Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Sunday

Sundays are always busy days for pastors. I knew this going into ministry, but I wasn't prepared for the full extent of how much of a drain on my introverted system Sundays are. Especially on the Sundays I preach, I'm ready for a nap by 1 in the afternoon (otherwise, I'm ready for a nap by 2 or 3). But there's always more to do - youth group, or a mailing or things to plan - and then there's the hour-long car ride home that somehow morphs into an hour-thirty affair with traffic back-ups on Rt. 22 or Rt. 1 (depending on the route I take). I come home, and the last thing I want to do is do reading for class or write a reflection paper...and the first thing I want to do is either sleep or eat a lot of really-bad-for-you junk food.

Although I am dead tired (from preaching and from watching my beloved team manage an undefeated season), tonight when I go home, I'll be going home to a loving husband who will be taking me out to dinner and to see "A Christmas Carol" at the Shakespeare Theatre. I'm hoping for a more enjoyable time than when I went to see "Henry VI" (Ben liked it. I didn't.) And then tomorrow I'll get to sleep in before starting the day with preparations for India, readings for India, and the dreaded CPE application.

Well, it's just about time for youth group, so that's it for now...

(On a completely unrelated note, I just discovered that I have dried cookie dough all throughout my engagement ring. Nice.)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

ARGH

I'll be one of the first to tell you that grades don't really matter in the long run. What matters is the work you put into the class and your understanding of the material, yada, yada yada...except when I checked on my grades from this past semester and got royally angry about my preaching grade because I fail to see how I got that grade (unless I totally bombed my preaching self-evaluation, which I don't think I did). I think I'm going to cool off a bit before I e-mail him, asking how the heck he assigned the grade he did.

Maybe grades matter to me more than I thought they did...even grades from useless classes we have to take.

Student Health Insurance doesn't cover anything. You would think that since students are prone to traveling (because when else in your life are you going to have the opportunity to do it), student health insurance would cover things like...medicine to prevent you from getting malaria (always a good thing). Instead, students are expected to shell out $167 for 30 tablets, a cost we are expected to pay out of our pockets (in addition to the $1800 for the trip to India, about $100 for all the immunizations and other medications, and not to mention the fees for the visa and the international student ID card and the like). Of course, $167 is nothing compared to the cost of contracting malaria...and it is about $60 cheaper than filling the prescription at CVS or Rite Aid, and $20 cheaper than Target or Walmart.

Yet it is a luxury that I can even purchase these pills in the first place to prevent me from getting malaria when so many people - especially children - die from the disease every single year. Every day, even. Most people living in these places where malaria is prevalent don't even have basic protection - like a mosquito net treated with chemicals to kill the mosquitoes that are spreading the disease. I'm lucky enough to be able to afford this while thousands more suffer.

So instead of griping about the lousy student health insurance that doesn't cover prescriptions, I should be thankful that a drug like this is available for me to purchase and that I have the resources to be able to afford it. I just wish these trips weren't so darn expensive! With all these fees, there'll be no money left for me to shop with...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

It was Christmas?

Thinking about this past week, Christmas seemed a little surreal. No snow (not the first time), no heavy-duty apartment decoration except for our little tree (no time and no money), and no time off made the holiday fly by. By December 26th my To-Do list filled a page - and none of them small tasks either! Chief among them are the "pastor's article" for the church newsletter, a CPE application to fini... start (really, if I'm honest), and the one thing that has been currently occupying my attention: writing my sermon on Matthew 2:13-23 for Sunday. Yup, that's right. If anything will take you out of the Christmas spirit, it's the prospect of writing a sermon on this text. I just couldn't help it...none of the other texts really spoke to me, and with the limited time frame, I went with what I felt God might be prodding me to tackle. Thanks, God. You couldn't have given me compelling insight into Psalm 148?

In light of the content of the story, I've been thinking a lot about how Christmas is just a messy thing. It's just not this pristine, sanitary story that our culture (and carols like "Away in a Manger") has made it into. Shamed, disgraced, and homeless Mary and Joseph and Jesus in a smelly, stinking barn with no family or friends to witness the birth, save for a few shepherds (as Luke tells it).

And in light of all the work and business and everything...maybe a messier Christmas is just the thing.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Be the Church!

Once again, I have fallen behind on my blogging (both in writing and in keeping up with posts others have written). This time, it was due to a delightful vacation up in Massachusetts, time with family and friends, completing a class project, and then coming back to NJ with Christmastime right around the corner. Now, the guests are gone (though my in-laws aren't tough guests at all!), and it's just me and Ben again, although I have my fair share of things to do before I leave for India. (By the way, it really stinks that student health insurance doesn't cover the cost of Malaria medicine...)

There is something I would love to share with you all - the website for our class project! The catch is this - it's our first draft for our real church plant proposal. By clicking the link, you will be privy to our first attempt at concretizing a year's worth of conversations and dreams, and if you keep coming back, you'll be able to follow our journey as this church plant proposal emerges and takes life - and be engaged with it every step of the way! So please, visit http://bechurchne.org and be sure to give me feedback (on the content, the form, the design of the website) so that we can improve our ideas going forward and so that you, too, can be a part of our process!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's nice to be back in New England. For one thing, there's snow on the ground (and there was snow as we were coming up; it wasn't all from the recent storm!). We drove up on Sunday on a (somewhat) impulse decision. We had been planning a Sunday drive northward, but when we looked at the weather, it was supposed to snow/sleet/wintry mix about the time we'd be driving through Hartford and Worcester. No good. However, when we checked again on Sunday, the storm had been pushed to later (around six), and so we decided to make a go of it. We drove up, and encountered no bad weather at all!

Just because I'm home doesn't mean there is nothing to do! We still have to finish our class project for church planting, which will be a website (currently in the works. Check out our intro page at http://bechurchne.org). I have several preparations for India in the works: getting tevas, packing, malaria medicine, etc. There are Christmas gifts to make (I've decided I'm going to try and hand-make all my gifts; we'll see how that turns out...at the very least, I want my gifts to come from sources that don't oppress or exploit people and/or the environment). And, there's the all-important task of resting and relaxing.

Right now, I'm in a process of discerning what I want to do with this blog. I haven't kept it up nearly as much now that I've started journaling more (something that has proved rather fruitful after nearly two weeks). Perhaps I'll move it elsewhere...perhaps I'll discipline myself to cull thoughts and insights from my journal (that are shareable) once or twice each week. I'm feeling the need to go deeper with this than I am at right now. We'll see.

On a purely superficial sports note, I am sooooooo ready for next week's Patriot's v. Jets game. I hope the Pats run up the score...

Sunday, November 25, 2007

A couple days ago I turned 25 - a quarter of a century years old. I don't feel that much older, but I suppose I now definitively fall into that mid-twenties age range that just sounds old. A grad student, married, in her mid-twenties. Old.

Not really. :-)

I spent the Thanksgiving Holiday with my in-laws, made a vow not to buy anything save for the necessities (like food) on Black Friday, unsuccessfully shopped for shoes on Saturday, and went to a wonderful wedding up at Dartmouth on Saturday afternoon. Then, we drove back to New Jersey, and got in a bit after midnight.

This morning, I went to visit Vision Community Church in Warwick, NY. They are a church plant in the Methodist Tradition, as their parent church is a church in the New York Conference. I have to admit, it was nice to be able to sit back and worship without being responsible for something in the service. Don and Pam Heatley, the pastors of this church, had come in and spoke to our church planting class a couple weeks ago, and I was impressed with what they had to say about their church. Visiting, I was also impressed -- they have hospitality down like no one else's business! Igniting Ministries or whatever branch of the church deals with welcoming people should take a tip or five from Vision. I was well-greeted and introduced to other people in the congregation. They serve breakfast before their services (bagels and coffee, and they also had apple pie and pumpkin pie and other pastry things), and people can bring their food into the services with them. The sermon was great, worship tended towards contemporary (with the music blended and communion at the end).

More later...if I get motivated enough (I need to be more disciplined about my blogging).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Meh.

