Wednesday, January 30, 2008
This week is the first week of the "spring term." There is, however, a smattering of snow on the ground, left from the last weather event. ( I wonder what the weather is like at Southern?). This semester I am trying to serve too many masters- the master of taking the courses you need, the master of trying to not have any evening classes, the master of my family needs me too, and the master of the gas tank. The first three masters won, and so I am officially earning my new self-proclaimed moniker of asphalt warrior, driving five days a week. The good news is I have no Monday or Tuesday morning classes. I have no Friday afternoon classes, but.. I am driving five days a week. Today I thought I was personally fulfilling the old postal service motto of " Neither rain, nor snow, nor dark of night will keep us from our appointed rounds." It was still a little dark when I left. And it was lightly raining. As I got closer to getting on the PA Turnpike I must have crossed a zone on the weather map ( like in someone's world I am in the snowglobe and it just got shaken). It got really windy, the temperature dropped ten degrees and I really thought I would get blown right off of that bridge over the Susquehanna River. Then I looked ahead and saw a ladder laying in the road ( apparently it blew off of a contractor's truck because he was backing up along the shoulder). Missed that one. And then the snow started. Then I drove out of that into bright clear morning sun
( the blinding kind) - why did I leave my sunglasses at home? Coming into the home stretch, I know with relief that the next exit is mine off of the highway that leads me into Gettysburg. Putting my mind on auto pilot, I narrowly missed the tree that has fallen in the road. But I did.
Now, normally my drive is much more sanguine than all of that. But I hope it is not a portent of things to come. Unless I am tired and need really zippy music, once I get past the need for the traffax report, I use the time to listen to some form of "religious music"- it could be a children's chorale, a Christian rock band, chant, gospel - I am kind of eclectic. But I find that this has helped me "weather" the drive and feel that sense of "you are not alone."
On campus, it has been great to see everyone who is back, and hear their tales. And of course we are looking forward to when our classmate Brian is back in a week or two after his Dad's funeral. But after a month away, it feels good and right to be back, and for some of us much has happened in our time apart that has made rekindling the connections a real joy.
Back in the seminary choir, which has been a great way to refine how I sing, and a great way to fill the music part of me. One of my friends said it best, when identifying why this is so important- music in worship is in essence a component of how she prays. That without singing, she is not as conversational with God- she just gets kind of stuck. I had never thought of it that way, but I think she may be onto something. As I left my home church and choir, part of the separation anxiety was that I had just jettisoned a big part of my faith expression. It wasn't gone for good, I just needed to live into a new way of my life. Kind of like praying a new prayer. One is not better, one is not a substitute, it is just a different way of talking with God. The seminary choir is not my hometown choir, and neither is the group I call " the ladies that sing" but each of these is a distinct and valuable part of who I am and what my relationship with God is. To deny that opportunity for each to be that aspect would be to tell God there is nothing new to say.
This Sunday I will be back in the Country Parish. Over the break, I unexpectedly received a card signed by about 15 of them, thanking me for my time with them in the fall, wishing me well and telling me they look forward to my return. This week I think I have gotten four emails about coming back, and the song the ladies want to sing on Sunday, and feedback on the second service that they have added. Long after I am not there, I know that when I drive past the road I take off of the highway to get to the Country Parish ( which I pass every time I drive to LTSG) I will say a prayer for them as I do now.
On Wednesdays ( except Lent) my home church holds a service on the campus of the college in our town, attended by the Lutherans on campus. I usually try to go when I can. One of the girls who is a senior, has just started the candidacy process. She hopes to go to LTSS ( despite our efforts to get her to go the Gettysburg). As I have watched her have anxiety over the process, I can see where I was this time last year. Being able to be supportive rather than just saying "it will be fine" has felt good. She too will begin a new journey.
Meanwhile, my journey continues and I know I will continue to discover new songs to sing.
Monday, January 28, 2008
So in addition to prayers for the healing of his parents, please pray that he may feel the loving and sustaining embrace of God, as he travels what can be a pretty lonely and painful path. Even with the most wonderful friends and congregation, there are times when you are alone with only your closest loved ones. Right now for Coach that is a committee of one.
I don't expect any updates via his blog, but please feel free to post your thoughts there- they will be meaningful when he sees them.
None of us knows what a day or hour brings.
Here's a U2charist cover of Love Rescue Me by U-2 for Coach.
On behalf of our hurting friend- thanks and God Bless!
UPDATE: AFTER THIS POST, I RECEIVED WORD THAT COACH'S FATHER HAS ENTERED LIFE ETERNAL. WE GIVE THANKS FOR HIS LIFE AND WITNESS, WE PRAY FOR THE SUSTAINING OF COACH AND HIS MOM. WE KNOW THAT THE PAIN OF LOSS IS GREAT. MAY THE KNOWLEDGE OF RESURRECTION VICTORY BRING COMFORT AND STRENGTH FOR THE DAYS AHEAD. AMEN.
Friday, January 25, 2008
But then reality comes hurtling back. Think about the followers of Jesus, and what they must have thought. There would be Paul, amidst the murmuring comments of others, the doubt of his sincerity, the anger and hurt over his past. The weight of not only his own recognition, but the response of the followers that did not wish to embrace him, trust him, see him as a fellow brother in Christ. I think about in our own congregations the divisions that can threaten to tear our community apart when we focus more on the "Saul" in someone, than the God in our midst.
"You want me to do what?"
I urge you to read the post of Eric at Heart of a Pastor where he quotes a great story from Brennan Manning's Ragamuffin Gospel. Forgiveness is more than accepting our apology, it is about forgetting our sins. For Paul, for you, for me.
How easy is it for us to grasp that unending love? To live that love? For me, it is pretty hard. But we are freed by a God who loves and forgives and forgets anyway.
Freed from the shackles may we be inspired to go out and proclaim that message of grace, mercy and forgiveness to those desperate to hear this good news we know. And to live it in our lives. And may we trust in that message of forgiveness for ourselves.
May we heed the words of the great Gerhard Forde, who in The Preached God:Proclamation in Word and Sacrament urged his listeners, newly called pastors, by bestowing the gospel message:
"Remember above all, that the promise of the Father, the power from on high is, above all, the power of forgiveness. Don’t forget to claim that also for yourself. You are not called to carry the world on your back. You are not called to be religious megalomaniacs, gurus or whatever. You are witnesses. You see, there is a real good news here for you, too. You aren’t called to do it all. Just to bear witness. God will take it from there. You will be clothed with power from on high. Speak that word of forgiveness! Preach it!"
