A Spiritual Practice

A few weeks ago, I had a midday glass of wine with a colleague. (Um. Why not?) She's concerned about my sanity while SP is on sabbatical. At that point, I was really at wits end about all the freaking dead people. Seriously. I see them everywhere. I'm burying another one tomorrow. Not that I know him. He's just being randomly buried in Maine. Today I didn't get a call about dead people. Instead, I have a church member in hospice. Musicman joked that this is a step up and soon they'll just be calling to say that they're sick or even later that the sun is shining. I digress.

This colleague asked a tough question. She asked me about my spiritual practice. Uh. I don't have one. My prayer life is not as active as it could be. I don't sit still well. My communication with God hasn't been all that powerful -- which is odd since I'm making some big decisions. This decision affects my call and my vocational understanding but I didn't pray. I went with my gut. I feel good but there is this gnawing question: what is your spiritual practice?

This weekend, I picked up BBT's new book. I expected to hate it because her last book infuriated me. Bad boundaries lady. No wonder you crashed and burned. Me? I'm all about the boundaries so I erect them with my relationships inside and outside of church -- including my relationship with the Divine. Now, I'm trying to figure out how to move around that boundary and realizing that maybe (just maybe) I don't have to do anything to have a spiritual practice. I can just do what I already do. I can marvel at the world. I can cherish how God is working in my life. I can say thank you. And when I need it, ask for help. I'm so grateful that there are other faithful witnesses to God's grace that can open my eyes to what's already obvious.


Creating Home

On Friday, I went to look at condos. I saw four -- two of which were charming, one which was a dump and another that I'm literally dreaming about. It's charming. It's adorable. I would love to live there. I would love to make it my home.

That's what scares me. My dad just booked a flight to come see me this weekend. He's going to see this place and one other. He's going to be here with me so that I can make this huge decision. Will this be my home? Am I ready to settle here? Yes. I'm terrified to say that, but yes. I love this place. It has everything that I need and want. I shudder at the very thought of leaving.

The problem? Right. It's this career path. I'm an Associate Pastor at a big steeple church in the area. They love me. We're doing good things. Things are looking good. I see some challenges and some areas for growth. I see what they can teach me and what I can offer them -- but I never saw myself as a lifetime Associate. I cringe at the thought. I never really saw myself in this call for that long. And yet, here I am thinking about buying property which means that I would be here for much longer. It means that I would actually create my first real mortgaged home here. Yikes. So, is this realistic? Am I insane? Of course I am but don't great things come from great (expensive) risks?


Roll Away the Stone

After our last Good Friday service, I stood in the chancel moving chairs when a woman approached me with some news. She and I have had a close pastoral relationship. She knows me well and I know a good chunk of her story. A few weeks ago, I had visited with her son in crisis. He has PTSD. He was a Marine. My heart breaks for him -- even as he told me I was "bad ass." On Good Friday, his mom approached to tell me that he was in jail. He got in a bar fight and the cops followed him home. He's been in jail for three days and there is no certainty that he'll be released soon. Apparently, there was a charge hanging over his head that he had tried to avoid.

This morning, while testing mics, I listened to my colleague assure this same woman that there is Christ is risen and there is no pain or darkness. I understand the pastoral assurance that he's trying to offer -- but these are weak words even on Easter morning. The Resurrection reminds us that there can be hope -- not that there is always hope. Her son is still in jail. It's still a crap day no matter what the Gospel might be. For her, it's only a possibility. One day, there might be Resurrection. Maybe. That's the hope.

Resurrection always seems to come too soon for me. Maybe that's why I'm typing away 20 minutes before worship. I need to take my time. The stone in my stomach doesn't just roll away. It's still there. There is still hurt. There is hope. Indeed, but maybe not today.


Not Alone

Today is one of those days that makes the long winters of the North tolerable. It's sunny and crisp. There are little hints of spring all over the place. It's a perfect 10, honestly. So, I did what I do on nice days. I went for a run around the bay. Ok, fine! I went for a run around half the bay and walked the rest. Damn winter weight.

