Monday, October 30, 2006

Wandering off to Conference....

I have been very neglectful of my blog in the last couple of weeks, leaving my readers high and dry—my apologies to all five of you!

Tomorrow DP and I leave for our Regional Conference (she is the lay delegate), so I will definitely not be blogging until I return, early next week.

Nonetheless I am sure I will come back with tales to tell! I am coordinating worship assistants during the conference, and helped put together one of the worship services, so even though I’m not preaching this week, I’ll as busy as if I were!

So I’m off to worship with old friends, retreat and conference with new ones, and hopefully get some time to relax as well.

A word in advance of late Saturday night---If you have a dog, walk it proud!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Friends and self-care

Ever have times when you were so busy you barely had time for a meal, when you went right back to your office/study after an evening meeting to finish a project, when you barely had time to breathe, when your laundry piled up, the houseplants wilted for lack of water and the dishes piled up in the dishwasher (because you didn’t even have time to turn it on)?

That’s where I am. I’m not going to list the many meetings, projects, and so on that I have deadlines for in the next four days…but rest assured, I don’t think I’ll have much free time for the next ten days.

Which is why I’m planning to take tonight off. A good dinner, a little Jeopardy, some light reading and bed early. It’s what I need to get through the next few days!

Lest you think I’m a very grounded person who always knows what she needs and takes it, let me say that this wouldn’t be happening if not for a letter from a friend of mine that arrived today. He is ill, chronically so, and had not been taking care of himself. But one day he realized that he probably wasn’t going to die that week, or even that month, and if he was going to live for a while, he might want to do so in a state of as much health as he could muster. And so he made some changes in his life, not the least of which is pulling back on activities, taking evenings to himself, taking care of himself.

What was so wonderful about his letter is that he thanked me for writing to him while I was on retreat (his letter was in response to mine), for taking the time while I was at a place where he would love to be, to think of him and write.

There is grace. Not only the warmth of our reconnection, but his openness, his honesty in confessing his need, his shortcomings (as he sees them), and to thank me for hearing him into speech, when I have long felt that he was the one encouraging me to grow and change and become what I needed to be.

There is the true agape love—helping each other to grow in love for ourselves, for God, in service to God, and in love for others. There is no part of our relationship that is self-serving—if he receives support from me, so do I receive encouragement from him. When I needed a good slap upside the head, he gave it to me. When he tends to neglect himself, I (unwittingly, in this instance), remind him that he is not the only one who cares about him. And so on.

I cherish him, and our friendship. I’ll be seeing him soon, and I’m saying this now, here in my blog, so I won’t forget or decide it really isn’t important—I will tell him how very important he is to me, and how much I treasure our friendship.

If you have a friend like that—your partner, spouse, friend—be sure to tell them how much you treasure them. I know we hear that all the time, but have you done it? If you haven’t said it recently, try it. They need to know, and so do you.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Five--Word Association

Back into the routine--Friday means the RevGalBlogPals Friday Five meme. This week it's word association time!

Whirlwind: Tornado, probably much like the one in The Wizard of Oz. Brownish grey, spinning...dusty, too.

Foundation: Solid; cement, building. Interestingly enough, I don't automatically think of foundation in the sense of a non-profit benevolent-type organization, in spite of the fact that I have worked with them a lot.

Lightning: A flash of lightning, against a dark sky.

Den: A safe place, a cozy place; almost a nest, but underground.

Prey: Here's the odd thing--I think of a predator. What is up with my mind, that I think of the opposite? Say "prey," and I get a mental picture of a wolf or hawk.

Well, there's a sense of dynamicism there, for sure--of movement, witht he lightning and the whirlword--and even with foundation and den, there's the idea of settling in from movement, of coming to rest.

I can't explain the prey thing at all. And I'm not sure I want to know.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Personality DNA

Well, since I understand that to be truly KEWL, I must have my personality DNA on my blog, here it is (at least I hope it works)...

