Thursday, December 21, 2006

To take a pause...

It has been a long while since I posted. I feel inclined to apologize for that, and I am not particularly pleased with this inclination. I imagine it comes from the deep seeded need to please as many people as possible with my limited life and abilities. (They say recognizing it is the first step...)

Perhaps it is the time of year - this Advent time of preparation - that has us all running ragged. Very few people are able to find the time to prepare themselves for this amazing gift. I find myself writing newsletter articles, bulletin inserts, and sermons about taking time for preparation, but then find myself in the hypocrisy of busy-ness.

In some ways, this allows me, in my own difficulties to reach out to a congregation, reminding them that we are all in this journey of Advent together- seeking a time of peace and reflection in a world that demands results and perfection.

But in other ways, I wonder how I can be a model for others in their prayer life when mine seems to move to the bottom of the to-do list. The one place I told myself, as I left seminary, it would never go.

So we come today- to the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere. In this dark night, a night that may show you blizzards, ice storms or clear northern lights may you find the little bit of light that shows the way:
The way of forgiveness for what has been left undone
The way of hope for living in all you have done
The way of grace for simply being you- and knowing that is enough.

Light one candle to watch for Messiah, and take a deep breath of renewal.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The first day of December

It is a beautiful day. It seems like and understatement when I look out the window with the first cup of steaming coffee- watching the sunlight glisten off of newly fallen snow, the sky is the winter purple gray, the snow falls in such a pattern that a highly trained set engineer would be proud. It is a beautiful day. It is always a treat when the weather matches my vision of what the first day of December should look like.

It is also a difficult day. I know of family members who are preparing for a funeral, of parishoners that prepare for medical tests, of friends who are carefully repairing broken relationships and seeking healing.

It is a day of rejoicing. Dear ones have heard good news of bodies free of cancer, the influenze epidemic is on the decline, and we are celebrating baptisms, new members and children's concerts this whole month.

As they say in a congregation I served in Chicago: God is good all the time, All the time, God is good.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Seeking simplicity

I find myself irritated by the long lists of things that must be completed by the end of this day. Like many of my friends and colleagues, I am frustrated because I remember a time where I relaxed into and soaked up this time of Thanksgiving. I recognize that the dream sequence in my mind of "Christmas Story' like muted colors and bells chiming in the background is really in my head. But the longing has tapped a deeper need.

When our lives are so full- full of lists, of planning, of visits, or caring for others, of planning others' time of space and worship... the need to be embraced by the holiday of security and warmth only grows.

It is often a struggle to find Holy Ground during these holidays (not to mention good holy grounds- that weak Lutheran coffee only abounds!) especially when our feet rarely touch it.

May your longing reach out to others who are longing also- as our souls seek a place of warmth.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Giving Thanks

The Friday Five this week invites us to share (at least) 5 people or things we are thankful for. I imagine that you would also find, as I did, once you begin this list, there are certainly more than 5 items that line up. I invite you also to consider and actually write or verbalize these things for yourself and for your community and loved ones.

I give thanks to God for these things:
1. For life, for breath, for the opportunity to live in the love of God.
2. for the opportunity to serve as pastor for this congregation of wonderful people.
3. For my family- my husband, my sweet puppy, my mother, sister and brother, my extended family- they continue to shape who I am.
4. For my friends, who are my family as well. Even though distance and time may separate our friendship, we still remain close in our hearts and minds.
5. For the privilege to write in this space. To have the opportunity to use and own a computer, to have the funds to use the internet. To have the freedom to speak my mind and my heart. This is not something I take lightly- many do not have this chance.

the rest, well, I look up, see all that surrounds me, and I give thanks.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Gifts of the Spirit

The Gifts of the Spirit are an amazing thing. The beauty of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control encounters us in many ways.

A new encounter greeted the Thursday morning women's group as they came into church this morning. The gifts were written on brightly colored poster board, and "self-control" covered the rather large hole inadvertantly made by a young man at confirmation last night...

