Wednesday Prayers: Tedium and Te Deum

The trouble with naming prayers weekly (well, weeklyish, if you need to be precise) is that they get tedious. There's nothing new on my list today-- both the bloggable and the unbloggable are boring, drawn-out prayers.  Discernment.  Family.  Rest and peace.

I notice the tedium in my private prayers, and I suspect I'm not alone in noticing it in corporate prayers.  As we reach the prayers of the people each week, often the same people have been on the list (in the same order), for weeks, if not months.  If I went back to my old parish, I bet I could still recite parts of their list of those in need.  That ongoing faithfulness in petition is part of being the body of Christ together-- but like all other relationships, even our relationship in and with Christ can have boring bits.

I didn't want to share Wednesday Prayers this week.  Because of the tedium.  Almost as soon as I thought that, though, I heard it as "Te Deum."  Thee, O God, we praise.  The church's ancient hymn, reminding me that when humanity (mine, and all that around me) brings on a haze of torpor, it's time to look elsewhere.  

Is there a characteristic of God's that you're particularly aware of this week?  Will you share it, and make it part of the wider hymn?

Thee, O God, we praise. 


In the Hands of an Angry God

I think Jonathan Edwards was a little unhinged, but I've never understood the wholesale rejection of an angry God.  There are days when things are just wrong, and I want someone to regulate.  Don't misunderstand me-- I've been the recipient of misdirected rage and violence, and that's not how I want to see God's character.  But that's not all anger is-- anger is also an appropriate response to deep injustice.  When someone I love is treated badly, I want the person responsible to fall down in a gutter from a heart attack, and have their face eaten off by rats.  That's how I know it should be God doing the regulating, and not me.

(Please.  I find it very hard to believe you can't think of anyone who should've had their face eaten off by rats.)

If God gets angry when we hurt each other, I don't have to fling myself onto the nearest horse and turn to outlaw justice.  It also saves me from being a kangaroo court:  God gets to decide who's guilty, and what should be done about it, not me.  Plus, God gets to make the corrections, because God knows everyone's souls-- mine and yours and even the soul of that dirtbag I'm mad at.  God knows where and how we need to turn around.    

This matters today, because someone was a complete ass to a person I love, and I wanted a baseball bat.

But it's not my bat.  And the rats aren't mine to control, either. Thanks be to God.


Wednesday Prayers: Whew!

I'm giving thanks for a finished semester. I took my last exam and handed in my last paper yesterday.

Today, I took a four-hour nap.


National Insanity

I keep thinking of the old definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If that's right, then our whole country is insane-- we weep and mourn after every school shooting (how many of them now?!), but what changes are we making? The changes might be better mental health care, tighter gun control, or reorienting a culture that actively discourages peacefulness and respect for human dignity, but the status quo is officially insanity.  

I'm terribly sad, but there is no part of me that is at all surprised that yet another gunman has killed children and those who nurture them.  What will it take for us to look for the conditions that have made this the new normal?  

I don't have the answers, but I am absolutely certain that moving ahead in the same exact way will bring us right back to where we are this week.  We're clearly failing on a lot of levels.


Wednesday Prayers: Literature

I've said countless times: no pastoral care handbook or class has prepared me for ministry like being a Lit major has.

This week I'm giving thanks for writers and storytellers (including some of you). I'm thanking God for poets, novelists, and all those who tell the truth through scenes that aren't factual.

What encourages you? What keeps you moving forward? May I join you in giving thanks for it?


Wednesday Prayers: Magic

In fairy tales, sometimes there's a character with a lot of unharnessed power-- and they wreak havoc.  The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a good example--the young apprentice isn't trained, casts a spell he's not ready for, and before you know it-- battalions of brooms, and water everywhere.  The problem wasn't that his power was bad, but that he didn't know how to use it properly.  I think spiritual gifts might be like that, too.

I spend  lot of my energy holding my own reigns tightly.  Tonight, a conversation with a friend that made me starting thinking that it might be wiser to seek training.  The solution isn't to reject the magic, it's to learn to use it responsibly.  

Lord, your gifts are powerful.  Teach us how to use them wisely, and with joy.  Help us to delight in our strengths, instead of hiding from them.  

Do you have gifts that you reject?  Ones that you're afraid of?  May I pray for you-- and for them?


A Proclamation, with the help of REM

Therefore, let's not assume that our pain is more important than other people's, and entitles us to act like dirtbags.

Long day, y'all.


Wednesday Prayers: Girlfriends* at All Stages

This week's prayers are about girlfriends.  Y'all can't get me to shut up about girlfriends, even though I've already written about them a thousand times and tend to be boneheaded and take them for granted in actual 3-D life.  You also can't keep me from using too many superlatives when I talk about them.

