Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New Season

I write from a brand new laptop, purchased for the purpose of ministry at my brand new call. As the sales associate told me about warranties and add ons, I got to wondering how long I would need this computer for. Would I be its only user? Will my stay at the church outlive this laptop?

I hope so.

Two weeks in and I'm in love. This little community has welcomed me in with open arms and optimistic hearts. They have offered ideas for what they want to see happen and have offered to make those ideas come to fruition. They know that as pastor I'm not going to rescue this church from demise. They take ownership and responsibility. They have a heart for the community that extends beyond the church walls. They want to be challenged and pushed beyond their comfort. They thirst for something more than the routine churchy life.

I don't know how long laptops last these days. But I hope my ministry lasts longer than this one. I hope to journey through the 3 year lectionary cycle and beyond. I hope to learn and be transformed as I grow with this community.

I can guarantee one thing: that my time at this church will outlive the cassette tape answering machine that currently records all church phone messages. That thing will be departing very soon.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

This is why I run: Blue Bell Ice Cream

So, technically I'm taking a break from running because of a foot injury, but that isn't stopping me from hopping on the bicycle as a replacement activity. And I'm going to be logging a lot of miles now that Blue Bell has release a new flavor:

Photo courtesy of their website: http://www.bluebell.com/the_little_creamery/press_releases/press_cpb.html

Oh Blue Bell, you are one of my great loves in life. And now you have combined two of the greatest flavors into one of your brown rimmed cartons. Such a thing of beauty. 

I'm so glad the ten commandments don't explicitly state that a love for ice cream is a sin. It could maybe fit under the category of idolatry, but come on. That sounds like a stretch. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Having wrapped up my chaplain residency, I am now on a 3 week vacation. This was supposed to be a time of rest and reflection over my time as a chaplain, but of course I'm a Weaver and I don't really do vacations well. I've been cracking away at my to-do list, cleaning out closets that have collected junk and drawers that have collected odds and ends. I'm also still doing PRN work as a chaplain, continuing my habit of always having a job (I had to think about the last time I didn't have a job or full time school, and I can't remember when that was...maybe the 2 weeks I went to Colorado after my second year of seminary?).

The thing is, I find that I can't really rest and reflect when I've got clutter on my mind. With all of these to-dos weighing so heavily, I can't sit and ponder the experience I just had, as well as meditate on the next chapter to come. But I will do that. After we take a trip to the Northwest to see some family we haven't seen in way too long.  When I get back, I hope to use this space to help with the processing. Stay tuned.

For now, I look forward to time with family and am saying prayers all week for my many Presbyfriends who are taking the ordination exams on Friday and Saturday. May all that jumbled up stuff we learn in the classroom be well articulated through your keyboard.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

This is why I run: Frozen Yogurt

I'm not really a runner. I think I've written about that before, but I'm too tired to check through the archives and see. Basically, all you need to know is that I was the girl in middle school who whined on running day in P.E.. Can you blame me? We had a gym teacher who used to chase us in a golf cart around the track, with a flame thrower scorching our hair and chihuahuas nipping at our heels. It was torture and I hated it. It motivated some kids into running, but I wasn't fooled. I didn't want to run even when I was chased by the scary flame throwing, chihuahua yielding gym teacher. 

Now my motivation for running is food. I loves me some food. Basically, I now run so I can eat whatever I want. This is a pretty brilliant plan, because I'm pretty sure there's math involved with weight management: don't put in more calories than you're burning. So when you love food as much as I do, you have to figure out a way to burn some calories. Thus, running. Although in these adventures I've learned that I really do enjoy running and it makes me feel energized. Husband's solution to any ailment is to go running. Got a stomachache? Go run. Think you're coming down with the black lung, Pop? Go run.

Tonight I did something that would make personal trainers cringe. First, I went to an hour long yoga class at my gym. This wasn't easy-peasy-gentle-yoga. This was 90% of the time in downward dog yoga, with some Pigeons and some Crows and some whozywhatsits mixed in between. By the end I felt pretty good and all limber and stuff. Then I went for a run which pretty much undid all that limbering up I just did in Yoga. I had to though, because today starts my half-marathon training plan and I am really trying to stick to it. Never mind that it was still 101ยบ out at 8pm. It was a hot and slow run, but I did it. 

So then, I was a hot mess and really stinky. Which of course means frozen yogurt for dinner was the best decision I could make in that moment. I went to get some from our neighborhood shop. My hot mess self sat in the middle of the Walmart parking lot, in my pretentious Lululemon outfit (I hate how much I love their clothes) and ate me some frozen yogurt. It was a pretty great night. 


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sermon Shavings: The Pope's Focus

I have managed to make it through a very tiring week of clinicals, class and sermon writing. I have to make the disclaimer that my last post about the VHS wars, was written in that point in the sermon writing process when the task seems impossible. It always seems to happen, but at different points. Sometimes it happens the moment I read the scripture. Other times it happens after I've done all of the exegetical work. The worst is when I have a solid draft written, and feel prompted to start all over.

The sermon writing process is tricky. But the Spirit always manages to work through those defeated moments, to produce something beautiful. Some weeks, the result is a sermon which "knocks it out of the park." Other weeks, the Word only strikes one person. That Spirit is a mysterious thing.

This week I find myself particularly emotional as I prepare the sermon. I am preaching for my home congregation for the first time ever. This family has raised me, taught me, guided me. They've been the ones who have helped fulfill the vows of my baptism, by teaching me the ways of our faith. They endorsed me for seminary and for the ordination process. And now I have the opportunity to worship God with them in a way I haven't been able to before. I am very much looking forward to Sunday.

