Friday, May 30, 2008

RevGals Friday Five

Friday, May 30, 2008
Friday Five: Garage Sale!

Welcome to your irregularly scheduled Fifth Friday Five, hosted by will smama and Songbird!
Since will smama is preparing for a joint garage sale with her parents, and Songbird's church had a Yard and Plant Sale last Saturday, we have five enormously important questions we hope you will answer:

1) Are you a garage saler?
At this point in my life, no. No more room for stuff. But when I was in college and law school, yes. Some of our furniture came from them.
2) If so, are you an immediate buyer or a risk taker who comes back later when prices are lower?

I used to be a risk taker when I was shopping unless it was absolutely to die for.
3) Seriously, if you're not a garage saler, you are probably not going to want to play this one.
(That wasn't really #3.)
3) This is the real #3: What's the best treasure you've found at a yard or garage sale?

Twenty years ago.. There was a beautiful 1920's walnut bedrooom set. But it was expensive. I commented out loud that it sure was nice, and the elderly lady said, there was an identical set in the basement, but it was covered with spider webs, etc. If I was willing to haul it out, I could have the bed, vanity, dresser and night stand for $100. I did and spent the summer refinishing it. The bed is is our guest room. The dresser eventually bit the dust, but the vanity ( minus the mirror) and bench are where my computer is located now.

4)If you've done one yourself, at church or at home, was it worth the effort? Can't say that I think the church sales our youth group ran were worth it, so we stopped. In large part because people who "donated" unloaded some scary things. And everyone want everything for under a dollar. The scariest "donation" was a blue peekaboo negligee with cutouts in the important parts. As we were sorting,I found it,before any of the youth saw it, and disposed of it. Used, and inappropriate. But I wish I knew who donated it.
5) Can you bring yourself to haggle?
Not really.
BONUS: For the true aficionado: Please discuss the impact of Ebay, Craig's List, Freecycle, etc... on the church or home yard/garage sale.
Not sure I can speak to this, other than to say that the idea of finding just what you wanted rather than being in a sea of stuff has some appeal, but the idea that you buy something and it never shows up is out there. But right now I am looking for a French Horn. Pretty sure I will not find it at a yard sale.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Consumers of Worry

This past Sunday's gospel reading in the Revised Common Lectionary, Matthew 6:24-34, is rich with messages for us to ponder. The last couple of days have brought many thoughts to mind, in Memorial Day gatherings and parades, and the continued burgeoning of nature here in my part of the world. In the backyard world, the starlings have arrived.

This is a sad development for the smaller bird community, cute little songbirds, finches, sparrows, wrens, and bluebirds, have found themselves brushed aside in the quest for the bird feeder by the starlings. They are new to our yard, so I have had to brush up on them. Even their name sounds harsh- Sturnus vulgaris. According to,"hordes of these birds create much noise, damage vegetable or fruit crops, and do considerable damage around feedlots, consuming and fouling feed, and have proved difficult to drive away.
Starlings compete with native hole-nesters for woodpecker holes and natural cavities. It often seems that every time a woodpecker drills a nesting cavity, a pair of bully European starlings comes along and drives the woodpeckers away. Time and time again, I have watched a pair of red-bellied woodpeckers, northern flickers or red-headed woodpeckers, spend days drilling a hole in a tree suitable for nesting and raising young. Just about the time the cavity is ready for eggs, a pair of starlings will take over the cavity and keep the woodpeckers out.

Even worse, after the starlings have won the battle, which usually takes a couple of days, they will often occupy the cavity for only a few more days, and then move on to the next conquest. By the time they vacate, the woodpeckers have drilled another nesting cavity, and the vicious cycle begins again. The same scenario may occur with bluebirds trying to settle into a birdhouse."

Here we have seen them purposely bully the smaller birds, not simply into waiting longer to feed, but gathering loudly and chasing away all competitors, spilling food in the process of the gobbling frenzy, even chasing away other birds when they, the starlings, have no intention of eating now, just to establish global domination of turf. As though their worry triggers some over-consumptive pattern.

