Monday, August 30, 2010

Declutter

A previous week's revgalblogpals Friday Five had clutter as its theme. As I answered the questions I found myself applying them not just as they related to physical stuff, but mental stuff as well.

1. What things do you like to hang on to?
Grudges.

2. What is hard to let go of?
Pain. Guilt.

3. What is easy to give away?
Advice I'm not using.

You get the point...

I have what I hope is a problem in common with a lot of the rest of humanity in that my mind can be cluttered with negative thoughts both due to my own inner voices (I'm not doing enough. I'm not all things to all people) and the voices of others (twitter feed, anyone?). Once I recognize the offending voice, I can usually handle it wisely from there.

But what I had already started to recognize, and that Friday Five brought into focus, is that I have decluttered some things a little too much.

Let me explain...

Just a touch over three years ago my life down-shifted into survival mode (DEFCON Level 1) due to the sudden (from my perspective) and very public (from the gossips' delight) implosion of my marriage. I had a two year old, a full time job and a congregation that just wanted all of it to go away.

Out of absolute necessity I went into survival mode. I streamlined everything and not in the ordered, simple-living way that word implies, but rather in the 'throw everything that is not absolutely necessary overboard so that we don't capsize' sort of way. Understandable, but now looking back it seems some of the 'clutter' I removed from my life is friends.

I have (had?) very good friends that I hardly talk to anymore because three years ago I trimmed chatting on the phone out of my life. To be fair to myself, I was also trimming being everyone else's counselor out of my life.

Friends that knew both of us had a lot of their own anger and shock over what had happened and understandably so. But as I found the day to day mandatory involvement with the Boy's father was mandating that I move through and past the tragedy, I also found that I couldn't emotionally handle my friends' needs to process their stuff. It was hard enough to process my own, and quite often when they were at anger I was at acceptance. When they were in the 'why' phase, I was in the 'move on' phase. And it was just too very painful to go back.

Answering the why's and the what if's for them became a load I could no longer bear and so I decluttered those conversations from my life. Sadly that meant that I, for the most part, removed them too.

I'm not sure what happens now. I have tenuous and tentative relationships with those folks and maybe that's okay. People change. Lives change.

What I am more concerned about is how many of those protective filters I still have in place to keep the clutter of relationships out of my life. After experiencing deep hurt, rejection and betrayal from some in my last context I am wary of having such a strong filter in place that I am unable to connect on a deeper level with anyone who is left or new in my life.

As for more personal relationships (meaning outside the church) - who knows. I made a bit of a snarky comment last week about my life's need for staff, but I must also admit that sometimes I think, "Really? This is it?"

And I can be ok with that.
I just don't want to filter anyone out.




Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tonight

Hard to believe, but for this little guy tonight is a school night.









Good luck in Kindergarten. You'll do GREAT!!!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Book Review: The Great Emergence

The Great EmergenceThe Great Emergence by Phyllis Tickle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am admittedly a little late to this book,, but in my defense most reading fell by the wayside during my own great emergence.

At just 165 pages there is no way Phyllis Tickle can take on the fullness of the topic of the Great Emergence, BUT I did find this book very helpful in beginning my own process of understanding what is going on and why and how it has happened before. The mark of a good book may very well be how many other reading suggestions you take from it and my queue of books about the Emergent movement now forms to the left. Next up? Moltmann... but I digress.

I found the time this book takes to restate history is time well spent. Admittedly, no one would confuse me for a scholar, but some of the connections Tickle made were needed to shed light on where we are in the arch of history. I have so many friends and colleagues who define themselves by using the term 'emergent' that it was helpful to know where in the spectrum that falls and how, in a way, this shift in religion and culture is repeating history.

Three other things I found especially helpful:
1)The dichotomy between believe-behave-belong (mainline) vs. belong-behave-believe (emergent). p. 159
2) Resistance to a new movement is actually needed. p. 139
3) When an emergence occurs, the standard bearer (my phrase) improves. p. 17

I am the Head of Staff (old model) of a large, traditional (it's all relative) congregation in the PCUSA (mainline). There are a lot of great things going on at the church, but there is nothing anyone would confuse for 'emergent'. That said, we are mission oriented and a wonderful community and growing! Where do we fit in?

I like where the emergent movement is going as long as it doesn't throw out everything in order to get there. Let's not throw out the baby with the baptismal water. I think Tickle's book and analysis leaves room for both and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to review the facts in the case for the Great Emergence when so much of the rhetoric surrounding it is riddled with post-modern vs. traditionalist angst.



