Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thinking Out Loud

So many of my friends are grieving losses, are anxious about life and work, are struggling with work-life balance, feel victimized by the world around them.

I feel at a loss, because words seem so inadequate. I visit, I call, I stop by, I e-mail, I write good, old fashioned notes, take casseroles, and listen, listen, listen. I wonder if people expect more. Sometimes I sense that they want answers. What is God up to? Where is God? Is God? I don't have answers that feel right. I believe, but I also know about feeling very far-removed from God. Sometimes I sense anger directed toward me because I can readily affirm that life is messy, and sometimes that is all. Words seem

And I feel like a empty-handed crafter, a inarticulate spokesperson.

Empty vessel from here.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Passwords with meaning

For some reason, my computer demanded a newer, stronger password. Because I've long used a memorable (to me) password that has no real meaning, I decided to select a memorable (to me) and meaningful password. I've been using it for about a week, and it's becoming a bit of a a practice or discipline.
Now, instead of typing some random letters and numbers, I type myself a recurring message that invites mindfulness and stress release.

And think of the possibilities! If I wanted to, I could reinforce all kinds of things with passwords such as:


or the mantra I'm repeating to myself when I or others utter words that really don't help achieve world peace:


Monday, September 21, 2009

Taking the Time

A new program year in the church brings with it all kinds of challenges. Yesterday, these were mine: how to entice new participants to give Sunday School or Adult Education a try; trying to fit in lunch when the day is already full with teaching, preaching, pastoral care and attending important events like our chancel choir director's marvelous two piano program and a wiffle ball event sponsored by our parents of young children's group; taking time for worship myself.

Nestled in the day for me yesterday were two gems: our morning edition kick-off was a readers' theatre production of Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury and a showing of the award-winning 2007 film Silent Light. In each, we were offered the opportunity to slow our pace, to reflect upon minute details, to see the world from the perspective of someone very different, and not unlike ourselves at all.

Whether watching eight amateur actors adopt the beautiful words of Ray Bradbury as he reflects upon his childhood in the summer of 1928, or watching first-time actors in the compelling film about a Mennonite man in north Mexico and his tormented life, both offered the chance to be still, to be observant, and to be mindful. I left each so thankful for the blessed opportunity to pause, (for every day is busy and packed), and to recall the essence of beauty, the power of redemption, and the complex nature of very simple things. It was worth all of the rushing around yesterday to take the time to slow down-- twice! And from the feedback, it sounds like others who attended one or the other or both agreed.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Up and Down the Staircase- a Friday Five

My friend Jan reminds us of a classic A.A. Milne poem, which I've loved forever and asks:

"Thinking of your childhood as a stairway, when did you feel (and how did you feel then)

1. at the bottom?

2. at the top?

3. halfway?

4. At this point in your life, where would you place yourself on your own stairway?

5. Identify a place for you that "isn't really anywhere" but 'somewhere else instead.'"

This morning I dressed for work and put on one of my mother's rings and her gold charm bracelet, which is jingling even as I type. Since her death in April of 2008, I've worn some piece of her jewelry nearly ever day. It's a connection with her that means a lot to me. FBC does the same, and that makes me smile. My mother and my daughter play a big part in where I place myself on my stairway.

As an only child who grew up in the same household with my mother, my grandmother and my aunt, I was treasured and nurtured in ways that have served me well all my life. I grew up in this old Victorian home, which became the model for this. It has a huge staircase that was great fun to bounce down, stair by stair, as a small child. I felt like a top-of-the staircase kid, dearly loved and cherished, surrounded by affirmation and the mantra that I could be anything I wanted to be. The women in my life were all successful in their careers, and I grew up knowing that families may not all look the same, and that what was most important was love. I can't ever remember feeling as though I was at the bottom of the stairs as a child. I do remember leaving for college at a time when my mother had remarried, my grandmother was growing older and less healthy, and my aunt had physical and emotional challenges and certainly feeling as though I was halfway--neither up nor down--- and exhilarated to be heading of to college, happy for my mother, and worried about my grandmother and aunt.

These days, I'd say I'm still in the middle of the stairway, but happily so. I'm happy, fulfilled in my work, my family is in a great place, and I'm treating this year as an opportunity to take good care of myself, form new goals for my personal and vocational life. I still miss my mother every day, but there is much in life that is blooming and growing and it's a joy to bear witness and to participate in creative ventures with delightful people, including FBC, SBC and DH, colleagues and friends at the church I serve, and family and friends far and wide.

As for a place that "isn't really anywhere" but 'somewhere else instead,'" I'd choose my daily time of meditation. I'm really, really enjoying taking a class on meditation and discovering a very helpful practice!

Staircase is in the Braemer house, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Easy come, easy go

These are busy days, and they're fraught with angry voices.

A friend talked with me today about her call process, noting that her presbytery of care had written all candidates a note saying, in effect, "Times are tough. Are you sure you want to be a minister? Have you thought about other possibilities?"


The health care reform debate seems to be granting people permission to be rude and uncivilized in their conduct. What are we modeling, as adults, when we name-call, accuse, form an opinion before allowing another to speak, are hostile and unbending?

One friend calls it a culture of discouragement. Another writes of a climate of incivility.

Surely the church can play a role in offering a different voice, a different climate a stance that befriends the weak and helpless, that tries out grace and finds it to be a roomy path.


Flikr photo

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I'm back from a wonderful long weekend away with my family, completely refreshed by the pleasure of their company, lovely weather and a relaxed pace.
Now, as we start a new school year, a new program year at the church, I am grateful for renewed energy. A friend at a women's luncheon read a Sarah Ben Breathnach quote about September resolutions and about how sensible they are. She writes elsewhere that "Gratitude is the heart's memory."

I have been mired in grief for so long. I know others who are, and healing takes a lot of time. I am, however, finding it so helpful to pray and I see all sorts of good things springing from prayer and keeping track of that for which I am grateful.

I am grateful for much. I have wonderful, healthy children who are thriving. I have a supportive and loving spouse who has meaningful work. I serve a wonderful community of faith and have remarkable colleagues. I am grateful to have the opportunity to befriend myself, and I am grateful to Jon Kabat-Zinn for that phrase.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Long Weekend Celebration

DH and FBC have birthdays this week. We're celebrating those and the long Labor Day weekend by resting from our labors (we're so glad that we have labor from which to rest!!) and from school work (SBC has had a very impressive first two weeks of 10th grade) by heading to see these folks (and our girl) at their first home football game (FBC is one of the marching band managers):

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

An important read

I think this post by Brian McLaren is a timely and important read.