Keeping busy

so here a little insight into the life of a pastor: sometimes we have little to do, other times we run nonstop.
over the last month, it seems as though i have not been able to really rest.
i’ve been traveling a lot. all good reasons, but still stressful because of the prep work before leaving and the catching up upon return, the time spent in vehicles, and the annoyance of not sleeping in my own bed.
but for good reasons, i’ve been busy. can’t complain too much.

good vacation, good workshop about conflict,good play, good confirmation retreat, good worship, good day of sledding.
you get the picture.

and of course, all this makes for tons of fun even as i try to fit everything into my schedule.

right now i’m mostly set for lent. will have to tidy up sermonettes for wednesday evenings, prep bible studies for wednesday mornings, and show up sundays. but the big project is done so now i get to focus on other things.

like starting to prep for summer.
it’s a weird spot to be. most people simply show up for our events and don’t realize how much prep time goes into coordinating and planning.
until you plan.

so i’m going to enjoy being able to slack off a bit (but not much cause i still have plenty to do with my regularly scheduled meetings/activities)

lent is after all a time to reflect
and now that the days are warmer, my mood has improved and i’m easily aware of the many blessings in life
so i take a deep breath and appreciating all that God provides

but to enjoy slowing down a bit, here is a picture i took while driving home on sunday after worship:
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lent 2014

over the last couple weeks, i’ve been super busy. who knew how much time and energy goes into prepping for lent while trying to memorize lines for a play and attending workshops/retreats/meetings?

pretty sure it ain’t easy
but it sure was fun…
[and stressful]

i was part of the local community play as an annoying pirate ghost. so i wore lots of makeup, was in over half the scenes, and sewed my skirt in a few hours (picture at bottom of post)

this was in between attending a three-day first call retreat, lots of meetings, and a two-day workshop on church conflict/resolution
yeah, it was a lot but totally worth it

granted i did crash every so often, but that’s what days off are for, right?

fellow church workers, we know the energy to plan and prepare for the season of reflection, of re-devoting ourselves to God, don’t we? i remember the good ole days when i watched the magic happen never realizing how much goes on behind the curtain.
it’s a long process, especially when you are also trying to coordinate a project.

my project was to ask people for fave verse/passage/story from the bible and tell why it matters and what God-ly message they hear.
needless to say, i had to extend the deadline by almost two weeks in order to get enough responses.
but we finished last week and feel quite proud of how it turned out.

you can download it here or here if you prefer to have all the verses at once
or you can either follow TCM’s blog or friend TCM’s fb page if you prefer the daily update
(posted at 4:30 am central time – thankfully i learned how to schedule a post to avoid waking up at what I consider God-forsaken hours)

and of course, my Lenten discipline is to read a theological book (from my stack of theological books-to-be-read) each week.
current plan: learn about family systems theory, how to be a Christian in a post-modern world (while living with people whose lives are comparable to the 50s), what a feminist re-reading of the bible looks like, reflections on being female clergy and whatever else my heart desires…
wish me luck!
[and a blessed Lenten journey]

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in like a lion

march arrived with a wind chill warning attached to the -25 degree temp this morning.
if you don’t know what that is like, be grateful. i love cold but the frigid air plus wind is another story

my hopes for march:
– stop dropping below zero. seriously would love to not see negative temps anywhere in a forecast 
– snow and frozen ground melt slowly to disappear yet doesn’t wreak havoc as the several feet of frost thawed
– sleep enough to savor lent. my commitment this year: read a book a week. i’ve got a stack of books i keep meaning to read
– remember to post daily. we have compiled a devo for our parish and my job is to post on blog and facebook page

well, i’ll end by saying farewell, february and hello, march!

feb fun

so this has been one crazy winter
i have to submit my mileage every month, which means i keep track of days when i don’t leave my house as much as when i do leave
and last month i had a couple sick days (blechy) but even more snow/ice/wind/blizzard days…

we cancelled two of four sundays
we cancelled bible studies,, BLAST (wednesday kids school), women’s circles
we cancelled pastor meetings

and the winter just keeps on staying cold, snowy and windy

but in the midst of this supremely annoying winter i made a quick trip south
my family met in nashville for our family christmas
so i spent a full week in nashville
it wasn’t really all that warm there (only a couple days were nice enough to walk without coats) but it was still warm enough that i didn’t wear a base layer under clothing

we had some fun:
grand ole opry
nashville predators (hockey) versus anaheim ducks
christmas gift exchange
country music hall of fame and museum (including private tour of hatch print shop)
cooking, baking
shopping
eating at the aquarium next to fishies
tennessee state museum (where i quilted and played checkers with libby)
bar hopping downtown
great live music everywhere

and then i came back to the land of subzero temperatures and extreme wind chills

other fun fact: i was asked to take on a role in the local community play, so several afternoons and evenings this month will be consumed with learning lines, figuring out how a pirate ghost dresses, speaking with a nasal voice, and whatever else comes my way

ministry in the mess

this has been a tough week
i never cease to be amazed at how life gets messy and yet in the mess is where we encounter God
life gets messy when painful events happen
life gets messy when we have huge to-do lists and only so many hours
life gets messy when we realize we cannot do everything on our own but still keep trying

