My apologies

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This past week, I’ve been winning at life while failing at Lent. Can we say those cancel each other out? Here are some quick facts:

Miles run in Lent: 8. Somewhere got an idea I could do 100 for all of Lent. I can say I can run for 25 minutes straight now, which is great considering at New Years, 3 minutes knocked the wind out of me.

Days in a row I skipped blogging after saying I’d blog every day in Lent: 5. Damn. I must not really love Jesus.

Status in discernment process: Postulant. This pretty much means that you can go ahead and write in your calendars for early summer 2015 to attend my ordination to the priesthood. Write it in big black sharpie permanent ink.

Place I’m giving the sermon tomorrow: Christ Episcopal Church, Bowling Green. (8am only) These are the folks that knew me well as a snot-nosed kid who only saw the altar as the ultimate hide-and-go-seek hiding spot. Now they’re giving me the pulpit, which is, by the way, a horrible spot for hide-and-go-seek.

That’s that. And to make your Saturday better, here is a song that you will enjoy:

My Inner Conan

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Do you remember this:

It was the big pop news story of November 2010. Jay Leno wanted the Tonight Show back. Conan O’Brien had been doing the show for months. Despite some creative internet rallying behind Conan (see above) Leno won and Conan had to leave his job of a lifetime hosting the Tonight Show. His final monologue on that show was easily the most gracious words spoken at that hour on national television.

You can read the entire speech here, but the part that sticks out the most, at the very end is this:

“All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.

Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”

Last May I met with my Commission on Ministry for the first time, hoping earnestly for a swift green light for seminary. I had so much ministry experience already. I had an eloquent and entertaining spiritual autobiography written. I even had this darling dress from the J.Crew suiting that in a very feminine way said, “I mean business.”

Yet I left that meeting feeling like I’d been kicked in the stomach. “Do an internship. 6 months. We’ll meet you again after.”

Downtrodden as I felt, I chose not to grow bitter. I would do this internship. (I did.) I would invest my heart in this new church, even though I knew that would require crying through goodbyes. (It did.) And I would avoid comparing myself to others in the process who seemed like they had it easier. Even if they did, some also had it harder, and so what — it’s not a race to ordination.

Thus I chose not to grow bitter. My head had to tell my heart what do do, which hard for me because it usually works the other way around.

And here I sit, less than 72 hours from meeting the Commission again. But there’s something I can’t seem to shake. My blood pressure starts to raise when I think about difference between what I wanted to happen, what I thought God intended to happen, and what actually happened over these past 9 months.

“Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get.” Oh, Conan, you prophet-of-new!

So I’ll go to this meeting again, wearing an awesome outfit (think Kate Middleton at a business meeting), and ready to open up. And for good measure, I’ll try to channel my inner Conan. Graciously assertive. There’s the Commission on Ministry and there’s God, and there’s probably more overlap than I’d like to admit.

Top 9 (publishable) Things I learned during my Discernment Internship

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So Christmas Eve was my last service as an intern with Calvary Episcopal Church. My 6 months there included countless lessons, some learned the hard way, some the easy way. 


9) I love sushi! Ok, this one is just about the timing (I said during my internship, not through) that I happened to give sushi a shot again, and lo and behold, it stuck. Now all I have to get is Indian food and I think I can have an appetite for any americanized international food. 

8) How to use a thurible. Mostly. I could probably still use some practice. High church can be fun if you know what you’re doing. 


7) I love the multi-generational aspect of parish ministry. Four-year-olds who are quick with a hug. Opinionated octogenarians. Frazzled college students. Esteemed professionals who let me see their vulnerabilities. Step back, squint your eyes and say it with me: “Oh, hello, God.”


6) Ministry can be awkward. Or maybe more accurately, I can be awkward, and that won’t change with any professional title. I will never be a smooth operator when it comes to pastoral care. But I won’t let that stop me from trying earnestly. Besides, as luck would have it, it’s not all about me. 


5) Buy coffee and breath mints in bulk. I like my coffee black and I regrettably get to around noon before I put anything else in my stomach. 


