Saturday, June 20, 2015
Sunday, May 3, 2015
The idea of downsizing and radical simplicity are not new ideas for me. My journey of exploring simplicity as a way of life was first seeded in my life while I was in high school. I remember reading the More with Less Cookbook by Francis Moore Lappe when Joel the Associate Pastor loaned me his copy. Living lightly and leaving a small footprint are not alien ideas to me. They are part of my core values. So what the hell happened?
Fast forward 35 years. Life happened. The assumption of large amounts of other people's personal property when they died happened. The accumulation of STUFF happened as one sought to fit into the lifestyle of the average American. Hubby and I purchased a three (could be 4) bedroom home with a large amount of space and proceeded to fill it with STUFF. STUFF that has begun to choke us out of the life we want and believe we are called to live. An maintaining a 2800 sq foot house is a lot of work and energy. Work and energy that we want to spend doing other things. We want to spend time with people not things. The things in our house are that...things....stuff....items that suck our attention away from people and relationships. THUS our decision to downsize.
We have become a servant to stuff, rather than the stuff enhancing our lives and relationships.
We bought this house because it would fit an antique dining room table. We had hope that our home would become the place where people in our family and our friends would gather. There have been instances where people were seated around our big old dining table, but for the most part the family doesn't like to come to our house because several are allergic to our cats. The cost of keeping the table and this house is too much. It's keeping hubby and I from living our lives, so downsizing is our journey at this time, as we seek to simplify our lives. This is our story.
Sunday, April 20, 2014
I promised myself last month when I was at the Stewardship Kaleidoscope conference that was going to begin to blog regularly on the topic of stewardship. I have to admit that I am a terrible steward. One only has to look at my car, my house, and my desk and they can see what a state of chaos my life is in at this time.
I have always been a somewhat undisciplined per son. I’m not a huge fan of authority, rules, and other such things. I have spent most of life and career knowing the rules. I often times am the one that knows the rules – inside out and upside down. I have also spent the majority of my working life in situations where the work I do not always fit the clean and idealized situations that formed the policies and procedures and rules. I have often found that the rules – which often times are pretty ridged – have to be bent, massaged, adjusted or made exception to in order to get the job done.
So when I think about stewardship – taking care of things – I get a little overwhelmed at time. I start out fine then the rules get in the way. I don’t like the constricting nature of programs and systems. At this point in my life, my life is a bit out of control. It is chaotic and the chaos in my life can be seen as I look around my home. Nothing is getting taken care of. I’m a terrible steward of what I have.
And I have stopped running. I know that his is an area of my life that has needed work for quite a while. I have gone kicking and screaming in the other direction for too long.
So tonight I begin.
So tonight I begin the apply to ME the reading I have done over the years on the topic of Stewardship and Simple Living. I believe that part of being a good steward is utilizing ones life, and that means everything folks, time, skills and abilities, and STUFF to a greater purpose and good. It is easy to talk about Stewardship in terms of giving tithes (10% of income) to the church. It gets harder when we encroach on how one spends their time, disposable income (even budgeted income) and how they acquire and dispose of stuff.
It are these finer points where I struggle.
I struggle because I see this as a big picture thing. I see this as making significant changes in my life to more fully reflect the gratitude and joy of a beloved child of God. I don’t get joy out of being the care taker of everyone else's stuff. Stuff is just that stuff – crap – garbage – and we in this nation are obsessed with material good. Since I see this as a BIG PICTURE issue, One that overlaps with other concerns, my thoughts on this matter are not well organized and articulated. I hope that by making the commitment to MYSELF to blog about this I can bring some organization and order to this chaos that is my life.
Monday, October 28, 2013
I work in healthcare as a Hospice Chaplain. I am also a pastor of a PC(USA) congregation with members who struggle with various health issues. I have walked with many people in the past five years or so as they have received a diagnosis from a doctor for chronic illness, a recommendation for a particular medical/surgical procedure, or just coping with the limitations of a life limiting illness. I hope that I have been there for people when they needed support and comfort in facing these medical challenges and recommendations for lifestyle changes or facing mortality.
In college I minored in biology. I have taken cadaver anatomy, human physiology, chemistry through biochemistry (two semesters of organic before taking biochem), and can read and understand a lot of medical jargon. My knowledge, to date, has helped me maintain a calm presence for others in the midst of the chaos that is our health care system. I appreciate the fact that I can explain calmly to people what is happening and walk them through the process. Some folks may consider me a 'frustrated' pre-med flunk out. I have often wondered if I missed my calling by not pursing medical school, and I know in my heart of hearts that being an MD or OD or any other kind of doctor is not my true calling. I've had the same questions regarding law school, and then when I watch the scheming and back biting of the politics of law. I realize that my calling is to bring comfort to people in the midst of chaos.
