Friday, December 18, 2009


Adopting the gifts of winter

Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.


Anthonis van Dyck - Die Ausgie├čung des Heilige...Image via Wikipedia

Someone asked today what is one of gifts of this season. I was in a class of mature women doing group physical therapy and most had little positive to say about this cold, dark time period. After reading this passage, I am struck with how the authors of the Bible go to great lengths to show Jesus lineage and then this passage conveys a great mystery and reality. Jesus is the son of God, not Joseph and God inspires Joseph to parent Jesus as if Jesus was born of him.

ADOPTION

We can take bad news, or challenging news such as an unexpected pregnancy, or cold weather or snow storms or darkness as unwanted news, or we can look for the gifts within these and adopt the gifts rather than the burdens.

Gifts of the season..briskness, the smell of fires in fireplaces, music, snowflakes, mittens, hot cocoa, sharing hearts, friends, most relatives.







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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

While Planning for Thanksgiving

I am not the most organized grocery shopper. That is why it seems like I have to go the local grocery store several times a week. Now part of the joy of the frequency comes down to seeing my neighbors. I see all sorts of folks when I am at HRD food store. Since I grew up in this town, I find I see retired teachers, parents of old friends, neighbors who I don't normally see when it is too cold to stroll around the neighborhood. So what I am saying, is that shopping can be as social as getting my groceries, and so I guess that is why I haven't spent much time over the past few months or years organizing to get down to one trip per week.

Now that it is Thanksgiving week, I have noticed that the pace of shoppers at HRD food store is more frantic, and people are more cranky. I decided, I am not returning again accept with a list so that I wont have to make several trips during the week or even in one day for the duration of this busy week.

One of the traditions of my home Church is to have the parishioners buy an additional item each week for the food pantry. If I forget to pick up the tuna, I will make a special trip to get it and then to drop it off in the basket at home Church so I can see people there. As I prepare for Thanksgiving, I am thinking about how lucky I am to be able to make these trips and put extra things in my basket, as I am aware that many are without jobs, or means of income and many are hungry, right around me.

It gets me thinking about how do we expect folks to create "go-bags" for emergencies, when many can't even access basic necessities. Perhaps congregational planning for emergencies or disaster will help people also make this connection within their own congregations. Perhaps while helping folks to prepare a communication plan and a "go-bag" they will become mindful of the disparity in their midst and start to understand the disparities in a more personal and profound way. If we start thinking of our C/church more collectively, perhaps we will start to break through our culture's bent of individualistic thinking.

While we collectively think about how we prepare ourselves in case of emergency, we will put an extra flashlight or communication plan on our to do list to help another person plan. Maybe we can have 4-5 families go in on a generator so that when the next ice storm hits, there is a collective group of folks who look after each other and make sure they are warm enough. Perhaps our churches could be warming shelters or emergency shelters for seniors who lose their power or for folks who have nowhere to go when emergency hits. Planning adequately for the inevitable...yes there will snow and ice and subzero temperatures this winter, of that I am certain...helps us to take inventory of what we have, what we need and who our neighbors are and what they need. It is not just a "keeping up with the Jones' inventory", it is a "how are we going to get through this together inventory".

A new colleague of mine who works for fire and rescue mentioned that hypothermia and dehydration are rampant within the senior community in winter and especially during ice storms. Folks who dont have heat stop moving around and hunker down. They drink tea rather than water and within a day many get confused and become hypothermic or dehydrated. Knowing this, if we looked at collective solutions in the towns that we have churches, we may find a new and helpful use for our underutilized old church buildings that would create reason and resources to renovate them and revitalize them. People may not be there on Sunday, but they will be there to get warm on a few other days during the cold weeks, and they will make friends and connections there and may look for other activities to do within those walls, like give thanks. If these activities bare fruit, there are other ways to obtain renovations to make buildings handicap accessible and to provide showers and washers/dryers where we dont already have them.

Sometimes we need a purpose other than just being. Sometimes we have to plan for emergency or disaster to force us to take inventory of the treasures that we have and decide how best to share those treasures. If our Church's treasure (or dis-ease) is our buildings, then we need to plan for how to best use them for the benefit of our parishioners and those yet churched. When we think outside our walls for how we serve our communities and therefore ourselves, we open the doors to a host of possibilities that we could not even imagine before!

While planning for Thanksgiving, I was thinking that there is still more light to break through regarding God's truth....a quote from John Robinson of our Pilgrim days. May we pause to reflect on how the gifts we have and the gifts some take for granted, may be used to help others.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Five

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2009

Friday Five: Thanksgiving Thoughts

The Cure

Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I'm not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she's just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it's snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn't been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She's been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn't do it, put on a red dress.


--Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)

So this Friday before Thanksgiving, think about Aunt Bert and how she'll celebrate Thanksgiving! And how about YOU?

1. What is your cure for the "mulleygrubs"?
calling an old friend, planning an adventure, getting my hair cut

2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving?
At home with both sets of parents

3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family?
turkey cooked in a paper bag, 2 kinds of stuffing, dutch treats mashed potatos and peas, mom's pies and English Parsnip Soup

4. How do you feel about Thanksgiving as a holiday?
I like it ...very little baggage and lots of great smells
5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for?
For another Thanksgiving with everyone in the immediate family alive and reasonably healthy

BONUS: Describe Aunt Bert's Thanksgiving.
Her church brings her and uncle Frank a Turkey dinner. A few of the folks stay to help serve it and eat it with them. Aunt Bert is grateful but sad that her life has gotten to this that others have to wait on them. She wonders if they will do this again for Christmas. She is happy to have some company besides Frank, even though she loves him. They stay to help with dishes and wrap up the leftovers. She wonders if she will have any time to knit mittens for the Christmas fair. She wonders what next year will bring. Still she is thankful that some folks thought of her and Frank and came to dinner. She couldn't fix Frank's favorate stuffing but dinner was better than what they had most nights and the company was lovely.

As always, let us know in comments if you play and visit each other if you can. Post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation in the comment box: what you want the link to say goes here For a complete how-to,click here. (Somehow my computer never lets me post the correct formulations, so you can always go to another Friday Five to discover it.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What would it take?

Every family should have an emergency plan or a contingency plan of some sort, right? What if a house burnt down, or there is a snow storm that that closes schools while mom and dad are at work, or a bad storm where aunt or uncle live 6 hours away and you need to get in touch to check in on them? There are so many tools that exist for planning now, it is wrong not to take advantage of them. Every family should have at least:

a card with all contact numbers, medications,doctors and nearest relatives numbers
a go bag for each family member and pet
a list of local resources to contact in the event of an emergency

If you had these you would be ready for any emergency, disaster or life event....and of course being a woman of faith, I would also say all these and a prayer, because that is the most effective source of help, I have ever found!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rapture, what rapture????

Luke 17:20-25

Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you." Then he said to the disciples, "The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, 'Look there!' or 'Look here!' Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation."

