Saturday, March 13, 2010

"A Prayer for the Dazed"

Posted on facebook by PeaceBang

by Sharon McDonald

For those whose "check engine" light just flashed;
For those recently deposited, trembly-legged, from a roller-coaster;
For those who forgot their lines as they entered, stage right;
For those poised tensely like a deer in the headlights;
For those badly jet-lagged who fumble for their passport;
For those just awakening not sure of their name;
For those who sat near as a loved one died a "good" death;
Oh God, we pray, repeat yourself:
Vouchsafe again and again the law of gravity;
Reiterate that day follows night and crocuses follow icicles;
Push the tides endlessly like a rocking cradle
Until we can recognize the rhythm of our own breath;
Until we can blink and regain our balance;
Until our hearts beat steadily again.

Happy Birthday To Me!

Well, yesterday was my birthday. I turned 24, and I am quite thankful to have been blessed with another year of life. I told a few people that I wanted it to be my last birthday, because I never want to turn 25... there is just something about being a quarter of a century old that bugs me. When I told my brother that, however, he pointed out to me that the only way to truly never turn 25 was to off myself, so I guess I will just have to live with it if I make it to March 12, 2012.

I felt so very honored yesterday by many people, so I am going to turn the tables on them and share some of the things that moved me deeply. Here are some of the gifts I received yesterday.

- Chocolate Covered Oreos - I was blessed to be able to enjoy dinner at Benihana on Thursday night with the love of my life, my best friend, and the love of her life. The four of us gathered around the hibachi grill and shared stories and laughter. Just when I thought that my dinner was perfect, exchanging loving glances with my handsome husband, I caught a glimpse of those same glances being shared between my best friend and the man that has made her truly glow. Despite how much I love the Oreos smothered in chocolate that she gave me, to see my best friend so incredibly happy was the best birthday gift that she could have given me.

- An herb chopper - Now I know what you're thinking... "Really, Anna, an herb chopper? What is so exciting and invigorating about that?" One of my favorite food items to prepare is guacamole. I don't really care to sound proud, but I have been told that my guacamole is quite exceptional. One ingredient I use is fresh cilantro, and as much as I love it, I don't care to have my hands smell like fresh cilantro for two days after I make a huge batch of guacamole. A chopper similar to this has been on my "personal indulgence" wishlist for quite some time. I was even at a Pampered Chef party and saw it in the catalog and did not purchase it because I did not really have that much money to blow. So when my husband handed me the bag containing my birthday gift with the disclaimer, "It is not very much..." imagine my surprise when I pulled out a chopper!! It was an amazing gift, but better than the gift was knowing that I have chosen to spend my life with a person who listens and processes the things that make me happy. Herb chopper or not, his character is always a gift to me.

- A bottle of home crafted wine - A good friend of mine from Ohio Northern University has chosen to attend seminary in Atlanta. He has taken to home brewing and crafting wine. In the past two years I have been blessed to serve on the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women of the United Methodist Church (we'll talk more about this later), and I met a wonderful woman, Diane, who has met my ONU friend at their seminary. She was gracious enough to haul a bottle of strawberry wine (complete with triquetra wax seal) from Atlanta to Chicago, where she kept it safe and unbroken through her journeys around the windy city. This bottle of wine has shown me the incredible network friends and colleagues I have not only in seminary, but also in the United Methodist Church.

- A generous donation in my honor - D (my friend mentioned earlier) serves on the Advocacy for Women Endowment Fund sub-committee, and she rounded up the executive committee of GCSRW to make a $150 to the endowment in my honor! How exciting! I so wish that I had enough money to match their gifts. I am so thankful that the wonderful people with whom I serve on GCSRW can honor one another in ways that can further the mission of not only our commission and the United Methodist Church, but also the mission that our God has called each and every one of us to. How blessed I am not only for this gift in my honor, but also for the blessing to spend my second birthday in a row with these wonderful folks.