I'm finding it abnormally difficult to concentrate on this chilly, November morning. Perhaps because it's Monday and normally my day off. Perhaps because I can't seem to get the study warm enough for my fingers. Perhaps because I'm being forced to write a sermon for class and I'm just not into it. Perhaps because I can easily think of five better things to do with my time:

1) Start working on designing a website for our new church. We'd have profiles of us, stuff about our process, videos, etc...

2) Pick out the wedding photos I want edited and polished up

3) Start playing around with some graphics design - specifically, see if I can create a new header for my blog

4) Play Sim City 4 or Kingdom of Loathing (equally good options)

5) Knit or do something else crafty

Instead, I have work to do, because this past week was busy. I have to:

1) Write this advent sermon. It's coming along, and I believe everything I'm putting into it, but it's not coming together. It's half-way done. It would be better if we were actually being taught about writing a sermon and using stories and how to call people to action instead of just the generic blah we've been getting.

2) Do an ethics assignment in which we have to design and outline an adult education course on sexuality issues or sexual orientation issues that were raised in our readings for the past week.

3) Laundry, at some point (Ben and I will figure out who gets that pleasure)

So, I'm working in bite-sized chunks. 30 minutes here, (break), 30 minutes there, (break). All breaks are by rule mindless and things I want to do.


Hopefully, if I get everything done today, I can veg out this evening to Chuck and Heroes!

Monday, November 05, 2007

I blinked, and November is already well under way. Surprising and a little unnerving, especially since I signed up for NaNoWriMo on a whim and currently have nothing but a handful of the vaguest of plot lines. A couple other friends of mine have signed up and taken the plunge, and I, much like a lemming inspired by their examples, followed suit.

Except I really did have good intentions. Lately, I've been fascinated by stories, and how they shape us and can be used to shape others. As part of our church planting class, we watched and participated in a presentation on the power of stories. It was an insightful presentation, and I learned a lot about what makes a story what it is: the linear story (what happens), the heart story (the emotions...the undercurrent of the linear story), and the archetypal story (the part of the story that appeals to ancient memory). We talked about worldview and meta-narrative and all of that jazz. We spent a lot of time examining different movie clips in this light, focusing especially on the movie End of the Spear. But while I left the presentation feeling like I had learned something about analyzing stories, I still felt that I didn't know how to craft them, tell them, or catch them in the moment of their creation.

Stories tell us a lot about who we are, where we've been, what we hold dear, and where we're going. It was my hope to convey this to my congregation on All Saint's Sunday; it was my hope to collect stories from different people in the church about the people in their lives who were saints to them - be these saints from the church or not. It was my hope to teach that because we are a community, these different saints affect all of us and are a part of our shared history - our shared story - because of their influence on one person. The stories of our saints - both known and unknown - are stories we know and share with each other. However, things sometimes don't go as planned in a church, and I had to scramble to fill up my sermon with other things.

In our visit to Boston last weekend (which I will write more about in another post, I promise!), the director for congregational development suggested we work on developing our story - and have it be one that we can tell in a short period of time (under 2 minutes). This story is not about an autobiographical account of how the four of us came to be in covenant relationship with one another and then felt this call to plant a church - but the why. Why live in community? Why plant a church? Why - other than because we feel God calls us to it?

On a lighter note, my interest in stories have been also fueled by a new Facebook application called Just Three Words. The principle of it is simple: you and all your friends add to a story three words at a time. I've had great fun seeing what people come up with and how all the stories I'm following have taken quite different tones and turns.

These different snapshots of the semester have left me wanting and needing to learn how to tell a compelling story, not just the verbal articulation of it, but the very structuring of it. What piece goes where? What is the hook? Where should it end?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sweet Fellowship

Last weekend was my church's annual Candy Making event for our upcoming Harvest Festival. We gathered in the afternoon in the home of one of our lay folks, and spent the better part of the day making delicious hard candy to sell at the Harvest Festival. This was my second time, and it was heaps of fun. We made a myriad of different flavors, ranging from blueberry cheesecake to peppermint to licorice. About 26 of us came to participate and all ages were represented, from the young kids to those who are still kids at heart. We broke in the evening for a "light" supper (where we all definitely ate our fill...probably so we wouldn't eat the candy), and ended making candy around 8:30 in the evening. It was a true time of fellowship and conversation and work...and enjoying the muted Patriot's game in the background where they trounced the Dallas Cowboys. Good food, good fellowship, and good fun.

Something transformational happens when you get a group of church people out of the church setting. Everyone is more relaxed, has time to engage in deeper conversations with one another - it's like coffee hour squared. Seeing people outside of church somehow puts them in a more natural light. I think from time to time we don't bring our whole selves to church, both the good and the bad, and being together in a different setting helps flesh people out. They become more real, more than just the reflection seen on Sunday morning. Authentic sharing happens because there is more time to talk and be with one another than the quick 5-minute life update during coffee hour or the raising of an answered prayer during joys and concerns. Relationships can truly deepen during these times apart from church because there is the time and the space for fellowship.

I believe I experienced authentic fellowship during our candy making event. And it was truly sweet - and not just because of the candy. ;-) We were all happy to be together, happy to burn our fingers a bit, and happy to help out our church as we made candy to sell at the Harvest Festival. I hope that wherever I end up serving, there will be moments like this in the life of the congregation where true community and fellowship can be experienced.

Friday, October 19, 2007

1. If you were a food, what would you be?

Chicken Noodle Soup. Comforting and familiar, most people like it, and it's good for you. ;-)

2. What is one of the most memorable meals you ever had? And where?

Actually, it was at this French Restaurant in the theater district called Pergola Des Artistes. Affordable, delicious French food. I've eaten there twice now, and each time I wasn't disappointed.

3. What is your favorite comfort food from childhood?

Mac 'n' Cheese...

4. When going to a church potluck, what one recipe from your kitchen is sure to be a hit?

Well, I haven't made many casseroles lately (I love how I automatically equate church potluck with casseroles). But my mom has a macaroni salad recipe that is absolutely delicious! Not too heavy on the mayo or the oil, with delicious veggies and pasta. Mmm!

But I also cook a mean broccoli almond stir fry...

5. What’s the strangest thing you ever willingly ate?

Lobster Ice Cream. Don't try it, it's gross. Why waste the lobster?

Bonus question: What’s your favorite drink to order when looking forward to a great meal?

It honestly depends on the meal (and who's paying ;-)). Generally, I just order water, but occasionally I'm a bad Methodist and go for the wine or a Guinness. That'll have to stop...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I did not really just eat a whole box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese for dinner.

Except, I just did.

Comfort Food: 1, Melissa: 0.

But I only used half the butter it called for!

Drew Theological School's Tipple-Vosburgh lectures were this week. Class prevented me from attending most of the workshops and the lectures, however, I did attend one plenary and the closing worship. I really wanted to attend Fred Curtis's (an economics professor at Drew) plenary session on Monday, but it just wasn't viable. It was nice to meet Beth Quick, albeit very briefly! Despite my limited experience of the lectures, for good or for ill, I wanted to offer my reflections:

I'm just not there...and yet, I am there. Perhaps I didn't get the "so what" out of the one plenary because it wasn't geared that way (though I always think we should be asking that question, even in academics), but even the "so what" I heard out of worship didn't push me enough. "Buy clothes from ethical stores and not from WalMart!" "Give out of our excess because we have too much!" Ok...good...but not really very radical. It's not radical to me because we are still participating in this consumer economy that seeks to create our greed, drive our dissatisfaction with the world and our lives, and that still exploits and marginalizes people; we're just putting our money in a different place. It seems to me that while yes - we need things and need to shop to get them - we also need to be subverting the system. Stepping out of that consumer economy all together, if we truly want to be radical.

I think of Shane Claiborne and The Simple Way community in Philadelphia. He made his own habit that he wears every day. The people of the community live together and share their possessions and live in close relationship with the poor around them. To them, poverty has a name and a face...not just a line in the checkbook for donations, or a bag in the hall for stuff to donate.

