Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Saint Francis and the Animals

On Sunday evening I was the preacher for our outdoor service for blessing animals. Being an outdoor service with a collection of pets who couldn't care less about what I said, I went for short and sweet. I actually loved the challenge of preaching with the cars whizzing by on one side and a trio of French Bulldogs wheezing away on the other, looking out over a collection of dogs, a cat, and a rat.

Here is the manuscript, although as with all of my preaching and talks there was plenty of room for the Holy Spirit to take over and edit on the fly!

It is big. Shaggy. Scary. Many of you have seen it, lurking in the shadows waiting to attack. Even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve heard the stories. The howls, the attacks. No fear, you friends tell you. It isn’t afraid of anything. Even the town dogs can’t defend anyone or anything from it. Some of them have even been eaten. It won’t stay in the hills, and it isn’t satisfied with attacking the flocks. Rumors say it even attacks people. The Wolf.

But most people are distracted. They aren’t here for the wolf. They are here for a more interesting reason. Your Italian city of Gubbio is the temporary home for the renowned preacher, Francis. He isn’t much to look at, in his patched and rough brown wool garment, barefoot, tonsured. But he draws people in to listen to him. He has that charisma, that genuine caring about every living creature that gets close to him.

He preaches about the gospel, how the kingdom of God is drawing near. Rumor says that he heard the Gospel say to sell everything and give alms; to not worry about anything but to trust God to provide for every need. If God cares for the every sparrow, how much more will God care for His faithful children? Francis teaches people to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, and unlike the priests, he is out among the ordinary people. Like us. He doesn’t live in a fancy palace or wear expensive clothes. Yours are probably worth more than his.

One day, while Francis is teaching about all of creation being his brothers and sisters, someone in the back of the crowd whispers a remark about the wolf. It was meant as a whispered comment to his neighbor, but someone overheard it and it shot through the crowd. He stopped, and someone explained to him that your town is under attack from this terrible creature. He goes on teaching, but when he is done and the crowd begins to disperse you notice that he is whispering to his followers. They gather themselves together and head out of town, up into the hills.

Soon his followers come straggling back, a look of fear on their faces as each passes back into town. Then, Francis comes back. But he most certainly isn’t alone. Pacing alongside him is the wolf. It certainly looks fierce, the way the whispered stories describe it. Francis enters the marketplace where everyone is gathering, and when he reaches the center he stops. The wolf quietly sits beside him. All eyes are turned to this unlikely pair. Francis explains to you that the wolf is hungry, and looking for food. If we, as a town, agree to feed him, the wolf will no longer attack our animals or people. You hear the quiet roar as the people around you talk to their neighbors about this turn of events. Eventually, one of your leaders calls out your assent.

We will feed the wolf. But how do we know that the wolf will keep his end of the bargain?

Francis ignores that question for a moment as he turns to speak to the pack of dogs in one of the alleyways. He tells them that if they will not bother the wolf, the wolf will leave them alone. Someone in the crowd snickers, and it echoes over the quiet heads of the people who are watching and waiting to see what this crazy holy man will do next.

He turns to the wolf, reaches out a hand, and blesses him.

This is the sign to assure us that the wolf will keep its end of the bargain?

A blessing, indeed.

Of course, this is all based on legends about a real man. A real saint. Francis of Assisi. He really did exist, and he really did talk about all of creation being his family. One of the more famous poems or prayers that he wrote is called Canticle of the Sun, or Praise of Creation. He talks about Brother Sun and Sister Moon; Lady Poverty and Sister Death. It really is no wonder that he has become the patron saint of the environment (and animals)! But it is for stories like this about the wolf of Gubbio and his preaching to the birds that we most strongly associate Francis with blessing animals.

For many of us, our animals are indeed our family, certainly they are our close companions and friends. In Francis we find someone who is not afraid to agree with us, who is not afraid to say that as part of creation, these creatures deserve the blessings of God just as much as humans do.

And so, around the feast of Saint Francis we gather together to celebrate, bless, and remember our companions of the not so human variety. We bring them, or the memories of those who have gone ahead of us, to the arms of God and we bless them. Because even though Jesus was undoubtedly human, none of us can say for sure that God doesn’t come into our lives through the love of our pets.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Poem

This poem appeared in my life when I needed a reminder to look to one of my favorite teachers. Some spiritualities might say that the Oak is my totem or spirit tree. I just know that oaks are an important part of my life story, and they give me strength and peace.

