Monday, July 28, 2008

Tonight

I came home today, from a very long day at the church, and sat down with David to watch Episode Four of John Adams. He and I were both struck by how John addressed Abigail in his letters to her as "dear friend" -- this, during a separation of five long years. She was left at home, raising the children and keeping the farm going, while he was in Europe -- France and the Netherlands -- trying to help the American cause. David's remark was about the mutuality in their relationship shown by that term of endearment.

Both David and I saw ourselves, and each other, in John and Abigail Adams. We both laughed out loud at John's responses to various things, laughing at the recognition of their similarity to David's responses at times. Same with me. I apparently share some similar outlooks on life as Abigail.

When it was over, I wondered aloud whether Paul Giamatti bore any resemblance to the real John Adams. At that, my husband, the historian par excellence, pulled the David McCullough book, on which this HBO miniseries is based, from his shelf and we looked at several pictures of our second President. I think the resemblance is there.

I've posted recently about my new office (obtained when Young Man with Integrity moved out on his own), but David has a new office, too--the one we had both been sharing as a much too crowded office for both of us. David has turned that space into a "library." He must have 1,500 books in there. So when we finished perusing likenesses of Adams, I was given the tour of the "library" and a history lesson in some things my husband values. Ancient history, yes--a couple of books on Rome and the like, but it's mostly a collection of American history. You name it, he has it. Even a small book on the history of Miami (where David grew up), a publication that first awakened him to a sense of place in his life.

After our tour and conversation, we embraced and David called me "dear friend."

I came in here, to my own office, and began to sense a beautiful awareness of my deep contentment with life these days. Oh, I'm tired. I get cranky, even restless at times. But beneath all that...above all that...within all that busy-ness and the shallow day-to-day-ness of life, I am filled with gratitude.

I had two deliveries from the post office on my desk. One was a package of twelve cards by Jan Richardson...oh! they are so lovely. St. Catherine's labyrinth, on black with gold lettering.

The second package was from Amazon.com. My John O'Donohue books have arrived: Anam Cara and To Bless this Space Between Us. I opened the latter, and was amazed to find the print in a beautiful blue. Each page is, and I know will be, sheer delight to read. Next I read the introduction to Anam Cara which begins:


It is strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone....The
uttering of the word reveals how each of us relentlessly creates. Everyone
is an artist. Each person brings sound out of silence and coaxes the invisible
to become visible.


And it just gets better. As I read the introduction, that sense of the utter mystery that is my life--indeed, is all of our lives--possessed me and I felt transported. Transported, somehow, above the mundane, to that place that is a threshold between heaven and earth.

The Amazon.com box also contained A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines by Janna Levin. One of the reviews on the back says that it's reminiscent of Alan Lightman's Einstein's Dreams, which I loved. I heard about this book from Speaking of Faith podcast which titled the interview with Levin: "Purpose, Meaning and Mathematics."


Just holding that book in my hands, I suddenly saw myself in Pensacola, on vacation!, luxuriating on the beach (or at least on the balcony of our condo!) with this book, and the O'Donohue books, and reflecting deeply about what is important in life, how precious life is, and how utter meaningful it can be.

Ah, may it be so....

Friday, July 25, 2008

Catch Up Time...My Life These Days

David and I and the girls are going to Pensacola soon. (Young Man with Integrity will be here every day to look after the cat for us, bless his heart.) Oh, I'm so ready for a change of scenery. I guess it will be hot in Florida, but I look forward to some ocean breezes, at least. And maybe some evening walks on the beach. My friend, Seeker Executive, has a rental condo right there on Pensacola beach. Actually, it's her father's, and they are giving us a week there for free. Talk about GENEROUS! Thank you, Seeker Executive! (and I miss seeing you!)

My arm is hurting more yesterday and today than it has previously. Go figure. It just really aches, and when I rotate it there's a sharp pain still. Bummer.

Nevertheless, I'm busy, busy. The church I serve has no Christian Education at all during the summer, so I've come up with some extra projects for myself. In June I started the Evening Prayer (Taize style) service on Tuesday nights and that's been a very good thing. We have a good number of people, and of course I love that style of worship.