I struggle with this...a lot. I struggle because I wonder what living like this - in relationship with the poor, living with the basics, sharing our possessions - will look like as there are those of us here at Drew who feel called to a similar lifestyle. So while I'm so far from selling what I have to give to the poor, I do know that there has to be more than just living ethically and responsibly within the system. Ethical and responsible living is a good witness...but doesn't fundamentally change the system. And I'm not sure that Jesus said "live ethically" to the ruler, but told him that he lacked one thing: to go sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow Jesus.

So while this message was something that perhaps some needed to hear, I wanted something more. I wanted to be challenged to seriously consider this radical call to discipleship. I wanted to hear something about being in relationship with the poor, not just being their financial liberators or benefactors. I wanted to hear Jesus.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I haven't played in awhile...but here goes!



Does everyone remember the old Sunday School song?

The B-I-B-L-E,
Oh, that's the book for me.
I take my stand on the Word of God,
The B-I-B-L-E
.

Ahh, yes...fond memories...

1. What is your earliest memory of encountering a biblical text?

I remember in jr. church we had to memorize the KJV of Psalm 23. I think I was in 1st or 2nd grade. Earlier than that, I remember having a little book called "My First Bible" and it told snippets of Bible stories for kids with pictures. I still remember the picture of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the flames, and the picture of Daniel in the Lion's Den with the angel holding the lion's mouth shut. I remember the illustrations more than how the stories were told. Strictly speaking it wasn't dealing with the actual *text* of the Bible, but with the stories...hence, Psalm 23 wins.

2. What is your favorite biblical translation, and why? (You might have a few for different purposes).

Despite my initial skepticism, I'm becoming more fond of Eugene Peterson's paraphrase, The Message. The imagery and the language of the text is powerful and evocative in places. Of course, I don't read it isolated from my trusty NRSV if I'm doing more intensive study or if I'm preaching, although my last sermon borrowed heavily from Peterson's language. Oddly enough, now and again I turn back to the NIV, the first translation I really started reading. I've moved from the NIV to the RSV to the NRSV and then to The Message.

For the Old Testament, however, you just can't beat the Tanakh. We used the Jewish Study Bible for my Old Testament class in seminary, and I'm more prone to read it before the NRSV.

All in all, I like many translations, even some of the more obscure ones. And I also love turning back to the original language (for the New Testament...don't know Hebrew yet) and breaking out my lexicon to attempt my own translation/reading of the text.

3. What is your favorite book of the Bible? Your favorite verse/passage?

Something about Philippians grabs me. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of the Epistles, preferring to read the Gospels...and preferring the Old Testament over the New entirely. But Philippians was one of the first books I did a more in-depth and intentional devotional study on during an Intervarsity retreat during college. Afterwards, a group of us went back to campus and read it aloud at once in the dark with candles and flashlights under a starry sky. Pretty cool.

Instead of listing all of my favorite passages from throughout the Bible (of which there are many), I'll give you my favorite passage from Philippians:

"Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain." (Philippians 2:14-16)

I also love the book of Psalms.

4. Which book of the Bible do you consider, in Luther's famous words about James, to be "an epistle of straw?" Which verse(s) make you want to scream?

Aside from the obvious passages about women that Paul may (or may not) have written in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, I have issues with a lot of the Old Testament passages that proclaim material blessing for being faithful to God. I know this is a view that gets challenged over and over again in the OT, but what mostly bothers me about such passages is the way that people use them today. In a similar vein, the "Prayer of Jabez" absolutely drives me up a wall.

5. Inclusive language in biblical translation and liturgical proclamation: for, against, or neutral?

Um, neutral-ish. I recognize the need for it, especially "brothers" to "sisters and brothers", from "mankind" to "humankind", and from "sons of God" to "children of God." However, when it comes to names for God, I'm a bit more picky (though if there were a gender-neutral pronoun for God, I'd be all for it). I really do like Madeleine L'Engle's use of "El" to refer to God. But ultimately, the Bible is a product of a patriarchal society, and to treat it in its context means being faithful to that. Not that I like it very much, of course, but that's the way it is.

Bonus: Back to the Psalms--which one best speaks the prayer of your heart?

There are too many. Psalm 139 fits, along with Psalm 42.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

First Contact

I read a blog post at the Questing Parson the other day that really made me stop and think for a moment about local churches and how each community perceives itself as a "friendly" church - especially when it comes to visitors. I've been a part of a lot of churches that would label themselves as "welcoming", ranging from those truly hospitable to visitors, to those that are downright suspicious of them, to one that gave out the vibe of "you must conform to belong here" (not United Methodist, incidentally). My sister even told me of a church in her college town that coralled a first-year student into plugging into the church even before this individual had a chance to explore other options ("overly-friendly", perhaps?)

However, with your generic "friendly" church I have to wonder, how deep does that welcome really go? Is it driven largely by the pastor, who has the privilege of getting to know a little about every person who passes through the church doors? Or do laity take the plunge as well, asking details about the life of the newcomer, and taking care to introduce that person or family to others in the congregation (should the individual feel comfortable with it)? Do we give them gift baskets and send them on their way, or do we have them stand up in worship and have them introduce themselves to everyone? And then once people start coming regularly, does anyone take the effort to really get to know "so-and-so who has been coming for three months and is originally from Seattle and has a job in the city"?

Worship is often the first-contact a visitor has with a church, and as such, the reception of the church at its "main meeting" can retain or repel a visitor. I think this is the assumption that most churches have, and the one assumed by the igniting ministry campaign of the UMC. Our task is to be welcoming when people come through the door, no matter their background, appearance, etc..., and yes, that is the case (to a certain extent...should we really be welcoming someone who runs in with a crazed expression and an axe in her hand? Extreme...but I think you get the point).

But I don't think first contact for a visitor should be in worship...or even within the boundaries of the walls of the church. We should be getting to know people even before they step foot in the narthex. We should be out in the community, making contact with people there - through service events, community functions, and the like - learning about their lives and welcoming them then and there. We should be going to where the people are and going deep with them before they even come to worship. Then, once they take the step and come to worship, they will already be known (by at least one or two folks), and what usually is an awkward step for a visitor becomes a more natural transition into the worshiping community.

This is a shift from a church being attractional in its outreach to being more missional and intentional about the ways in which the church and its congregants engage with the community. More thoughts on this to come later...

Monday, October 08, 2007

As I mentioned in my previous post, life happened this past week. I was supposed to be in Nashville this weekend for the emergingumc gathering when I found out that a long-time member of the church in which I grew up (People's UMC) passed away this past Tuesday. To me, Hillie Cass wasn't just any ordinary member - she and her husband served as adopted grandparents. I don't know if we adopted them first or they adopted us first, but throughout my childhood she would attend our high school concerts and bake us fudge for our birthdays, even after we stopped attending that church. I felt that I should be there for her funeral service. So Ben and I left New Jersey Friday morning, picked up my sister at Williams College, went to the visiting hours, and attended the funeral on Saturday morning before heading back to New Jersey for our respective church services on Sunday.

It was she who in large part instilled in me - as she had for many of those who passed through her junior choir - a love of music. We rehearsed and sang during worship every single week. We had to memorize all the music (though if the words were tough she would write them out on a huge piece of paper and hang it on the front pew so we could read the words). I learned how to sing in parts in her choir, and thus I learned to love singing alto. She also sang in the senior choir and I could tell that she loved singing as an act of worship. Her husband Malcolm played the organist at our church - for 67 years! He was the Portland municipal organist for years and years also, and the above picture was him playing the Kotzschmar Organ for the ordination service of the 1987 Maine Annual Conference and behind him is Hillie, turning pages for him as she did for almost every worship service at Peoples that I can remember.

She also had an incredible love for the kids in her junior choir. Every year, she would also throw us a huge ice cream sundae party, where I was introduced to such flavors as chocolate chip cookie dough and to those candied cherries that are a necessary part of any sundae. But this was just how she loved anybody; she had a warm and compassionate spirit that made everyone feel welcome and right at home. She treated everybody as the child of God that person was - no matter who they were.