On my way home, I couldn't help but smile at the beauty of the day. I wanted to drink it in. And as I did, I remembered that it's Good Friday. Of course, I knew. I was still trying to enjoy the bit that was my day off before heading to church for what a friend laments to be "substitionary atonement day." Case and point why I hate today. In this twisted irony of enjoying the world's beauty, I felt actual guilt. The kind you feel when you are grieving. It seems that each counseling session I do before a funeral/memorial service shares this same wisdom. On the day that their loved one died, the weather was perfect. People were outside in their yards. People were smiling. And the grief-striken bystander wonders when they might know that kind of happiness again. That's what I felt today. That's what I feel today mingled with a few tears.

I found a companion today in the words of these two theologians. I'm only halfway through but today I read about beauty and remembered my own truth. I remembered what God has taught me over the years of grief. Still, I sigh but it's so nice to know that I'm not alone.


Good Friday Prayer Edited

My God, My God, why have you forsaken us?
My God, My God, why did it have to happen this way?
My God, My God, why does it have to hurt this much?
Tonight, O God, we wonder as we try to keep awake.
Tonight, we are deeply grieved, even to death.

Tonight, we grieve. Tonight, we mourn.
Tonight we remember all of those lives that ended too soon.
Tonight we recall those that died without glory and honor.
Tonight we shed light upon all the names heavy on our hearts.
Tonight we grant them rest eternal as we mourn Christ upon the cross.

Our God, Our God, we wish this hour would pass.
We wish that the questions will end. We wish that the crowds will stop shouting.
Our God, Our God, let the alabaster jar break, but don’t let our hope shatter.
Our God, Our God, let the betrayer insult, but don’t let our grief overwhelm.
Our God, Our God, let others scatter without understanding, but don’t leave us.

Tonight, Our God, stay awake with us.
Tonight, Our God, keep vigil with our troubled hearts.
Tonight, Our God, wait with us for day to break again.
Wait with us, O God, in the darkness of this night.

Crisis in the Church

Last Thursday, we had an incident in the church office. It's left us all a little shaken. It required a staff meeting yesterday to talk about how we create a safe environment. The conversation turned toward how we need to be more vigilant in locking the doors and keeping people out. Sigh.

A man moved into our neighborhood two weeks ago. He's HIV positive and must be suffering from other ailments that have not been named to us. He doesn't have any resources, including food and decent health care. He showed up in worship two weeks ago and then again on the following Monday. I was at a meeting all morning. I missed this first office visit, where my colleague toured him around our city to acquire a bus pass. It seems his social worker has abadoned him at a location that promised a bus route. Our church is off the bus route. He lives across the street. This doesn't add up. As far as I can tell, it's a phantom bus. Alas.

Last Thursday, he missed the bus. He came into our offices wanting a ride. He'd been given one before. He assumed we would provide one again. The secretary didn't understand his request. She asked if he wanted to wait for our Outreach Coordinator who was in a meeting. He decided to wait. Forty five minutes later, he was still waiting and visibily angry. The Outreach Coordinator finally appeared but not before this man escalated into rage. It was scary. Perhaps we should just lock the doors, and yet...

My heart breaks for this man. His anger comes from so many doors being slammed in his face over the years. And yet, that doesn't mean that we risk the individual safety of anyone in our building -- including the preschool kids downstairs. How do we create a safe church that is open to all? How do we address needs while making it clear what it is that we are able to do during times of crisis?

Right now, I need wisdom. It seems like every safe church resource that exists is to protect our children by screening staff and volunteers with bakcground checks. I'm not scared that someone is going to wander into the church with a gun -- though this has made the news in other churches. I'm more fearful that our staff will find themselves feeling compromised or worse. That's not justice either. And so, I sigh.


A Good Friday Prayer

I hate this day -- but I've been asked to write the Pastoral Prayer so here's my very first attempt. It may end up in a crumbled heap in the recycling bin.

O God, what a waste.
An alabaster jar might break, but must you?
Must you also break open in this way on this day that we dare to call good?
“Let her alone,” you asked.
You didn’t want the woman with the jar to be troubled,
But we are. We’re troubled by this day where we remember your death.
She did all she could, but did we?
Could we have changed this outcome?
Could we have betrayed less?
Could we have understood better?
Could we have dared to dream another ending to this story?
Or must the story end this way – with this kind of death upon a cross?

Tonight, O God, we wonder as we try to keep awake.
We are deeply grieved, even to death.
O God, we wish this hour would pass so that hope might come again.
We hope that the questions will end.
We hope that the crowds will stop shouting.
We hope that the darkness will be broken by light.
My God, My God, why have you forsaken us?
Why did it have to happen this way?
Why does it have to hurt this much?
O God, what a waste.

