Monday, October 25, 2010

resurrection people

Today we had our first noonday Eucharist since the fire on Friday. We worshiped in the chapel down the street, and while it was strange to be in a different place, it was nice to have been offered a place to worship. The dean spoke, and he just has a really great way of putting things. [I'll post his sermon once it appears on the school's website] He reminded us that although we aren't in the same place, we are with the same people, reading familiar words, singing familiar songs, and praying familiar prayers. He said that we won't ever know why this world was created with the need for healing, but we do know that Christ steps in and provides that healing, over and over again. And in our service, we continue to give thanks for all that God does for us.

Bishop Johnston (of VA) spoke to us as well. He said that he mourned with us, and that people all over the world were praying for us. I was once again overwhelmed with the knowledge that so many people in so many places were and have been taking time out of their day to check in on us or to mention us in their prayers. The generosity of the surrounding communities (specifically Immanuel Church-on-the-Hill's Zabriskie Chapel, Episcopal High School, and even Beth El Hebrew Congregation!) has been especially moving. The Bishop called us to be a "Resurrection people," a people continuing the witness of Christ's work in the world despite--no, because of--our loss. He then highlighted the second verse of the song we were about to sing, All My Hope on God is Founded (Hymn 665 in our hymnal, but this British version has slightly different words. Here's the words from our hymnal: "...though with care and toil we build them, tower and temple fall to dust. But God's power, hour by hour, is my temple and my tower"). I can't really expand on that--the words speak for themselves.

Since getting back to campus on Saturday night, I have sensed a change within the community and within me. The briefing by the Dean was followed by Evening Prayer and then community dinner. It made my heart glad to see so many people--even spouses and commuters!--eating together. As my friend Liz said, "We do community really well," and this has only been amplified. There's an intentionality, a richness around everything--especially things that happen in church. At my field ed church yesterday I noticed the loud crack when the celebrant broke the Host at the Eucharist. It was almost as if something inside me had snapped, as if I could sense for the first time what the words "this is my Body, broken for you" really mean. And today at the Eucharist we sang louder and spoke with more conviction than ever before.

There is no doubt in my mind that we are witnessing to the light, that we truly are being "Resurrection people."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

phoenix

I'm sitting in the living room in my parent's house trying to process all that has happened in the past 18 or so hours. I'm at home because one of my high school friends got married yesterday, and I got to be a bridesmaid. As we were waiting in a back room to take pictures, I saw that one of my friends from school was calling. I didn't answer because we were busy. But then, I saw another friend from school was calling, and I knew something must be up. She was sobbing and told me that our school's chapel was in flames. I didn't know what to say, and as I stood there in shock another friend from school called. I got off the phone with both pretty quickly but I was shaken as we went into the sanctuary. I told the other bridesmaids but not the bride--this was her day. But being in a church and having to put on a happy face while knowing that our church was burning as I stood there was not an easy thing. I felt like I was in the wrong place--I wanted to be at school grieving with my sisters and brothers. I felt almost as if I was betraying our school by celebrating.

The wedding ceremony was beautiful, and the bride and groom were blissfully happy. Their smiles warmed my heart. During the service, I listened closely to what the pastor said. Each word for me held tension but also a deeper meaning than normal--I was hungry for words of comfort, and in a strange way, although the reading had nothing to do with the fire, it somehow was appropriate. The message was one of love; a love that knows no bounds, that outlasts times of hurt and pain and grief.

Throughout the night I was touched by calls from my friends at school and by the people at the wedding who knew about what had happened checking on me. One of my friends actually called because he hadn't seen me all day and wanted to make sure I hadn't burned down with the building! I knew that the VTS community was gathering and praying, and though I wished I could have been there with them, by their reaching out to me, I was.

