Monday, February 4, 2008

January Tornado at LPTS

Tuesday, January 29, 2008, a F-1 tornado came through Louisville and we lost 5 trees on the LPTS campus. During the storm, the National Weather Service was calling the winds “sheer-winds” and “straight-line winds” and so the tornado sirens did not sound and none of us took cover in the basement as I (for one) would have if the sirens had sounded. The winds remained very loud until after midnight and they were quite scary. I realized I have never lived in an apartment building much less on the 3rd floor of one and found myself questioning the integrity of the building as well as the windows. (I’ve since found out the building is very sturdy with its concrete block construction and the glass is tempered). I finally turned my lights off and got under the covers so if the glass did blow in, I would at least be under covers and not sitting up reading in bed! I felt fairly safe, but not so much when the following day I saw (on the tv news) glass blown out on the University of Louisville campus! No one was hurt, but one tree did fall on a student’s car in which his wife was in only moments before the tree fell.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Sharing the world with Deb

One of my greatest joys here at LPTS is sharing the world with my friend Deb. When the hot-air balloons landed all around us back in September, I didn’t want Deb to miss the fun and experience and hurried to her apartment shouting, “Come out, Deb, you have to ‘see’ the hot-air balloons!” Deb uses a sighted person’s vocabulary such as “see” to actually touch objects and experience the world. I took Deb to the basket of one of the balloons and she was able to feel the entire basket and the balloon as it was lowered down to the ground. She was able to get a sense of how big the balloon was and how it flies. This was the first time Deb had “seen” a hot air balloon – very cool!

Other items I’ve “shown” Deb are the various baptismal fonts at churches we’ve visited, as well as the baptismal font in our LPTS chapel. Each is different – for example, the font at Crescent Hill Presbyterian is a hand-blown glass bowl which sits in a wooden base and the font in our chapel here at LPTS is a large wooden octagonal design with a white ceramic bowl inside. The wooden cover for the LPTS font is very heavy making it somewhat inaccessible.

Deb says I have a certain knack for sharing things with her, which I attribute to my earlier desire to share the world with my children and now my desire to share it with my grandchildren, Tessa and Marley. It is just a second-nature to not want anyone to miss out on what is going on around them, whether it be Tessa, Marley, or even Deb. I simply ask her if she wants to “see” whatever it is and usually, she does! She is very adventuresome and takes great delight in experiencing new things, which in turn, excites me. I’m blessed to have Deb in my life.

Sacred Worship Space

I have come to realize that the sanctuary design at Westover Hills Presbyterian Church in Little Rock is something not to be taken for granted, yet that is exactly what I’ve done for the 25 years I've been worshipping there. WHPC’s sanctuary is a hexagonal exterior design signifying the six days of creation and an octagonal interior design signifying Sunday as the eighth day of the week – both beginning and the end – alpha and omega, which in turn signifies our Almighty God and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Here at LPTS, while the chapel is lovely and has many distinguishing features, such as its inverted boat ceiling design, its beautiful contemporary stained glass windows, it is nonetheless, a hierarchical rectangle design with a single center aisle and rows of pews on either side. The worship experience, then, is one in which only the backs of peoples' heads are seen. In addition, the choir resides in the balcony, behind and above the congregation. What the WHPC design creates during worship is a sense of worshiping in community with one another. It allows everyone to see one another’s face across the entire sanctuary. So whether or not a worshiper has the opportunity to speak to everyone at any given worship service, you still know and feel you were present with them because you can see their faces. My daughter, Ginger said it best when I tried to explain how much I missed worshipping in such a setting. She said, “It’s like we worship giving each other a big hug.” When worshiping in such a setting, it’s also like the pews stretch out from our fingertips and as we embrace one another in a communal hug, we are embraced by the arms of God. For 25 years I’ve worshiped in this space yet it was not until I came to seminary and no longer had the opportunity to worship at WHPC every week that I discovered the value of its design. In addition, the choir (and organ) reside in the back of the sanctuary, which allows the music and voices to flow through the congregation and yet allows the choir to worship as a part of the congregation. I now know that if ever I have the opportunity to participate in the design of a sanctuary, my home church’s design will be prevalent in my mind’s eye as it is sealed upon my heart for eternity.

