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More or Less Church

Joanna Depue "DJ/Deacon J" writes original songs and liturgies, does daily Farm office work and records Barbara's eMos on The Geranium Farm. A singer and dog trainer she utilizes healing touch in her private massage practice. PLEASE share YOUR original ideas for worship, special liturgies, prayers, songs, sermons and noteworthy blogs right here.
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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I Doubt It

"I doubt it". An easy phrase. Often heard. Heard frequently in the 'blue states'.

No, you will NOT sell me the Brooklyn Bridge. No, I will NOT give you my social security number over the phone. No, I do NOT believe the Ginsu knife will outlast me.... well, maybe yes on that one, though I'd rather not contemplate that just now.

Doubt is pervasive - if you have an inkling you are being 'taken', if you question the sincerity of the person with whom you are speaking, if you have made mistakes or experienced a failure or setbacks in the past that you relentlessly beat yourself up about, you are a prime candidate for the label of 'Doubting Thomas'.

Wisdom and common sense dictate that we should be cautious about some revelations, about some risks, about some relationships. There is a strong case for tempered scepticism in life.

There are other times, however, when doubt gets in the way. Your parish wants to grow and the pastor asks you to brainstorm about the strengths of the parish and how that might translate into programs for evangelism and outreach. If you have been a long-time parishoner, chances are you have worked on a slew of committees, fund raisers, publicity campaigns, youth events, pledge drives. Certain things (done, incidentally ten or more years ago with other people, with no computers, with no phone tree, with no money) failed. Your instinct is to discount the idea. I DOUBT THIS WILL WORK because we tried this already five years ago and it didn't work then.

Or... how about someone who has hurt you in the past (after showing mild remorse and asking forgiveness and hurting you again) comes to you and acknowledges their past, asks for ways to make amends and asks for forgivenes. What is the first thing that comes to your mind--- could your thoughts be saying, loud and clear, YEAH.... IDOUBT IT!???

Doubt has a place when it comes to flimsy merchandise, deals 'too good to be true' and dealing with a person of severe psychological duplicity. It can keep us financially responsible or alive.

There are times when doubt impedes our growth: mental, emotional and spiritual. Avoiding risks is risky business. We risk being loveless, insensitive, compassionless, uninspired people. Doubt, taken to its extreme can be crippling.

One thing that people doubt - for whatever reason - is the unconditional love of God. There are certainly times in my life when I have looked back at something I had done - willingly or without thinking it through - that hurt others. Then and there I reasoned Surely, God will 'get' me for this... or that. My reason was a reflection of my self doubt and cynical nature. Well, miracle of revealed miracles, The Divine is simply not like that.... God doesn't 'get' us-- we are quite capable of doing that ourselves! God invites, beckons, remains available when in our spiritual blindness we mistake it for invisibility. God's love fades not, fails not, asks for nothing, deserves everything.

Venture to doubt your doubt of God's love; embrace the assurance waiting to embrace you.... and don't doubt THAT for a second!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Vacation and Vocation

Understand, of course, folks I'm putting the two together because they are on my mind... not the same section of my mind, but rumbling around in there amidst tidbits of trivia and a samba I've let play in a loop in the far recesses of my memory banks.... well, and besides, they kinda sound the same- but in practise are not... not by a long shot.

Vocation - a calling forth. Specifically a calling by God to some activity, life journey and purpose. I scratch my head when I recall the various vocations I believed I heard God whispering in my ear or thumping me on the side of the head with or nudging me from within. The call to be: a gym teacher, an actress, a singer, a therapist, an activist, a trouble shooter, a nun, a diligent lay person, a deacon, a priest. Any one of them would be valid, any one could be fulfilling (if lived into). But in God's economy, one tends to know one's vocation for two reasons: 1) others see it in you and feel compelled to let you know about it and 2) when you are living into it, it "feels" right...... from time to time, it may not 'feel' comfortable, but it will feel right.

A vocation to some ordained ministry is an odd bird indeed.... and many people have tread down the path firmly believing that's where they belong only to be told by one committee or another that their understanding is not corroborated by a discernment committee or a weekend with the diocesan Standing Committee or the Bishop of the diocese.

The ordination process is not for the faint of heart.... and if you approach it only on your own steam you flirt with, if not experience, disaster. Oh, the hoops, the tests, the scores, the interviews, the sleep deprivation and the self doubt! All of these checks and balances exist because, for all of our best intention, our goodwill, our effort, our sincerity--- well, it may be something other than God, speaking through all of these factors, saying I need you to do this with Me. We frail and fickle humans, with our complex needs and motivations, can convince ourselves of much - including what we think God wants us to be doing. It is then when we need prayer, Divine guidance and inspiration, and perspective assistance to lead us in the right direction.

Now.... if I haven't shaken some aspiring candidates to their core and running into the hills let me tell you other things as well. Should you choose to risk being vulnerable, wise, yearning for learning, adept at seeing the face of Christ in so many earthly guises, faithful in prayer and diligent in Love of God and neighbor, you will be rewarded. Whether you are eventually ordained or not, you will be blessed and rewarded. Because you WILL learn what your vocation is.

Let's fast forward here. You are about to be ordained and you are in a whirlwind of activity and anxiety. I can tell you that - with all the work to ordination, the trial of waiting - (and this is really going to sound strange)- it never sank into my consciousness that - for the most part - my weekends were always going to be booked and that I would be working every holiday! Whoa!! Funny what you don't think of that catches up to you! A bit of 1/2 frivolity aside, after the Bishop has laid hands on you and lets go, some part of your being has been altered, enhanced, humbled. You will first be the new kid on the block, not knowing how to approach some situations and stumbling rather unceremoniously in others. Then you will be among your peers while a new set of rookies comes up and you share a small knowing smile. And the circles goes on - that is, as long as we inspire others younger than ourselves to take that first step.

The vocation does not stop there - because, for the most part, once ordained, always ordained. You will be called every day to take up your cross - publically. It is a responsibility that is serious, but not crushing. Your help is in the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Which brings me around to vacation. Every worker deserves their own pay. And to be a person of faith, of integrity, of balance.... holy..... you have to take care of yourself by minding your health--physical, mental/emotional, spiritual. So take a vacation, already(although I don't suggest one in mid homily)! Take a break, get a change in routine and/or scenery.

For those whose vocation it is to serve faithfully by functioning on church committees and activities, take some time off, too. Spell each other over the summer and freshen yourself and your spiritual vitality. Visit another church wherever you may travel. Bring back a bulletin for your home parish (we clergy often don't get around much to see what other folks are doing!).

Got some words of wisdom on how God and others helped you discern your vocation? Drop us a line. We all need help along the way, we sojourners here. And may God continue to bless you in the vocation that is uniquely yours. Amen.

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