The Plunge

Last Friday I skipped from Scales Chapel into Shelley Kuhlmeyer’s office elated and talking a mile a minute that I just might be able to take “The Plunge” and preach on Sunday morning without sermon notes.  I spent most of the day with my iPhone in Scales Chapel recording my attempts to weave together a sermon from the brief outline I had gathering in my mind over the past few weeks.

“You have to talk it out to yourself,” Michael said as he gave me advice on my sermon.  The metaphor he gives for preaching without a manuscript is a cloths line blowing in the wind — You have a pair of pants, a shirt, underwear, a few socks, another skirt and you have a sermon!  “What happens when one of them blows away?!” I questioned.  “That happens,” he replied, “sometimes you loose a sock or get them out of order.”

This Sunday — the plunge — was a huge moment for me vocationally.  I finally feel like I released my voice and some kind of freedom that I can’t explain.  I don’t think I lacked the Holy Spirit prior to Sunday in my preaching — but I felt a greater use, reliance, and energy from her in a very profound way.  Most preachers spend a good deal of time prior to preaching praying that the Holy Spirit will work though them.  Both of my homeletics classes at Vanderbilt taught us to pray with fear and trembling and this week those prayers were even more real.  It was the perfect sermon to preach for the first time without a manuscript because it was an outward sign for me that I would not let shame — not being good enough — rule my life.  I would trust in the grace of God.

I also knew I could trust in the grace of West End staff and members.  I am so thankful for the many brilliant individuals that gave me so much grace and encouragement before and after the sermon and not just my preaching but allowing me to be fully myself in all my work at West End — I feel so grateful.

I am excited to go on this journey of continuing to become who God created me to be.  I can not say Thank You enough to all those who are part of that process encouraging, guiding, and loving.  I am honored and awed to be a pastor.

If you want to watch the sermon, you can watch it here on YouTube.

Minister in Training

This morning I was the second liturgist at my church.  I wore a robe, processed and recessed with the clergy, and was in charge of verbally — welcoming the members, joys and concerns of the community, pastoral prayer, and the Lord’s prayer.

The sermon this morning was about worship… how worship is an encounter with God in Spirit and Truth and that is what is important, not the logistics such as how we sing, whether we are loud or soft, and if mistakes are made.

For my portion of the service everything was written out and reviewed by the worship committee.  For the welcoming new members I had the option of ad-libbing or reading off of the sheet.  During the first service I started by ad-libbing and then got nervous so I looked down to read the sheet… I awkwardly repeated a portion of the welcoming new members (so new folks must have felt SUPER welcome… ha ha).

During both services there was a baptism and the holy water was removed between services.  As one pastor read the baptismal questions, the head pastor (my mentor) turned around to me and whispered energetically, “There’s no water!”  So he left the service and gathered some before the actual baptism occurred.

After I gave him a blank stare I began to think about this week in my Formation of Christian Tradition class.  We talked about the baptism narrative in Mark which specified that John baptized for the forgiveness of sins and that his baptism was “with water” while Jesus baptized “with the Holy Spirit” (Mk 1.8).

After the sermon about the importance of encountering God and realizing… even though excellence is very important to this congregation of believers… they have created space for me to learn and for mistakes to be made.  I was assured that for this baptism no one would need to energetically whisper, “There’s no Holy Spirit!”


Pedagogy — that’s a fancy word for how to teach — and I have been thinking a lot about it lately.

I am the classic over achiever who finds out the “rules” of a class and then dives head first into producing exactly what the professor wants to emerge with an A.  People that make good grades are not smarter or even more hard working than those with a lower GPA, they are the best at playing the game.

This semester I am taking New Testament with AJ Levine… talk about Vanderbilt Divinity ROCK STAR… she is an intense force of  New Testament knowledge, famous for her discussions on Jewish Christian Relations, and ridiculously intimidating to me.  Right above the D+ grade on the essay of the last exam she wrote: “You’ll be a more effective teacher (or pastor, if that is your track) if you can cite the biblical text to support your claims.”  YIKES.  I studied an uncalculated amount of hours for this exam and had 20 minutes to write an essay on whether Paul did or did not experience a “conversion” on the road to Damascus.  I knew most of the arguments and I knew most of the scripture — I didn’t have time.

This morning at a Cal Turner Leadership breakfast Contemplative Pedagogy was discussed as a way to develop the whole person.  This process asks the student to take at least five minutes for meditation to embrace our fears and struggles.

These two different perspectives in the context of higher education are interesting, yet the pedagogy of the “real world” has taught me that who I know is most important, not what I know or even how I articulate it.

Sure… knowing the biblical text is important… being able to contemplate the text and myself in context is important… but what about having a conversation about the text in relationship?  This is the pedagogy of Wesleyan covenant discipleship groups… seems like I need to find a group of people to go on this journey…

Winter Ramblings

Three years ago this month I moved to Nashville!  Who lives in Florida their whole life and moves to Tennessee in the middle of winter?!  Me.

The first two winters I spent in a bit of funk wanting nothing more than to come home to a hot bath and blankets!

While I still love my hot baths and winter is still my least favorite season, I am beginning to appreciate some of it’s finer qualities!

Por ejemplo:

Snow flakes really look like the elementary white paper cut-outs!  As I scrape the frost off of Rhett I am enthralled by the crystal like patterns on my windshield!

When I drive on the interstate I want to point and scream about the icicles dangling on the highway cliff/hills.

The freezing weather makes me more aware of the blessing that I have the opportunity to get warm and there are so many who do not.

Snow days give me opportunity to get everything done that I have not made time to complete.

Tea is wonderful to drink anytime, especially with dear friends… but warm drinks taste more delicious in the winter!  Yet, I spend more time with a burnt tongue (I need more patience).

Art of the scarves… they are the most practical accessory (unless you consider a purse an accessory) and the bright colors liven all the winter neutrals!

I bought a pair of underarmor pants and when the weather is above freezing, I’ll go for a run.  40 degree weather produces the BEST snot rockets!!

Best of all, I am closer to the mountains to hear their call to come skiing :)!

Other ideas to fall in love with winter?