Sunday, November 25, 2012


Sometimes, as a minister, I get to see things in a way that nobody else does. For instance, on Christmas Eve, when the entire congregation lifts its candles up on the last verse of "Silent Night," I see it from the front of the church. I get to see all of the candles go up at the same time.

Or, at funerals, when I go down the row with the family at the graveside, I see the grief - up close and personal.

Last Sunday, I had another unique view. I baptized two middle-school aged boys. I'm the only one that gets to see the face of the baptismal candidate when the go under the water...I'm the only one in the baptistery with them. That just hit me last week - it's a face of total vulnerability (and I always pray that I don't destroy their trust in me by dropping them!), and it's a face of excitement and expectation, and it's a face that is leaving behind everything that is not of God and rising up to everything that least that is our prayer.

That's a moment.

That is the kind of moment that inspires me.

Church can be a lot of administrative details - keeping the database up to date, printing mailing labels, typing and photocopying bulletins, ordering curriculum, buying postage, committee meetings, taking out the garbage, watering the plants, email, voicemail...blah, blah, blah...

And, all of that has to be done...

But, all of that can be, well, less than inspiring.

So, when I get a moment - one of those moments that drips God - I cherish it. It's a gift of this vocation called ministry.

It's funny because I suppose most people would call me an introvert - and I am. But, I don't need my usual space when those moments show up. I can be in them. I can be of them. And, I can be thankful for them.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Over the summer, I borrowed a lot of books from the theological library at Drew. It was such a GREAT library, and really, its influence stretches all the way down to North Carolina with its on-line collection. I am in awe of the number of journals and books that are available with the click of a button...if you are student.

Anyway, I borrowed several books, and although they are not due back until the end of December, the postmaster suggested I ship them mid-November if I was using media mail. So, I copied a few chapters (perfectly legal) and then I put them in a box, taped it up with way more tape than was necessary, and printed off my label.

It may sound silly, but I felt a little like I was shipping off old friends. Those books helped me find inspiration for my project. They sat in my dorm room for a few weeks as a I tried to decide which ones I could leave in New Jersey. And, then they served as my backseat driver on my trip home from New Jersey. Since then, they've kept me company in a box behind my desk (I wanted to keep them all together, because I was afraid of losing one), and I've flipped through them a time or two searching for this or that.

Now, I have a lot more space behind my desk, and they are on their way back home - because they were never permanently mine.

I think there is a sermon in that somewhere.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Avon Walk for Breast Cancer

I did not know what to expect when I registered to walk 39.3 miles in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. All I knew was that my college friend and suite mate was fighting breast cancer. And, a church member was planning to walk in the Avon walk...and it sounded like a challenge, so that's how I got involved.

I started training last summer while I was in New Jersey. As soon as I got back to North Carolina, I realized I needed a better pair of shoes. I went to Fleet Feet in Raleigh to be fitted for a pair of high-mileage shoes and to get some new socks. The socks, I have learned, are key to a blister-free walk! Then, it was game on - we trained throughout the fall - squeezing in 4-8 mile walks during the week and heading out for 16-22 mile walks on the weekends. By the time the Avon Walk arrived, I was confident we could finish.

We got started early Saturday morning. I was in my most comfortable pair of blue jeans, but others wore pink tutu's, pink wigs, pink tights...and almost everyone had a sign on their backs that said, "I walk for...." and then names were written in. All through the day, biker babes and bikers like this guy drove their motorcycles to busy street corners to help us cross without being mowed down by traffic. They had all decorated their bikes and had loud music playing - fun stuff like "Call Me, Maybe" and "Stayin' Alive." At one point, a biker drove by playing the theme from Rocky and waving at us.

The encouragement was phenomenal. A youth group was out in yellow t-shirts and they moved from point to point cheering us on with "Go Walkers," and "You've got this!" and "You're almost there!" I don't think I have been praised that much since I was potty trained. At each rest stop, medical personnel were on hand to deal with blisters - "every blister saves a sister" and to offer ibuprofen for aches and pains. (I took a lot of that!) Volunteers were also standing by to thank us over and over again for walking and to make sure we did not forget to fill our water bottles.

After the halfway point on the first day, we walked through an elementary school yard. All of the windows had been decorated for us! Signs. Posters. And, the sidewalk was covered with chalk drawings. I couldn't believe that the students and teachers took time to decorate like that for complete strangers. They will never know how good we felt as we read their messages. That goes for the neighborhoods, too. Several homes put out signs and tied pink balloons to their mailboxes. And, some families were out with water and snacks.

These ladies were the most vocal with their support. They drove a big white 'sweeper' van with pink streamers all through the day - honking and yelling and picking up walkers who could not finish. They were passionate, I tell you. And, they made us laugh each time they drove by.

After the first day, I soaked my feet in cold water at (upon the advice of my marathon running sister) and then sat on my bed with my feet up until 9 PM. That's when I fell asleep. I woke up on Sunday feeling remarkably rested and ready. The 13.1 miles seemed painless. I think a night of rest helped a lot.

The entire weekend was positive and uplifting - a much needed change in this election season. As we walked through the Charlotte neighborhoods, we did see a lot of campaign signs, and I am sure that lots of opinions were represented in that group of walkers (who raised 1.75 million!), but none of those opinions mattered for those two days. We were all just part of a group of people walking for a common cause. That gave me hope.

When we finished...

I felt like I could do this...

Here's to next year!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Church Ladies Rock

On Sunday, I attended an afternoon worship service for the dedication of a new church building. A friend of mine serves as pastor, and what a building! They did not renovate the sanctuary...the built a brand new building for classrooms, daycare, offices...but the most impressive part, I mean, the part that made me drool was their kitchen! Oh, the work table! Oh, the refrigerator! Oh, the warming thing-amajig! I know the amount of food that goes out of our church kitchen, so of course, I was thinking to myself, "Just imagine what WE could do with this kitchen!"

But, the part of the kitchen that inspired me the most was the group the church ladies working it! They were refilling punch bowls, putting out fresh trays of goodies, refreshing cookie plates - and being friendly and charming the entire time. And, you know, I could go into almost any church and find a core of church ladies who do the same thing.

In fact, I think of the church ladies I knew growing up - my grandmothers and my great aunts were church ladies. Then, there was Nettie, who was a brave church lady who worked with the youth. There was Joyce who sang in the choir. There was Kathy who took care of my sister and me once when my dad got really sick and had to go to the hospital. I think about the church ladies I know now - they just know how to 'do' and then they do it. Do you know what I mean?