In July my project is a Letter Writing Table for social justice and community-building. This congregation gets together each and every Sunday in the fellowship hall after worship, so I'm going to set up a table, and make it very inviting, for people to just take five minutes to write a letter.

The table's decor is black and red. I brought a beautiful crystal lamp (one that I'm not using) from home, a beautiful red box for cards (birthday, get well, sympathy, etc), and I have a lovely holder for the pens and all the paper and envelopes. I have made, so far, four Topic Binders: Amnesty International, FISA and Constitutional issues, Environment, and Poverty. Inside the binders are information/background reading on the issues, sample paragraphs, or complete letters that they can just sign and send. I also have binders with addresses for federal, state and local government offices and officials. It's all there. Easy as pie. Just sit down, find a topic that trips your trigger, take five minutes to write or just sign a letter, address the envelope, place it in the Basket, and we'll put the postage on it and mail it for them from the church office.

Of course, I tried this at my previous church and it was a huge FLOP. Still, if only a few people, every now and then, take the time to write a letter on a cause they care about, or send a card to a friend, then it's a success.

My private practice in pastoral counseling and spiritual direction is going well. And, oh, I do so love it. It's very nourishing for me. With my new office set up at home now, I have two clients that come there--really nice! Plus, I'm hoping for a few people to sign up for the Women's Group I'm doing with a friend, and after that--more toward the holidays--I've been asked to do a Grief Group at another church in town. That, plus two speaking engagements, and I'm 'booked' for the Fall!

I am also working on a new thing for my clients who are interested in becoming more authentic. Authenticity begins with self-awareness, and self-awareness begins with deep reflective questioning. So I'm sort of putting all that together in a 'book' of questions. I have three or four clients right now whom I have given three questions to help them begin this sort of systematized process. I'm eager to get their feedback...

I'm really missing my friends, though. How to carve out time to just "be" with friends who really nourish my soul. I have a wonderful number of friends like that, but I don't see them enough. At breakfast this week with one friend, The Author, we decided to book a monthly breakfast together. That feels good. I need more of that, though.

Life gets so crowded so fast, doesn't it? David is bone tired, and I know how he feels. Summer is always his busiest time of the year at the university, plus he's been asked to chair an important new committee on Community Outreach, so that's got him hoppin', so to speak! He took a couple days off this week, but came home yesterday saying it made no difference--he was as tired as ever! Wish we were Europeans and had the whole month of August off from work! Wow, wouldn't that be restorative?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Seven Facts Meme

I've been tagged by Jan for a meme. Thanks, Jan, and I hope Dolly turns out to be pretty tame there in South Texas. Here are the rules:

a. List these rules on your blog.
b. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog.

1. My husband and I honeymooned in Frederickberg, Texas. The place we stayed wasn't very nice. He LOVED the museum there--something about WW2, I forget exactly. I consider our "real" honeymoon to be our trip to the Canadian Rockies. We both enjoyed that.

2. When I was 17 I wrote an article for "Employer of the Year." My boss, John S., won based on my little essay.

3. I had a strange experience 3 days ago. As I was driving home from church I felt a strong calling to become a 2nd grade teacher. I'm still "processing" that one.

4. I lived in Plano, Texas for a number of years. Never again.

5. I was a switchboard operator for an electronics manufacturing company in my last year of high school. "Continental Telephone Electronics, may I help you?" Stayed there and took my first two years of college at night school.

6. My sister is Controller of her company in Greenville, South Carolina. She's amazing.

7. I played "Baby Elephant Walk" on the piano in 4th grade for my school's talent show. I remember thinking I was a real 'hit'!


c. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.

Mompriest of Seeking Authentic Voice
Sabrina at Rev SS
Kate at Prairie Light
Diane at Faith in Community
Kathy at My Heart Leaps
Steve at Beyond Assumptions
Jiff at An Orientation of Heart

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

wishing for snow!

It's going to be another 100 degree day here. This is my little sister and I -- oh, those were the days!


Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Existentialist Analyzes Falling

I'm 52.

I don't fall easily.