I got back home late last night. The reception was great and I managed to have a good time--dancing and singing and talking with old friends helped take my mind off of the events for a while. This morning I woke up and trudged downstairs to my computer to finally take a look at pictures. I cried as I watched videos and the pictures people posted. I loved our mismatched little chapel. I loved the windows, the mismatched wood; it had personality. It was eclectic, just like the Episcopal Church. It wasn't fancy, but a humble hodgepodge--a testimony to people who had gone on before us. So many prayers and beautiful music and sermons were lifted up in that space. Like many others before me, I received so much encouragement from looking at the words behind the altar: "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel."









What has really surprised and made me proud is the response of my classmates. Their status messages are largely ones of hope amidst this tragedy. Of treasured memories. We are all reeling, but in the words of the dean, "We're a community that transcends bricks and mortar." Yes, we are hurting. Yes, this has been a tragedy. But like the phoenix, we will rise from the ashes; we will get through this, and we will come out of it stronger. God is present here, and I look to the future with hope.


(Special thanks to Cayce R. for his photos)

Monday, October 18, 2010

a reflection on church leadership

For those of you not in my homiletics class, here is a copy of the sermon I gave last week. Everyone in the class had to preach from the same text, Mark 5:21-43, and it has been interesting to see that even though we all read the same passage, each person has had a different angle or approach. Here's mine:

[please note that my audience was made up of my classmates; I probably wouldn't preach the same sermon to a congregation]

There are some stories in the Bible that immediately resonate with me. At first glance, I hear echoes of my own story within the account of the hemorrhaging woman, and it is tempting to stay in that familiar space. But as seminary continues and our ordinations begin to loom on the horizon, I am finding that it is Jairus' tale that calls out to me particularly strongly these days.

As you all are well aware, Jairus is a spiritual leader. He is respected, a man with authority and someone people can turn to for answers to life's hardest questions. He has been entrusted with helping to guide the people of God, and with that trust comes certain expectations of how he ought to behave.

We, as future clergy, are also expected to behave in certain ways. According to the ordination services found in our Book of Common Prayer, we are to fashion our lives "in a manner...suitable to the exercise of this ministry." We are to be a "wholesome example" of Christian life; model citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, leading the way for our flocks to follow.

Now, I can't speak for you, but I drive myself (and probably others) crazy with trying to be morally upright. I can get so caught up with doing things the 'correct' or 'appropriate' way that I end up missing out on a lot. In this constant--dare I say obsessive?--pursuit of perfection, I alienate myself from others and especially from God. I operate as if I can handle it on my own, as if God needs me and not vice versa. Naturally, this expectation is unrealistic; perfection is unattainable. When the collar goes on, it's not as if we are automatically given super powers to defend ourselves against sin and temptation. Our vocation does not make us a better person or a better leader. If I think that I will have all of the answers once I graduate, then I haven't really learned much at all.

I wonder what went through Jairus' head that day. Jesus was not exactly the most well-liked man among people in Jairus' circle; I am sure that leaders felt threatened by his teachings and actions, not to mention his popularity. And so, when Jairus approaches Jesus, I think it is safe to assume that he does not make this decision lightly. He is probably aware that eyes will be watching him. Aware that there will be whispers and that his authority could come into question. But he is also probably aware that his little girl is fighting for her life and that none of his power or pride or wealth of knowledge will help her. And so he falls before Jesus, publicly admitting that he cannot do it on his own.

I don't know about you, but a lot of the time I feel like collapsing under the weight of all this pressure. I question whether I am pious enough, I am studying enough, and whether I really get it. And, should I get it, am I even able to relate this to the people I am serving? The thing is, I think that most people don't want to have perfect priests. I imagine they want priests who can relate to their struggling, who can admit that they, too, grapple with the hard texts and with trying to follow Jesus. But who, despite or maybe because of their brokenness, think that this wrestling is worth it and are committed to spending their lives doing so.

Jairus lays everything out in front of his peers, in front of the crowd, but most especially in front of Jesus. It must have been scary to be so exposed. Perhaps even humiliating to have to repeat his request multiple times without receiving an answer. And yet, when it seems as if all hope is lost and his begging has been in vain, Jesus turns to him and says "Do not fear, only believe." And what follows is not only the restoration of his daughter but resurrected hope.