So you are all probably wondering where I am going with this little posting. I am too, since today I received a diagnosis from my doctor. I am feeling a bit out of sorts. I am now in the passenger's seat and need a driver. I have walked with people when they have received the identical diagnosis to mine and I hope that I have been a comfort to them. But right now I feel like I have failed and I feel like my body has failed me. I have failed to take control of my life and master my anatomy. My body is breaking down and aging, although there are some scholars that believe that chronic illness is not a natural part of the aging process. I knew the diagnosis was coming. I've been fighting the symptoms for several years now, some days better than others. I teeter tottered on the borderline never quite hitting that fasting blood sugar of 126, which marks one as a diabetic. Over the past five years I have watched my fasting blood sugar go from 109 to 111, to 118, to 124 and today it hit that mark in the low 130's where one cannot deny that one no longer has metabolic syndrome and is now a Type II diabetic. The A1C of 6.41 sealed my fate and I watched my doctor change my diagnosis from Metabolic Syndrome to Type II Diabetes in the computer.
I feel totally defeated and angry. I feel that I have lost control over my body and my life. I have a really good knowledge base on what is happening with my body. I have been a poor steward of my body and I feel really lousy about this. There is a part of me who hears the echos of my mother telling me not to eat so much sugar because, 'you will make yourself diabetic.
Now I know that eating too much sugar does not a diabetic make. I know that I have a genetic inclination to this disease, a family full of Type II diabetics. I know that by not exercising and eating the lousy diet I have been eating, especially over the past 18 months, contributed to the onset of this disease. I know what I need to do, I just wonder if I will have the will to do it. I'm angry with myself for not taking better care of me. As I said earlier I have been a bad steward of my body, and some would say my life.
I am not yet ready to write about the topic of stewardship and my body. I have some interesting thoughts I hope to share once I get over my initial anger and self loathing about my diagnosis.
Today I received a diagnosis and I'm now struggling like all those who I have tried to comfort over the years. It is different when it is you receiving the diagnosis. I hope I can remember that as I continue in mission and ministry as a hospice chaplain and small church pastor.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
I’ve been an ordained “Teaching Elder” (formerly known as Minister of Word and Sacrament) for 19 years . I have done ministry at the national office of my denomination, supply preached in tiny churches, done oodles of Presbytery committee work, and pastored two churches. I have also worked for several kinds of businesses, and a couple of non-profit agencies, and am doing hospice chaplaincy. I’ve seen a lot in my 19 years of professional ministry. I have collection of stories that show the best and worst of humanity. I have seen “issues” present themselves in unique ways and helped people get to the root issue, which is 99% of the time not the “Issue” that is presented or identified as the original issue.
This past Sunday the patriarch of the church I am currently pastoring, (you know the most senior male member of the congregation that holds the most implicit power and blue chips; he is the person that really calls the shots about what happens in the church.) came to me and informed me that my husband sings too loud and a ‘family’ (not identified in the conversation) has started to attend a nearby church because my husband sings too loud. The patriarch told me that he might be able to convince this “family” to return to our church if my husband would not sing so loud in worship. I was asked by the patriarch, who I was really surprised allowed himself to get triangle, to speak with my husband about his singing. My response to the comment about my husband’s singing too loud and being a hindrance to this un-identified family was “oh really.” And I did agree to speak with my husband, pointing out that it would be a ‘difficult’ conversation. The patriarch did acknowledge that it would be a ‘difficult’ conversation, and it was.
You see my husband has a lovely tenor voice. He was part of an elite singing group in his High School (The Blue and Gold singers) at William Chrisman High School. People are always complementing him on his voice. He has done solo work, sang at weddings, and is often asked to join the choir anytime we visit a church. I know that his SINGING IS NOT THE ISSUE.
I did have a conversation with my husband and because singing is such an integral part of who he is and how he worships, he has now made a conscious choice to not come back to worship at the congregation where I pastor. He will be looking for a new place to worship where he can sing and worship and not hinder the participation in worship of others.
As I said, SINGING IS NOT THE ISSUE, and this whole situation raised for me some serious theological and spiritual issues that I will need to work with my congregation to resolve and hopefully grow the congregation in spiritual maturity.