Two days ago, walking along in my church's parking lot, in what can only be described as the utter caprice of the universe, I fell down. No obvious reason; I didn't trip. I suppose I just fell off my shoes.

It was unlike I've fallen in the past, where I take a few extremely ungracious steps forward in a hollow attempt to keep myself from actually hitting the ground.

No. This was SPLAT. One second I'm walking along, talking to Cindy, our church administrator, and the next I'm flat out on the rough cement.

I hurt my arm, and that's been an irritating inconvenience, but more than that, and the subject of this post, is how upsetting the whole experience is for me. Not the arm -- the fall itself.

I'm an existentialist, big-time. I'm fascinated by issues of responsibility, freedom, guilt, authenticity, reality, death, control. And there's something about falling, at 52 years old, anyway, that is quite death-like and quite without freedom to choose.

Falling, I experience being completely out of control. I can't predict it. I can't change the fact that it's happening. And being so out of control, no matter how much faith I have, there's an element of fear involved.

Falling is transforming. "Transformation" is the universe going about its work, i.e.: The process or result of changing from one appearance, state, or phase to another. When I found myself on the ground, the only orienting factor I had was Cindy's voice. Other than that, my whole world was not what it had been. I knew not where I was. I knew not who I was. Vaguely, I was aware of pain in my arm--but what's an "arm" when the whole concept of "body" has left me? And although I heard Cindy speaking, I couldn't understand her. The state of my being had abruptly metamorphosed from orientation to utter disorientation. Sheer terror of not knowing...is that what Alzheimer's patients feel as their disease progresses?

In a way, it's like waking up in the night. Gossamer floating awareness, then I open my eyes into darknss and wonder. Misty uncertainty. Vague sense of someone next to me. Breathing, his and mine. Slow movement back into my body. Ahhh, it's today......I'm me.......That's David....We're in our bedroom....

Falling is like that. Slowly I come back into myself, now changed and dealing with a different reality of fractured arm. Tears come but don't overflow. Laughter comes as the image of what I must've looked like appears in my mind's eye.

But then the next few hours are a mixture of being practical and doing what I need to do, while also experiencing repeated invasions of fear. After orientation returns, the terror of what happened is its unwanted guest. The shock of complete freefall to the hard, rough cement. The horror of not knowing ... anything. The powerful sense of needing to be cared for and held--no change there from when I was seven and fell off my bike and cried and cried and cried. There's a terrible aloneness involved in pain. And then there's the memory of those moments of not knowing. Perhaps it's that memory more than anything else that leaves my whole world turned upside down for several hours.

I've been told that I analyze too much.

Ya think? :-)

Prayer and trust

The saga continues, but it's good news. I went to the orthopedic doc yesterday to get the cast, as my regular doctor said to do, but this guy said a cast wasn't appropriate. Just a sling. He showed me the x-ray and said it looked like the radial bone was pushed forward a bit. He could cast it, he said, but it would be six months before I could move my elbow after the cast came off. Better to try to move it as much as I can stand the pain in the next three weeks, then it should be fine. So, good news there.

The pain pills made me sleepy, so I cancelled my appointments yesterday, keeping only the wedding rehearsal last night. Wedding is tonight and I'll figure out a way to do that, holding my notes in my left hand, I guess.

......................
I've been asked to do a workshop on prayer at our regional assembly in October. In my reading, I found this by John Mogabgab:

'Come,' my heart says,' seek his face.' Your face, Lord, do I seek" Ps. 27:8 Prayer begins when we open the shutters of our heart and send forth the dove of desire for God. This reaching out with longing is often too low-pitched for words. It is the initial gesture by which God's love for us returns to God through our search for the face of the Beloved. The draw of love then leads us through darkened landscapes where the world dreams its tortured dreams. We seek God's face by feeling for it in the thick opacity of the world. We stroke God's face of faith marking the countours of God's suffering love. In the shadow lands of hurt and hope, prayer draws us into the tenderest mutuality of trust in exquisite intimacy."

The tenderest mutuality of trust. Wow.

That is my prayer this morning.