And may we allow that message of forgiveness to trickle down into the deepest recesses of our soul. And to remember that no matter who we have been, God IS.
Enjoy this great song from Casting Crowns.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
" I used to have all of my teeth, but 20 years of doing crack took care of that. I lost all of my kids except this one. She is my gift. I tried four times to have an abortion. Once the cab didn't show, once the doctor didn't show, once I didn't have the money. The last time I couldn't find the office- it was across the street from where I looked but God must not have wanted me to see it. " It was too late then, so I had to quit doing crack for the baby. I haven't done it since- I'm clean for three years. The boyfriend left and I got kicked out, but I'll make it for her. God has a plan.. can I have that Bible? I have actually never read one."
An African American woman got a job, and at the end of two weeks, quit. Her supervisor kept assigning new tasks before any of the others could be completed, in a vicious cycle. In relating why she left the job, the woman added, "And this supervisor was black too, so it wasn't about 'that.'" Clearly the expectation was that a non-black supervisor would be looking for her to fail- racism of low expectations.
In Bible study, one African American woman offered a story about her old neighborhood. Tensions arose when Koreans began to move into the area and buy up storefronts and open businesses, disgruntling long time residents who had not been able to do this. The Koreans could. One store was well known on the street for when the Korean owner would take the money to the bank. An African American man made a plan to rob her. "I saw this was going to go down." She crossed the street to protect the woman. "I did not know her, but what he was going to do was wrong, and she could get hurt. She was pregnant too. I tried to get between him and her. Then he pulled out a gun. …" "People from the neighborhood asked why I got involved. I said, 'I don't know this woman, I have no reason to wish her harm.' I just saw what was right and did it. I didn't care that she was Korean."
"I was always the one who wouldn't amount to anything. I always just tried to make everyone happy. When my Dad was sick, he was living in a motel with his wife. She didn't want to take care of him. He had diabetes and ulcers and sores. What did I know about that? And I had a job and an apartment. But I was like, OK, so I came down. He was so sick. I took him to the hospital and the sores were smelly and oozing. I learned how to take care of him. And she just sat there. I gave up what I was doing. She just told me what a loser I was, that I was a screwup. When he died, I was like, now they told me to plan a service. She said she didn't know what to do. It was so hard. Who was I? I know over the years I drank and did drugs and people made fun of me. And I just wanted to do the right thing. My sister is perfect but she couldn't help and they laugh at me because I ended up here. Well, I had a job until all that happened. Sometimes I just cry. I feel like a lunatic. You probably think I am. I don't know why I am not a strong person. But I think I can make it. "
I think they will accept me in the Lydia Center ( for long-term recovery) – did I tell you I only have one more interview? I am CLAIMIN that for myself! I hope God answers my prayer.
"He made me give him back his cell phone. He gave me a prepaid one. He won't return my calls. I thought we were getting married. He wants space, but then he calls and yells if I am not around. I don't know why he is so mean. "
"He says he is going to rehab. He wants me to come to Montana with him. I just got a new job. What if I go and he doesn't change? Then what?"
Her liver is so swollen her abdomen is distended. Advanced hepatitis.
"I got a job but the price of gas is so high, I can't get there in my car."
"I need to get to the doctor. I need to get the Access bus. I called to schedule my appointment, but the appointment they gave is tomorrow. I have to give 24 hours notice to get the bus. I called to find out when the bus can come, but then when I called the doctor I can't get an appointment then. How will I ever get my leg checked?"
"I saw a man on the street. He asked me for a quarter. I had 35 cents, but I had a truck full of scrap metal to get paid for. So I gave him the 35 cents. It felt so good. I felt bad for him that he was homeless. Now I am."
What you do for the least of these, you do for me.
What if, in the end analysis, the person who is the least has become you?
I have finished my three weeks of required time at the Mission. I try to figure out if I can fit in just one weekend shift a month with my course load. I wonder who will rise up and fly, who will leave before they should. A few women had left in my time there and more had come. And I find it hard to know that I will not see the end of this story for their lives. That there are scores more in every community, each with a story. And it can seem like we would have nothing in common, but long before we talk about the details, I know we all share one thing. We are all equally beloved children of God, and all equally sinners. And that one thing is the biggest thing we could share.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Last night there was a Service of Consecration for a friend, and long time member of our congregation, who has become a diaconal minister. I was asked to serve as cantor for the service which was being held in my home parish. I would be happy to share in this great moment for him and for the Church.
Well.. when I got to the church last evening, I was handed a service binder, and it was then that I learned that I was not simply singing, but was serving as the Assistant in worship. Full court worship, so to speak with all of the liturgical solemnity good German Lutherans can bring to bear. A chance to do things we only talked about in Worship class- thanks Dr. Oldenburg! Not merely intoning a kyrie, but leading the prayers of the church, processing with the gospeller, assisting the bishop during the Great Thanksgiving and Holy Communion and the sending. And since this is my home congregation, during the rehearsal suddenly I was answering lots of questions for the bishop and visiting pastors about our worship practices for setting the table, communion, etc, etc, etc.
Now I am a self-confessed worship junkie, but me mere first year seminarian. And I somehow have agonized more over serving in worship once I really started to think about it in seminary. I am, after all,also a fretter. So I think God blessed me with ignorance of my role until yesterday so I could not obsess over it. And fortuitously my alb was at the church. As we were preparing, my pastor who only had to make announcements, and read the Gospel, assured me all would be fine, you'll be great, the congregation will be proud.
Meant to reassure me, it hit me. My congregation- they are all watching. My friend- this is his really big moment. All of these pastors and visitors.
Why am I wearing a long sleeved shirt? I am suddenly very warm.
And I am being told that the bishop will follow my lead during communion and post-communion. No worries, no pressure, it is not a performance, it is worship.
"Surely it is God who saves me, I will trust in him and not be afraid." As so often is the case, the best things happen when God calls the tune and not me.
After all, this is what you believe you are called to do. And I love worship.
