Category Archives: writing

feeling empty . . .

(reflecting on Isaiah 55 and John 4:5-30 in a stream-of-consciousness, likely useless to anyone but me kind of way.)

Feeling empty.

Feeling like I need to do something. Something. Something.

Feeling like I need to write. Something. Anything. But I don’t know what.

I need to write a sermon. Need to preach God’s word. Need to get out of the way, let God talk to the people in front of me on Sunday.

Beat. Beat. Beat. What do I have to say?

Living water. Water water water water water. Source of life. Essential Ingredient. Key to life. All life. Water water water.

One source. Only one source.

What sorts of dams are we building? Dams not to store, but to prevent flooding. And even the storing part. We store it, it stops being living. It has some movement in it, but mostly, still. Grows moss. Grows gunk.

Living, moving, healthy water. Water water water.

I want that water. I want that water. I need that water.

And it’s there. And it’s free. And it’s abundant. And it’s there.

But I can’t keep building up piles of junk in front of it. I can’t keep building dams. Dams neither to prevent flooding nor to store. The water that comes into me must flow out to be healthy, living water.

Junk. Junk junk. Unintentional dam-building. Piling up my junk in front of the water source and losing out on the water that’s there. Satisfying myself with the scum that eeks out from the bottom of my pile of junk.

Break down the junk. Tear down the pile. Tear down the dam. Tear down that which stands in my way of being caught in the rush of the living water.

What is my junk?

My sin. My pride. My “I can do this!” My spite. My disobedience. My impatience. My lack of love. My utter lack of love. Not that I have no love, but I have these great big gaps of emptiness. Empty of love. Empty. Holes. Without love, breeding junk and death and destruction and mayhem . . . my junk piled in front of the water. The water. The water. That revives. That sustains. That is life. You simply cannot have life without water. Nothing. Even a desert has water.

Other junk? Distractions. Stuff. Stuff. Stuff. Good stuff even, but stuff nonetheless. Stuff I suck dry, when it was never wet. Stuff with no water. No life. Yet stuff nonetheless. Piled up.

Tear down the walls. Tear down the junk. Root it out, dig it out, tear it down.

Let the flood come rushing through. Until there is nothing but water. Save that which is cleansed by water. And that which grows, born of the water.

Rush into every crevice. Fill the empty places. Bring life where there is death. Bring life where there is decay. Bring water where there is muck and mud and even Kool-Aid. Bring life. Living water. The real stuff, the good stuff, the stuff of life.

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Lent. Discipline. Or something like that . . .

I have this ambivalence about Lent.  I grew up in a world of “When you are fasting, make sure you tell everyone you know and look miserable and pious all at the same time.”  A philosophy in direct opposition to Matthew 6:16-18.  But the people who were doing it, I’m quite certain, had never read much if any of the Bible on their own, so what would they know?

There’s some bitterness in dem dere waters.

My Reformation at the Dining Room Table (Princeton, c. 1996) released me from the never-ending guilt of “What should I be doing?  What can I do?  How shall I make myself good enough?  Look how good I am!  Surely I must be earning God’s favor!”  And, therefore, I felt released from the pressures of Lent.  Sort of.

Lent, as I knew it, was part of earning, proving, showing, how great I was or, when I slipped up, how bad I was.  My Reformation led me away from Lent.  I was released from it.  No longer did I have to join in the parade of piety, with it’s seemingly arbitrary rules of display.  So I didn’t.  And I’ll be honest.  Ry and I have shared many a chuckle over steak in restaurants on Fridays, surrounded by plate after plate of fish or marinara sauce.

But those Lutherans.  Those Lutherans kept Lent.  And I’m fond of Lutherans.  And, my own denomination, having developed the practice of searching for babies that got tossed with bathwater, lifts up the observation of Lent.  So, I’m confronted with the challenge to revisit this whole Lent thing.

The thing is,  I don’t want to.  It’s actually one theological question I’ve left mostly tabled for the last ten years–and, believe my husband, there aren’t many of those.  In fact, I find myself wondering if this is the only one . . .