Friday, August 27, 2010

Revgalblogpals Friday Five: College Dorm Edition

This week's revgalblogpals Friday Five comes to us from Martha (aka: Songbird)


Yesterday I returned my middle child for his second year of college. He's an experienced dorm resident, having spent two years at a boarding high school. In the lounge at the end of his floor I found a suite of This End Up furniture that took me back to my years in the Theta house at William and Mary. I remember polishing that furniture with my sorority sisters every spring, just before we headed off for Beach Week at Nags Head.

Mindful that many others are heading off to further schooling or delivering their loved ones to the institutions that provide it, here are five questions about dorm life.

1) What was the hardest thing to leave behind when you went away to school for the first time?
You know, if you ask my first roommate I didn't leave all too much at home. I could get philosophical and say my friends, my childhood but really I was READY to go.

My sister really has the funnier story in that when she told her roommate that a new modem was coming in the mail, she groaned and wondered where they were ever going to put that.

2) We live in the era of helicopter parents. How much fuss did your parents make when you first left home?
Please. My Mom had my room converted into a hobby/guest room before I was through Freshman orientation.

3) Share a favorite memory of living with schoolmates, whether in a dorm or other shared housing.
I lived in a dorm all four years and was Resident Advisor with my friends in the dorm my senior year. We just laughed and laughed and laughed and the nicknames and the Saturday Night Live skit reenactments can still make me crack up when I think about them.

4) What absolute necessity of college life in your day would seem hilariously out-of-date now?
A college issued phone plan, complete with the card code we had to put into our phone!

5) What innovation of today do you wish had been part of your life in college?
You know, I was going to say the internet, but I barely graduated on time as it is. :) I was very happy to be one of the few with a personal computer - not just a word processor - in my room. Thanks Mom and Dad!

Bonus question for those whose college days feel like a long time ago: Share a rule or regulation that will seem funny now. Did you really follow it then?
Hmmmmmm...... I am happy to say I don't think I'm old enough for this one. :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Staffing

(The Thing I Cannot Say on My FaceBook Wall)


To All Who Are Concerned:

As much as some of you may feel better if I were once again paired with someone, please let me officially announce that I am doing quite well as it is. Additionally, a full review of my life will show that I really don't need a partner or companion as much as I need staff.

This concludes my report.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Traditional or Modern

While married, The Boy's Dad and I would celebrate anniversaries by checking the lists for what to give on such occasions. There are two lists: traditional and modern. Usually we went with traditional. Our first anniversary (traditional: paper) we bought tickets to a baseball game. Our second anniversary (traditional: cotton) we bought each other a clothing item. Our third anniversary (traditional: leather) we each got belts. I realize those three sound particularly tame, but remember I was in seminary. A new shirt was HUGE! Our fifth anniversary (traditional: wood) we were both out and working and so we bought our first piece of Grown Up furniture, a hutch.

I wouldn't ordinarily remember this type of thing except he meticulously wrote down the gifts in a book that organizes birthdays and cards, and I still have that book.

It's interesting that we did not really dabble in the 'modern' column of gifts as that is exactly what our family has become. It is certainly not traditional. He lives 5 miles away with his wife. I live in a townhome with The Boy and my Mom. Day by day we make it work, some days go better than others. The Boy's entry into Kindergarten has offered a lot of new territory for us to negotiate, with there being far less of The Boy's time to divide up between parents who are both eager to play a significant role in our child's life.

I do wonder when the year will come that I don't remember it's our anniversary. It's today. And it would have been 14. The book says that the traditional gift is ivory. The modern gift is gold jewelry.

But I think I will just go out and buy a new birthday card organizer.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Screwtape Letters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Many months ago teaching a summer Sunday school class on this seemed like a good idea...


Now that the class is over I would admit that it was an 'okay' idea. CS Lewis is great and varied in his offerings. The Screwtape Letters offers a really good glimpse into the author's ability to use fiction to explain religious doctrine. Although, I hear he wrote a series of novels that do that as well (paging Aslan).


What I appreciated the most about this book was Lewis' sense of humor. His keen intellect and wit are spun perfectly together in this book written in letter format from the the perspective of one bureaucrat to a lesser-ranked bureaucrat whose business just happens to be evil.


It's a relatively quick read with short chapters that offer the reader the opportunity to either keep up the pace, reading for general story and tone, or really dive deep into the beautiful language and prose that CS Lewis uses to tell this story.


If you're looking to dive into a classic or just get to know CS Lewis from a different perspective, I highly recommend this book.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Revgalblogpals Friday Five: Declutter Edition

As posted by Jan at RevGalBlogPals:

I'm not sure where this is going to lead, as I am actually pretty ruthless in getting rid of 'stuff'. We'll see...

