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...