Friday, March 30, 2007

Good Intentions

My intention to post daily certainly hasn't panned out, but I do like posting when I can. I spent the day in my spiritual direction program, and that always leaves me pondering everything that was discussed. First of all, there are about thirty of us and when we meet the first day of our monthly weekend session we check in. I often wish we could do this to begin a worship service each week. It wouldn't leave much time for preaching, but just hearing people's stories and sharing prayers for them is a wonderful way to "worship." It is connecting in the reality of God's love for all of us and sharing our concerns and joys with each other. I am always struck by how connected I feel after this check in. When people share their lives at a deep level, it's very difficult to stay disconnected. Each of us has about two minutes of "check in" to talk about whatever it is we want to talk about, but it's usually sharing from our lives. And the sharing is honest and deep; joys, new happenings in our lives, concerns, loss, relationships and all in a 'sacred' circle of sharing. There is something about sitting together in a circle, without desks or pews, that promotes this type of sharing. No matter how I feel when I arrive for the weekend, after the check in I feel connected and the depth of the weekend together is refreshing. We share, we sing, we study, we practice spiritual direction with each other - which takes us to deeper levels still. It is a wonderful program and I'm glad to be involved. Next month is our four day retreat and I'm looking forward to it. We spend one day in silence, and I love that! A day not to have to speak, answer, talk, respond or acknowledge anyone verbally - it's a treasured break. I love people, but it is in silence that I have learned my need for quiet and meditation. We spent some time in our theological reflection small groups talking about the concept of "manifesting" - or believing in what we want and the power we have to determine our lives. I have some serious problems with this concept, as did others, and it produced some lively discussion. For me it's too "abundance" oriented - that God wants us to have abundance (money, home, clothes, car, boat, etc. ad infinum) and I think the Biblical concept of abundance is not material. Hard to put down the jest of the discussion, but it was really good. There is a popular book called "The Secret" that's focused on this concept - and though I haven't read it, I do have some reservations about the idea. I believe how we focus our energy is important - but I believe it's always for the good of all creation, and not just what I think I need for my life.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Under the Weather

It's been awhile, but things have been busy and I either have terrible allergies or a terrible cold and I can't decide which it is! I began work on Sunday the 25th and worked again today. But, it's not a good way to start when you feel like your head is full of cotton and barbed wire. It was pleasant to assist on Sunday, and to meet many of the congregation. The senior pastor is friendly and very talented - he has a wonderful singing voice. It's one thing I don't have as a minister and always feel sad I'm not more musically inclined. I have a large office that's pretty empty. Since I'll be there only six months I don't want to fill it, but I also don't want to leave it empty! Over the next week I'll be deciding what to take in. I have more than enough books to fill two offices - most of them are in boxes in the garage. So, it might be a good thing to take the pertinent books with me. As I have been making these changes in work I have been thinking about taking a permanent call again. I love interim ministry, but already I can see that the changes happen at a more rapid pace than I'd like. Also, my ability to change and adapt seems to slow down as I get older. I have about ten more years to work and I think maybe a permanent call would serve my needs and the needs of a congregation well. I talked with the assistant to the bishop of SW Mn last week about keeping me in mind for permanent positions as they become available in this area - within a reasonable distance. Part of this decision for me is the connections I make within congregations, and the difficulty in leaving and saying good-bye. I really liked the folks at Gloria Dei and felt I was beginning to belong there. I liked the folks at Holy Cross. I like the folks at ULCE where we've been attending in St. Cloud, and now I am meeting another new group of folks. Don goes happily with me as I make these changes, but I'm thinking that a settled call might be the best way to get to know folks and build community over a longer period of time. It would give us a community to belong to for the next years, and then when I retire there would be just one more change to make back to a community where I haven't served as pastor.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Ain't technology grand?

