Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Soul of the Place

I recently read Thomas Moore's book Care of the Soul. The part of the book that struck me most was when he wrote about finding soul in the places and things around us. Instead of valuing a thing simply for it's usefulness, buildings and objects have value because of their beauty, their soul, and what they add to the community.

The church building where I do much of my work is an old, stone edifice built in 1924. It was not built with ease of use in mind. For those of us trying do do ministry within its walls it is anything but accessible. One can't move from one room to another without having to negotiate a set of stairs. More than once I have wished we could just tear the thing down and build something new, fresh, and easier to use.

Yet over and over again people from the community remark on the beauty of our building. If we were to tear down this structure, our town would lose a bit of its history, a work of art, and perhaps a piece of its soul.

The other day I asked Gary what he thought of the 'soul' of our church building. He said he thought our building was an old soul that felt under appreciated because the people who use it most are always complaining about it. That's probably true. But I don't want that to be the case, so I'm setting about to find the soul of our church, appreciate it, and maybe even come to love it. Because our value is not just in our usefulness, but in the sacred value of our soul.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Posting from my iPhone

I am officially blogging from my iPhone. It is a little tricky, but I'm doing it!

Sunday, January 27, 2008


My iDreams are going to come true today. I am going to purchase my iPhone. I am filled with anticipation, expectation and a little bit of nervousness. Is it going to be all I hope it will be? Will it fulfill every want and need? (Okay, probably not.... but it is exciting!)

I only have three worship services, an hour of Sunday School, and an impending snow storm to get through before I can head to the Apple Store.... Think I can make it?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Being a Reptile

This will be my last post about our recent conflict workshop....

Our Conference Consultant suggested that one way to better understand conflict is to better understand our actions and reactions. On a very simple level, we can potentially act and react out of three different mind sets. The reptilian mind set is the most basic level.... the 'fight or flight' response. The challenge for us as leaders is to not to meet a reptilian action with a reptilian response. Instead of immediately going on the defensive we might be better off responding with a request for more information. "Help me to understand...." "What are you feeling right now?" This would be responding out of the mammalian or even human mind sets.

However, our consultant did remind us that we are all going to be reptiles sometimes... and that's okay. The goal is not to be perfect, only more aware of how we deal with conflict. As for me, I reserve my right to be a reptile every now and then!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tomb Time

As Christians, we can't get too far away from the tomb. Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. The third day he rose from the dead. Those three days were days of conflicting emotions, anxiety and a general feeling that everything had fallen apart.

Yesterday the consultant at our District Clergy meeting spoke about this 'Tomb Time." Too often we like to avoid pain at all costs. We ignore it, try to gloss over it, and pretend it is not happening. I recently read about a group of nuns who decided to sing Easter songs on Good Friday because Good Friday was too depressing.

Yet this tomb time is necessary because it has the possibility of bringing about resurrection. It is not comfortable. It is downright painful. Yet if we avoid it the fruits of resurrection may never come to life.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Conflict as a Means of Grace

Say what now? I thought conflict was something to be avoided at all costs!

Yesterday I attended a District Clergy meeting that included a presentation on the 'gifts' of conflict. One of our Conference Consultants gave a very thoughtful presentation encouraging us not to run from conflicts in our churches, but to use them as ways to bring about change, healing and growth. It sounds good, right. But how do you do it?

It was timely for me since our beloved Contemporary Service has been experiencing some conflict. During our times of re-visioning and listening we have learned that we do not all agree. There have been times of conflict, lots of love, a fair amount of anxiety and plenty of grace to go around. One thing I have found to be helpful is to name the conflict so it is at least out in the open.

If nothing else, this District Clergy day was a day apart for me. A day away from the conflict. A day to learn and to enjoy my clergy colleagues. Coming back into the 'fray' I have determined not to be overwhelmed by the conflict, but to see it as an opportunity.... for what, I'm not quite sure. But we shall see!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Flying Red Pepper Seeds

Yesterday was what I call a 'grumpy day.' No, it was more than that... It was a down-right bad day. And it was my day-off, so that made it even worse. It was the kind of day when everything I touched either broke, knocked over, spilled, or fell on the floor. I spent two hours trying (failing) to import information into a software program without even realizing I was using the wrong version of the software. I stubbed my toe. We shopped at K-Mart and bought the wrong thing. I cried.

