Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Are you from the church?

So, I had to go to the police station the other day to file a report on behalf of the congregation's assistance fund indicating check forgery. The bank requires a police report to proceed with the fraud insurance bit.
When I arrived at the station, all gussied up in my clergy shirt, snazzy pants and cute jacket, I explained to the desk folks why I was there. The nice officer explained that someone would be with me in a minute and motioned to the benches across from the desk; I was the only one there.
When the officers came out to get me (different ones than before), the first brilliant question they asked me: Are you from the church?
No, I wear this get-up for kicks. Of course I'm from the church.
I'm usually a bit more understanding, but when someone alters a check that a church wrote for assistance to get more money I become cynical and tired.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Walking away

I'm usually not so melodramatic.
But as he walked away from me yesterday, before we went out to play in the little turtle pool, I couldn't help but think that this wasn't the last time that I'd see him walk away.
Good grief, I love this little guy -- checkered-swimsuit-covered bum and all.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Yep, that's me! Thoughts on Why I'm a Lutheran

I've been thinking about Lutheran Zephyr's question for awhile, and finally got around to responding.

I'm one of those born-and-raised-and-never-really-left-the-church kind of Lutherans. I'm not sure how I feel about that (it feels a little boring, to be honest) but since I'm now a pastor married to another pastor, I'm guessing that it will probably remain that way.

Sure, there was a brief time in college when I was dating a boy who thought the whole church idea was kind of hoo-ey, and so I defended him to my parents (mom, mostly, as she was the one who brought it up) and heard myself saying something like, "You know, you don't have to go to church to be a good person." I'm sure we were folding clothes or something equally hand-consuming at the time and she averted her eyes, probably thinking, "This is what I get for letting her go to a STATE SCHOOL instead of that nice, private Lutheran school with the exorbitant tuition." Yeah, I'm sure that's what she was thinking as she nearly said as much.

My dad's family: pillars of a small Lutheran congregation that is part of a small, small branch of Norwegian Lutheran churches that never joined ANY of the mergers during this past century. My mom: grew up Methodist, though we have always gone to the Lutheran church, if only because there wasn't a UMC church around where we lived after I was born. We always went to church; it was just something that we did. Folks think that because I grew up in Minnesota that everyone around me was a Lutheran. But my part of the state was far more Catholic than Lutheran.

My husband is the one who did a fair bit of wandering during college (even leaving the heart of the midwest for The East, surely tempting fate) and whose parents were s-h-o-c-k-e-d when he said he was heading to seminary. Even though his family has been Lutheran for a good long time, he had denounced the entire kit and kaboodle (probably to make his mom mad, but who am I to judge?). So, I guess surprise at the, "I'm going to seminary instead of graduate school to further pursue my major" was appropriate.

Being a Lutheran and articulating my understanding of The Confessions (isn't that a candidacy question at some point?) for me is all about grace, about what Jesus did for me, about the radical idea that through our baptism we are adopted into the God's Family, and the abundant and freely given gift of God's love that we share around the table. I simply love the power of the sacraments as means of God's grace: celebrate them honestly, gather frequently, share the Good News, and live with the knowledge that, sinner though you are, you are a dearly beloved child of God.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


I have a hard time "doing" personal devotions. Either I'm in too much of a rush or I forget or because I'm a pastor I think I have to do them which feeds into my whole thing about expectations and what I'm supposed to do. But all that aside, I've never gotten into a regular habit of devoting. I write them, I like to look at them in bookstores and on my own shelves, thinking, "hmmmm.... that would be a good idea."

And then a couple years ago I led a women's retreat. As we talked about prayer and My Friend the Speaker pointed out that it can happen anywhere-anytime, even doing the most daily of things, I realized that I do devote.

I start almost every morning by checking my e-mail and reading a few precious blogs. They aren't all overtly Christian. Some of them make me laugh, others cause me to tear up on occasion. Regardless, in my own way I lift these people up in prayer as I read. I remember them through the day and carry them with me. If I'm preaching and have read the texts for the coming week, I often find bits of the Gospel in what they have written, tucking those pieces away as food for my soul.

This works for me. What works for you?

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Sundays, not surprisingly, are days of extreme tiredness for most pastors. The pastors who then go into the office Monday morning are few and far between in my circle of colleauges. Perhaps they nap and recharge Sundays. Perhaps they are able to finish their sermon before Friday (er, Saturday night) and therefore if they were to take the other logical day as a Sabbath, would actually be able to rest that day, instead. I, on the other hand, know that the week is rare (non-existent?) in which I would have something ready-enough to be able to rest on Friday.

