Saturday, March 31, 2007

Play time societies

As I listen to the kids from my apartment complex teeter on their own version of The Lord of the Flies, I hear their taunts and jeers toward one another. “Everyone hates you!” “Go away, _______.” On occasion I have chosen to referee their lawless playtime society. Originally I thought they self-governed well: “Don’t do that ______, your mom wouldn’t approve.” “Be careful _____.” I thought I might even write a general letter to their parents, complementing them on how good their kids are. Then I started to see the fights, hear the bullying, they’re not so diplomatic these days. I feel for the kids who are bullied. Especially when I hear parents arguing through my wall, I know they are guided (or not, as the case may be) by things much larger than their play-time peers will ever realize.

As I heard tonight’s shout: “Everyone hates you!” I thought to myself, no one should ever have to hear that. And I was taken back to a 4th grade play time of my own. Lunch recess, I had just gone to the nurse to take my inhaler, a sign of “uncool” I had yet to realize. I walked out to the soccer field to find my regular group of friends. It was Thursday—white jeans day. I had none. That meant I couldn’t become an official member of the “Angels”—a group SS had thought up. As I walked toward my friends, they all started running away. They figured my asthma would slow me down. At first I didn’t realize they were running from me, so I ran after them, I heard shouts aimed at me to “stay away.” They kept running. And I stopped.

I stood alone on the field only for a few moments. I did not have to run to a teacher, or hide in a corner, or simply hide in the bathroom. I had other friends on the field that day. I stopped and ran to them in tears. Instead of running, KK, RV, AG, and others took up for me. They rallied around me and, if memory serves, even confronted SS on how mean she had been. Nevertheless it wasn’t their actions that marked me, it was SS’s.

It’s ironic how minor moments can have a monumental affect on your life. For years I have said my mantra is “I’m not good enough”—regularly: “I’m not cool enough.” I think those mere moments that day in 4th grade are what branded my heart with that horrible mantra. As I look to the new life/new birth/new beginning we (I) celebrate on Easter I think it’s time to leave two things in the past—1) My resentment (albeit minimal after all these years) toward SS. She was a kid, and she did what kids do—made a place for herself, distinguished herself, and threw a couple of play-time *punches*. 2) I think it’s time to let go of the mantra that has so molded me (especially my habits of self-deprecation). I think I can manage to let go of 15 minutes of history for the following 15 years of my life that they haunted. It’s time for new birth, a new mantra, and new esteem.

Welcome to Worship Prayer

Gracious God,
Giver of peace
Creator of life
Fill us with your spirit
Come into this place and move within us
Glide between us
We have come to witness your greatness
And to honor you for the ways you have blessed our lives
We are abundantly grateful
for your grace and goodness
we revel in the praise songs of the robins
and the sparrows
and the rooster’s call to worship
Here we stand in your midst
And in your home.
Guide this worship
That it might glorify you
And that each of us will be touched
By your goodness
In praise and adoration,


Prayer for Wholeness

Lover of my soul,
Convince me—convict me.
Logically, I know your love
I see it in grace, compassion, and love
I see it in Christ
Help my heart hear
I often feel your love—
Assurance as I walk into a difficult situation
A warm embrace to hold my tears
And yet I still don’t connect
I don’t feel worthy
Lover, connect my spirit—
Let my heart feel you with assurance and acceptance
Help me receive your gracious gift with celebration and gratitude
Connect my spirit that I might feel you throughout
My body and my soul—my entire essence.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Food for thought

I feel as busy as an accountant these days. He is preparing 104oEZ forms, I am preparing sermons. While it's no where near what some preachers have to preach, I have 5 sermons to write in the next couple of weeks. Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter, and then two for a youth retreat in Mexico. I am reading and writing like a mad woman.

In preparation for the 7 last words sermon(ettes) I will co-preach with my senior, I am reading one book by Charles H. Spurgeon and another by Arthur Pink. Pink referenced a Spurgeon quote: "I will just stand to what I ever shall and always have preached, and take God's Word as it stands, whether I can reconcile it with another part of God's Word or not." Spurgeon claims "I don't know" where he cannot reconcile harsh contrasts or the inexplicable. He trusts Scripture and preaches accordingly, somewhere in there the Spirit moves and speaks and he is called to be faithful to preaching the text.

That's a significant challenge for me. One I will probably need to chew on awhile longer. I do trust Scripture. I do believe it is divinely inspired and that the Spirit continues to inspire us as we read it today. I fully believe in sticking to the text and being faithful in that. And, nevertheless, I struggle with discrepancies. I struggle with the Old Testament God vs. New Testament God theories/arguments. I don't find peace in the God of wrath. One of my lectionary partners regularly challenges me on that front (though I don't think he knows that or does it intentionally). I don't want to worship a God of vindication, and so, I struggle to preach those texts without a reminder of God's grace and love. I preach amor, justicia, paz, y compasion so much that I wonder if my congregants feel any variance week to week.

