Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2012: A Year of Firsts

As 2012 comes to an end, I've taken a few moments to reflect on what this year has held. Turns's been a crazy year of FIRSTS.

Firsts are always fun. The first date, first kiss, first plane ride, first cup of coffee in the day... I mean, it's hard to beat. Firsts can also be terrifying as they mark a deeper change in identity. Most of my firsts this year involve the switch in my vocational identity from student to pastor. It's a pretty big shift when I've been a student since I was 4 years old and the joys and struggles of someone at work are quite different from a student.

So... without further we go! The list of FIRSTS... all remembered in the year of 2012:

First (and only) time ordained a teaching elder (pastor) in the Presbyterian Church (USA) on May 19, 2012.
First fall (in 21 years) I haven't started a new school year.
First time moving across the country with Tim.
First time administering communion.
First time being installed as the pastor of a church on July 29, 2012.
First time moderating session.
First baptism (sweet Elliot Tang).
First wedding ceremony I officiated (Judy and Keith).
First Advent season as the pastor (whew, this was/is crazy).

It's amazing to write this list and see how so many of my dreams have become a reality. I've dreamt of breaking the bread and feeding God's people. I've dreamt of baptizing someone and charging a church community to nurture this new believer in the faith. Not sure I have ever dreamt of moderating session, but I've learned that it can be lots of fun. Especially while drinking beer and cracking jokes at one another.

I have no clue what the next year holds except for lots of growth. I'm excited to move deeper into my new identity and learn what new experiences God has in store for me in the new year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Cards

As I prepare for our Christmas Cards to be sent out, I realize how many of my friends have moved in the last 6 months - 1 year. Seriously, it is over half! Not only does it make me work in a frenzy to stay up to date on their current addresses, but it also makes me think about how transient my generation can be. Moving for jobs or further education grants us lots of opportunities, but at the cost of leaving familiar territory - friends and family and land that we've called "home."

Tim and I are obviously no different from our friends. We've moved apartments (and sometimes cities) every year for the past 7 years. We  have grown accustomed to change and have learned not to get attached to an apartment.

It makes me wonder what the effects of constant transition will have on our generation. Will we suffer from chronic anxiety over not knowing what is next? Will our families have a harder time staying involved in each other's lives? Will we ever feel grounded and a sense of belonging to a community and land?

These are certainly some of my fears with constant transition.

Tim and I moved to San Francisco in June and were quickly greeted with open arms by my new Presbyterian minister colleagues and Mission Bay Community Church. We are lucky. We found a place to live and after a few months of excruciating anxiety over what work Tim would find, God placed Tim in a wonderful work environment working on things that bring him home happy and fulfilled. My heart is BEYOND grateful for this gift.

Still, it hasn't been until recently that I've felt a little of what I've been yearning for. Just over Thanksgiving I was sharing with Tim how I finally feel grounded here. I'm just beginning to feel like I know more or less what to expect from work, from this city, from new friends. I feel like I'm finding my rhythm here and don't wake each day with anxiety of what will come next. Each day I fall deeper in love with my church community and am amazed by how God works through them. I've been able to enjoy this city, this land more as my home. God is granting us a sense of belonging here.

The more I lean into my experience of this transition and the deepening of my faith through it, I'm convinced that our transient generation has a merriad of opportunities to grow closer to God. Several wise people told me and Tim that as we moved far from family we would need to cling to God and to each other. This has been so true. My transition of uncertainty and excitement threw me closer to God as I was more aware of my dependency on God to provide for our most basic needs. It brought me closer to Tim as we had to voice our fears and expectations of each other and of the transition in order to make it through.

As I address cards, I pray for all my friends and all people going through transition. I'm acutely aware of the roller coaster of emotions - balancing exciting new opportunities with the sadness of leaving familiarity. I pray that in the moments of loneliness and fear, we seek out intentional community that grounds us in this new place and helps us to look beyond ourselves to find the inner peace and sense of belonging we so deeply need.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Life isn't fair

Life is just not fair.

This is a truth we all learn in life. As a pastor, I'm finding that I'm reminded of this truth all too often.

