Thursday, March 31, 2011

this and that

I had someone stop by my office and mention that I had not written lately and so, I really must keep up for all my readers :)

Three great blessings of my life during that time

1. Funeral in Kokomo. On Friday Chuck and I traveled to Kokomo to particpate in the funeral for my friend Susan's mother. It was such a blessing to be with Susan and Ken and her son Lucas, wife Melissa and new baby Mac. I have exactly one friend who has known me since I was 18 - and that is Susan. She was my college roommate at Hanover College, fellow English major and truly friend for life. She and I are extremely funny together - just ask us! And have shared it all together.

I remember being at the Elk's Club in Madison Indiana with our parents when we were 19 years old. My father got such a kick out of her and it was just great all around. And now all the parents are gone - and we are left as friends and grandmothers together. I had this moment looking at her and Ken in the limo coming home from the graveside and saw their faces now and remembered their faces then and it was so poignant.

The great blessing of funerals is hearing the story of the life of the person who has died and in the remembering I am frequently awed by what they have been through in order to become who they are. And this was certainly the case with Susan's mom.
Our parents are from the "greatest generation" who lived through depression and World War 2 and have had some experiences - fortunately - we did not have. And it really does form us. All of this is interesting to me.

2. COSI - Chuck and I finally got to COSI on Monday. We have been here 7 years and have never gone. We joined Kacey, Jackson and Alyse for a really fun time together. Jackson and Alyse have more energy than I can remember that my kids ever had. They literally run everywhere and sort of leap around on benches and up and under railings - it is remarkable being with them. In addition to that, COSI is full of exhibits and teachings and hands on projects and noise and people. It was an overwhelming experiencs of sights and sounds.

There was an Adventure Treasure Hunt that was clever and almost too much - we had to find clues and put things together. It was awesome. I liked the gadgets, Space world, playing outside, and most of all being with the kids. By the end of the day, Chuck and I were wiped OUT!

3. My Book - I have a "synthesis project" due for my Wellstreams Class. And I opted to "write a book." Which really isn't true - it is more like "put a book together."
Using shutterfly on the computer I have put a book together that I titled: "Becoming a Contemplative Pastor." It is a series of 12 images that have been important to me during the three years of being in the Wellstreams program to become a spiritual director.

I finished the book last week and got a copy and made some changes to it and have order about 6 more copies. I have always wanted to write a book and I knew that this was my opportunity to put in writing and gather together pictures and quotes of what this journey has been about for me. It is extremely personal but I think there is a lot that is universal in the images.

So, a sense of great satisfaction and awe at the process because it has all kind of flowed together - the creating the book and the inner transformation of the "Wellstreams Journey."

As usual - a rich and full time in my life - glad to have an opportunity to reflect on it here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I went to a workshop on stress yesterday at Camp Christian.

First a word of disclaimer - I was kind of irritated because it was on my day off and so I did not stay for all of it and spent half the time planning Grandparents Camp for this spring. (a whole nother story....)

BUT - I actually learned somethings -
or maybe remembered some things which I thought I would share here.

Here's my learnings - many of which I can relate to - but I am not going to say which ones :)

1. Clergy can be kind of stubborn about living in stress and wear their stress as "stripes" as a badge of honor. Look at how stressed I am! I must be busy and I must be important.

2. Our "bad habits" are related to stress. We engage in them because we are stressed and then they cause more problems (ex: drinking, adultery)

3. Family really pays the price of our stress. Having families is almost more work than parents know and when we are stressed we often can only give our spouses and kids maybe 20% of ourselves. Not good.

4. Depression can really get in the way of effective ministry. The definition of ministry that he used (which I really like!) is "going to troubled waters" and if you are depressed you will find every reason not to go visit that person or make that phone call.

5. The Stressor is an event - the stress is our reaction to it. Different stressors affect different people in different ways. What stresses one person may be nothing to another.

