Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Getting to Know You

Psalm 139:1-10
O LORD, you have searched me and known me.
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
3 You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue, O LORD, you know it completely.
5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast.

John 10:14-15 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.

John 14:6-9 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." 8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?

I commented in my last post that our reunion didn't really give us a chance to get to know each other beyond a surface level. So for my message at the office Communion Service this morning, I did a Bible Software search for the word "know." The above passages are the one's I chose for today's message. I asked myself what does it take to really know and be known by someone - by God?

In the workshops I've been hosting, I've been learning that one way to build connections is to share stories. I believe there are two elements to sharing our stories that help us connect. The first being willing to be vulnerable - to open ourselves to the other or to God. It takes courage to share our inner selves with our closest friends much less with mere acquaintances. Our social standards have a continuum of intimacy and we are uncomfortable when someone is open and vulnerable to a degree beyond what the social situation calls for. At the same time, I think we can carry about us an demeanor of openess without actually making others uncomfortable. They can know we are willing to look at and expose our weaknesses without us having to do so in great detail and scaring people off.

As we consider our relationship with God, there comes a time when we must also be willing to be vulnerable. Psalm 139 tells us that God knows us inside and out, so why is it important that we be willing to share our failures, fears, and joys with God? Because as long as we keep a wall of pretense up between us and God, we are missing out on the greatest intimate relationship available. We open our hearts to God not for God's sake, but for our own sake.

The second part of sharing our stories comes in deep listening. Hearing what is said and what is not said. We only know other people when we truly listen to their stories, taking them into ourselves. I love the wonderful hymn, "Tell Me the Stories of Jesus." I'll admit, I'm a Bible nerd. I love to feel the weight in my hand, to read even one or two verses and just sit with them hearing God's word to me, feeling it seep in to my pores. There is wisdom in "Be still and know that I am God."

God of Love, Let me know you and be known by you. Use me as you will to make yourself known to others. Amen.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Reunion Ramblings

While I have lots of things on my to do list today, these thoughts keep walking around in my head clamoring to be released.

This weekend reminded me of the many, many blessings I live in daily. I visited with people whose financial success far exceeds ours, people whose life experiences have been broader, people who have traveled far and wide, people who have avoided big city influences and found peace in their hometown - in other words people whose lives for one reason or another might appear better than mine. But, when I consider it all, I wouldn't trade my life for any of them. Life is good and I have much for which to be grateful. Just to list a few, my loving husband who supports me in countless ways, our son who is all in all a great kid and a pleasure to be around most of the time (which is more than one can ask of a teeenager), my big, soft bed, my pillows (which I forgot to pack), and greatest of all knowledge of God's steadfast love for me.

This weekend I had conversations with people I hadn't seen in 10, 20, or 30 years. We all exchanged the basic information - where we live, are we married, do we have kids, what we do with our time. All very surface interactions. A few were genuinely intrigued or interested by my new role as clergywoman, but no one there had time to get any inkling of who I really am now. And by the same measure, I learned little about the real people under the surface. I'm wondering if that's all that much different than 30 years ago. I imagine that few of my classmates were aware that my home was filled with conflict and strife through out my high school years. My parents separated (a good thing) the week I left for college. I wonder if even my closest group of friends knew how much pain I carried within me at all times or why.

As I looked across the room at the dinner dance on Saturday night, I wondered how much pain was hidden beneath the surface of all those conversations that went, "How are you doing? Oh, I'm great!"' Who was struggling with illness, damaged marriages, troubled teens? It just didn't seem to be the time or the place to share one's struggles or even one's deeper feelings. In most conversations, the fact that I had anwered the call to ministry was discussed in light of career change rather than in terms of call and spirituality. I admit I contributed to that. It felt like words like "call" and "God" might give people the creeps. So, I am guilty of keeping all my conversations strictly at surface level. I don't know how I could have done otherwise, but I know I didn't listen deep enough.