And ironically, though I served wearing my alb when I am in my home parish for several months now, it was only yesterday that anyone noticed it. Although I have been a seminarian since August, if it is possible, yesterday when I processed with the pastors, I became "our seminarian."
And just before the procession, in the back row, is my friend with cancer, who waves, and holds up the chain around her neck- my cross. " I love the prayers you recorded for me and the doctor says I can have wine!" with a smile.
So as we begin the procession in behind the choir, it suddenly all feels - right.
And I begin the kyrie.
About the third petition, it hits me again. For a nanosecond, I think I will have no breath to sing the next phrase.But it passes, by the work of the Spirit, and with the exception of my Beloved who detected the one second pause, no one is any the wiser. "You sounded great- there was one brief pause where I thought, is she going to croak? But you didn't." "And your voice sounded different. It has for awhile- you used to sound like a lawyer, now you sound, well, like a pastor."
What a wonderful and affirming time for my friend as many gathered to support him in the official beginning of his call to Word and Witness and Service to the world. And on the day of the Confession of Saint Peter, a fitting time for remembering a confession of faith and a setting apart for service.
At the reception after, we had a good laugh about my face when I was handed the service binder, and celebrated this new chapter in his life. Members of my home parish were telling me I should be able to get some kind of credit at seminary -"just show them the bulletin."
And people were talking about "someday when you are a pastor." I thought I was just showing up to sing, but I left with another step in the affirmation of call and a step further in redefining my relationship with my home church and the Church. What a gift and what a rush!
Lord, we give you thanks for all who serve your church. Guide and sustain pastors, associates in ministry, diaconal ministers and all who serve. May they know your abiding presence. May we together be one in mission to proclaim your creative and redeeming Word to all the world.Amen.
Friday, January 18, 2008
Rev HRod shares,
The website promoting this piece of art says, "For the first time, the worlds most influential religious texts are brought together and presented on the same level, their coexistence acknowledged and celebrated”. The shelf is made of reclaimed wood that contains seven religious books. The designers have put them – literally – on the same level.
Well, pish posh! I think that some books ARE better than others! How about you?
What book have you read in the last six months that has really stayed with you? Why?
Brennan Manning's Ragamuffin Gospel. His work gets to the core of who we all are, starting with himself, and without pretense or artifice we become enveloped by God's love, each of us a ragamuffin.
What is one of your favorite childhood books?
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. "Let the wild rumpus start!"
That might be a good title for my book...
Do you have a favorite book of the Bible? Do tell!
The Book of Romans is and has always been may favorite in the sense that it speaks to me consistently, however, almost without exception, every book of the Bible has a kernel, or many, that resound. Even ones that a casual reader might think would not. Like Leviticus- just a bunch of laws? Also where we hear "Love your neighbor as yourself" first. Of course when we were teenagers we used to try to read Song of Solomon for its "meaning." wink, wink.
What is one book you could read again and again?
Other than the Bible, of course (which the local political candidates always make sure to say- but do we believe them?),Pride and Prejudice. It amazes me that a woman of no great means, who never left her corner of England, could so deftly cast the nature of human relationships.
Is there a book you would suggest for Lenten reading? What is it and why?
Come Be My Light which tells of the call and work of Mother Teresa, and her writings. Her struggle to bring help and ministry to the poorest of the poor, the unlikely nature an Eastern European girl hearing that she should go to India, her frustration as others fail to comprehend her message from God, and her internal struggles of faith and doubt are still with me. I wish I had read it during Lent.
And because we all love bonus questions, if you were going to publish a book what would it be? Who would you want to write the jacket cover blurb expounding on your talent?
Unless seminary turns me into a noted scholar, I think that my book would be one of two kinds. One, and serious in nature, a book of devotions for our daily lives, our real daily lives, entitled Walking By Faith because it is by faith that we make it through the things that we cannot see turning out- in our own lives, those of our friends and children. I would want Max Lucado to love it and extol my talents.
But much more fun would be an irreverent poke at the amusing aspects of our lives. Not sure what the title would be, but sadly the person who would hype me up is now in the eternal bookstore- Erma Bombeck.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
I could record a message. Better yet, I could record a message not just from me, but from God. I could record prayers, and scripture. Maybe some music. She could listen when she wants, where she wants, as much as she wants. She can play it back over and over if she feels she did not catch what was said, and she will not be embarrassed.
I just got some new recording software to record LC#1's audition CD for a summer music program. I could test it out.
So I pulled up the ELCA Daily Prayer resources on the web, and the new Renewing Worship resource for readings and prayers for the sick, for healing and wholeness. Luckily my laptop has a built in microphone. I recorded the daily prayer track. It took a couple readthroughs to get used to pacing and using the "stop" versus "pause" features. Then I looked through the readings and prayers, and decided that I could alternate a reading and a prayer, so that it would end with a final prayer.
When I was done I saved the files into WAV format in Windows Media Player, made them into a playlist, then burned them onto a CD. And lucky for me, the programs can guide even an idiot like me through.
I tested it on a different computer before I put the CD and a note together with a printed version and delivered it. I called to say I would be dropping it by, and I know my friend is in therapy this morning so there will be something for later. A way to greet her after a perhaps difficult session. She could listen as she is riding in the car. I can make new prayers for when there may be choices to make- hard choices.
Maybe the files could be used for others who are ill, convalescing or suffering.
Maybe I could record separate prayers and readings for their caregivers.
Maybe we could use this format to occasionally send audio greetings to our shutins in addition to just cards.
Well, my mind is spinning at the possibilities.
On the chance that I am not just catching up to what others already know, I used free audio recording software from Audacity which is available at http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download. And since it's free, might as well play with it. It can also save in MP3 format as well. I am not sure how to post a link to it.
If anyone else has experience with this and has ideas to share, please let me know.
For everyone who has been in touch with prayers, on behalf of my friend and her family I give thanks.
Monday, January 14, 2008
Last July I blogged about my friend with cancer. We had both been undergoing tests at the same time. My news was good and hers was not. I have since blogged about her remarkable response to treatment, but that the cancer was also finding new ways to succeed." The liver is good, the breast is better, but they were concerned it was looking for bone." On Christmas Eve, that was where we were in all of this. My friend was still chipper, and looked great and was still going out regularly with friends for dinner once a month, still having that glass or two of wine with old friends, and squeezing everything out of life. And with the exception of myself and the pastoral staff, no one at church knew she even had cancer. A way of maintaining dignity, a part of her care, the care and feeding of the idea she was still active, and pretty and most definitely not the subject of pity.