But this year I’m going to have to stare it down and come to terms with it.  This year, I am serving as the “pastor” of a church, providing pulpit leadership every Sunday.  So, it occurred to me yesterday–after having avoided the thought of Lent for the better part of the last month–that I really am going to have to put some thought into it, draw some conclusions.  Because on Sunday mornings, I’m going to be standing up in a church and talking at people.  And maybe they’re going to be waiting for me to mention Lent.  Or maybe they’re going to wonder why I don’t.  I don’t think just totally overlooking the season is going to be an option this year.

So.  I’ve read enough Lenten recommendations to see that we can think more broadly about Lenten disciplines than simply when to eat animals or not, and “giving up” something or other that may or may not cause us any anguish whatever.  I’ve read enough lovers of Lent suggest adding something to your life during Lent.  Adding something that will draw your mind more frequently to the One who has given you everything.

That I can handle.  So, I decided about two hours ago that maybe what I’ll add is blogging every day.  Every day?  Did I just say that?  I’d like to try.  And it’s not necessarily going to be theologizing every day.  I think simply the discipline of taking writing time every day, will be beneficial to me.  Will draw my mind to God who is a God of order, of seasons, of time.  He just is.  And as flaky as I am, as detached from time and space as I am, it would probably do me some good to find some rhythm in my time, to remember that God himself created these separate days and nights and set in place seasons and rhythms.

So there ya go.  I’m going to try to write every day.  Ideally at the same time.  Ha!  But at least every day.  To mark the days.  Evening and morning, day by day.  God is calling me to a more orderly existence right now, I feel it, I know it.  So maybe Lent is as good a time as any to be more mindful of it.   A word of warning, however.  Daily writing is going to make for some rambling posts.  🙂

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Writing for the sake of writing . . .

I haven’t written in a bit.  I’m feeling too tired or lazy to check how long since my last post, but I know it’s been a week or more.  I’ve started other posts.  I’ve come here and almost started other posts.  I have this itch to write but no idea to actually write.  Finally I decided to just write anyway.  So here it is.  Writing for the sake of writing.

My last two weeks have been spent preparing for my ordination exams.  Well, more accurately, they’ve been spent under the cloud called Supposed-to-Be, presently labeled “preparing for my ordination exams.”  Whatsa ordination exam? you ask.  Well.  I’ll tell you.  Because I’m just writing for the sake of writing.

I’ve said that I graduated from seminary and I’m a sometimes preacher.  In my denomination (PCUSA) that does not make me a pastor, that does not mean I’m ordained.  Seminary is but one step in a longer path toward ordination.  I can best describe the process–for the truly curious–by using my husband’s experience.  He finished his bachelor’s degree (in Mechanical Engineering, wouldn’tchaknow) and then headed to seminary three months later.  Seminary is a three-year program culminating in a Master’s of Divinity.  It’s kinda like law school.  It’s a professional degree.  While he was in seminary he did two field education placements, one full-time over a summer, one part-time over a school year.  In February of his senior year he completed four ordination exams.  For the first 12 weeks after he graduated he completed a program called Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) where he served and trained as a hospital chaplain (in his case, assigned to an oncology unit). All during this time, he was “under care” of his presbytery which entailed periodic meetings with a committee, they were tracking his progress, while he was getting to know them, presenting them with a statement of faith that was then put up for evaluation.  His next to final step toward ordination was being extended a call (getting a job offer) to a position in a church that required ordination (in this case, Associate Pastor for youth and family ministries).  The final steps were being examined (evaluated and questioned in beliefs) by the presbytery under whose care he had been and by the presbytery in which the church that called him was located.  He started the job, he was ordained.

