10 years ago… An Ordination Happened!

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Laughing during the ordination service.

Ten years ago, I was ordained as a minister of the Gospel in a nondenominational church. For many years before that, I was serving in pastoral roles, but was not given the recognition of the title, “pastor.”

Some of us, like yours truly, take a long and winding road to get to ordination, partly because we don’t believe we really are supposed to be in the ministry. Or we believe the people who tell us that we “can’t do that” because of our identity.

What took me so long to become ordained?

I had to believe deep down to my toes that, yes indeed, God Called me. And then I had to speak up and say, “I’m ready. Let’s do this.”

My ordination day was shared with my friend Glenn. It was a party! A luau. A day with friends and family that is still, ten years later, very precious to me. Some of the friends have moved to other churches (or I have) and we don’t see much of each other any more. But their affirmation launched me and their prayers and commissioning spurred me onward.

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Surrounded by prayer and encouragement. (Family not pictured.)

I’m grateful for every opportunity offered to me over the years. Since the 1980s I’ve been active in ministry in many capacities. Directing choirs. Teaching classes. Writing courses, devotional guides, seminars and workshops. Administration. Leading worship. Marrying, baptizing, and burying ’em. Committees and council meetings. Mentoring and commissioning others. Going to seminary. Preaching. Protesting. Praying. Studying. Being an advocate. Standing up for the rights of the under-served and the disenfranchised. Working with like-minded Christian feminists. An ally, mom, wife, sister, and friend. Being a chaplain, counselor and midwife to the close-to-dying.

Each task has been something that, at the time, I did my best work possible. I was up late at night, or working through dinner. It meant a lot of driving, listening, and praying. Many times I messed up, teared up, or wanted to give up. But every time, the Call of the Spirit was louder than my whines.

Funny how that works…

I’ve served in churches, hospitals, out-patient clinics, sidewalks, long-term care facilities and homes. I have handed out tissues, made hard phone calls, and stood up for someone’s rights. Many times, I was the one who could hear the questions behind the words. Other times, I was afraid to be bold and confront the heartache that was as yet unnamed.

Then there’s the unexpected tasks of ministry… Unclogging toilets, sinks and floor drains. Photocopying, collating and stapling. Buying helium balloons. Calling caterers. Dealing with vandalism. Standing up to church bullies. And an infamous run to the thrift store with donated items.

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Giving the Holy Family a ride to the thrift store donation center.

God called. I answered. Sometimes with tears. Sometimes with laughter. Always with this sense of “Who me? WOW! Yes! Me!”

Other times, God said “no… this Call is not for you.” And there have been tears and questions and a struggle to trust that a “no” from the Holy is a good thing. (I’m still working on that.)

So it’s been ten years… already? And I’m up for whatever God has in store for ten more.

If you’ve read this far, you get a medal. Or maybe a cookie. Thank you for persevering with me in life (and in blogging!)

A montage of ministry pictures from the last ten years:

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Here I am, Lord.
At times I’m bruised, confused and little deflated,
Or curious, enchanted and invigorated.
But most of all,
Lord of all,
My heart sings with a song of Alleluia’s
And my clumsy feet still dance with praise!
I can’t imagine doing anything else.
But Holy One,
That’s why we do it.
You.
And me.
Together!
Soli Deo gloria!
Amen.

Doing. Nothing. (Learning about Joy)

Doing. Nothing.

In case you wondered, I’m not very good at that. My first idea for this evening was to work at finishing a project which was meant to be a present (which will be done by Christmas NEXT year). Then I was going to bake cookies. My heartfelt response? MEH! 

The only thing that really appealed to me was… nothing.

I sat with my emotions for a while, trying to understand my inner processes. My brain is tired. And my heart is hurting for some of my flock. And I’m praying in anticipation for an answer… that hasn’t been revealed yet. In short, I’m out of sorts. Grumpy. A little preoccupied. Life is in “freeze-frame” and I don’t particularly like it.

This third week of Advent is supposed to be about Joy… and while I understand intellectually and personally what “joy” means, I’m having trouble “feeling” it. There’s enough sucky stuff in the world that is weighing me down. (Yes. I know “Joy is a choice, not a feeling.” And “Joy is a spiritual gift, not a state of mind.” I’ve preached the sermons and done the Greek. I’m being real, here.)

