“The church now confirms your calling.”

Six months ago the word on the street was “BOOM.”  If you’re not up on UM acronym lingo that stands for Board of Ordained Ministry, the group of lay and clergy members of an annual conference who interview candidates for ordained ministry.  I’ve always thought it appropriate that it sounds like some sort of explosion because it’s also the one word that can make the brow of 3rd year UM MDiv students begin sweat with a single mention. [smile]  Journeying alongside Caleb and the rest of our seminary cohorts as they went through these interviews in early spring was a practice of remaining calm in the midst of an anxious storm of preparatory activity and then waiting for results.

Now the prepping and waiting is over and I get to experience the joy of watching as one by one their conferences affirm and confirm their calling to be ministers in the UM church.  Last week the first of our group of friends, Jana, who went through the process this year was commissioned in Oklahoma.  Tonight two others will be commissioned– Emily in North Georgia and Chase in Arkansas.  Tomorrow midday I’ll watch my Caleb be received officially as a provisional member of the Holston Conference.  Then next week Jeff will join the Western North Carolina Conference.  How I wish I could attend each service to celebrate! [smile]

I am so proud and excited to watch them begin ministry.  At the same time it feels a bit weird to watch as we are all embarking on the journey we’ve been “packing” for over the last three-ish years.  Even at graduation last month this day felt so far away.  Now here it is.  Now we’re about to step over the threshold into a new life.  Obviously emotions are mixed.  One of the things that make the process especially hard is being out of the comfort zone that was the seminary community.  In a dream world we’d all be in a conference together and get to witness firsthand the joys and sorrows of being in ministry.  We can still share and witness from afar but I would be crazy to think that sharing will have the same closeness.

Not being members of the same conference does present new opportunities.  Instead of focusing on the separation from our friends, I’m trying to focus on the potential to build new connections.  I rejoice in knowing that others in Oklahoma, North Georgia, Arkansas, and Western North Carolina will have the opportunity to experience the ministry, friendship, witness, service, and love of our friends who will be serving there.

-Margaret

Tennessee Bound

Tennessee Bound

We graduated yesterday and today we are headed to Tennessee.  We still have about a month before we move into “The Parsonage,” but we are planning to make the most of our nomadic experience by visiting the family in Georgia and Tennessee.
Three cheers for living in the moment! [smile]

Thanks Lyndon Orinion for the amazing photo!

More tomorrow.

-Margaret

Growing in Gratitude: Ritual

I’ve rehearsed this post for a few weeks in my mind.  Given that today we will be participating in a great deal of ritual… have I mentioned we are graduating from seminary TODAY! [smile]… it seems like the right time to write.  Yet I feel like these thoughts are still just in early formation so please forgive me if they sound that way.

I first began to think about the blessing of ritual near the end of April when one of our pastors ended a sermon series titled “Spiritual, But Not Religious” with a sermon all about it.  It’s been a several weeks since I heard the sermon, but I’ll try to summarize.  Ritual is accused of being stagnant, dry, or unchanging.  Sometimes, he shared, people allow ritual to be a barrier to their joining in a religious community.  Yet the repetition that is ritual is life giving because it encourages us to posture ourselves in a way that invites us into community with each other.  This is the part that I think Caleb liked most about the sermon because Charlie used a scene from The Karate Kid as illustration of his point.  [smile] You remember when Mr. Miyagi has Daniel wash and wax his car– “wax on, wax off”– and Daniel gets frustrated because he feels like this has nothing to do with learning karate.  Then Mr. Miyagi reveals that these repetitive actions were training his body to move in the ways he would need to for karate.  Ritual works in the same way attuning our hearts through repetitive actions to worship in a community of faith.

Ritual also can be a point of connection.  Here’s where I’m feeling particularly blessed by ritual today.  The graduation ceremony we will participate in later today will follow the format of last year’s graduation ceremony and the year before that and the year following.  We will process in.  We will walk across the platform to receive our diploma.  We will commit ourselves to being in service to the world.  We will process out.

The Charge to the Class of 2013:
Called by God and the church, we now go forth to be God’s people in the world. Our calls come in many forms, yet we have all said: “Here I am; send me.” Having been trained, nurtured, and challenged in seminary, we now seek to share God’s love and justice through service in the world.

The shared experience of this graduation ritual connects us with a community of former and future students of Wesley and for that I am thankful.  The ritual of graduation solidifies my connection with a community of persons I have come to know well and love dearly.  The ritual of graduation connects the work Caleb and I will be doing to seek justice, show mercy, and encourage loving-kindness with the work of this community of graduates and the community of former graduates and future graduates.  Oh what a blessing is this connection!

