Monday, September 27, 2010
There's a story in the bible that makes me uncomfortable, though it's not the only one to do that. This particular story is that of Jacob wrestling with an angel, presumed to be God. That story makes me uncomfortable because it makes me think of all the times I have wrestled with God in my life, and to be honest, it creates this feeling of panic for the time that I will surely wrestle with God...and lose...not that that hasn't happened already. What I mean is that it creates in me this intense anxiety of God wrapping me in a full nelson, much like my older brothers used to practice on me, and getting me to cry "mercy" before doing what God is trying to coerce me to do. I don't think it really happens like that--the wrestling with God bit. I really don't. And my reading of Jacob's experience reinforces that it doesn't happen like that, but still, I can't let go of that eensy weensy suspicion that in my case it all might go down with a 10 second count. God 1. Me 0. Total Knockout. I realize I may be mixing sport lingo here, so to my one male reader (aka hubby): forgive me. Reluctant Pilgrim says that this passage might really be about wrestling with love. (http://reluctantpilgrim.wordpress.com/2010/09/04/at-first-blush/)
I'm saying all of this to really say that I've been wrestling with love on something--procrastinating out of anxiety and a host of other reasons and issues. A book. Okay, that's a big aim. The project I have finally agreed to begin is most likely not going to be a publishable work, but nevertheless, it is my dream to be a published writer. For so long, I have had this dream, but it has been more of a I wanna be a writer though I really don't know about what I would write kind of dream. I have no ideas.
I can remember being about 13 and asking my dad how to get started on a book. He said, "Well, you write what's called a synopsis, a summary of what your book is going to be about, and you send that to the publisher." So there I was in my teenage ambition with my purple feather-boa-tipped pen and my 3 pieces of torn out notebook paper, "Synopsis" scrawled across the top. And I had nothing to say.
Years later, I mentioned to a friend of mine, in passing, in one random conversation that I can't even recall now, that perhaps I would like to write a book.
A few weeks ago over lunch, her first question to me, "So how is your book coming?" "What book?" I asked, looking at her as if she had four heads.
"The book you said you would write. How is it coming?"
"Oh that," I said, even though I knew exactly what she was talking about. "I haven't started it yet. I don't have anything to write about."
"Why not write your story? You know sort-of like Richard Lischer's Open Secrets? A story about you and your journey. I can totally see you doing that."
"Who would want to read my story? It's not that interesting."
And then it occurred to me that I should tell my story, and not for other people, for me.
Not too long after that lunch came a breakfast with a church member who asked me about my writing. She occasionally reads this blog, and she said she'd like to read more of something from me...like a book. And I said to her, "It's my dream to write a book. But I'm not sure I have anything to write about."
The following Sunday at church, she handed me a copy of the movie, Julie and Julia. A woman who writes about her life. And not only that...she takes on a project--something she does for herself.
I could do that, I thought. I could take on the project of telling me story...for me. Not because anyone will read it. But because it could mean something to me. And it would get me writing.
A few months ago, I met my heroine in writing, Lauren Winner. I love Lauren Winner. Her witty, insightful, and profound works make me wish I could be her for a day. So, when she came to speak at the conference I was attending, I was beyond thrilled. Imagine my surprise to hear her talk about all the people who had written to her saying that they wanted to be writers and were looking for her advice. Drat. I thought that was just my idea. Well, I was actually going to make an appointment and meet with her in person. But I can't believe all these other people had the same idea. So, she said in her lecture, that those of us who really want to write should just get started writing. Just do it. Write. But not for a book or magazine. Not to get published. But write. For writing's sake.
So, here goes. I'm starting the project. For me. For writing's sake. From time to time, I might post some things on here, but mostly, it will just be between me and my laptop and Jacob's God and love. Wish me luck, or love, or something like that.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
"Young lady," he said, and I knew immediately where this conversation was going to go. I have had this conversation before. I waited for the first in the series of veiled insults (in the form of questions and snide remarks), and I didn't have to wait long.
"I hear you're a woman . . . of the cloth (that last word he whispered as if ashamed to say it in the same sentence with "woman."
I thought about bolting at that moment, not wanting to have this predictable dialogue again, but instead, something like God whispered to me, "stay." "Yes, you could say that I am a woman of the cloth" I said.
"Well, I don't see how that's possible seeing as you're clearly only about 19. You must have just decided to take up preaching and made yourself a minister, because there's no way you've been to seminary....And who's your District Superintendent? Ah, that's a girl, too....You got a husband? Is he any good? The only good preacher is the one who has a pretty wife who blends in with the congregation, sings in the choir, plays the piano, you know, makes the preacher better....You're so young, you probably got about 50 more years before you retire, right?....Oh, you went to THAT seminary--ain't nothing but a bunch of liberals down there....stupid liberals who want us to help the poor, but the poor just want my money--they're deadbeats. You don't want any more cake? What's a matter--afraid of losing your figure? You the only preacher at that church? So, you preach every week? By yourself? You ever need a week off--call me and I'll come preach."
