Friday, December 30, 2011

Nealy New Year Friday Five

Sally says: "A simple Friday Five for a busy part of the year; indulge me by sharing two fives:  As you look back over 2011 share 5 blessings, they can be as grand or as simple as you like,if you year has been like mine they are probably a mixture! As you look towards 2012 share 5 hopes- again, anything goes! Pictures and songs welcome."

Blessings of 2011
  • As always, my sweet husband heads the list of my blessings.  In this stressful year of change and transition, I have appreciated more than ever his wisdom and good sense as well as the certainty of knowing, no matter what, he has my back.
  • The ordination of Amy Peden Haynie to the priesthood.  At long last the fullness of her gifts and ministry can be realized.  Thanks be to God!
  • Once again having a home base for my own ministry.  It feels really good and right to be assisting priest with this lovely and welcoming congregation and to know that I will celebrate the Eucharist and preach again regularly.
  • Feeling pretty secure financially is a HUGE blessing in these difficult times.  With our move, we both changed jobs this year and feel fortunate about being able to do that in a tough market.
  • This one is under the category of mixed blessings....I was able to start and experience both the great joys and the huge stressors of CPE.  Due to a variety of circumstances, I made the difficult decision not to complete the unit at this time.  But those few months had an impact that I will not soon forget. 
Hopes for 2012
I am hoping
  •  to grow and expand my ministry with my new congregation, to come to know and love the people there and be a contributing member of the clergy team.
  • that some (or all, if I think big) of the plans that are afoot for both R and I career wise will be successful and satisfying for us.
  • to  be more consistent with my self-care so that I can meet my health and fitness goals (and get back into my smaller pants!)
  • that we can sell our house in Little Town on the Prairie.  We are grateful to have renters, but it would be such a relief to have it sold.
  • to continue to maintain strong connections (both virtually and IRL) with friends near and far

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Five: To Do Lists

Jan says: "Ever since I was little, I heard that Santa is making a list and checking it twice. I can see why he has to keep checking it, because there is so much to do before Christmas! Only nine days left, and I don't have church services to plan, but there is much left to be done. My daughter-in-law tells me that she feels behind, which is how I have been feeling. No matter how organized you are, there must be some things you still need to do. For this Friday Five, tell us five things on your Christmas "To Do" List. Include anything you have decided to skip doing this year. As a bonus, give us something that helps you remember why this season even exists"

There has been a lot in this Advent that has involved waiting and "unsettledness" in my life. I don't feel particularly rushed or harried, nor do I feel overly "Christmasy" just yet. But this is what is on my to do list right now:

  • Mail the packages.  Yes we are a bit late on this, but they will go first class and should arrive on time.
  • Go "shopping" on the Episcopal Relief and Development website.  Such a lovely dilemma...shall I send bees or a goat to my friends this year?  Or perhaps malaria preventing mosquito bed nets, those are always in style!
  • Figure out the menu for Christmas Eve and Day.  It will be "just us" this rally not such a big chore.
  • Send cards.  I WILL get them in the mail before Christmas this year...really I will,
  • Decide which service(s) to attend.  We have two church homes right now and between them we have six choices over Christmas Eve and Day.  A plethora of riches!
We are "not doing" a lot this year.  Much of this is because of our move.  The old places, people and traditions are there and we are not.  R has suggested that we begin to develop some new holiday traditions,  so this Sunday we are going to a Christmas play on a showboat, then off to Lessons and Carols at one of our churches as the beginning of that process!  Lessons and Carols was "the thing" for me for so many years that really got my Christmas juices flowing.  My last year at St. J's it was co-opted by several things, so I'm hoping that going and hearing that lovely music and the traditional readings at the "church of my heart" help me in the remembering what it's all about process.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Home Around the Corner

It's good to be back on the blog.  Thanks for the kind comments, I do appreciate my RevGal friends! As I re-read yesterday's post  I think I sound a lot wistful, and maybe more than a little whingey as my Brit friends say.  It's all  really all right...and yes, it is about making room for the new by letting go of the old.  That's kind of been the theme this year.  We moved in June from my seven room, two porch, two and a half garage house out in Little Town on the Prairie to the Big City, where we rented a lovely, but small, four-room townhouse with one garage.  Period. 

 Ah yes, the move.  It was a necessary relocation in many ways.  I needed to leave a work situation that had become a source of daily frustration, as I disagreed on a fundamental level with the direction our clinic was moving.  In order to continue to be employed in my field, by a signed agreement, I needed to move farther than the five counties that surrounded us and that the clinic served. Out there in the hinters, that pretty much meant to move away. At first we thought about a cross-country move, but that did not prove feasible, so we decided across the state would do. R was up for the adventure.  Twenty years in the same job had left him ready for something new, and for me it was a kind of coming home.  So I job-searched,  the house got sorted out, packed up, pared down and put on the market.  I was faced during the packing phase with the reality of just how much stuff I had somehow acquired in my almost seven years in that house.  We knew we were downsizing, and so much had to go. At first felt the loss of each pickup load that we carted off to the thrift store.  After a while, I found I cared a little less that something was leaving my life, as it was one less thing to pack, to move, to simply deal with!

Along with parting with my stuff, I also had to face the loss of my church home and my role there as part of the ministry team.  Because of the nature of my licensure to a local church rather than the diocese, there was some uncertainty about just what the future would hold for me as a priest. But we knew that it was time to go, and so I sadly preached my last sermon and said goodbye to my little congregation.

Finally the day came that we hauled ourselves and what was left of our belongings (LOTS!) to our new home.  Wonder of wonders, it really did all fit! Well except for that last pickup load that went to the new thrift store we found!  I had found a new job as a therapist and an old church community where I could settle in as a congregant, and where the priest was welcoming to me as a homeless cleric.  She offered supply as available and whatever else I might find a good fit.  The was at least a twenty mile trip to get there.  Not a bad commute in our new urban life, but a daunting thought as far as really getting involved in the life of a community where we worshipped but did not reside.  Our new life has an interesting schedule that complicates things as well. R is off to bed at 8 or so as he rises at 3 am to be at work by 4.  This means that I needed to be self-reliant if I wanted to engage in the evening activities that constitute so much of church life....and I knew that navigating those twenty plus miles of freeway in the dark  was going to be a challenge for my little astigmatic night-vision reluctant eyes.  I thought that things would be ok, though, given the CPE "priest-self" would find a home there and I would be settled. Well, once again, those best laid plans didn't prove to be so.  A couple months into CPE it became sadly apparent that this was not the place I needed to be, and after prayer and tears, I withdrew from the unit and went back to being, as one of my friends said recently, a "feral priest."

Fast forward to three Sundays ago.  We decided (on a whim...ha) to visit the next closest Episcopal church to our house.  Before we went I decided to peruse the church website, where I learned that several months ago the leadership had expressed a hope for another priest who could spell the vicar and assistant (both "retired" priests who seemed to find themselves working full-time again) and who would not need to be paid, as the budget would not support what the community so obviously needed. We went that Sunday. We met some folks, I talked to the priest,  had some e-mail conversation with the Bishop, and assuming the consent of the parish and leadership, it looks like on the 4th Sunday of Advent, I will once again have a place to celebrate and preach.  We are looking at once a month to start....but it feels like potential and possibility for more.  The church of my heart, where we have been attending still has a hold on me, and we will go there as we can. But as R pointed out, as far as we are from there, it's less likely that we would ever be a deep part of the community. At our potential home, we will church where we live...or close to it, and we can be part of the rather impressive local (and larger) mission efforts that come from the small but committed group of folks in the congregation.

So finally, at almost six months into the adventure, things are starting to settle.  Not all things, not even some important things about which I cannot blog right now....but at least for me one of the most important things is finding I live out my call and vocation. It appears it will be with my two hats firmly in place again, thank God!  Once again I will have cause to do more than lurk at the preacher party,  and skulk over to Tuesday Lectionary Leanings.  I will have real reasons to hang out in Textweek, immersing myself in the weekly texts as only preaching prompts me. I will find a home on a new altar, share bread and wine with new people who I will come to care for as my own. Once again, there will be too many things in the week at times, meetings that will push my patience and church politics that will make me need to hold my goat close! I can't wait.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pining a LItle in November

It's November...mid actually, and I am waxing nostalgic.  We went to a concert the other night at one of the local Lutheran churches.  The sanctuary reminded me of the church where we frequently held our community Thanksgiving service in my former life in Little Town on the Prairie.  That service will, I think, be held this year in the newly renovated Catholic church.  (We alternated between the two as they had the larger of the town's sanctuaries.)  For the first time in nine years,I don't know where I will be on the night before Thanksgiving. I will not be there, I know that for sure, and I am feeling more than a little sad about it.  That service was a benchmark of sorts for me in my gradually becoming a part of that community.  The first year I remember sitting alone in the big Catholic church, wondering if I would ever belong to this place.  In subsequent years I sang with the choir, and in the years after I was ordained processed in with the clergy, gave the blessing, did a reading, planned the service. I will not be there for the Thanksgiving service this year, nor will I be driving myself crazy over getting all the robing of the choristers accomplished for Lessons and Carols, serving turkey dinner with  the Presbyterians on Christmas Eve, or celebrating the Midnight service in my little jewel box church.   Each year as I participated in these traditions, I felt a part of something bigger than myself.  I miss that. Our life here that in so many ways is a more private one, a smaller one.  Sometimes I have felt a little cast adrift, without a role, a place in the community.