"The Oak Tree"

A mighty wind blew night and day.
It stole the oak tree's leaves away,
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark
Until the oak was tired and stark.
But still the oak tree held its ground
While other trees fell all around.
The weary wind gave up and spoke,
"How can you still be standing, Oak?"
The oak tree said, "I know that you
Can break each branch of mine in two.
Carry every leaf away,
Shake my limbs, and make me sway.
But I have roots stretched in the earth,
Growing stronger since my birth.
You'll never touch them, for you see,
They are the deepest part of me.
Until today, I wasn't sure
Of just how much I could endure.
But now I've found, with thanks to you,
I'm stronger than I ever knew."

 - Anonymous

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Health in School

The beginning of this semester has been full of wonderful conversations with my classmates around keeping healthy while we are all in seminary. There have been many truisms that sound like platitudes: this is the time to learn how to take care of yourself before you have a parish to take care of; how can you model health if you do not have it yourself; and my personal favorite - this is not the time to get sick (!). Many of my classmates and I heard these throughout our first year together, and then again as the newest class began to join us, and we wondered what this meant for us and how to live it out faithfully and honestly.

I will admit that last year was all about the academics. And this year looks like it will be more of the same, with a healthy dash of hands-on field experience. But nowhere was there really room to make my health a priority. I am focused on preparing for the ministry God is calling me into, but ironically the physical readiness part of that has been left completely out of the picture.

This semester is going to be a difficult one. I have four classes that are challenging me in ways I never dreamed I would be stretched. I have, essentially, a part time job as a seminarian in my field education parish. But my "fifth class" - the one I would have audited - is one that I have to take as seriously as the others. Personal health and wellness. How do I not let me spiritual life get trampled in the crush of school and parish work? What about physical health - eating well and moving my body? How do I nourish myself so that I am giving generously out of an abundance of energy and love and not giving grudgingly out of a well run so dry that I can no longer function?

Perhaps it is this lesson in caring for myself in every way that is the foundation for all of what my classes will be teaching me. It is certainly an important lesson to learn.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Patriot's Day

Today is a rather poignant day. It isn't just another day, and as I have just completed some reflection papers that are introductions to various classes and am looking at resources for a class on Death and Dying with a special focus on Suicide, Violent and/or Sudden Death I am reminded of just how much my outlook on this day has changed in the last 11 years.

When the attacks first happened, I was more worried about how to get my mom (who was traveling and scheduled to fly) home than I was about any other immediate impact. It wasn't until days later that it truly sank in to me just how horrific this was. I was in Boston on the first anniversary of the attacks, and I appreciated just how much more deeply the Eastern region of our country was affected than the West Coast had been. Then I married a former soldier, and I began to have a glimmer of how it affected all of the veterans in our country to have seen us under attack, and to see how the gradual forgetting that we still have soldiers in the theater of war nagged at them in ways unsuspected by the general public. Then my husband returned to the Army and I began my journey toward Army Chaplaincy, and in a place where my very presence as a connection to the military can be awkward and upsetting I am now finding myself pondering the deeper effects of those attacks.

I find myself wondering how I can find time today to travel to a nearby military installation, to avoid the inevitable small conflicts that arise when I wear my identity as an Army Wife and Future Chaplain openly here in this place. My emotions are closer to the surface today, and I just want to be with others who share at least a little of my understanding of how these attacks are still fresh in so many ways in the spirits of those who serve in uniform. I want to be in a place where I am not made hyper-aware of how I am a target for those who are seeking to vent their frustrations with our government and its policies now and in the past just because I am called to serve those who serve. I am aware that today in particular I may be inviting more than the usual engagement with this community, and that I myself am unusually aware of the uniqueness of my presence and call in this setting.

Yet I am consciously and carefully dressed in a shirt and sweatshirt that proudly say United States Army. I hold my head high as I walk down the street and across campus. Today most especially. I am proud of our armed forces, and I am humbled that God is calling me to serve these heroes in whatever small way that I can.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It has been a while...

... since I have written. I know. Whatever happened to my discipline and keeping up the regular updates over the summer? For that matter, what happened to the summer?

