Friday, December 19, 2008

Politics makes strange bedfellows...

A lot of people on my side of the political fence have their knickers all in a bunch because President-Elect Obama went ahead and invited Rick Warren to be the presiding clergy at the Inauguration.
He's anti-gay, they say.
Yes he is.
But what kind of Democrat, what kind of Christian would Obama be if he shut people out just because they disagreed with him?

As much as I loathe the position of (most) evangelical Christians when it comes to the discussion of the rights of GLBT people, what disgusts me even more is that they have become a sect that chooses to focus on a few hot button issues about which the Bible has little to say - gay rights, abortion, sex education, creationism - while neglecting the issues about which the Bible has the most to say - poverty, oppression, the marginalization of the few by the many.

My point is, how can we accuse the religious Right of having too narrow of a focus, if we then turn around and do the same?
Christian gay rights groups like Soulforce have a hell of a time just getting conservative pastors to sit down with them and have a conversation. If the Right says "We won't talk to you or associate with you because you're gay," how is the Left making things any better by saying "We won't talk to you or associate with you because you're anti-gay?"

Obama is right.
There are issues on the table that we can agree upon, and we ALL need to work together to address them.
Do I want the legal right to marry my partner? Yes.
But the guy who is sleeping on a freezing cold sidewalk tonight because he doesn't have a home and the shelter is full....well I think his issue is a little more pressing at the moment.

I recognize that I am in a privileged position to be able to say that.
I managed to make it out of my teens and through the hell of high school without killing myself, many gay kids are not so lucky.
Every minute of every day someone somewhere is verbally abused, fired, thrown out of their home, assaulted or killed, just because they don't conform to the sexual 'norm' that someone else has ingrained in their head.
And as much as some Christians would like to deny it, the words flowing from the pulpit can do as much damage, if not more, than those shouted in the street or whispered in a high school hallway.
Yes, the gay rights issue is an important issue, a life and death issue - as is poverty, oppression, health care, violence, addiction, the economy, education, and a slew of other issues that leave people homeless, helpless, and hopeless.

Jesus said, "you will always have the poor with you."
Well, I believe we will always have Christians who believe in their heart of hearts that being gay is a choice that God has forbidden. I can't get inside their heads and change their minds, and neither can Obama. That doesn't mean we can't find common ground on the 98% of the Bible that we can agree upon - feed the hungry, support the weak, strengthen the fainthearted, help the suffering, honor all beings.

We shouldn't stop talking to each other, or inviting each other to share in our common celebrations, just because we disagree on how we believe God intends for us to live in this world.

I say kudos to Obama....we finally have a Christian in the White House who pays more than lip service to Jesus' command to "love thy enemies."

Paul said "we, who are many, are one body in Christ” (Romans 12:5)
Now if we could just get the left hand and the right hand to stop bitch-slapping each other we might just get around to putting one foot in front of the other and solving some of the problems in this world.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Monday, December 15, 2008


I am now officially in decompression mode.
I emailed my last paper of the semester last night and woke up this morning high fiving God for helping me get over the first hurdle of seminary.
My winter class starts in three weeks but until then I plan on doing NOTHING.

Well....I do have one (really thick) book to read before the class starts, and I did promise my SO that I'd organize her books in her office....her hundreds and hundreds of books. Oh, and I need to do laundry today, and vacuum, and clean up all the sawdust that the maintenance guys left behind when they came to fix our ceiling (a year and a half after the rain destroyed it), and I have to drag out the SpotBot and eradicate all the kitty puke stains that have accumulated on the carpet since I left for school....but first I need to go to Bed Bath and Beyond and buy some more Bissel Kitty Puke Stain Remover for the SpotBot because we ran out (our kittys love to puke)....and THEN I can put up our Christmas decorations (and see if the $14.99 5ft Christmas tree that I bought at the Crap-o-rama, errr, I mean Christmas Tree Shop, actually looks like the picture on the box).
But first, I need to clean the kitchen....and the bathroom.

Other than that, it's time to reeeeeeeelaxxxxxxxxxx!
Hey, it will be at least three weeks until anyone asks me to explain the Trinity - cat puke here I come!

Now, here's Roomba Cat to give you a preview of my day:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Isn't Foreigner a rock band from the '70s?

A snippet of a conversation that I had with my mother on the phone last night...

Mom: Are you all finished with school?
Me: Almost, I have one last paper to write for Systematic Theology.
Mom: What do you have to write for that?
Me: Oh nothing much, I just have to explain God and the Trinity in 3000 words or less.
Mom: Well, the Trinity shouldn't take more than 15 words.
Me: (laughing) I think it will take more than that.
Mom: What's to say? The Trinity is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Me: Yes, but not every Christian tradition agrees on what that means...for example I have to explain the differences between the beliefs of the Western Church and the Eastern Church...
Mom: Oh...well, I just know what the Catholics believe. I didn't know you had to write about foreigners...

Moms....gotta love 'em.

OK boys, which one of us is going to be Mick Jones this time?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

In the home stretch...

It’s 2 am and I can’t sleep, so seeing as my every waking hour is crammed with school stuff, now is as good a time as any to blog!

Of course I won’t be able to post this until later today because the internet connection is down in the residence halls….again. So I’ll have to go over to the student center or library to get online. (yeah, they thought that T1 line they put in four years ago was plenty big enough to handle the wireless needs of a few hundred seminary students….little did they know that people would be downloading full seasons of “Heroes” from iTunes, video chatting on Skype, and playing World of Warcraft all hours of the day and night. Seriously, when do these people get their work done? (so says the one with the Slingbox streaming her cable TV signal from home to her laptop.)

The semester is over next week. I still have two group presentations to do and two papers to write but I feel as if I’m coasting towards the finish line. The presentations are complete for the most part, they just need to be presented; one of the papers will be fairly easy to knock out, and the other will probably have me tearing my hair out over the weekend, but the end is nigh, and I can feel it.

So, how do I think I did? So far so good. In my Pastoral Counseling and Creating Healthy Congregations classes I’ve gotten an A or A- on every paper, and the presentation we did tonight in the PC class went really well. In my Paul class I got an A on the one paper we had to do, and I’m feeling really good about the worship service that my group is presenting tomorrow. The one grade I’m still iffy on is for Systematic Theology. I got a B on the first paper (which I was bummed about at first but then found out from talking to other students that that’s considered a “good grade” for that class and very few get higher then that….geesh!). I’m still waiting to get back my 2nd paper, and the 3rd is due next week, so the final grade for this class is a giant question mark right now.

I wish I didn’t have to care about grades. And as I’ve heard ad nauseum since I got here: “churches don’t look at your seminary grades when they’re thinking about hiring you, so relax,” but unfortunately I can’t. I have to maintain a 3.5 GPA to keep my scholarship, so those B’s have me bumming while other people are humming. (that’s a little rhyme there, did you catch that? Give me a break it’s 2 am).