We are still finding our way here.  I know that there will be new traditions in a new home, new things that will capture my spirit and imagination and that will help me find my sense of place here.  The potential is there. There may be new possibilities for ministry just over the horizon. That makes me hopeful. But right now I am just a little melancholy, just a little homesick for the life that was.

I know that part of the sadness and feelings of displacement is over the ending of CPE.  Yes, already, I am done.  It was simply....not right.  I knew it very quickly, and I knew it very profoundly.  Perhaps it was a timing error, perhaps an underestimation of the impact and the energy it would take to do this alongside a full time and demanding in its own right "day job."  But I knew that I could not go on.  And the input of the man I love and trust utterly validated and reinforced my need to let go.  As he could see even more than I the toll this was taking, he offered the strength I needed to make the hard and final decision.  There are surely things I will miss.  I had a great supervisor and peer group.  And there were moments of pure grace.  I can hold them as I let go of the thought that this might be a call for me, as clearly it is not.

So that is settled, though other things are not.  That is known while others remain in the realm of "not yet."  Patience has never been my strong suit.  But as my wise beloved says, "we must live with what is not what if." And for me right, that also includes the "what if" of what may be.  I can't live there any more than I can live in "if only" looking backward.

I once said to a friend that I missed my life.  She told me that really, I can't as I am living today the only life there is.  So I am living here, now, though I still find myself wondering a lot about what might be in store next.  One day at time I am living this life, the one that is now....but I can't help missing a little of what was while I wait, in hope for what will be.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Five: Home Sweet Home

Songbird says: I've got home on my mind: what it feels like, how we make it, what we carry from the past and how we separate other people's leftovers from objects that really reflect our identity. My family has had one home for the past 13 years, the longest I've ever lived anywhere. As the time when all the children are gone comes closer, I wonder where my next home will be? So here are five questions about home.
1) Where was your first home? My first home was in Dubuque, IA.  I lived in the same house with my parents until I went away to go to college (and a short stint in the convent). I moved back after graduating and stayed in Dubuque until I was 27 when I left for the last time and moved to Minnesota. Form many years when I would go back to Dubuque to visit, I would think about the life I didn't have there and wonder what it would have been like if I had just stayed there as an adult.

2) Do you ever dream about places you used to live? Just last night I went again in dreams to the house I was raised in.  it is often the setting for some sleep saga or another, and I wonder sometimes just what it is I am still trying to work out with that place!

3) If you could bring back one person from your past to sit at your dinner table, who would you choose? My mother, without a doubt! We told our life stories in CPE this week and I have been really thinking about her and missing her even more since then. She has been gone since 1997, and has missed some pretty important stuff in my life, graduation and the start of my career as a psychologist, ordination, my wedding (though she was there in spirit I know).  The one thing I wish I could do is introduce her to my sweet husband.  She would love him as much as I do, I know, and be so happy to see us together.

4) What's your favorite room in your current living space? I have a confession that will only come as news to some people-I don't like where we live very much, and still miss my house in the little town on the prairie. We went from this large, charming old house with seven rooms and two porches, two garages and a large fenced yard to a four room/one garage townhouse.  It is really perfectly fine, has LOTS of storage space for its size and a great location for work, shopping, CPE, etc.  But it never quite feels like home. If I had to pick a "favorite" room though, I would say my bathroom! It's big and spacious and has its own linen closet.  I have decorated it to my taste and think it's kind of cute (as bathrooms go).  The shower is and full of great water pressure. I am trying to like the whole place better as we are there at least until next June and maybe beyond if we decide to be frugal and save money for our future adventures instead of more on housing.

5) Is there an object or an item where you live now that represents home? If not, can you think of one from your childhood? Well, I can't exactly call him an "object or item" but home to me is where ever R is.  He is what makes the space I am not so fond of bearable, and he is who I think about when I think of home.  It's not so much a place anymore as it is where I find him and we can spend time together.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

CPE Continues

CPE is moving forward, or perhaps more accurately I should say, I am moving forward in CPE.  I admitted to the group and my supervisor how anxious I was feeling about going onto the floor and actually seeing people, as well as the fact that I felt pretty bad about admitting that. I mean after's not like I haven't visited people in a hospital before, or that I don't know how to do this thing.  There were a lot of "shoulds" in my head about that, and it took a bit of humility to say out loud that I was feeling rather freaked. But it had a good outcome (as being honest about my feelings often does!) I got support from my peers and my supervisor offered the opportunity of shadowing him if I wished.  So yesterday I did one visit with him, he did one with me and then off I went on my own.  Yes, I do know how to do this (at least so far).  My patients were certainly ill, but not in an acute state,. and I found that I could offer presence and support for them as they faced whatever was before them.  Tomorrow I get to attend rounds for the first time and meet more of the staff. I'm looking forward to that as I think it will help me feel even more grounded in this place and  a part of the care team.

I also managed to figure out the documentation on the electronic system.  That too felt like a bit of a triumph!

I know there is more ahead that will challenge me and push my limits.  But for right now I'm feeling much more at ease and happy to be so.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CPE Orientation Day 2

I say this with some chagrin and embarrassment, but I am feeling a lot of a sense of "deer in the headlights" as I come back from the second orientation day.  We spent the morning with the manager of spiritual care services who talked with us about....of all things....DEATH.  Well DUH....of course that is going to be a big part of what we do, what we deal with, why, in fact, we are there.  But the whole business just got very very real.  Death in the ER, death in the ICU, even death in the Family Birthing Center. Our role in supporting the family, in being present for the end of life with patients, in caring for the staff who dealt with a trauma, and of course in figuring out how we, ourselves, do self-care.

I had a job in a hospital once. Well actually twice...I was a Unit Clerk and I rarely had to even see the patients as I ordered supplies, did transcription and kept the station area functioning.  In my second foray I was a ccardiac monitor tech.  or more accurately I trained and oriented to be one.  My first day on the floor I was asked to go into a patient's room and change the leads on a person who had just had open heart surgery.  That was also my last day on the job.  Again I don't know what I was thinking or how it had escaped me that this would involve real patients with real wounds and I would be expected to DO something in their care.  Honestly, I really thought my job was to watch monitors, gather the strips of rhythms as they printed and alert the nursing staff about anything amiss.  I have to add that I was much younger then and things scared me even more than they do now, and when they did my response was to run and avoid.  I'd like to think that I am not only older and wiser, but also braver now. 

But I am not feeling very brave this morning.  D told us of her first on-call as a trainee chaplain.  A nine year old boy was shot and killed.  I am not expecting in our little suburban hospital that I will deal with much of that.  But there will be something.  There will be illness and pain and death. Running is not my option of choice this time. So I'll pray and hang out in trust that all will really be well as things unfold. One day at a time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


At long last after many tries at this I finally made it to CPE! We had our first seminar day yesterday and it was good.  I absolutely LOVE this hospital and all of the thought and intentionality that has gone into creating what they call "the Healing Environment" which is a part of their mission and values.  The environment is deliberately constructed to be patient-centered, affirming and soothing.  There is amazing art all over the place, and gardens and water features outside available to patients and staff. The interfaith prayer room (in what is originally a small Catholic hospital) has prayer rugs, meditation cushions, a tallit and malas, sweet grass and sage as well as the holy books from a variety of traditions. I continue to like my supervisor. We just "clicked" at the interview and listening to him yesterday reinforced and validated that further.

We are just three as a group, and that led to some tense moments yesterday as two of us sat and waited for our third partner to appear.  He had gotten caught in traffic, and while we waited and wondered about him, our supervisor told us that the other two people in our (former) group of five had dropped out and that we needed at least three to continue.  But then K appeared and all was well.  We may get one or two more people coming in who were sort of "wait listed" when we seemed to be at full-strength, and now will be offered spots. So we may grow a little which would be good, but I can be fine with D and K who seem like very solid and focused people.  We are all "of an age" and are on at least a second career call track. We are diverse with a Lutheran, and UCC-er and myself. Our supervisor is a UCC minister as well.  I have always had a feeling of connection and love for the UCC after some time as a church-member in that denomination in my past, and think if I weren't Episcopalian, that is likely what I would be.