Let the alabaster jar break, but don’t let our hope shatter.
Let the betrayer insult, but don’t let our grief overwhelm.
Let others scatter without understanding, but don’t leave us alone.
Tonight, O God, we are troubled by this death that seems like a waste.
Another young life lost.
Another life with possibility ends.
Another beginning ends.
O God, what a waste.
Tonight, we grieve.
Tonight, we mourn.
Tonight, we wait for day to break again.
Wait with us, O God, in the darkness of this night.


A Party in My Honor

An invitation just arrived by email that has been in the works for a little while. It started a month ago when I was cross country skiing just outside of my city at a farm. Soaked in sweat and clad in spandex, I called Musicman and announced that we were coming to his town for nachos. We swung by his place to pick him up. I know it's been 8 months of our dating -- but lemme just say that you know you like a boy when you don't care that he sees you sweaty and in spandex. Sadly, the nacho place was closed but we went elsewhere for food. It was horrible, but a plan was hatched there.

The conversation had begun about how to celebrate one's birthday. Musicman happens to love to cook. For the record, this is incredibly sexy. He wanted to host. He offered. I wasn't sure -- but it was clear that he wanted to do this for me. It would be part of his gift. I'm still insisting it's all of his gift. I want to cry just from reading the invitation where he calls me a special woman. It's just dinner and music with a small group of friends -- but I'm incredibly touched. It's wondrous to think that I'll be beginning my 30th birthday with love.



This I Believe

I believe in the church. I guess that sounds trite, but I do. I believe in people getting together to do radical acts of love. That’s what church is and I believe in it with my whole heart. It happens that it’s also my vocation. I get to serve the church every day of my life. And yet, there are days when I wonder what the hell God was thinking when putting me here in the church. It seems that justice could come so much faster if we were not bogged down by the slow, parliamentary procedures of committees. However, in this particular moment, I can’t help but feel that we might actually be able to get over procedure and do what Jesus calls us to do: love one another. Or at least, this is my hope.

Lent for Me

Last night, I cuddled into bed with my laptop. I play on my laptop tons. I'm not sure what the connection is but the flirtation works for me. It's a little unhealthy that I cuddle into bed with it, but so be it. I wasn't as tired as I thought. So I was chatting on Facebook with my old Association Minister. He is one of the things I miss most. I had great support when I was ordained from the conference-level staff. Now? I don't even want to talk about it. Anyhow, this particular man will always have a soft spot in my heart. He watched me grow up in the church and was always supportive. He accepted a couple frustrated phone calls on my way to ordination. He was always willing to be my pastor. This is what I miss.

Last night, he wanted to know what I was doing next. This has been his question for a while now. He thinks it's time for me to move. I admitted that I had been looking at our national listings but nothing caught my eye. So he named individual congregations. I went to their websites. I became curious and a little excited before I asserted that other thing that gets in the way of advancing in my career. "So, the real problem is that I feel in love." And he got it. He didn't push anymore. He just hoped it worked out, which is what I hope too.

Of course, I woke up thinking about it. Should I stay? Should I go? Do I really want to go and create a new community again? There are still challenges here at the church I'm serving now. There's still tons to do but I might be ready. I might be ready. Arg. I don't know. It's not just about the advancement on my career. It's about my whole self which makes me wish that I was better about my Lenten project. I'm supposed to be calling old friends and building upon friendships. Haven't done it. I hate the phone. Maybe today. I also wish that I had that push to work on those other things that gnaw at me: my writing and my art. Instead, I'm doing laundry. Sigh. So, I'm a tad whiny but that's what Lent is for me -- whining about what's missing in the sheer hope that I might get to discover some possible resurrection. Oh, I plan on that. Never you fear. I'm going for a romantic Canadian getaway right after Easter with Musicman. There will be resurrection hope. Oh yes there will. And please, don't you dare ask about an engagement. I may be dreaming about it, but we're not there yet.


Divine Irony

Yesterday, I dropped my phone in the snow. I just saw on CNN that our unexpected snowfall yesterday is national news. It was quite a bit and not expected to be. So, we were all a bit surprised. I was tootling about in the morning on my way home from Musicman's. Somehow, this meant dropping my phone in a snow bank. The cover came off. The battery got wet. However, it still worked.

