Monday, December 18, 2006

Revfife came up with a wonderful idea for a project for the Methoblogosphere to tackle: raising money for the Heifer Project! If you would like to donate, please click on the sidebar. If you would like to add the code to your own blog, you can get it from Revfife's post (just click the link!).

Sunday, December 17, 2006

For those of you who haven't yet seen it, Gavin has a great post excerpting an essay by Garrison Keillor about the Methodists.

And for more fun, check out the Methodist Blues, also by Garrison Keillor.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Songbird gave me the letter "C". So...10 things I love that begin with the letter "C." Here we go!

1) Cookies and Cream Ice Cream (from Bryers) -- There is no substitute.

2) Candles -- Fortunately, Ben feels the same way. When we get married, we are going to have lots and lots of candles around, and not just for decoration, but for burning!

3) Chai Tea -- Again, there's no substitute. I particularly like the Chai Tea Lattes at this coffeeshop near my church. They have raspberry chai, vanilla chai, and other flavors that are quite delicious.

4) Complex Numbers -- I have always had an affinity for them. Not terribly practical (at least for counting purposes), but cool nonetheless.

5) Cheese -- All types, particularly cheddar, gouda, and brie.

6) Caviar -- Ok, now I'm revealing my expensive tastes. Each year for Christmas my dad and I get some in our stockings. Delicious!

7) Cold Winter Days -- There's just something about a cold day that makes me feel good, especially if I don't have any work to do, am in a building with a fireplace, and have a hot mug of tea.

8) Clerics...in the game Munchkin -- They can win by Divine Intervention ;-)

9) Chant -- Very relaxing and soothing...and pretty.

10) Church! -- ;-) The emerging church in particular...but I do like church.

Ok! If you want a letter, respond in a comment and I'll assign you one!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Maybe I've had too much systematic theology (after wrapping up my major doctrinal paper on sin), but...

...Barth ain't too bad, though he talks in circles and manages to unsay just about everything he's said.

Plus, he was the fodder for a very interesting lecture on election/predestination, especially when it got our professor to declare that "God is going to pursue your #$@ into all eternity!" (in reference to those who do not accept grace in this life...or perhaps in reference to those of us who are handing in precept papers late. Wait...maybe that was our precept leader going to be chasing us down...I don't know. It was late, it was before Thanksgiving break, all of us were tired.) *innocent look*

Maybe I should stop writing this post, and finish my precept paper.

Friday, December 08, 2006

As posted on RevGalBlogPals:

Reverendmother here... those of you who read my blog know I have a love-hate relationship with the 24/7 Christmas music we're subjected treated to in stores and radio (in the U.S. at least). It gets too sentimentally sticky-sweet sometimes, yet I find myself unable to resist it. Nothing says "it's Christmas" to me like John Denver and Rolf the Dog singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." So...

1. A favorite 'secular' Christmas song.

There are two: Sleigh Ride and Carol of the Bells.

2. Christmas song that chokes you up (maybe even in spite of yourself--the cheesier the better)

There really isn't one that makes me choke up -- at least none that I can think of off the top of my head. I'll get back to you on this one.

3. Christmas song that makes you want to stuff your ears with chestnuts roasted on an open fire.

Hahaha....Santa Claus is Coming to Town (as done by the Jackson 5), Wonderful Christmastime (Paul McCartney), and Blue Christmas .

4. The Twelve Days of Christmas: is there *any* redeeming value to that song? Discuss.

Only if it's the Muppet's version, the Sesame Street version, or if it's the version by Allan Sherman.

Interestingly enough, if you want to calculate the cost of all these items in terms of 2006 prices, check out this article from Wikipedia.

5. A favorite Christmas album

I like more of the choral CDs, like the one from Kings College. But...I also really like Kenny G's Christmas album. Call me strange.

Oh, but I do have a favorite: the Peanuts Christmas Album!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

'Tis the Season

Tonight is Drew Theological School's service of Lessons and Carols. The Seminary Choir is performing a couple pieces, there is going to be a really neat processional...and a very nice dinner beforehand. The whole university, along with Theological School alumni, is invited, and within an hour Seminary Hall will be overflowing with students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff. It's a fun and festive way of contextualizing the Advent season (and a great break from coursework!) Life in Seminary Hall stops for this one event in which the community gathers to proclaim Christ's coming to earth.

The Christmas season is a funny time for me. I'm never quite ready for it. It's almost as if I am desensitized to it. We see Christmas decorations earlier and earlier every year - always before Thanksgiving and sometimes even before Halloween! I also never feel like I can sit down and adequately put myself in the right frame of mind. I want to prepare - to sit and meditate and cultivate the proper seasonal attitude of grateful and joyful expectation. But, Life is Happening: papers are being written, presents are being bought (though usually at the last minute), concerts and parties are happening...and then boom! Christmas happens, and it's over, and life goes on.

But....wasn't this the way the first Christmas happened? Sure, there were the prophets and the signs of Christ's coming but in reality, who really paid attention? People were busy doing other things, not paying attention to the events of a small backwater province of the Roman Empire. Christmas sneaked right in there. Boom. Christmas happened, and life went on...but the future was forever changed.

I'm not advocating that one should ignore Advent for the sake of shopping, Christmas festivities, and other such happy occasions (even if they don't put us in the "Christmas Spirit"). I think that instead we should be focused on the aftermath of Christmas. Christmas is about more than just Jesus being born...it's about God coming down to intermingle with our earthly reality, and bringing us hope for the future. We need to live as if our futures have been changed...or rather, we need to live as if this hope for the future has the power to transform our current reality.





Ok, so I realize that perhaps reading Moltmann got to me a bit (we just read him for eschatology...), so I apologize for wandering off into the land of Systematic Theology....and this post really is wandering. But heck. It's my blog, I can do whatever I want. So, I hope you enjoy it even though it is a glimpse into my near-the-end-of-the-semester-yet-so-much-more-to-go mind... :-)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Seven cities in Europe, as part of a project implemented by the European Union, are currently undergoing an experiment. They are getting rid of all their traffic signs. A November 16th article in Spiegel Online, one of Europe’s biggest weekly news magazines, reports: (and I quote) “about 70 percent of traffic signs are ignored by drivers. What's more, the glut of prohibitions is tantamount to treating the driver like a child and it also foments resentment. He [or she] may stop in front of the crosswalk, but that only makes him feel justified in preventing pedestrians from crossing the street on every other occasion. Every traffic light baits him with the promise of making it over the crossing while the light is still yellow. (Sounds familiar? To continue,) The result is that drivers find themselves enclosed by a corset of prescriptions, so that they develop a kind of tunnel vision: They're constantly in search of their own advantage, and their good manners go out the window.” Interestingly, removing traffic signs has actually been effective in reducing accidents because it encourages drivers to take more personal responsibility for themselves and their vehicles. The guiding vision for this project is one of (quote) “drivers and pedestrians blending into a colorful and peaceful traffic stream.”

Transplant this idea of no traffic signs to the United States. Although there are times I sorely wish that we could abolish traffic lights (especially when stopped at an unrelenting red light), think about what the absence of traffic signs would do. Think about traffic at rush hour. Think about unregulated traffic in New York City (though to me, I can’t imagine the traffic getting any worse). I can just envision the chaos – the streets messy with cars, pedestrians, bicycles – all going every which way with no sense of direction, no guidance, and no one to restrain aggressive drivers. I see accidents on every corner, pedestrians being mowed down…a traffic planner’s nightmare.

Though they can be an annoyance from time to time, traffic signs serve a very important function. They alert us to potential dangers in the road ahead, denote busy routes, and protect other drivers on the road. Reading and interpreting signs help us get to our destination safely. Without signs, especially when driving in unfamiliar places, we would be lost. Signs point us in the right direction.

Friends, this morning’s text from Luke’s gospel reminds us of the importance of signs in the world around us. To be sure, this is not an easy passage to start the Advent season off with – we all want to get into the Christmas spirit – to feel the joy the season inspires, to spend time visiting with family and friends, and to drink in the holiday cheer. But this passage makes us step back for a moment. It says, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” This doesn’t sound like a very happy message – it seems more awe and fear inspiring. Terrifying. Frightening. These signs…do not look good. And Jesus is telling the disciples, to “stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Now I can tell you, I’m not about to go out celebrating if I see the end of the world coming at me, and I’m certainly not going to think that any sort of redemption is near.