I'm thinking about girlfriends because:

  • I'm holding a couple of long-distance girlfriends in extra-super-strength close-hug love-soaked prayer.  You go ahead and do it, too-- God knows the details.
  • I've gotten to spend time with two (2!) mentor-y girlfriends in the last month.  I walk away from seeing them knowing that someone has loved me right down to my heart.  Blows my mind every single time.  Being able to love them back is such a privilege.  Watching them walk through life stages entirely different from my own is an extraordinary glimpse of God's work.
  • I've been missing a couple of marvelous women that I used to be closer to.  Praying about where to go from here.
For a long time, I just stumbled into gorgeous girlfriend-ships, and I figured the same thing happened to everybody.  I'm starting to appreciate that's about the same as assuming you strike gold every time you swing an ax at a mountain.  (When will I learn that the good things in my life aren't the universal baseline for normal?!) There can be competition and jealousy and all manner of crazy drama among people, and women's friendships sometimes get portrayed as primarily consisting of those nastinesses.  Thank God there's a whole other reality, one that is deeply holy to me.  

I cannot imagine that I would be OK without all of the women who have loved me, and whom I've had the joy of knowing and loving.  I sure as heck wouldn't have had as much fun.

For all the excellent women we've had the pleasure of sharing hearts and lives with:
Thanks be to God.
For all their heartbreaks:
Lord, have mercy.

*Yeah, Stratoz-- you, too.


Midweek Prayers: Partners Revisited

A couple of weeks ago, my prayer was to find a new prayer partner. Huzzah!  The same has been found-- we're trying it out, at any rate.

I don't know this woman as well as I've known previous prayer partners.  We're feeling things out, and getting started slowly.  I'd like prayer from you that we grow to trust and love each other, to support each other well, and to grow closer to God through our relationship.  I'm nervous-- she's new to this sort of thing (I think), and I love these partnerships of women so much that I really want her to love it, too.  (In so many ways, I often feel like a toddler proudly bringing out her toys to show a guest.  It's a blessing, and a curse.)

Oh-- and I've got a thanksgiving, too-- for a long time now, Dave and I have been praying together in the evening.  I never think of him as that designated "prayer partner," but he's certainly one of them.

Many of you are securely lodged in my regular prayers-- LG, MC, MS, W&MS, and on and on.  If there are specifics, or you want to make sure you're on the list, don't be shy about letting me know.



When I was 4, I was given the role of the angel Gabriel in my tiny Catholic school's Christmas pageant.  I have oddly clear memories of the shepherd-heralding angels insisting that all angels were supposed to go to the field, not to Mary.  I got confused, kept going the wrong way, and someone else got my part.

Lately I've been feeling like my place isn't quite with the other people around me, and once again, it feels hard to trust that I'm called to be somewhere else.   Adding to the confusion, I keep noticing people around me saying that our differences don't matter.  When our differences are about things that are precious to me, they do matter.  It's so hard for me to risk speaking up when I know my perspective isn't the same as my peers'.  Dismissing differences has begun to feel like brushing aside components of identity so that we all get along.  I like getting along, but I'd much rather be known and loved.  Sometimes.  When that's not too scary.

In some unbloggable ways, I can't go to the shepherds right now.  I wish I could.  The shepherds get a whole loud excited chorus of angels inviting them to celebrate.  Mary's scene is pretty unnerving.


Weekly Recess: the Prettiest Tree

The trees are pretty great right now, and Ben Sollee has me thinking about leader trees. 
Good stuff.


Wednesday Prayers: Purring, and Pots of Tea

I have a little wiggle room in my schedule this week-- which is good, because I have a Greek midterm next week.  I'll be spending time at home, drinking pots of tea and trying to remember which tense an epsilon augment gives me.  If past experience is any indicator, I'll spend most of my reading time with a cat in my lap.   I'm grateful for quiet, steady work.  That's my thanksgiving this week: for a chance to read, and learn, and pad about in jammies.

Can I give thanks with you over anything?


Midweek Prayers: Partners in Prayer

I have a habit of thinking of my friends as "those really cool people who are willing to spend time with me." It's a dumb way of thinking of the people I shamelessly adore, because it leads me to take those special relationships for granted.  I was reminded by a dear one last week that some people don't tumble into the paths of quite so many extraordinary friends.

I've talked before about an important subset of friendship:  prayer partners.  I had them in high school, in college, and for a couple of short years after I moved to PA.  I've been missing them for a long time now.  I'm actively looking again, and if you'd like to offer a prayer on my behalf this week, it's that I find a new partner.  (Of course, you're also welcome to lift a word of thanks for my other delightful friends.  I'm certainly doing that.)

