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There are parts of my job that are exhausting and frustrating and that occasionally drive me crazy. And I love my job. Sometimes in the exact same moment. It can be hard to explain to people who exhausting/frustrating/crazy moments exist. It’s true. I think, sometimes because of what people say, sometimes because of what is in their eyes, that they get a better impression of me than they probably should. I experience the exhausting and the frustrating and the crazy-making. And then I tell myself I can’t quit and remind myself about why I love my job. And then I pray. That one always works.

I use my hands and my voice
to hold wine and bread and tell a story
but the story isn’t mine, and shortly,
neither is the wine or bread
I use my voice, it’s tone and strength,
my ability and view, to breathe life
through words I wrote, and speak
a Gospel new again, old as it may be
and not despite, but because of all the me present
it is not about me at all, but God,
Who wrote and spoke and breathed into me
This is what ministry is.

At the end of the day,
when I am tired and weary,
with all the little holes worn through myself
from the miles of listening,
I sit down and speak back the stories I have heard
to the One who listened with me
and remember that I was not alone
and neither are those who spoke.
As I work my way back through the worries I carry
it is as though I work thorns out and
let Divine hands soothe,
and carry the thorns away.
This is what ministry is.

It is knowing that the work I do
is never done alone
is never done for me
is never about me
is always important
but best of all
it is knowing that the work I do
matters to me
matters to people
matters to God.
This is what ministry is.

written 4-16-10

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When I, as the priest, the pastor, the person who is magically suppose to know what to say, hears my parishioners telling me what their life is like because of their disability or chronic illness, I hear my story.  I hear the stories of others with disabilities and chronic illnesses that I have listened to.  And I still do not know what to say.

Do I tell my story?  Is it over-sharing?  One of the great clergy sins?  Or is it reassuring my parishioner that they are not, in fact, alone?

Do I practice my “active listening skills”?  Leaving their story in the spotlight and letting them know passively, intuitively, possibly, that I understand?

I was not far along in seminary when I told my home congregation that there were no magic words, no perfect prayer.  There is just me, praying for wisdom and the best answer to this situation, for this person, each time this happens.

So sometimes, I tell parts of my story.  In the hopes that it is reassuring.  That my story helps bring their story closer to God.

And sometimes I just listen.  Actively.  Letting their story be in the spotlight.  And hoping that they know, somehow, that I really understand.

And sometimes I listen because I cannot, on that day, tell my story.  Because it is taking all of me to be there.  And I have no extra energy to make the decisions and draw the lines that let me tell my story.  These are the days when disability truly cripples us both.  The pastor and the parishioner.

The truth is, all of these have happened.

And the truth is, all of them will happen again.

Christine is hosting another Poetry Party and, as usual, I’m late to join in.  This weeks prompt was about deserts and fire and Lent.  (Instead of her image, I’m using one of my own.)

in the night of the desert
it is cold and dark and lonely
except for the thousands of stars
hanging in the sky
you can lay back and watch gases that
burned
long, long ago and further away
than you will ever travel
or you can turn toward a blaze
you yourself had to kindle
in the night of the desert you cannot escape
fire
warm and close or remote and dim

in the deserted night of the soul,
when you can only turn into yourself
and gaze upon the constellations
of your past choices,
you can lay back and wonder who
could love you
or you can turn toward reassurance
that God, who kindled all light and love,
loves you
and feel warmth and light from within

written 2-18-10

Jon over at ASBO Jesus, has another great comic up.  I like a lot of his work and am the tiniest bit jealous because I can’t draw.

I saw this one and immediately thought of how true it is for people on either side of the debate currently going on in my own denomination.ASBO institutionalchurchI am reminded of a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  “It is not the experience of Christian brotherhood [community], but sure and certain faith in brotherhood [community] that holds us together.”  Life Together

May our faith be greater than our differences.

practicing-resurrectionChristine at the Abby has offered this photo (used with permission) and the phrase “practicing resurrection” as the subject of this weeks Poetry Party.  Follow the link to read other people’s offerings.

every week I stand and proclaim
with family and friends who are family
that Christ has Risen
and thus we too are made new

every week I hear stories
of how we have hurt each other
I create stories of how I have hurt
and struggle to make amends

every week I must remember
that being made new is promise
not certainty, that I can fail
and keep practicing

written 4-14-09

I’ve written about resurrection before and thought about reposting that poem. Check it out.

holylentToday’s reading from Romans 8. The 18th verse reads, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory about to be revealed to us.” It stuck with me today.