Missionary Friends

In early October my favorite missionaries, John Mills and Pablo Feliciano were here in Louisville to attend the PC (USA) Mission Conference downtown at the Galt Hotel. I provided shuttle service for them to and from the airport and we shared a couple of meals together, too. We were invited to breakfast at the home of fellow LPTS classmate Carlos and his wife Norma who are from Guatemala, which meant “home cooking” for Pablo. Norma prepared black beans, tortillas, eggs, and toast, and of course, hot sauce for everything! It was all muy delicioso. In the course of a very fast espanol conversation that John and I couldn’t keep up with, Carlos, Norma, and Pablo discovered they have mutual friends in either Guatemala or Mexico (I couldn’t tell which). We truly live in a small, small world! It was wonderful to see Pablo and John and visit with them. I would like to do a field education experience one summer with Pablo and Jan in Ocosingo. Please pray with me about a way to make that happen.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hot Air Balloons at LPTS

Saturday Morning Hot Air Balloons

Saturday, 9/30 … Most of the residential community at LPTS awoke to hot air balloons landing all around us! It was about 8:15 and people were streaming out of their apartments … barefoot kids in their pj’s, grown-ups in their pj’s and bath robes, too! A cold wind had forced many balloons involved in a hot-air balloon race nearby down quickly and they were landing all over the campus! It was such a beautiful sight to see. The one in the attached photo is right in front of the chapel.

Phil and Mary Here

Friday, 9/22, Phil and Mary spent their entire day flying to Louisville from Colorado and boy, was I glad to see them. When the events of 9/11 occurred to me, their trip was already planned – what a “God thing” – and I simply could not wait for them to arrive and be enveloped in hugs from my family. Friday night we went to dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant over on Bardstown Road called Ramsie’s and had a great meal and great conversation catching up. It was good to share with them what had happened and absorb their wise counsel regarding letting go and moving forward. Saturday they went to the U of Louisville football game and said it was quite strange with regard to the crowd – not quite the enthusiasm you will experience at an Arkansas Razorback or an Oklahoma football game! The U of L is an urban university and they are much better known for their basketball, but their football team was ranked way up there in the polls at the beginning of the season. However, their new coach isn’t doing well with the team and they lost not only that game, but others, since. Anyway, while they went to the game, I studied and we went downtown that night to experience “4th Street Live,” a Louisville night spot. We ended up at a sushi restaurant that actually had the Razorback football game on the big screen because Arkansas was playing Kentucky! Unfortunately, Kentucky won, but we had fun anyway! Sunday we worshiped at Crescent Hill Presbyterian with my friend Deb and went to lunch afterwards. Sunday evening we found Phil a sports bar on Bardstown Road and went there to see the Cowboys play. I had to study Hebrew while there and Mary was quite a hoot teaching me ways to remember words like shama (listen, hear, obey) and raah (see, perceive), among many others. By the end of the evening, we had even the waiter learning Hebrew! The words she taught me have really stuck because I can just imagine her face and our laughter and the meaning comes right back to me! Yea Mary!! Monday morning bright and early I took them to the airport and it was very hard to let them go, but the memories of their trip here and how much it meant to me to have family here, will stay with me always. Thanks Mary and Phil, for going to the trouble and expense to come see me – I love you guys so much!!

At Long Last -----

Written 9/27/07:
My last blog was 9/6 and today is 9/27. You may wonder where I've been for the last 21 days, and I must tell you that I've been in a dark valley of despair. In my 9/6 post I talked about how God has guided me through darkness before, yet when faced with such sadness and despair, I could not find the light upon the horizon of that dark valley, I could not find hope, nor could I find a way to pray.

The greatest lesson learned through these 21 days has been that my trust must be in God alone. I trusted one person's word to me and when that word was renounced, thereby integrity, moral ethics, and friendship sacrificed and surrendered, it felt like the death of a dear friend, which I have mourned greatly. When I had cried for days and felt like I shouldn't have any more tears, I still felt like a dam holding back a lake.

Charles Campbell writes in his book, The Word Before the Powers, "Instead of serving God's will and sustaining human life in society, the powers make idols of themselves and place their own desires above God's purposes for humanity and creation. Most basically, the powers seek to survive. Their fundamental concern is their own survival, and nothing must get in the way of that. Everything else is expendable: human beings, compassion, humanity, the land - everything. For the powers, the only morality that matters is their own survival, and they will use any means necessary to ensure that survival."

One of the things I did to regroup was spend time in the chapel and specifically at the font. There I remembered my baptism, the hope that comes from knowing that I am a beloved child of God, and most importantly, the hope that IS the resurrection.