1. What things do you like to hang on to?
A quick glance around tells me it's t-shirts (they multiply like bunnies). There are only so many dust rags one needs, second-hand stores do NOT need t-shirts, and mailing them in bulk to a developing country seems awkward to me.

2. What is hard to let go of?
This one goes in the decluttering of the mind category - a) feeling like I am not doing enough and b) feeling like I have disappointed someone.

3. What is easy to give away?
Love. And the bonus is it usually gets returned with even more value than you gave it away.

4. Is there any kind of stumbling block connected with cleaning out?
The pure mass of incoming stuff which is only going to rise as The Boy enters Kindergarten with all of its assignments and notes home.

5. What do you like to collect, hoard, or admire?
Ummmm...... to-do lists. I collect and hoard them, I don't necessarily admire them.

Bonus: Tell us about recycling or whatever you can think of that goes along with this muttering about cluttering.
I've picked up on the 'one and done' rule which applies mainly to snail mail. When I sort through it I do it with the intention of taking care of it/recycling it/shredding it. This seems to help in keeping the paper clutter to a minimum. My other 'trick' is that I take pictures of The Boy's artwork and therefore I'm okay with recycling it sooner. Every year I make a photo album using Snapfish and one or two of the pages is dedicated to pictures of artwork from the year.

Your turn, where are you on the declutter scale?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Bus Practice



We had school bus riding practice last night. The Boy, his Dad and I joined forces and dove into the process of Kindergarten (and more important, New Parent) orientation. It was fun.
Okay, it was fun with a touch of terrifying. :)

But The Boy jumped up and down while holding our hands and SANG ever so quietly on the bus both to the school and back.

He's excited! And for him, so am I.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Principal Called

Yesterday, in the midst of a conversation with a friend, call waiting broke through and I took the call. It was the principal.
Now school has not even started so there really was no reason for my heart to start pounding in my chest. I believe my reaction was part flashback and part projection.

For the flashback, I wasn't a bad kid, but the principal did need to call the house a few times for 'minor' issues. I was one of those kids who made things worse because once I got into minor trouble I didn't want my parents to find out and the things I would do to keep it from them would then make it major trouble.

I also did not work up to my potential (marked by a #6 on my report cards).
I also did not sit still (#3).

As for the projection, I thought this was the call where they told me that The Boy would be pulled out of class to go to speech therapy (he says "free" instead of "three"). In the millisecond the Principal said who she was I had him held back three grades with all of the children pointing and laughing at him as they are hanging out in the playground and he is in a corner running through tongue exercises all while wearing a t-shirt with a scarlet 'th' on it (not that my mind ran to an extreme or anything).

It turns out the school district is adding another Kindergarten class and The Boy was randomly selected to be in that new class. Really, it's no big deal.

At least, after I freaked out on Facebook and had 27 comments trying to talk me down off the ledge... I'm pretty sure it's no big deal.

I'm doing 'okay' with this Kindergarten transition in our lives - not stellar, but okay. I've been trying to diligently take the right steps so that we are not rushing around in the final hours. I am trying to slowly immerse myself in being a parent in the school district, but I am still suffering some angst.

I can't put my finger on what my problem is exactly. The Boy is absolutely ready for this step. He is the kind of kid teachers enjoy and even if he frustrates them he has his Magic Dimples. It is true he is an only child, but he has been in one sort of pre-school program or another since he was 2 so he is well socialized.

There is nothing to worry about.

Truly.

So why do I feel so anxious?

I feel like these last few days before school starts are like the roller coaster car climbing to the
top of that first hill. I can't quite see the entire ride before me but I know it is going to have some serious ups and downs, some surprising twists and turns and go VERY fast.
So my goal remains, as always, to enjoy as much of the ride as I possibly can; forcing myself to keep my eyes open in order to embrace both the thrills and the bumps of the ride.

Because when it's all over... in the blink of an eye... I won't be able to get back on the ride again.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Hummingbird

For my birthday a friend of mine gave me a box of angel cards. The brief explanation of these cards is that you prayerfully/meditatively pull out one and carry it with you for awhile. I usually pull one out every few days, sometimes finding the word pushes me, sometimes finding it supports me and to be honest sometimes wondering what that word has anything to do with at all.

I'm sure it can all be rationalized away, but I have found it to be a helpful and sometimes even enlightening exercise. The word I pulled right before leaving on vacation was 'play'.

Last week I went to see my Spiritual Director where a large part of our conversation was about the unease I was feeling about my position as Head of Staff. I love the church and feel called here, my concern is that:
I am not getting enough done,
I don't know enough people,
I'm not seeing far enough into the future,
I'm not being emergent/traditional/visionary/missional/hospitable/spiritual/practical enough.

