Archive | January, 2008

Unexpected Expectations

29 Jan

I melted down last night.

All of last semester, I kept hearing that getting through the first semester was the ticket at Candler – after the first semester, it would seem easy. And yet … all of I sudden I saw myself at the end of a weekend where I did nothing but work and still had more to do … and I looked ahead to a semester of this … and I melted down.

I cried. Bruce tried to hold me and tell me that it was going to be okay, but it was hard for me to let him hold me. Yet once I did, I started to calm down.

I think my experience with Bruce last night mirrors a lot of peoples’ experiences with God. He wants to hold us and tell us everything is going to be okay, but so often we don’t want to be held. Yet I’ve often found that when I’ve allowed myself to be swept up by the Holy Spirit, I do feel a sense of calmness.

This is a very white-middleclass thing for me to say. It’s hard to tell someone dying of AIDS in a third world country that everything is going to be okay. But in some sense, Bruce was in the same position that a deity or spiritual leader would be in a third world country. I was crying because school is hard. I was crying because I’m going to have a lot to do. I was crying because I wasn’t expecting the high expectations that are being placed on me this semester. I was crying because I’ve been put outside of my comfort zone and not in a good way. I was crying because I’m in my first year of a three years masters program and that’s a long time to spend full-time on a master’s program. I was crying because no matter how much I plan, how many goals I have, how many lists I make and how high or low my expectations are, I will never be able to completely satisfy me and the people around me.

And yet – Bruce told me it was going to be okay. And not, I don’t think, because he knew for certain that it was going to be okay. Deep down, I think he knows school is going to be hard for me. But I think he wants it to be okay. He wants to erase all of the hurt and anger that I was feeling. And his desire for this was so strong, his compassion was so deep, that I allowed myself to change the lense on my view of the world and believe that it truly would be okay.

I should learn to trust God more. We should all learn to trust God more. We should trust that when we weap, God weaps with us. We should trust that when we hope and dream, God hopes and dreams with us. We should learn to trust that when we fall, God reaches out to try and grab us.

When I allowed Bruce to embrace me and heard the inhales and exhales of my own breath, I was able to see that through the strength of him, the strength of my friends and family and the strength of the Holy Spirit I will make it through another semester.

This is no doubt something I will probably need to be reminded of many times not only throughout the semester, but throughout my entire seminary education and throughout my life as well.

Come, Holy Spirit, Come.

"A Mighty Heart"

28 Jan

Bruce and I watched the movie, “A Mighty Heart” this afternoon. It’s based on a memoir written by Mariane Pearl. The synopsis on the back of the DVD box reads: “After her husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl is kidnapped by terrorists, Mariane heads a desperate search for clues in a frantic race against time to locate her missing husband. Directed by maverick filmmaker Michael Winterbottom, A Mighty Heart is a gripping story of faith, hope and courage in the face of tragedy.” Angelina Jolie starred as Mariane.

The movie was a little bit hard to follow, but it truly was gripping. I actually felt as if I was sitting around the round table with Pearl and the team of people searching for her husband. Even though I knew what the outcome was going to be, when a tape of Daniel Pearl’s viscious be-heading surfaced, I felt emotionally drained. It brought me back to a time this summer when I started reading “A Long Way Gone,” a memoir of an African boy forced into the army as a soldier at a very young age. While I knew this hadn’t happened in Lesotho, which was where Bruce was at the time, it still scared me to think that he was anywhere near the conflict in Africa. I was reminded of how dangerous certain parts of the world can be. When I talked to Bruce on the phone the next day, he told me to stop reading the book.

When I start thinking about how conflicted so much of the world is, it gets me thinking about Creation and about what God intended for Earth. God saw everthing that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. – Genesis 1:31. Is conflict and war “good”?

It’s hard for me to rationalize what is going on because the further along I get into Into to Old Testament, and even the little bit that I’m in Christian Thought, I’m seeing thousands of year of war and turmoil and I wonder what kind of world I’m actually living in: the world of the past, present and future. It’s just not fun to think about.

I don’t have any amazing insights into the situation. Saying “why can’t we all just get along” just doesn’t work. There are too many thousands of year of hated, hurt and anger that has built up. I’m not even going to pretend to understand either side. But I do know that I will continue to pray for peace … peace in my community, peace in the country and peace around the world.

A better world is possible. Let us all bow our heads in prayer.

