Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Monday, April 27, 2009
I could have had a much less stressful life!
I'm glad I did the thesis, and I'm equally glad it's over.
I celebrated by swapping out the winter and summer clothes, getting the car's emissions inspection done along with the repair of the emergency flashers, getting the car washed, and having a pedicure with hot pink polish. Life is good.
I've got some work to do for the Young Adult Ministry class - will do some ethnographic work in a neighborhood near here on Thursday and I'm in the midst of writing a resource guide for working with LGBTQ young people in the parish, but I'm quite close to being done.
One of my most gifted classmates (class leader, proven fundraising track record, lovely wife and little son, articulate, bright) and I had a long conversation about the job search. He doesn't have a job yet either, while all around us there are folks with more modest gifts gainfully employed. I don't know if it makes me feel better or worse that my friend - a world-class networker - hasn't found anything yet either. All I know is that the church is doing a pretty poor job of helping seminarians find their first call, and that's a shame. But you've heard this from me before, so I'll be quiet now.
The end-of-year celebrations are beginning to start - tea with the Dean, special commissioning services, etc. I'm ready for this phase of my life to gradually come to a close. I'm also ready for something new...and I'll be so happy when I know what it is!
In any case, how can I do anything but smile with hot pink toenails?
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I mean, after all…broiled fish?
It is a little surprising, that line about the broiled fish, isn’t it?
Easter time, all that talk about Jesus’ glorious resurrection, and we’re talking a little halibut here.
Sort of brings it back down to earth. You can smell the rich salty aroma of the fish, can’t you? Maybe a little rice, some pita bread, a cup of wine…Jesus fed the 5000 with some bread and some fish, and now here he is, asking for a bit of what he offered back in the early days of his ministry.
And that’s the whole point of this gospel passage: Jesus wants to bring it back down to earth, to prove that he is back down to earth. And how does he do it? With a little nosh. Some broiled fish, to be specific.
Luke tells us that the apostles already knew that Jesus had risen from the dead – they were talking about it among themselves when Jesus showed up – but even though they knew that Jesus had risen, when he showed up, they were frightened. They thought they were seeing a ghost. They didn’t fully understand that he was real. So he invited them to touch him, to see that he was real, to see his hands and his feet (because in that culture, ghosts were not supposed to have hands or feet) .
He understood that they needed the full-body experience of the risen Christ to understand all that had happened.
Before he addressed their fear and mental confusion, reminding them of the prophecies fulfilled in him, before he opened their minds to the scriptures, before he called on them to act as witnesses to the repentance and forgiveness of sins that his passion and death brought…before he did any of these things, he let them touch him, and he sat down and ate with them.
Knowing Christ is a full-body experience.
It is no wonder that those who are on a spiritual journey speak of their hunger to know truth, to know God. It is a gnawing in the gut, that hunger. It is visceral. It is no wonder that at the important markers of our lives – birth, marriage, death – physical acts like food or dance or even special clothing are a necessary piece of living into transitions. It is not only about the spirit – it is about the body as well.
And since I’m the sort of person who tends to live “in her head,” I need to preach this to myself regularly.
I think of a time when I had to meet someone who had betrayed me. Not surprisingly, I was feeling ill at the very thought of having to be in the same room as him. As I sat in a chair in the room, wondering what would happen next, wondering if I could stand the anger and the pain that I felt, I prayed that Jesus would be with me. I prayed that I could get through the meeting with my dignity and my roiling stomach intact. I prayed for the physical sensation that Jesus was with me, that I was not alone in this time when I felt abandoned and isolated and in the wilderness, much like those disciples, trying to figure out what would happen next.
And Jesus was there with me. I felt his arms around me, a warmth and a peace I hadn’t felt in a long time.
It wasn’t something I’d call a miracle. It was more like an awakening to the realization that he had been there all along. By stopping and asking to be awake to his presence, I made room to feel Jesus with me, in me, around me. Not just in my heart, but the physical sensation of his presence.
Knowing Christ is a full-body experience.
