Sunday, December 20, 2009

Quote of the Week ~ Lines from Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir (Sabbath Poems)

His perfect pleasure was sole law;
No pleasure had become self-willed.

For all His creatures were His pleasures
And their whole pleasure was to be
What he made them; they sought no gain
Or growth beyond their proper measures,
Nor longed for change or novelty.
The only new thing could be pain.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Nicky: The Beginning

Recently I wrote a post about my concern for our elderly boy, Nicky, who has had trouble getting up the stairs. Amazingly, he made a recovery and is mobile again. Still, knowing that saying good-bye is inevitable, I have been thinking a lot about the blessing he has been to me throughout the years. Here's a little story about how he first arrived on the scene.

It had been a week since graduating from seminary and a year of serving my first church. It was time to get a dog. “Sure, come on over. I have a couple dogs to show you.” I was spending my first real vacation at my parents’ house in Maine. As my father and I drove the half hour to Lisbon, I was excited. I had been to a couple of kennels already, but I had a good feeling about this one. Arriving, we found a rundown house surrounded by a couple of falling down barns. A man stepped out in a torn t-shirt and baseball cap. “You here to look at the dogs?” He showed us a couple of sad looking labs and my heart sank. Neither of these were my dog. As we stepped away to leave, I spotted a black and white bundle of energy tied to a dog house in the back. Straining at his lead, he leapt and barked as we took in the spectacle. “Is that dog up for adoption?” I asked. Smiling, the man responded, “Him?” Stooping down to look in his brown doggie eyes, I knew he was family.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sleeping on the Job

Bady and I have been quite involved in training lately. As I blogged previously, the training started when I realized I was losing my status as Pack Leader shortly after our move to Vermont! We've now progressed a little beyond the refresher course and are considering getting involved in the working dog sport of Schutzhund. We have a great trainer and have been invited to participate in a local Working Dog Club. We have a goal of earning our Schutzhund BH Title next summer!

This sport work is a good outlet for Bady's energy. It is also good for me in terms of building confidence. In order to excel in Schutzhund the handler must have absolute control of the dog. The dog must constantly look to the handler for instruction. This will make Bady and I a better working team in daily life as well as on the field.

This is Bady working today. If there were a 'sleeping on the job competition' he might just win! He looks cute here, but you should see him in action on the field. He is a force to be reckoned with.... even if he is still my little boy!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Different is Beautiful

I'm an introvert. That statement probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me! At Charge Conference of my first year at my first church the SPRC told my District Superintendent ~ Rev. Jerome Del Pino ~ that they would like me to be more 'outgoing.' Their previous pastor had been very extroverted. Rev. Del Pino said something that has always stuck with me. He told me, "Don't change yourself for any church. Just be yourself." It was great advice.

Beth Quick, a fellow introvert and United Methodist pastor, wrote a blog post about introverts and leadership. She also shared an article that makes a case for introverts making the best leaders.

Whether introverts or extroverts, we all have gifts to share. I do tend to be a bit sensitive and think that sometimes introverts get a bad rap. Often, it seems to me, extroverts think introverts want to be more like them. I love being an introvert and I wouldn't change this aspect of my personality for anything. Being an introvert doesn't mean that I am shy or unfriendly. It simply means that I re-energize through more reflective activities. I enjoy spending time alone.

So I say that we should honor each other and the variety of gifts we bring to the table... whether it be ministry, family or whatever! As the old camp song goes, "Different is beautiful!"

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Changes

Anyone who reads this blog knows that our pets are beloved members of our family. Readers probably also know that one member of the family has been failing recently. Our sweet boy Nicky has lost about 20 pounds and is struggling with arthritis. This week he lost the ability to go upstairs by himself. His back legs just won't support him.

I've been praying that when his time comes he will go quietly in his sleep to wait for us at the Rainbow Bridge. (Yes, I know the whole Rainbow Bridge thing is theologically bogus..... but I'm a Universalist when it comes to dogs.) Now, however, I am beginning to think it won't be that easy. How does one decide when the quality of life no longer balances out daily suffering? Is it selfish for me to keep him with us when he is obviously struggling? Are we giving up on him if we 'put him down'?

The truth is I didn't think he would survive our recent move. I thought the changes in routine would be too disorienting for him. It took him a few weeks, but he settled in quite nicely to life in Vermont. His life is pretty limited ~ the house, the back yard ~ but he has seemed happy most days. No matter what we decided in the next few days, I will always feel blessed to have this sweet rescue dog in my life. From the first moment I saw him ~ hitched to a tree behind the kennel ~ I knew he was family.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Acedia

Accidie (Greek for 'negligence,' indifference'). By the early 5th century the word had become a technical term in Christian asceticism, signifying a state of restlessness and inability to either work or to pray. It is accounted one of the 'seven deadly sins.'
~ Oxford Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church

I must admit I was not familiar with the term until I read Kathleen Norris' latest book Acedia & Me. I loved the three other books I've read by Norris ~ A Cloister Walk, Dakota, and Amazing Grace. This book, while very different, was also excellent. In it Norris explores her own propensity to acedia ~ especially in the midst of her husbands illnesses and death.

Norris is careful to separate acedia from depression. Acedia, as she explains it, is a more spiritual affliction while depression is physical / psychological. Norris also separates acedia from the sin of sloth. While the two are related, acedia (or bad thoughts) can be more assiduous than what tends to be the outwardly visible sin of slothfulness.

Personally I would not say that I have a propensity toward acedia in the way Norris describes it, but we probably all have struggled with restlessness and dissatisfaction at one time or another. Recently I went through a dry spell in my devotional life as I struggled with some uncertainty in focus and direction. To hear that the desert fathers and mothers experienced similar periods of questioning is reassuring. Yet, it is when the questioning turns into numbness and the inability to care that true acedia sets in.

