Friends, Friendship, Ministry, Prayers for Pastors, RevGalBlogPals

For friends who know it’s holy (a prayer for pastors)

Dear God,

A pastor’s work is lonely,
not sometimes
but often,
full of stories
we cannot tell
and deeply heavy burdens
placed with trust upon us
composed of true stories
and imagined wrongs
and incalculable bad fortune
and actual evildoing.

The telling honors us.
The hearing weighs us down.

I thank you, God,
for friends who know it’s holy
to carry things together,
for friends who know the difference
between weakness and exhaustion,
between complaining
and pleading
with You.

They make us
better pastors,
better people,
these friends who walk beside us,
who answer questions,
and offer challenges,
yet know the time
to just show love.

When we are tempted
to manage it all alone,
remind us that Jesus
sent his friends out in pairs,
each friend with another,
not alone to face the world.

Friends make each other better.

Help us to find those friends.
Help us to be those friends.
We ask in Christ’s name. Amen.

*************

A prayer offered with thanks to God for all the friends who have come into my life through the community of RevGalBlogPals over the past ten years, on the occasion of the organization’s tenth anniversary.

Friendship, Television

Who we know

Homicide My first online community was alt.tv.homicide, a Usenet group for fans of The Best Damn Show on Television, Homicide: Life on the Street. I've still got some friends from that group. We've transitioned to blogs or Facebook. A small subset still has a private Yahoo group, but honestly I haven't written anything there in forever. I do still love the show, and Snowman and I have been watching Season 4 on DVD today.

I don't know how that became my group of people; it was mysterious. I was desperately seeking community, I guess. The group was busy enough to be interesting, but not so busy as to be impossible to follow. Hilariously, I found it the night I heard the show had been canceled. I had been watching the show for years, since before I had a computer or access to the Internet. It's a strange period in my memories. Where was I? In this house? Or the place we rented before? That's where I had my first computer, purchased in 1997 so I could take a class online at Andover Newton, when that distance learning program was in its infancy. But once you have the Internet, one thing leads to another. 

And I had a lot of time on my hands, or so it seemed, in that massive twenty-three hours my kids were gone to stay with their dad from Friday at 6 to Saturday at 5. 

I had a sort of depressingly conventional heteronormative view of the world, in which the only possible solution to my situation was another man coming along to balance the equation of my life. 

I didn't know how to meet people, not single people. I had been married since I was 22. And I knew that the other moms who kept me company during the week were not available evenings and weekends, when the daddies came home. At 36 I felt old and finished and unbalanced and out of place in the world. 

I wish I had known this me then. 

But who I knew were other mommies, people who felt threatened by my change of status. Because that was the worst case scenario, having the daddy leave. It really felt that way.

So I was grateful to have some friends in particular who lived through the gap with me, the ones who stuck by me while I tried to figure out what to do with my life and saw me make new friends and eventually date and walked beside me along the way from 1996 to 2001. 

This afternoon Snowman and I ran into one of those friends in the grocery store. Our lives diverged, mostly because when I finished seminary and started at my first call, I didn't have the same flexibility for getting together regularly. Our kids got older and didn't play together anymore.  Who really knows why we allow a friendship to diminish? I just know I'm grateful for her friendship then. 

But she's not a confidante anymore. Somehow there's too much air between us. So we talked about what our kids are doing, though I think there may have been an appraising glance at my bare ring finger. Do we all do that, middle-aged women, checking for the diamond and the circling band that signifies? Our stories feel too different now.

In the middle of strife, we think about that, don't we? Who can we trust with the whole story? Who can we even stand to tell? I heard from another old friend over the weekend, one of the first new friends who came along in my single life, someone I've managed to keep up with, mostly, over the course of twelve years now. On the phone, answering her voicemail this afternoon, I knew this was someone I could talk to, still. 

Those Usenet friends–some of you may read this–are people I'm glad I still know, even though the way we know each other is different. I like to hear the updates on Facebook and read about what someone is knitting and what someone else is watching on TV down under and see the Christmas card pictures. I treasure the memory of lunch in a top floor dining room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art at the invitation of R, which included P, who gave LP and me a box of "silly cookies." I wonder about the ones who drifted off into the ether: the one who burned CDs of music from the series and sent them out to many of us; the guy who helped me write more than one firm rejection email when I first started dating and didn't know the way to form the words; the lovely gal from western Maryland who I once met for red velvet cake at a tea shop.  (I don't remember anymore who believed Munch did it.)