I just looked at lectionary for the 29th and began to talk about my next preaching gig at wonderfully warm urban church. First gig after thinking about taking on Disaster Ministry for my vocation. Of course cart is before horse, as so far it is just between me and my town. And I haven't accepted yet. I suppose I need to seek guidance. Okay so all of that is the backdrop personally. Meantime, pianist has gotten her first punctuation mark, we are busy declutterizing to have our house on the market, the home inspector for the dream house called to say he is on page 36 of his report and still has more to go...... Life feels overwhelming and yet, there is H1N1 looming, global warming, 2012, financial crises for many, basically, I have heard it said recently, what other signs do we need.

Well Luke reminds us that indeed all these are empty signs. Of course he was speaking of when Jesus was alive and present with them. We are living in the post resurrection when we live with the spirit and the Word being with us always. What else do we need. Times are tough. But God is right here with us and God is still speaking!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

an H1N1 scare

I have had way too many moments of clarity lately. Yesterday was a case and point. Dutch treat and I arrived home after doing an inspection of our new dream home to find pianists eyes swollen shut. She told me she had the H1N1 vaccine and had developed a bad headache, and couldn't hear that well and her eyes were scratchy and swollen. She looked like she had been in a prize fight and she was having tics, which is to say her face was twitching. I called the school nurse, and then her doctor who advised me to call 911, especially after she started talking funny and saying her throat was getting scratchy.

As the coordinator for Dirigo State Disaster Response Team, I was hoping that I could assist others when they had emergencies or disasters, not be prepared to manage my own so much. We kept her calm, the rescue came, they started and IV and pumped her full of benadryl. The ER, which was full of people gaining access to basic healthcare, took a few hours to navigate, but the upshot (pardon the pun) was that Pianist was observed for an hour, given steroids for the neurologic happenings and will be part of the state CDC database.

It is a good thing too as both parents have neurologic issues, I with MS and Dutch Treat having had guilliam barre's syndrome as a young adult and who suffers with UC now. Basically both parents having autoimmune diseases. I can't help but wonder if there are connections with flu and epstein barr virus (I had mono before I got MS) and chicken pox and other virus' that recombine to create a more pronounced disease. Anyways, I am not a doctor and I dont play one on tv, so today, I am just thankful that all is somewhat returned to normal and I will pray that nothing further develops. I am greatful that we were close by and came home and she wasn't left on her own, although I believe she would have done the right thing and called for help. I reflect on a doctor that once told me I would never have kids because of the MS, and I am thankful I was in a rebellious stage and didn't listen.

With everyone safe and where they are supposed to be, after praying and shuffling around, I still believe God has a plan for me to be an ordained minister. Given my limitations and the gifts that come with those, I have faith that God will show me in God's time. God is still speaking........A wise professor once said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you strange." I am feeling like things are pretty strange right now. I have come to the conclusion that the truth is way stranger than any fiction I have ever read.

Friday, November 6, 2009

God what are you saying?

Blogging is an interesting venue. It has become an online journal and exploration for me. I had hoped to make connections and meet people, but I am not that good at it, so it has not yet evolved into that kind of resource. It has become a theological reflection tool for me. As I am not yet in a pulpit, I sometimes check lectionary and sermonize on blog. I like doing that. Given the lack of interaction I am getting, I suspect I am the only one who likes to my sermonizing. Perhaps that means I am not meant for the pulpit. I think I need more lessons from revsongbird..be that as it may, I am assured that wherever I am on life's journey, I have not yet arrived at my destination so I need to keep going. I dont see the last few weeks as anything but part of the journey...the journey necessary in healing, discerning, re-integrating what has come before and what will come next. I pray for patience, clarity and faith.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Wedding Banquet

Luke 14:1,7-11

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honour, he told them a parable. "When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honour, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, 'Give this person your place,' and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher'; then you will be honoured in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

This piece of scripture feels very close to me right now. As I finish seminary and watch my colleagues and compatriots prepare for ordination and for call, I find I am terrified that there is no place for me. I am disabled, legally and I cant jeopardize that. I need my medical benefits. I am also differently abled and living with chronic illness. With the condition of multiple sclerosis and I find each day, each changing season brings new challenges for my weak and bumbling body an soul. I have been trying to "pick" ministry which accomodates for my situation. In really reflecting on that, it seems somewhat disingenuous that I would have to work so hard to find a ministry. If I have the faith I profess all should have, then maybe I can let go of my fear and listen for God's message. I can choose the lowest seat and wait for God to show me where I am supposed to sit.


God grant me the ears to hear your words in me, the courage to know they are meant for me and not someone else and the grace and fortitude to not be distracted by fear.


Amen


Monday, October 26, 2009

Theology of Pink Flamingos

Once upon a time, a young seminarian tried to connect God to flamingo's. And it worked out pretty well. I haven't been able to find that sermon recently, but if I remember it even vaguely it went something like this.

flamingos are remarkable creatures that have survived over 3 million years without evolving because they occupy a unique niche. They are special and unchanged

they live in special places that most of us can only dream of visiting

we make "icons" of them to remember their specialness

the icons can cause controversy and annoyance

the thought of them in reality and in plastic makes me smile...just like the bobble body Jesus on my dashboard

anyway...that is the gist of it. I may revise it and preach it again. I kinda like it.



Sunday, October 25, 2009

I see said the blind man

I looked at sacred space.org before blogging this morning and read todays lectionary. Blind Bartimaeus.....hmmmmm. For I was blind and you healed me Jesus. I feel that way in my own life these days. It is soooo easy to forget gratitude. So as of today I am adopting a attitude of gratitude. I will say Kate Braestrup's prayer before every meal and pray morning and evening prayers. Kate's prayer goes like this:

God, thank you for this food, and the hands that prepared it. Thank you for family and friends, Amen.

It doesn't get any more simple than that and it says it all. I love what a wise professor once said to me. Keep it simple when praying. Remember who you are praying to..the uncreated creator who knows all of our hearts and minds. Rambling on is preaching not praying. The five- six types of prayer....

thanksgiving
intercession
petition
adoration


well anyway, I forgot the rest...I got up too early this morning. When praying in the morning and at bedtime I hold people in prayer , I give great thanks for the many blessings in my life and I just talk to God for a while. It clears the head or the chest and gives me peace.

Thinking about these 5 or so prayers times during the day reminds me of Islamic tradition which is also an Abrahamic faith. (shares lineage from same Abraham of Genesis) Minus the ablutions (ritual washings), and prostration and praying toward mecca, this could be considered almost Islamish to pray 5 times a day.

I was thinking how fearful some Americans are of Muslims and think that freedom of religion means freedom to be any type of Christian denomination you want and maybe even Jewish but probably not. It pains me to think that a religion that holds fast praying 5 times a day to remember who you are and whose you are that you may keep good perspective, is not even understood on a very basic level by many of the people of my country.

