As this semester continues to creep by week by week, I find that this semester is 'heavy on the reading'. Between the Gospels, Confessions, Pastoral Care & Counseling and my Interfaith Emphasis class of Arab Awakening! I easily read 300 pages a week. And unfortunately, these readings are nothing like the Laura Ingalls Wilder books I read as a child! But, even with the intense class load and traveling home every other week to see Scott, I am disciplining myself to a Lenten practice: Weekly Bible Study and Daily Prayer. OK- that is two practices. While the prayer tends to be hit or miss, this past week at 7:30 each morning I found myself reading the assigned scripture, praying for myself, my prayer partner and others. And, each morning I pray that I continue to have the daily discipline for prayer. A wonderful tradition which I learned from my home congregation. May you too find a discipline which brings you ever more closely to God.
For many of us this is what the week has felt like...
"Come and fill our hearts with your peace, You alone O Lord are holy/ Come and fill our hearts with your peace..."
In this time and place, as we listened to gathering music Thursday morning before Chapel began, perhaps this is what many of us hoped and wished for. Spring not only begins another Semester of learning, of questing and dwelling but also of realizing how the journey now turns. Underneath the glow of candlelight and of voices raising as incense, weary travelers joined hands and hearts as various schooners, runabouts, sloops and longships sailed for Regions known, and destinations unknown.
Still the flow of Creation ebbed and flowed as others raced into the beginnings of a never changing dawn.
This week, many of my classmates began a two week migration as we delved into the waters of Internship Interviews, shedding out of our comfort zones and switching the microphone to the "on" switch for a good part of a day. For me, the realization of this bend in the crossroads encompassed my spirit the night prior and weighted heavily upon my spirit. What do I want out of this Internship? This common question in various colors was painted throughout these beginning conversations and for a moment, I honestly could not pull down and envelop myself in one particular shade.
A wonderful elder and Assistant to my Bishop, Pastor Ray Lagania preached a rousing sermon Thursday morning. In this time of meditation, reflection and prayer Pastor Lagania not only proclaimed the Good News, he exclaimed the Good News! The good news of encouragement that Jesus Christ flows within our spirits and takes root within our souls; that we are not alone in our mission and ministries; that we were definitely not alone as we embarked on these journeys of Regional Assignments and Internship Interviews. Lent should be not about sorrow and somberness-but as people of God, brothers and sisters in Christ we should rejoice...because in this time we remember that Christ overcame death and soon we shall be able to shake the rafters with praise and thanksgiving.
Note: This post originally was published on my personal blog.
Last Wednesday, as I was getting ready for bed, I looked at myself in the mirror...as I was washing off my cross of ashes that I had gotten earlier in the evening.
This year was the first year I paused mid wash, to look at my forehead, and I was struck off guard by what I was looking at. My face wash is from Lush and it is called Dark Angels...it's a face wash whose major ingredient is ground charcoal. I swear by it for keeping my face clean, but it is kind of a gross black paste that is rather messy.
And here I was, washing off my cross made of palm ashes with the ashes of some unknown tree that gave its life for my face wash.
As I looked at myself, there was no distinguishing between where the palm ash ended and the face wash began, it was all smeared together on my forehead. In one moment, the sign of my mortality mixed with the refreshing promise of cleansing...all in one.
And as I looked at what I had created...a mix of dirt and clean, of death and new life, of the visible and invisible cross on my forehead...I was overwhelmed with emotions...considering that maybe all of life is like my forehead. We are sinners and saints, yes. But Ash Wednesday reminds us of our mortality, and simultaneously reminds us of the cross of Christ which claims us at baptism and promises life eternal in the Kingdom of God. We are dead in sin...we confess it weekly, yet we are forgiven and free...reminded weekly.
Living in this all encompassing life is beautiful...and maybe it's the reminder I needed going into Lent this year. I admit I wasn't as into Lent this year as I was Advent (normally it's reversed...I like Lent more...) but as I looked at myself in the mirror, I thought about how daily, in an effort to clean my face, I spread ashes on it...and so thus...my Lenten discipline: Being mindful of my face wash...and being mindful of the cross on my forehead.
Ministry in Context; Contextual Learning; Field Education are all words to describe the next round of paperwork for seminary. Last week we met with Dr. Terry Baeder and Marji Shannon, AiM to discuss the process for next year's Ministry in Context Class. Short summary- we work in a congregation for 7 hours a week, for no pay and work with a site supervisor to get real life parish ministry experience.
I come from a large urban congregation with multiple pastors, so I want to experience a different setting, which won't be difficult, I know. So Sunday morning Scott, my husband, and I made a visit to a different congregation in Madison, and followed worship with a discussion of what I call, "The Pros and Cons of This Place"
Scott & I at a wedding.
And during the discussion was education time for Scott, as to what MIC involves, what I will be doing each week and I do believe I saw the smallest glimmer of a smile cross his face when I mentioned that I would be home EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND!
While this summer's CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) is our first true field education experience, it will be such a different experience because that will be my focus. I won't have to juggle classes like HEBREW and Systematic Theology while I travel home every weekend to be in a parish for preaching, teaching and leading.
