Monday, December 31, 2007

The Sound of Music

Lasst night I watch, while I knit, The Sound of Music. Everytime I see this movie it reminds me of the first time. I've probably seen it 30 times over the 50 years I've lived. The first time I saw it I was 7 or 8. It was playing in a movie theater in SLC. It was, I think, the first time I had been to a movie theater. At least it's the first time I remember. Going to see this movie was my reward for getting good grades in school. At least, that too, is what I remember.

I remember it was night, Christmas time, and the street was glittering with white lights. There was a festive feel to the air and much excitement. Oddly enough, that is what I remember, waiting to go into the theater. I don't actually remember sitting in the theater and watching it. Did we have popcorn? I have no idea. Still, when I see this movie, I recall the sense of excitment, of Christmas, of possibility.

Watching it last night was a very different experience. I think in some ways this movie has shaped my life...not always in the best of ways. I wanted to be Liesl singing "I am sixteen going on seventeen." But the world really changed in the years between 1965, when I first saw the movie as a 7 year old, and 1973 when I was sixteen. The world has changed even more between then and now.

Last night I found myself wondering why I didn't latch onto the words Julie Andrews sings in one of the early scenes, as she is going to the Von Trapp home: "I have confidence in me...." Pretty good lyrics it seems. Or maybe that's just where I am struggling these days. Having confidence in me.

Last night I heard all the ways the movie is dated. Here's an example....

[Rolf:]
You wait, little girl, on an empty stage
For fate to turn the light on
Your life, little girl, is an empty page
That men will want to write on

[Liesl:]
To write on

[Rolf:]
You are sixteen going on seventeen
Baby, it's time to think
Better beware, be canny and careful
Baby, you're on the brink

You are sixteen going on seventeen
Fellows will fall in line
Eager young lads and rogues and cads
Will offer you food and wine

Totally unprepared are you
To face a world of men
Timid and shy and scared are you
Of things beyond your ken

You need someone older an wiser
Telling you what to do
I am seventeen going on eighteen
I'll take care of you

[Liesl:]
I am sixteen going on seventeen
I know that I'm naive
Fellows I meet may tell me I'm sweet
And willingly I believe

I am sixteen going on seventeen
Innocent as a rose
Bachelor dandies, drinkers of brandies
What do I know of those

Totally unprepared am I
To face a world of men
Timid and shy and scared am I
Of things beyond my ken

I need someone older and wiser
Telling me what to do
You are seventeen going on eighteen
I'll depend on you

Then, after watching the movie I read "Boom" in bed, (Tom Brokaw's latest book). The chapters on women in the 1960's and their struggles to be heard, understood, build careers, and live a different life.

It makes me think just how much the world has changed. How much different my life is than what I imagined it would be when I was 7. Then I never imagined moving away from SLC. I never imagined being in the middle of a race riot in Chicago, the night my family took a wrong turn and we literally drove through it. Somehow unharmed...I never imagined having a real career, let alone being an Episcopal priest. I never imagined being the family bread winner. I never imagined that my life would continue to hold the same pain and struggles that I knew even at 7. Somehow I thought life would "get better." I never imagined internet or cell phones or computers.

Looking back over 2007, and the years past, there is a lot I never imagined. And yet, here I am. This is the life I have. Somethings are really different. And yet somethings are very much the same.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What a Winter...Gratitude Reflection Day 21

It's only December 23 and winter is in full swing...wild and crazy full swing, January like. We have had a major storm every weekend in December. Yesterday's 40 degree thaw and rain has washed away all the snow, and we had about 9 inches of sonow to wash away...(so much for a "white Christmas"). Then last night about 2:00am the cold front hit. I mean literally hit, BAM, with 40 mile per hour wind gusts, maybe more. The whole house shook, mine, my neighbors, members of the parish. And the temperature dropped 30 degrees. It is bitterly cold outside and branches are blowing off the trees.

Today I am grateful for a warm house, for heat and electricity and lights. I hope you all are staying warm and safe...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 20

It has been a busy morning already. I was up early to help my daughter. I ran to the grocery store at 7am to get the things she needed for a Christmas party this afternoon at the barn. A flurry of early morning activity that has settled into stillness. Now, on this early morning I sit peacefully in my study. One cat curled up and purring on my lap, the other in the chair next to me. Soft Christmas music playing. Outside the window, fog and mist which will turn to snow before the day is over. There is a surreal quality to the day.

I continue my morning meditation reading Jan Richardson's book. I have heard it is out of print. Sigh. I'm finding it to very provocative this Advent. Here is what she has to say for yesterday, Week Four, Day six. (Because yesterday I reflected on another day later in the season)...

The Virgin (to Mary)

"She told me that virgin really means a woman unto herself, a whole woman, a soul mother. What a shift from thinking that a virgin is what you are until you are made complete by a man....And so they can dicker over the question (of whether Mary is a virgin) until the second coming, but what I really want to know is, do we want to be whole? Do we want to be healed? Because that is what Advent is asking us. Are we ready to be born?"

Then she offers this poem:

In the center of ourselves
you placed the power of
choosing.
Forgive us the time
we have given that power
away,
when we have sold
our birthright
for that which
does not
satisfy
our souls.
And so
in your wisdom
may our yes
be truly yes
and our no
be truly no,
that we may
touch with dignity
and love with integrity
and know the freedom
of our own choosing
all our days.

Then the Richardson meditation continues for this day, day seven of week four, and speaks of Mary waiting, not passively, but actively - of her "abiding in." I think that is accurate. As I strive to be a woman, a mother, a wife, a priest, I also strive to be a whole person. A woman of dignity and integrity, of prayer and hope, in an active way. I do think that my husband has contributed to my becoming wholeness, so have my children, so has my vocation as priest, and so have my friends and colleagues. But that does not mean that I would be less whole if I had no husband or chidren...

Engaged with the world around me I have choices and my decisions have influenced the course of my life. The fact that I do have choices and can make decisions reflects how truly blessed I am, we are, to live where we do, when we do. And for all of that I am grateful.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 19

This morning I opened Jan Richardson's book, "Night Visions" for my morning meditation. The page I opened too was not day six, week four, but day seven, week five, "After Birth." I don't want to rush the process of Advent, skip the birth altogether and end up here. But her opening words compelled me to read on, "The first time I ever saw a placenta was in middle school, during one of our health units. A nurse brought it to our classroom - a sloppy red thing, I thought, in a plastic basin." She continues saying that afterward it was probably thrown away along with other medical waste, rather than being buried in the earth as people do in other parts of the world. Burying the placenta in the earth, grounding the newborn child forever in the soil. Nourishing the soil which in turn nourishes us.

Then she speaks about the importance of birthing the placenta. How the woman is not safely out of the birth process until the placenta has been delivered. It pieces of it remain the woman will hemorrhage and die. She says, "The body cannot abide the unfinished business of birthing..." This leads to a reflection on labor and birthing as a metaphor for life...the desire for wholeness vexed by shreds of untamed memory.

I know something about this in both aspects, the urgency to deliver the placenta (only 30 minutes are allowed after the baby is born, and then the Dr. must do a D&C, go in and get it surgically). I also know something about the unfinished business of the soul vexed by shred of untamed memory. It is exactly what I was speaking about to the Jungian yesterday.

My reflection with the Jungian had to do with my internal response to those occasions in life when I have done something "wrong" or when I think someone perceives me as less than. I have a huge deep reaction.

After years of therapy and meditation I have learned to step back from my internal reactions. I step back and give them some time to breath. I look at them and know that while there is some truth in my reaction it is not the whole truth, it is often an over reaction based on emotion and not a response.

The Jungian suggested that wounds like this never completely heal. We carry them from childhood and they stay with us. But what is important is how able we are to observe them, to step back and let it inform us but not propel us. He also suggested that as we grow these experiences do not impact us as deeply nor last as long. He suggested that the next time I experience this I allow myself to pray into it. To have a conversation with the emotion and see what arises.

What I have come to understand in these two years I have worked with the Jungian is that I am able to have the observing mind, able to look out over my woundedness and let it be. I do not rush into the intensity, I sit with it. Later I am able to understand the situation in a fuller capacity and not just in the narrow emotionally explosive way my woundedness leads me. I no longer bleed out all over the place.

Richardson concludes her reflection with this poem:

When we are spent
from the labor
and longing to rest
in our deliverance,
when we hunger
to stay
in the celebration
and crave
a lasting sabbath,
you tell us
this is where
our work begins.

For the labor
that is never over,
give us strength;
for the healing
that is ever before us,
give us courage.

May our resting
be our renewal,
not forever;
and may we work
for nothing
save that
which makes
your people whole.


I am grateful for the healing I have experienced in my life. I am also grateful for the journey that has not ended. And, I am grateful for companions along the way who help me grow and become more fully who God is calling me to be.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 18

Today I have a headache. I imagine it is due to the pull inside of me. One part wants to be very busy doing doing doing. Getting the bulletin done, getting the sermon written, walking the dogs, and so on. The other part of me wants to close my eyes and be still. This part of me wants to enter into that quiet place with God, to pray. To hope. To wait.