Hillie enjoyed life, and was always full of joy. She was also very busy! She had so many activities...each one of them about serving other people. Meals on Wheels, Jr. Choir, hosting the bean suppers (to name a few). She just didn't feel right if she wasn't doing something for others. I was so excited to discover at her funeral that Psalm 139 was her favorite Psalm (because it's mine too). As the pastor mentioned in his brief sermon, Hillie definitely lived up to that standard (well, at least the first 18 verses) - she intimately knew her God...and her God knew her inside and out as well.

I'll miss her a lot. I'm very glad that she had a chance to meet Ben; we stopped to see her and her husband on the way back from our honeymoon. I hope that someday, when I'm old (or even just older), I'll be half the kind, caring, loving, generous, full of life woman that she was.

(Obituary here, Featured obituary here)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I meant to post earlier, but life happened this week (more on that in a post to come).

Preaching. What's the first image that comes to mind when you hear this word? More than likely it is a robed-figure standing in a pulpit, or someone more casually dressed sitting on a stool or walking around on stage...all talking to a gathered assembly of people.

For me, I don't get this image. My first thought is more akin to St. Francis of Assisi's statement: "Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words." I picture preaching to be more about incarnating God's love to people than it is speaking to a congregation.

So you all can probably imagine my dilemma as we are asked to write our theological context for preaching, predicated on the assumption that preaching is about verbally articulating the faith.

Hmm.

Pulpit preaching is just one small part of how we as Christians preach with our lives. We are always, always preaching - always saying something about the love of God through Jesus Christ in our actions and in the way we treat other people. I really love this line my pastor said in a sermon a few weeks ago: "It’s not when we tell people about Jesus, we’re already doing that. It’s what we’re telling them through our actions."

So in this respect, we are all - clergy and laity alike - preachers of the Word. What gives pastors special authority? You tell me. Is it more scholarly knowledge? A special vocational call? The experience of seminary? Ordination? I don't really know...all I know is that I don't think preaching (when we do it on Sunday mornings) can't just be one person speaking to a group of people.

I think preaching in the context of worship can be ritual, group discussion, art, silence, or a service project. I really love what Tim Lucas of Liquid Church in Morristown did when they canceled weekend services to go serve others. Check it out!

More and more I'm beginning to understand that preaching is more about how we live out the Word of God than anything else. Because if we - both as individuals and as communities of faith - aren't doing God's Word, then what we say from the pulpit is meaningless. Our preaching must come out of a love and a desire to incarnate God's love to a broken and hurting world. And that is what preaching means to me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Now that my paper is safely in the hands of my professor, I feel like I can ask this question of you all:

What does it mean to preach? Where to we derive our authority for preaching? What's our theological context for preaching? In essence...what is preaching?

I'm truly interested in hearing what you have to say before I post my own reflections on this. I had to write 5 pages, double-spaced, but I won't hold you to that same standard. ;-)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Story-Catching

My church planting class recently had dinner with Tim Lucas, who is the lead pastor of liquid church in Morristown, NJ. The church is six years old, and draws about 800 people to three services on Sunday. Their worship is contemporary, and use lots of art and media to communicate their message.

One of the big ways they communicate is through story, particularly through the medium of video. Tim shared with us that he loved to tell stories about people's lives and the transformation that they find in Jesus Christ...or even telling those stories even if they aren't quite there yet. He explained a video that was going to air on Sunday about a couple and the husband's hesitations about coming to church...not just any church, but liquid church in particular. He told us that the video started out just that way, and that that moment was the hook - the crucial moment - of the whole story.

I was thinking that in seminary, at best we are taught to be story-tellers (but only story-tellers through speaking...if we're lucky, we get to be story-tellers through dance and drama. Art lags behind...as does music and film and worship). However, we're not taught to look for stories, to have that mindset, and to "catch" them in the right way. We aren't taught to have that sort of outlook where the story lies in the messiness of things and not the perfect portrait.

Perhaps this is just an issue for me; I don't consider myself to be a story-teller (though I'd love to learn a few techniques).

Anyway, now I'm just procrastinating from doing my classwork. I'll post my reflections on preaching later on...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Apartment

Setting up the apartment has probably been one of the biggest projects to date. Well, that and doing the thank you cards, which we have just started. I meant to have them finished by last Friday, but it really takes awhile to hand-write everything. Trust me, if you are waiting to receive a thank you card from us, you really want me to hand-write it instead of Ben. If he wrote them, you'd understand the general "thank you" sentiment, but you wouldn't be able to read one word.

The apartment is just about together, with the exception of the dining room, which has boxes of stuff that we plan on (1) giving away, (2) giving back to our parents/whomever we borrowed stuff from, or (3) sending back to family somewhere to store it for us for a little while. It also has a piece of furniture that needs to be finished, but before we can finish it we need a replacement part from the company (who gave us a part that didn't fit). We're still getting pictures up on the walls; we were blessed with friends who gave us really thoughtful gifts, many of which included original artwork!

Possibly my two favorite rooms are the living room and the kitchen. The living room (pictured here) is nice and open, with plenty of space. The spaces serves to deemphasize the television (which on the wall opposite the futon), and emphasize the coffee table (with the killer spider plant on it. The plant is half-dying, but at the same time springing forth new life like crazy. A metaphor for the church, perhaps?). Note our high-class candle holders for the blue candles. ;-) With the TV are two mid-sized bookshelves loaded with books and plants and stereo speakers. Other than that, it's just a bright, open, generally cheery room that we've actually tried to color-coordinate in to some semblance of something that works. It works for Ben and me, and that's all that really matters anyway.

Next comes the kitchen. I love our kitchen! It's got so much cabinet space (I was definitely struggling with Drew housing's teeny-tiny kitchens with little to no space for supplies). Even with all the space, Ben and I are rather hard-pressed to fit all our kitchen stuff here, though we've made it work by using the tops of the cabinets for things we don't use as often. Note the presence of the breadmaker on the counter (currently in use making oatmeal bread, and by tasting the dough it's going to be oh-so-delicious! Ignore the dirty dishes in the sink). Behind where this picture was taken, we have a small little breakfast nook for the two of us. To the left of this picture is the bargain deep freeze, which we got at a moving sale for $20. And though you can't see the counter because of the fridge, the counter is lined with a nice set of knives, a spice rack, some canisters, and a utensil holder.

Truth be told, we probably have more space here than we know what to do with - there's tons of extra space in the bedroom and in the living room. However, that space isn't exactly storage-friendly...but we're making it work. We're trying to go through our things and live as simply as we can...but simple living is tough with bookshelves full of books and lots and lots...and lots of candles!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I have found a little time in my morning to give a quick post and to assure people that I haven't dropped off the face of the planet (though anyone who is my friend on Facebook probably knows that already).

This is the start of the third week of school, and I must say it's a little surreal to be back, married, and in classes. Some days, it seems like nothing has changed. Other times - especially when I'm stuck in commuter traffic - it's all too real as I glower at the drivers who cut me off and think about the convenience of campus housing. Then, I give myself a little shake as I remind myself that I would not trade anything in the world - even commuting - for Drew campus housing.

The privacy and remoteness is nice most of the time. I like having a place apart from the rest of the community to which I can come home and not think about any of the Drew drama (not that anything has happened yet, but it's bound to sooner or later). However, it's sad that I can't pop-over to see my friends or have more spontaneous gatherings because I'm 35 minutes away. It makes relationships more intentional. So - to my Drew friends - if I'm becoming too much of a hermit, please drag me out and help me remember that there are other people to spend time with aside from my husband (to my husband - I love you!).

Classes are...classes. I will have a solid grounding in old-style preaching, which I'm sure will be helpful, but I'm chomping at the bit to get more out of what "Proclamation of the Word" means than just "Preaching." I see Preaching as so much more than just delivering a sermon, and if you think about it, not many people really experience the Word of God through aural stimulation alone...so why just preach sermons all the time? Call me crazy...

