Saturday, February 27, 2010

The tent is flapping...

I've started so many posts in the last two weeks, most of which are now obsolete. There's lots to write about, but somehow the time crunch in getting ready to leave for modular week, and then being consumed by my class, meant that I didn't get anything written. At least, not on this blog.

There has been one image in my mind and it was confirmed during a prayer time in class this afternoon. I'm getting ready to move. Not in the physical sense, but in the ministry sense.

For the last several months I have been in a state of "ministry limbo" and was unsure of where I would "land" once seminary ended. What I had thought would be my place for serving in the Church was being changed. It was as though God has been telling me to start packing up my tent and to be prepared to move at the right time.

I confess that I have been resisting. I kinda liked the view. The folks at the neighboring campsites are pretty wonderful! There were things going on around me that were fun and exciting. Yet circumstance after circumstance, God was slowly and completely moving me from a place of being "settled' and comfortable into a place of impending change.

The mental image I have is that I am a tent, and God is systematically removing tent stakes, one after the other. Right now all that's left are the tent poles as one last stake came out of the earth. Soon the camp site where I have been comfortable, and where some wonderful things have happened, will be struck. And then I will be blown where the fresh wind of the Spirit sends me. I just don't know where that is.

So now I'm being transformed into a kite, I guess, held up by winds of God's choosing. There's other people joining me wheeling around in the Spirit. We look at one another and are amazed. What God can do with a freed-up life is pretty electrifying!

It is a wee bit terrifying and exciting, all at the same time. And I wouldn't have it any other way...

The prof for our modular class, David M. Edwards, shared a song with us that has helped me to rest in this waiting time... Here's a few lines from Make Your Home in Me...

I am poor and needy there’s no breath left in me.
Oh, I ask You, Holy Spirit, come fill my emptiness.
Blow away anything that stands in Your way...

...Make Your home in me...

© 2001 New Spring Publishing (ASCAP) / Nail Prince Music (ASCAP)
Admin. by Brentwood-Benson Music Publishing, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Five: Happy Lent!

Sophia at RevGals writes:

Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery with mind and heart renewed. You give us a spirit of loving reverence for you, our [Mother]/Father, and of willing service to our neighbor. As we recall the great events that gave us new life in Christ, you bring the image of your Son to perfection within us.... (First Preface for Lent, Roman Missal)

1. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday this year? Any memories of memorable celebrations past?
Does watching the Olympics count? Then, YES!

2. How about Ash Wednesday, past and/or present?
This year I was not at a formal service. In the past I have helped officiate. It is probably the most humbling task a pastor can do, next to leading the Communion service.

3. Does your denomination or congregation celebrate "this joyful season"? Any special emphases or practices to share?
Our congregation? NO. Individuals within it? YES but it is not something that is cultivated. This year someone is teaching a class that is timed to culminate at Easter, but it's not titled as a Lenten class.

This year I am reading the Daily Office through the ESV website. There is something very heart-focusing about praying through the Psalms and prayers of the Book of Common Prayer for Lent.

4. Do you have a personal plan of give-ups, take-ons, special ministries, and/or a special focus for your own spiritual growth between now and Easter?
I blogged about this briefly a few days ago.  Basically I am working on being more intentional and thoughtful in my daily actions. I got the idea as I was thinking about all of the diets that I have tried and failed on because they were too far from the mainstream of the way I live. So while abstaining from something or adding a new routine is great, for me it doesn't have any lasting "sticking" power. I am working on intentionality and being fully present. I believe it is a place where God wants to rub off my roughest edges.  (BTW - in case you wondered - 2 days in, it hurts. But it's good.)

5. What is your dream for the image of Christ coming to perfection in you, the church, the world? How can we support you in prayer?
I'm in "launch mode" right now. I'm finishing my last semester of regular classes for my M.Div. (HALLELUJAH!!!!!!) I'm also applying for a summer CPE unit, and looking to do a second one and become a Board-Certified Chaplain in the next year. In spending time with my mentor and spiritual director, it seems that this is where God is bringing me in my career plans. My prayer has always been "use me, spend me -- but only where you want me!"  I would appreciate prayers for clarity and discernment.

Bonus: Song, prayer, picture, etc. that sums up your feelings about this liturgical springtime. 

First a Picture Bonus!  I went and cut some forsythia just before our back-to-back big snows that started on February 5th. The buds have just started opening. It reminds me of the hymn Now the Green Blade Riseth...

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in the dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

In the grave they laid him, love whom men had slain,
Thinking that never he would wake again.
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green,

Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain.
Quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Thy touch can call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
John MacLeod Campbell Crum (1872-1958)

And here's a Poetry Bonus!  This arrived in my email this morning... I found it to be EXACTLY what I needed to read and pray through.

