Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mental health

About a month ago I was in DC for a conference put on by GBCS for young clergy. I had an amazing roommate that I talked and processed with each night. MJ you rock!  And as I shared about all that I am working on and doing these days she (as a chaplain) asked if I was seeing a counselor. I said no, that I had considered it, and even got authorization for it from our insurance, but hadn't pursued it.  She didn't push it, but did encourage me to use that resource as a support in ministry.  Calling around to find a good counselor in the midst of calling caterers, florists, and cake places did not sound feasible or fun, but she thought I might be able to find the time anyway.

Then a couple days later, I was able to meet up (all to briefly) with a good friend from college who lives in the area and as I shared with her, she too encouraged me to see a counselor. I said I'd consider it.  

So, after being home and getting a few things handled at church and surviving the week of too many hospital visits, I called around and set up 2 appointments with counselors to see who might be best.  

Let me just say, I've had some bad experiences.  3 to be exact.  One really good experience with an amazing pastoral counselor in seminary and 3 bad experiences. 1 in college that wasn't horribly bad, just not good. It was mediocre and I didn't have the gumption or knowledge in those days to say, "this isn't working, can I see someone else?"  And then a HORRIBLE experience with a spiritual director during my first appointment.  She was so bad I considered never doing counseling again. And then another woman who seemed to hit all the wrong buttons when I worked with her. I made it two sessions and couldn't take it. So I left.  

So, I know counseling is a good and helpful thing.  I also know that finding the right counselor can be time consuming and even frustrating.  But I made the calls anyway.  Thursday, I met with counselor #1 and really felt comfortable. She was easy to talk to and I like her approach.  She even talked about some new theory on mental health that doesn't attribute everything to a mental illness, but deals with "compound trauma".  I haven't read it myself, so I won't expand here, but I'm interested in it and think it could be helpful in dealing with various folks in my life, both professionally and personally. 

So I scheduled another appointment and cancelled with the other lady for next week and am looking forward to being able to share openly without breaking confidentiality and for some added perspective on my work and my life.  

Here's to balance and good mental health!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

the concert saga continues...

For months we've been working on a BIG concert to raise money for a family still living in a FEMA trailer after Hurricane Katrina, so they can have their own home again. This has been a MAJOR undertaking one I have regretted often as it becomes frustrating or overwhelming.  This will likely be the biggest single event my church has ever put on. The original discussion started in April last year after we got back from Mississippi and 3 missioners shared their stories with the church.  My people were automatically on board and wanted to raise money to fund a house.  Several ideas were thrown out there and the concert seemed like the one that could give us the most bang for our buck.  So we got to work and started planning.  Over the summer there were some obstacles, and the original Fall date was postponed.  We did a silent auction instead and raised over $5000.  After we finished that, we got to work on the concert again.  We worked on booking bands and a venue.

I need to say that when you are a small church that has not done this kind of event before, no one in the industry seems to have any sense of faith.  I suppose with good reason.  They've been burned by small churches with no experience who promised money or a big event and couldn't make it happen.  But one after another we heard from the can't pull this off!  And then they would proceed to drag their feet in helping or working with us. Contracts and offers took forever.  Emails were returned after weeks of waiting. It was a bit ridiculous.  After all, by slowing the process, they were only stacking the deck against us.  Their doubts seemed to want to morph into a self-fulfilling prophesy. 

But our group remained determined.  They continued to call and persevere.  And finally we got the band contract and had a 90% go from a venue....but they wouldn't move without the band names (and the bands didn't want to move without a contract from the about a rock and a hard place).   So we met with venue #1 and they said there was a "conflict" with another group, and they would pursue a compromise.  So we waited.  And then "No."  We couldn't have the venue.  What?!  For months we had been working with them and planning on this, and now nothing.  Only 3 months from the concert day and nothing?  UGH!