However, I don’t think these signs merely point to a cataclysmic second coming akin to what one might find in the “Left Behind” series. Jesus reminds the disciples that these signs signal the nearness of the kingdom of God. The message is more than just doom and gloom and impending destruction. The kingdom of God is already actualized; the disciples simply have to watch for signs of this kingdom in our earthly existence. The foreboding signs indicate the presence of God’s kingdom, and this presence is what gives us the hope for redemption.

One of the professors at Drew Theological School, Dr. Leonard Sweet, puts it this way. When you buy a new car, what happens when you drive it off of the lot? It becomes a used car. Right. Now, what else starts to happen? You start to see this car everywhere. You notice it in parking lots, driving on the highway – it just seems to pop up everywhere you look! Amazing, right? But the thing is: nothing around you has changed. It’s not that people are suddenly buying the exact same car as you, but that you have a different outlook. You are better able to notice these cars that have been there all along! As Christians, we are called to have a similar mindset. We should see the signs of God’s kingdom already present with us along with the signs that tell us that God’s kingdom is needed now more than ever. This passage demands that we pause and take a good look around us, and ponder the “signs of the times” for our own day and age.

So what are the signs in our society that tell us God’s kingdom is at hand? That tell us our world needs God’s presence? One sign arises from all of the media attention given to the release of the new gaming systems by Sony and Nintendo, particularly that of the Playstation 3. If you’ve been following the news, you’ve heard not just how popular these new consoles are (and how much fun they’re supposed to be!), but also how people have come to blows over getting one. A man stole a seventeen year-old’s Playstation 3 at gunpoint in a mall on November 18th. A Super WalMart in California had to be shut down after riots broke out in the crowd waiting outside to purchase one of these units.

These stories show that our society values materialism, the belief that “the one who dies with the most toys wins.” However, Jesus calls us not to be attached to our worldly possessions, because they have no lasting claim on our lives. Our culture’s over-indulgent materialism is a sign to us that God is sorely needed in our society. We need God to reorganize our priorities and our values – to help us take care of our neighbor instead of being concerned with merely ourselves.

This is only one sign that tells us how desperately our world needs the love of Jesus. Almost everywhere we look there are others: the war in Iraq, the destruction from hurricane Katrina, genocide in Darfur, street killings and shootings, and I’m sure you can think of many others. These signs tell us how much God’s presence is needed in a world that is broken, hurting, and suffering.

Yet, there are also signs in our world that point to the presence of God’s kingdom in our time and place. Take the same phenomenon of the Playstation 3. One eighteen year-old in Manchester, NH camped out for 34 hours to acquire one. He had planned to sell it on E-bay to make a profit, but his teacher told him about 2 classmates of his, a brother and sister, both of whom are battling cancer. He decided to donate it to a raffle designed to raise funds for their medical bills and Christmas presents for them. This student gave up his own shot at a healthy profit and instead put his newly purchased Playstation to a better use – helping those who are in need of it. It is in moments like this that we can see God’s kingdom already here on earth, even in the midst of all the greed and other negative values of our culture.

These signs constantly remind us of how much the world needs God and how close God’s kingdom really is to us. These signs are all around us, and at this time of year, when we prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus, they remind us of why he came to earth in the first place. Jesus came to proclaim the nearness of God’s kingdom, and it is our job to be watching for how God’s kingdom on earth is already coming about.

Even more than this, however, is that we are not only supposed to watch for the signs, but we ourselves are called to be signs to other people of God’s kingdom. We are signs of God’s presence among us and the people around us will look for signs of this kingdom in our lives. Just like the teenager who donated his Playstation 3 for a greater cause, Christ calls us to make our families, our workplaces, our schools, and our communities more like God’s kingdom. Through our actions, other people will be able to see glimpses of the kingdom of God.

There a lot of small ways to do this as we prepare for the coming of Christ this Advent season. For instance, instead of buying another Christmas present for someone, make a donation in their name to a local charity. Donate food to the Helping Hands Food Pantry. In a season where heating costs can be a terrible burden, help lighten that load by donating to charities that help low income families with that cost. There are lots of other things that you can do to be signs to other people of the kingdom of God.

In a season where it’s easy to get swept up in the shopping, the Christmas concerts, and the other trappings of the holiday season, our world needs this assurance of God’s presence. Whereas society gives us signs of greed: huge holiday sales, must-have gadgets, and images of piles of presents around the Christmas tree as “signs of the times,” we must be signs to the true meaning of the season: that God in Jesus Christ has come among us to proclaim the arrival of the kingdom of God. So rejoice! For our redemption, the kingdom of God, is truly at hand. Watch for the signs and be ready. Amen.

BENEDICTION: Friends, the kingdom of God is near to us. Go forth, and be signs to the world that God is here among us. Go out in the name of the one who created you, the one who redeemed you in Christ Jesus, and the one who sustains you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Nothing but Nets

As I was perusing UMC conference websites for work at admissions (we're looking for conferences that send out newsletters), I stumbled across an article from the West Michigan Annual Conference about how Sports Illustrated and The United Methodist Church have partnered together in order to provide mosquito nets to help prevent children dying of Malaria.

I dug a bit deeper and found out from an article in Christian Today about how this was a recent partnership.

I personally think it's fantastic that sacred and secular organizations are working together. To me, this seems to be the future direction of ministry. We need to be able to find causes that everyone can get on board with. Who would have thought that Sports Illustrated and the United Methodist Church could find something on which to work together?

If you're interested in looking into this a bit more, go to www.nothingbutnets.net. What's even more fantastic is that this is something that everyone can get on board with - youth, young adults, and older adults - but I think this is something that would particularly appeal to youth and young adults. Go check it out!

Exploration 2006

"Dive in, Make waves!" was the theme of this year's Exploration event. Hundreds of high school seniors and college students gathered in Jacksonville, Florida (which was only marginally warmer than New Jersey) and descended upon the Hyatt Hotel to fellowship with each other and discern God's calling upon their lives. The hotel was beautifully located along a river, complete with palm trees. The hotel itself was wonderful; I don't think I have ever slept on beds that comfortable before. This was definitely a cushy place!

I have never attended an Exploration event, so unlike Beth Quick, I have no basis of comparison. I went, along with three other seminarians from Drew Theological School, to be small group leaders. The small group experience is an integral part of the Exploration weekend, as it (hopefully!) helps everyone (leaders included!) to process the Bible Studies, the talks, the worship experiences, and the workshops. I was blessed to have an amazing group of high school seniors, who were willing to "dive in" with each other right away to talk and share their lives with each other. It was so refreshing to see young people take their relationship with God so seriously, and to be open and vulnerable about their lives.

I have to be honest and say that I was disappointed by the lack of a strong New England presence, although I was encouraged that there were a few from my conference there. We had an annual conference breakfast where for the longest time is was just me and the BU admissions officer. We had a lovely conversation, but I would have loved the chance to really meet the passionate youth there from my conference.

This event gave me hope that although United Methodism is slowly dying in the Northeast, there are embers alive and there is a stronger denominational presence in other areas of the country. I was astounded at the number of young folks from the South and the Midwest! The one youth from my conference I did get to have a brief conversation with jokingly remarked that she couldn't escape from the southern accents.

As I belive I've mentioned before, the worship services were not to my tastes, but I realized that it was good that they had contemporary worship music. For some of these kids, all they've known is one way of worship: traditional hymns. Having contemporary worship allowed them to see that there were other ways out there to worship God, and that contemporary worship can be an authentic way of praising God. Alternatively, I wished that they had done many different styles of worship so that they could have been exposed to a greater wealth of songs, styles, and cultures.

All in all, it was an interesting experience - and an enriching one! It was wonderful to be able to talk with my fellow Drewids about the language, the music, and the workshops. Seeing it from the angle of a leader without having been before was interesting. I noted some things that I might do a bit differently - I know that while the leadership of the event said to us small group leaders that they weren't there to manipulate people into accepting a call to ministry, it seemed like the push of the entire weekend was for people to make that decision. I don't know. Perhaps having come from a place where I was resistant to the idea of odrained ministry gives me a different perspective on this, and makes me read things into the event that weren't there to begin with. I just wish that there was more space available for those in attendance to say "no, this isn't for me" or "no, I haven't experienced God this weekend." Contextualizing God's vocational calling as a calling for your life not just or only to ordained ministry helped with that...but what else should I have expected? After all, this event was about calling to ministry in the United Methodist Church.

