Thursday, September 10, 2009

So...did you miss me?

If there was anyone reading this blog, they have more than likely evaporated into the unknown recesses of cyberspace. It's been nearly 8 months since my last post - weeks after my "cardiac event." And I am just now really understanding what has happened and how it is changing my life.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in her magnificent work on grieving listed the seven stages of grief and loss. Here, in a nutshell is the "7 stages and how I've lived through them" over the past months.

Stage 1 - SHOCK and DENIAL:
Driving yourself to the ER is a sure sign that you are in denial. Even if the Regional Medical Center is less than 2 blocks away from your office. Sitting upright on a gurney in the ER Triage as the heart attack hits its crescendo only saying "ow...ow...something's happening." is denial. Pretending that you can get back to work 2 and a half weeks after said event and go to class and live life as normal is denial.

Stage 2 - PAIN and GRIEF:
You go from complete polar opposites - having NOT paid attention to any signs that your body was BLARING at you for months (if not years) to being aware of every tiny little beat of your heart. Deep remorse sets in as you realize that the dreams of being a marathon runner are now 86'd permanantly - heck who was I kidding in the first place? LOST has less twists and turns as you begin to get a grip on what just happened. You know that you're supposed to be changing your life and like a newly saved individual in your first of many "come to Jesus" moments the contents of your tiny shelf and frig become the homeless' feast du jour. Candies - gone. Crisps...gone. Eggs and red meat - gone. And so on and so on until your frig and pantry is worthy of Richard Simmons dropping in and doing a full on inspection!

The first trip to the grocery store on your own, after those incredibly wonderful meals from the people at your church are over is a sure sign that something's brewing. Of course, what's the first thing that catches your eyes? All the stuff that you have just sworn off religiously. Suddenly the bakery calls out with its earthy and sultry wonderfulness. There is this small ball of yuck growing in you as the anger beast beats down denial long enough for you to realize you're not in Kansas anymore. And it keeps on growing from there. Anger can be therapeutic - ask me how many glasses and plates have "accidently" broken of late? Go on-ask! Sigmund Freud surely would have a hey day with that! So after realizing that you're not able at the moment to completely restock the kitchen with the latest and greatest from Crate and Barrel the bargaining peeks in and in it's glory recreates your favorite "Deal or No Deal" episode. Do you take a bite of the forbidden fruit or hang onto what is in the suitcase which could be a million bucks? Hmmm. What will you do?


Gloom, dispair and agony on me;
Deep dark depression, excessive misery.
If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all-
Gloom, dispair and agony on me.

That...I think sums it all up nicely.


Poor Shelley Winters didn't have an upward turn on the Posseidon, but you do! You see a tiny bit of sunshine in your day as the clothes start to fit loser and you're actually able to make it through a cardiac rehab class without feeling like your chest is going to explode. Could this be the morning after?


Whining is now a daily habit. You whine at how many pills you take. Whine at how much you "can't" eat, you whine about...oh wait - isn't that ANGER lurking around? Bad Anger - Bad, Bad, Bad! NO SOUP FOR YOU! Life ain't the bowl of chocolate moose track ice cream with crackle hard topping that you hoped it would be post event. Nope - it's worse! YIPPEE!! All your cracks are showing - and others are seeing them as well. Of course, let's just admit they saw them all the time now they are taking you up on the request to hold you accountable and gosh darn it - they love you! They really love you! Life begins to be a game of chutes and ladders as you start to think you've figured something out and quickly realize that you belong in the remedial class for heart patients. It seems like you're living your own groundhog day and can't seem to get back to your happy place. Oh wait - it's now DENIAL showing up again!!! Good grief! Sniff...Sniff...Sniff - you blubber for your old life, for your fun life, for your "it's got to be better than this" life. And when you've had enough of the pity party you climb off the throne and start to figure out just what everyone has been telling you for years. And you ask the all important question: "if they are still telling you the same thing post 'event' does that mean you still have yet to figure it out?" (Short answer - Yes.)