The reason why I’m bumming even more is that at the beginning of the semester I had the choice of taking one class Pass/Fail and I chose the Paul class given that we were being graded on only one paper and one presentation (you tank on one and you’re sunk).
Now it looks like I would have gotten an A in that class. Crap.

The big surprise for me this semester is how much I’ve been enjoying doing the group projects. I pretty much took the reigns on all three of them, as everyone liked my suggestions during the brainstorming sessions, I ended up designing/organizing and formatting each presentation, and kept everyone on the same page via emails. Don’t get me wrong, everyone did their fair share of the work, and added onto the ideas that I came up with, and given that most of my fellow students are working and/or have families to tend to outside of seminary I’m sure they were happy to hand off all the organizing work to the poor schmuck (me) who seemed eager to do it. But hey, it was fun being the schmuck. It felt good to come up with an idea, envision how it might play out, put it all down on paper and have people say: “this is great! Let’s do this!”

I especially enjoyed designing the worship service for the Paul class. They even let me do the bulletin (I know….schmuck) but I love doing creative stuff like that, choosing a format, picking the fonts, making a logo for the front cover, making it look all nice and professional…
Hmmm…I’m sensing that I’ve discovered that I like being in control.
The good thing is that I don’t feel like I NEED to be in control. I came up with the framework for the presentations but everyone was free to do what they wanted with their parts. And even though I designed the worship service I was happy to let someone else write and perform the sermon (a woman who I just found out today has only preached once in her life and has yet to take a preaching class…this should be interesting!)

My fear coming into seminary was that I would be the mousy one who would sit back and let everyone else take control and hold back on making suggestions out of fear of having them rejected. So it has surprised me not only that I enjoy the creative process so much, but that I have been so forward with offering suggestions, and so organized when it came to presenting them in a format that everyone could understand and then being the proactive one keeping everyone updated and on the ball.
I used to dread these class presentations when I was kid. Now I’m so excited about how well tonight’s presentation went and I’m so looking forward to tomorrow’s service that I can’t sleep.

In tonight’s class we did a presentation on Death and Resurrection and I played the role of a pastor presiding over a funeral/memorial service while the others were the voices of the grieving and the deceased. We did a communion ritual at the end to symbolize renewal and rebirth and after we finished my professor came up to me and asked, “Are you a pastor?” When I said no, her eyebrows shot up and she said “well you certainly act like one – you preside very well!”

You know, when you make the decision to turn your life upside down and dump a ton of money into following one particular path, words can’t express how good it feels to hear someone who has been on that path for many years tell you that you’ve made the right choice.

Suddenly those B’s don’t seem all that important anymore. ;-)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Homeward Bound!

Thanksgiving break is finally here!
As I write this my SO is on her way to pick me up and cart me home. I am sooooooo excited! I've been home only once since I started school - My SO has made the trip up here to see me several times but this time I'll get to spend a whole week with her at home. And I get to see the kitty cats!!
I've also spent every Sunday here church hopping to do research on field ed sites, so it will be good to be in my home church once again (cue the theme from CHEERS) "Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name..."

The fall semester is in the home stretch - I have one week of classes left - I'm participating in group presentations in 3 of my 4 classes, and the following week I have two final papers due and then I'm done! I'll be home for two weeks at Christmas and then it's back to school for a two week winter session course.

The good news is that they've revised the curriculum here at ANTS and cut 9 credits off the requirement for the MDiv degree (bringing it down to 81 credits). That means I have 3 fewer classes to take and a better chance of finishing in 3 years as planned. It also means that I can get away with taking 4 classes next semester instead of 5. Yeah!

I know I've been slacking off when it comes to updating this blog...
For the first half of the semester it seemed like I was spending every waking hour with my nose crammed in a book or pulling all-nighters to finish papers. The reading has eased up the past few weeks but I've been using the extra time to get back into my walking routine. Between eating in the cafeteria and spending most of the day with my butt parked in a desk chair or in my dorm room, I feel like I've put on the 'freshmen 15' and thensome - Just in time for the holidays! ;-)

Well, time to pack up the computer and hit the road...
I shall valiantly try to blog more during the break!
Until then - Cheers!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A new day has dawned!'s been a good day.
CT voters voted NO on having Constitutional Convention (thwarting the efforts of the anti-gay marriage folks).
A slew of women got elected to the senate, including surprises in New Hampshire and North Carolina (goodbye Elizabeth Dole!).
Oh......and a 47-year-old African American man is our NEW PRESIDENT.
I haven't been this happy after an election in 12 years.

And Kudos to John McCain for his concession speech.
He did a gracious job of waving off the boos and recognizing his opponent for the good man he is, and heralding Obama's accomplishment as worthy of the admiration of all Americans.
McCain actually looked joyfully relieved.
Now he can go back to being the Independent Maverick that he was and stop mouthing the Republican party line. And c'mon....the guy is 72-years-old. I'm sure he'll be happy to sleep in tomorrow and go back to hitting the early bird special at Denny's.

Oh, and the best thing about waking up tomorrow to an Obama presidency?
(at least until some nimrod convinces her to run in 2012)


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

That's PRESIDENT Pinko to you Mr McCain!

The best quote of the day...

Barack Obama's response to Sarah Palin and the McCain campaign's attempt to link him with yet another "radical professor" as proof that he is a (wink) secret terrorist intent on bringing down the country:

OBAMA: "I don't know what's next. By the end of the week, he'll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten. I shared my peanut butter and jelly sandwich."


BTW - I don't think Obama is the one we should be afraid of...

Monday, October 27, 2008

Homework? What homework?

Here's a little pre-Halloween personality quiz....

What Your Cute Monster Says About You

You are a deep, thoughtful, down to earth person. You don't put much stock in appearances.

You are never superficial or flippant. You take time in life to study, learn, and get to know people well.

You inner demon is laziness. You can get so caught up in your own world that you neglect everything around you.

People think you're cute because you're intelligent. Your wit and wisdom are charming.

Lazy? Silly blog quiz, I'm not lazy, I'm just temporarily diverting my attention away from my Systematic Theology reading by posting inane quizes on my blog.
Now I'm going to divert my attention some more by playing video games on my iPhone...

Oh....and I picked the brown monster because it reminded me of a little reindeer. :-)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Midterm Meanderings

I had papers due in all four of my classes last week so I’ve been taking it easy this week (meaning I only have to read 500 pages and write 1 paper instead of read 700 pages and write 4 papers). Now that I’m over the midterm hump I have a chance to catch my breath before starting round two.