In the human world, I can't help but see the comparison to the ethanol market and our own greedy stockpiling of corn, at the expense of the food supply of others, as one example. And what about on a more personal level, in our ordering of lives and relationships? Can we be the starlings? At the feeder, there is plenty to go around, but the starlings seem incapable of sharing, as though all of that striving is really necessary. In our lives, I wonder if all of our striving and worrying about winning the game of who has the most toys or the last word, is not a modern day version of what Jesus is teaching in this text. Are these things our panacea for worry, as though we somehow really can have total control? Is this behavior our solution for the peace we seek that only God can give? Can we even become voracious consumers of worry? There are indeed worries enough for any day, including the natural disasters around the world and here on the homefront. But in a 24/7 media frenzy, do we find ourselves spending more time listening to the escalating "what-ifs" of the talking heads, or spending more time in prayer and social action?

I wondered this as I went on my way to two Memorial Day parades. At each parade I felt certain that those Gold Star mothers, and families of men and women who have been killed or are missing or are fractured souls, would tell us, that one more day with the person they sent off would be worth more than all the stuff in the world. And then I ran into former divorce client. She and her husband engaged in a nasty, passive aggressive divorce, which threatened to tear apart their extended family, each person jockeying for stuff and control, all magnified by life in a small town where everyone is a spectator. That was two years ago. By last year, it was all done but the last shouting. We lost touch as I went off to seminary. I saw her at the Park- the speaker was her son-in-law, a well decorated veteran. Her ex-husband is now the mayor of our town. There she sat, with her daughter, her grandson, and her husband's new love. All together for the big speech. Afterwards she told me she had over the winter suffered a stroke. And somehow when that happened, in spite of all of the bitterness and adversity of the past, the whole family had come together, in their congregation, and in their now slightly reshuffled lives- because they realized what was really important. And it was not stuff-it was relationships with God and each other.

25“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.All that worry about coming out on top, where does it get us? For each of us- nowhere. 27And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? Clearly my client, and many others have found out the warning sign of "no." 33But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34“So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Trouble enough indeed, but thanks be to God that we have the true peace in the knowledge of resurrection victory and the unending love and grace of a God who waits for us, who says, "Stop worrying so much- trust in me." A God who sent His Son not to do what we wanted, but what we needed, and who provides for us still.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

About the Slideshow

Lately we have been rather inundated by cool rainy days- good for the garden, but kind of "wet blanket" on outside fun. But yesterday the rain slowed down to "spotty" as they say in Ireland. The newly on-the-mend Buddy and I went out for a stroll 'round. His first real effort since the second trip to the animal hospital. He was snoofing everywhere and the tail was wag, wag, wagging. And I took my camera to capture the lush green and the beauty of freshly cleansed plants. The birds were out in abundance on snack patrol for themselves and their young. There are house finches in the garden birdhouse so we stayed away. But the birdsong cheeping and trilling is lovely this year. Lots to do, inside and out, but a nice diversion just the same.

And in the category of "thrifty seminarian" the wicker is a cast off set I repainted with outdoor paints with plastic pebble bathmat seat covers. Many of the plants have been from friends and neighbors. And soon there will be Maxwell House Coffee can luminarias, once they are painted, in time for a test drive before LC#2's backyard fiesta in August. And hopefully the raised bed will produce yummy organic veggies for the family. And this will be my sanctuary from CPE in less than two weeks.

Backyard Sanctuary

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Oddly Familiar Meme

Diane at Faith In Community tagged me for an "oddly familiar" (or as she says, is it strangely familiar?) meme. She blogged that she was procrastinating on other writing projects right now, and so it seems am I. And parts of my answers also seem to bear a resemblance as well.

The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
Each player answers the questions about himself or herself.
At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Ten years ago:
Ten years ago at this time of year, I was leaving my job as a custody conference officer for the Court to begin a law firm with a friend and some of his friends. We were sure that we would not make the mistakes of other firms. We had just bought an old house that was now in commercially zoned land, and I was in charge of the renovation project while I ramped up my private practice. My friend was the first to leave in a blaze of glory two years later. I stayed longer than I should until last year when I left to get ready to begin seminary. I could not know that in my time there one of them would ask me to handle his divorce; another thankfully did not. Ten years ago there were none of the arguments, staff meltdowns or other family crises that would come. Just the smell of fresh paint and lots of grilling while we moved things in and had grand visions as thirty-somethings. The Lutheran Chicks were headed into 1st and 3rd grades. I still have the cute artwork and pictures to prove it. And in a couple weeks we would be headed to Stone Harbor to the great little house across from the tennis courts and only a block from the beach- with the big tub of beachtoys and tiny bikes, and the blender for the adults after the beach.