I suppose I was doubly challenged today. A man relatively new to our congregation loaned me a book "Licencia Para Pecar" (License to Sin). The book challenges the loose way the church treats sin in the modern world. It is actually a wonderfully written book. And while I don't agree with all of the authors conclusions, he is stimulating my thoughts around sins, Sin, etc. He wrote about the ways we dismiss God regarding sin. First, he gave an example of a burglar who takes a son hostage. The family pleads with him, offering money, then cars, jewelry, whatever in exchange for their son's life. The man refuses. Appealing to a sense of compassion, then the family pleads with the man to think of how young their son is and how much he would suffer. Still indignant, the man continues to hold the son hostage. They plead that he is their oldest son, that he is necessary to their well-being. Nothing. Finally, without alternatives, the family begins to threaten the man, they will call the police, he will be put in prison, maybe even face the death penalty. Still nothing. The man is hard-hearted.

The authors parallels the hardened heart of this man to those entrenched in sin. He made me think differently about how I approach conversations about sin. I tend to stay toward the "nice" side of the conversation--look at how much God loves you, cares for you, look at how wonderful life is when God is present and real to you. I forget what it takes when one is stubborn, hard-hearted. Sometimes we become so indignant that only fear of penalty stops us, and other times, when we feel we have nothing left to lose, even that serves to hinder destructive behaviors.

One of the (Bible) teachers in my congregation tends toward the other side. He regularly talks about God's judgment and wrath. He has served to balance me. And hopefully with this book, I will come to see the other side with less resistance, greater clarity, and may come into some "softer" language (at least by my standards) with which to explain/preach the realities of sin/Sin.

Daddy God

Daddy God,
Bringer of strength
In your warm embrace
You have taught us responsibility and demanded accountability
You encouraged us to try and do our best,
You did not expect perfection
Because you understood our weaknesses
But did not allow us to give on the basics
But to give all we could.
Daddy in heaven,
You were patient in our learning—
You stuck with us until we understood
And continue by our side
Cheerleading us on as we continue to struggle and grow.
You offer a warm hug in our sadness and frustration
And a jovial laugh and a proud smile in our success.
Daddy God, we love you.


Tofu recipes?

So, the last time I was at the store Tofu was on sale and I went a little crazy and bought 4 packages. Unfortunately my reportoire of tofu recipes is pretty limited. Anyone have any good tofu recipes to recommend?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Mother God

Mother God
Giver of peace
Bringer of comfort
We find solace in your embrace
Your kiss of love heals
Our cuts and bruises
The warm aroma of bread of life
You baked and kneaded
Fills the air
You bore us in your womb
You gave birth to our selfhood and faith
You raised us up in justice and kindness
Admonishing us when our hearts went astray
Calling us home with your dinner bell of grace
And embracing us in love as we ran to your arms
Mother God, we are thankful.
Accept these our thanks.

Alli esta Dios

Cuando todo no se cumple,
alli esta Dios.
Cuando todo te parece imposible,
alli esta Dios
Cuando estas frustrado y sin opciones,
alli esta Dios.
Cuando te sientes mal por no haber hecho,
alli esta Dios.
En todos momentos esta presente nuestro Dios,
pero en los momentos mas difíciles,
aparece mas claro.
Cuando fallas,
cumple Dios
Cuando no encuentras posibilidad,
Dios hace el camino
Cuando no te queda paciencia,
Dios intercede tranquilo
Y cuando fallas,
Dios corrige.
Y en nuestras debilidades,
el poder de Dios nos ayuda.
En todos momentos
esta presente nuestro Dios.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Going Home Prayer

God of all spirits
Take up our loved one
Create in your kingdom a home for her
Show her the wonderful secrets of creations
Listen to her sing the hallelujah chorus
Rejoice in her revelrous dance
As she relishes the warmth of your love
Let your wondrous love
Fill her heart and heal her soul.
God of all spirits
Take our loved one home.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Counting my blessings

I am thankful for:
1) The Spirit's movement in creating a sermon that reached people
2) A youth mom who has great ideas AND is ready to organize the events
3) Youth who want to be at youth and are willing to do mission work around the church
4) The trust of my congregants
5) my new (albeit clingy) dog
6) Time with my dad
7) The ingeneous creativity of people at Disney
8) A supportive Senior pastor
9) Good food
10) Laughter with my young adults
11) Raw vulnerability
12) Perspective
13) Hope
14) New faces in my congregation
15) Seeing God's work after a seemingly long "winter"

God of the Children

Blessed God of the children
Who first loves those who are weak
Who hurts when they hurt
And hungers when they hunger
Help us to be prayerful
Not just in our thoughts and words
But in our actions
That we may not have generalized prayer for food
Btu will feel them ourselves
That they might go to bed with a full belly
God, you have blessed us so abundantly—
Help us to bless as well
You say our will provide for all our needs
And sometimes we forget that you provide through us
Open our hearts to the pain in this world
And our eyes to recognize the need in your world
That we might do our part
Doing unto that one child
as we would have them do unto us
as you have already done unto us
Help us to love them
As you have loved us
That we might honor you
Through our actions
For the health and welfare
Of your children everywhere.