May Jesus heal our eyes that we may see our brothers and sisters and neighbors not as a mirror reflection, but as they are: and love them as we are called to do.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Seagull and Miley Cyrus

Okay, when I did my first class of mentored practice and my first theological reflection for that class it was tough. I was serving at USM as an interfaith chaplain and when I imaged God after an interfaith fishbowl experience, God was a seagull in a dory off of Cliff Island. I cant imagine why that was. I was honest about that image and I even wrote the best reflective piece I could, but my MP partners kind of made fun of my image.

In my moments of clarity in these last few days, for the first time in 11 years of living in this house, a seagull has been hanging around. All of a sudden when my call seems to be integrating the presence of God or the Holy Spirit or just a bird that WAS NOT present in my yard before now is here. We have 15 turkeys regularly strutting through the yard which is FABULOUS.....but gulls..never do I remember one. Maybe this is an indication that I am whole again...that I survived the deconstruction process and then reintegration process successfully...I dont know. I feel whole again and I am not sure I ever felt whole.. My joy is back. And that is no small fact for someone dealing with the challenges of Chronic Illness that I face. I need more sleep. More joy, More friends and above all else...More God!

Its the climb. We will never meet perfection in this life.. Jesus the Christ offers us.....Its the Climb. God will be with us as we hike up that mountain...Like Moses we dont need to see the other side, because we are content knowing that whatever it is w do.....we are welcome to do it....we are welcome on this journey. Praise God..Amen

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Greatest Commandment

As I have been working on nailing down a disaster response plan for Dirigo State Church, I have and had been going through scripture in my head appropriate for basing a a state wide plan on and in some regards starting a ministry. As one of the core elements is reaching out within community and to neighbors, of course it would make sense to draw upon the great commandment. As I talked about this with my leadership team, I recently found out that some of them have a real prejudice against non Christians. Which makes me wonder, how do you perceive yourself as Christian when you openly hate others.

When you love God with your whole heart, mind and soul and you accept God as creator of all the earth, am I daft to assume God created ALL people? And then to have it said in three different Gospels, love your neighbor as yourself...that doesn't just mean the Smiths to my right and the Jones to my left....as I am privileged (or not) to live in an insular and rather homogeneous area. COME ON...ITS THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT. And Jesus doesn't just even answer the "who are my neighbors" He teaches us about it in parables..the syrophoenician woman, the woman at the well, the man with the withered hand, and the list goes on. Jesus lives it folks...EVERYONE is our neighbor...Love everyone as you would yourself.

Anyways, I defaulted to Matthew 25 for my scriptural foundation......

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Did I mention discernment is hard?!



Discernment is no easy task! I find that I am in a strange deconstruction phase. It is almost as if I have to unlearn the patterns of my past behavior that were critical to being a successful business person, or succeed in a competitive, male dominated, hierarchical world. Reading is great and it feeds me on many levels. Listening doesn't hurt. But I always have to experience things to integrate learning and to truly understand. So for me deconstructing means experiencing and making mistakes and integrating the learnings from those mistakes, integrating what I learn from those mistakes and then continuing on my process.

My spiritual advisor says that contemplative practice and prayer is essential for discernment. I didn't always believe her until I made it the center of my mornings. After reading Brian McLaren's, Finding Our Way Again, and instituting lectio divina via sacred space.org, I also started reading 1 Corinthians 13 every day. I sometimes turn to a different version of it...i.e. The Message. Sometimes, I just go onto oremus Bible Browser and read the NSRV. What I find is that reading it everyday creates context from which to review what happened in my life yesterday and creates a peaceful heart for what I set out to do for the coming day. I am attaching the link so that if you read my blog, you might finish it with reading this famous passage........

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Pianist's Birthday

Jeremaiah 13:15-17 (The Message, trans)

Then I said, Listen. Listen carefully: Don't stay stuck in your ways! Its God's Message we're dealing with here. Let your lives glow bright before God before God turns out the lights. Before you trip and fall on the dark mountain paths. The light you always took for granted will go out and the world will turn black. If you people wont listen, I'll go off by myself and weep over you, Weep because of your stubborn arrogance, bitter, bitter tears, Rivers of tears from my eyes, because God's sheep will end up in exile.

I love the Prophets, and the Prophetic tradition of the Old Testament for which Jeremaiah was a part. I am reading Brian McLaren's Finding Our Way Again, this sums it up for me, "Comfort and Power can become great enemies of true spirituality and true humanity, which explains why we often say that the prophets come to not only bring comfort to the afflicted, but also to afflict the comfortable." (McLaren, 2008. p23.)

My oldest daughter turns 12 today! I can't give you the exact time, because she was born in Alaska and by emergency C-section, so between the time difference and my alternative state of mind, I really can't sure. I guess tomorrow we can call her 12 without worry. I am in awe of her and of God because of her. She is taller than me now...officially by 1/2 inch after Monday's checkup. Her feet are 2 sizes bigger than mine. Being in 7th grade in our school system, means she will be getting a macbook soon that will follow her public school education. (THANK YOU FORMER GOVERNOR ANGUS KING)

I have had a macbook for 2 1/2 years. I love it and use it for my seminary education and classwork, organizing and doing disaster response ministry, creating and maintaining sermons, funerals, papers, this blog, powerpoint presentations, in fact I even made a movie title the Isaiah Project on this macbook. It's pretty good, I edited it, added text pages and music and everything. Okay it's not THAT good, but pretty good for someone who is not very tech savvy and relatively intimidated by technology. With all of the things I do on my macbook, I realize I am not using it to it's fullest potential. I know there are applications and uses that would enhance my life, my family's life, even my ability to organize my time and work.

Pianist has been getting lessons on hers for two weeks and doesn't even have it to take home yet. Last week after her first 20 minute lesson on the applications of her computer, she came home and completely reorganized my document files with color coding.....which I didn't even know was possible. I have been saying to people ever since that she will go farther in the next month on her laptop than I have gone in 2 1/2 years. Last night she told me about an interesting application and we sat down together and found it, downloaded it and enjoyed it. Its called omnidazzle and allows for you to shake pixie dust all over your screen and presumably in your electronic publications. I am so glad she shared it and we sat down and did it together, although I must admit that I felt a little intimidated that she could totally "drive" the computer and I was left in the virtual pixie dust.....I felt uncomfortable.

I can't stay stuck in my ways! I am a mom. My children won't leave me there without inflicting temper tantrums, pouts, demands for love and attention or a batch of cookies ......that is not to say I am a Donna Reed kinda mom, because God knows I am estranged from my vacuum, and am not in dialogue with my iron other than for melting beads animals. As Jeremiah states pretty clearly we must live fully into our lives.....OUR LIVES...before the lights go out. My life is not to be in relationship with my vacuum but my daughters.

So I'm not entirely stuck....although I am a little stuck with my computer. It's useful, but I didn't even appreciate how useful, until the creative gift that my daughter is...the miracle of creation that is now 12 years old, turned her bright fresh new mind toward computing and then loved me enough to share with me her new knowledge. Her collective 3 hours worth of learning has out-trumped my 42 years of schooling and higher education, experience, tradition, reading, blogging, facebooking, yadda, yadda, yadda. That makes me feel a little uncomfortable and happy and yet happy that someone, someday may fully realize the potential of mac and use it for greater things than I can.

