Thursday, August 31, 2006

Lessons from the Jordan

Observations on new beginnings from Joshua 3-4, Crossing the Jordan:

Joshua 3:3-4 "When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests, who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before.

The ark of the covenant was considered to be the seat of God. Keep your eyes on God, so you will know the way to go.

Joshua 3:5 Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you."

Prepare yourself. Remove that which is unclean from your life. Set yourself apart for God. Expect great things.

Joshua 3:8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: 'When you reach the edge of the Jordan's waters, go and stand in the river.'"

Sometimes you have to wade in a little ways to be able to see God's work.

Joshua 4:20-24 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. 21 He said to the Israelites, "In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, 'What do these stones mean?' 22 tell them, 'Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.' 23 For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God."

Find a way to remember God's activity in your life and in the world. Be willing to share it with others.

Lord Jesus, As I come to this new beginning, create in me a clean heart and set me apart for God. As I wade in to the river, open my eyes to the amazing works you are doing among us.

Monday, August 28, 2006

First Day Ramblings

First a joy, my mother reports she is feeling better than she has in several months. Perhaps at last her medications are balanced.

Today I began Orientation for CPE. It was a long day of instructions about events and activities that we haven't seen yet, so it is a little hard to imagine as they are discussed. I just hope I can remember some of what was said when I get to the "real thing."

The first lesson for me is just sitting back and letting what happens next happen. We are given the agenda only for that day. I went this morning knowing only that I should be there by 8:00. Tomorrow is the same. I know when and where to go, but nothing about what the day holds. As a linear thinking, control freak, planner living this way is definitely a challenge. However, I managed to finish the day with out a tension headache from worrying about what is next. So, I'll just keep trusting that the powers that be will tell me what I need to know when I need to know it for the next few days.

On another note, manBoy is practicing his trombone but having to stop every few bars to cough. It sounds like Gifted and Talented will have to take off work and take him to the doctor in the next couple of days. Doesn't it figure that after I had a whole summer off, he gets sick on the first day I go back to work.

Loving God,
Open my eyes, ears, heart, and mind to the lessons that are coming to me in so many ways, shapes, and sizes. Let your love shine through me.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Prayers Please

My mother who lives 200 miles away was admitted to the hospital just hours after I left her house on Friday. They are trying to get her blood pressure and heart rate regulated. So far, my sister who lives in the same town has been able to attend to her needs at the hospital.

My CPE residency begins tomorrow. I'm both excited and nervous, as well as feeling like I should be with my mother.

I covet your prayers for healing and peace.

Update: As of noon today my mom has been released from the hospital. Yeah!

Thursday, August 24, 2006


And now for a lighter view of wardrobe. Hooray, shopping is done, or almost. Great finds and bargains on new clothes that are comfortable, professional, and fit my personality. Everything mixes and matches so I don't have to look the same everyday. I had to explain to my neice about "garanimals" - mix and match clothes that were coded by animals so kids could figure it out. My mother who has actually studied about clothing personalities says I'm a "sporty natural." Perhaps I have found the balance I was seeking between khaki woman and somewhat knowledgeable pastor. Well off to buy a couple more basics and some comfortable shoes that don't make me look like I'm 80 (ask Cheesehead).

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Okay, this wardrobe thing is still walking around in my brain. I'm shopping this week for clothes for my CPE position, so it is near the surface.

A few months ago, someone from our church told my husband she had a hard time picturing us together (we've been married 25 years) because he seems so laid back, and I seem so prim and proper. His response was, "Then you don't really know Rookie." She had only seen me at church on Sunday morning in my staff position wearing my Sunday morning professional gear (usually pants/skirt suit). She had never heard my dry and often irreverent humor.

I wonder, would she feel comfortable coming to me for pastoral counseling or care? Would she be put off by the professional image I try so hard to project on Sunday morning, especially when I'm involved in worship leadership?

My sister, whose house is rarely straight, but whose relationship with her kids is awesome once told me, "A house that looks too perfectly clean and straight may not be the best hospitality. It may make visitors feel uncomfortable and afraid to move. They may feel you will judge them about the condition of their own home. It is important to let others see you are human."