So, we got to work.  And pursued other options. (All the while with the band company breathing down our neck and threatening to back out if we couldn't get a venue in a week--but actually ended up offering grace and more time and has been wonderful since we confirmed our venue!).  So, we got venue #2 lined up with only a few additional approvals needed.  Again, we were given the impression that we were about 80% confirmed.  And then, wham! Nothing.  Nope, we couldn't use them either.  (I could quote our major stumbling block but should probably keep those words out of this for now...), we scrambled yet again.  College campuses, high school football fields, other churches.  Calls, emails, visits.  A LOT of scrambling.  More options that got oh-so-close and then fell through. And then finally venue #3.  An area church.  (Whom we now love by the way...!!!) 

It took some more negotiating (apparently that's how this whole gig works) and we got the contract.  !!!!!!!!  Let me repeat...WE GOT THE CONTRACT!!!!  My mantra through all of this has been "Get it in writing!"  I'm sure R wants to smack me every time I say it, but with 2 failed venues and a lot of frustration, something in writing could have spared us. 

So now we are back to full boar planning.  We were able to add 2 more bands to the schedule and are working on concessions and publicity, and churches to sell tickets, and printing the actual tickets, etc, etc, etc.

We had our first committee meeting in months to go over the contract and the rider and all that is expected of us. We delegated some tasks and planned for our next meeting.  All was good.

Until...the production company decided charity was no longer important and priced themselves out of the game.  They wanted more than we are paying the bands.  A christian company that we've been working with for months who had offered to help, no longer helpful.  SUPER frustrating.  After R shared the news and headed to work yesterday, I screamed.  Literally. I screamed.  Seriously?!  Another obstacle...not just a little hiccup or bump on the road. No sound. No lighting. No stage. No media! You have GOT to be kidding me!

So, I did what I do best.  I cried.  I asked for prayers.  And I got to work.  After all, we ARE having this concert.  There's no way we are not.  (You hear me O Thrower of Evil Obstacles?!  We are having this concert because we follow Christ and believe in showing extravagant love and mercy and compassion to others!  We will make this work and God will be glorified O Ridiculous One Who Likes To Get In Our Way!) 

So Thursday I made calls, sent emails, sent faxes, made copies and tried to find a new production company.  (This is still in the works, but we have calls in and are praying...a lot...please pray for us...and for a charitable company that isn't so focused on money or ego that we can't work with them. And if you know a good company that works in the IE and would be reasonable and good to work with, PLEASE let me know. 

oh yeah, did I mention pray?!?! 

And/or, if you want tickets let me know.  Because we are putting on a concert with some amazing talent!

Friday, March 26, 2010

I used to be really good at self care.  I was stringent about it. I was particular.  I was known in seminary as a "sabbath nazi".  It was a term of endearment because I let no one steal away my precious sabbath time.  

Even at my first appointment I was good. I practiced the 2/3 day rule (you divide the work day into thirds and only work 2 parts...typically a 12 hour day, you only work 8 if I had night meetings, I might work the morning, take the afternoon off, and then go back for night meetings.  But I would rarely stay all day long and work the full 12 hours. I took sabbath regularly.  I had space, down time, did creative things, hiked, went on vacation...all of those good self-care things.  My SPRC (comprised of mostly women) loved me for it, affirmed me for it, and eagerly wanted those things for their lives too and would make strides to take sabbath themselves or to limit how much or how often they worked themselves.  

And then came a senior pastorate.  Now, I worked hard as an associate. I worked a lot of hours and did a lot of different things. When I left, they hired 3 separate people to do my job.  I worked a lot. But the work was different. Some days I covet being an associate and wish I were again. There seemed to be more time and space for creativity, more time to help with conference committees, more time for covenant groups and fellowship, more time to read, more time to think.  

Now, as a senior, I do lots of things...pretty much something of everything....from plunging toilets, to hospital visits, to preaching, to teaching, to washing cars, to answering phones.  Now, don't be deceived, I have a very active congregation, but I also think I should lead by example and I'm not afraid to get dirty if a job has to be done.  I'm not above answering phones or making copies.  I'm not exempt from work projects or potluck dinners.  I am also not exempt from staff issues, volunteer issues, money issues, trying to vision, trying to help others lead, etc, etc, etc.  And somehow, in the midst of taking on a new church, a new position, and later a new partner (soon to be husband) life got REALLY, really full.  And now, I pretty much stink at self care.  