I thank Norris for her openness in writing this book. Being vulnerable is not an easy thing. Norris, a well know writer and poet, shared that in a difficult periods of acedia she encountered reviews of her books that described her as a spiritual guru of our day. It is easy to think that everyone else has it together and we are the only ones that are messed-up. That Norris made herself real in this book is a blessing. For it is when we are willing to share our own struggles that we can help other most profoundly.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Vote Now! (For real!) Make Your Voice be Heard :)

While checking out a new free polling site, Gary developed this silly survey ~ just for fun! I know some of you have opinions about our 'boys,' so text, tweet or visit the site to vote! If you have trouble seeing the code, click on the graph to enter the full screen mode. The boys are waiting!

Try this audience polling system at Poll Everywhere

Monday, October 19, 2009

Slow and Steady

My German Shepherd Dog, Bady, and I have been together for 14 months. As I've shared in previous posts, he has completely changed my life. As Gary put it recently, Bady allowed me the breathing room I needed to heal from years of living with post-traumatic stress. I feel consistently more like myself than I had for seven years. I can get up, go to work, eat, sleep, excercise, visit, laugh ~ on a daily basis ~ all without any debilitating triggers.

During this time, Bady has been a faithful and loyal companion. But Bady has also grown and changed and matured into a full grown German Shepherd male. That is to say that Bady changed, while my way of being with him didn't change. For one thing, he has grown physically. He is not the gangly one-year old he was when I got him. His personality has also changed. He's still a goof ball a lot of the time, but he also takes seriously his role as man of the house ~ especially when Gary is not home, which four days a week since we've moved to Vermont. I've appreciated that safety net, but I also have to let him know that woman of the house trumps man of the house and that's final!

So now it is time for a tune-up for me as a pack leader. We have found an excellent trainer who has years of experience with German Shepherd Dogs. After our initial consultation he declared Bady to be an excellent dog ~ but a lot of dog as well. (His assessment of me was less complimentary :>) When I asked him if Bady was too much dog for me, he responded that it depends on how much work I am willing to do.

Needless to say, I am willing to do whatever work it takes for us to continue to be a team. We've already come a long way in five or six weeks. When we met last Friday our trainer said, "Slow and steady wins the race with this dog." (I suspect that is the case for me as well.) It strikes me that 'slow and steady' is how most things in life are best approached. Just as my healing continues to be a slow and steady process, by God's grace, there are not often easy answers in life. So I'm willing to take things one day at a time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Faith Autopsy

I would like to share a blog that I have recently been reading. I know the author of this blog from my time in Connecticut. He was lead pastor at a growing emergent church in the area. I attended a couple of his services and, later, served with him on the board of the local conference of churches. While I knew that there were differences in Ben and my theological outlook, I had (and continue to have) great respect for him. I was stunned recently when I heard he was no longer lead pastor of the church. That was went I began reading his blog:

Faith Autopsy

In it I found an honest account of his journey being a gay man in the evangelical tradition. I think this is extremely brave of him ~ to put his story out there for all to read. He affirms that he is both a committed Jesus follower and a gay man who will no longer hide. I hope that others who struggle with how to reconcile their faith with their homosexuality will gain strength and insight from him. Thank you, Ben, for your thoughtfulness, generosity and compassion!

Monday, September 28, 2009

It IS almost Halloween


Apparently Zeke is getting in the spirit of the season....

Saturday, September 26, 2009

You look too young ...

...to be a pastor. As the saying goes, if I had a nickel for every time I've heard that! It was more difficult to hear when I was a 25 year old student local pastor. I didn't have years of experience to point to back then. Today, as a 34 year old ordained elder, I take it as a compliment. Or, at least, I try to. It is still a little frustrating having moved to a new church ~ in my 10th year of ministry ~ to be asked one of these questions:

"Is this your first church?"
"Are you a recent graduate?"

(To be clear, I don't hear this from my congregation as much as from members of the community, other churches, ecumenical clergy colleagues and people I meet on the street!)

And, truth be told, I don't think I look like a 25 year old seminary student any more. I think I look pretty much all of my 34 years ~ with a few gray hairs peeking out here and there. In fact, I've had people ask me if I have children at the local high school which, technically, I could have.

So this makes me wonder.... How old does one have to look to look old enough to be a pastor? And, not to open up a can of worms, but.... Do my younger male colleagues get this comment as much as my younger female colleagues do? Does this comment just reflect the stereotypes of what a pastor is 'supposed to' look like? And what is a pastor supposed to look like anyway?

For now, I am glad that I can say 'thank you' with a smile when I hear such a comment. "Thank you. I've actually been a pastor for about 10 years. This is the third church I've served."

But I still wonder what's behind it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Quote of the Week ~ Faith

"That is faith, I suppose, learning how to live in the meantime, between the last time we heard from God and the next time we hear from God."

~ Renita Weems, Listening for God: A Ministers Journey Through Silence and Doubt

Monday, September 21, 2009

3 weeks or 3 months or 3 years

I've been here in Vermont, now, for almost three months. As I shared before, the house is starting to feel like home. I've made connections with a new doctor's office, new hair stylist, new dog trainer. I'm getting used to my new surroundings. I realized the other day, though, while having lunch with a local clergy colleague, just how much pressure I am putting myself to settle- in.

Rev. Nancy has been in her church for three years. While talking, I made an off hand comments that I will 'know better my schedule in a couple weeks.' She lovingly challenged me, saying that she was just now beginning to feel settled after three years.

I admit that I don't deal well with uncertainty. I like to have things nailed down. I want to have this whole settling-in period done. Yet, uprooting your life ~ settling into a new community and starting a new job ~ are not simple transitions. They are messy and exciting and difficult and take time.

