Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

It is quite a night.

I just got word from my friend Susan that she has a new grandson. Born on New Year's Eve.

And my niece Hannah is marrying her longtime love Mike tonight in Connecticutt.

And I left Camp Christian where 60 plus young people will be enjoying a retreat this weekend and "prayer around the world." And I am sure a celebration tonight.

And Lisa Baluk is at Kobacker in hospice care tonight. She told me that she sees angels in the room and soon she will be leaving us.

And in an hour I go to church for a new year's eve party. Alyce and Reagan, my 8 year old granddaughters are coming for the party and spending the night.

And at 11:30 will will have a watch night service and at midnight I hope to be having communion. Bringing in a new year in the best way I know how to.

Happy new year - to the babies who are coming in to the world and the saints who are leaving and to all of us as we play and pray and embrace life.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Grief and Joy

That is where I live these days. I live in grief and in joy.

It is interesting that you can carry both of these emotions - strong emotions - within yourself. And of course we do. We all do.

I will start with the grief. Yesterday I spent some time with Lisa and her parents and husband talking about what she wants for her memorial service. That in itself will tell you how remarkable this young woman is as she courageously faces the end of her life. I have been blessed to be a part of "team Lisa" as we have walked with her through the past 3 years of her living with stage 4 breast cancer.

What I have observed through this is how much she has touched the lives of so many people. Our healing team has provided reiki and prayer and companionship to her and everyone of us has been affected by her faith and her loving and giving spirit. I hear stories about the care of her doctors, nurses and now hospice caregivers who all "fall in love" with Lisa as they come to know her. She is a fount of wisdom - and we have received notes and emails throughout with uplifting quotes. Perhaps the most important is the Willa Cather quote - "Where there is great love, there are miracles" and while the cancer has not gone away, there have been countless miracles.

Lisa spoke at our church about a year and a half ago. She told about her experience of God through encounters with the swans that came to the pond outside her parents house. Everyone who was present remembers this. Three months later the cancer came roaring back and there has been all kinds of chemo. However, blessings throughout - like trips for her and her husband to Disneyworld and Hilton Head and a recognition of the care her wonderful mother Trixie has done for her. And in the last months Dawn Blevins has written the story of the swans in a children's book and I look forward to reading it. Remarkably, one of the hospice workers is an artist and may do the illustrations. And so her story will go on.

So, there is a joy in being part of knowing Lisa. And there is a joy to Christmas and being able to be with my children and grandchildren today as we will have our Christmas celebration and tomorrow with Chuck and his daughter and grandchildren. I have lots of family and lots of family joy.

And as I wake today and feel these feelings, I just am awed by God at work in the midst of it all. Always I pray that during these days that Lisa can live without physical pain and find joy in experiencing the love of all of us for her.

And I know that we cherish every day that we get with her.
Grateful, grateful, grateful for it all.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve

I am up too early and getting ready for the big day.
For me, the big day - the big night - is Christmas Eve.
A time to tell the story in songs and in scripture and in symbols.

Sunday I preached about "wonderin." And I said "I wonder about our wonder." I certainly know about wonder in children. I remember being a little girl who could hardly sleep the night before Christmas, so excited about what the morning would bring. I remember the big surprpise - the big reveal - Christmas morning when after breakfast we came to the tree that had so many more presents under it. It was wonderful.

And I remember being a Mom trying to help the girls have that same experience of surprise and delight and wonder at what Santa and family members brought. This year I can only imagine the wonder of Reagan, Addie, Alyse and Jackson - my grandchildren who are aged 5 - 8. Wonder years.

But as we get older, does the sense of wonder fade? That was my sermon on Sunday. For myself this year - the answer is NO. There has been something about singing the songs and seeing the nativity that has really grabbed me. Sometimes I get convicted by my own sermons and this last week was one time - talking and thinking about "coming to the stable" - that event where you know that you are in the presence of the Lord. This season I feel like I have been coming to the stable often. I have been to the stable in my prayer triad as we have shared our struggles and dreams and blessings, in our Bible study, in the home of Lisa who is facing the end of her life. I have come to the stable in hearing people tell their stories and seeing God at work in the midst of an ordinary life. I have come to the stable as I have watched the generosity and goodness of the members of the church. And it does fill me with wonder. And awe.

