Friday, September 02, 2011
As I resurrected the blog this morning (again...this blog has been resurrected more times than Jesus), I was shocked to discover that there were only two posts from the last two years. I'm not sure what to make of that. I was serving in an inner-city congregation in the Midwest and, for the most part, was very thrilled to be doing so. There were so many incredible, insightful, wonderful people there and such phenomenal colleagues who accompanied me in ministry in an area hard hit by economic realities. It was most certainly an interesting time.
I just concluded the call to Elijah in Egypt. My ponderings and reflections continue to form as literal distance sinks in. Over the course of the two years at Elijah in Egypt, I learned a great deal. I learned a great deal about myself, about the congregation, and about what it looks like when the walking wounded journey together in a yearning for wholeness. I learned that following a 37 year pastoral tenure without the benefit of an interim pastor between your call and the previous one is not only inadvisable but also pretty much insane regardless of the optimism surrounding such a venture. I learned how fragile life can be and how holy the ground upon which we walk really is. I learned and experienced how unspoken nuances and assumed but not confirmed meanings of words and actions can chew a person up in the eyes of another. I learned that Jesus does indeed walk with us - whether or not we name him or claim him as Savior - and that he accompanies us in our deepest pain, greatest joys, and everything inbetween.
I find myself fairly wistful about almost everything to do with my time in the Midwest. There were so many happy moments and some treasured friendships. The Midwest was a great training ground for ministry. Though I most certainly had my share of missteps and errors, my foibles were almost always met with grace and Midwest nice-ness. Sure, there were times when grace seemed less apparent but dusting off the sandals and moving on seems like the best way to address that. The Midwest was also a wonderful place to raise my children. Much to my dismay, the boys consider themselves Midwesterners even though they are 3rd generation native Oregonian. My great-great grandfather probably wouldn't be so thrilled about that, but then again, he was French so maybe he'd simply roll his eyes and shrug his shoulders in disbelief, sip some espresso, and move on.
Now if there is anything else worth mentioning about life in the Midwest, it'd be the winters. We're talking snowflakes galore and temperatures not fit for human life. I remember as a child how I would revel in jubilation whenever the fairly rare occurrence of a falling snowflake entered my day. Now I cannot think of anything I will miss less than the piles and piles of seemingly unending snow and the inside of my nose freezing. Rather than causing my heart to soar, the mere mention of snow and cold now causes my heart and energy to plummet in despair. Snow. Ugh. Ick. Hopefully I will never again dwell in a land of low temperatures and snowbanks.
As I prepared to move to the Left Coast, Midwesterners would ask in all honesty, "Won't you miss the seasons?!" My theory is that this question is simply a form of denial about how crummy the weather is in the Midwest. Saying "I love the seasons" helps create a framework and coping mechanism for the soaring sticky heat and the dry frigid cold. So, in answer to the question, "Won't you miss the seasons?!" the response is an emphatic no. I will not miss the summer humidity, mosquitoes, and air so thick you feel like you are swimming in molasses. I will not miss the all-too-short spring replete with thunderstorms that freak out my dog. I will not miss the blink of an eye autumn where the beautiful leaves change color on the way to work and fall off the tree by the time you return home. And, yes, mostly, I will not miss the winters. The long, cold, harsh, snowy, icy winters. You can have your seasons, Midwesterners. I even admire your love of the variety. For me, though, I'll stick with morning marine fog that burns off in the afternoon and temps that tend not to dip below 40 degrees on the coldest of cold days. As Jimmy Buffett croons: I have found me a home.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
I'm curious to know how you, my dear readers, would explain the call to Word & Sacrament ministry. Many members and leaders in my congregation are not particularly aware of this concept (which, I know, may seem puzzling to other pastors...welcome to my eclectic and intriguing congregation!). I have attempted to explain it but feel like I'm stuck a bit.
How would you explain the call to ordained ministry? The call to Word and Sacrament?
How would you answer the following questions/lines of feedback? I have my own ideas and replies but I don't want to cloud your feedback. Let me know your initial thoughts and we'll go from there...
- But what about the "priesthood of all believers"? Aren't we all called?
- Doesn't this create a hierarchy? Didn't Luther work to eliminate papal authority, etc? [side note: we're big into collaboration in Elijah]
- It's our congregation...don't we get to decide ____________ (fill in the blank)?
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
- In July 2009, I accepted a call to an inner-city congregation in an actual city. Diversity! Traffic! Buildings taller than 3 stories! Cool congregation (haven't thought of a nickname for them yet)! This is such a good thing! It is a grown up call, complete with a grown up sanctuary and grown up responsibilities. It is simultaneously intriguing, exhausting, challenging, invigorating, and engaging.