Stage 7 - ACCEPTANCE and HOPE:

So life has given you a second chance. Really, the Creator has let you ride the merrie-go-round of life one more ride. Maybe even more! Your ears are finally starting to listen to what your heart has been telling you all along - one beat at a time. Leave juggling balls to the pros - life has an absolute number of balls that one can have in the air at all times. Spend time smelling the roses - heck plant a few and learn how to take care of them. Remember the 12 steps, the golden rule, all the stuff you learned in Kindergarten. Eventually you'll get the hang of things as long as you remember you're not the one in the driver's seat. Oh yes and the most important tip of all - breathe.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What the huh????

The holiday season went well. It was incredibly busy but a very good. Here's a brief recap-

Our drama "A Gift for Clara" was wonderfully received. The children did a wonderful job at proclaiming God's love and desire to fill the empty spaces of our hearts and lives. I learned a lot from the experience - mainly that there is much to know about the background details in a church that is technically saavy. The churches that I have been working at have grown in their technical sophistication. From the South Pasadena Episcopal Church which we had nothing technical at all during my internship there - I think the Rector was blessed with an over the ear mic my last few months there - but no video/recording or lighting etc. to speak of; to the church in Oregon which had some lighting and technical (sound) stuff but was not set up to do productions to my current Church. Here our tech booth upstairs is awash in serious sound and lighting boards, video cameras, DVD and CD recording and duplicating objects and at least two different montitors projecting or tracking what is on the two jumbo screens in the Sanctuary. It's amazing. I wish I had a picture at the moment of the tech board but alas I don't. The response from the community and kids was positive and we are looking at ways to incorporate more drama in the future as an outreach ministry to the community. But I have to say again our parents' commitment to the ministry and to the project was phenomenal. From our volunteer director/producer/choreographer couple to the people who pitched in to help with costumes, wrangling, etc. There was much that I didn't know that needed to be involved and now have a good idea of a pre-production list/accounting that will get us off on the right foot next time.

Moving directly into the Christmas Season from Clara came our Family Christmas Eve Service which was well received. I had wanted to do several stations and backed away from that after talking with some people who thought it was a bit "scary" to do - and later was told by my SP that if I have been given the authority to construct a service to go ahead and move in the direction that I am envisioning. Quelle Freedom! We had the entire service done primarily with children and youth - from our worship leaders, readers, object lesson presenter (a college guy who work/interns with our youth on breaks) to a special presentation of the christmas story by Linus Van Pelt of Peanuts fame. I shared a small message aimed at both parents and children and we concluded with a "christmas story in a bag" station which had children come forward and put together objects into a bag which they in turn could tell the christmas story to another person the next day. Next year - watch out we may be into something very different....

School ended the day before Clara and I was plagued by massive problems with my computer. I had pulled up the saved and completed paper only to need the gift of interpretation of tongues if I wanted to translate. Gobble, pure gobble. Nothing could convert it back to any version of English so I had to wind up rewriting and submitting it late knocking my A paper down to a horrid C. And bringing my overall grade down to a C as well. And to think that I had a B+ average going into the final and paper. Oh well...

Then - the drama began. My mom came into town the day before the performance and promptly began to suffer back pain and I had to eventually admit her into the ER and hospital for pain management. The goal was to have my sister fly down, care for mom (she's an RN) and then together fly back to Portland but within a day or two after discharge we realized that she was not going to be able to fly and my BiL drove down to escort the two back home between snow storms. She's doing better now, still struggling with some pain but that apparantly will take time to work its way out.

With all that drama out of my world I attempted to relax and rest prior to starting school again. I picked up my exercise - moving towards getting healthy enough to run a 10K in the summer and managed to drop some weight during the holidays - not much but some. One of my resolutions or goals for the year had to do with finding out what it was going to take to really connect me back with loosing weight. I had done it in the past, and successfully I might add. Yet gained 5/8 of the weight back when I ceased exercising and lost sight of portions. I was working out with a trainer/PT and feeling better than I had - though really tired and exhausted all the time.

