Friday, July 27, 2007

Friday Five ~ Nice Weather We're Having!

A RevGal friend writes.... "Here in the UK we are struggling with floods, other parts of the world have similar problems without the infrastructure to cope with it, still others are badly affected by drought.... With crazy weather in mind I bring you this weeks Friday 5..."

1. Have you experienced living through an extreme weather event- what was it and how did you cope?

I lived through the Ice Storm of 1998 in Maine. It was an amazing experience. It seemed that the whole world was covered in ice. The streets were impassable due to fallen limbs and trees. The ice encrusted trees were beautiful, yet I would say it was an experience of the fierceness of nature. When the ice storm hit I was staying with my Gram for Christmas break. (My parents lived next door.) We manged through several days without electricity by feeding the wood stove. The stove provided heat and a place to warm up canned soups!

After a few days we found out my seminary apartment in Bangor had electricity, so my mother decided to drive my grandmother and I up there ~ about two hours away. Three of us in the cab of a truck, plus a cat and a rabbit (my pets) made for a cozy ride. Yet it was nice to be back to civilization. My mother took a quick shower before heading home to help my father care for my other grandmother and several elderly neighbors. My parents were without electricity for 12 days. (And if you have a well, which they did, that means no water, too!)

2. How important is it that we wake up to issues such as global warming?

I think it is extremely important to pay attention to global warming. After watching An Inconvenient Truth I started thinking more seriously about how the small things I can do to care for the earth can make a big difference. The major obstacle we face, it seems, is confronting our consumerist culture.

3. The Christian message needs to include stewardship of the earths resources agree/ disagree?

Amen and Amen!

And because it is summer- on a brighter note....

4. What is your favourite season and why?

Fall! The air is crisp and the trees are beautiful here in New England. I'm glad to live in a place where I can experience all the seasons! (Even mud season ~ you folks from Maine know what that is!)

5. Describe your perfect vacation weather....

Well, we are leaving for vacation on Sunday and I am hoping for warm days (80's would be nice) with no humidity and cool, clear nights! Is that too much to ask?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Relaxing with Harry

Relaxing with Harry Potter after a busy day of Vacation Bible School! Ben has the newest Harry Potter book, but has to finish The Half Blood Prince first. He's making a good dent in it though! Gary and Ben also saw the latest Harry Potter movie last weekend. I am totally out of the loop ~ having not read any of the books or seen any of the movies!

Apparently I don't know what I'm missing!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Interfaith Reflections

We live in the interesting situation of being an interfaith step-family. Ben's mother is married to a Muslim and they, as a family (along with Ben's two half siblings), follow Islamic customs, holidays and traditions. We don't know how observant they are on a daily / weekly basis, but Ben's life is certainly influenced by Muslim traditions and culture.

Yet our life here in Connecticut is very different. As a United Methodist Christian I am a follower of Christ. When Ben is with us he is immersed in Christian traditions. One of the traditions he is now participating in is Vacation Bible School! (Avalanche Ranch anyone?)

One of my initial concerns was that it would be confusing for Ben, being brought up in two different worlds. Yet he seems to be quite comfortable with it. When we say grace, he reminds us that we are supposed to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. At Christmas he celebrates not just the presents, but the birth of the Christ child. It all seems to make sense to him. As far as I can tell, he sees no contradiction between these two faith traditions.

I am currently reading Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy. (Yes, I do feel like the last person in the world to read this book!) McLaren writes, "I do hope all who feel so called will become Buddhist followers of Jesus; I believe they should be given that opportunity and invitation. I don't hope all Jews or Hindus will become members of the Christian religion. But I do hope all who feel so called will become Jewish or Hindu followers of Jesus." His point was to draw a distinction between the Christian culture and the Christian faith.

Who knows were Ben will ultimately come down on the Christian / Muslim decision ~ or if he will even feel that he needs to make a decision. Yet, as he grows up in these two different traditions, I hope that the Christian faith he is exposed to will be valuable to him. Being Christian is more than just self identifying as such. It is loving justice, standing with the poor, supporting the outcast, loving our neighbors and walking in the way that leads to life for all God's children.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Muggle Arrival

Muggle - a person who does not have magical abilities.

Our muggle, namely Ben, is set to touch down at Bradley Airport in a few minutes. He is arriving for his month-long visit. As both Ben and Gary are Harry Potter fans, this is a good time for him to come. We've already pre-ordered the book. (Hopefully it will arrive today.) Gary is already planning for them to see the movie this weekend!