I am very glad I went, and that I was able to both minister and be ministered to by my small group and the others I had conversations with. For me, fellowship and community was the strength of this event, and in many ways, it helped solidify my own call to ministry. In the end, it was a win all around. :-)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday Five

1. Would you ever/have you ever stood in line for something--tickets, good deals on electronics, Tickle Me Elmo?

There are very few things I would wait in lines for (I have issues waiting in line; I have issues waiting in grocery lines sometimes). I would wait in line for tickets for a Jars of Clay concert. I have waited in line to get into Pro Player stadium to see Game 3 of the 2003 World Series game with the Yankees and the Marlins.

2. Do you enjoy shopping as a recreational activity?

Depends on what I'm shopping for. When I want to go out and do something, shopping is not high on the list of things to do, though if I need something I enjoy it.

3. Your favorite place to browse without necessarily buying anything.

Used book stores...or book stores in general. There's a great used bookstore - Chatham Booksellers - that's within walking distance of Drew.

4. Gift cards: handy gifts for the loved one who has everything, or cold impersonal symbol of all that is wrong in our culture?

Mixed reviews. I think gift cards are fine to get someone when you don't know what to get them, but for someone close to you I think it's a bit of a cop out. Gift cards to book stores or clothing stores, however, are perfectly acceptable.

5. Discuss the spiritual and theological issues inherent in people coming to blows over a Playstation 3.

Um, greed and our individualistic society being all about me, me, ME. I think it's sick and disgusting and demonstrates how far American culture has sunk morally and spiritually. That people think they need a PS3 that much...*sighs* It makes me sad. It goes with the whole mentality of "The one with the most toys wins" and the fact that people cannot seem to get pasty their own material existence to anything deeper and more meaningful.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Today's Mutts...


:-)

It's my birthday today! Woohoo! I'm thankful that I'm able to spend it at home with my family. My birthday dinner tonight? Homemade tacos, yum! I even made guacamole...though it didn't turn out well because the avacados weren't ripe. Oh well. I get a strawberry cake too, which is my favorite. My mother-in-law to be will be making me a cake too when I visit them on Friday for Thanksgiving with them.

Yeah - two Thanksgivings this year. One with my family on Thursday, and one with Ben's family on Friday. I think it's really nice that they switched days so that I could be there with them!

It's nice to be home and have a break from Drew, though there's lots to potentially blog about. Someday, I will write that post about why I love New England (and Maine in particular) more than New Jersey, and now I have Exploration to write about as well. (Lots of interesting things there, especially in reference to the ways that the UMC talks about calling and vocational discernment, and why contemporary worship is not my cup of tea but why it was good to have it there anyway).

Friday, November 17, 2006

I'm off...

...to Exploration 2006! This trip totally snuck up on me (as did Thanksgiving break), and it's hard for me to realize the next time I'm really back at Drew, there will be only two more weeks left of class. Two more weeks and oh-so much to do...

But anyhow, yesterday I was thankful for class being cancelled (the benefit of AAR!), and for getting my free turkey at Shoprite! w00t!

Today, I will do the repeat and be thankful for caffeine.

In other news, I plan on reading Peter Rollins' book on the plane. From what I heard from him, he's right on target with a lot of things that I value, like the theology of being able to stay in the same room together, or the idea that one becomes a Christian continually, and that notion of becoming Christian means becoming into our own more truthful existence. Like Wesley's notion of "going on to perfection" (though I can't take the credit for making that leap; a friend pointed out that connection in the course of conversation). I now have a signed copy of his book, and floating around between four of us is a copy of the ikon music CD. Rollins played a selection from it in the context of chapel service, and it was quite powerful, and I'm very interested in listening to the rest of it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Man, am I getting lazy.

Yesterday, I was thankful for being able to sleep in a bit and for being able to attend part of a class where Peter Rollins spoke. It was highly intriguing, and makes me want to read How (Not) to Speak of God even more now! Actually, one of the members of the class is giving me her copy of the book, which I am very thankful for as well.

Though Ben has it right now. :-P

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Whom do we serve?

“How many congregations believe they are in the ‘we exist for ourselves’ business rather than the ‘we are in mission to the community, even the world’ business? How many congregations confuse ‘the way we have done things for decades’ with the ‘larger apostolic purposes’? How many congregations mistake the means for the ends?” (Healthy Congregations, 70)

In my opinion, this is the most important problem facing the church today. It doesn’t matter where we stand on homosexuality, on gender issues, or anything else. If we exist to serve ourselves, set apart in our religious enclaves, then we are doing no one any good: not God, not the denomination, not ourselves, and certainly not our communities. It’s more than a matter of the church being the only institution that exists for those who are not a part of it (because that implies that our sole aim is to seek more members), but a matter of the church existing to transform our communities and the world.

(Note: I might have some of the details in this story wrong, but the general gist is the same) I remember my dad recently telling me this story about a cluster gathering he was at. They were talking about possibilities of reaching out to single mothers in the area. As he was telling me this story, I thought – great! Finally, the churches in our area getting out and doing something! But as he progressed, I became disheartened again. These clergy people were brainstorming some novel ideas: low cost or free day care centers, a support group, and volunteer after-school care, to name a few. He told me that all these ideas sounded great, but that he was the only one who suggested that they go out and actually talk to single mothers to see how the church could serve them. It bothered me that these clergy folk never came up with this simple idea of actually going out into the community to figure out what these people truly wanted, and instead imagined their need, and how the church could fix it.

I know it takes a lot to change this energy in the church. Most congregations have a social club mentality, and that’s not what the gospel is about. The gospel is about transforming lives, communities, nations, and the world. It isn’t about promoting a dogmatic message, or forcing people to come to church, but about service for no other purpose than to show God’s love. It’s about being with the people through their times of suffering. It’s in bringing about God’s kingdom, and that isn’t going to happen if we don’t go out into the world, talk to people, and serve them.

In short, I think most churches today, even if they pretend not to, actually exist and serve themselves.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

On Sunday I was thankful I didn't have a sinus infection. On Monday, I was thankful that my cold was (mostly) gone, and that I could venture into the city with friends for...

...wedding dress shopping!

Today, I am thankful for coffee (even though we didn't stay out late at all).

[EDIT: OK. I actually didn't have coffee today (though that doesn't mean I can't be thankful for it!) I actually managed the whole day (the whole, tiring, stressful day) without touching a drop of caffeine. Aren't you all proud of me?

On the flip side, it is now time for bed...after I read some Barth. Well, if Barth doesn't put me to sleep first. Good old Uncle Karl.]

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I just* got back from the health center; apparently I don't have a sinus infection! It's just...a cold. I'm supposed to drink lots of fluids, salt water gargle, take some ibuprofen for headaches if I get them, and sit tight. She discouraged me from taking too much decongestant (only when I need it), because it inhibits the drainage process or something like that. So I need to take it (relatively) easy and it should be completely gone in a couple of days.

I called my pastor yesterday, who was wonderfully sympathetic. I didn't come into church, and cancelled youth group. I seriously debated going ahead with youth group, but I don't want to infect people, and I should learn sometime to take care of myself better.

Everything is just about together in my new place. Went out for a quick Target trip to get some drugs (I had to get more today) and a card table so I have something I can eat on. Because of course, people who live in a commuter room (which this technically is) don't need to eat on anything. Bought some Draino today too because my sink is strongly clogged, and I've now got it down to a smaller clog. Enough so that I can actually wash dishes.

Nothing profound at the moment.

*by just, I mean a few hours ago.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Honestly, I didn't do much today aside from a bit of unpacking, napping, and whatnot. I got a lot of rest today, but my sinuses are still quite clogged. I went to the store and bought...

...nighttime cold medicine, which is what I'm thankful for today. I sure hope it helps me sleep, as anything would be better than the sleep I've gotten in the past couple of nights.

Friday, November 10, 2006

I have a big one here: Thank God for a New Apartment!

I was able to move this afternoon (even though I didn't think I was going to hear anything until Monday). Ben and I assembled a team, and got everything moved in about 3 hours (and I hadn't even packed anything either!) So another place to live is a huge blessing, as are the friends that helped me move.

Especially because...I'm still sick. I might have wiped myself out...but it is so worth it.