As I step into the vulnerable lives of those I know and love, I see time and time again how bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. I read the news and watch people advance in their careers by lying and cheating their way through the system, while honest and talented people can't even get interviews for a job. I watch my friends in Haiti get pummeled by natural disaster after natural disaster having to rebuild with no resources as I sit here in comfort not affected by disaster at all. I see parents ache to have a child only to be met with barrenness and miscarriages while other couples are surprised and even terrified with unexpected pregnancies.

I see an elderly person wanting their family to see and accept that their time has come to die and I see lives taken all too soon.

What are we to do as people of faith in the face of unfairness? How are we to seek guidance and help from our God when we feel God is being a parent who won't play fair?

It's a daily struggle to find peace in all the chaos and to trust that God is in control. It's hard to know how we are to fight for justice in the system when it doesn't feel like justice is even an option. Today, I pray for those who experience the unfairness of our world. I pray that God might provide a sense of comfort, hope, and joy amidst their pain.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Modeling Ministry

I read a blog recently on the importance of modeling ministry. The article shared the benefits for both the pastor and the community when the role of the pastor is redefined to share the responsibilities and gifts of ministry with the members of the congregation.

This isn't a new discussion by any means... the "priesthood of all believers" has been an important doctrine of the Reformed Tradition. We believe that the pastor is no closer to God than other members of the community, that one need not "go through" the pastor to confess or communicate with God. Nor does one need always to be ministered to by the pastor. Sometimes ministry is more effective coming from those other than the pastor.

This blog caught my attention because it reminded me of the benefits I've experienced serving as pastor of Mission Bay Community Church. Not to toot this church's horn too much, but I have been so excited to serve alongside this community of leaders who understand that it is their responsibility and joy to share in ministry with me.

Probably the best example of how they share ministry with me is through their involvement in the sermon. Each week this community EXPECTS the preacher to pose a question where they can engage and respond. I've been blown away by how the Holy Spirit moves through their experience and opinions to bring about profound and rich meaning in the text. As they share their interpretation of the scripture passage or their experience of God, we all gain greater insight to how God is alive and at work in each others' lives.

Not only do they participate in the sermon weekly, but a few of the leaders in our church have led the sermon themselves. This has been a gift to me. Writing and giving sermons each week is exhausting work! Their preaching has given me a break to breathe and cultivate my love for scripture again. It's also been a gift to the community. Each preacher uses a different lens (historical, medical, pedagogical) and allows us to see scripture in different ways. Some of the most meaningful conversations for me have been with these preachers about their process of sermon writing/giving. This opportunity to preach has given them space and permission (maybe even prodding) to study the text, wrestle with it, reflect on our context (our community, our city, our world) and shape a word that is both authentic to them and to the text. I've enjoyed listening to them, learning from them, and growing closer to God and scripture through them!

Though I think this church is doing a great job participating in ministry, I want to challenge myself to do more. To encourage new preachers and students of the Word. I want to model how to take a step out of our comfort zones to particpate in worship, outreach, justice, and fellowhsip in ways that are new and scary for us.

Equally important for me, I want to model how to say "no" when our plates are too full. I want to model how to honor the sabbath and keep it holy...whatever day that is for us. I want to model how to seek wholesome balances in the time we devote to our relationship with God, to the church, to our families, to work, and to our own self care. This is a challenge for me because there is a never ending list of ways the church can be more engaged with itself and with the community. The temptation is to always want more of each other in ministry. To expect more. Yet, we have to look for sustainable ways to be engaged. We have to pay attention to our individual needs as well.

What are your thoughts? How is your congregation participating in ministry with you?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Religious Tolerance = Weak Christian Identity?

Last week I heard Brian McLaren speak and I'm still chewing on some of what he said. He shared the philosophy that having a common enemy builds a strong identity.

Then he described his observation that there is a strong Christian fundamentalist identity that is built on making another faith (or non faith) group (Muslim, Jews, atheist, etc) the enemy. And there is a weak tolerant Christianity that is unable to make another group the enemy and thus their identity suffers.

McLaren suggests that it doesn't have to be one way or the other. That there is a third way where we can be tolerant of other faiths and still hold onto our own. He does this by making hostility itself the enemy.

I love this way forward. Though, I'm having a hard time moving forward with how this common enemy - hostility- strengthens our common identity. Here's why:

In my generation, many of us who were raised in a tolerant ("weak") Christian identity are choosing not to go to church. We're grateful for our Christian upbringing and take from it that we are to be nice and practice hospitality to others. (McLaren mentioned this, too). But apart from our choice to be nice we're having a hard time CLAIMING Christianity over other faiths or as a faith at all.

