Tuesday, April 13, 2010

So this is what is like to be a pastor...

Since Thursday of last week my supervisor has been out of town, leaving me as the only "pastor" on site. He got back today (Tuesday) and it took until today to really feel like I can be a pastor. And there is a couple of reasons why. First was the monthly pastor's meeting (local ELCA Lutheran pastors, don't get too excited). There was no preset agenda for the meeting for the day so what we did was go around the room, just checking in with each congregation that was represented there. Now, normally I go with my supervisor and neither one of us says much. I say little because I defer to Pastor Joe (my supervisor) for any information about what is happening at church. And Pastor Joe says little because is rather introverted and doesn't say much to begin with. But today was different, Pastor Joe wasn't there, so I said very little for the majority of the meeting. I listened to each pastor and/or intern say something about the congregation that they were at until everyone had their turn and finally someone said that we should hear about what is going on at Family (Family of Christ is the congregation that I am at). Now I finally get to speak as an equal. Pastor Joe isn't here to speak to the rest of the group on behalf of Family, it is now my responsibility. I reflect on what is going on at Family as well as a couple of other things that I noticed during the course of the meeting. I felt like I was on equal terms with everyone in the room, and not just the interns! After the meeting was over, a couple of the pastors came and talked to me about what I had said and I finally felt like I was able to make a connection with the people that were present in that group (after seven months of going to these meetings!).

The second thing that happened was that after I got back from my meeting I talked with the church secretary and asked her what it was that I had missed while I was gone all morning. I fully expected to have missed nothing but I was told that there was a small emergency that happened and instead of having my first thought be that I should defer to Pastor Joe for whatever might end up happening, I took charge and made phone calls. It was an interesting transition to have the thought that I can't take care of this emergency to this is something that I need to address and it will do no good to wait until Pastor Joe can take care of it.

The reality of the situation is that these are rather small incidents in the course of the week, but it made me feel like I am finally filling this role. It is one thing to lead worship and preach and teach confirmation and to help with the youth, but it is another to add this pastoral element that has been lacking so far in my experience. In seven and a half months of time at this church, today I felt like a pastor; and I think that I can live with that position. I don't think that I have to run away from it or fear that I will be inadequate. If there ever was an experience that was going to reaffirm my call, today was just that.

Reflections on Lent and Holy Week

I have found that if there is one major difference about Lent as an employee of a church versus simply being a church member is that as an employee you are held much more accountable for your Lenten disciplines than you are as a church member. I made it no secret that I had given up junk food for Lent (no soda, cookies, candy, chips, fast food, etc), and people didn't let me forget; especially the youth that I work with. One Sunday night, during youth group, I had brought strawberries and whip cream for the kids to snack on. I had a strawberry with whip cream and one of the kids started to give me the third degree for eating whip cream. I never thought of whip cream as junk food, it's more of a condiment, but after that point I didn't eat whip cream.

But there was more to Lent than not eating junk food. I taught my first Pre-Communion (First Communion) class. It was a small class of just four kids, but I really enjoyed it. And, after five weeks, when Maundy Thursday rolled around and it was time to give communion to the kids for the first time, I was almost in tears. I don't think that I have ever been a part of or worshiped in a Maundy Thursday service that moved me as much as that one did. Communion, especially now, has lost some of it's luster, but seeing the pure joy and excitement in the eyes of the children as they held out their hands and received communion for the first time was enough to make anyone's heart leap with joy. And then to see the parents overflowing with joy as their child fully enters into relationship (communion if you will) with the rest of the congregation, there was so much joy present in that moment. I don't know if I will ever be able to top that Maundy Thursday experience.

Good Friday service was enjoyable, but the Easter Vigil was another special experience. Instead of just having people read through the many readings of the night, people volunteered to read and had creative liberty to do as they wished. Some simply read, some did a creative narrative retelling, but one parent was rather creative. He read through the passage of Ezekiel talking about the dry bones and each time he said "dry bones" he had the half a dozen kids that he had up there with him shake, rattle and roll the various instruments that they had. The kids got so into it, it was hard not to smile at this somber passage.

Easter Sunday came, bright and early with the sunrise service at 7am. It was a small service, but it somehow set the day apart from other Sundays. Not to say that Easter Sunday is just any Sunday, but it somehow changed the tone for the rest of the day. And perhaps one of the most joyful parts of the day for me (and simply because it is something that I have wanted to do since I was a kid) was to stand at the front of the congregation, at the start of the service, before announcements were given and say, "Alleluia, He is Risen!!!" And then have the congregation respond, "He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia!!!" There is power and joy in those words and it is such a different experience to say those words from the other side of the pew.

