Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Thursday

I think I am writing these lists for a week now, and for a reason ~ which is not solely to remind myself to take a day off next week!

I played around a lot online early today, taking a bit of a break before the long day ahead.

And then ~

I did some writing, and

Taught the class on fasting,  and

Met with a woman who wanted to interview me for a college essay, and

Drove far west of town to visit a parishioner in rehab, and

Drove partway back to attend funeral home calling hours for the mother of a young friend, and

Drove the rest of the way back to teach the class on walking as a spiritual discipline, and

Gave up on the lecture I had planned to attend afterward, and

Came home and watched Gray's.

Every single encounter today was disconcerting in some unbloggable way.

The only bloggable disconcerting thing today was receiving a letter from my doctor's office which described a conversation that did not take place.  The same thing happened a few weeks ago, only the letter was from the denominational health people.  Either I am losing my mind, or people are planning to tell me things and then reporting that they did so when in fact they forgot.  Very strange.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Wednesday

Prepared two classes for tomorrow, one on fasting, thanks to Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline, and one on walking on the ground, thanks to Barbara Brown Taylor's An Altar in the World.

Spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get next year's health benefits right, which included calls  to both local and national church offices.

Had a loooong lunchtime conversation with representatives of two other churches and Presbytery, trying to address a possible cooperative future.

Stopped at the grocery.  Arrived home just as my father showed up, en route from Cape Cod to southern Ohio.  Long conversation with him.

Dinner at Mexican restaurant with father and son, who made a presentation on his summer clerking in the Seychelles court to an international law class at his alma mater today.

Husband is off at pottery class.  I am wiped out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Tuesday

Got up early to try to get my regular orthopedic surgeon check-up over with quickly.  Still, I was there for 45 minutes (approximately five of them with the doctor).  I think he is discouraged; he hopes that I'll bound in and exclaim, "A miracle!" ~ but in truth, the pain persists.  Ten months and three weeks.
Pastors' lectionary discussion group ~ one of the highlights of my week.  Such amazing colleagues I have!  And we have moved to a new church, so we had to try out a new restaurant for lunch.  I'd be content to go there every week.
Sermon pondering.  I'm quite stuck.  I have to be un-stuck by Friday.
Reading, reading . . . . I am reading books on change and the church for the training I'm doing in two weeks.  It's not new material for me, but it's helpful to be reading right now, as we try to launch Deep, Major, Huge Change in my congregation. 
Went to Target.  I have not been able to figure out what I did with my hats and gloves last spring.  I am sure they will show up in about March, but it's cold now.
Reviewed all those papers I was grading yesterday ~ one last time before recording the midterm grades online.  I hate grading. I hate the whole concept of grading.  I know that my students are all doing what they can . . . why isn't that sufficient?  I know which two are excelling in my area, and which two are struggling due to inadequate high school writing preparation.  Why can't I just communicate that information to whomever needs to know it?
Pulled together the bulletin material needed by the woman who will be preaching for me when I'm gone and emailed her.  It always takes a long time to write out what you do each week so that a newbie will know what to expect.
No walk today. It's cold and windy and rainy.  8:45 and my husband is sitting at the kitchen table working and my son just walked in from a client meeting.  I am very, very tired tonight.  We're an exciting group.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A Monday ~

Sometimes, I just like to list my day's activities ~

Read a big chunk of a book assigned for the transitional ministry training I'm doing in a couple of weeks ~

"Met" (by telephone) with someone who's closing in on the end of the Spiritual Exercises ~

Walked two miles through my neighborhood ~

Engaged in several emails, texts, and phone calls related to scheduling a meeting for the leaders of three churches considering some sort of new venture together ~

Scheduled my mammogram, which took 20 minutes, which is reason no. 1 of about 100 for why I avoid medical appointments ~

Taught my college class on religion and law ~

Went to the grocery ~

Graded my midterms ~

Had dinner with my husband and son ~

Finished grading the exams ~

And now I'm watching The Town with my son.