Friday, July 18, 2008

My Prayer Today--A Serious Ouch

i fell down yesterday. yep. walking in the parking lot of my church, i must've stepped on a rock and fell off my [flat] shoes. dumb....and what a shocker....i really don't know what happened. one moment i was walking along and the next moment i was on the ground. splat! our church administrator was with me....her voice was the only orienting factor in my life....for several moments i didn't know where or even who i was...all i knew was cindy's voice and the pain in my arm.

this was about 9:30....as it happened, i had made an appointment for 10:30 with my doctor about the sore throat, so i just drove myself, using my left arm only, straight to the doc.... david really thought there might be a small break in my arm....the doctor sent me to get it x-rayed, and it turns out that he was right....i get a cast on it today. ugh.

typing with the left hand only is a drag.

i have a wedding rehearsal at 6 tonight. can't miss that.

soooo, my prayer this morning is: dear god, please give me strength to get thru this day with grace.... help me not fall into the pity party that i often do when i'm feeling pain..... help me remember that this is simply part of embodiment, not the end of the world..... help me see this for what it is--a minor inconvenience not to be exaggerated.... grace. grace. grace.
i walk --and i even fall -- surrounded by grace..... thank you, holy one. thank you.

amen

katherine

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Prayer Today -- question and gratitude

What is my prayer today? Well, dear God, You know that the tiredness I felt yesterday morning became a sore throat in the afternoon, and, while it's a bit better this morning, I can tell it is still there, along with my ears that are strangely hurting. Yes, okay, I'll call my doctor to see if I can get an appointment this morning.

Thank you for the new client yesterday; I'm grateful, and I anticipate good things for her and for me in working further with her. Holy One, you know my friend asked me about spiritual direction--I continue to seek your guidance about that. I don't want to turn her down, but is that my false ego? what is best for her, God? I do think it took quite a lot of courage for her to ask me. Last night as I was reading I came across something that applies to her so beautifully...were you speaking to me, perhaps, through that?

I felt such tender love yesterday morning for Lovely Passionate Feminist. It was after 9 am, so I knocked on her door and asked if she had class that morning. She JUMPED awake and hurriedly got ready. She can't stand to be late, so I knew she was upset. I quickly made her a cup of coffee, but then remembered that her class didn't start at 9:40 like I was thinking. It starts at 10:00, so perhaps I shouldn't have awoken her. She rushed into the kitchen; I express my concern, and she says no, she did oversleep. She likes to get to class 15 minutes early. Ahh...I can resonate with that, I think. Super responsible. As she walked out the door and I reminded her not to rush, I felt such deep love for her. Dear God, may she continue to grow and expand who she is. May her sense of self deepen. May she become increasingly the woman You are calling her to be.

An article I read last night talked about Body Awareness as we wake up in the morning. So as I awoke today, I stretched in bed, let myself feel the soft covers--luxuriating in their soft feel against my skin--and I listened to my husband's breathing next to me. You were there, O God. Awareness of my body brought an awareness of You. Wow.

Give me reminders today to think of You, dear God. Help me sense Your Presence.
Amen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My Prayer Today

I pray for LIFE today, dear God. I'm tired and I have too much to do. I don't want to drag around. I don't want my tired body to drag my spirit down with it. I don't want to do what is unnecessary to do.

So I pray for guidance on how to maintain a really creative tension between working and taking care of myself. I know, Holy One, that if I can remain aware of You today the tired feeling will be overcome by the Loving Energy You Are. I know as well that remaining aware of You will help me know when to stop working and get some rest.

Here You are. Come, Holy Spirit, come.

Katherine

Ah. In Thomas Merton's Book of Hours I read: Our souls rise up from our earth like Jacob waking from his dream and exclaiming: "Truly God is in this place and I knew it not!" God becomes the only reality, in Whom all other reality takes its proper place--and falls into insignificance.

May it be so.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Oh, the sacredness of space...


Here are some photos of my new office. It's tiny, but it has a window to the street (one of only two in this house), and I've been able to make it really mine in terms of color and functionality.

