Saturday, March 31, 2007

Unexpected Funeral

Yes, you say, but all funerals are unexpected. You never know when the funeral home is going to call. That is true. And we did find out about this funeral with quite a bit of notice, as far as funerals go. Last Friday (a week ago) we first heard of this funeral. A long time member of the church who had moved to Pennsylvania was being brought home for burial.

But our Senior Pastor was going to do the funeral. That is until I got a call yesterday at 2:00pm saying that he was not going to be able to make it home from the Cape because his wife is sick with the stomach flu. At that moment the funeral became my responsibility.

I certainly do not begrudge them the need to stay put while her illness runs its course. Yet I also was very much looking forward to this Saturday morning. I don't know how long it has been since Gary and I have been able to spend a leisurely Saturday morning together. We had it all planned out. We were calling it our Sabbath. Sleeping in. Making cinnamon french toast. Walking Nicky together.

But instead I am up at the crack of dawn (has dawn even cracked yet?), bleary eyed and wondering what I am going to say about this wonderful church member who I unfortunately never had the chance to meet. I thank God for Gary's patience with the unexpected in my vocation. Yet I also acknowledge the need to care for my marriage... and wonder when that will be able to happen in the shadow of Holy Week and Easter.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Lenten Confessions

As Lent draws to a close, I have a confession to make. Two Sundays ago I had the congregation sing the doxology that includes the word, "Alleluia." (If you're a United Methodist, I'm referring to #94 in the UMH!) I did this completely without thinking. Can you believe it?

Surprisingly the congregation didn't storm out ~ nor did the roof collapse on us or thunder and lightening shake the foundations. If fact, when I pointed out my faux pas the following Sunday, most of the congregation didn't even realize that we are not supposed to use the word "Alleluia" during Lent, so it turned out to be a teaching opportunity.

As United Methodists, we are certainly not in the high church tradition, but this leads me to wonder about the importance of our liturgical practice. How does the average parishioner understand our liturgical tradition... and is it meaningful? How well do we education our congregations about the meaning of our liturgy?

To be sure, I will be more attentive to this in Lents to come....

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yes, I am crazy

In the Saturday edition of our local paper the 'Life' section is dedicated to the crazy stories, questions and ideas of the segment of the population known as "pet people." These people send in pictures of their beloved pets with cute little stories about their cute little antics. My name is KristaBeth and I am one of those crazy pet people.

I have not yet gone so far as to send in any pictures of the boys, but I admit that I think about it every Saturday morning as I read the paper. Like any true pet lover, I find myself thinking, "Nicky is so much cuter than that dog." And this month I did enter Nicky's picture into a photo contest of the local Curves where I belong. (The results will be announced on Monday, so wish us luck!)

This week is the annual 'bring the boys to the vet' week. Nicky had his check up on Tuesday and Zeke goes this afternoon. This time of year always makes me a little nervous. Both the boys are healthy, but they are getting older. And I hate to see either of them getting stabbed with needles or poked and prodded (with that scared look in their eyes) so I usually end up sitting in the corner of the examination office with my eyes averted and / or my head between my legs.

Our 'boys' take up much of my time and energy and I don't mind a bit. They have their own little lives with their own favorite things and their own personalities. The fact that Gary and I make up voices for them so they can 'talk' to us might be a little over the top, but who cares? The recent pet food scare has pointed out how much Americans love their pets. Thank God Nicky and Zeke were not eating any of that food... my hear goes out to those whose pets are ill and recovering.

I'm willing to take the risk of being a little crazy. Nicky and Zeke are part of God's beautiful creation that God called 'good.' Just so long as I don't go too crazy..... one of the topics on the 'Pet Page' a couple weeks ago was whether, in polite conversation, you could compare house training your puppy to potty training a child. Now that is a little messed up.... But I will take Nicky for a walk this afternoon and watch him as he enjoys sniffing all his favorite spots. I will take Zeke to the vet and try not to faint. And I will celebrate the joy they each bring into my life.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Friday Five

A lot of exciting blog-related things have been happening this week! I've applied and been accepted to the RevGalBlogPals webring (see my side-bar). I've also received several more hits on my profile and had some more comments from friends and folks out there in the blogosphere. Cool!