4) Good sermons sometimes usually don’t show up until Saturday afternoons. I never procrastinated in writing a Sunday sermon. However, most of my mid-week writings were mis-starts that can be filed under “Really, Cortney?” But usually in a moment of desperation around 2pm on Saturday, I would get quiet and let the sermon come to me, instead of hunting it down. Grace can be coy. 


3) Speaking of sermons, guess who has two thumbs and can deliver one heck of a sermon- this gal! Pause like you mean it. Look people in the eye. Slow down, then get slower. Believe what you’re saying. And, when in doubt, quote Tina Fey. 


2) Everything is emotional. Everything. Pause. Be patient. Listen. There’s nothing rational about the gospel so why should churches be different?


1) The altar is humbling. Every Sunday morning, three times, I’d stand behind the altar and see a crowd of people facing my way. A crowd of people who’d woken up early and gotten dressed on their day off to come here and meet God. If you think about it for a moment, that’s a little bit crazy. And especially crazy that God might someday trust me (me!) to be the one in charge of that. Enter grace. And community. And tradition. This mystery is still unfolding. 



Okay.

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Once while watching my respectfully moderate amount* of television, I became engrossed in a real-life show about a labor and delivery ward at a hospital. A couple came in to give birth to twins. One twin was vibrant and healthy. The other was not and only lived a few hours. The couple confided with the camera: “If we had two healthy babies, we’d know to be happy and if we lost both babies, we’d know to be grieving. But we had both and we’re not sure how we should feel.”

Without presuming to know what it’s really like to have and lose babies, I feel I can completely relate. Yesterday I left home with two strong hopes for my meeting with the Commission on Ministry: one was confirmed and one wasn’t. 1) Yes, we do see a call to ministry, but 2) No, you can’t start seminary this fall and will have to do an internship. On one hand, there was relief and on the other, grief. And emotions, at least mine, aren’t a zero-sum game.

Okay.

I am proud to say that my inner-cynic has been demoted. Not many years ago, if this had happened to me, I would have littered this post with sarcastic quotations marks. The CoM “says” I “need” an “internship.” But I like to think I’ve grown out of that ugly stage.  Maybe the Rolling Stones put it best, “You can’t always get what you want- but if you try sometime, you might just find, you get what you need.”

Luckily my plans for the next few days involve old friends and a change of scenery. And if you yourself feel compelled to buy me a drink, I won’t complain.

*-For an American

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Here are plans B, C, D, E, F, G, and H

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So, I gotta be honest. I’m pretty sure if you took an x-ray of my abdomen right now, you would find this:

Tomorrow night is the night that prayers will materialize for better of for worse. I go up to Louisville to meet with the Commission on Ministry and they’ll decide exactly what they think of my crazy ideas of going to seminary and getting ordained. Maybe this is what boyfriends feel like when they know they’re going to propose to their girlfriends. I’m laying it all out and praying that I have the g
race to handle whatever comes back at me. (And to make it more awesome, I could get a ‘yes’, a ‘no’, or a various range of ‘maybe, ifs’)

Someday I will laugh at how much this messed with my nerves. But until then, I’ve reassured myself by listing some alternate career plans I can pursue if they give me a big fat ‘no’ , and for you today, ordered them from most to least likely.

1) Trucker. I know how to drive a stick Burgundy Semi Truckphoto © 2008 Thomas | more info (via: Wylio)
and I look good in hats. Isn’t that most of what it takes to be a trucker? Plus, my Papa Dale was a trucker, so it’s in my blood.

2) Airline Hostess.  My senior year in high school, I was three votes away from winning “best smile.” The girl that did win is now an airline hostess. I think that’s my cue.

3) Funny-things-on-internet-finder for the Today Show. I’m pretty sure the Today Show has someone on payroll who’s only job is the click through StumbleUpon to find the most entertaining/poignant things on the internet to air on the show. I think I would be awesome at this job. 

4) Professional house-sitter. Not only do these gigs sometimes pay really well, but if I found gigs year-round, I’d never have to pay my own rent or utilities.

5) Open a consulting firm for consulting firms. I’ve never quite understood how consulting firms stay in business, but they do, and really well. I’ve never met a poor ‘consultant.’ So if everybody needs their advice, who’s around to give them advice? (this girl!)