I am in essence doing neither. I am not getting all worked up and busy. Nor am I really settling into a silent space. I work on my Christmas Eve sermon with a kind of half hearted effort. Then I set that aside to read a bit. Then I set that aside to answer the phone. And I set that aside to blog. And I set that aside to look through the Worship Booklet from Christmas Eve last year.

I think I am looking for inspiration, for a vision, for something to be excited about. But it's still Advent. Christmas is not yet here. So I remain in the season of waiting...

oh. And then I laid on the loveseat with my cat and closed my eyes. Now I no longer have a headache, and it's time to meet the piano tuner at church.

I guess on this day I am grateful for choices. Nothing is demanding that I live into a particular schedule, I can just follow where the Spirit is leading me, even

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 17

A week ago I was relishing in a time of quiet ease. The busyness of life, job interviews, Advent preparations, Bishop visit preparation, and Christmas stuff, had subsided and I was enjoying some peace and quie. I experienced a distinctive lack of "things to do." I allowed myself to enjoy that time. In fact, whenever I have these lulls in my life I make an intentional effort to settle into the peacefullness because I know that all too soon life will be full and intense.

Sure enough, a few days later life was moving at full speed. Much of that intensity revolved around the labor and birth of the babies. But it included the need to get some Christmas shopping done. In the midst of all that busyness I lost my glasses and my husband lost the gold cross I had given him years ago. I don't remember exactly when I gave it to him, years ago, and he was upset to have lost it, somewhere in the far SW while we were travelling. My glasses I figured were around somewhere, it was just a matter of finding where they had managed to fall or get placed.

I think it is really easy to get lost when life is moving at a fast pace. To lose ourselves in the busyness, to lose our time with God, our time to pray, our time to find that place of peace which grounds us. I know it is for me. Losing the cross and the glasses were just a symptom of the busyness and discontectedness of life. The difficulty really is finding the time and means to slow down and be present to the moment. To enter into a place of being grounded once more.

Last night, after a long day of Christmas shopping and a lot of driving around the metropolitan Chicagoland area, I arrived home at 10:00pm. I sat with my husband and had a bowl of peppermint ice cream and a cup of tea. I opened my email and to my great delight found one from a person I met in the SW. It appears that the cleaning person in the hotel we stayed in found the cross. She is mailing it to us. And then later I found my glasses, under the bed beside my nightstand.

So today I am grateful for things found. I am grateful the cross was found. Grateful for the honesty of the person who found it...that kind of thing never happens in Chicago, at least not in my experience. And grateful I found my glasses, which will save me a trip to the eye Dr and the cost of new glasses.

And I am grateful to once again look into a space of time with very little on my schedule. I have a few things to do at church to prepare for Christmas. And I have some gifts to wrap. Not much. It will be a simple Christmas, but I'm ok with that.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 16

(taking a brief catnap while at the hospital waiting for the babies to be born)

This morning my husband and I both overslept. Which means our son also overslept, and was late for school. sigh. I guess we are both exhausted, he from working two jobs, me from the weekend of no sleep and birthing babies. But, at least now I do feel like I have caught up on my sleep, I do feel rested.

Yesterday I called my friend to see how she was doing. She burst into tears and let out a litany of frustration. I couldn't understand her, so great was her sobbing. But the gist of it is: "It's only been one day and I can't believe how it has changed my life...I can't get any sleep, I have to pump every 2 -3 hours....the nurses keep coming in and waking me or interuppting me or...and I've only seen the babies twice....and..."

sigh. Having babies rocks our world and it is never the same.

I told her that in time, once her milk is established, she won't have to pump or nurse as often and she will be able to get a longer stretch of time sleeping. She said the lactation nurse told her that too.

My husband and I plan to do some Christmas shopping today and then I think I will go to the hospital and try to run interferance for her so she can sleep.

Today I am grateful for sleep and rest. I pray that my friend gets some too.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Birth Day

After 29 hours of labor (10am Saturday morning until 3pm Sat. afternoon)...two little twin girls were born into this world. Zoe was born at 2:44 this afternoon, weighing 4lbs. 8.1 oz, 17 inches long...and Lily was born at 2:54, weighing 4lbs 9.5 oz, 17.5 inches long. Both girls, despite being 6 weeks pre-mature are breathing on their own. Next we need to see if they are able to eat on their own, eliminate what they eat, and gain weight. Once that is all happening, they go home.

What an amazing 36 hours it has been! I'm really tired. I am also really grateful the babies are born and all is well.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Going to birth some babies...

In the midst of this snow storm, my friend is at the hospital in labor. The Bishop is visiting my church tomorrow and has released my from the services so I can be the birth coach. So. I'm off to birth some babies!!! Oh, and she's at 34 weeks, so all should be ok....

Prayers for all will be most appreciated.

Gratitude Reflection Day 13

I am anxious. Deep inside my being resides an anxiety that resonates with every heart beat and breath. It's a chittery kind of feeling. And, it's not really from anything. I mean nothing really stirred it into being on this particular day. Except maybe hormones...the one's I thought were finally choosing to rest...but alas, no.

I woke after a chance to sleep a little later. My husband and I had breakfast together (bacon, eggs, pancakes, coffee). And then I rushed over to my friend's house. The pregnant with twins friend. Today was the day we were to meet the doula. At the birth of these twins will be me, another of the mom's friends, and the doula. So we were to meet and do some preparation. Only the doula was an hour late. She had a birth that ended early this morning. She tried to get some sleep, but overslept. And, I had to leave on time. So 45 minutes after the doula arrived I had to leave. And during those 45 minutes she had us watch a DVD on the birth process. I have given birth to two babies. Watching the DVD reminded me that something we never forget. Might have been better to use our time doing something else other than watching a DVD about which I already know. To the very core of being...I wanted to know how she, the doula, anticipated all of us being helpful. What would we do? She didn't really talk about that....So I still don't know why there will be three of us and what we will all do during the birth except perhaps get in each other's way....??? I've already decided that I do not need to be in charge of this delivery. I will help, even if that means sitting in the hall or just holding her hand and reminding her to breath.

So, the morning was a little frustrating - to have taken the time, when I have so little with my husband these days, and then not accomplish what we intended. Sigh. But life is like that. No one is at fault. It just is. Soon I have to go to the office to do a review and rehearsal for the confirmation tomorrow. In the meantime I am sipping a cup of tea (Tazo "Awake"), sitting in my study, cat on lap, a lovely CD of Christmas Adagio's playing. Light snow falling.

I just purchased the CD of Christmas Adagios. So this is my first time listening to it. And I picked up another book of Mary Oliver poetry. An older book, "Dream Work" from 1986. I have already done a quick read-through. Wonderful poems. Poems I will go back and re-read and savor. Here is one:

"Coming Home"

When we're driving, in the dark,
on the long road
to Provincetown, which lies empty
for miles, when we're weary,
when the buildings
and the wcrub pines lose
their familiar look,
I imagine us rising
from the speeding car,
I imagine us seeing
everything from another place - the top
of one of the pale dunes
or the deep and nameless
fields of the sea -
and what we see is the world
that cannot cherish us
but which we cherish,
and what we see is our life
moving like that,
along the dark edges
of everything - the headlights
like lanterns
sweeping the blackness -
believing in a thousand
fragile and unprovable things,
looking out for sorrow,
slowing down for happiness,
making all the right turns
right down to the thumping
barriers to the sea,
the swirling waves,
the narrow streets, the houses,
the past, the future,
the doorway that belongs
to you and to me.

Today, despite the unpredicable nature of life - hormones, birthing babies, snow - I am grateful for those things I can count on...a cup of tea, a book, good music, and a cat, which calm my spirit and restore my soul.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 12

Yesterday I reflected on desire, spurred by my daily reading of Jan Richardson's book, "Night Vision." It is a beautiful reflection book for the season. But since then I have been thinking about desire. What does my heart desire? What does my soul desire? Are they the same things? Yesterday's reflection included a quote from Janet Morley who spoke about integrating our desires, that ultimately they all come fromo one source.

I've often preached on that same idea. I've gone at it from a slightly different perspective, the idea that we all have this big empty hole in us. Born that way. And in our lives we work to fill that emptiness. Sometimes we try to fill it with stuff. Sometimes we try to fill it with work. Sometimes we try to fill it with food, alcohol, or sex. Trying to fill it with all those things is ok, except that these things are not what the emptiness desires. Because these are not what the emptiness desires we are left feeling hungry, craving to be satisfied. An unhealthy cycle can be put in place, of craving, filling, being unsatisfied, and ultimately feeling depressed and worn. Like eating a life time of an unhealthy diet.

I first began thinking about this after reading Carl Jung. He speaks about the emptiness as a yearning for God. I believe he says we are born with an inate desire for God. We just don't always recognize it. Sometimes people push God away and stuff even more of those other things into the emptiness, a gluttony of stuffing that leaves one empty. Jung's research determined that half the people fell "ill" (neurosis or psychosis) because they lost the meaning of life. This is particularly true in our world that has lost the potency and meaning of religious language and lack the power of religious doctrine to inform our lives. This means that we do not have a language to articulate our experiences of God, God's desire for us, and our desire for God. Eventually, hopefully, we finally realize that what we really desire is God. (Cambridge Companion to Jung, Chap. 15, Jung and Religion: the opposing self, by Ann Ulanov).