The turning point came when I was slicing a red pepper and flung the core across the kitchen, scattering seeds everywhere. Sticky, little read pepper seeds are now lodged in the most unlikely places, stuck on my cabinet doors and even underfoot. I had to laugh. (Well, first I swore, but then I laughed.) I mean, what else can you do but laugh, try to clean them up, eat your casserole, and go to bed? Which is what I did.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Body of Christ

Yesterday I preached and served communion at a local convalescent home. This particular facility is a Behavioral Unit in a larger Rehabilitation / Nursing Complex. The people in this facility are of varying ages and alertness levels. Over the years I've watched several of the residents deteriorate rather rapidly. I don't know if it is medication or their medical condition, but some have gone from being verbal and interactive to completely unresponsive in a relatively short period of time. Many of those who "attend" the service are wheeled from their rooms by aides and show little awareness of their surroundings.

I have to admit that I find these visits extremely depressing. I just don't like going. In fact, I dread it. What can I do for these people? How can I offer them hope ~ how I can I bring them the good news ~ when so much of what surrounds them is hopelessness and bad news.

Neither does the facility itself offer much hope. The building is run down and smells like cigarette smoke. The room where the service is held is also a main thoroughfare for those delivering meals and doing laundry. Mid-way through the Scripture, the Lord's Prayer, or the Great Thanksgiving it is not uncommon for someone from housekeeping to push a cart full of dirty laundry through the middle of our gathering. Where is Christ is this place?

Yet, in the spirit of the season, I had an epiphany yesterday as I was looking around the room inviting them to receive the body and blood of Christ. "The body of Christ, broken for you." "The blood of Christ, shed for you." It seemed to me that those words were the Good News breaking into the world. For in that place, at that moment, we were, we are ~ with our limitations and pain ~ the body of Christ, and that is all that matters.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Family Affair

My mother recently began blogging. Here is a great post that she published yesterday.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Real World

More than once I've heard from parishioners and friends, "Yes, but you don't know what its like to work in the real world." The Real World. Interesting....

It is true that I've worked for the church my entire adult life. There are certain perks to working for the church, including setting my own schedule and being able to go to the doctor / hairdresser / grocery store in the middle of the day. I get four weeks of vacation without question (or without much question). I have health insurance, a paycheck and a safe place to live.

But there are also challenges to working for the church, namely evening meetings (sometimes night after night), being on call 24 hours a day, having more bosses than one can count, and the expectation that you can be everything to everyone. Yet I accept every challenge for the joy and fulfillment I get out of my vocation.

There are ways that the real world is creeping into the church. Pension shortfalls and increased health insurance contributions and co-pays were not part of the minister's life when my grandfather was serving. The church is facing many of the same challenges faced by those in the real world.

I bristle when I hear the comment mentioned above. The implication is that I live in a bubble and don't know what it is like out there beyond the church or parsonage doors. That is simply not true. But what really gets me is the implication is that what happens outside the church doors is real as opposed to what happens inside the church.

Shouldn't we bring more of the church into the world, rather than dismiss what happens in the church as being beyond reality? Shouldn't everyone have four weeks of vacation, health insurance and a safe place to live? Shouldn't everyone be treated with love and respect as children of God? Shouldn't we strive to bring the real life the church offers into the world?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Firday Five ~ Birthday Edition

RevGal Mother Laura writes, "My forty-third birthday next Wednesday will inaugurate the 'Birthday Madness' season in the Grimes-Honkanen household. The next day Katie will turn five and just over two weeks later, on Feb. 3, Nicholas will be eleven. In the middle, on January 30, we celebrate the gift of Grandma Di; Nicholas and I were both due on my Mom's birthday but I was uncharacteristically early and he was little late. We will be doing a trip to Disneyland to celebrate them all in a couple weeks; in the meantime I offer this birthday-inspired Friday Five."

1. When is your birthday? Does anyone else (famous and/or in your own life) share it?

March 15, 1975. The Ides of March. I don't know if anyone famous shares it, but it was the day Julius Caesar was murdered, so that makes it a little interesting.

2. Do you prefer a big party or an intimate celebration for the chosen few?

Sometimes it is just Gary and I celebrating together ~ a meal out or something special at home, cake and ice cream and presents. If we do get together with friends or family, I prefer something small. My birthdays growing up were usually just my parents and grandparents, which was fine with me... One of my co-worker's birthday is the day after mine. Last year another co worker (and friend) brought us out to lunch which was a special treat!

3. Describe your most memorable birthday(s)--good, bad, or both.

My 30th birthday was fun. I was dreading turning 30... moaning about it for weeks ahead of time. When the day came we went out to the "Chowder Pot" with good friends. We ate lobster and came back to the house for cake and ice-cream. It was a nice way to transition into my fourth decade.

4. What is your favorite cake and ice cream? (Bonus points if you share the cake recipe). Or would you rather have a different treat altogether?

Homemade chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting! My Mom usually mails it to me now, but Gary has made it a couple of times. Last year I ended up with two birthday cakes, which was great! I especially like it with coffee ice cream, but vanilla will do.

