Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Good News

Preaching to me is all about good news, or it should be. If I haven't heard some good news about what God has done, is doing, or will do, it's not a sermon. It may be a nice talk or a good speech, or something, but it's not a sermon. It's not proclamation.

And, I believe that the good news of God transcends many things and comes to us in many ways. But the coolest thing recently is that I heard a sermon that transcended even language!

I took four years of high school German and one year in college. That was about 10 years ago, but I had a chance to go to a German Christmas service and hear my friend Jess preach in German. And I got it!! Okay, so I got enough of it from the German to know in my heart that it was good news. And then when I read it in English, that was confirmed.

And, I'm sure I'll steal (I mean borrow and share) some of the ideas for my Christmas Eve sermon.

Thank you, Jess!

(I'd make a link for you if I knew how!)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Christmas Decorations

So the pastor that I work with is obsessed with decorating. Outdoor lights galore, three trees at home, decorations in his office. And I'm pretty much the other extreme. Let's just say I'm a minimalist. I do have some indoor decorations at home, half of which are up because by the time Easter rolled around last year and they were still up, I decided to embrace it and leave them up all year. We don't yet have a Christmas tree and even discussed whether or not to get one. But since we are hosting Christmas for my husband's family this year, we decided we should put one up. I've been thinking a lot about this and wondering if I'm a scrooge or what.

Some of my favorite childhood memories involve decorating the house for Christmas--music coming from the 8-track player (particularly Silver Bells and All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth), the smell of cookies baking, pulling out the boxes of ornaments and telling the story of each as we put them on the tree, often in pairs (one set for my sister and one set for me).

So, when I think about these memories, I realize that the reason decorations aren't a priority for me is that I have no desire to do them alone. It's something that I want to do with others, with those I love, with people who care about the memories of the ornaments, or appreciate the sappy, silly, or cheesy Christmas songs playing. As much as I love my husband, this isn't something that he seems to care about. If I want to decorate, the response is "whatever you want" or "go ahead." Not good enough, not worth it. Christmas will come; Christ will be born. I'll get to celebrate at worship, singing Silent Night by candlelight and this year I'll even get to preach, to proclaim Christ again among us. That's better than trees and lights and ornaments.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Who I Am (aka Thanksgiving with my family)

So I read this quote in response to some Biblical text and while it didn't fit the theme of where my sermon was headed that week, it just grabbed me and wouldn't let go.

"It is in the reciting of our history, salvation history, that we are reminded of who God is and who we are in response to God." ~ Adele Stiles Resmer

I agree with this author, though I couldn't have said it nearly so eloquently. This quote points to the recitation of the history of what God has done from the beginning of time, not just in our lives, but also then who we are as God's people. It happens over and over in the Bible. The Israelites lose their way in the desert and they are reminded of all God has done to and for them to that point. Every time we Christians gather in worship, we recount the story of salvation history in some shape or form--pointing to what God has done in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And in that, we learn who we are in response to God. And we can see that it's bigger than just me, or even just my immediate family, it's from the beginning of time. Profound in its own right.

So...why is this post subtitled "aka Thanksgiving with my family"? Because, I think this quote--though tweaked--is relevant. Try this out: "It is in the reciting of our history, our family history, that we are reminded of who our family is and who we our in response to our family." It is in hearing where we've come from and what we've shared and the people who came before us that reminds us who we are and continues to shape us into who we become.

We didn't tell too many family stories this Thanksgiving, but there were some told and some just remembered. We told of the time "I drown-ded" (my words) when I was about five and fell in the lake trying to help my sister. We told about the Christmas that was 60 degrees so the promised sleigh ride turned into a wagon ride at the farm of the family friends whose dog always looked both ways before crossing the street. We told about the time(s) we told my grandpa we were having chicken for Thanksgiving dinner because he didn't like turkey. And I thought of many others--the stories of my great-grandparents who came to this country in search of a better life--stories that shaped me even though I never knew them as people. These stories surround me, shape me, uplift me, remind me of who I am.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Relatively Speaking

One of the things I love about being a pastor is this...(please read sarcasm here)...two members of the same family wanting to come visit with me about things going on in their lives and how that includes having difficulty with the other said family member. I've met with one so far and have an appointment with the other later this month. The one later is a lunch date; something that we do every few months or so. We are pretty close in age, so are going out for lunch more as friends than pastor/parishioner. But I'm still the pastor and realize that this is a fine line to walk. Should be interesting...