Sabbaths are rarely fully sabbath...even if I take a day, there are still calls to visit someone in the hospital, calls with silly questions, calls from the homeless, issues that pop up that seem to neeeeeeed to be taken care of now! 

In my head, I know that there will always be more work, more issues and more demands. There will never be a day when they stop so I can take my day of sabbath.  But at the same time the faster and harder and more intensely that train rolls the harder it is to actually slow down fast enough to jump off for a day.

That's where I am today. Struggling with my own failures to honor the sabbath--a practice I LOVE and NEED!  

If you read the previous post you know I am trying to do more to take care of myself, and I am hoping to succeed.  I really do not want to go back to the land of burn out.  It was awful. It was painful. It was really hard to catch a ride out of that dark and dreary city.  So, that means I have to be intentional. I have to be diligent, and I might have to get a little "sabbath nazi" on those who try and interfere with some good old fashioned sabbath rest...

Moving on Up?

Last week I met with some local colleagues for coffee. We checked in about life and how things are going in general.  As we talked one colleague shared that he had a meeting with an SPRC that was not his own that night...he had been asked by the Bishop to move (and was confirmed and announced by the following Sunday to both his current and his future congregation).  His announcement provoked some further conversation amongst the rest of us.  Another colleague noted that he had had a meeting with the DS who noted he was near the end of his time in ministry (meaning near retirement age) and was therefore deserving of a "better" church.  By better the DS meant "bigger".  My colleague shared that he didn't need/want a "better" church and was happy to stay at his current church for the remainder of his tenure.  

There seems to be a mentality that bigger is better.  That's not new.  That's what our entire culture promotes. Bigger meal deals. Bigger houses. Bigger cars. Bigger closets...the list goes on.  So, it's not fully surprising that the church has bought into this mentality.  But it is a bit odd in my mind.  After all, that's not the biblical standard.

Last year after I was recommended for ordination, I received a call from a DS who congratulated me and then asked if I wanted to move.   Only having been at my current appointment for 8 months, I asked, "Why?"  The answer was, "Well, you'll be ordained, you could have a better church."  To which I responded, "Better?  Really? I'm at a church with no debt, no major conflict, and people who are dedicated to their discipleship...what exactly is a "better" church?"  Yes, those were my exact words.  I had (and still have) no desire to move.  I do not need to go "up" as "up" isn't always better.  

It was also interesting all of this came up at coffee last Wednesday because R had brought it up over the weekend. 

How long do you want to stay here?
How long do you want to stay here?
Why are you asking?
Because I want to know...
Do you want to leave?
No, how long do you want to stay here?  If they offered you a bigger church would you go?
(I'm not sure of my exact language after that point, but basically it was, "I'm not going to move simply to move up or follow some progression of expectation, I would move if I felt called to move or if the cabinet decided that was the best place for me to go.  But I also wouldn't move just so I could stay here....if that makes any sense. I would try to be faithful to my call and to God's leading...)

....I know...Methodist skeptics...I would also move if I got "traded" regardless of how odd the appointment seemed b/c I said I'd go where I was sent...I know our system isn't perfect, far from it....

The good news for this year is a move is not on my horizon (the bishop said so, I talked to her last week...I almost asked for it in writing)  =)

Back from the land of no-time-to-write

So, apparently my plan to post daily through Lent hasn't quite worked out.  I  wish it had, because blogging is really cathartic for me. And lately there's been a lot to cathart.  =)  I would say that while planning  a wedding while doing Advent and Christmas might have been one of my worst ideas, planning a wedding while also planning for and taking 23 missioners to the Gulf Coast and working on the biggest single event in your church's history, and planning summer camp (yeah...somewhere on the far back corner) AND planning a wedding all at the same time, is just about as ridiculous and insanely busy. 

Not to mention having various folks in the hospital, a family crisis, SPRC concerns, a few come to Jesus meetings, and general church work to do.  So when I don't post, know that it's because life is NUTS right now and many days it feels like there's hardly time to breathe....but more and more is coming into order for all of those things and with every task accomplished there is a little more breathing space and a little less stress. 

I'm gonna try not to ramble here, but to chunk my thoughts into coherent posts on a single issue or topic.  So, look for more writing in the next few days as I catch up on the happenings around here.