In spite of the surface nature of our interactions, I truely believe many of us felt genuinely connected to the others. It seems our class had a bond beyond common experience. Perhaps that bond has continued because several of the natural leaders have maintained contact with each over the years.

One conversation was with a woman who like me wasn't part of the "in" group back in high school. As she introduced me to her signficant other, her comment about me was, "She was one of the ones who would talk to me." Now I have to tell you, I didn't make a conscious effort to make sure everyone felt included back then. It's something I do now, but not as a teenager. I talked to her because she was there to talk to. Who knew that something like that would matter? Be aware. What you do makes a difference.

I'VE COME A LONG WAY, BABY - but I've still got a way to go.
While my understanding of my own and everyone else's value as a human being has grown and changed over time, it was really easy to fall back into expecting the same social strata to be in effect with me near the bottom. It's amazing how ingrained old patterns of thinking and reacting can be.

Lord, Thank you for the blessings you have poured on my life and for this reminder of them. Show me Lord how and what I can learn from this experience. Forgive me for opportunities missed and show me the blessings I overlooked from this weekend. Amen.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I leave to go to my 30 year high school reunion. On the class website where quite a few of us have posted our "Where are they now?" info, we all keep asking, "How the h -e- hockey sticks did we get this old?" It's been interesting to read other's stories. Somehow I expected all those pretty, popular kids to get through life without changing and without facing difficulties. I'm not surprised by my life and changes (well the Rev. in front of my name still is a little surprising), but I expect them to have stayed the same - same personalities, same looks. It's an interesting phenomenon. We'll see how it goes at the reunion. I saw quite a few of them 10 years ago, but somehow this one makes us all more on an even keel. Lots of them have grown children and grandchildren. Again, it should be interesting.

On another note, I will be one of three clergypersons leading a memorial service for our classmates who have died (43 of 500 that we know of). I've been debating what to wear - men clergy never have this issue. The other two clergy persons are Catholic priests. What to wear isn't an issue for them. Today at Dogblogger's suggestion, I looked for a dark suit. I found a black one that fits for only $20!!!! It will be perfect. Not high quality, but not planning for it to fit for too long. My mom hates me to wear black as it's not my best color. Mom, it's a memorial service and the other two clergy will be wearing collars. This is what I need to wear.

Gifted and Talented is as I type working on "Friends are Friends Forever" by Michael W. Smith. He will play it during the powerpoint showing the yearbook pics of our classmates who have died.

Well, I'll post next week and let you know how this meeting up with my past goes.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

More of the Journey

This morning, I went to the consecration service for the three new bishops in our jurisdiction. One of them was my District Superintendent when I first answered my call to ordained ministry. Another will be our bishop come September. I met him and his wife at the reception following. His wife is blind and leaders in the conference have already told her about the newly (6 months ago) formed Disability Concerns Committee I started and now co-chair. She and I will have lunch after they get here to learn how we can incorporate some of the programs she's done elsewhere into our conference. Tell me again why I wonder about whether I'm supposed to be where I am and doing what I'm doing????

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday Five: What's In A Name?

REVHROD posts at RevGalBlogPals:
If you are a regular reader of Songbird's blog, you know that "The Princess" has requested a new name. Her older brother changed his "secret identity" a while back and now this lovely young lady is searching for a new name on her mother's blog. This got me to thinking. How do we come up with all of these names? There must be at least a few good stories out there.

In honor of the Princess I have posted a picture of one of my favorite members of fictional royalty, Robert Munch's "Paperbag Princess." She is a brave young woman who doesn't need anyone else to fight her battles. And she knows that what is most important isn't tiaras and finery but what's on the inside. If you haven't read this little fairy tale, I highly recommend it.
But I digress.
1. So how did you come up with your blogging name? And/or the name of your blog?
My blogging name comes from the fact that after teaching for 20 years and being comfortable in what I did, I left to start seminary in my early forties. Since then I have done many new things and find myself in the rookie position often. It is a very different feeling being new to something at mid-life after years of being the expert. It is humbling and scary and exciting.

