Monday, March 26, 2007

Is a closed door always a sign?

It's Monday, the start of another week. March is almost ending and I am grateful for that. It's been a rough month - a month that seemed to hold promise on some ends only which didn't pan out. Reflecting on these experiences has been interesting for me. There is a sense of attempting to acknowledge that providence seemed to determine that these were "closed doors" and communicated that to me very clearly.

Yet there is this question that has once again raised its head in my theological framework. Is a closed door always a sign? There are times in the past when there have been pastors or speakers who have communicated that when something doesn't work or pan out in the way that you or others expected it to; that it could be acknowledged that in the God's plan this was a way of your answer to prayer being a no or a closed door at this point. I've heard many of my friends mumble under their breaths about whether or not there was one "one" for them - and what happens if that "one" joins up with an individual not intended for them? Then there are the plethora of stories that arose out of the ashes of 9/11 which shared how individuals missed trains, subways or decided at the last moment not to take flights only to find themselves spared from the horrific events of that day. In my world it is interesting to note that a former work associate and his family had wound up staying a day later back East only to find them booked on one of the flights that crashed into the World Trade Towers.

At times it's hard for me to digest the concept of providence and sovereignty in our lives and the fact that there is much more to this Universe that we are not privy of in spite of our delusions of grandeur. The work associate who died on 9/11 - can we really say that it was designed of God for that individuals life to end on that day? And what about their 2 1/2 year old son who was killed as well?

There are times that I think in life we have to be comfortable with saying "I don't know" to questions such as these. I don't know why things turn out the way they do at times. Personally, I don't know all the lessons that I am to gain both now and in the future from this experience in Oregon, nor do I fully comprehend why some opportunities and connections don't happen the way I hope for them to end. And at the same time I am grateful to recognize that those "closed doors" that I have prayed for did happen and new openings have begun which might lead to a better venue - and actually one more closely aligned with my skillset and passion.

So to answer the question I posed, perhaps closed doors are a sign of the "not yet" factor playing out in our lives. Not the right time, not the right venue, not having learned the right lessons yet to walk through that experience in a healthy way. After all, not yet is neither negative or positive, it just is. And living in the present not knowing exactly what is to come next is one of the more challenging lessons in life that we learn. For me, I sense that is what God is teaching me right now. To be content in the grey, the not yets while knowing that in these moments growth is taking place.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Latest

It's been an interesting couple of weeks. The long term "hiatus" is growing weary on me - I am looking forward to getting back into ministry believe it or not and have been finding myself thinking about how I could leverage my experience with children into a ministry that might be more adult minded. Or looking at the possibility of finding some other way to be involved in ministry while still focusing more on finishing up this M.Div.

The news came back recently about San Jose - at the moment it is a pass. I was not surprised as it seemed that there was always this "but" dangling at the end of the conversations. It was hard to hear those words, I really felt that there could have been a good connection there as well as a match in the vision and goal of the ministry. The community had lost two key individuals this past year and are being so cautious not to repeat this departure scenario again that they are being extremely meticulous and deliberate in calling someone to the position.

Two and a half weeks ago I began conversations with a church in San Ramon which seems to be more in line with what I am looking for. Strangely enough it is not an "emergent" church yet has a heart to meet the needs in an emergent manner. The church already has two female associates so the ability or ease of working with women in leadership has already been laid out; there is an active outreach into the community by every ministry including children; and there is a focus on grace, rather than legalism. I've been invited to come down this coming weekend for a second interview. The conversations which I had this past weekend were positive and left me feeling as though I could fit in within this body. There are positive movements and comments on both sides so it will be exciting to see what the weekend holds in store.

In the meantime, it's been a challenge to find a temp job here - it appears that I am "over qualified" to do the executive assistance jobs I've done in the past - or they squirm when they see a resume that demonstrates administrative ability but the last three jobs in churches. I can see where that would be a challenge to some but sheesh wade. I remember at PwC where I used to work they purposely recruited at BYU for associates because of the students high level of ethics. I've signed on at Starbucks in the meantime for medical insurance after 20 hours of work a week. That and the fact that the people that I am working with are very fun to be with. For the meantime until a job comes it will be enough to cover rent and the car payment, very little other however.