I've had this conversation before, but in the past, my responses would be tentative, brief, and above all--polite. I wouldn't make the other feel uncomfortable. Basically, I would take all the shots, and then say, "Nice talking to you."
But not this time. That voice inside me that whispered, "stay" powered my too often silenced self, and something different happened this time. I responded. As me. Without being defensive. Just calmly, and confidently, I let him know that I knew his game, and I wasn't going to sit quietly as little young lady. Dare I say it, I even (*gasp*) evangelized a little when he began taking pot shots at the poor and preaching his prosperity gospel.
I can't believe I am saying this, but I am glad for this conversation. Because the real me finally opened her mouth--the me that is called, affirmed, loved, and empowered to be who I am made to be--a pastor. An unapologetically young and female pastor.
"Let's just go ahead and be what we were made to be."--Paul, the former Christian-hating Jew who followed Jesus
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
That's the new movie out, and it's the latest on Oprah's and New York Times' lists. I read it before it was the thing to read. I remember being in the store and being drawn in by the title. Simple, I thought. I like to eat. Praying's my business. And romance is the third charm. I loved the book. I loved the idea of the journey. Lately, it has occurred to me, though, that life isn't finding the right journey--it's more about life being the culmination of detours on the way of the journey, which all add up, in the end, to a life well-lived. In the 2nd year of my "next 30 years," I realize that in the last decade or so, I have spent way too much time stressing about finding the right journey, or the right stops along the way of the journey. Like those I hold dear in my heart, I have developed habits and patterns of living that strive to create an ordered world around me--a predictable place that I can control. This has brought me nothing but stress and frustration since you probably already learned at a much earlier age than I that life cannot be measured or controlled or ordered--if it is to meaningful and lovely, that is. So, I'm trying to learn to love life in a different way these days. I am looking for beauty in non-obvious places. I am finding contentment in the plentiful chaos of everyday. And I am discovering that this non-ordered, messy world is, in fact, as the Creator said, GOOD.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Have you ever found yourself wondering what life would be like if...? Have you ever wanted a new life? I posed that question to the hubby recently and quickly had to clarify what I meant. First, I wasn't suicidal...wondering about offing this life. Second, I wasn't contemplating leaving him or the children. The new life would absolutely include them. What I was dreaming of was a new place, a new setting in which to live the life we already have. I know it might not make much sense, but when you are a dreamer, like I am, you dream of going places and doing things that are exciting and fresh and new. Staying in the same place is comfortable, but it gets old. A blog I follow talked about the lure of looking for life somewhere else. She has some great thoughts on Eat, Pray, Love, too. That's why I wonder and wander around asking myself...what would I do if...? What would life be like in Seattle? What would life be like if instead of being a preacher I were the owner of a small bookshop in England (it's very Nottinghill of me, I note)? Why am I constantly looking for do-over? I'm not sure, but I think I like it because it helps me escape a little from reality and reminds me to never stop dreaming...because though I am content with the present state and place of my life...someday one of those dreams just might be my reality.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
I'd be a hairdresser. Wow, what am I, 70? Hairdresser? Surely, nobody in the business calls herself that anymore. Unless she's doing perms and beehives. Ahem, I would be a hair stylist, hair designer, even. Yes, hair designer. That sounds fancy and fun and creative. Except for one teensy little itty bitty almost not even important enough to mention detail: I am a perfectionist. A friend of mine who is a hair designer tells me that you cannot be a perfectionist and do good hair. Good hair, she says, is not perfect. It is not M'Lynn's brown football helmet ala Steel Magnolias. It moves; it has life; it is real. Real hair does not have perfectly placed streaks and straight across bangs. I did try my hand at hair design once: I decided I would paint blond highlights through my own hair. They turned out pumpkin orange and about 5 inches wide. Because I kept painting over the spots I had already done in attempts to create the perfect streaks. And I was so anxious about ending up with the perfect color, I didn't wait for the process to be complete and the color to change from orange to blond. There are no logical reasons to affirm me as a hair designer. I have no gifts or skills in this area. But it sounds really fun...it sounds like a job that doesn't require me to be perfect or appear to be. It is a way I could honor my creative streak--that part of me that begs to be freed of perfectionist woman, the part of me that wants to break up with do-it-all-for-everybody-all-the-time lady, the part of me that wants to create something beautiful, the part of me that knows that making and doing with my hands is important but often forgets how to do that or remembers but doesn't take the time to do or make with my hands. I don't give in to hair designer wanna be, artist in disguise (very heavily disguised) girl very often, but when I do, all kinds of crazy, unplanned, imperfect, beautiful things happen. The reality is I am a preacher girl, but I think preacher girl and quirky artsy girl could be better friends.
