Thursday, September 15, 2011

Letter from our Pastoral Intern

I love dirt. Wait. I mean, outdoors. Yeah. Being outside. Sifting dirt through my hands. Not gardening, just thinking. I like to feel connected to the earth, to the air, to the creatures I find in the dirt… but I love water. I need water. Water… for the dirt… hmmmm.

I grew up on a farm in the heart of the Red River Valley. My father was a grain farmer, later farming soybeans and sunflowers, but mostly wheat and barley. We had alfalfa fields we cut for hay to feed our horses. We raised Arabians. Fall season’s trail rides in the sand hills of North Dakota remain some of my most treasured memories.

I grew up in the Lutheran church—American Lutheran, now ELCA, in my small eastern ND town 20 miles west of Fargo. My maternal grandmother helped found that church. I was born with music and born into the church. The Sunday school director had a vision for the formation of future church musicians. As a 4th grader, I began playing hymns for the adult Sunday school opening. We would sing the same 2 or 3 hymns for at least a month until I was ready to move on to a new one. “Breathe on Me, Breath of God” was one of my first favorites. Key of F with just one flat and a simple chord progression.

I was in 10th grade on the very first Earth Day, and the military draft was very much on the minds of many, calling older schoolmates to war in Vietnam. We formed an inter-faith youth coalition to “rap” about war, zero-population, world hunger and peaceful resistance.

After college, Jim and I taught public school music for a year before going to a missionary training school in Bloomington, MN. We were with a missionary group for 13 years, and during that time spent a year in Ivory Coast, West Africa, then 6 years in France, with time in Bible school and home mission. We lived communally under a theological structure that was fundamental and patriarchal. I learned to distrust my own relationship with God and worked diligently to suppress what was surely a rebellious and unsanctified heart. Along the way I lost my passion for people, my creativity and my self.

In the mission field, I asked too many questions and challenged too many people and precepts of authority. We came home. I fell apart. We began to live life in Minnesota and raise our children in a smaller place, but had become sensitive to a larger world. I began to work on shredding, then piecing my faith back together. My adventure changed from traveling the world in order to “win souls” (as if I were one who ever could) to living life in a way that I respected, even loved how I was wired.

For the next 15 years I was part of a study group that helped me rediscover my self. One book we studied was Parker Palmer’s “Let Your Life Speak—Listening to the Voice of Vocation” where the reader is challenged to find that first deep joy. My memory, pre-verbal, was of sifting warm earth through my hands, watching the wind create waves in the green-blue wheat fields on the prairie. I felt an awareness and relationship with God in and beyond the nature that surrounded me. By expressing that I love dirt, water and air I open a pathway to layers of meaning above, below and beyond that first thought.

The beauty I experienced was of the power and provision of Love. Music fed my soul, and ritual linked me with my family of origin and of faith. I am a teacher. I am “wired” to create space for people to discover their authentic self and to allow themselves to be loved by God and grow in relationships—human and Divine. Music and theology—art and theology—have always been my inner dialogue partners.

I thought I myself had exhausted the possibility of acting on the dream to explore music and art from a deeper theological perspective, and that it would have to be enough to create that space for my children. But my dear friends challenged me to envision it for myself: First with gentle nudging, finally bluntly telling me outright to stop whining, at least apply to seminary and then see what would happen.

Here I am. Three years have passed. I am astonished to be midway into my MDIV and that it is already time to do internship. We will explore ways of imagining and expressing God’s great love for each of us and for the world. Thank you for opening your doors to me as I open my heart to who I am, to who you are and who we are together.

Lynda Lee

Pastoral Intern, Plymouth Creek Christian Church

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