Single Parenthood

I just have to say how much I am appreciating single parents right now.  I am finishing a week of single-parenthood, and am absolutely ready for my spouse to return home!  The other night, I decided that the garbage really didn’t need to get taken to the street for pick-up, because Ben and I hadn’t really created much garbage by ourselves all week.  We’ll see what the neighbors have to say next week, when the two-week old garbage stench starts spreading!  But that was the story of the week – getting done what absolutely needed doing, and leaving the rest for another time.  I am happy to say that Ben was dressed and on-time to school every day!

I am very aware that this is the full-time reality for many people, and they do eventually have to take out their garbage!  It makes me wonder how I might help in a small way someone who is struggling with the daily tasks of life.  Not necessarily a single parent, but anyone who is having a hard time getting done all that needs doing.  I choose to start with prayer, simply asking God to hold tight those in need of some extra love and light in their lives.

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A Springtime for the Soul

I realize that “Psalms of Lament” has been front and center on the blog for many months now.  Not that lament doesn’t have its place in life, but I’m ready to move on to something a bit more uplifting!

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to lead a weekend retreat focused on spiritual practices.  We considered practices we might use during the season of Lent that bring us beyond the typical Lenten practices of sacrifice and self-denial.  Those certainly have their place, but I think we limit our Lenten experience if we focus only on those.

One of my favorite images of the Lenten season is Barbara Brown Taylor’s description of Lent as a “springtime for the soul.”  This reminds me that Lent is about so much more than giving up chocolate or swear words.  The season of Lent calls us to a greater awareness of God’s presence.  Just as Moses, Elijah, and Jesus all encountered God during their 40 days in the wilderness, we, too, look for new ways to encounter God in our lives during these 40 days of Lent.  It is also a time for us to allow our souls to blossom.

May this Lent be a springtime for your soul!

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Psalms of Lament

Last Sunday, we discussed the relationship between lament and healing, and where God is in that process.  At the end of class, the kids wrote a Psalm of lament.  I’ve printed a couple of them below.  It was an interesting conversation, considering how we can have faith and trust in God’s everlasting love even in the midst of tragedy and turmoil.

God, our Lord, hear us say,

Earthquakes shake us into despair.

Earthquakes jumble up our lives, and set fire to our hearts.

God, our Lord, hear us say,

Stop the earthquakes and make our day.

We know you can, we know you will, so please help our earth stay still.

O God, thank you for all you have given us.

You have taken the means of life, the food on our table, the warmth from our home, and the hope from our lives.

We now have nothing.

Look down to us who need your help and love.

We know you, God, will never turn your back on us.

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Back In Action

Interesting that was my last post, over a year ago.  Much has happened in the past year!  I’m happy to report that my “renewal” meeting this summer went much more smoothly, and things seem to be rolling in the right direction for my eventual ordination.  It’s been a long time coming, and I’m excited to be a step closer in the process.  Though I am aware that there are many more hurdles to jump!

I am preparing to co-officiate my first wedding this weekend.  I’m so excited, not just to be officiating, but to simply be a part of what will certainly be a beautiful day.  Karna is the friend I have known the longest – since we were about 5, I believe – and I am so thrilled for both her and Chris.  Weddings are one of those joys of ministry; it is such a priviledge to help two amazing people begin their lives together.

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Rolling with the punches

I like to think that I am pretty good at “rolling with the punches.”  If something doesn’t go quite the way I had planned, or if something unexpected comes up, I usually do a good job of adapting, and making the best of the situation.

Last Friday, however, I had an important meeting that did not go well at all, and I am doing a really bad job of “rolling with the punches.”  I keep replaying the meeting in my head, wondering what I could have done differently.  I’m mad at myself and the others who were present.  It has put me in a horrible mood . . . yes, you’re really glad you aren’t living at my house right now!

I have done two things to combat my foul mood.  First, I’m taking action.  I’m going to have another meeting with some key players to discuss what happened on Friday.  Second, I’m spending a lot of time focusing on the blessings in my life.  Yes, I had a bad meeting.  But, thankfully, one bad meeting does not shape my life.  God has filled my life with so much joy – how can I keep from dancing in the morning, even if the night has been filled with tears?

What are the blessings in your life?  How does God bring life and love and laughter even when things don’t seem to be going well?

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Gardening

Because spending a week in New Orleans with 26 high school youth in mid-June wasn’t quite enough excitement for my month, for the last week of June, I went to Sonoma County with 10 middle schoolers for three days of volunteer work.  Overall, we had a great trip.  Though I never ceased to be amazed at how messy 10 kids can be, and I don’t want to say “Please wash your dishes” for another year, they did some really good work while we were there.

For me, the most interesting work site was the Harvest for the Hungry Garden.  This 2 acre garden, located in east Santa Rosa, is completely cared for by volunteers.  The volunteers come to the garden four mornings a week to water, weed, plant, harvest, and all of the other duties that are necessary at a garden.  Everything they grow, they donate to local food banks, homeless shelters, and other places that offer hot meals to those in need.  The garden itself was quite a sight to behold.  Then, when I began to think about the great fresh food they are able to give away, I couldn’t help but recognize the presence of God in that place.

Below, four of the kids work with the compost pile.  Later, they were able to spread the fresh soil in the garden.

composting at the garden

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New Orleans, June 2009

I just returned from a week in New Orleans with 26 high school youth from our church.  We were there to help with the rebuilding process that continues following Hurricane Katrina.  The last significant time I spent in New Orleans was in the summer of 2006 – less than a year after Katrina.  I was curious to see what had been done in the city in the last three years.

As it turns out, I was both uplifted and saddened by what I saw.  Uplifted because progress has definitely been made.  There are no more huge piles of debris littering the streets.  There are people living in neighborhoods that were ghost towns three years ago.  Even in the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the most devastated areas, signs of life are present.

Sadly, there is still MUCH work to be done.  The house I worked on, for example, belonged to a man who has been living in temporary housing since Katrina (almost 4 years now).  He desperately wants to get back into his house, but does not have enough money to pay for a professional contractor.  Because he is relying on volunteer labor, the process is slow.  It will still be many more weeks, perhaps months, before he can return to his house.  And when he does return, it will be to a neighborhood forever changed.  Abandoned houses still abound.  Neighbors have left who will never return.

And yet, hope is abundant in New Orleans.  One of my good friends, who is a pastor in the city, was able to speak of life finally feeling like it is returning to normal.  Though she was quick to admit that it is a new, post-Katrina normal.  The French Quarter is full of life and energy, and tourists are starting to return to the city.  I could sense that the spirit of New Orleans, which is such a central part of the city, has refused to be dampened by Katrina.

Throughout the week, the chorus of the Bluetree song, “God of this City,” kept running through my mind – “Greater things have yet to come and greater things are still to be done in this city.”  May we continue to keep the city, and its residents, in our prayers.

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