6. Dealing w stress is not about eliminating stressors - it is about self management.
You are a powerful corporation and the embodiment of many gifts. You need to manage this corporation that is you

7. Coaching is necessary for dealing with stress. AND we are to be our own coach.
The coach is on your side and does not let you get away with stuff.

8. Good stress helps us to get stronger. It comes as we place ourselves into situations in ministry.

9. Bad stress goes on and on and wears at you. We can eliminate a great deal of it in a pursuit of excellence.

10. We manage stress as we check our attitudes
- bad attitude: Everything should go my way
( 2 ways to ruin children - never give them everything they want, or give them everything they want)
- good attitude - live in the present. Be careful setting goals so that we are not fully present. If you have a "to do list" that is too much you may feel like a LOSER even though you got a lot done but not everything.
- good attitude - love your people - judge not, condemn not (Jesus said this too!)
God created us as loving beings and we have to clear out the obstacles to love

11. Look upon anything that any does or says
As either an expression of love or a call for love
Changes us from defensiveness to love

As I write this up I recognize that there is a lot of good info here - probably should have stayed for the 2nd half - but I had too much to do!

I always like when people say - "Too Blessed to be Stressed!"

May it be so.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Inner Child

I went to a workshop last not on "The Inner Child" and learned quite a bit.

From the handout:
"Inner child work is about learning to differentiate between feelings that are healthy and appropriate to the raality that is before us and the long-ago abandonded, dismissed and unfelt feelings that nevertheless take on a life of their own and come out sideways when we least expect it." I think this is what that means: Sometimes people's reactions to events seem "over the top" and it may be because the event touched unfelt feelings from childhood.

"Inner child work" is about our feelings - finding and honoring what we feel. In the beginning - we were our feelings. That may be an obvious statement - but I had never really thought about it. Our thoughts come after our feelings, don't they?

And as we grow up other people tell us how to deal with our feelings. Often the message is to manage them in a way that may not be helpful. Girls are told not to express anger and boys not to express sadness. Depending on our role in the family we have all had different messages about our feelings.But they are still there as "pools" or anger or sadness or fear that we need to address.

We did an interesting exercise of writing our name with our non-dominant hand. That really did take us back to ourselves at a certain age. We then dialogued with that child using first the dominant hand and then the non dominant. it was really instructive and powerful. I remembered 8 year old Margot living in Tulsa Oklahoma. I had a happy childhood but that does not mean that my family "honored" my feelings as a child. I remember being scared spending the night and running home in the middle of the night and then being the butt of jokes afterward. I remember being nervous walking to school because of a big dog and not having anyone (except Geoff who was scared with me) understand. I especially remember being sad when we were going to moved to Pennsylvania and nobody seemed to care.

In the face of lots of people's childhood traumas this is nothing much - but it does give me a sense of the messages I had about feelings and exposing those feelings to others. (or to myself.)

Anyway, this was part one of a two part workshop and I look forward to learning more next week. This is ultimately about accessing feelings and then re- parenting the child who lives within us.

To quote from the handout again:

You don't have to have had a terrible childhood in order to do inner child work. You just need a childhood that wasn't perfect. The inner child process is not about reverting to childish ways. It's about reclaiming the simplicity, the authenticity, the energy of childhood....and coming again to the place of integration and one-ness.

It is Isaiah who says, "A little child shall lead you" and Jesus who says "Unless you become as children you shall not enter the kingdom." "Let the children come to me."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Silent Retreat

It is hard to describe what happens on a silent retreat but I want to share a little of the essence of it.

Two weeks ago I realized that Lent was coming and it would be a gift for me to have a couple of days away with God in spiritual preparation for it. As I looked at my calendar I realized that I could go on retreat from Monday until Wednesday morning.

I found a retreat site - Saints Peter and Paul Retreat Center in Newark Ohio and they had a two retreat "package" which included overnight accomodations, 5 meals and spiritual direction with Sister Mary Rachel. It was perfect and I went.

The big surprise was that I was the ONLY retreatant there for those days. And the retreat center is an old school where Priests lived for spiritual formation. There were at least 30 retreat rooms upstairs and I got to pick - and i picked "The Bishop's Room" with a sitting room, double bed and private bath. I had the whole place to myself.