How about you?  Are you seeking something that I can lift a prayer for?


Wednesday Prayers: Silent Edition

If your prayers this week are ones that you can put words to, let me know, and I'll lift them along with my own wordless swirl of love and hope and weariness.



The first few weeks of each semester are turning out to be really expensive.

My very first semester, there was the flood (and subsequent move).

Second semester, Dave's car was totaled in a 5-car pileup.

Last week, our (remaining) car was hit while parked, and Saturday night (in a totally unrelated way), it died while we were driving. We're waiting to hear the final verdict, but there's a strong possibility it'll need a new engine. (And then there's the conversation about the wisdom of bothering to put a new engine in an '06 Hyundai Accent...)

I'm grateful (far more than I can say) that no one was hurt during any of these events. I feel so lucky about that. Also, I'm an rock star at adapting, and I'm highly proficient at making things work. (Seriously: these things are in my DNA. We've evolved into people who can do anything at all with just a piece of string and a Rubbermaid container.)

The expense of these things calls my attention to my experience of seminary, though. Seminary tuition feels like buying a new washing machine. I'm not having the mountaintop experience here that many other people do-- and while that's fine with me, I do feel a lot of external pressure about it. This seems strange-- the assumption that we'll all have the same experience (or that this will so far surpass our prior experiences).

Watching where our money goes is a great way of noticing what's important. This week, I'm noticing it more than usual. I'm looking at our savings, and thinking about where we hope (though cannot expect) to be in 5 years. Where is my treasure going-- and what does it say about my heart? I don't really have answers at the moment, but it's an important question.


Weekly Recess

Did not happen this week.  Meetings encroached.
Meetings today, too.
Van Morrison as I work between appointments is beautiful, but not enough.


Wednesday Prayers: Holding the Line

At the end of the summer, I decided it was important to make a habit of playtime.  To set aside a few hours once a week where I don't reflect, work, or otherwise try to improve myself or my surroundings.  It doesn't interfere with what needs to be done, but it nurtures joy and keeps me from thinking that I personally can solve every problem in the world.  In fact, I made it one of my ministry goals this year.

Reactions to my goal have been surprisingly mixed.  More than one minister has been downright derisive.  Dave, I'm happy to report, is all for it.  My Field Ed supervisor thinks it's a pretty good idea, too.  (So far, he's a gem.  But it's only been 16 weeks, so I'm holding off on making a judgment.  On account of, you just never know.)

So, if you feel like praying for me this week, I'd love prayers to stay devoted to play and joy.  I don't believe I can minister long-term without them.

How about you?  Is there a discipline you need a little divine help to maintain?  Is there anything else I can lift up for you?  


The Saving Power of No

No post from me today, just a plea for you to go read Glennon's "Yes and No" and Momastery.  Go now; I'll wait.

I also come from a family where people don't know that "love should not hurt us."  Glennon speaks for the the women in my family, too:  "We want to be good girls with tidy lives so we do not dare to disturb the universe by telling a few people to be decent or get the fuck out of our beautiful lives. To be decent or get the fuck out of our children’s beautiful lives."

Anger builds up, and self- destruction takes over like kudzu.  But Glennon says it better.  So go read her.


Wednesday Prayers: In The Groove

Today was my first day back at the hospital (my summer CPE is over, but I'm doing field education there during the school year).  As I walked through the parking garage to my car, I realized that I'd been smiling for several hours.

I do, of course, hesitate to put that in print, because I'm squirrelly.  I'm feeling pretty scared to trust joy and hope.  I'd love your prayers for that, if you're so inclined.

Did you feel like you belonged where you were today, or are you longing to have that feeling?  Let me know,  and I'll hold you in prayer.


Wednesday Prayers: Middling

Fall classes of my middler year start tomorrow, and I'm praying for a peaceful, joyful year. I began things well by having a relaxed dinner with an old, cozy friend. Start as you mean to carry on!

Do you have a beginning you'd like me to hold in prayer? A new coworker? A new situation? A new question in your heart?


Eulogy for a Tire

I got a flat tire yesterday.  I had been planning to see a handful of wonderful people in DC but ended up staying home, and when I went to pick up Dave from the train station... whumba, whumba, whumba.  Not a good sound.  Also not an ignorable sound.

Flat tire.  I texted Dave.  His train was due in about 15 minutes, and I was only 4 blocks or so from the train station.  I thought about waiting for him to get to me, but couldn't see the point of twiddling my thumbs for that long.  I lugged the donut out of the trunk, and started to hop on the wrench (my bolts are ridiculously hard to loosen).  All of thirty seconds later, an older man in a camouflaged shirt and duct-taped boots came over, introduced himself as Larry*, and made clear that he wasn't going to let someone's daughter struggle.