I think our identity has to be built on something more than just our commitment to being tolerant and respectful and nice.

Being a ridiculously curious student, I asked McLaren about this and he had a fascinating answer. He said that younger generations need to reclaim rituals and traditions in order to build their new strong identity in Christ.

I've been thinking about this a lot this last week and it seems to hold true for myself and my worshipping community. We're hungry for space, for silence, for meditation, for prayer, for laying on of hands, for communion and baptism. We want to be anointed. We want to find the sacred in the mundane. We want to find God in the mystery, wonder, and awe of our everyday lives.

I wonder how we might reclaim language, too. How we can reclaim our Christian stories and live into those. I'm excited for how worship and service and fellowship space might change to accommodate the new expressions of this new, tolerant, strong Christian identity.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Be Anxious for Nothing

Anxiety is something I've always dealt with. As a young student in elementary school, I remember talking about my anxiety over tests with the teacher because she wanted to understand how I could do so well in class and then freeze on tests. As I got better about managing my stress in school, life decisions began causing anxiety. My desire to make the right choice and choose the best path became an obstacle to my ability to do anything at all. Throughout my life, I've had to continue taking deep breaths and reminding myself to CHILL OUT. To lower my expectations a little and trust that things are going to be alright.

It's a little humorous, though not too humorous, that I now find myself in a stressful role (pastor) for a stressed institution (the Presbyterian church). Our mainline churches (PCUSA included) are facing great financial stress and we're having to address deep rooted questions of how to be the best stewards of what we have left. We're having to discuss the vitality of our church and be open to the Spirit's movement away from the way things have always been done. And not only are we having these stressful conversations, but we're doing them on a timeline (one that no one really knows). We're dealing with decreasing numbers and an apathetic culture. Needless to say, our church is really anxious.

Anxiety can be a good thing. It can lead us to have important conversations and make wiser decisions. It can teach us to sit put for a second and listen more before we act. It teaches us to take each step with caution and realize the ripple effects of our actions. And anxiety can be good because it points to our deep concern for something. Just as my own anxiety at school points to my deep desire to do the best I can, Presbyterians' anxiety points to the fact that we care SO MUCH for the church. We as a church don't want to make the wrong choice or do the wrong thing. We want very much to know the will of God and to follow it.

Anxiety definitely becomes a BAD thing however when we let it take over. When we allow it to paralyze us. When we live and sleep and dream anxiety over making the right decisions and doing the right thing that we can't move forward. We're stuck in the present, longing for an idealized past, and terrified of the future. We turn inwards to ourselves and hold even higher expectations of what we can and should do to make the situation better.

Yet, scripture calls us to do something different:

"Be anxious for nothing. But in all things make your requests known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your mind and heart forever in Jesus Christ." (Philippians 4:6-7)

We need to acknowledge our anxiety concerning the livelihood of the church and recognize this as a sign of our deep commitment and love of the Church. And we also need to let go of the reigns anxiety holds over us and take a huge leap of faith to TRUST God enough to try something new. To dream. To be open to new perspectives. To live into the promise of hope that we are not alone, that God is still alive and at work here.

And when we let go of our desire to control the outcome, we can live out God's promise to us - "that the peace of God will guard our minds and hearts forever in Jesus Christ."

Monday, September 24, 2012

You're a pastor?

I'm learning a new scenario....

I meet someone in San Francisco and one of the very first questions I'm asked is what I do. "I'm a pastor," I say, "I work at a church." The second response I've added recently when I realized that "I'm a pastor" didn't answer their question enough. I needed to provide further clarification.

Now, I've seen the shocked responses to my answer from folks who are surprised that I am female and clergy. Or that I am a clergyperson and so YOUNG. But, here in San Francisco, I'm learning that the shocked response comes simply because that phrase "I'm a pastor," doesn't communicate to them. One of the next questions is "so... what do you do everyday?"

I stammer to reply with the hundreds of hats I wear... "I organize and lead worship every Sunday, I meet people in coffee shops and bars to get to know them, I visit people when they're in the hospital, I run a small I pay taxes, process payroll, bookkeeping, other admin work... I fix printers when they break.. I participate in community groups and work with the church community to do service in the community and world." I don't even go into the polity part... I participate in presbytery and moderate session meetings... that really won't communicate.

