Sunday, September 30, 2007

Taking a Deep Breath on Sunday

It's seven o'clock p.m. on Sunday, and given the absolutely out of control pace at which my life has been moving, I think I'm doing ok. Having the hot dog sale go away has taken off a huge load. As my SD said, "who ever thought that this could be an answer to prayer?" But I am here to tell you that this has been the most specific, wonderful and appreciated answer to something I did not even know I was praying for EVER!

The Spirit was visibly and amazingly present in our service this morning. So was I in deep and unexpected ways. The first time doing the jail ministry had a sense of "right time, right place" that was an unexpected grace and blessing.

Tuesday's lecture is done, Thursday's is underway and can be wrapped up in a couple good sprints. Both have some reading to do, but it's manageable if I stay on task. Tuesday I have my fabulous Bible Study with the funniest smartest study group ever. Wednesday I get to go just SIT at my Prebyterian friends' Taize service and feed my soul. Thursday night after school I'll go get the truck for the parade and Friday night we decorate it. The parade is Saturday morning. Next weekend's remaining task will be to finish ONE more lecture, then the focus shifts, the student presentations begin and on October 12 I am OFF TO THE YURT for the weekend for some well-deserved R & R!!!! I am so appreciating all the thoughts and prayers. I do truly feel you carrying me. Onward into the week!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Sermon for September 30, 2007

Why are we here? Now that is a great existential question asked by philosophers all down the ages—but that is not the way I am asking it this morning. I’m asking why are we HERE—why have we come to this particular place on a Sunday morning to say these particular words and perform these particular rituals?

I suppose there are as many answers that come to mind as there are those of us in this church:
  • To worship God
  • Because it is Sunday and this is what we do on Sunday, we keep the Sabbath in this way
  • Because it is meaningful, being here together, praying, singing, hearing God’s word and having the Eucharist in community fills us in some way….I would hope that would be part of all of our answer in some way.
But I want to go even deeper than those answers this morning, and have us reflect together for a time on why it is we come together for the experience of common worship. Why do we gather as a community to be fed on word and sacrament? Or to put it another way, for whom do we come to church? Do we come here merely for our own sake, or is there another reason?

A week ago Saturday, M, C, and I along with RM were privileged to attend the MDG Summit in St. Paul. The keynote speaker was Bonnie Anderson, the head of the House of Deputies. In her talk, Bonnie spoke about our need to understand the connection between our baptismal covenant and our life as a people of mission. She said that in our baptismal vows we were, as Christians, “given our marching orders” when we promised, with God’s help to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, to seek and serve Christ in all persons, love our neighbor as ourselves and strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” Bonnie reminded us that this covenant we made (and periodically reaffirm) as baptized Christians gives us both authority we can claim according to our gifts, and a responsibility to use those gifts in ministry to others, participating with God in God’s new creation, in God’s mission of justice, compassion and reconciliation.

“Alas for those who are at ease in Zion”….or anywhere else for that matter, Amos tells us, “the revelry is not the goal.” And Timothy too, echoes the message, it’s easy to be trapped by desire and attachment to riches and the things of this world. But we are urged to “set our hopes on God…to do good, be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, so that we have the life that really is life.” And in the Gospel again, we are reminded what Jesus thought about what was important., and it is NOT the riches of this life! We have had an ongoing lesson these past weeks in the Gospels from Jesus about the importance of ordering our priorities, letting go of our attachments, aligning ourselves with the poor, putting our selves, our riches on the line for what we say we believe. This is all very much in line with the message we heard from Bonnie Anderson and from the other speakers at the conference. This is something we are hearing clearly around the church. We are being called to mission. We are being reminded in many ways why we are here. And that is it is not for ourselves but for the world. That the church does not exist to extend the church but to participate with God in co-creation of God’s kingdom here on earth, a kingdom of justice, compassion and reconciliation.

We come together to worship on Sunday because worship is central to our common life as a community not for its own sake, but in order to support and equip us to make a difference in the work we do in our own mission fields Monday through Saturday. We come to be fed on Word and on Sacrament together in order that we might remember who and Whose we are, in order to be strengthened for what we are called to in the rest of our lives outside this place.

At clergy conference last week, I was given the privilege of calling together a panel of the Total Ministry teams from across the diocese to talk about how the Spirit is moving in the lives of the congregations and in the individuals serving on the teams. The most recently ordained of the priests on one of the teams said something that really made me think. He talked about how since he has been ordained, he feels a new sense of responsibility wherever he goes because he feels as though people have identified him as a representative of the church, as a sort of “professional Christian” and that they watch how he handles himself in his daily life. How he responds to conflict, how he deals with people….and as I listened to him I thought, you know, this ought not to just be true for someone who is ordained, but for all of us who are baptized, because truly we are all called, all as Bonnie said, given our orders, to see Christ in others and be Christ’s presence in the world. And there is a way in which the world should be able to watch and see God’s Spirit operating in us, see something in the way we act, the way we ARE that sets us apart. That is what mission is about. That is what ministry is about. And each of is called to it. Every one of us walks daily in several mission fields. At home. At work. Where we spend our leisure time. Every one of us functions in our local community and are also citizens of the wider world. And in each of these places there are chances every day to participate in God’s creative reshaping of this world into God’s kingdom. And in each of these arenas we are being called upon to ask ourselves what is the mind of God in this situation and then to act out of that. And we don’t do this in a vacuum. We have Jesus as the role model. Not so much in terms of that little phrase “what would Jesus do” as how would Jesus BE, or what is the mind of God. In these Gospels Jesus is making very clear how it is we are called upon to reflect the mind of God. We are called, in all these mission fields of our lives to do the just thing, to do the most inclusive thing, to do whatever the act is that most widens the circle and draws others in. We are called to do what considers the good of those most in need, the poor, the weak, the vulnerable. We are called upon to forgive. We are called upon to be just. We are called upon to reconcile. We are called upon to be peacemakers. Jesus came to literally “change our minds,” to transform our whole viewpoint, to give us a bigger picture, a glimpse of the possible world as God sees it. Through our baptism, we are covenanted to follow this vision, to incarnate it in our own lives as Jesus did in His. We are all vocational, called to ministry and mission. There is really no escaping it, we were marked as God’s own at baptism, and we are challenged to count the cost and pick up the cross. More than it ever has the world needs to hear another voice. The voice that cries out for justice, and compassion and reconciliation. This is God’s mission, not ours. Our job is merely to respond. To use our own individual gifts and talents to participate as we are called, where we are called, actually many times, every day, if we are paying attention… our own mission fields.