I am concerned that in speaking with my husband about his singing (which we both believe to be a non issue), I too have been triangled. Although I am not happy with the fact that the ‘solution’ to this problem is for my husband to worship apart from me on Sundays, I know he must do this for his spiritual health, lest he become a stumbling block to another’s faith journey . The Apostle Paul talks about this in terms of food in Romans 14: 12-23, and if the concept is applied to this particular situation, there is no other option except for my husband to graciously find a community where his singing will not cause a brother or sister to stumble or hinder their worship of Christ. So this is the answer I will be giving when people ask me where my husband is on Sunday and why he is not at any other church activity.
Now as we all probably know my husband’s SINGING IS NOT THE ISSUE. The issue is something else, and the fact that my husband and his singing will be absent from the congregation, there will be an opportunity to explore why such a petty thing is the reason for not attending a church where you have been a member for a long time. It will also give me the opportunity as pastor to address the basics of what it means to live in Christian community with one another, even people who sing the praises of God loudly and with conviction.
I have come to have a great appreciation for the Apostle Paul this past week, as I realize that issues addressed by Paul in his letters to the churches address real issues in congregations today and the issues of human pettiness that were alive and well in the early years of the Christian Church continue to be alive and well today. Pray for us pastors as we seek to live in community with people who don’t always want to live in community with others, especially those who Sings Too Loud.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Hubby and I arrived in Memphis, TN today for Emergence Christianity, a Discussion with Phyllis Tickle and friends. This event has been nicknamed by some as The Big Tickle.
I'm really enjoying my time in Memphis so far and really looking forward to Friday and Saturday, the days that this Big Tickle is suppose to take place at the Episcopal Cathedral here in Memphis. Since I am a bit older than most of the folks who have embraced Emergent and Emergence Christianity, I am here to learn. To learn from not my elders but from the mouths of babes.
I've read a bit on the topic, enjoying every word of Phyllis' book The Great Emergence. I am disillusioned with the corporate nature of the church, especially denominations. I worked for the first 8 years of my ministry out of seminary at the national offices of my denomination, the PCUSA. I've done a lot of pulpit supply and I helped a church close its doors after 55 years of ministry. My current ministry is a part time contract position with a small church and I also work as a hospice chaplain per Diem. I have come to the conclusion that I will probably never be what most people consider a 'successful' pastor in that I do not see myself as ever being called to a full time pastoral call and installed with a cushy benefits package, and staff. The church hasn't fit that model for a long time, although that is the model of Church that was sold to me in seminary.
What Phyllis Tickle has given me is hope, hope in the midst of what I see as dying structures and institutions. Hope that the faith I hold to does not need structures and institutions to be authentic and real. Hope that there is more to church that maintaining a program or a building. That ministry comes from a group of people and reflects the needs of that community. I look forward to insights this week of how to help folks catch that vision for the church and what God may have in store for me in the future.
P.S. Since I love to laugh, I am truly looking forward to being Tickled and finding Holy Humor in the happenings this week.
Sunday, December 16, 2012
Words cannot begin to convey the hurt in my heart for the children and families in Newtown, CT. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
This verse from Jeremiah was the first thing that came to my mind when I heard the news of the violent tragedy in Newtown on Friday morning. 27 young lives tragically and violently ripped from the time-space continuum as we know it. Like everyone else, I am struggling to make sense of this tragedy.
As I have watched the Facebook and Twitter traffic unfold, I continue to try and find some sense of peace and understanding. Rachel is indeed weeping for her children and consolation is going to be difficult. The Facebook and Twitter traffic began by offering prayer for those affected by this tragedy, then the traffic began to turn to analysis. Why did this happen? What can we do to make sure it never happens again? Will there be a time when it will be safe to send our children to school again?
The WHY questions of life are always the toughest, because there is not often an answer to Why? I know I don’t know why this happened. I don’t know what motivated the gunman to kill his mother then open fire on classrooms of young children. I know that neuroscience tells me that this young man of 20 years didn’t have a fully developed frontal lobe, the part of the brain that moderates impulsive behaviors. I also know that having an answer to the many why questions that are emerging from this tragic shooting isn’t going to bring these children back to their parents, nor is it going bring comfort to those who mourn.