I am writing my blog this evening on my new laptop computer - it's a beauty! But, there are some things to get used to. Like - no mouse - that's odd since I rely on one so heavily. I will eventually get one to plug in when I'm at home, but right now I'm doing without. We bought a Toshiba, which is highly rated, but we bought one that is discontinuing and still has XP because my husband didn't want the new VISTA. I'm not sure I have a preference, but it's nice we have all the same software since my laptop is networked with his computer. My computer is also wireless, so it will be fun to take it to a coffee shop sometime to try some writing. I'm convinced the combination of coffee and new computer will improve my writing tremendously! I thought the keyboard might be a little difficult to get used to, but I seem to be able to type about as fast as I can on a regular keyboard, so that's nice. The keys have a nice touch and the typing is fairly quiet even though I have a pretty strong keystroke. I think I could use this in a meeting without annoying everyone in the room. Have you experienced the computer user in the meeting who types so loudly that people just want to grab the thing away and close it up? I don't think that's going to happen with this one. I like having my own computer again because often both my husband and I want to use the computer and one of us has to wait. It makes it really hard when I want to play a game of Scrabble (on and can't because there are other more important things that need to be done!! Anyway, I think I'm going to like this. I went to TJ Maxx and bought a computer bag that doesn't look like a computer bag at all. And, it was really cheap! So, I think I'm ready to venture into the world with my new technology and enjoy coffee - maybe tomorrow between meetings! You'll recognize when I get to the coffee shop by the sharp improvement in my blog.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Working again

Beginning Sunday the 25th, I will be serving as associate pastor in a congregation about 35 minutes from home. It has been ages since I have served in an associate pastor position, and I'm looking forward to it. My focus areas will be mission, small groups, and pastoral care, which are all areas I've had some experience in and look forward to focusing on. The senior pastor is a male around my age, or possibly a bit older. He struck me as an honest man with integrity, and I look forward to working together with him. It will be odd, though, to serve in this capacity since I haven't done it in so long! I've had both very good and very bad experience as associate pastor. The contract I have is for six months with potential for renewal, but also a 30 day opt out for me or the congregation if it's clear this isn't a good match. That makes it very attractive. However, my "gut" feel is that this is a good fit and I look forward to getting on board. Life will change quite a bit though, because it's also been almost two years since I've worked full time. Seems like an odd time of the year for me to begin working full time, just when the weather is getting nice and we could be taking short trips to the north shore. We'll find a way to do that anyway! But for now I look forward to community, worship, working together with this congregation to help them discern for the future, and using the gifts I have for ministry. We'll see what the future holds. As one of my very good friends and I always used to remind each other, "All will be revealed."

Monday, March 19, 2007


Even though the first day of spring doesn't officially come until Wednesday, I know that spring is truly here. How, you might ask? I went for a walk on Saturday in Mandan, ND, where we were visiting my husband's former in-laws. It was a beautiful day - the temperature reached 68 degrees that day and it was a lovely walk. Warm, sunny and with a slight breeze. The air felt and smelled wonderful. There were many birds chirping, and the folks we visited had a tree out front of their house which was filled with cedar waxwings. Busy little birds eating the dried crab apples left on the tree branches. I saw many other cedar waxwings as I was walking - the town seemed to be filled with them. But, the reason I know spring is here is because of the other birds I saw - robins!! Every year, this is my "true" sign of spring. When the robins come back I know it's really here. I greeted the first robin I saw with delight and surprise. I actually didn't expect to see any robins and I definitely wasn't looking for them. It was a feeling of pure pleasure to experience seeing not only one robin, but six of them by the time my walk was finished. They were bobbing around on the ground, searching I'm sure for nesting material, and their bright orange chests announcing their presence. I smiled for a long time after sighting the first one. So now, no matter what the weather brings, like the snow flurries we drove through on the way home today, I know that spring is here and winter is behind us. I can't wait for the greening of the earth, the buds, the blossoms, the animals and birds; the richness of life to spring forth!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Favorite things

