Things to do before I’m 30

🎤It’s my birthday today, yes it is, yeehaw!🎉

Today I’m 29, and in honor of that utterly boring number, I’m making a list of all the things I’m determined to do before I’m 30. I asked around to friends and family, and most of their suggestions involved my two greatest fears (free fall and drowning) or were entirely too expensive for me to accomplish is year (all sorts of crazy road trips and adventures). But, with all the suggestions, I’ve narrowed down my list to the following items that match my current budgetary and life stage constraints:

Before I’m 30, I will…

  1. Finish 3 crochet projects
  2. Take a ballroom dance class
  3. Learn a new dance routine
  4. Take a “hot yoga” class (Hot as in temperature)
  5. Revist my pointe shoes (that’s as ambitious as I can get til I try them again. It’s been years!)
  6. Learn to play drums (at least a little bit)
  7. Climb a mountain, or at least part of one (it’s been far too long since I’ve hiked and climbed)
  8. Go rock climbing (if I’m going to mountain climb, I might as well clip in an climb some real rocks again while I’m out there)
  9. Visit Disney World with my family- November 2016!
  10. Run an entire 10k (no walking)
  11. Lose the baby weight from kid #2
  12. Be a part of a flash mob. Yes, I’m a millennial who’s never done this. Shocker.
  13. Sing karaoke
  14. Sketch out plans for writing a book (maybe even write it!)
  15. Start a DMin degree program
  16. Visit San Francisco. Hopefully, this and Palo Alto are happening in summer 2017.
  17. See a musical (even if it’s a local production)
  18. Plant a tree
  19. Finish all of my sewing projects (mainly patching holes, but my sewing basket has gotten a bit out of control)
  20. Go ice skating again
  21. Go white-water rafting (oh river of death, it has been too long!)
  22. Finally revisit my Greek textbooks, and finish them!
  23. Keep up with my blog! That means regularly scheduled posts, and hopefully create a bit of a following
  24. Write my will. And my husband’s. Just in case some of these adventures go awry. I mean we’re trained on high ropes and rapids, but still…
  25. Prayer walk my community once a month for the entire year

 

29 sounds like a spectacular year of fun and personal growth. Check back for updates on my adventures.

Feel free to comment with other suggestions! I’d love to keep adding and at least make it to 30 before 30. Just remember-

  • no free fall
  • no strong possibilities of drowning
  • if it’s over $100, suggesting the activity means you’re offering to pay for it

 

Ready, go!

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It’s a bird, it’s a plane…

Have you ever felt utterly inadequate? Often we’ll hear a dramatic conversion story, or a miraculous work of faith, or a long-suffering follower of Christ, and feel like our story will never measure up. The people we call heroes of our faith often feel mythical, unattainable, far beyond what we could ever do or be… “Yes, that’s incredible! Praise God! But I could never do that…” or “What a miracle! My faith seems so mundane compared to them.” Yet when we probe the Scriptures and the full stories behind the miraculous testimonies, we don’t find Superman or Wonder Woman or an elite breed of humans. In fact, the people we call great followers of God are no different than ourselves.
People who try and fail.
People who question if they’re really called to a new task.
People who shake their fist at God, or run away frightened.
People who fear letting God down.
People who live quiet lives of mundane faithfulness.

These are the stories of our “Heroes of Faith”. Ordinary people whom God uses for extraordinary kingdom work. We’ll spend the next 2 months in worship letting these stories, these testimonies, encourage and challenge our faith. Elijah, Daniel, Deborah, Ruth, Gideon, Nehemiah, and so many others—all people who followed God, and in their faithfulness, God used them to transform the world around them. How can their successes and struggles draw us closer to Jesus Christ? Get your cape and mask ready, it’s time to unleash our lives as HEROES!