:-)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Today, I am sick. I have a head cold that is draining me of energy and causing me to constantly grab for the tissue box and down large quantities of diet ginger ale. Being sick makes me miss home, and Mom's chicken soup (which is oh-so-delicious). So, in honor of that, I am thankful for...

Mom! Who e-mailed me her chicken soup recipe (and allowed me to bother her in a meeting so I could figure out which ingredients I needed to purchase at the grocery store).

(I guess, by proxy, I'm thankful for Dad, who answered the phone at said meeting. ;-) )

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I’m going to take my own advice. This month, in preparation for Thanksgiving, I will be posting each day one thing that I am thankful for; one thing I believe God has blessed me with. I encourage you all to do the same, and please feel free to share with me (and with others) as well!

Today, I am thankful for friends who are willing to go above and beyond in order to help those who need it. I have been the recipient of such love, care, and support for the past couple of days from a couple of very dear friends, and it has alleviated some of the personal stresses I have been experiencing this entire semester. God has truly worked through them – just knowing that with them I have a safe and sacred relationship is wonderful and amazing.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Autumn Days...

Here is my first ever pastor's article for the Westwood Newsletter! It just came out, so I thought I would share it with you all.


I must confess – fall is my favorite season. I love the colors, the smells of pumpkin bread and hot apple cider, and (if I was in Maine) the mid-November flurries. I enjoy the autumn breezes that swirl the leaves around, and the cool, crisp air that promises winter will be here before we know it. Because of this, and for many other reasons, I love the Thanksgiving holiday.

Thanksgiving at my house tends to be a small affair, with immediate family and a few close friends. I enjoy being in a warm house with all sorts of delicious smells wafting from the kitchen, surrounded by people I care about. The fireplace is often crackling, and Mom has been baking and cooking all week. We eat a late turkey dinner, let the tryptophan kick in, and then Dad and I retire to the living room to watch the all-important Thanksgiving Day football games. Everything about that day makes me truly thankful for what God has given to me.

Nowadays, I think Thanksgiving is overlooked by our culture, getting lost in between Halloween and the December holiday season. Even though Halloween has just past, malls and department stores will be decking the halls and preparing for the Christmas holiday rush by pushing the latest toys, the bestseller books, the top CDs, and the must-have electronic devices. In this way, Thanksgiving becomes just a part of the countdown to the Christmas season; stores will have their “Thanksgiving Day Sales,” enticing consumers to kickoff the holiday shopping season the day after Thanksgiving. Even the crowning moment of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is Santa Claus, not Tom the Turkey.

While there is something to be said for getting into the holiday spirit early, I think the Thanksgiving holiday deserves more focus – particularly for us as Christians. It is a time to sit with loved ones and a time to reflect and be thankful. We gather as friends and family around the table to remind ourselves of the many blessings God has bestowed upon us. And it is also a time to remember those among us who are less fortunate, and to share what we have with them.

Thanksgiving not only affords us the opportunity to be thankful for what we have on that particular day, but also to take that thankfulness and carry it with us each and every day. So I invite you this month as we approach Thanksgiving Day to name one blessing you are thankful for each day. It could be a phone conversation with a friend, having your favorite food for dinner, spending a quiet evening at home, or watching your favorite sports team win a game. Whatever it is, name it, and offer it as a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Let this spirit of thankfulness be the way we prepare our hearts for the coming holiday season.

Grace and Peace,

Melissa

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My wet hiney...


Automatic toilets need to be banned. They waste water because they flush while you are still sitting on them (thus, requiring another flush). They vascillate between the extremes of not sensitive enough to movement (not flushing when you leave the stall), or too darn sensitive (thus giving your rear a second shower).

Gahhhhhh! Stupid toilets.

[EDIT: For those RevGal folks finding this post, I feel like I should have made this post more theological by using one of my fiance's favorite metaphors: Jesus as the heavenly toilet who flushes our sins away... :-)]

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dear world

Dear world,

I know you have e-mailed, called, and otherwise tried to communicate with me for the past few days. I want to tell you, world, that I am sorry I have been out of touch, but life has been busy. Namely, school has been busy. But once I have finished my midterm and my journal for class, I will write back, call back, and make myself more available to you.

Love,

Melissa

(Aside: this was intended to be posted on Saturday, but Blogger was being rather frustrating that day, and so I was unable to post it. So....imagine me on Saturday writing this as opposed to me on Tuesday).

Right. So I was a bit naive in thinking that I would actually have the time to do any serious blogging this week. One supervised ministry journal, one systematic paper, reading galore, 3/5 of a systematic midterm, a children's sermon, and a letter later, I'm spent for the week. My brain is jelly, and I'm looking forward to some mindless Neverwinter Nights gameplay.

Unfortunately, because I was so busy, I wasn't able to enjoy the Tipple-Vosburg lectures at Drew. For those of you who don't know, T-V is a huge lecture series with many distinguished speakers that's tied in with alumni reunions. They played around with chapel time a bit (which I was a bit miffed about, sure, sure, move chapel on Wednesday so it's during class so you can have someone give an academic lecture during normally scheudled chapel time...) and moved it on Thursday to the Baldwin Gym to accomodate both Drewids and those there for the T-V. Worship was...nice, nothing spectacular. Singing in the seminary choir was the best thing about it, for me.

Worship in the UMC tradition, I find, is consistently sub-par. I find that individual churches tend to do better with worship than bigger conferences do (although, I've visited more than a few churches that have terrible worship). Worship at the NEJ Great Leadership event borderlined disastrous for me at one point. On Friday evening, Zan Holmes preached this inspiring sermon and had the energy level up in that convention hall so high, I felt like the congregation could spontaneously burst forth into song at any moment. Instead of some rousing hymn, this sermon was followed by a responsive reading that would have been better placed elsewhere in the service, by a woman who told us to be enthusiastic in our reading. It felt like a helium balloon had just punctured. We then sang an odd, but up-beat arrangement of Standing on the Promises that I liked, but it just didn’t fit the overall character of the service. We then ended with a beautifully haunting and mysterious sung communion liturgy that was set in a minor key. But…it shouldn’t have been placed after Zan Holmes preaching!

Saturday morning’s service was a bit better constructed, although time constraints but a limit on how much we could do, I’m sure. Some songs that we sung I felt were cut short…and Jikelele (an African song that’s really laid-back and swingerish) together in a service with Montana (lyrics here, it’s an up-beat, dance-like song) didn’t fit for me.

I really feel like worship leaders in our conferences need some training when it comes to the overall energy of a worship service and how to manipulate that energy. They tend to be good when carrying an image through the entire service, but not so good about making the worship tie in together. For me, it’s far more satisfying to have a worship service that is consistent in its energy movement than one that is thematic but jumps from high to low. I don’t presume to be an expert in worship leadership by any means, but I’m speaking as one who enjoys a well put-together worship service.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Conversation had at community lunch by the cookies:

Me: Mmm...cookies...
Chapel Director to Me: If you eat the ones with the cranberries in them, they're zero calories because it's fruit.
Me to Chapel Director: And because they're broken, and all the calories have fallen out.
Professor with a grin on her face: If you tell a lie, and then succeed to get someone else to participate in the lie, then...it ceases to become a lie.
Chapel Director: Yeah, then it becomes tradition!

Monday, October 16, 2006

I'm here!

I've had a lot of thoughts lately that merit blogging about (for both here and the livejournal), but I haven't had sufficient space (time and otherwise) to actually spill out anything from my brain, through my fingers, and onto the computer screen. Therefore, I'll just give the highlights (and perhaps some previous for upcoming posts):

  • Being home for part of fall break and Why I Love New England
  • Northeast Jurisdiction's Great Leadership Event Conference in Valley Forge, PA on Friday and Saturday (and why conference worship in the UMC is generally sub-par, and why the church still doesn't quite get it when it comes to young adults)
  • Musing about altar flowers
  • ...and other things that I am thinking about but don't quite know how to articulate.
So: suffice it to say that I am alive and well, though oh-so busy, and I will hopefully have a post or two by the end of the week.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Processed God

In class conversation (over AIM, and we're both invisible and so not talking to anyone else): We're talking a bit about Process Theology...and this is my understanding of the God that Process Theology creates.

Melissa: you can come to the God as "friend" conclusion w/o having a processed God
Ben: I agree
Melissa: I like that expression
Melissa: "Processed God"
Melissa: Like...processed cheese
Melissa: or meat
Ben: processed
Ben: and therefore palatable and edible for human consumption

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

This poem is at the beginning of a chapter in She Who Is by Elizabeth Johnson on the triune nature of God. It captured my attention, so I thought I would share it all with you. It's by Brian Wren.

