Over the weekend, a friend sent me an email saying that she and her family coveted my prayers. That phrase has been repeating in my head. I like it. I like what it days. I like how it feels. And it's true. I covet your prayers.

Right now, I sit in an airport to depart for a faraway place where I will interview to be their pastor. I had no sound reason to say no when they invited me to come visit. I was too scared to close that door. So now, I sit here wondering what the he'll I'm doing getting on this plane when I don't think this is where I am called. I know that already. Or I think I do.

No. I don't. That's a big lie. I feel so separated from God that I'm not sure how to discern where God is or where I might be lead in God's love. I've never been in this desert. I don't know how to leave. Most of all, I don't know how to be faithful to myself and the church as I try to find my hidden God. It's not that I've stopped praying. I'm praying now as I sit here waiting to board. I'm pleading prayers in a way I don't think I have in years. If ever. Still, I covet those prayers. I need to be buoyed by the faith of others because I can't find my own faith. I so wish that weren't so. I wish I felt that presence that I have known to be good and strange before. But she's not there. Not like she was. So I feel I need the prayers of others. In these next few days, while i interview with a church that seems to have more faith than I do but know less about who they are, I ask for your prayers. I covet them as I try to hear God's voice beckon "Here I am."


Pissed Off

When I was scanning for materials for the upcoming interview, I read this article on The Fake Search.  I didn't really understand it because I honestly couldn't understand how and why you wouldn't know that this was happening.  Well, maybe it did.  Maybe it didn't.

They called yesterday to tell me that they asked another candidate to come and candidate in the end of February. In the UCC, this is the last step. It's extremely rare that a church doesn't vote in wild affirmation of the candidate that has just come to preach on the recommendation of the Search Committee. I'm not sure why they were moving so fast with me, or why they waited until yesterday to cancel the interview. I didn't think to ask those questions on the phone. I can only tell you that I'm back in the saddle and feeling a mixture of grief and heartbreak. Of course, that's to be expected at this time of year.  Next week is my mom's anniversary. Alas.


Creative Questions

On Wednesday, I will have my second interview with my dream church.  Yes.  That means the first interview went really well.  There are no red flags -- which in itself is a red flag for the state of chaos that is most familiar to me in the call process.  Nevertheless, I have a a second interview on Wednesday.  This interview is once again on Skype, but this isn't a normal interview.  My preparation is not only on those basic reminders about interviewing.  This time, I get to lead the interview.  In the words of the search committee chair, "do whatever you want."

I feel I must be creative.  It can't be your average series of questions and conversation.  That would be ordinary.  That wouldn't set me apart.  More accurately, that wouldn't be me.  I like to do things outside the box and this is a perfect opportunity to make that apparent to the search committee.

So, there are some obvious limitations.  It's on Skype.  They sit in a room where they are far away from the camera.  They didn't move around in the last meeting.  They are obviously healthy enough to do so -- but I'm not sure how to use that space when I'm not physically in it too.  There's a time limit which I would expect.  I'm not sure that I could do much more than a 90-minute interview myself.

With these things in mind, I'm pondering how I might be creative in my interviewing.  They've just emerged from a visioning process and are really excited about their new vision.  I'm considering what it might look like to do some visioning together with some of the things that I dreamed of doing with the church I currently serve.  That sounds like it's rushing ahead to the end of the first year of my settled call there, right?  Yeah.  That's why I'm not so sure.  It would have to strike the perfect balance so that the focus is on learning how we innovate, how we might work together and how the congregation does planning.  I need to look through my visioning materials some more.

I'm also considering asking each of the 8 committee members to bring an object that represents change in their church.  (It could represent something else but I'm leaning toward change as I'm really interested in where it is that they want to go in the next 10 years.)  Of course, I would also bring an object too.  With these objects, we'd make our journey together asking what these objects mean, how they relate and how we might use these objects to work toward the change that we imagine.  I can tell you what my object would be.  I will bring the stole that was given to me by a friend in seminary that chose not to be ordained.  He's gay.  He's Presbyterian.  Those are not the only reasons -- but he wasn't ready for the fight.  He didn't feel called to prove his worth.  So, he gave me his stole to wear in protest (as I had done many times in seminary) for the very things he dreams of in the church.  This exercise would really be about making connections to see where our ministry would go together.  My fear in this is that it would totally flop. And then, do I default to a list of questions?  Arg.

I need your help.  Brainstorm with me.  Please.


The Search Goes On

I've been blessed with two rejections.  As you may know, I'm in the search process.  I'm discerning my next call.  I am so ready.  Still, it seems that I get more rejections than anything else. So it is.

Tonight, if you find the space to do so, I would love your prayers.  I will have my first interview with the church that is (quite honestly) my dream church.  It feels rushed and overwhelming.  I really wanted to have another interview out of the way before I met with this committee.  But that's not the way it happened.  They will be my first interview on this new technological frontier.  I am so nervous.  And so excited.  I humbly ask for your prayers.



an ancient voice
is calling us
all over the sky
an ancient voice
is calling us

I have this song by Trish and Richard Bruxvoort where these lyrics from Black Elk repeat over and over again.  I'm waiting for them to summon me into that deeper place that so often happens with Taize. I'm not singing though. I've listened it to a enough that I could know it by hear but I'd rather muse on the words that have been offered in this online adventure I'm making during Advent. Each day, an email arrives in my inbox. I read these words even before I get up to get my coffee. And each day it's the same question. Over and over again, I'm being asked where and how I've fallen asleep.  I'm asked what it is that needs to be awoken.