And so, here I am on Christmas Eve morn and praying that tonight's service will in some way bring people to the stable - to a place of mystery and love and hope as we celebrate again this blessed and wonder full event.

May this be a blessed (and Merry) Christmas.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pearls of Wisdom

My name - my real name - is Margaret. Same as my mom, my grandmother and my daugher Marnie. A good name - in fact, a great name. I keep learning more and more about what it means to be Margaret.

Some time ago I learned that Margaret means pearl and I have ruminated on that for some time. Margaret is a person of value - a Pearl. And a pearl is found in an oyster - a miracle. I found this description onlin

"The formation of a natural pearl is almost a miracle: a fragment of something that the oyster accidentally ingests gets embedded somehow on the inside of its shell, and the oyster surrounds that something with countless layers of mother of pearl to produce a rare and precious jewel."
A pearl is formed as an object intrudes in the oyster. And the friction somehow creates a beautiful gem. There is something that speaks to me about this.
At the center of the pearl is the hurtful thing from which it gives protection.

Of course, in a parable Jesus said: "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it." (Matt. 8: 45, 46)

In 1897 William Worcester wrote: "This is one of a series of parables which liken the kingdom of heaven to many different things. Each parable points out some special quality of heaven. And what quality of heaven does this parable reveal? Its peaceful security from all things that offend; the consciousness of our own weakness, and of the power of the Lord to save."

I marvel at the ways in which this spiritual journey leads me to face my areas of weakness and shaadow and as they become incorporated into my consciousness, there is a comfort and a peace and - maybe? - a beauty. But there is more

My name is Margaret, I am a pearl who does not wear much jewelry - a cross, a watch and a ring. (Note: I love it when other people are "bejeweled" !) What struck me recently was that as a pearl I am just one on a string - mostly I think of a pearl necklace with a series of pearls which look similar. And I thought at the churches I have served - I have been one of a series - each holding their place to do what God places before us. Recently someone told me that i had been her "seminal pastor" - that there were others that came before and since. And that is a gift - but often someone else was the seminal pastor and I was the one for a particular season.

I have found such comfort in this thought as well. My competitive nature seems to be fading as I am realizing that I am called to a role at a time for a season. As a pastor, as a grandmother, as a friend. I don't have to be the most memorable, the best, the outstanding. Just Margaret - just the pearl for the time.

So, I offer these pearls of wisdom. They seem universal to me but at the same time I have to say:
It is good to be Margaret!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Star Seekers

This is the name of the Retreat that I led yesterday at Camp Christian with my friend Kay McGlinchey.

I have been leading Advent retreats for almost 20 years. I started doing this in Bowling Green and usually went to the beautiful home of Judy Conibear and we had a morning retreat. They were always focussed on a theme of the season and provided times of silence and times of sharing. What I learned was that if people are willing to spend time away from their normal responsibilities and life (Retreat!) and you present a beautiful setting and some time with God's word and silence - God shows up. Something happens.

When I came to Columbus, I brought the retreats to Camp and they extended to a whole day - from 9 - to 3. And then we added the option of the "slumber party" - coming the night before just to relax in front of a fire and talk.

Every year you never know who is going to come and how everything is going to work - but it always does work. And this year we had 15 women and two leaders and it was a great blessing. Some of the highlights from the retreat included

1. A "Body prayer" to O Holy Night - which was just a wonderful way to begin and allow ourselves to let ourselves go and open ourselves to God

2. We each wrote down one thing we were seeking for that day and each person prayed for another during the day. That was a blessing to me as I prayed for Brenda from BG who I love so much and then when I found out that Marcia from BG was praying for me

3. A lectio divina on the text - the 2nd chapter of Mattew as the wise men were seeking the star. It just opened up as we heard the words several times and asked different questions. Seeking the star is a metaphor for the spiritual journey and it speaks to the reality that sometimes the star is hard to see. One aspect that spoke to me was that at the beginning of the journey there is always passion and in the midst of it there can be confusion and questions. But there are markers along the way and joy when they came to the Christ child. And then.....they go back home another way. What a great image for how we get changed throughout this life of seeking.