That’s the quick, efficient way of going about being ordained in my denomination.  Yes.  That is the straight-shot ordination process.  My experience has been a little different:  more complicated, more convoluted.  First:  I was out of undergrad (B.A. in a nice, sensible program:  English/Secondary Ed.) for four years before I sensed a call to seminary.  Initially I was pursuing an MA in theological studies.  Shortly after beginning (6 credits of Greek in a 6-week summer session), however, my classmates sensed in me a call to pastoral ministry I had not yet discerned and they encouraged me to switch to the Masters of Divinity program and to go under care.  Two weeks into my fall semester of classes, I decided I needed to get da heck outa that seminary and transfer to the seminary from which my husband had graduated.  So we moved back around the corner from our first apartment and I joined the church where my husband had done an internship so that I could come under care of the presbytery a year from then–you had to be a member of the presbytery a year before you could come under care.  (Meanwhile, as an aside, my husband was called to serve as that church’s associate pastor for youth and families.)  I did indeed go under care a year later.  In the course of my time in seminary I did my part-time, school year internship and two full-time summer internships.

In the end, I was 37 weeks pregnant with Isaac when I graduated.  I essentially put on hold the entire care process.  I did not take my ordination exams during my senior year like everyone else did (I was horrifically nauseous with morning sickness and likely pretty darn depressed and, possibly, just plain under-motivated and lazy) and I did not do CPE.  I worked that first year out of seminary (well, beginning in October, when Isaac was 4 months old) part-time as a director of Christian education.  After that and since that time I have been a SAHM.  Full-time.

Now, my baby is two and I can feel the promptings to move forward in this whole ordination process thing.  I went under care of our new presbytery (we moved 4 years ago) and now, this very weekend, I’m taking two out of four ordination exams:  theological competence and biblical exegesis.  Their purpose is to make sure you can take all your academic knowledge from seminary and translate it into normal-person-speak so you can actually talk to real, bona fide human beings, not just those pale creatures that roam the hallowed halls of the ivory tower.  My hope is that’s all I’ve been doing for the last seven years.  Talking to real people.  Answering the real theological questions of real people.  We’ll see if that’s really all one needs to be able to pass these bad boys.

After I finish these exams, and assuming I pass them, I’ll have to take two more in February.  They will take much more in the way of preparation.  I need to do far more than just sit under the Supposed-to-Be cloud.  I have to learn a Book of Order top and bottom and inside out and know how to apply all the denominational rules.  Fun times.

After ords, in addition to continuing my care process where people meet with me and ask me questions and evaluate my suitability for the ministry, I’ll still need to do CPE somehow.  And then . . . and here is the million dollar question . . . what will I do when I’ve checked all my boxes and I’m eligible for ordination?  I wait for the call to find me.  Because I’m still not sure how I’m going to work with three still-pretty-small children and how I’m supposed to teach my children how to worship when I’m standing up in front of the sanctuary jabbering during worship.  I’ll see.  I know God’s prompting me forward, I’m just still waiting for a head’s up on the destination.  And honestly, I’m perfectly fine not knowing it yet.  That’s the gift of faith.  Just waiting on God to show you what’s next.  And it’s fine.  Because he knows what he’s doing, he’s got plans better than any I can come up with.  Or maybe I’m just lazy or too tired to make my own plans.  Maybe I’m just waiting for the sake of waiting.

Nah.  I’m just waiting.  And it’s good.

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So I Changed the Look.

Of my blog, that is.  Feel free to tell me what you think.  Whoever you are.

I’m not sure, myself.  Part of me was tired of things looking exactly the same around here.  After all, it has been a whole year.  Another part of me misses the stacks of old books that I can actually feel and smell when I look at the picture.  But I thought it was feeling a little flat lately, so I looked at some other options.  I went with this one because I think–I think–it makes my giant ramblings look shorter and less intimidating.  I think.  I also went with it because there’s a pen at the top of the page and I’m trying to remind myself that I used to write.  A lot.  Writing used to be . . . well . . . everything to me.  It was what I thought I’d do with the rest of my life, it’s what kept me alive–no hyperbole there–it was like breathing.  Anyway, the pen reminds me that writing was once a big part of me and it’s a skill I’d like to recover, to hone and develop.  It also reminds me that back in the olden days when I was doing all that writing, people actually did use pens.  It’s what we used to design the first wheel.

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