Dear God,
Speak gently in my silence.
When the loud outer noises of my surroundings
and the loud inner noises of my fears
keep pulling me away from you,
help me to trust that you are still there
even when I am unable to hear you.
Give me ears to listen to your small, soft voice saying:
"Come to me, you who are overburdened,
and I will give you rest...
for I am gentle and humble of heart."
Let that loving voice be my guide.
~Henri Nouwen, With Open Hands

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ashes to ashes...

Ash Wednesday, today, marks the start of Lent. It is the season of reflection and remembrance on the liturgical calendar of the Passion of the Christ, culminating on Easter Sunday. It's not a regular practice (at least by that name) in my present church. However, it is something that I try to at least work into my spiritual consciousness every year.

I debated what I should "give up" or "start doing" (common ways of bringing an external meaning to a humanly constructed religious practice.) In the past, I've given up everything from chocolate to coffee to going to movies. Usually the "deprivation" isn't really that difficult, and I am remarkably good at finding another substitute as my "work-around"... It's far too easy for me to go off coffee and start drinking tea, for instance. My problem on a day-to-day basis is not as much denial as it is of balance and self discipline. It is overcompensating instead of remaining a true reflection of God and Christ, of living in the Spirit not within my own wishes and preferences.

So for this Lenten season, I am going to work at exercising a thoughtful, measured, and careful use of my time, talent and treasures. It might mean spending a day with a friend, just sharing the journey. It might mean less time of Facebook and more time face-to-face. It might mean a more consistent (weekly?) fasting regimen. It could come in the form of enjoying the pretzels I munch on as I study instead of mindlessly shoveling them in my mouth. It will mean that I don't shop unless I "need" to. It gets things off my "procrastination list." (You may call it a "DO LIST" but I have one which still has 'send out Christmas letters' on the top of it...)

So I'm attempting to be more aware, more intentional, more yielded... and less driven, less demanding, less distracted.

I'll let you know how it goes...

Monday, February 15, 2010


funny pictures of cats with captions

May I just say it...


However they must be done. This week. Because of a Financial Aid deadline for The Harpist, and my going out-of-town for two intensives... and of course, before that I have 3 papers due (1 Friday, 2 Saturday).

As you were.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lenten plans

I have been considering what I want to do to bring the season of Lent closer to my mind and heart this year. It is far too easy in a nondenominational setting to just let the liturgical seasons fly by unnoticed.

From my public school days, I remember classmates who were 'giving up chocolate' or 'giving up the radio' and I never could figure out why. Our mainline denomination basically had more music rehearsals for Palm Sunday Easter music. And that was all I really remember, liturgically speaking.

This year I have the happy task of taking my last classes for my M.Div. and (hallelujah) only have a few thousand pages of intensive reading left. So I knew anything I did would not be along the lines of reading a book. My spiritual formation partner and I are going to read the daily offices for Lent. (They are online here should you like to read along.) I'm looking forward to that.

But the dilemma remains... what should I do or not do as part of the next forty days of Lent? That's what I'm pondering.

Weather permitting, I hope to get in a Silent Retreat on Ash Wednesday at Dayspring Retreat Center near me. Perhaps God will crystallize for me what it is that I can do to bring home the Passion and the Cross.

Still pondering this one...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Five: FAB FEB(ruary)

Jan from RevGalBlogPals writes:

With Valentine's Day around the corner, it seems appropriate to write about February holidays. However, I'd never heard of "Waitangi Day" before: Feb. 6 is a holiday in New Zealand to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the founding of New Zealand, in 1840. I'll avoid Fur Rondy, as it is connected with Sarah Palin's home state.

1. When February comes along, how do you feel about the coming month?
My mom rightly notes that February seems like the longest month of the year. The weather is usually awful and winter seems like it will always be. I'm just happy we're almost halfway through. On the other hand, I have a dim realization that I MUST get out taxes done because Financial Aid for The Johnnie is due March 1st, and I will be in class that week. YIKES!

2. What memories do you have about Valentine's Day? Are you doing anything to observe it this year?
It involved (in elementary school) cupcakes with frosting, warm red koolaid (with the required Kool-Aid mustaches afterwards) and little valentines in those flimsy envelopes that were held shut with stickers. Also red construction paper and doilies for craft projects...  I beat the rush and sent ValenGroundHogTines Day packages out early for my college girl. The rest I actually remembered to buy a card before we got "a bit" of weather.

3. It is interesting that Monday's "Presidents Day" is not officially called that in every state. It is a U.S. federal holiday entitled "Washington's Birthday." Which is your favorite president and why?
Oh dear. Not to pull a Palin on you, but I don't know as I have one. I am sure I have a "LEAST favorite" one. Without getting too specific, let's just say he was a frat boy who couldn't read a teleprompter.

