Saturday, May 22, 2010


People always say the older you get the faster time goes by, and I have to say I'm in total agreement with that. Today, my son and I went through things in my storage unit to get what he needed to set up house in his very first apartment … when did he get to be old enough to live on his own? I mean, I know he's twenty and I know that's not really as grown up as he thinks he is (or any of us thought when we were 20) but I think I'll always picture him as 4 or 5 years old, running around in shorts and cowboy boots. It seems just yesterday.

Yet, among these same memories running amok in my head today, I thought of the events that surrounded putting all of my household goods in storage in preparation for school … and it was hard to slide open that door as step back into the events that clouded what was supposed to be an exciting and joyous time. So far, in this blog, I've never talked about any of it, just parleyed about how I came to be going to seminary and various events of my first year. But, it's on my mind today, and I think I need to put it into words a bit.

The people that where with me through this time know the details and I don't have to put the events into words for you and I'm grateful that you can know without words. When I got to school, I was surrounded by folks who didn't know and I had to learn to frame it in words and I found it to be tremendously healing – putting emotions and memories into words helps me own them instead of my emotions and memories owning me, and, again, I'm grateful to these new friends who patiently let me find the words I needed. The event, the death of my husband in the middle of plans to go to seminary, seems at the same time both far removed by time because I have changed so much since it happened and yet immediate when things trigger my memory unexpectedly. I wonder how can time seem two ways at once? I play back that day and I can see the people around me moving in slow motion and at the same time there are great holes in the events so that it seems time jumped forward and I missed things.

Time is a peculiar thing, and I don't think I can fully grasp what it is or how it works beyond being able to describe how a clock tells us what time it is. I put it in the category of awesome things that I won't truly grasp "on this side of the grave". One of my favorite things to do in church is when we are all reciting the Lord's Prayer or the Nicene Creed, I like to close my eyes and listen to the sound of all of our voices rising in unison with the same words, the same words that have been lifted up to God for hundreds and hundreds of years and will be lifted up for years to come. C. S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, talks about time, God's time, and how God doesn't see time as we do – he sees all time at once with no past, present, or future and I like to think that the chorus of faithful voices is continuous to God, that he hears my voice with that of the apostles and those of my great-great-great-great grandchildren. It boggles my mind.

When days seem to fly by too fast for me to accomplish everything, when some drag on so that I think I'll never survive them, when memories fill my thoughts so that I am pulled to times past and anxious thoughts try to drag me into the future, I try to remind myself that time is not mine it is God's. My responsibility is to spend the ticks of the clock trying to be who God needs me to be in each and every moment.

So, in this moment, I am coming to terms with my son growing up and I can say that I am proud and thankful that he is who he is and know that as time moves forward he will continue to develop into the person God needs him to be. I'll spend some time picturing the infant, the toddler, the little boy, and the teenager and I'll send him off with a prayer for protection and guidance and hope the time until I see him again goes quickly. Tick tock, tick tock.

God's peace, my friends,


Friday, May 14, 2010


Well, the first year of seminary has come and gone … I've been trying to put together in my mind just how to express what all I've experienced since September but words fail me. (That happens now and again.) I know I've changed, but I can't exactly explain just how. My view of scripture has deepened, I have a better understanding of church history and how that history affects how the church is viewed and operates today, I've learned lots of new theological words, I've grown spiritually, I've developed some wonderful relationships, and I'm more confident than ever that I'm doing what God has called me to do. What I've learned most of all, though, is just how important words are.

The Bible is the Word of God, breathed and inspired to show us how God used some broken, rag-tag humans, who he created to be in relationship with him and blessed with the awesome gift of free-will, to further his purpose within his creation. God's own words breathed us and all of creation into being. Jesus is God's Word incarnate, come into this world to redeem all humans and restore a right relationship with God.

As humans, words are how we convey meaning to each other through our languages. We speak and write our narratives to preserve what we experience in God's creation. We communicate with each other and with God through our words. Our words can build relationships and bring peace and, without our knowing it or without our intending it to be so, they can damage relationships and bring heart ache. Words can heal and words can harm.

As a student, my professors use words to convey their thoughts and ideas to me and they use my words, spoken and written, to judge how well I've learned what they attempted to teach. My fellow students and I use words to explore what we are learning, by reading other's written words, in conversations with spoken words, and in our papers with our own written words. Beyond the classroom, we express our thoughts and emotions to each other through words. We determine who is being authentic with us, and who is not, by the words they use. We decide who we can trust, and who we cannot, by weighing one person's words against another's. Sometimes we are not aware of the totality of the message of our own words until we see, through another person's actions, their interpretation of our words. Sometimes we can correct the meaning, and sometimes not.

I have always loved the study of words – just ask my classmates how excited I get over looking up the history of a word in the OED (this was after all what my senior paper was on for my undergrad). As a writer, I know the importance of choosing the right words to convey accurate meaning. As a person in relationship with others, I try to weigh my spoken word as carefully as possible, trying to think of the many possible interpretations (and not always getting this part right). In prayer and conversation with God, I know that no matter what words I choose, he knows my heart even better than I and sometimes, just sitting in silence acknowledging his awesome presence is the best thing to do. And, sometimes, when I honestly and authentically do this, I hear his words as clear as day.

One of the most important experiences I have had over this first year as school is learning to put my story into words for people who have no knowledge of my background. The good parts are easy to talk about, easy to find words for. The personal tragedies, on the other hand, have been a challenge. I have had to learn to frame in words the experiences of the previous year because I was with people who didn't know what had happened and I found this process, although excruciatingly difficult, incredibly healing. To put emotions into words is to take control of my emotions so that the emotions are no longer in control of me. It's been amazing, a trite word, I know, but the best I can come up with for now.

I started this blog to convey to those who are interested in my journey through seminary what I'm experiencing and I have to admit I haven't done a very good job of it. So, I'm going to try a different approach to these words. This summer, I'm going to be doing an internship (officially called Clinical Pastoral Education, or CPE) at a VA hospital. Basically, I'll be working as a chaplain-in-training. From what others have told me (yep, through their own words describing their experiences) it is an emotionally heavy experience. I'm going to attempt to journal my way through it with entries most every day. (And, yes, I carefully chose the words "most every day" to give myself an out if I miss a day here and there – the power of words is great, isn't it!)

And, now, for words that I don't think I can ever say enough because they just don't seem to convey the depth of my true feelings – thank you all for your interest in my simple story. Knowing that you care and that you support me in your words of encouragement and words of prayer mean more than I will ever be able to fully express.

God's peace be with you, my friends.