We are given the opportunity to participate in something more than the life of this world. We are given the opportunity for eternal life – God’s kingdom life – the countercultural life. Not the life that is merely about storing up your riches here on earth. Not the life that is about looking for the best place for yourself. Not the one that is about doing the things that will get you noticed and rewarded. But the life that says what we see before us is not how it can be, how it should be. The life that we are offered is the one exemplified in Jesus. It is the one we can claim through our baptism and the power of the Spirit. We make the world we live in different one day at a time, one act at a time by the way we live our daily lives in mission and ministry. May it be so. Amen.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Five:Reverendmother's Swan Song

I have recently been told by someone who knows me well that I do not play enough. I'm guessing she'd get no argument from the blog readers! So despite the hectic week, I thought I'd at least take a few minutes to play this thought-provoking but fun Friday Five!

Reverendmother writes: Well friends, as I prepare for the birth of Bonus Baby, it's time to simplify life, step back from the Friday Five, and let one of the other capable and creative RevGals take the helm. It's been a great almost 17 months of co-hosting the F5, but it's time to say goodbye... so here's my swan song.

On Endings and Goodbyes:
1. Best ending of a movie/book/TV show: Dorothy goes home. But not until she learns that it was in her power to do so all along. And isn't it a good thing she didn't know that sooner? Because think of all the great stuff she would have missed on the journey!

2. Worst ending of a movie/book/TV show: Can't think of one specifically, but I have a pet peeve about books that feel like the author just got tired of writing them and give them some dumb, glib, "oh come on, now!" kind of ending that makes you wish you had never started reading it in the first place! You come to care about the characters and then they just get kind of dumped in the end. Grates on me!

3. Tell about a memorable goodbye you've experienced. This one was memorable for the fact that it was a gut-sock, and a good lesson on how not to. A friend (G of earlier blog post fame) decided to move on after sixteen years in my life, and to sever all ties. One day out of the blue, she sent me a six line letter with no return address to tell me. It was very memorable.

4. Is it true that "all good things must come to an end"? Well good or bad, everything, eventually does, on the one hand. There is death. But then on the other, we believe there is life after, so maybe not.

5. "Everything I ever let go of has claw marks on it." --Anne Lamott Discuss. There was once a time. Bless yoga and meditation for making letting go and surrendering easier. Not entirely painless , not "once and we're done," but certainly less fraught and, I hope, more graceful and grace filled.

Bonus: "It isn't over until the fat lady sings." I've never loved this expression. So propose an alternative: "It isn't over until the paperwork is done" in my several worlds! Especially this week.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


It's another bullet week. But somehow this one stealthed me....I misjudged, under-estimated and miscalculated. If I am optimally productive every single minute of my waking hours for the next eight days I might, just might, make the finish line. The to-do list includes:

  • Reading and grading twenty eight student journals yet today

  • Sermon-writing and service prep for Sunday. I volunteered (!) to also do the bulletin this week as the usual person is in every bit as dire straights as I am. My heart is still able to be moved!

  • Getting the two lectures ready for class next week (Descartes on Tuesday, Goethe, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche on Thursday, just fluff)

  • Getting a food license and volunteers lined up for a the hot dog sale MDG fund-raiser for Homecoming on October 6 (person who was doing it backed out)

  • Getting the "stuff" together to decorate the truck for the parade for same homecoming parade and getting the decorating team moving to do the deed

  • Making sure everyone gets (and PAYS me) for the t-shirts for the same event (Must say I am happy with how they look, at least on screen and anxious to see them in person)

  • Conducting regular service on Sunday and then tagging along to the jail service in the afternoon to see how its done because "our turn" is next month and I've never been there

  • Giving the two lectures (which of course includes fighting with the library over the AV equipment as well as my own sporadic anxiety that still floats up with the teaching now and again)
  • The actual Homecoming Parade and hotdog event. I get to drive the TRUCK!

All squeezed around the day job and life in general. Haven't done laundry since before I traveled so it's getting pretty serious on that front. Have to do that or buy basics! Need a haircut, but there is no time for such frivolity. And somehow I got talked into three social events this weekend and a dinner out tonight to meet a clergy relative of one of my congregants who is passing through town. I did say no to one meeting in the midst of all this in favor of attending Taize at SD's church. I am giving myself huge credit for that!

So if you don't hear much from me in the next week, that's why. Maybe the sermon will speak for me. I want to be here. I'm getting behind here, too, and I miss the connections with you all. Well at least I'm consistent! Your prayers for my endurance and patience will be appreciated!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Coming Home

Someone once told me that when we travel we leave energy trails behind us. If this is true, in the past week I have left an interesting pattern back and forth across the state. Yesterday it was off again, two and a half hours away to a meeting to prepare us for our diocesan convention. A good meeting, a helpful meeting. Full of wonderful committed people and the movement of the Spirit. We talked about important decisions that must be made that will affect the future of our church. I love these conversations. I am committed to being in these conversations. But there have been a lot of them this week in various contexts with my clergy colleagues. And it has been a long week. Lots of talking. Lots more social interacting than this introvert usually has to manage in a week.

Re-entry was hard. Wednesday night when I got back I stayed up late to tweak the PowerPoint for my Thursday class that I have been working on for weeks. Thursday there was a mess-up at the library and I never did get to access the equipment that allowed me to use the PowerPoint for the class. Stressful? Oh yeah. I raised my voice. In a library. To a librarian. It availed me nothing. I was fifteen minutes late starting class because I was wrangling with the library over said equipment. It's hard to tell if the students cared. They are pretty bland in their responses in general. This does not help.