During Communion, on the fourth Sunday of every month, we have the healing rail. If you are struggling with something in need of healing, in your body or in your heart, or if you want to pray for someone you know in need of healing, you come to that rail. You kneel. The prayer team gathers around you and prays with you and for you, laying their hands on you, asking God for healing. Your forehead is anointed with blessed oil, in a ritual that dates back to Jesus and that jar of expensive nard that Mary Magdelene poured on his head, and back beyond that, to the anointing of David. The sign of the cross is made on your forehead. The warmth of those hands, the pressure of them on your head and on your shoulders, the soothing oil, the creaking of your knees, the sensation of Jesus with you, in you, around you.
Knowing Christ is a full-body experience.
In a few minutes, we will share God’s peace with one another. This isn’t a prayer that we say standing in place, our arms firmly clamped to our sides. No, here, we move, we hug, we kiss, we hold hands, we look each other in the eye for a few moments. The physical connection is the reminder of the spiritual connection.
And a few minutes after that, we will share in the bread and wine. We will commune with each other and with God in the sacrament of his body and blood. Real bread, real wine. The taste of it on our tongue, the warmth of it in our bellies and in our hearts.
This Risen Lord is a full-body experience. We cannot try to limit our relationship with God to a mere intellectual exercise. And that is why, as we end this Eucharistic meal together today, we are sent out with a dismissal : “Alleluia, alleluia – Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” Having received the gift of the meal, God in us, we then turn around to face the world, to witness to the living Christ just as Jesus told us to in the Gospel. We do that with our voices when we share the word, with our hands when we help others, with our feet when we walk to help others….
Knowing Christ is a full-body experience. May we rejoice in that, as we approach his altar.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
I showed three icons (Sophia, Paul, Angel) at the Big Old Seminary art show. Got lots of props from folks, including my thesis advisor, who doesn't know she will receive the Paul as a gift after grades are turned in. Several folks wanted to buy or commission, but that's not really what icon-writing is about, for me. I occasionally give them as gifts, but it doesn't feel like something I could ask money for.
Job search is still job search. I'm waiting for the final go-ahead from the bishop to apply for clergy-in-charge positions. I should get that okay, but I can't really do anything until he says yes officially. and I got passed over (yet again) by a nearby parish because it is a youth ministry job and I'm too old. Not that I'm bitter or anything.
I'm also thinking creatively about an idea that's a little outside the box, but would also need the diocese to buy in...still chewing on some of this stuff.
Other school stuff: there are a couple of odds and ends in my Young Adult Minsitry class to tend to, but they are quite manageable. I've got to get kicking on the research project now that the thesis is winding down.
Grateful that my eyes haven't given out yet from all the reading I've been doing (and not fun stuff, either). Amazed that in less than 30 days I will have a Master of Divinity degree.
it's time, God. Give me a job.
Monday, April 20, 2009
He did, however, say "the exegetical discussion...is strong, well-informed, and insightful. The writing style is clear and lucid...I enjoyed reading it."
PH tells me that the reader's level of engagement with the thesis is indicative of the quality of my work, that the reader wouldn't have given me such detailed notes if this was just a blah piece of work. I'm just trying to figure out what work needs to be done to get this puppy done.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
The bishop said my plan made sense and we talked through some possibilities. He wants to confer with the suffragan and the coadjutor, since he will retire in a few months and they will have to live with me once he's gone, but he is still the Grand Fromage, so I am hopeful that the plan will work.
Now I need to start looking closer at some of the options and figure out how this might work...
Note to self: next time, take the car with the automatic transmission if you're going to be stuck in stop and go traffic.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
I had an interview for a job in a lovely Southern small city near the place where Nick Nolte and Robert DeNiro had a scary movie conflict. This one is an associate job in a large multi-clergy parish. Focus on pastoral care and family ministry, which are both strengths. Sounds promising. We shall see.
I will be meeting with my bishop tomorrow afternoon to see if he will let me interview for vicar or rector jobs now, despite the fact that this isn't the norm in our diocese. I am cautiously optimistic (see below).
I had a great conversation with my field ed supervisor, who continues to insist that I am ready to be clergy-in-charge someplace, perhaps even at Saint Middle School. He was going to call the bishop this afternoon to say the bishop should let me do that. Since Field Ed Supervisor is held in very high regard by the bishop, that may help. And the fact that FES is willing to ask it of the bishop as a favor is quite wonderful. So say a prayer that the meeting with the Bishop goes well.