When I was five and six years old we lived in Nederland Texas, east of Houston. I have this memory of a neighbor's house--the children there were older so we didn't play over there much. But on this one rare occasion all the younger kids, like me, were in that house. And forever in my memory are the sheer purple drapes the mom had hung in one of the bedrooms. Oh! I thought they were beautiful! The windows were open, too, so there was movement and they sort of floated in the room. Because of that image in my mind's eye, I decided to decorate my office in purple. Purple drapes (not sheer, though), purple lamps, and I arranged some flowers with purple and pink in a purple vase. I love it!

I love sitting in this room. The feel of it is cozy and beautiful, and I feel a sacredness here. Like when I got up early this morning to go over everything for the service--I was able to sit here and relax and jut let God's presence calm my spirit.

Belden Lane's Landscapes of the Sacred begins with this quote: "Once in a while, we ought to concentrate our minds upon the remembered earth. We ought to give ourselves up to a particular landscape in our experience; to look at it from as many angles as we can, to wonder upon it, to dwell upon it. We ought to imagine that we touch it with hands at every season and listen to the sounds that are made upon it. We ought to imagine the creatures there and all the faintest motions of the wind. We ought to recollect the glare of the moon and the colors of the dawn and dusk."

Lovely.

Lane then begins writing by saying that sacred space is "storied space. Particular locales comes to be recognized as sacred because of the stories that are told about them." And he mentions Abraham heading toward Canaan.

Canaan my little office isn't. Nothing so grand. But it does fulfill one or two of Lane's axioms for "sacred space." First, he says that "sacred space is not chosen, it chooses." Interesting, huh? He writes about a space on the slopes above the Mississippi in which he was unexpectedly "found" by a clearing in the woods. He perceived it as "a place quietly seeking me out, whispering beyond all my previous, conscious efforts to locate and fix the place of power. Sacred space is a construction of the imagination that affirms the independence of the holy."

Hmmm...I have to say that I created this little office with a hope of its being sacred. But he's right; it didn't feel holy until this morning when I simply relaxed and allowed God to find me here.

Second, Lane says sacred space "is ordinary place, ritually made extraordinary." He writes that his "undistinguished clearing the woods was made remarkable by the ritual act of silence which I had assumed there. The discipline of waiting had the effect of sanctifying the site in my memory."

Yes, and I think in my case, the discipline of beauty had a sanctifying effect yesterday. I spent several hours Saturday hanging the drapes, setting up the lamps and organizing books and the closet just the way I want them. It's amazing how important color is to me. I have other colors I enjoy, but when I put those lilac colored drapes up yesterday, I was so deeply pleased.

And the third of Lane's axioms is that sacred space "can be tred upon without being entered. Its recognition is existentially, not ontologically discerned. It is intimately related to states of consciousness." He writes that he had "criss-crossed all the bluffs above the river before, but it was only on this occassion, from this given perception, that I saw the clearing as holy ground."

Yes, while it doesn't depend entirely on me--God is at work here, too--my little office is sacred space when I am present to the Presence of the holy.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Five. Camping out? I don't think so...

The Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals:

Mother Laura writes: "We're settling into our new new apartment, and after a lifetime at Montessori Katie is having a fantastic summer at YMCA day camp. ....So, in celebration of summer, please share your own memories and preferences about camp."

1. Did you go to sleep away camp, or day camp, as a child? Wish you could? Or sometimes wish you hadn't?
Never did. We weren't church folks and I guess we didn't have the money, either. My mom's idea of camping out was when the electricity blew.

2. How about camping out? Dream vacation, nightmare, or somewhere in between?
It's just never been on my radar. I don't like bugs. I don't like hot weather. I do like nice soft comfortable mattresses. If we could find someplace with a nice cool breeze, that sounds great.

3. Have you ever worked as a camp counselor, or been to a camp for your denomination for either work or pleasure?
I never have and I never will. I did go to my denominiation's camp once for a Singles Event back maybe 15 years ago. Lumpy beds. Giant water-bugs, poor food, and the heat sent me home a day early. That was the last time I've been there!

4. Most dramatic memory of camp, or camping out?
see above!

5. What is your favorite camp song or songs? Hmmm, Kum-ba-ya, I guess!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

sermon writing

Sometimes writing a sermon is a pulling-your-hair-out-experience ... AAARRRGH!!!!!!