Her words in return were helpful, including the words of wisdom I posted yesterday that begin with: Above all, trust in the slow work of God.

Above all.

In a classic turn of 'Take my advice, I'm not using it' - I had forgotten what I have said to so many others who feel like more should be getting done in their 1st, 2nd, 3rd years of ministry - building relationships and trust takes time. I love my emergent friends, but sometimes their constant buzz in my ear has me anxious to push because I don't feel like I am doing enough. At times like these I need to remember to step away from the Twitter feed. :)

The Spiritual Director also reminded me of how much is new in my life.

New home.
New community.
New living arrangement.
New identity.
New church.
New people.
New expectations.
New job description.
New school system.
New relationships.
New ways to relate.
New, new, new, new, new....

I mentioned that it was hard to find balance and contentment with all of these new things. She mentioned that in some traditions the symbol for balance is a hummingbird. A hummingbird looks balanced, but of course a closer look will show how much work is going into keeping that balance.

It was so helpful meeting with her. No easy solutions. Balance will take work. But hopefully her reminder of how much is new will be enough for not just my mind to hear, but my heart to hear also. Above all, trust in the slow work of God...

The day after meeting with her I returned to my office, I put back my previous angel card and accidentally pulled out two more instead of one. Once I read them I knew I was to keep them both and will walk with them for awhile.... trying to keep my balance, of course.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Yes, That.

Above All,Trust in the Slow Work of God
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
-- that is to say, grace --
and circumstances
acting on your own good will
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit
gradually forming in you will be.
Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser.
Amen.
By Pierre Teilhard De Chardin

Friday, August 13, 2010

Revgalsblogpals Friday Five: Dog Days of Summer Edition


1. What is the weather like where you live?
I believe the theological term is: ass-hot.
Finally, yesterday we received some rain that the plants, gardens and earth drank up and we hope there is more today.

2. Share one thing you love about this time of year.
The fresh veggies and fruit.

3. Share one thing you do NOT love about this time of year.
The hot and the humid.
I actually make a conscious choice to not complain about the cold in winter so that I am totally free and clear to whine all I want to about the heat and humidity. YUK!

4. How will you spend the remaining days leading up to Autumn?
Getting ready - mind, body and spirit - to send The Boy to full day Kindergarten in (gulp!) 2 weeks!

5. Share a good summer memory.
A recent one is our trip to the beach this summer. It was our first attempt at that type of trip with my sister and her family and it was just about everything we had hoped it would be. I look forward to many more in the future.

A favorite distant summer memory is playing outside until it got dark out. We were often in the street playing some kind of ball game and no one wanted to ever admit that they actually could no longer see the ball. And when the adults would come out and play I remember it being so much fun that I would think to myself that I hoped it would stay forever at that magical point between daylight and night.

Bonus: What food says SUMMER to you?
New Jersey sweet corn and tomatoes, absolutely!



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ready Position

This past spring I coached t-ball. Well, ‘coach’ is a little strong.

This past spring I told a group of five to 7 year olds in matching uniforms that they had to wait until after the game was over before they could have snack.

I am new to the parent side of the t-ball world, but previously had done my time sitting on the bleachers of my neice and nephews’ games. For me going as an aunt meant that I quickly moved past the charm of how cute those t-ballers looked in their uniforms and began to wonder how I could help those kids…. so that the game would end and we all could eat snack.

It was there that I wondered if it would make any difference to teach the kids to get into the ready position. The ready position is a baseball fundamental, where you bend your knees, balance on your toes, get your glove down and your free hand close to the glove in order to use two hands to field the ball. I thought if I could teach the kids this fundamental then whenever the ball was about to be placed on the tee, we could yell, “Ready Position!” and our meandering herd of snack feasters would turn into ballplayers.

We had mixed results. Some of the kids were really good at it. Some were good at it once you called their name… repeatedly 5 to 10 times. Some of them would instantly respond to the call to be in the ‘ready position’ no matter where they were on the field… or which way they were facing. And some of them…. well, some of them were the reason we had a rule on our team that you were not allowed to eat grass.

The most recent lectionary texts from Luke are all telling us in one way or another to get ready. I like this past Sunday's because it seemed to have a softer edge than this week's. Call me crazy, but I like the idea of the master coming home early to find the slaves ready, and then serving them a big feast. I like the idea of getting ourselves into the ready position in order to receive a blessing rather than judgment.

Being in the ready position means that our fists cannot be clenched, our arms cannot be folded, our minds cannot be shut and our hearts cannot be closed.