I am, as you can see, a Benevolent Creator.

Oddly enough, I am, according to these folks, extremely feminine, and barely masculine. Anyone who knows me is now howling with laughter. I have been known to wear a dress, but mostly at Halloween. The last time I wore makeup was at Easter to demonstrate a "complete change." I have never been mistaken for a "lady" and high heels make me uneasy. If I can't do something myself, I find an expert who can, but I'd rather figure it out on my own than have someone do it for me (except DP, but she's special).

'Course, they do have my spontaneity level pegged--way low. I like a schedule, darn it. I do try to be spontaneous, but, but, but can we plan it for Saturday, please?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Back in Harness

It's amazing how quickly the old routines fall back into place...

The serenity of my retreat is still with me, however. It's amazing to feel so centred and grounded, to be able to do so much and not feel hurried or harassed. Attitude and the Spirit both have something to do with that, I think!

Still basking...

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Home again...

Last week I was on retreat.

I saw:

  • Beautiful colours of autumn against a solid blue sky
  • A doe and her half-grown fawn (they live behind the cabin I was staying in, so I saw them several times)
  • A wild tom turkey (which I almost hit, because he dashed into the road…)
  • A red-tailed hawk (only ten feet away, outside my window)
  • Snow in early October!!

I also:

  • Meditated for most of Sunday
  • Missed DP and the pets
  • Walked a labyrinth
  • Stayed up to midnight without feeling guilty
  • Read several books (some for fun, some for the book, and one “professional” book)
  • Had three fires in the fireplace
  • Outlined a book of my own
  • Ate healthily
  • Walked almost every day
  • Journaled regularly

GilChrist (the retreat centre) is a wonderful place. I can highly recommend it as a place for a solitary retreat or for a small group retreat (I don’t think they can hold more than about 12-15 people at the most). After I was greeted and given a tour and taken to my cabin (Jeremiah House; somehow very appropriate!), I was pretty much left alone. If I wanted to wander about and speak to other people, I was welcome to do so—but no one came by to invite me to the various activities at the main building (I had been told about them) or to “check up” on me. I had said I was doing a solitary retreat and they respected that—my solitude, my silence, and my space.

Jeremiah House was just about big enough for a table, two chairs, a small kitchen, a bed and a dresser, with a fireplace/chimney in the middle, and a bathroom to one side. I also had a lovely small sun porch. The table stood in a tiny bay window overlooking the meadow where the deer played and the mist flowed in the morning like an ocean. All around the cabin were woods, with wrens, chipmunks, jays, nuthatches, turkeys, deer and raccoons, all feeling safe.

I wrote, I read, I slept, I meditated, I stared into space, I simply was—for a whole week.

And now I pray that the serenity with which I returned will remain with me for a long time.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

On Retreat

Well, I've done what I can for regional conference worship, I've packed up my stuff (in my old kit bag...), I've got the books I want to refer to, I've got my special coffee and tea (due to the international border, I have to purchase the rest of my food for the week over there), and I think I'm ready to go.

Bless each of you this weekend and next week as you prepare to preach and lead services, as you discern God's call, as you rest and refresh, and as you do all the other activities this busy group does!

I'm going on retreat!

Preaching with the Holy Spirit

Browsing around to try to get a start on the sermon for next week, I ran across this ">article on pastoral plagiarism.

What the original writer seems to be saying is that we cannot trust to the Spirit, that we have to have “the best sermon” at all costs, and the end justifies the means.

Well, that brings up some questions for me.

  • How do we decide who “the best” preachers are? Even those we often think of as great speakers and preachers had off days; are all their sermons to be considered equally “great?” And is it really a good idea to elevate these people to the level of the only ones who can preach?
  • What does this say about our own arrogance? Do we really think that people only hear what we say, or do we believe that the Spirit speaks through us, in spite of us?
  • Preaching, I discovered before I even left seminary (thank you, Jesus!), is not always or even usually about educating the congregation, but about the preacher learning something from the passage in question. If we only use what others have said, we lose that gift of study and learning the Words of God. Where does that leave us?