Monday, March 15, 2010


We have been fasting throughout Lent.  At home, R and I have been fasting from TV.  Through the church devotional, I've been fasting from all kinds of things...

today is running water.  Before I got up and read the devo, I had dreams of laundry and dishes and cleaning the house.  Those plans were immediately limited when I read and realized I would have to make due today with only a few pots of water.  Only a few pots for drinking water, for cooking water, for handwashing.  No shower. No laundry.  No watering the garden. These things aren't huge. They aren't impossible.  But you'd be amazed how often you use running water throughout the day. 

When nature calls
to brush your teeth
to wash your hands
to rinse the dishes
to give the dogs water
to water the lawn
to wipe the counters
to shower
to do laundry

and the list goes on. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Basic Instructions for Leading worship

Last night I met with my new (and 2 old) worship leaders to do some training and instruction.  These were the basic tips we went over:
·        Review materials (bulletin, scripture, prayer requests, announcements) before you start speaking
·        Plan ahead what you will say
·        Read scriptures ahead of time. Don’t be afraid to ask about pronunciation
o   For difficult names/cities, practice
o   Speak with confidence (remember, if you don’t know how to say it, most people won’t either, so just go with confidence!)
·        Speak clearly and enunciate
·        Bring something to write on or with (don’t simply rely on memory)
·        Speak with boldness and confidence
·        Don’t apologize or discredit yourself 
·        Remember God is a part of worship—all parts of it!
·        Remember we are all part of the body of Christ—when one member hurts, we all hurt, even if a need/concern has been heard before, it is important that we acknowledge the pain/trial of a sister/brother in Christ
·        As often as possible, acknowledge people by name
·        If someone is soft spoken, repeat what they have shared. 
·        Organize prayer concerns and announcements by theme before you get up to share them…try to think of either moving up or down emotionally (highs to lows, or vice versa)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Guest list

We finally decided on an invitation and placed the order.  And, by the grace of God, we made it in on a February promo even though we ordered in March, so we get our envelopes addressed for us!!!  WOO HOO!!!!

But, to have them do that, we have to send them all the addresses (go figure!) and so I've been filling in the spreadsheet for them:

Formal Name                    Names we Call them       Address                        City                   State       Zip
Mr. & Mrs. John Smith           John & Mary           X  Random Street       Somewhere      California   XXXXX

It's fairly straightforward for simple arrangements, but then there's the more complicated situations...grown children living in the home, grandparents and grandchildren who come to church, but no parents, 2 addresses, one family (for all intents and purposes), 4 "households" at one address....different last names and more!

It's do-able, but I keep thinking, "I sure hope no one gets offended if I do this wrong..."

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ministries in Africa

Shelvis and Nancy are amazing and inspiring people. The stories of their ministries in Africa incredible. Find them here to keep up with their adventures and learnings.

Quote of the day

“God, create the connections and open the doors for us to go where you would lead.” 

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Lord God, the mess before me is huge. I have no idea what to do next. I am not sure how to lead to find a vision. I can lead when I know where I am going, but don’t know how we will encounter your vision. Show me, show us, what to do. In Jesus’ name. amen.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Lord, open my eyes and ears that I may hear and see clearly.  Illumine your word and show me what you want me to say. I need you Lord.  I know I don’t always recognize it, but I am desperate for you. I am lost without you.  I am so drained and feel like I have no words left in me.  Fill me up and show me what you would have me say. Through the power of the blood of the lamb, in the mighty name of Yahweh I pray.  Amen. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Origins of Bridezilla

Wedding planning can be stressful. But, of course, you know that. What I think is expressed less often is that it can be hurtful—there are miscommunications, unmet expectations, and conflicts over all the decisions to be made, not to mention the heightened sensitivity because of the stress that makes you more susceptible to hurt feelings.
It was in a moment of hurt and frustration that it occurred to me why some women become “bridezilla”. After all, our anger and controlling behaviors typically stem from unhealed hurts. So, if the hurts that happen in the midst of wedding planning fester, then a bride becomes more reactive—more controlling…and hence….bridezilla.