There are some beautiful rooms in the retreat house - a solarium, a "yellow room" filled with light and a large library. It is located on 500 acres. So, my two days were spent sitting, writing, reading, praying, walking and just being.

The walking was wonderful even though it was kind of mucky and wet in the woods. I found the paths to be somewhat hard to follow (translation: I got sort of lost TWICE) but the process of walking - slogging through - getting lost - circling around - and finding my way back. And then looking at the woods and seeing so much beauty kind of reminded me of my life.

I met with Sister Mary Rachel and it was a great blessing. She wanted to be a benedictine nun in her late teens and early twenties but even though she studied with them for 7 years, she was ultimately rejected because she had a bad back. And so, her life changed and she married and had a daughter. Her husband died 8 years ago and she went back to renew her vows. She is 78 years old, a website designed and a woman with great wisdom. As I shared my struggles in pastoring a church in these challenging times she said - "I have a vision that you should place the church on the cross of Christ. It is his church." now, this is not a new image but it was the words I needed to hear at that time. And I heard them in a new way. And felt lighter and freer.

She gave me her card and this is what is written on the back:

Trust is the secret.

God knows exactly what ___________(your name here) needs.

Don't try to do it all but wait for Him. I think we get insecure because we fail to trust.
You are in the palm of God's hand. "Blessings, Michael (her spiritual director)

And that card pretty much sums up the exprience for me of being away. God does know what I need. I needed time with Him and time with his word, and with his world. There was a beautiful statue of Jesus with his hand raised and every time I spent time with it I heard a different message - first it was peace, then it was courage, then it was sit here as Mary at my feet and finally it was resurrection. Pretty powerful and very real,

And so as today is Ash Wednesday - a rainy day in Columbus Ohio - and we prepare for our time of preparation for Easter, I know that i am blessed to be in the palm of God's hand.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Marcus Borg

Yesterday I went to a clergy workshop with Marcus Borg and it was really good. Thoughtful and illuminating. And reminded me of how glad I am to be a Christian and a Disciple of Christ.

He started with having us do an exercise of remembering how expressed the gospel when we were 12 years old. And then how we would express it today.

And, of course, we all have changed our understandings. For many people their descriptions were about Jesus who loves us and when we follow we go to heaven. For me, raised as a Presbyterian it was more about the church as a place of belonging and acceptance and where you came together to do good works.

Now - even though I work in the church - my understanding of the gospel has to do with connecting to the source of life and new life and allowing God to change us and through us to change the world. it is all about transformation.

He expressed what "Progressive Christianity" is. The fact is that too often culturally we hear primarity an evangelical and conservative Christian voice. And with more people who are "unchurched" this understanding of the life of faith is often not understood. From my notes on what is progressive Christianity?

1. Focus on this life more than the next life. With the focus on transformation of this life. No denial of the next life - but that is not the focus. (note: i remember entering seminary and wondering if I belonged because I did not believe in heaven and hell? I did)

2. Intentional rather than Conventional. I grew up in the era when it was expected that you went to church. This started to change in 1963. Now, more than ever we have people who choose to be there rather than come out of some expectation from others. (I hope!) Intentionality leads to an emphasis on Christian practices,(see my previous blog on Lent) because they help lead to transformation. I loved the quote from Harvey Cox's book when someone said, "I'm a practicing Christian, but not always a believing one."

3. Progressive theologically

a. It approaches the Bible and theological language with a historical and metaphorical approach. (and reading the Bible with an eye to metaphor and image is so rich and deep!)
b. It sees no fundamental conflict between Christianity and science and considerable complimentarity
c. It affirms religious pluralism - that the God of the universe has been known not just in one religion but in all of the enduring religions of the world. Each is a specific cultural response to the sacred.