I was thinking today about some of the things I like most in life - like the simple pleasure of hugging. My grandchildren are good at this, hugging, squeezing, and cuddling. I was with the kids on Thursday and Friday, and whenever I'm sitting anywhere one of them (or more) are always sitting on my lap, sitting beside me cuddling under my arm, or as close to me as possible. Now that there are three it gets a little tricky for the lap when they all want to be with Nana at the same time! Other favorite things are having a meal together with friends. That's always been one of my favorites - and I miss some of my friends in other places because the opportunity for a meal together becomes more difficult. The meals are usually good, but in my mind it's the conversation; the laughter, the serious, the difficult, the funny - all of it makes it a social occasion that is different than any other. It brings people together and creates community. Other favorite things: walking outdoors, especially in a natural setting where there are trees, rocks, water, wind; music - soothing, relaxing, beautiful; drinking hot tea on a really cold day sitting near the fireplace; reading a good novel; the touch of a beloved; the smell of a baby; holding the hand of the dying; the taste of really good food...... I just realized that this list is going to get very large! It's fun to begin thinking about favorite things - I realize now that Maria's song from "Sound of Music" called favorite things is true. Just listing these things has created a sense of happiness and peace within me. I think I will try this when I'm feeling down!! Oh, that's another favorite thing - a really good movie!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Seeds of change

Yesterday in hospice orientation we talked about the last hours of life. Talking about the final hours brought back recollections of the many people who I had the privilege to know during their dying process, and whose last hours and moments I shared. These have been holy and sacred experiences. We so often think of death as final, or as some step to a "final reward" as Christians. Since working with the dying, my perspective has broadened and my theology has changed. Death is really a transition to something we cannot imagine. God is surely there on the "other side" - and I believe that many who have been judged unworthy will be there as well. The lesson from Isaiah this past Sunday told us that "God's ways are above our ways." To me, that means we really limit God with our limited imaginations. We develop theology and rules, then stamp them with God's approval and begin to believe that we have clearly named God. Yet - God's ways are above our ways, and we cannot begin to fathom the mystery of that!! So, I like to believe that death is similar to the death we see every year in the earth cycle. I took this picture of the milkweed pod last fall. It's dead, but look at those seeds!! Those seeds represent life and will breed more milkweed pods in the spring. Our death has to be something like that - our physical bodies have died, but there's so much more to who we are. And, in the love and mystery of God - I believe that even though something ends, something new begins. None of us knows for sure what that something new is, but I believe from my work with the dying that there truly is something more that defies logic and brings peace and hope to those who are dying.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Art and Spirituality

The St. Cloud camera club had an open house and photography show focused on spirituality at the Spirit of Life Art Gallery. The Spirit of Life Church is one of the Unitarian Universalist congregations in St. Cloud. The photography show was an interesting display, with a variety of images. Some of my favorites: the very wrinkled, knobby hands of an old woman; the baptism of a dark haired baby by a white haired pastor; a rustic carved Madonna from South America; an abandoned gas station/convenience store with the sign "Are you ready for Jesus?"; a field of wild daisies with a fire line burning behind them; a very rustic old cement stoop with a door partway open titled "always open" and the graffiti on the remaining cement bridge abutments of an old bridge. There were more images though it was a small gallery show. What struck me was the varied images and then the written words of the photographers talking about their concept of spirituality. Spirituality was evident in relationships, nature and inanimate objects. And that came through in the photography. It renewed my interest in photography and reminded me of the project "Befriending Winter" that I did a few years ago, which consisted of photography and prose/poetry. I posted awhile back with the title "Contemplation" where I shared "Inward Journey". Today my husband downloaded and added the picture that I took that went with the writing. I think this year is a good year for me to focus on photography and spirituality, so I will be posting more pictures as the year progresses. I'll also share more of my poetry/prose writing, which I haven't really done in a public forum before.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Spring is in the air!

Now that we've had our two major storms for this part of the year, it seems clear that spring is in the air! It was 46 degrees today and in the 40's yesterday. Will be again tomorrow and to 50 by Monday. But, it's more than just the temperatures - you can almost feel and smell spring in the air. I went for a 2.4 mile walk today and the air has that fresh quality that comes in the spring. The snowdrifts are melting fast and I'm sure we'll be in the rainy season in no time. Why is it that spring makes me feel alive again? I have a body that really slows down and becomes lethargic through the winter, but when spring comes it is as if my body is awakening along with all the rest of the earth. I'm convinced of evolution because my body still votes for hibernation! I've been aware of these body sensations for years - the sense of something awakening in me when the signs of spring appear. Even as a child I was aware of how my body changed and adapted to the seasons. The winter always seemed dark and long to me, and I always felt that lethargy. Spring was like coming alive and I loved summer. Fall was my favorite season, but I always feel a sense of melancholy. It's so beautiful, but I know winter isn't far behind and it is bittersweet. I love the cool, crisp days of fall with the beautiful colors in nature and the vivid blue of the skies. But, I long for it to stay and I resist the move to winter. I've been trying to make peace with winter these last few years, and I believe I am doing better with the cold and dark. But, I love this time of year and my spirit seems lighter and there is an underlying excitement because the days are longer, the sun is shining more and I can't wait for the greening of the earth. I don't hear many people talk about these same feelings, but I'm convinced that many people share this sense of change that is evident in our bodies and our spirits as we go through the year's cycle.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