Look:  I know how to change a tire.  The first time I got one, I made a college friend keep me company and talk me through it.  My mama raised me to be able to do what needs to be done.  (Someday I'll tell you about the time I called Dave at work and said, "Remember the piece of furniture I didn't like?  And you know our hand saw?")  Larry clearly believed I didn't know how to do it, and that he was rescuing me.  He was kind, he was protective.  (He was talkative.)  I was OK with letting him be my hero.  And he really was-- because he wanted to be.  The fact that I could have done it myself doesn't change that.

I'm still thinking about that tire today, not just because I'm grateful for Larry, but also because I'm so conscious of how lucky I am that this flat tire isn't an emergency.  My first couple of years out of college, I was very, very poor, and the expense of this flat would have caused a lot of tears.  Today, it's just another errand.  Every time a minor hassle comes up (or even a bigger one, like last fall's flooding), I'm so grateful to be able to take it in stride.  I'm aware of how many people this would be a significant hardship for, and I remember when that was true for me.  I know it could always be that way again.  I'm grateful that today, in this moment, something that could be hard, is easy.

*Name changed to protect the good-hearted.


Wednesday Prayers: Rapid-Fire Transitions

Two weeks after the spring semester ended, I began Clinical Pastoral Education.  A week after CPE wrapped up, I started Summer Greek (the benign title of a two-week course that covers a semester's worth of material).   I have this week off, and I'll start the fall semester next week.  Since I did swing shifts throughout CPE, I haven't had a routine in a very long time.  One of the things I'm most looking forward to about starting the school year is having a consistent schedule.  I'm adaptable-- but I'm tired.

I'm looking forward to a chore schedule, a running schedule, time with loved ones, and time to myself.  I really skimped on all of those things over the summer.  (Except the running.  The weeks I didn't run were not stellar weeks for pastoral care on my part.)

Does a schedule bring relief for you, or does it feel like a burden?  Are you feeling burned-out by monotony, or are you longing for consistency?

God, thank you for your presence when 
life feels completely upside-down.
Sustain us in times of both chaos and of restlessness, 
and show us where to find your joy and peace
regardless of our circumstances.  



Caution Sign

Which I first typo-ed as "caution sigh," possibly a more accurate title.

I know I'm overdue for a little R&R when a darling staffer compliments my outfit, and rather than believing it, all I can think of is, "wow, it was really sweet of one of the cool kids to try to be nice to me."

I need a break, y'all.  When my 12-year-old self is speaking up, it's time to regroup.



Just a quick note to tell you that my CPE colleagues make me feel good about the future of the church.  I grumble a lot that Jimmy Buffett was right-- religion IS in the hands of some crazy-ass people.  Still, this bunch gives me hope.  It's fun and exciting and energizing to work with them.

Also-- I love being in the Emergency Department.  No kidding, love it.  Also on the other floors.  And in the elevators.

This summer is awesome.  The schedule stinks, but I can't remember the last time I was so relaxed, satisfied, excited.  As much as I love classes, it's going to be hard to go back to school.  EXCEPT, that I get to do field ed at the hospital, AND part of that will be research, which I am ALSO going to love.

Happy little clam over here.


Ease Up

In an afternoon CPE session, one of our supervisors did a class on how often shame comes up when we as chaplains talk with patients.  She talked to us about some themes that might indicate shame was part of the conversation.  Since I'd heard many of those things in my visits with patients, I asked for further reading.  She lent me three books by Alice Miller: The Body Never Lies, The Drama of the Gifted Child, and For Your Own Good.  "These might be hard for you, I think it may be painful material," she said.

"No problem.  I can handle hard.  I like to learn."

I can handle hard, but after getting halfway through the second book, it occurred to me that there's a fine line between hard and torturing oneself.  I'm barreling head-first into heavy stuff in CPE supervision (because it matters, because it's important, because I'm terrified of the kind of damage we can do if we don't deal with our stuff).  I'm about to change spiritual directors.  Dave's out of town for chunks of time.  I haven't seen most of my friends in... no, let's not count.  I can do hard things, but let's not do them all at once.  

I'm going to go find one of Dave's old Calvin and Hobbes collections, and put Alice Miller on a to-read list for later.  If you're wrestling with your own heavy stuff, I'll scootch over on the couch, and let you leaf through the Peanuts books.


A Wee Update

  • I love being at the hospital,
  • but swing shifts are kicking my butt.
  • I badly, badly miss friend time,
  • and I can't wait to have an afternoon with a full teapot and a box of stationery.
  • 12 shifts left.
  • There's a lot of laughter among chaplains-- I'm happy about that.
  • I've got some very, very funny stories now.  None of which I'm going to tell on the internet.
  • I'm a little sad that my favorite season has whooshed by while I've been indoors.
Isn't that a wimpy little update?  What's going on in your summer?