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wedding Reflections

Before I became a pastor, I was involved in a grand total of two weddings. The very first wedding was my own. The second was my sister's; I was the matron of honor/only female wedding party member/personal attendant. Our weddings were very similar in some ways and very different in others. But both were small.

Now as a pastor, I've been involved in a number of weddings ~ from very small (the couple, their children as attendants, and immediate family) to one this weekend (7 attendants on each side, plus a flower girl and ring bearer). I do meet with couples for three sessions before the wedding--to talk about common issues that couples encounter and about the ceremony itself and often to allow me to get to know the couple. Many of these are people who are not active or involved in the church; some have parents or grandparents who are. Rarely do we have weddings for non-members, due to a policy established before I came to this congregation.

At each wedding though, I have wondered why the couple has come to the church for the wedding though. And I do ask that question in my sessions. For many, the answer is tradition or it's important to my family. Some do say that they do have a faith background and for a step such as marriage, they want to recognize God's involvement in it.

Either way, though, I find it hard to preach at weddings. I know the bride and groom aren't listening very closely...let's be honest. I don't know most of the people gathered. I can't even see them...I stand at the altar with the bride and groom facing me and I'm short, so I can't see over them and it's sometimes difficult to see around attendants. I guess I can only hope that proclaiming the good news of God touches someone each time. I just have to proclaim and let it go. Easier said than done.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Did I ever mention that I'm a "J"?

In the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator scale, I always test as a "J" ~ a judger versus a perceiver. This means I like things like order, structure, details, organization. These things are true of me. Not only do I like these things, but I do them fairly well. It makes me happier and less stressed out. So, why write about this?

Because while I love plenty of non-J's, a group of them should not be in charge of a massive gathering that requires things like: organization, details, structures, order--especially if they are asking others to be the hosts of such a gathering.

Such was the case this weekend. My congregation was asked to host a gathering for close to 200 people, which is about what our sanctuary can hold. We were gradually given bits and pieces of things we needed to know from about four different people. Even so, it was not nearly enough for me to be happy or satisfied with the process. And, I believe, it made us as a congregation look disorganized and unprepared. Which is somewhat true, but only because we were not given the information we needed. I didn't think to ask too many questions in advance...I didn't even know what questions to ask. Also, it wasn't "my" project--it was my colleagues. And while he might be more "J" than some of the planners of this event, he's not nearly as "J"-like as me and didn't get the appropriate information either.

So...the moral of this story:
I need to prepare for any event that will happen at my congregation, whether I've been the one working on the project or not. And I need to ask lots of questions!

And, for all you non-J's out there:
If you need to be in charge of a massive gathering, please ask a loving and caring "J" to help you think through all the details and organization!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Swedish Fish

Ingredients: sugar, invert sugar (what makes this different from 'regular' sugar), corn syrup (aka sugar), modified corn syrup (aka sugar), citric acid, white mineral oil, artificial flavors, red 40 and carnuba wax.

Is it really horrible that I really like these?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Last night was trick-or-treating in my town, so this year's costume (a doctor, complete with scrubs and stethoscope) has been worn and put away leaving me to reflect on some of my past Halloween costumes. I can't remember them all, but I do remember many...a strawberry, a leopard, an M&M, a crash test dummy, an old lady, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Strawberry Shortcake, and Peter Pan. And each has a story--something going on at the time that particularly relates to the costumes. But for today, my favorite is Peter Pan. I wore green tights and one of my dad's button-down shirts with a belt cinching it around my waist. And the hat...jaunty Peter Pan hat with a red feather on the side. Where did this hat come from? I couldn't tell you...but I know that is why I was Peter Pan that year. But even more importantly is the story of the picture in my mind when I think of that costume. The picture that comes to mind is my grandma...the hat on her head tipped sideways, placed there by a joking cousin, the hand holding out a (root) beer, and the great big smile on her face. Family...home...coziness...love, that's the stuff of Halloween that I hold on to.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Things About Me, Part II