Actually, this summer was quite unsettling for a person who likes to feel as if her roots are steady and solid. I actually had to print out a schedule months in advance to know where I was going to be, when I was going to be there. I think two or three weeks was the longest I ever managed to stay in one place at a time! I am grateful for the opportunities to spend a few days at a time with my husband and parents, to visit my home parish, and to move forward in the ordination/discernment process. I also spent 10 days in Indianapolis, representing my school at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, and a week immersing myself in the experience that is Vacation Bible School at my Field Education parish.

I have been busy with hospitality for new residents and students who are going through Orientation this week, and then I dive into my classes on Tuesday. My schedule sounds straightforward, but there is a lot of reading and research involved in my classes. I am taking Christian Ethics in Anglican Tradition, Theology I: Introducing Practice, Introduction to Theological Field Education, and a Special Reading course examining the theology of suicide and sudden or violent death along with pastoral/ritual responses to such deaths and the threat of dying suddenly or violently. Looks easy, right?

I am truly looking forward to this semester, with only four classes plus my field education and extracurricular activities it should be quite busy and full. It feels good to be back in this community and in this place, though it also feels as if pieces are missing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Working Vacation

I am back home in the cottage after a lovely extended visit with my husband. Unfortunately, since I left immediately after the end of the school year, I am facing the aftermath of the last month or so of school when it seemed like all I did was eat, sleep, and work on papers or study for tests. Of course, that was on top of the mess left when my husband moved to his new Duty Station. So it is one crazy mess here in this cozy little cottage, and I am taking one day at a time to work on it slowly. Finding places to put things that makes sense when I am busy and don't want to take a lot of time to pick up all the time.

I am realizing just how much being a bi-locational couple has turned my world upside-down. It isn't that we weren't prepared. It is simply that as much as we talked about the possibility that we would be geographically separated at least once in both of our careers nothing can prepare you for the reality of what it is like. The sense of dislocation and emptiness after a visit together. The strangeness of rearranging your apartment to fit your "alone" life instead of the way it fits when there are two of you. Even having your "alone" life and your "together" life - having to have those different parts at all.

During the school year it was easy to focus on my ministry. In this pause I am facing the reality of the Army Wife side of myself. Learning this aspect of my walk that much more clearly. I had hoped it would be all about the Future Soldier side of me; that this Summer break would be about exercise and eating well. And in some ways it is. But it is far more about learning to be a soldier's wife who is also a future soldier and not a future soldier who happens to be a soldier's wife. Funny how there is such a distinction there. It looks like a matter of word order, but it is much deeper than that.

I will always be a soldier's wife. Soon I will be soldier, and lose the "future" in front of it. Therein lies the difference. Even when I am a seasoned Chaplain ministering in the Army many years from now I will still be a soldier's wife. That is a part of my self now, a part that influences how I read the news, how I prepare for my own life as a soldier, how I pray, how I engage with community and friends.

I hadn't realized the difference it made until we had to learn to live as a geographically separated couple. I look around me and I see couples happily all over each other and I swallow a stab of jealousy that I didn't even know existed. I see them everywhere. Couples walking hand in hand through the streets, sitting together in church, filling the restaurants and coffee shops I walk past in my neighborhood. Sometimes I just want to scream. I see them talking together and I think about how I have to wait until we can find a time when we both can be on the phone if I want to have even a simple conversation with my husband. I think about the letters I write when he is out it the field and there is no contact for days and weeks at a time. The text messages that can make my heart flutter just because they are a moment of connection for us - even the ones that just say Hello.

At school I know I am not the only one who is geographically separated from their spouse/partner/spartner/significant other/whatever you choose to call your other half. We can talk about it and encourage each other through the difficult days. I know that I am lucky to have a community that is understanding and supportive through this experience. It still hurts sometimes.

There are good sides to this aspect of our life together. I am forced to be fully independent. I have to squish my own spiders, change my own light bulbs, make sure the car is maintained, do everything to make sure that life continues to run smoothly. I have to think for myself and not always talk it over with my husband before making a decision. I am learning to accept the support of the community around me and to love that community as a family in a way that I had not understood before.