Ethics will be intense, and I think it will be a fantastic class. I appreciate the professor's approach, even if the readings are a bit dry from time to time. Her emphasis is on the practicality of ethics; yes, there is theory but in reality, this is stuff that we will be having to make decisions about on the ground.

Church Planting will be informative, although we'll see how deep the class gets into it. We've currently been reading a fantastic book by Alan Hirsch called The Forgotten Ways and so far, it has some great insights into the nature of the church as it currently is and where the church should ultimately be. The problem is - I'm there and on the same page. I want more of the...how do we put this into practice? What do we do? How can we orchestrate experiences to draw people into relationship? How can we make the gospel be incarnational? Where do we go from here? I hope these questions will be discussed in depth rather than have the course scratch the surface of something much deeper for me.

Those are my classes. Tuesday and Wednesday...very nice. Makes for two intense days, but it leaves my Thursday and Friday free for work and church and other errands. Monday is my Sabbath (I'm really trying to be rather millitant about it this year), and Sunday is church work day...and other small things that need to get done. Hopefully, Saturday will be errand and house-work day. We'll see if this routine holds!

Monday, September 17, 2007

UMC.org has published an article that my husband wrote about the Gen X/Y Conference that happened a few months ago. It made the front page!

But here's the direct link to the article.

Go to his blog to comment!

(I'm so proud of him...)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Honeymooning

We spent a week in Owl's Head, Maine for our honeymoon. We rented a cottage right on the water, and the view was spectacular. A good portion of each day was spent out on the deck, enjoying the fantastic weather and wonderful view. The other half of the day (when we weren't sleeping)...well, let's just say that when you don't have cable, DirectTV is a vacation in a box. We watched oodles and oodles of television - mostly sports (and the Red Sox were blessed with a good week).

We had the opportunity to have one fancy meal at Marcel's in the Samoset resort. They were expensive, but we left having had a great meal. They brought out little things to eat to cleanse the palate in-between each meal. My lobster was very yummy (if, about a fourth of the cost of the meal).

Our main adventure was walking out to the Breakwater Lighthouse from the cottage where we stayed. We thought it would be a 7-mile walk round-trip. Nope. Not so - it ended up being nearly a 10 mile round-trip walk - and I must say I was pretty sore from it the next day (not to mention sunburned despite the sunscreen I had put on!) We counted that as our exercise for the week. I have to say that the view was nice - but definitely not worth the long walk.

Anyway, I leave you all with a few pictures of our honeymoon:

This was the view we had from the deck!

Can you see the lighthouse at the edge there? Yeah, we walked all around the bay to get there...

Ben and I decided not to save the top of our wedding cake for our first year anniversary (we heard from reliable sources that it tastes like cardboard), so we opted to enjoy a piece each day over our honeymoon. Yum!

The sunrise over the ocean as seen from the deck. I won't tell you how many mosquito bites I endured to get this shot (and many others that are equally as spectacular).

This was the little cottage we had for the week. I could definitely live here for the rest of my life!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Life is Good :-)

Hello everyone!

So it's been awhile - getting married and honeymooning and getting settled in and starting classes have left me fairly busy. Very very happy, but also busy. Right now, I'm averaging about a blog post per month! I'm hoping to nudge that average up very shortly.

To sum it up in short: married life is wonderful. These past three weeks have been a blessing, and while I know that we will not always be this blissfully happy, I expect that life together will be quite good.

The ceremony itself was perfect. Ben's parents officiated, and Thom, the pastor at the church where we got married, gave a very thoughtful, meaningful, and touching sermon that really involved the whole community in our marriage. Serving communion really brought that piece home as well. We had two stations - Ben and I served with friends from Drew, and it was a very sacred moment to see all these people from different points in our lives come forward to receive. That's when I felt truly married - exchanging the vows and the rings was special, of course, but it's communion that I will always remember.

The reception was great fun as well. Everyone had a good time, and knew how to party. The DJ remarked to me at the end of the night that he had never seen a crowd of people have such a good time together. We actually got to dance a little bit - kick off my shoes and have a good time - which was a welcome break from holding court (which was also fun, but in a different way). By the end of the evening, I was dead tired - as was Ben - and in those pictures we sure look it!

The official pictures haven't come yet, but I leave you with some photos that different friends took during the ceremony...






Sunday, August 12, 2007

Suffice it to say that this summer has been busy - not unsurprisingly so when there's a wedding to plan at the end of it. However, I wasn't quite prepared with the immensity of the task and, because I was ill-prepared, didn't manage to secure wedding rings or a cake until last week. Or the DJ deposit, for that matter. At this point, all seems to be well; the big items are taken care of, the details seem to be manageable, and I plan on enjoying this last week by letting myself relax (a little), getting my nails done, and perhaps finding a place where I can get a massage without having to sell my soul and my first-born child.

The 18th is the big day! After the wedding, we'll be off to Owl's Head for our honeymoon. Hooray for the Maine coast and a cottage that overlooks the water! We have no big plans; my primary objective is to relax before classes begin on September 4th. We'll probably do some day hikes, walk along the beach, go to a nice restaurant. But I definitely won't mind staying in all day reading or watching movies.

I most likely won't get a chance to post again until after the wedding, so adios for now!

Friday, June 15, 2007

From the RevGal ring:

Friday 5, books, books, books....

"I've just returned from a meeting in Cambridge so I'm posting this late here in the UK (it is 3:45pm).. because I took the opportunity of a free afternoon in Cambridge's wonderful book shops... I only bought a few- and they were on sale- very restrained for me!!!

So with my head full of books I've seen and a long wish list in my mind, I bring you a Friday Five on books!!!"

1. Fiction what kind, detective novels, historical stuff, thrillers, romance????

Hands down, science fiction/fantasy. I've tried to branch out multiple times, but this seems to be the genre that I get drawn back to, time and time again. It's not that I don't enjoy other genres, but when given the option to read something new, I automatically head toward the fantasy section in the bookstore or the library.

2. When you get a really good book do you read it all in one chunk or savour it slowly?

How about chunks over a period of time? I think I devoured the latest Harry Potter within 48 hours of getting my paws on it. However, I am naturally a slow reader, so even the most engrossing books take me awhile to chew.

3. Is there a book you keep returning to and why?

There are several. One is the Lord of the Rings. There is just so much in that book, and the story is so captivating. The other is the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, largely because it's just so darn funny.

4. Apart from the Bible which non-fiction book has influenced you the most?

This is a tough one, primarily because I don't read much non-fiction. There are two that I read for my Intro to Sociology in college. The first is The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. The second is Jonathan Kozol's book Savage Inequalities.

5. Describe a perfect place to read. ( could be anywhere!!!)

On the rocks by the ocean with a cool ocean breeze (that's not strong enough to turn pages).

I have to say, this was a timely Friday Five, as the AAUW of Madison is having their huge book sale this week, and I just picked up a bag of used books. Oh, used book sales is definitely a weakness of mine...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

There are lots of ideological stances that divide us, particularly when it comes to theology - whether or not one believes that Christ is the only way to God, whether or not one believes that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, whether or not one believes x, y, z....you get the idea.

I've always been fascinated by the fact that in our conference, one's perspective on the homosexuality "issue" automatically lands you in one of two camps: the "liberal" camp or the "conservative" one. I think you can figure out which is which. Rarely (with few exceptions) does anything else factor into this strange sorting process. (Interestingly enough, the Institute of Religion and Democracy paints with a similar brush...if I can find the article, I'll post it here).

Part of the problem here is the labeling of people into categories based on individuals believing "this" vs. "that". Such a dualistic way of thinking I find to be inherently dangerous (as it grants humans too much power to decide who is "in" and "out"). But another part of the problem here is that...some people just don't fit.

I, for one, don't. It's not just that I'm not liberal or conservative, or that I have some "conservative beliefs" and some "liberal" ones all mixed together. I'm not even sure I'm in the middle, really. It's more that these categories don't make sense at all when applied to me, or to some others that I know. I feel as if I'm outside of the current system all together.