11. I am horrible at small talk.
12. I tend to take care of other people first.
13. I have a few irrational fears (though not of the number 13).
14. Most days, my favorite thing to do would be curl up under a soft, cozy blanket and read a good book.
15. I would rather live in a small town than a big city.
16. I have high expectations for people, sometimes way too high.
17. I love TiVo.
18. I love hearing and telling stories of my family, particularly my great-grandparents' stories of coming to the United States.
19. I enjoy watching home decorating shows, but can't say I've implemented anything into my own home.
20. I despise cleaning the bathroom.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Things About Me, Part I

1. I've been thinking that I should write "100 Things About Me" since my first entry.
2. I'm not sure I'll ever come up with 100 things about me to say.
3. It really annoys me that I didn't blog in September because now on the blog archive list, September doesn't appear.
4. I've taken various forms of the Myers-Briggs test numerous times since high school and always come out an ISFJ.
5. I'm using this post to procrastinate doing things that are much more important.
6. I have never had a pet (unless you count the three fish I picked out that lived at our house for two weeks before my husband took the fish tank to school and promptly killed two of them).
7. I miss being a student.
8. I want to rearrange my office, but this is really the only way all the furniture fits.
9. I want one room in my house that I don't have to share.
10. I have lost many loved ones, but lately I miss my grandma the most.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I admit it, I like being in control. I like order and structure, but I like to create it. And lately, it's felt like things are out of my control. There is order and structure and deadlines and none of these things are ones that I got to choose. In my faith journey, I resonate with Carrie Underwood's debut single, "Jesus Take the Wheel." Maybe it's because of when it came out, right after I was in a serious car accident myself. The words of the chorus reflect a prayer I want to say:

Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
To save me from this road I'm on
Jesus take the wheel

But...as much as I want Jesus to be in control of my life; as much as I believe that God is in control, I also believe in free will. I believe that God made us people who can and do make choices and decisions about our lives. So God is not in control to the point of scheduling this meeting or that gathering or my husband's football game. I feel like I should have some control over some of them...and lately, it feels like I haven't had any control over any of them. And that makes me cranky and overwhelmed and tired.

But it's starting to level out again. Maybe it's the anticipation of a few days of upcoming vacation, though those may be busy. But I get to be completely in control of the schedule those days. (Okay--not completely, there will be other people's schedules to coordinate with--husband, in-laws, friends.) But they won't be work days! I will be away from the place that requires me to be "on;" I'll be in places where I can just "be."

Friday, September 01, 2006

This is a test....

Since October it has bugged me that September is missing from my sidebar...will this post change that?

Thursday, August 31, 2006


I like order and details, so I note the following: this post marks a number of bookends. Today is the last day of the month; my last post was on the first of the month. This is post number 10; a nice round numbered post. Today is my birthday, a bookend of its own, the end of one year and the start of another. While it isn't a "milestone" birthday so to speak, it is the start of my last year in my 20s. Earlier this month, my coworkers were explaining to a young boy that "all grown-up ladies are 29." Today, a card from one of my coworkers read, "29 for real? Have a happy one! (over and over and over again)" And I wonder, next year, will I suddenly want to start denying my age? Because I don't feel any older, and haven't for years. I do avoid saying my age because, in my line of work, it seems like I only need to use it to defend myself--to prove that I have experience despite appearing much younger than I am. We'll just have to wait for that bookend experience next year I guess!

For another bookend, my friend Jess at whatyoutoo.blogspot.com (I don't know how to make links yet) celebrates a bookend today. She's coming home!!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Where did mine go? Even this post has been days in the making--and not because I was too busy the last few days to get to it, but simply because vegging out in front of my TV seemed like a much better option.