Our non-wizard activities this month include Vacation Bible School. Campmeeting and various visits with grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. It should be a busy time! First on tap, though, is the big 8th Birthday party. Could he possibly be 8 years old already?? As all parent-type-people wonder, where does the time go?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Looking back... Looking Forward

Friday 5 Looking back, looking forward......

1. Share a moment/ time of real encouragement in your journey of faith

Hearing my Confirmation Youth preach on Confirmation Sunday and realizing that they really DID learn something and grow in their relationship with God through Christ during our time together.

2. Do you have a current vision / dream for your work/ family/ministry?

This is an interesting question at this moment. I'm currently working on a form for my District Superintendent which will guide our One-on-One Conversation in August. One of the questions is, "Do you anticipate a move in 2008 or 2009?" Several months ago I would have said that I was ready for a move. Yet something has gradually shifted within me. (Possibly the working of the Holy Spirit??) There are several things going on in my appointment that I would like to see through ~ things that will likely take more than one year to bring to resolution. I'll just mention a couple:

First, we are undertaking a major schedule change, rearranging worship and Sunday School. This could be a great opportunity for growth. Yet, knowing that changes like this take time to shape and form and mold a congregation, I would like to see this change into its second year. I think I have a lot to learn, and something to give as well, as we redefine what it means to be a people who take worship and education seriously.

Second, our Contemporary Worship is in a time of transition and change. We have lost a major leader in our praise band and some of the other members are feeling burnt out. I anticipate that the next two years will be a make-it or break-it time for this service. It could be a time of great growth and opportunity for those who have, up until this time, played more of a supportive role. Who knows who will feel the call to step up into a leadership position? Only time will tell. As for me, I feel called to journey through this time with them, wherever it may lead.

My District Superintendent likely has her own ideas about where and when I should move. Somewhere between the institutional discernment process and the tugging on my heart is the Holy Spirit ~ Thanks be to God!

3. Money is no object and so you will.....

do mission work in some exotic part of the world!

4. How do you see your way through the disappointments? What keeps you going?

The difficult times are bearable because I know that no matter what happens God is with me. I have come to truly trust that, "...neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

5. How important are your roots?

I celebrate that my roots have, in part, molded me into the person who God has created me to be!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Slight Reservations

After sharing how amazing Youth 2007 was (which it truly was), I feel I need to address some slight reservations I brought back from the experience. One of the best parts of the week was being able to hear some great Christian bands. Yet something about their 'performances' just didn't seem right to me. The bands gave great shows. The music was loud and exhilarating. The lyrics were positive and infectious. But when I looked down onto the Coliseum floor and saw hundreds of kids jumping and reaching out their hands to the band and 'moshing' and crowd surfing in the midst of what was supposed to be a worship service, I wondered, "Who are we really worshipping?"

It is not my intention to 'dis' the bands in any way. And I certainly don't think music has to be boring to be worshipful. It was actually nice to feel the rhythm in your bones as the coliseum pulsated with the music. Yet I couldn't help but wonder whether the screaming youth were more excited about worshipping God or the cute boys on stage.

Either way, let me say that I would much prefer my youth group kids to be dancing and 'moshing' and crowd surfing to this music rather than some of the stuff you hear on the radio. My pondering really is more focused on the question of what it means to worship. What makes worship worship. I know there are changes with every generation, so maybe this form of worship doesn't speak to me as much because I am getting older. (There's nothing like being a chaperon for six teenagers for a week to make you feel old!) That said, how does one create a meaningful, worshipful experience for youth that they will connect with on more than an entertainment level?

The bands at Youth 2007 did a great job creating energy and enthusiasm which, then, the speakers engaged toward the theme of the week ~ Seek, Pray, Learn, Act, Teach. Maybe that's the key in this media savvy age. I thank Youth 2007 for igniting these questions within me.... Who knows what I'll be pondering after Youth 2011?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Splatted

I have definitely been splatted! Two days out from Youth 2007 and I am still exhausted. But I am also exhilarated by the experience. There were amazing speakers, great bands and even an inflatable obstacle course. The most amazing thing was seeing the Greensboro Coliseum filled with some 6,000 United Methodist youth. That there are that many youth and youth leaders willing to raise the funds, travel in planes and trains and vans, take time off work, and be together to praise God is certainly something for which to be thankful.

I'll post more about Youth 2007 in the next day or two... I may even include a picture of me in the inflatable obstacle course. (Who knew such a thing even existed?!?)