On my walk through the outdoor labyrinth at Dayspring last week, I looked down to see this:

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THIS is Joy. Not fireworks or helium balloons or a blast of trumpets (or whatever image that is your vision of Joy.)

Joy is this time of waiting and watching… believing and praying… trusting. And waiting some more.

Joy for me is often a whisper, a hint. It’s a gnat that you can’t quite catch. It’s a lightning bug that rises on a summer night and fades away. It’s the spark in the fireplace, popping and vanishing up the chimney.

Joy is wrapped in the Divine… but it is also trapped in our humanity. And that’s where I am struggling in Advent this year.

27 Notice how the lilies grow. They don’t wear themselves out with work, and they don’t spin cloth. But I say to you that even Solomon in all his splendor wasn’t dressed like one of these.28 If God dresses grass in the field so beautifully, even though it’s alive today and tomorrow it’s thrown into the furnace, how much more will God do for you, you people of weak faith!29 Don’t chase after what you will eat and what you will drink. Stop worrying.30 All the nations of the world long for these things. Your Father knows that you need them.31 Instead, desire his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well.   Luke 12: 27-31 CEB

The love of thousands

Walking, I can almost hear the redwoods beating. And the oceans are above me here, rolling clouds, heavy and dark. It is winter and there is smoke from the fires… Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. “Be still,” they say. “Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”

Linda Hogan, Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World

L-R: crocheted lace by Claudia Bishop Harsh, tatted lace by Maurine Bishop, crocheted lace by Katherine Hengst Harsh

I came across the lace looking for something else. My grandmother, great-aunt and great-grandmother created them as trimmings for pillowcases and collars, tablecloths and handkerchiefs.

I have held these pieces of lace many times, turning over in my hands, running them between my fingers, looking at the fine crocheting and tatting. Usually I gently fold them back up and put them in a small box labeled “Logan.” (Logan, Ohio is where many of my relatives lived.) But then I realized… I could use this trim on the Lenten stole I was trying to finish!

I remembered going to church where my grandparents worshipped in Logan. If I close my eyes to remember, the sights and smells come flooding back…  The creaky sound of the carpeted floors in the sanctuary. The stained glass and dark, polished (very hard!) pews. The robes and the music… this would be a fitting use of their lovely handiwork!

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After worship at Twinbrook Baptist, Rockville, MD

When I wore my new stole at church on Sunday, I felt wrapped in the love of my family. It was a very simple stole, made of a patchwork of various purple prints, and trimmed with this crocheted lace. But I knew… my family was there in spirit, hugging my neck, represented as I prayed, and offered the Bread and Cup.

The stole was a reminder of the faith of my family through the generations to the present. They have encouraged and celebrated many milestones in my work and ministry. I am so very grateful.

Be still… watch and listen… You are the result of the love of thousands… 

I was, indeed, surrounded by their love.

Thanks be to God.

A Star Word Reflection on VITALITY: Moving to more fertile ground

We are in the lush, greening season of late spring and early summer. My flowers and herbs have been flourishing (though I did have to replant my oregano and rosemary due to winter kill). The daffodils and jonquils were spectacular and the lilacs bloomed for the first time.

Now I’m reveling in the lovely growth of the wisteria over the pergola…

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The beauty of the first rose of the season…

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And the parade of irises under the dining room window…

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For the first time, these irises bloomed, largely because I moved them out of the “deer grazing zone” and into a more protected flower bed in the back yard.

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They are lovely, aren’t they? It’s amazing what finding a new, safe place to grow will do!

My irises came to mind as I’ve been meditating on my “star word” for 2014,  VITALITY.  I’ve pondered those things that help me grow, and the growing environment where I thrive.

I am very aware that there are some times in my life where I have “tolerated” where I was planted, but did not grow, either because I was entry-level in my field, or because I was afraid to launch out and try my wings. I put down roots. I went through seasons, growing and dying back, warmed and frozen.

Then there’s the times where I’ve been in an inhospitable climate. Simply put, I was in a place where my attempts to grow and change were nibbled back. To be clear, I made choices to stay in that kind of situation. I could have left. I didn’t. At least, not immediately.

As I move forward in my career, I am aware that a good work environment has a number of factors which contribute to its hospitable-ness — the management philosophy, the worldview of the leadership, the valuation of the workers themselves, and most importantly, the variety and diversity of the workers.