Are we ready?


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Re-Entry Redux


The beach is where your main job for the day is to dig a really big hole. I think I liked that better.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sermon Ponderings - OT19B

This is just me sitting in my virtual coffee house throwing out random thoughts as I do research/prayer/thinking about this Sunday's sermon:

Working Title: Ready Position!

  • I like this slightly less spooky version of being prepared. Those passages where 2 are working in the field and one just disappears sounds like an M. Night Shyamalan plot to me. Next week's apocalypse and a passage in November pack a serious punch too. Those all have their merits to them and knowing me I won't shy away from them, but I do like this one where the reward for paying attention is a big feast with the master!
  • Any feast mention in the Bible reminds me of my Dad. The man would pull up at the end of a buffet table, using his walker that had a seat on it, so that when everyone else had finally filled their plates and were getting their drink they had to set their plates down to the man gulping down potato salad.
  • Do not be afraid, little flock, for it si your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. YAY!
  • Sell your possessions, and give alms.... Awww, MAN!
  • Two things from the Hebrews passage connect with my Luke thoughts here: First, the simple yet beautiful explanation of faith: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction o things not seen.
  • And then: all of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. The passage lists Abraham and Sarah who certainly saw the promise of heirs fulfilled, but they did not see the promised land. Our faith is not be in this world, but in the God who created this world. Good theory but you cannot tell me the one time we hear about it is the only time Sarah laughed. Abraham and Sarah lived a hard, convoluted earthly kingdom life - and they were blessed!
  • How often do we allow our earthly kingdom worries to have the last word?
  • What is seen is not all that is.
  • Again the emphasis here is on being ready, but in order to receive the blessing.
  • Being ready means being open to God and the blessings that are to come.
  • Being open also means being vulnerable.... hmmmm, not sure I want to go there.
  • How do you feel as you watch the news? I have to turn it off. It's too gruesome. Our political climate is toxic. The body count in Afghanistan and Iraq is ever-rising and if they do come home they are not being treated well. And the horror headlines that the local news chooses to share are just heartbreaking. It seems if they can find something that happened to a child, they rush to say the words on the air. It's easy to feel that we live on the brink of disaster.
  • But instead we live on the brink of blessing.
  • Not sure I'll use the news ramble, it's an easy hook though. There is someone in our congregation who told us that when she doesn't like what or who she is seeing on the news she puts it on mute and prays for them.
  • Back to this 'be ready' vibe. No one can be perpetually on alert. It's impossible and in fact, if you try you will end up being the exact opposite.
  • I know in the early stages of sermon writing I am all about finding ANYTHING else to do other than my sermon, BUT once working on it I do reach points where I have to walk away. It is then, usually in the car or shower that the thoughts and the ideas will gel. If I had stayed hunkered over papers and laptop it never would have come.
  • So is this more about keeping ourselves open to God's surprises/blessings rather than being about being hyper-vigilant?
  • You can't be open and ready to receive God's blessings if your fists are clenched... if your eyes are shut... if your mind is closed.... if your heart is hardened....
  • Is life about taking? Or is it about giving and receiving?
  • Do I list some of the attitude.adjustments that folks might make. I usually like to leave things more open-ended than that. If I did though I might include: writing the first check to God, rather than what is leftover; create space for what is important - God, family, self; Prioritize what's important to God over what's important to the world.... Egh. Too preachy.

What the Sermon Aims to Say: We are on the brink of receiving a great blessing, but we must be ready to receive it.

What the Sermon Aims to Do: Encourage folks to open up - hands/arms/eyes/heart - to the blessings of God.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Re-Entry

I've never been good at it.

I come back from vacation and sit at my desk and stare around wondering where the beach went. At best I shuffle some papers, sort through the mountain of mail, wait for the beep from the email machine to tell me it is full up and hope more than half of them are some sort of spam.

Yesterday I had a schedule with me and a staff meeting - those things helped. I had lunch with a friend - that helped too. I have a sermon to preach on Sunday and a bulletin to polish up by this afternoon - those are non-negotiables. I have staff that I work with who have pressing things to tell me and words/thoughts/ideas to say back to them.

And for most of that the background music in my head is playing some sort of chant about maybe now I should stop playing dress up games in the Head of Staff's office. He's going to come back any moment and wonder why I am messing with his computer, sitting in his chair, fumbling with his files and answering his phone.

And yet it is not he, it is me.

And when I reunite with my son for dinner and head back for a premarital counseling appointment, the shoes and the clothes that had felt so over-sized - as if I had raided the dress-up box - start to fit again.

This is me.
I can do this.

I am back.