Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Song Tag

Greg at BroGreg has tagged me to designate songs I am in to. I am also to include the following instructions: List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they're listening to.

1. Colin Raye: In This Life - I used to be a big country music fan in high-school, but haven't listened to much in years until recently - I guess traveling South put me in the mood!

2. Randall Thompson's Alleluia, performed by Cantus - I sang this piece in Chamber Singers at Ohio Wesleyan, and loved it. I would get so wrapped up in the music I would occasionally forget to sing. The version I've been listening to is by a men's choir - it is amazing.

3. Wildwood Flower from the Walk the Line Soundtrack, performed by Reese Witherspoon. I'm really impressed with her voice, and love this soundtrack as a whole.

4. Green Day: Good Riddance - Remember my candy-heart that said, "Get Real?" Related.

5. Tracy Chapman: America - She is my favorite singer.

6. Johnny Cash's cover of Bridge Over Troubled Water.

7. Norah Jones: What Am I to You

My brother

Whoever else....

Thursday, February 23, 2006


I was working on my sermon tonight, here in Mississippi, at St. Paul UMC/CORE Base Camp, and overheard two gentleman talking. They noticed how many United Methodists mission teams were here at the camp, which is ecumenical, for all volunteers. And one said to the other (more or less), "The things about United Methodists is whether they're liberal or conservative, they're really focused on mission and service." I was proud to overhear such a comment and know that we have something good in our reputation!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Checking In and A Question: Healing Services

Checking in from Ocean Springs, Mississippi. Yay for wireless internet, both at the camp and the church where we are staying.

We had our first full day of work today, in Pascagoula. Initial impressions can be deceiving - there is not as much wind damage - things knocked over (at least in Pascagoula) - as I saw when doing clean-up in Florida last year, but there is much more water damage. So many homes just completely destroyed. We spent all day today on one house, tearing down paneling, door frames, etc., since everything is becoming overrun with black mold. All the work must be done with respirator-masks. Huge piles of 'garbage' which used to be people's homes and possessions.

I have a feeling my body will be very very achy in the morning.

And now a question for you: This weekend, I will be leading a healing service at my church. I've led a healing service before, but want to know if you have ideas/resources/good or bad experiences in healing services that you'd be willing to share. I'm trying to put the service together while I'm down here, and I can use extra help to make my planning time shorter than longer!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

What do you think? Johari/Nohari Window

I found this from RevGals, apparently making its way through the blogosphere, and it seems a good substitute for a meaningful post!

Follow these links for my own Johari and Nohari Windows to select attributes you associate with me, and then click here and here to see the results as they accumulate.

Friday I'm heading to Mississippi for a trip with a group from my congregation for hurricane clean-up in Ocean Spring. I'm excited and nervous about the trip, so please keep us all in your prayers. I will be bringing my laptop, but don't know what to except in terms of internet availability, if anything, so this may be a quiet blog for a week...

Monday, February 13, 2006

A Quiz for Valentine's Day

Via the RevGals ring, I found the below quiz posted on NotShyChiRev's blog. Her candy heart very sweetly read "First Kiss." Mine, I'm afraid, says "Get real." Hmmm....

Your Candy Heart Says "Get Real"

You're a bit of a cynic when it comes to love.
You don't lose your head, and hardly anyone penetrates your heart.

Your ideal Valentine's Day date: is all about the person you're seeing (with no mentions of v-day!)

Your flirting style: honest and even slightly sarcastic

What turns you off: romantic expectations and "greeting card" holidays

Why you're hot: you don't just play hard to get - you are hard to get

Youth Retreat Reflections

I spent this weekend at a Conference Council on Youth Ministry (CCYM) retreat, for which I am the conference advisor. After catching up on some sleep today, I'm ready to share some highlights from the weekend. The best part is always, for me, hearing the youth articulating their beliefs, sharing in what we call "deep thoughts" or witnesses - scripture-based reflections or personal stories of experiences with God.

One youth very articulately (if not yet boldly) spoke about John Wesley’s “faces of grace,” describing prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace. (I know for sure I could not do this when I was in high school!) This young woman, a PK (preacher’s kid) twice over, shared how her mother (on the Board of Ordained Ministry, by the way) compared justifying grace to the margin settings on Microsoft Word where you can make the left and right edges completely lined up (my preferred setting) – justifying grace is finally getting things lined up.