4. Progressive socially and politically
Socially - it moves to inclusiveness in its own life
Politically - the Bible emphasizes God's passion for a different kind of world. We work together to make that happen

5. Believing as Beloving - before the year 1600 the meaning of the word "believing" in the Bible was "beloving." "Being Christian is bout beloving God and beloving what God loves - and what does God love? The world ....and God has a "lover's quarrel" with the world."

What I like about being a Disciple of Christ is that even though these statements reflect my beliefs and my theology - they may not express everyone's who is part of our church. We believe in freedom of opinion - "No Creed but Christ." And we are all on a journey of transformation to love more, become more, learn more.

A book that was really important to me 15 years ago was Reading the Bible Again for the First Time by Martin Borg. His thoughts and writings are so helpful in just helping us to think through what we believe and who God.

So, I recommend his writings and am so happy that I have had this opportunity to revisit his theology which has greatly informed my own.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Lent Preparation

We are getting ready for Lent - the 6 weeks- 40 days before Easter. It is a time of preparation for our remembrance of Holy Week, Crucifixion and Resurrection.

So this is a time of preparation for the preparation.

And this is how

1. Planning Ash Wednesday service. Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite services of the year. It is intimate, meditative and always really meaningful. For the third year in a row we will do a "Taize" service which involves repitition in music, silence and scripture. In the middle of the service we will have time for people to write a prayer of confession, make a commitment to a Lenten discipline, receive the imposition of ashes and take communion. The service is planned and now I am putting people together to read and to participate.

2. Lenten Disciplines - are acts of disengagement (fasting) and engagement (commitment). The fasting has two parts to it - we make time for God in fasting from some usual activities (TV, computer, etc) and we also remember God in sacrificial fasting (from certain foods or drinks perhaps) The engaging is making a commitment to doing something that draws us nearer to God. We can engage in committing ourselves to 15 minutes of silence or journaling or scripture every day. We can also engage in committing ourselves to an act of service every week. We can also commit ourselves to engaging in worship or a music in some form. We believe that God is always with us but we can cooperate in the relationship by removing blocks or doing things that help us to remember God's presence.

3. Sermon Series - The Lord's Prayer. I love to do series in preaching especially around a season like Lent. This year I am going to preach through the Lord's prayer. I have three books to read to guide me in this as well as lots of other resources. I have preached on the Lord's Prayer before and found it to be really enriching for me and has helped keep that prayer very fresh as we pray it every week (well actually 3 times a week for me!!!)

4. Small Group - I am getting ready to lead a small group on Sunday mornings on the Lord's Prayer. I love small groups and the opportunity to meet with people around prayer for a finite amount of time. We always get closer to each other as we learn our stories. I still have to prepare for this.

So, Lent is coming - which means Spring is coming - which means Easter is coming.

All of this is good!

I am getting ready!

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I spent some time in a waiting room today. I went to visit a parishioner in the hospital and there was a note on her door: "Be Patient. I am bathing" So I went to the waiting room at St. Ainn's Hospital and ruminated about "Waiting."

The waiting room is a place for nothing but waiting. The furniture is sturdy, comfortable, durable and kind of homy. There are magazines on tables - trying to meeting the needs of anyone who is waiting: "Home and Away." "Good Housekeeping" "Time" National Geographic" and "Sports Illustrated - Golf"

And I wonder all the people who have sat on these chairs and couches waiting for news from surgery or people to finish bathing or their turn to visit. A place just for waiting. And I wonder: Is waiting time wasted time? Time in between or time of holiness - but we just don't know it at the time.

And I think about the times I have waited that I now remember and cherish
- being with my father and brothers and waiting while my mother had surgery for ovarian cancer
- being with Kacey and Marnie and waiting while Marnie was having a baby
- being with Chris Connor and Maria and waiting when Kacey was having surgery for a broken leg
- being with Chuck at the airport in Nashville and waiting for Audrey to come home from Africa.
- Being with lots of people that I love and waiting for surgery at Wood Country Hospital in Bowling Green and MCO in Toledo and St Ann's and Riverside here in Columbus.

So, I wait again today and know that in the midst of this is God and love and perhaps the making of memories.