Friday, January 31, 2014

friday five: pleasant surprises

Remembering an encounter that led to an unexpected friendship, Martha offers this prompt at RevGals today.

In this week some of us are preaching about a woman who encounters Jesus at the well, please name five encounters in your life leading to unexpected results. They might include learning a new skill, making a friend, falling in love, discerning a call or anything around or far off from those ideas.

1) While growing up my mother and my bonus mother were both knitters.  Eager to be just like them in this way (other ways, too), I tried to learn to knit. It didn't stick. Endless rows of knitting and purling just didn't interest me, so I gave up.  Fast forward to my junior year in college and a semester abroad in Scotland. Three of us lived with a family there whose mother was a kick-ass knitter. She could read, knit, and watch TV at the same time.  She agreed to teach us how to knit, insisting that we pick a pattern that would challenge us and hold our interest.  We chose a fisherman-knit pattern very close to the one pictured above (we were in Scotland, after all), and commenced our lessons. Not only did we finish our sweaters, but I continued to knit for many years until heading off to seminary. I've done a few projects since then, but dogs in laps and knitting don't go well together, so I have shifted to other handwork.

2, 3 & 4) Many moons ago I flew to Scotland to attend a friend's wedding as a surprise to her. Her priest had also flown over to perform the ceremony (she was an American, her husband, Scottish), and though the priest and I met briefly a few weeks before the big event, we bonded during the wedding celebration. Bonding led to dating, which led to attending his church to hear him preach, which led to a spiritual renewal (not from the preaching, although he was an excellent preacher, but as a result of a profound experience of prayer), which led to being baptized, which led to thanksgiving, which led to my call to ordination. So, I attended a wedding, fell in love, got baptized, and ended up being ordained. Pretty unexpected results!
(The picture is with the bride's daughter, with the ruins of St. Andrew's Cathedral behind us. The bridal bouquet was thrust into my arms by the bride as she left the church with her new husband.)

5) Fewer moons ago, after breaking an engagement I found myself without a beloved, a job, a home, or a community (I had sold my house in anticipation of moving to another state, and had likewise resigned my position at the church I served). As I began to rebuild my life I focused some of my creative energy on scrapbooking. I turned to an online scrapbook message board as a resource for supplies and expertise, and ended up finding a diverse community of women where friendships began to form. A daily "Early Bird" thread gave rise to a subset of scrapbookers who continue to stay connected to this day (more than ten years later). I have met many of the Early Birds "in real life," traveled with a few, and when I did finally get married a few years later, some of them came to Nashville from as far away as New Brunswick, Pennsylvania and Florida.

Friday, January 10, 2014

friday five: recent random

From Karla at RevGals, today's random looks at recent goodness:

1.  What is the best thing you have had to eat in the last couple of days?
Oh, some true yumminess emerged from our kitchen this week: Stuffed Shells Arrabbiata, and Crockpot Coconut Chicken Curry. And there's leftovers!

2.  What is the topic/subject of the best thing you have read in the last couple of days?
While at the library last week I saw a clerk putting a book back onto the shelf in the "new" section: Hope After Faith, a Pastor's Journey to Atheism. I don't have a foot in that camp, but I empathize with the folks who have made that transition, so I was curious to read about his. I don't know that it's the best thing I read, but it was a short, easy read, and offered food for thought. I don't regret giving it my time.
3.  Who would you like to give a shout out to that has been in your life the last couple of days?
My friend Jeri, who celebrated 50 years of sobriety last Sunday. She is a remarkable woman, a dear friend, a light in the darkness, and an inspiration.
4.  How have you practiced self-care in the last couple of days?
This may sound strange as a self-care item, but I've been cleaning and purging in my office (at home). I can now get into the closet, I can walk to the window to clean the nose prints off of it, and the top of my desk is almost useful again. The decluttering effort is poised to catalyze great things in the days ahead.
5.   Use the following words in a sentence:    couple, shutter, smile, pillow, groan, skip, baby elephant, red shoes.
The shutter of the camera clicked as the young couple smiled, watching their daughter skip a circle of red in her new shoes in front of the baby elephant. The image formed a pillow for later memories while Mama Elephant groaned with delight.

Monday, January 06, 2014

star words

On the RevGals facebook page an idea was shared for a meaningful and engaging way for congregations to celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. I hate it when a good idea goes to waste, so I decided to employ the project at the church where I was filling in yesterday. I've been there several times and have built a bit of a relationship with church members, so felt safe departing from a standard homily on this occasion.