Things are going really well, I’ve managed to keep up with the work and my classes are all very interesting. I’m really glad that I chose to skip over some of the intro courses. I was nervous about jumping right into Systematic Theology in my first term but thankfully my undergrad classes in religion prepared me well.....go ahead, ask me what hypostatic union means, I dare ya!

The big news is that I am now officially “In Care” in my local UCC association – yay!
The interview went well and I made it back to Boston in plenty of time to make my evening class.

It felt good to be home for a few days. My SO has come up to visit every couple of weeks but I hadn’t been home in 5 weeks. The kitty cats were certainly happy to see me! With my SO at work all day and me gone, the cats have been starved for attention. They spend every evening jockeying for position next to her on the couch and if she talks to me on the phone for too long they start fighting. It’s like having a couple of 3-year-olds. Now, if we could just get them toilet trained...

An old friend of mine was in town last weekend so we spent two days traipsing around Boston. It was good to get out of my cell….errrr…I mean dorm room for awhile. I haven’t seen much of Boston since I got here, other than the inside of a few churches. We walked along the Charles and watched the annual Regatta races, and ate way too much food at Quincy Market. She brought along an old friend of ours who is originally from Russia but he's been living in Boston for 30 years. He’s a physicist at MIT and he spends his free time translating the works of Marx into English. Fun, fun, fun!
Needless to say, he didn’t quite get the whole ‘theological school’ thing. While he didn’t quite drop the old “religion is the opiate for the masses” line, he made several comments that were a subtle attempt to bait me in a ‘religion vs reality’ debate. I didn’t take the bait. It’s nearly impossible to explain a faith-based philosophy to someone who has no experience with faith. It’s hard to explain one’s experience of God with someone who believes they’ve had no such experience because there is no God. It’s like trying to explain music to someone who is tone deaf. Sorry, not going there.

As Anselm said, theology is simply faith seeking understanding.
And the fact that I am at a place where I can gather with other believers and spend my days seeking such an understanding, and they call it ‘school', just thrills me to no end.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lost in Cyber Space

Ok, so I thought I posted this update back in September but for some reason it never made it here and I don't know why (cyber bugs? faulty connection? I was too brain dead to hit the 'Save and Submit' button [my money's on the last one])
So, better late than never here's my last post:
(with an updated update to follow soon)

Seminary Ketchup
September 27, 2008

I’m supposed to be writing a paper on Paul and his pastoral strategy….
So it seems like a good time to update my blog <cough…procrastination>

I’m busy, busy, busy. Classes only began three weeks ago and I’ve already written two papers, read about 3,000 pages, and been labeled as “boring” by the extrovert who lives 3 doors down from me. Mainly because every time she knocks on my door (which is 5 times a day) I’m always “too busy studying to hang out and have fun.”
Which is not quite true.
I did venture into Boston with her last Sunday to see a movie at the Museum of Fine Arts. But she’s right. I definitely go into ‘hermit-mode’ whenever I’m not in class or attending some school event.
I have to. Otherwise I’d go nuts.
Monday through Thursday I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the cafeteria, and that’s close to 3 hours a day of just socializing, which for those of us of the introverted persuasion is a stretch. Pack a 3 hour class each day on top of that, most of which involve some form of group discussion, daily morning chapel service, Wednesday Community Chapel, a bi-weekly meeting of our Spiritual Formation covenant group, and numerous special events, info fairs, and fellowship gatherings that occur on campus nearly every day, and I NEED to squirrel myself away in my room every now and then, not just to study but to recharge my batteries.

Miss Extrovert down the hall doesn’t quite get that. She wants to “study together out on the quad” and since we’re not in any of the same classes I’m guessing that her idea of “studying” is sitting around chitchatting with books propped open on our laps.
Yeah. No.
This girl is the anti-me. I love how quiet it gets here on the weekends. She can’t stand it. Give me a book and 3 hours alone in my room and I’m happy as a clam. She’s climbing the walls after 30 minutes. Yet we’re living on the same floor, we’re in the same Spiritual Formation group, and she’s claimed me as her ‘seminary best friend’ because I helped her move in.
God definitely has a sense of humor.

Last Sunday I went to Old South Church, a UCC church near the Boston Public Gardens. It was the first stop on my “Tour of potential Field Ed sites.” I have to do two semesters of internship next year (15-20 hours a week) so my goal this year is to take a peak at as many of the churches on our site list as I can. Unfortunately, most of the churches on our school’s list are either outside of Boston or not easily reachable by public transportation, so my SO and I may need to think about getting a second car. I don’t want to limit myself the handful of churches that are near T stops – getting the right fit is more important than how I’m going to get there. Although Harvard Div has a few local sites on their field ed list which we’re allowed to use, so I may check those out next.
Why am I worrying about this now? Because I have to start the search process next semester and it will be here before I know it!

This past Tuesday we had an all-school “Community Day” – classes were cancelled and we all went off the hill in groups to work in the surrounding community. One group worked on a Habitat for Humanity house, one did some neighborhood canvassing for a local non-profit, and our group sorted and packed food at the Boston Food Bank. It was a blast and when we got back to campus we had a barbecue on the quad.

I finally got the report from the psych evaluation I had done at the end of July (yes it’s official, I’m crazy). So the next step is my interview with the Council on Ministry on Oct. 7, which if all goes well will officially give me “In Care” status in my local association.
To get to the meeting my SO will have to come up to Boston and bring me home for the weekend (yay!) so I can attend the interview on Tuesday morning, and then I’ll drive back to Boston, hopefully getting here in time to make my 6:00 class. Of course, all of this back and forth traveling will happen the weekend before I have major papers due in 3 of my classes.

Speaking of which, I better get back to Paul and his pastoral strategy (….something about the women staying silent and the men staying celibate….Paul apparently was not overly concerned with marketing strategies or church growth).

Ketch you later - Happy Fall!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ok, so I couldn't resist....

This is just too funny...

And as John Stewart so astutely pointed out, for those of you who have been wondering where you've seen Sarah Palin before:

She's the sexy librarian from every Cinemax movie!!
(not that I've ever watched those movies ;-)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

God is still speaking...

So I've made it through 3/4 of my first week of classes and so far so good. The professors are great and the work, while voluminous, is doable.
I'm taking Systematic Theology, Pastoral Care in Congregations, Creating Healthy Congregations, and Paul as Pastoral Strategist. It's a good mix of theory and practice, and I was happy to discover that most of the papers I have to write are less along the lines of academic/research papers and more reflection/theory. We're not expected to just regurgitate the facts and ideas of theologians who came before us, instead we're asked to integrate our own theology with that of classic and modern thinkers and defend/critique those beliefs.

