Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Holy Grounds: winter flurries

It has been quite a while since I posted- thank you to those who still hold out hope that I may make an appearance in this blogging world!

It has been over a month and the initial joy at the election result has been overshadowed by much loss and grief in this little community.

We have lost pillars of this church in the past few months, and buried yet another a few weeks ago. and since that time, we have formally commended 4 more lives to God- some I knew personally, some strangers to me.

It's always a difficult place for me to be, eulogizing a person I have never met-
writing a sermon to comfort a family that has never stepped foot in the sanctuary-
collecting memories that I've gleaned from the photos on a memory board-

While the heart of the gospel never really changes, I suppose the same can be said for the heart of grief.

To that end, I pray that my words can offer some measure of hope and comfort to those who grieve.

But on the other end...
I just wish they would call some other pastor in town for the funeral...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Holy Grounds: A brave new world

Yes, my candidate won.
Yes, I believe in his ability to unite this country.
Yes, He has an amazing organization already in place to effect change.

Yes, I know others are sad today.
Yes, the concession speech by the other candidate was beautiful, and perhaps more authentic than any I have heard lately from his campaign.
Yes, I know people are worried about a young black man who could change the world.

But the only thing we have to fear is fear itself (from another candidate who people doubted)
And God is still God of all principalities and powers.

And now... WE HAVE GOT SOME WORK TO DO!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Holy Grounds: A season of earth

Yesterday afternoon, we went for a walk. It was a beautiful day, and we were a little too far into the walk when we realized the sun would be setting a whole hour earlier than the day before.

As we walked back to the car, the early evening sun lit up the landscape as it set.

Now, I've often heard people remark on the amazing number of greens in nature and the landscape.

I found myself speechless at the number of browns.

We are in the season of brown. No longer do we have yellows, oranges or reds on our trees. They have been gone for weeks now.

But the browns... the colors of earth that you can almost smell...
The hue of the deer that has been darkening as the winter approaches
Even the water, sky and sun take on this earthy hue, as they too quiet down for winter.

Perhaps we should altar the church season colors to an array of browns to reflect this time of deepening...

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Invoking Power

Last night I had the great honor of leading the invocation at a rally in a nearby town. The guest of honor was the great senator from New York, the theme was change, and hope was in the air.

Recognizing that this would anger some folks in my congregation, I assumed they wouldn't be surprised.

The excitement was overwhelming, and one could literally feel the energy coursing through the room. What an amazing experience. God is on the move!

God of Grace,
We gather before you tonight filled with hope.

Hope for your children, hope for your world, hope for your creation.

You have gathered together your people, across boundaries of age and gender; Race and ethnicity; Religion and politics.

In your eyes we are your beloved, called to care for one another and the world that you made.

Restore our broken lives. Send comfort to all who grieve. Bring peace to all who suffer. Grant healing to all who walk in darkness, fear, and despair.

Guide the leaders of our communities, our towns, our state and our nation.
Give them wisdom to serve with joy and fairness, guide their hands and feet in paths of peace and justice.

Guide us, your people to the vision of your kingdom.

Help us to be agents of your good news in this world, for in each other we see you as we feed those who are hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick, and listen to those whose voices are unheard.

For you have called us, your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, to a future unknown.

Now, give us faith to go out with good courage, not always knowing where we go, but knowing that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us:
Through Jesus Christ our Lord

Amen

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The long awaited Pastoral Rant- Part 2

"Good morning Pastor. Since it is pastor appreciation month, here is a list of things you are doing wrong..."

Sigh.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pastoral Rant - Part 1 (be advised, there will be more)

My congregation is just fantastic about respecting my day off. They really are.
The only calls I might receive are from my office manager (because no one ever respects her day off!) or the funeral director.

But living in a small town, there are people who either A. don't have a pastor, and call me. or B. don't go to their own pastor, and call me.

Unfortunately, they don't understand the concept of a sabbath. They call me at my home. It's gotten to the point that I don't answer the phone much on this day- yes, I admit it, I screen my calls.

For some people, they apologize for bothering me on my day off, but could I:
"do this thing that could easily have been done tomorrow, that actually could have been taken care of by the office staff, but since the office is closed, I am calling you, because I am thinking about it now."

or

"Hello, I wanted to invite you to my house today to sit with me and have tea" translation: I know you are not my pastor, but mine won't listen to me, so I am assuming you will help me under the guise of me trying to be your friend."

This latter one will translate in to rant part 2, but for now:

Why, why, why?

Thanks, I'm feeling better already!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

weddings weddings everywhere...