My to-do list just seems to get longer with each passing second. Somehow all the "necessary" work gets done--the sermons get written (if on Saturday afternoon for a 5 p.m. service), the Bible School openings get prepared (if on the drive into church), the shut-ins I'm to visit this month get visited (if on the 31st), and so on. At home, the lawn eventually gets mowed (though the piles of raked up grass have sat for 3 days--blame the heat wave!), the dishes get placed in the dishwasher (at least I put water in them when I put them in the sink!), the plants get watered (at least the one I'm most concerned will die), and so on.

But the items on the to-do list of things that I really do want to do suffer.
1. Email friends with whom I haven't spoken for some time
2. Work on paperwork to open myself up for a different call
3. Organize recipes and cookbooks (and actually try to make some things from scratch!)
4. Finally sort through those boxes of stuff that've been sitting for 3 years
5. Read a book from my bookshelf for fun
6. Decorate parts of my house--nothing too drastic, but replacing the curtains I've hated since we moved in would be a good start!
7. Organize all the craft items that I've saved "because I might use it"
8. Work on scrapbooking my life
9. Make a quilt using my college t-shirts
10. Go through my closet and get rid off all the clothes I don't need or wear

I used to think I was internally motivated--that if there was something I wanted to do, I would and could just do it. When did I lose that? When did I start to need someone or something to push me to keep going? Why does bad TV (okay, mostly home and garden and cooking shows) seem so appealing? Why am I so tired? And why do all the things on that list seem like they will take so much more energy than I can muster?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Community and Lonliness

I have a sort of love/hate with community. When I was in seminary, I hated the forced attempts at "community building." For me, those kinds of events never seemed to do the trick. I didn't necessarily feel like I was part of the seminary "community." "The lonliest place is alone in a crowd," someone said to me recently. And I thought that's what I felt.

But, now as I look back on my life, I see how often I felt that I was alone in the crowd, not really part of a community but outside on the fringes, looking in and aching to be a part of the group. Now that I'm in a completely different place, I realize that I was part of a community. It may not have been that formal community that I felt was trying to be formed without sucess, but it was a real community. It was the community forged through common experiences, through informal times spent together over meals and homework and walks to work. It was the community forged through honesty and openness because we had the time to learn to trust each other.

But here I am now, aching for community and realizing that I can't have it. For lots of reasons. I haven't had time to learn to trust. I'm in a position that puts me on display and doesn't present the opportunities I need for it truly to be about giving and receiving from all of us. Friends are nice, but I can only show so much of myself without taking people's pastor away from them. I will never try to take someone's pastor away--whether that pastor is me or anyone else.

So it's now that I see how lonly it is to be alone in a crowd. I am almost always around people and almost always feel alone. And I'm just not sure what to do about it.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Where Are You From?

"Where are you from?" This question is one that seems to have come up more often than usual in recent weeks.

I was born and raised in Small Town A in Midwestern State A. My dad had grown up in this community and my mom in the same state, though not that area. I recall only one home in that place, though technically we lived in two. (Having moved as a baby, it's hard for me to count that first house.) This place was my home for my first 18 years; it was "home home" during the next four years when I was in college (and first lived in Midwestern State B). It was even "home home" for the next two years until I married and moved permanently to Midwestern State B, my husband's home state. But yet, it was still "home"--at least another 3 years. Then my mom moved from that place, from that home, that town to another city in that state. And I now live in another small town in Midwestern State B.

But still, when I'm asked this question, "Where are you from?" the first thing that comes to mind is "Small Town A in Midwestern State A" or at the very least "Midwestern State A." I have to make a conscious effort to say, Small Town B in Midwestern State B." The place I live now is my home, but it's not where I'm from. When I traveled to the US-Mexico border, I met many people who would name a town when asked where they were from and then as conversation continued I would find that they had lived in another for many years or that the town they named was where their parents came from though they had never lived there. I could relate to this. The roads and streets, hills and trees, people and community of Small Town A are what shaped me, what formed me, what molded me, what made me who I am. That will always be where I'm from, no matter how long I live elsewhere.

My family recently traveled to Yellowstone National Park and while there, I realized how at home I feel in nature, in God's creation, not only in Yellowstone, but in other parts of the world as well. And I realize that perhaps the better answer of where I'm from is God. I am God's child, sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. That's the home that matters--my home that is God's kingdom. But it's the church community of Small Town A that helped me discover this for the first time.