All of that having been said, today is one of an intense tiredness for me. We bid my colleague Godspeed and Farewell this weekend; after a beautifully long ministry career, he's retiring. It has been a weekend of many tears, much laughter, celebration and held-breaths. For all of the times when I willed the tears away and smiled so nicely and answered people's (stupid) questions, my body has absorbed the energy and now it has disappeared. In no way was it about me (except that I'm staying and he's going) and yet I have felt unable to cope with even the smallest tasks this evening.

I'm tired and feel that it is an exhaustion that goes beyond the relief of a good night's rest. My fear is that with the transition in front of me, any sense of rest will be slippery at best in the coming days, weeks and months.

Complicated Friendship

I have no idea why P. came to mind tonight.

We haven't spoken directly in well over a year, the circles of our lives once again drifting away from each other's rotation -- he has moved out of local calling range and did so without me knowing. I got a voicemail on my cell phone last fall with an update of his life and I didn't return the call, but have kept the message all this time, renewing the save-time every 21 days as the message comes up "marked for deletion." I listen to it begin and don't want to lose it, so I push 9 and hear, "This message will be saved for 21 days" in that electronic voice.

When our friendship began, we were part of the same Small Town where we went to high school. Through college and then grad school we kept in spotty contact -- and then we were living in the same Big City, which was surprising (OK, shocking)as most people from Small Town don't leave that area, let alone the state.

Still calling him a friend when we haven't spoken in so long feels a little weird. Yet I can't imagine calling him anything else. Our lives have taken us in such different directions. We have made decisions that have at best irritated and in reality angered the other. We have spent hours that would add up to weeks, maybe months, talking on the phone in our relationship. We frustrate each other and we skip the quotidian, building on years and years of deep conversation.

There is a level of comfort that comes from the idea of this kind of relationship and perhaps tonight, in my exhaustion, I am clinging to the simplistic remembrance of it.

Friday, May 19, 2006


I spent some time, a few weeks ago, weeding a flower bed in our backyard. Last year I didn't do any of that and some thistles went to seed, leaving me with more thistles than I really knew what to do with this spring. But, I did know that if I didn't do something sooner rather than later the whole yard would be taken over. So, on that day I cut down and pulled out and did some basic clean up. It felt good, but I knew that I'd have to get back in the dirt.

That happened tonight. We went to the big-box home improvement store and I bought some flowers for the planters and some potting mix and some tools that would help me extract the thistle roots and some gloves that would protect me from them.

It felt good to get back into the dirt, to dig and claw around and pull and see the worms and smell the dirt. I know this won't be the last time that I have to pull at the roots, but for now the beds are clear... my clothes are dirty and my arms will hurt a bit in the morning, but for it sure felt good.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Quick read and reading in general

After my last post, I've struggled to write something else -- that post came to being as a journal page to be used in conjunction with some digital photos (OK, ok, I'll say it's going to be part of a digital scrapbook layout, but I'm such an amateur that I hesitate to even use that word in conjunction with me.... so I prefer to say that I'm "making pages." semantics. whatever.) -- and I felt the need to post it here.... Thanks to all who read it and left such heart-felt words.

So, here's the follow-up post.... A book I finished recently... "Madame Mirabou's School of Love" by Barbara Samuel. It still has me thinking. I'm not claiming that it's a fine piece of literature, but for a book that I finished pretty quickly and would be the perfect companion for a bubble bath and a glass of wine, it's pretty good. I get most of my books from the library, used book sales (usually at the library), and garage/rummage sales. I read really fast and a lot, so the investment -- even at discount stores would be astronomical -- and I like the idea of supporting the library. When I read a book that I really like and that I want to share with others, I buy copies of it at used sales and keep them on hand to give away. "A Prayer for Owen Meany" by John Irving was that book for a long time. Now it's "Peace Like a River" by Leif Enger; I can't resist sharing it and promoting the author. Evangelism at its most basic.

Friday, May 12, 2006


She died. And, as childish as it sounds to say that, I need to say it because I’m finally crying.

Yeah, I cried when I first got the call, and again when I had to call the airline to buy an over-priced plane ticket and “state the relationship of the deceased.” No, it wasn’t that cold, but it might as well have been.