As with each new adventure, I initially view it with great joy and enthusiasm. But once the date draws near to start this new adventure, my apprehension grows and the joy fades into the sunset. And, as I get older and experience more of these adventures I know this about myself, and have gotten to a point where I start to talk myself out of the apprehension and become reinvigorated again by the joy.
On that final note, I am off to work on a paper for Pastoral Care- a reflection paper on W. Paul Jones Theological Worlds. Because being a good pastor and leader involves intense reflection and knowledge of self :)
The Gypsy Seminarian at Worship; Awesome place to be. Photo by Jan Boden
What will you shutter away during these days of reflection, renewal and journeying?
How counter-cultural these past two days must appear: we gathered out of humbleness in darkened sanctuaries, our souls smudged with a foreboding sign; we tripped through multi-colored fields of poppies boldly declaring our love in the coming morning sunshine.
At the church I currently have the joy of working this year as Confirmation guru, one of my youth commented "Should I wipe this off after we are done?" The week prior my 11 year old son, as I was picking him up from school so that we could go to said church thoughtfully replied after I inquired why he was carrying his cross necklace in his pocket, "Well, some of my friends are not really religious and I didn't want to offend them so I just waited until you picked me up." A fellow brother in Christ from another denomination was thrust in the spotlight for joining in an ecumenical service that apparently he should not, according to his denomination-and had to apologize for joining prayers of healing for a horrific event in an otherwise normal, everyday quiet community.
When did it become pase to be Christ-like? Why do we shutter away the sign of whose we are and whom we belong to except only to proclaim it boldly one day out of a year and even then we are apologetic?
And yet throughout the world of social media there was a revolution; messages of Love from the text that sometimes leaves us scratching our heads or silent with deep meditation, a word from The Word reminding us and comforting us that God's Love never fails spilled out in endless waves. Through ashes we came forth but while we are here, being a witness boldly through the simple act of passing the peace, of professing Love for all from where we are as Christians into the social media- cradling those who are in pain, who are forgotten, who have been discarded by this world sometimes is the simplest act of love we can do.
There is no perfect way we can be Christian people daily, and by our ability to laugh and learn; by our ability to be vulnerable and affirming in our faith the sign of the Cross will be then, a sign of change; change that is continuous within our very being and throughout our spirits that we too, are a work in progress.
Recently an email was sent to all LSTC students by our candidacy coordinator informing the seniors that their assignment was coming up and that if any changes needed to be made to their paperwork to let him know.
I know that current seniors are all anxious about this but my thoughts were "oh sh**! That's in 12 months for me." Which was quickly followed by "Wait a minute...I've only got 6 months of my internship left."
These moments of panic are running around most of my class right now as we realize that we are halfway done with internship. Some of us are not looking forward to going back to school and others of us are ready to fast forward to August of this year. I'm somewhere in between...I love my church and I love everything I'm learning and doing on internship but there are quite a few days where I long for a cappuccino from Z&H on 57th St. (though, really in general Denver's coffee is better than Chitown's) and some lasagna from Leona's. But more than longing for Chicago or enjoying Denver I was hit with the reality of my future and how quickly it is coming.
Some of the best advice I ever got was from a friend of mine, Carrie, during my freshman year of High School when she was a senior. She said "your freshman year is the longest year of your school". I didn't believe her at the time, cause that year went pretty fast...but it's held true, even beyond high school.
But ultimately, living in the past, being anxious about the future, wishing I was somewhere else, or any other thing that keeps me away from living in the moment is unhelpful and keeps me away from being mindful of the present moment. Being present and mindful of where I am at...contemplating God in the midst of my reality...is where I can find solace in the midst of all sorts of emotions.
There seems to be a common thread which has continually blossomed in conversations throughout these past couple of weeks-the elusive imp of self care and the laughing sprite of balance. Especially those of us who are parents leap into the morning blindly, not knowing what awaits in the crazy crayola colored waves below.
But I digress.
In a sci-fi/fantasy novel by Anne McCaffrey entitled "Killashandra", the series surrounds the eclectic and surreal journey of our heroine who after being denied her field of study, travels to a mysterious and dangerous planet hoping to become a member of the exclusive Heptite Guild. This transformation only happens when a symboint fuses within the DNA of the host, thereby rendering said host with enhanced sensory capabilities and extended longevity. Killa's surroundings go from the dull gray that she and others in her class are used to into the true brilliance of colors and the intensity of textures that have been hiding until that explosive moment.
The Holy Spirit can sometimes be that sneaky symboint: soaking our very beings and attaching Herself to our hearts, revealing the complexity and yet the beauty of the Creator's mission and ministry that He cradles and follows besides us, understanding when we can not see the grace and peace awaiting over the horizon.
For myself and 35 other energized and nervous souls, the unveiling of the dawn rained down upon us of a new awakening-the reality that our journey towards first call has caught pace with the winds, and lifts our souls to soar onward and outward. Laughter and wonder mirrored each of our faces this morning while in the company of the valiant Field Education office. Internship interviews are scheduled, life as we know it now no longer simmers with the same song.