I am trying to slow down and focus on the season of Advent - of waiting, longing for God, and looking inward. I am seeking quiet and silence, and yet my world seems so loud and busy! Advent is a conundrum for me - the whole meaning of the season against the backdrop of one of the busiest times of year for the church. Not to mention all the invites for parties, concerts, recitals, etc. ad infinum. Into the midst of the craziness of this world comes the Advent of God in the birth of a little baby - not surprising, since it is the birth of a child that stops most of us short in the miracle of it all. Last week I was stopped short by a visit to the emergency room and a two night stay at the hospital. Chest pain, strong and unbearable sent me by ambulance to the hospital. Treatment, tests and discharge. I call this type of event a time warp, because it threw off my days, my schedule, my busy life and forced me to be still. It also refocused my life on gratitude; thankfulness for good medical care, a loving husband, another pastor and a congregations prayers. So maybe the idea during Advent isn't to seek quiet and solitude, maybe it's just opening my eyes and heart to the reality that it was into this crazy world that God came to be with us in all times. Quiet, loud, sad, happy, depressing, and all the moments of life - not to seek out some special feeling of God's presence, but to be aware of it at all times. God is always in the midst whether we notice it or not - it is the promise of the Christ child, Emmanuel, God with us. I'm so grateful for that reality that reconciles the world.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Isn't it funny how we need to adjust to things? I have been sleeping for ten hours each the last two nights because I'm exhausted. I wonder about how the human body needs to adjust when the weather changes abruptly. It's become quite cold in the last two days and I think I need the extra sleep because of that. Of course, my schedule is demanding, but not more so than it ever is and certainly not more so than this summer. Somehow, I have a body that functions much better with sunshine and warmth than with darkness and cold. I guess we might call this seasonal affective stuff, but I simply don't like it! It affects my mood as well because my self-assessment is that I seem to be more negative than positive. And so in these days of early darkness and cold, I pray for the warmth that I got in touch with in those things outside myself that come through paying attention to the light of God in the world. I pray for the warmth of people, places, events and moments of clarity of God's presence in the world.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Chilled is a word that says it all, really. It's Minnesota in early November, the weather is changing and I am chilled. Yet, even in the midst of this chill there is so much warmth. This morning I met with a committee to work on constitution changes that we are proposing for our church. The personnel chair and the congregation president and I met, and I am warmed by their presence. They are dedicated and focused on the good of this community of faith, which as a pastor warms my heart tremendously and I am so thankful for them and the gifts they offer "for the common good." Then, I met with a grief support group that began today and will meet for six weeks as we head into the season of Thanksgiving and Christmas which for many makes grief a particularly, well, grevious thing. Though the pain in this group was palpable, there was so much warmth. Warmth in the glow of the candles we lit to honor the grief and those we were grieving, but also in the hearts of those that even in the midst of their grief felt the love and compassion for their companions in this journey. On to lunch from there to experience the warmth of the person I ate lunch with - to hear her story and see her growth in her personal journey as she continues to seek to find her calling and passion in life. Even the warmth in the "comfort food" of mashed potatoes and gravy were a part of what helped me on the chilly day when I left the warmth of my home for the cold of the garage and car. I experience thankfulness, too, as I experienced the warmth of the heater in my car, knowing that in places in our world there are those who are chilled and seldom experience the warmth of a heater or a lovely home. Isn't it funny how when we take an experience such as being chilled and look at where the warmth is in life it can turn that experience on it's head? And, isn't that what God is always doing in our lives and in our world? Taking our ordinary experience and turning it on it's head? Leading us to new life, new depth and new appreciation for the gift of life and grace that comes only from God.