When it comes right down to it, though, why can't we all just call each other brothers and sisters in Christ? Why can't we all see each other as God's children - just the same as everyone else? If we have to go around defining people, why can't this definition trump them all? In the end, "liberal" and "conservative" - or even "moderate" won't make an ounce of difference. How faithfully we lived out the gospel message, however, will. And really, isn't that all that matters?

NEAC Brief Update

I'd first like to thank everyone who has helped me discern about getting my name in to General. As it is, I have been elected as the first alternate (or "reserve") lay person to Jurisdictional Conference. This year, we had only 5 lay slots to General and 5 additional ones to Jurisdictional (down one each from last time).

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked in session because of the two "learning centers" Ben and I did (which went well). More people came than we anticipated, and everyone was engaged and asked really good questions.

So that's conference in a nutshell. Perhaps I will offer a few more reflections later; I've got a few thoughts brewing based on certain events that have transpired here over these past few days. But for now, I must leave Conference a bit early; my sister is graduating as the valedictorian from high school this afternoon!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

the last time I took this, I scored much higher on the Holiness/Wesleyan...

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern, You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don't think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Emergent/Postmodern

93%

Roman Catholic

61%

Charismatic/Pentecostal

61%

Classical Liberal

57%

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

54%

Modern Liberal

50%

Neo orthodox

50%

Reformed Evangelical

4%

Fundamentalist

0%

What's your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Help Me Discern!

Annual Conference is only a few days away. I've been getting ready by doing lots of different things; Ben and I are doing two workshops - one on the church and postmodernity and the other on emerging worship. This means preparing presentations, and making darn sure I know my stuff (which is a humbling experience in and of itself).

However, I've also been praying a lot - for the New England Conference, for its leadership, for those who will be receiving new appointments and their churches...that sort of stuff. I've also been praying about submitting my name as a floor nomination to General Conference.

When I was looking over the names of those to be elected, I noticed a few things on the laity side (bear in mind that we get six lay delegates to General, and 12 to Jurisdictional):

1) Out of the nine people running, only one is under the age of 30.

2) Out of those nine, only one is a woman.

I feel rather conflicted, though I think in some ways I'm leaning toward submitting my name. The downsides would be traveling to the pre-conference meetings; they are held in Mass., which would mean traveling from New Jersey one weekend every couple months. I also really hesitate to play the diversity card. Although I celebrate having a diverse delegation with a variety of different gifts, it really, really bothers me when before people vote, members of AC get up to make a brief speech about how we already have three white men elected, or one black woman, but no Asian men or what have you. I feel that by submitting my name, I would be the young white woman under thirty (the only one who would run, mind you).

Although I struggle with this, I do feel like I need to make sure the voice of the young people are heard. I still love this denomination, and I feel called to help lead the United Methodist Church into the future. There appears to be some good legislation being sent to General Conference this year (http://www.gbod.org/youngpeople/connected/global/leg.htm). Granted, whether or not the future of the church includes sitting around debating legislation, I don't know. But I feel like I do have something to add to the conversation as a young person. I was elected in 2004 as a delegate to Jurisdictional, so hopefully people remember my name...

So -- there you have it. If you could help me shed some prayerful light on the situation, I would greatly appreciate it...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Cleaning out

I'm in the process of cleaning out my room at home. Boy, is that ever a project! There's a lot of stuff to sift through - sometimes, 24 years worth of stuff!

One of the things I have done throughout the years is keep a large shoebox stuffed full of cards and letters and other assorted things. I went through the box today (keeping a large portion of its contents) and marveled at the number of letters and postcards that I have kept. It made me realize (yet again) what a bad corresponder I've been. So starting in the summer, my goal is to write one letter to someone each week. A letter - not an e-mail - but a letter, since I think they are much more personal.

Plus, it'll make me keep an up-to-date address book (which is always in a state of disarray).

Monday, May 28, 2007

My alma mater


Isn't it pretty? I want to try and get some of my wedding photos taken by the pond. I also like this other one I took:


I want to take a photography class!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Graduation

Colby Class of 2007 graduated today, and I made the trip up with my family to watch my two brothers shake hands with the president of the college and move their tassels from the right side of their face to the left. During the thirty-five minute litany of names (during which time the soon-to-be graduates at the end of the alphabet stood - something I remember all too well), I stood in the back, clapped for people I knew, and caught up with a few folks. It was nice to see so many familiar faces attending graduation (even if I did get a little sunburned).

Yesterday and today were full of graduation activities (namely, the music major reception yesterday and the ceremony today), and I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people. Every time I go up to campus I have a whole mixture of feelings. I realize that I miss the campus a lot, but I also realize that I'm glad that I've moved on. I miss taking math and physics and music classes, and hanging out in the seminar room on the 4th floor of Mudd, perched on my screen-less windowsill (with the window open, naturally). I miss seeing the sunrise from the CCF room after pulling an all-nighter with a friend. Mostly, I miss the people and the good times we had all had.

Thinking back, I wished I had taken more advantage of the relationships with people; in general, I took people for granted in undergrad. This isn't to say that I didn't value friendships, but that I, along with probably many others, always thought that things would stay the same, and that I'd keep in touch with people I was close to and whatnot. But jumping right in to school again after graduation changes things, and schoolwork and life in a new place with new people can complicate everything. Add major life change and a job or two to the mix and it really starts to get busy.

So I've resolved to be more intentional about my relationships with people. E-mails, letters, phone calls...because really -- people shape our lives, not institutions (be they educational or otherwise). I will always remember Colby for the people and the memories.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Today's Get Fuzzy

I had to share to share today's Get Fuzzy strip with you all - it's absolutely hilarious. I think my favorite is the reference to Vogon poetry...either that or the E = mc scram. Don't know which. Beautifully done!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Blog

Ben's been attending the Generation X/Y Gathering sponsored by the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church and has been faithfully blogging about his experience. I have to admit, I'm rather jealous that he's there and I'm not. I hope that when the Northeast puts on a young adult event, it'll be something like that - good speakers, and plenty of opportunities to share stories and meet people.

It sounds like things are going well there. Ben has posted a lot of quotes from the presenters, and it seems like there are a lot of good conversations happening.

1. Have you ever successfully quit a bad habit, or gotten a good habit established? Tell us about how you did it.

I used to be a nail-biter. Not a terribly bad one...but I stopped by using nail polish. Now I hardly use nail polish or bite my nails.

2. "If only there were a 12-step program for _________________!"

Procrastinators. I've gotten better...I swear...

3. Share one of your healthy "obsessions" with us.

Eating healthily and exercise has become one of the latest "obsessions" in my life.

This one isn't really "healthy" but it's "harmless". This is going to sound really silly, but...pens. I love pens. Any office supplies really, but pens in particular. I could spend hours in Staples or Office Max just looking at pens. I haven't bought any in a really long time since I have plenty already, but I just love them. Gel rollers, fountain, and fun colors are my favorites.

4. Share the habit of a spouse, friend or loved one that drives you C-R-A-Z-Y.

Well, I cured Ben of some of his bad habits back in college (I love you, dear). At the moment, nothing immediately jumps to mind...except for the standard toilet seat thing.

5. "I'd love to get into the habit of ___________________."

Getting back into my daily prayer and writing habit.

Bonus: What is one small action you might take immediately to make #5 a reality?

Since my summer schedule is going to be fairly consistent, I could wake up at the same time every day to start implementing these habits.

Bonus 2: Try it, and let us know how it goes in a future post!

Will do!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

And...breathe!

The semester is over, and I have been out of New Jersey since Tuesday, and I can honestly say that I don't miss it one bit. It's so wonderful to be home amongst family and friends, and staying in one spot for more than a week is very appealing at this point. There's still a lot to do - one wedding, two graduations, and annual conference (and a couple presentations to put together) - all in the space of three weeks, but on the whole it will be enjoyable and non-stressful work. I hope. :-)

It's truly amazing how fast this semester, and the whole year, has gone by. It has been challenging in more ways than one, but I believe I'm a better person for it. I managed to survive four classes, church work, and everything else this past semester...and I lived. I've learned a lot this semester - about myself, about what God might be calling me to, about things I've learned in class - that it'll probably take me awhile to take it all in. I'm good at absorption, but this semester has left my brain feeling like an over-soaked sponge in a huge puddle of water!

