Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Emptying the "God Box"

When my grandmother was a young mother, she noted that she would fret over things for which she had no control--worries about work, about her children, about the ministry she and her husband fulfilled. Somewhere in her younger years, she grabbed an empty cookie jar, wrote her worries on slips of paper, and placed them in the jar. She symbolically and literally "handed them over to God," and let them go at that time.

In a few weeks or months she would peer back into the jar to assess just what had happened with her worries. If they were still unresolved, back to the jar they would go. If they were taken care of, she would say a prayer of gratitude and toss those slips away....another set of prayers answered. It was particularly moving for all of us at her memorial service to see a cookie jar beside her picture--the perfect symbol of how she lived her life.

A couple of years ago, at a period when my own work was growing exponentially, I grabbed an empty tissue box at work, wrote a few concerns on post-it notes, and placed them in the box. I'm sure I once or twice checked back in on those worries, but I hadn't in quite sometime. As I'm here early on the day before Thanksgiving, it seemed the perfect time to empty the box and see what worries are continuing, and what concerns have already been addressed. To my happy surprise, all three of those post-it notes have been answered in some way.

*The Laura Johnson Institute--coordinating the pieces; getting things off the ground

"LJI," as the program is affectionately referred to by participants, is now in its second year, and just yesterday I sat with a group of women creating plans for a reunion for the year one group. The first cohort is about to launch a program for women graduate students--a program of their own design modeled after their own leadership development experience. Not only did we get things off the ground, we are soaring. In fact, the creation of this program is reshaping the board's conceptions of the future of WELFund. Was my prayer answered? Resoundingly, yes!

*Awaiting on external mark of a call...recognition of what is happening within

I can count a number of times recently when people have indicated they can see the minister within me emerging. When I shared my "faith story" during church this fall, I felt deeply moved by my own message "of the Spirit," and it was apparent that others were moved, too. While sometimes the response was simply words of thanks and praise, one woman looked me in the eye and said, "You know--YOU would make a great minister." When I was on a retreat with a group of women pastors, one of them commented that I have a strong voice for preaching. I was invited by the president of Hartford Seminary to say the Christian prayer at the dedication of their new interfaith building, and received a strong, positive response to my participation. Little bits and pieces...words of encouragement. Exactly where this "ministry" will be, I have no idea--as I also get a lot of feedback about my own calling to this place and this point in time, but I know it is within me, and I'm grateful for all those outside of me who have recognized it.

*Seminary--to go? how? where? how to pay? Help me, God, to hear your call....

I am now happily enrolled in the Master of Arts in Spirituality program at Hartford Seminary, after a great deal of soul-searching, seminary-visiting, and family considerations. It became such an obvious answer that it's a wonder I even had to search for it. I feel the world evolving to greater attention to "the space between," and Hartford's history and emphasis on interfaith engagement is particularly powerful. The program echoes of some of my prior experiences in dialogue, and feels like a fit for me and some of the alternative ministries I might create--including at a college or university. I receive one free course a semester, and I am stepping forward in the spring to take two, requesting funds of work, church, family, and anyone who will sit still long enough to listen to my plans. Despite Matt not working for the past year, I trust that the money will be there, one course at a time. Whether or not I will go further, seeking a Master of Divinity in the future, remains to be seen, but the answer for this moment is resoundingly clear, once again.

Thank you, Nana, and God, for the God-Box. I added two new post-its this morning--can't wait to see how they will be answered!