Earlier today, I was trying to scurry out of the office to make it to the gym in order to combat the anti-spread campaign. I haven't talked about this much because it wasn't serious until now. The spread arrived over my hips about three weeks ago. I'm not amused.

But as I was scurrying out of the office, my Google chat perked up. The greeting was rather darling. It was something about the sun coming out. I didn't see it outside my window but I'll welcome some sunshine. The conversation continued so that my friend PPB directly asked if I was leaving my present call or not.

Huh. Um...

I don't know, I told her. I'm thinking about it. She offered me a shopping metaphor. I can only say that there is a red suit that I saw there for way cheap three weeks ago and I didn't get it (because of the spread). I'm sad. It was pretty. Is this what I am supposed to glean from my friend's wisdom? Am I supposed to be shopping?

On a side note, I feel whiny. I don't mean to sound whiny -- but it's the mood I've been in recently. Please forgive me. Blame it on the spread, if you must.


Not Thinking

My self care practice has been fairly tame recently. Nothing earth shattering. Nothing revolutionary. Just good reminders about how to take care of yourself as clergy -- which I might actually be able to learn to be good at. Fascinating.

And then, we get to this week: Taking Time for Yourself. Now, I have taken self care inventories many, many times now. I have taken the same one several times. But, this one leaves me numb. Why?

Well, I scored a 10 out of 16. I have room for improvement, it tells me. I also didn't check a number of these things because they don't apply to my present call. For example, there was a question about returning in the middle of my vacation for work. I wouldn't do this. I'm on a team. My colleague is there to do it. He would come back from vacation if I was there, but that's another story. I also am not planning on a sabbatical because I don't think that I will be at my present call the certain amount of time that I need to be here to earn it. I'm also only 18 months into my present call. Who's thinking about a sabbatical then?

But, the one that really floored me: "During my time off, I am able to refrain from thinking about work."

Um, no. I think about it constantly. Not worrying about my to do list -- but dreaming about what I want to do and praying for members of the church and wondering about what our work will be together. I think about it all of the time. Don't you? And if you don't, then how do you stop yourself from thinking about work?


Reading Challenge VIII

It's a beautiful day for a book. Somehow God heard my plea for warm weather and sunshine. I got both. It's 70 degrees here. It's baffling. So I enjoyed this sunshine by finally finishing the last 30 pages of Walter Brueggemann's Mandate to Difference.

I'm not convinced that this collection of essays does serve as an invitation to the contemporary church. It doesn't really fuel the fire in my mind. Yes, I certainly agree that liberal (or so-called liberal) churches need to affirm their faith in the Biblical "script." And yet, I think Brueggemann's urge is really to clergy -- not to churches. I think it might be more worthwhile to pray and discern how we observe sabbath together (as this is the central thesis he repeats). I don't think it's just about clergy.

However, I am Congregational. I believe in the power of the pew. I don't like hierarchy and I have no idea how my sister denominations do it. I know it works for them. I just don't get it -- and so I want this invitation to actually be to the church, not just clergy. The problem is that he writes (and speaks) to the academy so that this book would be hard to do with church people that constantly remind me that they "don't know anything about the Bible."

Ahem. This turned into a rant. Clearly, it struck a chord. Perhaps that's the invitation. I'll have to think more about it. And if you happen to read it, I'd be curious what you think.



I really want to like this. I really want to think this is a good thing -- even if Pat Robertson cleverly says that he is "usually right." I really want to affirm their work together and their collaboration with Al Gore at We Can Solve the Climate Crisis, but I'm not so sure.

Keeping a Journal

Since I started blogging, I have journaled less. I mean, why keep a journal when you can publish your thoughts for all to read on the internet and get comments? Honestly. But, now, I'm taking a continuing education class discovering my inner ability to write fiction at our local university -- and I am required to keep a journal. Again.

I forgot how much I missed journaling. I forgot what a wonderful companion it can be. Not that I don't adore all of you, but I do write differently in my journal. I say more. I offer thoughts that I would hesitate to offer here as I don't want you to think that I'm crazy. And I am. But, I don't need you to be thinking that. In my journal, I can write differently. It's rather liberating and I had totally forgotten about it.

In class tonight, we made a list of the functions that a full-sentence journal might have. If you are writing in less than full sentences, the fiction writing teacher thinks you are not keeping a journal. I wouldn't know how to do that anyhow. That's what my calendar looks like -- and that's a mess as it is. This list included (but was certainly not limited to): reflections, rants, fantasies, dreams, what ifs, dialogues, parodies, spoofs. And then, I added: "Shit I had a bad day." The fiction writing teacher quickly added something about getting a new job when I made this comment. I didn't say anything. But, I wanted to tell her that this was actually healthy.