My friend has always been one of those people who is a "force of one." Headstrong, opinionated, fiercely loyal. Always perfectly frosted hair, high cheekbones and the same blue eyeliner, a timeless look. A great wit, and the friend who will tell you there is food between your teeth, or toilet paper on your shoe.
Yesterday, she shuffled into church, with no next to no makeup, and no eyebrows, a face full like the moon, and she had a walker. She sat in the "handicapped pew" at the front of the church. She sat looking straight ahead as her husband got things situated. I made my way over to her during the sharing of the peace. She gripped my hand tightly and her eyes welled up- and all she said was "brain." What a watershed moment to walk into the church and feel so humbled. What an adjustment and acknowledgment that things are not able to be kept secret now, probably not so indefinite now.
After the service, I returned to where she was, followed by a long line of parishioners. She shared that they had been out to their favorite local pub and restaurant with friends on New Years Eve when she had a seizure. "They had to take me out" – and then she got a momentary sparkle in her eye-"Not sure they'll let me go there again." She has been having more seizures, as they try to do what they can. "I am not giving up, I am still great!" "But I am ready to face this." " God is GOOD!" And then the tears return. Hers and mine.
She tries to laugh as she says she is pestering the doctor to let her have a glass of wine. And I know she is worried. Her son is finally prepared to marry his girlfriend. Will she see it? Her husband will be lost without her. How can she know he will be OK? These are things she will need from her family to make the transitions ahead.
When I first began this journey, I thought of Sacrament of the Present Moment, and her question "Will I still love God when life is not good?" As she and I have traveled these many months, I shared Praying with Cancer with her. The day she mailed me a copy of one of the pages about how the suffering of cancer was a gift because it brought her closer to God, I learned a lesson in fierce faith. Now I have been reading Final Gifts to know how to share in what lies ahead.
I normally wear a silver rope cross with a rope-like chain that wraps around the cross pieces of the cross. Feeling like I needed to do something, and without thinking I took it off and pressed it into her hand, "Bind yourself to Christ, feel God's loving embrace. When you are feeling low, know that I am with you my friend, but better than that, you are God's- he will never let go." More hugging and expressions of friendship, and while I pray that somehow she can be healed, I remember my promise to sing at her service of Resurrection Victory. And I pray God will give me the strength to keep that promise. Until then I pray that God will use in all of us the gifts to let my friend not feel pitied or like a project, but like there is still that last bit of life to be squeezed out, savored and consumed, in her own unique way. God is Good.
It was kind of a random blah day and I was avoiding writing a paper for my class, and trying to get something ready for dinner when I realized I needed carrots. Not generally the most exciting life, I know. So I grump my way to the car, because it just is no fun to be down to the last ingredients and realize you are stuck. I usually shop at this Grocery Store by the Cows, at the edge of our town, on the edge of farmland, still sells their own dairy's milk, does not carry the eight million "got-to-have it" products that the mega-store does, and where all of the baggers still wear a tie. A place where when you look confused someone actually asks if you need help and means it, and the place where I now know that "George" works.
So I am in the checkout line and I see that my bagger is an older gentleman who is wearing a wide and vivid Stars and Stripes design tie, with… matching suspenders. I compliment him on his tie, and he smiles, and proudly pulls up his pant leg to show me his "USA" socks. About now is when my husband hates being at the store with me, but lucky for him, and for me, he is not here to drag me away from spontaneous banter. There is no one behind me and I ask "George" if he has a special tie for Valentine's Day also, making random conversation as my order is being totaled.
He tells me he does not, but that maybe someone will get him one, because it is his wedding anniversary, adding that he has been married for six years. Instinctively, he must say that he was married to his first wife for 40 years before she died. He remarried a mere nine months later- married his wife's friend, a widow in town. They had known each other since they were kids. They had all been friends, and their kids had played together. They had undoubtedly been attending all of the milestone moments of life, weddings, graduations and funerals for nigh on 60 plus years. They had always been friends. Getting married after all of this time, probably felt kind of like putting on a comfy old sweater. He says it was his idea to get married on Valentine's Day so he could not forget their anniversary, he says with a wink. All of their kids, who are friends and now suddenly step-siblings have had a good laugh over their changed status, and it sounds like everyone is overjoyed that the two later-in-life lovebirds hooked up.
He regaled me with the tale that before they married, the young pastor told them they would need to take pre-marital sessions. He chortled, "..And I told him, that was fine, that between me and her we had been married for 76 years and we'd be happy to answer any questions he might have about being married." Mental note to self, seriously consider asking someone like George and the Lovely Bride to take a class. Call it chatting to prepare for the sermon, or just pure interest. But apparently the pastor has taken some ribbing about this well, and so has George. It has become a part of the folklore of their congregation I gather.
Since I was still listening, he got a smile and told me he was retired a couple years now, and that when he left his job, his (current) wife asked him what he was going to do with his time. With a sparkle in his eye, he jovially announced," I'm going clowning!" and, he added, giddily, she said, "Let's go!" They now work as Make-a-Wish clowns all around the area, when they are not with the grandkids of their collective families. I think if I can find a great Valentine's tie, I might just have to give it to George to wear when he and the missus go clowning, and I hope someday I am blessed to have a parish with at least one "George."
Friday, January 11, 2008
1. When is your birthday? Does anyone else (famous and/or in your own life) share it?
October 2nd. Sting,Groucho Marx, Gandhi and me. Hmmm..see them all Here. Kelly Ripa is there too. I am a few years older than her. I don't know why I am not on this list. I went out to Youtube to find a Sting video and found this version of Panis Angelicus with Pavarotti. Who knew?
2. Do you prefer a big party or an intimate celebration for the chosen few?
Somewhere in-between. Girls just wanna have fun.