I just had lunch with a young woman whose wedding I will be officiating at next month. Normally, I admit, I don't like doing weddings. They are a lot of work, mentally, emotionally, and very, very time consuming. As many pastors will say, I'd rather do a funeral any day over a wedding.

But- when I do them outside of the church, for non-members, as is the case with this woman and her fiance, I have to say, I really enjoy officiating at them.

Perhaps it is because I am no longer "in charge" of the wedding ceremony. Of course, I still help them plan it, but I simply show up, run the rehearsal and then the ceremony.

Perhaps it is because I don't know the extended families of the bride and groom. I don't need to know the idiosyncrasies, the histories, the who is not talking to who because of what stuff.

Perhaps it is because most weddings outside are a little less formal, so the illusion of a perfect wedding is lessened, and there are few "bridezillas" or "MOB dictators" (that is, mother-of the-bride)

I am a detailed person, I like things to run smoothly and with grace. But weddings, when millions upon millions of dollars are caught up in the wedding industry, I have a hard time finding the grace necessary for marriage when people are freaking out about floral decorations.

Maybe I should just start my own church policy: "I'll be happy to do your wedding, we can have the vows right after the sermon and before communion at Sunday worship. Otherwise, I'll show up at the nearest state park, and witness your vows under the pine trees."

Think it'll catch on?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bubble Wrap

OK.
Love, Love, Love, Love this new internet stress reliever.
Love it.
Love it.

Ok, might be a little addicted to it. Just a little.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Holy Grounds: The dog days of summer

I recently learned that the "dog days of summer" refer to the placement of a constellation in the summer sky. The star, Sirius in Canus Major is the brightest star in the night sky in July and Early August. (Also learned a little about Harry Potter and the aptly named Sirius Black!)

It's always fascinating how a term can be taken over by other definitions and meanings. As I write, my big dog is cashed out near the couch, trying to find some relief from the hot weather. She defines, for me the dog days of summer, as I reflect on a glorious weekend with friends, outdoor activities, and celebrations.

As I often lounge around like my dog in these fleeting days of summer, I'm hoping to get out to the night sky, find Sirius and welcome these gloriously hot days of summer, these dog days, before they all to quickly disappear.

How's your dog days treating you?

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

They'll let anyone in that church

I think many of us bloggers dream of the day when our ramblings could be collected into a small but endearing story book about the life and times of what ever it is we do when we are not blogging.

As a pastor, I have found that I often find material for that book. It is a helpful exercise, really, because it often allows one to rise above the actual incident as we think: "that's a good one for the book I will someday write."

Here is a recent gem:

It was said to me by a woman who rarely comes to worship because her husband requires around the clock care. When she asked a family friend to look after him while she attended Sunday service, she asked if he went often any more. He looked at her with distain and said, "They'll let anyone in that church."

To which she replied, Yes, even you are welcome!

Don't you just love it?

Can you just imagine the evangelism that could be done with that phrase? I couldn't be prouder to serve a congregation that will let anyone and everyone in!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Friday Five: Summer Reading

Yes, Yes, it has been a while since the last Friday 5, but nothing like summer to start again! (That, and waiting for my Sunday supply accompanist to call so I can practice the hymns with her... sigh. I am so type A it is ridiculous!)

This week, then, a Summer Reading Friday Five.
1) Do you think of summer as a particularly good season for reading? Why or why not?
Well, summer is as good as any season for reading! I don't seem to have much more or less time to read, but often I do find winter a better reading season... less ability to sit on the porch until 10pm drinking a beverage.

2) Have you ever fallen asleep reading on the beach?
Not that I am aware of. I rarely fall asleep reading anywhere. I've been known to stay up until 3:30 am finishing a book.

3) Can you recall a favorite childhood book read in the summertime?
Any and all things Madeline L'Engle.

4) Do you have a favorite genre for light or relaxing reading?
Fantasy. I just devour these books. Literally. I can finish a lovely little book in 3 hours and feel perfectly restored!

5) What is the next book on your reading list?
The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs- what promises to be a hilarious account of a lapsed Jew reclaiming the literal aspects of his and Christian faith. I'm excited.


What are your favorite summer reads: past and present?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

In the silence

The past couple of weeks have been full of details, running, preaching, presiding, meeting, lamenting, aching, enjoying, celebrating, dancing, eating, drinking, loving and talking.

It has been a month of many, many things.

But today is a day of quietness... and my default is to fill it with activities. You know, the activities I am accused of not doing enough of... Visits, programming, devotions, meditations...

Living in the silence. Being. Enough.

