working out what life and call and prayer and silence are all about

Archive for August, 2014

living day – to – day

I don’t know about where you are, but around here, we’re all exhausted.

It’s the end of the first week of classes at TLU, and everyone is frazzled. This makes me happy. Why? Because I don’t feel so bad about being frazzled myself. Everything is new for me – the names of the buildings, the code names for the groups on campus, the names and faces of students, faculty, and staff, and this week, especially, the pace of life on campus. And taking in all this newness is wearing me out. It’s been all I can do to show up to events on time, in the right place, and with whatever presentation or sermon already thought out.

It’s not like I’m some incredibly prepared person on a regular basis. Since becoming a mom, and a single mom at that, I regularly find myself in procrastination mode, throwing events together at the last minute, finishing a sermon just before putting on my alb to lead worship. And as a former perfectionist, I’ve come to terms with that reality. But the last couple of weeks have been worse than usual. Each morning I wake up and check the calendar: what am I supposed to lead today? And each night I fall into bed thinking “I hope there’s not something huge happening tomorrow morning that I should have planned for.” All I can do is whatever I’m supposed to do today. Like Scarlett O’Hara, I can’t think about all I’ll have to do later on. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.

But in the midst of my panicky planning for the presentation I’m giving in 1 hour, a beautiful thing has happened: I’ve been living in the moment. Everything I’ve been doing is for right now. All of my conversations are about what’s going on today, what’s happening next. And in focusing my attention and heart and brain power on what’s right in front of me, my anxiety level has dropped. I’ve realized that all I can do is what I’m doing, and so my focus has been extra-sharp. I’ve eased up on trying to make everything spectacular, and so my fear of failure has been replaced with joy in the moment. I’ve been dependent on others to accomplish each project, and so I’m filled with gratitude for the student leaders and faculty and staff who are helping me along.

Being present in the moment wasn’t my goal. Getting through a crazy schedule of events was my goal. But instead of trying to seize control of every detail and manipulate every outcome, I just let go and trusted that the Spirit would work through whatever effort I had to give. And that letting go and being present has made all the difference.

rainbow in New Braunfels, TX

rainbow in New Braunfels, TX

Driving to yet another campus event last night, I pulled out of my driveway only to discover a beautiful rainbow in front of me. I could have missed it if my mind had been working out curriculum for next Wednesday’s Grace Place Bible study or my next sermon for Sunday night worship. But I wasn’t. I was there, enjoying a moment in the car with my son, and noticing a small rainbow in the sky. I’m glad I didn’t miss it, because rainbows are one more reminder that God is ever present in our world, in each and every moment.

Praying for all of us, that we can live in the present moment, and participate in God’s gracious action in the world.

 

finding home

Yesterday was my opportunity to introduce myself to the faculty and staff of Texas Lutheran University. As the Campus Pastor, it was my responsibility and privilege to offer an opening devotion at the annual State of the University gathering at which the President and other cabinet members speak about the health and growth and stability of the institution. To set the tone for this gathering, I invited everyone to join me in singing “Home on the Range.”

by William C. Matthews www.singingcowboy.com

by William C. Matthews
http://www.singingcowboy.com

Right. That’s what they were thinking, too – whatever it is you’re thinking. Some joined in with gusto, laughing at the juxtaposition of “serious devotion to start our year” and “cheesy, slightly sentimental song of our nation’s past.” Others sang, but weren’t so sure what the point was, and how this might help them get in the right frame of mind to empower young adults to “learn boldly & live to inspire.” And still others sat there not participating, thinking “we chose this woman to be pastor, why?”

It got better from there. I talked a bit about how the song refers to getting out to the places we call home, where we can find rest and comfort. And so we had an audience-participation segment where they yelled out the places they had traveled this summer to find that sense of home. People were eager to share that they had spent time in Paris, or Cheboygan (which Spell-check doesn’t know is an actual place in Michigan,) or the beach, or, because this is Texas, the barn.

But then we transitioned to thinking of our internal life as a place of refuge, that to find home we need only turn to the silence of our hearts where our Creator resides and is waiting to welcome us. The time we spent in silence together was golden. The entire staff and faculty of TLU sat in the auditorium inhaling the life-giving Spirit and exhaling the stress and anxiety of beginning a new term. For just a few moments, we were united in the silence, we were unified in our seeking, we were together at home.

I’m so grateful for that moment. Because in the midst of my moving and unpacking and registering and licensing and signing up in this new place, I was feeling like I had no “home.” Everything still feels new. Everywhere I go, I’m getting used to a new procedure or a new arrangement. There’s no place where it’s comfortable, where I can relax, where it feels like “home.” Even my house that’s filled with all of my same stuff, doesn’t yet feel like home. Because it takes a while. It’s just a fact – it takes a while for a new house to feel like home.

our new townhouse in New Braunfels, TX

our new townhouse in New Braunfels, TX

And so I needed that silence yesterday. I needed the reminder of my own devotion presentation, that while I am in this transition, while I am waiting for my space to feel like a refuge, I can find home within. The Creator of all things is also the Creator of me, and I am awed by the mystery that the Creator makes a home within me. When I take a moment to listen to my breath, there I discover the Spirit of the Holy. When I find time to pause before giving a presentation and open my heart for guidance, there I discover the Voice of the Holy. When I begin my day in my prayer corner, even though it’s in a new place and my candle doesn’t fit where it used to, still there I discover the Comforting Presence of the Holy.

Home is a gift given in the silence. No matter where we are. No matter how we feel. No matter who is with us or who has left us. Home is here, in the ever-expanding love of the Creator planted in each of us.

Responding to the Michael Brown shooting by sharing stories, building trust

A helpful perspective on the tragedy on MO and how we might talk about it together with young adults.

Episcopal Young Adult and Campus Ministries

Michael Brown’s story is on our minds this week. Michael was about to begin college classes. He died at 18.

Young Adults and College Students across our country are asking big questions about Michael’s death. As with any death, the answers aren’t easy to come by. The best grief work is often done not by finding concrete answers but by sharing stories. The best eulogies help us catch a glimpse of someone’s life.

Though we lived in the same city, unfortunately I didn’t know Michael Brown. I can’t share stories of his life that could make you laugh out loud or thank God for his presence with us. Instead, I am faced with the only story I know of him, the story we are hearing reported of Michael’s encounter with the police on Saturday. So many of the details in that story are unknown, but the story has given rise…

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