Monday, October 6, 2008
It's that time of year again and I am seriously looking forward to vacation! My husband and I will leave on Oct. 13th for Palm Springs, and then we're also on our way to Sedona, AZ after that. We'll be gone about ten days. Last year we spent LOTS of time out and about on our vacation and I came home exhausted. My plan this year is to take some books to read, and to do a few things while we're there, but not to spend all our time running around. I need to really rest - to relax - take a walk each morning and enjoy just being. I do plan in Sedona to visit some of the "spiritual sites" - there are a few tours and I haven't decided what I want to do, but that draws me. I have a friend who has visited Sedona, so I'm going to email and ask her to give me some sense of what she thinks would be good for me to do. She and I participated in a two-year Spiritual Direction course and Sedona is an important spiritual place for her. Also, this year, I arranged vacation so I'll be home for a couple of days before heading to work and I'm not preaching on the Sunday I return! I'm so excited about that. Reformation Sunday will be my first Sunday back, and I look forward to participating - we have confirmation - but the Youth Family Pastor is preaching. I preside, and we both are involved in confirming the youth, but it's not like preparing the sermon. Bottom line for me is that I am looking for rest, renewal for my soul, and a reaffirmation of incorporating self care into my schedule when we return. Our lives are busy, and I am one of the pastors at a very busy parish. I need to work on building in that which nurtures my spirit and soul - particularly when it comes to being in natural environments. I have a very deep 'nature spirituality' and when I don't nurture that, I feel the difference in my personality, body and spirit. God's spirit is active in all the world, and I know God is present in every moment. I look forward to slowing down and really absorbing that over the next few weeks!
Monday, September 29, 2008
I just finished reading "The Shack", which is a novel a pastor friend, an Episcopal priest, suggested I read. Because it is a novel, it's a quick read. The story is centered around a man's life and the abduction and murder of his young daughter. That's a painful topic for any parent or grandparent to read, so I found it difficult. But, the experience of the trinity and the relational theology in the book resonated with me. There were things I loved and found myself resonating with, things that made me weep as the main character faced his own personal need for reconciliation, and things I didn't necessarily like. One of the things that I didn't like was the bad wrap the church got from the trinity - it was as if the church (institutional) was repugnant to them - but the institutional church is made up of all the people that God "is especially fond of' - so I didn't quite get it. The church is like all of creation - in bondage to sin. Does that make it somehow worse than everything outside the church? I've had to go away from the church because of my own judgmentalism just to find myself back in the church with newer understanding and greater appreciation that our congregations are full of hopelessly "saint and sinner" people. We are human and we all have our issues - that was clear in this book as well. Love was an abiding theme throughout the novel and I firmly believe that "Love" is the very essence of God and that we humans have built and perpetuated the systems of law and judgment. I sort of liked that being spelled out in the book. It is certainly a book that I want to "chew on" for awhile - since I just finished reading it this morning. These are just initial perceptions. I'm anxious to get a group together to discuss it. In fact, I am just beginning to put together a Women's Reading Group at church for a monthly discussion of a number of books over time. I love to read and it doesn't matter what type of reading we do - there is theology in it all. Now, if I could just find time for a movie club!
Friday, September 19, 2008
It's funny, that just after I talked about needing to find the time to read I got sick and spent a couple of days at home doing just that! I finished the novel, "Whistling in the Dark" by Leslie Kagan, and I read the Newberry Award winning book, "The Higher Power of Lucky" as well. I have started "The Giver", which is also a Newberry Award winner. I decided to read some of the Newberry books so I could pass them on to my 6th grade granddaughter and we could discuss them when she's gotten them read. What a luxury it has been to curl up and read. I haven't enjoyed the chills, runny nose, cough and general feeling of being run over by a semi however! I have also started an annotated bibliography so I can keep track of the many, many books I read and have a little synopsis of the book so it will spark my memory. This makes my sorting books a bit slower, but I am happy to be doing it. I should of started it years ago! I am also thinking that I will begin a reading group here at church - I already know at least three women who will be a part of it and I'm hoping to attract others. I find so much theology and evidence of God in life as I read, which of course comes out of my own theological perspective. I am a process theologian and believe that God is always active, always drawing us and all creation toward our good and the good of all. I believe God's work in the world is reconcilliation, and that God is always in the midst of all moments of all life. Life is never fully good or bad; it is a mixed bag. I saw a card once that said life is like a piece of music; some high notes, some low notes, but a beautiful melody just the same. I am so thankful for all the moments of my life and ministry!