How can we come to the understanding that this too, is holy and worthwhile? What a culture we could be if we could be. enough. silent

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Holy Grounds: City Coffee Shops

Farmer's markets in the median.
Chamber music echoing from the stone and glass
Vienna beef hot dog stands
Sidewalk cafe's
Sidewalks
Bakeries
Asian take out
Concrete
Bus fumes

People of all styles,
walks
destinations
hopes
backgrounds
dreams

Sometimes it is good to be back in the city

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Holy Grounds: a rainy spring day

Like the Psalmists, it is a healthy thing indeed to cry out--

A beautiful cup of coffee this morning, with no less than 12 species of birds at our feeders.

I'm not sure when I became a binocular holding, quick referencing the bird book, shushing people in the living room person, but I am entirely enamored with Evening Grosbeaks!

It's a bird that kind of reminds me of a superhero.
And if I ever get to choose a mascot, it will be the fighting grosbeaks!

Monday, May 12, 2008

I just wanted a beer...

Sometimes life in rural areas can get a bit trying.
In northern rural areas, where the mud season seems to continue for months- because of alternating snow and rain, the tensions only seem to escalate.

It has been a silent blog for a while, perhaps because I was trying to hold onto the initial goal of the blog, which is welcoming this experience of small town living as a gift, always holding unexpected blessings and holy grounds.

Lately, I've only wanted to complain. ("I hate that feeling," she complains...)

So perhaps sharing some honesty about these backwoods, that they are not always the dreamy, wilderness escape, with quaint people or soul opening encounters could be helpful.

When I lived in the city, and I have live in some large metropolitan areas, I often looked at the rural life as idyllic in its simplicity. Sometimes, yes, this is the case.

But like any place there are complex webs that thrive beneath the surface, and sometimes they are knotted and treacherous. Perhaps an old family feud, a bitterness about life or work so hard it literally kills people.

And sometimes the simplicity is just that: simple. So when all I want after a busy day is a cool draft, quality beer, and the search has me driving 100 miles round trip, I wonder: can this be holy ground?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Holy Grounds: Holding on to the Mystery

Spring has sprung, but hearts are still heavy. I came across this song by Kris Kristofferson (I know, but it really isn't yaught rock, I promise!) It's a good one. And it is the sigh from my heart as I encounter so much pain in this world.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Holy Grounds: Snowy Spring Mornings

It's April...

15 days after the beginning of spring
13 days after Easter
5 days after April Fools Day

And there is over 2 feet of heavy, wet snow on the ground.

We northerners are a hearty lot. People came in to church, trying to top each other's stories of harrowing rides into church, through slippery driveways and heavy snow drifts.

As the only church open within 50 miles, we gathered together, 40 brave souls, in the front of the sanctuary (after some coaxing) and sang Easter and Christmas songs together.

It was a good day.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Musings... perhaps a hint of holy ground

I've started this post many times- only to be

A. frustrated (having the family around- all of them- requires and inordinate amount of pastoral peace keeping.

B. bored (my rule of thumb with my sermons is if I'm bored, the congregation is. Thus the rule with the blog if I'm bored, you are)

C. distracted (hmmm, I wonder what's on the food network now and can I hope to recreate Ina's fresh pea soup with mint... or would it be better with basil or...)

So, I offer to you some of the many places of the post Holy Week/Easter Sunday haze that have me circling around the deeper questions in life.

Not, what does Jesus really mean when he offers peace to the disciples, but rather, why are there never enough M&Ms in gorp?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"Maxed Out"




We are in serious trouble here... serious trouble

Monday, March 17, 2008

13 years...

Perhaps someday we'll stop marking this day
counting the moments we have lived without you
singing your favorite songs absent your voice:

I wish I knew how it would feel to be free
I wish I could break all the chains holding me
I wish I could say all the things that I should say
say 'em loud, say 'em clear
for the whole round world to hear.

Until then, we remember you

Friday, March 14, 2008

Calendars: containing or coping mechanisms?

Alongside my calendar I have a scheduling book. It is a simple composition book, with the paper held in with a string so it is not easy to rip out a page.

It is in this book, I carry my life. I write the week at the top of the two page spread, and begin writing all my tasks for the week, bulletins to form, people to visit, confirmation to plan.

I carry this book along with my calendar- they just fit in my work bag, alongside my laptop.

My husband makes fun of me, and tells me I live by my calendar, but it isn't true. I live because of this schedule book. Every time I wake up in the middle of the night, knowing I should talk to someone, re-arrange communion or have a sermon idea... I write it down.

THEN... I can fall back asleep

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Free February 29!

I'm of the mind frame that since my daily devotion doesn't have an option for February 29, today should be a totally free, completely wide open, entirely useless day.