That is, it still worked for about 30 minutes. Then, it crapped out. Nothing. I was told to put the battery in rice and allow it to absorb the moisture. Yeah, that didn't work. I panicked.

It wasn't until later that I realized why I was panicking. I had already decided what my Lenten practice is. I'm going to use the phone more. I'm terrible about keeping in touch with friends that are far away. I want to be better. I use Lent as a time to resurrect relationships -- and this year, I intend to do that by picking up the phone and calling people I love. The fantastic irony is that my battery is stuck in rice and won't work for me. God truly does have a sense of humor, doesn't She?

The problem was solved when I finally went to the Verizon store. (I love their customer service. It will be hard to leave them ever, even if I want one of those fancy phones that I covet so.) They took my phone and stuck a new battery in. Presto. It works. God tells me to chill out. It's not pancakes exactly, but there was a bit of a dash as I flipped out. And with this, Lent will begin.


Where Is Your Joy?

This is the question that my colleague asked me yesterday at the end of our time together yesterday. We chat every Monday. He was aware that I was not so excited about my ministry yesterday. I wasn't convinced that my sermon was a good thing. I was struggling with whether or not I told my story in a way that allowed others in. I wasn't convinced it had worked.

You know why, right? There was that one jerk who asked me after worship, "So, I don't understand why you can't get over your mother's death." He then told me about a friend he'd lost in his 20s and how the death haunts him. I smiled knowingly and told him we all have stories that haunt us. This is mine. Really, I wanted to hit him for saying the one thing that I never want to hear again. Then, I went to talk for 90 minutes with a group of parents about our teens interest and involvement in Confirmation. We're going to make some changes (though church people define change differently than clergy do). It was exhausting. I walked away feeling like hired help. I was deflated. I still felt like that when my colleague asked this question about joy.

I wanted to think that there was joy in my ministry -- but I couldn't think of anything that was really exciting me. So, I turned the question back on him. He talked about his family. That's nice. I'm not going to tell you about my relationship. It's not particularly joyous right now. Arg. I walked away annoyed that I couldn't name any joy right now in my life. So, I got back to work. I sent an email about the next steps in the Confirmation conversation, and that's where things changed.

I got a phone call and then an email. Then, there was another email. Each celebrated how good the conversation was yesterday and how hopeful these parents are about the work that the church is doing with their kids. And then, the emails started about my sermon. The best one didn't come until much later that night -- but all of the sudden I felt assured. I felt actual joy. It's the people that matter to me. I want to feel like our covenant is working. And then, the comforting assurance came. Yes, we're ok. There is joy. We're doing good things. All will be well.


Let Your Demons Speak

I'm preaching on Sunday. I can't wrap my head around Simon's mother-in-law, but demons? I can sure talk about demons. Of course, this is a huge, huge risk. One that is bigger than this risk. I posted the first draft on Monday, but this is the sermon that I actually preached on Sunday.

He would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. They knew him. The demons knew Jesus – and still we’re not sure what they are. Part of me can’t resist seeing gremlins being silenced by a cool and collected Jesus. Gremlins, like in that movie from the 80’s. Little things that you think you can handle until they get wet and mutate into something terrifying. Gremlins was the scariest movie of my childhood so perhaps that’s why part of me defaults to seeing demons as gremlins.

But, I don’t really believe that. Not really. I don’t think that’s what a demon is at all. Demons aren’t creatures outside of us that take on a physical presence, like a gremlin or a monster. Demons are far scarier than that. They hide within us. We incorrectly name them – as our ancestors did – as illness or disease. But, that’s not right. Diseases have a cure. Not demons. Not in the Gospels. They are cast out. They are banished. They are sent away. And yet, they never seem to really disappear. They keep popping up. They keep talking – as they do for Jesus here. The demons try to speak to him, but he won’t permit it. Jesus silences them because the demons knew him. They know who he is. They know what he is. But, Jesus won’t have it. Jesus wants who he is and what he is to be a secret. But, the demons know.

Demons always know who we really are, don’t they? That’s what a demon is: our deepest wound, our most painful story, our greatest truth. Demons are the very things that we keep silent because if anyone found out who we really are without seeing what we can do and the wonderful words we can offer… well, (sigh) we just hope that doesn’t happen. Ever.