I need to read Ulanov's chapter again, it's interesting. In part she says the role of religion is to help us integrate our individual experiences of God into a collective experience of God. Community is where we are able to really digest our experiences of God. And the process of bringing our individual experiences into community then serves to build new community. Healing comes when people are able to connect the yearning with that which really satisfies - a life whose meaning is grounded in God's desire for us, our desire for God, and our ability to process that through a shared life in community.

I think this one reason why I suffered so deeply last year and why I feel so much better this year. I suffered from lack of community in which to process my experiences of God. My parish really seems disinterested in any kind of real depth. They live their lives in, at least by my desires, a superficial realm. I can't seem to inspire them to go deeper. They are content enough. But I was not. I wanted more.

Blogging has opened up to me a community of people who are also seeking to know God and to share that knowledge with others or to process the experiences in order to know God more fully. Sigh. I sometimes feel like I am very repetitive with this. But today I am once again grateful for this blogging community. A place where my (our) desires for God can be

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day (what day is it?)...

I've lost track of what day it is. I know it's Thursday, but how many days I have been reflecting on gratitude? I think it's day 11, although I missed a few days in between...

Jan Richardson in her wonderful book, "Night Vision" reflects on this season, from Advent to Epiphany. She begins week two speaking about desire. She says, "Each year in the fall, the voices being clamoring to tell us what we want. We cannot go shopping, read the newspaper, listen to the radio, or watch television without being told what will make our holidays complete...We rail at the commercialism of Christmas even as we sometimes get caught up in it."

"But the voices will never tell us about what we really want, what we really long for, what we desire with heart and soul. Those who have sat in the darkness know how the shadows give way to desire. Without sight, without our heads swimming with the images of what others tell us we want, we can turn our gaze inward and search our souls. What speaks to us? What calls to us? What dreams have we buried? What wounds cry out for healing? What longs to be born in us in this season? What is the yearning which we have not dared to name? Or desires reveal to us what we think about God, about ourselves, and about the world."

She then goes on to quote Janet Morley from her book of prayers, All Desires Known. Morley writes, "I understand the Christian life to be about the integration of desire; our personal desires, our political vision, and our longing for God. So far from being seperate or in competition with one another. I believe that our deepest desires ultimately spring from the same source."

This Advent season is for me a time of reflecting on desire. What does my heart hope for, what does my soul desire? Today I am really grateful that my life is slow. It seems I worked really hard for a few weeks, and now I find myself at a lull. It's only temporary. But I am grateful for the time to stop. To be. To watch the snow fall. To drink a cup of tea. To read. To wait...and in the waiting to, perhaps, find my heart's desire and a prayer answered.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gratitude Reflection, the back on line edition


Wow, what a couple of days it has been. Ice storms and travel and discernment and javlina's and no access to the internet....

Despite the ice storms headed our way, and the freezing rain, our flight out on Sunday was scheduled on time. We had a bit of a delay at the last minute when a cherry picker deicing planes got stuck in the gate next to ours and the fire engines and ambulances came roaring over. Our plane was unable to get to the gate until to commotion was resolved. No one was hurt. Then our plane had to be deiced, that took another 25 minutes. So. We left about an hour late but arrived only 45 minutes late. Not too bad, all things considered. Especially since another 400+ flights were cancelled later that evening.

Our trip was lovely. I felt comfortable in the place and with the people. They were very gracious and welcoming and excited. My husband was embraced and welcomed and made to feel comfortable. The terrain is very different. Mountains, desert, cacti...rattle snakes, cougar's, and javelina's. flickerfoto. The javelina's look like pigs but are really peccary, hooved mammels from South America. They are omnivores, but generally prefer roots and vegetables. They have thick straight tusks to root around. Scary looking, we actually saw a herd of them yesterday morning.....but apparently they leave humans alone unless they feel threatened...I wonder if big barking dogs would feel like a threat?...(I think so)...

Also, while we were there, rain, fog, and snow in the mountains. They laughed and said, this is our winter, these three days you are here. Then it will be gone. We said, the weather makes us feel right at home. The church is beautiful. I could see myself there. But they have two more to interview and a few more weeks before a call is made.

I'm not sure I like being the first one. I hope they don't forget me by the time they have done this with two others...

Our trip home was more tenuous than the flight out. For two days my husband was getting storm warnings on his blackberry. We thought it would be really bad. At the airport we found out that one flight from there to Chicago had been cancelled, but two others had gone out, and ours was only a 20 minute delay. In the end we left about 35 minutes late, but we made up the time, again, in the air, and arrived early. Without incident.

I feel truly blessed by the ease of our travel. I think we were embraced by prayer and the Holy Spirit. Considering what might have been, and what was...I also feel truly blessed to have met these people. We were hosted and toasted in gracious hospitality. We were fed delicious meals and cared for by some fine people. It was a wonderful experience!

Today I am grateful for safe travel, for opportunities to discern and ponder God's call. I am grateful for the mystery of it all and the wonder. I am grateful to be home with my dogs, who missed us terribly, apparently. And with our children, who managed well enough without their parents. And I am grateful to sit in my study, blogging with you all again, and for the cat on my lap. I'm also grateful that I have a bishops visit this Sunday and do not need to prepare a sermon.

Now I pray. I won't know anything until the second week of January....

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Redemptive Media, a grateful reflection on the Gospel for Advent 2

When I was in college, in the 1970’s, I had a very difficult time figuring out what I wanted to major in. At 17 I really had no idea what I wanted do with the rest of my life. I’ve told you before about my brief time as an Agriculture major…well, another major I considered, was anthropology. For some reason, which I no longer recall, I decided not to pursue it, but if I had majored in anthropology I would have known this term, “redemptive media,” before preparing today’s sermon.

Redemptive media is a term used by anthropologists to describe the things in a culture that decide what makes a person good, successful, and respectable. What are some of the things we say describe a good, successful, and respectable person? What university one goes too? What profession one is in? Does it matter if they worship in a church, synagogue or mosque? What about where one lives? How well behaved the kids are? What kind of clothes are worn?

On the television show M*A*S*H, Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester III made it clear about what defined him; "I'm a Winchester," he was heard to say more than once. For him, it was his family name that determined who he was, and in his mind it made him superior to everyone else. Even today a family name can bring respect. Think of Kennedy or Rockefeller, Clinton or Bush. The people in John the Baptist's community banked their inheritance as a people of God on their direct lineage with Abraham. The people of Israel all descended from Abraham, and that meant, by tradition, that they were God’s chosen people.

There’s a comfort in knowing who we are. Especially if we easily fit into the categories our culture deems as good, respectable, and successful; which surely includes everyone here. We live in the comfort of suburban America with our warm homes, cars, schools, jobs, plenty of food and friends. It’s nice. I think that’s a good thing. But John reminds us that it is not enough. In fact resting too comfortably in our own sense of security can really undermine us.

Anyone here ever hear of a Floogie bird? Apparently Harry Truman, another respected name in our society, once described a Floogie Bird as a wooden bird that had a small label around its neck that read, "I fly backwards, I do not care where I'm going. I just want to see where I've been."

Resting too comfortably can keep us stuck. As John the Baptist, and then later Jesus, would say, "That’s when we become like the Pharisees and Sadducees." Do not presume that all is well just because of who we are and how we kow the world at this point in time.

John the Baptist is pointing the people, and therefore us, in another direction. He says they cannot presume that all is well, just because they are descendants of Abraham. No, God has come to do a new thing. Now, in Christ, the new thing will happen. And what is this new thing....Anyone can be a member of the family. Anyone can be found by God to be respectful, good, and successful. All God asks is that the person repent - turn and return to God.

In John Steinbeck's story "The Wayward Bus" a dilapidated old bus takes a cross country shortcut on its journey to Los Angeles, and gets stuck in the mud. While the drivers go for assistance, the passengers take refuge in a cave. It is a curious company of people and it is obvious that the author is attempting to get across the point that these people are lost spiritually as well as literally. Which, you may remember is an Advent theme – the darkness that is both spiritual and literal. Spiritual because we are invited into the mystery of God, literal because it is winter and night comes early.

As the people enter into this cave the author calls the readers attention to the fact that as they enter they must pass a word that has been scrawled with paint over the entrance. The word is repent. Although Steinbeck calls that to the reader’s attention it is interesting that none of the passengers pay any attention to it whatsoever.Isn't that just like people: we fail to see the obvious even when it is right in front of us. "Can't see the forest for the trees..." Repentance is key to this reading.

But what does repentance mean?

