While on holiday break this past week, I purchased a pair of over-the-ear bluetooth headphones. The headphones are comfortable, with soft, padded ear pieces and a near weightless band that slides over my head. They store nicely and function nicely when in use. The best part, of course, is the bluetooth part. This means no wires, no connections, and nothing to get in my way.
One day over the holiday break and after I had purchased the headphones, my spouse was in the basement working on some fabric arts. So, I put on my headphones, scrolled over to my library of music on my phone, turned the volume up, and pushed play. As music started to drench my ears, I felt an old, familiar urge begin to rise within me. And I began to sing.
I sang heartbreak and remembrance with Adele's "When We Were Young," and "All I Ask." I sang the lesbian anthem "Come to My Window" with Melissa Etheridge, and "The Story" with Brandi Carlile. I gave nod to my past and a reclaimed present as I sang Jennifer Knapp's "Martyrs and Thieves," and then topped it all off with what I am sure was a horrific rendition of Melissa Manchester's "Don't Cry Out Loud."
I sang loud. I danced like I hadn't danced since before my knee injury in July. I lost myself in the music, the lyrics, and the feelings of the moment. It was pure bliss, and it was nothing short of exhilarating. I was, as St. Irenaeus of Lyon said, "A human being fully alive," and it was--it is--EXACTLY what I was created to be.
Last year at a worship service in early January, those in attendance were handed a paper star and asked to write one intention we held for ourselves in 2022. I'm not sure what many of you did with your star, but I taped mine to the outside of my office door so that every time I entered, I would be reminded of my intention for the year: To reconnect to the person God created me to be.
Honestly, I am not the person God created me to be everyday. I am not always a human being fully alive. In fact, sometimes, I feel like a human being barely alive. But my intention was and is to continue to create the conditions in my spirit, in my mind, and in my body that brings me more in line with my created self. My intention is to engage in the many practices of being fully alive. My intention is to walk alongside each of you as you practice doing the same. For I believe that when we do, it is nothing short of the glory of God.
My intention is set...is yours?
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen
Rev. Melissa Sternhagen was called as the pastor of St. Paul Congregational UCC in June of 2020. Prior to her call to St. Paul, Pr. Melissa worked as a hospice chaplain in the Ames, IA area, following pastorates at rural churches in Central Iowa and Southern Illinois. Pr. Melissa is a second-career pastor with a background in agribusiness and production & supply operations. She received her M.Div. from Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis, MO, and holds a MA Ed. in Adult Education and Training, and a BA in Organizational Communications.