I've also slightly redesigned by blog, with help from Gary. Notice the new links to the left. I hope to add more links and information about myself and the blogs I read. Who knew I would have so much fun blogging when I began this back in August?

So, as my first official participation in the RevGalBlogPals, I will do the Friday Five. (You may remember I did it last week as well, but unofficially :>)

"I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19, NRSV

Songbird writes:

As we near the end of the long journey toward Easter, a busy time for pastors and layfolk alike, I ponder the words of Isaiah and the relief and refreshment of a river in the desert.

For this Friday Five, name five practices, activities, people or _____ (feel free to fill in something I may be forgetting) that for you are rivers in the desert.

Here it is:

1. My discipline of daily devotion has become a desert river for me.... I say become, because until I took on it as an actual discipline, my devotional life was hit or miss. I thought that being tied down to a particular time would be limiting... yet it has become a foundation to my day and a source of strength for the journey.

2. My husband Gary is a wonderful source of joy in my life. I look forward to seeing him at the end (and beginning) of each day. If we are unable to connect because of busy schedules or other circumstances life becomes dry.

3. Getting lost in a really good novel rejuvenates me... Some of my favorite authors are Anne Tyler, Sue Monk Kid, and Sue Miller. Some might think that recreational reading is a waste of time, but I find that it helps me see life in a more imaginative way.

4. Exercise... I posted about this a couple days ago. Getting out for a walk with Nicky or going to the gym just makes me more alive. My Grandmother instilled in me the importance of physical activity. When she was in her eighties she would still go for regular walks by herself and with my Mom.

5. Free, uninterrupted time... Lately I have been longing for a whole day where I could just work on my Scrapbook, go through pictures or do whatever seemed right at the time. Today is almost like that... a true day off. I have some reading I SHOULD do, but you know what? It can wait!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Still Young

Last Thursday I celebrated my 32nd Birthday. It was a pretty good day (besides the funeral I had to officiate at in the morning) and I got some nice stuff... clothes, a crock pot, a one cup coffee maker to replace the one I wore out, music! Gary brought me out to Macaroni Grill for dinner and made me a strawberry cake... yum!

Turning 32 was not the emotional upheaval that turning 30 had been. For some reason reaching 30 signified the beginning of 'real' adulthood. Being 30 meant that I was supposed to be responsible, grown-up, and have it all figured out. Well, I've realized that life is just not like that whether your 25, 30 or 32. I'm still waiting for some major life plan to be revealed to me ~ in a vision, in a dream ~ but until that happens, I'm going to try to life as faithfully and joyfully as possible.

I did receive a validation of my youth via e-mail this week when I was invited to a gathering of young clergy. The Bishop has invited us to our Conference Retreat center for a meal and conversation. Apparently he wants to hear about our hopes, dreams and concerns. I'm glad that I still qualify as young clergy.... but considering that the average age of clergy in our Conference is something like 55, I'm not too surprised. When I began serving my first church I was 25 and most likely the youngest clergy in our conference. A first career clergy-person is pretty much an anomaly here these days, while in my Grandfather's day as a minister in the Maine Conference, it was the norm ~ and he was the exception as a second-career clergy.

I'll let you know how the gathering goes ~ it isn't until April 17th. And at least I am still considered young in the eyes of some.... maybe that means I have a few more years to get it all figured out.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Taking the Stairs

While taking the stairs up to the 3rd floor of the hospital today, I got thinking more about yesterdays post. Not only are clergy work-hours long and often stressful, but they are also very sedentary. Most of my days are spent sitting at my desk, sitting in front of my computer, or sitting while visiting or counseling parishioners. No wonder our Conference faces rising health insurance costs.... as a group, we clergy are getting older and are none too healthy!