5. Surprise parties: love 'em or hate 'em?

I've never had a surprise Birthday party. If someone could pull it off, though, I think I would enjoy it! (Hint... Hint ...)

Bonus: Describe your ideal birthday--the sky's the limit.

Breakfast in bed. An appointment with the Massage Therapist. A trip to the Theater followed by dinner. Cake and Ice Cream at home... And, of course, presents!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Stuck in Advent

Epiphany has arrived. Lent is just around the corner. Yet I am still stuck in Advent. Early in Advent I had a sense that there was something I was preparing for...something that I would receive this Advent / Christmas season. It was an Advent of snow storms and stomach flu. I missed the third and fourth Sundays of Advent. I could only attend one of our Christmas Eve Services. But still, it was a wonderful Advent. Let me explain...

One thing I've learned as a step-mother is that is is not easy to be a family when you only spend 6 weeks of the year together. Ben's winter visit always falls over Christmas, which is a wonderful time to be together. Yet it is also a busy and stressful time for a pastor's family. During past Christmases I've always felt torn between family time and church responsibilities. Make Christmas cookies or write my sermon. Wrap presents together or bring communion to our shut-ins. There are many expectations of the pastor at Christmas and these expectations can be a drain on my energy. In the end, I don't feel like I've been able to give my best to either my church or my family.

But then came the storm. Everything 'church' was postponed a week. One less sermon to write. And then... the stomach flu. All expectations for a 'perfect' Christmas melted away. The fourth Sunday of Advent and Christmas Eve passed with my only attending one service. When I was feeling better I was able to give my attention to those I love the most ~ Gary and Ben ~ and it was a wonderful gift. I received the gift of family this Advent and I am so thankful.

No family is easy. Joseph certainly knew this as step-father to the Son of God. Yet we are led to believe that he and Mary and Jesus settled into family life as best as they knew how. That was what we were able to do this season... settle into a family-ness. I think I've learned something this Advent... something I hope not to forget.... something I hope to carry with me through Epiphany and Lent and Easter and Pentecost... and even into next Advent.

Friday, January 04, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

RevGal Sally writes, "Well it had to be didn't it, love them or hate them I bet you've been asked about New Year resolutions. So with no more fuss here is this weeks Friday Five."

1. Do you make New Year resolutions?

I have made New Year's Resolutions in the past... usually about eating right or exercise.... but I don't have any resolutions for this year. I've found that New Year's Resolutions don't work very well anyway. If there is something I really want to do, I am going to do it regardless. If there is something I really don't want to do, resolving to do it at the beginning of the year is not going to make me do it!

2. Is this something you take seriously, or is it a bit of fun?

When I do make resolutions I don't tend to take them too seriously!

3. Share one goal for 2008.

Complete my scrapbook for our January 2007 Caribbean Cruise. We said we wouldn't go on another cruise until the scrapbook was completed.... and it's about time!

4. Money is no barrier, share one wild/ impossible dream for 2008.

Renovate the "Scout Room" at our church so our Contemporary Service and Youth Group can have an appropriate place to worship. The "Scout Room" is a wonderful, large space in the basement that has been basically unused and untouched. Redo the walls, floor and ceiling. Put in a sound / multi-media system and we could have a great place to let our Emergent Worship grow and develop.... not to mention Youth Worship, Coffee House.... the possibilities are endless.

5. Someone wants to publish a story of your year in 2008, what will the title of that book be?

The Middle of the Conversation... I read a newspaper article recently where a pastor was quoted as saying, "The sermon is not the first word or the last word. It is the middle of the conversation." I love that. That is how I want to preach, live and lead....not having the first word or the last word, but being in the middle of the conversation.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Year End Review

Blogger Katherine writes A Year in First Lines , which is a fun meme- the first line of the first post of each month of the year. I'm going to borrow Katherine's idea.... Here we go! Year 2007:

January - Happy 2007!

February - As I'm sure you can imagine, Nicky has several girlfriends.

March - Tomorrow I leave for a retreat with our Confirmation youth.

April - Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

May - Last Sunday afternoon Gary and I went to the ordination service of my friend Dianne.

June - As I look back on my senior year of high school I recognize now that I was struggling with a call.

July - Six years ago this evening was the worst night of my life.

August - Way to go Ben!

September - Friends Laughter Fun Faith Days Off Ice Cream (in moderation)Play Vegetables Vacation Being Silly Exercise Sleep Honesty ~ This is what I learned last week at Pastor's Assembly.

October - Zeke... Yes, Zeke... in his Halloween Costume!

November - It's true. I have not been keeping up very well with my blogging lately.

December - The tree is up, the stockings have been hung, and it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Whew... That was fun. It was neat to remember each post and what inspired it... and wonder what this new year will bring?? Happy 2008!