A Lutheran Says What?

Sermons and random thoughts on God, the world and the intersection of the two

What now? December 1, 2013

November 30th. About 10 days ago I would have given ANYTHING for it to be the end of November and this little experiment to be over. But I have completed the challenge that was put forth by my friend (?) Andee Zomermann, and I think that I have learned, grown and even appreciated the opportunity to blog every day and the other opportunities that have come my way because of National Blog Post Month. I have learned to let go of perfection (as I am sure anyone still reading can attest to), to view the world a little differently, to read what others are thinking more often, and to be grateful for seemingly random connections.

My sole reason for doing this experiment was to attempt to improve my writing skills, even minutely. I don’t know if I have accomplished that goal but I have discovered something about myself that 30 days ago I would have denied. I like writing. All the way through a M.Div., I loved the reading assignments but never cared for the writing. It always felt like a chore, a necessary evil. I think some of this stemmed from the forced prompts and also from a time crunch point of view. There were so many parameters on the writing assignments (which I understand) that it seemed to suck any joy, creativity or spontaneity out of the any writing that needed to be done. With certain professors, you could get away with being little more yourself and creative but there were others that you knew that you had to follow the letter of the assignment or else your grade could suffer.

But with this writing outlet of blogging, there is a freedom that I enjoy more than I anticipated. I also notice other people’s freedom in their own blog or other writing posts. Everyone has their own unique voice and when it is cultivated, honed and offered to a wider public there is a sense of being who God truly created you to be without any of the boundaries (other than appropriate ones!), limitations or societal expectations. Your experience and perspective on life, culture, relationships and more is your truth and others can take it or leave it; it really doesn’t matter at the end of the day.

For this opportunity, I am grateful. While not everyone will have a blog, I do wonder how it is that we can allow all voices to be heard regardless of platform. The internet has exploded with people offering their two cents, but there are so many more people whom I have the privilege of speaking to one on one each day who should also be heard by more than just me or a small circle. How is is that those without access to this venue can be heard? How do we make room for all voices to be heard in our society? Especially those who aren’t traditionally heard? I am a white middle class, well educated woman with many privileges. How can I use my position and place for the sake of others? How could I use this platform as a vehicle of equality? Perhaps that is the next challenge that I should accept.

*While I will not be writing daily anymore, I do intend on keeping this blog going. Thank you to all who read it! I am always amazed that anyone does! Advent blessings to you all!

 

“Nice sermon pastor.” Really? November 26, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 6:54 am
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I am always amazed and surprised when someone says to me that they actually listened and got something out of my sermon. I usually figure that they are just being kind or are mistaken. Yesterday was my turn to preach in the rotation that my senior pastor and I set up. I have a love/hate relationship with preaching. I love it in that I am nerdy and love to read, think and explore a text. I love to delve into what people much smarter than I have thought about the text, the intricate meaning of words in Greek or Hebrew, the cultural milieu in which the scripture was written and read how the texts have been applied to people’s daily lives. I love this part and usually I am very adept at stretching this research piece further than I should or have time for.
But then the deadline draws near (read here Friday) and I realize that I need to actually say something about this biblical scripture. Preferably something coherent and meaningful. This is when I hate preaching. All of my self doubt and academic anxiety rises to the surface. What if I have nothing meaningful to say? What if I say something wrong or worse damaging to someone? Yes, I have many friends who say things to me like “The Holy Spirit will guide your words and that won’t happen.” These people clearly underestimate my ability to thwart the Holy Spirit.
I preach about every three weeks and so this anxiety bubbles up with some regularity. I had hoped that as I preach more, it would go away. But in the four years I have been preaching, that has not happened. I am positive each time I preach that I am about to lose all credibility, reveal for all to see how crazy I am and how little I actually know about anything. Each time I stand up to preach, I get nervous like when I was five and played my first piano recital.
And that drives me crazy. I can intellectually tell myself that it will be fine and it is silly to be nervous. I am 41 years old with a masters degree for crying out loud. It’s not that different from the teaching that I do ALL the time and with little to no anxiety. And yet, this Sunday I stood up to preach and thought my shaking hands would drop my iPad.
I greatly admire people who can do this every single Sunday and say that they love it. I want to love it and as I said, I do love aspects of it. But the few times when I have had to preach several weeks in a row, I was completely wrung out after about three weeks. For some reason preaching is an emotionally exhausting endeavor that leaves me drained for the rest of the day.
I love hearing about other preachers processes for writing a sermon and I have gleaned some helpful advice. I know one pastor who does some reading, takes a nap and then writes her sermon. Some people always write it on Saturday and don’t worry about it. (That does not work for me for obvious reasons.)
Yet, I have to admit that there is something about knowing that someone actually listened or thought about what I said that is bolstering. It doesn’t lessen my anxiety for the next time I preach but it gives me something to hold onto for a few days anyway. What do I hope for when I preach? What do I think people will do after a “really great sermon” (whatever that might be)? What do I think is really going to happen if I don’t get it right? Now this is where I think the Holy Spirit comes in. I pray that if I do say something stupid that the Holy Spirit would give wisdom to all with the misfortune to be in earshot to know that I am full of BS.
I am grateful for the supportive community that I serve and that I do get feedback. I appreciate both the positive and the critical comments. The critical comments are often the most useful honestly and against conventional wisdom, criticism doesn’t seem to add to my overall anxiety but actually can give me a direction of what NOT to do. Maybe someday it will be less stressful for me but all I know is that I have to do this again in three weeks. I should start worrying now.