I think that something has to give on the teaching front. I keep saying this. I keep deciding not to teach and then I do it again. I have been thinking about why this is the case. Partially it's because I'm good at it and there is something in me that says we "should" use our gifts. Especially when there is financial reward involved. And of course, they do pay me to do this. Although right now, I'd say, not nearly enough! But the truth is that deciding not to teach again will have some implications financially, and means that I will have to make some other hard decisions as well. But aside from that, there is also this giving up of the fantasy that I can (or should) do it. Yes I am good at it, but the simple fact is, I don't really enjoy teaching! At least not this subject in this context, in this place and time. It's a giving up of a dream, maybe. I always thought if I weren't a therapist I'd be a professor, and maybe I would have been, or perhaps will still be, some day, somewhere. But the pure fact is, here and now, it really is not working so well for me. And so I think I need to let it go. Oh I won't bail. I will finish this semester. But I am making my commitment publicly (as making it privately, even to those I give my word seriously hasn't seemed to do it) that I am going to "just say no" to teaching again for the future.

Because what is suffering here is my inner life. I find time for the have-tos and the musts. I keep my commitments to others, always and without fail. It is my want-tos that get the short end of the stick and my commitments to myself that fall off the schedule. My time to just be, to read, to reflect, to write, to pray, to hang out in the presence of the God who fills and sustains me that gets pushed to the bottom end of the day when I have only enough energy to do the cursory, the passing, the expedient thing. And I'm not okay with that. I need better, I deserve better. As does God. Life is too short.

The recurring theme lately has been the stuff that has to go, decluttering, detaching. I need to let go of the idea that I must do it all, have three jobs, be the energizer bunny, superwoman, overachiever, wonderpriest; I need to seriously consider if this is the best use of my time, the best option of resolving my financial issues. There are other more compelling calls that seem to be pulling me, and in order to say yes to those, no to this is required. That also means answering some other questions in ways that might be painful or risky. But the Gospels have been pretty clear lately. Bearing crosses and counting costs, getting the priorities straight, living counterculturally to advance the Kingdom. I have been praying for discernment, to know God's will. It's all getting pretty clear. I may have left trails across the state, but I think I'm coming home to myself now. Finally.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday 5 -- Decluttering Edition

Sally writes: With Jo, Jon and Chris all moving to college and University accommodation there has been a big clear up going on in the Coleman household. We have been sorting and trying hard not just to junk stuff, but actually to get it to where it can be useful. On a brighter note we have used Freecycle ( check it out) to provide the twins with pots and pans etc that other folk were clearing out.

Making the most of our resources is important, I have been challenged this week by the amount of stuff we accumulate, I'd love to live a simpler lifestyle, it would be good for me, and for the environment I think...

With that in mind I bring you this Friday 5;

1. Are you a hoarder or a minimalist? I am, I fear a bit of a hoarder with minimalist aspirations. As I preached a couple weeks ago, I know the "stuff" (internal and external) has to go. It's just the doing that's challenging!

2. Name one important object ( could be an heirloom) that you will never part with. My mother's engagement ring, circa 1920. I wear it always, it connects me with her, with my past.

3. What is the oldest item in your closet? Does it still fit??? An aqua long-sleeve T-shirt that I bought at a long-ago Ren Fest....fifteen years ago at least! It has a lovely dragony design on it. At various points it has fit and not. I am proud to say that now it does!

4.Yard sales- love 'em or hate 'em ? Mixed, depending on mood as far as attending. Do NOT like having them, far too much work for little pay off.

5. Name a recycling habit you really want to get into. Trying to get my workplace to get better at recycling paper (we do well with cans, etc.) and trying to get back into composting at home.

And for a bonus- well anything you want to add.... I love the "seven things" concept and have it as an intention for my life for some point in the not too distant future.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Where I Was on Saturday.....

MINNESOTA: MDG Training Summit draws national leaders, offers practical training
By Joe Bjordal, September 20, 2007
[Episcopal News Service] More than two hundred adults, youth and children participated in a day-long training summit at Church of St. John the Evangelist in St. Paul, Minnesota, September 15 to equip individuals and congregations to support the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
"What's Your Point 2007? -- A Millennium Development Goals Training Summit" was sponsored by the MDGs Task Force of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota.

The training summit is one component of an overall advocacy and education strategy about the MDGs that has also included direct donations to international relief and development agencies, such as Episcopal Relief and Development and Bread for the World, and grants to congregations as seed money to launch projects in support of the MDGs.

The Rev. Devon Anderson, chair of Minnesota's MDG Task Force, said the training summit was a big success for many reasons, including that fact that there was a broad diversity represented in the participants.

"We were able to pull together, during a very busy time of the year, over 200 people from around our diocese who have a passion for global mission and reconciliation," said Anderson. "There were people from rural areas, Total Ministry clusters, Indian missions and big program parishes. There were young children, youth, adults and elders. We had geographical, cultural, and generational diversity represented -- people from all walks of life and means coming together around the MDGs. It was the kingdom of God and it was holy and beautiful."

From the Baptismal Covenant: A Call to Mission
The keynote address for the training summit was delivered by Dr. Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church and mother of the Rev. Devon Anderson. She told summit participants that the promises we make in the Baptismal Covenant are foundations and motivations for doing God's mission in the world.

"The mission of reconciliation in the world belongs to God and we are God's vehicles for that, charged by our baptismal covenant, according to the gifts given us, to carry on Christ's work of reconciliation in the world," said Bonnie Anderson, who movingly recounted her experience attending the Towards Effective Anglican Mission (TEAM) Conference in Boksburg, South Africa earlier this year, as photographs of conference participants were projected onto a large video screen.

"These are people, from all over the world who are living out their baptismal covenants. They are working every day to make sure their neighbors are loved as they love themselves," she said.