Then after a good work out the day before, I woke up two weeks ago with a pain across my back -traps, lats, obliques. Just what my PT told me to expect. But the darn pain didn't seem to go away, it just seemed to increase over the day to the point I was apologizing to a fellow CM leader who came to visit about my having to keep stretching during the conversation. After cutting the meeting short, I decided to go home and sleep it off thinking my body was just recouping from the witner and new schedule it was on. But the dull ache in my teeth just didn't seem right and I drove the 1/2 block from work to the ER thinking it was just strained muscles.


The pain in my jaw got worse from the car to the ER, and then I began to get short of breath. I used the two magic words in triage "chest pain" and was immediately brought in and strapped up to monitors, IV's etc. Still hurt but was ok for about an hour when I really began to hurt...

You know that you're in trouble city when the nurses eyes get big and all of a sudden cardiologists and radiologists are swarming your bed. And then you start hearing stats that match your description and the word "ICU" being used in the same sentence. So obviously - I'm not going anywhere and began to call and cancel my speaking engagement for the next day, a couple of meetings and letting work know I'm not going to be in the next day and send some Elder's over please to pray.

What the huh?!!!???!! I suffered a heart attack. And had angioplasty the next day to clear a blocked artery.

I'm way too young to be doing this S*#T! Way too young to be watching a cardiology team put pieces of metal into my heart to prop up an artery. And while I am incredibly thankful for technology, and medication and knowledge and especially incredible HEALTH INSURANCE (thanks EPC and my church) it's a major slap in the face.

So the good news. God answered my prayer. You remember the one that I mentioned about what it was going to take to get me focused to loose the weight and make better life choices? Found it. Not necessarily what I would have liked but I do appreciate the irony in the entire experience. Already 10 pounds are off the body in two weeks and I am slowly moving back into the world - with a new perspective on what a reasonable schedule DOESN'T look like. I've been spending the past week organzing, and purging all over the house - as though it is an emotional response to the need to reorder my life. And spending lots of time exploring how to rebuild a new rhthym in my spiritual life because obviously what I had was broken.

So here is the thing - I look at many people in ministry and we have many of the same qualities - especially in Children's and Youth Ministry:

*We are often great nurturers and caretakers - sometimes to a fault;
*We like a good challenge and excel at seeing things accomplished;
*We take a lot of work onto our plate setting an example for those who work with us;
*We may be a "mellow" type A but we are type A's at heart;
*We expect a lot from ourselves;
*We balance too many balls in the air;
*We care for everyone else and put our own health and wellness at the bottom of the list;
*We may not have the funds to regularly see medical professionals, or care for our physical health;
*We will schedule out time for exercise, rest, family time but then let the cares of people and ministry impede;
*Many of us are overweight;
*We are more Martha's than Mary's

Craig Jutila in an article this past year addressed his departure from Saddleback Children's Ministry to focus on his health and wellness and that of his family. In that article he shared how he thrived on ministry and used that sense of success and achievement to feed his soul and emotional needs. Sometimes to the extent that his family was shut out of portions of his life. After a considerable time of refelction Craig did an amazing thing and left Saddleback, choosing to focus on recovery. Now back in ministry in a new project (successfully, I might add)he is attempting to take back parts of his life that the "ministry monster" devoured.

How many of us fall in this trap? Whether you are in ministry or not we daily are forced to make decisions for our family. Do you put the kids in yet one more sports or after school activity? Take the promotion knowing that it means even more time away from the family, travel and late nights? Push ourselves to achieve that A even if it means we suffer sleep deprivation while balancing work. We lose sight of what it means to be the one who sits at the feet of Jesus. Soaking in his presence. Basking in the love of the Spirit.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Is it a result of our brokenness? Sin? Unrealistic expectations?

I return to work next Tuesday and church on Sunday. There will be 300 pairs of eyes watching every move that I make, every morsel that I put into my mouth. I know by virtue of my position that I will be in the fishbowl during my rehab and recovery. And you know what? I welcome the attention as difficult as it will be. It gives me an opportunity to model and live out an attempt to conform my life, my passions, my appetites more close to God's desire that we be health and prosper as our soul prospers. And in the end, I hope that it will be a sense of encouragement to others that they too, can find balance and wholeness in the midst of the cacaphony which attempts to drag us from our true focus and calling.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oh my stars....