It has been interesting time and time again to articulate what I do. It reminds me how much of what I do has become "insider language" and that I need to find ways to communicate what I as pastor and we as church do in the community.

If this new acquaintance is still talking to me at this point...this is the question that usually follows: "Why did you become a pastor?" Ah, yes, because God called me. Hmmm...does that translate in the vernacular? Lemme try this: "I'm interested in public service. I thought about social work, public health,  and immigrant law in college. When I did a short internship in Guatemala in social work, I realized that I have a tendency to try to be "superwoman" and got frustrated at the end of the day when I couldn't do enough. People still went to bed with empty stomachs. I needed to work through the church because then at the end of the day I can rest fully in the hope that I don't have to be enough. God is enough. God is working through others and through this community for good. In the church, I get to share that message of hope all the time.

These recent conversations have been meaningful for me because they have brought to my attention the need for us rethink our "insider" language to be able to communicate with the rest of the world who is full of people that have never stepped foot in a church, much less a PC(USA) church. These conversations have reminded me to focus on the most basic, important questions of call: What do you do and why? I strongly believe that if we (church and pastors) do a better job of communicating who we are and what we do to the world around us, we might actually meet some of the spiritual hunger in this world. People are here, asking the same questions, "What do you do? What does that mean? Why in the world did you choose that?"

I'm doing my very best to see these new conversations as a gift to share God's glory, hope, and love with the hungry and broken world around me instead of this bizarre barrier that sets me apart from those around me. Feeling more and more like the Early Church in Acts that has to continually explain themselves to the world around them than the institutionalized power "the church" that was known by all.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Take time to let God love you

During my installation service (or "my festival" as some members of Mission Bay Community Church call it), Rev. Abby King-Kaiser charged me to take time to love God and for God to love me. She reminded me (as all pastors need reminders) that our jobs, our roles in this community, are not to be confused with the time it takes for us to connect with God. To love God and to be loved by God.

There is a tendency for those of us in ministry to confuse our "pastor work" of shepherding God's people with our own "disciple work" of daily connecting with God, worshipping God, diving into a deeper relationship with God. We think they're one in the same, when really cultivating our own relationship with God is work set apart. I'm finding this to be true for me even after two and a half months of full time ministry. I catch myself not leaving enough time in the day to spend with God, just me - all of me. I'm too focused on other's need for God to see my own.

E Peterson said, "Contemporary pastors have become a quivering mass of availability to everyone but God." ...This feels about right. And backwards. And lonely.

With this reality in mind, I set off this weekend to spend time with God. Tim and I went backpacking on a trail in Los Padres National Park. We turned our cell phones off and turned our attention to the path, to the sounds and the views, to each other, and to God. It was only when I was fully away from the demands of the world around me that I could focus inward on my own thirsty demands for God.
I kept reminding myself I didn't need to feel guilty for getting away. Jesus spent time alone on the mountain to pray.

I didn't have to talk much. I just had to keep walking and I felt heard, understood, comforted. A friend of mine, Kate Buckley, mentioned in her sermon this week what Mother Theresa has said about prayer and it felt just right. In an interview, Mother Theresa was asked what she says when she prays to God. She replied, "I don't talk, I simply listen." The reporter, thinking he understood her asked, "And what does God say to you?" Mother Theresa replied, "God doesn't talk either, God simply listens, too."

I'm realizing that what I need most is time set apart for me to be quiet, for me to listen. And it's during this time that I am convinced more than ever that God is listening to me, too. Hearing my inner struggle, my demand for attention, my unique and thirsty need for God's love.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Art of Writing

Sermon writing/preparation is hard work!

I love the first few steps of diving deep into scripture and opening up all of the questions. I love collaborating with other people and hearing diverse opinions and interpretations of scripture. I even love the initial stage of getting thoughts on paper. Writing and writing... not caring if one paragraph goes with the next.

It's the editing that gets me. The point at which I need to take all of the brilliant (ok, I think it's brilliant) work and trash 78% in order to make it a clear, cohesive, communicable piece of work. Some weeks I'm so rebellious, I barely do editing at all. I claim that the Holy Spirit will move and bring it together. Unfortunately, sometimes the Spirit does move and feeds my rebellious spirit. But, most weeks I know when I've cut editing too short and have done a disservice by not fulfilling my responsibility to proclaim the good word.