When I do write in my journal now, this was what I write. I write about those bad days that I can't tell anyone about. I write about what makes me sad about my work and why my heart is breaking because I care so freakin' much. I don't want a new job. I want to be sane in my current job. So, I'm taking a class to learn how to turn all of this stuff into a really good story -- as I believe there should be more stories about church. Good liberal church. But, I know that others of you write and enjoy writing even if it's just blog posts and sermons. I wonder about what outlets you give yourself in your journal or other places. How does writing feed your ministry?


It is Well with my Soul

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I love that line from the old hymn. I can sing it with conviction even though the other lyrics often make me squirm. I can sing this refrain with such solidarity because it echoes with my heart strings. It resonates more often that not. So, I will tell you what is going well -- though I still don't know how to make bullets.

FRIENDS. This must be first among my list because I am so grateful for the folks that I can now faithfully call friends. There are some that get me lost -- and yet those are the friends for which I would go another 10000 miles. I am mystified by the strange mystery that I can find family in a mere 18 months. Or in the case of one of these friends, in a mere two weeks. I have found a circle and it is growing wider. I celebrate this every day. I honestly don't know how much more thankful I could be.

JUSTICE. I have a bad habit of affirming my conviction and tireless activism to a particular cause. This is why my name has become recognizable when I show up in our State Capital in a mere 18 months. I signed up for another one of these justice-seeking causes recently. I joked with the SP that this is what happens when he gives me his ticket to the Equality Maine dinner. I sign up to fight for marriage equality. And then, I get excited. Really excited as if religion has something to say about these things. Optimism be damned.

CHURCH. Last week, I wrote a newsletter article last week that expressed my glee with how well things are going well with church. I told them I was ready to deck out in red because this is the color we celebrate in -- even though it is liturgically inappropriate. These words were true. There are still things that give me a headache -- namely Youth Ministry. And yet, by grace or divine intervention, something is happening among us. Perhaps the SP is right. I have more to give to these people long term. I wonder sometimes if they need more than I can give. I wonder what lies ahead -- but I love that they are challenging me and igniting me to bigger and better things.

WRITING. I'm taking a class about fiction writing at the local university. I love it. I'm learning and journaling and writing. It's amazing. Why didn't I do this sooner?

MEN. This isn't actually a joy. There aren't any men -- but Little Mary asked. Boatman called again two weeks later. I find this rude and unforgivable -- but I overcame my bias and called him back. It should be no surprise that he has not called back. However, he did quit Match.com. I don't know why he told me this -- but it's true. I also had another date that never materialized. We'll call him Sketchy. I am annoyed at this process. And yet, the echo of my dear friend who went to seminary here lingers: "You'll never meet a man in Maine." Um, perhaps it may be so. This may be one of the reasons that I wonder about a search.

For all of these things -- and probably a few more -- it is well. It is well with my soul.

A Long Road

I spent most of yesterday in my car. I drove one of my dearest friends down to Massachusetts and back into New Hampshire (mind you, New Hampshire's border is closer to my home state) to get a new car. However, my dear friend is a boy. He felt no need to print out directions. I was ready to affirm his faith that he would remember the way (as he does have a scary memory) but we got lost -- and so I spent more time than I would have liked driving back and forth over the NH-MA border. And then, on our way back home, the fan belt on his new car broke. I had the joy of driving him home after this very defeating journey.

This story somehow matches the rest of my week. After burying my grandfather and feeling that I need a vacation from my vacation, I came home to the whirlwind of church life. I was greeted by the four Confirmands remaining in the process. I found myself pushed to love them. There were emails and condolence cards from church members. Somehow, I told my SP that I was thinking about a search process. That was not planned -- but it is evidence that I feel bounced back and forth across this strange border in my life.

And then, a church member committed suicide. Fuck. I learned the next day because the widower didn't want to burden his pastors. I cancelled everything and waited for him to emerge from difficult conversations at the funeral home. I couldn't cry. I wanted to cry. I really, really wanted to cry with him. This is a church member that I love dearly. And of course, his story is too close for comfort. And so while I watched him hide behind sunglasses in my office, I told him the truth. I told him that I can't understand what he is feeling -- but it's familiar ground for me. I told him about my brother and told him I can't imagine the pain he is feeling now. We talked about love and loss. Still, I could not cry.