3. Describe your most memorable birthday(s)--good, bad, or both.
My husband ( before he was my husband, when we were law school students) to me to a very lovely restaurant way out of our price range for dinner and a wonderful jazz show. The music, food and company were wonderful, seeing his guess about which silverware was for what, also entertaining. Never really had a bad birthday. I am born the day after my Dad, so there were a lot of combined birthday things growing up. Actually, there was one bad birthday. It was when my husband was commuting back and forth to Philadelphia ( about 4 hours a day) and it was just taking its toll. He had forgotten to get me anything for Christmas until it was too late to ship, followed by missing Valentine's Day, and then he came home from work on my birthday, in a bad mood, clunked around all evening, and went to bed. No "Happy Birthday", no card.. nothing. I was wondering if I had done something wrong- He had just totally forgotten. Shortly after that he changed jobs, ditched the four hour commute and life got much better for everyone. Was trying to forget that one.
4. What is your favorite cake and ice cream? (Bonus points if you share the cake recipe). Or would you rather have a different treat altogether?
Chocolate cake with raspberrry filling, or carrot cake. Not sure which, but I'll have to get out a recipe.
5. Surprise parties: love 'em or hate 'em?
I think it would depend. Never had one. I once had a co-worker who planned a getaway for him and his wife to Aruba for her birthday. He made all of the arrangements and packed her bag. Woke her up at 4 am to go to the airport and "said it's surprise." Turns out he didn't really pack what she needed, and there was the whole, he already packed her makeup so she traveled "scary" .. not sure I want that surprise.
Bonus: Describe your ideal birthday--the sky's the limit.
We would all hop on a plane and fly to London to take in the museums, and a show and maybe a pub crawl.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
In the lesson from Matthew for this Sunday, we learn that John the Baptist tries to prevent Jesus from being baptized, even though Matthew makes it clear that Jesus is there at the River Jordan for just that very reason. I can almost imagine John, looking at his cousin and saying, "You want me to do WHAT?" Maybe there was even a back and forth, after all this is not how it is supposed to be. "I am inferior; you are the Messiah, and this is not how this works. I won't do it."
As Jerry Goebel has stated, one possible translation of what Jesus says next about fulfilling righteousness could sound like this," Suspend your rational thinking for the moment, God is doing something deeper here than you could possibly understand."
For a moment, I remembered back to my days as a child when the black and white screen began to playing the haunting music, and a man's voice begins," You unlock this door with the key of imagination, a dimension of sound, sight and mind…a land of shadow and substance, of things and ideas, you have just crossed into..The Twilight Zone."
With my apologies to Rod Serling, I would like to suggest that instead in Matthew, we are entering the "Spirit Zone." God's demonstration of radical love which challenges what "should be." Long before this day at the River Jordan, Jesus has already challenged and been challenged. Born to a teenage mother, who was not married when she became pregnant, born "on the road" in a "temporary shelter." Having to flee violence on the streets, being raised by first time parents. Having learned a trade, his hands were callused. A mighty God; a simple man.
His baptism at the age of 30 consecrated his ministry and the paradox between this ministry and who the long-awaited one "should" be was just unfolding. It was the tradition for a rabbi to be baptized at the age of 30 to solemnize the beginning of ministry. This should occur at the temple, a work of ritual and purification. Not just anyone could be there, only the clean, the holy, and the righteous. A triumphal beginning all according to a well-planned, orchestrated proper ritual. This day at the Jordan was not how it was supposed to be.
In the river, where men AND women came, to be baptized, to repent as sinners, those not worthy to enter the temple, Jews and Gentiles. Where maybe laundry was washed; animals may have languished. Where the coarse and the common, the inferiors, came to hear the prophet. He just showed up, without pomp, to fulfill the ritual in a new dimension.
He didn't need to repent, to be adopted, to receive the Spirit. But we did- not just some of us, but all of us. And this time the dove, did not just symbolize a cleansing of the flood, that was good for a time, but a cleansing for all time to come. Not just for Jews, but for all. Not just for those who looked like they had it all together, but for those who definitely did not. Not coming in power and majesty, but humility. And so Jesus' ministry began, and the Spirit Zone was alive.
So what does it mean for us here and now, to live in the Spirit Zone? What does it mean to do what God requires? Luther, in his sermon for this day, indicts us, stating, "Jesus does something here that is not required of him, whereas we do nothing that is not required of us." Harsh words. But, maybe for starters, this Word means, as Brian Stoeffregen has suggested, that as Jesus made himself available to us, we should make ourselves available to others. We should take the time to listen for our purpose, and then walk in this path. Maybe this will unfold and change over time.
I think of my own experience, being told that ministry by women was just not how things were done. For many years, I believed it. I believed that the rules were well established and I should be faithful to them. Did I waste my time as a lawyer? By no means. But there came a time when the message changed, or else I heard it more clearly. As one writer put it, the beginning three words of this text, "Then Jesus arrived.." could be translated "Then I got it."
So what does it mean to live in the Spirit Zone? I think it means doing more than just "meeting needs", instead giving of ourselves, becoming more humble, more determined. It means more than institutional survival, more than being efficient. It is struggling with good and godly things, discerning where God is leading us now. It is a lifetime of discerning, not a singular moment. And just as Jesus took risks, so too there is a risk for us. It means unlocking the door with the key of imagination. After acknowledging the Spirit within, we may hear God asking us, just as He asked Jesus, to step into some new form of ministry. Maybe even one that popular voices say, " isn't how we do things." Then what?
Then hopefully, in prayer and in community we strive to go there. And hopefully we do not let ourselves get sidetracked over the "correct way" to do it. And just as Jesus was not baptized in solitude, but in community to undertake exciting ministry, so we to must work in community. And like John, let us work set aside our needs about how "it is supposed to be" and let it be according to God's will. Our needs tell us, we can't teach, or reach out to the immigrant, or witness to the Gospel. But the Spirit says, "Yes, you can." And we are never alone in .. The Spirit Zone.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Fear can be a major force in our lives, and in our hearts, even those who think they have it pretty good. Worries about financial security; what our kids will do when they grow up; concerns over aches and pains as we get a little older; issues of aging parents, can dominate our lives. Then there are the mega-fears- Are we entering a recession? How long will the war in Iraq last? What about the violence and conflict that permeates so many corners of the globe? What will global warming mean for us?
At the womens’ shelter, fears are on a much more personal level. Will I get a job interview? Will my husband go to the anger management classes he promises to start, that could save our marriage? Will I stay sober today? Do I have enough money to buy the shower gel I like that makes me feel human even though I am on a floor with 70 other people and all of their stuff? Will I see my daughter this weekend or will they cancel again? Will I leave this place for a better life? Will I leave because I can’t deal?
