Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pursuing Seminary: Hitting Pause

This will be another episode of "Some plain ol' open honesty."

Earlier this month I was approved for candidacy in the ELCA Minneapolis synod, the culmination of a four month journey before actually applying to a seminary (presumably Luther in St. Paul) itself. For many reasons, now felt like the right time... again... to pursue this dream. I know I am Called to ministry, and my current understanding of that Call points me toward pursuing chaplaincy in a hospital or prison setting. After enough years pining over the idea of seminary, I decided to chase it.

Now, after taking many steps toward that goal, I'm at a logical resting point; time to take stock, see where I am, and where I'm going.

My life has seen more change in the last four months than I could have imagined. As it turns out I was not ready for most of it. I'm coping, but I'm overwhelmed, and constantly on the verge of breaking down from stress. I have a strong support network, but at the end of the day I just have too much on my plate.

Seminary deserves more than a half-hearted effort. It deserves more than doing the bare minimum to pass classes and "get by." When I go to seminary, I need to devote myself to it wholeheartedly. And where I'm at right now in my life, I just can't do that.

There's an irony here: three weeks ago I was afraid the candidacy committee would say to me, "not now, but wait", and to me that would have been the worst possible response to receive. The difference is, I needed to reach that conclusion on my own terms, not have it dictated to me from outside. And now I know, for my own well-being, for my own spiritual growth, I need to be the one who says, "not now, but wait."

I'm not giving up on the dream, I'm just hitting pause.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

First World Problems

First World Problem Reality Check
My car needs repair again I have a car
I'm a month behind in rent Paycheck's in the mail
Shower's leaking to basement ceiling I have safe, clean running water
Overworked and exhausted I have three jobs in a tough economy
Business is slow I own a business
Can't follow through on all my plans and ideas I'm creative and have a strong support network
Don't have all the answers I have time free I ponder the questions
Life isn't perfect Life is good

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pursuing Seminary: Approved for Candidacy

Last Thursday morning I met with an interview panel from the ELCA; this was my final step before actually starting the application process for seminary itself. (some people enroll in seminary before getting an official thumbs-up from the synod, I'm just not one of those people)

The interview took place at Luther Seminary in their media center; when I walked in the door I was surprised to be greeted by student worker Becca, one of my seminary friends from Jacob's Well, who is also responsible for encouraging me on this track. It's not entirely her fault that I'm pursuing seminary, but she was a major influence.

Glenndy from the ELCA Minneapolis synod office was also there - she was the one with whom I'd conversed many moons ago when I first started this candidacy process.

I randomly met the new bishop, she was there to sit in on someone else's interview. And bumped into two other friends/acquaintances from Jacob's Well, both there to be interviewed like me.

In my small, crowded, interview room, I met my panel: 6 pastors slash congregational lay-leaders, including Pastor Tom, with whom I'd chatted last month.

To say I was "nervous" truly would be overstating it. My attitude all along has been: I would like to do this, but if, for whatever reason, they say "no", I have other career choices I can pursue. That said, I really wanted my panel to say "yes", so, rather unexpectedly, I found myself slightly anxious.

They asked questions. Lots of questions. Which is fine, I like talking about myself. Some questions I expected: tell us about your faith history, tell us why seminary, why now, those kinds of things. Others completely caught me off-guard: what does "sacrament" (communion & baptism in the Lutheran church) mean to you?

At least one friend had encouraged me to tailor my answers, not to be too honest about some of my beliefs, just in case they raised red flags. I couldn't do it. I don't know how to not be myself. I admitted several times to the panel, "this probably isn't the answer you want or are looking for, but it's where I'm at." And they just told me to stop apologizing.

After about 75 minutes, I left the room, and they deliberated for a bit (from outside we could hear laughter in the room, and joked that they must be saying, "he wants to be a pastor? Bahahahahaha!"). When they called me back in, I was nervous. They'd explicitly asked before I left, "what if the answer is 'not now, but wait'?" For me, that would have been the absolute worst possible answer. I wanted either a "yes" or a "no", not uncertainty.

I sat down, we joked about the laughter and what we'd thought it meant out in the lobby, and then the moment of truth:


My panel approved me for candidacy.


The rest is a blur. They had several suggestions for personal growth, I took a few notes on that, then left. In my car I said a prayer. Not knowing where the journey would lead, I knew I had taken at least one more step.

Monday, June 04, 2012


Minnehaha's end-of-year worship service / brunch / recognition-of-service-for-folks-who-aren't-coming-back-next-year happened this morning.

Unbeknownst to me until this morning, I was also to be recognized at the event, since I've officially left full-time employment (I still work there part-time, but rather sporadically, and in any case, most everyone thinks I'm long gone; some people seem to think I moved out of state, which catches me off-guard).

Merry (my boss) gave a wonderful, heart-warming speech about me. She claims she's not skilled at speaking off the cuff, but I thought she did wonderfully.

In her speech, Merry described me as an "intrapreneur". Whereas entrepreneurs go out into the world, start their businesses, and try to make a difference, that is what I did within Minnehaha. She reiterated how blessed the school was/is to have me, how I have always and continue to push technology forward for the good of the school, how much I've made an impact.

I'm reminded of the phrase, "living your chosen eulogy". It's perhaps too rare that we get to hear stories of what our legacy will be. I count it as a true blessing to know what legacy I leave behind.

Of course, I don't do anything "normal" - most people leave a job and that's it. I'm still working at MA, doing my thing, and will be for the foreseeable future. Just not full time. For me, and for the school, it's a good arrangement, and as far as I know we're both happy about it. So, one day at a time, we keep on keepin' on. And I'll keep intrapreneuring, because I don't know how to live any other way.