In Matthew, John the Baptist thinks repentance means all kinds of things. For one, he thinks that, based on some criteria, the nature of our repentance will determine whether we become chaff or wheat. John gets this idea from Isaiah, it is part of the tradition of John’s faith. Some will become chaff and some will become wheat. And this new thing God is doing, this new thing that will be done through Jesus will determine which is which. John is certain that Jesus will take a shovel, for the word here, winnowing fork, is actually better translated as winnowing shovel. John says Jesus will take a shovel and dig into the pile, scooping out large portions of chaff to be burned and large portions of wheat to be saved.

There’s just one problem with John's expectation, and scripture reveals this later in the story of the Gospels. Sure. Jesus comes and well, he isn’t always this nice guy. No, Jesus can have a bit of a temper. He yells at people. He turns over tables in the temple. He gets mad and impatient. But. He never actually burns anyone. In fact, Jesus, despite his temper tantrums, ends up offering love to all. All are welcome. Even those who make him mad.

And that’s a really big deal. Jesus' love for us is not dependent on who we know, or what our last name is, or how much respect we have, or how successful we are. Jesus loves us for being exactly who we are right now. Knowing that we are loved for being exactly who are: flawewd and imperfect, and not coming from the right family, but loved anyway, will change us completely. Actually, it is an amazing process that happens inside. And it begins when we recognize the need to seek forgiveness; when we recognize that there are things known and unknown for which we need to repent. Repentance means turning and returning to God. Turning away from the things in our lives that cause broken relationships and hurt in this world. There are things we know we have done that break God’s heart. Things we know cause broken relationships with people we know, like, care about…we know they are hurtful, but sometimes we do them anyway. And then are things we do in the course of our everyday lives for which we have no idea how those actions affect the lives of others. How is it that the food we eat or the clothes we wear may influence poverty around the world? Poverty through extremely low wage sweat shops where young people work 14 hour days in ruthless brutal conditions for a fraction of the daily cost of living. IPoverty through an inability to earn a living wage for work done, like the plight of coffee growers around the world, that is unless the grower is in a fair trade market. It’s one thing to work long hours under decent conditions, it’s a tragedy when the conditions are inhumane. John the Baptist reminds us that we cannot rest comfortably in our ignorance. There are many different kinds of vipers that poison our lives and our world. What vipers live in our culture masked under the guise perhaps of the very thing we deem worth and respectful, like making a profit.

Even as we rest, easy, comfortable in our homes, words from Martin Luther King Jr. remind us that: We shall have to repent, not so much for the evil deeds of the wicked , but for the appalling silence of the good people. In other words, we are not to rest comfortable, quiet toward the injustices in this world. We need to take responsibility for our selves, our actions, and our ability to influence the world around us.

A friend tells of the Saturdays he spent going to football games with his father. The boy and his dad sat in sunshine and rain, wind and snow, and cheered for their favorite team. There was nothing like it. On the way home from the ball games, prior to the era of drive-through windows, they often stopped to get a bite to eat. The boy would stand at the counter and listen to his father give the order for their food. Sometimes the restaurant person would turn to the boy and ask, "And what for you today?"

It was very comforting for the boy to point to his father and say, "I'm with him." Those were the days. The boy's father took care of everything and all the boy had to do was stand there and wait on his food. If anybody happened to ask, he could always say, "I'm with him."

William B. Kincaid, III, And Then Came the Angel, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.

At some point, we start taking responsiblity for ourselves. It’s the steps we take from infancy to childhood to maturity. Yes, frightening at first,…in fact it sometimes is still frightening years later. But when we take responsibility we turn from a life focused inward, safe, and secure, to a life focused outward. An outward focused life is more challenging and vulnerable, like a voice carrying out in the wilderness - but it’s what God calls us to do. To turn and return to God, to repent, and focus our lives on what God desires. To love God, love neighbor, love self.

Just like when I was in college, turning to God does not always assure us of the future – and what we will be doing. But it does assure us that God will be with us, filling us with fire and Holy Spirit…

and, since I fly off tomorrow, and will be gone for a few days, I am grateful this sermon is done and the bags are packed. Now I just hope the weather is good to us...

The theme of this sermon was influenced by dylans blog

Gratitude Reflection Day 6

It has been years since I spent a lot of time alone. For 19 years I have been raising children. For 22 years I have been living in a marriage where my husband came home from work and we had supper together. I have been surrounded by people. I chose a profession that places me intimately in the lives of other people. I know things about people that most others do not. Over the years I have actively sought out time to be alone. I need a certain amount of alone time to feel balanced. For many years it has been difficult to claim even a few short hours a week.

But now there is a huge shift in my life. My husband has taken on a second job, which he works three or four nights a week and a long portion of Saturday and Sunday. My daughter, at 19, has a life of her own, and can be out late at night. My son, at 15, has an active social life and is busy with activities. My parish is not particularly needy right now. No one has been sick, hospitalized, or dying for a while. The intense care taking I did for actively dying parishioners, which continued for three years at an unrelenting pace, has subsided. All is quiet.

Suddenly I find myself with vast amounts of space and time to myself. I relish this time. Mostly I really love it. But, sometimes, at night, the aloness gets to me. I eat dinner by myself. I work on some project or a sermon or I blog. But sometimes it gets to be a little too much.

Harry James Cargas says this about being alone: "Lonely is not a synonym for alone. The word lonely connotes isolation and dejection, a missed absence of companions when it is applied to persons. The root of alone, however, is in two words: all one. This means the opposite of isolation and dejection. The emphasis is not on the one but on the wholly one. It means complete by oneself. How many of us can actually feel that way? It is not easy to be fully in oneself, to respect oneself, and to self-develop to such a degree that a person looks forward to long periods of being alone. For some who enjoy this oneness, they realize that because of their relationship with Christ they are never lonely. They cultivate the chances to be alone so that they can actually savour the moments with God alone, the moments when their unity with the creator can be both enjoyed and developed. This implies quite a special human being. Too often we are frantic for companionship - for the team or the club or the class or the party or the movie or the TV. Immersion in such activities will free us from having to face the basic issues of existence. Such trivial busyness will keep us from intimate contact with ourselves. The kingdom of heaven is within each of us, yet how seriously do we try to make contact with it? Not only is there no need to 'go out there' in most instances, but rather it is spiritually harmful to look outside ourselves while ignoring what is by nature within us. The woman or man who can be aloe - can be together in the self - is the kind of person we can admire, can hold as a model. The quest for wholeness for individual unity is one of the great journeys a life can make, indeed should make. There is no easy route to being properly alone. But making the trip is learning to find what the meaning of life is." (Encountering Myself, pg. 108)

I'm not sure I agree completely with this. I think life is a balance between alone time and community, whatever community is to each person - family, friends, church. We can no more live our lives fully alone than we can live our lives avoiding alone time and always merging into community, even if that community is the TV. I do like the idea that alone time is about being all one. That is a spiritual way of entering into time alone and wondering what will come of it. How will I come to know myself more fully in this time alone? How will I come to know God more fully in this time alone? And what can my alone time offer that I can then bring into community?

This morning I am grateful for the silence of my house. For the rising sun, the cats sleeping around me. The time to pray and reflect on God. Time to work on my sermon and get ready for tomorrow. Time to be all one.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 5

A few nights ago I had a dream that I was homeless. I was living in my car with two children, a young boy and a young girl. The girl was my brother's child, the boy was mine. My brother had disappeared, left us, left the girl in my care. And we were homeless. I ended up at a friend's house, someone a knew a long time ago and haven't seen in 25 years. I asked this person if we could stay with him for a short while, just until I found a place to live. I knew the person would say yes, even if reluctant to do so, our presence would be very disruptive to his life.

I shared this dream with the Jungian. We talked about the obvious, what it means to be homeless. I spoke about feeling unanchored in my priesthood. I know who I am as a priest but the unanchored piece has to do with community - who I am priest to and with. This dream speaks volumes about my current parish and how I experience them in that dark place of my inner self. Homeless.

We also spoke about who this friend represents in my dream life. I am still working that out. He appears occasionally in my dreams, and has over these 25 years. Always in a similar capacity. I think he represents being cared for. I think he represents a simpler time in my life. A kind of anchor and stability. Which is odd, because in many ways this friendship was very destabilizing.

My life at this time is filled with uncertainty. I do not know what the future holds. At times I am fear-filled. Afraid of upsetting my family. Afraid of change. Afraid of the unknown.

Last night, before falling asleep, I read this reflection by Leslie D. Weatherhead, Prescriptions for Anxiety:

"When I was once passing through a very dark phase, due largely to physical illness - and of course when we are physically ill we all suffer both from a degree of anxiety and from regression to a more infantile level - I did not know whether to accept an onerous and very demanding position or withdraw from it. One day my wife said she thought the darkness could be part of God's training for the job. I came to accept that view. Fear itself can be used by God to equip us for our tasks, so long as we take the right attitude to it and do not let it cow us into surrender or into any of the many avenues of escape which the frightened mind suggests to us. I can only write down this simple testimony. Like everybody, I love and refer the sunny uplands of experience, when health, happiness and success abound, but I have learned far more about God and life and myself in the darkness of fear and failure than I have ever learned in the sunshine. There are such things as treasures in the darkness. The darkness, thank God, passes. But what one learns in the darkness, one possesses for ever. 'The trying things,' says Bishop Fenelon, 'which you fancy come between God and you, will prove the means of unity with him, if you bear them humbly. Those things that overwhelm us and upset our pride, do more good than all that which excites and inspirits us."