I feel like a broken record, but I guess I just have to keep reminding myself to slow down, be easy, and let it all sink in. Last week I read a great definition of discernment. A pastor posting on a lectionary bulletin board wrote that discerment is , "...sticking to the topic we want to
avoid until it begins to open up for us." Perhaps God is trying to teach me something here..... Let's hope I can slow down enough to figure out what it is!

Monday, September 14, 2009

New. New. New.

Last week we got a few new things. Before we moved here we saved up some money ~ and were given som generous gifts ~ to buy some new things for our new home. Each house is different, so each house requires a few new things! For example, at our last house there was a built in corner display unit with a glass door. This was very handy for hiding breakables from the cat! So one of our purchases was a curio cabinet. Also, our new house has the perfect office / guest room, which required a futon! It was fun to shop for both these things and it just happened that both were delivered last week.

(I also visited by new doctor for the first time last week, which made it a week full of new things!)

The most unexpected new thing, though, turned out to be the purchase of a new-to-us car. After six years with us, our '96 Jeep came to the end of it's road. We expected this would happen, just not this soon. We decided $3000 in repairs was just not worth it. I miss the Jeep, but I am happy to have a new set of wheels, which will (I pray) be a bit more reliable.

One of my Facebook friends wrote, "New doctor! New futon! New car! What's next?" Hopefully nothing! Because along with this latest purchase comes new debt, new monthly payments and new frugality!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Adjusting

Gary and I aren't the only ones who have had to adjust to the move. The boys have done pretty well. Zeke has been a trouper. Besides the five hour drive up, Zeke barely noticed that we moved. As long as he has his crunchies and litter box, he's happy.

Nicky, on the other hand, had a more difficult adjustment. He's still figuring out the house. He gets lost going from room to room and we've had a few unfortunate 'accidents' when he couldn't find the door to let us know he needed to go out. It is getting better, though. He's comfortable in his little basement bachelor pad with his crate and feeding station. He spends most of his day happily sleeping down there.

Bady takes his duties as 'man of the house' very seriously. None of us are happy that Gary is gone four days a week, but we make do. The dogs follow me from room to room like shadows. Zeke curls up on Gary's side of the bed to keep it warm. We all jump on Gary and give him kisses when he gets home. (Well, I don't jump on him, but I give him kisses ~ I'm usually the last in line!) Such is life as the Atwoods in Vermont!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Letting my Soul Catch Up

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind. Besides moving and starting at a new church, we've had several weeks of visitors, a week of vacation, and the challenge of getting used to Gary's new schedule. Last week, when an afternoon appointment got canceled at the last minute, I found myself collapsed on the couch devoid of all energy. This moment of space in my day gave me the opportunity to check-in with myself. I had the overwhelming sense that I had been going at warp speed for so long that my soul hadn't completely caught up with my body.

I believe the idea that one's soul needs time to catch up with one's physical activities comes out of the Native American tradition. I can't remember where I first read it, but I often think of this exchange. After a day of travel, wanting to know what is next, the Anglo American asks her Native American friend. Her friend replies, "Now we wait for our souls to catch up with our bodies."

I think I am still waiting. That's not to say I'm just sitting around. But I am trying to build some quiet time into my days to connect with my soul and allow myself to absorb all the changes that have taken place. Self-care is a clergy buzz-phrase that springs to mind. Playing catch up, not just with bills and errands, but with the sacred stuff of life takes discipline. So I'm trying to discipline myself in my new surroundings, and not rush ahead so fast that I leave myself behind.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Getting Caught Up

It is hard to believe that my first Sunday at Faith UMC was seven weeks ago. The time has gone by really fast on the one hand, but it also feels like we have been here much longer. The house is starting to feel like home and life is more settled.

The picture is of the Altar decoration from my first Sunday. Each of the different ministry teams presented me with a gift. The gifts were placed on the Altar to make this beautiful display. Now the gifts are decorating my office to remind me of the many and varied ministries of the church. I feel blessed to be part of such a vital community of faith.

On a personal note, we had a good summer visit with Ben. He is 10 years old and growing up! We explored Lake Champlain, attended Campmeeting, and enjoyed time with various sets of grandparents. We also visited the Ben & Jerry's factory and made a trip to the Cabot outlet ~ local Vermont favorites! While I'll never be a 'Woodchuck', I'm starting to feel like a Vermonter!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Summer Vacation

It seems that I forgot how exhausting it is to move to a new place, get used to a new church, and settle in to a new community. My days are full with meeting interesting new people (parishioners and neighbors), finding my way to new places and learning new ways to do things.... Not to mention trips to the DMV and Town Office. There are also the many trips to the shops to stock up on those things we couldn't bring with us and outfit the new house with all those personalized touches.

That is all to say that ~ while I've had fleeting moments of inspiration ~ my thoughts have not been with the blog. And that probably is not going to improve any time soon. Ben has just arrived for his summer stay which will include a trip to Campmeeting and various visits with and from grandparents and friends. All that while continuing to settle in to a new church life will make for a busy five weeks.

I do feel a certain amount guilt when I fail to update my blog regularly. While I realize that nothing I share is particularly earth-shattering, I do feel a certain responsibility toward those of you who take the time to read this... all two of you!! :>) But in the spirit of being easy on myself, I am going to take a summer vacation from the blog. Hopefully by the fall I will be full of ideas and thoughts to share. But for now, I'll see you in September!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Having Faith

The last week has been a whirlwind of moving vans, boxes, late nights and early mornings as we have settled in to our new house. We probably can't claim to be Vermonter's yet, but we are certainly enjoying this new state we will call home for, hopefully, the foreseeable future.

The last week has also been a whirlwind of meeting new people, exploring new places and being very warmly welcomed by the folks of Faith UMC. Whenever settling into a new place, however, I always feels a sense of disorientation. Everything seems to take longer when getting used to a new community. And I've driven by our side street more than once. (Don't tell Gary!)