I've been at it since 6 a.m., six straight hours (well almost, with a few short breaks!) and have only now found a way in.

(photo fr michaelhyatt, google images)

McCain's Idea of a Joke

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Place Within that Cannot Be Wounded

I listened to a podcast of "Speaking of Faith" this afternoon. Krista Tippett was interviewing John O'Donoghue and his beginning words were these:

Your identity is not equivalent to your biography. There's a place in you where you've never been wounded; where there's a seemlessness in you, and where there is a confidence and tranquility in you. And I think the intention of prayer and spirituality and love is now and again to visit that inner kind of sanctuary.


There's a place in you where you've never been wounded.

Wow. Just recently I said those exact words to a couple of different people. I was stunned to hear the words echoed in this way.

I know that place within me. One night as I drove home from particularly powerful group therapy session, I was intensely focusing on and processing the experience. Before I knew it, I was about a block from home. It was then that I remembered that my housemate's parents were visiting and staying with us. I wasn't finished processing, so I drove into the parking lot of a grocery store, took out my journal and began madly writing everything down. As I did, I began to feel my soul open up and I KNEW, BEYOND ANY DOUBT, THAT THERE IS A PLACE WITHIN ME THAT CAN NEVER NEVER NEVER BE HARMED. IN THAT PLACE I AM INVIOLATE.
Those were the words I used that night, but as I thought about it later, I changed "harmed" to "damaged." It's not as if I cannot hurt down to the core of me, but the hurt won't damage me. It won't damage me because that is the place within me where hurt transforms into compassion. The core of me, my soul, the image Dei within me, cannot be damaged. It's like the beautiful crystal that I have a photo of here on my blog...that spark of light that is always shining forth and is indestructible, the very energy of the universe within what is truly and authentically me.

As I write this, it occurs to me that I need to remember it the next time my fear of death shows up. That night I experienced what is indestructible within me. I actually knew it. Its presence filled up my car! (well, it seemed that way)


Hmmm, yesterday I listened to Krista Tippett's interview with Thich Nhat Hanh. I have never thought of this in Buddhist terms, but I wonder if this was an experience of enlightenment.

If so, it's like the Jack Kornfield book's title: After the Ectasy the Laundry

How true!

Wildly Loved

I get daily devotionals from the United Church of Christ. Today's was especially beautiful, helping me imagine how it would be--how I would be--if I truly believed that God was head-over-heels GONE for me. Wow. Actually, imagining this isn't difficult for me, but I do need reminders.

It's not difficult because of a dream I had, oh, about 20 years ago now. I was simply walking in the mall (of all places). I was walking in the mall, but I carried myself as if I were beautiful. My head was held high. My shoulders were back and I was standing up tall. I was swinging my arms and smiling. I was confident about taking up space on the earth, for I knew that I was loved completely and that my life was a gift from God--a gift not to be wasted but lived to the fullest.

That dream itself was a gift from God, sent straight to me just like so many biblical characters! The gift said, "Katherine, this is who I have created you to be, now you GO FOR IT, girl!"

I'm smiling. Hope you will be, too, when you read this UCC devotional:
_________________________

Song of Solomon 2:8–13 Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come and the voice of the turtledove is heard in the land.

Reflection by Anthony B. Robinson---Aren't these lines of Scripture lovely? Read them aloud to yourself once more. Scholars debate whether the Song of Solomon is human love poetry that is all about the love of two people, or a metaphor of God's love for Israel and the Church. But does it have to be one or the other? Can't it be both? If we can entertain that possibility, here's another: could you imagine that God is as wild and crazy about you as a teenager gone hook-line-and-sinker, head-over-heels in love? Often, it seems, we think and speak of God's love for us as cool, restrained and matter-of-fact, and frankly sort of boring. But is that really the way love is? Imagine this: God is just crazy about you! Could that be? Try, this one day, believing that God is just wild about you.

Prayer: This day, dear God, help me imagine, that despite my flaws and foibles, I am precious in your sight and beloved (wildly) by you. Amen.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Recovery

A friend and I are planning to facilitate a six-week group for women this Fall. We're calling it:

Centered Living:
Creating Your Authentic Life

I hope we can get the word out to some people who might be interested. (If you're out there, let me know!)