- We listed the Cute Gray House on Super Bowl Sunday 2010. We've had about 6 showings with no offers. Jerusalem was very hard hit by the economic downturn and there are far too many homes on the market. We're waiting, we're hoping.
- Dad's estate, unfortunately, is still a problem. We were supposed to have a court date on May 6, which was shifted to June, and has now been moved once again to a date yet to be determined. Oy vey.
- The family is doing great. My hubby continues to be a SAH Dad, and he keeps our lives running smoothly. Sony and Minky are doing great overall. I cannot believe Sony is finishing 8th grade and Minky is finishing 5th grade. What happened to my babies?!
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Monday, March 30, 2009
I am a ship that sails on waters
As smooth as broken glass.
Scattered chaos fills the maritime skies and seas,
Patternless, messy colors melt into one another.
Drop anchor. Hold on tight.
Weather the storm.
Be loosed from oppression’s heavy anchor chains.
Grasp toward the harbor of hope.
Sail directly into the promising fog.
Friday, March 20, 2009
When the brochure for this workshop crossed my desk, the title instantly hooked me. After Dad died, the words seemed to stop flowing. It was as if the writing balloon deflated in a heartbeat - or in the radical ceasing of his heartbeat. Writing became a chore, and I no longer had even an ounce of energy for it. In fits and starts, I jotted a phrase here and a thought there. Fleeting sentences were typed on the computer or written in what could only loosely be described as a journal. I wanted to write, but simply getting out of bed and facing the world became my central task for many months. Managing a chaotic estate, pastoring an anxious congregation, mothering and wife-ing, simply breathing...the foci changed. Survival mode.
In the past few weeks, the sun has begun to rise. I've experienced a new energy, a renewed sense of verve. The world and I have begun to re-engage, and it has felt great. I'm no longer simply going through the motions. Hope. Promise. These words have re-entered my clouded vocabulary.
Strangely enough, more transitions await me. Some of them will be heart wrenching, but nothing like the past 18 months. Some of them will be freeing, bringing new life and resurrected joy along for the ride. Some of them will represent a return to the land of the living, while others bring a renewed consciousness and engagement.
On the day Dad died, Chad commented on the irony of my shirt's proclamation: Life is Good. Today, with an awakened writer's soul, I can once again embrace that, yes, life is good.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Up until this day a year ago, I was pretty prolific. Then the bottom fell out. Actually, it was a year ago tomorrow that I received the phone call from my brother that our dad had died. The 10th, though, was the actual date of death. It's like there are two anniversary days to feel funky about.
I'm chuckling to myself that after such a long hiatus, these are the opening words I choose! How uplifting, huh? Sometimes my actions even cause me to wonder...
So. A year. A very, very difficult year has passed. A year of a tumultuous estate that remains contentious (why is the word 'content' part of 'contentious'?), a year of far too much drama in my extended family and in the congregation, a year of continued special needs parenting, and a year of financial woes that are similar to any family with a sole wage earner. I guess if I had the option, I'd want the last 12 months back. Then again, that'd be as nightmarish as reliving junior high. Perhaps I don't want them back afterall. Maybe it's a good thing that we don't have to decide how time moves. Thank God we are given friends who help us through it all.
I hope that as I begin to peek out of the darkness of grief my writing will begin to flourish again. I've been writing a great deal this year - just not here. It's been raw, aching words, sometimes full of anger or desperation, sometimes full of sadness or memories. Grief does that to our words. I imagine grief as a Halloween-looking, boney hand clutching my heart. Some days, its clutch is overwhelming; some days, it is a relaxed hand, still around my heart, ready to clutch at the most unexpected times.
Saturday, July 05, 2008
We live in a country that banters loudly "God bless America" yet we seem to forget that God blesses the other nations of the world too. Sometimes, I get the sense that people think that the US is the New Israel - the new Promised Land - and that we take such pride in that. Yet, paradoxically, we fail to take responsibility and to live as co-creators. We have starving people up the ying-yang, many without homes, people who have to claim bankruptcy when they face medical crises, and illegal immigrants that are the new outcasts in the eyes and minds of so many Pharisiacal citizens. We are a country that worships money, getting ahead, and bad theology. There are some things about this country that really irk and sadden me. It's hard to worship or celebrate a place where politics has sunk to the GW levels it has and where we fail to truly strive to live in a just, loving society.