We got our pics taken for the ID badge and had a tour which included meeting some of the most warm and welcoming staff I could hope for.  Everyone from the CEO to the housekeepers and security staff seemed genuinely delighted to have us among them. M told us that the Spiritual Care department is very valued in this place and that this welcome is the real thing.  Tomorrow orientation continues as we begin to learn about the role of the chaplain and various protocols in different areas of the hospital.  I don't know yet where I will be assigned, but anywhere is good as I just want to soak it up.  I'm a little anxious as I think about getting into the patient interaction in earnest, which I know is a little silly, as I did this both as a pastor and a psychotherapist.  I'm also a little concerned about balancing this with work (full time still...just condensed into 3 1/2-4 days  a week. That and trying to have a life and relationship with my husband who works his own quirky hours (4 am to whenever he is done M-T-Th-F and Saturday). So I know we will both have to be intentional about our time for connection and play in order to keep "us" healthy together as well as individually.

But for today, I am totally psyched and can't wait to move forward on this "next great adventure."

Friday, September 02, 2011

Friday Five: The Season You're In

kathrynzj says: "Headquarters for me is the northeast of the United States. Here school is getting back in session, the tease of autumn is in the air (or the hope for the tease of autumn is in the air) and church life is gearing up to full throttle. One thing I've learned with blogging and social media is that the where I live is not necessarily where you live. And so I want to know what September means to you, in your place of the world and time in your life.  This week's Friday Five is: What are 5 things that the beginning of September mean to you?Bonus: What's one thing you could do without?"

September is....
  • A month where being flexible about weather expectations is a very good practice.  Here in Minnesota anything can happen during this month.  The day I arrived here (lo those many years ago) on September 15th is was 95 degrees! Imagine my surprise as I had left all my summer clothes behind in storage thinking that I would not need them until next year. I went to Target and bought close-out shorts and they served me well for a couple hot weeks.  It can also snow in this month (and has!) I just heard this morning that there was a snowfall of 9 inches recorded in this month in this state! Can we say weather extremes? Be ready.  Yesterday it was in the 90's.  Today it's damp and 75. Layers are my friends.
  • A month when things begin again.  I have spent so much of my life either in school or involved with school schedules on one front or just always feels like when this time of year comes, I should be starting something! So this year that is precisely what will be happening! As of September 12 I am beginning an extended unit of CPE at one of local hospitals.  I am excited and a little anxious about balancing this with my full-time job as well as a little life balance (like ever seeing my husband!)  But I have been wanting to do this for a very long time and I'm going to give it a go.  This was not part of my formation for ordination as we did a local training process, and so it's a "want-to" for me rather than the requirement that some have. I'm thinking about this as a time of discernment as I think this just might be something that I am called to as a more full-time ministry.  Time and experience actually doing it will tell, I think. So I'm getting my book bag packed and figuring out how to get five days of my psychology job into four. Off we go!
  • The month when I begin to seriously dread winter.  I know this is not good,  I need to stay in the present moment and all that good stuff...but that is the reality.  I start to worry well in advance about bad roads and the general inconvenience. This year at least we are in an urban area and there should be no need for extended trips in the hinters.
  • The month (this year) when I am homesick for the prairie light.  There is different beauty here on this side of the state.  We live in the river valley now and it is rolling, lush and very green with many trees.  This is actually my home landscape and it has always soothed me.  But I did fall in love that light on the prairie in my years there.  Especially in the Fall, it is golden, luminous and has an almost touchable quality to it.  I even named my blog for it! So missing it now a bit.
  • And yes, the church year, though not liturgically, begins in earnest in September.  This too is different for me this year as I am a partaker more than a planner of congregational events.  our new church home is full of opportunities for groups and involvement.  Everything from Theology and a Pint to the "Heretics" Adult Ed group, a couples dinner and discussion group, and voice and bell choir.  I am also on the clergy supply list there and will be called now and again to preach and or celebrate the Eucharist.  A virtual feast, but again a discernment as I try to balance out what I want to do and what, realistically, I can.
  • While this is not about September per se, this beginning of a new season reminds me again about all of the changes and transitions that have taken place in this year.  It's my first Fall  in many many years without a house to get ready for the coming year.  No garden to put to bed, no gutters to clean, no leaves to rake, no reminder to call the furnace guy for the annual check-up. We did not sell our previous place, but as of October 1 we have renters who are willing to take all of that on.  We can rest assured that things will be watched over and that we don't have to make 6 hour round-trips for snow and maintenance. We are grateful for this solution to the burden of all that, but there is a way in which I miss the "have-tos" of having a house that depends on me to keep it going. 
As for the bonus....I love Fall and all it brings...if only it were not followed by Winter.  Really, that I think I could happily do without!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Five: Road Trips

Jan says: "My husband and I just returned (on Wednesday night) from a long road trip up the middle USA to Canada, going through various national parks, and on to the Puget Sound of Washington State. This brought back memories of family road trips with my children and when I was a child, so the idea of today's Friday Five arose."

Tell us about five road trips--in your childhood, in your family, in your recent past, with friends, and/or hoped-for-places-to-drive-to. Don't forget the one that stands out as the BEST or as the worst time.

The "biggest and best" of road trips was the one that R and I took for our honeymoon.  Off in the Mini-Cooper for 8 days of travel...we went from Minnesota to Texas and back.  We saw the country, went to  a Jimmy Buffett concert, had two great dinners and a breakfast with various members of the Texas RevGal contingent and created memories that will last a lifetime.

Really, any trip with my sweet husband in "Gladys" (the Cooper) is a great trip by my reckoning.  One of our first dates was a two hour drive to the next "Big City" for dinner. As well as our big adventure, we have road tripped to Wisconsin to (again) see Jimmy B, and have had numerous trips back and forth and all around the state for both pleasure and business.  We took a "pilgrimage" early on in our relationship to my hometown so R could see all the places that knew me when. R has been my go-to driver for many a meeting, patiently waiting in the car while I do whatever it is I came for. Each one of those drives has been a memorable and pleasurable experience as they too become part of road trip repertoire.

A fun trip from my past was a camping trip a friend and I took "up North" to see the sights in our own home state. I had arranged the whole thing as a surprise for her birthday and basically "kidnapped" her and didn't tell her a thing other than "Pack a bag, we are taking off for the weekend." We drove up the North Shore stopping anywhere and everywhere we had the urge....Betty's Pies, the smoked salmon and cheese place on the way up, the shore of lake Superior just to hang by the water. We "camped" in my van, pulling in to the campground amidst the big rigs, plugging ourselves in with an extension cord and calling it good. It was a great adventure and lots of fun.

While I don't remember one in particular, "going for a drive" was a big deal in my childhood.  We did not have our own car, so often on Sunday afternoons some friends of my parents would come over and get us and we would take off for a few hours, often ending up at one of the many roadhouses that dotted the countryside for dinner.  Sometimes it would be a longer drive down the Great River Road a couple hours to visit family.  On those trips I often fell asleep on the way home, and to this day can remember the sound and feel of the engine as I drifted off watching the sky buzz by outside the window.

In the "hoped-for" department, I'd love to take some day trips to places in our new "neck of the woods." Since this area is new to R I have all kinds of thoughts about places I want to share with him and introduce him to.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Overdue Update

Well I really never meant to be away so long. But with one thing and another, moving and settling, finding our way to all those new places that come with a shift in location, getting adjusted to a new routine and a new schedule, time has just seemed to slip by, and suddenly it's two months and no blogging, and actually not a lot of "communicating out" in many ways. I haven't been hanging out on Facebook, seeing what's up over at RevGals or even reading tweets.  Some days it's been all I can do to get to my e-mail.

There is the new job of course.  The learning curve has been a little steep.  Not in the work itself, but the "how" of it that is different in so many ways.  Many of the things that others took care of in my old setting are now mine to deal with as a part of a practice group...dealing with insurance and authorizations for care and all that goes with that.  Some days I feel like all I do is run around mopping up after myself or apologizing for yesterday's error. I think some days I have it.  Then I don't.  They tell me to patient, it will come.  That my expectations for myself are higher than anyone else's, that I need to let some of the struggle go and let myself be where I am right now.  But that's hard.  I don't like being new, being uncertain.  In the last place I was competent and capable, I had systems and routines that almost did themselves.  There is none of that comfort right now, and sometimes whole days go by without feeling that I have really done anything as it should be done.

