Writers block and George RR Martin

I owe you more than this. I owe you writing about beginning my second fall at Trinity, our mission trip to Mexico, the death of my beloved uncle and reuniting with my Boston cousins, but the truth is I have spent most of the past 5 months unable to process, partly because of some health issues, partly because I came back from Mexico into a bit of a $#\+storm. All that being said, here you go. It’s a start at chipping my writers block.

I had plans for this morning. I was going to look up some reading recommended by a friend last night. I was going to make chili, do some laundry, get into the church in time to hear my colleague preach.

But then, I woke up early this morning and decided to read a bit more of Dances with Dragons. What I didn’t realise, since I read on a tablet, was that I had about 60 pages left. I woke up this morning to read Jon’s last chapter of the book (no, that was not a spoiler, but for those who have read it, you know what I mean) and, well, once I recovered (again, not a spoiler!) there was no way I was putting this book down again.

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I’ve been reading this series since the summer, after I watched Game of Thrones on HBO. I’ve taken the Starks, Lannisters, Targaryens and other Westerosi and Dothraki to Mexico and back, through this chaotic fall. And now, finally, there is nothing left until Martin writes book six.

Just to be clear, Martin is not like JK Rowling. Rowling wrote 7 books in 10 years. Martin wrote 5 books over 15 years and has two more to go! And here I am, not writing for 6 months. I mean, Martin is writing about an empire, a dozen locations, dozens of characters. My life is relatively simple.

I am going to miss these characters. I really love the kids in this series. They are powerful, respected, fun, brave, loyal and smart. Just like my youth group kids. Oh yeah!

So now what? In order to fall asleep tonight, I have to read something. A couple of months ago K downloaded Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close on a Kobo sale. I will likely start that tonight, once Colbert is turned off.

Be patient with me. In true Martin style, my dates might not line up over the next little while as I go backwards and forwards to fill in some blanks. It’s good to be back among the bloggers. Blessings to you!

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Cooking with the Joy Project

Before I get into this post, I am going to ask you to read it, and then consider passing the word along. I don’t ask you to do that lightly. I don’t write for promotion or to advance myself. Primarily, I write to express myself in a place where no topic is irrelevant. Second, I write to keep in touch with friends. Finally, when my blog does get around, thanks to those who have found their way here, I always feel great delight.

I am asking you to pass this on because I think this could be a really exciting movement. Pass this on because it isn’t about me, but about a joy-filled young woman who inspires me every day. Thanks. 

I love to cook. A close second to my love of cooking is cooking with other people. I am not much of a teacher, but with a bit of experience (and my big brother chef on the other end of a cell phone) I’ve picked up a thing or two and I love to pass it along.

I’ve known Cydney for about 6 years now. She is  on the youth council of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund and a blogger at Lutheran’s Connect. Cydney and I started sharing our cooking when I took her home to PEI for a long weekend. She was a student, living in student housing, and she asked me to teach her how to cook something. I picked Mom’s “Texas Hash”. It’s yummy, simple and cheap: Ground beef, can of tomatoes, green peppers, rice, s&p.

About 6 weeks later we were chatting and she said, “Can you teach me to cook something else?” Of course, I replied. What have you been cooking lately? She’d been cooking Texas Hash for 6 weeks!

Most recently, Cydney shared some scary news with me. She was a 20 year old woman with boundless energy, joy and faith, and she had been diagnosed with cancer. I was devastated. The thought of Cydney’s light dimming, even a little bit, made my world a lot darker. And yet, as we waited for tests to come back, she was full of hope and carried us all. As her journey began, raging extrovert that she is, she began a blog and The Joy Project.

Cydney sucking the marrow out of...ummm...something, on a beach in Greece.

Cydney decided to start a cooking project to help her appreciate food in a way that was difficult since her chemotherapy made her sick. She started by looking for a cookbook, which she found, and she would work her way through it, cooking for herself, her beloved, her family and her friends.

After the first post I was completely hooked and I desperately wanted to be with her in her kitchen. So, I asked her if I could accompany her on the Joy Project to which she very generously agreed. I bought the book yesterday.

So Cydney and I are cooking together, again, four provinces apart. I just tried the shrimp risotto with leeks and snow peas and–doh–forgot the lemon juice! Still it was yummy. I hope this is a gift to Cydney. I know it is a gift to me. I get to do something tactile that connects me with my awesome, brave friend even though I can’t be with her to hold her hand (or have her hold mine). Cooking has always been a practice of prayer and gratitude for me. Now I get to share it.