Yesterday morning, I watched an MSNBC special about WalMart - otherwise known in our home as the Evil Empire. While even I have to admit (grudgingly) that there are some redeeming qualities about the mega-MNC, their belief system - as fanatical as a fundamentalist on a rampage - causes my heart to sink. Money and Sam Walton are their gods - everything is focused around these icons. Small, locally owned businesses are decimated and employees are paid substandard and non-living wages. The half who have access to insurance can barely afford their portion of the health care premiums - unless you are the CEO or CFO who make $14 million/year. The suppliers are encouraged to outsource...yeah, there's a pro-American ideal. Many products are produced in China so we can fill our houses with cheap crap that we really don't need. There are 5,000 lawsuits pending against Walmart at any given time. It was said that Walmart is simply the touchstone for the ills and challenges of the USA. Perhaps that is true. But what stunned me was the nonchalance with which this was said - why not set an example and change those challenges? Why not lead the way in helping to solve the ills? No, instead, there was a ho-hum "oh well" attitude that made me ill. Another American touchstone: It Must Be Someone Else's Fault, Not My Responsibility. Argh.
Yet, I must say that I am thankful for the freedom I have to write this. I doubt anyone will knock my door down and force me to remove the post. I doubt I'll be arrested for standing against the tides of ACR. Freedom of Speech is a precious thing that we probably all take for granted.
Friday, June 20, 2008
I got out of the van and tried to coax her toward me. She ran under Rab's truck.
I went over to the truck and Arwen moved just out of my reach and lay down.
I walked around to the back tire to reach her and she moved to the front tire.
I walked over to the front tire - in my defense, the garage was DARK - and I...well...ummm....I stepped on a rake and slammed myself hard in the head. I had an instant goose egg. And now, days later, it still hurts.
Go ahead and laugh. My family did. In fact, they are still laughing. Rab has been calling me "my little cartoon character."
So my sister told a friend who told another friend who, when she heard the story, responded, "She did not...that only happens in cartoons." In cartoons and in my life. Same difference.
On our way home, I was sharing with him that we have plans to go to Waterparkopia in June 2009. Minky responded, "So Sony will be 13 then..."
Me: "Yep, I guess he will."
Minky: (big wistful sigh) "They grow up so fast..."
Saturday, June 14, 2008
- We're undertaking a redecorating effort at Jordan. Depending upon the meeting, there are anywhere from 4-6 attendees who consider themselves team members. Therefore, there are nearly always 4-6 divergent opinions on colors, styles, money and taste. The male dominated Council that recently spent thousands on a new riding mower does not understand why $500 is not enough to overhaul the facility.
- Jerusalem just had its city wide garage sale this weekend. I think Rab and I spent about $100. It wasn't that there were really that many amazing finds...instead, it's more like we actually did something in town and bought a bunch of junk we don't need. Haul from the excitement includes: a pipe wrench, the McCullough John Adams book ($1.oo), some rubber stamps, a dart board for each kids' room, a cool hammock chair thing, a nice bike for Rab, some clothes for Minky, an arrowhead for Sony, the award-winning movie Daredevil, a fountain (that the cat thinks is for her drinking water), a bunch of baskets, and a bag full of various kinds of tape. I think we'll hold a garage sale next week...
- The estate drama drags on without much relief. I'll spare you the maddening details.
- The dog is nearly hooked on Acepromazine - his anti-anxiety drug needed during storms. Yeah, I know, go ahead and laugh. Yes, we have a special needs dog who needs to be drugged during storms. Kinda fits us, right?
- We continue to update, improve and paint the Cute Gray House. We've now painted the dining room, living room, entry, master bedroom (wallpaper removal and trim only), Minky's room (Pirates of the Caribbean theme), Sony's room (space theme), and upper bath. We've removed wallpaper from all these rooms except the entry. What's left? The master bedroom (new color), play room, Rab's office and lower bath. The kitchen wallpaper border also needs to come down, but that's the least of our worries.
- Outdoors, Rab has fixed a walkway, planted a bunch of stuff, and improved the lawn that I ran over inadvertently during the snow thaws. We need to re-lay the walkway and parts of the sidewalk as well as do some touch up painting on the front porch. Next year, we'll tackle the backyard and maybe even the garage and a new breezeway connecting the garage to the house..
- Sony earned a 3.7 in school this year. Next year, he'll enter 7th grade. He had a friend spend the night not long ago and has begun to spend more and more time with new friends around Jerusalem. It's great to see him find his groove. He's 5'1'' - a little too close to my height!
- Minky is really doing great. He's certainly still feisty but his outbursts have become fewer and farther between. He'll go into 4th grade next year. Rab tells me I need to stop treating Minky like a toddler. Maybe I need a new baby (not!). Minky spends as much time as possible at the pool and has a pretty sweet looking dive.
- Rab continues to be a stay at home dad. It's like having a wife with handyman skills. He spoils me rotten, really. I get coffee in bed most mornings. Life is good.
- We've got tickets to 3 different Buffett shows this summer. I'm excited to share the excitement with some Buffett virgins who'll go with us to one of the shows. Rab and I will actually escape to Chicago for a few days in July to see those shows.
- I've been walking to work. I'm hoping to lose some weight. I don't think walking to work will solve the whole problem, but at least it won't make matters worse.