Ah, the gifts of the spirit, they come to us in so many ways!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Holy Ground: Sweet Land

Films, whether Hollywood, Independent or Foreign seem to be released in a "feast or famine" trend in this society. I will go months without any one catching my eye (which could, of course be related to the fact that theater (singular) has one per week and the cinema 6 is 30 miles away) and other times, like this month, there are a whole host of films I can hardly wait to experience.

I have seen many great films in the past couple weeks, but the most wonderful was, this past Sunday in the 'big city,' Sweet Land.

This achingly beautiful film lifts up tension that was felt in the 1920s and is still felt today. The need for community, for love, for compassion and for hope is so amazingly brought together in this film.

Of course, the beautiful farmed prairie also hit my heartstrings as I was treated to images of home. If you get a chance, experience this movie.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A November morning

Today I received an unexpected gift. The gift of time. With this unexpected gift, the gift of sunshine, of a clear, crisp day, a finished sermon and a great cup of coffee has me taking deep breaths for the first time in a while. (deep breaths also due in part to the fact that my head cold has finally declared a retreat)

What beauty is found on these cold autumn days. Even though snow has come and gone a few times, it is still autumn. Even though this far north the trees have long since lost their leaves, the beauty of this season is evident.

The beauty that is the birdsongs around the feeders. The beauty that is the woodfire smoke in the air. The beauty that is the crisp breeze that sharpens the skin and tingles the nose. The beauty that is the hearty bowl of soup that energizes the whole body.

There is a clarity that comes with this time of year. When one can see, hear, and smell for miles. Sometimes this stark clarity can be difficult and can feel like a death of summer.

But for most who live in northern climes, it is permission to experience the world in its simplicity. What a gift.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Where are all those pastors going?

I came across this post in a fellow blogger's musings- and it rang quite true. The Post while not authored by this blogger is sparking good conversation. And it reminds me of an earlier post I made in August, Industry: Religion.

It comes at a time when I feel like the program director of this congregation rather than the pastor. It is so difficult to find the time to develop my own spiritual capacities so I can minister to others. Rather, my time is spent fundraising, finding youth and sunday school curricula, hiring staff and organizing.

At seminary, I would often ask for classes in non-profit management and administration. As the daughter of a pastor, I had an idea that this would be necessary. To a time I was told not to worry, someone in the congregation would have expertise on staffing, finances and education. No classes on that here, just study your Hebrew.

Now, I would never trade my study of theology and Bible, but this seems to be an outright denial of the pastoral call as it plays out in congregations. My previous experience working at a non-profit helped my make some initial good decisions in administration- the rest, well, they come from a personnel savy husband, a book and gut feelings.

If I was called to "schedule, mediate and administer the programs" I would be less likely to find myself tired, sick and dreaming of a job on CSI where the cases are solved in 1 hour with commercials.

But my letter of call says "preach, teach and admisister the sacrements" to be a pastor to the church of God. If the former job description is a part of this call, let's just name it for all the future pastors.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Mondays... Holy Grounds

I love Mondays. I used to dread Mondays, so I find that parish ministry has given me the gift of reclaiming this day. It is, historically, the day of the moon, and in our busy western culture, the first day of the work week.

But for me, Monday is my Sabbath, a day of rest and renewal. It's my day to stay in my pjs a good portion of the morning, enjoy wonderful dark, fair trade coffee, read the news online and clear out the clutter from my head and soul.

And in many ways, isn't that what the Sabbath was created for? Yes it is a day of rest, a day dedicated to God, but God didn't encourage this for God's sake, but for our own. Sabbath time. I think that this is a good mission for the world. All the overworked people, all the frazzled parents, all the folks who work three jobs and then come home to care for children and aging parents.

How can we encourage Sabbath without making it another thing to add to the week's list?

For now, however, my energy will be giving toward the lovely coffee and the faint, yet beautiful sunlight filtering in the window. Mission: Sabbath for All! will begin tomorrow.

Friday, October 27, 2006

In honor of all-hallows eve....

Ghoulish Friday Five

1. Do you enjoy a good fright?
Well, actually, no. I really, really dislike being scared. Especially when I return to an empty house or drive back in the woods to sleep. Even though I understand they are funny, over the top horror flicks: keep those Friday the 13th movies. I don't need them!