4. An hour of silence and several different possibilities of activities, readings and writings. I took a walk around camp and found that my own mood and vision improved during it - suddenly what seemed like day gray and barren at the beginning of my walk became beautiful and haunting as I continued around the frozen Lake. Beautiful.

5. At one point the women divided into triads (three wise men - three wise women!) for sharing and prayer. What I heard afterwards was that many found shared experiences with each other. Many did not know each other before they came, but they found they had much in common. And the right people seemed to be with the right people.

6. A great and creative and simple craft. We made beautiful stars using 6 pieces of paper. That was all we needed - and glue. (Bonus: Marsha Mueller is in charge of crafts and I am able just to participate) And someone afterward commented on how we were able to take something very ordinary and make something beautiful. Like God does with us sometimes.

7. Communion was so meaningful to me. The elders were two women from two churches that I have served - Marcia and Gail and I was touched throughout their reading, praying and serving.

We do these retreats every year and it seems that God gives us the theme at some point in the fall and the people who need to be there are there.

I feel blessed by God to be able to have this creative expression.
And tired today.
And happy.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


I just finished doing a reiki treatment for an old friend of one of our members. This is a woman who suffers with anxiety and has trouble sleeping. Her hands were broken out from stress.

We talked about what this would entail - the music, the candles, the laying on of hands, the prayer and - as always - have the disclaimer that it can't hurt. Afterwards she said that her headache was gone and felt so much peace. She was already starting to worry about how long the peace would last - but she felt peace.

Tomorrow I will do a reiki treatment for someone who is having knee surgery next week and Sunday two of our members will do reiki on Lisa who is now in hospice. Two days ago two members of our reiki team did reiki for a young man who had back surgery yesterday.

I am awed by the gift of reiki - the gift of being able to do this particular prayer form. I first learned it in August of 2002 from Sister Breta at Our Lady of the Pines retreat center in Fremont. Now they are no longer able to offer instruction or reiki treatments because the Bishop (?) of the diocese has forbidden it.

So that makes me even more grateful that I was blessed to learn it in a Christian context and have had so many opportunities to do reiki for people. What is most wonderful about it for me is that there are no words - we just do what we have been taught. We cannot control anything - we just lay hands as we have been taught and somehow something happens. At the very least people feel a sense of being loved and at the most there is genuine verifiable change - a headache gone, back pain noticeably diminished, a sense of freedom flowing through a person.

Now, I feel a sense of peace. It is a wonderful respite in the middle of a day of work to be in that kind of holy place.

It is a blessing to serve a church where this kind of ministry is flourishing. Anyone can have a reiki treatment here - no cost - just schedule.

So, anyone who is reading us 614-888-3444 - and make an appointment. It can't hurt!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

So this is Advent

I always am aware that Advent - the 4 weeks before our celebration of the birth of Jesus - is a mixed bag. And it surely is this year.

The mixed bag is this: on the one hand, it is the "Christmas Season" and we are getting ready for this holiday and that is kind of fun. I like Christmas carols and Christmas cookies and the whole thing of actually thinking about the people I love and buying them something. That is nice.

On the other hand, the days are shorter and darker and colder and there is a sadness underneath the celebration. We are going into winter. I sat in my living room this morning and looked out the window at the bare trees and the snow flurries and all the cars in my neighbors driveway and felt sad.

Part of my sadness of this season is the knowledge that one of the sweetest young women I have ever met is now in hospice care. She has battled stage 4 breast cancer for 3 years and it is time to stop taking chemo and prepare for leaving this earth.
And she is - in the most mature and thoughtful ways. I feel honored to be part of the people who get to spend time with her now and feel an undercurrent of sadness.

At the same time I went to "breakfast with Santa" at the YMCA on Saturday with two daughters, 4 grandkids and one very happy husband and felt blessed beyond all deserving.

I cannot make sense of all of this. I do remember Bob Versteeg from Bowling Green would always say - that Jesus came for the people who are suffering. And so we wait for our celebration of the birth of our Lord that reminds me that we are never alone in any experience of life on earth.

And for me, this time seems very much to be about living in the present and enjoying the gift of every moment of every day.

So, this is Advent.