Still, demons have power. The Gospel’s audience would know that demons are higher in the cosmic order. They had power. Real power, but don’t tell me that’s not just as true now. Your demons have power over you, don’t they? They possess you. They know you well. Still, you try to silence them as Jesus does. I can’t think of anything worse. This isn’t something I’m just saying. It’s something I know. I’ve tried to keep my demons silent. I’ve tried. It doesn’t work. It’ll break your heart. It’ll break your soul. It’ll separate you from God. And I know, there’s nothing worse. So, we must let our demons speak.

I’ll start. I’ll break the silence by telling you the story that hurts me most. I’ll tell you this story not so you will console me or comfort me. That’s not why I’m telling you this story. I’m telling you this story so that you will let your demon speak. Give it a voice. Give it a name. Don’t let it separate you from God anymore. Today, in this pulpit, I’m telling you my demon so that you won’t silence yours anymore.

My demon is my grief because my grief knows me. It shows up like clockwork every year on Groundhog Day. Twenty-two years ago, I knew my winter would be longer – not because of a creature that saw his shadow but because my father kneeled down beside me and told me that my mother died. Today, I’m going to let this demon speak. I’m going to tell you the whole story about that Groundhog Day when I was in second grade. We made cookies in school. I don’t remember why, but we made cookies that day. They had nuts in them. I was distracted because I was going to see my mom in the hospital after school. It seemed like it had been forever since I had seen her, but I was 7 so it could have been a mere 3 days. She’d been in and of the hospital for a long time. I didn’t really understand what was happening. I don’t think anyone said the word cancer, but even if they did it wouldn’t have meant anything to me.

I was more concerned about cookies and ice cream. That’s what distracted me that day in school. Last time I had seen my mom, I fed her ice cream. Chocolate ice cream. Her lunch came during our visit and I thought that she should eat – not the vegetables on the tray, but the ice cream. This time, I was going to bring her cookies. Don’t be fooled. It wasn’t that sweet. I would have eaten the cookies myself but I don’t like nuts. So, my teacher helped me wrap up the cookies and some stale marshmallows leftover from my lunch in pink tissue paper with a nice bow. I held that package carefully in my lap the whole bus ride home. I refused to put it in my backpack because the cookies would break, so there I was holding this pretty pink tissue paper when the bus slowed down in front of my stop. My father was there. I could see him through the window. It was then that I knew something was wrong. He was supposed to meet my brother and I at home. He wasn’t supposed to be there. Something was really, really, really wrong. His face was splotchy and his eyes were red. He looked terrible, but I had never seen him cry before so I didn’t know what these signs meant. I didn’t know that he’d been crying and I certainly didn’t know why he would be so sad.

He hugged my brother and I without saying a word. He just took our hands and walked us down the hill toward home ignoring my brother’s questions – of which there were many. He was just quiet until we got to the bottom of the hill away from the other kids and parents. He kneeled down beside us so that I could see the tears running down his cheeks and there he told us that mom had died that afternoon. My brother wanted to know if we could see her tomorrow. I wanted to know if my dad liked cookies with nuts in them.

This was the Groundhog Day that started my long winter of grief. This is what hides within me. This is the story that keeps talking: my deepest wound, my most painful story and my greatest truth. It possesses me. It claims me in a way that I’m often not sure how to explain. It knows me, just as the demons knew who and what Jesus was. This demon knows who I am. It knows what I am. It know that I’m a motherless daughter and when Groundhog Day comes again, I permit myself to be that 7-year old girl and cry the tears that I didn’t know to cry that day.

The truth is that I can’t cast it out. Not entirely. It will never really disappear. It will always pop up again. It will always be talking to me – but I won’t silence it. Not any more. I’ll permit my demon to speak so that I can be healed. I don’t know if it’ll work. I can’t tell you if it will make it easier. I can only tell you how much it hurts to have silenced my demon for so long. So, instead, I’m going to let it speak. I’m going to try to put myself out there like the sick and the possessed that went to Jesus after he healed Simon’s mother-in-law. They didn’t know about her. They didn’t know what happened. They didn’t even know who Jesus was – but they went. No matter how scared they were; the sick and those possessed permitted their demons to speak to this stranger. And he healed them. He healed them all.