70 x 7

I had a conversation with a fellow intern recently, and it had me thinking about debts and forgiveness.

If a bank forgives my loan, they don't (as part of the deal) give me more money. They just agree not to make me pay. I've somehow learned a definition of forgiveness that involves the forgiver continuing to give. When I think in terms of monetary debts, that makes no sense. Who would say, "You couldn't repay me, so please take another loan"? If I work to improve my credit score, they'll lend again-- but if I continue in a way that would leave them empty-handed, no wise bank would sign another note for me. Even the famous prodigal son gets his father's love-- but he doesn't get a second inheritance.

God's grace is deep, and we're called to mirror that grace, but I don't think I believe it requires us to continually offer to be shortchanged.


CPE Odds and Ends

Not surprisingly, I'm neither rested nor coherent enough for a full post. (I have one brewing, though, so stay tuned.)  A few bullets in the meantime:

  • I keep noticing how unsurprising tragedy is to me.  Horrifying and heartbreaking, yes.  Surprising, no.  This is not something I tell patients or their families.  It's also something I feel rather alone in.
  • I AM surprised by how many things from which people recover. 
  • I could really use some friend time, but I'm tired and afraid that I'm using all my verbal-filter energy at work.  *sigh*
  • As someone who's always planning the next thing, I've been surprised and satisfied by how that's not at all the case when I'm with a patient.  I'm not sure why this is where I'm able to focus, but it's been wonderful.
  • I feel so, so strongly that literature is a precious springboard to ministry.  I'm reading Dickens' Hard Times in my spare time.  It's not his best, but it's worthwhile.
  • Some people's lives seem a lot simpler to me.  Not easy, mind you, but simpler.  I'm conscious of feeling more on the fringes lately.
That's all for now.  


First Night: Practically Speaking

Tonight is my first shift alone, my first overnight at the hospital.  Scary.  Here's the idea that I'm finding some reassurance in:

Anyone who comes into the hospital tonight will be coming whether or not I'm there.  Accidents will happen, diseases will progress, loved ones will have to wait anxiously.  So I might as well be there to offer some support.

There's nothing as soothing to me as the pragmatic.



My husband won a goldfish at a fair a number of years ago, and being the sweet nurturing soul that he is, took fantastic care of it.  I learned a lot about pet fish in the time that Joe the Fish Guy was with us, and one of the things I discovered is that goldfish grow much bigger when they live in bigger tanks.

I've been thinking about that at the hospital.  Our supervisors are confident that my fellow students and I will be OK, and on Wednesday they'll be setting us (relatively) free.  That space to grow will let each of us fill out in a way that constant close supervision and micromanagement wouldn't.  (We will ABSOLUTELY still be instructed and supervised.  There's no reason to alert the authorities, don't worry.)  The department has been clear about wanting people to become more confident, and to have a greater sense of their own competence.  This feels a) remarkably good and b) somehow unusual in ministry.

A great lady once taught me that humility isn't about believing that I'm less than everyone else, but about believing that everyone is equally valuable.  My experience of the church has been that ministers often take on the less-than definition of humility, and that it too often degenerates into a Uriah Heap falseness.  "Oh, no, I'm too 'umble"... to really embrace and celebrate my call, to proclaim my gifts, to speak my truths firmly.  I wonder if part of clergy burnout is the tiny tank that we keep ministers in (or ourselves in).  Of course we need safeguards, and of course I don't want to give egomaniacs free reign.  But for ordinary, good ministers: joy and wholeness cannot grow in a tiny tank.


CPE Day 4

We've had three days of orientation, and today we'll start shadowing someone.  We also got our department assignments for the summer today.  No kidding:  when I read mine, I cried.

And then I thought and prayed about it a little, and realized it has the potential to be a very good assignment.

I think God said, "How can I show you that you can do more if I don't give you a chance to try?"

Once again, I want to share with everyone that God is super annoying.



CPE: Day 1

There are places were I feel just a little more alive and alert, joyful in a strange, calm way: orientation today was like that. We'll see if the feeling is still there at the end of the summer.

And I've got a new stack of things to grab on my way out the door.



A couple of years ago, a friend who coached high school track told me about a girl who stopped being able to high jump.  Despite having performed beautifully the previous year, the girl became convinced that she couldn't, and completely psyched herself out.

