Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I've Moved!

You can now find my blog here. This site has more flexibility for the things I want to do.  You'll need a password for the new site, but if you'll leave your email address in a comment, I'd love to send it to you! Thanks for following me!

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Greatest Fear

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us." (Marianne Williamson)

I've not been willing to admit this to myself, but in a lot of ways, I'm afraid to write. That sounds dumb, but for me it's risky. For me, I think, it's the thing I've always wanted to do. It's not that I'm afraid I'll start writing and won't like it, but rather that I'm afraid I'll like it too much. I fear not that I'll be rejected but that I'll be accepted-- which will in turn necessitate more and more writing. I'm afraid that I might just get lost in a world of words, and have a hard time coming back to reality.

I've been telling myself that "they" won't let me write. They who? The church who wants all my attention. The sermon who must be preached, week after week. The triathlon who isn't getting trained for. The quilt, who cries out to be finished. My puppy who doesn't understand "I'm busy." My husband who doesn't want to hear "I'm busy."

But, it turns out that maybe "I" am the "they."

A view from the last day

I feel like I should say something, anything for that matter. After all, I've been at a conference about writing-- about WORDS! for crying out loud. I've prayed with the monks, and feasted with my colleagues, both on so much food, and more satisfyingly on collegiality. I've been inspired, both by the setting and by the stories, told both formally and in little "pods" of conversation along the way. I've met the sunrise, and I've felt the wind blow through the open-air chapel by the lake.
But something has blown through me too. A need. A desire. A thirst. A fear. A hope. A word. I leave carrying more than I brought: books, and mugs, and folders... and ideas and hopes and dreams. Not everything will fit in my now-too-small suitcase, and it, like my brain, is now overstuffed. I'll make a clumsy traveler, but no one will be able to find fault with all the things I've grabbed ahold of to take home.
So here I am at the last day, and the view is spectacular. Not just of a last look at a lake, but of a last look...for now, anyway, at my colleagues who will certainly do great things. The view is also a look forward, to the plane that will return me to my beloved, to a life that I might now dare to find.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Notes from THE workshop

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

On Tuesday, I had my piece "workshopped" (which more or less that the author sits there completely silent while his/her colleagues deconstruct every choice she has made.) My major in college was creative writing, so certainly this format was not new. But what was new was the ethos of the group. Before, I was with competitive college kids who cared about little more than their own project. Before, the professors allowed anyone to say anything they wished, under the guise of "making the writing stronger." But this time was completely different. This time, my colleagues and I are all invested in each other's work. This time, the comments actually felt constructive. This time, I didn't leave in tears, and might actually be brave enough to believe that I will write more.

The thing that amazes me about this process though--in all the times I've been through it-- is the ways the group will pick up on exactly the things that the writer struggled with. Somehow, the same questions the writer had become glaring. What the group picked up on from my work is that I wasn't really sure what project I wanted. In some ways, it seemed to them (and me) like I was torn between memoior of my first pastorate and a survival guide for new ministers. Once I was finally allowed to talk again, I acknowledged the fact that I was somewhat ambivalent about the project. Some great stories have come out of this time, but maybe I need to vomit forth these stories, and then move on to something else.

But here is some of the written and oral feedback I received:
"The narrators voice is such a strength. You're funny, and genuine."
"It was an interesting choice to talk directly to the audience." (This got mixed reviews...some thought it was too unconventional, jarring maybe.)
"The author's fantasy world of what she imagined the ministry to be collided with what turned out to be a very different reality, and the ways this happened were hilarious."
"The tone was both gracefully not academic, but at the same time too colloquial." (As I looked back on it the afternoon before it was workshopped, I cringed at how many times I said "heck" and other things like that. I wouldn't want to read it, and I'm not sure why I thought I should've put those things in... but by then it was too late. But the group nailed that one on the head."
"Great Project with potential appeal to many a stressed out new pastor."
"I love your ability to tell a good story and your appreciation for the humor--and the absurdity of the pastoral life."

I'm not sure where, or if, the project is going. It might really morph into something less pedestrian, or ... well, I just don't know yet. But at any rate, I have a lot to think about.

Lost and Found

As I've been here, we've stayed really busy. When I looked at the schedule, I imagined that we would have much time to think and write and pray. But in reality this hasn't been the case. So the other night, when the schedule made it look like we had a free night, I was thrilled. But then after dinner, we were told to sit so we could all "talk". (As if we hadn't been doing enough talking... my inner introvert is running around screaming.) And worse than that, before we could start talking, we were going to sing a few hymns as a group. I'm not sure I'd been thrilled about that even if I could sing, but I can't, so mostly I just mouthed the words so that nobody would know.