Fears of all varieties can dominate our thoughts. I recently spoke with a woman who is a counselor to others, whose own life is one step away from falling apart. Her husband has left the ministry, and is engaged in drug and alcohol abuse. He has abandoned God. Her teenage daughter is engaging in risky social behaviors and the mom is trying to teach a different path, without any support from her husband. They are in financial ruin and her job is not secure. Yet she is determined to see her commitments through, but some days she thinks she is going to disintegrate.
No matter where our lives fall on the scale on any given day, God is here to give us peace and grace sufficient. It sounds so simple, but in my own life, I, like Peter, know there are the times when I look down, look away from Jesus, and the next thing I know, I am floundering and flailing in the water. Something so simple as trusting in God, seems hard when I think I know better, or God seems to take too long, and I just cannot believe that all will be provided. When we hear that our Lord brings us peace, a peace the world cannot give, do we ever act in a way that says “no thank you?” Do I find myself making my fears or insecurities my god? Do we, intentionally or unintentionally, act in a way that prefers that the problems of our lives not be fixed? I once had a client who was an alcoholic. He finally got help, and it was then that the marriage fell apart. After years of building an identity as the victim, his wife really didn’t want to have to reinvent the dynamic with a sober and engaged partner.
I had been contemplating this for awhile, both in the lives of the women I work with and my own life, and then I read the excellent article “What Your Heart Clings To” in Lutheran Woman Today, written by E. Louise Williams. In speaking about the famous Luther saying “What your heart clings to is really your god,” She explores the many things that become gods or idols in our lives. As much as material things can assume this role, so too can hanging on to the past, agonizing over the future, and preoccupation with failure.
The counselor and I talked about this one day while making our rounds on the floor, and she openly blurted out, with tears in her eyes, “I have already built those idols, boy, don’t I know it.” She detailed her struggles with letting go of what she thought was control, to get out of the way of God. It is hard to put down those idols. Some of the women here come in hauling massive piles of stuff, most of which they do not need, but they are so used to carrying them around. We all are used to carrying our stuff, our idols, around. And when the first little thing goes wrong, we reach for them. But if, instead, we can say “yes” to God’s outstretched hand, to the peace and grace we are offered.. If we can do this, as Williams concludes, we can “notice again that our heartbeat is in the same rhythm as God’s.”
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Blaming your farts on me.....
not funny... not funny at all !!!
Yelling at me for barking.
I'M A #$&*' DOG
Taking me for a walk, then
not letting me check stuff out.
Exactly whose walk is this anyway?
Any trick that involves balancing
food on my nose. Stop it!
Any haircut that involves bows or ribbons.
Now you know why we chew your stuff
up when you're not home.
The sleight of hand, fake fetch throw.
You fooled a dog! Whoooo Hoooooooo what
a proud moment for the top of the food chain.
Taking me to the vet for "the big snip",
then acting surprised when I freak
out every time we go back!
Getting upset when I sniff the crotches of your guests.
Sorry, but I haven't quite mastered that handshake thing yet.
Dog sweaters. Hello ???
Haven't you noticed the fur?
How you act disgusted when I lick myself.
Look, we both know the truth. You're just jealous.
Now lay off me on some of these things.
We both know who's boss here!
You don't see me picking up your poop do you?
EVERY DOG HAS HIS DAY.
A DOG ALWAYS OFFERS UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.
CATS HAVE TO THINK ABOUT IT!
Monday, January 7, 2008
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Enjoy this traditional music for Los Reyes Magos, Epiphany
¡Ya Vienen Los Reyes Magos!
On January 6, most of the Hispanic world celebrates El Dia De Reyes, the Epiphany, remembering the day when the Three Wise Men following the star to Bethlehem, arrived bearing their treasured gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the Baby Jesus. In Mexico, on the night, of January 5, the figurines of the Three Wise Men are added to the nativity scene. Before going to bed the children place their old shoes under their bed or in the living room, where the Wise Men will leave them their presents. Some also place outside the house, some hay and a bucket with water for the animals, and even some cookies and milk for Melchor, Gaspar and Baltasar.
You can feel the excitement building up! With twinkling eyes, the children eagerly, and constantly ask what time it is, wishing for time to fly so they could open their presents.
Reluctantly they go off to bed.
As soon as they wake up, which is earlier than any other day, they run to see the gifts that the Three Magi left for them. Happiness overflows every Mexican home.
The children spend the day playing and admiring each other’s presents, sharing them with friends, talking about how they were able to hear or see the Reyes Magos when they arrived at their home, how one of them heard the camel’s footsteps, how the other saw a shining crown in the dark night!
Meanwhile, adults prepare for the Merienda de Reyes, an early evening dinner that friends and families share to celebrate the Epiphany. Here in my corner of the world, a new Hispanic restaurant down the street from the Rescue Mission, Madre, opened their doors to host a Three Kings buffet for the women and children of the Mission, free of charge,in the spirit of giving as the Three Kings gave and to open the door to a cultural tradition. Those I saw as they came in last night, really enjoyed the experience.
Friday, January 4, 2008
At Christmas, my church choir sang an anthem about Mary and Joseph looking for room- paraphrasing:
They walk the city streets at night, in pockets of the poor
Will there be room for them tonite?
Will we find space to spare?
Will there be room for them tonite?
Will we find space to share?
This week I began my work with the Water Street Rescue Mission in Lancaster, Pennsylvania as a part of my fulfilling of a multicultural experience requirement for seminary. You can learn more about the extensive programming they offer at WSRM. Over the month I will volunteer about 18-20 hours broken up into three hour shifts. I am a spare pair of hands for the counselor on duty in the Womens Ministry Shelter, and most of my shifts are from 7-10 pm.
On Thursday night I began my first shift. It was getting down into the teens and breezy outside as I came in. I thought about how I take for granted that I can come in to a warm shelter every day. And that if I could not come to my home, that I am blessed with family and friends in many places.
There are about 30 women and children on our floor. The women are a diverse lot in terms of ages and racial and ethnic backgrounds. The children are both pre-school and school aged. I wonder what it is like to go to school from the shelter. I wonder what it is like to be in multiple schools in a year as the adults are trying to hold it all together.