Monday, May 3, 2010
"I really love my pit crew, and I sometimes love my work. Sometimes it feels like God has reached down and touched me, blessed me a thousand times over, and sometimes it all feels like a mean joke, like God's advisors are Muammar Qaddafi and Phyllis Schlafly." --Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions
There are parts and pieces to every occupation that are monotonous, aspects that get old, and some scenarios that just plain suck the very life out of you. Ministry has these parts and pieces, aspects, and scenarios, too. There are days that I wonder, "Are you sure you want me for this work, Lord?" But then, there are moments and glimpses and even whole days that leave me boggled--that God would use me--and bursting with joy that he does. Yesterday was one of those days. Yesterday, I gave the sacrament of baptism to my littlest baby girl. I baptized bigger baby girl when she was 8 months old, and it was such a God-saturated time. So, I was expecting baptism #2 to be just as awesome. And God did not disappoint. I wonder how the early Christians ever sat down to write their experiences with the Holy Spirit? It's just so hard to put into words. What can I say about feeling the water drip through my fingers, feeling different than ordinary water? What can I say about touching the forehead of a child, knowing and feeling that it's a different kind of touch? What can I say about God actually showing up when I ask God to show up? I can say it doesn't get old. It isn't a routine I know like the back of my hand. It's an experience with God that is never the same twice. It is always powerful beyond measure. It never fails to move me in the deepest place of my soul. And it even blows back into me the life that gets sucked out at other not-so-moving times. "Sometimes it feels as if God has reached down and touched me."
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I have been on a new adventure of late. (I have been dying to work "of late" into a sentence...sounds sort-of European, no?) I digress--back to the adventure. Baby girl has a confirmed allergy to dairy, and since she is feasting on mommy's milk, that means no milk or dairy products for me, either. Those who know me well know I love cows. Literally. I once collected all cow decor like it was my part-time job. I don't do that anymore, but I still love cows. Bigger baby girl has a cow carseat to prove it. I love milk...and cheese...and chocolately, milky creations...and tiramisu...and CHEESECAKE!! When the pediatrician first mentioned me going on a dairy fast, I snickered and said, "Nah, I don't think so." When she later told me it wasn't an option, I groaned and but-but-but-ed to no avail. "Looks like we are going dairy-free," I told the hubbers. To which I received the following reply: "Yeah, right. You can do it, but I am not giving up milk. If I was going to be stranded on an island and could only bring one thing, I would bring milk. You can't live without milk. Look it up." One dreadful and small fortune extracting visit to Whole Foods, and I came home in tears. There must be something we can do. It cannot be this difficult to find things without milk products. Oh, but it is. Milk products are in bread, chicken broth, NON-dairy creamer, cereal. Even McDonald's fries are cooked in a concoction that contains milk! At first, I began by replacing my highly processed foods with dairy free options--dairy-free Oreo-like cookies, dairy-free crackers, and you know I found dairy-free burritos. But then, I began to do research, and I kept stumbling into Kosher. That's right, kosher, as in the Jewish food laws (kashrut). I was reminded how aware of what they are eating Kosher-keeping people are. Everything is scrutinized and examined. Everything that goes into a food matters. And Kosher tracks what has dairy and what does not--so that the laws of cross-contamination are kept (milk products cannot be in foods with certain other products). So, I've been reading up on Kosher and the various symbols that mark foods, and it has me thinking...What has happened to us as a society when we no longer notice what is going into our bodies? Sure, we're aware of fat and calories and recently, trans fat and whole grains. But most of this is out of a sense of protection--protecting our bodies from fat and disease. What I have found in looking at Kosher foods is that food becomes a way to honor God through the way we nourish ourselves. It is a reminder of the basic supplication, "Give us this day our daily bread." The word "kosher" comes from the Hebrew for "appropriate." Being conscious of what I have been eating has been a way of testing food's appropriateness. Is the order of fries from McD's really appropriate? Is the pizza I ordered out because I was too tired to cook appropriate? Is it fitting to eat? Is it fitting for me to eat? We Methodists have been on an appropriateness kick with re-thinking church. Is how we have been doing church appropriate to nourish the souls of people in a changing world? Is it fitting for the ones we've been called to reach, or just for ourselves?
Through this adventure, there are some who have offered their unsolicited opinion of the appropriateness of what I am eating--or not: "Just put the baby on formula. It is fine." As a mom, I know I can do better than just fine. I can be aware of what I am eating and make sure baby girl is nourished in the best way possible.