Monday, March 26, 2007

why all the prayers

As I mentioned a couple days ago, I have been feeling to post items of more substance, and coupled with that is my regrets over not writing more poetry or prayers in the past months. I was inspired to dig through old journals (there are close to 30 in all) and see what I found. Most, if not all, of the prayers I am posting currently are from those pages. They relate to different etapas in mi vida. Some were written for me and by me, others were written for others, or about others so that they might be freed to converse with the Divine. While I still don't have the words to be writing now, it is comforting and inspiring to know that when the Spirit moves, I will regain some creative juices.

A place to start

Gracious God,
Fill my heart
I am weak, confused, hurt, and frustrated
Help me to find your peace.
God, I desire a relationship with you
But I don’t know where to start
Show me where my words meet your ears
Show me God that you are here,
Present with me, holding my hand.
Give me the strength to persevere,
To be strong
Show me your will for my life
As my heart is pulled from both sides
I come to you yearning for peace
Bathe me in your grace and love
That the fragrance of your mercy may touch all those I meet today
Take me up and make me whole
In your grace I pray.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Prayer to keep on going

Dear God,
Please give me strength for the journey.
I am weary and tired and feel I can ingest no more.
My legs are weary on this race-and I fear I am too fatigued to finish.
Yet there is hope.
The finish line is so close.
People are preparing for my reception.
God it is their work that gives me hope.
I do not want to disappoint them.
I also know I do not want to start this race all over again.
The remaining few miles seem like nothing compared to the miles I have already run.
Give me the water to rinse my parched mouth
and the strength to keep me moving forward.
God, this journey is long—but I know you have not left me.
Hold my hand and lead me on.
Take my hand and remind me of the beauty of your works.
Pull me up the mountain.
Remind me to catch my breath and not push too hard,
but to just keep climbing—for the view will be worth it.

Prayer for Mindfulness

Merciful creator God
Thank you for today
Thank you for the sun
And for the life you have breathed into me
God, so often I forget
To take account of the beauty of your creation.
Remind me to walk a little slower
Taking in your palate of colors
Remind me to listen to the chorus of your bird choir.
Remind me to smell
To inhale the gragrance of your flowers
Remind me God of your creativity
Remind me to look at people’s souls
Not their past or their designer fashions
Remind me to see you at work in each of their hearts
Thank you God for today
Remind me to be mindful
In awesome wonder of your creation, I pray. Amen.

It's all a matter of perspective

The other day I met with a women’s circle. To be quite honest I wasn’t sure why I was supposed to be there. The host had mentioned it to me, asked if the speaker had contacted me, and asked if I could come. I agreed. After a busy week with an even busier day ahead, I debated bowing out. They’d understand. But my morning appointment was shorter than I expected and it gave me a chance for a pick-me-up nap. I went. The speaker was sharing her idea for how our church might reach out to the community, and, hopefully, as a consequence—grow. Her idea is good and is circulating already through the various committees of the church. I had the “extra” knowledge about what is happening, what the plans are, what our needs are, etc. I was there to make the connections, answer questions, and do some “P.R.” work. (I seem to do a lot of that).

As a part of the sharing, one woman described her frustration that we don’t advertise in the local paper anymore. She shared that when she came, 4 years ago, she had looked in the paper and seen an ad for our church and that’s how she came to be a member with us. One woman had been on the committee that voted to stop advertising in the paper. 1) It’s expensive and we were/are struggling financially. 2) Younger generations aren’t reading the paper—not the paper one anyway…we use the internet. 3) The younger generations generally also use the internet to find a church. Hence the decision. The woman continued to air her frustration. It’s common in our church of “older” members. They take the paper daily and always read it; it makes sense to advertise there.