All in all, I enjoyed Lent and Holy week. Holy week was not nearly as stressful as I thought that it was, but maybe that is simply because I am an intern right now and not a full blown pastor. But I think that with one Holy week under my belt now, I can say that I can look forward to another ... and another ... and another (you get the idea).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A loss of identity

I had this thought the other day while running...

Being a pastor means a loss of individual identity. Once you are a pastor in a congregation you are forever a pastor. In fact often it means that you lose identity outside of "pastor." Your name is sacrificed for the title and job. You are no longer seen as a person with purpose or identity outside of that of pastor and you undergo a metamorphoses from a normal person with normal hobbies and interest to "pastor."

There are few other professions/vocations/jobs that cause people to undergo the same change as that of the vocation of pastor. Most other jobs you are able to leave work at work and have a life at home away from the stresses of work. Most other professions do not require 24 hour on-call availability and even your days off become work days due to the requirements of the office/members/etc.

And so what does this all mean, especially for me? I'm not entirely sure. Right now I am neither pastor nor member of the congregation that I am working with; I'm in some sort of limbo in between. It's not as if I wasn't already aware of what I was getting into. But the more that I work at the church the more I realize that the role of pastor is not one that just anyone can fill; and how much more I appreciate the 40 years of ministry that my supervisor has done. And who knows, after a few years of my own ministry in the church I'll have a different perspective on all of this.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Time Boxes

Most of us in Western Culture have been taught from a very young age that we must put time in boxes. Our time at school is from A to B and our time at home before dinner is from C to D and homework time is X to Y. We know this because we live and die by the clock. Everything that we do in Western society (most everything) is linked to a specific time. Work starts a 9am. And since work starts at 9am if I am to workout before I get to work I must wake up at 6am. My office hours are form 9am-3pm. Meetings in the evening, dinner at 5pm. I only have a hour for this, thirty minutes for that. We chase hours around so much that we often forget to enjoy the time that we have.

The last two weeks have been extremely busy for me and I have felt like I have not been able to get all the work done that I need to get done. In fact I know that I haven't as I sit here and look at my list of things to do and I see that very little has been crossed off the list. Each day the past two weeks I have felt like I could have used more time across the board. More time in the office. More time for myself. More time to sleep. More time in the morning. More hours of daylight. More time spent on working on my internship project. Perhaps the only place that I wish I could have had less time was to have a little less time at church. Having meetings and other such reasons to come back to church each night Monday through Friday for the last two weeks (plus Sunday nights), I have felt like I'm living at the church. It's been stressful and it has been affecting my productivity.

Part of the added stress comes from a new visitation schedule that Pastor Joe has given me. I have nothing against visiting people, but it is more time that I simply feel like I don't have. So I fully intend on going on these visitations and meet with members for an hour at the most, but once I am engaged with these people I find it hard to leave, and for all the good reasons. I thoroughly enjoy talking with and meeting and knowing the members of the congregation more, but at the same time...it takes time. It is hard to try and manage office hours, meetings, choir, confirmation, my internship project, twice daily exercises and my own personal time (which really is what often gets sacrificed) in a short 24 hour day.

But I suppose that my dilemma with time is not just my own but shared among all of people that work full time and especially among those in ministry and even more so for those that are interns as they are first learning how to deal with a life of full time ministry.

So maybe the solution is to not worry so much about putting time in boxes but to rather enjoy the time that I have. Because after all, there is only so much time before I leave this church, I leave seminary, I leave this world.

Friday, January 1, 2010

God is with us.

I guess the words of my last sermon are a lot more important now:

The end of the year provides us a great opportunity to reflect back on our life. It allows us to look at many of the joys that we have had; at many of our great experiences from the last twelve months; at our disappointments; at the questions of the past year of our lives that we have asked. Our Gospel lesson from today ends with a series of questions. Why have you treated us like this? Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? Not a single one is answered. And we’ve all been there before, haven’t we? In a place where we just feel like it is us and God and we ask questions and wait and then…nothing. We feel like we get no answer from God. We sit and wait and reflect on what is going on in our lives and then wait more only to think that our questions and prayers have fallen on deaf and divine ears. Mary’s situation is not far off from that. She is in a crisis situation in her life, at least a situation of great panic; she’s lost her only child and has no idea as to when or where. And upon finding you can almost hear the string of questions that comes out of Mary’s mouth. “Where have you been? Where did you go? Do you have any idea what your Father and I have gone through?” Mary doesn’t get an answer, at least she doesn’t get a direct answer, instead Jesus, the Son of God, the Word incarnate answers much in the same way that any other twelve year old would, “Why are you worrying? Didn’t you know where I was?” It is an interaction that we can all understand (from one side of the conversation or the other) and yet it doesn’t seem to help Mary at all, it doesn’t seem to comfort her at all as she is left to ponder her questions. And it seems that we are at a bit of a disadvantage, if Mary cannot get a straight answer from God, from the very Word incarnate, then how are we to expect to get one from God?