Many of the youth share their personal experiences. I’m struck by the common themes that they share – a sense of sadness, isolation, loneliness, putting on outward face while feeling inwardly different, not understood by peers. A sense of acting OK on the outside, while feeling terrible on the inside. I know I felt this way as a young person, and as a less-young person as well. Thankfully, God, always calling us, can break into this place in our souls and find us – but if it doesn’t happen . . . I think perhaps our role as people of faith, messengers of the gospel, is to help others realize God’s ability to break into this lonely place of our spirits.

Our keynote speaker for this event is a pastor from the conference, Rev. Jeff Losey. He brought a marshmallow gun (which the adults have spent more time using than the youth) and said of it, “These [marshmallows] are the hardest things we ought to shoot at one another [as Christians].” Continuing on a weekend theme of loneliness and fitting in and self-perception, he talked about how we behave differently for different groups of people. “Am I weird: interesting or weird: scream and runaway? Am I OK? Why do I act differently than I want to sometimes?”

But Jeff focused on our internal value as unique creations of God. Jeff asked us to think of what we’re best at. Whatever you are best at, he said, you probably know someone who is better at that thing than you. But if you think of the 5 things you’re best at, you probably don’t know an individual who is better at all 5 of those things than you are. “Each of us is the best us there is,” he said.

Jeff also talked about how we like to control God. He said he fears people who are asking how to pray actually are wanting to know how to pray in the “right way” to get God to give the desired answers, perform the desired actions. “We want to be God,” he said, because we think we know what God should be doing for us.

Good weekend.

Review: High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never

For book #4 in my 52 book-this-year resolution (I’m behind, I know. I’m reading #5, 6, and 7 right now. I might catch up someday . . .), I read another Barbara Kingsolver book: High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never. Kingsolver describes this book as “creative nonfiction” – a collection of essays – some new, some previously written, organized in a loose theme, creating an excellent collection of very readable, enjoyable, and provocative stories. Kingsolver is just such an excellent writer, it seems any topic she tackles be a page-turner.

In the essay “Making Peace,” Kingsolver wonders about the modern concept of “No Trespassing,” writing, “’No Trespassing’ doesn’t just mean, ‘Don’t build your house here.’ It means: ‘All you see before you, the trees, the songbirds, the poison ivy, the water beneath the ground, the air you would breathe if you passed through here, the grass you would tread upon, the very idea of existing in this place – all these are mind.’ Nought but a human mind could think of such a thing. And nought but a human believes it.” (pp. 30-31)

“Somebody’s Baby” is another excellent essay, about the community responsibility to nurture children – and the community blessings of children. She remembers a time the community she lived in voted down the proposed school budget, with a letter-to-the-editor saying, “I don’t have kinds . . . so why should I have to pay to educate other people’s offspring?” Kingsolver reasons, “I longed to ask that miserly nonfather just whose offspring he expects to doctor the maladies of his old age.” She continues, “If we don’t wish to live by bread alone, we’ll need not only a farmer and a cook in the family but also a home repair specialist, an auto mechanic, an accountant (etc. etc.) . . . If that seems impractical, then we can accept other people’s kids into our lives, starting now.” (pg. 105)

In “The Spaces Between” Kingsolver writes about the dangers of racism that elevates other cultures, and therefore makes people of other cultures simply strange and exotic instead of human. “What began as anthropology has escalated to fad, and it strikes me that assigning magical power to a culture’s every belief and by-product is simply another way of setting those people apart. It’s more benign than burnings crosses on lawns, for sure, but ultimately not much more humane.” (pg. 148)

“In the Belly of the Beast” describes a fascinating visit to a missile museum in Tucson, housing a decommissioned Titan missile, and a moving visit to the museum in Hiroshima, cataloguing items melted and destroyed and devastated from the bomb dropped there.

“Paradise Lost,” as well as the opening/closing duo of “Hide Tide in Tucson” and the “Reprise” are other favorite. Another great read. Check it out!

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Ordination Interviews: Wrap-up

Thank you so much for all of your warm responses and prayers during my ordination interviews last week. I was surprised at just how much the interviewing process drained me of energy for the few days afterward. I felt like I could sleep for a couple days straight. I guess I didn’t realize exactly how much stress/anxiety about the interviews I had been carrying with me in the corner of my mind. When I think about it, I realize that I’ve been in the candidacy process 9 years now, beginning with The Christian as Minister, so that is a third of my life in the process! I guess it’s only natural to react to how much I’d invested in the outcome of interview day!

