Sunday, December 23, 2012

Life Update

It's 9:00 on December 23rd, and I'm bored, so I thought I'd update all 6 of you on life in South Dakota...

Running: Going awesome.  Just finished Week 2 in Couch-to-5K.  I decided to do two of each weekly plan, rather than pushing it super hard.  I'm getting a lot of flak from the Couch-to-5K Facebook page, who are basically all telling just to keep moving, but a) I'm a serious couch potato, and b) running with a prosthesis means that I'm already expending 2x the energy of the "normal" runner...also, since I don't have a "running" leg (the carbon fiber blades you see Oscar Pistorius and his gang run with), that doesn't help the situation at all.  So I'm taking it a little slow, but it's winter in SD, and 18 weeks instead of 9 still barely gets me to the 5K season up here...  Anyways, it feels great.  I've had to hit the treadmill the last couple weeks, since it's been solid ice on the sidewalks around town.  I can figure out how to handle the cold, but I'm not too keen on the prospect of falling flat on my face...  For some reason my shin splints and general knee pain are worse on the treadmill (???) than on the concrete...who's ready for the ice to melt?  Also, this week was Day 1 of TOM, and holy cow did I get nailed...Tuesday was my first day of Week 2 - it was tough, but I made it through. Thursday was my 2nd day of Week 2, and Day 1 of AF, and criminy I thought I was going to die.  I seriously only made it about 75% through the workout - I just had no energy.  Which was strange because was one of those months where I actually felt reasonably decent, as opposed to some months where it's 4:00 pm before I can even think about getting up off the couch...  So, TMI for all y'all, but then I ran again this afternoon after church (had Anytime Fitness all to myself  = awesome), made it through and it felt great.  Again, a tough workout, but a good one.  Yay!

Church: Pretty good, all things considered. We have lots of work too, mainly involving a shift in focus from survival/maintenance mode to growth/outreach mode.  The real issue, I think, is that there's a belief (or a want-to-believe) that this is basically the 1940s, everybody pretty much goes to church, and the way to grow the church is to have a pastor that makes people want to come to this church instead of the church down the street.  Don't get me wrong - I think this is probably the situation that a lot of churches are finding themselves in, and so we're not alone.  But I'm excited about the task ahead, which is preaching the idea that we're not in a Christian, or even a post-Christian era.  I'm starting to think that we're really in a pre-Christian era - people haven't heard the story and rejected it, they've never heard it in the first place.  The way to grow the church is not "be the coolest church around", but preach God's love and mercy and salvation, and have members that are on fire and ready to tell the good news - not that their church is cool, but that Jesus is infinitely amazing and is the only thing that has the power to resurrect the dead - whatever "dead" looks like in your life.  It's a huge mental shift for people who aren't used to thinking along those lines, and it'll come with time, I believe, so I'm not particularly frustrated or concerned - it was a huge mental shift for me the first time I encountered this approach to ministry.  The good news, though, is that the people are awesome.  It's just a really great congregation, that loves, and that has so many gifts, and is just waiting to burst forth, so let's go.

Confirmation: I just love teaching confirmation.  It was my favorite part of internship, it's my favorite part of ordained ministry.  These kids are just fantastic - I love giving them freedom to ask lots of questions.  Sometimes they're on topic, and sometimes not-so-much, but they get me and I get them.  We're having fun, and they seem to be learning.  What I want them to get out of confirmation is not to be perfect-little-Lutherans, but faithful, growing Christians who get it.  We're tossing out the memorize-every-word-of-the-Small-Catechism in favor of memorizing the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments + 3 Bible verses that they choose.  I want them to have a faith that is meaningful to them.  So this year we're doing a little freelance-ish Youth Alpha and the Small Catechism (the whole thing, not just what I'm making them memorize).  This summer at camp, we'll do worship (why do we structure worship the way we do?), and next year they'll do a Bible overview - The Story, maybe, or something similar.   They're just really fantastic kids who are trying to get it, and learning how to think about and talk about God, and it's so much fun to watch!