2. Scariest movie you've ever seen
The very first scary move I ever viewed was actually the TV miniseries of Salem's Lot. The TV version of the Stephen King Novel. As the three of us kids watched the vampire kid scratch at the window, well, we all slept in our parents room that night!

3. Bobbing for apples: choose one and discuss:
a) Nothing scary about that! Good wholesome fun.
b) Are you *kidding* me?!? The germs, the germs!
Those of you who know me, well, I do lean toward the yuckiness factor of this activity. I have no problem if you stick your face in there, but I will not be following suit. Too much snot and spit swimming around in there.

4. Real-life phobia
I still have yet to see Arachnophobia- no need to see little bugs scurry around. Especially those of the Eight leg variety. Sadly enough that is the main thing that keeps me from sleeping under the stars these days... wondering if those creatures are scurrying into places they should not.

5. Favorite "ghost story"
As per number 1, only the funny ones. The ones that end up with the old lady ghost asking for her arm returned or some crazy thing with eyeballs in soups. Although I've always loved the story of the woman who served her abusive husband up to the officers investigating his disappearance.... is that a ghost story? maybe not. But there is a slight gory factor there, right?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Holy Grounds and Frosty Mornings

There is something almost magical about a morning frost. When the eastern horizen is red and purple the colors reflect off of each window, each tree branch, each deer grazing on the lawn, each blade of grass- and for one moment, there is a cold blaze of color and light.

It is breath taking. Especially if you step outside to experience it and the steam of your coffee blends with your breath.

There are days thatI struggle with living in such a remote, wilderness place. And then there are mornings like this one- where I am reminded of the beauty that resides in every created place and moment.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Procrastination tools

A new and great sermon procrastination tool! You too can find out your
Personal Dna
and have your 'True self revealed." I hope, though, for your sake that these revelations won't be entirely surprising.

I share this mostly for you to experience your own pretty colors.

Try it and perhaps you will have sermon fodder- or at least a good use of sermon prep time!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Rainy Autumn Days

Today is the first day since September 1 that I feel I have some sense of peace about this church work stuff. It's been a long month and a half. Rather than January 1 or Advent, it seems like September is the beginning of the church year- and the chaos continues through October when the first big snow settles everything down a bit.

This is my second autumn in formal parish (read: paid) ministry and sometimes I still look over my shoulder when someone asks for "the pastor." I still feel like the little kid at ministerial meetings, I am 20 years younger and way more female than pastors in my conference. One can't help but wonder... when will I feel all growed up?

No matter- today is a day of peace. The ladies' holiday "bizaare" has ended, there is no council meeting tonight, confirmation has be cancelled for tomorrow. I have some "Dead Like Me" episodes on Netflix and a beautiful bottle of red wine to bo with some southern baked chicken and grits.

The journey to winter has begun.
Today is the first day since September 1 that I feel I have some sense of peace about this church work stuff. It's been a long month and a half. Rather than January 1 or Advent, it seems like September is the beginning of the church year- and the chaos continues through October when the first big snow settles everything down a bit.

This is my second autumn in formal parish (read: paid) ministry and sometimes I still look over my shoulder when someone asks for "the pastor." I still feel like the little kid at ministerial meetings, I am 20 years younger and way more female than pastors in my conference. One can't help but wonder... when will I feel all growed up?

No matter- today is a day of peace. The ladies' holiday "bizaare" has ended, there is no council meeting tonight, confirmation has be cancelled for tomorrow. I have some "Dead Like Me" episodes on Netflix and a beautiful bottle of red wine to bo with some southern baked chicken and grits.

The journey to winter has begun.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Holy Ground: Pipes and Drums

I'm not certain when I first encountered Native American rituals, but I don't think, growing up as a white girl in the northern great plains I was given a great cultural respect for my neighbors. But as I got older, met people from the Dakota, Lakota and now Anishnabe tribes, my respect and awe has only grown.

So I found myself very honored this past Saturday when a gentleman agreed to enter into a sanctuary that was not his own, and perform a pipe and drum ceremony in honor of the woman whose life we were celebrating. This is not a usual thing for my congregation. There is much racism, much hate in this community. But it was wonderful to see how this woman, even in her death brought together people who would usually never sit side by side in a holy place.