There is an art to being a church lady. If you are going to be any good at it, you have to love being at your church. Seriously - you cannot get all mad because you're not at home on your couch. You have to be willing to serve even when you get no recognition or attention. You have to have a flair for something - cooking, table decorations, compassion, service, conversation...and if you don't have that kind of flair, be an organizer and delegate, delegate, delegate.

All of those church ladies on Sunday were so happy with their new kitchen. But, I could have swapped them out with the church ladies in my church or the church ladies from my youth, and the result would have been the same...a roomful of people eating, sharing stories, laughing...and a Table that just keeps getting refilled.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

God just keeps showing up

Every now and again, I get together with a couple of other local ministers for lunch. We catch up on our families and the changes that time always brings to those we love. We talk about our churches - things that are working well and things that we wish we could do better. There is a lot of experience sitting around the lunch table, and it is a gift to be able to share in it.

Last time we met, we talked a little about this movement in evangelical Christianity towards monastic things. Apparently, Christians are turning by droves to the monasteries to learn how to pray and how to build scripture into their lives...and how to make a connection to God. We wondered what the church is missing for its own members to turn elsewhere for a "God thing." One could make any number of arguments about that, but what struck me about our conversation was our own longing to make a deeper connection with God. Where, as leaders, do WE turn for a spiritual booster shot? Where do WE turn for prayer and ongoing spiritual companionship - the honest kind, the kind where you don't have to keep your guard up, the kind where you can freely admit your own failures and shortcomings? Sometimes, leading is really lonely. We talked about options and practices, and I am still trying to figure out the answers to all of those things.

But, one thing I know for sure. Even though I want more depth in my prayer life, God just keeps showing up. God does not seem to base divine presence on my spiritual prowess. That is a good thing.

For example, this morning, I was getting ready to go to church - to our homecoming service, which for a variety of reasons, is the most stressful service of the entire church year for me. But, I looked at my cat, Lola. Pretty little Lola. Her markings are gorgeous. Her eyes are gorgeous. She is just a beautiful, beautiful cat. Surely God had a lot of fun making her - watching her play made we wonder about the creative enthusiasm that God must use to approach this world.

Then, I got to church. The bell ringers showed up early to practice. The hospitality team had already spent yesterday setting up. It was raining, and the Sunday school teachers still pulled up to teach. Commitment like that is not the first response in human nature - it is something that God sparks inside of us.

The service ended. The meal took place, and then I came home, closed my eyes, and fell asleep for a little while. Rest is such a wonderful gift from God.

Now, as I drink a cup of coffee, I remember again that God comes to us in many, many ways. Some people are a lot better at noticing. Some people have developed the habit to notice when God just keeps showing up. It is my prayer that God can become as much of a habit for me as is my daily dose of caffeine.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What a difference!

What a difference one year makes! I just returned from something called our fall "colloquium" yesterday. It's a school thing, but it is not really a class. It's more of a planning session for our professional projects. There are certain things we have to do by certain dates, and the school wants to make sure we get them done. We really worked hard on our write-ups (called a propsectus) over the summer for what we were planning to do, and I think we are all in pretty good shape.

Anyway, when I walked into our meeting facility on Thursday, I could hear the conversation and laughter from all the way down the hall...a far cry from last year when we did not know each other and we sat in silence waiting for class to start. It wasn't long before someone started talking about a particularly funny experience in class last spring. Then, we were off remembering our time at Drew last summer...we have shared memories now and that has created a bond between us. Although I am exceedingly happy to be DONE with the actual classwork, I will miss seeing my school peeps on a regular basis. We all hugged each other when we left.

It just made me realize again how important it is to belong somewhere - to have a community somewhere of people who help you get through things - whether it is a class or a major life change. It is important to have shared memories - things that have taken up permanent residence in YOUR mind and heart and in someone else's mind and heart. It is important to be a part of something bigger than yourself.

I am grateful for the opportunity to study with these people - what difference one year makes.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Today, I drove over to Durham to meet my dad at South Pointe. He was running late, but it was a beautiful day, so I sat outside on a bench for about 45 minutes. Usually, I have a book with me to read during times like this. But, today, I opted not to carry one and not even to buy a new one at the HUGE Barnes and Noble. And, I just sat on that bench with my feet in the sun.

I thought, "Nobody knows exactly where I am right now. And, nobody here cares who I am right now." It was a great moment of complete anonymity. So, I just sat and enjoyed it.

It was like a Sabbath.

And, I've wondered if that is what Sabbath is - anonymity. Our importance disappears as God's importance grows stronger.

All I know is that I rested. I looked at all the people walking by. I felt the sun. And, I breathed.

A great afternoon...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

School and stuff

This week, I met for the first time with my lay advisory committee to begin planning for my professional project. It was really kind of a fun meeting. I mean, it's going to be work, but I think I will really enjoy planning a ministry with a group. That's one thing I miss sometimes...when I worked for the State, I always had co-workers. I could pop in their offices at any time to get advice or to plan or to just visit. It's not that way as a solo pastor. It can be a lonely thing, so I'm looking forward to working with a group to do a little ministry planning and then implementing it during Lent of next year.

That has led me to think a lot lately about our church and our strengths and our areas for new ministry. (That's what the project is supposed to address). But, it has also led me to thinking about the nature of church. One term that we have used a lot in school is "missional." By "missional," they mean "sent." So, the church is located in a particular community and should learn its community just like a missionary going into another country. One author says, "The church should stop mimicking the surrounding culture and become an alternative community, with a different set of beliefs, values and behaviors. Ministers would no longer engage in marketing; churches would no longer place primary emphasis on programs to serve members. The traditional ways of evaluating 'successful churches' – bigger buildings, more people, bigger budgets, larger ministerial staff, new and more programs to serve members – would be rejected. New yardsticks would be the norm: To what extent is our church a 'sent' community in which each believer is reaching out to his community? To what extent is our church impacting the community with a Christian message that challenges the values of our secular society?"

Those are great questions. Do Christians really consider themselves not only God's people, but SENT people? Do we search for the places where God is already at work and try to join God there? Do we put our energy and time into reaching into the world with God's love? If not, why?

Lots of stuff to think about...maybe that will translate into lots of stuff to blog about. This I know, the world is changing - and the church is called to serve as the Body of Christ through it, where do we start?

Friday, September 7, 2012

To town

Today, I went to Fleet Feet in Raleigh to purchase new walking shoes. I've been buying them on-line or at Rack Room, and after walking 15 miles in one swoop over the weekend, I realized that I needed some good shoes. Shoes that had been fitted by someone who knows what they are doing. Shoes that would keep my feet happy.