"When we think about our call to mission -- what it is that each of us is uniquely called to do -- we need to remember first that this is God's mission, not ours. And, inherent in our mission call is relationship. It is not about us, the rich Americans, saving the unchurched, poverty-stricken world. It is about us, the people of God, learning from and sharing with other people of God. There are many, many ways and contexts for mission."

Anderson concluded her remarks by saying "We have our marching orders -- laity, clergy, bishops -- according to the gifts we have been given: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?"

The 'Three-Legged Stool' of the MDGs
Minnesota's MDG Training Summit brought together representatives of the three main national organizations in the Episcopal MDG movement. A summit segment called "The Three-Legged Stool of the MDGs: Development, Relationship, Advocacy," featured representatives of Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD), Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation (EGR) and the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations, a part of the Presiding Bishop's staff in Washington that is responsible for representing the Church's positions on public policy to Congress and the White House and equipping the advocacy of Episcopalians around the country.
Participants in the first-ever public, joint panel discussion were the Rev. Lynn Sanders, director of church relations for ERD, the Rev. Mike Kinman, executive director of EGR, and Alexander Baumgarten, international policy analyst for the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations. Bonnie Anderson moderated the discussion.

Individual presentations and the fielding of questions made it clear that "each leg of the stool" is necessary for a comprehensive approach to supporting the MDGs.

In response to a question about "what you would like to see from each other to better carry out your work," the presenters were frank in agreeing that the work of their individual organizations is sometimes seen as competing. They agreed there has been tension, but there is a new attitude of cooperation and a growing willingness to work together.

Kinman summed up the feeling of the group when he said that all kinds of systems, organizations and approaches are going to be necessary in the future to successfully support the MDGs.

"We should not be afraid of the tension," said Kinman, "rather milk it for all the creativity it has."

Practical Training
The Training Summit also offered series of small-group workshops, repeated twice during the day, which offered practical training in support of the MDGs. Topics included: "What are the MDGs: An Introduction" by the Rev. Mike Kinman; "Thinking Globally, Organizing Locally: Episcopal Global Mission in Historical Context" by Dr. Michael McNally; "The MDGs and Worship" by the Rev. LeeAnne Watkins; "The Willing Heart: the Psychology of Asking" by the Rev. Barbara Mraz; "From Violence to Wholeness: Nonviolence and the MDGs" by the Rev. Jackie Lynn and the Rev. Rex McKee; "It's All About Relationships: Organizing a Mission Project 101" by Laurie Beckman Yetzer; and "Reading the Times: Using Everyday Life to Inspire MDG Commitment" by Dr. Lisa Kimbal.

A 'Template' to be Shared
Devon Anderson noted that there had been inquiries from several other Episcopal dioceses as plans for the workshop were being developed.

"One of the things I'm most proud of is that our training summit can be used as a template for other dioceses who are trying to figure out 'the next step' in their own MDG work. We'll gladly share what we have created for the common good of the whole church," she said.

Anderson noted that part of what was developed was a day-long learning experience for children which allowed them to interact with each of the eight Millennium Development Goals. The examination of each goal included a visual connection, a Bible story, a game, a hands-on activity, a connection to the Book of Common Prayer, and something that each child can do about that goal after the event. The children's program was developed by MerLynne Byrne, director of Faith Formation at St. Stephen's Church, Edina.

Anointed for Service
Minnesota's first MDG Training Summit ended with a closing worship service with some powerful symbolism.

Earlier in the day, Kinman said "if you really want to get your congregation charged up about the MDGs, involve your youth and children -- they are already globally connected."

As the closing worship service concluded, the participants in the children's program made their way through the congregation carrying containers of newly-blessed oil which was given to each person to anoint the hands of the person seated next to them.

Devon Anderson noted that the service -- and the entire day -- was celebratory and joyful, which "could only be explained by the Spirit in our midst."

"We were about to deepen the conversation about the MDGs and understand their complexity better," she said. "We provided a forum for people to network and join forces and we offered practical, utilitarian workshops that were armed with new ideas and strategies to take back to congregations and be God's agents of reconciliation in the world."

More information about the Diocese of Minnesota's support of the Millennium Development Goals is available by contacting the Rev. Devon Anderson at

I I thought I'd post the whole article. It explains what happened there so well. The reason I was there is because my tiny little church has an MDG project. We are supporting a community center that is being started in Rwanda. We knew we wanted to do a project after we attended our diocesan convention last year and got fired up about the MDGs. On Palm Sunday one of our congregants who, along with her late husband, had been active in worldwide work with genocide spoke to the congregation about her hopes to start this center in his memory. The collection that day brought in all we needed to qualify us to apply for a diocesan matching grant, which we were later awarded. So far we have raised most of the funds we need and are beginning to gather the school supplies and books we are sending to the center. It's an amazing thing to think that a little church on the prairie in Minnesota can impact the lives of people in this place far away who have endured things that we cannot even begin to fathom. And the other amazing thing is that it's changing our lives as well.

All of the people who were there were so fired up about what they were doing. I had lunch with a very interesting person named Laurie (who happened to be a Lutheran at this very Episcopal gathering) who does advocacy work for kids and had done one of the workshops. As we were chatting, we got to talking about where she went to surprise on this amazing day of providences and Spirit moments that she is a member of Diane's congregation! And it further turns out that Laurie is planning to be coming out my way to do some congregational work for her organization, so hopefully I can help her make some connections.

At the beginning and end of the day we sang a song that went:
If not us, not them
If not now, then when
If not here, nor there, If not this world, then where?
The whole day was just so incredible. One thing after another. The closing worship was powerful. The singing, the annointing of our hands for mission with the kids passing the left me thoughtful and energized and really hopeful about the future of the church.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Picture is Worth....Well Something I Hope!

Saturday I went to one of the most inspiring and wonderful workshops I have ever attended. It rates (and will have soon) a longer and more thoughtful post. A thought that stays with me from Bonnie Anderson, head of our House of Deputies (the lay leadership arm of our church): The baptismal covenant is a call to action, our marching orders as Christians. Not a "been there, done that. " But a "Be HERE. Do THIS." She was awesome and amazing. As were the speakers from Episcopal Relief and Development, Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation and TEC's Office of Governmental Relations (who appeared together on a panel!) And the local folks who did workshops were just as splendid. I was so proud of my diocese and my church.