So I have decided to take the plunge and sign up for a month on eHarmony. Now my friends have had great results - one just was married recently. Another swears that many of her friends and family have been matched successfully. Me? I'm not sure what I have just committed to. In fact, I had buyer's remorse the minute that I hit that little "YES" button to confirm the credit card. So I have at least a month to check this out and see if my aversions to this are unfounded.

I don't know what to think. I don't know. I just don't know. So, if you would like to leave a word of encouragement for me please do. I have not been in the dating world seriously in over 6 years and I feel like I'm back in remedial dating 101 classes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Instead of Christmas as usual....

Consider doing something different. An alternative to the same old/same old.

Consider how your contribution of time, talent and treasure in ways other than presents can impact more lives than the receiver of a gift that will wear out, break down and eventually be tossed aside.

It's worth the consideration.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Montecito Fire

Please keep praying for the Santa Barbara/Montecito area as they are battling the many fires burrning. A member of my ministry team just stopped by and updated me from her son that several Westmont Faculty members have lost their homes, two dorms have burnt down and one or two class buildings as well. There have been numerous fire companies here in the East Bay that have been dispatched down to the area to assist.

A friend (Thanks Britta) let me know early this morning that Mt. Calvary Retreat House and Monastery had burnt down. For many in the Los Angeles area, this place was a spiritual sanctuary. Built in the 20's and 30's, Mt. Calvary was purchased by the Order of the Holy Cross after its designers/owners suffered great losses in the depression. It contained a beautiful garden tended to by Brother William, two cottages where Brother Roy did calligraphy and Brother Joe created gorgeous iconography. A stone labyrinth graced all outdoors as well as vistas that made you feel like you were far removed from the urban landscape of LA.

For me Mt. Calvary held a very special place - it was one of the places where my spiritual life was resurrected after a long, dark dry spell. Two retreats in particular that I participated in taught me about servanthood and the need in my life for humility. I discovered and embraced spiritual disciplines of contemplative prayer, a rule of life and simplicity which are still a regular part of my spiritual life. In fact they are almost like oxygen to my spirit as I so often tire of the evangelical, purpose driven fodder that is passed off as spirituality in much of the church world. It was the place where I went after my dad died as I waited to head down to his funeral. The place where key decisions related to receiving my call took place. This past April, I took a larger step and became an Assoicate at Mt. Calvary - committing to support its work/ministry/life any way that I am able.

It is interesting to me how/where our sacred spaces are in the world. This was one of mine. I grieve that many will need to wait until it is rebuilt to encounter what many of us have experienced. I'm thankful for the role it's played in my world. And continue to pray for it daily as I look at the pictures of my last trip there in April daily in my office.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The meals that tie us together...

My cousin has a wonderful blog "An Alameda Garden" ( that chronicles her garden journey/projects as well as highlights the role that food and gardens plays in the life of a community. She recently posted this video on her site. I have been shopping at farmer's markets or direct from farm markets for the past two years...and recently had sticker shock when I purchased vegetables etc. from a chain store. With the economy in the situation that is currently is in, wouldn't it be something to once again move towards a more local, sustainable food source?

This Lawn is Your Lawn from roger doiron on Vimeo.

Friday, November 07, 2008

First Mid Term grades

Crud. I only scored a B+ on the exam. Totally blew it on the multiple choice as usual.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

No Subject. Just Life. Really.

I guess the title of this entry says it all. Nothing really falls into a catgory. I'm just sharing about my life. Really. That's all. Work is going well, I'm so glad to have a SP on board. Such a refreshing change. It's been interesting for me that with this new change there has been this bit of cautiousness that has risen up within me. I knew that it was related to my field ed experience. It took a bit of time to work through some of the apprehension and realize that I am not in the same environment, the clergy person that I am working with now has a very different style of leadership than my previous one. That I am respected here by leadership. But it was still this really bizarre experience when I was having that initial conversation with S and he brings out this file folder with the internship package info in it that I gave our EP. There was the part of me that literally wanted to dodge the subject all together. He was actually positive about the possibility of mentoring me. We've had some great conversations since his arrival and during his time as Interim. While I may be more fluid in my ministry praxis - we have a great meeting of the minds. And what I appreciate more than anything is his openness to consider (not necessarily agree) with new ways to look at something. He wants to engage with his staff and that is so refreshing on many levels.

