Saturday, September 25, 2010

Morning Thoughts

I've been reflecting on my daily spiritual practice a lot lately, thanks to Wellspring starting up again. It has gone through some changes over the last several years, and I find it oddly amusing that it is currently working best in its original incarnation - walking, letting thoughts go, intentionally listening to the world. I find that right now, in this time, morning meditation, if I can stop making lists in my head long enough, allows for some of my best and most introspective thinking.

I have several sermons to compose soon, and I often come home from walking inspired to write, and with a clear head.

The last three weeks have left me, like Josephine March, with a rumpled mind. The start of the school year for myself and even for my homeschooled kids, is always a time of transition. New schedules, new studies, new demands on our time, all create good and bad stress on the family system. The last six months, my morning meditation has been more regimented, with specific guided meditations using prayer beads. But I found myself  no longer feeling filled up by it; all the noise of my life has left me aching for silence. I cannot wait until the end of the day when everyone goes to bed and I can be alone, just for a little while, with nothing but silence.

So silence is what I create on my morning walks. Silence to reflect, and mostly to just be. I find myself filled with curiosity about what the next incarnation of my practice will become.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Best friends

Today, I put aside studying for the afternoon so that my 11 year old could spend that time with her best friend, and I could do the same with my best friend, the mom of said 11 year old's best friend. Confused yet?

I find that in ministry, it is so important to have a spiritual director, and a therapist isn't a bad idea. But having a best friend to vent to, to keep you straight, to tell you where you screwed up, and let you know where you didn't? That is a true necessity.

When I screw up, I always think, WWLS? (What would L say?). She doesn't pull any punches with me. She's kind, but direct. I have a lot of people I love in my home congregation and am finding more lovelies in my teaching congregation, but there are boundaries as you move further into the process. (For a great read on this topic, check this out.) It's imperative to have a friend you can trust. Not that we haven't had our moments of frustration with each other; after six years of weekly plus contact, that's bound to happen. But I'm so grateful that our friendship has survived all this time.

In Wellspring this week, we were talking about Parker Palmer's thoughts on living undivided lives. Living your faith, your values, while remaining open to dialogue and being non-judgmental is a hard row to hoe sometimes. How do we live out who we are and what we believe, and have prophetic voices, not just in our ministry role, but in our lives, without being seen as preachy, or goody-two-shoes, or inauthentic?

It's a balancing act. I am so glad that I have a few good friends who I can bounce these things off of and who give me honest feedback - who see my whole self - not just one aspect of me. Student, intern, student minister, mom, friend, wife, adversary, teacher, board member, employee - I am all of these things, but there are few that see the whole person and love me for that, warts and all.

Taking off the different hats that we wear and being our true, whole selves, is important for everyone. Having a friend who will empower you do that, listen to your hopes and fears, successes and challenges? It's like that credit card commercial. Priceless.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Bears and Pirates and Kayaks, Oh My!

My family has survived their first trip to Unirondack!

On the way there, a young black bear sprinted across the street in front of us about 20 miles outside of camp. It was quite exciting! I got to kayak for the first time ever, and went out three times. This afternoon, we saw a loon as we were getting ready to head out. Lucy and I went out in a two-person kayak, which was a lot more work than the single. My 11 yo kicked my butt in paddling.

When Tom took Jude and Lucy out in the rowboat, Lucy saw a sailboat, and said, "Jude, oh no! Pirates!"

Jude calmly took stock of the situation and said, "Lucy, those aren't pirates."

"How do you know," posits Lucy.

"Pirates don't wear lifejackets!"


As a student minister, I felt this was such a great opportunity to get to know some of the congregation in a more informal setting. And there's nothing that builds humility like having your 3 and 5 year old in the dining hall, right? I got to hang out with teens, littles, and adults. I got to play Crypto with my teaching pastor (she kicked my butt). I got to go to a talent show, a bonfire where the teens ran a reflective listening circle, and light the chalice for a sweet and short worship service this morning.