Holy ground means so many different things for people. Wars have been fought over it, wars are still waged today over holy ground. Will there ever be a time when we can say there is enough holiness to go around? That my holy ground can be your holy ground- even if we don't name the holiness the same name?

Mi taku oyasin (Lakota) "We are all related."

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Five: Boo Boo Alert

1) Are you a baby about small injuries? Yes, I must admit it, I have very little pain tolerance. But I'm getting a little better, and now see it as an opportunity to sport Sponge Bob Square Pants bandaids.

2) What's the silliest way you have ever hurt yourself? After a week of solid rain, the first nice day I took my cabin of campers (summer camp) mudsliding. I recieved a nice gash on my right arm, helped a camper with a matching one, and received a nice tongue lashing from the camp nurse and camp director (yes, I am still the coolest counselor!)

3) Who took care of your boo-boos when you were a child? Mainly my mother, because she was a nurse. We had a whole closet medicine cabinet.

4) Are you a good nurse when others have boo-boos? My college friends always came to my room for first-aid and OTC medicines.

5) What's the worst accidental injury you've suffered? Did it require a trip to the Emergency Room? The only time I've been to the ER was when I had a strange reaction from a bug bite. We thought it was chicken pox (at age 21 after having them at age 5) but I kept getting them- a little fever and lots of itching. I was nicknamed caladryl girl for the rest of the year. Otherwise I have yet to seriously twist or break anything on my frequent graceless falls.

How about you all?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Holy Ground

She died with her family surrounding her. They had kept a 38 hour vigil around her bed. Holding her hands, stroking her forehead and arms, singing songs, sharing memories, laughing at the inept hospice chaplin.

She recognized the scent, taste and feel of communion, even if she couldn't swallow it. And I believe her soul actually crossed when her spiritual advisor drummed for her after she died and presented her with an eagle feather.

I believe she made 10 baby blankets with the yarn from Wal-mart. A woman who lived life to the fullest, swore she regretted nothing in her past, and welcomed all into her living and her dying.

May God give her body peace and her spirit wings. Amen

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Thursday sermon planning procrastination...

I think I dread some of the more public and energy needing aspects of ministry. I wish that I woke up Sunday mornings-leaping out of bed to put on my polyester collar shirt of the office- excited about the prospect of leading 150 people in a worshipful experience.

I wish that I looked forward to wednesday evenings- jumping around with teenager, engaging them with questions about their lives, creating meaningful and intersting lesson plans for confirmation.

I just seem to dread these times. But after they have started, and sometimes I'm not clear if it is the adrenaline or the holy spirit, I really like how it went. Why is it so difficult then to remember that sense of wholeness the next Sunday when the alarm goes off?

Perhaps we are too busy. Perhaps when our world needs more and more hope, the desperate need of other grows and grows. Perhaps we fall asleep each night knowing there is so much yet to be done. Perhaps we have a window in to Jesus' need to go out by himself and pray. And perhaps we understand why he sought anonymity in Gentile regions and Gethsemane gardens.

In the words of Martin Bell in the "Rag-tag Army" in the Way of the Wolf:
"Listen! The drum beat isn't even regular. Everyone is out of step... He'll never get anywhere that way!
And yet, the march goes on..."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fresh Autumn Air

Since it was and incredibly dry summer and since we are quite far north, the trees have been changing color for over two weeks already. The air has chilled enough during the day that long pants are required for most hikes, and all the plants need to be covered or brought inside at night.

But despite all of this, despite the gradual death of summer and inevitable advent of winter, autumn still is my absolute favorite time of year. The air just smells better, the sun just feels warmer, the trees just look prettier.

A walk in the woods is the perfect Sunday afternoon activity. Instead of that well-deserved nap, a hike through sweet smelling air, with the dog leading the way down the path is the best way to unwind from the Sunday morning chaos.

One can't help but hum... I think to myself, what a wonderful world.

Friday, September 08, 2006

RevGalBlogPals: Friday Five

Fairly Simple Friday Five

My new favorite Blog community of amazing people.