While I don't know how I am going to be able to stay here (financially), I do believe God has called me here ... to study, to learn, to expand my thinking, and to grow so I can better serve God's people. A huge door slammed in my face, but I am trusting God to show me a window through which I can crawl out onto the smooth, fragrant grass to begin anew. Please keep all this in your prayers for me and know that you are in mine.
May God's blessings be with you, Susie

Thursday, September 6, 2007

A New Day

Fall classes begin this morning, preceeded by a convocation in the chapel. As I prepared for the day (and this new life, beginning today), this morning's lectionary psalm resonated within me ...

Morning: Psalm 116:1-19 ...
[1] I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my supplications.
[2] Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
[3] The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish.
[4] Then I called on the name of the LORD:
"O LORD, I pray, save my life!"
[5] Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful.
[6] The LORD protects the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
[7] Return, O my soul, to your rest,
for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.
[8] For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling.
[9] I walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.
[10] I kept my faith, even when I said, "I am greatly afflicted"; [11] I said in my consternation, "Everyone is a liar."
[12] What shall I return to the LORD
for all his bounty to me?
[13] I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, [14] I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
[15] Precious in the sight of the LORD
is the death of his faithful ones.
[16] O LORD, I am your servant;
I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.
You have loosed my bonds.
[17] I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD.
[18] I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people,
[19] in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem.
Praise the LORD!

When I have been brought low, I have been sustained by God and it is to God that I now truly pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. I am the daughter of God's servant Lib from whom I have learned of God's unconditional love for God's people. I, too, am God's servant. I am here in this place to learn, to grow, to be melted, molded, filled, and used as only God sees fit. God is the potter and I am the clay. Through each of you reading this note, God has spoken to me through the years and I am here in large part because of you. Thank you for speaking God's words to me time and time again, until I heard God's call. And, so I began today ...

Monday, September 3, 2007

Books and God's Mysteries

Friday I was able to buy most of my books for this semester at a cost of $442. Each first year student that received a tuituion scholarship also received help with buying books based on donations and this year the amount is $176. This left me with $266 to pay. I used the $200 graciously given to me by the Presbyterian Women of Westover Hills Presbyterian and $65 that was returned to me from an overpayment to Petite Sophisticate. How about that for God's mysterious ways?? The Hebrew Lecticon and another book for Intro to Worship are on order and will cost about $200 more, but for now, all is well! Blessings to all ... Susie

Hebrew Prep, Orientation Worship, and Missing You

Hebrew Prep - The reason I wasn't able to write a blog this past week was because of a multitude of classes - database, library catalog and 12 hours of Hebrew Prep class. The Hebrew Prep was designed to give a small group of students a "leg up" before Hebrew starts this week. If I had been out of school for a number of years, had a poor GPA, or had never had a foreign language, I would have been "invited" to participate, but even though I didn't meet the criteria and wasn't included, I asked the professor if I could come anyway and he graciously agreed. Now, at least I can write and say the Hebrew alphabet and feel much better about going into the class this week. Let's hope it helped!

Orientation Worship - The 2nd orientation begins tomorrow at 8:30 with worship and I am serving on the worship planning team. Six of us are giving personal call reflections based on Scriptural call stories. I chose Mark 10: 17-21 because this isn't a Scripture passage I had previously given any thought to when preparing to come to seminary. This worship is primarily my class of 42, plus those involved with orientation and to this group, this is what I will be sharing ...

Mark 10: 17-21 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt before Jesus, and asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “You know the commandments: You shall not murder; commit adultery; steal; bear false witness or defraud. And, you shall honor your father and mother.” The man said to Jesus, “I have kept all of these since my youth.” Jesus looked at him, loved him, and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own and give the money to the poor. Then, come, follow me.”

Over the past 7 years that I’ve been preparing to come here out loud … that is sharing with people around me what was going on in my heart and God’s call to me … I’ve thought a lot about “dropping my nets.” To me, that meant leaving my broadcasting career, my co-workers, my church family, my daughter, my granddaughters, my brother and his family, and all my friends in Little Rock and around Arkansas to follow Jesus here … But, I hadn’t thought about this passage – about selling all that I had to follow Jesus. As it turned out, however, in the last 5 weeks, that is exactly what I’ve done. In July, I either sold or gave away most everything in the home my kids and I have lived in for 14 years – our ancestral home, if you will. What was left fit in a small U-Haul truck and that is all I came here with. I’d thought long and hard for years about leaving my family and extended family, but, I hadn’t given any thought to selling my possessions. Why is that? Why didn’t that bother me? In hindsight, I suppose somewhere along the line I realized my possessions are just things and it’s people that matter. I share this because I’m sure I’m not the only one that sold my possessions and dropped my nets to follow Jesus here. And, I’m sure I’m not the only one who misses my people. But, I believe one of the tasks we are called to here at Louisville Seminary is to create a family - right here. And, I believe amongst the community that is our class and the community that is LPTS, we can do just that – together and with God’s help.