If your feet hurt or are tired...well, the day stinks! So, I now am the proud owner of a new pair of Brooks Ghost 5 shoes. What they lack in aesthetics, they make up for in comfort.

While I was in town, I went to Cokesbury to get our curriculum stuff for church. Boy, I could really drop some money in Cokesbury...first all of the books! I do love to read, and I just want to buy everything that interests me. But, I bought nothing today that was not curriculum related. Then, the communion sets...I mean, I know you really don't need a collection of communion sets, but I love them. And, the robes! Fun - although, I have to say that my robe is made out of a much more comfortable fabric than those I saw today.

So, that was my little trip into the big city.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Very, very small

Over the Labor Day weekend, I did something that I have not done since childhood...if I even did it then. I lay flat on my back and looked at the stars. It was a very clear night. No clouds to cover up any of the twinkles. Just stars as far as the eye could see...and one satellite deliberately making its way across the night sky.

As I lay there taking it all in, I felt very, very small. The things that had been eating away at my peace of mind suddenly felt tiny compared to that big sky. Notice I did not say these things felt 'unimportant.' They felt 'tiny.' And, there's a difference. It's important to do my best in school. But, in the grand scheme of things, my accomplishments, or lack thereof, will be a tiny drop in the world.

That was a rather freeing thought. As human beings, it is the most natural thing in the world to begin to believe that the universe revolves around us. Everything is magnified through our point of view. Our accomplishments look bigger. Our problems look bigger. Our irritations look bigger. Our compassion looks bigger. Everything takes on larger proportions, and everything grows in its sense of urgency.

But, when you look up in the stars, you realize how very, very small we all are.

I am reminded of the verse from Psalm 8:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

What indeed? And, then, I'm right-sized least for a while.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


What a long week! Lots of meetings, but no exciting places to report this week, and yet I've found inspiration here in Johnston County, North Carolina.

I just finished up this paper, and I had to write about longings for church - you know, the kind of things that church nerds get excited about! Some of these longings are in WMCC already. And, some of these longings are wishes. I'll let you see if you can figure out which is which.

I long for a church where following Jesus is something creative and something that is occasionally spontaneous. I long for a place where I can use my own creativity – with colors and music and pictures and words. I long for a place where we share how biblical stuff starts to breathe into our own lives. I long for a place where we talk about spiritual principles like forgiveness and compassion and mercy, and we listen to stories about how we practice or do not practice those things in our lives. I long for a place where we are each other’s inspiration. I long for a place where both the “spiritual but not religious” AND the “religious but not spiritual” can engage each other and learn from each other. I long for a community of faith that just sizzles with enthusiasm.

I think the phrase that stands out for me in all of that is "I long for a place where we are each other's inspiration." I've seen it happen. I've seen acts of kindness that can move me to tears. I've seen acts of selflessness that ooze with the love of God. I've seen acts of wisdom that lift me to higher ground.

I think of one of our church members who is no longer living and yet had the ability to transform YOU into a better person when you were in her presence.

Yeah, that's it. That's church - the place where we are each other's inspiration.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


What a full day! I got to church early this morning to study up on the lesson for Pastor's Class. We were discussing the Holy Spirit, and I have not felt like my lessons so far have been overly exciting...and the Holy Spirit really IS exciting, but how do you talk about that in a way that makes sense to middle schoolers? I think we found some common ground with a couple of Harry Potter clips. The Weasley's fireworks were a good start!

Then, we had church, and I am so glad that the summer crowd is about to morph into the fall crowd. Afterwards...nominating committee and worship committee...a short walk with sweet Max...

....and then, finishing up a paper. Not just any paper. My LAST paper due for the summer session. That means my last paper due for my doctoral classes. That means my doctoral classes are over. Oh, yes, I still have to go for my colloquiums this fall to plan for my professional project and dissertation. But, the classwork is OVER! From this point on, it is all dissertation!

I've put off reading the books I borrowed from the Drew library until this paper was done and dusted. But, now, I can start reading and planning and moving on. You know, last year at this time, I was anxious about starting and anxious about meeting all of these new people. For introverts like me, meeting lots of new people all at once is exhausting. But, it's done - I'm in it now - the three week intensive is over - and I think I can finish.

God is good.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Here a meeting, there a meeting....

Lots of church meetings right now - on Sunday afternoons - at night. I have a love/hate relationship with meetings. I hate them when they drone on and on in circles or when they inspire people to take sides. Those things can happen in meetings anywhere. Churches don't have a monopoly on that.

But, churches do have a higher probability of something really beautiful happening in meetings. Yeah, I'm a church nerd. And, yeah, meetings are not my favorite. But, sometimes....sometimes, something happens.

Someone prays a prayer that ushers in a new spirit.
Someone shares from the heart and the mood changes.
Someone offers a surprise act of generosity.
Someone speaks to how they think God might be guiding them.
Someone prays for God to guide them.
Someone actively looks for how God is moving right then.

The Holy Spirit blows in.

I don't know. It just seems to me that when church meetings get bogged down, God has been left out of the picture, and when church meetings take off, God is right there in the center moving in ways we could not imagine.

I wish I could figure out how to tap into that every time. One author I read over the summer suggests that churches struggle with letting God into meetings because we do not really believe that God is actively at work. So, we don't allow space for God to work. Once a conversation starts, we seldom stop to pray or listen. But, sometimes, God still finds a way to crash the meeting.

So, I've just been wondering - how can we create a space in this kind of setting where people can encounter God? How can we create an atmosphere for a meeting that still has a little worship dripping in?

I haven't figured it out, but I suspect it has something to do with prayer...and maybe cupcakes.

Anyway, FUN meeting tonight with CWF!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Nursing homes

For the past couple of weeks, I've had the opportunity to spend more time in a nursing home setting. This atmosphere makes some people uncomfortable, but I guess I am lucky that in my previous career with the state, I went into nursing homes all the time to do investigate complaints (doesn't THAT sound like a fun job?). Nobody was happy with us. The staff hated to us coming. And, if we were unable to substantiate the complaint, the families did not much like us either.

But, the residents were a different story. Part of my job was simply to talk with them. They liked us! I still remember some of those personalities...the lady in Pfafftown who knew my grandmother, the man in Chapel Hill who was a veteran, and the young man in Fayetteville with a brain injury who just wanted to go home.

I got very used to walking into nursing homes, pulling up a chair, and listening and talking.