So when I'm asked, "Where are you from?" I'm still likely to answer, "I live in Small Town B, Midwestern State B, but I grew up in Small Town A, Midwestern State A. And you?"

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

No Words Part Two

In my last post, I commented that presiding over that funeral was by far the hardest thing I had ever done. I was wrong. This funeral was followed closely by a horrific car accident in which a young mother was given no hope of survival. I was present as her young children (6 and 9) visited her in ICU. I sat for 10 hours with her family as they extubated her and took turns saying goodbye and as her heart simply wouldn't give up easily and as she took her final breaths. I prayed with this family and was present with them. That was all I could do.

And then, due to circumstances beyond my control, I was not able to preside at this funeral, nor could I even attend. I'm not sure I could have found the words, but I wish I had had the opportunity. Maybe someday I'll find the words or the words will find me and then find a home on this page.

But for now, I'll release these events into God's hands and face the other realities of my life. I don't need to have the words right now, but I do need to live.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

No Words

I wanted a home for my words, but words have been lacking lately.

First, I was away from computers for about a week. I was living on the border of the United States and Mexico, learning about border issues. Timely, I might add. But I'm not ready to publish words about that experience.

And then I came home to find a situation in which words are not adequate. I found out that a member of my congregation committed suicide. This young beautiful woman took her own life, leaving behind her husband and three small children between the ages of 7 and 2. Presiding at this funeral and all that entails was/is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done.

And so, I have no words right now.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Sacred Space

There are some spaces that are sacred, special, holy ground. There are moments when it is evident to me that I am in the presence of God. Last week, I was in sacred space and I felt like I didn't belong, but was blessed to be invited. A family was gathered in the hospital room of their dying loved one, her husband, her father, her brother, her step-father, his father-in-law. And he was too young and the hopes had been so great. He had been in the hospital for weeks, his positive outlook hard-wired. But then he got to go home--to sleep in his own bed, to play with his 'toys,' to love his family. Then it happened, the worst possible news--the cancer was back and he gently began to slip away, pain medication easing those final moments for him. He knew he would be in a better place, as did we. And because of my role, I was invited into this space--this hospital room, in the circle of loved ones. I didn't belong; I didn't even know him that well. This was sacred space for this family and I was privileged to be a part of it.

And it took me back, it takes me back, to the other sacred spaces that shape my life. To the one so like this one--the man dying too young, the cancer eating away his life, the promise of a better place. To the room filled with love, to the oxygen tubes, to the pain medication, to the nurse and friend shaking her head, "he's gone." To that moment that would change my life forever. To learning at nine that death is forever, but so is life and so are God's promises. To continuing to learn and believe that. To missing my daddy, but knowing that some spaces are sacred and so is a life full of love.

Friday, April 21, 2006


This is the third spring that I have lived in my current house. The previous owners clearly took great pride in landscaping. We are doing our best not to kill anything and to keep it up. Flowers appear all throughout the year--except winter of course. (This is the Midwest after all.) We moved into this house during the summer, so though we had an idea about the fall plants, we really had no idea what would happen that first spring. Every time I looked, it seemed a new area was blossoming—daffodils in at least three varieties, six colors of tulips, eight different hyacinth, plus green plants of many kinds. Each spring since has brought the same kind of joy, the surprise of new life appearing.

I have lived in the Midwest all my life, and somehow, spring always takes me by surprise. Throughout the winter and cold season, I say that I’m ready for spring because of the warmth that it will bring. But yet the vegetation, the new life, the plants beginning to peek out from the ground, bring a new surprise each and every day throughout spring. And I love these surprises and the colors they bring.

So why does it make me sad this year? It seems as though the only thing new in my life is the creation around me, the flowers and trees and plants in my yard. Nothing else in my life is new. Maybe that’s why I needed to start this blog.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"A House is a House for Me"

When I was in elementary school, each week we had "specials" ~ art, music, physical education, and library. Library was by far my favorite, and of course, the one that we only had once a week. I loved going into the library where Miss L. would be there, the librarian, this lovely grandmotherly type lady who could always help me find the right book.