And then for a complete change of pace it was off to the Ren Fest where a good time was had by all. The Morris dancers have always been among my favorites so I was really excited to find out that they were performing right in front of my friend's booth where I was "stationed" for the day helping her out in her brass rubbing business. The weather was gorgeous, the people were all happy to be out enjoying the day. It was a complete departure from the real world. What's not to like!

And then Monday it was off to the burbs of Minneapolis for the RevGal Brunch! Over some great lingonberry pancakes, Diane and I got a chance to meet in the non-virtual world. Her husband joined us for the eating part of our adventure and graciously took a (sort of distant-on-purpose) picture of us. Diane is holding a brass rubbing of the four gospels from M's brasses that I rubbed! More to come on this meetup as well!

After good food and great conversation it was off to the King's House Retreat Center where we hold our clergy conference. This picture was taken there last spring. I didn't take pictures this time as it rained almost the whole time we were there. King's House (which is run by the OMI brothers familiar to some of you) is on a lake and has some lovely places to sit and reflect as well as to walk during free time, so it was a little disappointing to be cooped up inside. But there was lots to do to get ready for our panel, and of course there is always the book store, which is open around the clock and runs on the honor system. Hey if you can't do it at a retreat house.....

And here it is Wednesday again....and there is so much to write about. My heart and soul are full, as is my brain. I am inspired about ministry, mission, developing a Spirit-filled congregation. I wish I could take the time to write about it all now. But there is a lecture with my name on it and a Power Point for tomorrow that has to take precedence. So pictures and a few notes will do for now with a promise to myself of more to come.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Bullet Week

I don't know how it can possibly be Wednesday. I really need it not to be this late in the week since I need several more days to get everything done before I leave on Friday for my peripatetic adventures of the next several days. I want to write about the amazing speaker I heard last Friday. His name is Phil Steger and he talked here Friday about why we need to get out of Iraq and why this month is our best chance. But he deserves a whole post and there just isn't time. Because this week I am:

  • Preparing my workshop for clergy conference. When I found out that the other person who had been tapped to present with me was unable to be there, I suggested turning it into a panel discussion, which is the good news....cuz nobody, including me, wants to hear me talk for ninety solid minutes! The downside of that has been that I've been inventing it on the fly over the last week, people have been being added as we go along and it's been kind of crazy. But now it's pretty much in final format, the players are set and we'll have a bit of rehearsal time the night before, so I can take a deep breath and let go on that one, and move on to.....
  • Getting my First Big Lecture ready for my class for the day after I get back from conference. We have been doing context setting, library days, group discussions and such till now, but on the 20th its me, the Power Point, Aristotle and Plato. Class is 75 minutes. I usually preach for about 15. So this is what....five sermons? All at once. I won't talk the whole time of course. So four sermons then.....what, pray tell was I thinking? Well the Power Point looks snazzy anyway. Assuming it works. Have I mentioned that technology and I have been known to tangle in the past.....
  • Reading Fritz Kunkel's Creation Continues with my fabulously awesome bible study group. Oh, to have nothing else to do but hang with Fritz!
  • Also on the fun front, I have been having the best time writing interview questions. I am waiting patiently for a couple people's answers.
  • Planning our "float" and hotdog stand fundraiser for the MDG's for Homecoming parade. Tonight somehow I found myself in charge of designing T-shirts for us to wear.
  • Doing my day job
  • Thanking God for an amazing first year as a priest. What a trip this year of post-ordination formation has been. Steep learning curve. Loving the ride!
  • Trying to figure out what to pack for a seven day trip in changeable Minnesota September weather that includes: a church conference, a stint as a Renaissance Festival wench, a clergy conference, and DRUM ROLL PLEASE.....a Revgal meetup!!!!!!! Yes it's true Diane and I are planning brunch on Monday between my wench and clergy gigs. Photos to follow!!!!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The Interview Meme---Meeting Myself Again

There is a new meme making its way around the blog ring. This one is a series of personal interviews in which you can ask someone who has previously been interviewed to interview you. So I took the plunge and asked Mompriest to come up with some questions for me, and here they are!

1. How did you find your way to the Episcopal Church? And, why have you stayed? I have been known to say that my faith journey has consisted of a lot of trips around the spiritual block. I have at some point been a Roman Catholic (by birth and by choice again later), unchurched, a member of the UCC, spent time among the Quakers, dabbled with the earth-based pagan folk, and seriously considered Buddhism. It was only after all of that that one sunny Sunday morning I simply "wandered in" to the Episcopal church a few miles from my house. I felt an almost visceral sense of being at home at once. It was just right somehow. It wasn't that the people were particularly friendly (they weren't), or the place was overly beautiful (it was stark and modern...not my kind of church at all). The rector was pleasant enough, the sermon challenging, the music was well-done. Obviously none of those things were "it." But I kept coming back...I am not even sure why, except that there was something in the theology I was hearing, the openness and acceptance, the WOMAN on the altar, scripture tradition and reason. I think it was the whole package. It all just fit and drew me in. It's never stopped. Even when things at that church got ugly and I chose to leave, I knew that the Episcopal church was bigger than that one place, and I found St. M's "church of my heart" that I still get homesick for sometimes.

Why I stay is because this is the church that claimed my heart. The Catholic church will, I think always have a little hold on my soul, they got to me so young! And I found things in some of my other spiritual pursuits that fed things in me....but TEC has my heart.... has from day one. This is the liturgy where I fall into the ancient rhythms of language of prayer and find such comfort and peace. This is the church of the via media, willing to wrestle with the hard questions and do so right out there in front of God and everybody. This is the church that says, you are ALL welcome at this table, and pretty much means it.