It's a fine balance between holding myself accountable to the hard work of proclaiming the gospel and receiving the amazing grace that it will be o.k. no matter how flawed of a vessel I am.

These lessons for me, though certainly foreshadowed in seminary and internships, take on new meaning in these first few months of preaching regularly.  I hope that with time and experience comes great growth. If I'm honest, I'm praying that somewhere along this journey God will just intervene and make it easy. Yet, at the same time I hope that never happens because it is in the hard and long process of editing that I discover the golden nugget (the word that both the community and I need to hear most) and I remember how rewarding this whole process can be.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Life in San Francisco

Many of you have inquired about life in San Francisco. Particularly, how Tim and I have transitioned from life in the Southeast. It is certainly different and while I still have fresh "outsider" eyes, I'd like to share with you what I love and what I'm learning I don't :) The lists aren't equal in number... which reflects how Tim and I feel. The positives of living here definitely outweigh the negatives.

Things I LOVE!

1. Not driving. Whew! Seriously a relief. Especially after living in HOT-lanta for three years where traffic was a real downer. Riding the bus here is not only convenient, but entertaining. Pretty much everything is within walking distance of where we live (bank, grocery, pharmacy, restaurants, movies, cafes, etc).

2. The Farmer's Market. The fresh produce here is out of this world delicious. Tim and I have never eaten so many fruits and vegetables before in our life! Our weekly tradition has been to get up on Saturday mornings and go produce shopping at the Alemany Farmer's Market. We sip our coffee and spend most of the morning people watching and tasting new fruits (ever heard of a pluot?! It's a plum/apricot). 

3. The spirit of openness. I'll admit, I wasn't thrilled to learn that nudity is legal here :) However, there is a free spirit here that allows people to be exactly who they were meant to be. I find deep beauty in that openness and I'm enjoying the process of breaking down my own stereotypes for what is "normal" in order to recognize God's beauty in everyone.

4. The FOOD! San Francisco is known for it's delicious cuisine and it does not disappoint! Come visit and you'll see that our "tour" of San Francisco is basically eating your way through the city. From amazing coffee and chocolate and dynamo donuts to cuisine from all over world - my tastebuds have certainly enjoyed our time here.

5. The vistas. There have been several moments during our two months here when my breath has literally been taken away by the views. From the ocean to the bay, I've really enjoyed living close to water and reminding myself how small I am in God's BIG and BEAUTIFUL creation. I can't wait to explore more of the terrain - camping and wine country and the shoreline. 

6. The cultural diversity. I LOVE sitting in a cafe or tacqueria in the Excelsior or Mission and forgetting that I'm in the United States. It happens to me on a weekly basis. Hearing Spanish (and really any other language) is music to my ears. 

What I DON'T love:

1. Not having a washer machine :( We walk across the street and do our laundry at a local laundry mat. It's really not all that bad. I do enjoy getting three loads done in one hour! However, it's something to get used to and I'm realizing how much I took for granted having a nice washer and dryer in our apartment.

2. It's expensive. Living here has definitely opened our eyes to the large price tag on living in a big city.  Tim and I have been very blessed to be employed and cared for, but it has opened my eyes to how hard life is for folks when they don't have a paycheck coming in. For friends who are in school or trying to make ends meet. For those who live in the city in deep poverty.

3. The crowds and noise. It's hard to find peace and quiet in the city. I've been told that I'll get used to it...and I think I already am. Still, I'll need to find my escapes (my urge to go camping starts here...)

4. The violence and cultural/racial discrimination. I know, this happens everywhere. It is certainly not particular to San Francisco. However, I'm realizing (like I did when I lived in Quito, Ecuador) that living in a new place raises my sensitivities to it. Surely being around lots of different people also accounts for the higher number of class and racial clashes I see. It's hard though, to see hatred and violence between people and to feel utterly helpless.

Overall, Tim and I are really REALLY happy here. We definitely feel like we are living out God's call on our life and ultimately that is what matters the most.

Admittedly, it's nice that our call was to such a cool city :)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My heart is heavy

Last Sunday was HARD. Our nation watched as the news reported on a shooting in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. A white supremacist opened fire on the Sikh temple and several worshippers died. 