Tomorrow starts with a trip to the orthopedic surgeon,  I'm going extra early in an effort to prevent it from taking three hours from my day.  Reason no. 2 of 100.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Why Walk?

Early morning before the Toledo walk, a few weeks ago
I was a senior in high school the first time I ever walked for a cause.  I don't remember the cause, but I think it had something to do with hunger.  I don't remember the route, but it was somewhere in western Massachusetts.  What I do remember is that we walked 20 miles and my big toenails turned black and fell off.
Forty-three years later, I could not hop out of bed on a Saturday morning and walk 20 miles!  But I can walk the three or so Out of the Darkness miles for suicide prevention tomorrow, despite a still-healing ankle that slows me down and a tender tendon which I have come to accept as a permanent fact of life.
In between?  Two previous of these walks.  One last year for Diversity Day here in downtown Cleveland ~ that was a lively, colorful, sunny morning.  One down to the lake long ago to support the Museum of Natural History, where I volunteered for years.  A Komen walk the year my daughter's Girl Scout troop walked to earn a badge.  Same place as we will be tomorrow. Those are the walks which come to mind at the moment.
I'm feeling a bit wistful this morning.  It took my own experience with breast cancer to nudge me into suicide prevention work ~ grasping what all that pink had accomplished in terms of public awareness, research money, and reduction of stigma.  But this is harder.  I have tremendous support from my various online communities, where many people have read my blog for years, but few of my friends here at home come out.  I muttered something some weeks ago about the weekly summer evenings given over to a friend's birthday preparations, and people can't come up with one morning for this.  "Mom!" exclaimed my son, "A 60th birthday party versus a walk focused on suicide ~ where do you THINK people are going to go?"
Truthfully, this walk has the potential to be a lot of fun -- although the steady cold rain last year and its return predicted for tomorrow quite possibly produce(d) more misery than fun.  Some people hug and cry ~ as they do at Komen events ~ but most people talk and laugh and feel a lot of energy around the ability to DO something, which was not an option for us when it mattered most.
The money?  Our little AFSP* chapter, entirely volunteer-run, is less than a year old, from an official point of view. But several of us have been to Washington to lobby for mental health legislation.  And we are launching an effort to educate first responders in suicide awareness -- a major urban police force is eager to make our training event a quarterly opportunity.  We are on our way.
I wonder sometimes what Josh would say.  His father and brother don't say much.  His sister has been writing a series of daily FB vignettes, lovely memories of her brother.  I think Josh would roll his eyes and make a droll joke, because if he were here he would have no idea that depression can run a person down as swiftly and surely as a locomotive can.
I had no idea, either.  And maybe that's, in the end, really why we walk.  It is of some comfort to spend a morning with others who get it, in the most powerful kind of way. 
*The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is the nation's pre-eminent non-profit organization addressing suicide prevention through research, advocacy, and education.  Community walks take place across the country all fall, and campus walks all spring.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Seminary Satisfaction