We are called to be a forward-looking people, a people of hope, a people living into the promise that the future holds. The good news--and it really is Good News--is that the God who called us will not abandon us. We see throughout our history that God calls people not because they are capable but because they are utterly dependent on God, allowing God to work through them. Turning to God and admitting that we need assistance is not weakness, but a source of strength, for the grace of God makes up for what we lack. In the words of Anna Carter Florence, "Only when we are empty can we be filled again. Only when we admit that we don't know will we create space for God to fill." May we have the humility, like Jairus, to acknowledge our dependence on God alone, trusting that God will fill us and use us for God's purpose and believing that miraculous things can happen with God's help. Amen.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

first sermon at St. Mark's

As many of you know, I am the seminarian at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, in Alexandria, VA. Here's a copy of my first sermon there, given on 10/10/10 (couldn't resist). The text was Luke 17:11-19.

May the words of my mouth and the mediation of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.

"On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, they called out, saying, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!"

Leprosy is a horrible disease. Not only can it produce disfiguration, but almost all of the cases result in numbness, the person losing the ability to sense temperature, then touch, pressure and pain. However, I imagine that even more detrimental than the physical effects is the alienation. Lepers in Jesus' time were ostracized since people regarded them as unclean, thought it was a highly contagious disease, and believed it was a sign of God's punishment. If your neighbor got sick it was because he had offended God in some way. And so the lepers, knowing their place in society, call out to Jesus from a distance, at the edges of the crowd--on the periphery.

I don't know about you, but I find it easy to identify with the lepers in this story. We hear on the news--especially recently--that many people feel alone, marginalized by friends, classmates, or even family members because of their sexuality, social or economic status, race, age, gender or religious preference, to name a few. From the taunts on the bleachers, to the whispers of co-workers, to the furtive glances in our direction--it's a dehumanizing feeling. Maybe you have felt it, too. But the thing is, even if we have felt like this, we are not the only ones to have experienced isolation.

Jesus knew what it meant to feel completely and utterly alone. This passage begins with a stark reminder that the Way is not an easy one. We hear that Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem, a road that, yes, leads to his triumphant resurrection, but not before he endures suffering and abandonment himself. He is alone in the wilderness, alone in the garden of Gethsemane--alone on the cross. He knew what the road to Jerusalem had in store for him.

And yet, he continued on this journey, intentionally reaching out to those whom society overlooked or ignored. Whom society deemed unworthy and unclean. In Luke's account, especially, we see a picture of Jesus as a champion of the outsiders. He continuously pushes against the accepted boundaries of society to welcome sinners, tax collectors, and even foreigners with different religious beliefs and practices, like the Samaritans. There is no limit to his love, and when Jesus sees the 10 lepers he has compassion for them. 

Now Jesus' command for the lepers to show themselves to the priests is interesting, because the Law stated that this action could only take place after someone had been healed and was therefore clean again. Whether they have responded to this command out of faith--or because they feel that they have nothing to lose--is unclear, but this much is clear: there is something about Jesus that has made them reach out to him. There is something about Jesus that gives them hope, and as they make their way to the temple they are healed of their disease. 

In trying to picture what this must have looked like, I visualize the lepers walking slowly, lost either in their thoughts or in conversation. Suddenly, one of them notices a tingling sensation crawling up his legs, you know, like the tingling that comes after your foot has fallen asleep?  He looks down in confusion and then amazement as he sees that the lesions that peppered his feet have disappeared! He begins jumping and shouting, alerting the others, who then notice that they have been healed as well. They laugh at being able to feel the heat of the sun on their skin again, and weep, embracing and touching their faces over and over to make sure that this is really happening. Whether or not it actually takes place exactly like this, Jesus has given them the chance to rejoin life as respected members of society. Their world, which had seemed so dark and uninviting just a moment before, has suddenly turned into a world filled with light and promise. 