I do want to share with you a little bit about the process. In my conference, North Central New York, candidates go through 4 sections of interviews: Sacraments, Practice of Ministry, Call to Ministry, and Theology. We had two sections of each, A and B (the “B teams” from the Board kept joking all day that “B” didn’t mean second-string!) so that more candidates could be interviewed simultaneously, moving from section to section without break.

I met first with Sacraments. Three years ago, during commissioning interviews, this was the section I felt most uncomfortable with – just not clicking with the questions, not thrilled with my response. This time, Sacraments was probably where I felt at my best (a good way to start the day!) Maybe this is because administering the sacraments has (for me, at least) such a huge impact on how I understand and experience them. Example: The first time I shared baptism with my congregation, I could barely get through the liturgy, I was so teary, so moved. Baptism binds you forever to the person you baptize – realizing this helped me to communicate better how baptism binds us together as the body of Christ when we share in it as a community.

The Practice of Ministry was my hardest this time around. The questions seemed vague to me, instead of very specific to my experience. The questions in this section focus on growth and experience as a probationer – what’s changed in three years of pastoral ministry? What’s significant about practicing ministry? Some open-ended questions resulted in me struggling for words. But I hung in there!

Call to Ministry focused on sharing my story so far, something I’m very comfortable doing – something I’ve had to do over and over in so many situations, that it comes very easily to me. I’m sure those of you who are candidates in the process know what I mean. I was also asked there about the meaning of ordination – something I’ve struggled with and finally come to a more complete (not fully, though) understanding of – thanks especially to Bishop Willimon’s: Pastor: A Theology of Ordained Ministry.

The last section was Theology. This was a fun section, actually – questions about my blog(!) and the theology of blogging, questions about the theology of paperwork, questions about books I’ve read and not liked, and some scenario questions: what would you do if . . .

Then the waiting, waiting, waiting – the hardest part. But we waited less time than three years ago at commissioning. I got called into a little room with three Board members, including, in my group, the chair of the Board, who said, “I have one more question for you.” (Eek, my tired mind thought.) “What does gospel mean?” I said, “good news.” And she said, “That’s right. It’s good news!”

Congrats also to Laura, who I met at the GBCS Young Adult Clergy forum, who just found out she was recommended for ordination in her conference. And to those of you who’ve mentioned upcoming interviews, please do remind me when it’s your turn, so I can support you too!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Ordination Interviews

Thanks for your prayers as I went through interviews today. I am happy to say I was recommended for ordination! Tomorrow, when I have more energy, I might try to write more about the process, but for today: just relief and joy.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Prayers: Ordination Interviews

You may remember this fall that I posted responses to disciplinary questions for ordination. Well, the big day has arrived: tomorrow I meet with the Board of Ordained Ministry for my interviews.

I will hopefully write about the experience more tomorrow night, but today I'll share with you a bit about the structure. We have 4 segments of interviews in my conference: Theology, Sacraments, Call to Ministry, and Practice of Ministry. We spend 45 minutes in each section, with 15 minutes between. There are two sets of interview teams, Group A and B, and six candidates for ordination, so each team will meet with three of the six candidates. We find out the recommendation of the board later in the evening - when I was up for commissioning it was a 6-hour wait. But I've since learned that some conferences have candidates wait a week or more for responses, so I guess I can't complain!

I ask for your prayers tomorrow, for me and for all the candidates. I feel more prepared and relaxed than I did three years ago, when I had no idea what to expect, but I still have that "butterflies in the stomach" sensation anyway...

Monday, February 06, 2006

Review: Ending Hunger Now

For Book #3 in my 52-books-this-year-resolution, I just finished a quick read: Ending Hunger Now - A Challenge to Persons of Faith, co-authored by George McGovern, Bob Dole, and Donald E. Messer. I can't remember where I first heard about this book, but saw it advertised/reviewed somewhere, and though it looked interesting.