Yet I have faith that this is where God has called me to be at the time. I have faith that the city of South Burlington will soon feel like home. And I have faith that God is with me and the people of Faith UMC as we make this transition to ministry together at this time and in this place.

Thank for your prayers during our move. I'll be better about updating from now on!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Final Quotes from my Desk

The final packing days are upon me, so I guess I should get rid of these last few scraps of paper cluttering up my desk and post them here. This is quite a random list, and I'm not exactly sure why I felt the need to write all of them down. But in any case.... Enjoy!

"The deep darkness vanished into ordinary daylight, and the mystery of God was only made more splendid." ~ Marilynn Robinson, Gilead

In the meantime, those who weep now are truly blessed, for they see the incongruity between the promised kingdom and things as they stand.

"Anger is not humanizing. It is a rehearsal for the performance that never arrives." ~ Carol Shields

Thank you, O God, for the healing power of your love that is at work in me now.

"Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles." ~ George Jean Nathan

Friday, June 05, 2009

Mixed Emotions

The past few weeks have been so busy. Of course, there's the packing. Then there was the Good-Bye Party at church. I've also been trying to visit our homebound members one last time before I leave. This week I put together my last few worship services. I have had (or will soon have) my last Council on Ministries, Ad Board and SPRC meetings. The past few weeks have also been filled with mixed emotions. Excitement, sadness, nerves, impatience, anticipation.....

Another important priority has been spending special time with the people I'm going to miss the most. One of those people is this little munchkin (and her Mommy and Daddy, too)! Gary and I had the chance to babysit Katie last Monday. She was such a good girl, and even let us take her for a stroll after dinner. She went down to sleep no problem. I think we passed the babysitting test! It was bitter-sweet, because I know I won't be able to spend as much time with her after we move.... But there is always Skype and e-mail and the phone and occasional visits. She assures me that I will always be her Auntie Krista.

As a pastor, I realize it is my responsibility to maintain appropriate boundaries with parishioners after I leave. It is generally understood that there will be no contact between parishioners and the former pastor for a year. They need to be able to bond with the new pastor, without interference on my part, and that makes sense. Yet some people ~ very few ~ become part of the make-up of your life. This has been the case with Katie's family. Our relationship has moved from parishioner to co-workers to friends to family. So I will be respectful of boundaries as we move on, but I won't be giving up this little munchkin or her 'peeps.' Just look at that face! How could I?

Monday, May 18, 2009

One More Quote from my Desk

Rev. Peter Laarman wrote in The Progressive Christian:

Back in my days as a pastor I would sometimes tell congregants that faithful people are like small air purification units in a large, polluted space. By being clear and kind and generous and open-hearted, we remove just enough of the dirt for others to begin to be more clear and kind and generous themselves.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Retreating

Two days at the Rockcraft Conference Center was just what I needed. As a member of the Local Church Transformation Committee, the two days were spent in lively conversation with transformational pastors about the present and future of the church. We prayed together in our opening worship:

Then just when we think we’ve got it right
as to where we should go and what we should do;
just when we’re ready to take on the world,
you come, like a beggar, to our back door,
saying, “This is the way.
I am the way.”
And offering us bread and wine.

The loaf of blessing remained in the center of our circle throughout our afternoon conversations as we discussed Reggie McNeal’s book Missional Renaissance. As is the case in many areas of my life lately, I wasn’t completely prepared. I left home on Tuesday without finishing the book. I blame the stress of the move, the busyness of packing and the blessing of my Mom’s visit. Yet I was still able to be part of an inspiring discussion of who we are and who God’s might be calling us to be. And every once in a while the aroma of bread filled the room. For me, it was a reminder of God’s grace.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More Quotes from my Desk

Continuing my effort to rid myself of these little scraps of paper, here are a few more quotes I found in my desk:

What is the use of living for things that you cannot hold on to, values that crumble in your hands as soon as you possess them, pleasures that turn sour before you have begun to taste them, and a peace that is constantly turning to war? ~ Thomas Merton on going into the Trappist Monastery

When we collectively believe more in the power of love than in the power of fear, then change can happen. ~ Patricia D. Brown

Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving. ~ Frederick Buechner

May the peace of God fill my heart, mind and activity all this day long. Amen.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Faith

I am happy to announce that ~ as of July 1st ~ I will be the new pastor of Faith United Methodist Church in South Burlington, VT! This is a slightly unusual appointment since Vermont is officially part of the Troy Annual Conference. However, Vermont will be joining with the New England Annual Conference as of July 2010. I'm excited to be on the leading edge of this transition!

Faith UMC seems like a wonderful, gifted and faith-filled congregation ~ focused on living a Christ-centered life together. I feel blessed to have been appointed to this church.

Vermont will be the fourth New England state we have lived in thus far... and the only state without an ocean. From what we've seen so far, the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain are just beautiful. Ben & Jerry's ~ here we come!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quotes from my Desk

While going through my desk the other day I found a box filled with scraps of paper on which I had written quotes I liked from my reading several years ago. I guess that was before I decided to start sharing some of my favorite quotes here!

In an effort to save these quotes which I found meaningful ~ and eliminate the scraps of paper ~ I am going to share a few here every now and then. Don't expect them to be grouped by subject. I'm just going to start from the top of the pile, so they will be in no particular order!