We who are privileged with higher education and resources to obtain technology should never become comfortable with the gifts that these things bring us. Angus King was genious to realize that the if you could find a way to put technology in the hands of every 7th grader, they would outpace their elders, and train us how to use the technology. Still it is not a mandate for schools to purchase the laptops and many public schools dont have the financial resources to not only buy them at a bargain prices, but hire the tech staff to support an entire program around the laptops that includes, repair, maintenance, internet security and protection, education of use, policing and the list goes on. And so, the communities of educated, wealthy folks (like mine) who understand King's message and intent, who provide enough tax dollars as a result of their big homes and higher property taxes, can subscribe to the program. Others dont. I feel sad for the other kids in Maine and around the Country who wont get a macbook and learn a whole new language and technology that could transform their life. Those of us with education and privilege are obligated morally to share these opportunities beyond our wealthy boundaries.

Teach your children well, a mother's hell, will slowly go by.
Feed them on your dreams, the one they pick, is the one you'll know by
Dont you ever ask them why, if they told you you would cry, just look at them and sigh, and know they love you....................Crosby, Stills and Nash

Sometimes our obligation is not to force our dreams or education or leadership on others, but to let their light shine. I ponder this as the United Church of Christ speaks of Alternative Paths to Ministry. I hear colleagues offer concern about letting less educated clergy into the club of ordination. One concern that I share is that this may encourage the proof-texting, zealous, hierarchical approach to religious leadership, that my tradition is trying to offer an alternative to.

Juxtaposed with this however, is the notion that there are many other people do not have the privilege of access to even an adequate public education system that could prepare them to study our white, male, privileged tradition of Christianity. I have worshipped in New Orleans in black congregations where lay ministers preached so powerfully and scripturally sound that the spirit of God moved deeply inside me and tears flowed down my cheeks and goose pimples covered my arms.

There is effectively no public school system in NOLA. When working on rebuilding homes, we were cautioned about walking down the street alone as young gang members roam the streets and prey on homes (still vacant or repaired or somewhere in between) looking for copper pipes to sell on the black market, or looking for a place to do a drug deal, or worse. One of the homes we worked next to had a picture of a 16 year old boy on it. When I looked at the picture it was a memorial for a young boy, the resident's grandson that had been shot to death across the same street we were working on a few weeks before we came. She had been raising her grandson, as her son had been shot after he testified against a gang person, when his son was a few months old. During Katrina, she lost her brother who lived 2 blocks away from where were working. He had been trapped for days in his attic, and then trapped for hours on his rooftop rescued and dropped into the stagnant water. He developed an awful rash after it all and died.

Perhaps that was an aside for some of you reading this. But if you were a person growing up in that America, and you had a story to tell..you had God's story in your life to tell......and you didn't get the privilege of public education, or perhaps even the right of safety to walk your streets, protection from law enforcement when you stood up to the evils in your midst or the due diligence of response from our Government to warn you, rescue you or even take responsibility for their failure to do any and/or all of that, how am I even going hear your story? How will I know your tragedy, and my role in it as someone who wont read about it in the paper in my community. I wont hear it from your people because they are shut out of the education system, shut out of technology, hell we don't even keep you warm and safe and dry . I was privileged to be invited..hell, allowed to participate in your remarkably beautiful and powerful and authentic praise and worship.. Many of your congregation still living in trailers, out of work, burying your teenagers weekly, still thankful to God for life for God's presence......I am glad that my church recognizes we should find another way to invite you to be equal partners in ordained ministry. I hope we of privilege have the strength and Grace to follow through.

Our children have so much to teach us! My hardest challenge continually is slowing down to listen. The Bible has so much to teach us! My hardest challenge is to find more dialogue partners with experiences other than mine to help me interpret the fullness of its meaning in my life. Life has so much to teach us! We have eyes to see and ears to listen...God grant us Grace that we may truly see and hear Your will and understand it in our lives!

Happy Birthday my darling Pianist! Let your light shine and burn like the newest SuperNova, like a campfire, life fireworks, like sunset, like a fully lit Christmas tree, like an erupting volcano. Let it flow out of you, through you, in you and out to light all of our worlds.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

A vision of HOPE

Prayers and internal discernment are so helpful. Friends, mentors, acquaintances are critical, but of course none of it is possible without the Holy Spirit flowing freely and quickly! The vision is coming together. An interfaith center in Portland, Maine possibly designed around the model of the Interfaith Center in Columbia, Maryland. Meeting space with some joint missioning. Missioning around homelessness, access to internet and Skype, and ongoing disaster preparedness and missioning around unmet needs. The center can have common gathering areas and some specific offices or worship spaces for individual faith expressions worship needs. The building itself will not have symbols. The UCC/DOC would have a participating community of faith or church. The church and or interfaith model would be HOPE, hands of peace extended. The church would work with Seeds of Peace to develop camp opportunities for Maine populations that are being stretched by growing diversity and possible help sponser some camps through seeds or Pilgrim Lodge for new residents (from Iraq, Somalia, etc to attend alongside children from our local rural populations who have few opportunities to interacts positively with "others" .

I have reached out to many connections to discuss this. I will pray about this vision and see if this is God's will or just another part of my process........

Thoughts about the idea

Friday, September 4, 2009

Recharged/ recharging Friday Five



A few weeks ago my lap-top battery died, suddenly I found myself looking at a blank screen and was rather relieved to find that it was only the battery and not the whole computer that had failed. This morning a new battery arrived in the post, and suddenly I am mobile again!

After a week with what feels like wall to wall meetings, and Synod looming on the horizon for tomorrow I find myself pondering my own need to recharge my batteries. This afternoon Tim and I are setting off to explore the countryside around our new home, I always find that walking in the fresh air away from phones and e-mails recharges me. But that is not the only thing that restores my soul, so do some people, books, pieces of music etc....

So I wonder what/ who gives you energy?

1. Is there a person who encourages and uplifts you, whose company you seek when you are feeling low? My bff Tara usually makes me smile when I am down along with my bff&h Pieter. They can usually zero in on what the issue is an offer me a lift out of it or comfort if there is not lift.

2. How about a piece of music that either invigorates or relaxes you?
There is no end to musical resources that do both. I am so addicted to my i-pod....I love jazz, blues, gospel, rock, classical, show tunes.........For invigoration, I would have turn to 80's dance music. For relaxation I would turn to U2 or REM.

3. Which book of the Bible do you most readily turn to for refreshment and encouragement? Is there a particular story that brings you hope?
I enjoy the book of John for it's mystical undertones and mischievious invitations to come and see.
4. A bracing walk or a cosy fireside?
Both sound delicious. If my body is responding well....a walk. If my body is not responding well....the fireside.