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Today was filled and I spent the afternoon at home beginning to sort through my books in order to get rid of some. I have boxes of books that until recently were stacked in my garage. I understood as soon as I began going through them why I have so many; I love books and have a hard time letting them go. As I pulled many of the novels I have read out of boxes I felt a struggle with wanting to keep them! So, tonight I began compiling an annotated bibliography to track all the books I am letting go of. I should have began this bibliography years ago because I have read so many books that at times I have purchased a book and realized when I began reading it that I have already read it before. I love books - I have loved books for years. Novels especially - because there is so much reality, so much truth, so much life in the stories that I learn about life from reading. I think people feel more free to express reality in novels than they do in non-fiction. Somehow, non-fiction seems more controlled, or more edited - as if the person writing is telling us what they want us to know rather than telling us the truth. In fiction you can tell the truth - blatantly and bluntly simply because it is called fiction. As a theologian, I love fiction because I see God in all of life, in all relationship, and always in the world working for reconciliation. There is no place, no heart, no life, no part of creation that God is not present. Reading reinforces this for me. I love to read theology, but that's just thinking about God and then writing about what we think. Fiction is writing and then thinking about God in the context of real life. I have been a member of reading groups before and I love them. An opportunity to exchange ideas and thoughts about life and God from the perspective of the things we've read. I haven't had much time to read lately, but I am going to try and get back to reading because of the life and stories it gives me to draw from.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Can it be that summer is coming to an end already - September 1st is right around the corner and autumn begins Sept. 22nd. This year summer has literally flown by and it has been busier than ever. As a busy pastor I always feel that when summer comes it should slow down because many activities are suspended for the summer. But then again, there are many activities that happen only during the summer. I think it's time to stop deluding myself - this life is a busy, relentless one and if I am going to have time for myself I have to MAKE it! Thus, the focus on conscious self-care. I haven't done well with that this summer and I am recommitting myself to focus on my spiritual needs and intend to find ways to nurture my spiritual self apart from my job. Intention is the key - and then finding some things that nurture me away from the community of faith I serve. Maybe it will get easier because we are finally getting a second pastor on board - our Pastor of Youth and Family ministry begins at the end of September and I am so excited! He's a young man, fairly newly married, and has charisma and sound Lutheran theological grounding. His wife is a teacher and has just begun her job in the nearby school district so they are in the "in between" of leaving one call and beginning another. Both of them are excited about the posibilities here and look forward to establishing themselves in this community. I like them both and look forward to building a strong pastoral team focused on the mission of the gospel. I'm also looking forward to preaching only half the Sundays of the year! I'm thinking also that a vacation in October is in order - time to get away and just relax; read some good novels, take long walks, have great meals with my hubby and spend time just talking and sharing life without all the distractions of the parish. Life is good! I'm enjoying my call and now will enjoy it even more fully with a partner to share ministry with. As this new season change comes it's really a metaphor for my congregation - we are now out of interim and heading into a new season for this church. I pray our leadership is effective and the presence of the Holy Spirit will guide and direct this church toward the fulfillment of the mission of the gospel.