Because nothing true can be said about God from a posture of defense. ~ Marilynn Robinson, Gilead

Have the patience and courage to begin anew each day, and trust in God's help; his mercy is new every morning. Then you will understand that life is a matter of becoming or growing, and that you must look forward to greater things. Even though you stand in battle with dark powers, victory will be yours, since in Christ every evil is overcome. You will always remain at the beginning of your search, because you will continually change, yet in faith you will find the fulfillment of all your longing.
~ Eberhard Arnold

There is an Indian Belief that everyone is in a house of four rooms: A physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time, but unless we go into every room everyday, even if only to keep it aired, we are not complete. ~ Rumer Godden, House of Four Rooms

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Extra-Dependence

About two months ago I realized that our weekly worship services were not leaving me with the feeling of having 'worshipped.' One of the blessings of being in a multi-pastor congregation is that there is at least one service every Sunday where I don't have to preach ~ and can listen to the sermon. Yet, for the first time, I was feeling like that wasn't quite enough. It could have something to do with the upcoming changes in my ministry location and the stress and grief of having to say good- bye. Whatever the reason, on Monday morning I was feeling brittle in a way I had not before.

So I decided to find a mid-week service to attend at another church. Since the only local Protestant churches with mid-week services were the ultra-fundementalists ones, I started attending a Catholic Mass ~ weekly on Wednesdays. It is a short service, about 30 minutes, with Scripture, music, prayer, homily and Eucharist. While I do not recieve the Eucharist ~ being a Protestant and Methodist pastor at that ~ I still feel blessed by the richness of the liturgy.

One of the reasons that I think this experience has been such a blessing is that it is a place where I can go and simply be me. I have no responsibility if things go well or not. I'm not Pastor Krista. I don't have to have input into the service. No one is going to ask me my opinion about anything.

In his book Clergy Self Care: Finding a Balance for Effective Ministry Roy Oswald calls this "Extra-Dependence." We oscillate between Intra-Dependence and Extra-Dependence on a daily basis. Intra-Dependence is the part of our life where we have responsibilty and people look to us to be in charge. This could be at home or at work or in any variety of areas where we have leadership. Extra-Dependence is the part of our life where we don't have to be in charge... the part of our life where we can be cared for, relax and have fun.

Clergy, I suspect, spend much of life in Extra-Dependence. Whether we realize it or not, we are often taking care of others' needs. We are the responsible ones. In relation to what I shared above, Sunday morning in my church is not the primary place for me to work out my grief about leaving. As pastor, it is my responsibiliy and role to care for others in their greif ~ whether it is their grief about my leaving or something else going on in their life. So I needed to find a place where I could work out my own feelings in worship, prayer and praise. Roy Oswald states, "Periodocally we need to move into a state where we do not have to be in charge and can allow ourselves to be cared for." Amen to that!

No one has to worry that I am going to leave behind my Methodist roots and become Catholic! But I am glad I gave myself this freedom to explore and I strongly suspect that my prayer life and my ministry has been enriched by it. For this I thank God ~ who is God of all!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Quote of the Week ~ Satisfaction

I'm finding that packing and getting ready to move is quite disruptive to my schedule. I'm trying to take is slow (I packed three boxes today), but still..... As a person who likes routine, I am trying to keep some sense of schedule in these busy weeks. I offer a quote for this Holy Week from John of the Cross, "The Mount of Perfection." These are words I should take to heart!

To reach satisfaction in all
desire satisfaction in nothing.
To come to possess all
desire the possession of nothing.
To arrive at being all
desire to be nothing.
To come to the knowledge of all
desire the knowledge of nothing.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Quiet

The blog remains quiet and I think it will stay that way much of the next few months. I hope to update now and then, but there is much to do. Goodbyes need to be said. Packing needs to be done. And then there will be the process of adjusting to the new community!

Some progress has been made on my next appointment, but nothing that I can share publicly. Hopefully I will have some news to share within the month. In the meantime, we are beginning to pack.... or more accurately, we are beginning to think about packing. This is my fourth big move ~ Gary and my second together. The last time we moved we had to pack the house in three weeks. This time it is nice to have more lead time, but neither do I want to live out of boxes for the next two and a half months. I've read some 'moving for dummies' kind of books, but I haven't found anything particularly helpful. Any tips from experienced movers out there?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Announcement

Things around here have been quiet for a while. I think that is because I've had a lot on my mind, and much of it has been "un-bloggable." The announcement has now been made, however, and I can share with my blog friends what has been going on.

Here is the statement I read in church last Sunday:

On July 1, 2004 I was appointed as your Associate Pastor. I count these past five years as a great blessing and joy. In this time we have worked and played and wept and rejoiced together as brothers and sisters in Christ, and for this I thank God.

Over the past year, with much prayer and reflection, it has become clear to me that God is calling me to a new ministry in a different place. It is with excitement, but also with no small amount of grief, that I acknowledge this call.

On my appointment update form for this year I indicated a desire for a new appointment with the wish to return to a solo pastorate. Last week I received confirmation from Rev. Heidi Chamberland, our District Superintendent, that my request will be honored. Gary and I will be moving to a new church as of this July 1st. I don’t yet know where the new church will be, but I trust the guidance of the Holy Spirit working through the Bishop and the Cabinet as they discern a good match for my gifts in ministry.

In the meantime, I look forward to these next three months together in ministry. Trusting that God was present with us five years ago in my appointment here, I trust that God is present with us now ~ all of us ~ in this transition. It is my hope that we will hold each other in prayer during this time of change.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Tough Week

This has been a tough week. Within two days our church experienced two major losses. A 44 year old mother of 4 died on Saturday after a long and courageous battle with cancer. She was our nursery coordinator. On Sunday we got word that the 27 year old daughter of one of our most active and well loved members died suddenly and unexpectedly. The congregation has been reeling from both tragedies. One of the funerals is tomorrow and the other is Sunday. In between these two services I have to go on the Confirmation Retreat. Please pray for me!