For the most part I haven't had too much trouble functioning as an introvert among many extroverts; everyone here is so friendly and we're all a bunch of church nerds, so I have no problem plopping my tray down at a lunch table and joining in on a conversation about the misogyny of 1 Timothy, the problem of enacting change in older congregations, and what curriculum we used in Sunday School last year. (I know it may sound incredibly boring to some but it's incredibly exciting to me ;-)

Today though, was an off day.
In my Paul class yesterday there were mainly 2nd and 3rd year students, and everyone else seemed to be able to burst forth with these insightful and brilliantly expressive comments on the text, while I sat in intimidated silence (and was never called on the few times that I did raise my hand, which made me feel even more invisible.)
Coming off of that, this morning I just felt out of sync. I walked into the dining hall for breakfast and all the seats were taken at the one table where everyone had gathered so I ended up sitting by myself at another table.
In my Systematic Theology class I was the
only first year student among mainly 3rd years, so everyone else knew each other and moved their seats into clusters while I ended up with empty seats all around me and feeling pretty isolated. I did manage to join a study group though, simply by saying "Can I join your group?" (which is a helpful tip for introverts: when feeling isolated, force your way in ;-)
After class, nearly everyone stayed behind to continue to "catch up" with each other so I walked to the cafeteria alone and ended up sitting with more upper level and D.Min students that I didn't know, and who didn't seem too interested in getting to know me (::sigh::, I miss newbie orientation already!)

One 3rd year student did talk to me; she's in the midst of writing her ordination paper and she gave me helpful advice about the classes I'm taking and the ordination process, but she's like the UCC ministerial candidate poster child - well-dressed, articulate, she easily expressed her concepts of ministerial leadership and Christian faith - I couldn't help but look at her and think "here's a woman who will have no trouble finding a job when she graduates," and at the same time think "I'm not even in the same league as she is so what hope do I have?"

So I finished my lunch, walked back to my room alone and flopped down on the bed. Thinking that the strain of not getting enough sleep, taking new classes, being away from my SO, and my need for an 'introverts recharge' after a very social 2 weeks was the cause of my 'out-of-syncness,' I just laid there for 20 minutes until I literally ended up in a fetal position.
When I looked at the clock and saw that it was 12:55, I forced myself to get up and go over to the chapel to attend the weekly Unitarian Universalist worship service. I needed a pick me up and I knew some of the UU students, so I thought what the hell, better to mope in public than in private!
I'm glad I went.

I commiserated with some the other newbies who are also feeling their newbieness for the first time as we mix with the upper level students, I got to sing some UU hymns that I haven't heard in years and were always my favorites when I was a UU, and we heard a great sermon that used the imagery of ripening fruit as an analogy for the path we're on in seminary. The woman speaking talked about her mother who suffers from dementia, and one day while they were picking plumbs in her garden her mother told her to pick "only the ones that want to come." Her mother no longer had the ability to recall the word "ripe" but she still could express the idea of what the word meant. "Like fruit on the vine, none of us should be picked before we have ripened," the woman went on to say in her sermon, "and when we are ready, we will come." It was then that I realized that in comparing myself to all these 3rd year students I was looking at the ripened fruit and allowing myself to feel inadequate because I still have a ways to go before I get to that point.
But I will get there.

I made some new friends at the UU service and got an invite to an art class they're having tonight. I headed back to my room feeling much better then I did this morning, and to top it all off, I ran into one of the women in my building who handed me a vase full of gorgeous flowers and asked me if I could keep them in my room while she was away for the weekend visiting her spouse. "I'm afraid that they won't retain their beauty if there's no one there to look at them," she said.

It's been a great day.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Newbie news...

Ok, now that I've gotten my apartment set up, agonized over being separated from my SO, had my first "oh-my-God!" moment when I saw the syllabuses for my classes, and dealt with a few new-student jitters, I can honestly say....I freakin' LOVE this place!

Yesterday was the first day of orientation, and they had us running from 8am through 8pm with activities - opening worship; faculty introductions; info sessions on field ed, the computer system, spiritual life, and financial aid; we met with our program advisers, our faculty advisers, had a tour of the campus and the library, met with our spiritual formation groups, which we'll continue to meet with during the year, had an all-school picnic, and finished up the night with an impromptu campfire sing-a-long complete with guitar & banjo, s'mores, and a rousing rendition of Kumbaya. The campus is beautiful. It's on a wooded hill-top with lots of great, old buildings, and as I sat last night watching the flames popping in the fire pit and listening to the crickets alongside the strumming guitar, I was so glad that I chose to come here rather than NYC. I've already made a ton of new friends, gotten lots of advice on what classes to take, and been invited to join study groups.

The whole day was energizing. The faculty is amazing. As they spoke it was obvious that every single one of them is extremely passionate about teaching; they were all so down-to-earth and funny, yet brilliant and inspiring. Despite their revered reputations in the academic world they all seem so approachable and are truly invested in their students lives. The problem is, now I want to take ALL of their classes! ;-)

But the crowning moment came when the President of the seminary spoke about the history of the school (as the oldest graduate seminary in the country) and it's reputation for innovation, social justice, and counter-culture thought. "We welcome those of you who are counter-culture and encourage you to be true to yourselves," he said. "We've had some pretty freaky people come here, and we wouldn't have it any other way."

Anytime the president of a seminary uses the word "freaky" - in a postive way - you know you're in a special place.

I have never been more certain that I am were I need to be.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

View from the Penthouse...

As promised, here are some photos of my completed room here at Seminary.
It's about the size of a budget hotel room but it's plenty of space for what I'll be doing in it (eat, sleep, study, repeat every day for 3 years).
It pretty much looks like page 57 of the Ikea catalog, apart from the nifty coffee table which I got at a church tag sale for zero$ (thanks Michelle!).
It's small, it's functional, and it's all mine. :-)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I'm finally here!

Well, I’ve been in Boston since Monday and I finally feel settled enough to devote some time to blogging so here’s my first Seminary Ketchup!