I know there is a very fine line between appearance that inspires confidence and one that is off-putting. I also know that one's image comes from more than clothes or hairdo. It comes from behavior. Could I have been more friendly to the woman who saw me as too prim and proper? Could I have asked real questions about her kids, her life rather than a friendly, "Good morning, how are you today?" My husband had this conversation because he stopped to visit with her. He didn't worry about whether he got to Sunday School on time or at all. He just stopped and paid attention.

More points to ponder. More questions than answers. Learning, learning, learning.

God of Love,
Lead me. Teach me. Show me.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Are We What We Wear?

This morning, as I prepared for an appointment with the employment office at the hospital I began searching for something to wear. Obviously, the standard summer outfit of khaki capris, green or melon tee shirt, and sandals wasn't going to cut it here. After all, I had received a three page dress code in the mail. So the search began for something to wear that would:
-allow easy access for drug testing (pee in cup = no panty hose),
-allow for immunizations or tb test,
-allow me to walk from the parking garage to the employment office, medical testing site, and back to the employment office without melting or wilting in 100* temp.
-look professional.

I found dress slacks and a short sleeved sweater that are nice enough. The result: middle age mom trying to dress up a little, not professional, just dumpy. Okay, I'll add the new jacket that looks great but is really hot. Ahhh. A much more professional look, I'll just have to carry the jacket and put it on just before I go in.

As I drove to the appointment, I began to think about all the different versions of me I saw in the mirror this morning. First the khaki look: mom, carefree (read unemployed), relaxed, and somehow not on the same level as those professionals I would be meeting later. Then slacks and sweater, nicer, but not a look of confidence. Next, professional dress- much sharper and at least looking like I have more confidence. I began to wonder, which person am I? Which person will I be as I work with staff, patients, and their families at the hospital? Can I maintain enough confidence to encourage trust and still have enough of the khaki woman in me to be real? Can more than one aspect of who I am show through at the same time?

At the hospital, which is a county hospital primarily serving those who do not have funds to pay for services, I saw all manner of dress. Certainly there were those in professional dress, there were employees in scrubs, and there were patients in everything from Sunday dress and hat to pajamas. If I imagine myself to be different according to how I am dressed, what judgments am I making, will I make about others?

No real answers today. Just points to ponder.

Lord, Open my eyes to the petty and judmental me that I can be. Show me where and how to be your servant in this world. Amen

Friday, August 18, 2006

My First Friday Five - How Fun!

RevGalBlogPals sponsors this fun meme:

Brilliantly British Friday Five
In the spirit of My Word! and Says You!, Songbird and Kathryn offer up a Brilliantly British Friday Five.Below you will find five phrases seen or heard by Songbird on her British holiday. Use your imagination to define them. Points will be granted for humor. If you are one of our British RevGals, don't play, but please e-mail either Songbird or Kathryn to let us know of any definitions you find particularly amusing or inventive. There will be lovely prizes provided by Kathryn (Diocesan magazine, St. M's notelets, history of St. M's, parish magazine--come on Barbara Pym fans, I know you want that last one!!!), so do your best!

Adverse Camber - chapped and swollen lips on teenager with braces who spent too much time kissing by the garden gate, failing to remember that love may be blind, but the neighbors ain't.

Butts Wynd - What G&T does in the wee hours of the morning after eating high-fiber cereal at bedtime

Plague Church - any church with an infectious disease such as malcontent measles, complacency cold, back-stabbing bacterial infection, or vicious virus

Free House - that wonderful sensation that Mom gets when her loveable young ones are all safely delivered on the first day of school . This often involves twirling oneself around the living room chanting, "Free, free, free!" Of course said mom then prepares for her own day at work, school...

Mind the Gap -what anyone wearing a hospital gown must do. (Thanks G&T)

Packing for the Journey

Today’s reading of the first two chapters of Matthew; the genealogy and birth of Jesus, the visit of the magi followed by the flight to Egypt, and a daily devotional about the things a woman packed when leaving her home before a hurricane made me wonder, “What did Mary and Joseph pack for their hurried expedition to Egypt with the child Jesus?”