I am drawn to the thought that the darkness could be God's training for the job. My fear may be the very thing being used by God to equip me, but only if I do not give into the fear and turn away, or as Weatherhead says, "surrender" to the fear. God is leading me in a direction. Of course I have choices. Any change will destabilize me. But now I'm thinking that may be a Godly thing.

Today I am grateful for the Jungian. I am grateful for the various catalysts that help me navigate the waters of life. I am grateful for a space and a place, this blog, where I can journal and process. I put my fear on "paper" and brought it out of the dark hidden place of my being. Now I will journey through it and see what comes. I'm grateful that I believe in God and trust that God anchors my life. And, I'm grateful that sometimes life pulls the anchor, as I perceive it, and lets me drift into unknown waters, eventually coming to a place where I will know God more fully.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day 4

Another day. I rose early, I have an appointment about an hour away. The rest of household is sleeping. Except the dogs, who wanted to be fed, and let outside, and loved. It's quiet here.

I love the quiet early morning. The first light of the sun glistening on the snow. Deep red and pink hues spraying across the pale blue sky. And then, in a matter of moments, the color changes to a pale yellow, the sun has risen.

It is a very cold morning here with temperatures in the teens. And then in a few days they are predicting rain. The rain and sleet may come on Sunday, and if so, may hamper my flight out. I am scheduled to leave at 2:30 in the afternoon. And, if all goes well I will be in 70 degree weather a few hours later. I pray for calm weather and easy flying.

I am excited about this trip and the potential it holds. If I am offered the position it will be very different from what I have been doing for the last seven years...

This morning I am grateful for the seasons. I love just a little bit of winter. I am grateful for opportunities for change. Life has it's seasons too, and I am grateful for that. Some of life's seasons are very difficult, others are not. But within the changing of the seasons lies hope. And, I live in hope. If I had to define one quality of my life it would be hope. Which, is also, grace. Last night I read this quote from Jurgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope, pg. 25:

"Hope alone is to be called 'realistic', because it alone takes seriously the possibilities with which all reality is fraught. It does not take things as they happen to stand or lie, but as progressing, moving things with possibilities of change. Only as long as the world and the people in it are in a fragmented and experimental state which is not yet resolved, is there any sense in earthly hopes. The latter anticipate what is possible to realisty, historic aand moving as it is, and use their influence to decide the processess of history. Thus hopes and anticipations of the future are not a trasnfiguring glow superimposed on a darkened exisitience, but are realistic ways of perceiving the scope of our real possibilities, and as such they set everything in motion and keep it in a state of change."

Life is, I think, fragmented and experimental, unresolved, and full of hope for all things possible. That is what I am most grateful for today.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Gratitude Day 3

This morning has not been easy. My husband was in a terrible mood. Because of the snow. Or so it seemed. It may be that he was just in bad mood. He often is these days. I understand. I spent two years in a bad mood. Now, it seems it's his turn. And, it's my turn to be patient. He has his reasons. Working two jobs and still facing a mound of debt is reason enough. Being 50 and feeling like a failure, is another, for him. It is difficult to be a man in our society. So much pressure to "succeed." I gently try to remind him that his life is full of success: a good marriage, two good children...just for starters...that's something, I think.

Anyway, the start to this day is not what I anticipated. Life is like that sometimes....So. Now to spend some time reflecting on what I am grateful for today.

I am grateful for the snow. It's beautiful. I always love snow this time of year. It adds flavor to Advent, enhances the desire to hibernate and ponder my life. And, with this interview coming up next week, I have a lot to ponder.

I am grateful for a good cup of coffee. Really, it's delightful to sit in my study, with the big windows that look out over my backyard, the trees layered in fresh snow, and sip this cup of coffee.

I am grateful for this kitten that curls up in my lap every morning. She makes it a little challenging to blog on my laptop, but I can stretch out in a recliner chair and manage to hold both in my lap. She is the sweetest cat.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Gratitude Reflection Day Two

I wonder how these reflections will play out? As I anticpate writing them in the morning I imagine I will reflect on the day before, or maybe the night. Perhaps I will wonder about the day ahead? Right now, on this second morning of active attentiveness to gratitude I find myself stuck. Isn't that way it always is? I start out excited and raring to go but lose steam quickly. It's because discipline is difficult. Some years of my life I am really good at it, I have my practices and do them faithfully. But lately that is not the case. So, I will just offer up my thoughts and see where they take me.

Yesterday, my day off I did a lot of blogging. And I spoke about my gratitude for the blogging communities I participate in. Then I exercised. I went into the office to help the Mondady volunteer wrap boxes of candy for our college students. We send them off these care packages every year around the time of finals. I am grateful for our office volunteers. They take their responsibilities seriously and do a great job. Makes my life easier.

Afterwards I went to the Dr's office to pick up my friend, the one who is (still, thank God) pregnant with twins, the single mom who is 45 and pregnant with twins...sigh. I am grateful that she has been able, through the wonder of modern medicine, to stay off the pre-term labor that hospitalized her twice and has limited her to complete bed rest for the last two months. She's made some tough choices in her life, including acknowledging that she may never find the right partner for her. But she really wanted to birth her own baby. She worked hard to conceive and retain a pregnancy, many failed attempts. And here she is, 32 weeks along. If the timing works out I will be with her at the babies birth. Two little girls. I'm grateful she will have her own little family.

Then I came home and decorated a Christmas Tree with my daughter. Someone gave us an artificial tree which we put up in the picture window in our living room. We never use that room, and usually put up a real tree in the family room. But we liked the idea of a tree in that window. My daughter went to Target and bought red and gold ornaments, white lights, gold garland, gold sheer ribbon as garland, and gold stars. It's our "grown up" tree. I am grateful for m daughter who has grown into a fine young woman. Creative, intelligent, strong, self-willed, and learning to mold her strength with a bit of diplomacy. It's not the tree I would have created, but it was fun to follow her whim and see where it took us.

In a week or so we will get a live tree and set it up in the family room. It will be our eclectic tree with the ornaments we've handed down over the years. I look forward to that as well.

So today I am grateful for ordinary every day things in my life. The ordinary day in and day out of life. For children, for friends, for family, for church, for life.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Reflections on Gratitude

One of the most precious gifts I have been given in this last year is the community of Revgals. I am so grateful to have read an article in The Christian Century and then followed up on it. I have appreciated the opportunity to reflect on my life and ministry with a semi-public on-line journal. I appreciate the people who supported me in the those early days as I learned how to blog and link and add pictures....and those who stop by regularly now. I appreciate those who leave comments and those who read but never speak.

I am also grateful for the opportunity to read the blogs of others. I have learned so much. I have been invited into lives of joy, confusions, pain, sorrow, hope. Lives that mirror back to me the grace of a living God.

During the month of November one Revgal pal decided to take on the discipline of posting about gratitude. I found myself drawn to her blog, to her reflections, and to the idea of intentionally reflecting on gratitude. I decided I would do it. Not only for my personal blog. But also for the blog I manage for small church. The posts I write for each blog will not be the same. I will have certain things I am grateful for in my personal life, which will not appear on the church blog. And on the church blog I hope to speak about gratitude in the spirit of that faith community, in a way that will (hopefully) stir the people up as well...

So today I begin a spiritual exercise, I invite you to journey with me and share what you are grateful for as we travel this season of Advent.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Advent: ready....and breathing again....


flickrfoto

Well, it seems my "cold" stuffiness may have just been allergies. Not so stuffy tonight. (let's hope that's it)...

And, I finally got most of the stuff done that I have been working on all week - almost ready for Advent. I just have an article to write for the newsletter and a sermon to prepare...

The stations for Advent MDG's turned out well, I think, thanks to some help I got from various RevGals...I will try to photo a few of them and post them...

I have the reflection booklet done for lighting the Advent wreath candles, emphasising the MDG's, (which people can take home, along with the advent wreaths they can make). And the Prayers of the People are done, also emphasizing the MDG's...and, the seasonal worship booklet is done. (Big sigh of relief)....

So. Now. I can breath a little.

Oh. And I have my itinerary for my trip to the far SW...so an idea of what that will be like too. Actually looking forward to it!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

James of Jerusalem



Not my sermon, but the fabulous one I heard preached at Clergy Conference. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, even without the preacher's voice and gestures to nuance the text...thanks, Joy, for sharing this

James of Jerusalem – the somewhat surprising, acknowledged leader of an ancient Church;

James the Just -- tradition calls him; not warm and fuzzy but clearly affirming;

James, Martyr – 3 decades after the Crucifixion, stoned to death by order of the high priest, – for persisting in his dangerous proclamation about a Crucified and Risen Messiah; a judicial murder, Josephus called it. Apparently, it ran in the family.