Who is She, neither male nor female, maker of all things,
only glimpsed or hinted, source of life and gender?
She is God,
mother, sister, lover: in her love we wake, move, grow,
are daunted, triumph and surrender.

Who is She, mothering her people, teaching them to walk,
lifting weary toddlers, bending down to feed them?
She is Love,
crying in a stable, teaching from a boat,
friendly with the lepers, bound for crucifixion.

Who is She, sparkle in the rapids, coolness of the well,
living power of Jesus flowing from the Scriptures?
She is Life,
water, wind and laughter, calm, yet never still,
swiftly moving Spirit, singing in the changes.
--
Brian Wren

Typing it out makes me love it all the more!

Out for a walk

Ben and I went for a walk to the public library yesterday, since it was our Sabbath and a gorgeous day outside. It really isn't too bad of a walk - about 20 - 25 minutes each way.

On our way back, arms laden with books on tape for our respective rides home later this week, we crossed paths with an elderly gentleman walking a baby in a stroller. We slowed down to say "good morning" and ended up standing there, chatting with him for a good 10 minutes. He was walking his granddaughter who was named after him. He talked about what a blessing it was to have his four children all in the area, and about how wonderful it was he could help out his daughter by watching her kids so she could work. He told us stories about his son, thought it was wonderful that we were both in Theological School, and talked about how his nephew is doing a residency program at a hospital in Maine.

It was a great conversation, and he seemed like a wonderful person - very aware of his blessings. I didn't know that this sort of thing happened in New Jersey (not the wonderful person part, but someone actually stopping and talking to you when you are out on a walk). In any case, this small encounter reminded me that counting your blessings really can make a positive difference in your outlook.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

"Oh shoot!"

The inane drivel of Chris Tomlin's Indescribable floated in the background.* I caught the line "Creation's revealing Your majesty...", and normally I might stop and use that as a springboard to contemplate the magnificent clouds that flooded the sky as I drove west on Scary New Jersey Highway II. However, on this Sunday morning, the said magnificent clouds signaled the possibility of rain (my meterology phase in 4th grade paid off), and one Big Angry Cloud dominated the better part of the western horizon.

On any other occasion, I would have been glad for the rain. It meant that I could curl up in my room with my schoolwork, a cup of tea, the Fiance, and watch the Patriots win against the Bengals. I had been looking forward to such an evening, in fact. The complication? The car.

Gas is cheap in the town where I serve, so before my trip home next week, I thought I would fill up (for $2.31...though Fiance got it for $2.15...and here they scam us at $2.51). The gas attendant walked up to the passenger side of the car (which I found odd...though it's the side closest to the pump). I rolled down the window, got my gas, signed for credit card, and my window wouldn't roll up. The window motor made some awful crunching noises, but the window refused to move. I had to drive the Long Drive back with my window down.

First of all, I hate driving on the highway with the window down. You get that awful beating noise caused by the air rushing by the car. Secondly, you can understand now why the possibility of rain left me in a state of despair. (For those who don't know, I've had previous experience with this car, the windows, and rain). Hence my reaction to the threatening clouds in the sky.

BUT

I managed to get back without incident, taped up my window with a garbage bag and masking tape, and I'm looking forward to a mostly clear evening. That's the upside. The downside? Always having to deal with my car on my Sabbath. Why, oh why dear God can't I have a day of peace??? All I want is one day off...please?




*I apologize if anyone really enjoys that song...I actually think it's one of his better songs, but to be honest, I think a lot of his stuff sounds the same, is pretty boring, and not very lyrically creative.

Friday, September 29, 2006

I have to preface this week's Friday Five with a confession: despite being in seminary for a year, when I see "groups" I don't think what normal people thing (a gathering of people or things). No, I think about a mathematical object -- a set with an operation on it such that the operation is associative, and the set has an inverse element and a neutral element.

1. Tell us about any group(s) you currently belong to. (e.g. book club, knitting circle, walking buddies, etc.)

Not many groups right now. Seminary choir...covenant group...if classes count as groups, then I have more! I used to be involved in a whole slew of stuff; I have no idea now how I found the time for it!

2. Do you feel energized or drained by being in a group situation? If the answer is "it depends," on what does it depend?

Definitely an "it depends." It depends on how well I know the people in a group. If I know them well (and I mean really well), then I'm energized. But walking into a room of practical total strangers drains the life right out of me.

3. Is there a role you naturally find yourself playing in group situations? That is, do you naturally fall into the leader role, or the one who always makes sure the new person feels welcome, or the quiet one who sits back and lets others shine, or the host?

Let's do this one by process of elimination. I'm not a stunning host, though I've done that from time to time. In a small group (3-4) I tend to fall into the leader role, though in a larger group I tend to let the more assertive people take the reigns and make sure other people's voices are heard. So.....the one I fall more naturally into is the quiet one who sits back and lets others shine.

4. Handshakes vs. hugs: discuss.

Handshakes at first. Hugs come later...though I'm usually open to a hug pretty soon after I meet a person.

5. Ice breakers: a playful way to build community in a lighthearted manner, or a complete and utter hell of forced fun and awkwardness?

Depends on the ice breaker. I can't recall any particularly hellish ones off the top of my head (perhaps because I've blocked them out). Generally I find them fun and lighthearted and a great way to build community!

Bonus: If you answered "playful and lighthearted," share your favorite ice breaker.

This one isn't too bad: you mark two ends of the room (one with agree, one with disagree, or something along those lines). Next ask a series of questions (I like the cold, I live in the north, etc...) and people position themselves according to where they fall along the spectrum. We did this occasionally for Christian Fellowship and it's great because if you're going to be talking about something serious in a discussion, you can gradually steer the questions in that direction.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Funeral Thoughts

Granny Franny (so she came to be called) died on Friday at the age of 102. She also was blessed to have the perfect death: peaceful, in her sleep, with her family gathered around her. One of her sons held her hand through that night, and when he woke up, she was dead but her left hand was back by her head, as if she was waving. He marveled at what a gift that had been for him. Truly a perfect death.

Pastor invited me to go with him to the funeral after the church council meeting so I could observe what went on at such a service from a more objective point of view. Actually, I had never before been to a funeral (though I’ve been to a couple memorial services), not even for my own grandfather when he died almost 10 years ago. Walking into the funeral parlor, there wasn’t the oppressively sad air that I had been expecting. Instead, there was a lot of laughter, with a twinge of sadness. People looked fondly at the open casket where Fran lay peacefully, looking exceptionally well for 102 (everyone said that in life, she never ever looked her age). I sat in the back so as not to disturb those who were really there for Fran and the family.

Pastor used the liturgy from the Book of Worship, adapting where necessary, and editing out much of the pain and grief language present. In some ways, this was a very happy occasion – a celebration of her life and a public acknowledgement that she was in heaven. The eulogy was short, as pastor wanted to have plenty of room for her two sons to speak, but pastor did give a short picture of her life along with (what I assume to be) the standard funeral fare and talked about her sharp wit, self-effacing humor, and the feeling that you were always home in her presence. From this, and from the stories that her two sons shared, I sincerely wished that I had had the opportunity to know her.

At one point during his eulogy, I noticed tears running down my face. The scene conjured up for me a time when my own grandfather died out in Ohio during my high school years. I don’t even remember why my siblings and I didn’t go; perhaps my parents didn’t feel like it was appropriate for us to miss school. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a choice made on our part; I don’t remember a choice being given anyway. But in that moment, I felt a powerful sense of the loss of my grandfather and my own personal need for closure. I also felt the powerful sense that one day, I too will have to bury my parents, and this really troubled me.

As a pastor, I will be expected to perform funerals and to comfort people in their time of grief. I will not be able to do that unless I have come to terms with the lingering grief I’m experiencing from my grandfather’s death. If every funeral scene sparks memories of my grandfather and I am unable to lay that aside, I don’t feel like I will be able to be present for the people who need me most at that time. In order for me to more fully grow as a pastoral leader, this is an issue that I will have to deal with. I will also have to learn how to see death as a part of life. While it is true that not all deaths are as perfect nor as peaceful as Fran’s, there was something holy about her death that is present in many other deaths as well. I will have to learn how to see the sacramental in the process of dying – and Fran’s death has given me a perfect start.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Right now, I'm watching the Giants lose miserably (35 to 3 at the half), trying to read my theology reading but getting incredibly distracted by both the game and some guy outside my window playing an African drum. Normally, I would find such a demonstration to be entertaining and amusing, but right now it's imparing my ability to concentrate on the Doctrine of God. Hence, blogging it is.