We aren't told what happens to 9 of the lepers. Maybe they followed through and saw the priests; perhaps some of them ran home first to share the good news and to be reunited with their families, friends and neighbors. But we are told that one of them decides to turn around. He recognizes the source of his healing and wants to thank Jesus personally. Jesus is surprised that only one person returned--and that one a foreigner, no less. You see, all 10 lepers were healed, but only one of them was transformed. 

The opportunity for transformation can be found in the simplest of interactions. When I was in high school my youth group went on a mission trip to Nashville, TN. Our task was to serve meals in a shelter for homeless men. When we finished serving we would join the men in the dining room, sharing stories and trading jokes, amazed to discover how much we had in common. At the end of the week one of the men gave us a poem he had written about how much our group had meant to him; how much we had brightened his day and given him hope for the future. He told us that since he'd been there, we were the first youth group to have had conversations with the men; most kids served them and then left to go sightseeing downtown. He appreciated that we saw them as people, and not just as a project. This experience taught us that it doesn't take much to make a difference in someone's life. 

I think that most of us have come to St. Mark's because we are seeking something more from life than our own personal lives. We want to belong somewhere; we are hungry for experiences of God's love. And we come here to get fed by the community and by a shared meal around this table. Communion nourishes our souls and gives us the spiritual strength we need to face the rest of the week. The world outside these doors is filled with lonely, hurting and hungry people. When we reach out to them, we let them know that they are not alone; that we, too, have felt lonely, scared and rejected. When we reach out, we are following in Jesus' footsteps. When we reach out, it is our way of turning around and thanking the source of our healing and nourishment. Who knows? The next time we look into their eyes, we might just see Jesus' reflection looking back at us.




Tuesday, September 28, 2010

midrash on the hemorrhaging woman

Homiletics (the study of preaching) is my favorite class this semester so far. One of our assignments was to read Mark 5:21-43 and either write a poem or a midrash (literally meaning "investigation," midrash is a Jewish practice of interpreting Scripture that "fills in the gaps" of what is not included in the text. So in this case we were to take a minor character and tell the story from their point of view). Mine was kind of a midrashic-poem, and it was weird because the story kind of took hold of me and wouldn't let me go until I had finished. As strange as it sounds, it was almost as if the hemorrhaging woman was begging me to tell her story. Now, I made the story/poem up, but even if it is not factual, I tend to align with the late author, Madeleine L'Engle, in maintaining that "Truth is what is true, and it's not necessarily factual. Truth and fact  are not the same thing. Truth does not contradict or deny facts, but it  goes through and beyond facts. This is something that it is very  difficult for some people to understand. Truth can be dangerous. If you  go beyond the facts, [bad] things can happen...But  wonderful things can happen, too."

It took a lot out of me to write this. It was painful and yet strangely healing. But I felt inspired by listening to what my classmates had written. So, in the spirit of being honest and open--and to prove that I actually do work in seminary--I thought I'd share what I wrote. Many thanks to Melanie and Becky for listening and giving suggestions over coffee :o)


I stare warily at the cup coming toward me,
     the sanguine liquid within a reminder of the very thing I have tried so
     desperately to forget.

My life had been one of privilege: a solid upbringing, a suitable marriage.
     I was content to begin a life of bearing children.
The first died before birth, and I had collapsed, weeping, in my husband's arms.
The second one died before they had even cleaned him off.
     And then the bleeding started.
Its unpredictability meant that I could not venture into public for fear I would make things impure,                                                               unclean.
     I did not mind; I didn't want to see their pitying looks or to hear the 
     whispers that trailed after me as doggedly as a shadow. 
The physicians tried desperately to come up with a solution.
     One after another, they turned me away, the questions unanswered.
I visited specialists, and when that didn't work I turned to healers, superstitions--
     anything that had even a remote chance of a cure.
With each poke and prod and failed remedy I drew deeper and deeper within myself,
     until even I couldn't recognize my reflection.