This Friday Five is Fairly Simple.
Name five things you have enjoyed this week.

1.Planning for the 2nd Annual Parsonage Open House Potluck (gotta love the midwest) Jello will abound.
2. People asking for copies of the sermon I almost chickened out on giving this past Sunday because it was a rather strong and in-your-face message. What is that Holy Spirit up to? Great things, it seems.
3. Neon Pink frosting on chocolate birthday cake- no need for lipstick for at least 12 hours.
4. High School volleyball- it really is- the only game in town.
5. Finally seeing "The Devil Wears Prada." It was like going on vacation for 2 hours! Experiences that are so far away.... metropolitan areas, great wealth, great fashion, regulated work schedules... ahhh... back home to life and yes, a good life it is.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Holy Ground

It was the first time in years that he had heard "Happy Birthday" sung to him. Even though there were only three of us singing, we still shared the cake with the neon pink frosting, sipped the weak and watery coffee, and celebrated his 84 years of life in a small, rural hospital room.
Hospital rooms and weak coffee: Holy Grounds indeed

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Every time I am part of a conversation that begins with: "since you are the only religious person I trust, I want to ask you a question...," I go between two emotions. The first one is a little bit of ego and pride, the surge of a bit of happiness that reminds me that I'm getting there- I'm a person who non-christians and non-religious friends approach for questions.

But then I am a little sad. And, admittedly, this is only after the ego phase has passed, because where are the rest of the trustworty, non-bible thumping, "caring not where people go to chuch as long as they explore the questions in their life"pastors? As a Lutheran I am called to a certain discipline in a certain church. And yes I want people to come here my message and ultimately (because isn't it often about this, come on, we all know it) add their charitible giving to my church's budget.

The bigger picture. The larger church. The larger understanding of God. that which ultimately concerns us- the ground of our being (thank you Paul Tillich).

If we were to really align ourselves with this ultimate concern, would we need church? Would we need religion?

We will only suceed as a human race if we can realize that religion is soley for us, not for God. And thus the many patterns and weavings of spirituality can indeed, compliment each other.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Holy Ground and, uh, Walmart?

"The best conversations happen on the way to Walmart" is what she told me. So I picked her up and we drove the 50 minutes to the nearest one. She had her oxogen tank with her and a spare in the backseat of the car. And we did, indeed, have great conversations. Conversations about how she grew up, met her husband, gave birth to 3 children, and worried about them and their futures.

When we arrived, we headed back to the yarn department where we filled the cart with white, blue and pink acrylic yarns. Yarn for the baby blankets she would knit for her future grandchildren she would never meet.

Holy Ground and Walmart. Who would have thought?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Holy Grounds and Holy Grounds

I have found that most of my great conversations happen over a cup of coffee. These cups of coffee often are less than, er, gormet. And well, lets be honest, its weak Lutheran coffee. Even if Lutherans drink fair trade good coffee, it's still pretty terrible. But I know that when I sit down at the table and have a cup, it has been made with my visit in mind. And this, my friends, even if it is not great coffee, is, indeed, holy grounds. The coffee has been blessed by our sharing it.

Often in ministry I have found myself drinking holy grounds and standing on holy ground. I sometimes feel like Moses, called to remove his shoes before he steps forward onto the soil that surrounds God. So when I encounter the surprising presence of God, I take off my shoes, enter a home, accept the cup of coffee and listen to God speaking.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Industry: Religion

There is no good way to try and define what we do. I suppose we revs are part counselor, part non-profit manager, part academic, part cheerleader, part teacher and part coach. (please feel free to add job description titles) But when the profile asks the kind of industry I am a part of... well, that raises all sorts of questions.

Given the number of catalogues, seminar listings and general swag that comes accross my desk each day, I guess it is no surprise that religion is indeed an industry. The main question is, who is profiting? God? The pastors? the congregants? the least of these...?

I had a professor in seminary who often reminded us that we are the "paid believers" in our congregations. This is often a humbling reminder to me that no matter how frustrated or hopeless I feel about my work, there are people who give of their time and energy to see that this job, this pastoral call, in this small church in this small community- can achieve great things.

Industry: Religion- well, maybe this institution has hope after all.