But then, of course, someone suggested our last song be Amazing Grace. This song makes me weep anyway, but on this particular night, when we got to the line "I once was lost but now I'm found", something in me broke open. Not that I've never had the sense of being found, but more often than not, I feel lost. But at that momement, I knew that right then anyway, I was found. Something in me was found.

What is Home?

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

Every afternoon, we are asked to do a free-write using a particular prompt. Here's what came out of yesterday's question: What is Home?

My home looks like the love of my life-- like waking up next to my snoring, farting soul mate-- the one I've chosen to be with for life. It looks like a place that is really lived in, with dirty socks littering the floor of most rooms, and the remains of whatever we scrounged (because it's likely that I didn't cook) for dinner last night still on the coffee table.

My home smells like dog. It smells like a boxer mutt who played in the mud puddle that she shouldn't have. It smells like the beagle that's more exactly built like a pig-- who just wants to lie down, be loved, and grow old.

My home feels like a cat who's so soft that his fur might make a delightful pair of knitted pair of socks. It feels like a hungry cat who is convinced that if she pretends to adore you just enough, you will immediately jump up to attend her every need.

Today, my home feels far away. Today I miss my snoring soulmate, and wish I could bring him into this world I've stumbled into. But this world is not home.

WHen I return home, things will be different. I'll be different. I'll have more "things" to put in my home: a heart more attuned to its desires, a dream unstuck.

Best Compliment

As I was sitting by one of the nuns who came to share her memoir with us, she looks at me, "You speak like a writer, like a natural storyteller. You're simply delightful."

I didn't tell her that I can't find a writing project to settle down with, or that I'm sure that many other folks rightfully should have been chosen for my place at this conference, but I definitely left smiling.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"Your name precedes you"

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

One of the very odd things that I've experienced at the conference so far is that my name (or at least my work) has preceded me. Long before I ever met any of these colleagues, they had my work in their hands, just as I had theirs in my hands. They made judgements about me, about my situation, about my talent as I writer just as I made those same judgements about them. And then, suddenly, we're all face to face, and there is no more hiding behind a cloak of anonymity.

The work that we've submitted has to stand on its own (as it should). You can't attach caviats to it or make excuses for it. You can't change the words, or pretend that they just accidentally lept on your page. You've got to stand behind it, and let people come to know you through it. You've got to own it, and put up a brave front that you are ok with the fact that those words are on the page because you put them there. Willingly. Consciously. Unapologetically.

"will they laugh at me?" you wonder. "Will they see the truth-- that I'm a child, a novice, someone just running words together on a page? Will they think my story is worth telling, or might they secretly think they could have more fun digging for 'gold' in their nose than reading my work."

It's a vulnerable, naked feeling.


[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

"We assume that you're all great writers or you wouldn't be here. You have been carefully chosen because we at the Institute believe you have something to say, and we want to give you the space to say it."

Those were some of the opening remarks made to us at our orientation last night. We were told that the twelve of us were selected from a large number of applications. Well, that's enough to give a girl a big head.

But more than that, it's enough to give a girl (or guy) a sense of purpose. I'm a Presbyterian-- one of our big things is that God calls us to things. Certainly I've been called by God to be a minister (because...ummm...well... that wasn't my plan!) But the idea that someone else senses a purpose for you gives, at least me, a kick in the pants.

The idea that someone believes that I have something worth saying, something that I should be putting out in to the world is more than I have yet been able to believe. It might be the answer to the prayer I've never had the courage to pray-- and it terrifies me. It humbles me. And it makes me dream.

Word Eruption

[Thoughts from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

I woke up this morning with words, with a prayer of thanksgiving on my lips. I woke up with this almost violent need to write. Write what? Who knows? Write how? Does it matter? I might just have scribbled on napkins if I had to.

I'm afraid that what I've been afraid of all along is coming true: that once I start, once I allow myself to write-- I might never stop. That the yearning in my own soul to give rise to words might just overtake me, and might change my life forever. I'm afraid that the words might ask something of me, call me to a challenge that I might not yet be ready to rise to.

I went on a five mile hike this morning-- and the blessed peacefulness and silence almost overcame me. But the silence was overcome by words: lots and lots of them about all sorts of things. Perhaps these words have been here all along, but there are so many other words that are always bombarding me that I can't hear my own.

And if there is too much noise for me to hear my own words, imagine how hard it is to hear The Word. The Word which shocks, and surprises, and interrupts, and changes, and is. The life giving Word that sometimes I'm too busy to hear.

A Prayer for the Day

[Thought from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

A prayer as I'm trying to figure out what it is to be both a writer and a pastor-- as I realize that I'm tired and burned out, but that there is still a longing in me for something more.

God, make me a vessel. Set me on fire.
Remind me of my calling, reignite my flame.

Give me a voice, and something worth saying.

Wake me up--today.
And again tomorrow,
and tomorrow's tomorrow.


