begins. Part-time pastoring, plus full-time employment, plus two seminary classes a term, plus family, plus life, the universe, and everything.

For I can do all things through the one who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

Amen. And amen. Lord, you have called me to this. In you I find my strength to follow, and in you I will find my strength to do all you’ve called me to do. Let thy will be done. Nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Because, I guess we’re doing this!

 

C-100 (Woo hoo!)

Over the Martin Luther King Jr weekend, my daughter and I were part of the team putting on the 100th Chrysalis weekend (woo hoo!) in the National Capital Area, for 22 teenagers (“caterpillars”) who came and joined us for a weekend of discovering Christ and learning more about his incredible love.

It was a special time for me, having my first opportunity to team with Sarah. She had walked on C-94, two years before, and when she started teaming a year later I had asked if she would be interested in having Daddy on her team. Nope. “I want to make friends and have my own space,” she said at the time. No problem. But come this year, when the time came to assemble the team for C-100 (woo hoo!)*, she allowed that perhaps she’d done that and it would be possible for me to serve. I was honored to see her lead worship and music, and watch her in her element.

There were actually six of us from Sydenstricker UMC on the team, four youth and two adults, which made us one of the largest, if not the largest, church contingents. I’m also proud of that: that our youth are stepping up into this program, and bringing others to Christ through it. We had one more of our youth walk on the weekend, and now maybe Michael will take a place on a future team.

C-100 (woo hoo!) wasn’t without its drama and its challenges, including bitter cold weather. But God was not to be denied, and He showed up in a big way on the mountain for all those kids. And in that is the greatest WOO HOO! of them all.

 

*(Yes, each time someone said C-100, we all had to say “Woo hoo!” It was fun.)