Five things on today's "to do" list: (here is tomorrow's)
Set up the screen porch ( optimistic that the weather will change and I can actually sit out there)
Drop off a CD of Prayers for Healing I recorded for a friend getting ready for stem cell transplant.
Lunch with a friend
Feed the dog his new liver disease food and hope he will drink enough water and eat his antibiotic ( hiding it in Wonder Bread "ball" seems to be working)
Work on endorsement essay.

Things I'd do if I was a billionaire:
-Finance micro-credit projects around the world to address potable drinking water, sustainable agriculture, alternative energy and fair trade
-Establish a fund to alleviate the overwhelming debt of our denomination's seminarians while they are in school
-Create a culturally and linguistically appropriate parenting education program for Hispanic parents that could be reduplicated so that they have the same ability to learn parenting skills as others ( especially when they are court-ordered to do so)
- Go solar
- Take cool trips with the family from time to time
( But one thing I would not do is "stop working")

Three bad habits:
Starting piles of things that need to be done
Not putting my shoes away
Not finishing home improvement projects

Five places I've lived:
Muncie, IN
Bristol, TN
Pittsburgh, PA
York, PA
Elizabethtown, PA

Five jobs I've had:
Cashier and Ladies Wear clerk
Ice Cream Store owner
Borough Council person

Five people I'm tagging: Eric at Heart of A Pastor; Brian at Prepare Ye; Ivy; Unlikely Conversation; and Gannett Girl

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Five RevGals- Grand Tour

Friday Five: Grand Tour

One of our original ring members, jo(e), wrote yesterday about a trip she and her sisters are taking overseas with their parents, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Many other RevGals are headed for the Festival of Homiletics in the coming week (click here for information on a RevGals meetup!!). In honor of these upcoming trips, herewith your Grand Tour Friday Five.

Name five places that fall into the following categories:

1) Favorite Destination -- someplace you've visited once or often and would gladly go again: SO many places, so little time.
Ireland- in the summer, with the fuschia hedges spilling out over the walls along the road; for pubs where dogs just walk in like customers, and the Guinness is fresh; for immeasurable amounts of sacred spaces and the greenest greens I have ever seen; and the faith needed to drive on those winding mountain roads with no guardrails at high speeds.

2) Unfavorite Destination -- someplace you wish you had never been (and why)
Los Angeles- too many cars and smog and pavement.

3) Fantasy Destination -- someplace to visit if cost and/or time did not matter
A tour of the Pacific Rim: Australia; New Zealand; Hong Kong; Bangkok; and anywhere else it looks like I should check out.
4) Fictional Destination -- someplace from a book or movie or other art or media form you would love to visit, although it exists only in imagination
5) Funny Destination -- the funniest place name you've ever visited or want to visit
The Concrete Wigwams on Route 66. Never been- sounds cool. Close second could be the Ice Hotel in Finland. It would be funny because we would be so bundled up that if you laid down , you might not be able to get back up like the kid in Christmas Story.

Monday, May 12, 2008

So I’ll Bet You’re Glad to Have a Break..

I was worried about making the shift from full time asphalt warrior student to being home for the next three weeks. I had visions of relaxing and puttering in the yard and garden. My family has visions of all the things I am to do before I start CPE. I bravely contemplated polishing off the endorsement essay while I am still feeling academic.