I'm trying to keep my game on for the last class I am taking at Big Old Seminary, but I've got a whiff of senioritis. When I stopped by the public library, I got an armload of books that wouldn't qualify as edifying by anyone's standards. On the other hand, the last time I was there, I found a book that gave me a great quote for the last chapter of the thesis:
“This dialogue with Others has never been and will never be easy…[the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of linguistic relativity] says that thinking is formed on the basis of language, and as we speak different languages, each of us creates his own image of the world, unlike any other. These images are not compatible and are not replaceable. For this reason, dialogue, though not impossible, demands a serious effort, patience, and the will of its participants to understand and communicate. Being aware of the fact that in conversing with the Other I am communing with someone who at the same time sees the world differently from me and understands it another way is important in creating a positive atmosphere for dialogue.”
----Ryszard Kapuściński, “The Other”
...and that is why I really love going to the library.
Sunday, April 12, 2009
I’ve told it so many times over these decades since it happened. I am tired…but no.. I will tell it to you again, because I see the hunger in your eyes. You want to know what happened? Sit down there, by the door, where you can feel a breeze on this hot afternoon, and I will tell you.
It was a strange day, after an even stranger week. We started out thinking we would be sharing our Passover dinner together, in Jerusalem, a blessed time. There are others who say differently, that we had that Passover dinner, but this is my story…we dined, and the Teacher blessed that dinner, but it was no Seder…it was something else. But we hardly understood how different this meal, those days would be.
They killed him, you know. It was ugly. The chief priests had made a devil’s deal with Pilate; they had aroused the passions of the crowd. Pilate didn’t really want to do it, but shrewd politician that he was, he did the deed without taking any of the blame for his acts.
They killed him. It was vile and ugly, as crucifixions always are, but this one was even uglier, because this was a gentlest, most loving Teacher. He had done nothing wrong.
Odd to accuse those righteous priests and scribes of a quality of an unclean animal, but there it is. They refused to hear what he was teaching. They simply saw him as a threat to their established order. So they used the power of the Roman Empire to dispose of someone they hated, not because they thought his teachings were wrong or sinful, but because they thought he would take their power away.
Men! Consumed with themselves, with power, with control.
We women know better…only God has power. Only God has control.
Where was I? Yes….he died. Miserable pain. Only a little sour wine at the end to ease his agony. He died, and Pilate did the one gracious thing in his power…he let Joseph, that rich man , Arimathean, take the body of our poor dead teacher.
Good man, that Joseph. He put the Teacher’s body in his very own tomb. A nice tomb it was, freshly hewn, no animals in there, just a stone slab on which to lay him down. A hard bed, but at least a clean one. Nicodemus came, too…he brought the spices, the myrrh, the aloes. We buried him properly, wrapped in fine linen, with the spices in the folds of the cloth, as was our custom in those days. And Joseph and Nicodemus and four of Joseph’s servants heaved a great stone across the opening. None could get in to disturb dear Teacher in his resting place.
And so we left. Our eyes were dry. There were no tears left to weep. The beloved one, with his arm around Mary, Jesus’ mother…they were both beyond words. The rest of us, too, feeling nothing but the hard cold emptiness of our loss.
I could not sleep. No surprise…my mind always raced ahead at breakneck speed, trying to understand the Teacher’s beautiful words. But now there would be no more words…I wanted to repeat them, over and over, so I would never forget. But it was not enough.
And so I got up, before the sun’s rays warmed the air, and went back.
Back to the tomb, back to the Teacher. The words were not enough. I wanted…no, I needed, to be near him.
I wandered down path, tripping over stones in the darkness, hearing the cries of animals around me. I was frightened. Darkness is a harsh world. You imagine much evil that you cannot see in the dark. And evil had been all around me these past days.
When I got to the cave where we had buried him, I stopped. I thought it was a trick of the light, as the sun crept over the horizon…no…it was true…the stone was rolled away. There could be only one reason – some evil ones had rolled away that stone and taken the Teacher’s body.
I had been frightened walking in the dark…now I was even more frightened, and angry, too. Who had done this? Where had they taken him? It was more than I could bear…first they killed him, then they took him. Why? To what purpose?
So I turned and I ran. I ran faster than I had ever run before, most certainly much faster than these old legs could carry me now. I found Peter and the beloved one, and told them…He’s gone. Someone has taken him from the tomb. I don’t know where he is.