That's ministry, you know - pulling up a chair and listening and talking. It doesn't get put on the church calendar. It doesn't result in recruitment of church members. It does not result in a new building. It does not result in a bigger budget. That kind of ministry doesn't do anything for what often gets referred to as the three B's of church: 1) building; 2) budget and 3) butts in pews.

But, the more I think about the kind of ministry that Jesus did, the more convinced I am that it is in the little bits of compassion where he springs to life today. That's where people feel cared for. That's where people believe they matter, too. That's where people know that they are not only not forgotten, they are REMEMBERED. When two people sit together - talking, holding hands, or even just in silence, it is sacred. It is worship. When we remember others, we remember Jesus, and there's nothing grander that we ever do. I needed to be reminded of that today.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Accidental Napper

Well, this afternoon did not go at all as planned. I was all set to have an afternoon of finishing up a draft of this paper I have due very soon. I decided once I got home from church that I was really tired and a nap might be in order. BIG mistake. I never take more than 30-minute naps...I slept for almost 2 hours. Unbelievable! Then, I was groggy and dopey. So, the upshot is that I must have a really productive week.

The truth is I hit the ground running when I got home last weekend. And, I haven't really stopped to rest and have some down time. So, maybe my nap wasn't a total waste of time. I do hate that I let the afternoon slip away.

Part of it, too, is that I'm not feeling inspired on this paper. We're supposed to do some research on where we live and then plan a ministry to reach the 'post-moderns." And, post-modern can mean so many things, but I believe in the context of this assignment, it refers to those people who have little use for the church - they are not bad people or mean people. They are just people who have other things to do.

I've got a lot of friends who fall into that category. They have lake houses and soccer games, and some just like having Sunday mornings at home with a cup of coffee, jazz music, and the newspaper. Some of them have been hurt by the church or angered by the church's public response to various things. But, some of them pray. Some of them read their bibles. Some of them think about God. And, some of them even go to church every now and again, but as for really belonging to a family of faith, they just are not interested. They have community in their neighborhoods, and they have a sense of belonging in the time they spend together on the weekends.

I've had trouble thinking of ways to reach this group. Then, I thought, I don't need to "reach" this group, I need to listen to them and build relationships with them. Church is changing because the world is changing. What are we called to be for this world? How much intentional change does that involve on our part?

Those are questions to ponder...but the problem is I don't have time to ponder them much before this paper is due. I see why I preferred a nap today.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Knowing more

As I have been working on Sunday's sermon, I realize how often I put my own questions into what I want to share. I can't help but think of the remarks that one of my classmates made - he is an associate pastor, and he preached a sermon in which he asked questions. Afterwards, the senior pastor pulled him aside and said, "It's ok to preach your questions, but just make sure that THEY know that YOU know more than they do."

That strikes me as a statement full of self-grandeur. Make sure they know you know more? Seriously? Maybe the preacher has had more classes in Bible stuff (and maybe not), but when it comes to KNOWING spiritual stuff, that's a level playing field. I hope that I have a spiritual life that I can share. And, I hope that God can do something with the words I blurt out to spark something spiritually in my listeners, but I have questions, too. I have doubts, too. And, I don't always know the right thing to say or how to pray or any of that. The only thing that makes me any different from anybody else in the congregation is that my faith is really public, by nature of the job. I don't always like that, but that's just a fact. But, having faith that is public does NOT mean knowing more than anybody else.

And, why would a minister want to be sure that the congregation knows how much he/she knows? Really. That smells of control and self-importance.

For ministers, the congregation is not just an employer. The congregation is our family of faith, too. It's where we struggle and it's where we grow in confidence. But, good googly moogly, if we have to worry about showing how much we know in our own families of faith - that's some pressure right there!

So, I am thankful to be in a congregation that asks questions and that allows me to ask questions. God is big. Jesus is big. The Holy Spirit is big. So big that none of us will ever take it all in on this side of eternity. And, that's ok.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Still blogging

Wow, I can't believe how quickly how settled back into routine. Of course, I moved into Drew Summer Session routine really fast and immediately had habits...used the same sink every time I brushed my teeth, put my stuff in the same corner of the fridge, sat in the same spot in the classrooms...oh, the list goes on and on.

I don't know if this means I am adaptable or just a creature of habit. But, it makes me think about faith and stuff - I wonder how many routines I've settled into - without question. Do I pray the same way every day? Do I worship the same way? Do I go through the same motions? Is my faith just a fill-in-the-blank kind of thing with the date changed at the top? I'm just sayin!

I'm not suggesting that routine is bad or good...I'm suggesting that it is easy to fall into. As for what any of that means, I have no idea.

On the non-pondering side of life, it has been GREAT to be back home. The Mister is just about finished with our kitchen floor, and all of our appliances are hooked back up. Not that I intend to cook. But, I could. If I wanted to.

I've got to work on a paper this weekend. It's the last one due for the summer session. It's part research, part personal reflection...on what we hope the future of our ministry will be. I'm curious as to what I'll come up with - I mean, I think about the future, but I don't write anything down. I hope I get a lot done on it in the next couple of days. One thing I've learned about writing these papers, 80% of it is just forcing yourself to sit down and do it.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Home sweet home

Home at last! Through a GPS mishap, I ended up driving through Washington DC yesterday at rush hour...there was nothing rushed about that, let me tell you. I spent almost 3 hours in the DC area, and that set me back. So, my best plans of driving home and processing these last few weeks and thinking about all that I heard and read, pffft. Down the drain! I had to stay alert and oriented which was best achieved in the last few hours of my drive by listening to the 80's on 8 at Sirius XM. Lucky for me, they were counting down the top 40 from 1988 which was right in the middle of college years. So, I knew all the songs and sang as loud as I could until I pulled into our driveway at around 11:15 PM. And, Max was at the door waiting...just about to wag his tail off. I mean, family members can hug you, cats can let you pick them up...but a dog wagging a tail in joy of your arrival? Beautiful!

Today I've not felt like doing a lot - I will say that I've taken three two far. LOVE not wearing flip-flops and not having to tote a shower caddy at all times. It is so good to be home, back with familiar faces, familiar roads, and finally a home cooked meal! YUM! And, the Mister has been working very hard on replacing flooring in our living room (which looks stellar - I won't be embarrassed to invite you all over anymore) and in our kitchen...which will look spectacular. It's just taking a little time to finish up.

I think I'm ready for church tomorrow - hope to get back in my groove this week. More later -

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Homeward bound...almost

Last peanut butter and jelly sandwich (which I've eaten every day I've been here). Last walk on my lovely little path. Last night in the dorm! Praise God from whom all blessings flow, and I'll sing a little Hallelujah as I put my flip-flops on for the last trip to the shower. After class, I packed up all that I could - certainly cannot put the coffeepot away until tomorrow morning. But, with my slow dismantling of my room, I think I can get completely out with only 2 more trips to the car. Then, we've got class until noon, and then we are outta here!