5. Are you feeling refreshed and restored at the moment or in need of recharging, write a prayer or a prayer request to finish this weeks Friday Five....
Gracious God who is here in me and in these words
Thankyou for my friends and family
Thankyou for this day
Thankyou for my entry into new worlds...of technology, or friendship, of growth in and
through you
Bless all who read these words and transform them to do and be your will
Amen



Hanging with my peeps on RevGalPals

Trying the new blog ring quiz.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What about cafe church?

I meet-up with people all the time at local coffee hot spots. I began wondering if the post-modern gen, which isn't necessarily attracted to church in the box religion, would be attracted to meet-ups once a week for worship or three time a month with one meeting per month out doing mission, which would include not only hands on working, but also learning about not for profits, community demographics and unmet needs.

This kind of church would be for people like me, only who I dont normally see in the pews of traditional church. Limited overhead, except for tech savvy to develop web material , group can grow together into whatever they feel called to grow into. Thoughts??????

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Two Roads Diverged

Two Roads Diverged in a yellow wood
and sorry I could not travel both
and be one travelor
long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth.......

These words by Robert Frost are forever etched in my memory. As freshmen in an excellent school system, Nancy Shaw, my 9th grade English teacher made us memorize this poem. I am so indebted to her! I still remember most of the poem and certainly this opening stanza. This stanza is a work of pure genius because it represents the human condition to a tee! I have found myself reflecting on it often throughout my life years after leaving high school.

I thought about it my senior year of college when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and decided to leave behind my dreams of grad school for a job with health benefits. I thought about it after a few stormy relationships in early adulthood and a come to Jesus discussion initiated by a wonderful friend. I thought about it when I contemplated a long and rich career in the Federal Government in WDC versus exploration and adventure in other areas of the country. I am thinking about it now as I contemplate graduating from seminary and thinking about a new church start rather than ordained ministry as it is currently understood.

There are many years between some of these contemplations. I substituted contingencies for contemplations when my disease became more challenging than I could manage without a great deal of medicine or scientific intervention. I thank the Rev. Bob Molsberry for helping me to revisit my life in handicapdom. Blindsided by Grace, is a wonderful book about his struggle through accident and adaption to life in a wheelchair. I had the good graces of meeting him at the New Church Leadership Institute in Atlanta. I happened to mention to him that I still feel uncomfortable when I see someone in a wheelchair, ever since I was diagnosed with MS. Grace indeed set in and a wonderful discussion ensued. And then of course I read his book.

Grace happens everyday in my life. My messy, broken, sometimes weak, sometimes tingly life. Sometimes the right side of my body refuses to work in concert with the left. Sometimes I am so confused, I cant remember my daughters names. Sometimes I wish I was all okay again so I could get up and go to work like the mover and shaker that I used to be and fulfill my public service in the Federal Government.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
and be one traveler
long I stood
and looked down one
as far as I could
til where it bent in the undergrowth.....

I guess I am still sorry and angry I cant travel both.
Even though I am sure that there is so much goodness that comes out of my contingency. God has carried me and I have been mightily thankful, but part of me wants to look down one as far as I can and see what might have been. How do I let go...really let go?

Maybe that is why I moved back to my hometown with my family. Maybe I have to re-shape what it means to hear and fulfill one's call. Not in a perfect sort of way...but on the path or road that you are given....that may be my call, my road. There should be a place for everyone to find purpose and meaning despite what comes their way....perhaps that is the road I am taking.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Acts on Ordination

My conclusion to a paper about Ordination. Would love comments on this one.

The purpose of this paper was to discern the specific meaning of and intention for the word ordination by the author of Acts. The addition of examining the MOM’s interpretation of meaning and intention for ordination was an afterthought inspired by my own journey and my recent attendance of a New Church Leadership Institute in Atlanta. I realize that the UCC has a great distance to go to marry up their vision of being a church for welcoming folks “wherever they are on life’s journey”, with UCC polity on ordination. Perhaps God’s call to me is to simply illuminate that distance. Ordination is how the Holy Spirit calls someone to contextualize the meaning of a living God in their own specific setting. If we as a denomination limit who may be called to ordained service by virtue of the exclusions mentioned and the many that have not been, we exclude the next generation of Paul/Paula from spreading the good news in a language and context that brings God alive for them. We will have kept God in a box for ourselves and lost site of the Great Commission.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

emerging call

Its been a while. I have given over to the blessing or curse of everyday mayhem that motherhood, or should I just say life, stirs into my mix. It has been a while since I have posted and I realize I have not posted much specifically about my emerging church and my emerging call. I think that is because I am not particularly bloggified or bloggifiable yet.....and it has become easy for me to express my call to something non-traditional, and yet hard to articulate what that something is. Being an external processor, I find I need to talk idea out loud and then refine them based on conversations, corrections or revisioning that happens.

Sooooo.. Here is where I am today. HOPEMEUCC ..Hands of Peace Extended. A progressive Christian Church without walls that seeks to form Christian Community in new ways and places. Joyfully following an incarnate God, we see to identify the presence of God around us and in others.

We meet 4x a month in different places for different purposes. Our first meeting of the month will be a celebratory meal with music, bible study and discussion. It probably wont be church music as most know it, but a mix of jazz, blues, folk, rock from whatever live artists we can invite to our meal. Different and differing voices will read the text and discussion will be opened up to all to discern the voice of the Divine.

The second meeting of the month will be "it's all about us" and will have the elements of reading the Scripture and talking about the UCC identity and how we are living it out or at least how we want to be living it out. This meeting will continuously explore the Church identity alongside our Christian identity.

The third meeting of the month will be "and now for something totally different". This meeting will focus on our Christian text and then on ecumenical and interfaith understandings of our faith. We recognize that our own context is that of being Christian, but seek to discover God's meaning for our lives as Christians in a multicultural and changing world. We will draw on other faith leaders to educate us and dialogue with us to enhance all of our understandings and to expand our knowledge of and faith in a living God.

The fourth meeting of the month will be "Jesus has left the building." We will do mission on this meeting in a variety of forms and forums. We may work on a habitat for humanity home, or serve dinner at a soup kitchen. We may learn about green energy opportunities in our community or what is going on with local food cooperatives, or how to interface with local seniors with special needs. The fourth meeting will be about getting out, looking for Christ in our midst as well as being representatives of the incarnational God in our communities.

If the month happens to have a fifth Sunday, my exhortation will be to go explore elsewhere so that we remain in touch with what else is happening in church communities and so we can share our story.

THOUGHTS PLEASE??????!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Church Start, cont.

Pray for protection, persistence and fruit. That's what one book about starting a new church gives as first advice. It also says the first team to recruit is a prayer circle to pray for these things constantly and ceasingly for this effort. Being a progressive Christian who isn't always open or comfortable with the spiritual, that advice made me flinch.

And second of all...what is the fruit I seek? I am visioning a church that is radically open, radically inclusive, that is not only open to all that will place people next to one another who normally wouldn't find each other close by. For mission projects, for coffee, for a meal.......to talk about how they experience God. It doesn't require a building. Maybe some lawn chairs or a campus or a work site.