In the midst of this tough week we were hit by an early March snow storm. Bringing the boys outside to play as the snow was falling added some much needed distraction and fun to what seems like an unbearable situation. Here are some photos of our silly boys. I thank God for them every day!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Quote of the Week ~ Things of the World

I am spending time in my daily devotion with John of the Cross. Here is a thought I found appropriate for Lent:

Divine Wisdom speaks, here, to all those who are attached to the things of the world. She tells them that she is dealing with great things, not small things, as they are. The riches and glory they love are with her and in her; not where they think. Lofty riches and justice are present in her. Although in their opinion the things of this world are riches, she tells them to bear in mind that her riches are more precious, that the fruit found in them will be better than gold and precious stones, and that what she begets in souls has greater value than cherished silver, which signifies every kind of affection possible in this life.

~ John of the Cross

Isn't it our constant struggle not to be attached to the things of the world? This struggle is part of my motivation for undertaking a weekly fast during Lent. I haven't figured out exactly what form my fast will take, but any kind of fast is going to be hard for me! I'll keep you updated and let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Life Insurance

Yesterday Gary and I did a very grown-up thing. We took out a life insurance policy. It isn't as if we came up with the idea ourselves, though. We were alerted to a special offer through our benefits provider. Yet, instead of letting the opportunity pass by, we decided to take advantage of it.

It strikes me as somewhat ironic that this all happened at the beginning of our Lenten Journey when we hear the words, "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return."

As partners and parents, Gary and I have to acknowledge that we are not going to live forever. Life insurance helps us plan for that, and that's important. Yet spiritual planning is just as important as practical planning. It is also a very grown-up thing to recognize that we are created as mortal beings, loved by God with a finite time on earth. How do I want to spend that time? What is most important to me? How does my life reflect that? These are the questions I will be focusing on during this season of Lent.

What about you? What is your Lenten preparation?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Quilt

My Grammy Dot died about 10 years ago. She was a quilter. She made some beautiful pieces and I am blessed to have some of them in my home. When she died, though, she left several projects unfinished. I ended up with one of them.... a pink, white, and blue 'wedding ring' quilt top. All these years my plan has been to finish it myself. My mother offered to help me. But this year it dawned on me. "Who am I kidding? I'm not a quilter! And during the brief visits my mom and I share during the year, we're not going to want to quilt!" So I came up with Plan B.

Every Tuesday a group of women meet at the church to quilt. I've watched them make several quilts over the years and they are always absolutely gorgeous. They usually sell the quilts at the church fair and donate the money toward mission. This fall, as they were finishing up their latest quilt, it occurred to me to ask them if they had another project lined up. When they said no, I asked them if they would be interested in taking on something a little different! They were happy to be asked and thrilled when they saw the beautiful quilt top my Grammy had begun.

Now, every Tuesday, I get to see the progress they are making on the quilt. I'm so pleased that the donation I make will go entirely to missions and that I will, finally, be able to enjoy this quilt that has spent the last 10 years in my closet. I'm also happy that this quilt will not only hold good memories of my Grammy Dot, but also memories of the kind and generous quilting ladies at South UMC!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quote of the Week ~ Suffering

Suffering is not God's desire for us, but it occurs in the process of life. Suffering is not given to teach us something, but through it we may learn. Suffering is not given to punish us, but sometimes it is the consequence of our sin or poor judgment. Suffering does not occur because our faith is weak, but through it our faith may be strengthened. God does not depend on human suffering to achieve his purposes, but sometimes through suffering his purposes are achieved. Suffering can either destroy us or it can add meaning to our life.

~ Quoted from Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White by Adam Hamilton. Hamilton cites it as coming from an unidentified church newsletter.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Valentine Surprise


Imagine my surprise on Valentine's Day when I opened these M&M's! The picture is of Gary and me when we were in California. "Meow" is from Zeke, of course and "Woof" is from Nicky. "Voof" is not a misprint, but rather the German translation for Bady :>)

What a nice Valentine treat... and they taste good, too!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Swimming Lessons

On Friday, Katie took me swimming! She's had several lessons so far, so she wanted to teach her "Auntie Krista" everything she knows. It was so much fun! Check out the link to see all about it.

Swimming Lessons
(It may take a few minutes to load.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday Five ~ Pet Edition

RevGal Sophia writes: My son's tiny beloved lizard, Elf, is looking and acting strange this week. His skin/scales are quite dark, and he is lethargic. We are adding vitamin drops to his lettuce and spinach and hoping and praying that he is just getting ready to shed his skin--but it's too soon to tell. Others in the ring have also been worried about beloved pets this week. And, in the saddest news of all, Songbird has had to bid farewell to her beloved Molly, the amazing dog who is well known to readers of her blog as a constant sacrament of God's unconditional love.

So in memory of Molly, and in honor of all the beloved animal companions who bless our lives: tell us about the five most memorable pets you have known.

As I sit writing this, I am surrounded (literally) by three of the best pets one could ask for. Bady (our German Shepherd) is snoozing on his mat. Nicky (our Border Collie) is pacing around the room, as usual. And Zeke (our kitty) is perched atop the living room chair. Each of my "boys" have been an important part of my journey. Zeke was there (with my bunny, Raisin) through my years of seminary and my first experience of living alone. Nicky came to me during my first year at my first church ~ full of energy, filling a lonely house with his presence. Bady is the newest arrivial and my constant companion ~ in the house, in the car, at the church, making visits, by my bed.

Since I was five years old, and we brought our money cat Abby home from the pound, I have always had a furry friend (or two or three). Abby was a dignified soul who didn't quite appreciate the antics of a five year old. Not long after, though, Fluff was adopted ~ a little puff of yellow fur who liked to play with me and attack her sister. I give thanks for all my animal friends, past and present. My condolensces go to Songbird at the loss of Molly. While I know there are many who would challenge my theology.... I firmly believe that all dogs (and cats and lizards and rabbits) go to heaven.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Valentine's Wish

This afternoon, as I got into the Jeep to head home, I had a thought. It was fleeting, but the essence of it was: "I wonder if I will get a Valentine from Gram today?" Of course, Gram has been gone for more than four years now. I miss the notes and cards she would send throughout the year ~ and always on Valentine's Day. She would buy a "Hallmark" card, but embellish it with stickers and drawings and her own verse. Here's a poem I found in her journal, written for Valentine's Day 1994.