It was a funny way to reach out, but it gave me the knowledge that meeting people via the Internet was maybe okay most of the time, and that led me eventually to blogging and RevGalBlogPals and many, many other people to know and love. So I'm glad I found that little corner of the Internet on a Friday night a long, long time ago. 

Friendship, reverb10

Friendship — #reverb10 day 16

Paralytic December 16 – Friendship

How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

(Author: Martha Mihalick)

This year I've really learned who my friends are and how much they mean to me and, surprisingly, how much I mean to them. I grew up with some pretty skewed views of myself, including that I had the responsibility to make happy people who were constitutionally unlikely ever to be that way, and that my ability or inability to accomplish that impossible task provided the only measure of my worth. I've known for a long time, intellectually, that this was a ridiculous viewpoint. But somehow I could not shift the lingering feeling there was a truth here about me, and it hampered me from feeling happy and loved.

(It's also possible I've drawn people into my life who played into this dynamic. Ahem.)

But this year, when things have been complicated and challenging, I've been able to finally feel it, and that's been thanks to the determination of friends who have been saying, literally for years, that they love me. What I accepted in my mind finally blossomed in my heart. I finally feel it because in the face of sadness and disappointment and loss, I never felt alone.

I feel it because it wasn't enough for them to be sweet to me. They got up in my face, like the friends of the paralyzed man who took apart a roof to bring him to Jesus. They took apart a roof and lowered their friend into the middle of a dinner party to get him to Jesus.

My friends have been just as vigorous in their expressions of love, and I believe it. I feel it. 

So was it gradual, or was it a sudden burst? Yes.

 

Friendship, Prayer

Caring Bridge

We met standing in line for something at the beginning of seminary, our last names different by only one letter. I had a different last name then, a different husband, only two children. They were a married couple, both leaving another profession to pursue a calling to ministry. They had two very little girls, an infant and a preschooler; I had two boys, 8 and not quite 4. 

We had classes together our first semester. We were all in our mid-thirties, and that made us fairly young students. S told me she'd been diagnosed with cancer, breast cancer, and from there the details are faint in my memory. Did she delay treatment to have the baby, or am I remembering a story from my girlhood, superimposing one young mother's death over another young mother's illness?

My third child arrived shortly after the end of our first year, and our paths did not cross during the second when I attended only very part-time. You will laugh to think that I did not have an email address or the Internet at home in 1995-96. I typed my Field Ed sermons in the church office. Once I was off-campus, I was out of the world of seminary.

So the next part of the story is misty to me. All I can tell you is that she died. While my marriage and seemingly my life fell apart in the winter and spring of 1996, her cancer returned and that summer, she died. She was 34.

She popped into my mind yesterday morning, sweet and funny, a situational friend. You know what I mean: someone you wish you could have known better, but circumstances did not allow. While she became ill again in a suburb of Boston, I fought the darkness of postpartum depression here in Portland, and we had no way of knowing each other's troubles.

Brooklyn-bridge That wouldn't be true now. We would hear through the grapevine of email or Facebook, the back channels of Twitter, the stories on a blog, or perhaps for her, a Caring Bridge website.

Today I'm thinking of another sweet person with the same first name, battling another kind of cancer, and praying for the living S and those who love her, at the beginning of a week when the world believes in miracles, when the lights of love connect us over the miles and the years, in life and beyond it.

Faith, Friendship, Marriage Equality, Politics

My Cup of Hope

Light Princess came downstairs this morning as the kitchen counter TV, tuned to the news, blared a commercial with Christmas music.

Offended, she exclaimed, "It's not even Thanksgiving yet!"

I agreed. "I got a Christmas cup at Starbucks yesterday."

I prepared for her disgust, but instead she smiled.

"Well, they sort of put me in a good mood, so I guess it's okay."

And it was true, that on a morning when I felt discouraged, my first response to a Christmas cup was to cry out, "No! It's barely November!!" But then I noticed the words on the cup, which include "Wish" and "Joy."

And the first one I saw was "Hope."

Some of us might be about up to here with the idea of hope. We hoped and hoped all last year, and we rejoiced on Election Night, but on the other side of the country, people felt then the way my friends and I feel now.