2. Your profile mentions an interest in "Community theater", so have you ever performed in live theater? If so, what? If not, do you have a favorite play that has inspired you? I actually have a funny story about that. I moved here to Little Town on the Prairie five years ago. New and knowing not a soul, I decided to get involved in some community things to meet people. So I tried out for the summer production of "Fiddler on the Roof." Up to this point my "theatre experience" had been two high school plays (non-musicals), and singing in choruses and church choirs. I had never, ever sung a solo in public before the audition. I expected to be in the chorus, or at best have a small bit part. So imagine my surprise when I learned I was cast as Golde! I had a blast. Met great people and found out that I can do all sorts of things that I thought I could not do. Since then I've been in Guys and Dolls (walk on bit part), the Nutcracker (no lines, a bit of dancing) and Babes in Toyland ( Mother Ginger---got rolled on stage in a cart contraption with a skirt over it, bunches of little kids came out under it....I think you had to be there). My yet to be played dream role is Mother Superior in the Sound of Music. The small town south of us is doing it next summer I hear. Stay tuned.....

3. What similarities do you find between theater and liturgy? I think that the presbyter in liturgy is filling several roles simultaneously. As both stage manager and MC I have the responsbility of making sure that the environment is conducive to worship. As celebrant (actor?) this means that I have to be "well-rehearsed" have all my ducks in a row so my "performance" is as seamless as groping around for stuff, flipping pages unnecessarily, not knowing what's next, etc. so that the worship flows in a prayerful reverent way without the celebrant herself being a distraction. And the celebrant is a director at times for making sure the other actors are doing what they are supposed to be doing at the right times. In addition to the role piece there are other parallels: flow and timing in a service the building to climax (which for me is the Eucharist), the way we use music, language, the liturgical space. I have REALLY high standards for liturgy. My SD calls me "liturgy geek" and I wear it proudly. And with all this going on the amazing thing is that most of the time I still feel like I'm present for it! Grace is the answer on that one! Becasue that is different from acting for sure!

4. What was your first inkling that you were called to be an Episcopal priest? When I was seven I was serving communion to the dolls and bears when we played church. This was totally audacious. I was Catholic. It was the FIFTIES. What was I thinking!!!! It all went off the map for a long time. After I joined the UCC and again TEC I would think now and again about seminary, but it was always like "yeah right and how will that ever happen." When I was getting ready to move out here my priest at St. M's told me there was something here called "total ministry" in which people were locally discerned, trained and ordained, and that I should check it out. So I did. Obviously God had a plan. The call awoke in me very strongly again and was echoed back by the discernment committee, the COM et al, and here I am, a week away from celebrating my first year as a locally ordained priest. I will absolutely go to the mat with anyone who tries to tell me that there are no miracles. I thank God every single day for this amazing gift, while at the same time I am blinking in amazement and asking myself how in heaven's name I got here!

5. How does being a priest inform your ministry as a psychologist and vice versa? This is a great question. When I was first ordained we talked a lot about how I was "bivocational" (or even "trivocational" if you toss in the professor gig), and that I wore all these hats and was tying to figure out which one I was in at any given moment. While there is still some of that (role-driven mostly, boundaries appropriate to the primary job in the moment, etc.) more and more there is just Kate who is doing her best to be present no matter which thing I happen to be doing at the moment, Kate who is doing her best to see Christ in and be Christ to clients and congregants and students and whomever happens to cross my path. Having said that though, one of the great gifts of being ordained has been the opportunities for conversation that have been opened up. My "rule of thumb" with clients is that I don't bring up the spiritual stuff but I will go there if they do. And in a small town, folks know I'm ordained. Heck I was on the front page of the paper! So they bring things up. They say things like, "I know you are a pastor, so I feel like it's ok to say this, or ask you...." Life is all really spiritual, therapy is soulwork, whether we name it as such or not. My heroes in the psych world, Jung, Kunkel, Adler, Sanford.....they all get it.

Bonus question: is there a question you've always wanted someone to ask you but it's never been asked? If so, what is it and what is your response? Well.....being a good Midwestern Episcopalian, who will never, ever in this lifetime (at least in my own denomination) have the opportunity for an altar call, I have always wanted someone to ask me publicly (*******Spoiler you pisco squishy types, evangelical stuff ahead******) if I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and accept Him as my Lord and Savior. And my response is: Yes, I do!

So come on brave people, who is in? It's fun! Here's all you have to do:
1. If you are interested in being interviewed, leave me a comment saying “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by posting five questions for you. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with a post containing your answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Sermon for September 9, 2007

Luke 14:25-33

We are faced again this week with one of those hard texts. There have been a lot of them lately, Gospels in which Jesus is portrayed doing and saying things which made the people of his time, and us, uncomfortable, confused and even angry. He has been seriously pushing the comfort level of his hearers about what it is that is expected of those who chose to become disciples. And again today in some very stark words Luke gives an opportunity for what we call in my day job “informed consent” on the cost of discipleship. “If you’re going to follow me,” Jesus says, “don’t do it blindly. Count the cost. Think it over carefully, because it is not easy, this disciple life. It will require sacrifice…it might even kill you.

Sometimes language can be such a tricky thing. We read this Gospel and see that first line and that word “hate” and our minds go all sorts of places. Maybe it’s: “Well Jesus can’t possibly mean that can He? Jesus, who is God, is all about love, so there must be some mistake here, so therefore I can just skip this whole take up your cross, self-sacrifice thing altogether.” Or sadly, like other scripture passages, it may have been twisted to mean things it was never intended in some of our lives, ways that have gotten people tangled up into strange and unhealthy kinds of practices masquerading as spirituality that are anything but. Ways that have wounded us and made us skittish about even thinking about making a deeper commitment to Jesus.

But obviously we want to engage with the Word this morning, not find reasons to avoid it. So perhaps for starters a language lesson would be helpful about that troublesome word hate. As it was understood by Jesus’ hearers, the word “hate” meant something rather different than the way we understand it. They would have heard it to mean something like, “to prefer less than” something else, or to “be less attached” to one thing than another. With that translation then, maybe we can hear Jesus saying: “you must let go of some of those attachments to the things of your life, you must detach and prefer those things less,” than you do following me. Does this change it a bit? I think so. Why am I saying this? Is it to sugar coat the message or to get us off the hook? No, that is not my intention. I am telling you this because I think it is essential to the understanding of the message before us. That message that tells us that whatever it is that separates us from God, that impedes us in our conscious, connected relationship with our loving creator has to be “hated” by this definition, if we are to call ourselves Christians and followers of Jesus.