One of the things that excites me the most about this summer (aside from my wedding), is the chance to catch up on some reading. I have a whole list of books that I want to be sure and read: books by Brian McLaren, Len Sweet, and many others. I'm also taking suggestions, so comment if you want to recommend a book!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Coming up for air

It probably wasn't the wisest plan to decide to do DCOM, move, and preach all within the same week. I've driven an estimated 1,000+ miles since last Sunday alone, and will clock another 400 this week (maybe 500 if next Sunday is included). I am tired.

Moving is a very stressful thing, even if you have a team of wonderful, patient people to help. I probably would have been *much* less stressed if I didn't have to preach, but I was the genius who decided that I could handle it. (I did, by the way...and it went well, so no worries there). I now have a much deeper sympathy for the Israelites who were in transit for 40 years, while we got all my stuff moved in to my summer place and Ben's stuff moved in to the apartment with only two car trips (with many cars). Much shopping and assembling happened yesterday (Ikea TV stand and Ikea table and chairs!), and the place is starting to look a little more lived-in. After Ben went back up to New England today, I stayed, unpacking our gobs of books. I can say with confidence that we are going to need another bookshelf. A big one.

I know there's something deep and theological in all this moving, but I'm to tired to drag it out of my brain so I'm not going to try. Instead, I am going to get some sleep, and dream for a very long time.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

...it is finished.

The semester is officially over for me, and to top it off, I was certified today!

No, no...not certifiable...though that is still up for debate. I became a certified candidate for ordination in the United Methodist Church!

So now I get to kick off my shoes, lean back in my chair, sip lemonade and watch the world go by for a little while...

haha, Right. Tomorrow is sermon time (I've got a workable idea though, so I just need to write it out), and Thursday is Drive-Back-to-Drew time and Packing-time so Friday and Saturday can be Moving-Time. But then...I get to come back home next week, so I can endure it all for a week. I guess.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I've blinked, and it's almost the middle of May. I'm up to my eyeballs in papers to wri... pages to write: a final exam for Religion and the Social Process and a 3000-max exegetical paper on Psalm 139. All for Monday/Tuesday. Right during DCOM. Gah.

I can't wait to get home, I am so burnt out, and I really can't offer much else interesting to say. Except, I have two more pages to go on my final before it's ready for some (major) editing. Right now, however, is break time, so I can go find the missing pieces of my brain and put them back in the (mostly) correct order.

Please, if you haven't done so already, check out http://multiculturalmethodists.wordpress.com. It would make me especially happy if you commented, or otherwise gave me some feedback. Please. It's for a class...and because I think it's an important conversation to have.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

For my multicultural evangelism project, I created a blog (http://multiculturalmethodists.wordpress.com). I want to get people (lay, clergy, and all who are in-between) talking about what it means to have multicultural ministry in the Methodist tradition. I don't mean to intentionally exclude people from other denominations, but I've really noticed in my denomination the lack of attention given to this issue. We don't have very many multiracial congregations, let alone multicultural ones. I intend for this to be an on-going conversation where people can share their stories, struggles, desire to learn, experiences, what have you. Please stop on by!

Monday, April 30, 2007

1) Not passing out while jogging this morning.

2) Being halfway done with my written response questions for DCOM.

3) Doing a little work outside the library and watching someone maneuver a remote-controlled car around the concrete. I found myself intrigued, and kind of hoping that whoever was controlling the thing would drive it into the library.

Friday, April 27, 2007

1. Wearing?

Well, I'm wearing blue corduroys and a dark pink, long-sleeved shirt. It's my day off, so I don't really care. Though I'm glad I didn't decide to do this right after my workout and before my shower! (Hooray for scuzzy old bathrobes!)

2. Pondering

I've been thinking a lot about the UM DCOM questions because this week's project is getting those responses written so I can send them out. Secondly, I've been thinking a lot about multicultural ministry, how it's more than just multiracial or multiethnic, and how we as a denomination talk a lot about being diverse but we have churches that are mostly homogeneous (racially, generationally, culturally, linguistically, etc...).

3. Reading

For my own sanity, I've been rereading a bit of fiction - Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time Series. Right now, I've past where I stopped before and am now on book 10: Crossroads of Twilight. I am bound and determined to finish this series, even though it is painfully evident that the plot has collapsed under its own weight. The earlier books were better, these later ones are OK. Give me two more books, and if the series isn't over yet, I'll most likely be screaming for the main character and all associated with him to die in the Last Battle.

4. Dreaming

I've been dreaming about life after the end of the semester, life after Drew and, best of all, married life. :-) Only a few more months!

5. Eating

I have only had Dannon Light and Fit Strawberry Yogurt this morning. For lunch, I'll be eating some leftovers. For dinner, I'm feeling like it's a day for turkey soup.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reading

You know? I wish I had the time for fruitful, outside reading. I have the stuff we're required to read for class, and I try to always be reading one book of fiction just for fun, but that leaves me with little time to read books that I'm interested in vocationally or spiritually. I think I've been reading the Bolger and Gibbs Emerging Churches ever since I picked it up last year at Annual Conference. Gah. And I want to start reading some of the more spiritual classics, but where's the time?

I think that it would be fun to have a one credit seminary class that met once per month or every other week just to sit down and discuss the relevant books we've been reading. I need some accountability in my reading list!

This isn't to downplay the importance of some of the stuff I read for class. I've encountered some terrific books as a result of my classes, like A Rabbi Reads the Psalms by Magonet (and his associated book on the Old Testament). I've read books I normally wouldn't have picked up on my own - some of which I've liked, others of which I've hated. I just wish that there'd be a little space for me to read what I want to read!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

As part of our supervised ministry course, we are required to write a 10-12 page, single-spaced paper on our Theology of Ministry that covers these areas:

  1. Pastoral Identity, including self-care.
  2. Leadership
  3. Theological understanding of ministry.
  4. Vision for ministry
  5. Implications (what courses or training do we need to take in light of what we talked about in the paper)
With some of the leading questions that they ask us to discuss in these sections, I feel as though I am hitting my head against a brick wall, particularly when it comes to (1) leadership, and (2) theological understanding of ministry.

I'm coming to understand more that ministry happens where it happens, and that more often than not, the modern church with its social club mentality is more of a hindrance than a help to creating disciples of Jesus Christ. Even a good modern church that is missionally-minded, one where disciples are made, and one that takes seriously the call to transform lives and the world...doesn't jive with what I see myself doing as a pastor. We are really taught to be chaplains in ministry - caring for those in the congregation, trying to bring more people (and more money) into the church, and trying to teach and nurture them so that they can participate more in the life of the church.

I wrestle with this. I don't think pastors and the church should simply create church-goers, and equipping the laity for ministry shouldn't just be about mentoring people so that they can organize church suppers. The church exists for the sake of those who are not a part of it - those on the margins of our communities, those who need help - because that's who Jesus would be hanging out with, hoping to transform their lives.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to have the seed of the gospel planted in a community or culture and have it grow. We are called to incarnate the gospel wherever we are, so the church in one place may look a lot different than the church in another community. We are called to be relational, as Jesus was relational, and our primary relationship is our individual and collective relationship with Jesus. We are called to be missional, as we are to be sent out into the world as opposed to waiting for people to come to us. Jesus called us to go out and make disciples. There is nothing about people coming in and becoming church-goers that give out of their pocketbook and sit and attend a worship "serve-us" for an hour.

So why I have to sit here and attempt to fill 10 pages what I can articulate in the space of a couple pages is beyond me. Though it has gotten me thinking that our modern church is pretty sick, and unless we figure out how to incarnate the gospel in postmodernity (whether that means incorporating more emerging elements into our churches, planting more churches with pastors who don't have a modern mindset, or figuring out something else entirely), our denomination is doomed.