Stay Connected- a challenge for summer

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” -Hebrews 10:24-25

 

Worship and community are essential in following God. Seeking God out, offering your praises, being formed and renewed by the Holy Spirit, and gathering in accountable community… all of these practices sustain and grow our faith in God. Yet, here we are at that season. Summer has finally arrived, and with it the travels and adventures of warm weather. The demands of our activities, the need for respite, the invitations from family, suddenly we discover we’ve missed weeks of worship and don’t remember the last time we shared in small group community. I get it, though. My family lives out-of-state, my children are starting activities, and meetings take me away from our area. Some weeks I feel like I’m spinning in circles trying to balance it all.

So when the crazy schedules hit, how can we stay connected to God and one another? Here’s some ways you can keep growing in your faith, even from a distance, as you seek to be faithful this summer:

  • Worship where you are– visit a nearby church, take a hymnal or prayer with you to say as a family, share your God-sightings that week
  • Revisit worship with us– Each week we record our worship service, and share it on our website (www.cridersvilleumc.org), our church Facebook page, and show the video at Otterbein and the Cridersville Nursing Home. Watch and worship with us, staying connected from a distance.
  • Simple studies on your own– Read a Psalm & a chapter from Proverbs each day. Proverbs are practical advice in catchy phrasings, and Psalms are dramatic expressions of joys and needs written as poems or songs. Most of the readings are short and simple- study at any level, readers and non-readers alike can dive in to a simple study that changes each day.
  • Pray unceasingly– Wherever you are, whenever you can, pray. Thank God for peace, for nature, for opportunities. Share your burdens and worries. Pray for other people you see walk by, for groups you’re a part of. Ask God to keep you connected and sustain your faith through a different schedule.
  • Check our events schedule for the summer– even if you can’t be here for consistent community, you can connect with your church family at our special opportunities through the summer

Journaling through life

From the title, you probably think I’m an avid journaler (is that a word?). Recording my thoughts rarely feels helpful. If I’ve already taken the time to think it, then writing it feels like a tedious exercise. An obvious extension of that is my inability to blog regularly, even monthly.

So thank you for your patience, as I learn this rhythm of blogging. See, unless I’m writing a sermon, I find it much easier to express myself in poetry than in prose. It’s less topical and more pensive. I enjoy the wordplay, the movement of the text, the form versus content tension. So today, I wanted to return to the blogosphere with this piece I wrote in my first blog on xanga, many years ago. (Does anyone remember xanga? I just found out it’s still an active site!) I also published it in Devozine that year.

Circa 2005

Sometimes I wonder how my life would be
If I ever stopped anticipating
And just enjoyed the moment
If I remembered that God has a plan
And perfect timing
That every moment I wait prepares me
For a result that is greater
Than I could ever imagine.
Sometimes I wonder why I can’t trust
My God
And just wait.

Season of Anticipation #ahamoment

So the Irwin household has had at least 1 out of 4 sick everyday for the past 28 days. We passed around a pretty severe cold, followed by a 36 hour stomach bug. Yeah. Merry Christmas to us right?

Needless to say, this Advent has not been our normal one. It’s my first Advent as an Associate Pastor (which means a lot less preaching than I’m used to this time of year). It’s my first Advent as a family of 4. It’s my first Advent that I’ve had to explain the differences between Santa and Jesus to my 4 1/2 year old son (parents, I’m sure you feel my pain). And being sick so much, it’s my first Advent where I’ve missed 2 Sundays, and had to skip out on anything social.

Growing up in the Episcopal Church, Advent was a big deal. We spent weeks preparing for Advent, setting aside time to make Advent wreaths for our homes, Advent calendars for each of the kids, rehearsing for the Children’s play, and preparing for the Lessons and Carols event. Not to mention the time we spent caroling, baking cookies, and attending all sorts of fun celebrations.

Yes, the anticipation of the season was incredible. By the time we made it to midnight services on Christmas Eve, we were thrilled and exhausted all at the same time. Why? Because it’s Advent, preparation for the main event, for the celebration of the birth of Christ.