(I was so sad when Miss L. retired because of health problems just before my last year of elementary school. In a twist of fate, we became co-workers when I began working at our public library while in high school. All the other student workers could call her by her first name, but I could never call her anything other than Miss L. Memories of her are some of my best.)

During library time, we would often have a story read to us and then do some sort of activity related to the book. For some reason, one in particular stands out in my memory. I'm guessing it was from lower elementary years, but I can't be sure. I recall Miss L. reading us a book entitled A House is a House for Me. I can even picture the book ~ a light green border on the cover, pages with pen-line drawings which appeared to be filled in with colored pencils. From what I can remember of the book, the catch-phrase was "a house is a house for me" which followed a description of what were houses for others, like "a nest is a home for a bird" and other such things. The activity that went with this book was to create our own page for a book using the phrase "a blank is a home for a blank" and then draw a picture to go with it. I wrote, "a neck is a home for a necklace" and drew (not very well) a neck that filled up the whole sheet of construction paper with a necklace drawn to represent the pink heart-shaped prism charm on a necklace that my neighbor had given me as a gift along with the book Pollyanna.

Why is it that this particular book and activity stands out in my memory? When there were so many many weeks and so many many books, why this?

I think there is something about these words that are so important, maybe especially so right now. The book title is about houses, but the sentence I wrote is about a home. "A house is a house for me." Yes, that's the easy part. I am blessed to live in a beautiful house with a beautiful yard, but what about home?

Does where I live feel like home? Some days, but not everyday and maybe not even most days. Because home is greater than the dwelling in which I live, though the dwelling is part of it. Home is also my family, my workplace, my community. And even then, what makes a place home?

Home is a place where I can be me, fully and completely. I sometimes feel like I have given up so much of me that no place is home. And that's not really fair, because my husband hasn't asked me to change or be something I'm not. But at the same time, if I want to spend time with him or do things with him, I've had to learn to do (or at least tolerate in some cases) activities that I wouldn't normally do. And I can't seem to see where he's had to change--other than the change of having to put up with me, which is a tall order some days because we are really different. And I haven't figured out yet how to be me fully and completely and live happily.

And at work, it's a challenge for me. I can be me to a certain point, but then I can't because of my role. My role is important and I'm not called there to be friends with everyone. And my co-workers and I probably wouldn't be friends if we met in different circumstances and there are times it is really hard to try to be friends. It takes so much more energy than I possess, because what I need often isn't what I get and I don't feel like what I give is what is needed or desired. And all of that makes me sad.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Home for My Words

Words, especially written, somehow always bring me comfort.

Reading the beautiful words of others give me permission to feel, to think, to live beyond the boundaries of my current life. I don’t remember learning to read, but I remember the greatest joy of my childhood was bringing home that stack of books from the library and diving into those pages.

And to attempt to put thoughts and feelings that tumble around my mind into written words is a gift that has given me comfort throughout my life. There have been times when I have felt so alone and the only comfort came from putting the deep pain and sadness into words with the act of putting pen to paper. And though there will always be something special for me about that physical act of using pen and paper, it seemed time to try it this way—with computer keyboard instead.

I have come to realize how much I want to write. I have come to realize how much I need to write.

Because spoken words seem to fail me. I spent my childhood years in mostly silence, mostly smiling, being shy and afraid to speak. I’ve “come out of my shell” through the years, but some of that fear is still there. And irony of ironies is that I have been called to a vocation in which one of my primary roles is that of preacher, speaker of the good news of what God has done for us.

And somehow, I can speak of God. And somehow, God speaks through me and allows people to hear of and experience the good news of God. And that is wonderful and amazing.

But I can’t speak of me. These people with whom I spend many of my days haven’t known me very long. They don’t see how difficult it is for share of myself, to open my mouth to speak of things that are important to me.

Somehow the weight of what is happening inside me doesn’t come out in words when I try to speak. Especially if I haven’t planned every word, every syllable.

I need a home for my words.