Today I am thankful for ritual.

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret

Bread for the Journey

Yesterday evening we joined in our last worship service at the Seminary as students.  We were uplifted by the voices of our classmates and teachers raised in song; a message of hope that we can bring a message of love and unity in the ministry settings to which we are going; fellowship at the table; and individual prayers for our future by the faculty members who have guided us along the journey.  Our spirits were fed and I was left feeling ready to move forward.

What a blessing it is to feel ready for what is ahead!  Change when we are not ready to accept it can be so frightening and frustrating and overwhelming.  Yet when change arrives and we are prepared to accept it and move forward it is life giving and joyous.

At WesleyI am sad to leave seminary.  Moving to DC and entering seminary changed my life forever, but we must move down from the mountaintops of life to share with others the vision of a promised future where love reigns.  We cannot dwell on the mountain for people live in the valley below.

A line from one of Caleb’s favorite movies, Big Fish,  that he loves to quote helps describe the joy of being ready to say goodbye.  Edward Bloom has been living in the magical town of Spectre. When he realizes it is time to continue on his journey a citizen of the town says, “You won’t find a better place.”  Edward responds, “I don’t expect to.”  Being prepared to journey forward from seminary is a matter of acknowledging this place was fulfilling in a way that I’m sure I will never experience again, but realizing that other places can be “Spectre” and I must leave this place to find them.  The lessons of the classroom and the lessons of living in this community are what I take with me and that provide bread for the journey ahead.

-Margaret

“We look like tourists.”

The roller coaster that will be Graduation Week starts today.  My parents arrive midday to BWI and we couldn’t be more thrilled!  So excited that we will have a few days with them to show them our DC before the rest of the family arrives this weekend.  We haven’t seen them practically all year!  Caleb’s spring classes began on January 2nd so we had to leave Georgia on January 1st.  It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this day to come.

We have been preparing for their arrival and are basically finished with the bulk of packing, but the apartment is kind of a wreak– remnants of boxes and packing material everywhere.  Even though we can’t show them our best “home” I still want it to be clean so I’ll have to make this post short.  Insert classic photo dump blog post here.  [smile] Fortunately I have the perfect set of pictures to share.

The Seminary Gang: Group Shot at the end of DC Day

The Seminary Gang: Group Shot at the end of DC Day

Last Friday, we joined some seminary friends for “DC Day.”  We’d planned this day as a way to wish this fair city we’d called home over the last 3 years a fond farewell.  We had a perfect day: weather was lovely; crowds were relatively low for a Friday in tourist season; we ate at some of the most fun restaurants; and even got to visit a Senator’s office.  We looked like tourists and it was so fun!  Photos are courtesy of the wonderful Jana Hogg, seminary cohort and actually the person who introduced us to each other.  Hope you enjoy following along with our adventure.

-Margaret

Love this shot!

Love this shot!

Watching Caleb interview for Russian TV.

Watching Caleb interview for Russian TV. I was so nervous I covered my ears!  Not sure how that was going to help.  [smile]

Caleb's interview for Russian TV

Caleb was randomly interviewed for Russian TV outside of the White House.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside the my favorite place in DC- Library of Congress!

Outside the my favorite place in DC- Library of Congress!

 

Us with Jana and Chase

Us with Jana and Chase

 

Growing in Gratitude: Choices

Growing in Gratitude:  A weekly series on “Daily Musings on Life Together”
The psalmist wrote, “Sing a joyful noise to the Beloved all peoples of the earth!  Serve the Lord with a glad heart!  Join hands in the great Dance of Life!” (from Nan Merrill’s Psalms for Praying).  Join me in this dance each Monday as I practice
giving thanks for things big, small, tangible, and intangible.  Feel free to count your blessings in the comments.

As graduation approaches my mind has been focused more and more on the number of choices ahead.  Little choices that seem fun like what dress to wear to graduation or our first Sunday in the new church or where to put our things in our new house.  Bigger choices loom as well like what jobs should I apply for once we are settled into our new city and for Caleb in what directions should he encourage the new church to explore ministry.

Having choices is exciting, but I often also allow them to make me worry.  I am a planner.  When I set about planning my day or our meals each week, I like to think about all that is ahead and make choices based on efficiency and frugality.  I always had an idea that planning was important to me, but marriage to my spontaneous Caleb certainly has affirmed it.  Thankfully Caleb has picked up on my need to know what’s happening next and will plan some things with me or at least give me a heads up when his spontaneity is about to take over.  [smile] While we are learning from each other about new ways to approach the choices ahead, I think one thing we need to work on is being grateful for the choices themselves.  Having choices is such a privilege because it is a sign that we have more than enough.

