Tales of a Midwest Lutheran on the East Coast

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The countdown begins....

....and no, I'm not just talking about my NaNoWriMo novel, which is actually coming along better than I ever could have imagined. Seriously, the words are coming and I barely have to think about them. Granted, that may make for a fairly nonsensical novel, but hey, 50,000 words is 50,000 words, and I'm at 44,000 at the moment. Go me!

I am also counting down the days of my second interview, which happens this week. And after that, (hopefully) I will be working on a sermon and counting down the days till the day of the vote. Today I successfully attended a worship service at said church without drawing attention to myself - parking on the far side of the building to hide the MN plates on the car, walking in 3 minutes before the service started, sitting in the back, leaving as we sang the last hymn. Operation PastorSpy was a success! ;)

I should mention how Thanksgiving went for us. Since we were not able to make it to either of our families, we stayed around, and played host and hostess at an annual Thanksgiving lunch put on by Beau's church for people who don't have family to spend the holiday with. Now it has become quite popular with groups called Allies and Project Freedom, who came this year with many people with mental or physical disabilities. There were so many leftovers that we have been eating turkey and the delicious homemade stuffing every day since then, and we have LIKED it! It's just too bad that there were so many leftovers, that not as many people came this year, even though it was a packed room. And the pies! Yum!

We spend Black Friday as our own No Leaving the Apartment Day, and No Buying Anything Day, which we celebrated by watching West Wing and Voyager and I did lots of NaNo. It was a success. We were lucky though, not having to work in retail. Our cumuppance will happen for Christmas, where I will probably be working Christmas Day. Heck, at this point I really HOPE I get to work on Christmas Day. ;)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Retreats I & II

"Day unto day uttereth speech. The clouds change. The seasons pass over our woods and fields in their slow and regular progression, and time is gone before you are aware of it." Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain.

I've been gone on two retreats this week. The first was a congregational retreat for members of Resurrection up at a Lutheran camp in Upstate New York called Koinonia. The weather was beautiful, and the local was stunning and remote. Too bad it took us almost four hours of winding roads to get there... I felt very ill on the way up and was very glad when we finally arrived. The retreat center was great and the staff was so friendly, and the food was very good! It was also really fun to get to know better some of the members of Resurrection. I got to know two of the families with young kids who are pretty close to our age. And their kids are so cute! Beau lead a Bible study that everyone loved, and on Sunday morning I busted out the ol' guitar and strummed it up. It was pretty fun. 

The second retreat was a Book of Faith retreat lead by Bishop Riley on the Gospel of Mark, since that is the gospel of the upcoming church year. This time we were at Princeton Seminary, which is also a beautiful local, though less remote. The seminary has all these old stone buildings that are very lovely. Various pastors from around the synod are supposed to attend one of these retreats, and there was about ten of us from around the synod. It was neat to get to know other pastors not just in our own cluster. We heard the entirety of Mark preformed on video and discussed each chapter. Mark is a really fascinating gospel when heard all at once - well, over the course of 24 hours. We could really hear the immediacy of the action and the mounting frustration of Jesus with his disciples. I though that, especially at the beginning, Mark seemed to be written like someone was following Jesus around and tweeting what was happening. Later, some of the longer stories are like blog posts.

And now we are right on the heels of Thanksgiving. Though we can't  make in anywhere to see family, we have already been invited to many gatherings. Traffic is already getting very bad, especially near any shopping areas. I think I'm going to try to avoid driving except for things like grocery shopping and going to church/work for the month of December. We'll see how that goes. :)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Official Update

I thought I would give a more detailed update about what's been going on with me and my process, at least as much as I can say right now. I finally did hear some news, and the process is continuing. I have another interview at the end of this month, and if that goes well, I will be preaching and there will be a meeting in mid-December. Hopefully then I would start sometime before Christmas, but I would not be ordained until January. Then, this will be both an ordination AND instillation services.

I was glad to hear that the delay was not related to anything about me. I have heard that they are really excited about me, as I am about them.

I have been able to do a lot of reading, as a sort of pre-pastor prep class, independent study-style. I've actually kind of like having the freedom to read what I think would prepare me for being a pastor. A sampling of what I've read or am reading so far:

Mere Churchianity
Saving Jesus From the Church
A New Kind of Christianity (Brian McLaren)
An Altar in the World (Barbara Brown Taylor)
Peace is Every Step (Thich Naht Hahn)
Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times
The Seven Storey Mountain (Thomas Merton)
Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy

Now that I look at it, pretty impressive list. I hope that I can keep the reading up! I'm not making myself write papers, though. :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chorus of Yay!

Yay! My process is progressing! That's about all I can say, but I'm way excited!

I already have 19,000 words on my novel. I think that this is the farthest I have gotten in the total of three years that I have done NaNoWriMo. Yay!

We bought a tall cat tower that "seats" two for a GREAT deal! Yay Petsmart! And they love it!

The weather has gotten cooler, so that is a Yay too. It feels like real fall here, with temps in the 40s and 50s and mostly sunny. The foliage here is lovely. There is a kind of bush that grows around here and all of then are currently turning bright red - it is so pretty!

I think we might be actually really liking it out here!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

WARNING: Pissed-off theological rant

Now, I don't usually rant angrily (well, more like really really irked) but here goes. Please don't read if you are pregnant or possibly if you are related to me.