What is it they say about death and taxes?

It seems to me there is some line concerning the only two things in life that are certain - death and taxes. Well, sometimes it seems like taxes are going to be the death of me!! We've actually now gotten everything lined up for our "Tax Lady" and should get that sent off tomorrow - yippee!! My poor husband has really done the lion's share of the work, but with clergy taxes there's a fair amount I needed to get together too. I keep telling myself I should devise a better system for keeping track of things during the year - and then I don't devise that system. Hmmmm.......... It does really feel good when we get it all together and have some sense of being finished, allowing our tax lady to do her magic and get it all sent off and taken care of. Of course, we hope there isn't more to pay! I keep telling myself I'm going to devise all sorts of plans for things; keeping records, cataloging recipes, photo albums, organizing closets just to name a few. But there are always so many other interesting things to do that I never seem to get around to those tasks. Even when I'm not working, we seem to be busy and then when I do have time I'd much rather read, watch a movie, play scrabble or visit with my children or grandchildren. Guess that means those tasks are really not high on my priority list. They are just things I'd like to get done 'someday.' I think because of working with dying patients and their families, I've developed a sense that life is vulnerable and we should enjoy it as much as we can while we are here. For me family is always a priority - if I have something I need to do I will usually drop it when my daughter asks me to come watch the grandkids. I can always do tasks, but I don't ever get enough time to just play with the grandchildren. It's so much fun to be a part of their lives. I grew up without grandparents for the most part. My dad's dad lived about ten miles from us, but I only saw him a few times in my life and they never came to visit. The few times I did see them it was clear we were not held in very high esteem because of my father's alcoholism and our resulting poverty. It's sad because I love the stories of 'beloved grandparents' that I have heard over the years and I think how much better my life might have been if I had that unconditional love. But rather than live with regret, I choose to commit to being the favorite "Nana" of my grandchildren and giving them all the love I possibly can as often as I can!

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


I've started exercising in the last few weeks and I'm finding I enjoy it. I love to walk outside as soon as the weather gets nice, but mostly in the winter I don't do much as far as exercise is concerned. That's just not healthy! So, I did buy a rebounder (small trampoline) and I bought some walking videos - and I walk on my rebounder. I actually tried the walking videos without the rebounder and my legs hurt so badly during the night I kept getting cramps and waking up! With the rebounder my legs don't ache at all. But, I wonder about why I'm so unmotivated to exercise. It's strange, because when I force myself to do it I actually enjoy it and feel so much better. I also notice that I eat less and have more energy. So why is it such a chore? It's not at all a chore when I can be out in the fresh air and walk - that's always been one of the greatest pleasures of my life. Especially when I lived in Duluth and could walk by Lake Superior. I am a nature person, and it seems that's where I do my best meditation - and usually when I'm walking. Indoors, of course, isn't as interesting - and certainly not as nice as having the fresh air outside. But the benefits of feeling good, eating less and having more energy should certainly all be motivators, so why aren't they? I have wondered about this many times over my life. I am not lazy, but I do have to force myself to exercise. So, if any of you blog readers out there have any wisdom on this one - let me know!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Winter blahs?

Sorry about missing a post yesterday, my dear hubby is on the computer doing taxes with Turbo Tax and I went to bed before he finished up!