When Fr. Mike pointed out that I am on a Trinitarian Path, I agreed but didn't see that all three strands of my path were equal. I thought the Army Wife path was just a thread along the side of my Army Chaplain path. It certainly wasn't much in comparison to my Seminarian path. How wrong I was. It is just as important for me to be learning and experiencing as the other two.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Where Am I?

So much has happened since I last wrote here! The semester has ended successfully, I interviewed and received my Ecclesiastical Endorsement for the Chaplain Candidate Program, and I have had a relaxing couple of weeks with my husband.

Finals week really took a lot out of me. I had been pushing to get everything completed before I flew to Washington D.C. for my interview and I barely made it. Fortunately most of my finals were take-home tests, with the exception being my New Testament final that began at 6:30 pm Tuesday night. I flew out at 6:00 Wednesday morning for D.C. and interviewed Thursday morning before flying back that afternoon so that I could be back at CDSP in time for graduation Friday morning!

When I landed I had a message from the Bishop Suffragan for Armed Services and Federal Ministries saying that he was glad to give me the Endorsement to enter the Chaplain Candidate Program contingent upon meeting physical standards for entry into the Army. This is a huge hurdle for me and one that confirms to me that I am indeed moving in the right direction to fulfill the call God has placed in my life. Of course, that also means that the pressure is truly on to get my physical fitness in order!

Graduation was amazing! It is essentially a Eucharist with a graduation thrown in where we might otherwise put a Baptism or Confirmation. St. Margaret's Courtyard was beautiful, the music was inspiring, and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it - even though my body was quite confused as to what time zone I might have been in.

I traveled to join my husband where he has been assigned a few days after the end of school. I needed to catch my breath! I have had a lovely time here resting and catching up on research for General Convention. I am looking forward to representing CDSP there in a few weeks.

As I said, so much has been happening! With faith I am moving forward and taking it all one step at a time.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Time Flies...

Is it really just two weeks to graduation week? Oh, my. It seems like it was just a week ago that it was Holy Week madness and utter unpredictability. Now many of my big not-quite-finals-but-close projects are wrapping up and I am preparing for the end of the school year.

I still have one major paper - a 15 page doozy for History - and a presentation to create along with it, but otherwise the finals are looming.

The only upside to all of this is that I am suddenly finding a few moments within the crazy run of my days to catch my breath and enjoy the sunshine once again. Not to resent it for shining on my book-of-the-moment and blinding me in my homework reading, but to actually enjoy it. Fortunately, the sun is accommodating and is spending a significantly lower percentage of time hiding behind the clouds.

So now it is back to the research and writing, studying and memorizing, praying and running around!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Holy Week

Well, we survived Spring Break. I think. It is the morning of Monday in Holy Week and I already feel as if I have been running an exhausting marathon. Usually I feel this way Easter Morning after Holy Week. All those services and the emotional and spiritual lows and highs that go with it.

Spring Break was not particularly relaxing, nor could I call it refreshing, renewing, or even much of a break. We were away from school and out of town, but for me it was a bit like exchanging one stressful setting for another. Instead of research papers and being up to my eyeballs in reading (which faithfully traveled with me) we were researching apartment complexes and up to my eyeballs in the details of setting up a second household in a place neither one of us is familiar with. Welcome to the Army.

I shouldn't complain. We did it. Other military families do it as well. This won't be our last time, either. But the first time seems a bit more unfamiliar and confusing than any subsequent times, and so I tuck the mental notes away into the back of my mind and create a file of little things that will make the next time that much easier.

Just in time for me to return to classes, I waved my husband off very early this morning. The apartment here looks like a bomb went off; things piled randomly here and there, what seems like (but isn't) most of the furniture missing, and way more empty space than I remembered from moving in evident everywhere. It is too quiet. Not just the He's-gone-to-work-and-will-be-back-later quiet, but a different quiet. One that feels more present and somehow aware of my solitude. So as I take a deep breath and begin to try to catch up with my school work, I am also taking bits of time to tidy up, reorganize around the newly empty spaces, and rearrange the furniture so I am not just creeping around the walls but living in all of my space.

