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


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