I did not blame my husband for divorcing me; 
    I had failed to do the one task required of a wife.
He had been better than most; he had stuck around for 5 years of it, had 
    grieved with me, had footed the bill. But he had needs, too, and 
    eventually his interest and sympathy waned.


That was seven years ago.
I had seen him, once, holding his son's hand as they made their way to the synagogue.
I liked to imagine that the little boy was mine:
     what stories I would have told him,
     what silly jokes we would have shared,
                and what his sleepy weight would feel like in my arms.
I would play this little imaginary game to pass the time
      as I waited for strangers to have mercy on me and drop coins in my lap.


One day, sitting in my usual spot, I was suddenly pulled out of my reverie by loud shouting.
      Grumbling to myself, I glared in the direction of the commotion.
A large crowd of people had rounded the corner, moving from the lake into town. 
As they drew nearer, I spotted the source of the shouting.
      His clothing revealed that he was a man of importance, a leader of the 
      synagogue.
      But his fine garments were disheveled, his face was sweaty, and he 
      breathed heavily, as if he had been running.
               "My little one is dying! Come put your hands on her and heal her. 
               Please! My little girl..." 

Over and over he sobbed, gasping, choking on the pain.

      I recognized the desperation in his eyes;
               I had donned that look myself many a day.
Slowly I shifted my gaze, curious as to whom a respected leader like this would turn to in a moment of crisis.
His back was toward me.
I watched him wordlessly put his hand on the leader's shoulder.
      The leader's entire countenance changed, a 
      look of peace where only a moment before 
      lay                                                                                                   despair.
      He picked himself up off of the ground.
What kind of man could have such an effect on a person, let alone a person of authority?
I half-stood, straining to get a better look. 
      Suddenly he turned and his gaze rested briefly on me.
      I observed the dark shadows underneath his eyes,
      the worry lines that had formed above his nose, a testament to the 
             compassion and concern he felt for the multitude surrounding him.
      They were like children begging a doting father for sweets, and he 
      listened to them each tenderly, loving them all, but so unbelievable sad 
      to witness their                                                                         
                                                                                                           suffering.
There was something about this man that I could not put a finger on,
and I sensed something awakening within me, something I hadn't felt in awhile, something like...hope?!
      If he could calm the leader of the synagogue with just one touch, 
      then surely he could make me, a lonely, broken woman, feel the 
      same kind of peace. 
The crowd passed by and I found my legs moving me in the same direction,
      my body knowing my plan before it had even entered my thoughts.
            "I'll just reach for his robe, that's all it'll take. The crowd will hide 
             me."
I stre----tched and grabbed hold of his clothes.
      In that instant I felt a rush of inexplicable joy,
            and I wanted to laugh, to dance, to sing, to weep;
            I knew that the illness had                                             vanished.
He stopped abruptly. "Someone touched me," he said. "Who was it?"
     My heart began pounding, but some men nearby interceded, calling 
     the question unreasonable because of the throng pressing in on him.
"I know that someone touched me," he insisted.
    I stepped forward and fell at his feet, the men's faces mirroring my 
    own shock at this boldness. My body began trembling violently as
    I confessed what I had done.
He helped me up and spoke warmly, "Daughter, your faith has made 
    you well; go in peace, and be healed of your dis-ease." 
    And with that, he left.


Now, many years have passed and I am crammed around a table in
a friend's house for a secret meeting. The head of the household 
invites us to share in a meal just as the Teacher had; "Drink this to
remember the one who shed his blood for us."
     I can no longer associate blood merely with pain, for it carries
     also memories of life restored, of an uninhibited love.
            The cup has made its way to me. 
             I reach for it and drink deeply.

Monday, September 27, 2010

not-so-quiet day

Consider this Lara's birthday, part 2.