I have thought of that girl several times over the last couple of months.  I did reasonably well academically in the fall, and it messed with my mind this semester. Perfectionism is eating my brain, and chasing me through my days.  Zombie Perfectionism.  It's horrible.  It's not even inflated expectations-- high expectations are good, they demonstrate belief in one's capacity.  The zombies don't say, "you must get an A!"  Perfectionism for me is nasty, hissing, low expectations.  "That was a fluke.  You can't possibly do well again.  Everyone's going to see that you're not good enough."    

My closest friends are freakishly, alarmingly, shockingly smart.  Really.  And I love that about them, I love learning from them.  I'm bright enough, but my IQ (as West Wing's Josh once claimed) doesn't break the bank. There's a part of me that looked at going back to school as a chance to play in the big leagues, to prove that I belong around those really smart people.  That's when the Perfectionism Zombies took over.  They ate my love of learning (do you know how much I love new ideas and new books and beautiful words?), they devoured my self-esteem, and they ripped the holy crap out of my reliance on God.

I have one more week of class, 3 more assignments to finish.  I've done fine, but not great.  Strangely, I've also done less.  Not less work (although maybe fewer total pages have been written), but less balanced-life-stuff.  Less joy, less dusting and ironing, less prayer.  I'm starting to notice that when I do laundry, pay attention to loved ones, sew a little, the perfectionism abates.  When I round out my life, my worth doesn't hinge on how well I'm doing that one thing.

So here I am, learning for the bazillionth time to be a whole person, and to rest with God instead of darting off on my own.  It's damn hard to turn things over to God when I'm spending all that energy doing it MYSELF.  It's so, so, so hard to trust that I'm good enough without being perfect.  But I think I have to pick between trying to be perfect at something, or letting God make me whole.  I'd rather be whole.

For the moment.


Wednesday Prayers: Admin

Yet again, I'm spending Administrative Assistants Day rejoicing over all the really gifted people in that vocation.



Sometimes, when I want to get better perspective, I find it helpful to think of the word in its spacial sense.  How big is this thing, really?  How close is it?  Am I about to get run over by a freight train or a hamster?

I'm starting to notice that there are a lot of inflatable freight trains in life.  Things that look massive, but just because they've been filled with a bunch of hot air (some of it mine, some of it other people's).    

It's become commonplace for people to wear their busy-ness, overwhelmed-ness, and struggles as a badge of honor.  If we're overwhelmed, it's because we're indispensable for so many people.  What we're doing is very, very important.  Bah.  Centuries of people have done important things with equanimity.  Centuries of blusterers have passed into dust and anonymity.

My word of blessing today:  You are precious, but you are not important.  God is.  May you rejoice in those relative sizes.      


It's Not Wednesday

but, like Mindy, I've got a Clown situation, and I could use prayers for protection.

It's scary out there, sometimes.


Wednesday Prayers: In Memorium

I've written a lot of condolence letters lately, two just this week for women whose mothers have died. My prayers are with all who grieve the death of a loved one, and this week they are especially with V and B.

Are there prayers you'd like me to add to these?


That Which Restoreth My Soul

This week, Holy Week, is spring break at my seminary.  I'm sure that all the second and third year students doing field ed are especially glad not to juggle classes and multiple services, but I'm grateful for the break, too.  I'm trying to chip away at the Things I'll Do When There's Nothing Due list, and I haven't gotten very far.   Instead, I'm quilting, and watching Inside the Actor's Studio.

It's been the right thing to do.  I love my classes (no, really-- reading and writing are a curiously good time to me), but lately I've been asking, "why am I here?"  The Actor's Studio reminds me-- I'm here for the stories, and for the honesty.  There is almost nothing in the world that I love more than hearing about what really matters to people.  We as seminarians don't seem great with that honesty piece.  There are frequent shows that disguise truth more than reveal it.  Thank God for actors.  I've been reading, too-- and thanking God for the honesty of fiction, and of poetry.

And, because I've always wanted to play, here are my interview answers:

  1. Enchanted
  2. Innovative
  3. Liberty
  4. Manipulation
  5. A snoring cat
  6. Crocodile tears
  7. Bugger.  
  8. Lounge singer
  9. Data entry
  10. Hi, honey.  I'm so pleased with you.

Would you like to share yours?


John Donne

Today is the feast day of John Donne, seventeenth century poet and clergyman.  In honor of him, and in observance of the season, I give you his Crucifying:


By miracles exceeding power of man, 
Hee faith in some, envie in some begat,
For what weake spirits admire, ambitious, hate;
In both affections many to him ran,
But Oh! the worst are most, they will and can,
Alas, and do, unto immaculate,
Whose creature Fate is, now prescribe a Fate,
Measuring selfe-lifes infinity to'a span,
Nay to an inch. Loe, where condemned hee
Beares his owne crosse, with paine, yet by and by
When it beares him, he must bear more and die.
Now thou are lifted up, draw mee to thee,
And at thy death giving such liberall dole,
Moyst, with one drop of thy blood, my dry soule.