  • Sunday went a lot smoother than I thought it would, or feared it would. Uhaul called us on Friday to let us know that the equipment we had “reserved” was in high demand in our area and they weren’t sure where they were going to send us to pick it up. Fabulous. I had to be at church by 9:30 to preach and the Uhaul place didn’t open until 9:00. I had visions of dropping my SO off to get the truck and then racing to get me to the church on time. I don’t know if it helped or not, but my SO played the clergy card and told the Uhaul women that our pickup location better be close cuz I had me some preaching to do! Lo and behold Uhaul called us back on Saturday and said they had a truck available that afternoon and we could pick it up a day early at no extra charge. (Yes, this is UHAUL we’re talking about, the company where ‘customer service’ and “hey, it’s not my problem if we ran out of trucks lady” are usually synonymous). They also set our return date as the 2nd rather than the 1st so we actually got a 4-day rental for the price of 2. Of course, our return location got changed at the last minute and we had to spend even more time negotiating Boston’s confusing roadways to get the truck back……one-way-streets, rotaries, commercial roads with steel dividers down the middle and right exits that make you go 5 miles out of your way before you can make a turn to get to something on the other side of the road….when New Englanders say “you caan’t get thaare from haere” they ain’t kidding!
  • I did my final preaching stint on Sunday and was overwhelmed by the generosity of my home congregation. Our pastor organized a seminary-send-off ritual in which I was presented with gifts and the entire congregation did a laying on of hands. The gifts were amazing: a bicycle chain bracelet, to remind of the past that brought me to this present; a framed blessing that my Pastor received from her pastor when she went off to seminary, given to me with the hope that one day I will have someone special in my congregation who is seminary-bound to pass it along to; and VERY generous gift check donated by members of the congregation which will pay for a good chunk of the many, many books I’ll need to buy for school. Thank you to you all!!!
  • My SO and I packed up the Uhaul on Sunday afternoon, and threw the cats into a panic as they were locked in the bedroom/bathroom while furniture and boxes were going out the door (Kitty Brain: we’re not moving again!!!). We hit the road at 7am Monday morning and found surprisingly little traffic – thank God for Staycations!
The conversation on the way up:
SO: It’s going to take us forever to unload this truck by ourselves (we had help loading it).
Me: Nah, this is a seminary, it’s a place full of givers - people will see us with our truck and naturally offer to help – I know I would!
SO: What world are you living in??

  • We got to Boston just before 10am and proceeded to spend 2 hours unloading the truck…by ourselves. Quite a few people walked by and said “hello” but no one offered to help. Welcome to the real world mocat! Lesson number one: Even aspiring pastors can be putzes. Oh, and did I mention that my apartment is on the third floor and there’s no elevator? Actually, I’m glad I’m on the third floor. It’s quieter and more private with no foot traffic going by. In fact, I think I ended up with the best unit (for me) in the building. I’m on the top corner so I have neighbors on only two sides instead of four, and there’s a lovely bunch of trees right in front of my windows so I have privacy and a great view. I’m also on the quad side rather than the parking lot side, which means it’s quieter and I get the morning sun instead of the blazing hot afternoon sun (of course I may be singing a different tune in the winter!). My building is on the left in the photo above, my unit is on the corner behind the trees.
  • I spent the last two days puttering and now have my apartment set up to my satisfaction. I’ve posted some ‘before’ shots of the mess below, I’ll take some ‘after’ shots tomorrow and post them so you can all see my humble abode in all it’s glory. ;-)

  • Another reality check: In ten minutes I dropped $450.00 in the bookstore – for four classes. Each class has 4-7 books on the required texts list, and one class has an additional 9 books on the ‘partially required’ list – which means I’d be spending an additional $250 on books in which I may be required to read only one chapter in each. Uh-uh, not gonna happen. I’m going to take my resident hall representative’s advice and take the “partial” books out of the library.
  • Reality check number three: My Systematic Theology class has an 8 page syllabus, and another 8 page list of books by theologians of every possible stripe of which we have to choose one to read concurrently with our other 15 required books. We have four assigned papers, an in class presentation, and discussion groups that we need to meet with on a regular basis outside of class. The class has 54 students in it, and ‘class participation’ is a good chunk of our grade (I’m used to being the only one in class who participates so this should be interesting as we all try to out shout each other). Our first paper is due the second day of class.

As my SO says: Welcome to Grad School!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

T-minus 6 days and counting...

I’ve been cleaning out my home office in anticipation of my move to Boston, and I figured it was time to stop procrastinating and clean out the cobwebs over here as well.

So here’s my long overdue ketchup list!

  • The pile of things I’m taking with me to seminary is ever growing. I have an unfurnished studio apartment on campus so the pile is my attempt to make it “furnished.” My SO and I have tossed aside the silly notion of making several car trips (at 3 hours, 300 miles, and $60 a tank of gas each) and have decided to rent a Uhaul and do it all in one shot. My previous experience with Uhaul’s “reservation” system has not been pleasant (truck? what truck? someone told you we had a truck?), so we’ve got our fingers crossed that all goes smoothly when we pick up our Mini-Mover on Sunday morning.
  • Speaking of Sunday morning – they’re giving me a big send-off at church and my pastor asked me if I would like to preach. “Sure!” I said – being fully confident that the germ of an idea that I have for a sermon will somehow coagulate into coherent sentences and spill itself out onto paper by Saturday night. I have a quiet morning ahead of me (my SO is up at school tutoring and preparing for teacher meetings that start tomorrow), and I still have 6 days to finish packing/piling, so now is the perfect time to get to work on my sermon….or update my blog. (Hell, a sermon is just a blog post with scripture thrown in, so technically I’m not procrastinating…)
  • Last Sunday was my last pulpit fill-in at the Twilight Zone church. It was a great experience and a good learning opportunity as I got into a rhythm of writing a fresh sermon every week (or updating one that I’d given at another church, wink, wink). They still haven’t found an interim minister, and given the lethargic atmosphere of the congregation, I can understand why. They may be more of a challenge then someone looking for an interim position is willing to take on. There was one woman who very persistently asked me every time I preached to “hurry and get done with school so you can come back and be our minister.” As flattering as that sounds, I felt myself cringing inside every time she said it. The place needs a top to bottom overhaul – music, religious education programming, outreach, new member attraction – from creating a welcoming and dynamic worship environment to recruiting readers/liturgists who don’t mumble and stare at the floor the whole time they’re at the podium – you know, the little things. They have the means to turn themselves around (we’re talking million dollar endowment) but not the desire. The mostly elderly congregation is perfectly happy with the way things are, as they watch their church dying around them. Maybe in three years time I’ll feel ready, willing and able to take on such a challenge, but right now I wouldn’t even know where to start!
  • Next up on the ketchup list is a milestone (of sorts) for me. Having worn glasses since the age of nine, I just got my first pair of “oh-my-God-I’m-over-40” eyewear. Yes, I am now sporting ‘progressive lenses’ – which is the hip way to wear bifocals without feeling all old and Ben Franklin-y. Surprisingly, they were a lot easier to adjust to than I thought. They do make my head spin ala Vertigo if I’m up and moving around a lot, where my eyes need to shift up and down, or side to side rapidly, but thankfully my distance prescription is pretty much the same so I can throw on my old, non-granny, glasses when needed. (see, this is why people read my blog, for fascinating tid-bits just like this!)
  • On a more exciting note, I did clear one more hurdle on my path to ordained ministry – I made it through the dreaded two-day psychological evaluation that my local UCC association requires before entering the In Care process. After filling out reams of paperwork prior to my visit, my SO and I traveled up to Dedham Massachusetts to the Career Development Center so my mind could be further poked and prodded. I met with a career counselor, took yet another personality test (567 yes or no questions, such as “Do you think someone is following you?” or “Would you like to be a Flight Attendant?”), and then spent two hours talking to a clinical psychiatrist; a lovely 85-year-old man who labeled me as “stubborn” when I told him I didn’t like wearing dresses. Seriously, it went very well, the process helped me to realize that I already have some of the skills needed to be an effective minister, even if I often fear that I don’t; and despite my struggle with self-esteem issues, I have accomplished a lot in my life and overcome many obstacles to get where I am today, and I have to own that and use it to belay the fears I have about failing as I move forward on the path to ordained ministry. It did help to get a professional opinion on whether I have what it takes to be a good pastor, but for the most part all the hours spent writing, testing and talking didn’t tell me much that I didn’t already know. They gave me an official Myers-Briggs test that said I was – SURPRISE - an INFJ......Sheesh, a 5-question internet test would have told me that. ;-) And while the career aptitude test that I took had “Minister” ranked at number three on my list of potential “Helping” career choices (a sub category), overall the top five career choices they had for me were:
  1. Recreation Therapist
  2. ESL Instructor
  3. Parks & Recreation Manager
  4. Technical Writer
  5. Chiropractor