For I find that the most intriguing, and mysterious label for James, is the NT claim that he is the brother of the Lord.

Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us?

James and all those brothers and sisters give Jesus a certain credibility. I have a brother of my own; if you ask me, a savior without siblings has not been put to a serious test of sinlessness.

Whatever your personal pieties in such matters, I claim a logic that allows an imaginative leap to suggest that a woman from Nazareth, a woman named Mary, raised two boys, and then lost them both to the family business, the God business.

Mary, Mother of our Lord – the Gospels call her.

Theotokos – God-bearer – the church came to call her;

Mother of God, some name her.

So, that logical leap again – if Mary is Mother of God, does that make James the brother of God?

There’s an interesting sibling dynamic. God’s brother.

Did James ever wonder if Mom always loved Him best?

We do.

And maybe here is where James makes room for you and me, now. In the way that Jesus is our brother, too. As Vicki Garvey once said, we are all related to God – on his mother’s side.

I cannot help but wonder if James’ big scene in our Christian history, that fractious council in Jerusalem and his role in it had something to do with the fact that he too was his Mother’s son. Maybe she sang the same lullaby to both boys.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.

He is now the leader of a beleaguered church – a church threatening to come apart at the seams. Over an issue that Jesus’ never mentioned. It is interesting to think about what are not red-letter words in the New Testament. (a comment aimed at Tony Campolo, our conference speaker, whom I blogged about previously)...

He is finding that the ‘we’ve never done it that way before’ rallying cry is as challenging in the first century as we find it in the 21st. He must preside over a Council of angry, passionate, pushy, ‘positive that they are right’ folk from all sides of the spectrum. The Conversations are getting tense, nasty, loud – and folk are slamming doors and threatening to leave if the other side doesn’t.
It’s hard to imagine being part of that kind of a church. Or not.

And then I wonder what it means that the angry voices filling that council room are all male – all Jewish men.

All of them getting pretty exercised about a theme that was pretty near and dear to their . . . ‘hearts.’ Clearly this Council is a guy thing.

I hope no one misses the irony here – that a preacher like me is challenged to ponder the question of whether circumcision is meant to be an essential sign, a mandatory mark, for full membership in the Christian community.

So now I wonder, where was Mom? Or Mary and Martha, or Mary Magdalene, or Joanna, wife of Herod’s steward, or any of those other women who once followed Jesus – from Galilee, to Calvary. Women who stood at a Cross – and showed up at a tomb.

Somehow, I don’t see them going away – resigning themselves to the dreary reality that the ecclesiastical battles of a developing church had become more important than their trust and faith in a Crucified and Risen Lord.

So maybe they were there, in another room, during all the fuss. I hope it wasn’t the kitchen; maybe they were knitting prayer shawls.

I’m only guessing they had a few rude jokes to share on the subject.
We can imagine that conversation –

Do you believe those guys?

They are ready to break up a church over that!

What are they afraid of?

The high priests are rounding up disciples; the Romans are getting restless;
the lions are starting to roar in the amphitheater.
People are frightened; children are hungry; families are losing their land.
And what about the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ –

(actually it has been over 20 years since we headed out from that empty tomb) -- someone should think about writing one down).

What happened to proclaiming the vision of a world that works the way God intends – what happened to Jesus’ news about the Kingdom of God.
What happened to a church fired up and sent out to show the world what that can look like!

What happened?

Maybe all those women had differing opinions. But I’m betting that the issue that topped the council agenda wasn’t one they cared most about.

And I hope that one of them had heard rumors of some crazy letters from the wild man of Tarsus, the odd bloke giving fits to all the Jerusalem guys – maybe she caught just a snippet that went something like, in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, no slave or free, no male or female . . .

So a good Jewish woman, a woman who already had staked her life on a crucified Messiah, realizes that maybe, just maybe, there was something important at stake here for her in this debate in which she had no voice. Something really important for her, for anyone who was odd or different or foreign or female or . . .

Another uppity woman from another Christian communion adds her two cents to our current fray. Sister Joan Chittister wrote a column last month – We all need the Anglicans right now.

“So the question the Anglican communion is facing for us all right now is a clear one: What happens to a group, to a church that stands poised to choose either confusion or tyranny, either anarchy or authoritarianism, either unity or uniformity? Are there really only two choices possible at such a moment? Is there nowhere in-between?”

(It makes one wonder if James asked that too.)

“We seem to think that we have only two possible choices: the authoritarian model, which requires intellectual uniformity and calls it ‘community’ or a kind of intellectual anarchism, which eats away at the very cloth of tradition in a changing world.

The problem is that threatened by change we are more inclined to suppress the prophetic question than we are to find the kind of structures that can release the Spirit, that can lead us beyond unthinking submission while honoring the tradition and testing the spirits.

From where I stand, we need those who can develop a model of faith in times of uncertainty in which the tradition is revered and the prophetic is honored. Unless we want to see ourselves go into either tyranny or anarchy, we better pray for the Anglicans so that they can show us how to do that.”

Maybe James already did.

James so long ago convened a council in Jerusalem in turbulent times, in a dangerous and changing world, to face the prospect of a radically changed church.

He helped an infant church move into unthinkable newness:

From enforcing old rules to developing new relationships;

From making ‘them’ just like ‘us’ to opening hearts and minds to the truth of lives unlike our own, yet marked by faith as fervent as any of our own.

From clinging in fear to an old covenant to accepting – maybe even while they were still fearful -- a new kind of Communion;

James might tell us that it isn’t easy – then or now;
That staying the course can get someone killed;
That you can make everyone angry with you;

Even that you might be wrong – James was once.

Remember when he and Mom tried to take his crazy brother back home, before he got in real trouble?

But God was still present;
Jesus still loved him;
And a fiery, windy Spirit blew him open and out into a faith and a future, he never would have imagined.

And maybe the way he did it is still how you change a church that could change the world – by holding on to a heritage and to a hope.

The model is biblical;

At the risk of anachronism, I believe the process is what it means to be Anglican.
And promise in it all – the truth of James himself:

How Jesus’ Brother came to know what it means and what it costs and what can happen when he was ready to become a brother of God. How he reminds the likes of us who would call this Jesus our brother – that any sisters and brothers of God must be as well sisters and brothers of one another.

Our souls proclaim the greatness of the Lord;
Our spirits rejoice in God our Savior.



Joy Rogers
Clergy Conference, Diocese of Chicago
October 23, 2007


For a diocese that stands poised on the eve of electing a new bishop this sermon was a call to walk into an unknown future confident that God is leading us. Confident that we can do a new thing. Confident that together we can find a third way to get through the confusion. We have five good men on the slate. Four of them can articulate a clear vision and each would make a good bishop. (The fifth is a sweet, passionate man, but no clear vision, at least not for Bishop)...But none of these men brings a new vision. They are each a continuation of the same. The same that we have had for many years. They will enable us to stay in the "We've always done it this way" mode.

We have three women on our slate of nominees. Each one is incredible. Each one a clear strong visionary voice. One of them is a partnered lesbian. She is the best candidate on the slate for a whole host of reasons. The question is, will the Spirit lead us to elect her? And will we have the courage to follow?

Friday, October 12, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: The B-I-B-L-E

My first response to this FF5 is, "I'm Episcopalian, we don't know the Bible..." but that is not really true. The Bible shapes and forms our Book of Common Prayer. We read three scripture passages and a Psalm every time we worship, on Sunday morning and we pray the Daily Office (Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline). So. We know the Bible. Although I have never memorized parts of I have internalized a lot of it. So, now, onto answering the questions...


1. What is your earliest memory of encountering a biblical text? When I was a child my family and I would gather every Christmas eve and read the birth narrative in Luke. We'd bring out our nativity set and "re-enact" the story. When I was old enough to read I loved to be the "narrartor."

2. What is your favorite biblical translation, and why? (You might have a few for different purposes). I really enjoy The Message. I use this version for our Holy Week readings, from Passion/Palm Sunday through the Great Vigil. This version is so dramatic. The language is close to what we use everyday which makes the experience of Holy Week feel like it is in present time. I love that Peterson has made such an effort to go for the spirit of the verses not a word for word interpretation. I also like the RSVP because, well, that's what we use and the one I am most familiar with. Sometimes I like the KJV, but rarely will I use that any more.

3. What is your favorite book of the Bible? Your favorite verse/passage? I love the Gospel of John and the entire section we read during Lent in Year A. This section moves us through the raising of Lazarus, the questionin of Nicodemus,and the adocity of the Woman at the Well. These are powerful stories for me and I love to reflect and preach on them.

4. Which book of the Bible do you consider, in Luther's famous words about James, to be "an epistle of straw?" Which verse(s) make you want to scream? Oh gosh, the verses in the Psalm about God crushing babies heads on rocks, the stories of God destroying the enemy of Israel in Joshua and Kings, for example. No, I don't need to just hear stories about a warm and fuzzy God. I like that our scriptures challenge us to "Love God, Love Self, Love Neighbor." I think that if we really strive to do this love-thing we find that it is HARD and anything BUT warm and fuzzy.