I left the meeting wondering how it is that we properly finesse the whole issue. It isn’t that this woman doesn’t want younger members, or that she doesn’t want to advertise on the internet, and despite her insistence on its importance, I don’t think she’d pay to keep it in the local paper. So the question becomes, does she really want to see the ad in the newspaper? Probably. But why? If I heard her right, her real statement was: “If it weren’t for the newspaper ad I wouldn’t be here, and if you think the newspaper ad (and who comes as a result) isn’t important, then you don’t care whether I am here or not.” That’s why she persisted—she needs to know (as I believe we all do) that her presence matters to someone. She needs to know, by our affirmations, that we wouldn’t be the same church without her, and that’s important. In many ways, we have failed to make that clear to her. Actually, I would say much of the problem with our “numerical decline” (though there are a multitude of other reasons) is that the church is not convincing people that their presence matters, that we are a weaker body without them, that we need people—not just people who say closet prayers, but we need people who come and move with the body in worship, prayer, lament, mission, study, and discipleship. We all long to “be a part of” and part of that sense of belonging is having a role, generally one that is acknowledged and recognized, and making a difference because of our role. So, how do we affirm our members, hold them accountable, AND become more relevant to those outside the church (particularly those generations that are almost completely unfamiliar with religious practices)?

Saturday, March 24, 2007


"I just want to be reconciled with you; will you pray for that?" Do you know what reconciliation means? Have you thougth of what it really entails? It is not simple or cheap. It is not an "I'm sorry" or "I forgive you." Not words alone. It cannot turn back to how things were before. It demands repentance--change in direction, not the same old path. Reconciliation between us requires grace and understanding, along with action and change. Reconciliation cannot truly take place if we simply return to old habits. It is profound and powerful. So let us be reconciled, if you desire--you do your part and I'll do mine. Two souls marching forward. Neither of us can move forward if we continue to hold to misconceptions, misinformation, prejudices, or hate from the past. We must clear a path down which we can walk toward greater connection and wholeness in ourselves and with one another.

Something of Substance

As you might have noticed, I meander back and forth between random musings or ramblings, and more introspective thoughts or theological dialogue. My deeper side has been a little lacking in the blogosphere as of late and I feel the unceasing need to step it up.

In On the Anvil, Max Lucado writes: "Once upon a time there was a tiny hamlet in the Swiss Alps. This hamlet was in serious trouble. The well that supplied water to the village went dry. Th people began to panic. A river was near the community, but it was located at the bottom of a deep, deep gorge. Hence, no one could reach the water. And it was the middle of summer, so the snow on the mountain had long since melted. There was, however, another well flowing with water across the gorge on the adjuacent mountainside. An imaginative young thinker came up with a solution. He built a bridge across the gorge. The villagers were elated. A bucket brigade was formed immediately, and the water supply was replenished. Needless to say, the bridge became very important to this group. It was their source of life. They honored the bridge. They named the bridge after the builder and painted it a beautiful gold. Tinsel was strung fromt eh bridge. Miniature bridges were built and sold in the streets. People wore them on their necks and hung them in the windows. A committee was formed to pay homage to the bridge. Only certain people were allowed upon it, and then only on certain days, and then only when wearing certain clothes. The bridge keeper became the most respected and revered position on the mountain. No one could see or cross the bridge without his permission. Unfortunately, there were disputes within in the committee. The disagreement centered around whether a canopy should be built over the bridge. So the bridge was closed until a decision could be made. Many villagers died of thirst while the leaders debated. In the search for truth, the means often become the end."

This short piece spoke to me loud and clear about overly rigid structures or traditions, those which used to provide a pathway to God, to abundant life, to *living water*, to peace, joy, assurance, and grace and yet have often become the focus of our energies and attention. The structure becomes overly prized and we forget all about why it was prized in the first place. The bridge is worthy and honorable only as long as it gets us there. When it ceases to take us to that which actually sustain us, its value is gone. The old addage: "Keep the main thing the main thing" could also be applied here. The bridge, the structure, or tradition fail us if we can no longer use them freely and inclusively. The exclusive bridge doesn't even meet its original purpose. If only some may cross, or if they meet with certain restrictions and regulations first, then the bridge ceases to offer a true path to the water (i.e., life, abundance, God).

What is your bridge? Your means? Your path? Has it become your idol? The all-important, set-in-stone, gold-painted, don't-use-it-'cause-you-might-wear-it-out, used-to-get-us-there-but-now-it-don't super-structure?

Me hace mas facil

A veces lo encuentro mas facil expresarme en espanol que en ingles. Por la creatividad y facilidad con palabras, el ingles casi siempre es mas facil, es "mi" lenguaje, pero para expresar mis sentimientos, me salen mejor en espanol. Realmente, no se por que. Puede ser que me parece mas "emocional" el espanol y uno debe expresar los sentimientos. O puede ser que los sentimientos dichos en ingles tienen mas peso, hay mas historia etc con ellos y por eso es menos pesado describirlos en espanol, o puede ser que los que los van a leer son los que entienden mejor esta parte de mi ser, y espero menos juicio de ellos. No se. Y a ti, ?te hace mas facil expresarte en el ingles o en el espanol? lengua materna o segunda lengua?

Call me crazy....