Life in a Small Town: It's alright.  I like my town - it's actually a really good size - small enough to feel cozy, but big enough to have a grocery store and gym and Wal-Mart and furniture store and several churches and some fast food...The congregation has been pretty welcoming - I went to my grandparents' for Thanksgiving, but I'm having Christmas Eve dinner with a couple from the call committee.  The ladies made me a quilt for my installation today, which is absolutely gorgeous, and I just love to pieces.  But I'd also be lying if I said that I'm not lonely.  There really aren't many people here who are my age, and the ones who are, are all married-with-kids.  Most nights I come home and chill in front of the TV or Netflix.  I just don't have much in the way of friends, which is why I drive to Sioux Falls on a fairly regular basis to see friends from school, or just find random things to do - like Christmas at the Capitol.  Honestly, it's really hard to be single.  I can "offer it up" all I want, or try to see it as part of "suffering for the Kingdom" or whatever, but it still just really stings doing Christmas completely alone.  And it's harder having all my married friends say, "Of course it's sad that you can't see your parents, but you just start your own traditions!"  Well...that's easy to say if you come home from Christmas Eve worship and your wife and kids are there.  Or if the "new tradition" is that you put off opening presents until after Christmas Day worship that Mommy has to preach at.  When your holidays are you, and only you, it's just really, really hard, and I know hardly anyone who understands that.  My "new tradition" is Netflix, Campbell's Chunky Soup, and leftover Christmas cookies - or whatever.  I know a lot of people have it a lot harder than I do - relatives who have died or who live so far away as to be un-travelable-to or such broken relationships that they don't even really want to go home.  And it's true, I'm much better off than that...  But honestly, I'd rather argue about whose family we're going to see for Christmas this year, than be totally alone.  I'm also really struggling with being the pastor and the pastor's wife, but that's for another post...  Pray for me, please, if you're so inclined...

Going to Church: For everyone who has an excuse about why they can't come to church that really boils down to "I just didn't want to put in the effort to get there because it's not that important to me" - one of the ladies in the nursing home here just weaned herself off oxygen so that she could take the senior transit bus to church on Sundays.  I ♥ this. 

On the Other Hand: I'm working on some awesome Christmas cooking/baking projects this year, which I will definitely post pics of when I am done...

Merry Christmas, everyone - remember that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not, can not, will not overcome it!


Kathy said...

Hi "Elizabeth" -- Kathy Suarez here. I'm the nasty lady, "Kathy S," on Dan Skogen's blog, and "Anonymous 3" on yours. First, I sure don't mean to be "offensive," but I find that if I am going to take a shot at apologetics, it's inevitable that I will appear offensive. I have decided to not lose heart -- more than a few found Jesus "offensive."

I can somewhat identify with you. When I was your age (I'm 67 now) I wanted to be a Lutheran missionary to Central America. I ended up marrying a Cuban immigrant, and after a lot of study and soul-searching, I became a Catholic in 1974.

For the last 2 years, I have been commenting on a lot of Lutheran blogs -- blocked from several of them, including Living Lutheran. The last thing I want to be is a "troll," so I started my own blog: "Lutheran/Catholic: Reconciliation in a Broken Church.

Like you said, this is NOT the 1940s. I remember the 1940s, and the world has changed. I see a tremendous opportunity for reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics. It happened in my own life.

I would love to continue a conversation with you. Your friend, Kathy S

Clayton Forester said...

I can tell you from first hand experience (I presently am serving on my church council) that there are other churches that are going through much the same thing yours is. I'm glad you are seeing more success in turning the 1940's-ish mindset around than we have.

I can also empathize with you about being single in a small town. It's not easy. However, your doing the right thing by going out to Sioux Falls (Go Augie Go) to see people and just get out of town. It'll keep you sane in the long run.

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