Missing You - Even though it is very difficult being away from all of you, somehow I and others here have to find a way to build a family, and although I am right now struggling to do that, I believe it will happen, with God's help.

Yesterday was particularly difficult. During worship, amongst a filled sanctuary, I felt very alone and wanted to be with my family - Ginger, Tessa, Marley, Johnny and Sherry ... and my church family - Debbie, Jim, Eileen, Betty, Don, Susan, Heather, Megan, Lindsay, William, all the children, and all the congregation. It filled me with great joy, however, to be able to pray for my home congregation and pastors during the prayers of the people. God has blessed me with this opportunity every Sunday that I've been in Louisville and I've taken full advantage of it. I suppose having these 3 days of quiet has given me more time to realize that I am here all alone. But, it has also helped me to understand that part of my call here is to build a community that that can be family right here. Through your voices, God has called me and now brought me here and it will be through each of your voices, your emails, and your letters, that God will continue to reassure me that I am in the right place, and that God's will is being done in my life.

You are all in my daily prayers for God's will to be done in your lives and that God will bless you with more than you ever need today and every day. Much love, Susie

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Church Visits

Whew! The TSE (transforming seminary education) class is over! It was great, but a very intense 18 days. Today has been a breath of fresh air! I'll write more about the TSE class in another blog, but right now I want to share the churches I've visited while here.

An earlier blog post mentioned the Baptist African American church we visited 2 weeks ago. While that was a great service and didn't seem like 3 hours, I chose an urban Presbyterian church to visit last week. It is Central Presbyterian downtown. As a "More Light" congregation, their focus is on being completely inclusive, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. The service was great and I was especially impressed witht the time they took for evert aspect of the service. For example, they commissioned a high school graduate as she is moving away for college. She was asked to speak, as was her mother and then they brought her to the center of the sanctuary and invited everyone to stand and move in so everyone in the sanctuary was touching someone and thus, laying their hands on this young woman as in unison, everyone prayed this prayer for her: "God, whose love for all is everlasting, we thank you for the time we have shared with Leslie. Guide her as she moves in new directions. May she go from this place, secure in the knowledge of your love and care, trusting that wherever she may go, you are there, and because of that, she is home. Leslie, you are surrounded by our love. May you always be led by the promkises of God, the presence of Jesus Chrisst, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Amen." Also, during the prayers of the people, they took the time to pass a microphone throughout the congregation and gave everyone the opportunity to share a prayer concern or joy. I really appreciated this as it gave me the opportunity to pray for my congregation and pastors at Westover Hills Presbyterian in Little Rock. And, because of my mentioned WHPC, I got to see an old friend! Michael Harper (former youth minister at 2nd Presbyterian in LR) was on the back pew with his daughter Clara and his ears perked up when he heard me. He then waited on me and we got to visit. What a nice surprise!

Deb and I had planned to worship at another new church today, but I have been sick again since Friday and haven't been sleeping much due to my stopped up head, so when I got up this morning, I really wanted to worship someplace somewhat familiar. Deb didn't mind - she is a good sport and very happy to have me take her wherever. I have worshiped at Crescent Hilll Presbyterian twice before and chose to go there this morning. It is small (probably seats 200) and old (original building dates 1890 and current buildding dates 1920 or so and in a neighborhood close to the seminary that reminds me of Hillcrest. It is built of stone with a rosette stained glass window over the door. Upon entering, the first sense awakened is smell has a wonderful old church smell. Today it dawned on me what is so familiar about it ... it reminds me very much of 1st Pres/Conway's original sanctuary ... the one I grew up in as a child ... before the remodel on that sanctuary and certainly before the "out west" move. The pastor is Jane Larsen-Wigger (how about that?). They are very focused on inclusiviness and have a multi-cultrual congregation, which I love. Everyone is very friendly (when they share the peace of Christ with one another, they travel throughout the entire sanctuary!), and after worship, a couple of women invited us to join them for lunch, which we did. Anyway, it turned out to be quite a blessing for her because there is a blind man on their staff and the "elder for today" offered to print a Braile bulletin for her next week. She is having a lot of difficulties with the reading material - long story - but we learned that this man is a LPTS graduate, so he has already figured out how to do what she needs to do with regard to scanning the material, printing in Braile, etc. She loved this church, saying it reminded her of the one she grew up in too and she really wants to go where I go - so that is another reason we are considering Crescent Hill as our "church home away from home." Several of our TSE classmates were there, too, and I understand many LPTS professors worship there as well.