The most that I’ve ever felt like Mary was my sophomore year of college. It was a dark year of my life for many reasons. There were family problems that were almost 150 miles away, I was without direction…not knowing what my major was going to be or what it was that I wanted to do with my life, I was extremely stressed out, I was having conflicts with my roommate and so so much more. As the year went on life became more and more difficult and my multiple prayers, pleads and questions to God throughout the year seemed to go unanswered. I couldn’t wait any long for an answer so I went for a walk. I walked out into the now rainy night and started a tirade directed right at God. I was angry with God with the position that he had put me and my family in. And so I yelled at God. I made ultimatums for God. I said things to God that I would never and have never repeated since. It was a night that I was not proud of but a night that I felt that needed to happen. Now, many years later I can say that many if not all of my prayers were answered, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

In times of great trial it is hard to see where God is. When everything around us seems to be falling apart, it is hard to see where God is. And if Mary had issues with this what are we to do? Many of the miracles of the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany season are not events that we see everyday…or ever any more. I have never seen an angel before. People aren’t sent to barns to stay some place because the hotel is full. Wise men don’t travel halfway around the world for the birth of a child. And finally, it’s not everyday that God comes down to earth as an infant to redeem the world. It’s not everyday that one can converse with the God in flesh and bone. So what can we do?

What can we do when our world falls apart around us? What do we do when we are ill? When a loved one dies? When we lose our job? When we feel like we are out of control? We often become angry. We yell. We ask God, “Where did you go God? Why did you abandon me? Do you have any idea what I have gone through?” “WHERE WERE YOU GOD?!” We are so wrapped up in the crisis of our life that we cannot see God. And justifiably so, when we are asking God these questions it is normally because we honestly feel like God has turned turn his back on us. We wonder why God hasn’t listened to our prayers, to our questions over the many months or even years before we ask these questions in anger and frustration before God. Ultimately we wonder where is God in midst of this life crisis?

So what is the answer? Where is God? I think that God would say something like this, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And although Mary may have had to ponder the meaning of these questions, we know what this means. We know that God has gone no where. God has always been right here. God does not leave us during times of hardship, rather God stays with us. And although we may not see it at the time, God’s hands are guiding us and those around us to help during times of hardship and suffering.

Now during my sophomore year of college I thought for sure that I had been forgotten by God, but I should have known better. Looking back at that year now, I can see God’s loving presence in each moment. I can see working with my friends and family to help me and my family. In fact, looking back at it now I can see God working hard to make his presence known, it just wasn’t what I was looking for.

So often when we feel like the prayers and questions that we have laid before God remain unanswered it is because we expect certain answers. I know with my own experience I was expecting multiple miracles from God without having to put forth any effort on my own. I wanted God to miraculously fix each of the, what seemed to be, life shattering problems over night. But that is unreasonable. My family crisis was impossible to resolve over night, my relationship with my roommate was not going to be solved over night and even knowing what I wanted to do with my life was not going to be figured out over night (and that might have been the easiest of the problems at the time). Life doesn’t work that way, God doesn’t work that way but we can take solace in the fact that God isn’t going to give up. God is going to stay right beside us as we work through our hardships. God suffers along side us. God is with us in our struggles.

This is the Good News of this Gospel lesson that God will not leave us. One of the commentaries that I read said that it is hard to find any good news in this lesson because of the fact that there is no resolution, no answer to the question; Mary is left to ponder and stew over her brief conversation with her son. But I think that the message is quite clear; Christ is always where he belongs and where he is needed. And he is needed here at Family, here in this building that is our sanctuary, what we call God’s house and here, in our hearts, never leaving us no matter where we go or what we do or what we suffer through. And I know that it may be hard to hear but I hope that if you will not hear it from me that you will hear it from someone because God is with you now and forever. So next time you ask, “Where are you God?” You can know that he is not far, for he is right here and he hasn’t gone anywhere. Amen.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

2009: A Review

I apologize for the long absence from blogging. Life got busy and the blog got neglected, but I am here for a triumphant return. Which is odd because I was told by one of my friends that I triumphantly returned to life again at the beginning of 2009.