- Life is a crazy mix of work, home, and escapes to cities. Overall, we're beginning to find our groove here in Jerusalem. In a lot of ways, that's really nice.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
- Being with people who truly know you and love you anyway is good for the soul. Really good for the soul.
- Along the same lines as #1, being with people who know you well enough to give you a hard time is refreshing.
- Occasionally being able to be fully authentic and not worry so much about weighing your words or crafting a message is a necessary element of pastoral survival.
- Oh, that's right, politics really are everywhere.
- Laughter is the best medicine for all that ails.
- Even an old friend can be full of surprises. I ordered a medium margarita at lunch that, to my surprise, was probably about 24-32 ounces. As we all got ready to leave the restaurant, I protested that I couldn't leave until the margarita was finished. Pastor Kindhearted picked up the margarita glass like a chalice, grabbed a napkin, and proceeded to "common cup" my drink around the table. I haven't laughed so hard in months.
- I treasure my friends. I really treasure my friends. I didn't realize quite how lonely I am in Jerusalem with so little social life until I once again experienced a social environment. Along the same lines, I really treasure Rab who is perhaps my only close true friend in Jerusalem.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Because I couldn't help myself, I wore it to my local clergy group. I affectionately refer to them as "the boys." The group is made up of pastors from the UCC, Methodist, Catholic, local fundy church and my congregation.
The UCC'er, upon seeing the shirt, loved it. The Methodist tried to pretend he wasn't reading it. He also addressed his prayer before our meal to "Heavenly Father" and threw in a couple "Father God"s along the way. The local fundy just plainly didn't get it. With a confused look on his face, he said, "Is that a good thing????" "Oh yes!" I replied. "It means that I too can be made in God's image!" He just looked at me with complete bewilderment.
Sometimes I just love messing with people.
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
After all this time, I still find myself preparing to call him to share exciting news or the day's challenges. I still find myself stunned by the reality that he is gone. I catch myself going through the motions much more than I'd like. I feel like there's a rock attached to my chest. Grief, in a word, sucks.
In some ways, the grief is harder this time. The initial fog of the early days has lifted and now the weight of Dad's death is more evident, more stark, more real. It certainly doesn't help that family tied up with Dad's trust continues to disappoint, sadden and frustrate me as they make decision one could only understand as selfish greed. There really is no other feasible explanation. My heart breaks on Dad's behalf as I stand by while they squander and misappropriate his money and the business around which he defined himself for many years. The situation makes me sick to my stomach.
I look around the Cute Gray House that he was supposed to come help fix up this Spring. At times, I catch myself throwing my grief-related anger toward the house that Dad will never see and never grace with his creative ideas. I'll never hear him comment as he walks through the house amazed by all there is to do to it. I'll never share a paintbrush or power tool with him as he explains procedural things I really don't care about so long as the house is fixed up.
When Dad was around, there were whole categories (e.g., wills, business plans, house repairs, cars) that I didn't even have to think or know about. I could just call him and he'd swell with fatherly pride at having been asked to share his wisdom and insights. Sometimes, it used to drive me nuts because, in his book, there was usually only one right way to do something. Now, I miss it desperately.
Easter was an interesting experience this year. Quite frankly, I didn't feel much like proclaiming life as my blackened heart continued to sink deeper and deeper into pain and sadness. It was difficult to put together a sermon and the Holy Week services looked similar to the ones of 2007. I didn't have energy to do otherwise. Once again, though, the Holy Spirit wove into the experience and I was surprised to hear words come out of my mouth that I myself needed to hear: words of "We are so ridden with grief that we forget our calling," and "your fear is not gone but it no longer holds you back...you can go on despite the suffering, you can take the next step because you are not alone." I was astonished to receive a lovely letter from a visitor who was here at Easter. The sermon, she said, was meaningful and inspirational. She even called the service "joyful" - have I become that proficient of an actress?
This second wave of grief seems threatening, ready to swallow me up once again and pull me down in its undertow. I know with certainty that lifeguards (aka friends, colleagues) are all around and, for that, I'm thankful. They may not take the pain away but they certainly keep the undertow from winning.
Sunday, March 09, 2008
You know you're an ENFP when...
you're laying in bed and your children's choir director calls you at 7:15...ummmm 8:15... to alert you to the fact that you forgot to change your clocks and to remind you that service starts in 15 minutes.
Monday, March 03, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
On the one hand, the meeting was an interesting study is big city dreams/small town life. On the other hand, it showed me just how clueless I am about Jerusalem. As location possibilities were discussed, each was referenced by what used to be in the space: "you know, by the old dairy depot," "out by Ozzie's old farm," "the old school (which is ridden with asbestos), and, my favorite, "at the old pickle plant." There was also talk about some place that used to have something to do with chickens...