I'm not sure what can be done about this. Personally I've made a commitment to do some sort of exercise as many mornings as possible each week. I definitely feel better for it. Whether walking Nicky or going to Curves, I try to get a little physical activity into my day... and I know that if I wait until the afternoon or evening to do it, it won't get done. My morning routine of devotions, coffee and breakfast with Gary over the newspaper, and some sort of 'work out' often means that I don't make it to the church office until 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning.... but oh well. That's the sacrifice my parishioners have to make for my mental, physical and spiritual health! And it also means that I can stay until 9:00pm when necessary without feeling completely drained.

And on those days that, for whatever reason, I miss my work out ~ I take the stairs!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Is This Work?

I learned from a fellow blogger that Pulpit & Pew just released a research article called, "What do clergy do all week?" Good question, huh? I think most clergy would have difficulty answering that question! What do we do? Well, visit people in the hospital, go to meetings, plan worship services, teach classes, write sermons..... The list goes on. Yet, I still wonder where all my time goes. Some days I lay exhausted in bed and wonder, "What did I do all day?"

One of the interesting findings was that full time Protestant pastors work, on average, 50 hours a week. The expectation in my Conference is that full time pastors work 60 hours a week (at least according to my first District Superintendent). Some weeks I'm sure I work more and some weeks less. It partly depends, though, on how you define 'work.' Much of my recreational reading revolves around issues related to my vocation. Visiting the neighbors and reading the newspaper can be considered ministry to some extent. Even my blogging stems from my vocation!! How do you separate out what is work and what is not when you are called to a way of life?

But still, this does not mean that the demands of ministry are not at times overwhelming. There are days that I long for more 'me' time. Time to veg-out while watching Desperate Housewives. Time to read People Magazine. Time to work on my scrapbooks. Time to figure out who KristaBeth is apart from Pastor Krista.

Yet I would not trade my life calling for the world. I truly believe that I am part of the most important work in God's creation... and that can't be turned on or off when you reach 60 hours.... But I'm still going to watch Desperate Housewives when I get the chance!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Day Off?

For the past couple of weeks 'days-off' have been elusive. Friday is supposed to be my day-off, but work seems to be spilling into my Friday sacred time, and I have to say that I am a little resentful. Interesting that the 'Friday Five' on the RevGalBlogPals blog (written by blogger reverendmother) states:

"Well friends, this is one of those weeks when I simply must work today, which is normally my day off. I know, I know. We may tut-tut all we want, but the fact is, some weeks are like that."

The instructions were to write either five 'have-tos' or five things we wish we could do with our day off...

First my 'have-tos':

1. Laundry - or else I'll be in big trouble for the weekend! As tempting as it is not to, I do have to wear something under my robe.
2. Groceries - the Peapod is coming with our grocery delivery, so at least all I have to do is meet them at the door with a check.
3. Banking - I am contemplating going through the bank drive-through. That way I won't have to change out of my pajamas.
4. Lay Speaking Class - tomorrow I am teaching a six hour Lay Speaking class on United Methodist Heritage. I've taught the class before, but I need to gather my thoughts and review my lesson plans. This will take a bit of time, so I better get started!
5. Put away my Birthday presents - okay, this isn't really a chore, but it does have to get done!

Now my dream day off:

1. Go for a long walk with my favorite walking pal, Nicky.
2. Read "What Paul Meant" by Garry Wills. I've started it and its great!
3. Watch a movie. I've got two at home right now: Radio and Office Space
4. Talk to Mum - actually I did get to do this. We chatted for an hour this morning while I was holding my 'have-tos' at bay!
5. Have a leisurely dinner with Gary

I think my day will be more full of have-tos than those things I wish I could do. Maybe someday I'll have one of those dream days off. For now, my Lay Speaking material is calling me. At least I can work on it in my pajamas!

Friday, March 09, 2007

Suffering

Our Contemporary Worship is based around themes and series, as opposed to the lectionary readings. For Lent we decided to do a five week series on suffering. While I am usually the primary preacher for this service, several factors led to Pastor Mark taking the led for this series. Out of the five weeks, I am only preaching one Sunday of the series ~ this Sunday.

