I am still at the Annual Meeting of the Maine Confernece United Church of Christ. And I'm tired. I could be tired because the conversation has been tiring. We were prophetic -- or I like to think that even though I'm not sure what we did vote on was actually prophetic. Or maybe because we have been sitting for so freakin' long.

I started a blog for church. No one reads this other blog yet. That's not true. I know there is one reader. But, just one and there are no comments yet. I admit that I like the comments. It's part of what compels me to blog. Anyhow, I have been blogging for church during these decisions. And this would be DAY 12 without a day off. The 7 delegates of my local church don't understand this. They are hopeful and excited. But, they don't really absorb the idea that I'm working all weekend. One of them offered that it must be a break to have Sunday morning off. Actually, I would love to have had my weekend and work tomorrow morning at church. I wasn't there last week after the Confirmation Retreat. I feel disconnected.

OK, I admit. I feel tired. But, I'm plotting for the "extra" day off that I am taking on Tuesday. Erica asked for a little help in her blog. And I feel a similiar plea every time I take a day off on a day that others (I mean, non-church types) don't have the day off. How am I supposed to make friends if I have weird days off? Like a Tuesday? WHO AM I SUPPOSED TO HANG OUT WITH?

I know. It's whiny. But, I wonder this sometimes. I'm a little tired too. But, instead, I think I might get a massage. A friend gave me a very, very generous gift certificate to this place. Of course, the tension I feel is not as much in my feet as it is in the that between the shoulders space. So, I wonder if I should look a little further and save the gift certificate for cold Maine weather. So much to think about.


The Power to Heal

After a really difficult phone call yesterday, I wished that someone had given me this gift of the Spirit. I wish that somewhere between seminary and ordination, someone had at least taught me how to heal. Ya know, like those miracles that Jesus performed. "Your faith has made you well." Go. Walk. Love. Be healed. I so wish that I had this gift.

It breaks my heart to hear this church member cry because his son has somehow gotten lost in his teenage years. I want to be able to tell him that it will be fine -- but I know that it won't. Nothing will be that easy. But, I want to to tell him that his faith will heal him. And all shall be well. It's the same feeling that I get when I hear my friend talk about mourning the death of his father. I want to tell him, "Your faith has made you well." I want to offer these words to the Episcopal Church USA. Even in these struggles, all will be well. Even if things must change, "your faith has made you well."

So, I'm praying tonight for peace and love. I'm hoping for healing -- and wondering if I have any part in that process. I'm feeling defeated and wanting to do more. I'm a fixer. I can't help it. But, I want to kiss it and make it better. Why can't it be that simple?


Joys & Concerns

Gracious God, who somehow manages to sustain me through a three day retreat by a beautiful lake with six confirmands, thank you for the blessing of discovering again and again that your faith is active and alive in young people who continue to ask brilliant questions while pushing me to the brink of sanity. For this joy:

O Lord, Hear My Prayer.

Remind your church and your blessed creation of this youth so that I don't have to sit down with another pastor to talk about why young people are not continuing the minsitry of the previous generations. I know you have more patience for this. But, I find it darn near impossible to explain to anyone why my generation is not interested in church or the ministry beyond our church. These are things that I can't explain. And quite frankly God, I don't want to explain this. I can't figure it out and I don't want to have to apologize for my generation. For this frustration:

O Lord, Hear My Prayer.

Empower me with new energy for another week looking forward to another working weekend. Grant me energy, hope and love as I bound through this week to gather with your servants at the Maine Conference Annual Meeting at another beautiful place in this state. For this strength:

O Lord, Hear My Prayer.

Help me to figure out what I just witnessed on PBS tonight. Help us all to remember how important it is to tell stories across our generations so that we might remember the transgressions of the past. Remind us that only in telling these stories will we learn from our mistakes and only be hearing these stories will we learn more about the world that we have created. For this concern:

O Lord, Hear My Prayer.

Anticipate with me the fun that awaits me this week as I look forward to a new opportunity for connections. No matter how many times I struggle with loneliness, celebrate the giddiness of new friends with me, O God. Relish in the comfort of watching documentaries with friends and sipping wine. Embrace me with these small moments of grace through the love of friends. For this peace:

O Lord, Hear My Prayer.