So there stands the worklife.  In my clergy life things have been a bit of a roller coaster as well.  Right as we moved I had applied for and been accepted to an extended unit of CPE for this Fall.  We were due to start in October, I had cleared the necessary schedule adjustments with my new workplace and I thought we were good to go.  Until a couple weeks ago when I got an e-mail from the supervisor saying that they were cancelling this unit.  I knew other places here had CPE, I also knew that the extended unit at at least one hospital had been full already in April, and I was not hopeful about the others.  But I decided I had nothing to lose and contacted two other hospital systems.  The outcome of my efforts is that I now have TWO offers and need to decide between them. A kind of a nice problem perhaps, but a dilemma none-the-less. There are, of course, pros and cons to each in many areas.  Ultimately I will just have to weight things and decide which feels like the best fit I think.

A joy in this part of my life came this morning when I presided for the first time since leaving St. J's.  And not just anyplace, but at the "church of my heart" where so many important spiritually formational things had happened for me before I moved away eight years ago. I did all three services there this morning, the tiny quiet early service, the contemporary and evolving one, and the traditional service. It was wonderful and exhausting and I'm doing it again next week. We are making our church home there, back at St. M's and it is good to be back, to be home there, and to be both welcomed back and accepted in a new role.

We still have had no buyers for our house across the state and there are no bright spots on the sales horizon at this point. But thanks to a friend, we have found renters! That is good news as the house will self-support and we can have assurance that someone will be there to watch over things as well, so the all-too-frequent six-hour round trips to mow the lawn and check the place can hopefully end soon. That is even more important as R has found a great job that he wants to settle into and focus on, and  the time to rest, relax and explore our new home base is much needed by both of us right now.

So each day finds us feeling a little more at home in this new place.  I noticed the other day that I no longer have to consult my "mind map" (or the GPS) for the places I go on a regular basis.  And last week someone was talking about a coffee shop a few miles from here, and actually knew where they meant!

I have learned some things about myself in this process. Change is even harder for me than I thought! Really, I do NOT transition well. Security is a far far bigger thing than I ever would have wanted to admit.  And the lack of it makes me irriatble and more than a little hard to live with (just ask my poor long-suffering husband). I don't do well with uncertainly either, or with feeling incompetent. It's that old lack of control thing.

But I have found yoga and my breath again. I am praying and trying to let go of the small stuff (when I remember what it is!) and remind myself that this will pass and one day I really will get this!

I'm going to try to write again, in some format, perhaps here at least now and again.  No longer from the light on the prairie, but looking for another kind of light in a new place.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Sermon for Easter 5 2011

John 14:1-14

Saying goodbye to people you love and have shared an important journey with can be a hard thing to do. That is what Jesus is doing with his disciples in the piece of his farewell discourse from John’s Gospel that we just heard.

Yes, his farewell discourse. Because even though for us it is the fifth Sunday after Easter, in this reading it is still the night before the crucifixion, and we are at supper with Jesus and the disciples. Jesus knows the end is coming with his beloved ones. And loving them…he loves them to the end. He knows that Judas will betray him, Peter will deny him, not once but three times, and yet he loves them still. He knows that even though they have been with him daily, living with him, listening to him, watching him, there are parts of this life and mission of his they still do not get. And he knows that this is the end. Time has run out. He must now leave this earthly incarnation.

This night begins as he washes their feet offering the lesson of loving servant leadership once more. And then he begins to speak to them. Offering them the great summary, the last lesson, to try to help them remember what they have come to know by being with him these three years.

The section we hear this morning begins with reassurance…” Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and in me.” He knows that the things that are about to come will try them and will test their faith. Not only are they about to lose their leader, but they will see him tried and mocked, scourged and hung. And they will see themselves fail as well, will find their own trust to be lacking, their own fear overcoming them as they run, as they hide. Jesus offers them, “In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going." Of course Thomas, who we know from later events is the kind of person who needs things spelled out very clearly for him is struggling with this, so Jesus patiently offers more to him. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."

Life in God’s kingdom is bigger and greater and wider and deeper and more than you think and you can be part of it, he says. You can live this way because you know me and I have shown you how to live like this, or as one theologian1 says, Jesus is the "the authentic vision of our existence.”

Jesus says “If you have seen what I am like you really have seen God, known God, and you can be like that, really you can.” We know from Old Testament readings that humans have been struggling for a long time with the desire to see God. And that the belief has been that no one could see God and live. And now we hear Jesus saying that, yes, really you can in a sense see God because you see me. I am what God is like. And even more than that, Jesus in the Incarnation is the great both/and…both a view of who God is, and our vision of who we, at our most Godlike, can become.

This of course confounds Phillip, and Jesus runs through it again for him and says, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.” And then he makes this rather amazing promise, “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it."

Yes, saying goodbye to people you love and have shared an important journey with can be a hard thing to do. That is why it is a good thing that we have liturgy and prayers and scripture and community to surround and support us as we do these things.

I don’t know about all of you but change tends to make me anxious. There was a particular aptness for me in this Gospel as I felt Jesus might be speaking to me just a little bit here in this “final discourse” and to all of us here at St. James in this time of change.

As Jesus reminded the disciples, and us the place for our trust is in God. I have a tendency to forget that sometimes, and when I do, I get worked up and worried about how things are going to come out. But as our Psalm this morning reminds us, our times are in God’s hands. The God who loves us beyond anything we can imagine. The God who graces us and delights in us and has a dream for us.

And the God who has given us Jesus, our path, the way, and the truth, and the life.” Or again, that theologian’s definition, "the authentic vision of our existence.” If we take that vision and run with it, if we really believe that this is who we are created to be, someone who offers welcome and care to the least and the lowest, someone who loves authentically, forgives and turns the other cheek, reaches out to those whom others would ignore or scorn…if we really believe that we are part of God, and they are part of God…and that every moment is a chance for a miracle, how then would we live?

It has been a wonderful almost nine years being part of this community. You welcomed this stranger and allowed me to become part of you, embracing me into a role of leadership, flowing gracefully with me through life changes, welcoming Rick into our midst and celebrating our marriage. I will keep you in my heart and my prayers. My hope for you is that you will continue to take seriously those baptismal promises to seek and serve Christ in all people wherever you might encounter them. Amen.

1John Dominic Crossan quoted by John Pilch in The Cultural World of Jesus Year A cited by Kate Huey on Textweek

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Five: Words

Jan says, "Since January our Sunday Spiritual Formation hour (or Sunday School) has been devoted each week to the presenter's description of a word that describes passion/love or something. No one knows who will be presenting or what the topic will be ahead of time! Each session has been invigorating in a different way. Last week's speaker talked about "words" and finished our time by asking each one of us what "word" we wanted to share--a favorite one." So my suggestion for today's Friday Five is to write about 5 words you really like. Please explain why you have chosen each word, in such ways as, it is a: description or attribute of yourself, activity you enjoy,word that is spelled or pronounced in an interesting way,passion of yours, word that brings you hope, peace, or comfort, word you like to repeat or sing."

This was fun and thought-provoking....Here's my top five word list:
Hope Hope is a word I build a lot of my life around.  I preach about hope. I use hope in my therapy practice as I believe that one of my main jobs is to try to offer/provide/instill/hold hope when often there is little or none present when people present themselves to me.  I often tell people that part of my job is to be the "hope-holder."  To keep hope for them when they have none for themselves until they do or can.

Alleluia This is a word I love to sing (and to say, too.)  We were just saying at church last week how glad we were to have our Alleluias back in the service and how we missed them in Lent.  There is an Anthem we sometimes sing around Easter that has pretty much no other words than that...alleluia. And then of course there is Handel. He has other words, but the one that grabs us right from the get go is that one (with an H for good measure!)

Context A word I use a lot because I think it is very important not to overlook. Things and people must be considered in/not taken out of it.  Bits and pieces out of context are random and easily misinterpreted and misleading I also like it because it has a relationship to the word texture which makes things interesting, as does context.

Perseverate A word I learned way back in counseling school that means to keep repeating something over and over. Since I often do this very thing it's nice to have a fifty-cent word to be able to tell people what I am doing as in "Yes, I have been perseverating on the Easter 5 sermon for several days now."

Geocaching This one meets a couple categories.  It's a fun word to say, and something I enjoy doing! My Geocaching name is RevKatKacher and my hubby and I love going looking for caches both here at home and when travelling.  I've also gone caching while on RevGal adventures and got my first international cache this year on the BE4.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Random Ramblings of a Wednesday Evening

Oh. My. Goodness. So I am just off the road for the second time in six days and simultaneously trying to come to terms with the fact that three weeks from today we take possession of our new digs and I start my new job. To say that this feels a little bit like the train is coming on fast would be an understatement. I am feeling every possible emotion that I think a human being could be feeling right now as I try to purge and pack our house, say goodbye to clients and settle them in with their new therapists at work, prepare for my last two services at church, get my credentials in order so I can start producing revenue in my new practice location, get insurance, think about all the transferring stuff that goes with a move, gas, electrical, cable and such, having some conversations about what I might do church-wise in the new place, say goodbye to friends, and just generally fret about the whole darn transition! Oh, yeah, and interview for CPE, which also happened today, and BTW....I was accepted for the extended program for Fall. Whew! Excited about that...another validation that this is what is supposed to be going on here and now, part of something bigger (sometimes at the three a.m. panic I have doubts).