My experience of society is that people become so dogmatic and niched in their comfort zones that they forget that the creative energy that we call God is found in the diverse expressions of all of humanity. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves.......The church I am visioning asks the question...do we need to seek out some new neighbors?

Monday, July 20, 2009

A Day at the Beach

With all this Discerning...With all this surgery...With all this family organization, my mother recently reminded me that I stopped having fun with my life. I remembered internally rolling my eyes..and yet when a friend of mine called today and said, we have to go the beach today it may be the only beach day this week....I hesitated. I haven't been to the beach all summer. It's mid-July. I hesitated. When did I get old?

So, I cleared the schedule and said..oh yeah...we are there. I called my mom to see if she wanted to come. She did. We packed minimally, picked up mom and friend...and headed to beach. I still cant carry much, but everyone was willing. Once my chair was set up and the sunblock applied, I sat in my chair and stuck my feet way into the sand. The kids had to go into the ocean at once. I was so happy to see it and sad that I can;t yet submerge.

I give thanks to God. The smell of the ocean. The sound of the birds. Little kids running around, gleefully. The smell of coconut sunblock. Salty fragrance stinging my nose. Waves crashing, wind blowing, peace settling in my soul. I FORGOT! How peace settles in someone's soul from the sensual. Wind Blowing, waves crashing. Salty fragrance stinging my nose. The smell of coconut sunblock. Little kids running around gleefully. The sound of birds. The smell of ocean. I GIVE THANKS TO GOD.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bathed in Dog/God

Perhaps its a little irreverent to mix this metaphor, but I oversaw a very Holy experience today! My husband, for whom I will designate P1, and the pianist, my oldest daughter, were bound and determined that this was to be the day. Bailey has had an ear infection and has stinky ears. And due to my recent surgery and planning forgetfulness, I had forgotten to give her Frontline and found an engorged tick on her. So we all decided that was the last straw between her and a bath. I am on light duty and giving the dog a bath is in no way light duty....or so I used to think.

Bailey, at two years old, has only recently begun to enjoy swimming. Ponds, rivers and ocean beware....she will lunge at any body of water now with great enthusiasm. So when we lined the bathroom with towels, started filling the tub with cool water, taking out the dog shampoo and dog brushes; rather than run as far away from the bathroom as possible, she curiously stayed close to the tub. The pianist was braced for a fight. I told her, time to get Dad, I can go no further with this activity. All of a sudden, Bailey stepped right into the tub and sat down. We gushed praise all over her and laughed about it. We called for P1 and shared the story with him while he came in to take over the heavy duty.

I'd like to think that the naturally refreshing baths and water time we have had with Bailey, this loving time between humans and dog...has created trust and she no longer fears what may come at our hands. That is one possibility. The other is that she now loves water and all of it's manifestations and can't wait to get wet. As I observed her patience at the hands of P1 and pianist, I marveled at the blessing we have in this good natured, now clean canine. For about 20 minutes today she had 3 of our complete attentions at the same time and maybe that was the real reason she sat patiently in the tub.

If St. Augustine was right....and I can't really be sure of that for many reasons...humans have a built in longing for God. That is part of his apologetic for why there must be God. For those of us fortunate to live in peace and relative prosperity, believing in God; bathing in God becomes a refreshing and splendid experience. Even when potholes form after long cold winters, we become patient for strength and fortitude to withstand; and for fill to smooth the bumps. Us modern day Christians or should I say post-modern day Christians forget that being a little uncomfortable with what is going on for us is okay...as long as we remember that we always have our Creator's full attention and loving will working for all of our best interests.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Reproductive Decommissioning, part 2

I am now on the other side of this event! :-) Besides feeling a little sore between occasional hot flashes, I feel like a different person. A great deal of anxiety is gone. I feel compelled to do nothing. Perhaps with this slowing down and removal of angst, God's Will will fill the space of womb and creation....

Right now and am in awe of the summer that is beginning!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Back from vacation

Okay. Eight days with the family. Only 2 half days of sun. There was much relaxing. There was at least two days of 8 or more board games. I rode the bike trails 3 times, hiked a mountain or two, suffered the slings and arrows or numerous red ant bites by the campfire....Got pretty relaxed and ready for this week's assault on my abdomen, and yet...I am still nervous, stressed, wondering whether I will be ready for Clam Fest, New Church Leadership Institute, life after surgery in general.

I can study and read books. I can write 20-25 page papers. What prepares you to face your mortality? How do I say to my 11 year old and my 8 year old....things are going to be okay..but if not, take care of eachother. Not like now. But like if you didn't have a momma. Pieter is cooking my favorate meal tonight. I can't eat again until after surgery. I profess that I feel a call to ordained ministry..and yet, right now, I am hoping to just make it through the week. All prayers, well-wishes and casseroles welcome!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Boy N's funeral is today

It has been a crazy start to summer. In fact, considering the sun hasn't come out once, it doesn't much feel like summer at all. I am coming down from an internal frenzy of taking a class, contemplating my senior project, organizing my family's summer schedule, figuring out how to support hubby with changes at work and in his family of origin. All of the frenzy is countered by the funeral I will officiate today.

A six year old died. He lived way beyond doctor's predictions and because his whole family walked with him every minute of every day and honored his wishes at each moment of his pain and suffering. To witness how much each of them gave to one another in order that they could be present for every moment, was extraordinary. When I offered comment about this, N's mom would say, "that's what family does for each other." So present and atune to each precious moment in a 6 year olds muted life.

I guess the rain and this occasion have me pensively wondering how to be more thankful for what I have, rather than always seeking out the next thing....

Friday, June 19, 2009

Boy N died today

What words does one offer when a 6 year old dies?  What solace is there for grieving parents who have fought so hard for two years to keep a son alive?  Ecclesiastes 7:1-4  and 1st Corinthians 13 are what the Holy Spirit gave me today.  His name and his character through all of his suffering was their own testament.  The parents sense of value of life through the gift of their children was a both a testament and a wake-up call to me.  Sometimes being with people in their most profound moments is better than any party you can go to.  Sometimes seeing the most apparent grief and suffering is better than all the glitz, all the bling that this world has to offer.  I would say that is the case for all times.  For as Ecclesiastes 7 says, .."it is better to go to a house of mourning  than to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every person; and the living should take this to heart."

We are all going to die.  The question is...have we lived?  Do we know what God intended for us when we were created?  Perhaps we should spend more of our free time thinking of that....