And now they were running, the two of them, running even faster than I had, and the beloved one – oh how he loved the Teacher! – he got there first, but when he looked in and saw, he would not go in. But Peter, he did go in, and it was a strange thing he found there…
The linens cloths, neatly folded. The head wrapping rolled up separately on the slab. But no Teacher. And the beloved one went in, too, and saw it…they did not know what to make of it, I tell you, nor did I. They said not a word to me, but their faces were greatly troubled…they simply left. Walked back home.
But I could not leave. This was the final insult to my dear teacher, to have him taken from us by death and now by…what? Who? I did not know. So I sat on the ground and wept.
I had thought my tears were spent. I was wrong. I cried, and I looked into the tomb.
You know, it is foolishness to look once and see nothing, then look again as if something might magically be there. And perhaps I was a fool to look, but I did, as if I could once again imagine his body there as we had left it.
This fool looked, and saw something beyond belief…two angels. Perhaps I was mad with grief, but I tell you now, they were real. There were two of them sitting on that cold hard slab of rock, one at the head, one at the foot. They saw me weeping there, and asked me why I wept.
Why did I weep? Why should I not weep? The pain..first, to see the Teacher killed, then to have his body removed from the tomb? Such ridiculous questions…I turned away again in my anger.
And there was a man standing there. I thought he was the gardener at first…his face was in shadow, my eyes were blinded by my tears. And he asked the same question “Why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?”
I thought he might have been the one to take the Teacher away, so I asked him where he had put him…
My eyes were blinded by my tears, but my ears were not. I should have recognized that voice, shouldn’t I? But it was only when he said my name, “Mary” that I knew. It was my teacher. He was alive…I reached for him
Dear Teacher, let me touch you and hold you! Let me embrace you!
But he said no.
I could not touch him. He would not let me.
But the tomb was empty! He was alive! He had conquered death!
I wanted to embrace him.
But he had something else in mind… to tell the others what I had seen, and that he was ascending to the father in heaven.
I wanted to hold on to the old Teacher, the man I had known, had anointed with nard, had dined with. But this Teacher was something new and wondrous. He was no longer someone for human embrace…all I could say to the others was the truth “I have seen the Lord.”
So that, my young friend, is the story. The years have taught me what I did not understand then. The human embrace would never have been enough. It was when I embraced this risen Teacher by living as he taught me, by teaching others as he so often did, by loving my brothers and sisters with the depth of the oceans and by loving my God more than anything or anyone….that was the true embrace. The miracle of that moment in the garden was the release from clinging to the man so that I could reach out with those same hungry arms to hold on to the world that he came to save.
And I am tired now. Even now, decades later, the story still has the power to make me emotional. I have tried to be faithful to the Teacher, and I suppose the best way I know to do that is to pass on the story to the young ones, like you.
So will you go and do the same? I would like that, and I know that the Teacher would, too.
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
That model works well if you're young, (generally) male, and you want to focus on youth ministry, since most rectors want someone to bring in young families, and it is their perception that young deacons/priests do that.
I am not young chronologically. I have done youth ministry, and can do it well, particularly if the work is around recruiting, motivating, and training lay persons to do the work. Junior High lock-ins, not so much.
Nevertheless, it has become clear that I have a tough time even getting into an interview because committees and rectors look at my resume and think "Hmmm, middle-aged female. Academic chops, great preacher, lots of major league life experience. This is not what feels like a youth ministry assistant." And the resume goes into the B or C pile.
As I've mentioned before, this passing over has happened several times now, and in one case I was told I was overqualified for such a job.
So here's the epiphany moment: yes, I am overqualified for most of these jobs. So maybe these aren't the jobs I should be applying for. Maybe my husband, my Field Ed supervisor, and the last guy who turned me down for a job are right.
Henceforth, I'll be focusing my efforts on vicar and rector positions. Smaller places with challenges like prior conflict, dwindling membership in changing neighborhoods, confusion about their mission. Calls that would utilize my skills in conflict resolution, transitional ministry, and administration as well as preaching, pastoral care, and spiritual formation.