Quietly

(Valentines Day 1994)

As quiet as snow falling
Or fog filling the valley
Still as a burning candle;
As a butterfly in flight,
As a vine seeking to cling.
Quiet as a seed breaking the ground
Is the feeling of being loved.

The years have gone by fast and it is still hard, at times, to believe that there will be no more Valentine's or Birthday Cards and notes 'just because.' Yet I know that she taught me something about the feeling of being loved, and for that I am thankful.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Winter Run

Bady and I just got back from a run. Well, what I consider running is more like fast walking for him. He may just barely break into a trot. But in any case, after living in couch potato land for the past couple months, it feels good to get moving again. The weather this winter has not been conducive to outside activities... at least the kind that I enjoy. Too much snow. Too much ice. But today and tomorrow and Sunday are looking good, so I am going to try to break through my inertia and get out there.

As much as I hate to admit it, I actually like running. Last summer, when I was in a very dark place, running was one of the things that helped me break through and begin inching forward. Running makes me feel strong and confident. God gave me not just a mind, but a body that can do things like run and jump. I just have to remember to use it so it stays limber and active... So that's what I am going to do!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Quote of the Week ~ Consumption

John Woolman was a layperson who stood up to his fellow Quakers on issues of slavery, poverty, and the just treatment of all people. He was particularly concerned for those whose voice was not heard in general society. He traveled widely, for his day, with the intention of spreading his message. He often found himself in situations where he had to wrestle with his beliefs and the conventions of his day. If he found the only place of lodging was in a home that owned slaves, he would find a way to compensate the slaves for their labor while talking to the residents about the incompatibility between faith and slave ownership.

In 1964 he wrote a pamphlet called Empathy. In it he speaks of the injustice of consumption. As the rich demand more and more for less and less money, the poor, who provide these goods and services, suffer. I thought this essay was applicable some 200+ years later. As Americans who consume, consum, consume, what is our consumption doing to our planet and our fellow human beings who work for little pay so we can have the stuff we want? Are we willing to sacrifice a little for the sake of all?

But consider the condition of those we are depressed in answering our demands and labor for us out of our sight while we pass our time in fullness. Consider also that much less than we demand would supply us with things really useful. What heart will not relent? How can reasonable people refrain from easing suffering of which they themselves are the cause, when they may do so without inconvenience?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Pinewood Derby

Yesterday I blessed the Pinewood Derby. It was my third time doing this. Boy Scout, Cub Scout, and Girl Scout Troops all use our building, but the Cub Scouts are the only ones who regularly request a pastor's presence at their events. The Pinewood Derby is fun, and I am glad to attend (besides the fact it involves getting up and dressed before 9am on a Saturday), but I never know quite what to say for a blessing.

This year I did the usual ~ asking God's to be with us and bless the Cubs and their leaders. However, I wonder if there is a more meaningful ministry I could offer. Many of the Cubs and their families are unchurched. Hope do I reach beyond the usual and offer them some hope while still making them feel welcome in our building, whether they attend worship or not?

Any thoughts on ministry to Scouting families ~ whether they be Boy, Girl or Cub Scouts? Any suggestions for next year's Pinewood Derby blessing.... or the Blue and Gold Breakfast blessing coming up next month!?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Quote of the Week ~ Covenant Prayer

One can't go wrong with a good John Wesley quote! Here is Wesley's covenant prayer. The original was not actually written by Wesley himself, but adapted and used by him. This prayer has meant a lot to me in my devotion time over the eyars. While there are contemporary language versions, I prefer the traditional.
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Amen.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Confessions

Okay. I have a confession to make. I bought clothes. Yesterday I ended up at Kohl's and found they were having a big t-shirt sale. It has been more than 10 months and I slipped. I needed those t-shirts.

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, last year on my Birthday (March 15th) I decided to try to go a year without buying any new clothes. It has been more difficult than I thought it would be. It's not that I've really missed shopping, but there are certain clothes one needs for certain things. For example, I started jogging last summer, but I didn't really have any jogging shorts. When we brought Bady home I found I needed some 'go out in the back yard and get muddy with the dog' clothes.

The t-shirts, though, were just a slip. I loved the colors. I really liked them. So I bought them. This exercise, though, has made me more intentional about what I buy and curbed (for the most part) impulse purchases.

Since I am a great believer in grace, I'm going to continue on until my Birthday and try not to buy any more new clothes. Then I may try it again for another year... or give myself a new challenge. Any ideas?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Quote of the Week ~ Gray

I think President Barack Obama will be the kind of leader who is not afraid to hear varying opinions ~ even opinions that contradict his own. This is evident already in some of his cabinet picks. The same, I believe, must be true of Christians. We need to listen to those who don't necessarily agree with us. Christians, however, are not always good at listening to others because we often think we own the 'truth.'

In his book Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White Adam Hamilton writes, "But the hope for the future of Christianity will be found, in part, in our willingness to accept that no one of us has all of the truth. We must be able to see the value in another's position, practice and doctrine."

Wise words, I believe. Being too confident in our rightness and another's wrongness is a very dangerous place.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History

While I don't have any particularly profound words to share, I can't let this moment in history pass by without comment. I think I am most awed by the hope and energy evidenced in the people gathered in Washington D.C.... waiting for hours in the cold to be part of this amazing event. While Obama cannot fix all our problems, what he can do is inspire us to take responsibility and take part and I believe he is leading us in that direction.