I think it's pretty impressive to complete nine class hours in three weeks. Somehow, I thought we'd have, you know, like a little time for a little fun. But, we are all such nerds that it's been all business.

Today's class ROCKED. I'm telling you, I love this teacher. We watched a couple of Harry Potter clips today - one was this one:

If you've seen the movie, you know that Harry and his friends start to meet outside of class to practice the things they want to know how to do. We talked about that little group as church - helping each other, correcting each other, being in community...and then our professor said, "So, you can minister in a group like this...or you can be the lady in pink. (remark met with silence and big eyes) OK, take a break!"

Brilliant! We've really dug into what is church in our world? What does it mean? What difference does it make?

In both good and scary ways, the conversations have been thought provoking for me.

I guess that gives me something to think about on the drive home tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Two more nights

Almost....there....I think I can, I think I can. Not that I am anxious to come home, but I have already started to load my car! Today was kind of gloomy - cloudy and then stormy and then rainy. But, it the midst of all of that, a few of us went to lunch in the little town of Madison, and one of my classmates treated us all! That was really nice. That reminds me - I need to visit an ATM tomorrow to get some cash to pay all those tolls on my drive home. I hope I've programmed my GPS correctly - I want to drive home on a different route than the one that I drove up. So, we'll see...

In class, we took a field trip on the internet. None of us ended up where we started - it was an exercise in the post-modern world.

We have had some really good discussions in this class, and the professor has promised that we will get to the hope. I'm ready for the hope. It's read history. You read what is happening now. You read about the future. And, then you read about the cycles that just keep repeating themselves. And, you wonder what faith really looks like and feels like. Well, maybe you don't wonder, but I do! I wonder if there is a difference between Christian issues and Jesus issues...hmmm, future sermon material there!

Anyway, it's been thought provoking, and I've taken good notes, so I can chew on it all after I get home.

Two papers turned in today, one for Friday, and I'll have one left.

I'm on it!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rockin' Class

There is no way to fully capture the awesomeness of St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center, but this is a picture I took today when I went for a walk. It's HUGE. Notice the doggie playground. And, they also have a large field for agility training...they were having a agility training today, and as some poor soul took her dog through the course, he got loose and decided to play with with another dog...both owners were flailing around after their dogs, and I stood on the road for a minute and laughed at them. They looked funny, and I've so been there in the dance of training a stubborn little dog. Obedience training with Peanut? Tough, let me tell you.

The other funny thing about my mental health walks is my music. I don't normally listen to music when I walk, but since I'm by myself, it is kind of fun. My collection of music is just weird - I mean, today, I heard Mozart, Twisted Sister, and Etta James. What a soundtrack.

Loved, loved, loved class today. This professor is GOOD. We talked about generational issues today and the historical cycles that we find ourselves in, and how our churches fit into all of that, if at all. What I am learning is that "the times, they are a'changin'" and some churches are preparing and engaging and trying not to let fear get the best of them, and some churches are digging in and putting up walls to keep the changing times out.

And, what do we do with all of that? How do we embrace changing times and changing people and changing rules and still be faithful? How do we have faithful conversations with those who may not agree with us? What are our priorities? Do we build stronger walls or set out into the wilderness to see what's there? And, where is the Holy Spirit in all of it? Pay attention to that Spirit, because that's the direction my little dissertation project is going.

Lots of stuff to ponder...and papers to write. Have turned in two so far this week, and we've only had two days of class! But, I'll try not to complain. This is just the kind of class I hoped to be in, and I am loving it! Maybe I'm a nerd, but this is exactly the stuff that I like to think about and read about...these conversations keep me excited in ministry. Here, they are safe conversations to have.

That's it for tonight. And, praise God and Hallelujah that I only have 3 more nights in this dorm!

Monday, July 30, 2012

A beautiful day in the neighborhood....

A great day today! The weather was gorgeous - low humidity - low 80's. I had to wear jeans to class instead of my usual shorts for fear of being cold.

And, speaking of my class, WHOA! IT ROCKS!

I say that after having to do a class intro of 'sharing.' You know that when someone makes you "come out from behind your tables and sit in a circle" you are in trouble...especially if you are introverted. But, we each had to spend one minute giving a small-talk introduction of ourselves, and then we had to take a breath, and give a one minute introduction that included something we would not normally tell. I was skeptical at first, but I have to say, the exercise upped the level of trust in the class and that set the tone for the rest of the week.

The class is called Ministry on the Frontier, and it's all about what we are called to do in relationship with "post-modern" people - it's about the church. The professor is the really cool dude who seems very knowledgeable and very realistic about what ministry looks like in our post-modern world. I just love that I got to write "post-modern" in my blog! The one remark he made today that really struck something in me was this: Ministers feel the tension of being called in two directions. You are the mid-wives helping give birth to a new kind of church. You are the hospice chaplains serving and ushering other parts into death.

YES! That is it. He said a bunch of other stuff, too. But, I thought he really nailed the dual nature of ministry today (and not just from us clergy). We ARE trying to give birth to something new - as one of our authors wrote, "we find ourselves in the middle of something real and something wrong in Christian faith." And figuring out how to be faithful during this unraveling is no picnic - lots of obstacles, lots of unknowns...and lots of people don't give a hoot about the church - "hoot" is my word, this professor dude was not as polite. His point was that the church has lost influence and respect - so, what do we do?

This is going to be a thought-provoking class. It is going to be a strong finish!

The only downside is that the music building is locked by the time I get no piano. But, the upside is that I took a walk this evening and saw lots of dogs...can't wait to walk Mr. Max.

Sunday, July 29, 2012


Happy Sunday! Blogger seems to be working a little bit better today. Earlier this morning, I went back to Peapack to attend the "Guiding Light" church. They have a lovely sanctuary. Their minister is not long-winded at all - I think she wrapped up the sermon in less than 10 minutes. She used a phrase that I liked (so you WMCCers' might hear it again): "There is no place that God is not." Well, I'm not sure about this dorm.... Seriously, that thought kind of feeds into my dissertation project - the Spirit of God is indeed everywhere, and we must do what we can to plug into it. "There is no place God is not."

Afterwards, I located the cemetery where many of the GL funerals were held, and look at the good company I had!

After poking around Peapack - how's that for alliteration - I drove back to Madison, gassed up the car - I don't think I'll be driving too much before I leave on Friday, and I can tell you this - I don't want to run out of gas on the New Jersey Turnpike!