So here is how has really started. Buddy the Beagle started throwing up grass on Wednesday night. Thursday morning as I was leaving for my last spring term class and picnic, he was still not doing well. I put the dog and the water bowl in the crate. I came home and he was disoriented. I carried him upstairs and went to look for the leash to take him out, when from the living room I hear violent wretching sounds. Exhibit A was now on the living room rug, in all its putrescence. But what was it? As I set about using paper towels and plastic bags, I read "JOE BOXER." Buddy, ever on the prowl for any snack, had eaten a pair of underwear and some pencil shavings and who knows what else. So I thought he would feel relieved, if tired. He would drink some water and feel a little better. Such was not the case, in fact the opposite was true. So I called the animal hospital and off my husband went with the beagle while I did the laundry of the Band shirt needed for Friday's performance by LC #2.

It, whatever it was, was some obstruction, involving X-rays and a stay at the vet hospital. On Friday we waited all morning for the call. Finally we needed to leave to go to LTSG for the eucharist service where I was in the choir. Just before the Great Thanksgiving, the call came that Buddy was doing better but needed to get his functions back in working order. He needed to stay until Saturday and we would hear more then. Surgery, once a real option, was now less likely.

In the midst of Saturday was a guitar lesson, and a homework project needing poster board. And I needed to get the garden plants in before the rain. Then we learned, there was an orchestra concert that night. No one even told us they had joined the orchestra. So one parent went to the concert. And one parent picked up the Beagle.

Sunday was dinner with my mother-in-law and two teenagers who swore there was nothing on the menu they would eat. There was and they did. Then a long conversation with my parents in FLA where I got the full medical update on all of their friends. And a request to go shopping for a dress for the dance, followed by a "never mind I have a performance in DC for Jazz Band- but Mom I need to be at the school at 5:45 am and I need white sneakers."

And there was a dentist appointment today, and the grocery store and the produce stand, and then I looked at the house and wondered when the last time I REALLY cleaned was. And "Mom when you take me to flute can you get me highlighting stuff for my hair?" "Did you remember you wanted to order the stuff for my 16th birthday party before you start at the hospital?"

The dog needs medicated dog food, Metamucil and his antibiotic three times a day, and he must be monitored in the yard. And it is time to set up the screened in porch for the summer. My Beloved thinks I should fix the garden fence and mulch the beds, and…

It is wonderful to be home. Really home, not the superficial, just here to do school work and sleep thing. And I can do morning prayer in the Florida room and see my purple house finches, and goldfinches and the flicker. And I might get that essay done. I think of all of those who are missing their loved ones, or whose homes have been torn asunder by natural disaster or conflict. There is so much to thank God for, including the restored health of an incorrigible beagle, and the fact that no one had written "DUST ME" on the coffee table yet.

Lord, we give you thanks for the myriad of simple pleasures you create for us. Help us to slow down and savor them. Guide us as we love and care for those in our midst. May we never tire of praising you for our blessings. Amen.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Mothering Spirit

This Sunday is Mother's Day, and also Pentecost. Recently in my Systematic Theology class, we were given the assignment over a period of several weeks. It was to draft our own creedal statement about each of the Articles of the Nicene Creed. The one I enjoyed the most was the Third Article, I suspect because we often struggle with the work of the Spirit in our midst.

Here are some semi-random thoughts:

The Holy Spirit is the activator of change, the presence of comfort, and source of life. Through the power of the Spirit, God breathed life at creation, and by this same Spirit, the Word became flesh and dwelled among us. By the Spirit, we are given new life, reborn in the waters of baptism, and we are empowered with gifts for ministry. The activity of the Spirit enables us to hear and begin to understand the Word proclaimed among us and for us, in the Scriptures, by the prophets, and in the Word preached and present in the Meal.

I believe that the church is the expression of God’s people attempting to live lives faithful to God’s commands and purposes. Where God’s people gather, God is present in their midst, making their assembly holy. In many ways God’s people fall short of the vision of God’s kingdom here on earth. All believers share a core belief in God which unites us, though different people construct their own frameworks of understanding and interpretation of faith. Often our frameworks prevent us from seeing unity, though God desires us to be one.