There are those in the church adventure who offer their opinions of appropriate nourishment, too: "Feed your soul in whatever way you want, but don't do it in my church. That's just not--ahem--'kosher' here." I'm just wondering if we all might benefit from some old school kosher education?
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
During those difficult teenage years when I was blessed with acne, my mother would tell me I was beautiful and lucky. Lucky? "Lucky," she said, "because when you are old, the bad stuff will be gone, and you won't get wrinkles." So, I hoped and hoped for the day I would get "old" and the skin would work itself out: acne-free and wrinkle-free. I'm old-er, and I do have wrinkles--on my belly from the stretching of skin as my children grew within me--and around my eyes from days of squinting at a computer--and on my forehead from thinking too hard and worrying too much. What does my skin say about me? Does it say that I am perfect, that my body is free from flaw? Does it say that I have had nothing hard to deal with in life? If it's either perfection or wrinkles that I have to choose between, I choose wrinkles. People with wrinkles are interesting. They have lived. They have experienced joy and sorrow and somehow made it through both. Wrinkles are a badge of honor for a life that didn't overcome the liver. When faced with harsh realities of life, the liver, absorbed them, dug in, and held on. The very best kind of wrinkles are those at the corners of the mouth--lines that etch the good memories and laughter. These lines keep the beautiful moments alive.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
I started this blog as a way to connect with people in the pews during the week. Since that time, I have found other ways to meet that need, I think. Lately, God has been prompting me to change the purpose and format of this blog somewhat. It has been a struggle to find things to write about at times because I have tried to make this a min-sermon type of blog. I feel now God is leading me in a different direction... and here's why... I have never had a good relationship with numbers. They mock me; the elude me; I do not like them. The written word, on the other hand, inspires me, fills me, brings me joy. And I have been neglecting that burning need within me to write--I have made this about forming the right words rather than letting the words that are already there come through me. Also, for me, writing is a spiritual discipline. Much as people sit in a quiet room and pray, I find sitting in a noisy room and finding my center through a few meaningful words to be a very prayer-filled exercise. Writing is a way I ground myself in the whirlwind of thoughts that fill my mind. On another note...for several years, I have been toying with the idea of writing a book. I haven't yet figured out the definitive form of this book--and I'm not even sure it happens that way (setting out with an idea in mind and making that idea come to life). So, this blog will now be my personal reflections, musings, ideas, thoughts, prayers, poems, maybe even some images that I find inspiring. I will not be speaking in any particular role: pastor, wife, friend, daughter. I will just be myself, speaking whatever comes to mind. I will not "censor" my thoughts to see if they are mini-sermon worthy. I will simply let the words flow through me and see where God leads me. You are welcome to come along for the ride, to eavesdrop, to ponder, to comment, but know that this is now primarily about how I feed myself. If you are able to find a morsel, as well, that's a bonus, but not my goal. Thank you for following and reading, and I invite you to continue. May you, too, find that something that burns within you and draws you closer to the divine.
If you are looking for that spiritual food, you are welcome to join the discussion group on Facebook (Center-Salem SermonTalkBack).
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
This video captures what I think we all know but need reminding from time to time. God is neither male nor female, yet has characteristics we associate with being male and female. I know this, but still, I find myself picturing that old white guy with a beard. I guess I found it comforting to think of God like a protective grandfatherly figure. This God seemed safe and approachable. This God seemed knowable. But this God(the one I had created in my mind), became harder to relate to. How could I ask this old Grandfather to help me raise my children, balance my life, find rest and Sabbath, relate to my husband, enjoy my girlfriends? How could this God actually know what it is like to be stressed out in the way women are often stressed out? How could this God possibly understand all the demands on me as a wife, a mother,a woman in ministry? I found myself thinking, "Yeah, I know you are there for me. But you are one of them. You're not like me. I know you feel for me, but you've never actually been here, so I guess there's nothing to say about this." I didn't, I couldn't see God as a woman, because that would be just as bad as seeing God with a beard. So, that's where I stopped for a while. But then, I began to make some important connections. That unconditional love you have for a child who just looked at you defiantly and did something you told her was bad for her. I could see God scooping me up and embracing me even though I had broken his trust. That gut wrenching feeling when you see someone you care about in pain. I could see God weeping and wailing, frustrated and feeling helpless. The moments when your heart gets ripped open by a harsh word, an argument, someone's judgments about you, or any of the other ways people let us down or go out of their way to break us down. I can see God's disappointment, agony, feelings of betrayal. Compassion, healing, comforting, patience, trust, hope, unconditional love. Gifts we women get from the God who created us in God's image.