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Source: Lucky Carry All Tote by Kristen of Two Blondes and a Sewing Machine

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My Church

My church is a hospital
      a place of life and death.
The deacons and priests are servants of health—
      moving patient to patient
      serving up hope, grace, grief.
While others tend bodies, I tend souls.

My church is a clinic
       diagnosing,
            dispensing,
                 doling out bandages and advice.
No one stays for long, coming and going as needed.
     I am both patient and practitioner.

My church is a hospice
     nursing facility, private home–
     way stations on the path to new life.
Like midwives, my colleagues wipe brows,
      gives meds, hold hands, see tears.
We usher to the door, then stay in this world to care for the living.

My church is the place
      of spiritual expression, 
          of holy need,
             and sacred grace.
My parish is life, I am it’s servant.
       My name is Chaplain.

 

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A Sweet Lesson on Patience

A great story about human grace, one for another, at the end of life.

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Bright Sunday?

It’s that time of year again, Eastertide! And the first Sunday after Easter is known by many names: Bright Sunday, Holy Humor/Hilarity Sunday, Risus Paschalis. I used to refer to the Sundays after the highest holy days as AM Sundays; that is, Associate Minister Sundays because it is inevitable that the associate minister will be preaching. Often these Sundays are “low Sundays” because attendance takes a dip or a dive from the soaring figures of the Big Holy Days. Maybe that’s why I latched on to the Risus Paschalis?

It seems to me we all deserve a good laugh after Lent. Easter is so joyful and triumphant, why not carry it on with a few good laughs?

I won’t be preaching tomorrow, but I do plan on going to church. Looking back on some of my older entries here, it seems my wondering has come to bear. I’m not serving in active ministry, so I’m back to experiencing worship as a person in the pew. Perhaps God is trying to teach me that lesson I seemed to want to learn–am I meant for long term parish ministry or does God have other opportunities in mind for me? Can I be gifted for ministry and not serve in a parish? What else can I do and still count it ministry? Why is it that I feel the need to have an official title and role to be empowered to do ministry? If I lived somewhere else, would I feel empowered to minister?

I’ve been so disheartened by my previous church and my health, that I feel I’ve become too withdrawn, too self-focused, too self-protective. What do I do next? How do I get over the selfish protection of my time? Isn’t it all God’s time, and don’t I just borrow it?

I’m not melancholy all the time, but I do hope we have a good laugh at church tomorrow.

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On Sneezing

I was at a school program back in December when a man standing behind me sneezed. I turned and said, “God bless you.” His friend standing next to him marveled at my gesture and remarked that you hardly ever hear anyone say “bless you” anymore, even less “God bless you.” Call me old fashioned, I don’t mind, but it just seems polite. It’s a way of saying, “I heard you sneeze and I hope you are not ill; but if you are, I hope you get better soon.”

As to why we don’t generally hear it much anymore, I suppose it’s related to how individualistic we have become, so self-important and yet self-isolated. We don’t want people, strangers, in our business even if it’s just to wish us well.

And to say “God bless you” of course implies something about faith. While we no longer believe that the devil gets in you when you sneeze, most people no longer want to bring any kind of religious remark into casual conversation. As they say, “them’s fighting words” when you start to bring up matters of faith. It takes the whole political correctness business too far.

Whether you and I believe in the same God/god isn’t the issue. If I say “God bless you” to someone, I hope they would take it as a word of kindness, peace and grace. It recognizes the humanity we share. I liken it to saying “namaste”- the spirit in me recognizes the spirit in you. On the one hand we talk about matters of faith all the time because they are the cause of so much that happens in our world, but once you bring it down to a more personal level it loses the sense of “otherness” and becomes “my personal and private business, which is none of your business unless I’m telling you what to believe.”

So- why do we still say “bless you”? For those who say it, it’s habit, custom, tradition, local culture. It is benevolence and kindness at its simplicity. I wish we said it more. Imagine if we said it and meant it in more instances? A cough? A trip on the carpet? A stumble when the door slips? As a greeting? We could bring back some of the kindness and civility that is lacking in current American culture.

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There be dragons!

Since I my kids were on Spring Break, and I’m on my “medical sabbatical”, I wasn’t in charge of any “church stuff” this Easter. I had only to show up.

We visited my parents for the break, all of Holy Week. Well, we missed Palm Sunday because we were still on the road, driving from our base in the Midwest to the capital of the South.

We made many stops in the week, sightseeing, playing, picnicking. We saw an exhibit of mythical creatures, which included dragons. I love dragons, and I’ve long hoped that my kids would love dragons too. Maybe it’s because I grew up singing “Puff, the Magic Dragon”, or maybe it’s because I love faery tales and Medieval Times.  Whatever, I’ve been waiting for the day.

We’ve had Usborne’s touchy-feely dragon book for a couple of years, but it wasn’t until this week that the boys really showed interest in anything beyond the book. Hang on, we did see “How to Train Your Dragon” in the theater, so maybe I’ve been grooming the kids and it finally paid off.