Please go check out Cydney’s blog, look inside my labyrinth heart as well as her posts on Lutherans Connect. Pass this on to your followers or your friends. Cook along with us if you like. Here is the book Cydney has chosen. This is totally Cydney’s project, not mine. I’m just along for the ride. If you want to know how I am getting along, come find me in the labyrinth heart comments.

Where to find Cydney:

Blog: Look Inside my Labyrinth Heart

Lutherans Connect: Doctor Proctor

Twitter: tugmyjersey

The cookbook: Inside the Small Kitchen by Cara Eisenpress and Phoebe Lapine

From scarcity to hope

Book review: Carol Howard Merritt. Reframing Hope: Vital ministry in a new generation. Alban Institute. 2010

Over the past few years I have worked in a mostly rural diocese where we have read about and urged parishes to “move from a theology of scarcity to a theology of abundance”. Many of our churches that are dying are focussed on what they are lacking, and so get sucked into focussing on what they once had, and forget the abundance of what may be in front of them.

I worked to teach many people to change this thinking, countless parish council meetings looking at financial statements in the black and members still convinced we were poor and couldn’t afford office supplies.

However, in other settings, it was harder. It felt trite to not acknowledge the very real scarcity that existed. Any talk of dying or closing were not to cross my lips, but we all knew the reality that I was told not to name. Talking of abundance in these settings was merely prolonging the inevitable with false hope.

Carol Howard Merritt’s latest contribution is for congregations who know they have something special to share with their communities but know that their historical tradition as it is currently practiced is not reaching a new generation. Carol has never minced words when it comes to the dire straits of our institutions. Rather than focussing on an elusive abundance we may or may not feel confident in, Carol encourages us to trust not in the false hope of a contrived abundance, but in the hope of the sustaining God of the exodus and the desert.

Using examples from rural and urban churches, young and old Christians and “otherwise”, Carol encourages the church to seriously consider the concerns and opportunities of our contemporary time when discerning the Spirit’s course for our faith communities. Rather than asking us to dispose of so-called archaic or historical practices, this book acknowledges the power and opportunity of historical, institutional churches, particularly the resources these churches have to explore new ways to communicate the gospel.

For those who are confused and afraid of the technological explosion of our current age, this book places social media and multi-media in a context of enhancing the sharing of the Gospel. It is stressed that these are not requirements, but means to an end. If you are curious about how the tools of social media and multi-media have become so critical in our current generations, but are not so sure if your church is ready to jump on the broadband, there is encouragement here for you, as well.

I have shared Carol’s first book, Tribal Church with many and the pages of Reframing Hope will be turned just as often. Where Tribal Church introduced the church to Generation Y and the Millenials, Reframing Hope introduces the church to a culture that extends from 10 year olds to those who are past retirement. The current state of the institutional church is not limited to one generation, although the burden will be borne by the younger generation. Reframing Hope is for the whole Church, a Church that is ready to try something different to keep on living.

Skimming and reading and transforming

As I’m settling into this new way of life, I feel myself transforming every day. I have to say the biggest change is having a team here, in the same building, who call me for lunch and are just a staircase away from me saying, “I was just thinking…” It also means being a lot more co-ordinated. I am absorbing Outlook, trying not to turn into my task list, but working hard to recognize that my schedule and plans are dependent on others in a much more urgent way than before. And as far as technology goes, it is fun to be in a place that a) has a co-ordinated calendar and b) does not get intimidated when you pull out your iPhone to check your schedule.

Sunday was my first Sunday and I finally felt like I was here. My first week I met all of two people under 20. The kids are great and seem to love church school, which is good place to start!

The big thing I am trying to do, though, is get a grasp on some reading. Lots of amazing stuff has come out on youth ministry in the past 10 years, much of which I have skimmed and kept an eye on, none of which I have actually sat down and read. With the aid of a $400+ book token from my beloved former parish and some suggestions from some colleagues, I am building my library with Andrew Root, Kendra Creasy Dean, Mark DeVries, Mark Yaconelli and Dorothy Bass along with others.

I am loving loving LOVING the renewed emphasis on relationship for relationship’s sake, not just to get kids students(they are all called students now. When did that happen?) into a sense of responsibility for the church. I just read a beautiful piece in The Godbearing Life about seeing youth ministry as a mission field–some great stuff for a celebration of new ministry.

One of my the exciting discoveries on which I am embarking is to encounter myself in youth ministry as an introvert. The last time I was in focussed youth ministry, I was much more extroverted, different energy, different ideas, and I was in a very different theological space. And, I learned and grew so very much. I feel a new and different passion for ministry than what I have been experiencing the past 8 years. I feel like God is unveiling me to this place, bit by bit and, in the process, unveiling me to myself.