The book features a chapter each from McGovern, Dole, and Messer, then a chapter of "trialogue" with all three, and then a conclusion/challenge chapter from Don Messer. The book, as the title suggests, focuses on the realistic approaches to ending world hunger. Bipartisan legislation over the years sponsored by McGovern and Dole is discussed, as well as the goal set in 1996 by the leaders at the United Nations World Food Summit to cut global hunger in half by 2015. McGovern and Dole particularly discuss their work with US legislation that started the school-lunch program and WIC, and ponder the possible affects of similar programs abroad.

In the trialogue section, the differences between the philosophies of Dole and McGovern become apparent, and not surprisingly to my regular blog readers, I personally agreed more with McGovern's views than Dole's. McGovern highlighted some specific approaches, referring to ideas set out by Jeffrey Sachs in The End of Poverty: (briefly) boosting agriculture, improving basic health, investing in education, giving people electrical power, and providing clean water and sanitation. Both Dole and McGovern note the powerful correlation between providing lunches free at school and increase in attendance at school by poor children, especially girls. (pg. 72) McGovern also especially urges for programs that rely on commodities from local farmers. Both speak in support of genetically modified food - I honestly am not sure where I stand on this - I don't know enough. I support knowing information about where our food comes from and what is in it, though. McGovern and Dole particularly part ways when discussing the relationship between terrorism and hunger. McGovern argues that terrorism is fed (in part) by "the frustration and anger - and the sadness - of not having enough to eat, not having a decent house, not having sanitary water." He advocates for seeking out causes of terrorism, and suggest hunger and poverty may be contributing factors. Dole disagrees, and suggest that countries with big food supplies might be bigger targets for terrorists. He wonders about terrorists poisoning food supplies, and other threats.

In the closing chapter, Messer talks about concrete steps for people of faith. He focuses on moving from charity to justice, sharing a great Bill Moyers quote: "Faith-based charity provides crumbs from the table; faith-based justice offers a place at the table." (pg. 89) I found this chapter inspiring, even in light of troubling statistics. Did you know, for example, that in 2002, George W. Bush, along with other leaders, supported a declaration for a "concrete effort" toward providing 7/10 of 1 percent of national incomes for development aid. Some small countries have already met this goal, and other larger countries have set specific timetables to reach the goal. But the US has no concrete plans, and currently spends only 2/10 of 1 percent on development aid. (pg. 92)

Overall, I would recommend this as a good resources for congregations, especially for beginning conversations about hunger and poverty. Having read a lot in this area, I felt this was a pretty basic, simple book, but it might be exactly what is needed to speak to the hearts of some people who just have not heard these facts about budgets, hunger, poverty, AIDs, education, etc. The book includes reflection questions and suggestions for further reading/action at the end of each chapter, making it a good small-group study book.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Wrap Up: GBCS Young Adult Clergy Gathering

Last night I returned home from the GBCS Young Adult Clergy Gathering in DC. I had the privelege of preaching the sermon for closing worship, and felt honored to be preaching in a place where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached.

John directed my attention to this article in the Christian Post that talks about our Tuesday gathering with Senator Kyl. Our purpose in meeting with him was to talk about internet gambling issues, though, as the article mentions, conversation strayed to some other topics. Senator Kyl spoke strongly about his belief that our faith should only impact our action in the political realm to a certain degree (I apologize for no direct quotes - I wasn't taking notes during this session), and in that area his views drew some audible reaction from the room.

It was fascinating to be in DC on the day of the State of the Union address. You couldn't really move without seeing 15 police officers. Seeing them carrying weapons too large to fit into holsters was a bit unsettling - not used to seeing that.

Wednesday, during our last hours together, one of the pastors originally from South Korea spoke about his non-US perspective in a moving way. He said that America is "the top steward" of the world and that America is too powerful. "You can decide our destiny," he said, even against the will of his home country. He talked about South Korea's involvement in Iraq, saying they had to send troops "to keep good relations with the US" even though they didn't support the war in theory. I appreciated his broadening of our view - the UMC is a global church, but with our members overwhelmingly centered in the US, we sometimes have a narrow view.

We also heard from young pastors from Mississippi and Louisiana about rescue, relief, and recovery efforts from Hurricane Katrina. I want to direct you to this resource from GBCS called After the Storm: Renewing the Covenant of Community. It is a study book put together by GBCS staffers Susan Burton and John Hill. The booklet focuses on Hurricane Katrina and highlights justice issues that are intertwined with the hurricane. The booklet ties in our Social Principles, and has questions and links/resources for discussion and further action. Check it out.