** Shameless plug alert ** you should consider a donation to the endowment!

- A purse - One of my GCSRW friends in a deaconess from the Philippines, and each time she comes to the US for a meeting, she brings goodies!! This time she brought me a wonderful purse. Not only do I love purses, but I love the fact that each time I see/use it, I will think of her and her ministry in the Philippines. I have been involved in a lot of conversation about the global nature of the church in the past few weeks/months, and this gift is something that wil keep that in my mind for quite some time to come. D mentioned in her blog post about my birthday that I have a passion for the small church with a vision of the global church. I have never been more flattered in my life. In the course of the meeting I have participated in during the last 24 hours, it has (again) been made apparent to me that the United Methodist Church needs to truly live into the full connectional (my spell check on here hates that word... we're going to have to do something about that) nature or face some grave consequences.

All these things and my birthday festivities are not completed. My best friend is driving out to Chicago to spend the weekend with me. I hope that the weekend is truly restful for both of us!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stuff I do not put up with anymore

A blog I follow posted an entry about things that "I" don't put up with anymore. I felt inspired to jot down a few of my own...

- People telling me that I should have lasik eye surgery
I love my glasses. I have quite a few pairs of them. Do I wear contacts? Not very often, but sometimes when I'm going to be riding rollercoasters or when I'm at the gym. I understand that we have the medical technology to fix vision to an extent, but the reality is that most people who have lasik end up wearing glasses again at some point in their lives. I consider my glasses as one of the most expressive parts of my wardrobe/accessories. Along the same lines, if I am wearing my glasses, please don't ask me to remove them for pictures. I understand that sometimes they glare, but you can fix that. I will not alter my appearance for your sake.

- People expecting me to deal with their interpersonal issues
I understand that you, Sally, may not care for Jane, but when I am hosting a party or event, I will not omit Jane from the guest list because you, Sally, are going to be there. I must admit that I have lived my life the past year or so attempting to deal with your issues, but it does. not. work. period. Put on your big girl (or boy) panties and act like the adult that you are. The problem that I am having with living into this theory on life is that often when I invite both Sally and Jane, neither of them choose to attend the function. This theological world 2 woman takes issue with this because I secretly feel that they are not attending because they don't like me. I need to get over that. If you two choose not to attend, it is you who will be missing out.

- Poor grammar
Let me preface this by saying that I think that poor grammar is a relative concept. Poor grammar to me is defined as not using the grammar that you have been taught at whatever level of education you have completed. Mainly, this point is made to my seminary colleagues who continue to not use correct grammar, such as your vs. you're and other similar examples. Please note that I did not say that I don't put up with not understanding the differences, because my personal downfall is the difference between its and it's (please don't try to teach me... I have heard it a million times... it just doesn't stick). How I handle this situation is that I do not use those words. I will choose to write "it is" or some alternative verbiage. Is this the smartest option? Absolutely not. What I have realized, however, is that a person's intelligence is not showcased when the grammar is all wrong! I must also add that I do not consider web lingo (like on twitter or facebook) to be exempt from this.

- My own self-loathing
If I don't like it, I need to work to change it. Really pretty simple.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What do you do?

My friend has blogged about the social stigma that come from the phrase, "I am a seminary student." This friend, however, is male, and I believe that I have a whole different perspective of the discomfort that the revelation of my status as a seminarian can bring.

Women get to experience a range of uncomfortable encounters in the medical/personal world that (most) men don't get to experience until much later in their lives. Women get the joy of having an annual gynecological exam (and if you are a female and don't, you should). Along with that (and sometimes other) doctor's appointment come the joy of the breast exam. Or what about the Brazilian wax? Let's face it ladies, there are a lot of times that someone else's face is in our "business."

Well as a seminary student, I dread the inevitable question of "what do you do?" I try to dodge the question telling the asker that I am a full time student. More often than not, that person asks me what I study. I tell them theology. Now, my favorite types of doctors/nurses/whoevers stop at that. That answer suffices. Most people, however, need more details. They want to know what I want to do with my degree. This is where I start to get nervous. Not only is someone's face in my "business" but now I must tell that I will be (and already am) serving a church as a pastor. The conversation then halts...