I was idling around facebook yesterday when I came across this lovely sentiment:

I'll copy the text here in case for some reason you can't read it:

"From one pumpkin to another - A woman was asked by her co-worker, 'What's it like to be a Christian?' The coworker replied, 'It's like being a pumpkin.' God picks you from the patch, brings you in, and washes all the dirt off of you. Then He cuts off the top and scoops out all the yucky stuff. He removes the seeds of doubt, hate, and greed. Then He carves you a new smiling face and puts His light inside of you to shine for all the world to see."

How nice. At first glance this seems like a really neat way for Christians to re-cast the pagan holiday of Halloween (Actually Halloween is from All Hallow's Eve, which began as a celebration the evening before All Saints Day, which is a very Christian holiday, but I digress). But, just for fun, let's go through this together and examine the theological implications of this piece, meaning - what is this saying about God?

1. What's it like to be a Christian? God picks you out of a pumpkin patch, brings you in, and washes the dirt off of you. I really like this part. It's like God is welcoming us into God's love, and there is definitely some baptism language going on. And, after all, God CREATED you, the pumpkin. But then something happens..

2. GOD CUTS THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD OFF!!!!! Well, not really, but something has to go so that...

3. God can scoop out all the yucky pumpkin goop. Let's think about this for a minute. God created the pumpkin, and the pumpkin needs the "yucky" stuff to live and grow. It's like the pumpkin's internal organs. Does that mean that God does not like our internal organs and would like to remove our liver? Perhaps not. But I AM troubled by the implications behind how God is treating the pumpkin that God created - by removing things that the pumpkin needed to live that we, non-pumpkins have deemed to be gross. Livers are gross, but we need them to live. Does this mean that God does not like bodies (physical beings)???

4. I'm all about God taking away the seeds of hate and greed. Maybe you could add fear and selfishness. But doubt? Why doesn't God just remove our brains (see above)? By doubt I am assuming that the writer means asking questions - once we believe in God, all our questions will be answered. And if we still have questions, we don't have enough faith/trust. Let me just remind you about Job, who complained to God for just about an entire book of the Bible, and then God told him he had it right.

5. Christians still feel hate, greed, and doubts. At least I do.

6. "Then He carves you a NEW SMILING FACE"?!?!?! Not only does this make me think of the joker from the latest Batman movie ("wanna know how I got these scars?"), but this seems to imply, at least to me, that once we believe in God, we will be so happy all the time, our smiles will practically be carved on our faces. So God is going to carve up your insides and you are going to be happy about it. Bad things will never ever happen to you, but if they do, you will be happy about it. Or it's your own fault. (See again the Book of Job)

I think this is a point I make in nearly every one of my sermons: Jesus never promised us an easy or happy life, but Jesus did promise to be with us and in us.

The God I worship created us GOOD. The God I worship is not a spiritual/emotional/psychological/physical mutilator. The God I worship did not promise me a happy life.

The God I worship IS about the business of death and resurrection, helping me to daily die to my old self and rise up into new life, over an over again, as many times as it takes until I die for real. I have not "arrived;" no one has. This crazy Christian life that we're called to is not a passive pumpkin surgery, but instead it is a journey of discipleship, through good times and bad.

What I am trying to get at is that things we say about God actually SAY things about God. 

That's my take. Take it or leave it. Now I kind of feel better.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

NaNoWriMo Day 5!

8,000+ words already!

I am most definitely enjoying the fall weather around here - not counting that crazy Nor'easter we got last week with 2 inches of snow! The snow is gone now and it has been around 50 degrees and wonderful. Layers! I love wearing layers.

Beau has been feeling poorly off and on for the last couple of weeks, and he finally went to see someone about it. Apparently he has "Sinusitis," which is basically an infection of the sinuses due to complications of a cold and allergies. He's got antibiotics and we got an air purifier for the bedroom so he can sleep better at night.

We had two trick-or-treaters. But we had supper with a good friend from seminary and watched the Luther movie! Yay! Happy Reformation Day!

I'm currently enjoying a recent book by Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity. Seriously, read this book.

I wish I had more to share, but I don't. Still waiting. I should write the 95 Theses of Waiting: How Not to Loose Your Marbles. Oh, wait.... ;)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day 1 of NaNoWriMo

Here is an excerpt of the beginning of my novel for your enjoyment:

When she woke up, Abigail was completely disoriented. She had no idea where she was, what time it was, or why she was waking up in a strange bed. The room was utterly dark and she had the feeling as if she was being suspended in space and time. She also realized she had a terrible headache and every muscle in her body groaned with stiffness. Slowly the room began to take shape as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. It was a small room with just enough space for a desk and a bed under the dark window. There was her suitcase next to the desk, unopened. Her cane was perched next to the bed. The air-conditioner above the door hummed away in an attempt to take the damp edge out of the air to create an atmosphere more comfortable for sleeping. Abigail realized that she was rather warm.
She somehow found the motivation to reach over to the bedside stand and grab her cell phone, touching the screen in an effort to find the time and end this disconcerting feeling of being out of time. After a moment of blindness from the lit screen, her brain tried to comprehend the numbers that flashed across it: 4:06 AM. 4:06 A.M. Wait, that means it’s morning, she thought sluggishly. But why was she awake so early? And why did she feel as if she had been run over by a bus, mentally and physically.

She remembered in a rush that took her breath away. Her graduation. Her decision to go do seminary in Hong Kong. The conversation with her parents. Her 16 hour flight over about a dozen time zones. The bus ride in the dark and the cab up the mountain and someone helping her with her bags and collapsing on the bed.

She looked at the window, where the every so slight blush of dawn was illuminating palm fronds from a tree right outside her window. Oh good God, she thought. She made it. She was really here, at the Lutheran Seminary at Hong Kong.