What are some of the things that come to mind when we think about attachments in our own lives? Well one of the first things I think about is my “stuff.” I don’t know about you, but I have managed to accumulate a really frightening amount of stuff in my life. And I am really attached to it! I find this out whenever I try to get rid of any if it. When I moved here five years ago, I was mortified when I realized that it cost me almost as much to get rid of the junk I wasn’t keeping as it did to move the stuff I was. And yet, to this day, whenever C and I decide we are going to clean the basement or the garage, I begin with the best of intentions, always thinking THIS TIME I am going to end up keeping almost nothing. HAH! And then I find myself horrified by the idea of losing my stuff, letting go of my stuff. And somehow, a lot of it stays attached to me.

And that is just the outward, material things. When we start thinking about the inward “stuff” we all hang on to, we have another whole layer of complexity. Every single one of us, just because we are human, has things that we are attached to, tied up with, sometimes tangled up with, in some pretty amazing ways. Our relationships is the one that Jesus points out….fathers and mothers, sisters and brothers, wives and husbands, partners and children. The web of complexities that make up our most intimate lives and all the daily dramas that we interweave there. Our lives, and all the things that are connected with that…lifestyle, comfort, ease. What else are we attached to? To our status in the world? To our identity? The status quo, things just as they are, to the way we have always done things? To being in control? To getting our own way? To success? To perfection? To our pride? To achievement? Are we attached to not seeing things as they really are, determined to hang on to our own unique version of reality? Are we attached to old resentments, to certain hurts and slights from others that we simply “cannot forgive”? Are we attached to staying numb and not allowing ourselves to feel? Are we attached to our pain and suffering?

Attachments. We all have them. They are part of the human condition. And each of them comes with a whole host of supporting practices and sub-attachments and distractions and rituals and behaviors that are needed to keep them alive and functioning that take up our focus and our time and our energy.

Every one of these attachments, and the ways we practice keeping them alive and well in our lives is standing in the way of our relationship with God, is standing in the way of our discipleship. Is standing in the way of the radical hospitality that Jesus calls us to. Because when we are “preferring more” our own image or status or way or outcomes or truths or version of reality, when we are possessed by our need to be in control, to not see, to not feel, we cannot be available for God’s work. When we are focused more on the drama or our own life than we are the needs of others we are not really present in the way that our faith commitment demands. We cannot be disciples, which literally means “learners or students” because we are not open at that time to what God might teach us.

Which brings us to the “how” of this. As a colleague pointed out recently, Jesus really does set up some difficult if not impossible, requirements for discipleship. Letting go of these attachments, these possessions of ours requires the taking up of the cross in a very real and personal way. It requires, in fact more than we are even capable of on our own behalf. Because we all know that we are holding on to the stuff we are holding on to, be it the stuff in our garage or the stuff in our souls for good reasons, or at least what seems like good reasons to us. We are holding on because we believe we need it, because we are afraid for some reason to let it go, because it has become its own little godhead in our lives, or simply because it’s habit and maybe we just haven’t thought about it. It’s just unconscious.

Theologian John Sanford says that Jesus was the most conscious person the world had ever known; that while fully human, Jesus had become spiritually and psychologically transformed to the point that in Him God was fully exemplified and revealed. In asking us to follow Him Jesus is inviting us also to work toward becoming conscious, encouraging us to get out of the way in our own lives the things that stand between us and participating in the reality of God as He knew God. In the incarnation, Jesus provides for us a way to experience both who God IS and who humans can BE, the great both/and. In doing so, we have more than just someone to model or exhort us to these changes. We have in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ the emergence of a new consciousness, the transformative cosmic event that made it possible for us to join with Jesus in becoming true disciples, co-creators in bringing about God’s kingdom here on earth. And with Pentecost we have the Spirit as our Advocate to be constantly with us in this process. As we gather each week in community we are fed again on God’s Word and in the Eucharist to be strengthened and enabled to take up this cross with Jesus, to do this thing with God that we humans alone cannot hope to do. Remember, it is not much farther in Luke’s Gospel to Jerusalem. On Good Friday, it was only Jesus who was crucified. But because we know the “end of the story” and are a Resurrection people, we also know what happened in Acts, that the very disciples who had cowered in fear on Good Friday suddenly were going forth and letting go of their attachments and following the Great Comission, all because they were allowing God to do God’s co-creative work for the good of the kingdom in them.

Our liturgical guidelines encourage us occasionally throughout the year to reaffirm our Baptismal Covenant at the point in the Service when we would normally say the Creed. Since that covenant asks us the questions of discipleship, and more importantly, asks us to answer in a way that reminds that God is with us at every step, it seemed that it would be appropriate for today’s service. So I would ask you then to join with me in discipleship as we renew our baptismal covenant.

Sanford, J. A. (1993). Mystical Christianity. New York: Herder & Herder.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Friday 5- On Overcoming

Sally writes: I am preparing this Friday 5 just before I take Chris into hospital for a cardioversion, right now we are all a little apprehensive. But this whole thing has got me thinking, so many of us are overcomers in one way or another, so many have amazing stories to tell of God's faithfulness in adversity. And so I bring you this Friday 5

1.Have you experienced God's faithfulness at a difficult time? Tell as much or as little as you like... As those who have been reading along know, I have been wrestling with the shame demons of my past of late. This is not the first round. I pray it is the last, as it is a very old fight and truly I am tired of it. This shame and funky stuff with power in my life has taken me through reading lots of self-help books and twelve-step groups, and several rounds of therapy, muddled some relationships and generally been a life-sapping, distracting influence. It has only been in this last round however, that I have been so aware of God's presence in the struggle with me. While I'm sure God has been there all along, I'm having the grace to experience it now. The "Providences" have been so numerous, the incredible people who have "shown up" in my life to love and support me in this struggle (you know who you are), books that someone mentions that are "just right," a blog post from one of you that says exactly what I'm feeling, or a comment that holds me up on a rough day, a "random" remark from a co-worker, I see God's faithfulness in it all, God's encouragement to persevere in hope, God's great and overflowing love for me desiring that I be healed, once and for all.