The reality is that I just don't want to be burned again in this whole ordination process. It's not happening here but I am waiting for that "shoe to drop" feeling. Someone once said that it is normal to experience that type of expectation when you've had a significant loss in your life. So I just continue to do what I have learned to remind myself that life doesn't always play out the way you think it will - sometimes it's GOOD! The good news - the apprehension departed within a day. A record for me.

I feel as though I am once again in this deep growth place spiritually. I'm coming to terms with some residual crud related to my perfectionism again. I started seminary again the last week of September. Already it's week 4 and midterms are here. I have a lot of reading in my Gospels class, and it isn't easy always an easy read. We're tackling two books by N.T. Wright and the Introductory Text book by Achtemier, Green and Thompson, and an exegetical methods book by Michael Gorman. I'm finding I can't breeze through reading these days. I'm making notes in the margins and really trying to improve my comprehension which seems to very low than I care. The fact that it seems to take more concentration frustrates me and lo and behold kicks in that "I am willing to do whatever I need to go get that A." I know that the grade doesn't validate who I am as an individual. That comes from who I am in God. Yet I have come to the conclusion that grades do matter to me. They are more important to me than I realized. It is a sense of accomplishment when I can achieve an A. What is interesting here at the Menlo Park campus is that the pressure on grades isn't as much as it was in Pasadena. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that there are so many going on to PhD's and the extension campus doesn't have that option. It just seems that here there isn't that edge of competition and expectation that everyone brings their A game here. I had to laugh because the other night in Greek someone shared that for many here "C=M.Div" In my world a C=F=why bother? Needless to say that I am finding myself passing on outings with friends, trips to the City to stay home and study. Will it be worth it in the long run? You betcha. Just sucks occassionally.

S's installation is coming up in a week. It's much different in style and tone than one I previously was part of. That one was full of pomp and circumstance. It sometimes felt as those we were attending a coronation. This one is about 180 degrees different. Very reverential, simple, humble. No pomp. Some circumstances. Building Bridges is over - another incredible weekend. Even our childcare kids did more service projects this year than last. They carved out pumpkins and cut/arranged flowers creating centerpieces for the dinner tables at our Saturday night celebration. I posted a couple of pictures above - hopefully I can figure out how to center them - don't know what happened but oh well.

Today was one of those days where I really missed my long time friends. I miss not calling my newly married friends to hear about what is up. They're in nesting mode and I don't want to disturb them having been married 3 and 4 weeks ago respectively. Facebook has been terrific in connecting me back with friends from college, high school and LA - and I guess it just makes it rough when you wish you could just drive over, walk across the breeze way or down the block and see them. One friend in particular M, I'm missing more now after chatting with her for the first time in months. We're planning to connect when they fly out to Disneyland in December. I had the flight scheduled within 15 minutes of reading her email with the dates they were going to be there. And my vacation request in as well! Of course, it didn't help much that I watched the "Sex in the City" movie the other night with my roommate D. I was completely surprised at what a great job they did with it. And I missed the girl's nights we used to have in L.A. and at the Oregon Coast. I wouldn't trade SF and what I am doing for anything but wish there was a way I could have my cake and eat it too when it comes to location and close friends. And of course the theme of what you'll do when you love not just "in love" with someone made me seriously consider eHarmony - but where do you pencil in a relationship between work and seminary? Is there a way to have a healthy, loving relationship, satisfaction in work/minsitry and a successful seminary career? I guess I'll never know unless I attempt it. Stay tuned for more...

