Monday, May 27, 2013

A New Chapter Begins

My first year of seminary is complete.  My husband and I survived the separation and I survived the commute.  Tomorrow I head to Rochester MN to begin my next seminary chapter, CPE at Mayo Clinic and Hospitals.  A summer of intense self reflection while I review, ok, re-write, my endorsement essay and work in a chaplaincy setting of a major hospital.  As I look to this new chapter, I know that we will have additional chapters throughout this seminary process, yet I also know that we are being carried through this process by God's grace and the fantastic support of friends and family.  What is even more awesome during this entire process, is the new friends we make, some who will become lifelong friends, spanning the country.

Campus I'm sure is quite desolate compared to the flurry of activities during the academic year, but fortunately FB and Twitter allow us to keep in touch throughout the summer.  And off to CPE.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Gospel on God's Terms

I am from Cleveland, Ohio, and I am a westsider.  Even though I am now living in Chicago attending seminary and am packing up my apartment to spend the next year on internship in St. Louis, Cleveland is my home.

I love Cleveland.  I love that it is filled with salt-of-the-earth people who work hard at jobs they less than love so they can put food on the table.  I love that our world renowned art museum is free.  I love that we are a city that has the one of the best heart hospitals in the world, and that we can turn something like our river catching on fire as a reason to name a Great Lakes Brewery beer.  It doesn't matter that we have been hurt time and time again by our sports teams, we always have hope that this year, this season, this time will be the year. 

I love Cleveland so very much, and my heart is breaking for it right now in grief as we learn that in our neighborhood on the west side of town, three women were held hostage in a basement for ten years.

I have been invited to preach at my home congregation this weekend, a date that has been booked for months.  I love going home to preach, but I must admit I am very intimidated about climbing into the pulpit this week.  There is no question in my mind that at least one person between the three services this weekend will know a family member of one of those women, if not the women themselves.  The Holy Spirit has been gnawing at me all week, leading me to preach the sermon that was not planned instead of the one that was. 

The blessings about home churches is that they love and nurture their seminarians.  They can love us to a fault.  No one in my congregation would bat an eye if I preached the sermon I had written, the one about mothers and baptismal vocations.  They would forgive me for overlooking the elephant in the room.  They would forgive me for preaching the easy way out.

But that is not what I as a leader of the church am called to do.  I can feel the Spirit leading me down a road that hopefully will bring the right message to the right people in the right time.  This is why we preach - to bring the Gospel of Christ to the God's people when they need it most.  God does not ask us to preach the easy sermon.  God calls us to be faithful to the Gospel on God's terms, not ours.

So today I pray.  I humble myself before the wisdom of the One who shelters people in all their joys and sorrows.  And I trust that where in my humanity I fall short, the grace of Christ will ring loud and strong. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

An Experience of God

A couple weeks ago we had our spring Intern Cluster Retreat for all the interns in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and one from South Dakota.  We spent the day talking about staying renewed and refreshed in ministry (scintillating, I know).

One of the sessions we had was about when this year we've been able to think about God in a new way.  And, as we were going around the circle, one person stopped the conversation and took it in a different direction.

"I'm less interested in thinking about God in a new way and more interested in experiencing God in new ways."

That got me thinking...about thinking.

After all, we spend so much time in seminary thinking about God that I wonder how much we miss out on experiencing God fully.  Or making note of new experiences of God.  Or considering how people we preach to and people we pastor to are experiencing God.

some people experience God in candles and such
I'm part of a generational shift in which experience is a legitimate and celebrated form of knowing.  I have experienced Grace to be true in my life.  I have experienced the love of God when I couldn't love myself.  I've experienced the work of God when I can't bring myself to hate people I liked to hate a lot.

All of these experiences, plus all the others I have on a daily basis, lead me to know God.  And of course I can think about those experiences, but thinking about them doesn't make them more or less true to me.  I think the primary way in which we can know God, in a postmodern context, is through experiencing God in all ways...ways as old as the table of bread and wine to ways as new as Facebook pastoral care.

How have you experienced God lately?

Friday, May 3, 2013

When Shall We Three Meet Again?

Time slips through the slender creases cradled in our hands and yet is an ever present companion

When shall we three meet again?
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
When the hurlyburly's done, 
When the battle's lost and won.
That will be ere the set of sun.
Where the place?
Upon the heath....

