Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer Fun

The Lutheran Book of Worship Occasional Services book offers helpful worship advice for a variety of situations. Check out pg. 260 for useful advice when you reach your next destination. Note: these tips are for educational purposes only. Please do not practice your new-found wisdom. :)

Page 260, in case you don’t have the LBW Occasional Services book handy, is Guidelines for Ringing Church Bells.

I spent the beginning of the week putting together a scavenger hunt for Confirmation Camp. The theme this year is parables, and I am responsible for the teaching portion for Luke 15, the parables of the lost and found. To help the kids grasp the idea of losing something and having to stay focused to find it, we’re going to “lose” my co-leader, and the kids will have to follow the clues to “find” him. He is already at camp, so I drew the job of putting the hunt together. It was great fun.

Each season of the church year has had a different focus and pace. Summer continues the trend. It has been no less busy, but a very different sort of busy, requiring much more of my creativity and inventiveness. Summer events are more laid back and casual, which I’ve learned takes much more planning and behind-the-scenes work than the more formal and formulaic programs of the academic year. But it’s fun. It’s fun to play with the congregation. To plan goofy activities and have folks open to go ahead with them. To take risks, because people are open for anything once the sun comes out. To play Bible Jeopardy with the seniors Bible study, wire the fellowship hall with surround sound for a Panda-based dance party, and teach nine upper elementary kids a song about a Hippopotamus. Here’s to summer.

By the way, the scavenger hunt clue should lead the kids to the camp’s emergency bell. Hoping nobody rings it…

Friday, June 24, 2011

Music Sounds Better With You

The Lord is my strength....

Greetings from the wild world of CPE.

As many of my classmates can atest to, getting adjusted to the long hours of CPE can wear heavily on one's spirit not to mention the exposure that we have first hand, seeing the ugly and dark side of humanity and society. Already I have heard tales from the frontlines and the other afternoon my husband ran into one of my classmates, "His eyes were haunted," he thoughtfully observed.

In the same fashion, serving at a retirement home can be just as exhausting not because elders are sometimes hard to understand or engage but it is about building relationships and caring for those who have done so much in their lives, who are in limbo because their souls are so independent and free, but their bodies are uncooperative.

Part of my duites as a chaplain intern is to plan worship for two floors that deal with long term care and rehabilitation. For me that's when improv worship kicks into gear because you can not have a regular worship liturgy nor denominational appropriate hymns. What's more important, what I have learned is that bringing a joyful noise and praise to their lives especially when many of them have an exclusive membership in the century club.

What was so beautiful was as we played a familiar hymn, Amazing Grace (sung by Elvis Presley) most of our little congregation's energy seem to pour forth and fill the room as those voices that perhaps had been forgotten were now raised and how their presence taught me that Our Creator is everywhere, in everything and whose love is reflected in everyone.

Wonderful Creator, although we do not understand it for the spiritual path you have given us, the mission of your Mercy and Grace, your commandment we thank you and we thank you for your Eternal Love. Continue to walk with those who are on the front lines everyday, struggling within even as they give care to those who are hurting and in pain, continue to protect and guide my classmates in CPE and continue to teach us through Him who gave himself so that we not only might live, but give in return. Amen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Learning to Speak "New York"

It is torrentially downpouring. I woke up to rain pounding my ceiling at about 5:30 this morning, and it has been pretty much constant since then. This rain in the summer thing is still a new concept to me. Where I grew up, rain is a winter activity. It patters down gently at various intervals in January and March, turning the hills a rich green. Summers, on the other hand, are hot and dry. I thought this was normal. But when I expressed my displeasure to the parish administrator this morning (“Why is it raining? Doesn’t it know yesterday was the first day of summer?”), she looked at me like I was from the moon. “We need it,” she replied, “it’s been so dry.” To this, I looked at her like she was from the moon. Dry is not how I would describe the lush, green New York forests or the moss collecting on the roof out my office window.

Miscommunications and misunderstandings like this are familiar to me at this point in my internship, but they still catch me off-guard. I am constantly amazed how things that I take for granted as “normal”, that it doesn’t rain in the summer, for example, are completely foreign here. Sometimes it feels like I’m speaking in a foreign tongue, some alternate form of English that involves such words as “snow-blower” and “dollrags.” Days like today remind me that while this place has become familiar, I am not yet bilingual.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Adventures with Plumbing

Saturday morning, the bobber on my toilet tank broke. The shut-off valve had corroded open and I couldn’t turn it, so the only way to stop the rush of water from overflowing the tank was to physically hold the bobber arm up. I was kind of in a rush, I was supposed to be picking up someone from the hospital, but instead I knelt on the bathroom floor, up to my elbows in the toilet tank, thinking, “which day did they teach us how to fix this in seminary…”

The fact is, they didn’t. No theologian that I have yet read had anything useful to say on how to solve a plumbing crisis. Home (parsonage, building) repair is not covered in seminary. Nor is pancake making for fifteen, how to get wax out of the carpet, or writing a personnel manual. Ministry, as it turns out, is 5% things they taught you in seminary, and 95% think-on-your-feet.

That is what internship is for, to teach you that you have no idea what you’re doing, and to give you the tools to work through it anyway. That morning, upset and out of options that didn’t involve my arm, I called the associate pastor, who explained how to tie a mug to a string to hold the bobber arm up. This did not solve the problem, but it gave me enough time and space to think through an actual solution. More importantly, it reminded me that I was not alone. What had felt like me and the bobber arm, was suddenly me, her, and the bobber arm. Her advice broke through my focus and allowed me to move beyond the immediacy of the crisis to see the wider picture. I found and adjusted a tiny screw, and the bobber now works better than ever. Thanks be to God for colleagues who move us beyond ourselves, indoor plumbing, and sermon illustrations in unexpected places.