At 8:30, everyone must be in the shelter and check in, unless they are working. The women line up, and one by one take a breathalyzer, receive any medications they are taking, a pass for the following day, any mail for them, vitamins for the children. Most of the women are on many medications for a variety of ailments.
As they come in, we also hear their concerns about job searches, relationship issues, health concerns, and the stresses of life. This is a lot of people in a relatively small space, so tension can erupt.
One woman is saddened because she did not pass a certification test for employment, and she is starting from scratch again. She has been here three months and she wants to be able to move on. One woman has learned that he significant other is not taking her calls, and has sent her no money- it has settled in that it is over. One woman has severe chronic health issues that affect her thinking but has been unable to qualify for the Social Security disability that would give her a chance to be elsewhere. A phone call comes from a woman who has just been discharged from the prison. She needed an address for parole and they sent her here. But she really needs to get to where her family is. We have no room, but we check the bus schedule, and confirm there is one yet tonite. We calculate the busfare, and give it to her, with directions to the stop, and a hat and gloves. She has walked three miles to get here, now she must walk half a mile to catch the bus.
The stories go on. Many of these women do not want to be here, like the one who has just gotten a job at a nearby college in maintenance. But how far can $6.50 an hour go when you need to live and eat, and get to work, and you are a single woman in your late 50's? What about the woman with four kids who, until the new family shelter opened where they would not be split up, they were sleeping in her car the week before Christmas? Or the veteran with PTSD whose wife told him to leave, and then quit paying the VA mortgage on their home where she was living, causing him to lose not only the house when she left it, but all of his VA benefits? Default on a VA mortgage rescinds all other benefits including health. The default notices came to her and she threw them away because it was not important to her.
I am thankful for this opportunity, not because it shows me a multicultural environment ( I already have worked with Legal Services and have seen people from all walks of life for years). I am thankful for the chance to see more clearly the real nature of homelessness, and also the role faith plays in the lives of these women. As with most of my experiences, I think others give much more to me than I give to them. There are plenty who have made mistakes, the difference is that when some of us mess up, we have a safety net. Others do not. "As you do to the least of these, you do to me."
To learn more about homelessness, visit National Alliance to End Homelessness.
Lord, you bless so many of us with an abundance. May we always be aware that we are blessed to be a blessing to others, that all that you provide is for this purpose. Open our eyes and our hearts to those in need that we may be your hands that share and care. Amen
1. Do you make New Year resolutions?
No, but I think if I am honest, I do internally take stock of life periodically. My perpetual resolution each day is to seek God's will and to strive to be an instrument of God's will in all I think, say and do.
2. Is this something you take seriously, or is it a bit of fun?
Although the goal is serious, I don't take myself too seriously.
3. Share one goal for 2008.
Hard to choose- I could say survive CPE and endorsement interviews, try not to cry that my oldest will celebrate her Sweet 16, and youngest will get confirmed. But I think, the best answer is that I continue to try and do #1.
4. Money is no barrier, share one wild/impossible dream for 2008
Achieve world peace and end world hunger- any amount of money would be worth it. But a backup plan would be to do all of the things in the song, "Live Like You Were Dying" ( I am not a country music fan, and I am not in poor health, but it just speaks to me, with the adjustment that I am female and not male). Although most of the things in this song do not require money.
5. Someone wants to publish a story of your year in 2008, what will the title of that book be?
Walking by Faith
Thursday, January 3, 2008
1. What is an amusing anecdote about a pet friend in your life (past or present)?
My Beloved and I have had two great dogs, Stirling, who was a wonderful shorthaired pointer, and Buddy the beagle, the current Resident. When we owned Stirling, we were newlyweds, before children, in a new house- in other words we were pretty clueless. Our house was a bi-level with a deck off of the back of the upper level that had stairs down to the back yard. I usually was the one to let the dog out the back to the yard when we got home from work for the "do your business, eat, play" evening routine, which required keeping her on a lead because she wanted to hunt everything. However, when it was time to come in, which usually meant dinner or a treat or toy, no lead was required. She would bound up that set of stairs, a couple at a time,ahead of the human, setting new world speed records. My Beloved is a very structured person, and all things happen in a routinized way. When putting out the dog, you open the sliding door, step out onto the deck, close the door firmly, walk the dog down, come back up, open the door, step in, close the door, put the leash on the counter, wait for the dog to bark that she wants in and repeat. I, on the other hand, open the door, take the dog out, come back up through the open door, andn repeat at the end.
This meant the dog would bound up the stairs, through the open door and to the food bowl with glee.
So one day, my Beloved does the evening routine, and at the end, the dog comes bounding up the stairs in the sprint to the food bowl, and..BAM, right into the CLOSED glass door. Who changed the routine? She sat there for a moment, a little dazed, shook it off and came in. After that for some time she would look at the door as if to try and figure out what had happened.
This year, our beagle, Buddy is becoming a senior citizen for sure. He cannot hear well, he cannot see well, he sometimes gets confused. This year, when we put up the Christmas tree, I came downstairs the next day, and the tree skirt was wet. I assumed it had gotten caught in the water, and it would dry. But for several days we were noticing a similar problem. Which turned out to be that Buddy thought the tree was a tree that needed to be marked. If there was a new Dr Seuss book, it would be Pee on Tree. See tree. See tree pee. No, no you must not pee on tree.
2. What is a gift a pet gave to you when you really needed it?
At the end of a really hard day, Buddy will always come over, tail wagging, and climbs up into my lap, nuzzles in and snuggles. He is so loving and content that whatever has gone awry, you just feel embraced.
3. Share a picture of one or more of your pets- extra points for amusing photos.
I am working on a photo to post.
Gracious God, we thank you for all of your creation. We especially thank you for the animals that grace our lives. May we learn the unquestioning love they share with us. Bless all of our pets, and those who care for them. Amen
So, now for the three questions, I tag Diane at Faith in Community , Dave, of course at Here I Stand and Dogblogger .
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
The time before Christmas and the holidays are such a blur, and much happened on the homefront that I meant to write about as it was happening but it all unfolded too quickly in some ways. I have posted before about our spare teen, D. She has continued to spend lots of time with us, and in church on Wednesdays and Sundays. She is preparing for her baptism on Easter Vigil, and will be confirmed with LC#2 on All Saints Sunday. Her family situation continues to be very troubling and discordant. What happened recently made me think of the story of the Little Match Girl which I think was by Hans Christian Andersen.