So there you go, if this ministry thing doesn’t work out I can head off to the woods, set up a volleyball tournament for the hikers, teach English to Senior Yogi Bear, and give neck and back adjustments to RV drivers.

On second thought, that sounds so much better than refereeing arguments over the color of the carpet in the sanctuary…
Screw seminary, Yellowstone here I come!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

All I want to know is...

Where can I buy one??

Yet another personality test...

Your result for The Brutally Honest Personality Test...

Freak- INFJ

7% Extraversion, 67% Intuition, 27% Thinking, 67% Judging

Well, well, well. How did someone like you end up with the least common personality type of them all? In a group of 100 Americans, only 0.5 others would be just like you. You really are one of a kind... In fact, I do believe that that's one of the definitions for the word "FREAK."

Freak's not such a bad word to describe you actually.

You are deep, complex, secretive and extremely difficult to understand. If that doesn't scream "Freak!" I don't know what does. No-one actually knows the REAL you, do they?

You probably have deep interests in creative expression as well as issues of spirituality and human development.

You've probably even been called a "psychic" before, because of your uncanny knack to understand and "read" people without quite knowing how you do it. Don't fret. You're not actually psychic. That would make you special and you'll never accomplish that.

You're also quite possible the most emotional of them all, so don't take this all too hard. Nevertheless you most definitely have the strangest personality type and that's not necessarily a good thing.


If you want to learn more about your personality type in a slightly less negative way, check out this.


The other personality types are as follows...

Loner - Introverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving

Pushover - Introverted Sensing Feeling Judging

Criminal - Introverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving

Borefest - Introverted Sensing Thinking Judging

Almost Perfect - Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving

Loser - Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving

Crackpot - Introverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging

Clown - Extraverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving

Sap - Extraverted Sensing Feeling Judging

Commander - Extraverted Sensing Thinking Perceiving

Do Gooder - Extraverted Sensing Thinking Judging

Scumbag - Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Perceiving

Busybody - Extraverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging

Prick - Extraverted iNtuitive Thinking Perceiving

Dictator - Extraverted iNtuitive Thinking Judging

Take The Brutally Honest Personality Test at HelloQuizzy

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Over The Hedge

So, I awoke bleary eyed this morning after staying up until 2 in the morning watching the All-Star game (is the National League EVER going to win one of these things?!), only to be greeted for the 3rd day in a row by the sounds of destruction outside my bedroom window.
Our city is in the process of removing trees from the hillside behind our house.
Trees that have probably been there for over 100 years.
We live in an 1850’s farmhouse that was converted into a school in 1926 and now houses 4 faculty apartments for the school that now resides across the road.

Prior to 1926, this was farmland but given the steepness of the hill out back it was probably never cleared for planting.
So these are some old trees.
And in 3 days the city has reduced them to timber and sawdust.
All in the name of progress.

There’s a small municipal airport next door and the FAA has told them they can’t use their longest runway for large planes unless they make the approach ‘safer’ for the pilots. In other words, the trees are being sacrificed so the boys with the big toys can play in our neighborhood too.
The airport is primarily used by hobbyists.
Small bi-planes that take off on the weekend or are used as transportation during the week. In the past few years we’ve seen (and heard) more and more corporate jets.
And they’re getting bigger.
And louder.
And to attract even more of these rich boy-toys to the city, along with the money they bring, the city has decided that several thousand acres of trees need to go.

Here's what they've done so far:

Our neighbor's house -
It used to be nestled in the woods, now it's surrounded by barren ground.

I heard the heart-wrenching sounds of destruction all day Monday but I couldn’t see where it was coming from. I was hoping that it was up the road or on the other side of the ridge. Yesterday the sounds got closer, and when I walked out of the house my heart dropped into my stomach. Our lush, green hillside had been stripped raw.
Gone are the majestic trees and all the wildlife that called those woods home.
The deer, the wild turkeys, the birds, the woodchucks, the squirrels.
The tree frogs who serenade us at dusk, just as they do every summer, fell silent last night.

I’m not against destruction for the sake of progress.
I know that we wouldn’t have schools, churches, hospitals, grocery stores, etc. unless land had been cleared to make way for them.
What I am opposed to is stupid destruction.
If the trees at the top of the ridge are causing problems for pilots, fine, trim them down.
Why did the entire hillside need to be stripped bare??
Even the small saplings, low bushes and underbrush growing on the slope closest to our house have been ripped out.
We have several large trees directly behind our house that they’ve left untouched (thank God) but they tower above everything that was on that lower slope. There was no reason to tear all of that underbrush out. Unless the planes plan on flying 10 ft off the ground it’s just pure stupidity. Destruction for the sake of destruction.

As I started out on my daily walk yesterday I saw the huge machines responsible for all the noise, pushing down 100 ft trees as if they were weeds. Men in hard hats stood around admiring their handiwork.
Meanwhile I was picking my way through beer cans and McDonalds trash that had been discarded in the grass at the side of the road, thrown from passing cars without a thought.