My friend is an LPC and a certified Gottman therapist. We're going to concentrate on giving women some tools so that they can practice living from that centered place within them. We'll deal with the obstacles to that as well.

Speaking of obstacles....We have planned this for six Wednesday evenings at my church, but now my church is considering moving all committee meetings to one night each month, and, of course, that night just happens to be Wednesday, so we'll have to see how that plays out. I'm hoping my friend can do Thursday evenings if it turns out to be necessary.

Anyway, I'm sure we'll find a day of the week that suits us both. I'm looking forward to it.

Recently, I was reminded how important this kind of thing is. I was invited to be with someone who is participating in an outpatient recovery program at a local hospital--it was Family Night and all her family is in another state, so I gladly said I would stand in their stead. What a powerful evening. The facilitator ("leader" might be a better term since he did 90% of all the talking) was a hoot. His hair was long-ish, below his collar, and he was dressed up like Wyatt Earp with the cowboy shirt and vest, a scarf tied around his neck, and very distinctive boots. Turns out, he's a cancer survivor. The cancer was in his neck, so he dresses that way to remind himself how strong he is. Each morning when he ties that scarf around is neck he is reminded that he's alive. And I think he really enjoys being an individualist like that. Anyway, when he spoke I forgot all about his get-up. Very wise, amazingly articulate, and full of story after story from his own life to illustrate his points.

One of the participants spoke about her authoritarian church background. Saddened me greatly to hear once again of how TOXIC churches and church-teaching can be. She was taught since childhood to bury herself, so lessen herself, to think that she was unworthy at her core. The leader did a great job--he didn't attack her church teachings at all. He went at what he knew was in her deepest heart, that sense of goodness that he knew was there. Wow.

These recovery programs are so vital. I could feel the Spirit of God in that room nudging all of us toward healing. It was palpable. The partipants were in their second week and they had already bonded; it was easy to tell that they loved being there. I was so impressed, and reminded, as I listened to the leader that night, of my own journey toward recovery. It's been tough, but I could really rejoice at the personal work I've done, mistakes and all. And I had a deep sense of satisfaction that night, a feeling of fulfillment with the work we do in ministry and pastoral counseling. Moving toward wholeness--what could be more important?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Blogging

I was extolling the benefits of blogging today. A friend of mine is a poet...she writes such beautiful things, from the simple pleasures she finds in gardening and watching birds and rabbits in her backyard, to her heavier musings on the human condition. She has blessed me greatly by giving me copies of some of her poems over the last three years or so, but I'd love to be able to just go to her blog and read them whenever I like.

My friend lives alone, too, so I was telling her about the real community that emerges among bloggers. Still, she was a hard sell. She's resistant to the idea.

Blogging isn't for everyone. But the conversation got me thinking about how important blogging has become for me. It's given me an important means of self-expression. It's a way to keep in touch with Linda and Jan and Kathy and AvaNell, fellow bloggers whom I know in "real" life. And it's allowed me to 'meet' others and come to know something about them--you and your lives. I love that. There are amazing people out there blogging, clergy and lay who care deeply and express themselves in beautiful and fun and sometimes incredibly moving ways.

My friend may not want to blog, and that's okay. But as for me, I'm grateful for the opportunity--the gift, really, of being able to 'connect' in new ways.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Cherish Your Ministry

Today was one of those incredibly productive days. You know--when the brain is firing on all cylinders. It made me realize how often my brain is barely firing at all these days. I blame it on the heat. As always in the summertime in Texas, it's too damn hot.

Nevertheless, on this exceptional day, I went to church (preaching next Sunday, not today), facilitated a Wellness Ministry meeting, came home and worked on all kinds of little things that I've needed to get done for a l.o.n.g. time! Feels good to get them off my desk.

Here's something I wrote for the Area newsletter. I'm on our Spiritual Life Committee, and we want to remind pastors of the importance of attending to their spiritual lives....
_______________

Cherish Your Ministry

Most clergy experience a rich sense of fulfillment in serving their congregations—fulfillment that provides zest and energy. Yet, if we’re honest, most of us have also had times when our vocation seemed so demanding that our spirits dried up and a sense of apathy pervaded. Perhaps we did our best to deny that feeling and kept trudging along, hoping that no one would notice our lethargy and boredom.

