kindom musings

Thoughts and musings from a pastor in the peace tradition. Perspectives come from a progressive, justice-minded, feminist position. Responses are welcome.

Location: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, United States

I am a Church of the Brethren pastor in my thirties. While I love what I do, I started out with plans to be a veterinarian. God has a great sense of humor, and I wound up in ministry instead. However, my sojourn into veterinary science did make me a vegetarian with a love of animals. (We have two cats and a dog at home -- only a small petting zoo!) My husband is also ordained, and we have a son (LB) and a daughter (KB). My husband keeps me up to date on baseball trivia, and my children keep me giggling. All in all, it makes for a well-rounded life. I was born in Pennsylvania, moved several times for school and work, and have recently returned to my home state. On the Myers-Briggs scale, I'm an INFP.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

found hymn and time

After pondering over it most of the evening, I finally tried a google search today and almost immediately found the reference to the hymn fragment I had in my head yesterday. Here it is:

Heart with loving heart united, met to know God's holy will.
Let his love in us ignited more and more our spirits fill.
He the head, we are his menbers, we reflect the light he is.
He the master, we disciples, he is our and we are his.
(Text: Nicolaus L. von Zinzendorf, Herz und Hurz vereint susammend, 1723
Music: Manuscript Chorale Bood, 1735)

It's in our hymnal, and we actually sang it two months ago. So now I have the dilemma of whether or not to use it again. In the mean time, I'm struck by the irony of using the internet to find a hymn written long before even computers were even a concept and even before Ben Franklin had his famous lightning experiment. It's hard to imagine life without these modern conveniences, yet I'm looking back to the 1700's to find words to meet today's needs. I think there's danger in only looking to the past, especially when it comes to music, but it does say something about the human condition that though times change, human passions, hopes, and fears remain a constant. For the same reason, ancient scriptures and other sacred and secular writings still have relevance, even though the authors could never have imagined the world in which we live today. It is our common experiences and the human condition that unites us, not time, place, background, or location. We still reflect the light of God.

Monday, August 28, 2006

glimmers of songs

For the better part of the day, I've had what I thing is a line from a hymn stuck in my head. If I'm remembering it correctly, I'd like to use it on Sunday, but at this point I'm no longer even sure it exists beyond my imagination. The little piece I have is "...we reflect the light he (God?) is..." That's it -- it's not a lot to go on.

That kind of feels true for my whole faith life. I firmly believe that we each reflect the light of God, that we each have a piece of God's very essense within us, ready to show the world. I once heard a story (and I think I've added some pieces to it) of a great mirror that showed only God's image. But somehow the mirror broke into billions of tiny pieces. The wind picked up these pieces and scattered them all over the earth. Each living thing held and to this day holds some small part of this mirror deep within its being. Only in our ability to seek out these parts in others can we gain a fuller glimpse of God. The more we are open to peering into the mirrors of each others' souls, the more we are able to grow in understanding of who God is, and who we are as images of God.

As myth, as truth, I believe these things, but sometimes I have trouble accessing what is within me. My own reflection of God's light gets buried under work loads or by my own insecurities. It's like I know the tune is out there, but I can't quite bring it to memory. God whispered it in my ear as a mother sings to her baby, but I have forgotten exactly how the melody and the words fit together.

Then in great glimspes, it all seems clear for a short while. I remember who I really am, who we are all created to be, and it restores my hope in humanity. But all too quickly, it slips below the surface again, and I have to trust that what I can't hold in my hands or head is nonetheless real and true.

I find it helps to ask in times of prayer, to myself, and occasionally in conversation: "What do you see in me? What do I see in you?"

Thursday, August 24, 2006

A pastor's 23rd psalm (in the midst of sermon-writing)

O God, you are my inspiration, I shall not be overwhelmed.
You remind me to breathe, to immerse myself in devotions;
You silence phones and distractions;
you remind me of my call.
You lead me to resources with illustations that are true to
your words.

Yea, though I groan under the weight of exegesis,
I will not be dismayed,
For even here your presence is felt.
Good music and good laughter, they lighten my spirits.

Meaningful worship planning and excellent volunteers are welcome;
they cast out anxieties of unfinished bulletins and loose ends.
You fill me with blessings and I rejoice in the wonders of ministry.
Surely words and silence will play in my head throughout my life,
and I will learn to trust in Your bountiful spirit as long as I live.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Eggs in the Watch

It's amazing what things catch our attention. I've been trying to work on Sunday's sermon (I'm a manuscript preacher), but I've done just about everything else but that today. I worked on the newsletter, planned out some upcoming youth activities, played around with the bulletin format, and even tried to fix the office manager's chair. These are all worthwhile activities, but none of them were what I had planned to focus my attention on today. And I wonder, is it pure procrastination (a definite possibility), an attempt to avoid thinking about John 6 for the fifth week in a row (an even greater possibility), or an inexplicable lure for details today that I often put aside in the midst of larger visions (hmmm....). I've heard it said that the devil is in the details, which I've never really understood, but I think the details sometimes are all we're able to handle. Is it so bad to occasionally allow what our senses notice to take priority over a pre-determined to-do list?

A few weeks ago, we had Vacation Bible School. Since the church hadn't had it for a few years, and I'm very new to the congregation, we opted for a three-night option. It was enough to get kids involved, but not so much to overwhelm staff and other resources. Our theme was the Gospel Express, and we adapted skits for each night. I had the privilege (?) of being conductor for these skits. In one of them, to demonstrate God's forgiveness, a character named HoBo apologized for taking my watch and using it as an egg timer. Unfortunately, HoBo put the watch in the eggs so the eggs could hear the timer. (The punchline: I'll get over it, but it will take time...TIME!) Anyway, although I am a VERY amateur actor, my 3 year old son got very upset with my pretend outburst and came running after me, crying "Mommy! Mommy!" Since VBS, he has periodically said, "Watch in the eggs?" or sometimes, "Eggs in the watch?" The rest of the skit was lost to him, but he paid attention to those few seconds of dialogue. For some reason, it attracted him and won't fade.

It makes me wonder what odd things attract my attention, even when I get details confused. Where is God in the "egg in the watch" moments? I'm not sure whether to seek forgiveness for getting distracted or to re-evaluate priorities. Maybe neither option is the answer. Maybe the question isn't so much how to focus attention but how to open myself to whatever does claim my senses and appreciate what I might have otherwise missed.

Thoughts for a Wednesday afternoon...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

a new start

I recently celebrated a birthday, which fell on a Sunday this year, so I had the mixed blessing of sharing the morning with a lot of people and trying to be responsible in preaching a sermon faithful to the text. As if I didn't have enough of an audience on Sunday morning, I decided it would be a good time to reach out into cyber-space. Actually, I felt like I was one of the few people I know who didn't have a blog. (I've always been on the slow end of the technology wave.)

There are some major differences between sermons and blogs. When I preach, I feel pressure to be accurate in representing scripture. Here, I write from the text of my life. In worship, I consider how a message affects those who are listening. Here, readers are anonymous. I have no hidden agenda, no lectionary to guide me (other than the bits of sermon writing that may spill over into my thoughts), and no special church emphases. It's actually very freeing.

In the past, I have been an occasional journaler, but I go from times when I write every day to months without writing a word. However, there's something about putting thoughts out there for anyone to see that makes me feel accountable. There's something very vulnerable and appealing to creating space for whatever responses may come. I think this is the church at its best and its worst. We are both free to speak our thoughts and unaware of how our comments may be read by others. We share deep parts of who we are, yet we reserve giving out too much personal information. Oh, to live in a community where we can all give and receive with complete trust and confidence...

Thanks for reading, and please share your comments,