After the all-consuming experience of getting moved in just two weeks, I am remembering the why of why I am still here and not moving with my husband. School. Even though I took some reading with me, it was very distracting and rather all-consuming. I gave up after a couple of nights of theology studded with moments of "what-about-the-(fill in the blank)." I suppose that is one way to make sure your new household gets a good blessing, but it really isn't all that great for the theological development of the reader. I find I am having to re-skim so much of the homework I tried to read that it almost would have been better to leave it home. On the other hand, this experience has given me wonderful insight into my upcoming Pastoral Theology project, and I am grateful for that.

So this Holy Week I will try to remember to be gentle with myself. Not only will I be dealing with the emotional roller coaster that is the final week of Jesus' earthly life, I am also adjusting to being a geographic bachelorette. The combination makes my prayers for this week incredibly simple. Be gentle, be aware, breathe. Repeat as needed. Don't be afraid to cry if I need to. Don't make big plans for this time, and leave space for adjusting. As always, lean on God and my guardian Angels. Let them take care of me and don't try to do it all myself. Amen.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lenten What?

Everyone talks about Lenten disciplines. You know, giving up something you enjoy like chocolate or alcohol. Maybe you take on an extra something, a daily reading or meditation time. Apparently this year I have given up discipline. Actually, it appears that a hand greater than mine has chosen this for me. To walk in chaos just when I want to embrace structure and, well, discipline.

My husband is being moved to Riverside during Holy Week. That means that yesterday I picked him up from three months of training and dragged him into the one week that we have for him to get moved. The movers come on Wednesday to pack up everything that will be going with him. That's right. He has two days to decide what gets packed from our shared household. Sure, we've already talked about things like furniture and the obvious clothing and such. But how do we separate it all out so that the movers know what to pack and what not to pack? What about the little touches that make someplace home?

We will be spending Spring Break - next week - in Riverside scoping things out. Looking at possible apartments, trying to figure out where things are. A relaxing break from theology, right? Ha. More like diving head first into a Pastoral Theology Case Study. Only without the neat answers.

I can only hope that by embracing instead of fighting all of this chaos, fitting reading, writing papers, and studying for midterms into whatever little snippet of time I can find, I will be stronger for it. I can't say that I am sure that this is good for my research papers, but we'll just have to put that in God's hands. In the meantime, I am walking this hand in hand with God knowing that this is the only way to make it through this transition. Besides, who else chose to time it this way?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Shake it Up!

Things here are on the move. Literally.

My husband left Friday morning to continue with his current students as they complete their training out in the field. This leaves me doing the logistics dance of getting his more permanent move set up. It also leaves me once again moving in and out of the dance that is balancing my school and community with taking care of myself and my own little nest. Without him here to act as an external cue my timing is off. The routine that I built up through the first part of the semester relied on him returning home at some point in the evening to remind me to stop and focus away from the computer and gave me a time frame which I could reference. Now it is all up to me, and in these first days I find that I am in a bit of a fog when it comes to recognizing how time is passing.

But God does indeed have a sense of humor. This morning I had decided to luxuriate in setting my own time to wake up. 6:30 sounded good, sleeping in by an hour or so. At 5:33 a 4.0 earthquake rattled the apartment and shook me awake. Only 15 minutes later than the time the alarm has been going off daily for the past three months. I suppose I am grateful that I was already drifting toward waking so the shock to my system wasn't any greater, but I am not generally a huge fan of earthquakes and when I am alone my mind immediately begins to think about all the things that could possibly go wrong if this turns out to be "the big one."

As Lay Assistant in our chapel today, it is my responsibility to write the Prayers of the People. I have been praying with the propers we will use: Holy Women, Holy Men, pg 42. Only a slight hope in all of the readings and much to create a "proper" Lenten sense of abasement. Daniel 9: 3-10. Psalm 79: 1-9. Luke 6:27-38. Not much there to cheer anyone up. The collect has the beautiful images of  washing "us with the pure water of repentance" and preparing "us to be always a living sacrifice to you" which I find evocative and hopeful, however.

I suspect that my upbringing has a lot to do with my lack of utter discomfort with the association of Lent with repentance, atonement, sacrifice, and preparation. I actually look forward to this as a break from the unrelenting cheerfulness that sometimes pervades the Christian outlook. While I do not particularly enjoy the reminder that I am not as perfect and holy as I sometimes like to think I am I do believe that this is a good chance to remember that my relationship with God is a two-way street. As long as I realize that I have strayed and look for God wherever I find myself God will always be looking for me. Yes, I join in the jokes about a suitably penitential Lent; but in the end I will always be grateful that there is a time to recognize my fallibility and my mistakes. I rejoice that we still gather together to acknowledge one another in our current state in life and look forward to the resurrection as a community of faith.