I realize that I have neglected to say hello to folks popping over via the Methodist Blogroll. *waves* Greetings to all of you!

After my third Sunday in my new "pastor-type" roll, I think I'm settling in quite nicely. It was a big plus that the pastor wanted to ease me in, having knowledge of what it was like to be a student. That was very helpful, and I don't think I could have survived these past few weeks without it.

Even though I can't actually read my theology text at the moment (which really should get done, as I'm not going to do work this evening in favor of friends and the Patriots), I'll ruminate a bit about what we've learned so far in my Systematic Theology class.

Dr. Boesel, first of all, is a great teacher. For someone like me who needs concrete pictures of what is going on, he is fantastic. His basic method of teaching us consists of the construction of two theological paradigms, denoted "A" and "B". As one might imagine, one is more resonant of "conservative" viewpoints, the other is more "liberal" (strictly theologically speaking, not politically so). These broad paradigms (meant to capture the extremes) are further broken down into A1, A2, B1, B2, etc...

Last week, we learned about how these different paradigms view revelation, the notion of God's self-disclosure to humankind. B's take a more "universal presence" form of God's revelation, while A's are more about how God revealed God's self to a particular people/persons at a particular time and space. How these groups integrate the 4 sources of theology (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience) varies even within the broad paradigm.

As far as I am....I don't know where I truly am on the spectrum, or even if I'm on it. Without describing the paradigms (as I am now pressed for time), I can only say that pieces of the A2 and B1 appeal to where I currenly am theologically, but there are elements involved that neither of them take into consideration, and I'm definitely not midway between the two (or if I was, it would be like I was above the midpoint, working off of a slightly different but perhaps parallel paradigm). I think community is important, I think that God's universally present and it is a valid source of revelation, but that God does intervene actively in history. I like Barth in that the Bible is not the revelation, but a witness to it, but I also highly value other sources of theology.

Who knows. Maybe I'll invent my own position...paradigm M.

Friday, September 22, 2006


I remembered about this in time to play today!

1) Are you a baby about small injuries?

Generally, no. If I cut myself, I might freak out a bit, but I generally don't cry or make too much of a scene.

2) What's the silliest way you have ever hurt yourself?

Well, recently I got this huge bruise on my right shin caused by graceful me triping over one of the weird steps in the choir loft/narthex during the passing of the peace on my first Sunday. Or there was time a few days ago when I was frying bacon, and I put two new slices of bacon into the pan with all the hot bacon grease, and the sizzling hot grease went all over - including a couple drops on my feet and my legs. I still am sporting these lovely burns on my right thigh that look like tear drops because they ran down my legs.

3) Who took care of your boo-boos when you were a child?

Mom did, though I hated when I got a splinter. She'd go get a sewing needle, sterilize it, and then get it out. She was good at it, but even at that age I hated somebody poking me with needles.

4) Are you a good nurse when others have boo-boos?

I never really had the opportunity to try. Whenever I baby-sat, the kids never got hurt. Now, more often than not, I'm the one getting hurt, and needing to be nursed.

5) What's the worst accidental injury you've suffered? Did it require a trip to the Emergency Room?

Probably on Martha's Vineyard. I was with my friends and we were digging clams for dinner. I found one, and it cut me on one of my fingers. It was a pretty deep cut, and I was freaking out because it had sand and grossness in it. It had to be washed and cleaned, but I couldn't do it myself. So one of my friends tended to my wounds, but the whole time I felt like I was going to pass out. It was awful.

I'm sure there are worse injuries; I just can't think of them right now. Suffice it to say, I've never been to the ER. Nor have I ever broken a bone.

OH! I remember one now - my freshman year of high school, I was on the softball team and during practice, we were just throwing around balls, practicing catching. I held out my glove , but my ungloved hand got the ball first and bent my middle finger backwards. It was just a sprain, but I had my right hand taped up for a week or so. Couldn't write well...so I had to dictate my answers to a biology test to the teacher. It was great. The funnier part is for awhile (not so much recently), changes in air pressure really did affect my finger. So I could predict the weather with my bones!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

selfcareisagoodthingselfcareisagoodthingselfcareisagoodthing...

I don't know if I've mentioned it in a previous post (and frankly, right now after my evening cup of Sleepytime tea, I'm too lazy to care), but I dropped a class. Yes, that's right...I am only taking nine credits. Instead of dropping a job, I cut back academically. My rationale for picking the class over the job:

1) I need money. Well, not need, need, but I want to start to save some more so that when Ben and I start our life together, we will have some additional financial backing.

2) I'm ahead of the game when it comes to credits. With 33 already under my belt, I can afford to take only 9 this semester and still be on track to graduate "in time" (i.e., within their idea that the MDiv program takes three years to complete). When you factor in that C.P.E. will be an additional six credits that will happen over the summer, I'm in goooooood shape. (Note to self, start C.P.E. application! All you who read this, harrass me about it, ok?)

The real reason I cut back is due to some serious self-care issues. Something inside of me almost died when I was talking with some people (who shall remain nameless) and upon mentioning how every last moment of my day was scheduled and busy, they said that it was good, and how it should be. Time for self-care and self-nurture is very much a foreign concept, one that I started to learn senior year of college and one that I need to continue learning. I will not be able to be an effective minister if I don't intentionally carve out some time for me.

Secondly, I almost started crying during the mandatory Monday Supervised Ministry meeting when Dean Samuel was talking about the busy life of a seminarian. So: I totaled up all my hours as follows (with 4 classes) upon the general rule of thumb that a for every credit you take, you spend about 3 hours doing work outside of class. Here we go.

Supervised Ministry/Other Jobs - 30 hours max
Time in-class - 12 hours-ish
Work outside of class - 36 hours
Time sleeping (8 hours per night) - 56
Sabbath - 16 hours

This leaves 18 out of 168 hours in a week in which to eat, shower, run errands, have personal devotional time, plan a wedding, and attempt to stay sane. There is little for meaningful relationships of any kind (and I don't think Ben would take kindly to that one) and that more than anything really hurts me, since I wanted this year to be more about forming relationships with people. Sure, I have friends that I hang out with from time to time, but it's rare. And I feel so isolated here in my apartment that aside from my roommates, the only person I see consistently is Ben. I love Ben, but I enjoy spending time with more people too.

There is also no time for me to take a step back and cultivate other areas of my life (such as my more creative side). I'm not a brilliant photographer by any means, but I enjoy going outside and taking pictures of nature or other things that strike my interest. I like cross-stitching. I want to finish the banner I started for a class over January.

I also need time for exercise. No excuse here. If I want to lose weight, I just have to do it. Period.

I've also been overwhelmed lately by other issues in my life (the car is finally fixed, by the way, which eliminates one area of stress) that I'm seriously an emotional wreck. Ask Ben. I'll be reading one moment and the next I'll be crying. Mucho repressed anger has been seeping its way out of my body (thank you to Douglas VW who I deem the catalyst of such a reaction) and while most of the time I'm Ok, there are moments I want to kill the next living thing that moves near me. (I never thought I might need anger management...I'm really not an angry person, I swear!)

I'm sick of living in the space which I have been kept hostage (largely by my own psyche, but my psyche has very good reasons for keeping me in my bedroom, and for the most part, I agree with them). I need some separation in my life (not eating in my bedroom would be a good start to that...and probably so would getting the television out of my bedroom), but I can't because there's no way to do it. I work, eat, sleep - live in this one little bedroom. How did I ever pull it off in college? Please, someone, let me know, because it's not working for me now!

Anyhow, I planned on sharing some pearls of wisdom that I gathered in my Pastoral Care and Counseling class, as well as some severe criticisms of the way They want us to do theological reflection. I also wanted to reflect more on why self-care in general is a good thing, but I'm done for now. Perhaps I'll ruminate more in a later post.

selfcareisagoodthingselfcareisagoodthingselfcareisagoodthingselfcareisagoodthing...

New Userpic

I love this userpic. I might even have to use it on this site, I love it so much. You can find it over at my livejournal. It's on the first entry there, and it's totally awesome.