Well, I'm not sure but I think the winter blahs have gotten ahold of me again. After a few days of sunshine and walking outside I thought I might have gotten past them. But, with the two major snowstorms and being inside most of the time I realize that they are still with me. I wish I could understand what causes them or why they seem to drain my spirit. I have no energy and no passion about anything. I struggled with writing a sermon, I struggle to make myself exercise, and I do my housework as if I am in slow motion. I know I have felt this to some degree every winter, but I wonder if it's worse for me when I'm not working. When I work, I tend to throw myself into work 150% and I seem to get energy at the same time I expend it. I have been enjoying being home, and I've been thrilled to have the time to read. But I tend to get so absorbed in my reading that seems compounded by my lethargy and I do even less than I should around the house! I know that this is often referred to as seasonal affective disorder, but I truly love what an astrologer I know has to say. She said it's really perfectly normal for our bodies to do this, that for thousands of years people lived in climates like ours and slowed down and stopped working during the winter. People gathered and grew food, prepared and stored it, and then hunkered down for the winter. They ate more dense food and tended to gain weight for winter. Our bodies are used to that for thousands of years - it's only been in the last couple of hundred years that we don't slow down and stop like before. We keep going no matter what and our "seasonal affective disorder" is labeled. She says that we're perfectly normal and our bodies are just working according to a very long tradition of resting in the dark time of winter. I liked her explanation and it made perfect sense to me. We don't stop. We wear ourselves out and don't get into the dormant period of winter that people's did for thousands of years. We push and push and push. No wonder we lack energy, no wonder we feel blue, no wonder we get depressed - we keep expecting ourselves to act like we always do when in reality winter is a time for hunkering down, going into the darkness and finding the gifts that are there for us. Course, when we get a taste of spring - it's difficult to go back into the darkness and hunker down!!

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Amazing Grace

My husband and I went to the movie "Amazing Grace" this afternoon. It was a really good movie - we both liked it. It was based on the history of the slave trade and the efforts to abolish slave trading in England during the late 1700's, early 1800's. The main character William Wilberforce, an abolitionist, was interesting - the way he totally gave himself to this cause. Albert Finney played John Newton, the preacher and former slave trader, who wrote the song Amazing Grace. I didn't know much of this history, but found it fascinating. I think if history could be taught in the form of really good films, more students would enjoy it! I would recommend the film to everyone. Most of the actors in this film are not well known, which makes it even more interesting. A good film without big name actors (except Finney, of course!). It was a good afternoon activity for us.

I preached and presided at worship at the small Lutheran church we attend this morning, and I really didn't feel good about how it went. Many people commented positively and appreciated it, but I didn't feel I did as well as I could and that is always difficult. I struggled with writing a sermon for the Luke 13 text from the beginning, and I just didn't feel like I was capturing what I wanted to. Oh well, sometimes it just doesn't work out as well as I'd like - I just don't like to be preaching in someone else's pulpit when it happens! I led the "Tree of Life" service by Marty Haugen, and I've not presided at that service before. It was kind of a challenge. I will say though, I think it's a lovely service. The music is quite singable - Marty Haugen always does good music!!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Being Nana....

Today was one of those wonderful days when I get to spend the day with my grandchildren. My son-in-law was out of town and my daughter needed to work, so the three kids and I spent the day together. Being a Nana is so much different than being a parent, and I love the ability to just focus on the kids and enter their world. As a mom, I always had so much on my plate that I didn't really have that much time to just focus on the kids and be with them in their world. So today, the kids and I cleaned their playroom in the basement to begin with. It was a mess!! It wasn't my idea - that would have been more what I would have done in my mothering days - it was my nine year old granddaughters idea because her room is in the lower level and she's the one a big mess most effects. So, at her suggestion we picked up everything and sorted, and put things in their place. My grandson, who is three, watched a movie while we cleaned - actually, my five year old granddaughter spent more time watching the movie than cleaning too! We finished this task at around lunchtime, and I made lunch for my grandson and put him down for his nap and gave the girls a snack because our lunch wouldn't come until around two. My youngest daughter was bringing lunch for the girls and I, so we went down and started putting up our Polly Pocket houses and getting ready to "play Polly's" as the girls put it. We had gotten all set up and were playing when our lunch arrived around 2 p.m. It's fun to play dolls with the girls, because I learn a good deal about them in their play. The five year old will get really silly sometimes and we laugh alot! After my daughter came and we had lunch, we decided to color together. This is one of the girl's favorite things to do together - we have a huge set of markers and coloring books (Nana has this at her house too!) and we choose pictures then spend time coloring. It's really fun - we give the pictures to each other when we're done. At any time you can come to Nana's house and find pictures done by the girls on Nana's fridge! We also watched a movie later too - for a little relaxing time to snuggle together. Mom came home and she, my youngest daughter and the two girls decided to go to a movie so I stayed with my grandson until dad came home about fifteen minutes later. Then I headed for home. It was a good day - I love just hanging with the kids. No pressures, nothing that has to get done, just enjoying their company and doing the things they love to do. We talked about summer and going swimming together, we talked about the next time they come for an overnight to Nana's house, and we had a good day. I love those children - and did you know I have a fourth grandchild on the way? These three will have a little brother or sister in July - and Nana can't wait to spoil that one too!!

