Posted in calling, Campus Ministry, Fear, Grace, Ministry

What do people see?

Do you ever wonder what people think when they see you?  I’m not completely just talking about visual judgments here, but the whole shebang.  It’s just funny to me to think about how we are each perceived and how close to the mark that is.

One of the students and I walked over to the campus Starbucks earlier today to talk about seminary and candidacy and all that is wonderful and crazy about heading into ministry in the United Methodist Church.  It was a fun conversation and I’m excited about his journey.  What was funny to me is that one of the folks we met along the way, that I know pretty well, didn’t even speak to me or seem to recognize me.  Now, I must say, that since there’s no meetings today and I’m not anticipating having to look too terribly nice, I’m in jeans and a short sleeved shirt with no make up.  You could call this one of my uniforms.  What is hilarious is that when I’m dressed nicely with my make up on, I’m recognized immediately, but in my “natural” state, not so much. Now there are pros and cons about being recognized and pros and cons about blending in.  I just think it’s funny to think about.

I mentioned this to some of the students at lunch and one very nicely and graciously and probably a little untruthfully, said – “What?  You look exactly the same.”  God bless the young.  We were having some conversation about the upcoming school year and getting ready for Welcome Week and the first few weeks of classes and how we need to plan and prepare and get rocking this summer so that we show the very best of Winthrop Wesley those first few weeks. In other words, we’re going to put on our nice clothes and make up and rock this thing.  Or as my Ganny would say, we’re going to put our “face” on.  Thinking about it – it’s the truth.  When do I clean up and make sure everything looks nice – when someone’s coming over, when there’s a board meeting, at the beginning of the school year.  When do we put out fresh pine straw and make sure the outside of the building looks good – Orientations and the beginning of the school year.  When do I actually consider wearing a suit or ironing that dress – Annual Conference, a district meeting, or some other professional gathering. When do our congregations particular dress up – Easter, Christmas, graduation, the big days. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with celebrating or dressing up for dinner or actually using the fine china every now and then.  (Come to think of it – we have NEVER used ours and that is a sad, sad thing.  Maybe we should plan a big dinner sometime soon or at least use the stuff.  I don’t know why we even registered for those tea cups.  My Lord.)  Reality is that I think sometimes we need those occasions or deadlines to get geared up and do something.  Although I know that I need to exercise more and stop eating all of these delicious cookies from Lell’s, I also keep thinking to myself – I’ll start tomorrow or maybe one day when I get a bike and ride it to work or maybe before bathing suit season.  And yet, we’re at bathing suit season and I’m thinking, I don’t really have to wear a bathing suit, right?  Or maybe I can scratch the bikini this year and actually go for the “Mom” suit.  (You know the kind I’m talking about, don’t even try to deny it.)  Sometimes without an imminent deadline, we languish where we are and don’t make the extra effort to get our “stuff” together. So as much as I in some ways don’t like being recognized and it’s nice not to be “seen” all the time, it’s also a good reminder that we’ve got to keep it moving and keep it flowing not just on the high traffic, big deal, main event kind of times, but maybe at least a trickle of keeping it hospitable, welcoming, genuine and open all the time.  You never know whose going to walk into your congregation at what time or who you’re going to welcome to your door.  You don’t know if today’s going to be the day at Starbucks that you meet someone that is going to rock your socks off and be that missing piece to some ministry idea or ministry team or whatever for your congregation.  I’m not saying we’re not authentic – and I’m certainly not saying that I’m going to suddenly dress up for Wesley each day, but I am saying that we’ve got to be aware of what the world sees.  We’ve got to be aware of how we’re perceived.  We’ve got to be aware of the image that we create.

While at lunch there were three professors in the restaurant with us and one of them who comes to our Faculty-Staff lunches looked over and smiled and waved as the students and I were discussing Nicaragua and the upcoming school year.  That’s what I want these folks to see – students engaged and excited and brainstorming – not just about their schoolwork or their majors but also about their vocational journeys, their worlds – all the fun and mess and real life.  We want the world to see all of who we are – not just the Sunday morning shiny with the great hair, outfit, and full face, but also the struggles, the tears, the frustrations and everything in between. So the challenge – put our best foot forward – true – but be real.  What is your image of yourself?  What do you think the world sees?  What do you think God sees?  How are we called to be in the world?  Do we need a big fancy event to throw on some nice clothes or use the good china?  Who or what has helped to define how you see yourself?

“Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks–we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.”  – Parker Palmer

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm. 1 You have searched me, LORD, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, LORD, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. 7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” 12 even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

Posted in Death, Faith, Health, Tumor

Would life change for you?