It's hard because people died. It's hard because it is violent and full of hate. It is hard because it reminds me how much I take for granted my ability as a white, privileged woman preacher to worship God in peace. I read in scripture how Christians were persecuted for their faith, for their ethnicity, for their race. Yet today, I do not experience that persecution. I watch as friends do. 

I got to know a few Sikhs in Atlanta through an interfaith group. We got together once a month (Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Muslims) and sat in silence because words got in the way. We took turns telling the story of our faith and our tradition, meeting one another in those stories and growing  a deep bond. It only took some time spent together, getting to know one another, walking into the sacred space of silence and prayer together, and that experience allowed us to pay attention to the ways that God can move over and between the barriers we create to connect people and allow them to grow relationships of mutual respect. 

I yearn for the day when all people will be respected and valued. When hatred and violence will not have the last word. When we can quiet our own opinions, judgments, and hate long enough to see our brother and sister as an equal. As one worthy of peace and justice. Love and respect. 

My heart is heavy this week for my Sikh brothers and sisters. Praying for them as they experience this hatred and grief. Praying for justice. Praying for healing. Praying for peace.

If you're in San Francisco, I invite you to join me this Sunday at 9:00 PM in Union Square for a Community Vigil for the families of those that were killed worshipping in the Sikh Temple. The vigil is sponsored by the California Council of Churches. And if you're reading this from afar...please be in prayer with us. Lord, in your mercy. Hear our prayer. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Find People You Can Love

One of my mentors, Jay Thomas, told me during my call search that I should look for a church with people I can love. His reasoning being that (1) as a pastor, you're around people a lot and (2) as in any other job, there will be things that drain life out of you... so, if you love the people you'll be amazed at all you can put up with in order to serve and be served by those people.

I have found people that I can love.

Each new person I spend time with at Mission Bay Community Church is interesting and exciting! I find myself insanely curious about who they are and what they're passionate about and why they're here. I'm engaged by their stories and have a keen appreciation for each of their personalities. And let's face it, they're FUN.

I'm not sure I ever knew work could be so fun :)

At the same time that I'm building new relationships (soul feeding), I'm also on a steep administrative learning curve (soul sucking). I'm trying to look for the familiar and remind myself to take one task at a time, one new program at a time, one breath at a time, but those of you who know me well know that I tend to dive right in and exhaust myself treading water.

It's Jay's advice that brings me back to dry land. (Breathe) I love these people. (Breathe) It's going to be o.k. (Breathe) I love these people.

Ok. Quickbooks. Bring it on. 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Radical Hospitality

O.K., I have given unfair credit to the South for "southern hospitality." San Francisco has been incredibly inviting and hospitable thus far. The church, Mission Bay Community Church, and San Francisco Presbytery in particular have opened their arms to us and helped us to feel comfortable here.

San Francisco is an exciting city, so much to see and do. Tim and I have had to take constant breathers to remind ourselves that we do not need to exhaust ourselves as tourists taking in the city, but WE LIVE HERE NOW and can take our time to explore and see. It's definitely surreal that we are so far away from family and beloved friends and the place that we have called "home." It will take time to relocate ourselves and feel the ground beneath our feet.

These last few days (since we arrived) we've been exploring the city by apartment hunting. is an incredible ap! It takes apartments listed on Craigslist and places them on a map, so we have an idea of which neighborhood we're in and how close we'd be to public transportation, etc. It has been fun to dream with Tim about what our new "home" might look like. Where things would go, where we would get coffee and run, go out to dinner and meet up with friends. Even the small details of where we would put this chair and that...I've picked a mighty fine man to take this journey with and I am grateful everyday to continue dreaming with him.

I start work at Mission Bay Community Church this Friday. The learning curve will be steep, I'm sure, but I am excited to do work that I am passionate about and will feed my soul. I'm also not alone in this...and God reminds me of that all the time. I'm grateful for old and new friends alike that walk this journey with me in body and in spirit. Thanks for your prayers and love.


Friday, April 27, 2012

A chapter ends. Another begins.

I have only four more days of class and a handful of final assignments standing between me and graduation. It's amazing how quickly three years go by and how much I have learned and grown during my time here at Columbia.