I had to change classes at Fuller the ones that I wanted were booked. So I am taking Dr. Karkkainen's theology online which starts tomorrow. I've already had a chapter read in the book and waiting to get the other books from the bookstore mailed to me.

I've also settled on a church while I am here in the area. It's called 2nd Street Community Church and is a 180 degree turn from where I previously attended. The pastor is going through Haggai currently and it has been like water on parched ground. I can slowly feel God beginning to heal the wounds incurred at this past ministry experience - it is slow but I know that I will be stronger for it.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Does Dobsen Truly Speak for Us?

I continue to applaud the Vice President of the NEA for his willingness to stand up in the face of those who preach a gospel of intolerance. To me it is just plain audacity for Dobson to truly believe that he (Dobson) speaks for all Evangelicals

"If he cannot be trusted to articulate the views of American evangelicals on environmental issues, then we respectfully suggest that he be encouraged to resign his position with the NAE."

Dear Dr. Dobson - there are individuals within the Evangelical movement who do believe that we are to be the caretakers of this environment. We are to be on the forefront of insuring that generations to come have a world that is not only inhabitable but that it reflects the character and nature of God's creative power. There is a growing sense of discomfort Dr. Dobson, with the gospel that you and others articulate to the public at large. There is a growing number of individuals from my generation and younger - that hold to a gospel that demands respect for all people, all the environment, and a respect for the earliest roots of our faith.

I'd encourage all of us to contact the NEA and share with them our agreement with Rev. Cizik and ask for his continued presence within the NEA.

Ideal vs. Reality in My World

Wow! I didn't realize how long it has been since posting here. Life since leaving my ministry position has been interesting. I had some ideas as to how I was going to spend it and as usual, my so called "ideas" went one way and the reality was something radically different.

I thought that I would immediate go about looking for a temp job.
Reality was that I found I needed to really rest - that the amout of stress and "life" that had hit me hadn't been processed through completely and I needed to focus on this.

I thought that I would organize and box a ton of stuff up
Reality was that I did organize (yeah!) but held off doing a lot of boxing from the standpoint of I'm still waiting to see where I am going to land.

What has been good is a sense of rest that has happened in my life. This period of time has pulled up some aspects of my life up that I didn't know were areas and places that I needed to still grow. Areas such as the need to still please individuals - how often did I hold back what I was feeling/personal spiritual beliefs because I felt it was more important to show a "unified front" when honestly I was didn't hold the same beliefs? Why did it take so long for me to finally step forward and say that "this wasn't going to work?" How come I repressed the core desire within me to truly be a part of a community that strove for reconciliation (economic, racial, spiritual) when that is something that has been a part of my life for so long?

I found myself spending much time pondering these aspects (and others that will stay between me, myself and I) at the Oregon Coast with two great friends. Together we checked out the Aquarium, had great conversations, checked out the beauty that is in Oregon. In the process there were times of quiet and the ability to get alone with your own thoughts. I have to say that I really missed living in Manhattan Beach after this weekend, there was a peace that came back over me that has been missing for awhile. Actually, I think it was the sense of being grounded and centered.

I came back from that weekend focused on committing to a rhythm of life that would foster my sense of being grounded and centered again. In the process of having my world turned upside down over the past year and a half, I've realized that all of the things that I had incorporated into my life spiritual and communally to provide me with a sense of being centered had evaporated. So Ash Wednesday I again moved back into a rhythm that includes mindfulness and silence. I continued to do the traditional "simplicity move" that Christopher my 20s/30s priest had shared with us - to hold off any major purchases during Lent and instead focus on clearing away the clutter and excess that can be found in our lives. As a result there is a major purging right now of clothes and other items that I haven't thought of or needed in the past year. It feels good to let go of some of things things as though they are freeing me up in anticipation of the future. Of course, I am already trying to find a way to justify splurging on my birthday which this year conveniently falls on a Sunday - the "free day" card for Lenten abstinances!