Wesley was really on to something back in the 18th century, with his radical call to discipleship, service to those on the margins, and covenanting together for mutual growth and accountability. I may be a bit harsh in saying this, but if we can't even follow Wesley's example, Jesus' example might be a little too much for us to handle.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I miss Maine....

I went to Costco yesterday and ended up buying Dole strawberries (for which I was chastised for later - I had no idea Dole was a bad company!). In any case, I just had some for breakfast. They were good, but nothing like the ones we would get at Maxwells - sweet, juicy, and oh so delicious.

I'm feeling more than a little homesick for Maine. I'll get up there in a few weeks for my DCOM meeting (insert ominous music here), and then I'll be up again periodically for two graduations, a wedding...and then I'll at least be in New England for conference. But right now, boy do I miss it!

One of the toll-takers at one of the booths I pass through on my way to church on the GSP talks to me about Maine every single time I pass through. He mentions how he visited Mansfield Stadium in Bangor and talks about Steven King. While I can't say that I've spent considerable amount of time in Bangor (i.e., never), it's nice that (a) there's a toll worker on the GSP that actually talks to people and (b) it reminds me of Maine.

I would so love to go back to Maine to do ministry. I know that's up to the discretion of God and the Cabinet, but I can hope, right?

Friday, April 13, 2007

I am still breathing after the Paschal festival, though just barely with all the work I have to do and the sermon I have to write (which is coming along nicely, if I do say so myself).

But in-between the busy-ness and the late nights and the fast pace of life, I have found some time for jogging. Well, jogging and walking. If you follow the link, you'll find a program designed to get you from couch potato to running 5k in 9 weeks. I have just finished my third week (though I repeated the first one). A group of four of us has been doing this consistently for two weeks now, and I'm so amazed that I can feel the difference. Right now, I'm actually looking forward to doing a bit of jogging (scary, isn't it?)!

It has been a good bit of self-care for me. Plus, if it helps me reach my target weight in time for my wedding, I am all for it!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter, everyone! He is Risen indeed!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

So we had this week off from classes, as the majority of us are in church settings and are very, very, very busy this time of year (for a very good reason...it's close to the end of the semester and we've all procrastin-, I mean...church. Lots of church services going on. Yeah. That's it. Church.)

I, for one, don't know where this last week went. I don't feel like I've been able to properly get into the spirit of Holy Week, primarily because I've been thinking ahead to Easter, and then again to good ol' doubting Thomas the week after (because that's the week I'm preaching next). For example, Jesus was in the tomb all day on this Holiest of Saturdays...and I had Easter on the brain.

Well, at least I got a good dose of Good Friday. I wonder if that covers all of Holy Week?

On the other hand, Good Friday has reinforced my uneasiness regarding penal substitution, the notion that Christ took the hit from God for our sins. At one of the services I attended yesterday, we sang "In Christ Alone," which isn't an awful song, everything being said. Sure, I have some issues with some of the lines, but I had a visceral reaction to the line: "'Til on the cross as Jesus died, The wrath of God was satisfied." This doesn't portray a very appealing picture of God...parental abuse for our sake just doesn't sit right with me, and it takes his death out of context and glorifies it. To me, his death is meaningless without the resurrection, which penal substitution ignores.

Perhaps more thoughts on this later. For now, it's bedtime...

A New Record!

7 Good Friday worship services in one day! Now, I only participated in one, but still! Impressive, if I do say so myself...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

April Showers...

...bring May flowers, but what do April flurries bring?

Your guess is as good as mine!

While we haven't had the shocking 14 inches of snow like central Maine had (have yet to check with my parents for the Cape total), we, too, can say, "It snowed in April!"

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Apparently, my computer and break time for school don't quite fit together as nicely as I had hoped, seeing as my computer takes the "break" part literally. My power adapter is having..."issues". Dell sent a new one (the part that plugs into your computer and ends in a box). Yet I found out that that wasn't the problem. The actual problem is somewhere in the thingy that plugs into the wall to the thingy that plugs into the box (I believe those are the technical terms too).

Normally this would be OK. Normally, I'd just make sure that the battery can be charged when my adapter has decided to work, and then when it doesn't...I'll still be covered and I can get work done. But no! My battery is one of the one's Dell has recalled. It's already past its potential fire moment though (one day several months ago it got *really* hot and I almost burned myself on my computer), but it only holds 10 minutes of charge, if that. It is most definitely dead. Fortunately my new battery has shipped, and should be here within 6-9 business days. I only hope that my cord issue will be solved then...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Big Fat "F"

So I've pretty much been a miserable failure this Lent in terms of keeping up with my disciplines. Yep. Blog every day? Failure. Eating meat? Almost a failure. Meditating for twenty minutes every day? Hah! A definite failure. But Lent isn't over, and I plan on making a strong dash for the finish line....

...so that on Easter, I can sit back and relax in the evening with some Moo Shu Pork. Mmmm....

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

I know that recently there have been many articles about the new health benefits of drinking coffee. Harvard says that coffee is good in moderation (a few cups). The Gospel According to Starbucks also promotes this view. However...

...I don't think it's a good thing for me to have those "few cups" in the course of a couple hours because right now, I can feel that caffeine, and I can tell you, the typos are flying left and right because of my jittery fingers. I actually feel a bit woozy because of my travel mug dose of coffee. You would think that by now I would have learned my lesson about how much coffee I should drink on a Tuesday morning, but apparently I have a thick skull. Whatever. If it allowed me to finish my two papers for today (even if they are rather scattered and incoherent at some points), all the better. They are reflection papers anyway. And...well...if the only thing they reflect is the fact that I've had waaaaaaaaaaay too much coffee, then that's fine.

Class in fifteen minutes is going to be fun....if for nothing else than I won't be able to type accurately enough to follow the discussion!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Fun with Brackets

I thought I would take a moment to do a little bragging...

I'm first among all my friends with brackets on Facebook!

Admittedly, this probably won't last for very long, but I've climbed the ranks to attain a respectable #4 in the Caper pool (at 74.1%), and another one of my brackets is beating both of Ben's (at 91.6%, though it's also beating another one of my own). As far as the Methobracket Madness goes...I'm sitting comfortably in the middle with a 63.3% rating.

Apparently the only reason I'm doing so well is because I picked all #1 and #2's, which normally doesn't happen. So this atypical March Madness is really working in my favor...beginner's luck!

EDIT: I should say that the % are calculated differently ESPN.com does it one way, and facebook does it another. How? I'm not really sure...

Friday, March 23, 2007

I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19, NRSV

As we near the end of the long journey toward Easter, a busy time for pastors and layfolk alike, I ponder the words of Isaiah and the relief and refreshment of a river in the desert.

For this Friday Five, name five practices, activities, people or _____ (feel free to fill in something I may be forgetting) that for you are rivers in the desert.


1) Ben, without a doubt. Without him, I would be more than a little parched! But also in this general category are all my friends and family - you know who you are. :-)

2) Cross-Stitching and other assorted crafty things (like knitting). I don't do it enough, but I love it. It's so relaxing (except when you skip a stitch), and refreshing.

3) Naps, especially at this time of year.

4) Hugs! Enough said.

5) The ocean...nature in general, but particularly the ocean. And the stars. I miss them so much, and I always feel at peace when I get a chance to look at them.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Home

I don't really have that much to report. I've been up in Maine for the past few days, visiting with high school friends (yay!), making pi cookies, checking out reception sites, and...writing a midterm and doing huge amounts of reading. Not much of a relaxing break, but I'll take what I can get!

My computer is estimated to be back tomorrow (hooray!) Hopefully I'll get it back, even though there's supposed to be a huge snow storm tomorrow afternoon through Saturday afternoon.

My car is in the shop too; it failed inspection. So Dad and I took it over to the dealership to be fixed. Hopefully, that will get done by Saturday.

Wow, in retrospect...I've had a rather busy and stressful break! I hope that my semester doesn't deteriorate from here...