God comes to us and reminds us that we will never be alone

this week i sit in tension
part of me is selfish and excited for upcoming vacation
but the other part of me is where i find the empathy for those hurting here and now

when i became a pastor, my number one fear was doing a funeral for a child
then i revised it to be for anyone younger than me
now it’s for anyone who is under age 40, anyone close enough to my age to be friends with me, anyone who has not lived long enough to be retirement age

Sunday evening i sat with a mother informed that her 34-yr-old son had died that day
and while i keep telling myself that God is good, there are still big questions about why life should ever be so messy

the funeral today was tough
usually i can hold it together easily
today i teared up
only reason i made it through was because i never met him

writing a message to preach was tough
how can we make sense of tragic loss?

my words were completely from God

words to remind us that we don’t need to like some aspects of life, that this does not call for clichés, but this does mean we hear the promises from God
promises that God is good
promises that God is with us
promises that God is the God of the living and the dead
promises that God will wipe away tears
promises that God invites us to come to Him, bringing our weariness and heavy burdens to find rest, peace, hope and comfort

what else could we possibly need in the mess other than promises that God is our own God?

reflection

I never cease to be amazed at how much good God can do in our lives.
Even when our circumstances don’t change, our hearts can be filled with hope, peace, joy – the light that comes only from God.
The light comes into the darkness, but we often have to be willing to open our eyes to see and hearts to feel.
Otherwise we remain in darkness.

Over the last couple years, I have begun to really pay attention to a difference in happiness and joy.
Happiness is fleeting; joy is a gift from God that flows deep in our hearts even when we are filled with sorrow, a small flicker of light when we sit in the darkest of times.

I think that far too often we seek out the blinding, glaring, exuberance when we turn to God.
But I’ve found that God is steady and steadfast, often in the stillness.
I crave the obvious burning bush, but instead encounter a small candle flame that has always been burning, never going out even though many try to snuff out its light.

That is what I think of when I think of the light.
Enduring against darkness.
Because even a little light is more than enough to dispel all darkness.

seriously…again?!?

granted, this does mean that i don’t have worship in the morning, but this winter is getting a bit tedious.
it seems as though we have a cycle that keeps repeating:
step 1: relatively nice temps
step 2: snow (sometimes combined with step 1)
step 3: arctic blast

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guilt

one of the biggest challenges i face daily is my constant sense of guilt.

i feel guilty:
when i don’t visit “enough” people,
when i’m too sick to be “productive”,
when i get consumed with other activities and forget to call,
when i find a note a week too late that someone is sick or in the hospital or expecting surgery,
when i don’t get a visit in to the nursing home on the day i plan only to find out the person i was going to visit died that night,
when i’m on vacation or out of town/state and can’t get back for a visit,
when i spend more time in meetings or staring at books and computer screens than i do with parishioners,
when i declare that a snow day means i stay home and don’t venture out,
when i ignore phone calls on my day off,
when i’m relieved and excited that church is cancelled because this means i don’t have to finish the sermon that isn’t ready and i can sleep in

i know i only have so much time in a day, in a week, in a month
but the guilt arrives when my sense of priorities is thrown off, when i think i’m not earning my way, when i’m not doing what i believe a good pastor should do

yes, i know that some of my guilt comes from circumstances that cannot be changed.
life can get away from us far too quickly.
like when i am out of town attending a meeting and get a call that someone is dying and the family wants me there but i don’t arrive until their loved one is already gone.
when it’s times like these, i feel guilty because i wasn’t there and wanted to be, because i should have been even when i know that i cannot be in two places at once.

but some guilt comes from my choices and actions and poor planning.
i get consumed reading for a Bible study and forget that i was going to call someone about their day until it’s midnight and a completely inappropriate time to call.
i spend hours looking for resources for my sermon, glance up at the clock to realize that i didn’t get to the nursing home in time to play bingo that afternoon.
or most recently, when i choose to sleep and not visit on snow days.