Two weeks before Christmas, we had an ice storm. The schools dismissed early, but the public library was open. I picked up my two kids from school, but they told me that they thought D took the bus home. She had instead, walked to the public library in town to read and get a treat at the coffeeshop in the library. Unfortunately, about 2:00 p.m., the power went out in our entire town, and the library had to close. D. now had nowhere to go but to head for home. So she walked about two miles to get home. She is not allowed to have a cell phone and she did not think to come to our house which is only a half mile from the library( she is after all a teenager).
Her Mom is at work about an hour and a half away. Mom’s boyfriend was somewhere, but no one left a key out for her to get into the house ( she is not allowed to have her own key). There seems to be a pattern of the boyfriend locking D out of the house.
So now she is at her house, and it is windy and there is a light freezing rain, and the door is locked and she thinks her Mom will be home in a couple of hours. There are no neighbors at home, and she is cold and wet and tired. She sits down on the front step to wait. The power is off in town until about 5:15 so there is nowhere open she can go. And when it does come on, she could walk a half mile to the convenience store, but she can't stay there forever. Unfortunately her Mom is not home when she thought she would be, and the boyfriend had not come home... No one comes home until 9:00 p.m at night.
Now she is really cold and hungry and tired, and nto surprisingly, she gets sick- she had pneumonia. She misses the rest of school before the break except the last day. And her Mom could only stay home with her for a day or two, so she is home sick alone. And she doesn’t want to bother anyone, and so no one knows.
But by Christmas Eve she is well enough that she can come and sing with the youth choir at church. Before all of this had happened, I suggested to D that she invite her parents to come to see her sing at the service. She seemed skeptical that either would come, and frankly, so did I.
But on Christmas Eve, when we picked her up to go to rehearse, she says she thinks they are coming. And she has a new red shirt and she is excited. And in fact, her Dad and his new wife come for the whole service. Her Mom did come later, but had missed most of the singing by the youth- but she came. And for the first time she is dressed up and with makeup and it looks like she feels like a real person, maybe because she is there without the boyfriend, who D says is a “mean drunk.”
As I communed all of them, I tried to get a sense of it all. Did Dad come because it would be rude to say “no” to his daughter? How hard was it for Mom to tell the boyfriend she was doing something for D regardless of whether he wanted to come? D tells me she hears them argue about her and she knows the boyfriend considers her an intrusion. She tells me she asked for a microwave and a cappuccino maker for her room in the basement so she won’t even have to come upstairs to eat when her Mom is gone and the boyfriend is home. I worry what that really means.
I pray for this blended family that they can rejoice in the gift of each of its members, and that abuse, and fighting can stop, that caring can happen, and that permanence can occur. And I pray that D's Mom finds the strength to be the Mom to her daughter she needs to be, even if that means giving up the relationship with the boyfriend. Even though he is the father of her toddler. People who have known D's mom say she has really changed- she is not who she once was. Does she not care or is it all too overwhelming? I pray for her, and I pray for the safety of D who at least knows she can come to us, and that there is a light. And I pray that she would come to us if things were really dangerous and not just kind of tense.
What must it feel like to be 14 and know that most days, a choice is made which picks everyone but you? I have made sure D knows that she can always call us, and have asked the librarian to let her use the phone to call us if she is there and needs a ride. We have told her she is welcome at our house anytime, even without calling.
And for my part, I think that the next time I am picking D up and the key is under the flower pot, I am going to give her a gift- we’ll make copies ( we'll keep her spare) and she can keep it in her bag. No one needs to know. As much as I can’t fathom why the adults are not responsible, and why she is left to find others to pick up the pieces, I just can’t live with the thought that another day could pass when she can’t get in and she becomes a headline.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
I don't happen to be the resolution-making type. But many people, maybe some of you, do engage in the tradition of pronouncements of intent for the coming year. Many people focus upon things which will make them more organized, more healthy, more attractive, more successful, and the like. The concept of resolutions for those who make them, is both a looking back and looking forward at the same time. It is easy to yearn to be more or less of something than in the prior year. It is natural to look forward to the notion that maybe, just maybe, the future holds a brighter day, a new and improved look or outlook- a fresh start.
Whether we make resolutions or not, many of us, myself included can be attracted to the inherent idea that what one has been is not the ideal of who one longs to be. Of course, magazines and newspapers offer catchy self-help lists and ways to make it oh so simple to perfect what seems to be lacking in our lives and fill in the blanks. Whether it is those pesky 10 ( or in my case 25) pounds, or some other woe in need of reformation, ads for handy products tout the ways in which magic things can transform us and our environs- at least the models look satisfied and self-assured.
And maybe, someone will actually keep their resolution for the year, or the first month, or..maybe next year, like Bridget Jones, she will still be nail-biting, smoking, crash-dieting, losing track of papers, in a dead-end job, alone on New Year's Eve. And all of the panaceas which held such promise will have been cast off.
I think taking stock of where we've been and where we are can be wise- the thought that there is a quick fix to transform us is however, pretty unrealistic. It sounds like a hopeless business.
But luckily, you and I do get a chance for a better today and tomorrow and eternity. Not because of the great product which awaits us ( but wait! Act now and we'll also send...), but because of the greatest story ever told. God's saving grace incarnate in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is what allows me and you to begin not just each year anew, but each day anew. In our baptism, as Martin Luther states in the Fourth Article of the Small Catechism, the old in us has been put to death, and a new person comes forth daily to rise up, cleansed and righteous, to live forever in God's presence. This forgiveness of sins, and rebirth are for me and "for you."
Today, as we celebrate the naming of our Lord, we know that the story of Jesus is not just about coming down to earth to check things out, but allowing Himself to be born, cared for, named, cirumcised, and dwelling with us, as one of us, for us.
So while I do not make annual resolutions, I can resolve each and every day to seek God's will and try to be an instrument of this will in all I think, say and do. Luckily, even when I fail to keep this resolution as I should, instead of having to come back to be simply confronted by yet another failure as the final indictment, our loving God assures us that even though we cannot come to know Him as we ought, we have the blessed assurance of life eternal. This is true not for anything I have done, but the fact that God is trustworthy- that is a resolution we can count on!