Archive | November, 2008

1-800-MOTIVATION?

21 Nov

My motivation is gone. I can’t find it anywhere. I’m thinking it’s probably in the same place that my original Target Visa is. Only – when I lost my Target Visa I had a very simple solution – dial a 1-800 number, cancel the old one and order a new one. There’s no 1-800 number to order a new batch of motivation.

Maybe that’s the problem with society. We don’t have to live with many consequences any more. When you lose a credit card, they not only issue you a new one but they also make sure you are not responsible for any charges that may have occurred when someone picked up your lost card and used it. But that’s not the way the real world really works. In the real world, you have to live with consequences.
This past weekend in Sunday School, Bruce and I talked about Labyrinths with the High School class. We’re really trying to look at meditation and different ways of tapping into spirituality and learning about Labyrinths seemed like the obvious next step. I wonder if walking a Labyrinth would be a good way to address some of what is lost in my life – like my motivation. I wonder if I took the time to actually walk a Labyrinth – not rush through it and have my brain be elsewhere, but really walk through it (or follow it in the case of a Finger Labyrinth) – I might find my motivation again. I think part of the problem is that I’m always looking to the next thing and don’t have time to address the here and the now. This is why I called the Visa Card people – I didn’t have time to deal with a lost credit card and I needed a replacement. But life isn’t that simple. Sometimes – most of the time in fact – you have to deal with the hear and the now and I think that walking a Labyrinth is a good way to condition you to do that.
So I’ll try if you try. I don’t have a labyrinth, but I found some good drawings online. Perhaps once a day I can take the time to actually work through it and see if I can’t find some of that lost motivation.
Grace, Peace & Uncovering the Lost,
Sarah

I want much more than this provincial life …

21 Nov

Every year my father directs a musical with his high school students. This year they will be putting on Beauty and the Beast. I’ve been listening to the music ever since I put the music on my iPod in November when I was visiting my parents and am starting to realize how profoundly theological Disney can be at times.

The opening song has Belle is running around oblivious to what is going on around her. Belle repeats the following phrase over and over again: “There must be more than this provincial life.” This kind of reminds me of who the UCC stands to be. So many people find their way to our churches because they are wondering and saying the same thing that Belle is: there MUST be something more. But they don’t know what that is.

Unfortunately, churches all too often have turned people away who want to explore the “more” – and this is where our ministry comes in. The UCC welcomes those who say “there must be more” with open arms and hearts. This is the Good News!!

Peace and blessings on a search for more!!
Sarah

How memories shape who we are … and what we could be.

19 Nov

Yesterday Bruce called and asked me if I minded walking home from school today. Because I had a Con Ed meeting and wasn’t sure I knew where I was going he took the scooter to work and I took the car. Paul asked him if he would run him an errand after work and Bruce said yes but he that he would need a car. Paul gave Bruce his Commander for the night and Bruce left the scooter at work. Everything was fine by me – it meant that Bruce and I would get to drive to school together in the morning. Even though it’s short, I love that time with him. I love being able to listen to The Tea Party on 94.9 The Bull with him, laugh at the sheer comedy that is morning radio and sing along with our favorite country songs. It’s just a really special time that we get to spend together.

That also meant that I would walk home from school. I had put the soundtrack for Beauty and the Beast on my iPod over the weekend because this is going to be my dad’s musical this year so I turned that on and just let my mind wander. I pretty much came full circle. I started thinking about how much I miss being involved in my dad’s shows. It’s not just me wishing I was back in high school (you couldn’t pay me to go back to high school) it’s about the fact that I grew up in his theater. Being involved in the NMHS All School Musical wasn’t a four year thing for me, it was an 18 year thing. And I definitely miss it. As I thought about that I started to think about what it would be like if I was called to a church in the Litchfield North or Litchfield South Association and was close enough to once again be involved in something that shaped so much of who I am today. The daydream just put a smile on my face. I started to think about bringing my dad dinners during long days, feeding the cast during hell week, advertising with alumni, working production – all things I didn’t do growing up but seem appropriate now as I’m not the same person that I was when I was toddling around.

Beyond that I started thinking about what my first church is going to be like. I honestly have no idea. I had my first meeting with Micki Nunn-Miller this weekend. She is the pastor of the church in Cornwall, CT, the moderator for the Litchfield North Association and my new mentor for my In Care process. We didn’t just talk about how school was going, we talked about what’s next: how do I finish this process in three years (well now a year and a half) so that my ministerial profile is circulating during my last few months at Candler? It felt amazing to feel like I’m finally starting to move through the process because everything is becoming so real to me. I’ve been on this process of discernment for practically my entire life and in a little over a year and a half I could finally be ordained.