Where shall we meet?

The semester is now racing through the closeness of the trees as the 
sun softly crawls and spills onto the horizon; as I fill my calendar with
deadlines for my own sanity offinishing strong and satisfied my world has
begun its transformation.

Our community here is a transformative and transitionary one; we spend 
two or three years soaking up the warmth of knowledge and stand in pools of
questions that trickle off o four feet, leaving an outline of dwelling among our
footsteps as we walk away,presumably to dry off. We attend Chapel and
gallantly observe as the names are breathed forth of those leaving our 
community; we hug one another and remark-"Next year, in front of the font." 
Now, that next year has arrived, and the realization that there are people I 
will never see again.

My biological class, as I am fond of saying, the class of 2014 will be returning
this summer as we, my adoptive Class of 2015 will be embarking towards the 
islands of Internship..and our paths may not cross. I won't have time to chat,
catch up, reconnect with them. And  yet, there is a difference. Our energized
class of 2016 will take their bow onto the stage and leap into the audience 
as the path to internship widens and beckons them forth-and I may miss their 
performance. And yet there will be a difference.

There is something that shifts in the atmosphere as one shifts away from the 
harmonious LSTC community: the realization that this, our vocation and what 
Our Creator has called us towards is concrete. Our souls sync up with others 
whose experiences reflect with our own; our bond reaches out and is as tangled
as stout ivy that covers and blankets statues and figures that belong to time

There will be Synod Assemblies, First Call Pastor Conferences and Clusters, 
Churchwide Assembly gatherings and the magic of  Skype. We shall meet once
more but this time our feathers and our costumes will be slightly brighter. 
We shall recognize each otherbut the transformative blessings of the Triune 
God will encompass our very beings and we shall view one another in a
different light.

This shimmering pool of water speaks to me even now, as I have conversations
with dear friends of mine from the class of 2012, who joyfully come and visit 
these hallowed halls  which reflect back to them as an oasis. They now stand 
as my cloud of witnesses,to the indescribable joy and challenges of being among 
the ordained. 

This year was our turn among those gathered at Chapel; the Book of Life or 
rather our awesome Field Ed's binder was opened and we were called forth to 
boldly proclaim and to ask God to help and guide us. We traveled through the 
font as the waters of baptism were playfully splashed about; our conversations
as we passed  the peace turned to"So have you heard from your Intern
supervisor?"or"Where are you going to be staying?";"My intern congregation..." ,
"There are a couple of LSTC alum who are serving in the area and.."

Where shall we meet? Joyfully out in God's Creation where we serve, and 
continue to be nourished through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks Be To God.

Lape Bondye, God's Peace.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Loving the world madly, like God does.

Last night I had the opportunity to be a part of Colorado and national history. The Colorado legislature passed a civil unions bill last month which included civil unions for LGBT people and their partners. I had the honor of attending the bill signing earlier and last night, at midnight on May 1 the law went into effect. To help celebrate, clergy from all different denominations and faith traditions were asked to be on hand to sign civil union licenses along with plenty of magistrates (if people didn't want a religious service). Nadia was asked to be one of the officiating clergy, and in true HFASS style, we had liturgy booklets ready with a liturgy for blessing civil unions, hymns for couples to sing if they wanted, and 20 or so members of the community ready to surround the newly unioned couple with love, support, and prayers.

There, of course, were some glitches in the system, like one couple had the wrong names on their license and had to go back and get a new one. But, perhaps the biggest glitch was that they did not have regular coffee for the event, only decaf. That meant at 1am I got to run to the 24 hour diner 7 blocks away so we all could stay awake for the whole thing. (These are the very glamorous and exciting parts of internship)

Angela and Michelle
3 HFASS couples got their union licenses last night. One couple, Angela and Michelle, met at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago 7 years ago, and are planning a ceremony for August but told me that they couldn't imagine not being part of such a historic and momentous event. After Nadia signed their license, all 20 of us belted out Blessed Assurance at the top of our lungs in the middle of the municipal building. I cannot imagine a more fitting song for these two as we blessed their lives together.

It was quite an incredible night, and a huge honor to see the faces of 260 people getting unioned, and getting to be part of blessing some of those unions in the presence of God and an awesome church that shows up in the middle of the night to sing, bless, and love people madly, like God does.