5. Inclusive language in biblical translation and liturgical proclamation: for, against, or neutral? Absolutely for. But I am also for striving to use poetic language. Some inclusive language sources are dry and abrupt, "God be with you." I still want the language to flow like poetry or prose.

Bonus: Back to the Psalms--which one best speaks the prayer of your heart? Psalm 121 "I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where is my help to come?" and Psalm 104:26-27 "Yonder is the great wide sea with its living things to many to number, creatures both small and great. There move the ships, and there is that Leviathan, which you have made for the sport of it." I just chuckle every time I read it - "which you have made for the sport of it..." I

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"This I Believe"

This year my parish is participating in NPR's "This I Believe" essay project. I was inspired to do this by Grace-thing. She published her essay on her blog awhile back which lead me into a conversation with her about the project. Several other Revgals have participated in this project with their churches or dioceses.

Some of you may remember Edward R. Morrow’s series from the 1950’s, “This I Believe.” These essays offered an intimate glimpse into what the average American believed. The essays were not intended to be sermons or editorials or even specifically religious beliefs. Rather the series requested the real beliefs of real people. No reiteration of church dogma or doctrine. But the essays could be about faith, God, and what one believes in one’s life.

In 2005 National Public Radio resurrected “This I Believe” by inviting people to write essays following the original guidelines from Morrow’s series. You can hear these essays read by their authors on NPR on Monday’s “Morning Edition,” and “All Things Considered.” They are also available on line at www.npr.org.

Our theme in "small church" this year is, “Deepening Our Faith.” One way we will explore this is through participating in this series. Each month we will feature an essay written by a parishioner. We have done a variety of exercises from the workbook available on the NPR website for writing essays with houses of worship. Here is my essay....


On All Saints’ Day 2006 I developed the first symptoms of what was to become a life threatening illness. An infection formed from a fractured tooth and traveled into my jaw bone and up the side of my face. The normal mouth flora grew where it did not belong and caused havoc. For eight days I lived with increasingly excruciating pain which finally sent me to the hospital. After another 48 hours, when I failed to respond to IV antibiotics, the team of doctors decided to drain the site. In this surgery a three inch incision would be made just below my jaw line to drain the infection. Then drains would be placed into the incision and up the side of my face, between the bone and the muscle, to further facilitate drainage. Because my jaw muscles were swollen with infection I could only open my mouth wide enough to squeeze in a small pea. Providing oxygen for me during surgery would be complicated, they had to intibate through my nose. Then, as a precaution, they gave me a tracheotomy. Surgery took place in the early evening. While I waited for surgery, in my pained and disoriented state, I remember praying. In essence I put my life in God’s hands, live or die, I cared not. I just wanted the pain to end.

Now, aside from lingering numbness in my chin and mouth, I have healed from the infection. In its place, scars remain. To a certain degree these scars define me. From this illness and healing I have a metaphor for my life. I live my life with the belief that God created us and therefore has a vested interest in who we are and how we live our lives. It’s not as concrete as God has a “plan” for us and all we have to do is figure it out. It’s more like a desire. God desires each of us to be a vibrant and vital part of creation. This is similar to what a parent hopes for in a child. Becoming who God desires me to be is a life long process of formation; it requires that I work on my relationship with God. Over the course of a life time my formation has included many seasons, good and difficult, healthy or sick, rich and poor, fertile and dry. There have been times in my life when everything feels harmonious, life cruises along like a boat sailing in a gentle breeze. But, like everyone else, there are other times when I encounter tremendous challenges.

The year preceding my illness, like the year that has followed, has been arid. Not only has it been dry and barren, but also dark. Like a moonless night in the desert. Except this desert place of my soul does not cool off at night, there is no reprieve. In the dark I was directionless. I had no idea where I was or which direction to travel. The hot dry desert heat, like an unbearable summer, has left me parched. Like someone craving water and food, I yearn for a new season of life, a season that includes healing of mind, body, and spirit. Now, eleven months later the incision wounds have healed, only scars remain. Like our body, spiritual, psychic, and emotional wounds leave scars as well.

Scar tissue is tough and inflexible. Because it is stiff, adhesion's form which can cause more problems than the original ailment. Moving about can be uncomfortable. The scar pulls and tugs and itches as it intertwines with the surrounding tissues of skin, muscle, and connective tissue. At the very least it is annoying; on other occasions it is downright painful.

As a metaphor for physical or spiritual wounds a scar becomes that which continues to remind us of our fragility. Some scars are small and on the surface. They never bother me. However, those things in life which cause deep wounds, physically, emotionally, or spiritually, leave profound scars. The scars that remain will continue to remind us of the pain we felt. The pain of struggle, tragedy, loss, and sorrow all leave their mark on us. We are all wounded.

These last few years have been a time of intense challenge in all aspects of my life, physical, emotional, spiritual, personal and vocational. There has been no place to turn for reprieve, the challenges were everywhere. My prayer life was reduced to a simple silent gasp in the darkness. Slowly the season is changing. The air is cooler, and the wounds are closing. Soon scars will form over the wounds of these last few years. I believe that our scars can be the place of ongoing bitterness in our lives, the place we hold resentment, anger, fear. Or the scars can become a place that reminds us that even (or especially) our woundedness is the place where we can find hope. Many times a day I apply cocoa butter and vitamin E to the scar on my neck. This keeps it soft and pliable and reduces the amount of adhesion that forms. In a similar way I will need to add salve to help soften and heal the spiritual scars. The healing balm for this scar is prayer. I believe that prayer is a fundamental source of healing in our lives.

I believe that Jesus knows the agony I felt on that gurney before surgery. I believe that Jesus knows the intense emotion of dark, silent, gasping. Jesus understands human despair, and therefore so does God. In the midst of his pain Jesus turned himself over to God. In response God did not take away the pain nor stop the suffering. God’s response? God brought Jesus back to life again. Jesus came, neither as someone healed, nor as one unmarked. No. Jesus came as one still carrying fresh wounds. In the resurrection Jesus shows us his wounds and reminds us that regardless of how dark our lives get or how much pain we encounter, He is here with us. In the pain. In the suffering. And in the healing.

I believe in the resurrection, and that somehow, over time, in God’s time, God transforms our pain into something new.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Few Things I'm Getting Tired Of

Last night while watching "Boston Legal" James Spader's character was arguing a case for a 15 year old girl. His character (whose name I can never remember) usually gets the best cases to argue. And he always makes a strong case for some issue we are facing in our country. Last night in his closing argument he brought up "faith based" initiatives and how the "current administration" has broken the boundary between Church and State.

It gave me pause to think. I really appreciate that prime time television is taking on major issues and arguing them a moral and ethical point of view. I appreciate that they bring faith and religion into the mix.

I am tired of people in the media, whether a TV program, the news, the radio, the newspaper, defining faith ONLY through the lens of ultra-conservative, sometimes fundamentalist, Christianity.

There is a more diverse perspective in this country. There are deeply caring thoughtful people of faith from all across the spectrum who are wrestling with the issues we face today. But only one perspective makes the news. Or at least the headlines, the other perspectives may be buried in the article or a subtext to program, however most people stop reading or their attention wanders before getting that far.

I am tired of the idea that there is a separation of church and state when in this country there really isn't. And, I'm not sure we should go on pretending there is. I think we need to have a broader range of faith based voices speaking up and discussing issues.

I'm tired of headlines about schism. As if THAT is the issue...

I'm tired of anything having to do with Brittany, Lindsay, Paris, or Nicole.

I'm tired of the media obsession with Diana, let the woman rest in peace.

I'm tired of Presidential debates.

I'm tired of media speculation about everything and anything.

I'm tired of the war and the lying and the torture.

I'm tired of an administration that acts like a school yard bully.

I'm tired of studies that indicate this or that causes cancer.

And then next week a study that counters the previous one. I'm tired of those too.

I'm tired of reality TV shows and bad comedy, cop shows, and doctor shows...

I'm not in a bad mood today. I'm not whiny. I'm just sayin'...

...what about you? What are you tired of?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tuesday Morning


This morning has dawned crisp, cool, and sunny. The record breaking heat wave is broken, fall has returned. I didn't really mind having summer back, even though fall was but an infant when summer blew back. Still it was hot and we are all ready for cooler temperatures. In the heat the leaves, which were changing colors, just dried up. Now, maybe the rest of the leaves have a chance to turn into glorious fall colors.

I had an interesting weekend. First I hosted the RevGals Preacher Party on Saturday. That was fun to create and stay connected with all day. It is a little intimidating, at first, to put up ones creation on such a public event, and hope it works. I am so grateful to the RevGals community for the support I have received over the last year. I'm happy to give back by taking on some of the leadership responsibilities.

Sunday I had a parishioner preach. It was the first in a series for the month of Oct. called, "Why I Come to Small Church." He did a nice job. I helped him connect his thoughts to the readings. Interestingly enough, what he was saying about his faith journey and his experience of worshiping at our church fit in well with the readings. There's the Holy Spirit for ya.