Monday, February 27, 2012

One of Those Days

The last week has been quite hectic, and I can barely remember more than the last day or two. My trinitarian path has been particularly difficult, and I wish that I could separate each journey to make them easier to deal with. Today would be labeled a "seminarian" day; full of papers and reading, catching up on the homework I didn't do while I had "army wife" and "future army chaplain" days.

Friday afternoon and Saturday I allowed myself to put my books aside since my husband had his first day off since early January. There were a lot of errands to run in order to prepare for his upcoming move, so I can't say it was a day of fun and relaxation, though we did manage to squeeze in a few moments of sweetness among the other moment of necessary preparations for separation. I don't envy his schedule - he has a short term separation that starts at the end of this week and only a week or so between his return from that and his relocation 400 miles away. Trying to figure out how to get all of his stuff taken care of and ready leaves little room for things like making sure we have enough groceries. Especially when he is still working 12-14 hour days most days.

Sunday, I was able to join a Chaplain friend as she conducted a military memorial service. This was my "future army chaplain" day, learning about the many moving parts that come together in the touching display of full Military Honors at a funeral. It helped that I was not emotionally involved, which I have been in my other experiences of Military Honors at a funeral. I admire the troops assigned to this duty as I imagine that it is difficult to be around so much grief on a regular basis and not really be able to do anything about it.

Today the schedule reverts to "normal" and I once again struggle to balance my three-fold path and not find myself stuck in any one label for too long.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday 2012

Already? What ever happened to that stretch of time between Epiphany and Lent? Yes, it is shorter this year. It means an earlier Easter, but I am not ready yet. I am not even ready for it to be Lent.

I have felt that the semester really took off before I was completely aware of it; it is racing along as I struggle to keep up. Classes are going well and keeping me very busy, and the rest of my time is taken up with adjusting to the new realities that the Army is throwing at us. After three months of days so long we might as well not be living in the same house, we really will not be living in the same house. We will be one of the families separated by service. I will remain here at school and my husband will be 200 miles away, working with an ambulance company.

There are blessings in this separation. The chance for actual weekends that can be scheduled ahead of time instead of a few minutes to see each other snatched out of an early release from the class he is teaching. A schedule that can be relied upon.

With the plans that come with preparing for this separation, I am finding that Lent is falling between the cracks, so to speak. With classes and the ever-present homework colliding with the tasks of setting up a second household in a place that neither of us has seen yet, I wonder what discipline I could set for Lent. Some sort of giving up? Too penitential, and a little too harsh as I am preparing to give up the companionship of my husband on a daily basis. Some sort of adding on? In what time, and with what little scrap of what is fast becoming a mind like a sieve?

And so I am taken unawares and unprepared for Lent. Somehow, it seems appropriate this year to simply be in the waiting and watching through the transitions that this season is bringing. To remain faithful in the unknowing and the what-next, and to say a few extra prayers in the moments that come to me.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Week Two of the Adventure

It may be week two, but it still feels so new and unsure. The best part of last week was returning to community worship; gathering in the chapel that is finally beginning to feel a little bit familiar, in spite of all that makes it as awkward as a teenager on a first date. Our midday Eucharistic gatherings drew me into the rhythm of prayer that weaves through my weeks during the semester and ties me ever deeper to this place and this community. Thursday night was Candlemas. Also known as The Presentation of the Lord in the Temple or The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Candlemas is much easier, shorter, and certainly has a ring to it. We began by gathering outside, each of us holding a lovely beeswax candle. These were lit and blessed before we processed into the chapel, a nod to the tradition of blessing all of the candles for the year on that day. I love that continuation of tradition, the sense of being rooted in the past while moving forward into the future. Not to mention the glow of all those candles together as we moved from the twilight outside to the bright inside of the chapel.

Most of my books have finally arrived; they are filling my shelf and looking wise. There is a great deal of reading to be done this semester, much more than last, and it looks intimidating if I stare at the schedule for too long. Just a day at a time, a page at a time, is all I can do. I know it will get done, but it sure seems like a lot!