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Maintenance Required

Sometimes the external signs go un-noticed. My maintenance required light came on in my car. I felt annoyed as my days have been filled with field trips, umpiring, seeing the doctor, running errands, trying to squeeze in walks with the dog, visiting someone in the hospital. How can I find time to take my car in for an , when band camp starts next week and I haven't updated the cottage website yet, and I'm way behind in following up on getting the family's scheduling done for doctor's appointments, camps, trips to grandparents...yada yada yada. I noticed a feeling I haven't had in about 6 years. My jaw hurts. Maybe the maintenace required light is on for me too!
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Monday, June 15, 2009

Boy N is dying

I sometimes have problems letting go.  I finished CPE in April.  I made it my thing to minister to the unchurched in the children's ward.  One of the little boys that I followed all 9 months is dying of an awful form of cancer.  His family is an amazing organism.  From all the folks I met on the ward...the physical abusers, the drug abusers, the unengaged, the overly engaged...these parents have a gift I have rarely seen.  They love life!!!  Every single moment, ugly, beautiful, simple, profound, challenging, awful, they love it and embrace it all, because they have had some deep understanding over the past several months that their 7 year olds life was coming to an end.  They have not had it easy.  I am making a reasonable guess that they live below poverty level from what they have shared.   They are both full of native American blood.  I have heard tales of sadness and loss from both parents that one person should not have to bare, and yet both have borne these losses.  And now the unthinkable. The loss of a beautiful, amazing, child.  All unrealized potential.  And with the words that are haunting his mama.  "I don't want to go without you."

I have pulled out my best resources.  I have shared the story of the dragonfly and the caterpillar.  I have tried to talk about how we are all still together even as we transform into something we dont know or understand...but damn it, that seems so little to offer to this wonderful human being that has suffered so much in her lifetime and is about to suffer something more profound than even I can understand.  She has talked to me about her attendence of a congregational church as a youth and about being uncomfortably fondled as a 12 year old by a pastor in youth group and never returning to a Christian church.  She also talks about knowing as a native American that Jesus appeared to her people and she will find her way to Jesus and has always taught her children about Jesus and God.  Her faith and witness is so powerful juxtaposed with her pain that all I can do is witness it with love and awe and prayer.

They can't afford to bury or cremate N, so the social workers have worked with a local funeral home to do that.  They can't afford a service or urns to claim the ashes and are not churched so have no one to turn to for help.  I will offer to do the service for free and to connect them to a local church to get cremation jewelry to keep N with them always.  Maybe if they ever want or trust that a church could just walk with them where they are at, they may walk in.  I will pray for them for always, I am sure.

Meanwhile, I came home and found much patience for my 11 year old's sassiness.  I know she is in her differentiating phase and needs to find ways that she is her own person and not like mom.  Some days she wants to be Goth and other days she wants to talk about how she feels more like a Buddhist than a Christian.  Today I could only look at her and silently give thanks for her life and whatever it brings....because we are blessed enough to have more years to work it all out than others.

Tomorrow I will stop back at the hospital and see if N has fallen into his deep sleep.   I pray to God for the words and the strength to be his family's servant through this.  Sometimes there are no words.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

And the Rain, Rain, Rain came down, down down

Anyone remember Winnie the Pooh and the blustery day movie?  Well today is the rainy day and the rain, rain, rain is coming down, down, down....   I am actually happy to have a sabbath that we can hunker down and actually rest.  No softball, no possibility for yardwork or lemonade stands....just rain and time on the couch.  My spiritual advisor says that I need to spend more time hunkered down and quiet listening for the inner voice of God to lead  me to my call. Unfortunately for me, the inner voice of God speaks to me in the externalities of my life and experiences I have had that lead me to this very moment.

So on these quiet moments that are like found treasures, I am afforded some time and space to knit together the experiences and meetings and moments that are the patchwork of my call.  The call to God's service from the many gifts that have been given me in my life before seminary and the gifts given as a result of seminary.  Mission Interpretation, disaster ministry, campus ministry, and ministry to the unchurched.  Preaching and teaching.  Looking for the broken places and people and lending a hand if it is wanted, getting a hand when it is needed.  What an amazing journey.  

In the words of the western jazz musician James Gibson, Rain Down on my Lord!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

a $10,000 trailer

So I got the email from a colleague in OHIO.  They have amassed a fully equipped tool trailer to do disaster response and then found that their team wasn't really ready to use it to it's fullest potential.  Initially I thought they may want to give it to us.....not so much though.  This is the the type of infrastructure that would support the church we are talking about...The question is how do we create  an operating budget to sustain it?????

Friday, June 12, 2009

Reproductive Decommissioning

I got the news this morning.  A full reproductive decommissioning.  It has been coming for a long time.  Perhaps since I was 8 when the system began working prematurely and overactively.  I think at 9 I was ready for this moment, but thanks be to God that this system ...this miraculous system that's ability to function overwhelms the 10 or so percent of the brain that I use........this system allowed for my husband and I to give life to two amazing human beings. How can anyone deny the uncreated creator, in the face of the miracle of reproduction....

But it comes to an end on July 8.  There is relief and trepidation with this.  The notion of major surgery just a year after my last, is little overwhelming.  However, whether it is naive or misguided, I feel that this is the beginning of the next great chapter of my life.  Of course it could be me assigning my ambivalent emotions from being  at several crossroads at once. Maybe I am being tooled up for the next thing, at least that is my optimistic interpretation and anticipated relief talking.

How does one birth a new thing.  Some folks think you need the perspective of many years of experience to start something new.  I have a sense that may not be the case.  I am a product of following folks who have lead for years.  I have been fed but left with a longing.  I have searched outside our "walls" and found other ways that offer sustenance differently that nourish more thoroughly or at least differently.  If 80 % of our State is not coming for sustenance from within a church, how do we learn the lessons of how to feed, if we are looking at the ways of the 20% who are not reaching or feeding all.  Perhaps removing the old equipment and the old way of giving life, is the pathway to a new way of giving life.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Kingdom of Heaven is Like.......

As I sit in my class with David Trobisch....the magnificent, we are doing a little story telling.  We started this morning contextualizing the parable:  the Kingdom of God is like a treasure hidden in a field, that someone finds and hides and it brings them great joy, so they sell all their earthly treasures and buy the field.  The contextualizing had us exploring the notion that a person could find the kingdom of God and somehow procure it for themselves....that there is a limited amount of treasure that those who are "chosen" are keeping for themselves.

When thinking about new church, this ideas intrigues me.  The way we need to do church is changing.  In the UCC each independent congregation supports itself, how we support new church starting is thus somewhat problematic.  Especially if new church wont be able to support itself.  If we are supposed to reach everyone, not just the ones who are like us, who earn a living wage, or are in their productive years, how are we going to do a better job of expanding our radically inclusive church and share the treasure, rather than keeping it within our own real estate....hmmm maybe a pickup and a trailer full of lawn chairs are where or how we should be doing  do church.  


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Spanning the generational gap

I am excited at the idea of a new church start.....I am particularly excited to be trying to bring the Word and sacrament to populations that are currently not regularly in our UCC Churches.  Keeping infrastructure costs low and keeping the model simple should allow for easy startup and should keep the need to focus on finding funding sources as a smaller concern.

What does it look like....

An itinerant ministry that's infrastructure is a pickup truck and a tool trailer.  The population served is southern Maine campus'.  Sacramental ministry will be held at alternative times on different campus' (maybe USM Portland, Gorham, SMCC, Bowdoin, UNE, MCA)  Each  location will be grown as an indepedent group or congregation but will be tied to the larger "church"  through mission.  What is mission of the church?  Disaster response UCC style.  Which is disaster preparedness, long term recovery mission trips and participation on unmet needs committees and projects associated with those who fall through the cracks.  