The particular topic is "Learning from Suffering." While I normally am pretty conscientious about getting my bulletin done on Monday and working on my sermon through out the week, something has been blocking me from delving into it this week. Here it is Friday (my "day off") and I haven't even picked out the Scriptures for Sunday ~ never mind finished the bulletin.

Something tells me that this topic may hit a little too close to home, so my procrastination is actually avoidance. While I have done significant work to understand, accept and grow through the trauma I experienced (suffered, lived through, endured, survived) nearly six year ago, I'm still not sure what I have learned from it. I could say all the cliche things ~ I learned that I am stronger than I ever imagined, that life is indeed a precious gift, that forgiveness is actually possible. Those things are all true .... but it is also true that I am still learning. Some days are better than others. I certainly do not have it all figured out ~ and probably never will.

So maybe that is what I need to say. Sometimes the road is long and fraught with pot holes and one-ways and wrong turns... but God is there, even when we don't feel it, even when we think we are alone and are scared. Maybe what we learn from suffering is trust ~ trust that even when life seems bleakest there is hope. It may be just a glimmer at first, but the light does shine in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Post Retreat Retreat

We returned safe and exhausted from the Confirmation Retreat last Sunday afternoon. I believe that the kids had a good time ~ they made some new friends, got to stay up late, and hopefully learned a few things about themselves and their United Methodist heritage. The only drawback was the cold, breezy weather which made outdoor worship a bit difficult. For the closing worship everyone walked the Stations of the Cross around the lake and gathered in the outdoor chapel for Communion. It was so cold that our guitarist had trouble picking out the songs and so windy that I was afraid the chalice and bread were going to blow away.

Through it all, I had my post retreat retreat to look forward to! After a couple hours travel and stop at Taco Bell, I was home! A warm shower and a comfortable couch were just what my body needed. (Sleeping on those hard camp bunk-beds is not as easy as it was 15 years ago!) The Dixie Chicks movie was amazing. I was never a Dixie Chicks fan until this last album, which my friend (and fellow adult retreat leader) Stephanie introduced me to. I'm impressed by the strength and determination of these women. In their song The Long Way Around they sing, "I fought with a stranger and I met myself, I opened my mouth and I heard myself." Isn't that just the way is happens sometimes ~ we don't know what we really believe until we hear ourselves say it out loud... and then we have to decide if we are going to stand by our statements or not. I'm glad these women have!

Sunday night Gary made a delicious dinner. Chicken and 'Gary's special potatoes'. It was nice to eat leisurely at my dining room table. Then it was a good night's sleep and back to e-mails, phone calls, visits, sermons and newsletters. My blessings to Stephanie who has to turn around and do it all again this weekend, as she takes our Youth Group on their winter retreat! It's back to the pulpit for me.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Pre Retreat

Tomorrow I leave for a retreat with our Confirmation youth. Five youth and three adults will be heading to our local United Methodist Camp to meet up with other youth and adults from all over our conference. At last count, I think there were about 40 kids and 15 adults attending.

Describing this time as a retreat is a little mis-leading, at least as far as I am concerned. Organized chaos might be a better description. Usually a retreat is a time of seclusion or solitude or a time for group prayer, meditation or study. I imagine there will be very little seclusion, solitude, or meditation... although I hope there will be some prayer and study! To be honest, retreats such as this are a stretch point for my ministry. While I am very fond of the kids and enjoy spending time with them, being in a space with that many youth (and adults) for a prolonged period of time is stressful. I value my daily time of solitude, my personal space, and a moment of quiet here and there.

That said, I know I will survive, and even have a good time! My slight discomfort with the weekend is outweighed by the benefits of it for our youth. Church camp experience was vital for my personal faith life as a young person. Who knows... Maybe one of the youth who attends will look back on this weekend as a turning point in her or his spiritual growth.

As for my retreat, I have a post retreat retreat plan already in place.... involving a warm bath, Gary cooking dinner, and the new Dixie Chicks documentary. Sunday night will be here before I know it.

(At least I hope so!)