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.