Since then, I’ve changed traditions to United Methodism and changed roles from laity to clergy, and the differences have been profound. Yes, I’m still busy in December. Extremely busy. Sometimes even overwhelmingly busy. And yes, I still enjoy many of the same traditions I grew up with (though I haven’t found an Advent calendar to rival the ones we filled with Hershey’s kisses). However, the biggest difference for me as clergy is the active anticipation. No longer just a participant, I now set the tone, extend the invitation, and lead the anticipation. It’s definitely more exhausting, but as a person called to ordained ministry, it’s an amazing opportunity.

Now, at Advent, despite all the busy-ness (and sickness), my role is to invite people to peace on earth found through Jesus Christ. I invite them to anticipate God’s kingdom as they celebrate God coming to earth. And though I’m definitely not the one in charge of it all, I get the privilege of leading people in celebration of the long-awaited king.

I guess Advent hasn’t changed a lot since I was a kid. I still follow the liturgical calendar. I still light Advent candles. I still bake A LOT. And in active anticipation, I prepare for Jesus’s birthday, and invite others to do the same.

This post is the third of twelve posts as part of the Refresh 12 blog prompts. JOIN US. #umrefresh #ahamoment

Aha Moment- The Second Chair

Life is full of “aha” moments. Like those times when you wish everyone else could see you as a cartoon with the light bulb turning on over-top your head. And as a Christian, these are the moments I crave– the moments of clarity in my relationship with God and my interaction with the world around me. I love when the Holy Spirit brings new light to a situation. It’s that glorious moment when the truths of God infiltrate my brain and I realize things I could not access on my own. Whew! I’m excited just writing about it.

So why am I explaining all this? Because lately I’ve been working through a series of incredible “aha!” moments in both my personal and professional life. Most recently is something fairly new for my life… my role in the second chair.

Let me start by saying, I’m a strong-willed, stubborn, highly intelligent, strategic, futuristic, highly intuitive leader. You know what I mean. I tend to be right in most situations, and not just because I think I’m right. Does any of this sound compatible with a second chair role to you? And yet over the past 2 years, God’s been leading me to a place of submission, of learning, and of leading without being the key leader in charge. As I’ve transitioned over the past 6 months from Lead Pastor (or the only paid leader of a church) to Associate Pastor (with a fairly large staff), my biggest “aha” has been how to follow someone else’s vision without losing my identity as an innovative leader. Two instances set off my light bulb:

First, I had the opportunity to ask an “expert” one question for advice in my new appointment. So I said, what’s your best practices for an associate pastor? The answer: Make your senior pastor look good. Seriously? That’s it? As I thought longer, the circuit finally connected, the light bulb clicked on. As a part of the ministry team, that really is my role…
Everything I do and say should support and develop the ministry direction set by the senior pastor. My ministry revolves around grabbing my specific pieces of the plan and having them work well in the overall vision. This is why God placed me here in the first place, to do what I do well with a focused approach within the larger vision.
By the end of that conversation, my attitude changed. I really can do this for a long time, I can set aside my self and my goals for the overall goal of the church that’s not necessarily set by me.

Second, God led me through some reading and several Bible studies here at our church to a big final “aha”. It doesn’t matter what our title is or our place within the organizational structure. As Christians, our role in relation to God is always second chair. We’re following God’s vision, not our own. Whether we’re prophesying to Ninevites or confronting the Pharaoh or boldly healing in Jesus name or offering hospitality when we’d prefer to seek vengeance, God has a plan we wouldn’t consider choosing, even on our boldest days. Yet we choose it because we choose to serve the first chair and honor that authority.

It culminates for me into one big “aha”. Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” We’re living out the path set out for us, trusting the result of the next bend in the road, trusting the destination that we did not choose, because we trust the designer of the path. Someone else is first and I am second both in my profession and my daily life. And for this headstrong gal to be ok with that is truly a miraculous “aha” moment.

This post is the second of twelve posts as part of the Refresh 12 blog prompts. JOIN US. #umrefresh #ahamoment

Explain Yourself- Getting Refreshed

As I start on my blogging adventure, you should probably learn who you’re dealing with. My name is Casey Ann Irwin, and I’m a clergyperson in West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church. In our denominational terms, I’m a “provisional elder” and hopefully will be fully ordained this summer. I’m now serving my 2nd appointment as clergy, working as the Associate Pastor at Grace UMC in Perrysburg (more about that role another time).