I believe that we will one day be united with all the saints, believers who have gone before us, and those who follow us. This will happen in the fulfillment of God’s kingdom in its final state. We are, by virtue of the grace given to us, saints, in spite of our sin, because we have received forgiveness for our sin in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But because we remain sinners, by this grace, we also receive ongoing forgiveness for our sins in our lives lived, whether our sin is one of overt action or a failure to act. It is hard for us to comprehend the universality of God’s forgiveness for us or for others because we seek to justify ourselves in relation to others, but God is faithful and constant.

As I think about the Spirit, I have come in some ways to envision parenting of children, particularly teenagers. It helps of course that this is my current lot, I know. But, as parents we encourage, support, cajole, restrict and sometimes figuratively give a swift kick in the posterior. We are there for tears, laughter, anger, conflicts and confusion. Often I hear people who envision the Spirit as just a giant warm fluffy blanket embracing us. But if this is our only view, we diminish the Spirit and marginalize the Spirit. Just as we tell our kids what they need to do, even when we know it will be hard, so too the Spirit urges in each of our lives.

When I think of the wind of the Spirit blowing in lives, it is often times not at all a comfort. But the Spirit is working for our good. And just like my daughters roll their eyes and blow off listening to me, so too we find times when we do this in lives with God. And when we are reminded time and again, we tune out and go our own path. Yet, the Spirit continues all of this activity even when we make ourselves distant.

I always tell my Lutheran Chicks that while all cannot be fixed, all can and will be forgiven. So often we seek for God to act with mercy towards us, but as hammer for others. Yet, we should see God as loving parent, a parent who does not play favorites, but loves each of us for what is unique, perhaps by the power of the Spirit we will take one step closer to being more like the family we are envisioned to be. A family loved by that constant mothering Spirit. I have been told that no matter how old I am, I am still my mother's child, so it is with my children. And so it is for us with God.

In each of our lives, we need different things. Just as our children cannot thrive under a universal parenting, so it is with each of us. We have different gifts and weaknesses. Yet, there in our midst is the Spirit coaxing out what is in each of us in our turn.

And the Spirit empowers each of us to go forth as disciples in many and varied ways, including mothers. May God bless all mothers and all of those who serve as loving caregivers.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Another turn in the Road

Goodbye, Country Parish. It is hard to say. Yesterday was the blowout farewell fellowship brunch. I think we had enough food to feed the five thousand, if they had been there. Food equals love for this flock ( and my experience in other Lutheran parishes tells me this is not unique).

Things I learned that were not part of the learning expectations but I think only I learned- my classmates have missed out!
1. How to ring the bell for church. Don't pull too hard or it will double-ring. Do fasten the rope when done so that the bell will not swing the cord up into the steeple. Ringing the bell is not a graceful thing.
2. Pickled tongue is a delicacy, and is expected for the Easter breakfast.
3. How to teach and preach with meaning whether the crowd is 3 or 103.

Rural ministry was something I had not experienced since I was a very young child. The flock was slow to warm up to an outsider. But once this is accomplished they are like a warm fuzzy blanket. We had outstanding attendance for the services and for the fellowship, lots of hugs and best wishes. And requests to come back and preach, to attend the confirmation of the one student in a few weeks, to bring the Lutheran Chicks to the Mother Daughter Banquet, and more.

And I wish I could be there, to be a part of these times with them, to continue to be a part of their learning and growing and to see where the road will take them. But this is not to be. And this is why the last couple of weeks, I began to pull back from the things we did together, so they can return to their usual. I hope that they will continue their choir which has grown from three people to 10. I hope they will continue to come to the new Sunday school class. I hope they will put that WELCOME sign over the door on the other side of the building ( where the real parking lot is). I pray they will let the Spirit blow and carry them outside the doors to others in their changing community.

Time will tell whether these things will happen. We must accept that we may not see what the Spirit will bring to fruition. That we plant seeds which others may or may not reap.

But this was also a time of growth for my family. They came once in the fall to see me in the parish. Once this spring to finally see me preach. They came yesterday for the big send-off. Each time a step closer to seeing a new vocation in me. It has not been without challenge, but it has gone well. And my Beloved is well on his way to being a great Pastor's spouse in his way.

Lord, you lead us on journeys of which we do not know the ending, but only that you are leading. Guide us in our journeys and sustain us in all we do that we may be instruments of your will. Amen.