I just don’t understand the disconnect that exists in the minds of those who throw trash out windows and tear down trees just because they can.
It goes beyond self-centered arrogance; it comes from a lack of respect, a lack of connection, a lack of love and unbridled awe that one feels in the presence of the natural world.
It makes me sick to my stomach.
But it also makes me sad.
People who throw trash from windows and destroy entire ecosystems for the sake of unnecessary progress don’t know what it is they’re missing.
Have they ever watched the sunrise and felt joy?
Have they ever planted something and watched it grow?
Have they ever sat outside in the evening and listened to the peepers that signal the coming of spring?
Have they ever seen a waterfall? Climbed a mountain? Or walked a wooded path in the rain?
Have they ever had a moment where they looked out at the natural world and said, “God, that’s beautiful!”?
I doubt it.
If they had, they would never throw trash out of a window, or knock down a tree that didn’t need to be knocked down.

Please say a prayer for all the trees that died on our hillside this week, for the animals that lost their homes or didn’t get out in time when the machines came, for the people who fail to recognize the gift that God has given us in the form of creation, and the responsibility that we have as designated caretakers.

Go hug a tree today.
And while you’re at it, thank God for putting it there in the first place.
And pray that it will still be there tomorrow.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Ten years ago today, on July 3, 1998, I awoke to a morning much like this one.
Bright, sunny, with a simmering mugginess that told me it was going to be a hot one.
On that particular morning I was far away from my Long Island home.
I was in a hotel room in Fitchburg Massachusetts, preparing for the second day of a 4-day bike race. A race that I had trained and planned for, for over a year.
Bike racing was my life. I worked in a bike shop. I rode my bike to work 26 miles every day. I did three-hour rides on Saturdays and on Tuesday nights I cycled over to the park after work and rode another 30 plus miles. I rode with a group of guys who try as they may just couldn’t shake me off their wheel as we did endless laps until sunset.

I did this all in preparation for Sunday. Sunday was my holy day. Sunday was race day. I’d wake up at 4:30 in the morning and head off to Central Park or Prospect Park, where each week I tried to duplicate my Tuesday night success, but in a larger field of much stronger riders, I just couldn’t keep up. But that didn’t stop me from trying.
Sunday after Sunday, year after year.
I had just enough success to keep me in the game, to keep me chasing the ever-elusive carrot. To keep coming back for more despite the effect my obsession was having on my life.
With endless hours spent in the saddle I had little time for friends and family, and God help anyone who tried to talk to me on a Sunday morning - when pre-race nerves and post-race disappointment colored my mood for the entire day.

Now, take this Sunday morning pre-race mood and magnify it a hundred times.

That’s how I felt on the morning of July 3, 1998.
I had traveled to Fitchburg alone, as none of my teammates was available to make the trip.
They had chosen to stay home with their friends and families on this 4th of July weekend.
But I could not be swayed to do the same.
And unbeknownst to me, someone, something, was trying to sway me.

From the minute I got onto the Wantagh Parkway to head up to Fitchburg, something was just not right.
I couldn’t stop crying.
And I didn’t know why.
Though I had many reasons to cry.
I was lonely – my friends were growing tired of my using training and racing as an excuse not to do things with them on the weekends.
The relationship I was in at the time was not only going nowhere, it was an emotional drain that was sucking the life right out of me, and I had to admit to myself that despite my endless trying, I could not fix it and I had to let it go.
And then there was the racing.
I was scared – what if I failed, again? What if my year of intensive training resulted in yet another disappointment? What if I finally had to accept the fact that cycling was just not my thing - that it was no longer worth the time and energy I was putting into it?
I was 32-years-old. I had been riding since I was 15. I had worked in a bike shop since I was 18.
My identity and sense of self-worth was wrapped up in this sport.
If I didn’t have my bike, who would I be?

I was scared and I was lonely and all I could do was cry.
I was crying because I was hearing a voice that I didn’t want to acknowledge.
God was whispering “enough,”
but I was too stubborn to hear.

When I arrived in Fitchburg and checked into the hotel the crying continued.
I was up half the night and by morning my head was throbbing with a numbing pain, as if something inside of me was trying with all it’s might to push its way out.
I warmed up for the day’s race and 10 minutes before the start I noticed my rear tire was going flat. In a panic I whipped the wheel out of the frame, changed the tire, and made it to the start line with only 30 seconds to spare.
16 years of racing and I had never had a flat tire outside of training.

God was whispering “enough,”
but I was too stubborn to hear.

The first day of racing, on the 2nd of July, was a Time Trial. Each rider alone against the clock, set off at one minute intervals.
13 miles of hills and unfamiliar roads, and I knew from the minute I rolled off the start ramp that something was wrong.
I couldn’t get into a rhythm, my chain skipped over the gears every time I shifted, and my heart rate was way too high for the speed I was going.
Riders who left the start house after me were passing me – first one, then two, than five, then ten.
I felt as if I was pedaling in quicksand.
On the final hill up to the finish line I got out of the saddle and channeled every last ounce of my energy into turning over the pedals. And after I crossed the line I spent a good 20 minutes bent over the handlebars trying to catch my breath and waiting for the spots to dissipate from eyes. I had never ridden this hard in my life.
And what did I have to show for it?
I came in 2nd to last. Every rider but one was better than me on that day.
In defeat, I turned to ride my bike back to the hotel and I noticed that it didn’t want to move.
I looked down to see the back wheel had shifted sideways, and it was not only rubbing against the brakes it was rubbing against the frame.
In my haste to fix my flat at the start line I had put the back wheel in crooked.
I had just ridden 13 miles with my brakes on the whole way.

God was whispering “enough”,
but I was too stubborn to hear.

The next day, July 3rd, we would race 18 miles as a group on the streets of downtown Fitchburg. 18 miles, 6 laps, with a nasty hill thrown in for good measure. I lined up with 50 other women and we started off on the first lap. On the backside of the course we had just begun a quick descent before tackling the hill when two women touched wheels at the front of the pack and the whole field went down like dominoes.
I was floating at the back and as women crashed all around me I saw a gap open up between two piles of riders. I aimed my bike for the gap and for a split second I believed that I was home free. Only me and a handful of other women would survive the crash and we’d ride alone to victory as the rest scrambled to catch up.
But it was not to be.
With the yawning break of daylight looming before me I felt my stomach drop as my back wheel suddenly slid out from underneath me. Someone had hit me from behind. I never saw it coming. I hit the ground at 30 mph, sliding along the pavement with my hands still locked onto the handlebars.

In the first seconds after the crash I vaguely remember someone trying to disentangle themselves from me and my bike. I heard screams and moans and I knew then that this crash had been bad.
How many had fallen?
How many were hurt?
Who was screaming like that?
I was too afraid to look.
I clenched my eyes shut and with my body twisted on the ground I clawed my hands against the pavement. With bits of gravel sifting between my fingers I tried to brace myself against the pain that was shooting across the entire left side of my body. I tried to lift up my head but I couldn’t move. I tried to roll over, but I couldn’t move.
The screaming continued.
Would someone please shut that woman up!
She can’t be hurt any worse than I am!
I was strong. I was silent. I held the pain down deep inside so no one would know how much it hurt.
I tried to get up.
“I probably just had the wind knocked out of me,” I thought.
Where’s my bike?
Why are they taking my bike away from me?
Why are they wheeling that gurney towards me?
I don’t need an ambulance.
Just let me get up and walk it off.
That’s my bike leaning against the fence over there.
If someone could just get it for me, and let me catch my breath.