And I have no clue. I was excited about this journey because I thought it might be a way to deepen my creativity. It would be another way to explore that inner artist that seems to want to awake -- but that's not it. That's not what's really asleep for me.  There must be something else because all I really know is that I'm totally uncomfortable.  (I receive daily affirmations from a friend's Advent journey which is truly helping to calm my nerves, but I'm still uncomfortable.)  My back is tense.  My body feels tired.  I've been writing about this journey (a little) on my more public blog that church members read.  But, I know there's something else.  Something I need to say aloud so that someone else will hear it.  I'm just not totally sure what that is.  And then, tonight, I read this quote from Phil Cousineau's The Art of Pilgrimage. I haven't read it but I want to simply because he says this about pilgrimage:

Ancient wisdom suggests if you aren't trembling as you approach the sacred, it isn't the real thing. The sacred, in its various guises as holy ground, art, or knowledge, evokes emotion and commotion.

I am that emotion. In worship on Sunday, I couldn't stop trembling. I couldn't overcome my nerves -- which I found strange and confusing. I've served this church for 4 years. I've started taking some serious risks in worship. No one has died. On Sunday, I didn't do anything unique but I was scared.  My body told me so even though my mind assured it didn't need to be frightened. "Do not be afraid," my mind said. My body rebelled. It was caught up in the terror and tremble that something was coming. Something big. Something that would change everything. Something that will make me move across the whole country. My paperwork was released today.  I'm officially beginning a search for the next thing -- whatever God may bring.  I knew that over the weekend. I knew that on Sunday.  But, my head and my body weren't really on the same page on this matter.  Now, I know it's that my relationship is changing with this community. I'm preparing to no longer be their pastor and I'm trying to understand who I am apart from this community. I'm trying to differentiate what is my ministry and what is their ministry. I'm trying to unravel myself from the work that I do to prepare for what is coming next. I'm trying to wake up to the fact that God is doing a new thing in me. It's strange that that is so uncomfortable. It seems impossible. But, there it is. I'm trying to awaken to myself this Advent. It wasn't in the music. It wasn't even in the words. It's in me.



I'm getting a massage tomorrow.  I feel like that says a lot about how I am emotionally, spiritually and physically. I really need this massage.  My entire back is a knot.  Thank you colleague on medical leave and ungrateful congregation who is driving me insane.

I went on a rant in my kitchen this week. Not to myself. I wouldn't tell you that here. This was to a friend who was over for dinner. She asked me about something else -- something related to the work we do (though she's not clergy) and I went off the deep end. I said lots of things about why I feel so disconnected from this ministry.

Thanks be to God.  There is movement.  Paperwork went to the Big Cheese (in our non-hierarchical tradition where the cheese just stinks) today. With God's abundant grace, we should be live soon. Like next week soon. And then, I can fantasize even more about leaving these people in the dust. I mean, I love them. They're just driving me nuts. We need some distance. Big time.


What I Didn't Say

There are some things that I want to say. I'm not sure how to say them -- and I'm quite sure that I'm not going to say them all that well. I don't like that I'm saying them here. But, in at least one of the circumstances, I want it to arrive sooner rather than later. And you are reading. I know you are.

We didn't talk about it. You're right. I'm not sure when that would have happened though I wish that it had. Maybe the words don't need to said. After all, we both know that there's nothing that either one of us can say or do that will make this particular moment in time hurt any less. And yet, I'm in the habit of writing letters. It's what I do every year and it's rare to find a friend to know the depth of the grief I feel so well. So, dear friend, I'm writing you a letter because it's what I do. It happens that it appears on my blog. Technology. Bleh.

I wish I could wave a magic wand for you and make all of the pain and hurt disappear. I wish that your last memory didn't interfere with your celebration on other days. Still, I know what that's like. The last time I saw my mom I fed her chocolate ice cream. She was the color of the hospital sheets. She was too tired to eat -- but I was just a kid and didn't understand why she wasn't eating the ice cream. (The fact that she wasn't even eating lunch might have been a clue.) I thought she should eat that chocolate ice cream. So, I fed it to her. You already know that I don't eat chocolate ice cream now. It stands in for some memory so that it's impossible to enjoy. Plus, I don't think you should ruin good chocolate by putting it in ice cream but that's another matter. I know how much those last moments sting. I know that there aren't enough words to take those moments away because -- as awful as it is -- it's all we have left. We only have the memories. We don't have the stories of who she will be in the future. I don't think that ever gets easier.

I don't think you ever really figure out how to move on. I don't think you ever stop wanting to pick up the phone to tell her what just happened. I don't think that ever goes away. That's what makes it sweet though. That's what makes that relationship powerful. There's something about it that carries on. Beyond all assumptions. Beyond our imaginations. It's still there. Damn anyone that says otherwise. You and I, dear friend, know differently.

In our shared faith, we don't do a good job with the concept of missing someone. Jesus comes back when the tears are barely dry. Paul insists that this life is just a stopover. Both bug me. I flip back to the Torah and read about the Promised Land. I don't know what that is but I know it's a place where your tears and mine are wiped away, where we're held and loved through the things we don't dare understand. (Yes, I know I flipped back to the New Testament. I am a Christian. It happens.) I don't think that these visions make the pain disappear. They just make it possible to survive -- and that's all we're trying to do. We're trying to survive. Oh yes. I know. You want more than that. You want to live joyfully. You want to praise with the limbs formed in her womb. You want to reach beyond this pain and find her mysteriously, wonderfully still there. I know. She is.

I can see her in you. I won't go all e. e. cummings on you. I'll just reference it and remind you that I'm here. Holding you. Knowing it hurts. Trying to understand the things that neither one of us do.  And then, having more wine. And cheese. Love you.