I’m also a leader in a young clergy and families network here in West Ohio called Refresh. From time to time, I’ll share on some other pieces about Refresh, but I’m launching my blog with our blogging initiative, R12. 12 Topics, 12 Months, all young clergy bloggers. This month we’re all sharing our call, our connection, and why we’re involved with Refresh. So please take some time and read what others have to say.

The Call

I didn’t start out knowing I wanted to be clergy. In fact, I tried everything I could to serve and be employed in other ways by churches, but God kept calling me to this role. After years of being a leader in whatever ministry I happened to get interested in, I started employment as a Children’s Director (at age 18… what church is crazy enough to do that?! One that has a history of investing in the faith and leadership of young people). I volunteered with campus ministry leadership, and a local church in my college town while I went to school and taught dance (an interesting story for another time). I always felt like Isaiah- when God offers him a grand vision of what can be shared with the people, God asks, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for me?” I like to imagine that Isaiah was hopping up and down with his hand in the air, like a child who wants to be the special helper in class, as he replied “Here am I, Lord. Send me.”But finally, working as a counselor at a United Methodist summer camp, I got an answer to my lingering question- What would you have me do God? After weeks of prayer and conversation, Scriptures that spoke to my heart and pastors who bluntly directed me to a life in ministry, I asked for a confirmation from God- you know the kind, when you bargain with God and beg for a sign? Well, like Gideon, I asked for a sign, and immediately, a friend, unprompted by me, laid a hand on my shoulder and began to pray outloud for my future in ministry and the people who would come to know Christ deeply because of me.

Someday I’ll share the rest of the journey, but that affirmation is really what got me here, knowing that God wanted to use me, as I raised my hand and asked to be sent.

The Connection

What I love about being in the United Methodist Church is being connected. So often, we try in our personal faith, in our churches, even just as human beings, to go at life alone. We think we know best or that we can solve every struggle that comes our way, without help. Just as God offers us the truth that we can’t save ourselves, can’t truly live without a dependence on and love of God, we get the same instruction about being in relationship with others. We’re created to do life together. No, the connection is not perfect. I have plenty of days when I grieve over the man-made flaws (especially as I’m in the midst of ordination paperwork). But when we’re trusting the power of the Holy Spirit to use us all together, how much more can we do when we choose to work in relationship with one another. It’s now amazing to me how much power there is in a group of people, a group of churches and clergy, a world-wide denomination, choosing to follow God’s vision for bringing the kingdom to earth as it is in heaven.

Refresh

Now being young, 27, and female, and a mother of 2, I’m in the minority in quite a few ways as clergy. So the opportunity we’ve created with Refresh, our young clergy network here in West Ohio, is giving me the chance to find the few people who have a shared lifestage and career path. With Refresh, and the social network we’re growing, we’re able to honestly connect in a new way across the United Methodist “connection.” What I mean is, most of us don’t follow the “traditional” model for seminary anymore. Online education and second career ministry means our paths are so spread apart. Yet within the connection, through Refresh, I’ve uniquely built my trusted circle. I’ve found people who, like me, have to constantly justify their call story and career choices. I’ve found people who my family can share with, so that as we itinerate around West Ohio, my kids always have some familiar faces in their life. I’ve found people who don’t think I’m crazy when I share my mish-mash of futuristic, strategic, and ideation based dreams for myself, my church, or the future of the UMC. (If those words sound goofy, get ahold of StrengthsFinder 2.0 as a great tool for both personal life and for ministry)

Most importantly, through connection, I’ve found friends. And considering I’ve lived in 4 different homes in my 5 years in Ohio, that’s a really big deal.

So what’s the point?

Authentic community and authentic ministry go hand in hand. And the more we can foster both in the structures of the “connection”, the more we can truly “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”