....but I think it might be a bad sign that I have made it to the "retired pastors directory" before I have even become "officially" ordained. Thursday I received a call from a retired clergy friend who said he had seen my name in the most recently published clergy directory. I think either God or the higher ups in my conference might be trying to tell me something....somehow I just don't think it's normal to be identified as retired before you've even finished your first year...though as D & S joked, could I get 30 years of service in my pension to go with it?!?

Friday, March 23, 2007

You're not the greatest thing since sliced bread....'re a servant. Those are the kinds of things good friends tell you. You aren't the best, you aren't supposed to be the best. There is no way you should expect perfection from yourself. You are a servant. Lowly. Now suck it up and move on. Now, let's be clear, I do not think I'm the greatest thing since sliced bread. I just think I should be. I mean, if I truly lived into the expectations I have for myself, I'd be the greatest thing since sliced bread, or at least something close. R reminded me of reality. I am a servant, and an imperfect one at that. I'm going to fail, fall short, have issues, break down, continue to be broken. And even in all that weakness, I can serve. That's my calling--to serve. Not to be perfect, not to be flawless, not to get it all right all the time, but to serve with a humble and compassionate heart. I need to be reminded of that and sometimes it takes the hard-edged southern boy to help me see the truth.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I love my neighbors

My current neighbors have been here (as in next door) for about 4 months. They moved here from Bombay about 8 months ago and lived with family for a couple months and now they grace me with their presence. They are a beautiful family with wonderful openness and hospitality. The husband has studied religion a lot and we have had a couple of good conversations. And while my youth Sunday school studied hinduism, he came in to speak, which was great. I met them their first or second day here and see them now and then. I am out more often than not, so we don't have the most regular interactions. But they really marked their presence in my mind one day when my parents came and were bringing in some furniture. i wasn't home yet and they were just bring stuff in. The husband stopped by to see if I was moving out or where I was. He was concerned that there were people in my apartment and I wasn't. He'll often check in if I have been out of town for a few days and they haven't seen me. He'll stop to make sure I am alive and well. It may seem silly, but for a single woman, it's nice to know someone checks in on me, and not just to make sure I'll be at a meeting!

He's also getting back into his own meditative and devotional practices and we talk about that. I've encouraged him to come to the church to pray in the chapel in the mornings after dropping off the kids. He brings me CDs burned with songs that have moved him (the first was Amazing Grace--which he had never heard before and fell in love with and played 60 times the first 2 days!) the second was a video that moved him that he found here. It's nice to share that part of his journey with him.

Where I can I offer "insider"information. Cultural norms or rules or other random things that come up. We've talked about how they can work their work schedules around childcare and the kids being home alone, they saw a tea kettle for the first time, =) and most recently the ins and outs of buying a car. They were excited to know that it's a lot like street bartering!

I'm grateful they are here. I'm grateful that they have offered so much hospitality, even as the "stranger in a strange land". I'm grateful for their smiles. And I'm grateful to know someone would notice if I didn't come out of my apartment for days on end, or if someone were making off with my furniture!

Sometimes you just wing it!

My *probationary* period pre-ordained ministry is supposed to do lots of things: 1) affirm/confirm my call 2) teach me about the church workings 3) shape me for full time ministry 4) prompt me to self-learning and 5) (though I don’t think this is on the official list) disillusion me completely about my own capabilities and the realities of the church. No more naïve ignorance from me! =) Anyway, I am definitely learning a lot. Two of the loudest/strongest/most prevalent lessons this year (appointment year that is, July-June) have been 1) HUMILITY and 2) personal limitations. As much as I would like to be super rev, “we all sin and fall short of the glory of God.” I seem to fall short a lot. No seriously. A lot. Sometimes even I am amazed how frequently I don’t quite nail it. And yet, (here lies the humility in the face of grace part) somehow God seems to work through me and in spite of me. That’s a miracle.

I’m really not trying to be self-deprecating here. (Though I am good at it). It really is a reality check for me. I wing it a lot. I mean honestly, I’m 25 and offering advice to 70 year old trying to raise their grandchildren or re-raise their own children. Not much experience there, so I offer what I can about personal relations, seeking God’s direction, loving without enduring abuses, and family systems. More often than not, I wing it. Sure, three years of seminary taught me a lot and I would be lost without the experiences I had there (especially work at the
Carpenter’s House, First Hispanic UMC of Atlanta, CPE, Forest Park UMC, and The Open Door) but there’s still a lot to learn.

My latest “winging it” experiment (don’t tell him I said that) is with a congregant who has been in a spiritual desert for a few years now. We met and he told me his story (faith and personal) and I asked my “really hard questions” and I gave him a *homework assignment*. I asked him to look through magazines and pick out images that speak to him, that he likes, that depict things he likes to do. Faithfully, he is doing his
tarea. The obvious question is “Deb, what are you going to do with the images?” Therein lies the winging it piece. Beats me. The idea just popped into my head so I went with it. I think I will exegete the *text*. I’ll do what I do with any text—look for words, phrases, ideas that pop out at me, look for themes, see what comes up, and go from there. And who knows where that will take us? My prayer is for guidance and wisdom. After that, I don’t have much.