No church can replace WHPC for me, but I do need to find a congregation here to plug into, worship and fellowship with. Please keep this in your prayers and I will keep you posted. Much love to all ... Susie

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Deb and Rita

I want to introduce you to my new friend Deb. She is blind and has been here since March trying to learn her way around, but still struggles. She has an amazing Golden Retriever guide dog named Rita who is very sweet and loving. I have taken Deb shopping and to worship several times and Rita now knows my voice really well and will follow me wherever we need to go - it's pretty funny when I walk into class and Rita sees and hears me ... Deb knows I'm there just by Rita's reaction! When I take them places, Rita just climbs in right at Deb's feet in the front floorboard - isn't that a visual? A big dog curled up there? Her head usually is in the way of the gear shift, but we manage somehow. I haven't tried taking Choppy in the car at the same time as Rita as I'm thinking that probably wouldn't work very well ... as time goes on, it may happen though. Choppy is meeting lots of new friends, too ... Of course his girlfriend Hope, then there's Guiya, Turk, Moses, and Murphy. There are also 3 collies that belong to President Thompson and his wife. They are in a large fenced yard, but eagerly greet Choppy when we are walking that way. They seem to have been de-barked though as they have a very tiny little bark. I guess that is so they are a disturbance and it doesn't seem to bother them ... they don't seem to know they aren't loud! Blessings ... Susie

This Week in Louisville

This past week has gone by so quickly due to the intensity of this TSE (Transforming Seminary Education) class. We started Saturday and have gone full force until a break today. There are 42 in the class and we are all getting to know each other, which is very nice. The class includes a mix of degree programs and this is the only time we will all be together like this while we are here at LPTS. At present, we are working on our personal spiritual narrative papers, as well as learning to think about situations from a practical theological perspective. We are looking at examples of how others have dealt with situations from this perspective, e.g. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have Seen the Promise Land" speech in Memphis just days before he was assassinated, among others. Friday we talked a lot about developing and maintaining a spiritual life while in seminary - remembering to keep life in balance between classes, study, life in general, as well as including time for reading and studying the Bible and prayer.

Last Sunday several of us worshiped at an African-American Baptist church that belongs to the National Progressive Baptist Convention. It was an excellent worship experience, albeit 3 hours in length! We were welcomed with open arms into their worship as well as their communion and were richly blessed to be a part of their community of faith. I have worshiped in many Baptist churches over the years, but this was the first time I have been invited to participate in communion in a Baptist church, which definitely made an impression on me.

Thursday, we toured downtown Louisville and learned a lot of history about the city, its riverfront, the Ohio River Falls, the "metro" government (the city and county merged a few years ago into the "metro"), etc. Our tour guide was a man that has been very involved in the redevelopment of downtown and the riverfront area and very passionate about his city. I don't know if we have anyone in LR that does this for new residents, but it would certainly be an asset to newcomers if we did. Maybe someone from my LGLR Class XXI (the best class) reading this can check into that with the Chamber.

The weather here has been very, very hot this week with highs over 100 degrees. Today we have a one-day reprieve with low humidity and only 88 for a high - hallelujah! For my KATV buddies, the ABC station here is Belo-owned and they do a pretty good job (can't hold a candle to KATV, however!). I noticed this morning that their live shots from the fairgrounds (Kentucky State Fair) were done by a B.J. Sams look/sound-a-like! I haven't watched the others stations yet, as I naturally want to see Robin and Diane in the morning. Plus, the late news doesn't come on until 11pm and I'm already in bed reading for the next day by then. I'm always on the lookout for story ideas and will send those your way whenever I come upon a good one.

Choppy has been better behaved this week - could be that I haven't been letting him have the full run of the apartment when I'm not here! A couple of times I've sequestered him to what they deem to be the "dressing area" of this tiny apartment by laying a step ladder in the doorway and that has worked. He really enjoys getting to run and run and run when we go out for a walk and I try to do that every evening when it gets a wee bit cooler.

Tonight there is a community-wide potluck and resident meeting and tomorrow night a cook out at the President's home. Thanks for reading my blog, for leaving your comments, and for emailing me. It is great to hear from you! Blessings ... Susie