At the end of exhibit (which the kids flew through), was the gift shop. And they happened to have some of the most beautiful soft toy dragons I have ever seen. EVER. Of course, I couldn’t resist buying each child a dragon. So they picked out a golden topaz dragon and a blue/green dragon. I had to resist picking out one for myself, but I would have loved the red one.

The dragons have become favorite and constant companions. They even came with us to worship on Maundy Thursday. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to be friends with the dragon before all the lights get turned out and candles extinguished. Thankfully, we were.

The next night we were looking through Barnes & Noble and you just wouldn’t believe what they had in the kids section. Dragons! Baby dragons! Just like the bigger dragons we got the day before. The discount card came out, and the little golden dragon and the little red dragon jumped in the bag to come home with us. We now have a dragon family!

And let me just say, these dragons are beautiful dragons. They have very kind shiny black eyes, lame’ scales on their wings and toes. They are soft, well shaped, and just so expressive. These are the kind of dragons you would just want to be friends with.

Incidentally, B&N also had a Puff. He wasn’t bad looking, but the other dragons were just irresistible.

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I have some time on my hands these days. Let me rephrase that, I have a lot of time on my hands these days; though, if I’m honest, I really should be doing other things like cleaning house and cooking dinner. I’ve been blogging here since 2007, but it’s been inconsistent and now that I’m feeling like writing again I need an outlet for it. But I’d like to think that my writing has some substance, so I’m employing different devices: writing prompts, hot topics (for me, at least!), and looking at other blogs.

Imagine me, at my little netbook, sitting in my chair with my feet up. I’m a religious woman, after all, I am ordained. But these days I’m a flockless-shepherd and I’m thinking more about what I’ll do for my next vocation. Anyway, back to being religious. You may already have picked up on the “I am ordained” line and figured out the likelihood is that I am not from one of the more conservation traditions. Indeed, I am a Mainline Protestant believer. Oh but as I write I realize those words have a different meaning for each person who reads them!

Well, we can say I am a Christian. Yes, I am a disciple of Christ. I worship God, but not so much Jesus. I’m a bit shaky on trinitarian doctrine. Sometimes I’m more ‘high-church’ other times my Christology is very low. I mainly believe that Jesus came to turn us back to God, to point us to God, to direct us in God’s ways. I don’t believe Jesus came to get us to worship himself. Now if I try hard enough, I can run in an entirely different direction with this and say that Jesus came to give us a face for God, but that said, we are all created in God’s image. But Jesus’ unique face was crucified, as it says, for the forgiveness of sin. So I can come close to trinitarian theology, but I usually end up stopping somewhere in the neighborhood but not quite at the defined address.

But, there I go, rabbit-trailing again! When we read someone who identifies as ‘Christian’ we each have an idea as to what that means, which is precisely why I mention that I am of the Mainline Protestant variety. (Yes, I know. I’m labeling and that’s not always helpful, though it does help us understand better. At least we assume that we understand something better when we can label it with a word we think we understand.) I’ll even go so far as to say I am moderate to liberal leaning in my faith. Social gospel? Yes. Prosperity gospel? Not so much. Open table? Absolutely- to any and all, even if you don’t profess to be Christian. Baptism? I was immersed at 10 years old, but I also love what infant baptism says, and I cried my eyes out when an elderly couple came to be baptised in their 80s (btw, they were immersed). Saved by grace? No other way. Hellfire and damnation? My God is Love.

I’ll admit what I believe is right for me, and you are entitled to your beliefs too. It would be so much easier if we all believed the same way, but that’s not reality and God has created each of us to think for ourselves. Along with that thinking comes the ability to re-evaluate our own beliefs and thoughts through study, debate, discussion, experience (some might say scripture, reason, and experience).

My humanness, my desire to find like-minded individuals, sometimes makes me stumble when I read blogs, books or articles written by others who also go by the moniker ‘Christian’. I catch myself trying to read between the lines and identify what subgroup of Christians each other ascribes to, and then I’m ashamed of myself. Ashamed because then I start to judge their beliefs and concentrate more on how we are different rather than celebrate the things we hold in common. Yes, this is the challenge of ecumenism: seeing the value in another’s faith without downgrading the things we disagree on or hold differently. Sometimes I think it is easier to work interfaith because we come in with the upfront understanding that our beliefs are very different and we don’t purport to believe we already know everything, so we (I) set in to learning what we hold in common and celebrating the fact that we are more alike than we are different. It is easier for me to read a magazine of Eastern thought than it is to read a conservative Christian article. And yet, I can also say that I have felt the spirit move so strongly when I have attended events that carried a more charismatic or evangelical flavor.

I’m reaching out as I read across the internet. I’m trying to arrest judgement and take things at face value, maybe I should say at heart value- for the quality that brings us all together in the same household of God, the Oikos. Many of our struggles are the same, especially in the day to day realm. So bring on those ladies and gentlemen of the broader Christian and human realm! Read for content, read for love!

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