Clergy conference was awesome.  So good, in fact, that I was able to pretty much forget all this junk and focus. We had Bill Brosend from the Episcopal Preaching Foundation accompanied by Lauren Winner and Debbie Blue.  All had good and helpful things to say about the art of preaching. Lauren talked about the intersection of preaching and spirituality and I had a little aha moment about how important that rhythm really is/was to me, even though it was spread over a month. Now that I don't know that I will for sure have that, I'm feeling a little untethered.  I have had some conversations with people who have made some offers of supply that could possibly be "semi-regular" and my Bishop assures me he is still thinking on things as well, so I need to just be patient and wait for the dust to settle. Be not anxious. That thing I am so good at!

Our earlier trip was pretty great also. My daughter by marriage (who I am proud to say claims me as her step-mom) graduated summa cum laude on Friday! She's so awesome and we are waaaayyyy proud of her.  We moved her into her first place on Saturday and that was....aerobic, and also fun in its own way.  This whole having a kid is a pretty big thing for me at this stage of the game, (even though I sort of feel like I'm cheating as her dad really did the raising and I get to simply enjoy the benefits) it's still such a gift as this was something I had pretty much let go of ever having in my life.

It really is good to be home.  I will be happy to be sleeping in my own bed tonight, to settle in for these last days and focus on having a "good end" in this place. While I have not exactly skulked away in the night I have been guilty of doing some abrupt and premature unplugging in the past to protect my heart.  I really want to not do that but to remain present and open in each moment and to allow myself to remain here as long as I am here, going only as I really do leave. With God's grace, it could happen.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Friday Five: Royal Wedding

Westminster Abbey Admittedly the media attention directed at a certain wedding is a tad askew given the challenges our world faces, yet for some it is an appreciated diversion. I'm at kathrynzj's house, along with her mom and sister, for a pre-dawn pajama party complete with scones! And while the DVR will cover us if we oversleep, the participants in the actual wedding had better have someone to get them to the church on time. With kathrynzj's help, here is a Royal Wedding Friday Five:

1) Will you be watching? If so, is this your first royal wedding? Alas there is no time to watch as life in the key of change is moving waaaaayyy too fast these days. I've caught passing glimpses on teh interwebs of the dress, the kiss, the titles...and this will have to stand.  I sawbits and pieces of the first one as well.
2) The bride has chosen as her wedding cake a fruitcake. Where do you stand on this pastry? My husband assures me that it IS possible to make good fruitcake, so I will assume she is having a good one.
3) The dress code for royal weddings has not seen the same sad decline as that for most other weddings. If you could design your own royal wedding hat, what color would it be and what special decoration would it feature? Perhaps I could jazz up my own wedding hat...the one with whom I had such a love hate relationship almost a year ago.  It's lovely really, cream with lace, old fashioned, but it tends to pull off with every passing breeze and hug. Maybe a little color and....a chin strap!
4) Any chance the Archbishop of Canterbury is using a Sustainable Sermon (tip of the mitre to the Vicar of Hogsmeade)? What would you tell the couple were you offering the homily? I'd tell them to never forget to keep talking, try to maintain a sense of humor and remember they are still people (can you tell royals that?)
5) Believe it or not, kathrynzj is getting up early mostly to see the wedding dress. By the time this post is up, the world will have seen it. Did you like it? It was pretty, I liked it better than Di's, less pretentious.

ALTERNATIVELY: If you don't want to play this, and think we are goofballs, that's okay. Instead of telling us we're goofballs, why don't you tell us something fun you're going to do this weekend. We promise to get around to visit all of you eventually You are both far too lovely to be goofballs! This weekend is the big packing blitz.  I don't think it can be called fun, but it might be satisfying and it WILL make the realtor very happy to see all those pristine rooms.  And I live to make the realtor happy! I can only hope she feels the same.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Friday Five: Moving Towards Resurrection

Dorcas says: "Though I am from a non-liturgical denomination, I find myself longing for some of the expressins others of you may experience at this time of year. The same thing happens to me during Advent. At both times I am drawn to the symbolism of darkness becoming light, of longing turning to joy. One of my favorite thngs at this time of year used to be draping the wooden cross at the rear of our sanctuary with a dark purple velvet cloth and adding a crown of (ouch!) thorns--and what a lovely thing it was to see that same cross on Easter Sunday morning, draped in glowing white with a golden, jewel-studded crown added. Not being a pastor this year, I am missing some of the symnbolism I always tried to employ. I may find a nearby Episcopalian or Lutheran congregation to visit at some point, acually.  Meanwhile, today I am asking for your thoughts on that movement from darkness to light. Tell us five ways in which you are anticipating, or your life is moving towards light, joy, hope--new things: new ideas, new hobbies, new people...and so on."
  • One of the things that we have been so longing for in the cold, dark North, this year especially, are some signs of Spring.  It has been a very long Winter, and a hard one for many people, and with it has come a lot of darkness of spirit as well as the literal darkness of this season. I am happy to report that there appear to be some very real signs that we are coming into the light! The robins are back and are fat and sassy as they root around in the thawing yards for something good to eat as well as beginning to look for things to nest with.  The little green shoots are beginning to peep out in the warm places next to the house where the sun shines longest.  The trees have lost their stark winter look and have that blurry edge that tells us there are buds about to happen. The days are longer, and even when it snows (which it still will do, yes even in April) it's not long before it melts away.  Today was the first official "no-coat" day in which I went off to work in only my hoodie...brave me!
  • I've had the opportunity to preach a couple times this Lent, and have been thinking about what happens when people were encountered by Jesus and all the various ways that he brought new life to those who met him...Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, the blind man, Lazarus, to name just a few. 
  • I've been thinking about all the changes in my own life...those that have been and those to come.  I spent last weekend cleaning (more like excavating) through the dressers and closets of a room that hadn't really seen much action on that front in quite some time.  It was kind of like a walk back through history with lots of  the attendant emotions. Although it's not always easy, it's really good to purge all that old stuff. It moves out some things to make space to let some light in.   It reminds me too, of how much more light is in my life now than there has ever been, of just how very much I have to be grateful for. Even the darkness these days is not as dark as in some of those times I'm looking back on.  God has blessed me greatly.
  • There is movement afoot. Change is coming, big change that I can't say a lot about at this point.  But I am hopeful that it will be all about light and joy and the movement of God's spirit in a new way in our lives.
  • There is the light at the end of the tunnel for the house projects.  This is truly a good and wonderful thing. We are down to one ceiling remaining to be painted and one toilet yet to be installed.  Then it's clean it and spiff it and we are DONE! External motivation is a good thing sometimes.  A bright and pretty environment can affect how we feel about our living space in the now as well as some pretty important things in our future, so it's a win-win all around!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Five: Spiritual Practices

Mary Beth says: "My Sunday school class has hit the "pause" button on our study of First Corinthians and is spending Lent on Richard J. Foster's classic Celebration of Discipline. I have had this wonderful and very readable book on my shelf, along with the study guide for it, for years, but have never discussed it with a group. Because there are only five Sundays in Lent, we are fairly galloping through the book, getting a quick introduction to the various disciplines. The church is also sponsoring a Lenten Centering Prayer group, allowing some of us to sample this discipline in community. I like to think of the spiritual disciplines as vessels that prepare us to ride the wave of God's amazing love and presence in a new way. For today's Friday Five, please share with us five spiritual practices or disciplines from your experience. They can be ones that you have tried and kept up with, tried and NOT kept up with, ones that you flirt with at various times, or even practices that you have tried and found are definitely NOT your cup of tea. Let us know what's worked for you...and not."

There was a Lent a few years ago that I still look back on with a kind of fond nostalgia as "my favorite Lent."  There were many things that came together to make it a particularly fruitful spiritual time in my life, but a big part of that experience was that this particular Lent included the practice of several spiritual disciplines, both alone and in a supportive community that had committed to practicing them together during that time.  Some of the practices that I experienced during that time, as well as have done at other times have included:


Centering Prayer
Spiritual Reading or Lectio Divina

At various points in time all of these are in and out of my spiritual menu, along with other practices.  I find them all helpful, I find they all sustain me when I sustain them.  But they are spiritual disciplines and I am not always as disciplined as I could be in following them.  I allow life and schedules and other such things to intrude and they fall away or get interfered with or otherwise eroded day by day and the next thing I know no longer can claim this practice and must begin again.