I broke away from work a little before noon to come home in time to see the Oath of Office. Standing alone in my living room, with tears streaming down my face, I didn't feel alone. I felt like part of something much larger than myself... part of a community that looks on our country and the world with fresh eyes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Very Scientific Graph


Vims - robust energy and enthusiasm (Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Quote of the Week ~ Postmodernism

For some reason it has taken me forever to get through Tim Keel's Intuitive Leadership. I think it is partly because I don't want to rush through it, but take the time to take it all it. It is probably also partly because life has been so hectic since Thanksgiving. In any case, I have one more quote from this book I would like to share.

Our church is embarking on a visioning process. Part of the process will be to discern who we were, who we are, an who we want to be. I'm sure issues of the "changing world" and all the anxiety that accompanies that discussion will arise. It's true that things have changed since the mainline protestant heyday of the 1950's. Yet it seems to me that too often we feel we have to have it all figured out before God can do God's thing ~ when the complete opposite is actually true. As Keel writes,

Meanwhile, many Christians sit wringing their hands and assume that the God of the cosmos revealed by Jesus Christ is confounded by a post modern world.

Let's not wring our hands, but be about God's work in God's world, trusting that God has great things in store for us. And, while we're at it, let's hold fast to our belief that God knows more about God's world, and our place in it, than our limited vision could ever process. Amen?

Friday, January 09, 2009

Friday Five ~ Breakfast Edition

Since I LOVE breakfast, I thank RevGal Sophia for this Friday Five! While enjoying some pancakes made by her family, she writes:

"So pull up a chair to the kitchen table and tell us all about your pancake preferences..."

1. Scratch or mix? Buttermilk or plain?

Gary is the pancake maker around here. He has made both from mix and from scratch. One of our favorites is a multi-grain mix we pick up at 'Whole Foods," but it all tastes good to me ~ especially since I don't have to cook it!

2. Pure and simple, or with additions cooked in?

Sometimes we add almonds, but we don't ever get too fancy. Plain and simple is best as far as I am concerned. One of my favorite pancake stories comes from a camping trip of my Dad's. On a guy's only camping trip, apparently one of them got up and started the pancakes but left the batter to go do something else. One of the other guys got up and found the batter so he mixed it and put the pancakes on the griddle. When the other guy got back he said, "Oh, you started the pancakes!" The second guy said, "Yeah, but that batter was no good. It took me forever to get the lumps out." Shocked, the first guy said, "Those weren't lumps! Those were apples!"

3. For breakfast or for dinner?

Both! Pancakes, or waffles, with bacon make a a great dinner for a special treat!

4. Preferred syrup or other topping? How about the best side dish?

Just syrup and butter for me! I'm usually in charge of the side dishes. Bacon or sausage are good on the side, along with some hash browns, if we have them.

5. Favorite pancake restaurant?

I usually find that restaurant pancakes are too thick. For breakfasts out I tend to get waffles or an omlet. However, we have too annual pancake meals at church ~ a brunch during Advent and a Shrove Tuesday dinner. There is just something about church pancakes. They aren't too thick... they are made with love... Next to Gary's, they are the best!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

On My Toes

This week has kept me on my toes. It's been one of those weeks when nothing seems to work out the way it "should". For example, Monday I was supposed to go to Maine for the Local Church Transformation Committee meeting. I made sure everything was ready the night before, so when I got up at 5 AM the next morning I would just have to shower and leave. During the night, however, rains had left a glare of ice all over Connecticut. The 'News" was reporting slick conditions throughout the state and treacherous driving. By 9 AM the ice had pretty much either melted or been treated, but by then it was way too late for me to make it to the meeting.

Tuesday was also a funny day. I struck out for my worship service at the convalescent home in plenty of time. Yet I found the power was out all over town and street lights were not working! It was chaos. I finally made it there late, which was not a huge deal. After leaving I had a whole list of errands to do... but found that, due to the power outage... the hospital was shut down, my prescription could not be filled and the bank was closed!

Another winter storm on Wednesday led to the cancellation of my second meeting of the week ~ the Camp Aldersgate Confirmation Retreat meeting!

And today, after a week without it, the dryer was supposed to be fixed. The half-hour repair turned into a two-hour job which resulted in the very nice repair man coming upstairs looking apologetic. "I put the new part in and it still doesn't work!"

I'm hoping for more predictability next week, but it is nice to know that God still has a sense of humor!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Back to 'Normal'

Now that I'm back to work, and things have settled down a bit, I can reflect on some Christmas / Holiday blessings.

1. Christmas was certainly busy this year, but it somehow seemed less stressful. I think part of the reason was that I let go of some of the expectation that everything had to be 'perfect' ~ both on the church front and at home. The Baby Jesus didn't come into a perfect world, so what makes me think my little corner of the globe must be?

2. Our Christmas visit to Maine was great fun. The car was filled to overflowing with our family (Me, Gary, Ben ~ 9 years old) and a giant German Shepherd! Bady did fantastic with the trip ~ both the traveling and the visiting. (Nicky stayed at the kennel and Zeke played watch-cat at home.) We spend three days with Gary's family and two days with my Dad and his family. It was great to catch-up with everyone.

3. The best part of visiting was that I didn't have any responsibilties. I needed that. I could just get up and dressed in the morning and the days happened without my having a plan anything. It was fabulous!

4. On a sad note, I was able to attend my Great Aunt Helen's funeral. She died the day after Christmas. She was my Gram's last sibling and was nearly 96 years old. I'm glad I was in the area and able to be there. It was an opportunity to say goodbye not just to Aunt Helen, but to a whole generation.

5. Ben was able to be with us for two whole weeks, including both Christmas and New Years. He is growing up so much ~ 9 years old and in the Fourth Grade. It is fun to see the changes in him during each visit, but it also reminds us how fast the time passes. He's not a little boy anymore, but moving into tween-hood. The memories we build during these visits will be cherished for a lifetime.

I guess that pretty much closes out 2008. We shall see what blessings (and challenges!) we encounter in 2009. Happy New Year!