As I look at the Scriptural tradition that feeds my faith, I am reminded of two stories. The first is found in Exodus 1&2, the story of Moses in the Bulrushes. Moses is rescued from death by the Pharaoh’s own daughter, and survives the edict for all male Hebrew children to be tossed to their death in the Nile. This is the first example of infanticide that I can find in scripture. In this story the faithfulness of two midwives, Shiphrah and Puha who feared God and refused to participate in Pharaoh’s plot. There is a sense of peace that comes from recalling this story in that God’s presence is with Moses and the Hebrew people in spite of the evil edict that seeks to destroy a people. God’s presence will be with those who mourn in Newtown, CT.
The second story is found in Matthew 2:16-18 – commonly known in Christian circles as the Massacre of the Innocents. This “Feast” which is also called Childermas, is celebrated in the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Lutheran traditions on December 28th. Sometimes in the Christmas cycle of the lectionary, specifically during year A, this is part of the lectionary during Christmas.
It is difficult to conceive why? Why would such a joyous holiday time bring up to our memory such a horrible story of the killing of innocent children? In the Christian tradition, King Herod’s slaughter of male children under the age of 2 difficult for us to comprehend. King Herod, fearing this “King of the Jews” orders that all male children under the age of 2 years be killed. This is a second example of infanticide that I can find in scripture. This story does not bring the peace that the story of Moses in Bulrushes does, at least for me. It is difficult to conceive how a King could order the murder of his own people. And it is here that we are reminded again of the words of the prophet Jeremiah and that Rachel Weeps for her children.
Rachel is indeed still weeping, still weeping today with the nation, and with the 20 families whose children are no more. It is here that we sit today. We sit today with a weeping Rachel. A weeping Rachel who refuses to be comforted because her children are no more.
As a childless mother, I can only begin to have a sliver of understanding of the pain felt by 20 families in Newtown, CT. I, like the rest of the nation, and probably each of you sitting here today, is left asking why? In this season of Advent, as we wait with joy and expectation for the coming of the Christ child, full of hope and potential, we are instead tossed into the ugliness of sin and human depravity.
It was this very sin and human depravity where the presence of God can be found. God was present as Joseph was warned to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt until it would be safe to return to Israel after the death of King Herod. God is present today with those families who mourn their children, a community that mourns its loss of potential, hope, and promise of the young lives; and educators, like Shiphrah and Puah sought to protect those young lives from the sin and depravity that broke into the idyllic life of Newtown, CT Friday morning.
So as I watched the Facebook and Twitter traffic offer prayer, I was comforted, knowing that we can mourn with those who mourn. That as a person of faith I can be in solidarity with those who mourn. That as a person of faith, there were others struggling with this dark place in the midst of a joyous season of expectation and the celebrations of Light – Hanukah and Advent.
We live in an age of analysis and pundits and we live in a culture that wants to fix things. We don’t like to step out of our comfort zones, and the events of Friday in Newtown, CT tossed that community and our nation who watched the various media accounts into a place of darkness and discomfort. So rather than live through the pain and find the deep healing that is available in God’s presence in the midst of human depravity we begin to analyze and assign blame. This human desire for understanding, knowledge and understanding shifts a focus from being able to find God’s presence in the midst of human depravity to one that wants to fix symptoms and assign blame.
Finger pointing and using this event as a springboard for a variety of social and political agendas isn’t going to bring these 20 children back to life. Knowing what the NRA thinks about this event, isn’t going to bring comfort and God’s presence to the lives of mourning families and a hurting community and nation.
The Friday events in Newtown, CT remind us again that we live in a world of pain and suffering, even as we wait for our redemption and the coming of Jesus Christ, Light of the World, during this season of Advent. After all, it was Jesus the Christ, who came to earth as God Incarnate, to show us God’s presence in the midst of human depravity. It was this same Jesus the Christ, who was a refugee from infanticide and is the same God that brings comfort in the midst of human depravity and tragedy. Our challenge in our instant fix it (mask the symptoms) and culture of over analysis and assignment of blame is to be present to those who mourn, to walk with each other as we live through the pain and in that experience God’s presence in our midst.
Our challenge is to live through the pain and walk with those who are also in pain – pointing to the hope we have in the redemption that is brought by the Christ Child. This earthly life still has pain, yet God is faithful still, this a claim of our faith, this what we wait for during the season of Advent, God’s faithfulness in the midst of human depravity and tragedy.
We can’t hide from pain…legislate it away. We can take a stand like Shiphrah and Puah…we can listen for God’s presence as did Joseph.
We can also be present with those who are hurting…take the courageous step of walking with them through the valley of the shadow of death. And in doing so…demonstrates the expectation we have for the redemption of the world we know in Jesus Christ.