I've spent the afternoon reviewing the books that I have for this week's class and finishing up some papers. My goal is to come home with only one paper due...even better if I can get that one paper down to half a paper. But, what that means is that I have to work really hard between now and then because I have four others to finish! Writing is the key to this program. Those students who struggle with writing are struggling with the whole thing. It's non-stop - so it's a good thing I like to write! (Well, ok, I'm tired of it now, but you know what I mean).

It looks like the sun is peeping out - maybe it will stop raining long enough to get a walk in...need to escape from behind this computer!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Groundhogs and Hogwarts

I have a few more pictures for you tonight. Of course, I have another groundhog photo!

And, this is the first lecture all at Drew. It looks a lot like Hogwarts, I think.

I have a couple more to post, but Blogger is not wanting to work tonight. Suffice it to say that I have spent the day reading and writing. I will blog tomorrow if blogger is just stops typing for not reason tonight.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Groundhog Day!

First of all, here are those big fat groundhogs that I've mentioned before. They live underneath the sidewalk, and they have little places all over that area of campus where they just disappear. Now you see them, now you don't. Wouldn't it be great if we all had those little places where we could just disappear at will?

Today marks the 2/3 point of this little adventure. And, I am feeling it. I am tired and kind of grumpy, so I'm glad tomorrow is Saturday. If the weather is good, I hope to take a long walk and then spend the afternoon in the library and the evening in my tiny, sad room writing! I can't believe I can't watch the Olympics! Planning to go back to Peapack on Sunday for church.

Now, the interesting class is coming next week. It's called Ministry on the Frontier, and it's had some odd readings. Plus, we have received more than one email from the professor saying that he uses 'raw' language, whatever that means. I have spoken with some of his former students who say that he is a great teacher, but that he uses the language to make the case that it is the language of the world, and we have to be able to speak the world's language...that may be, but don't be expecting a potty mouth in the WMCC pulpit! I just find it curious that he keeps sending warnings.

Whatever the case, I need to review my books for that class. It has been a while since I read them.

I'm not sure who, if anybody, is really reading this blog. But, if you are, thank you.

Thursday, July 26, 2012


A rainy day and a stormy night in New Jersey today. I had hoped to get a picture of the two fat groundhogs that live on campus, but they were not out in the rain. We also have a large supply of chipmunks. Lola and Boo would love it.

Tonight was our best class in our night class. As I have mentioned before, it is a class called "Reading as a Spiritual Discipline." We each had to put together an 'illumination' of a Psalm, which very simply, was a way to read the Psalm without emphasizing words on a page. My classmates were very creative! We had pictures and singing and all kinds of stuff. But, I loved how it brought the Psalms to life and into 2012.

One Korean student chose Psalm 137, which is about the Israelites weeping by the rivers of Babylon because they have been defeated and are in captivity. He likened this Psalm to the Christian church in North Korea that is, in some ways, held captive. They cannot worship in the open, and there are grave consequences for being found with a Bible. He had pictures (faces were blurred out) of these North Korean Christians reading the Bible in small circles, with the windows covered, and only a small light. I forget that even in 2012, we have religious persecution. I cannot imagine the necessity of hiding just to read a Psalm. It is a privilege to be able to read and pray and gather without fear of harm.

So, I was glad to hear the presentation, because I had no idea of the extent of the raw fear of practicing your faith.

My illumination was on Psalm 100 - not as serious as my Korean classmate's presentation, but I think it had some creativity!

Tomorrow, we have to turn in our prospectus and bibliography for our projects. These will change over the course of the next year, but we now have a start.

And, quite frankly, I am hoping to sleep tonight. I keep waking up early in the morning, and then my mind takes off.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Big houses and old books

This morning, on my walk, I noticed a HUGE house (I walk through a neighborhood that is like "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous"). But, this particular house had a sign out front that identified it as being built by some person whose name I can't remember, but it served as quarters to the Continental Army and was also a stop on the Underground Railroad. I'll try to get a picture.

We spent all afternoon reviewing projects for our dissertations. And, then, the theology school had a little picnic for us. It was nice - free food! Great opportunity to talk with the other DMin students who are in other classes. We are really a diverse group. One fellow is from St. Kitts - I'd love to be the faculty person assigned to HIS site visit

Then, my Reading as a Spiritual Discipline class went to the library to look at some books in their special collection - which is quite impressive. We saw several Bibles, one dating back to 1550. And, we also saw one book of writings by Jerome that had a print date of 1478. Our professor, of course, got to handle them all and pointed out things. He noted that one book had belonged to a woman, which was apparently a big deal back in the day. In this age, when books are so easy to get - digitally or in print - it is moving to see books that old...some with names in them and personal study notes. People have been trying to understand our sacred texts for a long, long time.

Well, it is 11 PM and I've been up since 5 AM. I did not have to be up that early - I just woke up and started thinking about what I needed to accomplish today, so I got up. That said, I'm ready for a good night's sleep. I have a presentation tomorrow evening, so you know, I need my beauty rest.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

200 books

Almost halfway through with this summer adventure and only two more nights of this night class - Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

At lunch, I met one on one with my methodology instructor about the dissertation project. He is a very quiet man with a very dry affect...but he smart! And, you will talk to him and think he is not listening, and then he comes out with something brilliant. I feel very lucky to have him as a teacher because when I leave, I will have a solid start on this project. He is all about planning, and he has to be. There are time lines for everything here.

Just as a project will take place during Lent 2013 (although I'll be working with my team this fall to develop it), and it will be centered around the Holy Spirit and use small groups. I think it is narrow enough to complete in the allotted time frames, but the subject is big enough to do meaningful research. Would you believe that the library allows doctoral students to take out 200 books??? 200 BOOKS? That's a lot. And, it would not even make a dent in the library here, so that's another thing...working on this project is just a big reminder of how much I don't know. I'll know more when it's over, but I won't know it all....there is so much information out there.

But, this I do know...I saw a dog wearing a dress on her walk.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mysterious ways

Apparently, Drew hosts a lot of camps for children and teens during the summers. A brand new group of soccer campers rolled in this morning, and we've also had Governor's School kids. But, the interesting group to me is the Shakespeare group. These are teenagers interested in learning and acting Shakespeare. I've seen them outside learning how to do some of kind of dance, and I've seen them learning how to do stage fencing.