I’m with Ray Van Neste on this one—we preachers have to trust in the Spirit to convey the truth of God to the congregation, over time, in spite of ourselves. If we use another person’s words, we are not true to ourselves, or to the gospel. Does it really make sense to preach a sermon written for, say, a rural majority-white congregation in Ohio in 1990 to an urban congregation of mostly African-Americans in Philadelphia in 2006? Of course not! And yet that’s what Steve Sjogren seems to be saying.

This is troubling. Are we so afraid of not “hitting a home run” that we cannot trust the Spirit? Are we really putting things of the world (a “successful” sermon, whatever that is) ahead of divine inspiration?

I thank God for the example of the friends and blogpals on this ring, who every week gather at a virtual sermon-writing party, difficult and stressful as it is, to pull out another sermon from our hearts and spirits, praying for the Spirit to breathe life into it, that it may rise up and show God to our congregations.

In the immortal words of Songbird and the other 11th Hour hosts:

  • The Holy Spirit has your back.
  • If you’ve got a dog, walk it proud.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Of the Writing of Books, There is No End...

Two books.

As long as I can remember, I have loved to write—to put words together in a way that brings a deeper meaning to the world, that offers new ideas, thoughts, or experiences to the reader. For a long time, I wrote a lot of (bad) fiction. I wrote (bad) poetry in high school and at university. I always did well in academic subjects that required papers and written exams—psychology, literature, history, theology. I like to write (as demonstrated by the fact that I am writing this instead of doing other tasks, like phone calls and laundry!).

Over the last ten years or so, I have come to some conclusions about theology, religion, and spirituality. My life has changed a great deal in those years—I have experienced things I never thought I would, done things I had always thought were for someone else to do. I have read and thought and grown and changed. As a result, I have a vastly different perspective on issues of spirituality and culture than I did when I was, say, 20 or 30. Some of that is maturity and experience; but some of it is due to the specific experiences I have had, and some of it is ideas I might never have encountered if not for the changes in my life. I’m talking about seminary, field experience, the death of my father, of a parishioner, the whole experience of 9/11, of divorce, of coming out, of leaving a denomination I had grown up in and fully expected to die in, of becoming part of another denomination, of new relationships, of moving to a new country, and so on. Because of all this, my theology has changed. The personal creed I had to write as part of my Systematic Theology class in seminary is totally outdated now—there is little I would bring into a creed today from it.

I want to test those ideas, beliefs, concepts—put them out there and see what others have to say about them. As they used to say in advertising, “Run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes.” I trust in the cut-and-thrust of intellectual debate (allowing, of course, for nastiness and jealousy, not to mention ignorance and bias—both ways) to help me refine my ideas. But first I have to get those ideas out there. Thus the first book I want to write is a book of theology, of understanding Christianity without sexism, heterosexism, racism, or any of the other –isms that creep into our beliefs. I want to try to bring back the radical vision of the world and God’s realm that the Gospels show, and that has been overlaid by tradition and the inability to accept the depth of the changes required by the Gospel. Do I sound nuts? Perhaps. But I want to at least try to get this all down into words, on paper. That alone will help me to refine it, and to see whether what sounds reasonable in my head also looks reasonable on paper!

The second book is much less ambitious. Over the years, I have written a variety of prayers for many different occasions—weddings, weekly services, retreats, funerals, civic events, and so on. I want to gather those together, see what I have and how much work would be needed to polish them up, and decide if it’s enough for a reasonable book. If not, perhaps get together with some friends and put theirs in there as well, and see what we come up with. This is much simpler, of course, and perhaps more do-able .I know I can get this outlined and maybe organized during that week away.

Two books, one week. We’ll see what happens!

Clarence Darrow--Beyond Scopes and Leopold & Loeb

Personalities fascinate me--people do. One way I try to understand history and places is through people--which is why I love good histor...