Now, this bucks the Standard Operating Procedure in a number of ways. I will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate right after I graduate, so there is that sticky problem of what to do about Eucharist for the six months between ordination to the diaconate and priesting...not insurmountable, since there are retired priests in many of the areas where i'm looking at positions. If I stay in this diocese, I would need for my bishop to do something that hasn't been done here before in approving a deacon to take the reins of a parish. it's been done successfully elsewhere, though. And if I didn't think I could make a good case for it, I wouldn't be going down this road.
This will also most likely mean it will take me a bit longer to find a job than I thought, but Lord knows I'm not beating off offers right now.
Don't know, but it feels like the Spirit nudging me. What do you think?
Monday, April 06, 2009
- I emailed the final draft of the thesis to my advisor and will meet with her tomorrow at 2 to go over it. When I saw her today and told her it was done, she gave me a hug. She is by nature a very reserved person, so it felt rather like a hug from Queen Elizabeth. Then again, QEII tolerated an arm around her back by our First Lady last week, so I suppose all sorts of miracles occur. We shall see if the advisor still wants to hug me after she reads all 70+ pages of the thing.
- Still not much happening on the job front. I have decided to put it all aside until after Holy Week, since I've got the revisions to the thesis to do, plus sermons for Good Friday and Easter as well as presiding at our Tenebrae service tomorrow night and the Good Friday service, plus assisting at Maundy Thursday and Easter, and singing the Vittoria Improperia at the Good Friday morning service at Big Old Seminary. I'm bummed that I'm not working anywhere where I could chant the Exsultet, but maybe next year, wherever I am.
- I was pleasantly surprised when I checked into the price of auto insurance with the company that has the spokesGecko. Turned out they will charge me some $800 less per year than the company we have been with for the past several years, namely the one with the spokesSnoopy. The gecko is, after all, leaner than the beagle.
- StrongOpinions is back at school after her last week's meltdown. We've got her hooked up with some resources up there that I hope will help the remainder of the semester go more smoothly. I love her madly, but it was not a good week for her to have a meltdown. I suppose it could have been worse - it could have been this week, and I would have required much chocolate and red wine to get through it all. I will still need the chocolate and the wine for this week, just in slightly lesser quantities.
- I wrote an email to a deployment officer in a diocese not my own that shall remain nameless and got a rather snarky reply: "We are the coolest most desirable diocese on earth and everyone wants to come here, so why should we be interested in you? Why are you wasting my precious time?" Oh, dear, I thought we were the church or something. I thought perhaps I was overreacting to it so I passed it along to PH, who shook his head and suggested that it was downright rude. Proves once again that the church is a human institution with all the attendant human frailties.
- I finished the icon of Sophia, the Wisdom of god. She is off getting varnished. I hope to have her back next Saturday, at which time I will post a picture of the very strange but lovely finished product. Next in the queue is an icon of Christ Pantocrator.
- We went out to dinner with in-law family (sister-in-law's brother and wife and daughters). It was a lovely evening, but that glass of sangria with dinner and another glass at their hotel suite after dinner really whomped me one. Getting up today was a challenge, and I'm still not feeling 100%. Lovely evening otherwise, although they would have been game to chitchat for another hour or two when we said we had to leave at 10 pm. We are old wusses, I guess.
- The prayers for the week, then, are that two sermons get written, that all the bulletins I've modified and proofed for this week for Saint Middle School are printed with no fatal errors, that the revisions from the advisor are within the realm of reasonability, that I will be able to fit into my rather snug cassock, and that God gives me some hints on the job front. Oh, and no rain on Sunday morning for our outdoor service on the land.
Prayer for today:
Thank you God for the wonderful sermon by DG at noon Eucharist at BOS. It was just what we all needed to refocus. Thank you, too, for folks who care even in the midst of their own struggles, and for Saint Middle School, where I have been given extraordinary responsibilities and have been applauded for my work. Keep me focused on what is really important this week. Keep me from obsessing over things I cannot change. Hold me in your hand when I feel small and in need of warmth. Bless me and give me the courage to do your work, because it is only with you and through you and in you that the work really gets done.
In your name we pray.
Saturday, April 04, 2009
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. ~Thomas Merton
(TOH to RDM, who brought this prayer back to the forefront of my memory.)
Thursday, April 02, 2009
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
Another turn-down on a job, but for a novel reason: I am "overqualified." Don't know whether to laugh or cry. Thank goodness I had a meeting with my spiritual director today.
Time to do some more reading....