The end of the year is almost here and with it comes a reflection of what has past. It is something that I have done for a number of years and each year seems to bring about different changes, different revelations about myself and the people around me. Now I could probably look back with great concentration and see different lessons from some of the more recent years to compare, but I honestly don't have the energy so I will focus on what has happened in the last 365 days, give or take a few.

In the year of our Lord, 2009, day one began with heartache; or at least the lasting effects of heart ache. But at the same time it was counteracted with the arrival of new friends. New Years Day was spent with my family, watch the Rose Parade and eating some sort of wonderful hot breakfast cooked by my father. The conclusion of New Year's Day proper meant that I was to be returning to St. Paul, to continue with school for the rest of the year.

It was here that new friends were to be found through the arrival of my January Term cross-cultural class that took place in South Minneapolis. It was a wonderful experience, in an old and cold church, that involved many lively discussion and an even greater amount of churros. I met some wonderful people there, people that I probably never would have got to know if it wasn't for the class. And even though the course was spent largely in a cold room, the people were loving and warm and full of life. A wonderful experience no doubt.

February brought with it two beginnings: the beginning of the semester and the beginning of a long weight-loss journey that I am still wondering my way through. Academically the semester was hardly out of the ordinary (although I did complete my first fully online class), but the weight-loss was a totally different story. I actually had started this journey back in August, but due to illness and certain involvements in my social life, it came to a bit of a halt. So I started again. I found myself weighing at just around 250 pounds and I set a goal of 210 by the Fourth of July. It gave me a weekly goal of just about two pounds per week. So I started getting up a little earlier than I had before and going to the gym. This wasn't always the easiest of things to do when it was freezing cold in the morning, but I went none-the-less. It was a hard that first month, but I hit my weekly goals each week.

Month-by-month the semester went by. And there were two classes that I thoroughly enjoyed: (although I think that all of my classes in the spring were great!) my online Holy Spirit class and my creative writing class. My Holy Spirit class was one of the most work intensive courses I have ever had. Being that it was online, there were large amounts of reading and even more writing to be done (I averaged about 12 double-spaced written pages per week, just for this Holy Spirit course). But at the same time I think I learned more from that Holy Spirit course than I did from any other. Granted the burden of learning was on my shoulders. If I didn't read or reply to the postings online, then I wasn't going to learn anything. It was a great challenge and I only wish that all online courses were that well done. And then there is the creative writing course, which was entirely less work intensive, but equally as rewarding. The class was small and it was spent entirely in discussion about how to write creatively and religiously. Our creative outlets were through hymns, poems or short stories/vignettes. It was a good opportunity to flex some creative writing muscle in the middle of a world dominated by dry academic writing. It also provided a nice counter-point to the very work intensive Holy Spirit course.

The spring semester of 2009 also brought with it the fulfillment of two plus years of course work and learning as I was to finally find out where I was going to be headed for internship. This was a process that I had started and inevitably had to delay in the spring of 2008; which meant that going through the process again was bittersweet. It meant that I had to going through some of the same orientation, listen to some of the same questions and read through some of the same congregational profiles again. It was a stressful process and I really just wanted to get it all over with and find out where I being sent.

But I still went through it all. I went to each of the orientation sessions. I read through dozens of congregational profiles. I rewrote my internship application and when all was said and done I had my heart set on one congregation in particular. Now before you get your hopes up like I did, I didn't get assigned to the church that I had my heart set on. I wasn't even told that I didn't get one of my four preferred congregations. Instead I opened up an email and I was assigned to a congregation that I had only read the profile once: Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Vancouver, WA. I was shocked and I didn't know what to do. I was crushed. (Before any of you readers out there get any ideas, I have loved my internship site and I have been blessed to be here, but I didn't know that this was going to be the case at the time.) It felt like I was dumped; which is ironic if you know how 2008 ended.

But life went on, and so did the semester. I finished my course work and was looking forward to a nice summer, a summer of rest before life to a left turn at Albuquerque and I started internship.