Every semester we have a Quiet Day that begins and ends with a meditation in the campus chapel. The point is to spend intentional time with God, and as a result classes do not meet. Last year I stayed on campus and spent time journaling and poem-writing. This year, I journeyed with 7 fellow seminarians to Great Falls, Va. We divided into 2 cars: the girls in one and the boys in another. We had a great time listening to music and conversing while dodging traffic (as I attempted to follow Josiah).

We hiked for awhile, talking and laughing some, me lagging behind occasionally to take pictures:







Then we made our way back to the picnic tables and shared a simple meal of egg and chicken salad, homemade pitas, hummus, vegetables, fruit, and chocolate chip cookies. Healthy, vegetarian friendly, and simply scrumptious!

After lunch we walked over to the actual falls:


And here is a group picture taken by a nice guy who happened to walk by:


We finished by playing a little frisbee (interrupted occasionally by groups of people who were doing a scavenger hunt and needed pictures with people playing frisbee for their list).

Another great day! It may not have been quiet, but it was certainly filled with God's presence.

they say it's your birthday...

I'm a week late, but I felt the need to reiterate how wonderful my birthday was, so here it goes.

Those of you who know me well know that I absolutely LOVE birthdays--and mine, in particular. I still have trouble sleeping the night before, anticipating the wonderful things that will happen the next day. Well, this year I didn't make too many plans. My day started out bright and early with a breakfast cooked by Katie and Josiah Rengers.


The menu: coffee, potatoes, fried eggs, and waffles (made with melted white chocolate chips melted into the batter). A-maz-ing. Katie and I had done a long run the night before (14 miles), so it was the perfect quiet, scrumptious start to my day!




-Katie, me, and Mike in the Rengers' apartment.

The next part of my day was filled with meetings, classes, playing flute and reading for the Eucharist. And, since David Rose and I (and Catherine Hicks) share a birthday, they sang to us at lunch--and I loved it, of course. After all of this was done I took a book outside (Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, if you were curious) and intermittently read and answered a plethora of phone calls--don't worry, Mama, I sat in the shade.

Went to dinner in the refectory and made plans to watch an episode or two of Northern Exposure with the gang later that night--a nice, quiet end to a lovely day.

Well, when 9:10 rolled around I met up with Chase and went over to the "Maywood Mansion" (an old house on campus where some of my friends live) to watch the show. I opened the door, smelled cake and was met with this sight:




SURPRISE!!!! And here was my reaction:


Totally blew my mind! So many people were there to help me celebrate. It was wonderful!!!





I want to thank all of you who left me a facebook message, called, smiled, sang, texted, emailed, hugged, cooked, baked, took pictures or simply kept me in your thoughts and prayers that day. I am blessed beyond comprehension by all of you.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

who do you say that i am?

I don't know about anyone else, but I constantly wonder what people think of me. It's something I'm working on, and I have a feeling it will be something I'll work on my whole life. Well, recently some of us have been playing a game where we tried to match up our classmates and professors with Harry Potter characters. It was great fun until I asked them what character they thought I was. They replied that I was Luna Lovegood, obviously. Of course, my insecure self jumped straight to the negative, and the only image I could come up with was of Luna wandering the halls with her glazed-over look, asking Harry if he'd seen her shoes. I protested, but they insisted that I was Luna, and after I had whined a bit one of my friends suggested that I could be Moaning Myrtle instead. Point taken--I shut up.


But for those of you who are fans of Luna, here's why I have been struggling so much with this: my whole life I feel like I have been fighting against the image of the dumb blond. I don't want to be thought of as stupid, and even though I have tried to make light of my occasional airheadedness (by coming up with obliviousmiss as a screen name, for example), it really is a touchy spot with me. And so, when they said that I was Luna, I was crestfallen because the only thing I could think of was that everyone saw me as eccentric and ditsy. But after my friends assured me that it was not meant to be a negative thing and that Luna was actually an amazing character, I decided to go back and do some research. Here is a website that explains her character in depth. For those of you who don't have the time (or interest) in looking at the site, here are some of her qualities:

Luna was placed in Ravenclaw, which means that she's smart.
She has the tendency to say strange things every once in awhile.
She has her own *ahem* sense of style (think lion hat and butterbeer necklace, for instance).
She is fiercely loyal, brave, and perceptive.