2. Are there any code names or secret identities in your blog? Any stories there?
Gifted & Talented (G&T) is my husband of almost 28 years. He plays guitar and other stringed instruments and sings very well. He is also incredibly handy around the house. He has an amazing knack for knowing how to fix stuff. Since his personality is much quieter than mine, his talents are often sleepers that people only discover when they get close to him or get hear his music in church. His family of origin often doesn't realize how gifted he is, so I try to tell him, but not often enough.

manBoy or perhaps soon to be ManBoy is our son. He grew early and has been taller than 5'10" since the summer before 8th grade. He has been a boy in a man's body. This summer I see him growing and maturing in new ways and becoming a wonderful young man (who still aggravates me to no end on occasion). There are lots of stories about how manBoy came into our lives at two days old through adoption with less than 24 hours notice. We are blessed to have him with us.
3. What are some blog titles that you just love? For their cleverness, drama, or sheer, crazy fun?
There are so many creative ones. A couple that I read are Skewed View and Bits and Odd Pieces of Mindy's Kingdom . I came across this one on RevGals but haven't had a chance to read it: Clever Titles Need Not Apply I liked that one because I couldn't think of a clever title for my blog.
4. What three blogs are you devoted to? Other than the RevGalBlogPals of course!
See my sidebar. Can't pick just three.

5. Who introduced you to the world of blogging and why?
The Typist over at Dog and God suggested I read reverendmommy because she was doing a CPE just before I started a year long CPE. The Typist also pointed me to RevGalBlogPals!
Bonus question: Have you ever met any of your blogging friends? Where are some of the places you've met these fun folks?
I met all the lovely ladies listed under BE Blog Friends in my sidebar. The original Big Event was great fun and spiritually renewing. I hope you will make plans to attend BE 2.0 next Spring. Details coming soon!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I have heard

not. one. word from manBoy while he's been on mission trip this week. No text, no calls, nothin. Dogblogger says The Alpha who is chaperoning and leading the work crews hasn't mentioned manBoy at all when he calls. This morning is their last work day, then they do some fun things. He'll be home late Saturday afternoon. I'm assuming no news is good news. I do miss him though.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Decisions, Decisions

Then they prayed and said, ‘Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. Acts 1:24-26

This week United Methodist Jurisdictional Conferences will be held all over the United States. The main order of business will be to elect new Bishops to fill vacancies left by the retirement or death of previous Bishops. Lots of people in our conference office are involved in jurisdictional conference here. As I prepared for leading worship this morning here at the office, I looked for a story that would parallel. What I found was Acts 1:15-25 where the 11 apostles fill the vacancy left by Judas. The words that jumped off the page were, "Show us which one of these two you have chosen." It doesn't say show us who to chose. Help us with our decision. It says show us the one you have chosen.

I have prayed many times for God to guide my decisions. I have never prayed for God to reveal to me God's choice for me. I think this will change the way I pray when I come to forks in the road of life.

Loving God, pour your Spirit on all those gathering for jurisdictional conference. Show them the ones you have chosen to take the place in the ministry of leadership in our denomination. Amen.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Need to Blog

I need to blog. No that's not it. I should blog. It's been a month and my last blog was just a quick update on the family. I could blame it on supply preaching the 5 of the last 6 Sundays, but that should have given me fodder for the blog not kept me from blogging. So I'll try and dig up some insights to share and then fill you in on the family again.

The sermon I used for two of my assignments was based in Matthew 9:9-13. Jesus calls Matthew and eats with tax collectors and sinners. I talked about the real presence of Christ in that meal - the up close and personal contact with God incarnate. Then I went to the communion liturgy (both were communion Sundays) and talked about "Pour out your Spirit on us gathered here and on these gifts of bread and wine that they may be for us the body and blood of Christ so that we may be for the world the Body of Christ redeemed by his blood." I went on to ask with whom are we called to be at table?