I guess this is what going home will do for you. Granted, Atlanta is my home, but I grew up in Connecticut; the person I am today was shaped by a lot of what happened in Connecticut. Driving through those streets brought back lots of memories, some good some bad, and I realized just how ready I am to move to the next stage of my life – but bring the memories with me.

In the meantime, I have a meeting with Dr. Stephens tomorrow to talk about a midterm that I didn’t do very well on. Sigh … The frustrating part is that I walked in and out of this exam feeling prepared. So the grade shocked me. But I might as well deal with this now so that I don’t have an even bigger shock at the end of the semester.

Lord Have Mercy

17 Nov

In case anyone was curious – this is my sermon from Sunday. I had to cut a little bit out in the middle to protect the privacy of some of what I was talking about, but you’ll get the general idea … enjoy!!

Sarah Keck
November 16, 2008
First Congregational Church of Kent (Kent, CT)

Psalm 123
Supplication for Mercy
To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he has mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.

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Last year Bruce and I flew north for Thanksgiving. We had an action packed weekend – we covered several states, attended a few family meals, one or two gatherings with friends and capped off the holiday by worshipping here on Sunday morning. Every time I arrived at a new place I was greeted with the same question: “How’s Seminary?” I’m not sure why I hadn’t expected people to ask me this obvious question but to be honest I was a little taken aback and unprepared to answer. Ever since then, I’ve made it a point while packing for a trip north to prepare myself to answer that question. So since I have the pulpit this morning, I thought I would take the opportunity to tell you how my semester is going at the Candler School of Theology.

I guess it all started at the end of July when I got to work, opened an Atlanta online news website and found out that the storm the night before had cut power to the local water generating plant and the county had issued a “boil” alert. That essentially meant that until they could test bacteria levels in the water around the entire county, residents were advised not to drink, shower or cook with water unless it had been boiled. You can imagine my reaction to being told not to shower in Atlanta in August. So for awhile it was like I was in Honduras again. We bought bottled water in bulk, drank it, used it brush our teeth, cooked with it and even gave it to the cat. I showered with my mouth scrunched shut and inspected my hair and skin when I got out. I told myself over and over again that things would get better when all of the water levels came back normal. Needless to say, residents of Dekalb County were exasperated three days later when the boil alert was finally lifted.

A week later I was driving to pick up Bruce at work when I heard the sound of tires screeching. Looking down past the overpass I was driving on to see where the noise was coming from, I quickly felt a strong force hit my car from behind and I went flying across interstate. Sore, shaken up and afraid to drive, I told myself in the days to come that things would get better when my car was fixed and there was no visible sign of my accident. Well – it’s been four months and the mass of insurance red tape I’ve cut through since then still hasn’t been enough to get my car fixed.

So then school started – and so did hurricane season. Not only did I find myself comforting friends whose families were forced to flee and whose homes were in danger of crumbling, the southeast, Atlanta in particular, found themselves in a gas crisis. The storms had caused the refineries in the southeast to shut down and gas stations simply could not keep up their supplies to meet the demand. Prices spiked and day after day drivers would not only have to drive around to find a station with a supply of gas but wait in long lines – some as long as two to three hours – just to fill their tank. Journalists captured frustrated and angry consumers, some moved to tears, as they waited for pumps to open up. Managers were forced to stand outside to direct traffic and attempt to maintain order. I remember calling Bruce after seeing a line wrap around a gas station and out onto the road and telling him that it felt like the apocalypse – and I was only partly joking. I told myself things would get better when the refineries re-opened and gas supplies increased.

That brings me to school. If you ask me about my specific classes I could probably tell you what I’m taking and a brief description of the course but that might be about it. Because the fact is that for my friends and me this semester has been traumatic and disheartening, blurred not only by challenging academic expectations but also by personal crises. I didn’t expect myself to be so overwhelmed with work at school, my job and the church that sometimes at the end of the day the only thing I could muster up the energy to do was cry. I started to try to condition myself to expect the unexpected but a little part of me thought that it just had to get better soon.

And then the stock market took a little tumble.

For a while I blamed the election. Fueled by an early and feisty democratic primary and illuminated by a controversial senate race in Georgia, it seemed as if this campaign had been going on forever. I was at a point where I couldn’t enjoy the simple pleasures in life like watching a football game on a Sunday after church without being bombarded by negative campaign ads. I told myself that if I could make it to November 5th, the election would be over and, right or left, a decision would be made and the negative campaign ads would stop. Well, wouldn’t you know that the controversial senate race in Georgia was just too close to call the first time around and Georgians are now faced with another month of negative campaigning until the run off on December 2nd?