My life has never again been quite in that same perfect alignment as it was in "that Lent" in which all those things simply worked. I'd like to think it could be again, but perhaps that is a very tall order.  Perhaps it would make more sense to think about how one or perhaps two of these could fit the life I have now, could be practiced to help me get in shape for any and all wave riding that God might have in store.  I'd hate to think that I might miss out on a grand adventure just because I wasn't up to the challenge!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Five: Springing Forward

Jan says: "Whether we liked it or not, we all "sprang forward" with the change to daylight savings time in the USA this past Sunday. There is lightness and brightness slipping in as spring approaches, so let us consider what is springing forth in our lives right now." Name 5 things that are springing forth, possibly including :
  • What you hope for  Oh I look at my little counter and see the days dwindling to our next "great adventure" my hopes are so many. My passion meeting the world's need in a new way, being able to "release" the things we need to in order to move forward unencumbered, being accepted by the CPE program and most importantly, following my Lenten discipline of "giving up anxiety" over all of it!
  • What you dread  All of the stuff in between "here" and "there"
  • What you observe How many times a day I have to give up anxiety again, after having taken it back....*sigh*  God is very patient with me.
  • What is concrete The "stuff" that needs to be fixed, moved, changed, dumped, schlepped, organized, figured out and generally messed with. "Real" stuff and "life" stuff and stuff that only exists in my head. 
  • What is intangible The bonds that will change but not be broken, the experiences and transformations that came and come still as a result of who we are where we are and where we have still to go.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ashes to Ashes, God to God

This is a portion of a post from Ash Wednesday 2008 that I decided to re-post this morning.  It's something that has never left me and that I like to think about when I bless people with the gift of ashes as I will this evening at our service.

Post from Ash Wednesday 2008
.....I had the privilege of being the one to "impose" the ashes as the prayer book says. I had to go look the word impose up to see if there was something I was missing here, but all the definitions had the same sense of the word that I am familiar with, that of bringing something on someone with force or at the very least authority, pushing it at them. I did not feel that! I felt instead that I was giving them a splendid gift. The opportunity to remember by word and symbol the fragile and brief nature of this earthly life. How precious it and we are before God. And how God holds us in that life...and that we can indeed trust God to do that.

As I spoke each person's name and said those sacred, sacred words, "remember that you are dust and to dust you will return," I kept thinking about something that was said in our prayer workshop on Sunday, that essentially the "dust" that we are is the stuff of the universe, the same matter as supernovas and stars, glaciers and canyons, the very ground we stand on and air we breathe...the stuff, could it be....of God? "Remember that you are of God, and to God you will return." It was all I could do to hold back the tears as I looked into each face in this wonderful quirky bunch and traced on their heads a cross of ash to carry with them into the night as a reminder of how very much they are loved.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Slow Roll into Re-Entry

I remember that my wise yoga teacher told me once that it is always a good thing to change states of consciousness slowly. I do believe that where I was this time last week and where I sit this morning qualify on several fronts as different states of consciousness, and I am trying to heed her advice, but finding it a little challenging my first morning back into the day job.

The temperature here is 19 F this morning.  It snowed again yesterday, and it's promised to us that it will do so again today, tomorrow and Wednesday. All the things that I left on my desk are still here and more came to join them in my absence.  The loss of my client's husband weighs heavy on my heart this morning as she will lay him to rest today. 

The BE was not only all of its own wonderfulness.  It was a marker for me.  I don't know how many times I said to someone, "when I get back from the BE..." or Right after the BE I will..." meaning that this is the time I will "officially begin to transition from here to there, from now to then.  There is much to be done.  The CPE application to complete and mail, a house that needs some serious curb appeal, and a "marketing campaign" for yours truly for the next gig, whatever it might turn out to be and a visit with the Bishop and his Missioner about how the church might use me in a new way.  Just writing all that makes my stomach do a slow roll that has nothing to do with a week on a boat.

We did make a good beginning this weekend.  The stairway is painted! Much of the credit for this goes to my sweet husband who figured how to get the horrible wallpaper off, which we accomplished before I left. While I was cruising he did the skim coating and mudding and sanding and sealed and primed it. So yesterday we finished it up with the final touches and put on the lovely goldenrod color. Just for perspective...this is a project I started six years ago with the initial wallpaper stripping.  It stalled and sat. Three weekends of teamwork (mostly the R half of the team on this one) and it's done! Thanks be. So one down and...well let's just say "a few" to go on the house front. "Be not afraid," this too will be accomplished.

This project thing reminds me again that I am not alone.  Not alone in this world with my projects and my worries and my tasks, and not alone at all in any sense.  It is one of my biggest faults that I keep somehow managing to forget that.  In the "this world" sense it has some logic of long habit at least.  I did have to rely on myself. But how I extrapolate that to God who has never once asked or expected me to make it on my own, well that's another thing entirely. 

I bought a little silver bird in Mexico to add to the things on the chain I wear on my neck (a cross and a shooting star).  The bird is to remind me not to fear, as"even the birds of the air" are in God's care, so I am. As I think about Lent this year, I want to work with that fear, that release myself more and more into the care of those loving hands of God who have my name tattooed on them.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Coming Back, Coming Through

Parts of me have returned from the RGBP BE4 and parts of me have not.  My inner ear, or whatever part of us it is that is responsible for the slow rock and roll that lingers after cruising, has not quite let go of the boat.  As I'm talking or typing, or drifting into sleep, there it is again, that not entirely unpleasant, but slightly unusual sensation of being just a little elsewhere somehow.

The trip was wonderful.  Restorative, connective, stimulating, fun, educational.  It got my creative juices flowing at the same time it soothed some pretty deep spiritual and emotional needs. Go RevGalls and Carol Howard Merritt! It's not every day that CE does any of those things let alone several all at once!

But as all with good things, there is the end, and the return to what we left behind.  With deep gratitude I realize that much of what I left and return to is good, my sweet husband, great friends, the stability of church and "day job" vocations that feed body and soul. The good thing about going away sometimes, too is that even the hard things I return to have something to say, and I seem to be in a place to hear them a little better.

One of the things I seem to be able to hear, or at least to remember is that old wisdom about "life goes on" in my absence. Big things happened in people's lives, life and death things.  Things that maybe I "should" have been here for.  I was not. Others stepped in to fill those spaces.  A good reminder for my overfunctioning self. I can step away. For a moment, for a time and perhaps go from a place forever and it will be okay for those left there. Others will fill those spaces.  Life will go on.  Because really, it's not about me in the end anyway. That is not to say I am not important, or do not bring gifts, even unique ones. But somehow there is a balance, a bigger picture at work.  I do not have to bear all the burden for any one person place or thing. That has been the freedom at work in my soul as the improbable blue waters moved the ship gently and the words of Jesus conveyed by Matthew sat quietly in my soul. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your not worry about not not not worry"

Friday, February 11, 2011

Love is in the Air for this Friday Five

SingingOwl says: "In two days my husband and I will have been married (ulp!) forty years. And, of course, Valentine's Day is coming soon so I'm thinking about love. For today's Friday Five, tell us about five people you love, people who will remain in your "heart" forever. This can be a friend, teacher, family member, mentor, pastor..."

Wow Singing Owl...Congratulations to both of you!
  • Well of course the first person who comes to my mind is the sweet husband...who proposed to me on Valentine's Day two years ago. Hard to believe it's "only" been two years, and hard to believe it's "already" been two years since that day...and the same thing with the nine months on Tuesday since we tied the knot.  In many ways it really feels like we have been together forever, so right and settled are we with each other, and yet there is still the "Seriously? I did not know that about you!" that still can happen to remind us that we have not really been all that long. It's actually kind of a nice mix. We are hoping that we can go for that forty year mark...though we might be getting quite old by that time.  Even so, we would probably still be teasing each other about something and finding something to laugh about, something to discover, something to love. 
  • Numbers two, three and four come in a group and are my Soul Sisters. C, S and A are the kind of women friends I had always hoped to have but never quite managed somehow in my life prior to arriving here on the prairie.  S was the first person I met here.  I had joined a book club (that's what the magazines tell you to do in a new place, right....join up, make friends! Well it sure worked in our case. She led me to the Bible study where I connected with A. I met C through my soul friend (and #5) the "other" C. She also knew the other two and the four of us joined forces in what was first a Bible study, then a force to be reckoned with of friendship, love and sisterhood. One of my best memories is of the four of us taking the "dress buying road trip" to look for the wedding finery. I'd had a lot of coffee before we hit the road and was apparently somewhat....hmmm....unsettled...over the whole adventure.  They give me grief to this day.
  • And number 5 is "the other C"...honorary chaplain to the Soul Sisters, soul friend to me, and soon to be roommate on the BE 4! She has seen me through......the tail end of formation, ordination, the start of my parish ministry,  a breakup, re-entering the dating world, falling in love, getting engaged,  planning a wedding, getting married....and all the every day ups and downs of life in between.
There are lots of other people who have loved me and whom I have loved along the way, I have been very blessed in the love department. Even for those "loved and lost" there were things gained and treasured, and I do hold them in my heart as part of creating me to be who I am.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Friday Five: Perks of Ministry Edition

Kathrynzj says: "Thanks to #snOMG this week has had a different rhythm to it for me. Fortunately, one of the perks of ministry is a fairly flexible schedule and quite often the ability to work from home. Another perk of ministry is that I will be part of a worship service that celebrates my friend's gifts in ministry and the ministry she will do with the church she has been Called to lead. These two things have me reflecting on the gifts and perks of ministry and what else I would put on that list. What about you? What are 5 perks/gifts of ministry for you?"