Friday, March 2, 2007


Inward Journey (3-17-04)

The road less traveled.
The journey inward,
Is the most difficult to make.
It is like entering a deep, dark forest
We are afraid of what we will encounter.
There may be bears or wolves,
Maybe a mountain lion lurks there.
Or possibly a gingerbread house
With a witch that feeds on children.

The soul journey can feel treacherous,
The path unknown and uncharted,
Can leave us feeling helpless and vulnerable
To the reality of our truths.

Winter calls us to this journey like no other season.
To risk this unknown path
Whether slippery, steep or boulder strewn.
To tread on with courage and adventure
To face our fears as we go deep in
Trusting the end of the path will come.
For the promise of the season assures us,
Out of dormancy new life will grow again.
This journey helps us die to the old
To emerge in our lives anew,
And winter is her siren.

I was thinking about why I get so contemplative during cold, dark days and I came across this writing I did a few years ago. I think when we settle down, settle in, we begin to go inward because all the distractions are gone for awhile. Winter is the best time for this, because we tend to stay in more - and sometimes we HAVE to stay in. I wrote this when I was doing a creative project for a class, which included photographs and poetry. I called the project "Befriending Winter" because I really don't much like winter! Since then I have been learning to appreciate winter for what it is and to value the change in seasons. Of course, this winter has been so very mild until now it hasn't been hard to appreciate! This was one of the poems I wrote back then, and I wish I knew how to post the picture that went with it. (Tall evergreens covered with snow and with steps to a path leading inward.) I really enjoyed that creative project and would like to do something like that again soon. But for now I spend a good deal of time in winter just letting my thoughts wander and contemplating life as it is. Today, after about a fourteen inch snowfall, I am feeling a little cabin fever again. Even getting out and shoveling takes the edge off the feeling of "stuckness" I get. Funny, I can stay home a week at a time and it never bothers me. What bothers me is the feeling I can't get out!! It seems to me that lent is a wonderful time for the inward journey - the ability to go into oneself with love and compassion and be honest about who we are, where we've been, and where we hope to go.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Another winter storm

I'm starting to feel a little cabin fever - with two storms in a week! It's been snowing and blowing all day and I haven't even opened a door to look outside! At one point I thought I might go out to shovel the front walk, but then decided to get my exercise indoors on my rebounder. Way less cold! But there is bad weather everywhere it seems - snow in the north, tornadoes in the south. I spent the day reading - finished a book called "Jesus Land" which is a memoir. When I read things like this I cannot believe the things that people do in the name of God. I've read other things that detail abuse, but when it's done because of some strange religious beliefs it simply baffles me. The book is written from the teenage perspective of the woman writing it. It's the story of her family life, her adopted black brothers, their abuse, her abuse, and the parents finally sending one of her brothers and her to basically a Christian (and I use that term lightly!) "boot camp" in the Dominican Republic where more abuse is doled out in the name of Jesus. Do the people in charge really believe what they say and do, thinking that severe conditions and punishment are what God would require? How can parents pretend to be so pious when they treat their children in this way? It was a difficult book to read - and even more difficult when you realize this "boot camp" still exists and people pay LOTS of money to send their children there!! This is the book for next month's reading group we belong to at our church. It will certainly prompt an interesting discussion! This is a horrible, but important book if you have the stomach for it.