After he left my office and I tried to catch my breath, the funeral home called. Another church member had died. This was expected. Her health had been failing for a long time. The family wanted to meet with someone -- namely the SP. He was out of town. He's not available for the service. My long road leads me to their side in a matter of hours to tell them that I will be walking with them through this journey. Their disappointment was palpable. I had to yell for this widower to understand anything I said. I wanted to scream as I yelled my assurances and asked about his loving wife. I felt my energy levels sink. Still, I could not cry.

Of course, I carried all of this with me to our state capital to lobby for immigrants in our state on Thursday. I wanted to do this because I love doing this kind of witness. However, I got there to find myself speechless and on the edge of tears. Still, I could not cry. I was thinking about how I could get through these next few hours. I was thinking about the mammogram that lay ahead that afternoon. It is finally behind me and I am fine. It just feels like a long road -- and still, no matter how much I might think it would be a wonderful release, I cannot cry.


Real Strange

I need good art. It feeds me. It grounds me. It helps me make sense of the world and my own thoughts. And though I wasn't sure I would make it to see a show tonight, I was able to sneak to the theater after the burial. I missed dinner with Little Mary which is sad -- but I hope we will see each other another time (as she says). I also got to visit with one of my oldest and dearest friends. We ate burgers and cheesecake (because Maine does not have good versions of these things). And we went to see the new rock musical Passing Strange.

I don't know if this will be a Tony winner. I don't really care. I thought it was fabulous. It was intellectual and heartfelt. It talked about God. (Be still my heart.) It had great music. And it made sense of my life right now. Like I said, I need art.

There was a refrain that was repeated at key moments in the show. As the plot unfolded, the story twisted and changed to the tune of a certain refrain. When the character failed to realize the necessary lesson, it was echoed by the band something to the effect of:
Why do you have to ________ when it was just starting to feel real?

The blank reflects the connection to the particular point in the plot -- and I don't want to ruin it for you. So, now I wonder what is real. What makes something feel real? And how often do things not feel real? Let me illustrate.

On Tuesday night, I sat at the head of a table in one of my favorite restaurants with 11 people from different points in my life. I rotated around the table and caught up with everyone. I learned that one of my friends and his boyfriend eloped 2 weeks ago. I lamented with my prayer partner that we both suck at this. But, there seemed to be nothing but good news around the table. There was energy and joy and enthusiasm. I looked over the table at one point and took a mental picture. It is the most beautiful image to have these amazing people all in one place. It was a wonder. And, it didn't feel at all real.

On Sunday, I preached at church. I'm still wondering what happened. The Chapel service was amazing. It was a conversation (as it always is) and God spoke. I was awed. I was mystified. This is why I feel called to these people in this place. The Sanctuary worship wasn't as energetic until I stood in the narthex greeting folks. I was assured that my preaching only gets better. And yet, I used a non-canonical text. No one reacted negatively. Three people asked me if we could have dinner sometime. It was not real. It didn't feel real. It still doesn't feel real.

And yet, this was the perfect moment to carry with me into this bizarre week of vacation where nothing feels real. I wonder if I'm missing something or if the plot is beginning to shift. I wonder if the power of something feeling real is the wonder of feeling connected. I felt connected at dinner in that surreal manner that it seems too good to be true. This was the same feeling that I had after church on Sunday. In fact, I remarked to a friend, "I really don't think that I can do any wrong with these people." I keep pushing gently. They go with me. It doesn't feel real. And yet, I wonder if God is teaching me a little bit about trust. I wonder if this is where my plot changes.


A Birthday & A Funeral

On the eve before my birthday, my grandfather died. He was my last living grandparent and died after a long, cumbersome struggle with Parkinson's disease. I'm grateful he is cradled in God's hands and no longer feels any pain. Praise be.

And yet, this happened on the eve of my birthday -- so my whole birthday was spent wondering what I might say about him at the graveside service on Wednesday. Now, I know that most of my readers are clergy with good boundaries. Rock on for you. But, I don't want to hear another critique that I shouldn't be doing the service. I know it's a conflict. I want to. I'm going to. It's happening. Get over it. So, I spent this morning writing the liturgy which I found to be so healing. My process (as for many other bloggers) is through writing. To write a liturgy about what this means and how to make sense of it means so much to me. This is why I love liturgy. THis is why I have such faith in it. This is why I wanted to do it. I needed to write it for this blessing. I don't deny that it won't be hard to preside -- but God will lead, not me.

I'm leaning heavily on Ecclesiastes this week in the midst of my week-long vacation. I need to be reminded that there are seasons. In death, there is a time to celebrate. In life, there is a time to mourn. I need to remember both. I need to treasure both and still go to my birthday dinner tonight with 11 of my New Yorker friends to wonder about the mysterious joy of life.