i feel guilty when the weather messes with my plans. out of my control, yes, but what i do during that time is under my control.
lately i’ve rested (aka napped) on days when it’s too cold/snowy/windy to be traveling.
granted, this is probably the main reason i’ve not needed to go to the doctor with some form of an illness since i’ve spent most snow days sleeping over 12 hours each day in an attempt to stay healthy.
but instead of sleeping i theoretically could have been reading numerous theological books, or perhaps half the Bible, or have spent countless hours on the phone checking in on people, or, or, or…
but i didn’t.
and so i feel guilty for being selfish.

each decision and action affects my sense of what i ought to be doing compared to what i have done.
i know i can be better at managing time, and i’m trying.
but the guilt won’t go away until i have perfected my schedule.
i want to be perfect, not just good enough.
and so my guilt remains until my idea of perfect is reached, even when my standards might be unrealistic for my skills and my time.

i keep reminding myself that God didn’t create a perfect world with perfect people.
God created a good world with very good people.

but in light of tomorrow’s text (Jesus calling for repentance and for people to follow him), i am going to be intentional about making sure that my snow day starts in thanks to God.
even though i might feel guilty about my joy at not having services, i can be grateful for the beauty of pristine white snow and clear, crisp air and the wind that blows over all of God’s good creation.

so whenever i wake up (since i won’t be setting an alarm):
– i will read the scriptures for the day.
– i will reflect.
– i will share the joy of worship and praising God from the comforts of my home, even though i will not be gathering as two or three or more.
and if i’m very good, i will remember to share with others.

today’s thinkings

so today i’ve had a lot of thoughts rumbling through my mind. this is especially nice since for the last few days i’ve been just under the weather enough to function but not really process deep thoughts.
so i guess i’m making up for it by having numerous thoughts percolating at once.

1. being sick isn’t fun. since the new year, i think i’ve spent more time befriending the box of kleenex than i did sleeping. first it was sinuses, then it was a cough (with a short break in between when i felt fine). now today is a day when i had planned on not speaking to ensure that unlike yesterday, i would have a voice tomorrow for preaching at three services.

2. current weather isn’t fun (no matter how pretty it is outside). this year started with nice temps combined with super cold temps. i should have been keeping track of how many times within a 48 hour time span we could have a temperature difference of 50-70 degrees. of course, when the high temp is in the 30s, i’ll let you figure out just what the low would be…
we’ve also been experiencing constant snow. we may not be getting dumped on with feet at a time like other storms, but it seems as though every other day there is some form of snowfall, even if it’s a light dusting.
only bright side: snow days! yep, days when the weather is too snowy, windy or frigid to venture out.

3. paperback books aren’t as much fun. so, i remember way back when ebooks arrived on the scene. and i remember thinking, i’m a girl who will never switch to the electronic version when i can hold in my hands, using all senses (minus taste) to read and enjoy books.
i’m not that girl anymore.
i admit it, i’ve converted to ebooks.
it started because of money and space issues. why spend more on the book when the ebook is cheaper? why buy the giant book when the ebook is a little file taking up no physical space?
now it’s because holding a book starts to hurt my hands after a few minutes. my hands have become too weak to hold open pages.

4. my dog is fun. ziggy likes to play fetch. it’s cute how he sprints after the stuffed animal. still working on getting him to actually bring it to me. sometimes he will, sometimes he won’t.
right now, he’s dead to the world while sleeping on the back of the couch.
silly dog.

5. reading science fiction is fun. and surprisingly profound. recently i have been reading books that require little to no brain cells to read. i take off my thinking cap and open books that simply waste time.
(note: this is when at home and not when i’m reading theology or biblical resources)
but i picked up a science fiction series the other day and was reminded why i enjoy reading about the other worlds people have created. i love drawing comparisons between the unknown world and my own experience. i love being taken out of my world and put into a new one.
but i especially love when the other world has gods and devout people who are committed to their beliefs.
i enjoy reading the profound statements as characters discuss worship and belief, how their lives are shaped by faith.
i appreciate the comments that make me stop and think “yeah, that captures what i have found to be true.”
i might be escaping this reality by entering into new worlds, but i find that when i read science fiction, i often begin to understand my reality more.
how cool is that?

6. photography is fun. i like playing around with pictures.
i love being caught off guard by seeing a beautiful scene in nature or when with people and capturing the moment in time.
recently i was asked to put together a photobook for someone. i had forgotten how nice it was to play around with pictures. organizing them into thematic pages, critiquing and finding the best ones, making the whole book look good. several hours go by but i don’t even notice cause i’m enjoying it so much.
and once i’m done, it’s forever.
the moments captured in pictures aren’t just memories in my head, but are shared with any who encounter the photo.

sunny day + wind = blizzard

seriously, the winds were blowing at least 30 mph all day yesterday (gusting constantly well above 40), but even when the sun was out, there was enough snow moving on the ground that “no travel advised”image of course, other places were even windier, like my hometown:

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