I visited my cousin and her family yesterday in Columbus, GA. Her husband is a pastor at CrossPointe Church and they have two sweet girls Claire (almost 4!) and Julie (18 months). I treasure the time I got to spend with them, particularly the time talking with Beth and Wayne about what ministry has been like for them. Ministry is sweet and sour. In my own anticipation of stepping into the ministry, Beth really encouraged me to keep in close contact with my friends from seminary as they will be the ones that can be sounding boards and listening ears in the future.

My colleagues and friends at Columbia will be the hardest to leave. Tim and I know we're going to have to search long and hard for great neighbors like we have here. It is a bitter sweet season for me as I say goodbye to this place that has been my home for the past three years and supported me through the life transitions of marriage, career preparation, and independence. It's helpful for me to remember that through great technology and intentional time set apart, I can continue to strengthen and appreciate those friendships. I was also reminded through my time with Beth and Wayne, that God has blessed me with a family that serves in Ministry and understands where I am going. I'm grateful for them.
Tim and I are so excited about following where God will lead us next! But, in these last few days, I'm really trying to soak in the good moments and be so grateful for the friends I've had here.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Earth Day!

Earth Day is this Sunday and as a Christian, I think it only appropriate that we give thanks to God for creation on that day!

I want to tell you about my dad -

My dad is an environmentalist. Since I was young I remember him knocking on the bathroom door 1 minute into my shower yelling that I was taking too much time. Too much precious clean water. My dad, Jack, teaches sustainability, appropriate technology, and alternative energy courses at ACC and Appalachian State University. He even taught us kids a few things growing up. We were the middle schoolers that built solar panels and converted bikes and canoes into solar powered motor machines. We won several awards at the Science Fairs and were those kids with the cool toys.

On Earth Day, I am so grateful for my dad and how he has inspired a passion in me to care for God's creation. He has taught me that there are lots of good reasons to recycle and conserve energy, but that the MOST IMPORTANT reason is that creation is a gift from God and thus we are called to care for it. Just like God gave me a loving father and mother, brother and sister, and I am called to love them in return. So too God gave me responsibility over this Earth to receive it's benefits and to give back.

On campus today we are practicing an Energy Sabbath. So, my lights are off and I'm walking or carpooling wherever I go. I encourage you to also do your part! Think of ways that you can be green today and every day. Here are some more of my suggestions:

- turn of your lights in your house/apartment/schoolroom/workplace
- turn off your computer and iphone and all other electronics when you're not using them
- take public transportation or carpool, bike or walk instead of driving your car alone
- pick up trash you find while you're out
- recycle EVERYTHING (seriously, look online to see what you can'll be surprised)
- compost your fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, and egg shells. If you live near CTS - drop your compost off at our community garden
- buy locally and organically

And at some point today, tell God "THANKS" for this beautiful world that we live in.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Were not our hearts burning within us?

It's 20/20 in hindsight.

Ralph Watkins preached a sermon that fed my soul on Tuesday. He preached about Timothy's entrance into the ministry and how he was reminded of all those that had gone before him and that were praying for him.

"I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that lived first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure lives in you. For this reason I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands, for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline." II Timothy 1:4-5

His sermon was profound to me because I realized in that moment how many people have been walking this journey with me, praying for and with me even when I did not know it. I was instantly reminded of the faith of my grandparents- Elwood, Bill, and Pou - that have shaped the faith of my parents, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, my siblings, and me. There is something incredible about remembering who we are and where we came from and then giving thanks for the faith of those that have gone before us. Those that we can lift up by name and remember the ways in which they've shared their faith with us.

I read scripture at my grandfather Bill's funeral this past November. I read from my grandfather's New Testament the words that he had underlined and starred as important from Romans. He was such an incredible man of faith and it is amazing to see now how those same words from Romans affect all of us who knew and loved him.

As I reflect on this past year and how stressful my life has been with life transitions. I see now that my heart was indeed burning within me. God's hand was at work in my wedding and bringing all those I love together. God was hard at work during my time interning at Grady Memorial Hospital in teaching me about death and allowing me time to wrestle with death before I lost my own grandfather Bill (my mentor in the faith) to death in November. My heart burns within me still as I remember applying to jobs, receiving "no's," receiving "yes's," and being led to the to the place where God would have me be. My heart continues to burn as I am continually reminded of the people surrounding me (both near and far) who remind me that they have been walking this journey with me, praying for me.