There are probably many other prayers on my heart and mind. I could pray for the world and peace. I could pray for hope and possibility. But, for now, hear these prayers, O Lord. Hold them close to your bosom. Breathe upon them and enliven me with your love so that I might love the world as much as you have loved me. For these and so many more things, in the name of Christ Jesus, I pray. Amen.


The Breast Center

I called the Breast Center at the local hospital today. Can you believe that there is something called the Breast Center? The receptionist was lovely. She referred me to the right people to talk to about DNA testing -- and then transferred me to talk to the mammogram people.

If you are 40 years old and a woman with breasts, this should be routine for you. I'm not going to lecture you about it. Just do it. It's part of the self care thing and we just don't know what causes this cancer thing. So, please. Get a mammogram. Support the women of your churches and local communities to do so. OK?

If you are under the age of 40 and call something like the Breast Center at your local hospital to schedule a mammogram, the nasty woman on the other end of the phone will be nothing but nasty. Imagine the rudest voice possible asking you, "Why exactly do you waht to do this?" This is after she asked you if the appointment was for you or someone else (where she thought she was preempting the strike.)

I was not composed in this moment. I was angry. "BECAUSE IT KILLED MY MOTHER," I said. And she barked back something about needing to have permission from your doctor. Through clenched teeth, I explained that I had moved and had not needed this before. I hung up the phone -- still irrate. But I gathered my wits. And in the 15 minutes before Bible study, I made some calls to find a freakin' doctor. Ok. Ok. I should have done this a long time ago. But, I did it. Nice lady doctor in a nearby town that my insurance will even cover. Woo hoo!

And then, I made a call to the DNA people and left a message. I'm not convinced that it's the right choice for me. One of my dear friends listened to me talk about this on Sunday night after I had read the dreaded article. We talked about my family history and all of my fears -- or at least, many of them. My dear friend has listened to me admit these things before. Those things that I dare not tell many people about how my mother's death and disease affect me. I'm so grateful for friends like him. But even with good friends to listen, I'm not sure that the DNA test is the right choice. And yet, I need to talk it out with someone in the medical community. I need to explore what it would mean. I need to figure out why God is putting this before me right now. Is this even God moving me this way? How can one be sure?


The Church is Still Standing

There is no place for them in the inn.

After I guided my small class of 6 students through the use of a Concordance and a Bible Dictionary, these are the words I wrote on the easel. And then, I asked questions. What do we need to know? What is assumed here? What might we want to know more about?

I don't know if The Thoughtful Christian had this in mind when they encouraged subscribers to use Biblical Interpretation 101 in their congregations. But, as conversation continued, I actually said that this journey probably never happened. I said that Luke probably made it up. And the looks of relief were astonishing. I didn't refute the church member that insisted that Mary was a virgin. But, I did say that it was highly unlikely that this lady made it on a donkey that pregnant. They laughed. And then, they asked more questions. Excited questions that you ask when you just want more and more information. Excited questions that can't quite seem to be get enough information. And then, I started talking about non-canonical texts. We talked about how the canon was formed and why these choices were made. There were no blank stares. There were no furrowed brows. There were looks of relief. There were looks of delight as I reminded these church members that there are stories that we believe because of faith, not because of logic. There are stories that we continue to tell that don't make any earthly sense. But, they matter. They really matter.

And the church is still standing. I'm in shock.


Why NOW?

Or perhaps the question is really: Why EVER?

I'm about to go to an event for church --- one that I'm running and then I read this article. This has been on my mind for weeks. I do self exams almost daily. I monitor what new pimples or marks appear on my breasts. You might think I keep a diary, but I'm not that compulsive. See, this is what beat my mother. This is what I watched as a child -- the scar, the silicone breast, the chemo, the radiation, the pain and death.

I recently learned that the hospital in my new town does these DNA tests. They have a whole unit. So, I'm wondering again if I should take the test. Is it better to know if I carry BRCA1 or BRCA2? Or is it better to not know? I assume the worst in these results, you must understand. And the woman in the article is 33. Why 33? That's how old mom was when she died. She was my age when she found the lump. So, I've been thinking about this a lot -- in that frozen, frightened kind of way where you don't actually do anything but quietly panic.

And I'm single and childless. So, then I have to decide if I could ever breastfeed my child. Which only brings tears to my eyes. But, I can't cry. I have to go to church. Fuck. I think I can curse here. FUCK.


