June 27, 2007

Made Me Smile

Often during pastoral care visits, especially those in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, the following conversation takes place:

Can I help you?

No thank you. I'm here visiting a congregation member. I know where s/he lives.

You're the pastor ... ? You look mighty young for that.


Today I went to visit a congregation member who is at a nursing home, under Hospice care and losing her memory. She was excited to see me. Then she asked me when I was going to retire ...

I was laughing so hard on the inside because it was the exact opposite of the comments I normally get.

June 24, 2007


Sunday, June 24, 2007
1 Kings 19:1-15a

Shhhhhhhh … silence is golden.

The ad flashes across the movie screen right after the endless stream of previews for upcoming movies and even tv shows.

It may have incorporated a fake movie clip interrupted by a cell phone ring or a short song about all the noises people make during movies that are distracting and annoying. Either way or any other way, the moviegoer has been reminded of the sanctity of quietly watching the movie.

Shhhhhhhh … silence is golden.

Silence is filled with potential,
endless possibilities,
the prospect of something grand.

But do we really revere silence as being golden?

I’m not so inclined to believe so. There are instances when we do treasure some silence – like at the movie theatres when we are trying to enjoy one of the summer’s latest flicks. Or in a room filled with infants who are all napping at the same time.

But in reality, we do not give silence much thought or space, not in today’s society. It seems we are always inventing and buying new things so that we never have to endure any quiet or empty time or place.

There are mp3 players and ipods that provide continuous streams of music wherever one may be. There are cell phones and blackberries that allow one to remain connected to the Internet, email, news and sports almost anywhere. There’s the radio in the car and the interesting music in the elevator. Even the whirl of air-conditioners and fans are everywhere during a Florida summer.

Something is always going on in the background.

But listen …
Do you hear it … ?
A sound of sheer silence.

Did you miss it?
We’re not very good at paying attention to the details.
There’s a plethora of distractions.

But it’s there … the possibility of it is always there.
If we can get past the other stuff of life.
And that’s no easy job.

Elijah had a difficult time of it.
He had to get past his own distractions –
the prophetic crisis he found himself in:

“I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts;
for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant,
thrown down your altars,
and killed your prophets with the sword.
I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

And lest he become so wrapped up in his own little pity party,
the Lord sends him to stand on the mountain
and wait for the Lord to pass by.

First comes the wind –
the wind would have been a great way for the Lord to appear.
The wind from God swept over the face of the waters in creation;
the wind blew over the earth and the waters subsided after the great flood;
the wind parted the Red Sea so Moses and the Hebrews could walk across it.
The wind is powerful, but the Lord was not in the wind.

Then an earthquake shakes things up –
and the shaking would have been a magnificent display of the Lord.
Isaiah talks about the Lord of hosts visiting people in thunder and earthquakes;
the land shook when Christ died on the cross,
and again three days later when the stone was rolled away from the grave.
An earthquake can mark miracles, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.

And then there was the fire –
fire would have been an impressive witness to the Lord.
Fire had burned in the bush from which God called to Moses;
the Lord went in front of the Israelites as a pillar of fire by night as they left Egypt;
the Lord descended on Mt. Sinai in fire and smoke when speaking to Moses.
The fire is glorious, but the Lord was not in the fire.

And after this spectacular show of special effects,
Elijah is still waiting for a theophany –
he is still waiting for the Lord to pass by.

(Perhaps he also will catch a flash of God’s glorious backside like Moses did.)

And into that space and place of waiting, of paying attention,
Elijah heard a sound of sheer silence …
HEARD a sound of sheer silence.

Other translations call it
“a still small voice” (RSV)
“a gentle whisper” (NIV)
“the soft whisper of a voice” (TEV)
“a low murmuring sound.” (NEB)

At the very least, it was the appearance of something inconsequential, barely noticeable.

But Elijah noticed it,
even after the other glorious possibilities of God’s presence –
the ones which were much more consequential and grand –
Elijah noticed the silence because he was still.

He had quieted everything within him
and the outside distractions for just a moment.
And he went and stood on the ledge of a cave,
still … expectant … and he heard God.

The stillness didn’t last long.
Elijah took up his pity party complaint once again
(the exact same complaint he had prior to the Lord’s appearance).

And then the Lord sends him on his way.
Elijah was soon traveling through the wilderness of Damascus
to face his prophetic calling once again.

But for a moment, just one moment of his day …
stillness … silence … a mini-Sabbath.
A break from the hectic-ness of life to remember the Lord
and watch and listen for the Lord.

How often do we do that?
Just pause for a moment and take a break?

It’s one of the commandments – the fourth one to be exact:
“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
But the seventh day is a Sabbath for the Lord your God …
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
but rested the seventh day.”
(Exodus 20:8ff)

Rested …
God, the Creator of heaven and earth,
paused enough to enjoy all of the hard work of creation
and just rested.