What would I pack if I had to flee my home in a hurry? Important documents, Bibles with my notes - pictures – memories – our history. Other “stuff” seems unimportant. Not even our computers (okay, maybe the flash drive with all my commissioning paper work). Would we take one car or both? One, staying together would be more important than saving the car and more stuff. Clothes? Just a few, but definitely good sturdy shoes since we don’t know what lies ahead.

What about our life journeys? What do I need to take with me as I begin CPE? The answers are much the same:
My Bible
My faith history
-memories of the many times I have felt God’s presence in my life and the times I have known it even when I couldn’t feel it,
-people who have supported me in my faith journey and will continue to do so on this next leg
-the breath prayer that carried me through the decision to quit teaching and attend seminary.

The professional wardrobe I’ve been stressing over this week seems less important now. It is only a vehicle that will allow me to be accepted as a chaplain and do my job. It is not important on its own; only for the function it will serve. Of course, I will need a pair of sturdy shoes.

Lord God,
Somewhere in the world people are fleeing their homes, racing away from natural or human generated danger. Give them strength and courage. In other places, people are returning and struggling to rebuild from destruction. Bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isa. 61: 3). Remind those of us who live in safety who and what is important. Keep our hearts and minds from the petty. Keep our focus on you. Amen

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fear and Faith Part III

The following came in an email from a friend with whom I had shared my doubts and concerns. She felt compelled to send this message during her prayer time. I thank her for having the courage to share. I am listening Lord.

I have a message for you. It's from God.

He says he has put uncertainty and insecurity in your heart and mind for a reason. This is to allow you to let yourself grow (but not to grow too big for your britches) and learn the strategies of a chaplain. Realize you do not have all of the answers. He will give you the right words, when you need them. You are about to embark on a daily adventure of pain and suffering, beginnings and endings, healing and hurt...all of people you do not know and love (hopefully!). These are your patients.

The pain and suffering you are trying so hard to appease right now is in those you do know and love, your church family. Your clinical experience will not have the same psychological and emotional strings attached. Your patients will leave footprints on your heart, but will be with you physically for only a short time. You will have the opportunity to leave footprints behind for your patients and their families, as well.

Keep in mind that when you're seeing only 1 set of footprints, you are being carried.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Fear and Faith Part II

I am surrounded by pain and grief. So many hard diagnoses. So many hard questions. I feel completely and utterly inadequate for helping them. I don't have the words or answers. I pray, but I bring no comfort. And this is before I start CPE. I wonder what on earth I think I'm doing! Lord, help me in my unbelief. Help me trust that you are in me and in this.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fear and Faith

A few weeks ago, my sister and nieces ages 3 and 9 joined us for a day at the beach. As I watched the girls reactions to the water, I learned much about our reactions to the waves of life. The 3 year old was fearless. She greeted every wave, every new experience with glee. The 9 year old was not fearless. In fact she was downright wary. She didn't like the seaweed that gathers near the shore, so she wouldn't venture more than two feet into the water. I finally convinced her that I could carry her the short distance past the seaweed and then she could enjoy the ocean. Once past the seaweed, I put her down in waist high water. Immediately she was afraid and wanting to go back to shore. This time her fear was that she couldn't see to the bottom. She didn't know what was waiting for her below the surface. My sister held her firmly and told her, "You are okay. I've got you." My niece's reply was, "I don't trust you."

I realized I often react in exactly the same way when God calls me to something new. First, I raise many objections based on what I can see or know about the situation. Then when I conjure a bit of faith to wade in, I get paralyzed by my fear of the unknown. While I've never blatantly said, "I don't trust you." to God, I've acted it out in oh so many ways. When I try to keep all of life in my control, I'm denying trust in God.

As I prepare to begin CPE residency, there are many known reasons to be fearful. The intense schedule, the deep pain and suffering I will see, the wear and tear on my family. And then there are all the unknowns. At the same time, I am well convinced that this is what God is calling me to do and be for the next year. It is important to my formation as a pastor. There will be pain, but there will also be healing. I will be needed, and I may make a difference in someone's life even for a short time.