As far as the work search goes I've had some really good conversations with a community in San Jose. It's been difficult on one hand because I have been honest with them about some of the areas that I discovered weren't necessarily as strong as I have thought them to be in the past; shared with them some of my strengths that have come out of the experience as well. The concern for me is that looming question of whether or not I am "shooting myself in the foot" with regards to this honesty. I am hoping that this is a mark of recognizing my limitations and vulnerabilities as well as trying to live in humility before God and others. I am tired of trying to please - the only voice I need to hear say well done from is that of my Creator.

This past Thursday through Sunday I was down in San Jose with this community. After a flight rescheduling (thanks Alaska Airlines for bumping my earlier flight - I enjoyed the free lunch on you all and the 1K extra miles!) I would up immediately going into interviews for the remainder of the weekend. I kept using the word intense to describe them but honestly I couldn't think of another aside from "I felt as though I was in group therapy" to describe it. No, actually, I guess that I could say that the conversations that I had during my time there felt like the ones that I should have had in my discernment group for vocations in the Episcopal Church but the parish that I was involved in really had no clue as to what or where to go during the process. The questions were deep, probing my personal faith and life, how did I handle my areas of wounded ness, what was community to me and how did I go about searching and finding it to others that quite frankly I just can't think of at the moment. I had approximately 4 conversations on Thursday, at least 8 on Friday with two individuals at each one, lunch and dinner with pastoral staff people, and a desert on Friday night that went till almost 10 p.m. - a 13 hour day of deep processing. Saturday I met with at least five individuals, dinner again with pastoral staff and collapsed into bed to chat with one of my good friends in North Carolina about the process. I am so blessed that there are people in my life who are willing to be open, to reflect back to me not necessarily what I want to hear but what will be the best for me and who I genuinely have fun with! P.S. - to that friend it would be a blast if we both found ourselves in the Bay Area!

Finally on Sunday I taught the K/1st graders and then presented a discussion on Spiritual Disciplines. THe evening I met with one other individual and shared a bit more at length and hopefully shed some light on areas that perhaps I was not too clear on during earlier conversations. Then I had a taste of community life by watching the Oscars with a group of people and taking home the prize for matching Oscar song nominees. I decompressed on Monday by checking out the area near San Jose for places to live, culture. In a surprising experience, I went back to the city that I grew up in and found myself sitting in the pews at the church where I consider my spiritual formation to have taken place. Out of nowhere I found myself getting emotional - here I was in the environment where I discovered God - where I came to love God, to know that I was loved, to take part in community through sacraments and life in general. It was the place that formed me on a much deeper level than I have ever connected with previously. And in some aspects it is this community that has given me the blue print so to speak for how ministry to children can take place and needs to take place during this period of shifting from modernity to postmodernity. In the process I realized that what this community in San Jose was seeking I had found as a child and could offer a piece of that discovery to them for their own journey as a people of faith.

Since my arrival home it has been life as usual. My step-niece gave birth to her first born Jayden Miguel, who is just gorgeous - at least from the pictures I've seen. It snowed Tuesday and Wednesday and melted upon touch down - the type of snow that I like when I am not at a ski lodge! And I've been hunting down some temp work while I wait for the church to respond back to me by the 12th. This is the part of the journey that I dislike - the period of waiting. I'm trying to look at it as an opportunity to remember how to rest in God's faithfulness and as my mom shares - remember that nothing is going to surprise God during this time.
I registered for Spring quarter as well today - I'm taking Dr. Goldingay's Penateuch class on line and President Mouw's Christ in Culture via IDL. Yes I am a glutton for punishment but I really do want to take these classes from both of these professors and this is the only way when I'm not at the main campus. I may be blogging about drowning in reading in approximately two and a half weeks but this is the norm on Fuller's campus.