-John Donne


Wednesday Prayers: Ugh

Seminary is mildly depressing some weeks.  There's good stuff, but then there's ugh. Pray for that however you feel led.

How about in your world?  Anything I can be praying for?


Wednesday Prayers: Running Buddies

Yesterday, I ran with a classmate who is in far, far better shape than I am. It was the fastest I'd run in a year. The quick strides felt great, and I shocked myself by keeping up.

Tomorrow, I'm heading to the track with another classmate, one who's just starting to run. We switch between walking and running, and our pace is mostly dictated by our conversation.

Maybe it's my evangelical background talking, but it feels like that's exactly what we should be doing in communities of faith. Both women encourage me, and I am able to support each of them. We're making each other stronger, but not running the weaker partner too hard.

Where does this happen in your life? Where COULD it happen? That's what I'm praying about this week.


Lutheran Question: Salvation

For those in the know: is there room in Lutheran (ELCA) doctrine for salvation theologies OTHER than substitutionary atonement?



In the spirit of International Women's Day, I've got sisterhood on the brain.  Here's a little Dar Williams on the subject while I think about all the women I've admired.

So many to be grateful for:
all-the-sarahs amy anne beth caroline charlotte cori danielle debbie diane emily hannah heidi jennifer julia julie karen kate kristy lane laura lillian lynn margaret meghan mindy nancy robin stephanie vicki .... and on and on.  


Wednesday Prayers: Love and Disagreement

I may be in the minority on this, but my general feeling is that if you and I can't openly and respectfully disagree with each other, I'm not going to feel like I have a close relationship with you.  I didn't always realize this about myself.  In college, I was part of a lovely group of people, but none of them shared my style of addressing things.  Years later, one of them told me that I was the only person anyone else in the group had any conflict with.  When she told me that, I heard it as, "you're the problem; the rest of us can get along."  That may have been true, but I think it's also true that we had very different needs/values/priorities in terms of how relationships function.

There are people I don't respect enough to argue with-- respect and disagreement are very closely tied to me.   (Those of you who'd like to send condolences to my husband, email me for the address.)  When I'm not ever allowed to disagree with someone, I feel hugely disrespected.  (Please insert the obvious caveat about there being appropriate times and places for both speaking and letting things lie.)

Which brings us to God.

Look:  in theory, I think we're allowed to argue with God.  The psalms, various lamentations, even Jesus, all suggest that we can protest.  My head believes it, but the rest of me won't follow.  I've been noticing lately that I'm ticked off, and I'm not bothering to argue with God about it.

You know what I'm saying?


For those who need a translation, "fine" is one of the least polite words in my lexicon.  It's a succinct reduction of, "you're an idiot" and "get away from me."  (I probably shouldn't tell you that-- it's bound to come back and bite me.)

I've only just put together that:
1) I hugely respect and cherish those friends I can disagree with.
2) I don't feel free to disagree with God.
3) I've got a major obstacle to being close to God right now.
And look:  before you send me pithy statements about how God can take our anger, and you've disagreed with God and flowers bloomed and birds sang-- I get it.  I get it, brain-wise.  I'm saying, growth is hard, and God and I need to dig out from underneath some tough stuff here, so let's not talk about it like it's easy.

Anyway, that's my prayer this week: fine.   And my other prayer is for different prayers to come eventually.


Wednesday Prayers: Expensive

The first week of first semester, we lost our apartment in a flood.  Yesterday (the second week of this semester), Dave (WHO IS FINE, I want you to know, just sore), was the last car to join a 5-car pile-up, and his tiny beloved car was totaled.

If this keeps up, seminary is going to wind up being way more expensive than we bargained for.

Seriously, though-- everyone's OK, but the universe has been pretty much kicking our asses this year, and we'd like some peace.  So, if God can offer either a reprieve, or some peace in the midst of it, that's what we're praying for this week.

How about you?  Getting walloped, or enjoying a tranquil season?  Let me know, and I'll keep you in my prayers, too.

PS-- There's some unbloggable stuff.  Totally unrelated.  But I'm looking for wisdom and guidance and comfort in an area that simply doesn't have any happy, easy answers.  Prayers there would be hugely welcome.


Longing vs. Call

I took a week-long seminar on the ministry of chaplaincy last week, and Friday's presentation was on military chaplaincy.  I'll be honest with you-- I kinda figured it would be an army chaplain, and that wouldn't matter very much to me.  (Yes, that's an obnoxious way of thinking about it.  Telling it like it is, folks.)  Instead, the chaplain was a Marine.