I am leading the weekly communion service at the office for the month of July. That's the conference office, so I am leading people who have been preaching and leading worship for decades including the Bishop. I had planned to recycle a shortened version of above message this past week. On the morning of the service, I had a dream. I was serving communion in the chapel, but the altar was on a raised platform. The Bishop was, for an unknown reason, in a powered wheelchair. He kept trying to get to me on every side of the platform. I had to come down from the platform to serve him. In the introduction of the earlier sermon, I mentioned that chapters 5,6,and 7 of Matthew are the Sermon on the Mount. In chapters 8 and 9, Jesus comes down off the mountain and touches people with more than words. There are healings and dinner with sinners... So my questions to myself and to the leaders of the conference (and the support staff) were, "What is the mountain we are standing on? Who do we need to get off the mountain to serve? Why aren't we doing it?"

Psalm 24:7 Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in.
The weekly Psalm in my devotion book was Psalm 24. This verse gave me a wonderful mental image of two large wooden gates opening - one on my head and one on my heart - and felt the King of Glory enter in.

Okay that's it for insights, so here's the update.

Gifted and Talented is over at Dogblogger's as the band prepares songs for a Nov. 1 concert that will raise funds for the church. He purchased a new Gibson Les Paul guitar a while back and has been searching for the right amp to go with it. It seems he has found just the thing. He spent the afternoon testing out all (okay some) of the 400 preset sound combinations that change the way the guitar sounds. Even I admit it's pretty cool. The really interesting thing was 200 of the presets are based on classic songs from various rock eras. I was amazed as he would suddenly be playing a few bars of at least 1 out of 3 songs he scrolled through. He's amazing. I tell people that, but they say, "Yeh, yeh." Then they hear him and say, "You didn't tell me he is this good." Well I did, but no one listens because I'm his wife and I have to say nice things. Right?

manBoy left today for the youth mission trip. They are going to repair houses in another state. I've been nagging him all week about gathering up the stuff on the packing list. Yesterday, he finally got started. He told me he was done, until I asked about silly things like towels and sheets. Oh yeah. Last night I asked what he did about a water bottle? Is that on the list? Oh. Yeah. Generally though, it's been a good summer with manBoy. He's growing and maturing. He's getting lots more muscles! As he puts it, "I'm filling out my t-shirts more." Soon, I will have to change manBoy to Manboy. He's talking a lot more this summer than last summer - hooray!. I hate when he communicates with grunts.

manBoy's latest aquisition is a road bike (light weight, fast, lots of gears...) that he's been saving for for a long time. He's had it a week and he's already gone on two group rides with folks from the bike shop. He did the starter rides - 18 miles - ugh! The first night, I called DogBlogger and said, "What have I done? I just sent my 15 year old out on a bicycle ride with a bunch of strangers on dangerous roads? Pray!" Then it started raining. An hour and a half later (there were 5 flats in the group, none for manBoy) he came back soaked and happy. We met some of the other riders, who seem nice enough and had kept an eye on him. One of them worked at the hospital while I was doing CPE. We bought a flat kit and an extra tube the next day. Ride #2 went better.

As for me, I feel like I'm kind of muddling along. I have several projects at work, but I'm having a hard time getting moving on them. I loved the supply preaching, but showing up somewhere new with only verbal directions about the order of worship is somewhat stress inducing. Many of my closest to Christ moments in the last month have been at the beginning of the service when I let it all go and trust the Spirit who was going to take care of it whether I let go or not.

Last week was a two point charge - two different churches in one morning. The first one was a cute old white building. There were 7 of us including manBoy, G&T and myself. I was grateful for G&T's singing voice and manBoy's assistance with the offering.

I am preparing to go to my high school reunion. I have interesting thoughts about that, but I'll probably blog about it afterwards. I am assisting with the planning and leading of a memorial service. Some 42 out of about 500 classmates have died. A few died before we graduated, but most since then. It seems an awfully high number for 30 years out. I am putting together a powerpoint with their yearbook pictures and getting white roses for each one. I'm not sure what other roles I'll play in the service.

Now see Rookie, that wasn't so hard was it?