2. Have you experienced a dark night of the soul, if so what brought you through? Yes. In 1992 a whole series of events including job loss, financial stress, relationship problems, the death of my brother and a whole host of other things toppled my tower. I lost faith. I asked that fateful question. "How," I wondered, "could a God who supposedly loved me bring all this crap on my head?" I also became clinically depressed in the midst of it all and ended up seeing a very wise therapist. She sent me for meds, encouraged me to read Rabbi Kushner's book and to rant and weep and lament in her compassionate presence. As I was ready she encouraged me to go back to church, to talk with my priest. My priest told me God did not bring the crap at all but was certainly with me in it. Time passed, I found a new job, kept putting one foot in front of the other. One day I woke up and there was color in the world again. Grace, I think. Just grace that led me home.

3. Share a Bible verse, song, poem that has brought you comfort? The Canticle of Isaiah from Morning Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer has been my constant companion for the past couple years.....Surely, it is God who saves me; * I will trust in him and not be afraid. For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, * and he will be my Savior. Therefore you shall draw water with rejoicing * from the springs of salvation. And on that day you shall say, * Give thanks to the Lord and call upon his Name; Make his deeds known among the peoples; * see that they remember that his Name is exalted. Sing the praises of the Lord, for he has done great things, * and this is known in all the world. Cry aloud, inhabitants of Zion, ring out your joy, * for the great one in the midst of you is the Holy One of Israel. The First Song of Isaiah Ecce, Deus Isaiah 12:26 From Morning Prayer, Rite II, BCP

4. Is "why suffering" a valid question? It is certainly a human question. I ask it, my clients ask it, my congregants ask it. I think it is hardwired into us to ask it. But why not, really? It's part of the human condition, yes? I remember reading Man's Search for Meaning so long ago and really getting that it is not so much that we are ever going to escape it, but it is what we do with the pain of life that matters. It can be in vain, or it can count. It's up to us.

5. And on a lighter note- you have reached the end of a dark and difficult time- how are you going to celebrate? I am going to gather up everyone (even if I have to do it "virtually") who has been my cheerleaders, supporters, prayers, butt-kickers (need them too!), and throw one great party of thanksgiving and recognition that I couldn't have done it without you all! Great food, wine, music, dancing, conversation and much, much love and laughter!

Bonus- Was just thinking this morning about this ring and how many folks are going through changes and waiting and struggles and questioning...overcoming indeed...and how we are present to one another in this bloggy little universe in such good and supportive ways through the "miracle" of technology. This is a good Friday Five at a good time. Prayers especially to Chris and his family.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


The “aha” I blogged about in my last post has been unwilling to let me go. It has in fact gotten wrapped around the idea of radical hospitality and how that is related to what Jesus calls us to in the Gospel and how that is playing itself out in my life. In an earlier post, I talked about feeling like I was finally getting a handle on the humility/humiliation confusion that has long dogged me. Part of the legacy of that struggle is that I tend to be profligate with my power in the presence of threat, real or perceived. Ever since the day so long ago when G stood over me and determined me lacking in some fundamental way, the minute I feel that someone has judged me and found me wanting, I go “one down” in some very scary and seemingly irredeemable ways, hand my power, my efficacy and authenticity over on a silver platter, and roll over into shame.

That is not a place from which I can offer hospitality of any sort, let alone the radical kind that Jesus is asking. That is not the place from which I can follow a call. It is not even a place from which I can authentically discern what is really going on, as from there everything is distorted. Benign shadows morph into terrifying shapes and the innocent or random acts of others become sinister and triggering.

This has happened enough in recent memory to be sort of consistently on the radar screen. It comes up in all sorts of different arenas. The incident with the student is the latest example. Without exception the reactions I have gotten when I’ve talked with people about her have been the ones I got from those of you who commented here. Sane, rational responses. It is likely her problem. Keep on doing what I am doing. Be kind but hold my ground. Look under her reaction. And I get this, I really do. With my head. From one perspective I can be kind of righteously indignant…I am after all the teacher, I know what I am doing, who does she think she is? And from another I can be compassionate, she is frightened of something, she is reacting in fear, I can offer reassurance. And I have been in both places, acted from both, they both feel good in their own way.

But here’s the deal. I cannot move on, I cannot let go of this thing. I cannot take back my power from this person whom my rational self knows to be more scared than I am. I niggle away at it in my brain, it haunts my dreams and keeps me sleepless in the dark hours, where I worry it into something that even I know is way bigger than it is.

I know that this is the old thing, this is the legacy, the enduring ruthless dogging, dare I name it….demon….that will not release me. It seems to be locked my cells, woven in my being. I do not know when or how I will finally be quit of it. My SD assures me that I will, that there is a way, with God’s help. I am trusting that. I need to. Because more and more I hear that piece about the radical hospitality….and this is in the way. And the stuff in the way is the stuff that has to go. Of all the possessions I have to give up, perhaps this one is the hardest to figure out how to part with. Perhaps this is the cross. At least for right now. Maybe that’s all I need to know. Maybe that’s enough for today.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


In a conversation with a therapist colleague yesterday about this teaching stress thing I had one of those aha moments. This one concerns the difference between therapy and spiritual direction.

When someone does something that trips your trigger:
In therapy, your therapist tells you to dig really deep. Get in touch with your anger. Do your work. Express your feelings, tell them how YOU feel.

In spiritual direction, your SD tells you to dig really deep. Get in touch with your compassion. Do God's work. Be concerned with how the OTHER feels. If you can, ask them.

Now I'm not saying one is better than the other. In truth, I'm very much a both/and kind of girl. It's just what's making me go "hmmmm" today.