My teen got swept right up with the other teens and my 3 yo fell in love, over and over again. I know this must be an awesome congregation, because we felt just like family by the end. Everyone pitched in to cook, clean, and watch kids. There was guitar playing, and drumming, and piano, and singing. It was everything I had heard of Unirondack. My older kids now want to switch summer camps from the YMCA after years!

I have a lot to think about for my gratitude sermon at Thanksgiving, that's for sure. I can't wait to see everyone again next Sunday!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The new year

I don't know why a new year starts in January. Everyone knows it starts in September!

Whilst my family one by one falls to the flu that I started out with two weeks ago, life continues apace. My oldest started "school" for the first time since 2nd grade, with 3 classes at the community college. She seems to be enjoying the reading; we'll see what happens when the writing starts.

My son is ready to delve into the world of sports a bit more this year it seems. We are also planning weekly library days, which I am excited about. Free wifi! Near Starbucks!

I participated in my Wellspring retreat today and am very excited about the opportunity to co-facilitate this group. We had a wonderful kick-off, and there are just so many joys to small group ministry. This is a special group as well because it is made up of congregants from two different congregations, so there is a great border-crossing (in Meadville language) opportunity afoot!

It was also my first full day in my internship site, and it was really wonderful to meet with my supervising minister and talk about the topic of the week at seminary - multiculturalism and institutional change. I left with two more books to add to my reading list, one a history of my internship site, which will be very helpful in contextualizing the systems at work there. We talked more about the social location of congregations and how balancing growth, multiculturalism, systems, etc. is a ministerial balancing act. It's so much to think about, and I keep mentally stepping back more and more to try to encompass the whole picture; it becomes a bit overwhelming and underscores the need for good futures planning!

I am starting to get the lay of land for the different committees at the church and when they meet so I can start to float through and shadow them. Now, off to finish work and the several hundred pages of reading to do, plus that 3 page essay on church history.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

How joyous!

Today was my first Sunday at my new internship congregation, and I preached. I think we had a decent turnout; I even heard rumors that some people ventured out just to quench their curiosity about the new student minister!

It was such an incredible joy to get to meet so many congregants, to share coffee hour with them, and to start to listen to their stories. It was wonderful to be in the pulpit and to get feedback. It was amazing to have my two oldest children with me.

Chaplaincy is short-term ministry, and the challenge of a two-year placement, where I really have an opportunity to partner with the staff, and to know more deeply the lives of the congregation.

Joy, joy, joy!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

and so it begins...

I am sitting in the airport in Detroit, waiting for my flight to Buffalo to board. I wish I was home already, but I am actually enjoying my last hours of silence and intentionality before re-entry into the chaos of my household. My family is Noisy, as I discover when I take my rare trips away and come back. And ministry is often not. It is filled with lots of silence, and listening, and creation of sacred space, and the loudness of joyous song and celebration. It's a different kind of noise, and I always need a little time to adjust.

I am returning from the start of my second year at Meadville, and the beginning Convocation for congregational studies. I am returning home tired from too little sleep, but absolutely invigorated with the joy of spending time with my colleagues, friends and the ML faculty. I am rejuvenated by vision, passion, and excitement for the upcoming year of congregational internship. I'm thrilled about the things we will be studying, a little apprehensive about the amount of reading I need to complete for my church history course and my three intensives in January, and absolutely filled with love for my fellow seminarians.

It was so great to spend time with some new-to-me faculty, and to spend hours talking about clinical pastoral education, different kinds of ministry and the intersection of life and ministry. I feel so incredibly blessed by my family, who supports me in the insane demands of seminary. I have endless gratitude for the sacrifices they have all made in the last year, and I hope this year will be a little easier.

I woke up this morning with "We Go Marching in the Light of God" ringing in my ears. It ended my CPE, and it starts the beginning of this new journey.

Blessings on my friend Karen, who hosted me at her home, to Tina Porter and the entire Student Services staff, who make things easy for me, and the God of on-time air travel, who so far, has made travel seamless and pleasant, which is rare for me.

I am ready to start. Ready to step out into the next piece of this journey. And I'm preaching tomorrow morning at May Memorial UU Society, if you want to feel the love!