4. Will you be celebrating Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras? How?
Not usually. We had pancakes this week as "blizzard food" for supper. Does that count?

5. Any other ways to celebrate in February?
This year I think I will celebrate by getting our Christmas (2009) letter out before month's end. That's huge. The last couple of years I haven't written one at ALL!

Bonus: A Lenten book or website you recommend.
My study partner for spiritual formation suggested that we read The Daily Offices as part of our "reading the Bible through in a year."

And I just realized that I have written Holy Week and Lenten devotionals in years past, but I don't have Lenten ones up anywhere. Hmnmmmm....

Monday, February 08, 2010


So... this the "progress" our county has made in snow removal after the big snowstorm ended two days ago... We have not yet seen a plow though the county website says that they are in our neighborhood.

More snow is forecast for tomorrow and Wednesday. Doesn't look so good, does it??


Friday, February 05, 2010

Friday Five: Staving off the Gloom

Revgal Sally from the UK writes this week's Friday Five:

Candlemass is past, and Christmas is well and truly over, here in the UK February looks set to be its usual grey and cold self. Signs of spring are yet to emerge; if like me you long for them perhaps you need ways to get through these long dark days. So lets share a few tips for a cold and rainy/ snowy day....

1. Exercise: what do you do if you can't face getting out into the cold and damp?
We have started taking Tai Chi classes (which are indoors thankyouverymuch) and most of the beginning exercises I can do at home. Tai Chi is actually helping my knees and my back be more flexible and I can see some strengthening of the large muscles which help my joints.

2. Food: time to comfort eat, or time to prepare your body for the coming spring/summer?
I make a lot of soups and stews: beef stew, corn chowder, chicken chili verde, chili con carne. With a side of homemade bread or cornbread, it's a warming meal.

3. Brainpower: do you like me need to stave off depression, if so how do you do it?
I pick a craft or hobby and do it. This winter I'm making a prayer shawl, my first ever big crocheting project. It will go to a Kairos Outside prison ministry group. I also cut and "force" forsythia so that I have something blooming from my yard long before spring is here. I just went and cut some as the "epic" snowstorm is starting... (pictured to the right.)

4. How about a story that lifts your spirits, is there a book or film that you return to to stave off the gloom?
I'm in a Jane Austen book club this year and that has been a fun way to keep my heart light. Generally, I try to find a good series and dive into it when the days are short and cold. Reedy Girl was just introduced to the James Herriott serries (All Creatures Great and Small) though we had read bits and pieces of them to her for years. One year I read all of the Mitford books, another year I re-read all of the David and Leigh Eddings' series.

5. Looking forward: do you have a favorite spring flower/ is there something that says spring is here more than anything else?
The snowdrops are the first trumpet, then forsythia. Those two give me a little courage to get through February which my mom says is "the longest month of the year." Here's a shot of some snowdrops bravely standing up to the weather today!

Bonus: post a poem/ piece of music that points to the coming spring......

One of my favorite's is Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring" because it weaves in the folk tune "Simple Gifts." I looked briefly for a good video but didn't like the ones I found (they had a fabulous clam by the 1st horn which was lamentable!)

For all of you MST3000 fans, here's a video entitled "Spring Fever"

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Today's howler

OK, so those of you who live in the Snow Belt always have a good laugh at us wimpy MidAtlantic people. We know that. And it doesn't help that the meteorologists are simply about ready to foam at the mouth over this storm of "epic proportions."  But when the forecast calls for anywhere from 12-24 inches of snow, folks get a bit mental around here.

However, along with the rest of the DC Metro area, I am watching the weather forecast carefully. Do we go buy more salt for the driveway? (yes) Do we have shovels? (yup.) Do we need to buy a generator? (overkill. I may regret saying that...) We have essentials stocked. We are hoping that things are not SO bad that we can't watch the NCIS marathon on Saturday.

On our way home from Tai Chi last night, Bearded Brewer, Reedy Girl and I stopped at the grocery store. We needed coffee, creamer, ice cream (the essentials!) and bought the fixings for homemade pizza. I can make dough but we were out of some fun things like Canadian Bacon and hot peppers... and then we saw THIS in the milk aisle...


Sure, we need to pay attention to the weather, and give thought to what we might need... but I think that maybe folks are panicked just a wee bit. The toilet paper aisle, bread aisle and diaper aisle were also decimated!

Then I saw THIS on the Weather page as I was getting a forecast update this afternoon, and I have had a terminal case of the giggles...

Yes, Captain Obvious, it will probably be "poor" for golfing in our area tomorrow...

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Warming up for the Super Bowl (TM)

Happened upon some great cake wrecks just in time for the Super Bowl.TM Apparently bakeries do not have spellchecks.

Check them out here...