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Archive for October, 2007

Overcoming Negativism

Is it possible? There was once a time when I sat at my desk in the church and dreamed of how wonderful it would be when I would be a full-time pastor. Oh, the days! I sat in a COM meeting yesterday interviewing licensed ministers and candidates for ordination. In some, it was exciting to see the budding of those just beginning to explore their calling by starting seminary. In others the excitement was evident in the final interview for approval for ordination. Those joyful interviews! Then there was the encouragement for those who are hungering for more education, but not seminary, in a licensed position. Those too are enjoyable.

But then, there are the difficult cases. The ones that just exhaust you as you use all of your energy to show them compassion and try to find an encouraging word. Or you find there is something not quite right, and you think you can see it but need something more definitive to put your finger on.

Then I turned the mirror on myself and considered the things in my ministry that could be scrutinized. How would I feel being the one in the “hot seat” and having my calling judged and critiqued. Would they find the same faults that I see in myself, or would they find a new one I hadn’t yet discovered nor admitted? This must be why so many clergy people hate annual evaluations. There is the fact that so much of what we do is rooted in our personality and our person. There are things about the self that simply can’t be changed. But there are also things, if we ourselves could see what they are, we would try to change. Sometimes we know that things need to change, but for the life of ourselves we can’t figure out how.

There are few positions/jobs/callings I can think of that match ministry in terms of education, self-direction, personality, style and temperament. What other jobs (non-religious) require a clear and evident relationship with someone who is completely unseen, yet knows exactly what you are doing and thinking at each moment of the day or night? The thoughts are tiring to me! Yet I pray to that unseen one who walks with me that I can recapture the passion that I once had.

My celebration of new ministry is this Sunday. My mentor is preaching the sermon. My husband will be playing music. I will be installed, perhaps a better term is embedded: like traveling with a military troop. Will the laying on of hands bring about the Spirit’s indwelling and renewed passion for ministry. Or will that come later on when I take the following week off for vacation?

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First I just have to make my complaint for the day. Google Maps & directions is awful for rural areas! I had to go to another small town about 30 miles away today for a lunch meeting so I Googled for directions. Not being from around here I could only take them for their word. I quickly discovered that the directions had two or three wrong turns in them as well as a completely missed turn and a non-existent turn. Insanity! How do they verify those maps and directions? Is there a network of local people who test out the directions or correct them? I realize that is a HUGE job, but it was a good thing I wasn’t on the way to a hospital for an emergency. I figured out the wrong turns (kind of obvious when there is no left but the named street to turn onto is a right!). I asked and learned about the unmarked turn. I know how to read maps and figured out another wrong turn and backtracked. I did get there. I was late, but there was still enough lunch to be had. There. I feel better now!

It was a nice drive, and last night was beautiful once the clouds cleared off. My women’s group met last night too. It was the first of our new weekly series with the book “Prayer and Our Bodies” by Flora Slossan Wuellner. We didn’t get into the book, but we did do a guided imagery meditation. It was lovely. Or as the group likes to say “dark or deep, weird and lovely.” It had been a long time since I’d done a guided meditation. VW is leading the group so I get to just participate in this one. She had a prepared meditation that brought us to our happy place (wherever that may be) and intended to gift us with an encounter with God. So for me, I went to our lake in my mind. And I saw God over on the swings. In this particular encounter God was a little girl on the swings. (Made me feel a bit like Joan of Arcadia.) Over the way a bit was Jesus so I went over to say hi. He gave me a big hug, kissed me on the head and let me cry a little. It was so healing. I used to do a lot of this type of meditation, but hadn’t for so long. It was like coming home in the best possible way.

Afterwards we got into a discussion about how much women need groups like this. One of the gals is training to be a Reiki practitioner. In my meditation, I was very conscious of the colors I was seeing outside of my encounter with God. It was mostly indigo and turquoise. JK said she knew that indigo had to do with the third eye, the mind’s eye. And I know that greens have to do with positive healing and new life, growth so I felt good about experiencing those colors. Somehow though the conversation got around to heaven and I had a great philosophical question pop up in my head. (I love it when that happens! I can just feel my brain and my enlightenment growing!)

The great question is: if heaven is ultimate perfection and is just, etc. do we still have free will? If our soul is made perfect in its union with the divine, how much like me will I be in the hereafter? Am I still me when I get to heaven? If all my sin is stripped away and only the best of me remains, do I still have free will, or am I now limited to only what is good, just, right, perfection in measure beyond myself? Am I still me, is my soul still truly me when I am made sinless? Does my soul lose its uniqueness if I no longer have free will? Or is heaven really just sinking into oneness with the divine and becoming all nothingness and all everythingness? Is the construct of the Great Reunion just a way to appease our need to be individuals and to not have fear of the beyond? What of free will in the next life?

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Taking the Reins

The senior minister is going to be gone for 3 weeks, and I’m in charge! I’m kind of surprised he’s going to be away so long. I mean, the first few days he’ll be at a preaching conference, but the rest of the time he’ll be at his daughter’s house on vacation. His daughter is about to have her first baby, so naturally the grandparents want to be there. And that means I’m taking the reins. What makes it more interesting is that our fall stewardship campaign will be going on, so I’m the one giving pastoral oversight. This Sunday I will preach my stewardship/World Communion Sunday sermon and the following I’ll be the host as our Regional Minister does the final stewardship sermon for Consecration Day. Seems like a lot for the new Associate Minister, but I’m capable. Little do they know!

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