Even the most uncomfortable situation can be made a bit more enjoyable with pleasantries, but once I have revealed that I am a pastor, one of two thing happen. Either the person stops talking altogether. Now I am faced with the reality that this person is either looking at me or touching me in places that I don't even like to acknowledge exist, and they are silent. Great... awkwardness ensures... OR that person decides to spill their entire personal, religious/spiritual history in depth, presenting me with issues to solve in the few moments that we will spend together. Now this is not like the dentist asking you a question while her/his hands in your mouth... at least then you have an excuse to just shake your head and make polite eyes. You try to keep silent while your gynecologist asks if you recommend any churches in the area.

And the reality of it is that this is something I am going to deal with for the entirety of my life. Not only in the superawkward conversations like at the gynecologist or while getting a mammogram (oh do I dread the day that I have to have one of those...) but they will also happen while I am getting my hair cut or while I am getting a manicure. It has happened! It sucks!

But that is the truth of this calling and all others. If you tell someone you are a lawyer, they ask for legal advice. If you are a nurse, they ask you for medical advice. If you are a stay at home parent, they ask you for parenting tips. And if you are a pastor, they ask you to see a part of the deepest parts of them, the parts that often no one else has ever seen. They trust you with the things that no one else can be trusted with...

...and no matter how uncomfortable, I try to radiate the love of God that fills me with life and light.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Lark Ascending...

He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake.

- George Meredith

I had never heard this poem before it was briefly quoted on the David Crowder Band's album "A Collision (3+4=7)" in the final song "The Lark Ascending or (Perhaps More Accurately, I'm Trying to Make You Sing). I listened to this song this morning, as I was feeling a bit funky. This funk was not the self-actualized, "I am a strikingly individual person," but more the, "I feel like there is a tiny black cloud hovering over my head, not quite raining, but just misting enough to make my hair frizz."

As I prepared for the morning shower, I pondered my morning music choice. Music choice for me is absolutely critical... whatever music my Bose sings to me sets the tone for the rest of my day. I was faced with choices.

"Should I listen to Fiona Apple and own my funk?"

"Should I sing along to Ray LaMontagne and mellow out?"

"Should I put on Timbaland and just dance through the funk?"

And then I decided... I will put on "A Collision" and see where it takes me. My usual morning routine is that I shower and dry my hair, and then do the rest of my morning tasks while the Today Show blares on the TV. Today I chose to leave the TV off... I let the music continue until I walked out the door... I even took my ipod in the car with me, hooking it up to the radio adapter and letting the album play where it left off.

I needed to stop at the store on the way to school to get some Tylenol (why is it that I am always out when a funk hits me?) so I pulled into the parking lot, popped on my headphones and walked into the store. As I walked toward the pharmacy section of the store, the last song on the album came on. If you have never heard the album, the last song begins with an interview that David Crowder had with a gentleman who didn't quite "get it." It is obvious that Crowder becomes a bit frustrated by the gentleman who takes everything a bit too literally...

And as this is all occurring on my headphones, I am scanning my Tylenol on the self checkout. The screen tells me that I should see the attendant so that the attendant may deactivate the security tag so that I don't beeped at on the way out the door. As I approach her, I ask her to deactivate the tag. She replies...

"There is nothing I can do about it. I saw you buy it, so it is ok if the alarm goes off."

UGH!! Funk reappeared. As I was walking out the door, the alarm goes off. It is 7:45 a.m. and there are not very many people in the store. I am asked by who I would presume to be the loss prevention person to present my receipt, and I begin to get frustrated... That whole attitude that I have worked so hard to create for myself goes out the window...

And as I sink down into my funk and my Mercury Sable, I listen to David Crowder explain to this interviewer how we shouldn't take anything too seriously. He talks about the atom that is on the front of the album, and how the representation that humans have made for the atom is just that: a representation. The same goes for our worship and ideas about God. It is a representation of a divine/human interaction... an interaction that despite all of our best efforts will not be fully understood. And the beauty of this interaction is that it happens in all people, whether they recognize it or not. And just as Crowder had to try to articulate this to his interviewer, I need to recognize that in all the people around me.

And on the mile stretch between the store and my school, I sang...

And I'm trying to make you sing
From inside where you believe
Like it's something that you need
Like it means everything

And I'm trying to make you feel that
This is for real, that life is happening
That it means everything
I'm just trying to make you sing