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I just preached a sermon on Matthew 14:22-33 focused on Peter and the disciples in the storm and early in the morning Jesus comes walking across the water toward them. They're scared - who wouldn't be? Is it a ghost? Even after Jesus assures them it's him, Peter isn't convinced and essentially tells Jesus to 'prove it!' Once in a seminar given by Martha Stortz, professor of religion, she encouraged us to read a Biblical story from the perspective of all the characters in the story. This time I was curious about the perspective of the other disciples. In their minds, Peter wouldn't have been showing great faith - which is traditionally what I've heard about this text. In their experience they are trying to keep the boat from capsizing, they are scared, and they need Peter's help since he is an experienced fisherman. So, might they see Peter's actions as foolish, arrogant, selfish, or even downright stupid? Because if Peter goes over the side of the boat they'll also have to figure out how to fish him out of the sea! I see the action in this text, the faithfulness, on the part of God in Christ - not in Peter's action. God is always reaching to us whenever we are foolish, arrogant, selfish and stupid - God is always saving us. It's is God's action, not ours, and certainly not Peter's that constitutes faithfulness. And then I asked the question, "what happens when the last act of your life is a stupid one?" I proceeded to talk about my nephew Taylor, who died in a car accident - not wearing a seat belt and running a red light. It was stupid of him - and it cost him his life. And yet, Taylor had grown up in the faith, he believed in God, he was baptized, but the last few years of his life he struggled with many things. His faith, his sexual orientation, God, and the feeling he didn't belong and wasn't loved. He was deeply loved! By his family, by his friends and co-workers. Over 500 people attended the wake and funeral. But Taylor didn't love himself and his last act was a stupid one. Yet - God reaches to him and saves him. God draws him into his arms of mercy and grace and loves him so fully now that Taylor has to know he's loved. It isn't our faithfulness that saves us - even when we do our best - but especially when we're at our worst. It is God's love and faithfulness to us that saves us!
Monday, February 25, 2008
This is the time of year when there is a day of sunshine and warmer temperatures and it feels as if life is new again, or at least it feels like a promise in the air that spring might really come! I feel like I've been "running" since Advent without any time to slow down. We're in the season of lent and moving toward Easter, but I'm feeling kind of tired. I do feel excited that the call committee is working toward the call of two pastors, and though they are early in the process there is light at the end of the tunnel! I came to this congregation a year ago and they have done a good interim process and now are ready to move ahead with the call of two pastors. It's been difficult to be the only pastor in such a busy place, but we wanted to try a youth/family interim position to see if two pastors were really necessary. Two pastors are really necessary! Two pastors will be called; one focused in worship and spiritual care and the other focused on youth and family ministry. The beauty is they will not be senior/associate, but rather a team with neither having authority over the other. Wouldn't it be great to have a youth/family pastor because that was their passion rather than because they are the associate and it's what they have to do? And so, we wait and see what good things will happen in this parish as they go forward and seek two pastors. In the mean time, trying to find time and ways to nurture my own spirituality will be the goal and focus for my life. I find myself feeling sort of depleted right now - hmmmm.... sort of that wandering in the wilderness feeling. How fitting for the season of lent. I'm waiting for the renewal of Easter and the freshness and warmth of spring!
Friday, January 25, 2008
I've always thought of life as a miracle - or at least I have since the birth of my first daughter. There is something awesome about giving birth and watching a little one grow. My first daughter is now thirty-three with four children, and I have been amazed by the gift of each of them. What a wonder they are - and what a wonder life is! That is even more imprinted in my mind because of the events of the last week. My lovely husband of three years had a heart attack early Monday morning. We are so grateful he is doing so well!! We have become aware and thankful for emergency rooms, helicopters, excellent surgeons and nurses, life saving drugs, and the support of family and friends, and most importantly the reality of God's grace and presence in all aspects of life. Life is truly precious. I have known this through working as pastor, chaplain, and hospice spiritual care coordinator. Somehow, when you come face to face with the possibility of death it becomes even more clear. My bishop called today and during our conversation he reiterated something he had once heard. He said that most of us live with the belief that death is a possibility and life is a certainty, when in reality life is a possibility and death is the certainty. Wow - it is true. How grateful I am today for the possibility of life - for the possibility for more time with my dear husband whose gentle, kind heart is stronger today because of the quick action that saved his life.