If you’re like me, you know that our calling to ministry is a precious thing. There are times when the intense awareness of what a privilege it is to serve Christ’s Body on this earth just takes my breath away. But our calling to ministry is also fragile and must be tended carefully if it is to remain vibrant and authentic. Caring for others, serving and leading them, telephone calls at inconvenient times, disagreements and misunderstandings, and just flat out too much to do—whew! our work can easily deplete all our spiritual reserves. If we don’t take the time to replenish our souls, then ennui, a bone-deep weariness, and burnout can be serious threats.

Attending to our spiritual life can take a vast variety of forms. A hike in nature can do wonders for some of us. For others, regular meetings with other colleagues in a truly safe environment where we can share deeply will restore our ability to sense God’s presence. For me, it is time away that seems to help the most. I have attended most of the Five Day Academies for Spiritual Formation since this program first came to our Area in the 1990s, and it always helps me reconnect to God and to myself. I’m reminded of why ministry is so vital to who I am, and I come away refreshed and energized.

TBA’s Spiritual Life Committee, chaired by Rev. S____, is gently reminding pastors that paying attention to our spiritual life is vital to authentic ministry. We hope you’ll consider the Five Day Academy, March 8-13, 2009. If that doesn’t work for you, we are also offering some deeply enriching one-day get-aways led by Rev. D ______ on September 22, November 17, and January 19. And we’ll be publicizing other spiritual formation opportunities during the year.

Cherish your ministry. I’m pretty sure God does.

Friday, July 4, 2008

July 4th

We had a wonderful holiday today. Young Man with Integrity, his girlfriend J and her little 2 y.o. M came over. Then Life Giving and her entire family joined us for the cookout. With Lovely Passionate Feminist here for the summer, we had seven adults and three children under the age of three. Wow. It was so much fun.

When I called to invite Life Giving, Little J got on the phone and asked me whether we were going swimming (they were going to a swim party later today at someone else's house). I said, "No, honey-bunnies, no swimming over here." Well, D heard my end of the conversation, so before anyone arrived he went to Target and bought a little inflatable swimming pool for both little girls to enjoy. And it was such a neat one. As you can sort of see from the photo, it has a little cover on it. You hook the hose to the cover and it comes out as RAIN inside the pool. Pretty cute! Anyway, so sweet of D to do that. And the girls had such fun. I took some little plastic bowls to them, and of course they played with them, splashing and carrying on. Turns out little M didn't like to have water poured over her--she still a bit too young for that, I think. At one point I took one of the bowls and started running around the little pool splashing water on Julia, and BOY, could she splash me back! ha! I got soaked!! J is almost 3 now--I have a photo of her when she was about 11 months on the sidebar of the blog. I was holding her and it looks like she was really telling me off big time! So cute. She's grown so much...talks all the time and is just SO smart. Little M is just now saying some words--not sentences yet. We went inside for a while and J asked if we could watch Beauty and the Beast. I put it in and she (J) ran to sit in my lap. At that, little M did the same thing, so for a while I had BOTH of them, just completely content sitting with me watching the movie together. Wish I had a picture of that!

We had hot dogs and hamburgers, good conversation, and great fun with the kiddos. Tiny M (Life Giving's one month old little boy) is SOOOO cute. The photo is of Lovely Passionate Feminist with Tiny M in the entry to the living room. He's a precious baby. Just like J, he's a good baby, too. "Low Maintenance," says my friend.

After everyone left D and I finished watching the Bourne movie trilogy. This week we have watched The Bourne Identity, the Bourne Supremacy, and the Bourne Ultimatum. They saved the best for last (if you like spy movies, which we both do).

As I write, D is moving one of the huge bookcases from the living room to his "new" office. Since Young Man with Integrity moved out, I have taken his former bedroom and made it into my office, so now D has our old previously-shared office all to himself. I think we'll both enjoy have a little space just to ourselves.

Good day. Hope yours is, too!