But I couldn’t move.
They lifted me up to put me onto the gurney and I felt pain like I had never felt before.
And I finally screamed.
I opened my eyes and scanned the racecourse.
There were no other riders in sight. No one was on the ground. No one else was hurt.
Everyone else had gotten up and continued the race.
It was then I realized that I was the one doing the screaming all along.

God had shouted “Enough,”
but I was too stubborn to hear.

With the muffled wail of the ambulance siren drowning out the EMT’s voices, I could feel them cutting my racing skinsuit off of me. I felt exposed. Vulnerable. My team skinsuit was my pride and joy, and now it was ruined.
A broken pelvis was the EMT’s diagnosis, which an x-ray would later confirm.
As I lay in the emergency room I kept thinking that this wasn’t how it was supposed to happen. I looked down and my tan and muscled legs, I was in the best shape of my life. I shouldn’t be laying in this hospital on this warm and sunny day. There was a race going on! Where’s my bike? Where’s my car? How am I going to get home?
How am I going to drive?
How am I going to walk?
I was completely alone.
And again, I cried.

But then God said “Enough,”
and this time I was ready to hear.

Into the emergency room walked a familiar face.
The coach and founder of our Long Island racing team.
At the last minute he had decided to attend the race and he drove up to Fitchburg with his wife in their motor home.
He heard about the crash, found out that I was involved, and before I knew it I was whisked away into his waiting motor home. He had already claimed my bike, checked me out of my hotel, and I made the long trip back to Long Island in a medicated stupor, drifting in and out of sleep on a comfortable bed, while his wife drove my car just behind.

My life was never the same after that day.
I went from having no time to think about anything but cycling to having a whole summer to think about everything but.
I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t work.
But I soon rediscovered my love of reading, my love of learning.
Suddenly the whole “meaning of life” and “why are we here” conundrum began to take center stage in my life.
That can happen when you can’t leave the house and there’s nothing on TV but Judge Judy reruns.
I devoured books on philosophy, sociology, and religion.

In early August, I went back to work on crutches but before my old world had the chance to suck me back in, God spoke again.
And this time he took away something even more precious.
My nephew Daniel.
Just shy of his 23rd birthday, Daniel succumbed to the Leukemia he had been battling off and on for two years.
He was in remission.
He had made it to a year with no reoccurrence of the cancer.
This wasn’t supposed to happen.
In grief my family gathered in my sister’s home church to say goodbye to a young man who had every reason to live.
And I was ashamed.
I had squandered my life away, while Daniel had fought valiantly to hold onto his.
Then in the somber stillness of the sanctuary after the service, I heard something I had never heard before. The sound of my father crying.
In the pew just behind us he had crumpled to his knees in grief, releasing a mournful wail that could only come from a place of deep, deep sadness.
My father was battling health issues of his own, and when he was hospitalized after a heart attack, Daniel came to visit him every day. Stopping by after his shift as a lab technician, bringing my father the newspaper and staying long after his workday was done.
I could hear my own pain in my father’s cry.
Why Daniel?
Why take someone so young when those of us teetering on the edge still live?
Those of us who are old and have lived a full life and are ready to go.
And those of us who are young, but are too self-absorbed to recognize the gift of life when it’s been given to us.

God called me in that church that day, just as he had when I was lying on the pavement in Fitchburg.
A month later, still on crutches, I hobbled into a Unitarian Universalist church for the first time. My first step on the journey back towards the faith I had brazenly left behind in my youth.

I made a few valiant efforts to get back on my bike after I healed but the desire was no longer there. In early 1999, I stepped into the pulpit for the first time and I knew, I just knew, that God had led me home.

It’s been an eventful ten years.
Full of twists and turns, disappointments that turned into opportunities, and glorious blessings that I once thought were beyond my grasp.
For ten years I’ve walked this path, sometimes leaping ahead with newfound confidence, and other times lurching in the dark with my arms stretched out before me, convinced that I’ve taken a wrong turn. But each time I’ve questioned my calling something has happened to set me back on track.
Each time I’ve said, “I can’t do this” God has responded, “Yes, you can.”

For the past three weeks I’ve been mired down in the autobiographical paperwork that I have to fill out for the psychological evaluation that I need to have before entering the ordination process.
Page after page of questions about my childhood, my adolescence, my relationship with my mother and father; an in-depth examination of my strengths and weaknesses - as an employee, as family member, as a partner, as a potential minister, as a person.
In dredging up all the muck of my past and present fears I once again began to question whether I have what it takes to be a parish minister.

But this morning, just before waking, I had the most amazing dream.
I was leading worship – and I was good.
I’ve had dreams about preaching before, but they usually involve me not being able to find my sermon right before the service starts, getting lost on the way there, or showing up for church naked and scrounging to find a choir robe before anyone sees me…(yes, all the usual school-anxiety dream scenarios repackaged with a spiritual flair).

In the dream I had this morning I was getting ready to lead worship in the sanctuary and nothing was going right - people were talking loudly, arguing, and in general were not in the quiet, contemplative mood that they should be in before worship. But I was calm and I knew instinctively what to say and do to get everyone settled down and ready to worship, and as I began to lead an impromptu guided meditation I woke up from the dream. The words continued to come as I laid there awake, and the entire service played out in my head, with God speaking through me, and me allowing it to happen every step of the way.

The dream centered on my two biggest fears about entering the ministry – not being able to effectively respond to conflicts/unexpected problems, and not being able to speak eloquently and meaningfully when put on the spot (with no time to prepare beforehand).
This dream not only allowed me to experience what it feels like to be able to do those things, and to do them well, but as it carried over into my waking moments I began to fully sense that this has nothing to do with me, or my fears, at all.
It’s all about God.
I’m just the conduit.
The message is God’s, not mine.
All I need to do is feel it, believe it, and let it flow.

And while I’ve understood this intellectually, this is the first time that I’ve experienced it on an emotional and spiritual level.
And God, it felt good.

I’m not saying that I will no longer have moments of weakness and/or let my fears get in the way when it comes to trying on the role of pastor.
I’m sure that’s going to happen many times.
But this morning I got a chance to sample what it feels like to rise above those moments.
To whine to God, “I can’t do this.”
And to have God respond “Enough,”
and show me that I most certainly can.

What Would Jesus Ride?