The summer of 2009 was full of travels; and with three different driving trips that were no less than 500 miles each, it was a lot of traveling. The first was a trip back home. Normally going home would mean jumping on a plane, but I had to get my car back to California for an emissions test so it was a road trip this time around. My Dad flew out from California and we drove across the country and back. The drive out to California was great. We had great weather, and even managed to get a free stay at a hotel for the return trip. The return trip, that was another story. But first, I should say that I enjoyed my time at home. I knew that I didn't know when I was going to make my way back home again so I made sure that I took extra time at home. But after almost three weeks at home I was ready to get back to my friends. The return trip. The return trip was nice until we made our way into Nebraska and then the fecal matter hit the rotating blades. The check engine light turned on not shortly after we entered Nebraska and it wasn't able to be fixed by a dealership until we got to the other end. Which really only temporarily fixed the problem as the check engine light came on again in Iowa. Long story to a short story; it was $1200 and three dealerships later until the car was completely fixed. I was not happy about it, but there wasn't much I could do. The next few weeks were a blur of activity.

I went camping to Lake Itasca, MN with some of my friends from the seminary. It was great fun, even though it rained practically non-stop. Basically the only times it didn't rain was when we set-up and took down camp and the hour or so that we spent on the lake canoeing. I should be happy to say that I managed not to tip the canoe even though I hadn't been canoeing since the 5th grade. It really was a great trip and I thoroughly enjoyed my tent bound trip with my friends.

I should pause this story to make note of the Fourth of July. It wasn't anything particularly amazing, fireworks and all the regular stuff that you expect from the celebration of our independence; but it is worth noting that I made my weight goal. In fact I had surpassed it by four pounds, weighing it at 206 pounds. It was a long and hard journey, but from August of 2008 to July of 2009 I went from 275+ pounds to 206 pounds. It was a net loss of approximately 70 pounds. I actually lost more total weight than that as I was down to 228 pounds in December of 2008 but gained the weight back by the beginning of February of 2009. My gross weight loss was approximately 92 pounds. Now granted some of that weight loss can be attributed to having mono at the end of 2008 and into the beginning of 2009. But I would like to think that I did most of the work.

After my trip to Lake Itasca it was a short rest before I had to back my life into boxes and head out west again. My last week in St. Paul was spent packing and organizing my life in to various size containers and figuring out what I was to keep with me and what was to stay back in storage. My final full day in St. Paul was marked by many good-byes and tears and packing up my car for the journey across the country.

My drive out to Vancouver, WA went without any sort of problems (thanks be to God!). I arrived at my new place of residence and was met by a few eager pair of hands to help me unpack. It was odd to not be living on a campus of higher learning any more, but I welcomed the site of a full kitchen at my disposal.

I arrived in Vancouver about a week before I was to officially start my internship and so I took advantage of the time and visited some friends in Seattle and took some time to set up and rest before a twelve month journey of learning and ministry.

At first start, internship was more questions than answers and I think that the first month I spent more time just trying to figure out what was going on than I did anything else. I spent much of that first month sitting in my office not know what it was that I was supposed to do, but that soon changed.

With the beginning of October came the beginning of what I think was my full swing of ministry. I took over the Adult Education hour (Adult Forum) between services Sunday mornings, as per the request of my supervisor; I continued working with the confirmation class; I started preaching on a regular basis; started thinking about my internship project; I started working with the youth; and much more. All of a sudden life didn't seem so boring, and I started to know what was going on at the church. This continued on into November, as I planned my first worship service (Thanksgiving Eve) and I finalized what my internship project was to be: a youth leadership program called F.L.Y. or Family's Leadership in Youth. In October I also met the other interns in the area and have been befriended by the other two that are here in Vancouver. I look forward to our Monday night gatherings and I am thankful for their opening their hearts and homes to me.

And that brings us to December. This month has been hard for many reasons. Not only is the season of Advent full of new challenges (mid-week services and many many get-togethers) but there is other turmoil, turmoil that I will not mention here in a public space. One of the bits of inner conflict that I can mention is that my family, for financial reasons is not exchanging gifts this year nor are they able to make it up to visit me for the holidays. This marks the first Christmas (of probably many) that I will have to spend away from my family. It has been hard to deal with but I know that this is something that I will have to understand sooner rather than later.

But I am not alone with my personal conflicts. I have a friend that has had many hardships at work; another that has had to deal with death and another that has had to deal with great illness. Great conflict is all around me at a time of the year when I am supposed to be filled with and surrounded by joy. It's a duality that I have found hard to deal with. So 2009 appears to close in the same way that it started, with heart ache. The only difference being that of the source.

But I look forward to 2010 with great joy and some trepidation. I look forward to see how ministry plays out here at Family of Christ. I look forward to seeing my friends graduate from Luther Seminary in May. I look forward to seeing multiple friends start a life-long journey in marriage. I look forward to my return to Luther to see how their internship experiences went. I know that it is going to be difficult to leave Family of Christ at the end of the summer of 2010. But it is something that I will have to do.