The main excitement this week is the coming trip home to attend Diocesan Convention, which will be held Friday and Saturday. It will be good to re-connect with friends from around the diocese and to see all of the exciting plans and ministries we have there. Sunday I'll be worshipping at All Souls', my home parish. Then it is back on a plane and back to school; a quick trip indeed.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Semester Two Begins

Today is the beginning of the Spring semester, and I started out by joining the community at worship at our midday Eucharist. Today Rev. Flora Keshgegian, who is teaching my Introduction to Pastoral Theology class, was celebrant and preacher in honor of the 35th anniversary of her ordination to the priesthood. I sometimes forget that I am surrounded by people like her who have lived and formed the history of the Episcopal church and the opportunities I enjoy today to serve in whatever ways God is calling me.

My schedule is full of goodness this semester. Along with Intro to Pastoral Theology, I will be taking Intro to Worship with the Rev. Ruth Meyers, Intro to New Testament at the Franciscan School, Church History: Modern to Contemporary at the Dominican School, and Women's Spiritual Quest taught by a woman from the Jesuit School.

While there is so much to come this semester, I also filled my January Intersession with good classes that challenged and stretched me. First, I spent a week in a class called Addiction, 12-Steps, and The Church. We examined the spiritual aspect and effects of addiction as well as experiencing recovery meetings, learning the physical and psychological effects of addiction, and discussing the various manifestations of addiction in every walk of life.

The second week I spent my afternoons in Art, Darkness, and Womb of God with China Galland, learning about the variety of expressions of the Black or Dark Madonna. I truly loved this class as we had a wide variety of backgrounds all coming together to contribute to the discussion about Mary, the Mother of God, Theotokos, or whatever honorific title you prefer. I must say that I truly enjoyed this class, and feel that it nourished me in this path in ways that classes taken purely for academic requirements may not.

The last thing I did during Intersession was to complete a quartet of certifications in preparation for Field Ed next year. Safeguarding God's People, Safeguarding God's Children, Canon Law, and Multicultural Training are all accomplished.

With Christmas and Intersession behind me I am prepared to dive into this new semester with energy and determination. Soon I will be in San Diego for the Diocesan Convention, looking forward to seeing friends and mentors while I am there. I pray that this semester nourishes, challenges, and forms me as I move forward in this journey.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Epiphany Blessings

It really has been a while since I updated here... classes were just wrapping up for the semester and papers were writing me. Advent was still in full swing. Now it is past Christmas and we are celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany.

Advent ended with a celebratory collapse as the last of my papers were turned in and I looked ahead to the visit of my parents over Christmas. I spent the first couple of days sitting in a chair doing a whole lot of not much as I accustomed myself to not be staring into the computer screen for the majority of my day. Then there was the whirlwind of catching up on little things around the house that I had let go over the final couple of weeks of the semester and the arrival of my parents and their cat Juniper for a much anticipated visit. We spent our time exploring the great outdoors and then curling up to be cozy indoors, which was Juniper's favorite part. It was quite pleasant to be together for Christmas; and just those several days of quiet family time were restorative.

Once we were on our own again we let our routines fly out the window and quite simply relaxed. No big New Year's Eve party, no big New Year's anything really. A movie and a puzzle on New Year's Eve, some clam chowder on the stove, and time spent snuggled in our cozy cottage. It has taken me a few days to ease in to the new year, I am finally accepting that it really is 2012 and looking ahead to what this year might have in store for me.

Instead of resolutions, I pray about a word or phrase for the year... sort of a guiding star that is a touchstone throughout the seasons to come. This year the word Nurture has been tugging at my sleeve, gently but persistently telling me that it is here to journey with me through 2012. The hardest part about Nurture is that it includes taking care of myself; I am extremely good at nurturing others but that usually comes at the price of self-neglect. Nurture is telling me to find the balance between the two poles. It promises to be an interesting journey.

Intersession classes are beginning; my first one starts Monday. I am leaping into a week long class on Addiction, 12-Steps, and the Church, which promises to be interesting. The following week I am taking a class that is focusing on the Black Madonna; I am interested to find out what this class has to teach me that I am not yet aware of.

I hope that your new year has begun pleasantly for you, and that your Epiphany Star guides you truly.