Comments (mostly elsewhere) yesterday tell me that my rendition of the beginning of seminary resonated with a number of people.  I want to write a second post about how wonderful that year of my life became.
It took a few months, but I settled into my new environment.  I found a rhythm that provided me with enough time for quiet and prayer and, most importantly, I began to make a few friends, who remain good friends today.  I was surprised by how difficult that process was, but many of the students were within a year or two of college graduation and often spoke about they knew they were called to seminary because everything had fallen into place ~ admission, scholarships, jobs for them and their spouses, places to live. It took awhile to find those who persisted despite very different indications ~ those who had left behind good jobs, were taking time away from spouses and families for part of the week, had taken on second and third mortgages, were in the midst of divorces or caring for children with difficulties or paying college tuitions on top of their own, or some combination of the foregoing.  Once I found those folks, I felt a lot better, and was better able to appreciate the everything-fell-together folks as well.   We all loved seminary, but for some of us, things were seldom in place.
My one regret: I never did settle into the city beyond the immediate neighborhood (which was great for long walks).  As a friend and I realized when we were there for a day of our denominational General Assembly a couple of years later, we had discovered nothing about Pittsburgh in our time there.  We were too busy running back and forth to Cleveland and trying to remain attentive to our families ~ young adults in my case and aging parents in hers ~ to spend time out on the town with our seminary classmates. In retrospect, that's one thing I would try to do differently. 
I loved my classes.  The emphasis on the lecture method continued, but several of our professors were brilliant lecturers so, ok.  I never came to terms with Greek, but my professor was unfailingly kind and patient, and I pestered the tutors relentlessly.  I am sure that the hours I spent on that confounding language would have been far better spent on material of some use to me in ministry or in hanging out with my classmates, but so be it.
There were a few organization on campus; I got involved, became co-leader of one, and a group of us began planning an event on GLBTQ issues for the next year, designed to help us learn to negotiate controversies in our congregations, and that one in particular.
So: a solid academic experience, a developing social experience, engagement in the community, long walks, and enough solitude for a deep and contemplative life of prayer. 
If my seminary life had continued along those lines, it would have been the incredible experience I had anticipated.  As things turned out, Josh died right before my second year, and the remainder became a long marathon of endurance.  I've written about that time in my life extensively, so I won't go into it again. 
I just wanted to remember that there were, indeed, a few incredibly good and satisfying months.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

First Week of Seminary

My last post got me thinking about those first days of seminary seven years ago.
The weather was really beautiful.
During our first chapel service, one of our classmates got down on his knees and prayed on our behalf to "Father God" in language completely unfamiliar to me.  I mean, it was English, but not the kind of prayer to which I was accustomed. I decided that maybe I was not going to like chapel.
Church History ~ that was going to be fine.  I had been teaching world history for years; all I had to do was pay attention to a slightly different slant.
First OT course ~ terrific lecturer.  Dismayed to discover that that was it -- no exegesis, no debate of texts.  After six years teaching in a Jewish school, I had developed an understanding about how to approach a text that involved a lot of argument.    I missed it. 
Spiritual Formation ~ I loved this course.  I was doing my spiritual direction certificate elsewhere so I felt kind of immersed in spirituality stuff.  But this class addressed Christian spirituality from the first century onward.  A lot of the material was new to me and I was delighted.  Also we had to read Augustine's Confessions, one of those books you know you should read but never do. 
Greek ~ Oh. My. God.  What a nightmare.  Pages filled with symbols from a geometry textbook (bad memories there) and words like . . .  oh, mercifully I have mostly forgotten those words.  Words like GenitiveNominative.  (I just looked that up, so I would have another word.  I mean, what kind of words are those?) There were some other words like that.  I could never remember what any of them meant.   And really, did I care whether something happened, or had happened, or was happening?  I mean, I know the differences are significant, but I'd be happy to argue the text any old way.  I could not remember all those endings, or which ones meant what.  There was a Greek professor, rumored to be extremely demanding, who was on sabbatical that year.  I often think that, had he been there, I would have dropped out by the second week.  As things turned out,  I was merely destined to spend 40 (I counted once) hours a week for the next several months trying to learn Greek.  All of which I had forgotten by June.
One of my classmates told me in the bathroom one day that Greek made her feel closer to Jesus.  I knew for sure then that I was in the wrong place.
Greek did NOT make me feel closer to Jesus.
Lunch!  I am not such a fan of group lunches.  I usually need some solitude at that point in the day. But I discovered that lunch was the one place that everyone congregated, and if I were going to make new friends, lunch in the dining room would have to become part of my routine.
Shock ~ I looked around that dining room and thought: I am going to die.  I did not know a single person.  I was used to being the one who knew what was going on ~ 23 years in the same house, 30 in the same city, 15 in the same church, 7 at the same job.  Suddenly I was clueless. 
Kind of strange to look back.  I was so excited.  And so lonely.  And I hated Greek so very, very much.
It's really surprising that I'm in ministry today.  I wonder whether I would be better at it if I knew what the word genitive means.