It's possible that word got to bound up with a human being, one who doesn't share my position on the issue of marriage. I mean, he really, really doesn't. 

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals, in whom there is no help. (Psalm 146:3, NRSV) 

I don't like thinking of this verse in reference to a President for whom I voted. It felt like a *great* verse six years ago, when we were going to war and the colleagues in my preaching group were still trying to figure out how to talk about it in a sermon. He even acted like a prince, that President–in my opinion–but I see how inclined we are to make them into princes, all of them, even if only the ones we prefer. Princes or fools or mustachioed villains, however we dress them in our minds, do not put your trust in them. They cannot manifest our hopes single-handed. They may not share them. They may not even care about them.

We've got to find our hope in other places. 

I start with my kids. They are 23 and 19 and 14, and two of them voted, and all of them are angry. They're learning a hard lesson that other Christian people did not hear the gospel the same way they heard it in this house and in the churches that formed them. It makes no sense.

LP will go tonight to the big GSA meeting where LGBT students and their straight allies from many schools will gather to unpack what has happened.

For my No on 1-voting neighbors and the onlookers from away who don't reckon these things from a faith perspective, it's almost easier. They can shut out the religious voices, or try to, and make plans for the next campaign. They don't have to figure out a way to talk to the ecumenical colleagues at the next community event or clergy group meeting.

My friend, RevFun, went to see a priest yesterday. God, he's brave. He's braver than I am. He wanted to tell a priest how this felt and why it was wrong.

I know the priest he went to see, not as well. I've met him once. I wonder if he felt equipped to have the conversation. I wonder if any of them do.

My friend E wrote a beautiful reflection on the power of the widow who gave her mite, and another E wrote he would "watch the sun come up tomorrow, and go back to work repairing the world. Who's in?"and my musical colleague J used Facebook to share his feelings about how this experience led to deeper self-acceptance and my friend B simply said in a status update, "B W is not going away…"

We are all in some way part of the United Church of Christ, and we are motivated by our understanding of the gospel message that we are to love God with all our hearts and all our souls and all our minds and our neighbors as ourselves. Make no mistake about it.

That's my cup of hope this morning. I put no faith in princes, but in the next generation and in the people of God, who are not going away.

Friendship

Did I mention…

  • that we had a lot of fun with Mary Beth?
  • that she brought us sunshine?
  • that she bravely drank Moxie?
  • that she found it repulsive but maintained her sense of humor?
  • that the expression on her face got Pure Luck laughing out loud?
  • that I'm grateful to know her?
  • that I hope she comes back again?
  • that she patiently sat through a whole video of #1 Son when he was in Peter Pan 14 years ago?
  • that LP thinks she is pretty swell?
  • that Sam barked at her a lot but made sure she didn't get separated from the pack when we went out for a walk?
  • that having her in my kitchen was easy and fun, which is not always true when two people try to work in a kitchen together?
  • that she has now watched me drop into my sermon trance not once, but twice?
  • that I hope she comes back next year?

Mary Beth 005

(LP and MB on the coast. The tall shadow is Pure Luck's and the other one is mine.)

Friendship

When Worlds Collide

StAgnes1
Yesterday I got a message on Facebook from someone who wondered if we had gone to St. Carries-a-Lamb Girls School together many years ago. I clicked through to her page and found a picture of her at the age we knew each other, and for most of the rest of the evening, we and others from our class left comments on a picture of the class dressed for a pageant about Moses.

I left this particular class by skipping the 6th grade and then moving away a year later. This is the first contact I've had with any of them in many years. I'm surprised some of them would even leave me a message, considering what a little stinker I was at 8.

Some of them sound and look just as they did years ago, and I mean that kindly. I would like to think *I* have improved over the little girl who climbed out the classroom window, kicked the 4th grade teacher in the shins and spent many hours sitting in the principal's office. And that story about turning on the fire alarm? It's true, but it was an accident. I swear.

I tell you all this to give you hope if you despair that your child will ever figure out how to be a remotely productive member of society. It can happen. Be patient.

St. Agnes Moses pageant

Don't I look completely innocent? (Front row, second from the right, fingers on chin.)

(Also, Rev Dr. Mom, you know the girl on my left with the fabulous shepherd's crook, and that is where my Facebook worlds collide.)