I know I haven’t posted much about the tumor lately and to be honest I haven’t wanted to.  This is not because I haven’t been thinking about it but the opposite.  I think this summer when everything happened, I didn’t really process or take the time to think about everything because it was so fast and then it was the school year and semester and you know how crazy that is.  With a little bit of a break over the past couple of weeks, it’s been tough.  I have a friend who says she only blogs on the bad days, but for some reason, I don’t.  I’m not saying that I haven’t had challenging days and hard days and have not blogged, but when I’m really wrestling with something, I just don’t always want to articulate or “sermonize” it.

After Christmas I did my latest MRI and the next day went and saw the neurosurgeon.  He said there was no change, so the little line of tumor on the motor cortex hasn’t grown and for that I’m thankful.  He didn’t really say anything new, but for some reason I took it more to heart.  I asked him whether I should get off of the seizure medicine or not and he said that was up to the neurologist but he also warned that it is more likely that I will have another symptom whether seizure or otherwise before an MRI would actually pick up a change.  Then he said that it’s not a question of if the tumor will come back, but when.

Now, I know that he’s said this before and I know that this type usually recurs but for some reason it hit me worse this time.  I think it’s because there’s a huge part of me and a sense from a lot of the people around me that everything’s fine now and back to normal and that I have to lead my life as I’ve always lived it.  And I do really want to do that.  It’s hard to tell if I should just go about business as usual or if my life really has changed completely.

I am a huge fan of wikipedia.  That may be completely against my English teacher self and I know it’s not always right or accurate but if you want something quick and consise – especially when I’m trying to figure out history during the Tudors or looking up actors or actresses – it’s a great site.  Did you know that I didn’t even look up “oligodendrogioma” which is the tumor that I had/still have a piece of?  Didn’t even think about it in the rush of the summer and semester.  The diagnosis and the treatment and much of the article follows exactly what we’ve been doing and I didn’t even think to look there.

Now part of me is glad that I didn’t.  I didn’t know that the median survival times for a grade 2 is 11.7 years or for a grade 3 is 3.5 years.  That’s a median I know and as the doctor said I could still live to be 80.  But how does knowing that information affect my life?

Not that we ever know specifics or a particular time table but if you knew you had say 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 years to live, how would that affect how you live your life?  Would it?  Would you change what you eat or how much you exercise or if you take your vitamins?  Would you spend more time with friends and family and try to make more meaningful relationships?  Would you change careers or look at fulfilling your hearts desire in a different vocation?  Would you live your life differently?

I’m not talking about Tim McGraw’s, “Live Like You Were Dying” song and sky diving and rocky mountain climbing – love the song but that’s too cheesy of segue for even me to post.  I’m asking a real question.  How would you live your life differently?  Or would you?  Maybe it’s better just to keep on keeping on and keep fighting and do the best you can and not change anything.  Or maybe we should be living our abundant lives to the fullest every day regardless of any prognosis, time table, or outcome?

I don’t know.  I don’t quite know how I feel about this yet or if this changes anything.  I know that I believe that prayer is powerful.  I know that when I read that article or I read other materials about this tumor that it is miraculous that I have come away from this with very little deficits – not being able to remember names and numbness and tingling every now and then is significantly different than what could have happened.  I thank each of you and my community folks for this.  I know that God walks with those on the 3.7 year side as well as those that live to be 80 and that God’s mercy, love and grace is shown to each.  I know that we all have “stuff” to deal with and for each of us it can be a long and winding road.

When I think about New Year’s resolutions or I think about the future, I think very much of how we live our life.  How do we let our lives speak?  Would you live your life differently knowing…?”

Here are some quotes from the beloved Parker Palmer:

“Verbalizing is not the only way our lives speak, of course. They speak through

our actions and reactions, our intuitions and instincts, our feelings and bodily

states of being, perhaps more profoundly than through our words.”

“Our deepest calling is to grow into our own authentic self-hood, whether or not it conforms to some image of who we ought to be. As we do so, we will not only find the joy that every human being seeks–we will also find our path of authentic service in the world.”

“We need a coat with two pockets. In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold. We need a coat with two pockets to remind us who we are.”

“Humility is the only lens though which great things can be seen–and once we have seen them, humility is the only posture possible.”

“As a young man, I yearned for the day when, rooted in the experience that comes only with age, I could do my work fearlessly. But today, in my mid-sixties, I realize that I will feel fear from time to time for the rest of my life. I may never get rid of my fear. But . . . I can learn to walk into it and through it whenever it rises up . . . naming the inner force that triggers . . . fear . . . Naming our fears aloud . . . is the first step toward transcending them.”