I’m not healed yet. I don’t know if I’ll ever be fully healed just as I don’t know how the sick and possessed felt after Jesus touched them. I don’t think my grief will ever disappear. So, I will cast it out by admitting it – admitting that it hurts and that’s it still there 22 years later. This is how I’ll permit my demon to speak in the most publicly terrifying way that might allow me to heal – and this is all I hope for you. No matter what your deepest wound, your painful story, your greatest truth may be, I hope you won’t silence it anymore. I hope you’ll let someone hear it. I hope you’ll let God meet you there. I hope that you’ll permit the demons to speak.


With Authority

I listened to a sermon today about Jesus -- the one with authority. Not the one with power, but the one with authority. Perhaps the distinction is important but it was lost on me today. I didn't get it. I may not have been paying attention, but I didn't get it. I was totally lost.

Instead, I was thinking about my mom. It was the preacher's fault actually. He started worship by commenting on Groundhog Day being the exact center between winter and spring. I hate Groundhog Day. Not because it's random or because it was a movie but because this is the day my mother died. Everyone else is looking forward. They are thinking about spring and less darkness while I just want to shrink into that darkness. The sermon wasn't about darkness though. It was about authority and the authority we stake in God even when our lives are complicated. We (as Christians) claim God to be our Savior so somehow the rest doesn't matter. That's what I heard from the pulpit. I wanted to throw my shoe at the preacher. It's not that this stuff -- this human stuff -- doesn't matter! It's the possibility that God gives us in the midst of that darkness. Of course, I wouldn't call that authority. Maybe that's the problem. I would probably just call it love -- but no matter what we call it, it wasn't the sermon I needed to hear today. It wasn't the hope I needed to find. So, I'm taking a personal day tomorrow and I'm going to try to find it somewhere in my grief.


The Week

It hit today. It's a week before the anniversary and I thought it might not happen. Maybe I brought it on myself, but it doesn't matter. It came anyway -- that sadness that I feel this time of year. I can't explain it. I'm never sure how to share it. I don't know what to do with it but acknowledge that it's here. It's here and I miss my mom. That's what this week holds for me.

How did it happen? I picked up a recommended book by APBS. She said it had some great, honest insight on loss and grief. I'm always interested in how people write about this topic because it's rarely either of these things. I'm almost done with the book and it hadn't hit yet. I hadn't caught this insight quite yet. That is, until I tried to read this afternoon. Until the author started to talk about the word widower. I remember learning this word. I remember how it stung and how the other kids didn't know what this word was -- but it's what my dad was. And then, the author started to talk about how nice everyone was to him. I put the book down because I remember that. I hated it. I wanted them to leave me alone and instead my classmates showered me with presents like it was my birthday. It wasn't. My mother had died.

I didn't think about reading this book right now -- and how that might be hard. I was just curious. I mean, I'm dating a musician. Love should be a freakin' mix tape. I didn't think about the mix that I made years ago about my mother. Love actually has been a mix tape for me. I need a conversation partner and a few friends. Thank God that order will be filled in only 30 minutes.



More often than not, I feel like some version of a thirteen year old impersonating a soon-to-be 30 year old woman. That's right. I will turn 30 this year. It won't happen for a few months and I can't say that I'm that anxious about it. In fact, I'm not anxious.

That is, I wasn't anxious. A conversation started recently among the Young Clergy Women Project about turning 30. I commented in the online forum with confidence. I said that I accepted the challenge and was ready to live into this new chapter in my life.

Somewhere over the arc of my afternoon, that confidence started to erode when I realized that 30 meant I was that much closer to 33. Tradition has it that Jesus died at 33. That's not what scares me. I'm scared that 33 will be the end of my days. You may have heard me say this before. And before you rush to concern, I know it's irrational. It's totally irrational. It's ridiculous. That doesn't mean that it doesn't scare me. My mom died at 33. She suffered a fate that no one should suffer then or now. She fell victim to cancer and her life was taken by disease. She was too young. And I'm just going to say it, I'm too young. There is still too much that I want to do. That's the challenge. I'm ready to be 30 and do all of those things that I've dreamed about -- like publishing a book or singing karaoke (that would be Musicman's idea) or writing a sermon I'm still proud of on Monday or getting married or even having children (my step-mother got all upset today when I said I might not be interested in having children. I think I may have dashed her hopes of grandchildren. Oops.) I want all of these things and yet my silly fear is that I won't get to because ... it's all over when I turn 33. Again, I know it's ridiculous. Fears are like that though.