It is also emotional because this is the last sermon I will write as pastoral free agent. This Sunday, the congregation that I have been dialoguing with will officially vote on calling me to be their pastor. All of the efforts of discernment and training have been leading up to this moment. It is exciting and scary and wonderful.

As usual, there were some ponderings that didn't make their way into the sermon. One of my homiletics professors calls that "chocolate shavings" like at factory where chocolate bunnies are made. The chocolate shavings don't make it into the final product, but the chocolate is still good. I was thinking about Pope Francis' recent choice of a Ford Focus as his popemobile. Here is an article to consider in light of Luke 12:13-21.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

VHS Wars

I know I said I wouldn't write about the patients I serve, but I've been reflecting on a situation that I see frequently: movie organizing. In the psychiatric hospital where I work, there are common rooms on each floor and each of them have a television and VCR. Yeah, you read that right. VCR. We're talking old school, my friend.

A funny thing happens with the VHS tapes each week. They get organized. Many times. Sometimes many times in a day.

Sometimes a manic patient will approach the entertainment center and scatter the movies, searching for a recognizable one. But like I said, our hospital has VCRs, which means we have VHS tapes, which means we have old movies. Not really old, like classic old. But old like Mystic Pizza and (the original) Total Recall. So the patient isn't likely to find a movie that was made in the last 20 years.

And then another patient will come along. Maybe one with an OCD diagnosis. Or maybe they’re just bored from looking at the same walls all day. And they will organize the crap out of those VHS tapes. Sometimes they put them in alphabetical order. Other times they sort them by the color of their covers. I’ve yet to see someone organize them based on topic, but I’m sure it has been done. Each week the VHS tapes are organized in a different manner. And each week they get disheveled once again.

This pattern reminds me of sermon preparing, writing, delivering and hearing. So much time is spent, meticulously putting the words together. Inviting the Spirit to speak. Proclaiming the Good News.

And then coffee hour comes and goes, we all head home and the words are disheveled. We (pastor and congregation alike) jump back into our habit of thinking we know everything. The Word starts to fade and by Wednesday it is but a distant memory. And the preacher must start all over. Organizing those words once again into truth that needs to be heard. Like the process of organizing those VHS tapes, it may seem futile. Yet I believe this is important work and I look forward to finding my own Spirit led pattern as a parish pastor.

Monday, July 29, 2013

New Blog!

I've decided to start a spinoff blog about my adventures in urban farming and drought tolerant landscapes. When it isn't stupid hot outside, I like to play in the yard. I'm sure there will be more updates as that temperature drops in a few months. For now, you'll get the occasional update about plants that I've killed and Bermuda Grass I have conquered.  Here is the address:

Bermuda Grass Saga

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Book You Should Read: And the Mountains Echoed

Having finished with seminary, I now have time to read for fun. Things I want to read. Which aren't always too different than the things I was assigned to read for class, but now that list includes fiction. My heart is delighted.

Last week I read And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hossenini. His other books include The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. I adored his first two novels, so when my mom brought her copy to our family vacation, I got my grubby little hands on it and devoured it. I would have read it straight through, but I was coming down with what is now called "Chaplain TB," a very irritating ailment that involves a sore throat, apathy, cough and fatigue. It knocked me out and kept me from reading, but as soon as I was able, I was back to the book.

I was struck by the whole book, but especially one quote in particular which sparked my thoughts for a theodicy paper I had to write for a seminar last week. When I get the chance to edit it for internet worthiness, I'll post the paper up here. For now I'll just highlight this quote:

"When you have lived as long as I have...you find that cruelty and benevolence are but shades of the same color.”

There is so much I don't understand about the world, but I am grateful for good fiction that helps me chew on some profound thoughts.

Buy the Book on Amazon!

 If you're interested in purchasing the book, it is available on Amazon (purchasing through the link above will send a wee bit of profit my way. I'm not trying to pimp out my blog, just hoping to support my bi-vocational reality coming up in about a month):

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again

After a long hiatus away, I am back. Can't promise that I'm better than ever, but I'm back and ready to pour out my thoughts onto this dear old blog.

What's up with the hiatus? I got married and have done my best to survive as a chaplain resident for the past 14 months. I've simply been too busy. Sorta. I mean, I'm paying for that Netflix account, so it seems like I should use it. Perhaps watching the entire series of Alias in two weeks might be a little much, eh?

The truth is I spend my days in the hospitals and have been so emotionally drained, all I can do is come home at night and do anything but write a blog post. Go for a run? Yes, sparingly. (It is hot in Texas!) Play in the garden? Of course. Take muh dawg for a walk? Absolutely. But writing has just not happened.

Part of the reason is that I'd be tempted to write about my adventures as a chaplain.  There is so much material to write about when you spend your days at a children's hospital and even more so at a psychiatric hospital. Let me just say that HIPAA laws are scary and I don't have the complexion to pull off orange, so I'll avoid jail for the time being. I thought it would be best to respect my patients and their right to privacy, by not sharing all their stuff on the web.

I could have written about marriage, but I'm sure my partner would also appreciate privacy, so let's pretend there's HIPAA for marriage. We'll call it MIPPA (Marriage Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

I don't yet know what this blog will look like. I hope it will incorporate thoughts about theology, loving our neighbors, gardening, books, life in Central Texas and muh dawg. Can't say for sure until we get there. Whatever comes of this project, I'm hoping it will ignite a tiny bit of joy into your heart, whether I'm telling about an act of kindness I saw, or some plant I managed to kill in the garden. Cheers, friend!