But most of all I look forward to the rest of 2009 and the promises that are brought forward each Christmas.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Things Present and Things to Come

When I first found out about where I was going to be doing internship I was a little less than happy. To be completely honest, I had to fight back the few tears that were trying to escape in the middle of class. It was not where I wanted to be, it wasn't even one of my preferences. I was in shock and after reading the congregation's profile, I felt like I was thrown into the exact place I didn't want to be. The congregation wanted someone enthusiastic about Youth and Family ministry as well as Mission and Outreach. When I read that I what was really being said, "Glorified Youth Director." That was exactly what I was trying to avoid. I knew almost nothing about the congregation and could find nothing out online as their website was all but broken. I knew that this was a site I didn't want to be at. I knew that I really wanted to be somewhere else. The only thing that I truly liked about the site was that it was in Washington State.

At first glance I thought that this was just another adversity for me to overcome in my seminary journey. I whined and moaned and complained (thanks to those that were willing to listen, you know who you are) and it got me absolutely nowhere. I realized that there was no way for me to change where I was going so I tried to make the best of it. It wasn't easy, and by the time I darkened the door of my office for the first time I couldn't honestly say that I was completely crazy about the idea of being.

I'm now two months into my internship and I don't know if I could have found a better place. Oh sure, there are things that I might wish to have different, but I still am doing all the things that I wished I could do on internship and more. I am on a committee to discuss the recent changes in the ELCA. I get to teach confirmation just about every other week. I've been leading the Adult Education hour between services since the first week of October. I'm preaching at least twice a month. I'm helping to develop services, working with council, leading worship, working with the youth and more. It is so amazing to me that a place that I had no desire to be at is the place that I probably needed to be at the most.

Of course I shouldn't be surprised, this seems to be my life since I felt the call to seminary/life of ministry. I ended up at Luther Seminary instead of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. I ended up doing my Clinical Pastoral Education (chaplaincy for those who do not know) not in California close to home but in the Twin Cities in the coldest and snowiest winter they have since I've been there. I ended up doing internship my fourth year of seminary instead of my third. Nothing seems to go as I planned it to be. And a little bit of pop-culture/theology might have something to say about it.

So I started reading The Shack. After months of trying to avoid it I felt that it was finally something that I should do. And even though I haven't finished it yet (so no spoilers please!!!) I can see the value in the book. At one point in the book there is a conversation about conforming to the will of God and how we must be willing to do what God wants even if we can't understand why. It's a hard lesson to learn but it is so key. Now this particular conversation in the book was also talking about freedom, but I won't go there. My point is that my wants, my will is broken by sin and therefore self-serving. I can't possibly know that is the best thing for me because I can't see beyond myself. God on the other hand is not handicapped by sin and God's will is perfect. It is only until I am willing to see that fact that I can be able to move freely in his will. And until I learn this I must continue to wander through the desert (metaphorically speaking).

This last Sunday the topic for the Adult Education hour was Old Testament themes, one of which being wandering and wilderness. One of part of the themes is that it is a vital part of one's faith to wander through the wilderness. It may seem that this is contradictory. To wander is to be lost, but in the Bible to wander is to be closer to God. The wandering in the wilderness is a time of discernment, grow, learning and faith. Even Christ had to wander in the wilderness for forty days before he was able to fulfill his ministry and ultimate task of death on the cross. Now I'm not trying to say that I am Christ, I am far from it, but I have recognized that this time is a time of discernment for me. I need this time as it is vital to my faith. Before this time I took at face value what was presented for me. If someone said God is good, I believed them because it made sense, but I had never thought how or why God is good. If someone told me that such and such was a sin, I believed them for the same reasons, never challenging the perspective to see if it truly fit with my own, to see if it fit with my relationship with God. Now I cannot make right my relationship with God through wandering, but I can be lead to a better understanding during my wanderings by the Holy Spirit. And I think that is were I am, wandering with the Spirit as my guide.

And so I wander, I don't know what the rest of this year is going to hold for me. Sure I can look at the calendar and see what is coming up and I can see the relationships of the people in this congregation grow and change as my time goes by, but I don't know what is going to happen with 100% certainty. And the great part is that I don't have to. All I need to do is be present in the moment, right now, and know that whatever is going to happen God will guide me. In the end all I can hope for is an experience that is as good as the one that I've had so far. And so far the experience has been great.