Again, I am betraying my dorkishness. :-)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

First of all -- thank you to everyone for the well wishes in my new position! Tomorrow, I get to preach my first children's sermon!!

There were two battles raging this past week; one against my car and the other against my computer, both waged by proxy with the institutions that were supposed to be servicing each. One was a victory, while one was a lost.

The victory first: Dell finally consented that yes, something was wrong with my motherboard and yes, they will send a technician over. This technician came over on Thursday (after we played phone tag for a bit) and replaced the motherboard. And....I have no more internet connection issues! Quel shock. I can now put the ethernet cable in and the computer recognizes that a cable is there each and every time. Yay!

The loss: the car. I don't know how long I want to draw this out, but it started last Thursday, when I was supposed to go up to meet with my pastor to talk with him about what I would be doing on my first Sunday. I didn't get two miles before the check engine light came on and I had to drop it off at the dealership a few towns away. Since my car was undriveable (for the most part), a fellow seminary friend drove me to church that Sunday (for which I will be forever grateful!). I took the car in this past Monday...waited three hours...and found out that in addition to the check engine light stuff, I had $3500 of work to do on it. Including the brakes and the radiator. I took it to Midas to do the brakes (because they were cheaper and they do a better job), and then dropped the car of on Thursday to do selected items like the check engine light stuff and the CV boot (it's cheaper to do the radiator stuff in Maine).

I picked the car up on Friday and.....the alignment is OMGsh bad. Not slightly bad. But "steering-wheel-at-thirty-degrees-below-vertical-to-go-straight" bad. I called them from the road (which is illegal in New Jersey, but oh well) and told them it was their fault, and they said there was nothing they could do; the place was already closed for service and on Saturday they didn't have anybody in who could do it. The guy couldn't even figure out why I would have any alignment problems. Grr. So I called my parents, and got in touch with them this morning about how to proceed. I called the dealership back because I feel very unsafe driving this car and didn't want to spend an hour-and-a-half on the road getting to church and back tomorrow. I couldn't get a loaner because the company they use closed at 12 (I was calling, no joke, at 12:03), and their other loaner cars hadn't returned yet. I asked if there was another company they could refer me to to get a rental, and the guy said he didn't have the authorization to do that.

After much angst and calling the parents and venting to Ben and Ben calling his parents, we decided to go to the dealership prepared to leave the car there, ask for a manager who could authorize a rental from another company and if they wouldn't, to ask for the number of their district managing office to register a complaint. We drove to the place (in separate cars), and I got there without any incident.

However, I think it's a state law or something that in New Jersey, no driveway can be at the same level as the road. I swear it's illegal or something. So I was making a left turn into the dealership on one of these lousy raised driveways with a bumb, and something on the front end of my car drops and starts scraping up against the road. I mean, loud screechy scraping. Definitely unsafe to drive. By this point, I was enraged. Very, very enraged. I pulled into a parking spot, shut the door of the car, and started swearing that they better fix the car. I was mad. I pretty much stormed into the office (which was open still, thank goodness), and when the guy asked me how I was, I said "not good" in a tone that implied that he wasn't going to be feeling very good either if I didn't get some service. To make a long story short, one of their loaner cars had come in and I was able to get it. Ben said the expression on the guy's face was one of "please let the loaner car be in" because the guy knew that I was ready to make his life miserable if it wasn't.

So, the car is at the dealership again, and they better gosh darn fix it for free, else I'm going to register a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. What an awful way to spend my Sabbath day. But it's over, and I have transportation so I can get to church tomorrow. And right now, that's all I really care about.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Day One

I stood at the lectern on Sunday morning, looking out at the faces of my new congregation. Mostly strangers stared back at me – strangers that would come to know me first as a student pastor before anything else. I took a deep breath and said, “Good morning and welcome. My name is Melissa Yosua, and I will be serving as your new student pastor. I am a second year Masters of Divinity Student at Drew University, and I am looking forward to working with you during my time here.” Pause. “Let us rise and join together in the Call to Worship, found in your bulletin.” And we were off.

I knew from the second I stood up there that this time reading as a lay liturgist would be completely different from any other time I have ever served as such. Sure, I had read scripture and been the lay leader many times over the course of my lifetime. Yet this time, something was profoundly different. As soon as the words “student pastor” escaped my lips, I was no longer “just another lay person.” I entered into that amorphous phase of “not laity, but not yet clergy” – just like a teenager who is not a child anymore, but not yet an adult.

I see my time with them as such – a gangly and awkward teenage-type pastor, struggling to find her footing and herself in the great, big world of ministry. I imagine there will be growing pains, times that I will struggle for independence, and times that I will need to be “grounded,” so to speak – sent back to my room for reflection, contemplation, and a rerooting myself in the familiar. There will be times when I can’t wait to fly, full and confident, and situations where I will revert to a shy and insecure pastor-in-training, unsure yet wanting to try.

This past Sunday marked a significant shift in the way others perceive me, and in the way I perceive myself. I am in a new phase of life, new phase of ministry, and a new phase of the calling that God has placed upon my soul. I became “the Student Assistant Pastor” (lovingly called, the “sap”), and I am blessed to be with a congregation and a pastor who is as excited about the journey as I am. I am excited, scared, fascinated, thrilled, and nervous about the process, but together we will learn and grow into the people that God has called us to be.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Seminary Choir

I joined the seminary choir this semester. I'm not taking it for credit; I feel like that won't allow me to skip out on a week or two should I need to take some time off. I certainly plan on being there every chance I get, however!

We rehearse after chapel on Wednesdays and Thursdays in the chapel itself. We were learning this gospel song that Mark had written, and there was this one part with some neat harmonies so Mark decided to bring us outside of the chapel too the very resonant lobby on the second floor. We all nailed our parts and it sounded fantastic...except for when one irate undergraduate student (an older gentleman) came out of the classroom and yelled at us. "We can't hear the professor! The professor can't even think! There is a class going on in there, don't you know any better?" Mark, being Mark, poked his head in afterwards to apologize, and in typical fashion said, "If any of you want to join the choir..." I guess Mark didn't realize that Seminary Hall, now that it is fully accessible, can be used by the college for classes and there are a lot more undergrads floating around the building than there were before. I don't think any of the students (aside from the one and the professor) took it badly -- most of them were laughing away.

Still, it was rather funny as we meekly turned around and marched ourselves back to the chapel.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Going Retro!

I totally want this.

In other news, my fight with Dell Tech Support is nearly over...I finally got them to the point where the said, "yeah, it might be a loose connection to the motherboard" (which is what I had been saying all along), after two separate conversations totaling two and a half hours and three people (I finally said after the woman told me that it wasn't in her jurisdiction to dispatch a technician...which is in my warranty service...because it "wasn't a hardware issue" and I told her I wanted to speak to someone who does have that authority).

Oy....today I work from 9 - 11, have chapel and rehearsal until 1:15, class from 1:15 - 3:45, run to the post office to mail some books I sold, and then meet my pastor at 5.

I need to cut something out of my life. I can't survive like this all semester long...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Orientation

One week ago today, a team of 14 hardened Drew Theological School veterans, the school's deans, and other Drew administrative staff effectively (or so we hope) oriented about 70 new students to the Theological School. All in all, orientation went smoothly, and I loved meeting all of the first-year students, including Kristen, who I met first in cyberspace via the RevGalBlogPal blog ring! I had delightful conversations with so many people. I love hearing their stories, and what brought them to Drew. We have students who have served in the Marine Corps, work as a wedding photographer, love dogs so much they want to start a petition to allow them in student housing, come from teeny tiny towns in the Midwest...you name it, we've got it! This class is wonderfully diverse - ethnically, age-wise, geographically -- it's great!

Most of the hang-ups around orientation were due to events beyond our control. For example, the #2 reason I hate Drew (their Facilities department) took 7 or 8 hours to plunge all three men's toilets in Seminary Hall. For a better part of the day, the men had to go elsewhere to use the toilet because ours was all clogged, and Facilities was apparently too incompetent to handle the job. (Additionally, as we were moving students into their housing at Drew, one woman opened her door to find that Facilities was using her room as a storage area and had three beds, four desks, etc....and they hadn't cleaned it out in time for her arrival, and one student we greeted found out that he didn't have a bed yet in his room. Welcome to Drew!)

