Child of God. Daughter. Wife. Mother. Doctor. And some day a Pastor, Inshallah.
Greetings! If you are reading this, the chances are overwhelmingly high that you are a member of Luther Seminary's Fall 2013 Media and Technology in Parish Education community. If so, good! If not, also good!
In the tradition of Abraham and Sarah, and of Zechariah and Elizabeth, and of Anna and Simeon, I am entering into a new vocation in the second half of my life. And this came neither a moment too soon nor a moment too late.
After 11 years of saying, "No, God" and "Wait, God" and "How can this be?" and "I am afraid" (though I never really admitted this to myself or to God) and "Who am I?" I gave in. God's infinitely patient yes overcame my obstinate and fearful no. And so I am a seminarian, a little more than halfway to completing my Master of Divinity as a member of Cohort 4 in Luther Seminary's Distributed Learning Program.
Most likely, you share with me the identity 'child of God.' Many of you could also claim daughter, wife and mother among your vocations. And there are a few other students at Luther Seminary who are also physicians. I have been a medical doctor for precisely half my life, and it seems to me that there are often times when the lines between vocation (what I do) and identity (who I am) become blurred.
In the same way, distinguishing the physician role which I have lived for half my life and the pastoral role into which I am growing is sometimes tricky business. Here is a recent example. From August 27 through October 20 - wow, just 4 days ago! - I was given the immense privilege of serving as vicar of Hope Lutheran Church in Eagle, Idaho, while their own pastor was concluding his sabbatical. One afternoon the prayer team called with an urgent request. Mr. L. was going in for major surgery the next day, and could I visit him? Well. Mr. L. had been admitted to my own hospital. Hmm. Hmm. I had never met Mr. L. So I showed up, in stealth mode, at 6:45 the next morning, wearing a not-too-ostentatious cream-colored cleric, with the not-so-showy-but-definitely-visible tab style collar, for his sake as well as mine. (I know that older men don't often assume I am 'the doctor' when I enter the room. For this reason I don the long white coat. And I imagined that an older man would not likely assume I was 'the pastor' when I walked into his hospital room in the predawn hours, and that the collar might help him make the association.) We visited. We prayed. I tried really hard (and mostly succeeded) not to focus my gaze and attention on the diseased body part but rather on the man. God was present. All was well. I departed in just enough time to begin my 7:00 AM medical shift. And then my cover was blown. One of the nurses saw me coming out of the room. He wondered why the hospice doctor would be seeing a pre-surgical patient. Then he noticed the absence of the white coat, and the presence of the clerical collar. And his eyes got big as a wave of cognitive dissonance washed over him. I was not, he thought, what he thought I was. Or was I? We talked, and I told him I duck into a phone booth at 6:59 every morning and I change from Vicar Anne into Doctor Palma. And that is not too far from the truth.
simul sacerdos et medicus - at the same time priest and physician
simul justus et peccator
Wow. I think I may spend far too much time on this site, playing, and reminiscing about travels. But - back to the business at hand. I began a portfolio for LutherSem at the beginning of my seminary career. The main goal I had for this portfolio is to be able to show call committees examples of my work, my thoughts, and possibly (I imagined) my maturing theological insights. A history of my sermons over time, for example, might do just that! It is long overdue for an update and perhaps this course will give me the motivation to to just that! Check it out, if you wish.