Clarity of Call

The NAACP turns 100 this year. Our local chapter hosts a celebration on the Sunday night of MLK weekend every year. Last night, Sweet Honey in the Rock graced us with songs of hope. I've seen them perform in New York before. Twice, I think. I sat in majestic Carnegie Hall before I was risen to my feet in a call to sing for justice. Last night was no different. I was moved to sing. I was empowered by their words -- the songs they sang and the stories they told. And yet, it's not just that. It's how they create community in a concert hall. Suddenly, you feel wrapped up in something. You feel like you belong and that you have a purpose.

That's when I started thinking. They're just singers. They get on stage and sing. That's what they do. They sing. They just sing.

Of course, it's more than that. They give us a song to sing, like the Freedom Singers did during the civil rights movements in the 1960s. Sweet Honey continues that tradition. These are songs for justice. These are the songs that give us meaning and give us hope. They are songs for now because justice hasn't yet rolled down like water.

This is what makes me think about my call -- because most of the time I don't feel like I'm doing anything that will transform our world into one of justice and peace. Instead, it feels like most of the work that I do is unrelated to the world that I hope to see. Seated beside me at the concert was a friend who's a teacher. She teaches ESL. Last night, she told me that teaching is social justice. This stuck. This is rattling around in my head as I realize that I'm called to teach. This is what I enjoy most about my work -- even though I never, ever, ever thought that this is what mattered most to me.

This is the clarity that came in that concert last night. It made sense. I not only had a song. I understood more about who I'm supposed to be in the world. I'm supposed to teach -- as I did last Sunday night. I sat with a group of parents and talked about how to share your faith with their kids. It was the last of three conversations where we got to push each other in thinking about our story and why faith matters. I push. That's one of the things that I do in my ministry. I ask hard questions about faith -- because these questions were asked of me. I learned more about myself and my God through these questions. That's what I want for all of God's people. That's why I do what I do. I teach. I remind them that they already have the answers. I give a vocabulary for things that they may never have expressed. And that's the thing that really strikes me. I realized that I have spent lots of time thinking about my understanding of faith and how it relates to who I am. That's why I went to seminary. Now, I'm figuring out how to share that. I'm giving others a song that I was taught to sing -- but in every beat, I'm working to make sure that they lyrics are their own. This is how I work for social justice. This is how I will work for peace.

Every day, this is how I celebrate and remember the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.


The Chance to Be Blessed

"The distresses of choice are our chance to be blessed."
W.H. Auden

This quote is hanging on fridge on a 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper. It caught my eye this morning when I was getting my coffee. It made me stop and read it again and again -- and then smile. This particular paper was tucked safely in the folder of materials that the congregation I now serve offered when I was interviewing. It was a subtle message from the man that is now my colleague. It struck me then and it continues to echo in my heart because I feel so blessed.

This was what I explored in spiritual direction yesterday. I talked about this earlier post and my frustrations around it. However, I wasn't focused on my frustrations. I was talking about my call. My call to be myself -- not just the call that I answered to this particular congregation. This is my struggle. I want everything to be integrated but I'm still in that new pastor phase (which lasts longer for some). I still put the role on when I could just be me. I think about what a minister would do rather than being myself. Not all of the time but enough that I haven't felt genuine. That's all I want.

So, I told my spiritual director about my call and how I understand it now. It helps that I just filled out an application yesterday that made me realize that this is where I'm heading. I'm writing a lot about what my call is and how it's shaping. I'm realizing that I am blessed. I love the ministry I'm doing. I feel badly because when I'm not doing my ministry I don't want to go to church. That's what that earlier post is about. I am comfortable with friends and with Musicman so that I don't feel like leaving that comfort for the role. And yet, I have so much to celebrate in my ministry. My spiritual director let me celebrate those things. She wanted more details and heaped praise on me. It was just lovely.

Today, as I see this quote on my fridge, I realize that each choice I make has led me to blessing. Lots of blessing. I thank God for all of those blessings today.


Respect My Authority

I don't do accents. Get over it.