The project is known as Star Words. The concept is that a variety of words are written singly on paper cut out in the shape of stars. Each person draws a star and carries the word with them through the year to consider, reflect upon, and in whatever other ways occurs to them, draws inspiration and meaning. I drew on the transformative beginning that the Star of Bethlehem was to the world into which Jesus was born, and invited the congregation to consider how the use of their word, led by the light of Christ and the Spirit of God, might be transformative for them. 

It was a fun and interesting exercise. Nearly everyone who came to church took a star, (two teenage boys were the lone abstainers). The responses ranged from quiet, knowing smiles, to tilted heads of puzzlement, to bright grins and enthusiastic sharing on the spot. Only one woman, the last to draw from the basket, said, "Music?" As the remaining participant I offered her the option of drawing a different star, but she adamantly stuck to her original, claiming that it would be interesting to discover how a renewed awareness of music might work its way into and through her life.

Most touching was the woman who looked at her star and clutched it to her chest with a sense of disbelief. She began to make utterances, not really sure what to say, until at last she whispered, "I can't believe it!" I asked her if she was willing to share the word she now held protectively in her hand, and she turned it to me and spoke the word. "Healing." Grasping for composure, she glanced toward the ceiling, tears beginning to form. "You don't know..." she began. Indeed, I didn't! Then she took a few quieting breaths and shared with the three of us who surrounded her that she might be facing the recurrence of cancer.  Just, wow. I am happy to report that earlier today I had an email from this church member, sharing the news that the biopsy performed returned negative.  She is eager to live with her word and discover how else it might play out in the year ahead. I am grateful to have shared that small moment with her, the kind of moment I miss no longer serving regularly in a parish.

As for me, I drew the word competence. It was funny. When I was typing the words into the stars to print out and came to this one I was intrigued by its inclusion in the list and wondered how it would be received by the person who drew it. It is actually synchronicitous (I think I just made that word up) for me as I live into a new line of work without vast experience on which to draw as I move forward into a life of canine massage. I felt very competent as a parish priest, in spite of circumstances that led me from that work. That said, however, the experience of that change was damaging to my confidence in general. Believing in myself, and feeling competent, has been a bit squishy during the last few years. I am grateful, beyond words, that in recent months I have received affirmation from several quarters, but reclaiming my confidence and competence is a work in progress that requires some propping up.

So, competence and I are keeping company this year. And like my new friend experiencing healing, it will be interesting to see where this journey winds.

How about you, would you like a word?

Friday, January 03, 2014

friday five: turn the page!

Whether or not we make resolutions with the new year, we all transition to a new, physical calendar. In recent years my favorite wall calendar is called Pooped Puppies, a monthly collection of sleepy, or sleeping, pups that can’t help but evoke an “awwwww.” for many years my godmother gave me a flat, weekly desk calendar that featured National Geographic photos. One of the great things about calendars is that for each of us they fulfill the “form and function” requirement–a place to indulge an interest while serving a purpose.

For today’s FF, tell us about five calendar themes that you like to see hanging on your walls or going with you to appointments, or that you WISH existed to adorn and accompany your life.

1) Pooped Puppies! I just love this calendar, which provides a "puppy fix" of sorts for me. I'm fortunate to spend time with all sorts of dogs in my work, although puppies are not generally among them.  This calendar helps me get in some oohing and ahhing!

2) There are a number of calendars that support dog-related advocacy groups, and some of them have outstanding photographs. Any one of those would be welcome on my walls.

3) Scotland. I've got a board going on Pinterest to help me get my fill of pictures from this beloved country, but a calendar would definitely find a favored spot by my desk at home.

4) Quilts. Another Pinterest board helps me capture sources of inspiration for quilting--something I wish I had the space to indulge--but a regularly seen splash of quilting deliciousness on my walls might just push me over the edge to create not just the space to work, but a quilt itself. Ideas abound!

5) I've always thought that a saints "book of days" kind of calendar would be great fun for us clergy types.  It would be set up as a weekly, featuring a saint whose feast day occurs during that week along with some critical biographical and spiritual/theological information. With a whole week to spend with this inspiration we might actually become well enough acquainted with a contingent of inspiration to inform our work and our preaching in some new, and interesting ways.


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