I have been blessed with a summer off. I am entering CPE with more physical, mental, and spiritual renewal than I've had in several years. I am as prepared as I can be. Now, I pray that God will strengthen my faith that I can walk into this experience with joy and peace, knowing that God will sustain me through the difficulties.

By the way, we left the water for lunch on the beach house deck. My oldest neice was the first one to ask when we would be going back down to the beach. She was able to enjoy the ocean on her own terms for a while.

Monday, August 07, 2006


I come from a long line of strong, independent women. My great-grandmother, born in the 19th century, owned and managed rental property in the 1940's and 50's. Both of my grandmothers worked outside the home; one of them was an office manager for an insurance company. My mother earned a college degree in 1958, and went on to a career in medical technology and veterinary research. I remember being so proud when we learned about electron microscopes in school, and my mom knew how to use one! One result of this legacy has been that I never felt as if my options were limited by my gender.

This past June, it was an honor to be commissioned during the annual conference that celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the ordination of women in The United Methodist Church. Throughout the conference, there were luncheons, video presentations, and short vignettes telling about the women who had come before me. I must admit, I didn't "get it." I didn't fully understand the power and value of the legacy into which I had stepped.

This past week I have been reading What I Didn't Know Then, by Linda Foster Momsen. Rev. Foster Momsen was the seventeenth woman to be ordained in her conference of The United Methodist Church. This book chronicles the struggles and resistance she faced both inside and outside the church. It also tells of the joy she found in finally fulfilling the call she received at age sixteen. I am thankful that my eyes have been opened to the difficulties faced by all those clergywomen who came before me, and for their perseverance.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sacred Movement

Wow, blogging is great! A place to voice my "aha moments" without tiring the ears of friends who have listened to so many of them over the last few years.

Today in church I spoke about sacred movement. No, not liturgical dance. But about the movement that is involved in the sacrament of Holy Communion. Our church practices intinction where the bread is received and dipped into the cup. It seems to me that sometimes in our worship planning we think of the movement of the congregation from their seats to the serving point and back to their seats as mere logistics. Looking at Psalm 51, which I know is OT and doesn't have anything to do with Holy Communion, I began to envision that movement as part of the sacrament. As we move toward the bread and cup, we like the Psalmist are declaring our need for God's love and mercy. When we move away after receiving, we do so in newness of life. The final sacred movement is out into the world to bear the message of God's love.

Lord, let more and more of my movements be sacred, set apart for you. Amen

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Meet and Greet

Today, I'd like to introduce you to my family.

My husband, Gifted and Talented, works in the field of electronics, but his passion is music. He is an awesome guitar player and has a nice voice. Really, its not just me who thinks he's awesome. Whenever someone new hears him play, they are amazed and ask why I didn't tell them how talented he is. I remind them I did tell them, they just didn't believe me. G&T plays in the worship band for our church every Sunday morning, and is learning to play banjo, mandolin, and classical guitar. I was in high school when we started dating, and we've been married more than half our lives. His love and support have helped me through my seminary classes, and he is a blessing to me everyday.

Our son, manBoy, is in his early teens. He is growing and changing so fast that none of us quite knows how to handle it. If he grows into his size 11 feet, he's going to be very tall! mB is into skateboarding, rollerblading, basketball, video games, band, church youth group, and much to my dismay, girls.

mB came to us through open adoption and we have ongoing contact with each of his birthparents. Although we were unsure about open adoption at first, this has proved to be a wonderful option for us and especially for mB.

Friday, August 04, 2006


When I first selected mid-life rookie as my blogger i.d. I was thinking that I might never again feel like I know what I’m doing. After 20 years as a special education teacher, I began the journey toward ordination in the United Methodist Church. It had been 20 years since I’d sat in a college classroom, so I definitely felt like a rookie when I began my seminary classes in 2003. Soon, I will be starting a new leg of the journey as I begin a Clinical Pastoral Education residency at a large county hospital where much pain, suffering, and healing takes place. Once again, I feel as if I have no idea what I am doing.

However, in the last few days, I have come to appreciate my rookie status. After all, mid-life rookie is preferable to mid-life rut. I am coming to understand that once again God is “creating all things new” in me. I walk forward in faith (okay, with some fear too).