Each location can decide what their specific missional focus will be, and the "church" will help facilitate plugging them in to that and creating a larger church community.  The larger church will mission together at least once a year but will try to do local, regional and national missioning.  We will also hold as a core objective ecumenical and interfaith mission opportunities in order to build greater understanding and respect for all of God's creation.  From each group on each campus, my objective would be to grow a leader/s and maybe even commission them to do worship as a way to help them find a ministerial voice and get them to have ownership.  If we provide a contextualized community of at each institution that suits our youth then they will stay attached through their college years and hopefully settle into a UCC church when they leave school.  Perhaps they will even transform a UCC church as a vocation or as a parishioner.

The Disaster Response Team for the Conference will act as sponsers to these locations and we may assign mentors from the team or sponsers or mentors for the students from the local UCC churches in order that we make additional connections for students to a community of faith.

I am not certain how this will be funded.  I think that the infrastructure will be obtained through grants.  I am envisioning that the funding for the operating funds may be obtained by pledges from the students or through the different institutions, maybe the local churches that are in the higher-ed towns and through grants.

I anticipate there will be ongoing ties between Grace, Street ministries and this Church.  I would like to have the school populations also interact with the folks served by Grace, but also maybe invite them to mission with us and find ways to have them work alongside one another.  

If the model is successful and takes off, there would opportunity to fine tune it and use it in other areas in Maine...Northern Maine, Eastern Maine etc.  I would also like to eventually tie it into the BTS community and draw students into it for mentorship so that they can contextualize what emerging church looks like.

I needed to get this down and out...please offer thoughts, comments,  prayers!!!!!





 

Monday, June 8, 2009

Capsized

I fulfilled a promise to my 8 year old yesterday to take her canoeing.  I should have been more cautious, I should have listened to my mother's warning, I should have engaged with my husband more about his trepidation about the adventure, I should have pushed back as I knew it would restrict my time and probably prevent me from getting to Open House for afternoon service. But I didn't heed the warnings or put my agenda first.  I wanted to have an adventure with my 8 year old.  

It seemed easy enough to go down to the old shipyard and put in.  So we went down and dropped in the canoe, put on our life jackets, and climbed into our canoe.  My daughter was so excited. Little waves were hitting the canoe, some lobster fisherman were unloading their traps on a dock a little distance from where we were putting in the canoe. I gave a little push off and we began to paddle.  I realized at once that my daughter didn't have the strength to balance my paddling and the wind instantly challenged my ability to navigate.  We got going a little ways and got pushed over to shallow water where we went aground.  I was able to get us off the ground but found our canoe sent sailing back to shore.  

With great effort, I got us pointed back out and headed toward big buoys where the cormorants were perching.  I watched my daughter lift her oar out to switch sides.  She swayed on her seat just as a big gust caught the canoe broadside.  We rocked one big rock and then over we went.
I will never forget the look of surprise, if not horror on her face as she went butt over teapot into the cold tidal river.  I knew instantly, my only job was to get to her and assure her we would be okay.  I reached for her, put my arm around her and said, "You okay?"  She was a little shaken but okay and her lips were starting to quiver into a pout.  I told her to stay calm for a minute and yelled out to the lobstermen working on their boat.  When I realized they noticed us and were preparing to get their boat over, I told her our job right now was to sing.  As we starting to sing, Down by the Old Mill Stream, she started to giggle and make up words to it that fit our position.  By the time the fisherman got over to us, we were singing and enjoying our adventure.

Everything turned out fine.  He lifted her into his boat and towed me and the canoe back to shore.  When I got to shore I trudged out of the water, shoulders slumped.  The profundity of the events hadn't hit me. I am not sure it has fully hit me even now.  How do we recognize a bad decision before it kills us?  Are we prepared for disaster when it hits?  How do we save our youth, as the boat capsizes without panicking about losing the boat?

I think of Mark 4:40 Jesus said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?"

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Be Thou My Vision

What a glorious song from the New Century Hymnal.  We need to let go of  the anxious voice in our heads, that clouds our vision with worries and let God by the power of the Holy Spirit fill us with the vision that allows us to be God's creating power on earth.

I had a dream.  My husband and I were driving down a street in a city or town that we have travelled through many times before.  We pass by our dream house that is for sale.  I know I shouldn't tempt myself, but I call and make an appointment to see it.  It is in great disrepair.  It needs tons of renovations and because it needs the renovations, we could probably afford it. When it comes right down to it, what scares us the most about buying it is leaving our comfortable home and community.  We are scared to take our children out of their school system and have them start in a new one.

Are dreams a way that God communicates with us?  Is God calling me to ministry that will ask me to leave my community?  My comfort?  Is it my home I am leaving?  Or my spiritual home?  Is this my dream or God's Vision...  All I know is that when I sang the song this morning at my home Church, I sang it with a pleading and praying heart to God...with a little trepidation and a little tear in my eye and a little nervous giggle in my chest......

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A Confusing Call

I attended a conference special meeting today to discuss and vote on the fate of a conference center...a real estate asset for our conference.  While it is a beautiful and historic property on a prize piece of waterfront, it has been draining our Conference's coffers and after years of contemplation, and a beckoning of the Holy Spirit, we voted to close it down and sell it.

I felt this was in some ways a challenge to my call.....Huh you say.  Well, I came from a background of Government Commercial Real Estate.  So I have managed institutional properties, done asset business plans, and life-cycle analyses for building systems.  And I felt the "old" real estate identity cropping up and offering comments when the "new" minister identity may have remained silent. I think that the Conference Ministers and the Coordinating Council did a superb job running the worship and negotiating their way through our polity and this difficult decision.

I guess this begs the question of am I ready to do the new thing?  Well I think the Holy Spirit is really at work in this process.  The scripture that was used for worship was 1 Samuel 3:1-10.  It is the call of Samuel. The first two times God tried to call him, he thought that it was Eli calling him and he was indeed confused and then ultimately scared to think it was God calling.  Tonight I ponder the call to new Church.....The Holy Spirit spoke today that the Conference is called to new C/church.  

When God calls again, let me ready to say, "Speak, I'm your servant and ready to listen."  It is one of my favorate Hebrew words...Hinene.  Here I am to do your will!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Behold, I do a new thing

I have been saying for 4 years since I entered seminary that I feel called to ordained ministry but not to anything I have ever seen before.  And now the Holy Spirit is filling in the blanks.  A non-building mission based church that will serve the campus populations and the un-churched doing disaster ministry UCC style.  A large component of this will be connecting populations for worship and mission who would not otherwise be connected.  We will make as focal points, ecumenism and interfaith work as well as bring together homeless ministries to campus ministries.  The church will be a pickup and a tool trailer, a bobble jesus, a phone and some magnetic side placards for the pickup.  I want to record all of these ideas as they bubble up to create my new church start plan.

Thursday, June 4, 2009