Last night I was reminded of our privilege of choice when we headed out with a group from our church on Grate Patrol.  Grate Patrol is a ministry of the Salvation Army in DC that provides meals each evening to our unhoused neighbors.  For about a year and a half our church has been participating in this program by providing and serving meals once a month.  As we handed out the brown bag meals of a turkey and cheese sandwich, orange, granola bar, and water, many people accepted this offering with a simple word of thanks.  Others asked about the possibility of a choice.  Each time I had to respond that there was no other choice tonight, I felt confronted by the realization of how my worry over all my many choices is really so petty.

Its a simple lesson, I know.  It is even a lesson that I’ve been taught before, but standing here on the precipice of so many changes and choices I am glad to be reminded again of the blessing of choice.  So today I pray that in acknowledging my gratitude for choice I can let go of a bit of my worry about making the right ones.

Today I am thankful for choice.

What are you grateful for?

-Margaret

Saturday Picnics and Sunday Potlucks

Though the weather was a little chillier than we would have liked, our weekend was full of sunshine and time spent with our DC communities.  And after a tense Friday evening watching the news coverage from Boston while under a tornado watch, the weekend was the perfect antidote.

Awesome ad courtesy of Chris Able

Image courtesy of  Chris Abel

Saturday Picnics:

Personally I think sunny April Saturdays were created especially for picnics.  [smile] I mean what better way to celebrate spring than with hotdogs and veggie burgers, ripe strawberries and whipped cream, tag and Frisbee?  The only thing we were missing was a kite!

Answering the call to “Keep Calm and Picnic On” we gathered with our seminary cohorts to celebrate the approaching end of the semester and the joy of living in community.  Given the weather the night before (lots of rain) we were all a bit skeptical as to the feasibility of holding the picnic outside, but in the words of one of our classmates “a picnic kind of loses its allure when moved indoors.”  Happily the ground had dried out enough to spread blankets and lunch on the lawn.  Lunch consisted of the aforementioned hot dogs, burger, strawberries and whipped cream with a few Whole Foods salads, cupcakes, and root beer floats donated by a few of the student organizations. Chips and popcorn rounded out the delightfully and deliciously eclectic mix of offerings.

Old Fashioned Hymn Sing on the Hill,  Wesley Theological Seminary

Old Fashioned Hymn Sing,
Wesley Theological Seminary

If you’re at all familiar with gatherings of seminary students you can be assured that one of two things will inevitably ensue:  1. theology talk or 2. a spontaneous hymn sing.  Given the stress of approaching final papers and tests, theology was pushed aside for the picnic in favor of joyful singing!  [smile]  One thing I will certainly miss about seminary is the freedom with which my classmates raise their voices in praise.  Their enthusiasm reminds me of John Wesley’s notes for singing at the beginning of the UM Hymnal:

Sing lustily and with a good courage.  Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.  Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

Preach it JW! [smile]  After the hymn sing we decided to grab a photo with said Wesley.  All in all a lovely day and a lovely memory of our experience at seminary.

Group shot with John!

Group shot with John!

Sunday Potlucks: 

Sunday brought a second opportunity in our weekend to share a meal with friends in DC– Crossroads 3rd Sunday Potluck!  As perfect as Saturdays seem for picnics, Sunday and potlucks are paired even more perfectly.  I love figuring out the perfect dish to bring.  This time I picked something that just sings spring is here and summer is coming.  Its one of our families favorites and got rave reviews at the potluck– “Uncle Steve’s Tabouli.”  I brought it as a side for the dinner Sunday, but it can easily be made into the main dish with the addition of some pita, hummus and additional veggies (think sweet peppers or chickpeas).  Recipe follows.  Bon appetit!

“Uncle Steve’s Tabouli”

Ingredients: 1 cup bulgur wheat; 1 1/2 cup boiling water; 1 1/2 tsp salt; 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice; 1 heaping tsp fresh crushed garlic; 1/2 cup chopped scallions; 1/4 cup olive oil; fresh ground black pepper; 2 medium tomatoes, diced or about 1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes; 1 packed cup freshly chopped parsley; 1 cup grated carrot; 1 chopped cucumber

Combine bulgur, boiling water and salt in bowl.  Cover and let stand 15-20 minutes, until bulgur is chewable.  Add lemon juice, garlic, and oil, mix well.  Refrigerate 2 or 3 hours.  Just before serving add vegetables and parsley and mix gently

-Margaret