A touch of hospitality goes a long way

Back in the fall I met a fellow colleague here in Hemet. She and I had lunch and figured out we both like to walk. We were both relatively new to the area and had few “friend” connections and decided we would both benefit from time together and decided we would do so as we walked around Diamond Valley Lake. We walked weekly for a couple of months and then the crazy advent season hit and we both had to defer to church and family responsibilities. Strangely, and yet typically (apparently in the church anyway) the Epiphany and Lent seasons are just as crazy if not more so than Advent, and so it is only now that we are finding time in our schedules to start walking again. When she called to set up a time she asked if I would also be willing to do her a favor—tutor her son in Spanish before a test. I said I’d be happy to and we arranged for me to come over tonight. I was supposed to have come straight from prayer group but had ended up not going because of a migraine. They live about 30 minutes (walking) from me and I decided the exercise would do me good, so I threw on a sweatshirt and headed over. When I got there she asked if I had dinner, I said I had. She said she thought I had come from church, I told her about the migraine and having stayed home and had dinner while I was there. She had prepared an extra chicken breast and enough sides for me to eat. Though I didn’t partake, I was EXTREMELY grateful. Those things mean the world to me. Too stubborn for my own good, I wouldn’t dare ask for a favor like that, but her foresight and care go a long way in my book. Thanks M!

Sunday, March 18, 2007


A few weeks ago my father shared a sentiment that he would rather my siblings and I were driven by the affirmations God offers than those he might offer. So he was going to offer fewer verbal affirmations in hopes that we might turn more to God for a pat on the back or word of encouragement. Asi lo entiendo yo. And la verdad is that I struggle to accept this. I thought, "wait a minute, I struggle enough with not feeling good (read: affirmed) about what I do and now I am going to receive even less affirmation??" I think that was his point. And ever since I have been wondering if I am too dependent on the affirmations of others. Do I listen for God's affirmations enough that God might fill that seeming void in my life?

I was struck from the other side last week in talking with a congregant who is struggling in a spiritual desert and also struggles with issues of self-esteem. I shared that I too struggle with self-esteem and that the incarnation has been the most profound theological idea that speaks to me--God values me (US) so much that God was willing to come in the most fragile human form and entrust God's self to our care. Not only does God love me but God TRUSTS me. Two pretty distinctive ideas in my mind....and ever since I gained a little clarity about the incarnation, it has been my theological stronghold. All that is lead in back to the issue of affirmations, because after I shared this with the congregant he said he was surprised that I struggle with self-esteem issues and that when I got a full ovation from our english congregation after my first sermon that I "must have felt pretty good about [myself]". And it hit me: it was nice to receive applause, but I doubt the sincerity of it, the value of it, and there was the other side of my coin....I want and crave affirmations, and yet more often than not, when they come, I led them slide right off...

So, this year, I think it is high time that I truly allow the crucifixion and resurrection speak to me and God's affirmation of my life, of all of our lives, and maybe I will be less reliant on those words of others.

As a side note, I regularly read JT's blog and ran across this quote as I caught up: (I thought it applied...)

if the examination of our life is rooted in the world rather than the Spirit we will find that we are examining ourselves according to the world’s standards. We will be mired in the world’s standards of success. We will be trapped by the world’s standards of life and wealth. The world’s standards are at odds with God’s standards. To examine our life according the world’s standards rather than the Spirit’s grace we will be rendered a hollow shell, perhaps beautiful on the outside, but empty on the inside.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

what was I thinking?

After a short ride to Claremont with a colleague friend last night where he thoroughly enjoyed joking about the "Mr. Perfect" doll who hangs in my car (a "man" my mother gave me since I do not have an active dating life), we spent a couple hours with two other friends joking and talking. It came out that I used to be a cheerleader (not a past time you would suspect simply by looking at me, not even necessarily once you know me). The guys decided it would be great if I did a cheer for them. Yeah, whatever. A little further into the night C was telling jokes and I was asked to take a turn. I am NOT a joke teller. Never have been. Never will be. I pleaded to get out of it and the alternative was that I do a cheer. Now, you take your pick--telling the one bad joke you know, or doing a cheer in front of three relatively new friends who will be colleagues for 40 years, in a crowded room with live jazz....tell me, just which one would you have gone for??? I went for the joke. I warned them, but they insisted. And then they sat there in stunned silence at just how bad my joke was. A laughed I think more out of pain at how poor my skills were than anything else, the other two couldn't even muster courtesy laughs. yep. it was that bad. The consensus was I should have gone with the cheer. Maybe next time guys. Maybe next time.