What Is the Meaning of Success?

President Bush said it last night. General Petraeus said it earlier this week. Perhaps others are saying it too -- and I'm too impatient to read the article or listen to the rest of the audio broadcast. But, President Bush is convicted in his belief that we are showing signs of success in Iraq. We can't back out now, he insists from his own logic that I cannot seem to grasp. But, in his speech last night (which I can't bring myself to actually get through without screaming), President Bush announced that our success in Iraq may allow gradual troop cuts. This number is not clear. The actions that need to be taken are incredibly vague. And like many others, I'm frustrated.

In the week of the sixth anniversary of 9/11, I find myself once again eager to be in prayer and fellowship with others who share my hope for peace. Perhaps that is why this digs me most. This news comes this week -- when our nation mourns our wounds. This news comes this week as if to placate our fears. It just doesn't seem right. And I know that I am not alone.

I got an email from Jim Wallis today. At the very end of the email, he asked for prayer. He reminded his email audience of the power of prayer and that prayer can and will change our world. But, this was after he asked for money -- twice. He asked for donations in particular increments to support Sojourners work toward peace and justice. I deleted the email in annoyance. As much as I value the work that Sojourners does, the double request for money hit the same nerve that Bush seems to disregard human lives. Is it money that will solve this problem? Has money ever solved any problems in our world? Didn't our nation's greed send us to Iraq in the first place?

I admit that I'm ranting. I admit that I may be unfair to Jim Wallis and the hardworking people at Sojourners. But, I can't help but wonder what it means to have success. What is success in this particular conflict? Can anyone be bold enough to assert that success has been obtained? Perhaps I'm still grieving 9/11 or perhaps I'm still thinking about the funeral that I officiated at earlier this week. But, these words by Ralph Waldo Emerson come to mind:

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty;
To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by
a healthy child, a garden patch
or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed
easier because you have lived;

This is to have succeeded.

I wonder who is breathing easier on this day after President Bush and General Petraeus have annouced success. I wonder what part of the world is better. Where are the healthy children and blossoming gardens? Or where might we find a redeemed social condition? I cannot know. And this is why I join Sojourners and others in prayer. I pray with members of the United Church of Christ and I pray with friends who find the words for my prayer when I cannot. May it be so.


Dancing With God

Look! It turns out that I still have some artistic merit. I received my copy of The Response, a United Methodist Women's Magazine. As you know, I'm not a Methodist woman. But, I did serve a Methodist church briefly in seminary so I have friends among the Methodist women. And somehow, they think I'm an artist (a title that I'm not sure I can accept).

This week, I tried painting again. I tried to actually use the studio/guest room in my home. It was only a few weeks ago that I was in Cape Cod in a painting class. Long before that class, I had been asked to do this artwork for one of the stories in this issue of the Response. It's about evangelism, I think. I read it a long time ago and created some artwork related to the heart and impulse of the article. And I must say, it's strange to see your artwork in print. It's really weird when you struggled to put paint to canvas just this week. Somewhere this part of me is still there. And in all outward appearances, it's an active part of me. Funny though. Sometimes our lives don't mesh that well. Try as we might. There are separate parts. Sometimes prayers flow. Sometimes it's impossible it is to pray. So it is with paint, it seems.


Far Away

This is how I feel today. Far away. In Maine, if you are not from here (meaning that your mother's mother was born in this state), you are from away. I will always be from away. But, today I just feel so far away. It really started yesterday when I was struggling to write my sermon for the funeral that I officiated at today. I didn't realize that my own grief about this day was getting in the way. I didn't realize that what was making this endeavor so diffcult might simply be that I'm far from NYC today.

There were no worship services in my area to memoralize the day. There were no churches open for prayer, including the one in which I serve. But, I wanted this. I desparately wanted an intentional space for this kind of prayer. Instead, I held the hands of four daughters who buried their father today while I tried not to convey my own grief. Instead, I stood in the rain and commended this 90 year old man into the earth. Instead, I read Ecclesiastes 3 and wondered what season this was.