Today, I am grateful for the faith of those who have gone before me and for this moment of realization how God has been present right beside me, though I did not know it at the time.

Thanks be to God!

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Spring Break was soooo neeeded!

I didn't realize how tired I was until I let myself sleep in without an alarm and slept for over 12 hours. This week I finally let go of the stress I've been carrying and reminded myself of the benefits of sabbath. Sleeping long hours, eating good food, reading fiction, and laughing with amazing friends. AND the dark circles under my eyes have finally gone away!!!

Anna, Leslie, and I went to Murrel's Inlet this past week and stayed at Anna's family house. The house was great! We each had our own queen-sized bed. The screened in porch overlooked the water and had a swing bench and a hammock - perfect for reading and relaxing! The weather was better than we could have imagined for the first of April - sunny with a small breeze. It was a sweet little paradise.

This trip was a good reminder to me of how important these breaks are from our busy schedules. No wonder God took the seventh day of creation to relax and enjoy what was made! No wonder Jesus took off for a bit to the mountains to rest and pray! Sabbath is so important.

My grandmother (the wife of a Presbyterian pastor) told me that she never finished one vacation without having a plan for the next. I'm thinking this is a smart idea that I want to adopt. I know that as a pastor there will appear to be a never-ending need for my presence at the church and that if I let this perceived need take over, the effects will be detrimental to my own health and my marriage. I know most ministers don't use all of their vacation - but I'm determined to do my best to take a break! I'm reminded how a little refreshment makes the world of difference in my energy and imagination for ministry.

That's all for now - I'm going back to enjoying my Sabbath before classes pick back up on Monday :0

Hope you've had a good Sabbath this week, too.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Trusting God

Trusting God is hard work.

Why do we in Christian communities take this trust for granted and not talk about it?

In just over one month I will graduate from this fine institution and uproot my husband to follow God's call. This means leaving my friends, my family, and most likely the geographical area I call "home." There are many risks involved with "following the call" and as I reflect with my peers who are also making this life transition, I wonder where the place is on campus for us to name our fears and our disappointments? To talk and pray together for our futures. To ask question like:

"I know God is with me, but how to I discern if this is God's call for me at this time?"

"Where is God?"

Rev. Kim Clayton preached a powerful sermon yesterday in chapel on Joshua (the end of Deuteronomy and first few verses of Joshua). Moses, the great "sunny" leader, has died and Joshua "the moonlit leader" must lead the Israelites into the promise land. She preached on leaders and how we need both "sunny" leaders and "moonlit" leaders. Sunny leaders are those that pave the way and are looked upon as great. They are superstars if you will. Moses apparently was so "sunny" that the Israelites couldn't even look him in the eye - he head to wear a veil. But, Joshua, practiced shared leadership. He empowered others to lead with him. Apparently, we need both.

The phrase in that text that echoes still today in my ears is God's instruction to Joshua to "be STRONG and COURAGEOUS." Well, that and Kelly Clarkson's song "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.." :)

I need to be strong and courageous as I move forward, trusting that it is in the hardest times of my life when I remember how dependent upon God I am and I am more attuned to the ways in which God is caring for me and guiding me.

I'm excited to be more intimate with God. I'm ready to remember to trust again.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Have we lost the meaning of Lent?

Today is the second to last Sunday in Lent and it is amazing to me how people seem to have already skipped over the cross to Easter. At church today, people were wearing colors that reflected the warm colors of Spring and smiling at the beautiful weather this new season brings. Is there something wrong with our Christian calendar? Should we move Lent a few weeks earlier so that we are still reflecting the somber moods and colors of winter?

I wonder... what does it mean for our Christian communities that the weather and commercial industry direct our moods and dress more than our Christian calendar?

These are questions that have been with me every year during lent. I wonder how it is that we are to claim the cross and give space and attention for folks to bear their own cross before lifting it from them. What do you think?

Please do leave some comments. I'd love to know if I'm the only one who thinks about this...


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Starting to blog

I've only blogged/written a journal three times in my life. Twice during travels and once for a class. This blog is starting because of an assignment, but I'm hoping to commit to it as a means of sharing about ministry with others. Here goes nothing!