I continue to grow, thrive and be surprised at what God will do. Kind of like my irises… I surprise even myself.  I was reminded that each wobbly step I take, each attempt I make, God is always there.

The waters have been deep at times. And yet, when the next step has been “into the great unknown” I have known God’s love and empowering.

This is no small thing. In fact, it’s life-changing.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fall
And there I find you in the mystery
In oceans deep, my faith will stand

And I will call upon your name
And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise my soul will rest in your embrace
For I am yours
You are mine…

From Oceans (Where Feet May Fall) by Hillsong United.

Looking back, looking ahead: Year’s End

It's a walk by faith and not by sight.
It’s a walk by faith and not by sight.

I wrote early in the year that I wasn’t much for New Year’s resolutions. I’m a fairly goal-oriented person and I tend to keep a running goals sheet. However, I also know that progress and growth only happen when one takes a step back and considers where the biggest “gaps” were between my goals and my reality.

Looking Back…

There’s a couple things that I feel good about from this last year….

I got more rest and was more active. Thanks to my FitBit One, I have a better handle on my general activity level. As a result, when I didn’t make my daily goal (an admitedly low goal of 5000 steps) I couldn’t fudge it. The numbers were there in black and white. In terms of tracking my sleep, I used the Sleep Cycle app.  I use it wake up more gently and I feel less like a zombie as a result. This sounds a bit simplistic. but the daily reminders help me keep my goals in sight. And as a result — I lost 20 pounds in 2013. And kept them off.

We saw our daughters grow through their challenges and graduate! One finished college in four years, (no small feat!) and one finished high school. Both did extremely well and stared down their personal dragons. I’m so proud of them. Love and prayers made a difference. They are both healthy and happy… and that’s huge. Thanks be to God!

I blogged more consistently and to a larger audience. I added 340 posts to my blog, which logged 11,000 views. That’s peanuts compared to many bloggers and authors, I’ll grant you. It was fun to blog in community with RevGalBlogPals, as a ViewPoint writer for EEWC, and to participate in the Rethink Church photo-a-day exercises in Advent and Lent. I’m grateful that you take the time to read this blog, and encourage you to comment. 🙂

I saw on a personal dream become a reality, and built a labyrinth. I blogged about both my progress and what I learned in the process. The experience has been the impetus for writing about the true ups and downs of a spiritual journey. There’s confusion, there’s frustration, and there’s also success (sometimes in very small steps.) And the joy is in the journey.

Looking Ahead…

Here’s my plans for growth (personally and professionally) in 2014…

Spiritually…  I’m continuing to learn how to be a person of integrity, sincerity and faith. It takes time, effort and self-discipline and I know it’s a life-long process. But here’s a few things that I’ve found to be personally helpful.

  • Lent and Advent  The Photo-a-day discipline is a simple way to focus on the major themes of Lent and Advent. I invite you to join me! A simple cell phone camera is more than adequate.
  • Pray-as-you-go  The  daily podcasts from Pray-as-you-go offer a great way to re-center in the middle of a busy day. Everything from the daily Scripture to the music during the meditation is frequently spot-on.
  • Bible reading plan  Here’s the beauty of on-line devotions: I get a daily email with links to the day’s reading. I can access it on my computer or “handheld mobile device.” This year I’ve decided to go with the Daily Office Lectionary Readings.

Professionally… I’m working towards board certification as a professional chaplain, and getting national recognition of my ordination and chaplaincy credentials with ABC-USA. This has taken a lot of writing, study and preparation (not to mention taking post-grad training). I’m also continuing to wait on the place God has in mind for job in Spiritual Care. It may be with a health-care agency, a church or a non-profit. I had some great interviews and possibilities in 2013, but I’m very aware that the Call needs to be mutual.

Personally I’m working on my continued overall fitness and weight loss. I don’t intend to run a marathon (kudos to those of you who do), but I want to keep my trend going in the right direction. I’m also continuing to find time to write, especially on long-term projects. And eventually, I may catch up with the laundry.

I’ll blog later about my Star Word and my watch word (Scripture for the year.)

There’s 10,000 reasons that I am blessed and grateful to God for this past year. I end my posts for the year with this song…