As the World Turns

22 Jan

I went up to my Con Ed site last night for the first time in over a month. I’m a little ashamed to say that, actually. While we weren’t required by Candler to go to our site over our winter break, the sites are open and continue to operate, often with the help of volunteers. With the exception of a few days in Florida with my mom and one day in the mountains with Bruce, I stayed in Atlanta for the duration of the entire break – and didn’t go to my site once. It’s not that I don’t enjoy going – in fact, visiting the residents and staff at MUST tends to feed my sometimes drained spirit with hope and possibilities. But for some reason I never made it a priority to go in the month that I was off of school.

One of the residents asked me once if I was being forced to volunteer. That sounds funny, because volunteerism is, by nature, not something that you are forced to do. And while I do want to be considered a volunteer, I know that I was brought to MUST Ministries not by my freewill, but by the hands and minds of those working in the Con Ed office. And I know that at the end of the year, I will no longer continue to volunteer – I will hang up my volunteer badge and move on to spend a year in a parish. So where does that leave me? I told this particular resident that while I was technically forced, I was always happy to be there. And that’s true – but it still doesn’t explain why I didn’t make it a priority to be there for a little over a month. And I’ve thought long and hard about this, trying to find an answer. But I can’t – and that bothers me.

I think I need to think long and hard about where I THINK my priorities are and where my priorities REALISTICALLY are. While I may complete all of my hours required by Candler and pass Con Ed I, what am I really learning about ministry if I’m simply completing the bare minimum?

God doesn’t call someone into the ministry to complete the bare minimum. God doesn’t call someone into the ministry to just squeak by. God calls people to SERVE. And service can’t happen in percentage points. If I were at a restaraunt and the waiter brought my food to the halfway point between the kitchen and my table, and left it for me to get up and get, I have a feeling my temper would be high and the waiters tip would be low. I need to start thinking about service, my call and, specifically, my work at MUST as an “all or nothing,” rather than a “minimum requirement” scenario. I need to seriously consider my options and schedules during spring break, long weekends and finals. And I need to surround myself with people who are going to hold me to this.

I have been given such a wonderful opportunity to work with such a gifted and talented group of people at MUST this year – the staff, volunteers and guests all give me so much and it is my hope that at least one of them will be able to look back on this year and regard me in the same way.

With peace and blessings,
Sarah

A Look into the Future

21 Jan

One of the reasons I love electronic communication so much is it enables me to easily look into the past through pictures, videos and e-mails and vividly remember the moments in my life that have brought me to where I am today. I frequently do this with pictures that have accumulated on my harddrive. Recently, as Bruce and I approach our one year anniversary, I’ve gone back and looked at the e-mails that he and I exchanged early on in our relationships. It’s been fun to look at the day’s date and go back and read the e-mail that he sent me on that date, one year ago. I think about the past a lot. I think about the people who have come in and out of my life, the times where life seemed so easy and the times where I didn’t think tomorrow would ever come. I think about the places that I’ve been and the amazing things that I’ve seen. I think about the conversations that have touched me and the moments where it seemed as if time stopped just for me. I know I’ve been blessed and fortunate to look back on my life and smile.

Earlier this evening, Bruce and I somehow started whistling some of John Williams’ Olympic theme songs. Bruce asked me when the next Olympics were. We did some mental math and came to the conclusion that the summer Olympics would be this summer, 2008, and the winter Olympics would be in 2010. I stopped for a moment and thought about where I would be in 2010. At the beginning of the year I will hopefully be looking towards my final semester at Candler, hopefully looking for jobs and tentatively planning my ordination. Come fall there’s a good possibility Bruce and I will be packing and preparing for a move back north and will hopefully begin to really settle down. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t spend my days thinking about what my life is going to look like in three years, but I’m realizing more and more that there are a lot of people in my life who are going to be crucial to my success as a girlfriend, daughter, sister, friend, seminarian and employee over the next couple of years. Some of these people I see every day – some I don’t. Some I talk to frequently, some I’m bad about staying in touch with. But every one of these people are so important and so crucial to my success as a person. And I want to acknowledge this, I want to thank everyone and I want to give people an opportunity to see into my life a little more than is typically possible.

I’m starting this blog for a number of reasons. I’m hoping to have a good place to express my feelings, my hopes, my dreams, my concerns and my emotions. I’m hoping to make it easier for people to see what’s going on in my life – what life is like in seminary, in Atlanta, living with Bruce and Lilly. I’m hoping to have a public forum where I can share prayer requests with those I love and lift them up.

Technology is a wonderful thing. I’m hoping that this form of technology allows me to connect with people with whom I’ve allowed my ties to fray.

That’s all for now – I am retiring to watch the Packers play for a trip to the Super Bowl and to do my best to read for Pastoral Care amidst the screaming, jumping, yelling and anxst that is american football – GO GREEN BAY!!