There is a light fresh coat of snow on the ground, covering all the spring ugly, dirty snow. The skis are waxed, the dog is hyper, the thermometer is not in the negative numbers!

But, there are sermons to write, funerals to plan, visits to make and blogs to keep up.

So I'm starting now. In four years, we'll have a movement. Free February 29!

Monday, February 18, 2008

must get off facebook
must not start new scrabulous game
must begin sermon prep- for 3 different services
must not re-watch Chocolat

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"Good opinion once lost, is lost forever"

What is it about curling up with a Jane Austin book or movie to provide the nicest of winter distraction?

The British airs, the veiled insults, the poignient social commentary, yet all packaged in a beautiful and polished story. All the heroines, especially Elizabeth, Ann, Elinor and Emma have the wit and wisdom I wish I could sum up at a moment's notice.

Ahh, to only have an afternoon to watch them all, especially the Sunday Masterpiece Theater specials.

Monday, February 11, 2008

St. Inuksuk at Signs Along the Way tagged me for this meme, I can handle this today!

Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. (no cheating!)
Their Eyes Were Watching God
by: Zora Neale Hurston
HarperPerennial, 1990

Find page 123.
Find the first 5 sentences.
Post the next 3 sentences.
Dirt roads so rich and black that a half mile of it would have fertilized a Kansas wheat field. Wild cane on either side of the road hiding the rest of the world.
People wild too.

Tag 5 people!
Well, often when these come my way, all have been tagged- but I will offer it to any of you, but hopefully:
Primary Wonder
Pink Shoes
Sabbath Seeking
Walking Wet
Everyday Soup

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Holy Grounds: Ashes to Ashes

The honor and weight of imposing ashes initially came as a surprise to me. Somehow during my seminary training I never marked others with ashes myself on Ash Wednesday. Since I have been at this congregation, that duty has gone to me.

Last night the imposition of ashes was very weighty. My role as worship leader became very, very difficult. For me to hear the words is one thing: Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.

For me to give out the words and the ashes is entirely different.

To remind people of death, to mark innocent babies, hopeful youth, a new mother, a wizened grandfather... and especially the woman fighting with cancer...

Well, it was like placing a death sentence on their hopes. I don't want to mark their lives. I don't want to impose ashes.

But as we moved into communion, the ability to give the body of Christ transformed these ashes into new life. Into hope, as I marked the cross on young ones, blessing them, the cross took on new meaning again.

Dust, Ashes, Water, Wheat, Wine. Holy Ground indeed

Sunday, February 03, 2008

1 month later...

January-
the month of reports, retreats, meetings, and annual everything. My apologies for the long silence. It's like the friend you know you haven't contacted in a while, and you should, but then it's a little late for the casual conversation.... so....

Back in the swing of things, coming out from under the the mountain of work, reinvigorating the creative energies to other things than lent planning.

Until then...

Friday, January 04, 2008

Holy Ground: A January Morning

I woke up tired today... the shortened hours of daylight do not help much. But at least it was slightly above zero this morning. Slightly.

It's the post Christmas slump, it's the ache of missing family and conversation I reveled in for 3 days. It's the Christmas tree starting to slump to the side.

But then I read the NYTimes Article

And I am hopeful again.

I have some education to do here, especially when the otherwise open folks here don't "want a president whose name I'm can't pronounce" (they are Finnish, have you ever tried to pronounce Finnish? Obama is nothing compared to that)

But today... this new year... I am hopeful

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

We here highly resolve...

A wise person once told me never to start new year resolutions on the first day of the new year.
Sound advice, since this holiday is usually spent finishing up those Christmas cookies, bars and creamy things that survived the previous week and will only head to the trash and that's wasting food...

The guilt is removed if we start on January 2nd. We are ready to begin after the hangover has left.

It is important to begin a year free from guilt. Guilt has never been a good motivator for people, it is simply a fear tactic. The church has been using guilt for years and now it seems to be deteriorating from it. (it only took1600 years, but still)

But I'm starting to see lovely trends where people are no longer starting new year resolutions out of guilt or a desire to refine oneself, but rather as an opportunity to celebrate and enliven the self. However, if you want a cheap treadmill, look for it at the used places in April. Seriously.

These are the resolutions that make it. These are the ones that take root and grow. Successful resolutions from my friends:
Starting a blog, attending a show each month, learning to knit, taking belly dance lessons, cooking a new cuisine every month... the list goes on.

So my resolutions for the new year?
Read more fiction,
Fix my bicycle,
Learn (not master) the art of French cooking, and... lose 15 lbs :)