Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Puttin' on the Ritz

Last week I was fortunate enough to have one of those occasions where I got to appreciate my journey to date. The Episcopal Church is VERY fond of pulling out worship services for all sorts of occasions. We even have a whole companion to our prayer book, and that companion book is called The Book of Occasional Services. We are a liturgical people...and that often means receptions with food and wine. Amen!

Last week I was formally "installed" as the rector (senior clergy person) of St. Thomas. There's lots of words and prayers and chanting and Communion of course. It's a celebration of new ministry, but it gets shorthanded as "installation" which kind of makes me sound like an appliance...which in some ways is the work of a priest. We should be "plugged in" to our communities, function without needing much fussing over, perform our duties regularly, and be missed when we "go out" but also be quite replaceable.

As I was getting dressed for the installation service (and yes that means I bought a new jacket and new shoes..duh!) I was flooded with memories in one of those surreal "is this what it would be like to watch your life pass before you eyes" kinds of moments. I had used this really cute pin to hold back the lapel of my new jacket while it hung in the closet because I hate to iron and I think this jacket can't be ironed. (That's my story anyway) The pin I used is a sort of laminated Ritz cracker that has been dusted with sequins.

It was given to me by my beloved New Testament professor from my M. Div program in Austin. I think she gave it to me for my 40th birthday...a number of years ago. (What? I'm sure you are thinking this girl can't be 40! OK maybe you are not thinking that...but humor me)

As soon as I touched the pin to take it off the jacket I was immediately transported back to a time in the seminary chapel when this professor met with me and several of my female M.Div student friends. We gathered in a circle and practiced saying the liturgy. (We really do have to practice saying the liturgy even though we are "just" reading it out of the prayer book.) I remember crying almost uncontrollably, partly because I couldn't seem to get all the reading and the hand signals and the handling of the "stuff" really is kind of like learning to drive!

And I was crying because I thought, "really? I'm supposed to be a priest? Are you kidding?" This professor was, as always, kind and patient, attentive and she had been throughout my seminary career and as she continues to be. I made it through the rest of that "play church" time, composed myself, and heard her say, "you can do this."

As I touched that pin on my jacket I could hear her voice, and Iwas reminded too of a book we read in seminary called The Sacraments of Life by Leonardo Boff. It is an outstanding book that captures what anyone knows who has ever treasured some little cup or ornament that is on one level not very valuable but on another level is THE thing you would grab if your house was on fire. The ordinary things in our lives, a pin, a coffee mug, a box, can become Holy if we allow them to do so.

That little Ritz cracker pin reminds me of that dear professor, reminds me of my dear friends from seminary, reminds me of other professors and friends I've had over the years....all of whom shaped me. I'm so grateful to have had some moments in my life like graduations, a wedding (OK, two if you are counting), ordinations (two for sure), this installation, where I had the opportunity to pause and reflect on how I got to that particular moment.

I wish everyone had more moments like those! We should do more milestone marking in our culture. There's a lot to be said for occasions that cause us to stop and reflect and think, even for a moment, " did I get here? Who brought me to this time in my life?"

Even if some sort of celebration is not in your future, I hope that you are surrounded by completely "worthless" things that you can see and touch and remember people who have loved you. Things that you would grab in a fire. Things that are utterly sacramental, utterly tangible signs of God's endless grace.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Those darn digital cameras

Two very dear people gave me a digital camera (pink of course) back in May of 2009 when I finished by Doctor of Ministry. One of the dear people, Sandy, teased me a LOT about my propensity for using those disposable cameras. Sandy insisted that I take one giant step toward embracing the 21st century (and now look at me, I'm blogging and everything). These sweet friends were completely right of course, and now I am a digital camera nut! I have THOUSANDS of pictures stored on my lap top and have even...are you ready for this...learned how to manipulate, send, post, etc! Though you are not going to see any evidence of that on this blog post. Enough already! I can only handle so much technology at one time.j

A few weeks ago my sweet husband and I were doing our annual year-end pilgrimage to the beach. It seems to us to be the best possible place to end one year and begin another. We were taking pictures wildly of course with the aforementioned pink digital camera. It is a delight to be able to take all the pictures you want knowing that you can delete at any time! No more worrying if I will "miss' a great shot of something gorgeous or funny because I've "used up' all the film. (Kids you will have to look up the definition of film on Wikipedia or some such sight).

I am grateful for the wild abandon with which I can take pictures now and grateful for my sweet Austin friends who gave me this wonderful camera. It did, however, get me thinking...which is what you are paying for on this amazing ARE paying, right? HA HA.

I don't want to return to the disposable camera days, but I do want to make sure that I slow down and treasure the moments I am capturing on film. My digital camera allows me to take pictures without really thinking, which is a delightful wrinkle in the fabric of technology. The danger comes, of course, when I move through some experience without thinking.

No need to marvel at that seagull, I can take a million pictures later. No need to stop and appreciate how darn cute my husband looks when he's wading into the freezing cold water in Galveston bay and doesn't know I'm looking off our balcony at him. This won't be the last chance I'll have to snap that photo I think to myself.

And on the one hand I'm really glad for that. Glad that if I take 50 pictures of seagulls I haven't "used up" the film in my camera causing me to miss a great shot later. But on the other hand...I can get pretty careless because I know there's an (almost) unlimited supply of film/space/whatchmacalit on my digital camera.

I don't want to be careless as I move through life. I want to soak up what I see and experience around me and still hold onto some bit of that feeling of "is this worth my last frame of film?" I realize a person could take this to extremes! Let's don't do that. I'm not saying that I want to be afraid all the time or miss what's right in front of me because I'm waiting for that one big picture.

I'm just saying that I waste a lot of "film", and I hope in this new year I can be more thankful and aware. More aware of my words, my time, more aware and thankful for love, more aware of my faith....striving not to take any experience for granted. Never putting a person in the category of, "I can just delete him/her later".

Digital cameras are so fun and provide for instant gratification! I love that. But I hope in this new year to retain a little of the "old school"... a little of the feeling that keeps me grateful and protective of each moment, because it really could be the last opportunity I have to capture it. Blessings to you and yours in 2011.