This week (and a bit of last ) have also had a different rhythm for me as well.  Not so much due to the weather, we have that ALL the time from November to April, but because of a couple sick days that laid me flat last week and two days of jury duty this week that got my week out of sync. 

As a non-stipendiary part-time priest with a full-time day job, my ministry life has a different rhythm to it than that of a full time pastor.  It feels sometimes like the two mesh well and run along smoothly together.  At other times it feels like my "official" ministry life gets tucked into the little crevices and spaces where there are bits of time and space, even though I have no doubt whatsoever that the "real" ministry never job or not, and that indeed it is the ministry whether we call it that or not.

But as for perks.....not in any particular order
  • People....the people I know that I would not were I not doing what I am doing....from folks in my congregation and the larger church denomination, to RevGals met in IRL and not (and those I'm going to SOON!) to my friend L, who stays in my prayers and in my heart even during long silences when I have no idea where he is or what he is up to, and even perhaps my sweet husband, whom I did meet after all for the first time when he was the godfather of the first baby I baptised.  Who knows...if not for the impression he made then, would we have connected later?
  • The opportunities to be part of something big and wonderful that makes a difference.  Yes, I'm talking mission and even though I wish we were able to do more, even our tiny little place has done something, has made and continues to make a difference and I get to be part of that, to preach to encourage, to educate and motivate.
  • Being invited into people's lives "simply because" of the trust given to one ordained.  This is to me this huge sacred trust and gift and I try to be ever so careful with it.
  • The chance to celebrate liturgy. As a liturgy geek for a very long time, the idea that I would be able to be up there doing that just about gave me the vapors back in my pre-ordination days! While I no longer feel the need of stand-by EMT's, there is no less a sense of complete awe and a wonder pretty much every time that I really do get to be here again...on this 100 year old altar saying these very ancient words and feeling gathered around me (literally sometimes) a communion of saints from down the ages, breathing and praying with me.
  • Preaching.  I like it more than I thought I ever would, and I find it a perk because I always always learn something new about the Gospel, Jesus or myself in the process! Yes I grouse sometimes when it's one of those weeks where there are not enough hours to find time to reflect and do solid exegesis and write a meaningful sermon that will touch my little church's hearts while working a forty hour day job, attend to other churchy stuff and trying to have a life as well.  But fortunately those are few.  I have found a rhythm that works for the most part. We have a schedule and we are on the lectionary, so I can "work ahead" and generally have at least a few weeks between sermons. I start the next one as soon as the last one is preached and it seems to be working so far.  I try to follow the criteria of one of my mentors....make it news and make it good!
So those are my perks, and this was a great F5. Kind of like a little gratitude journal, which is always a good thing. Thanks Kathryn!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Five: Books and More Books Edition

Jan says: "I hope some of you received books for Christmas presents; I did and have been reading ever since. Then I discovered a new author from those recommendations that pop up on Instead of buying those books, I've been checking them out at the library, which will not help Amazon's future recommendations for me at all. So tell us what you're reading, what you would and would not recommend--five books or authors! And if you don't want to do that freestyle, here are some questions:"
1. What books have you recently read? Tell us your opinion of them. I DID get a book for Christmas from my husband's lovely daughter.  It's Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and I am reading and enjoying this thoughtful delve into how we know those things we just know in the "blink of an eye."  I'm also reading Christianity for the Rest of Us which is making me by turns inspired and, I have to say, a little wistful.  Also just starting David Bach's Start Late, Finish Rich which I got for .01 on Amazon (and of course $3.99 for shipping, but still a good deal.) So far it's in sync with what I've seen on his website and in his earlier works...upbeat hopeful..."YOU can DO IT!!!" I can...but will I? Also reading Little Women on the android Nook just because it was a free download and I am between books and haven't had time to go get more.  I just finished Patricia Cornwell's Port Mortuary on the Nook, a Kay Scarpetta mystery. Always a good escape read.  And before that there was a Jodi Piccoult.  Got a gift card for the Nook from my sweetie for Christmas, so gotta shop before the BE! I'm actually thinking of getting a full size Nook or Kindle.  Me the queen of books liking a "device"....who'd a thought! But I love having five or six "at hand" without the lugging!

2. What books are awaiting your available time to be read?
There are the coffee table, beside the bed, in the office(s)...I don't even know what is in them anymore.  Books I bought, books people gave me, loaned me. Someday they will float up (or not) and get read (or not) or returned (or not).  So here's notice, if you ever loaned me a book, and you want it back, please tell me, it may be in that pile!
3. Have any books been recently recommended? I'm sure they have, but apparently I did not write them down...and sigh....they are gone where ever in brain such things go to hide of late.

4. What genre of books are your favorite, along with some titles and/or authors you like best? For just plain old escape I love me a mystery, especially with a women protagonist.  I like "cozies." I like things set in Minnesota, so Joanne Fluke's little baker/crime solver Hannah Swenson is a favorite as is anything by John Sandford or William Kent Krueger.  I'm also hooked on Julia Spencer Fleming and her  Rev.Clare Fergussen, Episcopal priest, ex-military pilot, crime junkie and thoroughlyy human woman.

5. What have you read lately that you have a strong urge to recommend? (or to condemn?) The above mentioned Blink is a fun and informative read.  I keep wanting to interrupt R at whatever he's doing to say "Did you know....." So he's now reading it along with me.  Thank you lovely daughter, good choice!

Monday, January 17, 2011

January Blogging NaBloPoMo

Today's Prompt: Write about something you feel should not have been invented.

I'm struggling here.  I have a hard time with absolutes. There are some things that come to mind as inventions we might well have been better off without.  The atom bomb might be one choice.  But from some of the research and development  that spawned that weapon also came things that were useful.  So there you go. Yin and yang rather than black and white. 

I have problems in general with should.  It's one of those non-negotiable words.  Like its friends must and ought and cousins always and never. Very absolute those words are.  Up against the wall and rigid they get us in our thinking. Personally, I like a little more breathing room, a little more space and movement for things to flow.

Perhaps there are things I would prefer that there were not flying loose in the world for unwise people to get hold of.  Were it my choice, atoms and their power would be used judiciously (if at all) and only for peace, and weapons of any sort (including inciting words)  would be carefully guarded and their use would the very very very last resort as a way to ever decide an outcome.

But to censor invention, even in imagination takes me to a place where I would not prefer to go.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Time to Get Up and Play the Friday Five

Singing Owl says: "Where I am it is dark, and it is cold, and it is snowing. I really wanted to stay in bed with the electric blanket cranked this morning. Share five things that made getting out of bed worthwhile for you today!"

Oh Amen to that!  Let's see....not even sure I can come up with five..
  1. It's FRIDAY and that means I don't have to get up quite so early in the dark and the cold tomorrow.
  2. It's only 43 days till the BE (really can that be true?!?!)
  3. It's only 71 days the first day of Spring (not that this really means anything here in the frozen north.  We once had 19 inches of snow on the 19th of April.  I'm just sayin'
  4. It's less than six months till our next adventure. Not a lot to be said on that yet, but plans are being made, and each day there is something to do that gets me up to face the day and moves me forward toward it.
  5. And last but certainly not least, I got to see that sweet face that makes every day worth getting up for. Ok, I know, I know....but gimme a break, we are still newlyweds!

January Blogging NaBloPoMo (Thursday)

Yesterday's prompt because I forgot.....What's the biggest lie you ever told?

I think I was about eleven or so.  My friend Pam and I, for reasons known only to two silly girls drank a part of one of my dad's beers from the fridge on a hot summer afternoon.  And then we left the partial bottle in the refrigerator, which was the first mistake.  In my house, there were no partial bottles, ev-er.  If we had finished the bottle and put it with the rest of the empties, there would like have been no issue.  However, we didn't, and when questions were asked, I compounded the first problem with my biggest (and dumbest!) lie ever..."How did it get there?" "Well I guess dad left it." Busted! Mom of course told dad we drank his beer and I was duly punished and Pam was not permitted to come over again for a while. Yup, lesson learned. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January Blogging NaBloPoMo

Today' prompt: What do you prefer listening to, music with lyrics or music without?