 

The gift of this blog or how I have given up perfectionism for November November 24, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — bweier001 @ 4:49 am
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I have done enough writing this week to complete a whole book I think. I have kept up with my daily blog posts on this page, completed my work for my other website (www.faithformationjourneys.org),wrote December confirmation curriculum and a sermon. I am a little over writing. But one of the reasons I took on the challenge of this daily blog writing for November was to write more often and hopefully improve my skills, hone my style a bit and learn something in the process. Since it is a daily blog, there is no time for serious research on a topic (I am sure you have all noticed that), any real editing and often not much fore thought. Essentially, I am putting thoughts and ideas out into the world with little to no close examination. Yikes! Yet, there has been a freeing aspect of that for me. I tend to be a perfectionist and no one is harder on me than me. But this blog has forced me to let go of perfection and just accept that good enough is good enough. I read a quote by Anne Lamott today on twitter about perfectionism: “Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend.”
Letting go of perfectionism in this small way this month has opened up for me the beauty in the mess. The creativity that is released because I won’t be perfect so who cares? Just say what I want to say and if you all don’t like it well…? While I have been doing all this writing this week, the creativity has not dried up. I have written some things that have not been great but it sparked how I could do something different in the future or led to positive changes in other pieces of my work.
I can always tell when I am getting caught in my own need to be perfect because it becomes difficult for me to take risks. So one of the paradoxes about me is that I can be a huge risk taker and I have a need to get it right the first time. Yes, that is crazy. In theory, those two things can balance each other out for healthy decision making. But when things get out of whack for me for one reason or another, I can be led to take risks without thinking it through or become paralyzed and not do anything for fear of messing up.
I think most of the time I can keep a fairly good balance and these two opposites come together in a way that leads to creativity that can realistically be done.
Being freed from the tyranny of perfectionism, even just in this small way, has been a gift of this blog. I am not always going to get it right, be perfect or even be close to perfect, but that does not diminish who I am overall as a person. If I mess up this blog post today-hey-I get to, have to, try again tomorrow! Maybe you will like that post better-or not. It doesn’t matter. Maybe my mess will spark something creative in you. That would be perfect! đŸ™‚

 

Reading, writing but thankfully, no arithmetic November 13, 2013

Well, I am 13 days into this little national blog post month experiment and so far I have only had one real “crisis” of not having anything to really write about. Oh and that annoying day I hit the wrong button and lost over an hour’s worth of work. I began this for the discipline of writing everyday-you only get better by doing it-but I discovered that writing everyday has led to me reading more everyday as well. I have always loved to read since I could do so on my own and reading in and of itself is something that I generally enjoy. But I will admit that when I finished seminary last year, I took a bit of a hiatus. It was very freeing to not have to see how many pages of reading I could cram into a day. But I discovered that days would slip into weeks and I wasn’t reading as much as I wanted.
Time is a real constraint with two teenage children, a husband and a job. And honestly, there are just times when I am just plain old tired. If I would start a book in the evenings, I would inevitably fall asleep. But I know how important reading is to keep up on trends in faith formation ministry, culture, and the world in general. Since starting this write a blog post a day, I have noticed that I am much more likely to read other people’s blogs-I now know how much work goes into those “short,” concise and often insightful offerings. Rachel Held Evans, Theresa E Cho, Nature of a Servant and hikerrev are just a couple of the blogs that I read consistently and they always offer me food for thought. I do admit that I could branch out as you will notice, those blogs are all of the same genre.
Rachel Held Evans probably needs no introduction for you but she is a gifted writer on spirituality, relationship with God and one another, as well as published “A Year of Biblical Womanhood.” Theresa E Cho is a pastor in the Presbyterian Church who, in my opinion, has some of the most beautiful and creative worship ideas that I have ever encountered. Nature of a Servant began as an experiment in serving in a new organization or agency each month for a whole year. I invite you to read her archived posts. Andee offers us insight on baptismal call, service, gratitude, family, community and being the people of God who are imperfect but deeply loved, forgiven and renewed to try again. Disclaimer: Andee and I worked at the same church for awhile and she is my friend. Matthew Bolz-Weber is the real person behind “hikerrev” and he writes wonderful and thoughtful poetry in addition to insightful posts on the church, God, and the world in general. He is also a colleague and friend.
So I ask all of you out in internet land: whose blog do you read that I should?