On Hospitality

[Thought from the conference where I'll be this week: Writing and the Pastoral Life. I'm in rural Minnesota, at St. John's University and Abbey]

What a welcome we received as we came in last night! The Institute has really gone out of its way to make us feel welcome!

Not only did they have everything we could possibly imagine that we'd need (from water bottles and coffee mugs with our names on them to whole bottles of shampoo) but they also had everything that we might've forgotten. "If you need something, just take it" they said. "That's how we do community around here." And if by chance there was something that we needed that didn't fall in one of those categories, well, they'd go get it for us. "Please, please, please tell us if you need something. We'd be heartbroken if we'd learned that there was something we could've done to make your stay nicer than it was".

They even made us root-beer floats for dessert.

They took the time to think of everything that might make us feel like valued guests.

As I think about Hospitality, I think this must be it. How badly we often "do" hospitality in the church and in our lives as Christians. We talk about welcoming others, but we do it out of our own comfort, not out of a desire to make someone else feel comfortable. We sacrifice little, we place no value in being truly hospitable-- and we wonder why people don't come back. What an extraordinary thing it is to be made welcome in such a way.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Pedicures, Triathlons, and Monks in Minnesota

No wonder I'm restless at night... thoughts swimming through my brain!

I just paid my husband $40 to give me a manicure and pedicure, and I'm thrilled. He's been giving me pedicures for a while now, because we don't usually have the money for me to indulge in that luxury. It's been one of his many sacrifices for me. But this week, I'm going on a trip, and I'd gathered some money that we agreed I could use for a "just-this-once" splurge. But when it came time to do this thing I'd been looking forward too--I just didn't want to. Truth be told, I've kinda come to enjoy that time with my husband-- we talk and giggle, and he's meticulous enough that he does a great job. I know he would've done it if I couldn't pay him, but everyone needs some money they can call their own from time to time. $40 at the salon would've bought me an hour of relaxation and pretty toes-- but the places I can afford, I usually feel uncomfortable in. $40 at DH'S "At-Home Nail Spa"-- well that bought me a whole evening of time with my husband and pretty toes (and fingers!)

I had a dream last night that I was finally doing this triathlon (and save for there not actually being any water for us to swim in...which led to a rather funny scene where folks where making the motions of the breaststoke on dry land), the dream was great. In the dream, I felt like how I imagine serious runners to feel...blissful, like they're flying. But only once have I even had a glimpse of that feeling while I was running. For me, running is forcing myself to take just one more step...over and over and over. The triathlon is Sept 25, and my motivation has completely flagged. I don't know whether it's the heat or maybe I've lost sight of that adrenaline rush that comes from doing a tri--but whatever it is, I'm having a hard time making myself work for it. This will be my second tri, (you can read about my experience with how I re-discovered God here: ...it's called "Finding God in Spandex" but this time, I'm down about 40 lbs from my heaviest weight ever. As the weight has been coming off, I've been working toward doing this triathlon, and I've felt like a rockstar: strong, athletic, healthy-- and finally able to push my body in great ways. Maybe my dream was a nudge in the ribs (or a kick in the pants) to get moving with it again....

In two days, I fly out to Minnesota for a trip months in the making. I was selected to attend a week-long conference called "Writing and the Pastoral Life", and I'm so excited I can't stand it. The workshop (maybe that's a better word for it than conference) is for 12 of us, and it will be an intense place for us to meet and discuss the writing projects we're working on. I'm looking forward to those things, but oddly, that's not what I'm looking forward to the most. I got the schedule yesterday, and I was thrilled to see that there were scheduled places for prayer, solitude, and reflection. Not only that, but because the event is so close to an abbey, we get to pray with the monks. I've realized that I'm a person for whom ritual is quite helpful and meaningful, especially with regard to my spirituality. I'm excited to be able to pray in what I hope will be a new/helpful way for me. But I'm also just really excited about the idea of some time to be quiet and reflect. As an introvert pushing herself to dwell within the extroverted role of pastor, sometimes all the noise and chaos seems to drown out God's voice. Leading worship every Sunday makes it harder for me to worship on my own, and the truth is that I'm starting to dry up a little. I hope this is a time of renewal and replenishment!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A New Space

Sometimes, you just need a change. Sometimes, you just need to run away, and try something new.

I guess that's where I am. I need a place where I'm not always a pastor, but am simply a child of God, looking for my path. I was blogging at and that was nice, but it's not giving me space to ponder all the things I want to ponder. Lately, there have been a lot of things on my mind, but they haven't fit neatly in that space, so I've left them unsaid. And in the words of the great philosopher Shrek, "Better out than in, I always say!" If you've been following me over there, I'm still keeping it...but mostly for posting sermons.

So here I am--not just the neatly cleaned up and well-theologically groomed pastor that folks see on Sundays, but the other parts too.