Saturday, July 28, 2007

Life and Death

life and death
Originally uploaded by * INVERSEFUNCTION

Yesterday the matriarch of our congregation died, quickly and peacefully, with one of her daughters and two granddaughters by her side. I arrived at the hospital about an hour later to wait with them for the funeral home to come and take her body to prepare it for burial. It was a sad, but also a holy time, a time for giving thanks, as death can be, especially when the person who has died has lived a long, full life.

It has been said that death comes in threes, and this is the second one in our church in the last two weeks. This week I also spent some time with a woman who we thought was near death, but, thankfully, it seems like she's doing better and getting stronger. So maybe the third will wait a while yet.

Being a part of the end of life is one of the privileges of my role as a pastor, for it is a sacred journey to move from this life to the life eternal, and it's a blessing for me to do what I can to comfort those left behind. But it can also be sad and even sometimes emotionally draining, because I, too, share in the grief.

Today in my pregnancy yoga class I noticed this juxtaposition for the first time: I am, at this moment, literally a bearer of life, and that is a strange and wonderful thing to be in the midst of death.

At the beginning of this yoga class we go around the room and do a "check-in" so that people can share where they are in their pregnancy and how they are feeling. Most of the time it's complaints of swollen feet or back pain or trouble sleeping, combined with the elation of feeling the baby move, and anticipating (with mixed emotions) the birth process. Today when it was my turn, I shared that physically I feel fine, but that what I was carrying was mostly spiritual restlessness. I told them that I had lately felt surrounded by death, and yet I was also aware that I was in the process of bringing forth new life, and my emotions are swirling. So I warned them, "So if I burst into tears during pigeon pose, that's why," and the room full of equally hormonal women all nodded sympathetically, offering me their permission to break down if I needed to.

Well, I didn't break down. Instead, leaving yoga class, I felt this great sense of hopefulness from being surrounded by so much life. And an awareness and gratitude for both life and death which are part of my life, part of all human life and are each blessings from God.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Blog Envy

Originally uploaded by bookgrl

I am really, really blessed to have this cool friend, Amy Butler who is not only really fun and funny and smart and a great fashion consultant, she's also another young woman pastor, and being friends with her makes me feel like maybe I am not so weird after all. Amy has had a blog for a while now and she's a really disciplined writer. She's very self-depricating about it all, but not only is her blog funny and poignent, but many of her entries are profoundly moving. I have even been brought to tears some of the things she has written.

So Amy has always been my blogging hero, and I know that the Bible says not to be envious, but I admit I am a little bit jealous of her blog. But then today she told me some news that made me really have blog envy: she might get published. And I don't mean on the internet (anyone can get "published" on the internet), I mean like in a BOOK! A writing agent in L.A. was forwarded some of her blog entries and she is trying to get them published!

Seriously, Amy, I am really excited for you and wish you all the best! Maybe someday I'll be as cool as you :)

Friday, July 20, 2007

Stage Fright

This is Ike Leggett with two girls from Woodside (Rachel, on the left, and Julia). I am not sure who took this photo or when, but I love it. It looks like Rachel is interviewing him, which, knowing her, she very well may be!

Last night Woodside opened our fellowship hall for a community "town hall meeting" with County Executive Isaiah "Ike" Leggett. For those of you who live outside of the DC area, the County Exec is kind of like the governor of Montgomery County in terms of his (or her) responsibility/power, the issues and numbers of constituents. So, basically, he's pretty much a big wig, but, I will say, that at least on a personal level Ike Leggett is a pretty nice guy. I respect the fact that he's willing to have these town hall meetings in the various communities in the County and open himself up to questions (and criticism) and there were plenty of both last night. It was exciting for Woodside to host such an event, too, and so I naturally took the opportunity to insert myself into the program (briefly) in order to, hopefully, give a positive impression of the church. I offered to give some words of welcome, an offer which the organizers readily embraced, but I am sorry to say, that, at least in my own estimation, I bombed.

Something happened when I got up in front of those 350 people which rarely happens to me any more, but still occasionally trips me up: I got stage fright. I am not sure if it was that I had been running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to be (literally) four places at once just before I got up to speak, or perhaps I hadn't really thought through was it was that I should say. Or maybe it was the fact that it was ridiculously hot in that fellowship hall and I was worried and embarrassed (disclaimer: the A/C was running full blast but they had brought in these TV lights and the place was packed, so it felt like it was about 90 degrees, and humid). Whatever it was, when I got the mic, I froze inside. I said some of the right things but all in the wrong way. And then I rushed off the stage as soon as I could. I even forgot to introduce the County Executive! Oh well, so much for making a good impression for the church.

Someone told me recently that public speaking is most people's number one fear--more than heights, or snakes, or enclosed places...even death! While most of the time it's not a problem for me, there are times when I do clam up. It helps to know, though, that I'm not alone!