I'm staring at a list of goals that I created after the dreaded review. For those that don't remember, it was awful. I got triangulated. My clergy group told me that I should duck and cover. I probably didn't blog about that because I was so freaked out that I might run for the hills and leave ministry forever. I'm dramatic. It's not going to happen. I'm here staring at these goals, or as the document is titled "what some might call goals" and wondering what it is that I want in my ministry.

When the clergy group told me to duck and cover, they were listening carefully to the fact that I wasn't ready to leave this congregation. I wasn't ready to go. I knew I'm here and need to be here even if I peek at the possiblities out there in minsitry right now. This group of women encouraged me to find something that would invigorate my minsitry and give me life. They thought I should take a class outside of my ministry. I thought about taking an art class, but didn't really like the possibilities at the local art school. Instead, I'm thinking about writing a book.

Truth be told, I've wanted to do this for a long time. I thought it would be a work of fiction -- but that was before the Young Clergy Women Project came up with a book deal. I have an idea so I started to write a proposal. I didn't get far at all. One of the first questions that they ask is about where you've been pusblished before. The only place I've been published is Fidelia's Sisters. And so, I'm not respecting my own authority. I closed the document and sighed wondering if I have enough experience and wisdom to write a book at all.

I am my own worst critic.



I've been thinking about my blog and where it's going. It's grown a wee bit stale in recent months. It couldn't even be charged with my competitive edge in the Reading Challenge which I finished meekly. I'm still reading -- but if you want to know what I'm reading, you'll have to find out on Goodreads. I've been wondering where I want this to go and if I even want to cotinue with my blogging. It seems that it's time for another direction -- though I don't know what that is.

Today, I'm thinking about my call to ministry. I'm thinking about why it matters to me and where it connects with all of the areas in my life. Actually, this question arose a little while ago. I got to thinking about what the church is supposed to be. We used to talk about this in seminary. It may be that I'm mentoring a seminary student now. He has ideas that seem so idealistic that I have been known to laugh at his grand thoughts. I used to have some of those same thoughts -- and then I became a professional. I was ordained. I was set apart.

Once, this made me feel special. It made me feel like I had joined some really cool club where there was lots of job satisfaction. Now, I'm not so sure. I get those comments about how church people are jealous that I get to live my faith all of the time. I never understand those comments (and never respond well to them) because I feel like my life is separated from my ministry. I don't feel like I'm living intentionally into my spirituality. I'm trying to get others to do that but I don't really feel like I'm doing that work myself. It all feels a little ingenuine.

In my life, which doesn't come into work, I'm dating a boy. Alex seems to think that we'll be engaged by Easter. I think she's crazy. Then, there's my family where my brother isn't speaking to me and I don't seem to have enough time to see all of the people that matter to me. Four weeks of vacation doesn't mean I'm eager to spend that time at home. I have wonderful friends that I've found nearby. We go on adventures outdoors, eat excellent food and talk about stuff that matters to us. I'm trying to cook more and use more local vegetables. I'm trying to read. I'm trying to be present in the ways that I can.

However, none of this is related to my ministry. That is when I feel like I'm clocking in to the work that God called me to do. More often than not, I sit at a desk and plug away at something related to educating the congregation or formatting something that really isn't part of my professional call. I'm not tired. I'm not bored. I know that I'm in the right place. I know I'm doing good work. I know that there are great things happening in my work.

I just want to be whole. I don't want to feel separated. I want to feel like it all fits together even with the boundaries that I erect for my own safety and those that I serve. I just want to be whole. I don't want to feel like I should be doing anything. You're wondering what that should is, aren't you? I was told that I should share with Pastor Parish Relations about Musicman. The other pastor wants me to save my relationship with them. He thinks it's a good idea. Actually, he thinks that we should talk about the breakdown in communication. I told him that wouldn't work. We're dealing with personality conflict. What I need to do is trust them with something. That's what will work for me. The problem is that I'm not ready to trust them. I'm not ready to trust them about this part of my life. I want to keep it as my own. And so, I feel terribly separated when I just want to feel whole.


New Year

On New Year's Eve, I had a few too many martinis. I was that girlfriend meeting the parents. Luckily, they had already fallen in love with me. His mother wants us married. Tomorrow. She wasn't so discrete about this fact -- which I found kinda cute. A little scary as well but it was a great few days and so here we are all happy before I started dancing my little heart out.

Happy 2009 to one and all!