“Into the Wild”

Since I attended the Summer Institute for Theology and Disability last week in Atlanta, I decided not to sing in the choir at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. I wouldn’t have gone to church at all but it was Mark Ramsey’s last solo sermon before he begins serving a church in Austin Texas and I didn’t want to miss it.

I do hate sitting with the choir and always looking at the backs of worship leaders’ heads so it was nice to see everyone’s face. At the reception, Kristy Farber the other minister at Grace said that Mark’s sermon was a “greatest hits” kind of sermon. This was true but I needed to hear some of his greatest hits!

While I don’t agree with him that being in the wilderness is not the exception but rather the rule, I appreciated his sermon on Exodus 16:1-12. I could be wrong though because I do seem to spend a lot of time in the wilderness. Perhaps others do as well. (Read sermon here: rhttp://storage.cloversites.com/gracecovenantpresbyterianchurch1/documents/sr-31May15-alt.pdf)

He also said wilderness times are extreme times. “Highs are higher and lows are lower. Joy is richer, and pain is more intense.” Again, this isn’t true for me for when I’m in the wilderness all I see is darkness and I feel no joy. It may be that my wilderness times happen when I’m depressed which makes these times bleak and lonely but when I’m there, all I can do is repeat over and over again that God is with me.

bulliten May 31n[1]As Flannery O’Connor says, “I can, with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.” Sometimes I need to close both eyes and simply remember what God has done for me in the past for even squinting my eye doesn’t help!   In any event, Mark was right when he said, “In the wilderness, God strips…and God provides. That means we have to learn new things, new ways, we have to walk down new paths.” He calls this a wilderness gift.

Mark’s favorite thing about the word Manna is the literal translation which is, what is it? “Every morning families would go out and gather a bowl of what is it? They would prepare it as creatively as they could, but in the wilderness, there weren’t a lot of options. Presumably, there was no ‘what is it’ helper” and on he went. (You may wish to listen here for his delivery is excellent: http://www.gcpcusa.org/#/the-message )

He said “…the people of God were nourished by a question, not nourished by answers… but by a question: What is it? What is it, God that you are doing? What is it that you are making us into? What is it you are asking of us? This is the question that kept them alive in the wilderness.”

It seems I’m always asking God for help through the wilderness. Perhaps my questions are keeping me alive! I often think God gets impatient with all my questions, my moaning and my groaning. Perhaps She does but Scripture is full of stories about people who are just like me. We’re searching for a way through the wilderness. As Mark often has said over the years “keep open to the wonder of faith, keep nimble to move where God is moving, keep yearning for the large, deep world God is giving us….and leave all the rest to God.”

This is what I try and will always try, to do. Stop worrying and leave all the rest to God.

SUMMER INSTITUTE ON THEOLOGY AND DISABILITY

moon God is watching you
I received this picture from a friend and it seems just right for how I feel today. When I look at a moon, I get such strength and courage. It’s a visual reminder to me that God is always there and I’ll be just fine. Since I needed this reminder, I wore my moon earings to a voice class I had last night.

I’m excited and nervous at the same time since I am going to Toronto next week for the 2013 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability. It’s a little “out-of-my league” but I’ll be okay. The presenters have written books, taught classes and done research on various aspects of theology and disability. Then there’s me: a Presbyterian minister from Asheville, North Carolina who has a brain injury and is interested in the field. I’m not even sure I’ll completely understand all the presenters but that’s okay. Just being there and soaking it all in will be extraordinary.

I have a huge tendency to worry. “Will I get on the wrong plane and end up in Cuba?” “Will my spatial orientation issues mean I’ll be lost all the time?” “Will my tendency to be what is known as a “space cadet” shine through?” “Will I be able to use my ear plugs and ‘rest my brain’ enough?” “Will I try to do everything, knowing full well I have to skip some things in order to make it through the entire week?”

Since I’m now taking swim lessons and am improving my stroke, one of the ways I handle stress is gone. I used to swim laps and then repeat a phrase over in my mind in rhythmic motion. Now I’m too busy concentrating on my stroke to do this. This morning as I was doing my morning walk with Sparky, I decided to use the time to repeat part of Romans 12:2 “Not conformed. Be transformed.” Over and over I said the words as Sparky trotted beside me.

What happened? I calmed down. I realized it doesn’t matter if I don’t understand everything. It doesn’t matter if I can’t stay for an entire presentation due to cognitive overload. It doesn’t even matter if I miss a few presentations because I need to be by myself for a while. I have to do what I have to do to take care of myself and trust others are doing the same. I suspect if I don’t conform to what I “think” is the right way to be, I will be transformed.–more–>

Worry wart

worryI am such a worry wart!  I’ve been a worry wart my whole life.  I don’t want to even think about all the joy worry has stolen from my life.  When I played violin, I remember spending hours and hours practicing until I got a passage just right.  However when the time came for me to perform the piece, I was often too busy worrying about the passage to actually enjoy playing the piece!  Sometimes I wish I could go back to the past to those days and try not worry so much.  However,all I can do now, is not let worry steal any more of my life.

I’ve been worrying so intensely about things I didn’t even notice the nest of finches on my front porch.  My husband Michael has been in deep thought as well so it was sort of a surprise when we noticed yesterday the nest contained five little birds.  They are almost ready to fledge which means I missed watching the mother put food in their beaks as they grew.  I’m mad at myself for missing this because I could have looked right out my front window and watched.  So again, worry has stolen me seeing an amazing part of God’s creation.

While my tendency toward worry doesn’t have anything whatsoever to do with my brain injury, all my worrying wears me out much faster now than before.  I’m sad about missing the finches but I don’t want to miss anything else God sends my way.  I can’t help remembering the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:31-33 (The Inclusive Bible):

“Stop worrying, then, over questions such as ‘What are we to eat,’ or ‘what are we to drink’ or ‘what are we to wear?’  Those without faith are always running after those things.  God knows everything you need. Seek first God’s reign, and God’s justice, and all these things will be given to you besides.”

Thinking about how I can help bring God’s justice and reign to this world is certainly more valuable than letting worry steal joy from my life.  I think I’d better go watch those finches on my front porch before they fly away.