Not only did it knock the wind out of me, it pretty much sent me flying face-first into the gravel.  

Almost 48 hours later, I'm still getting my bearings back.  Military homesickness isn't geographical.  This seems almost impossible to explain to civilians, to non-brats.  There's a culture that's unique, and that disappears once a brat moves out of the house.  I very intentionally chose not to (ever, ever) date a military man (I married a Quaker, for crying out loud), and I sure as heck knew I wasn't looking for a commission.  I made a choice not to be part of that culture in adulthood.  But that means that my heritage has disappeared into a fog, and I really can't go home again.  Other people find that their hometowns change, but I don't have security clearance to get to my homeculture.  My heart's a little broken this weekend.  There are funny things like posture and style of speech and attitude that are specifically Marine things, and I haven't seen any of them in a very, very long time.   

But this is what I want to pay attention to:  sometimes there are longings and homesicknesses that are not the same as call.  Yearning isn't always a nudge from God.  Sometimes, it's just a memo that something's missing from your life.  There are values (like Semper Gumby--Always Flexible) that I can reincorporate.  There are leadership skills and confidence and honor that I can return to.  I can take this time to pay attention to the very full legacy that I have been given as a Marine brat.  


Wednesday Prayers: Writers Block

I've got an email backlog that's embarrassing. Worse than the embarrassment is the knowledge that my feeble correspondence isn't an adequate way to care for people dear to me. I'm genuinely ashamed.

I've got blog posts floating in pieces in my head-- hawks and Uriah Heap and preparation and and and et cetera. They're not so much floating, as zipping by like the snitch in Quidditch. I'm a little concerned that if I try to grab one, it'll take my hand off.  Plus, to be honest with you, some of my favorite people in what was once a beloved blogging community aren't writing anymore, and I'm not sure I see a point in writing without that precious conversation.

So, prayers for speech, please, and for liberated words.

How about you? Do you need a loosened tongue or a restrained one this week? Either way, how can I pray for you?


7 of the Day

You know how I've talked about the Enneagram a few times?  Well, I signed up for the "Enneathought of the Day" a month or two ago.  Augh.  It's great.. and terrible.  As Dave says (quoting Scrubs), "Get out of my head, devilwoman!" That pretty much sums it up for me, too-- they're reliably spot-on.  Some days, I love the tips for growth or word of encouragement.  Other days, I groan and think, "But life is easier when I do what I've always done."  Except, it's not really easier.  It's just more familiar.

Anyway, if the Enneagram is something you're interested in, head on over and sign up for the Enneathought.  They're free, and I've found them to be useful.  (They also make darn good journal prompts, if you need a way to get off the hamster wheel of your own nuttiness.)


Wednesday(ish) Prayers: Ouch

You know those days were someone has just walloped a tender part of your soul, maybe without having any idea at all they were doing it?  Part of you wants to be mature, and the other part wants to pop the heads off all their Barbies?  Dave is having a day like that, so if you could hold him in the light, I'd be awfully grateful.

How about you?  Are you feeling smacked around?  Or maybe there's a lingering grungy feeling telling you that maybe you smacked someone else around?  Either way, let me know, and I'll be glad to hold you in prayer, too.


Like A Dove

In yesterday's gospel reading, and this morning's pray-as-you-go meditation, I listened to the story of the baptism of Jesus, as told in Mark's gospel.  There's a lot in the story, but it's a very familiar one for most of us (I even preached on it a number of years ago).  We've got John not being worthy to loosen a sandal,  and Jesus being named God's beloved son.  It was a minor detail that grabbed my attention this time, though.  The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove.

Why like a dove?  And what does that even mean?  If you were on the riverbanks, what would have happened to make you report, "Wow, the Holy Spirit just came upon that guy like a dove!"?  What would you have seen?  It's a serious question, because it's a weird description.  Was there an actual dove that people took to be representative of the divine?  Or is it totally metaphor-- and if so, how do we understand the metaphor?

Doves are a symbol of peace to many of us, but if a dove landed on me, I'd be pretty startled.  Was the Holy Spirit startling?  Also, whenever I'm granted close proximity to a small creature, particularly a wild one, I'm conscious of needing to be very gentle, not to hurt or frighten it.  Is the Holy Spirit something we need to treat delicately?  

I popped over and checked out Old Testament references to doves.  We've got Noah's dove with the olive branch, some sacrifice instructions, and a good bit about a lover's eyes in Song of Songs.  Isaiah talks a little about the moaning of doves, and Hosea thinks the dove hasn't got any sense.  We could use those things to flesh out (feather out?) the image, or not.

Have you given any thought to the Holy Spirit descending like a dove?