6) Apple Salesperson. Even though I hate going to the mall and can’t sell things very well, I never miss a chance to pop into the Apple Store. And with how happy all the employees seem, either they pay ridiculously well, or there’s some sort of happy juice in the water. Either way, sign me up!

7) Produce and star in my own TV show. Think 30 Rock meets Vicar of Dibley. If Tina Fey only knew the monsters she was creating when she wrote Bossypants. Does anyone know how to contact Lorne Michaels?

8) Gold-digger. I love feminism and all that jazz, but as long as old rich men fall for it, I think gold digging should be considered a legitimate career choice. (but notice it was last on my list)

Ultimately, this post is just a long-winded way of saying: please pray for me! Please pray for the Commission on Ministry. And please pray that we all can listen for the Holy Spirit. (and please pray that I won’t spill the bottle of Pepto Bismol I’ll be nursing all day)

I Guess this isn’t the First Time God Used a Flood to Change Somebody’s Plan

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So yesterday morning, doing what’s become part of my daily routine, I read Rachel Held Evans blog, today dealing with how to be happy when you’re growing and it’s about the journey and not the destination. You should read it here. In fact, I highly recommend it or the rest of my post will make no sense.

I was really looking forward to this week. The hustle of Easter was over but the joy lingers. There’s a royal wedding. And most of all, Tuesday evening I’d finally get to meet with the Commission on Ministry to get some sense of if and when this calling from God will get to translate to seminary and someday stable life. It’s the meeting the last 10 months have been building up to — a meeting I’d get to leave with a solid sense of what the next few years, and probably the rest of my life, will look like.

But Monday evening I got a call from my rector: the meeting had been canceled due to flooding in Louisville. It’s one of the worst calls I’ve ever received, and I can make melodramatic statements like that because I’ve never received a real bad news call like someone I love has suddenly died or my parents are getting a divorce or all the grocery stores in town have quit stocking Nutella.

If you’d had a stethoscope to my chest you would have heard my heart sink, which came out as the most unlady-like “ugh!” I could muster. The next hour or so was filled with a despicable blend of cynism and self-pity. How bad could this “flooding” be? (pretty bad, as it turns out) How long will it take for them to reschedule this time? (Probably not that long) This is only my life they’re dealing with here! (Cortney, if you want any semblance of control of your life, you’re in the wrong business. Get used to it.)

Luckily I had good friends around who both comforted me with their tear soaking shoulders and reminded me of the hard truth: discernment can’t be rushed. And that made me remember Rachel’s post that I talked about earlier and realized that the past year, I’ve been absorbed in an arrival fallacy, thinking once I knew something, then I’d be happy and my life could really begin. Maybe that’s what makes the journey so disheartening: the speed bumps and the check points and the toll bridges. While I must never loose hope that my journey will place me where I need to be, it’s senseless to imagine that these speed bumps and check points and toll bridges will ever end.    

At least I still have this royal wedding to look forward to. Unless that’s going to be canceled, too.

Practically Perfect in Every Way

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In one of my meetings with my parish community of faith group (the 4 people I met with weekly for a month to try and listen to what God was calling me to do) the group decided to outline what they thought were qualities a priest should have: a good pastor, a good preacher, a good administrator, can be tough or gentle when need be… the list continued as you can imagine.
My eyes grew wide as I grew silent. It reminded me of that scene in the beginning of Mary Poppins where Jane and Michael list the qualities they would like in the nanny:
And I’d be lying if I said I weren’t ready to leave the room then and there. As honest as they were in their description, I was intimidated. What’s the word for the opposite of a perfectionist? That’s the word that would describe me. Sure I know my strengths, but I also know my weaknesses and I’m pretty okay with them. My desk is never tidy. I have child-like handwriting. My dog cries when I sing. I consider my faith central in my life, but my biblical knowledge is amateur at best.
I’m no Mary Poppins.
But who is? (besides Jesus, Captain Obvious) I’ve met a lot of priests and not one of them completely filled my committee’s expectations of a priest. But most of them are still great priests. But for me, how can I give my life to a calling with impossibly high standards I know I can’t live up to?
I think the answer lies in remembering that I’m not alone in this. I have had and will continue to have great friends, family, coworkers and acquaintances to help me with my inadequacies. And God. It’s only with the help of all of these that perhaps I can become and thrive as a priest.