And then I didn’t cry. I flew and held my child and had lunch with my in-laws and received hugs and cards and hugged my nieces and nephew and slept and woke and went to church and swam in a pool and walked around The Farm and picked up a color-card and kicked aside the flies and the mouse turds and took pictures of the chicken coop and looked at the horizon and wrote a sermon and preached it and accepted the “well-dones” from well-meaning relatives. But I didn't cry.

And before we pulled away from the apartment building and waved good-bye out the window I took a falling-apart photo album made in the days before acid-free anything back to the hotel with me and as gently as I could I ripped out the pictures of me and my brother and my mom and my aunt and my grandma and my great-grandma and a lot of other people who are no longer living, who are dead, and I slipped them into an envelope "to do something with" when I get a chance and I threw the album pages and cover away in the dinky hotel garbage can.

And I flew back and greeted a college acquaintance on the plane and cleaned up my child’s vomit and went back to work and at night rocked my sick child and then took off my shoes and socks while I preached again and we survived Easter and everything that means for a pastor whose grandmother has died and we moved zombie-like through the days and got sick and moved along and I smiled when I told people again and again, “She was 96 … an amazing woman … lived on The Farm most of her life … stubborn Swede … she had a stroke … still living alone … amazing woman.” And I meant every word and I still didn’t cry.

Until tonight. I sat at the bar in our living room with the pictures that I had taken out of the album spread before me and saw the legacy of these women … Grandma's handwriting on the backs … strong … stubborn … rooted to the farm … amazing women. And I cried. Finally, I cried.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Coming out of my shell a bit

I've recently started leaving comments on blogs that I read regularly -- not a lot, but a few, sprinkled here and there... I feel like I'm testing the waters... It's just so weird and vaguely play-groundesque -- what if someone thinks my comment is stupid? And the irrational thoughts spiral from there, none that are blogworthy, but they're there.

I was at a training today and one of the aspects of leadership that we talked about was the people who surround you. Who are the people you turn to, professionally and personally? As a pastor this is a difficult and oh-so important facet of my life that I've largely ignored. I was pleased to be able to write down a number of people who I feel I can turn to for a variety of things, and if push came to shove many of them could serve as MY pastor in addition to being a friend or a mentor or an accountability partner. However, when it came to the "friends outside the ministry" category, my list was woefully small. Ok, I was hard-pressed to come up with a single person who isn't either: another pastor/ministry professional or a member of either my congregation or my husband's congregation.

I know that leaving comments on people's blogs won't really garner me a whole lot of friends who live around the block with whom I can go shopping! But this virtual community has certainly sustained me in a way that I never thought possible when I took my first call.

Other thoughts that I had today? Sign up somehow, somewhere (community education? parks and recreation?) for a photography class. Find a book group that meets over lunch so that I don't have to be away from home another night during the week.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

In love

Many of my posts regard the love-hate relationship that I have with my congregation and my calling.

However, I just uploaded some pictures of my son that we took this afternoon to my computer and I have to say ... I'm completely and totally in love.

I feel like such a mush when I gush about him -- but I think he's truly fabulous. He's almost a year old and while there have certainly been times when I've been exhausted (I went back to work when he was 8 weeks old) and crazy, I love the (not-so) little guy so much I can hardly stand it most times. In love. In love to the point of standing over his crib several times an evening just to gaze at him (mind you he went to sleep by about 5:45 tonight and will most likely sleep until 0600 or 0630).

All this coming from someone who first wasn't so sure that she wanted a kidlet. All this coming from someone who when "it" didn't work again and again and again thought that it might be OK not to have children. All this coming from me. Wow.

Friday, May 05, 2006

He called me a secretary

And then an assistant pastor when I (gently) corrected him
But gave me home-made puff pastries with chocolate frosting and eclairs in return -- is it wrong to think, at least for the moment, that it wasn't such a bad trade? My goodness, I'm a sucker for a sweet.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Amazed and a Couple of Questions

Sometimes I'm absolutely thrilled with how much I can get done -- new shoes for and pictures of Baby Boy, a trip to the library, a trip to Costco, naps all around, laundry done... And other times, I'm completely shocked at how paralyzed I can be about simple tasks -- making phone calls and cleaning coffee cups (I did this at the office this morning -- yea me!) and mailing reminders and the list goes on.

My questions revolve around discernment for leaving a place -- those of you who have been through a call or two or six, how did you determine that it was time to go? And, is it possible for people to see someone with fresh eyes? As in, after nearly two years in a call, if some folks don't see me as a pastor, will they ever?