I wasn't there when it happened. I was living in London at the time. At 3 PM, I was urged to turn on the TV to see the destruction of my home city. I spent the next several hours trying to assure the safety of my mother who worked in Midtown. She was with friends uptown. She was fine. But, I was scared. And I just wanted to go home. Instead, I went to Italy. On September 12, I wandered the streets of Florence (another home for me) as the reality of this disaster followed me through the streets. I was with my Italian family there. And for the most part, I felt safe and loved. Perhaps this is what I miss today. Perhaps this is what I miss for all of us -- for the Iraqis, Afghanis, Arabs and others who are mistreated because of our country's racist ignorance. Perhaps this is what grieves me today. It all seems so far away. New York is too far. Peace is too far. Understanding is too far. And though it grieves me to say it, hope seems too far away.


A Little Teaser & A Game

You may have heard of the soon-to-be released publication of Fidelia's Sisters. I've already blogged about it. Perhaps you're already bored with the news. But, I'm a wee bit excited.

There will be all kinds of great columns and insights written and created by, for and in support of young women clergy. I'm writing one these articles on this Sunday night in my sweats before I go pick up a friend from the airport. It's a serial novel. Each month, there will be a new segment in the adventures of someone like us -- a young lady preacher. Her name is Lexi. She's divorced and lives somewhere in rural America. I imagine her to be something like the Simpsons. Only when her movie is released (yes, I dream that a movie will be released that actually debunks the myth of what we do) will we discover what state she actually lives in. Maybe that too will be decided by a game.

But for now, the game is simply to figure out the name of this quaint little town. I automatically go to Biblical names because I'm a big ol' Bible nerd. I lean toward Corinth because it was a racy kinda place. Oh, and it's a town in upstate NY. But, perhaps she does live in Springfield. Or perhaps she lives in Moline or Corpus Christi or... well, you decide. Where should Lexi live? Submit all entries below.


Good News in New York

A good friend in New York (and a former colleague when he was my boss at Common Ground) just sent me this New York Times article claiming that there is "only one first time for getting your name in the paper." Don't you love that? I love that he dreams so big -- not only in his personal life, but knowing that the work he does will change the world if not New York.

If you don't believe there is good news in the world today, read this for some gospel truth. My preaching professor in seminary told us to look for images of the resurrection in our everyday world. And this is surely going in my file.


Bad News

While I was on vacation, an opporunity for women in ministry became available. With the events that I attended this summer, I thought that maybe women in ministry were making some exciting changes. I thought that things were getting better. This news does not prove this point. It makes me sad. OK. It actually makes me furious. But, leave it to the boys at Southwestern Theological Seminary.

Southwestern’s Homemaking Concentration provides “practical experiences for skill development for the most important job a woman may have: the nurture and care of the family.”

The Web site describes further the intentional design of the Homemaking Concentration stating that, “It is unique in that we recognize the need to challenge women both intellectually and practically. It is our mission to equip a woman to impact women and families for Christ.”

I would love to hear thoughts on this new program. In fact, I would really like to read something published in Fidelia's Sisters. Have you heard about this upcoming publication? It's a new publication created by the board of the Young Clergy Women's Project to address issues, concerns and the abundant creativity of young women in ministry. It will be an online publication which you can watch for here. And I'm hyping it without the consent of my fellow board members (did I say I was on the board?), but I'm really excited about it the good news that is coming. The release date is October 1st. Get ready!

Letter to the Editor

Alex has inspired me to actually articulate my thoughts rather than only sharing them with colleagues and friends. Below is a Letter to the Editor responding to two different articles, entitled True Church and A Mormon president?: The LDS difference.

Musician Dan Bern sings, "And if you must put me in a box, make sure it's a big box." Upon reading the recent articles, A Mormon president?: The LDS difference and True Church, I feel that our boxes are much too small. It would be dishonest to say that the Pope's statement did not sting as much as it would be unfair to say that I have not questioned Mitt Romney's presidency. And yet, I don't feel that we are listening. We are not asking Mitt Romney fair questions. We are not asking the LDS community or even the Pope to join us at table. Instead, we are gossiping around our own dinner tables about things that we have seen and heard. We are talking about our own hurts and distrust without finding ways to engage in authentic conversation with those that we are making the other. The questions posed by the Editor begin to break down these boxes. Certainly, no one is "left off the hook." I only hope that we can find ways to rejoice with the other that we are so determined to put into a box.