Friday, May 26, 2017

Wake Up


We were to learn of sermons and scripture, preaching and purpose, and use our imaginations in the process. As we entered the first session of our School of Lay Ministry retreat, I was excited about the theme of the weekend, "Opening the Word, playing with Midrash." 

As we, led by Pastor Elaine Hewes, explored the sculpting of a sermon, I realized just the impact a current sermon has been having on my life. Current, not recent. I'll get to that later.

Pastor Elaine spoke of asking questions about what God is being and doing in the text, and answering those questions in a way that leads people to a place where they feel they should respond. She encouraged the sharing of personal stories of struggle that might speak to the text, or perhaps juxtaposing two unlike things to carry the message across. She spoke of journeying through the week with the text, waking up to the things, people, songs, interactions, and such in your life that speak to the text and to your heart and bringing some of these into the sermon. And much more than I can sum up in a simple paragraph. 

As Pastor Elaine spoke, I had a revelation. This is what a friend of mine does when she writes a play. Or speaks to teens about tough stuff. Or encourages friends. She wakes people up. She draws on her life struggles, images that inspire her or shake her up, things around her that catch her imagination, and instills them into the essence of the plays that she writes or passionate words she speaks. Her plays are one big sermon. They talk about the tough stuff in a way that inspires the audience to at least think, if not act in response to the issues presented in the play. To act, not out of guilt or obligation, but out of a pull from your inner moral compass after experiencing the performance. 


The sermon that is Beautiful Things, last year's original play by Elizabeth Namen at Epoch Arts, continues to speak to me and change me to this day. Unfinished People, the play currently being rehearsed for its June 2, 3, and 4 performances, is doing the same. Community, distraction, addiction ... meat ants and caterpillars ... the Snagglelump ... the poetry, severity, hilarity, and motivation of her words call me to wake up and take notice. 

Distractions and separateness rule our lives, blinding us to mystery, to community, to love, to the beauty in the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated things. We need to wake up, look up, stay connected to something bigger. 




Thursday, May 18, 2017

Muchness


My life has been filled with Muchness lately.

Much pain.
Much stress. 
Much joy.
Much celebration.

Communication issues with my rheumatology office led to a week and a half delay for an injection of one of the two medications I need to manage my psoriatic arthritis. This caused a decrease in energy and increase in pain and inflammation...just when I needed energy and (relatively) easy use of my body for theater rehearsals, Spring Cleaning Weekend at Camp Calumet, and getting my house in order in preparation for the arrival of house guests.

Issues with my van leading to necessary repairs of nearly a thousand dollars combined with several other unexpected expenses have us in a financial bind, eased greatly by generous family members. Even so, we have gone from saving up money for a nice two weeks at Camp Calumet this Summer to wondering if we'll have the gas money to get there.

The muchness of pain and stress is balanced by muchness in our joy and celebration. 

Exciting things are happening in our lives. The original mainstage production of Unfinished People in which two of my teens and I are involved is going amazingly well. It is incredibly inspirational working with this group of twenty teens, along with the Epoch Arts staff and volunteers on this production. The Dinner Show they put on exceeded expectations in both talent and hilarity.  And we got to spend time at Camp Calumet along with over one hundred other volunteers to help clean up Camp and get it ready for Summer Camp. A family visit for Mother's Day weekend provided much needed rest, fun, and connection with two amazing mothers who we get to call Gram and Grammy. 



And I get to go back to Calumet this weekend for a School of Lay Ministry retreat. And we got to see our friend Bailey perform magnificently in a production of Bye Bye Birdie.  And we're planning for 16 full days at Camp Calumet this Summer, which will be absolutely wonderful even if we don't have the money for daily breakfast in the Conference Center or a few day trips as we had planned...simply because you can't have a bad time at Calumet! 

There is so much to celebrate in our lives and the lives of loved ones as well. Khalid and Reem, the Muslim refugee family we work with through New Start Ministry, got married in a civil ceremony performed by a Christian pastor in a synagogue. How glorious is that? And my sister's younger child got their name officially changed. And we will be celebrating the homeschool graduation of our oldest child next month.


In thinking about all the struggles I have in my life due to my illnesses and limitations, I can't help to concentrate not on the pain and stress, but on the abundant blessings God provides in our lives. The muchness of joy in our lives far surpasses the muchness of pain.