After my research, I feel humbled that my friends would see me as Luna. She is eccentric, but she is also smart and fun. Thanks, guys! Sorry for my reaction--no more whining about this from me.

Oh, by the way, has anyone seen my radish earrings?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

ode to the patio

Well, I guess I didn't have to look much farther than my backyard (in this case, the Moore patio) to find a thin place. I sat with some of my friends (old and new) and we watched the clouds turn pink, then gray, then white, and eventually fade away to reveal the rich blue night sky. We spent hours in conversation, the group waxing and waning, simply enjoying the beautiful evening and each others' company. It reminded me of being at camp--the citronella candle on the table serving as a makeshift campfire and the returning students telling the Juniors legends of students who'd graduated. Every once in awhile the conversation would dissipate and we would stare pensively at the flickering flame, lost in our thoughts. At one point I caught myself thinking, "I'm really going to miss this."

Change. It's such a complex thing. I know I'm not the only one, but I have a really hard time letting go. Both in college and now also in seminary I have had times when meeting a person for the first time where I find myself already beginning to grieve because I know that our time together is limited. Of course, I know that this is a completely ridiculous way to approach things, and yet it continues to happen. I know all-too-well the brevity of life, and am afraid to miss any moment of it, no matter how small or insignificant.

So tonight I am paying tribute to evenings spent in conversation, both with friends I am just getting to know and with those who have moved on. I am blessed to be and to have been on this journey with you all.

Monday, September 13, 2010

in the beginning...

Okay. I'm going to try not to be intimidated by the blank box staring me in the face. Does anyone else experience a feeling of excitement and anticipation when opening journals (or in this case, text boxes) for the first time? Before beginning to write the page is pregnant with potential and I am excited, albeit apprehensive, to find out what explosions of creativity will burst forth or what crazy stories I will have to write about.

It's usually not as good as I hoped.

Even in my diaries I feel this pressure (from who knows where?) to come up with clever turns of phrases or intense theological understandings or riotous anecdotes or all of the above, as if people are going to read every word I write. Fortunately, as soon as I get started the intimidation begins to wear off and I can continue on my merry way, comforted by the realization that I am not, in fact, a genius and that my words will only reach a few people at most. And that is enough.

So...why create a blog? Are the blank pages of a composition notebook not good enough? I appease myself by saying that I am being a good steward of the environment by not cutting down trees just so I can write down my mediocre musings (plus, it's faster to type than to write and, hello, we're in the 21st century!). But why not just do an online journal? Does my ego need to be stroked just a little bit more? Well, it probably does, but it's more than that: I am slowly realizing that to remain healthy it is necessary for me to process things either out loud or in writing, and since I am not good at verbalizing my feelings, I should resort to writing. I also thought that it would be a great way to connect with friends and family all over the world, to share my thoughts, experiences, sermons, songs, poems, prayers, etc. (after all, there's only so much you can post on facebook without taking over your friends' newsfeeds). Additionally, by making this public it will keep me accountable for posting on a somewhat regular basis. That's the hope, anyway.

So what's up with the blog title? What the heck are "thin places" anyway? Contrary to popular opinion, they are not locations where groups of skinny people hang out. It is actually a Celtic phrase that describes the places where the "veil" between heaven and earth is thin, where you are able to notice God's presence effortlessly. Basically, I am attempting to reflect on my life, at both the mundane and extraordinary events, and try to pick out where I see God's presence. I thought the title appropriate since I have Irish roots and, well, love Ireland and Celtic spirituality (The best explanation of thin places that I have found thus far is in this article. It's a quirky little essay but captures the essence of what I am trying to accomplish. Check it out if you get the chance!).

Well, I have reached my limit for tonight: another part of self-care is making sure to get enough sleep. Until next time!