That was a blast from the past. For three summers in my own teen years, I went to a 6-week drama camp at the N.C. School of the Arts. Living in a dorm was WAY more fun back then. But, I, too, learned how to fence - at least how to fence for theatrical purposes. Those were some of the best summers - making new friends from all over the country who were interested in the same things I was interested in.

I watched the kids practicing for a little while, and I wondered what they would grow up to do. I had all intentions of being the greatest thing to hit the American stage, but as it turns out, I'm a pastor in rockin' church in N.C. and a doctoral student at Drew. But, you know, those summers weren't wasted. I learned how to speak in public. My skills as a drama queen were finely honed. And, I learned how to step out of my comfort zone. All of those things have served me well in my adult life.

I guess God does indeed work in mysterious ways.

That' all I've got for today. It's been a long one.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

One week down...

Today has been a most productive. It started with a drive to Peapack, NJ. I must say, Peapack is a lovely little town. Rollings hills. Quaint little buildings. A little park with a pond and 2 swans. And, this gorgeous church. I was a Guiding Light fan for a number of years, and this is the church that hosted their baptisms and weddings and 'almost' weddings. So, it was a lot of fun to worship there this morning and then walk around the town. I spent some time with the minister who showed me the various places in the church that were filmed the most. She also talked about how nice the cast and crew were and how generous they were to the town. I had a good time, and I might just go back to worship with them next week.

I'll tell you, though, two things felt very odd to me in worship. It was odd to be sitting in the congregation. I can't remember the last Sunday morning when I sat in a congregation. We had a responsive reading, and I almost read the 'leader' part! Glad I caught myself. My southern accent was already drawing attention. I also missed communion this morning. The service felt incomplete without it. I did not realize until today how much that weekly celebration feeds me.

This afternoon, I practiced a little piano and went for a walk. But, I spent most of the time writing papers. I've still got a lot of reading to do before I go to bed tonight, so I'd better get started.

One week down. Two to go.

Oh, and here I am at the gazebo that was used in lots of the Guiding Light scenes. I had to take it myself, so you see more of my nose than the gazebo. Notice the WMCC shirt.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday! Finally!

So glad it was Saturday today and no class...and the SUN was shining!

I got an early start this morning. Keeping a coffee pot in my room helps (with Cafe Bustelo, of course). I spent the morning looking at scripture for my next sermon. And, yes, I know that is 2 weeks away, but given my schedule during those two weeks and the amount of time I'll have in Wilson's Mills to prepare (1 day), I thought it best to at least look at the scripture.

Then, I completed my 'illumination.' This is a project for my reading class, which simply described, an illustration of a Psalm. I'm going with Psalm 100. The women's retreat is still a source of inspiration when it comes to a joyful noise! I had started working on this project earlier in the week, but I think I finished it today.

So, about 2 PM, I took advantage of the gorgeous weather and went for a long walk. I think I went about 7 miles, and of course, I passed by St. Hubert's again. A bunch of dogs were outside having a class in obedience. I found out why this facility is is impressive - it's funded by the wife of the CEO of the Dodge company. Really, it looks like a small campus. I'd love to go inside.

After my walk, I sneaked into the music building and practiced the piano. Edith will be proud!

My classmates and I went to dinner tonight, and then I've been hunkered over my desk working on the first draft of my project 'prospectus.' 'Prospectus' is just a fancy word for plan. The good news is that I have the first draft done, and now all I need to finish up is a proposed bibliography. Of course, all of this will be hashed out in our fall seminars, but I feel very lucky to be as far along as I am. Some of the other methodology classes are struggling - I've got the right teacher for this class!

Tomorrow, I head to Peapack for church, and I imagine I will spend the afternoon working on another paper. It's amazing the amount of work you can get done without the TV...or a dog...or two cats being cute.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Psalm

I am so glad that it's Friday! Not that I have anything exciting planned for the weekend, other than my trip to Peapack to see the church where Guiding Light filmed its weddings. But, we've worked hard this week, and I have a lot of writing to do this weekend - I'm glad to have a couple of days to catch my breath.

Tonight, we discussed the Psalms. As part of that, we were given the assignment of writing a Psalm with a partner. Greg Williams was my partner, and this is what we wrote in response to the shootings in Colorado.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my bloody grief.
The innocent have gone down to the grave.
Their families scream out for your comfort,
and there is none.

Where are you?
Are your eyes blind?
Are your ears deaf?
Has your heart stopped beating for us?

Our hearts still long for you.
With each breath, our spirits stretch out for you.
We wait for you.
We wait for your eyes to see.
We wait for your ears to hear.

O God of justice and mercy,
Lift us into your heart again.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Another day

I may not have exercised my best judgment in signing up for this night class! It is called "Reading as a Spiritual Discipline." I thought it would be a lot of 'spiritual' readings and exercises, but it seems to be more theory and history from two very smart professors who like to talk...a lot...when it's 9:30 PM and time to go! Tonight, I finally had to say that I had no idea how our discussion related reading as a spiritual discipline. But, I only have one more week of night classes with those guys, and during my third week, I have classes that run during the day.

Today, in my methodology class, I had to give a more detailed presentation of what I hope to accomplish with my project. I was very pleased with how it was received. For so long, this project has been a scary mystery hovering over the future, but I am starting to get excited about it now. Hopefully, it will be a meaningful ministry at WMCC.

I went for another pretty walk this morning and still had about half an hour to get in some piano practice time before heading to the library. Although I don't have free access to the music building, if I get there at the right time, a nice man unlocks a practice room for me. They have a Steinway in there!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Another day in the life...

The high point of today was having lunch with Dr. Donna Ciangio. Some of you may remember me talking about the professor I had for our January class who was a Dominican Sister. Most of us would call her a nun. Well, that’s Dr. Donna. She is leaving for South Africa tomorrow, but she wanted to see all of us while we were here. Dr. Donna is a person who has such a sense of calm and competence. My classmates and I have been worrying and fretting about our projects and our assignments, and Dr. Donna seems to take everything in stride. She's nothing at all like the stereotype of a nun. She looks normal, dresses normal, and she has a wicked sense of humor! Can you believe that? After sitting with her for a few minutes, I think we all felt better. What a witness to the calming presence of Christ that I suppose we can all carry inside.

That said, dorm life is an adjustment for this introvert! I knew the accommodations would be sparse, but I did not realize how inconvenient some of the little things would be…like not having a sink in your room. You have to be presentable to walk to the restroom to brush your teeth – we have males and females on the hall, and even though the males are on the other end, when you're out in the hall, you are out for all to see. If you need water for your coffeepot, that’s another trip down the hall. And, if you forget your towel or your shampoo in the shower, you're out of luck! Thank goodness for shower caddies.