As my sweetie is fond of doing when I ask him some random either/or question, I'll just say, "Yes."

I know, grammatically that makes no sense, but irrationally I got kind of irky at the prompt..."You want me to choose?" Why?!? There's a time and place for everything and lyrics are one of those things, too.  When I just need me some background music...something to settle or soothe me, or something to read or write along to, then lyrics can just get in the way, or be distracting and at that point there is nothing like some lovely lush instrumentals...cellos, harps and pianos are high on my lists.  But when I am workin' me up a sweat on the treadmill, or trying to get my rear in gear into a cleaning project....I need to SING to something wild and upbeat to get my blood flowing and my energy moving. So do I have a preference for one over the other? It  all depends on the situation.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

January Blogging NaBloPoMo

Today's prompt: What's the most fun you've had without laughing?

Baptising people, and blessing them runs a close second.  I haven't had a lot of opportunities to do the former, 2 to be precise, one sweet baby and my friend L. But I get to do the latter often, and it never ceases to amaze me what an absolutely amazing holy wonderful thing it is to be the conduit and channel of this gracefilled offering to God's people.  I cannot bless people without smiling.

Monday, January 10, 2011

January Blogging NaBloPoMo

Today's Prompt: Find a quote that fits your intention for today and tell us both of them.

Thumper: He doesn't walk very good, does he?

Mrs. Rabbit: Thumper!
Thumper: Yes, mama?
Mrs. Rabbit: What did your father tell you this morning?
Thumper: [clears throat] If you can't say something nice... don't say nothing at all.

It's Monday in the almost middle of January.  It's snowing...again, for what feels like gazillionith time already this year.  It's cold, it's dark and it seems as if there is no end in sight.  Stressors abound on various sides in my world.  And yet these melt away in comparison to to the really big bad and dark things around us.  The Arizona shooting that has stunned all of us in its absolute senseless brutality, a wonderful friend who has just received a cancer diagnosis that even with it's best prognosis will change her life forever, the sadness and problems that my clients bring me that sometimes feel insurmountable and endless.

There is an absolute temptation to cave in to the darkness and despair.  To say things that are indeed "not nice" on so many levels.  So my intention today is to follow Mrs. Rabbit's advice and to be thoughtful about my words.  To try to be silent if I can't be helpful and if I can't make things better in some least don't contribute to the problem.  Not bad advice from a rabbit.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Friday Five: Holiday Redux Edition

kathrynzj says "Not so fast, revgals and pals!!! Yes, I know it's January and yes, I know some of us are still on a cool sprint after only a brief respite (if that) from Advent and Christmas BUT... before we move too far along into The Next, I wanted to give us a chance to reflect on What Was. A couple of staff members and I sat down today and wrote down what worked and didn't work during the Advent and Christmas season. There are quite a few things bearing down on us at the moment so it was a discipline to do it, but ten and a half months from now Future Me is going to LOVE that we made the effort. And so partly to give us all a record and partly to give us all a chance to reflect on the 2010 Holiday Season now that we are out of it, I ask you this:"
1) What food item was one of your favorites this year - a definite keeper? The oyster stew R made for us the day after Christmas (simply becasue it didn't fit anywhere else in the plan) is definitely a keeper in the holiday menu traditions in our new family unit.
2) Was there a meal or party or a gathering that stands out in your mind from this mose recent holiday season? One tradition that I have been part of now for a few years that is special to me is the community meal on Christmas Eve that my friends over at the Presby church do each year before their candlelight service.  I started helping prepare and serve, then two years ago R joined in, and now it's part of our Christmas tradition.  This year was bittersweet with memories and anticipation.
3) Were you involved in a jaw-dropper gift? Were you the giver or recipient or an on-looker? Well I don't know that I'd go so far as "jaw-dropping" but I did make my long-suffering husband go on a scavenger hunt for the tonneau cover I got him for the new truck.  It was too big to wrap so I'd hidden it in the basement and took him all over the house with rhyming clues to find it.  I thought it was kind of fun and hope he did.  Now if it ever warms up and stops snowing, we might actually get this nice gift ON the truck and get to make use of it!
4) Was there at least one moment where you experienced true worship? I did supply last weekend at my favorite small parish down the road. We celebrated Epiphany and it was very much an Epiphany in all the lovely ways that can be in worship.
5) What is at least one thing you want to make sure you do next year? Have a more Adventatious Advent. Didn't this year...not sure why, but next year, yeah, somehow, want to have that.
BONUS: What is something you absolutely must remember to do differently... or not at all! OR: If you just want to sum it all up in a few words, that will work too. See #5.  And maybe next year, the big tree again, with all the ornaments and the whole fa-la-la.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

January Blogging NaBloPoMo

Today's prompt: Kant said that we require three things by which to measure happiness: someone to love, something we like to do, and something to look forward to. Who do you love, what do you like to do, and what are you looking forward to this year?

Who do you love?  Well the first person obviously who comes to mind is the sweet husband. This of course is a good thing! Seriously...I love this man more than I ever knew I could love anyone!  I also love my Soul Sisters and my soul friend C in deep and abiding ways that sustain me and feed my soul.  I have long loving friendships with people I have known for years and years...the kind you can call and pick up your last conversation from where you left off.  I have been very blessed to have these people to love. And of course last but not least....God.

What do you like to do?  Oh. My.  This could be a very LONG list.  I like my work for the most part.  I like being with people when they are dealing with important life stuff and empowering them to change things that are not working for them.  It feels like holy ground to me to be allowed so far into people's lives and to be trusted with their deepest selves.  I like being a priest...all the bits and parts of that....I like crafting sermons and preaching them, I like creating and doing good liturgy, I like doing pastoral care, I like being part of "big church" things that make a difference in the world.  I like singing, and reading.  I like being with people and being alone.  I like traveling (especially road trips with R in the Cooper).  I like cooking and trying new recipes.  I like writing of all sorts.  I like spending time with my "new" family. I like doing arsty things.  I like going to live performances of all kinds.  I like acting. I like being with my dog and being silly with her.  I like spending time doing just about anything (or absolutely nothing) with my husband. I like planting gardens (note I did not say weeding them however). I like listening to music...all kinds pretty much.  I'm starting to like working out, or at least the results.

What are you looking forward to this year? There are SUCH big changes afoot that are as yet unbloggable for various reasons.  But I am looking forward to them in many areas of my life! New adventures to be shared with my sweetie as well as continuing to be with friends, do what I love, learn new things and continue to grow and become more who I am. 

Of course I am also looking forward to 02/26/11! Can't wait to see old friends, meet new ones and to be at sea!!!!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

January Blogging NaBloPoMo

Today's Prompt: Tell us about the day you were born.

Well, it's been a while,  so any memories I may have had are lost in time by now. :)  There weren't a lot of stories surrounding my birth day.  There was one about the day my mom came home and announced she was pregnant to my then thirteen and eighteen year old brothers.  The older of the two picked her up and apparently spun her until she was dizzy, so happy was he that she was pregnant and not ill with some dread disease that had been making her so tired and sick.  This was the same brother who got kind of sulky when she had to miss some of his high school graduation festivities due to being in labor!

I do have a "birth song" that my mother shared with me, and that follows like a golden thread through my life. Mom told me that when she was going into the labor room the last thing she heard was Gounod's Ave Maria playing on the hospital's sound system.  Again as she came out of recovery, that same song was playing, and again the day we were going home, just as we came out into the corridor to be wheeled downstairs, there it was, she said.  She insisted she did not hear it any other time all the while she was in the hospital (longer in those days!) So it became our song, hers and mine.  Every time I heard it I felt connected to her.  I had it sung at her funeral, my ordination and our wedding.  And this year on Christmas Eve, my friend CCM who sang it at our wedding sang it again in her lovely contralto in the beautifully candlelit Presbyterian church.  I quietly dampened R's shoulder with my tears as memories flooded me, and I knew that mom too, was there with us listening to our song.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

January Blogging NaBloPoMo...

One thing I've been wanting to do in the New Year is blogging more, and I thought maybe doing the January NaBloPoMo would be a good start.  And then I didn't. So I'm going to start late and go on and see how it goes....
January 4: Who was your best friend when you were 10? Did you still know him or her when you were 20? When I was 10 my best friend was MaryJo G.  Her dad was the butcher across the street.  We played Barbies and I went with her and her parents almost every Sunday to Wisconsin to her cousin's roadhouse for dinner.  We also went to her other cousin's in the summer where there was an outdoor pool where I learned to swim.  Mary Jo and I were a year apart in school.  We did go to the asme high school, but once we got there we drifted apart, and they had moved out of the neighborhood as well.  We lost touch completely after she graduated, and by twenty I had no idea what had become of her.