So this morning, I sat next to A for another riveting day at our conference, and he starts talking about setting me up on dates. Huh? Did I say I needed a date? I asked if he was any good at setting people up seeing as how I have endured my fair share of bad dates. He wasn't sure. Then this evening, apparently prompted by my earlier conversation I linked to an online dating site. All you have to do is login with virtually no information to look at possible dates in your area. Why did I do this? It only seems to bring out the shallow "first impression" woman in me. Can people really find a date simply by scanning pics to see who is attractive and then see if their profile says anything interesting? Does this work? I clicked on one, he's a publicist--read: marketing, of course he sounds good. He works at selling things. I do not. So the other horror of online dating--I think the reason (well one of the many anyway) why I have avoided such sites like the plague is that they require that I too develop a profile to sell myself. Uh....I think not. Really, now that I have my wits about me, it really creeps me out....I know that sounds like a harsh judgment on those who do it, it really isn't. I get how hard it is to find a date and why not try and use the internet to provide some dating options.?..and yet I can only see such an endeavor going horribly, horribly wrong for me....

So apparently it's back to "Mr. Perfect". And maybe somewhere along the way A will use his skills and set me up with someone who's willing to date an ex-cheerleader who CANNOT tell a joke! =)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Wanna hear my passions....

It is now well engrained in me to debate, often it's simply as a "devil's advocate" (possibly heresay in my profession!) and other times it's because I hold very strong opinions about an issue. Immigration is one of them.

First, my encouragement for you to take political action: S774 (Senate Bill) a.k.a. "The Dream Act" has been resubmitted to Congress for approval. This is a bill that allows undocumented youth (who entered the US before age 14) to go to college. The age limit is there because it presupposes that these youth were subject to their parents' will rather than their own and that as a result they have gone through the public school system and done well. Having graduated high school with a clean record (criminals are not afforded the privilege under this bill) these youth are granted legal residency status so that they might attend college. I advocate for this bill for a number of reasons: 1) these youth (as do ALL youth) deserve an education 2) barring these advances these immigrants are forced to remain in the American underclass (a fate no one should be subjected to) 3) They have done well in public education, demonstrating an ability to do well in higher education as well. If you are willing to advocate, please write your senator urging them to vote yes for S774 (to find an email address for your senator go to:

Second, my rant. A year after having written to the "beloved" (cough, cough) senator of Georgia--Johnny Isaakson, I received this gag-worthy email:
On February 20, 2007, I had the opportunity to travel with Secretary
of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona ,
where I was proud to help weld a section of the double-barrier fence that is
being constructed along the border. My one-day visit there convinced me more
than ever that we can - and we must - secure our border first before we grant
legal status to anyone who has come to our country illegally.

Quite frankly I could go on for hours about immigration and the issues related to it. There are so many misperceptions and a surplus of misinformation that it is sometimes difficult to know where I should begin. In response to this wonder of a representative, I will say that the fence is NOT the appropriate answer to the issue of illegal immigration. Those who do humanitarian aid on the border have shown that the fences do little to actually deter those who cross and actually serve to increase the number of (often heat related) deaths. A few years ago a fencing project was titled "operation deterrant". The basic premise was that people WOULD die as they had to go further into the desert to cross and that would serve to deter others from crossing. The action proved both right and wrong. Right: people DO die in the desert as they cross (For a vivid and true account of this read: "The Devil's Highway" by Luis Urrea). Wrong: most have not been deterred by the deaths. Why? Well, when the need to cross is so profound that many spend almost two years of wages, stake their lives and the well-being of their families by allying with coyotes, and spend days in deadly heat--the prospect of death is already present, they are not deterred.

The perpetuation of false information and fear based propoganda really gets me going. I will stop for now as I am off to a Bible study, but will probably post more related to this information in the coming days. I realize not all of you are on the same page as me on this issue, please bear with me and know that I have not always believed the way I did. Going into college I held a staunchy "right" position regarding immigration--it took a couple years of God unhardening my heart before I came to the place where I am.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It's the little things

I was watching The Reading Room tonight and one of the teacher's remarked that the most gratifying thing was to have a student return (after 15 or so years) to her classroom and tell her he was in his 3rd year residency. It made me think of my youth who recently brought me a copy of her report card so I could see it. I had tutored her some in math last semester and she had a stellar report card overall. I was very proud of her initially when I saw it, but didn't feel much more than that. But tonight I was struck by how cool it is that not only did she get good grades and was excited about them, but that she really wanted to share her excitement with me. Then when I finished the movie I was reading email and had one from another youth, just a note congratulating me on being a godmother and telling me youth went well in my absence. Neither of which are life-changing, but it is pretty awesome to have youth who call to check in on me, and to have it confirmed that the other youth leaders (who are still "in training" in so far as they have only been 5 or 6 times now) did a good job with it. It really is the little things that make it all worthwhile.