And, yet …
we, who were formed in the very image of God,
we don’t do the same.

It’s too convenient to skip by that commandment.
To say we’ll follow it more when things lighten up.

Perhaps during the summer, or the winter.
Or when the kids are out of the house.
Or when there are less things on our plates.
Or when our to do list is shorter and more manageable.
Or … or … or … the list could continue forever.

But what about just a little bit of stillness –
what about just a few moments of watching and waiting,
enough of a pause in our day or week to remember that God is God and we are not.

A small break from the life
where everything is urgent and hurried and needs immediate attention, our attention.
A period of Sabbath.

A whole day can seem a bit daunting.
But what about something more manageable to begin with:

A couple of moments of silence and prayer each morning,
or a couple of moments of reading Scripture and being still at the end of the day;
Perhaps a few hours each week of putting aside
the “shoulds” and the “musts” and the “have tos” and the “oughts”
to enjoy God and creation, relationships and hobbies;
Or maybe it’s not something specific,
and it’s just sauntering through half a day once a month,
enjoying the spaciousness of time.

For if the spirit sometimes comes and speaks in stillness
and we are forever caught up in the whirlwind of life,
the busyness of being on the run and on to the next great thing,
distracted by earth, wind and fire –

We may miss out on the sound of sheer silence …
on the presence and glimpse of God in the little things …
of God breaking through the silence to speak.

Stillness and Sabbath look a little bit different for everyone.
But at their core, it’s about intentionally setting aside time that is different,
time for holy rest and renewal, time for waiting and listening,
time for simply slowing down.

Just a few hours or moments of stillness –
enough to notice the night blooming cyrus’ glorious opening one evening;
to sit and watch the sunset at the beach and enjoy the sound of the waves;
to discover hundreds of sand fiddler crabs scurrying into their holes during a hike.

These are the ways I’ve been still
and quieted the distractions around me recently.
But there are certainly other ways:

Sitting down to an unhurried meal with family and friends;
Taking a leisurely walk;
Or exploring something new, whether it be a place or interest.

How will you find a way to embrace stillness …
a period of Sabbath this week?
How about beginning right now?

Because it seems a little oxymoronic
to continue to talk about stillness and silence.
So I’m going to shut up for a couple of minutes,
so we can actually practice it.

(It’ll only be a moment, so you don’t need to worry about it continuing forever.)

But for just a moment right now,
still the chaotic wind, earthquake and fire,
and enter a period of stillness before the Lord.

(a short period of silence)

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind;

and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;

and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire;

and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.

Thanks be to God. Amen.

June 18, 2007

Words Never Before Uttered By a Pastor

"I'm bored!"

It may be hard to believe that a pastor (or even a pastoral intern) working fulltime at a church would ever utter these words. But I have. Multiple times. Last week and already this week.

I. am. bored.

The boredom is the result of numerous factors:
  • During the summer, internship church has a much lighter schedule. Many programs take a break and either cut back or stop.
  • Internship church has never had a yearlong intern before. They have a nice list of things for a summer intern to do and experience. However, seeing as how I've already been here for 9 months, I've completed said list.
  • I'm already starting to prepare internship church for my departure - it's only 2 months away. There is not another yearlong intern coming this fall. I am slowly cutting back on the various things I've taken on this year so as not to shock them with it all at once in August.

Therefore, I am bored.

June 14, 2007

6 Random Things About Me

I have been tagged by 1-4 grace to do this. I'm generally not a fan of such things, but seeing as how it's been a while since I've posted, what the heck.

There are some rules to it, but my CPM tells me I need to break the rules more often, so I'm throwing them out the window. They won't even be listed here. If you would like to participate, consider yourself tagged to do so.

1. I'm addicted to Sudoku.
2. I love to play board and card games, but watch out - I'm very competitive.
3. I love to read and it can be very dangerous for me to go into a bookstore.
4. I love mint chocolate chip ice cream.
5. I wish I was fluent in American Sign Language.
6. I'm a solo car jammer (as in, if I'm in the car by myself I'll crank up the music, sing along and drum on the steering wheel)

June 01, 2007

One Year Blogiversary

It's been a year since I started this blog, which means it's also been one year since I stopped being a student - a paper-writing, exam-taking, class-attending student anyways.

Over the past 12 months, I have lived and worked as a pastoral intern with few friends in the area. And during that time I've found a community among the blogging world. I've read and shared about the joys and struggles of being a woman in ministry with the RevGalBlogPals. I've kept up on the lives of friends. I've updated my own friends about life through posts.

Blogging has become somewhat of a reflective discipline for me. So it's been good to think and process and post about life whether others are reading it or not.

But for the sake of the blogiversary, if you are one who stops by to read, delurk and identify yourself in the comments!