Saturday, September 20, 2008


After a string of hot days in the San Ramon Valley it has suddenly cooled down. Last night I looked out the back window where I am housesitting to see the traces of Mt. Diablo underneath rain. Walking outdoors later that evening there was that unmistakable drizzle that came down. It's amazing to me how quickly things can change-the weather being just one example.

We settled into the Fall term for Children's Ministries last week. It was one of those weeks that was just incredibly busy. Our Session and Presbytery approved the selection of the Pastoral Search committee and last week our congregation voted to approve the call of our new Sr. Pastor. What seemed to be a very long period of wariness is coming to a close. Our new SP S. will begin his term here I believe the first week of October. The kids rooms were completed with the little touches to be added weekly so by the end of October the rooms are all complete but it leaves a little excitement for the kids to see what is new for the first few weeks they are in their rooms. The teachers are enjoying the curriculum and for some being reminded how little preschoolers are and how rambunctious 3-5th graders can be at the beginning of anything new. Our teachers are still turning in their schedules and the master schedule is coming together with a few very noticable gaps still waiting to be filled but from what I know of this community they will be filled by the end of the month.

Other changes going on include those of my friends. Two very close friends of mine are both getting married on consecutive Saturdays. Two wonderful reasons to head down to LA and be at what was home for over 13 years. I love watching love bloom. One couple has been together for a long period of time; the other has come together relatively recently. Yet both are healthy couples, in healthy relationships which I know will become healthy families over time. I look forward to celebrating God's blessings in their lives as we bless their unions and futures. Someday, I tell myself I hope to find myself celebrating that kind of love.

My mom will soon be returning to Oregon after a three month stay. It's been good having her here and yet at times challenging. We're still negotiating the dynamics surrounding an adult child/parent relationship - my mother still struggles with understanding the relationship has changed. It makes for interesting conversations and many frustrations on my part. My goal this time has been to just let her be - and to focus on not allowing myself to get caught up in button pushing which for the most part I have done fairly well. Much better than other extended visits.

For me personally, I return to Fuller after 2 years of absence. With more insight than previously, I have opted to take two courses one being an audit (Greek refresher) which will give me the courseload of two courses but only credit for one. That way I can adjust minus the over-stressing I'm prone to carrying 8 units and a heavy load at work simultaneously. I have spent the past late Spring until now working ahead and lining up support staff to help lead the ministry so the weight of responsibility is not falling on me - which is the first sign of poor ministry management. I am blessed here at this church to have individuals willing to step up from the moment that I arrived. It has made all the difference and for a less stressful load.

Just like the arrival of Fall, it's amazing to see the changes happening in the world and lives around me. It's a time to remember that while change will always occur, there are constants that you can always hang onto - the most notably being the constant presence of God working amongst us.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Farewell my friend...

Jane E. Rowan
Feb. 27, 1948 to July 26, 2008

The news came Friday night as I was out in the City on a "Girl's Night Out." Jane, who I had asked for prayer back in February, had taken another turn for the worse. This time, the email said - it looked as though she would not make it through the night.

In the morning, when it appeared she had made it through my desire to believe that being the strong willed, "prove you all wrong" type of a person she was, she would show us all wrong and bounce back from this bout as well.

At around 8 p.m. that night my phone rang.

I knew who would be on the other end of the phone. I knew what she'd be telling me.

And I didn't want to hear it.

Jane passed at 6:47 p.m. Saturday July 26th. She was a gifted artist, writer, jack of all trades. Her pilgrimage on this earth was ecclectic - full of experiences, places, people and things that were wonderful and delightful in unique ways. One of the most incredible experiences that I remember from her was her journey and discovery of her birth mom and family. In the winter of 2006 I met her birth mom and sisters at her adopted mom's memorial service in Shelton, WA. Listening to their stories of finding and being found were amazing.

I'm still reeling from this. Not in an over emotional way, more shell shocked I guess. Of all the people who would battle something like this, I really believed she'd be the one to fly the finger in its face and prove doctors, hospitals and care centers all wrong.

Here's to you Jane. Myself and the other Mags will miss you dearly in this world. May you find yourself wrapped in the light and love of the Eternal Creator now and always.