Now I’m not telling you all of this so you’ll feel bad for me and start sending care packages (although I do enjoy chocolate chip cookies), I’m telling you this because I think my attitude of “well things will get better when this happens or that happens” speaks loudly to what Paul was talking about in his first letter to the Thessalonians. Most scholars agree that this letter was written in response to a deepened anxiety among the people of Thessalonica concerning “The Day of the Lord” – the end of time. They searched frantically for an understanding of the fate of their community. Like Bruce and me as we bought and boiled our water; like the residents of Atlanta who searched and waited in long lines to fill their cars with gas; like the students at Candler who, all semester long, have watched their friends suffer and mourn; like people all over the country who were constantly being bombarded by negative campaign ads; and like millions throughout the world who are watching their hard earned investments dwindle the people of Thessalonica wanted answers. Answers such as: Okay, what’s next? Are things going to get better? What needs to happen to make things better? Is there something we can do?

Humans aren’t programmed to live in the “in-between” times. It’s much easier to rejoice in the good times than it is to embrace the hard times. But this is precisely what Paul is calling the Thessalonians to do at the end of this first letter. He says in chapter 5, verse 2: “For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” He’s saying: Listen, you won’t miss it and there’s nothing you can do to change it. It’s going to happen when it happens, so get on with your lives in the meantime.

Things are going to happen in our lives that we can’t control – bad things; frustrating things; upsetting things; devastating things. We can’t control what happens, but we can control two things: We can control how we respond to what happens and how we live through what happens. This is where Paul starts to really dig at human reaction. Paul says in verses 5 through 8: “… for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober …” Paul is saying to the people of Thessalonica and each and every one of us as we experience the trials and tribulations of life on earth: “Wake up!! I know this is scary, but don’t sleep, be awake; live in the light, not the dark, in the day, not the night; be sober, not drunk; don’t have faith and love by worshipping a false idol, but have hope in the Living and True God.

The psalm we read this morning is a supplication for mercy, a prayer to God during these in-between times: “To you [God] I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he has mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt. Our soul has had more than its fill of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.” This is for us to pray when there is nothing left to do but pray.

And finally, Paul asks the Thessalonians to do the same thing I am going to ask you now: Look to your left and to your right. Paul says in verse 11: “Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” He called them to be a community; to join their troubled hearts and shaken voices and say together: O Lord, have mercy upon us.

Life is full of the unexpected – heartache, loss, tragedy. But you’ve got a great community here. Lean on each other, pray with each other and strengthen each other. Live through these moments of despair awake and sober in the light of day rather than looking past them drunk and sleeping in the dark of the night. And remember always three simple words: Lord have mercy.

Amen.

"Who Says You Can’t Go Home …"

17 Nov

So Bon Jovi and I are back on speaking terms … you can go home again.

Bruce and I just had a great weekend in Connecticut.  It went by so quickly!!  His parents and siblings also drove up for the weekend so we all got to be together.  I preached at church on Sunday and it felt so good to be behind that pulpit again.  That pulpit was where I started to understand my own sense of call, and the picture I see in my head every time I start to doubt what I’m doing at Candler.  I preached on 1 Thess 5:1-11, something that I was tested on two weeks ago.  It felt really amazing to be able to go to church – a community that is supporting me in prayer but also financially through seminary and be able to start to implement some of the stuff that I am learning.
I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about my trip in the days to come but for right now Bruce and Lilly and I are watching Kung Fu Panda in bed.  After waking up and preaching and then an afternoon of traveling and scrambling to (start and) finish a Con Ed assignment on the plane for tomorrow I’m ready to put my computer down and do something mindless.

nyugalom,

Sarah

Election Night

5 Nov

Barack Obama has just been elected the 44th President of the United States of America.

Words do not describe how thrilled, ecstatic, relieved, amazed, overjoyed and hopeful I am at the moment.  Well – perhaps those words do a pretty good job.
This is only the second presidential election that I’ve voted in, and really only the third one that I remember.  I absolutely cannot imagine what it must feel like for older generations – those who were only a few generations post slavery, those who saw segregation to their left and to their right and those who never even dreamed that a black man would be president – to be part of this.  We have come so far in such a short period of time.
What a rush.
Things are going to get better, I can feel it in my heart.
But for right now I sit on my porch wrapped up in a blanket, scarf and sweater and watching Brian Williams and Tom Brokaw as Bruce smokes his victory cigar and drinks his victory beer.  That’s good for now.
CHANGE – HOPE – OBAMA/BIDEN ’08

Election Day

4 Nov

New Testament exam – done.

Vote for Change – done.

Now it’s time to wait. I’m having a very difficult time concentrating on or at anything.