Some people giving presentations decided not to show up, like Telecom, who decided they were too busy to take 15 minutes out of their schedule - 15 minutes that they had known about for several weeks - to talk to the students living on campus about their phone service. Basically, they just created a whole heck of a lot more work for themselves because now everyone is going to be talking to them one-on-one to have all their questions answered.

Some presentations were just awful, and there was nothing redeeming about them. I will not mention which ones here; those at orientation know which presentation(s) I'm referencing.

Apparently, the administration raved about how well things went, and about how well the first-years took to heart a lot of the presentations the deans and faculty made about such topics as community and the importance of critical thinking in religious study. I'm really looking forward to getting to know them more - both in and outside of the classroom setting!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

1. What is your earliest memory of school? I remember one day in pre-school we were learning to distinguish left from right. I got very, very confused, because I realized that the position of right and left was dependent upon your perspective. Right and Left for the teacher, who was talking facing us, was different from our right and left.

2. Who was a favorite teacher in your early education? Mr. DeMille, who visited my house before school started because he heard I had the chicken pox and was unable to attend the First Grade "Meet and Greet the Teacher" (or something like that). He also wrote each of us personal weekly letters (some of which I still have). He helped me conquer my fear of fire drills. And he played the guitar. He was way cool.

3. What do you remember about school “back then” that is different from what you know about schools now? In elementary school, we never ever had homework. Now I'm seeing Kindergarteners bring home worksheets to complete. We never had to do this until third or fourth grade!

4. Did you have to memorize in school? If so, share a poem or song you learned. I learned a bit of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in fifth grade, but I have long since forgotten anything beyond "By the banks of Gitchigumi, by the shining Lake-Sea water...". I also had to learn "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely, and more temperate..." in 9th grade.

5. Did you ever get in trouble at school? Were there any embarrassing moments you can share? Nothing that I can remember...perhaps I've blocked all the bad memories out! The one time I did get detention, however, was in sixth grade when my teacher forgot that my family had been on vacation and so I couldn't complete an assignment on time... or something like that. Oh...yeah, and in fourth grade I passed off a fake note from my parents instead of telling the teacher I didn't finish the assignment. That didn't go over well. I think that's the most embarassing thing that I still get ashamed about to this day.

27. Groundskeeping has not touched a single blade of grass by my apartment building, which is on campus next to the famed Shakespere Theatre, all summer long. Yet they decide that this morning from 6 AM to 6:30 AM is the perfect time to mow, leaf-blow, and weed-whack. Right outside my apartment window. Thank you, groundskeeping, for making me a walking zombie today.

Edit: Upon examining their handiwork as I exited the building at oh-so-early in the morning, the grass still looks like a 2 year-old had been playing with scissors.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I'm alive...

Ok. Still alive, back from retreating this weekend. But things are crazy with orientation, so I'll outline posts to come:

  • A (very) delayed RevGalBlogPal Friday Five about Back-to-School
  • Simple thoughts from my retreat
  • A reflection on community
  • Great, positive, awesome orientation experiences. (I love these first-years; they are so awesome!!!!)
Catch you all once I start breathing again,

Melissa :-)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The other day, I was reading an article from July 17th's edition of TIME magazine. This is uncommon for me, even though I enjoy reading magazines, because on a limited seminarian's budget, subscriptions are hard to come by. But I get magazines wherever I can, whether it's getting The Atlantic Monthly from my parents, or TIME from Ben (who gets it from his parents).

The article, Redrawing the Cube, is about how businesses are planning on reinventing the "time-honored" tradition of the cubicle: redesigning it to fit the needs of modern day workers and current technology. The photo slides at the top of the page show some remarkably creative ways of making something new out of what is otherwise...dreadfully boring. These workspaces are designed for aesthetics, comfort and meeting the needs of the workers. If you can manage it, try to get your hands on a copy to see more pictures of what people are doing. There are even businesses that are creating common areas that are designed much like the interiors of most cafes where workers can grab a cup of coffee while using their laptop or meeting with their coworkers.

Businesses are on the cutting-edge of redesigning their workspaces to meet the needs of their employees. They make use of inviting workspaces in an effort to stay abrest of trends emerging in the larger culture.

Why isn't the church doing the same thing?

One of the things that astounds me is this quote from the beginning of the article: "Employing advanced materials, tomorrow's technology and the fruits of sociological research, designers are fitting the future workplace to workers who are increasingly mobile and global." (Emphasis is mine). There isn't anything super-secret or mind-bogglingly intelligent in the approach that these businesses are taking to reach these solutions. They are going beyond their discipline into sociology to help them figure out what they can do to give the people what they need. There is nothing that prevents the church from following their lead -- looking beyond the theologians and pastors to examine current cultural and sociological trends to help inform us about church...and how we need to change to fit the needs of the people we currently aren't serving.

The businesses understand this. They realize that aesthetics is an important value people hold. These new designs have a definite aesthetic appeal, making them much more pleasant than the old metal and fabric wall. They capture the senses (beyond sight!) and create a different feel than the old box. Churches seem to be a bit behind in getting this piece. Sanctuaries may be beautiful, but that beauty doesn't always engage one holistically like it did before. The current postmodern generation resonates with a different aesthetic -- not necessarily a visual one.

Even though in some way these cubicles are new variations on an old theme, I get the sense that they represent a new way of projecting forward into the future. To a certain extent, no matter how you dress them up, they'll still be cubicles; workspaces emprisoning employees designed to improve productivity. But what's most telling is this: our businesses are doing a new thing. Why aren't our churches?

I think it's deeper than the fact that dead great-aunt Mildred sat in that pew for 70 years, how dare you replace it! And I'm not necessarily talking about redesigning our worship spaces, although that may be a component of the greater package. Businesses are changing to meet the needs of its employees in a very fresh and innovative way. Why can't we change to meet the needs of our communities?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Stray Cat

I just saw a stray cat in the main Drew parking lot. It made me so sad...the cat didn't even get scared off when I pulled into a parking spot near it. It didn't move an inch; it just stared at the me. It seemed to me that this was a cat that was used to being out on the streets. So sad...:-( If I could be sure that it didn't have any diseases or fleas, I would have tried to befriend it and figure out a way I could put some food out for it or something.

I have a soft spot for animals. Ben says that I don't care when people in a movie or on TV get hurt, but when someone does wrong by an animal, I'm ready to cry. Harsh assessment, but it's so true.

A quick update

Another slow day at work, so here are a few tidbits as to what I've been up to!

  • Lamenting the horrible 4-0 series vs. the Yankees (though as of right now, the Red Sox have a prayer, it's still 0-0!) Edit: Now it's 1-0 Yanks...we're doomed...
  • Ben's trying to get an emergent cohort started at Drew, and here is our blog!
  • Finished The Shadow Rising -- now onto The Fires of Heaven!
  • In case you haven't guessed, no retreat this weekend; it's planned for next weekend. I figured that it might be better to take a weekend off right before Orientation starts, so I can be in a better frame of mind to meet the new Drew Theological School students!
  • I've been invited to be a small group leader at Exploration 2006, in Jacksonville, Florida. I'm so excited about this! A chance to help out young people discern God's calling for their lives...I can't wait already.
  • Made an excellent zucchini and sour cream dill side-dish last night. I'll post the recipe once I get back to my apartment.
  • I have a post in the works about an article I skimmed in a TIME magazine from a few weeks ago about businesses reenvisioning their workspaces and connecting that to our churches being 50 years behind the times.
  • I have been trying (unsuccessfully) to get back on the "get healthy, lose weight" bandwagon, espcially since I have a target weight for a target day...but at least I have a year to do it. It would help if the workers stopped being lazy and actually finished the tennis courts they have been working on for a month. I don't think my body can take any more 3-miles in 45 minutes at this point. I need to get my cardiovascular strength up in a more engaging manner than walking outside around multi-million dollar homes.
  • Today's been an off day...which isn't fair, especially since I've gotten better about praying every day. :-P And yes. That's me sticking my tongue out at God...which I have no real reason to do...so yes. That's me being immature. :-)
  • There's a leak on the second floor right outside the office. The second one this summer. In the same spot as the first one. I called Facilities (who had apparently been called earlier) confirming the fact that yes, it is dripping. A lot. That was about an hour ago. Have they showed up yet? Of course not.
That's all for now. I'll write up my more profound thoughts later on. Right now, I want to put my brain in a jar and read mindless fantasy novels. :-)