And by the way... my new favorite song is "Me and Jesus" by Stellar Cart... even if I didn't crowd surf ~~~~~

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Going (to) SPLAT

Wednesday morning I leave for North Carolina to attend Youth 2007 ~ aka SPLAT (Seek, Pray, Learn, Act, Teach). This is they quadrennial gathering of United Methodist Youth and Youth workers from all over the world. I can't even begin to imagine what it is going to be like, but I'm sure it will be crazy and hectic and fun.

I never had the opportunity to do anything like this as a youth (the youth group / church I was involved in was too small) so it is neat to be able to go as an adult. The part I'm looking forward to most is the opportunity to get a glimpse of the present and future of our worldwide United Methodist family. I celebrate the worldwide nature of our denomination and this will be an opportunity to see it first hand.

There are two other adults (Jake and Stephanie) and six youth attending from my church. Along with the going to the convention, we will be spending a day doing mission work in the Greensboro, NC area. Pray for us as we travel and pray that we will be open to meeting new people and learning from the new things we will be experiencing. May we see the face of Christ in all we meet and may we be the hands and feet of Christ ~ willing and able to do his work in our little corner of the the world and beyond!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Things that go bump in the night...

Slam....... the sound of the wind blowing the bedroom door closed in the middle of the night.

Squeak......... the sound of Zeke's paws on the wrong side of the closed bedroom door.

Zip...... the sound of Zeke getting confined in his pet-taxi for the rest of the night.

Meow.......

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A Blessing Day

Today we had a Service of Animal Blessing at our Contemporary Worship. It was a beautiful day and the service was outside at our Sonrise Garden. We had a wonderful congregation of two-legged and four-legged friends. Everyone got along well and several of the dogs even joined in prayers and sang along with the band. There were big dogs and small dogs, a puppy and three cats. (The most stylish pet was a cat wheeled in a fancy cat stroller!) Only one of the dogs nipped at me while I was giving him his blessing. Fortunately he was easily distracted by the treat my worship assistant held in front of his nose!

Even our boy was blessed. Here is his 'blessing day' picture. Aren't we just the proud parents??

Friday, July 06, 2007

Fast Friday Five

Today, what are you:

1. Wearing

Blue shorts and a green and blue t-shirt ~ day~off clothes.

2. Reading

Brian McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy. I started it a long time ago but got side~tracked, so I'm trying again.

3. Eating

Strawberry Shortcake ~ Strawberry Shortcake ~ Strawberry Shortcake

4. Doing

Going through some things in the house and making a pile to bring to Goodwill ~ pending hubby's approval, of course.

5. Pondering

How to handle the logistics of a 200+ wedding with Communion. (We UM's don't have many weddings with Communion, at least in this part of the country.) For starters, where does the wedding party stand so as not to get in the way?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Year 6

Six years ago this evening was the worst night of my life. I will never forget what happened on July 5, 2001. In fact, I believe it is something I will remember on a physical, emotional and spiritual level for the rest of my life, whether I want to or not. In fact, toward the end of last week I began feeling tired. I noticed that my energy level was low and I began to wonder why. Then I realized... It is almost July 5th. It is as if my body remembers before the rest of me. This same exhaustion is something I have dealt with on and off since July 5, 2001. Sometimes in long stretches and sometimes in short spans. One of the many symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

For those of you who don't know the significance of July 5th, it was on that night that I was assaulted at gun point and terrorized for more than two hours in my own home. I survived by the very awesome and amazing grace of God ~ I have no other way to explain it. For that I will be forever thankful. The details of the assault fall within the scope of my unbloggables. In fact, it takes courage for me to blog even this. It is not something I talk about often, even to my closest friends and family members.

Yet it feels right to acknowledge this day on my blog, where I share bits and pieces of myself and my family and my journey with God following the Way of Jesus. Being a victim and survivor of trauma has shaped who I am.

On the first year anniversary of the assault I found someone to cover the pulpit for me and Gary and I got away. One of my parishioners (who was not happy about me being away) asked, "Why do you need to leave town? Are you going to make a big deal about this every year?" My answer is yes. I am going to make a big deal about it every year. My 'big deal' may be as simple as blogging about it or going for a hike or staying at a bed and breakfast or enjoying lobster with friends, but yes, I am going to make a big deal about it every year because July 5th is a big deal.

And I thank God every day that I am here to make a big deal about it. My prayers are for the families of the women and men who have gone through similar situations and who are not here to make a big deal about it. Maybe if more of us make a big deal about it (about violence, about gun control, about dealing openly with mental illness), instead of ignoring it or sweeping it under the rug, there will be less violence and our world may reflect more fully God's peace.