There is also a positive side of living in this dorm. It feels very safe. My biggest fear is forgetting my room key and being locked out in my bathrobe. We are also right in the center of campus, so it is easy to get to class, to the library, or to the cafeteria…but I sure do miss Joe’s cooking. We are also close to a lovely 3 mile walking path. I pass St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center each time I walk, and it is a beautiful facility. They care for cats, dogs, and they even have a doggy day care. The dogs are outside each morning either being trained or playing in a happy little ‘playground’ complete with toys. They seem to be having a grand time. It seems like a fun place. And, finally, dorm life is good in that we don’t have TV. I know that sounds odd, but for this three weeks, no television is a good thing. Without the distraction, I can concentrate so much better. Although it might get really quiet this weekend, I am hoping to get a lot of work done. I don't know if I'll make it into NYC or not - we'll just have to see.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Method to the Madness

Because I am taking a night class for the first two weeks, I have mornings free. So, this morning, I ventured out to a recommended bicycle route that is also used by walkers and runners. I think it is 3 or 4 miles, but it felt very safe. It surrounds some sort of business campus, so it has a 7 foot fence on one side and a well traveled road on the other. It was good to walk without a backpack weighing me down.

Today was also the first day of our Research Methods class. This is the class that leads us into our dissertation projects. I enjoyed hearing the initial directions that all of my classmates are going. Tomorrow, we have to present four things. 1) Our proposed title (which sadly cannot be anything creative - it has to be clear statement of what we are trying to learn or discover. Some will be testing theories; others will be learning new skills. 2) The statement of the problem we intend to address. 3) The purpose of the project which basically answers the question of what difference we hope to make, and 4) a brief paragraph explaining our scope - the limits of what we are doing and how we plan to do it. I'd share mine with you, but I have a feeling it may change over the next few weeks. We also have to propose some definitions, evaluations, time lines, beginning bibliography, etc. All of it is subject to change once we began to meet with our church advisory committees...

The whole things seems a little daunting, but what gives me hope is how the project is explained in our D.Min. Handbook: "an act of ministry designed, planned, executed, and evaluated within a specified time period." While there are lots of "i's" to dot and "t's" to cross, I am encouraged by thinking about the whole thing as a ministry. Still, you'd better get ready!

Here is a picture of our chapel in Seminary Hall.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Today in pictures...

Today, I walked all over this campus "with a knapsack on my back." Does anybody else know that song? It is really quite lovely. Lots of trees and lots of historical buildings. In fact, it is called the Forest.
We spent all day in Seminary Hall. We started at 8:30 this morning with introductions. There are about 40 of us from all over the country and then some! We have one student from St. Kitts and one student from Haiti. The diversity here is very good. This afternoon, we received our first instructions on formatting for our dissertation...mercy! That. is. all. And, then, we got a full introduction to all of the resources in the library. That was impressive. So many journals and even books are available from the library in an electronic format.
Now, such as it is, I am glad to be my dorm. I thought that my night class went until 9PM. As it turns out, it goes until 9:30 PM. The good news is that this was the class I was most dreading, and I do believe it will be interesting and even helpful. We have two professors who are very passionate about their subjects. That makes all the difference in the world. So, tomorrow, I have the morning off. I plan to go for a walk and then work on an assignment. If I get lucky, maybe I can fit in some piano practice!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Little Hospitality Goes a Long Way

Well, I survived the drivers on the New Jersey Turnpike and made it to Drew!  And, there is a reason that dorm life is for younger people…mercy!  My room has two beds, two desks, two dressers…and that’s it!  I’ll post a picture later, but suffice it to say that the dorm rooms here will not be making it to the cover of House Beautiful.  I did bring my snorkeling panda from my office, so he cheers the place up a bit.  Tomorrow, we meet at 8:30 AM for an orientation breakfast and we stay in orientation all day.   For those of us who signed up for the night class, we start tomorrow night.  Tomorrow will be a long day.

But, I am feeling ready.  Of course, I’ve done as much as I can in preparation, but that’s not why I feel ready.  I feel ready because I spent the weekend with Gil and Sheila and experienced such hospitality.  From the time I arrived until we went our separate ways (literally)on the interstate, they took care of me.  I felt so welcome and so at home.  We spent a couple of days and nights seeing the sights in D.C.  It was phenomenal.  They took me to memorials after dark – the PANDAS - the Capitol – the White House (and I was inside looking out the window when Marine One flew in and picked up the President)!  We went to see the Addams Family at the Kennedy Center, and boy, did we eat well.  All of that was fantastic, but it was the spirit that they brought to my visit that made the weekend more than a good sightseeing tour.   It was their friendship freely offered that took care of me, encouraged me,  and sent me off ready to face whatever the next three weeks may hold. 

That’s the power of Christian hospitality – it creates new friendships and those friendships give birth to another little corner of peace on earth.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

I leave in a week!

Well, I think I've just finished writing my last sermon until August -  I still have to polish it up, but the bulk is done.  So, what's left to do before I start on my educational adventure?  Obviously, I have to pack, and I am so hoping that my classmates will be as casual as I intend to be for the next few weeks.  I know what to expect from my regional group that meets in Charlotte.  But, this summer, we will be in class with regional groups from all over the who knows what their 'flavor' will be?  I also have to try to remember what it's like to live in a dorm - and what do I need to make that as good as it can be...extension cords?  A little refrigerator?  Ear plugs?  The last time I lived in a dorm room, I think I had a poster of Tom Cruise on my wall...and to think he has just turned 50!  It's been a long time.

Anyway, I've been really anxious.  Worried about the drive, the work, the reading, the writing, the being in class with people day in and day out.  But, I had moment at Christmount last week.  I went out on the prayer walk later in the afternoon, and I took my little travel Bible (which is just the cutest thing in the world).  While I am not one to encourage spiritual growth by closing your eyes, opening your bible, running your finger down the page and then believing you have received a message from God...that is exactly what I did!  I was just feeling stressed.  The passage that I fell upon was from Isaiah 43:1-2, 4.  It goes like this:

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;  I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you....

Because you are precious in  my sight, and honored, and I love you.

That passage hit home.  Do not fear.  I have called you by name.  You are mine.

I am not called by Drew University.  I am called by God.  I do not belong to my professors or my assignments or my successes or my failures.  I belong to God.  The truth is that I've been trying to power through all my assignments by will power - on my own strength.  Granted, I do have to be diligent in my efforts, but ultimately, it is God who steps in and pulls me through.  Somehow, that reminder gave me the push I needed.

So, bring it, Drew!