I know I’m not the only one who has noticed that life is hard. I know that life is especially hard right now. And I’m scared and angry and hurt by that. And I’m tired of hearing people tell me that things will get better, that all of my anger and fear are not helpful, that life is more than the scary and hurtful. It’s not that they aren’t right. They are. Life is more than the scary and hurtful. Just being angry and afraid is not enough. But I am angry, afraid, and hurt. I am those things because right now life is not easy. My life has elements that are hurtful and scary and which make me angry. There is more to my life than that. But these are parts of my life. Things will get better. But this is now.


We are taught that our now-suffering
is nothing compared to the not-yet-glory
and my blind faith says that this is indeed so
that all of the horrible of today will fade like
washed out colors when the splendor
that will be becomes
but now, with all the suffering,
all I can see is the bright red of blood,
the deep purples and blues of bruising,
the raw pink of scarring,
bright and screaming for attention,
for tears, for the acknowledgement
that the glory is not-yet

written 3-26-09

holylentSometimes I just don’t know what to do with pieces of Scripture.  This is from today’s reading from Romans.

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
and hope does not disappoint us,
because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Because while I know that this can be true, I also know that sometimes suffering crushes us. That sometimes hope, no matter how divine, just isn’t enough.

Paul’s point is more about Christ than about us. But I still can’t read Romans 5 with ease.  I am relieved that faith does not require understanding.

holylentAnother post from my Lenten discipline.  

Several weeks ago the Gospel reading for the daily office was from the wedding feast at Cana.  Where Mary wants Jesus to work a miracle and he replies, “It is not my time yet.”   I think it’s a great hint at the humanity that was integral to Jesus’ family life.  Sometimes his mother asked him to do things he didn’t want to do.  Of course, turning water into wine is nothing like cleaning your room.

It is not my time
I get to spend a little longer in the shadows
Waiting
Wondering,
What I will say,
What I will do,
Wondering how
People will react
If they will come
Dreaming of glorious triumph
And painful defeat
I get to spend a little longer in the shadows
It is not my time
Yet

written 3-2-09

Of course the best part is that Jesus did it anyways.

Last year was the first time I had imposed ashes.  I had the opportunity the year before but knew that it would have been too close to my second surgery, too close to the last time I faced my own possible death, for me to solemnly remind others that we are all mortal without falling apart.  It was a good choice.  Imposing ashes last year was a wonderful and awe-filled opportunity. It is one of the many mysteries I look forward to continuing to participate in through my years in the Church.
There is such power in the Ash Wednesday reminder that we are dust and to dust we will return.

My Forehead, My Thumb

When it is my forehead
it is the creamed grit and gentle coarseness,
the earthy feel of the dirty smudge
which I must later wash off,
this smeared ash that I feel
the abrasive reminder
that this is what I will return to

When it is my thumb
it is the smooth, resilient skin that I feel
the eyes full of need
and hope and fear that I meet
my hand marring the baby’s unknowing sweetness,
my thumb on elders’ papery skin
it is my voice which murmurs
the poetic reminder of mortality
and I know, amidst all these signs of life,
that we are returning to dust

written 2-6-08

I had planned to post this poem for several weeks and when I saw Christine’s Invitation to Poetry this I saw that she had a similar thought for the day.  Click over and read through other people’s offerings.

This week is another Poetry Party!   And I especially want to point out this poem over at Left Turn at Joy.   Christine’s offering is far better than my own…..

I once waited
for the freeing lift
of flight
I thought that
maybe
if I chased it far enough
ran fast enough
threw myself into the wind often enough
one day I would
fly

I see now
that sometimes
when I’m focused enough,
not on flight, but on
the Kingdom work in front of me
I and those around
levitate

I still may fly
but in this time,
I know what it is to live
with feet not touching the ground

writen 1-22-09

Oh, and apparently I missed Blog for Choice Day this year….last year I was more on top of things

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