Friday, March 9, 2007

The Miracle of Birth

The reason I have been absent from the blogosphere lately is because I have been pulling double shifts of hospital duty. I had the blessing Wednesday of witnessing the birth of my goddaughter! I know it's terribly cliche, but it truly is miraculous and amazing. It also was a lot of hurry up and wait throughout the day! We started at 4:30 am to get to the hospital and have B induced, and then we waited, breathed through contractions, waited, breathed through the epidural, rested, waited, breathed through contractions, waited, breathed through contractions, rested, waited, waited, and waited, and then it was time to push! Only 30 minutes of killer pain and breathless pushing and we had ourselves a beautiful baby girl! While I have seen my fair share of The Baby Story, the last time I saw a full on shot of a birth was in 9th grade in health class watching The Miracle of Birth. Let's just say that 10 years ago I wasn't diggin' the scene, but this time around it was awe-some. Truly amazing!

Since the birth B & K have dubbed me their personal doula, and quite frankly, I love it! I do swaddling lessons, tips on all kinds of things, baby watch so they can rest, and nursing consults. I'd say that if my "season of ministry" ends prematurely, I could be a doula as an alternative.

I am off to sit and stare at this beautiful baby girl.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

what's with the spacing

can someone please tell me how to get my spacing all the same. I can't figure out why it does single and double and how to fix it....

More questions than answers

Despite my unsuccessful encounter with the Spiritual Director, I have continued to ponder scriptures through Lent. A member of my church mentioned that she sees our church like the wine skins. So, I had to take a look: (Luke 5:36-39)

He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wine skins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.'"

For the church, what is new wine, what are the wineskins, which are the old ones and what will be the new ones to hold the new wine? What is our container? What are the goods? And what do we do with the last verse: "And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better'"?

You can't have old wine without first having new wine, right? So what is the "aging process" for the wine in the church? How long does it take for it to age/ Is sit good after only a year or two or do we have to wait 50 years? and is there a point when it turns to vinegar because we waited too long?

Similarly, without answers, I was reading Luke 13:1-9 and was left with the following questions:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you tink that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you no! But unless you repent, you too will perish or those 18 who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." Then he otld this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For 3 years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' 'Sir', the man replied, 'Leave it alone for one or more year, and I'll dig around and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'"

So are we to understand these two together as one illuminating the other? If yes, if the vineyard illuminates "repent or perish" does our repentance serve as the fertilizing and watering of our lives (either physical, spiritual, or eternal)? So if we don't repent, we don't nurture ourselves toward life? Such that then we perish? If the analogy is not clearing debris or weeding, but feeding and watering--how does that change or enhance how we understand repentance? What if we understand repentance not as clearing away the junk as much as offering nutrience to our being? How does repenting nourish me? How does it offer me space to grow (i.e., "dug around it")?

Thursday, March 1, 2007

This is why I do ministry

Last week when I realized I was the only scheduled to plan and lead Wednesday night's lent group my first thought was, "not something else to do!" And then it dawned on me: this time I could do whatever I wanted. I was not bound by anyone's order of worship. I wasn't even really bound by their expectations. The description of the time was "Pastor Debbie will lead us in a different style of worship". That's just vague enough that I could do whatever I wanted as long as it wasn't the same old same old, and I was stoked! So last night we sang some of my favorite songs, read scripture, prayed together, lit candles for those we lifted up silently, and made a worship quilt/wall hanging. There had been 5" swatches of 5 fabrics to choose from as people entered the chapel, each representing a different part of worship and people were to pick the one for the area of worship that speaks to them. At the end of our worship service, they came to the table that had a cross already laid on it (as Christ is the center of our worship) and each added their own "worship" to the image. As I shared with them, worship is dependent upon us, our participation, what we give to it, and depending on who is there, the image we create in collective worship will look different every time. It was beautiful, and hopefully helped them (re)see worship in a new light--a light that gives them agency, and doesn't leave it all in the pastor's or choir director's hands.
But even more fun than all of that was that I had them side stepping (as best as my fair skinned novice parishoners could) and clapping or snapping. Remember I work with an aging congregation, so there were two young adults there, and everyone else collects social security, so this is no common place occurance. And God bless 'em, everyone was up and moving as they attempted to use their bodies to worship--to dance like David.
It was fun to do, and exciting to not experience resistance. And despite my limited music skills, we learned new songs and sang them well, they filled the chapel with their voices. It was beautiful. I think it was the second olive branch God has extended to me this week. The olive branch of hope, of not giving up, the olive branch of promise. Apparently the rough waters I lived on for so many months were just that, rough waters--flood waters, and now hopefully the storm is over, the waters are calming, and receeding, and God has sent me an olive branch. Reason to keep going with this calling of mine, even though there has been so much trial over the last 8 months. God is good my friends....God is good.