Sadly, though, being Columbus Day weekend, many of my parishioners were out of town. Between our two services we had less than 30 people. LESS THAN 30! Usually we are around 60. How can half the congregation be gone over one weekend?

Which makes wonder once again about the viability of small church. I got a call late Friday from a Deployment Officer for a Diocese that has been courting me. I have been in 4 search process for this diocese and not been offered a call by any of them. (Actually only one of the four was an exciting good fit, the others were all iffy, so I'm ok that none offered a call). Still. It brings up, yet again, do I stay or do I go. What makes it all the more difficult is that this Diocese is across the country, in the Southwest. I have to call this Deployment Officer back today and let him know if I am interested in having my name and materials submitted. This church seems to be good, so it has loads of potential. And it's BIG, so I appreciate that the Bishop thinks I am qualified to (potentially) lead it. Ahhh, so. I guess I'm going to put my name forth. Sigh.

Lastly.
Yesterday my family and I went into Chicago. Husband, daughter, Ryan, son, and son's friend, and me. We went to the Shedd Aquarium where I saw the Komodo dragon (woa).

Had a delicious lunch overlooking Lake Michigan.


Then Ryan and daughter went to the Dolphin show and the Field Museum

while the rest of us walked up to the Art Institute. Son and son's friend are taking a photography class in school. I thought they might see art in a new way now that they are actually working on it themselves. After the Art Institute we walked back the Shedd, past Buckingham Fountain, to the garage where our car was parked.


Last night I grilled Steelhead Lake Trout and steak. We ate that with some homemade pasta salad and potato salad (that I had made the day before) and steamed asparagus. We had a family dinner, laughing and sharing stories about our day. Good day.

Today, we are all back to our daily stuff. Work. School. And in Ryan's case, vacation. He's home until a week from Sunday. He has to be at the airport at 8:00am on Oct. 21 to return to Afghanistan. Sigh. Really enjoy having him home, having our family together. Although he is our daughter's boyfriend he is like a son to us and fits in so well with our family. After four years (they met when daughter was a sophmore and he was a senior in High School) I think he's a part of us forever.

Well. That's what's been happening in my world. Hope all is well with all of you...

Friday, October 05, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Thankfulness

List at least five things people, places, graces, miracles for which I am thankful...

People I am thankful for:
1. My husband. He is a hardworking, kind man of high integrity, the love of my life.
2. My daughter. She is a beautiful young woman dedicated to her work with horses and to Ryan, who is safely home on leave from Afghanistan (for which I am grateful).
3. My son. He is a joy.
4. Our Dogs, the keep me healthy with their playfulness and love of life.
5. Steve the Chiropractor and Steve the Jungian who have helped through the dark ages.

Places I am thankful for
1. My house. We don't own it, the church does. But it is the biggest house we have ever lived in. Large enough to be comfortable for 5 adults, two dogs, two cats, and a bird.
2. Small church. I am thankful for the people here, the church itself, and the 5 acres of land which house the church and rectory. A lot of creative energy and potential.
3. Chicago. It is one of the best cities anywhere. Great museums, beautiful lake front, landscaped sidewalks, clean, and vibrant. And not far from where I live.
4. St. Benedicts, a retreat center north of me. It is quiet and peaceful, beautiful. I go there every year with the vestry for a retreat.
5. The room where I sit in the mornings and read, blog, or write. My daughter did a home-make over on the room last summer. It is a lovely space with a comfortable chair and a great view out the window. Some days I a work here for hours. Being a solo pastor I do not keep many hours in the office where I am all alone in that big building. I do a lot of my work at home. And this room is my office.

Graces I am thankful for...
1. Finding RevGals. Reading, writing, being a part of this community is, and has been, a profound grace in my life.
2. The potential to remain at small church which enables my family to be stable and offers the hope of some real growth.
3. The dedicated hard work of the Bishops in the Episcopal Church who struggle to be together as a whole even as there are things they (we) disagree on. The fact that most of the Bishops are willing to walk together is Grace. Our Presiding Bishop is a sign of Grace as she works to heal the fractured. Despite some of the mean-spirited behavior of a few Bishops the overall Church in this country is learning how to be together in a new way. Yes. We have a long way to go...
4. That the darkness has lifted and I feel hope and energy in my life again.
5. God's quirky sense of humor...

Miracles I'm thankful for...
Miracles are far and few between. I dare not suggest five of these in my life. But there has been one, recently. Which I wrote about in my post below...which is what I mean by God's sense of humor - gone from my life for two years and then BAM hits me over the head with a 2X4...here I am, God says...and here you are...

Thursday, October 04, 2007



And in my town, it's the High School Homecoming Weekend...

Coming up, will it be: Lamentations, Habakkuk, Psalm 137 or Psalm 37, 2 Timothy, or Luke - pick your team players! Me, if I were preaching, would go with the Gospel, Luke 17:5-10. I'd ponder what it means to be "rooted" in faith like a mulberry tree planted in the sea. I wonder about how the rootedness of faith would shape and form the way I live my life. I wonder about how faith informs the things we do in every day ordinary ways - like Jesus speaking to the disciples about their faith. He says their faith is enough, it is rooted, now it just needs to be lived. Slaves were everyday ordinary HARD working folk, disciples should be the same, living faith in everyday ordinary hard working ways so that the Kingdom of God can come near.

But to live life in ordinary ways we need to be fortified. Especially when ordinary life includes exciting things (like play off games and High School Homecoming and sermon prep). So to keep us well nourished I'll be around all day. The first meal will be pancakes, eggs (how do you like 'em), bacon and sausage, French Toast, real maple syrup and butter. Next meal, turkey wraps in flat bread with Munster cheese and lettuce. Dinner will be an assortment of grilled meats with salads. A choice of beverages will be flowing all day, or bring your own.



Last week Abi hosted a fabulous Southern Buffet, and this week I'm going to return the favor and strive to host a Northern Brunch. Have a seat, what can I get you?

Ladies and Gentlemen, strap on your helmets, it's time to fortify ourselves for "game time"...

....let the party begin!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

And the World Tilts the Other Way...

As off kilter as yesterday felt, today moved in a complete opposite direction. The morning dawn brought bright blue skies and a vibrant sun. I rose early, got my son to school by seven and dropped Ryan off at a local health club to work out. He said that many of the guys his stationed with are getting fat. He doesn't understand that. He describes his time there like the movie "Ground Hog Day." Every day is the same as the last, get up, go to work, leave work, work out, eat a huge dinner, and then feel tired enough to go to sleep. Next day, repeat. Of course there is the matter of daily rockets that hit inside the base and destroy buildings. There is the matter of him sleeping lightly and waking to every sound. But, he says he is sleeping better now, than when he first got there in January. Then the sound of a door slamming shut and the sound of a rocket/bomb bursting were too similar. Now he can nuance the difference in his sleep. A little while later my son sent me a text messae, he got is sweater and Mp3 player back. The kid who sits behind him picked it up when he forgot it yesterday and gave it to my son today. Acts like that restore my hope in humanity. A teenager looking out for another...

After dropping Ryan off I went to work. Mid-morning I left for an appointment with a Massage Therapist. I continue to have work done to heal my neck and face. This treatment was phenonmenal. Not as mystical as the Sacral Cranial Myofacial work. But I know massage therapy, have had lots of it. Last week's MFR and Sacral Cranial was my first for that particular kind of body work. But the massage was great.

Returned to work with a long list of things to do. I had been there about ten minutes when a man walked in. Now. I usually work by myself. I never let anyone in when I am alone. But I happened to have two other folks there, a male colleague from a nearby church and a parishioner. The doors were unlocked and in this man walked. He was looking to speak to clergy. He said he had a story to share.

My male colleague, who was about to leave, came back in. The man said to him, maybe I sould speak to you. I said, not wanting my friend to be mistaken for the parish priest, "No, he doesn't work here, I do." "Oh," the man said, "He may want to hear it anyway." Then he launched into what I could tell was going to be a long story. My male colleague, hesitant to leave us alone with a strange man in the building went to work assisting my parishioner. I sat in the very public area of the narthex (entry way) and listened to this man's story. It goes like this:

"Last week my mother fell and hurt herself very badly. She's fractured her skull and her brain is mush. She's in the hospital. My mother is a woman of deep faith but my father would never let her practice her faith. He forbid her. My father was a cruel violent man. My mother is kind. She's had a very rough life but she has always been kind and looked out for me. I am not a person of faith. Oh, I believe in God, but that's about it. Now my mother is in the hospital on life support. I've been praying every day that she would get well. The hospital staff has called me repeatedly to tell me that putting her on life support was wrong and I should not do it, should not have done. My aunt, a woman of deep faith, told me to take her (sister) off the life support. But I can't do it. I needed her to be on the life support because I needed some time."

"I've gone to the hospital every day since Saturday. She has not gotten better, in fact she developed a very high fever, 104. Last night I asked the nurse if there had been any change and she said no. But the fever was gone."

At this point I said, "Isn't that a change?" and he said, "Yes, exactly. It took me awhile to realize that."

"Anyway," he says, "I was sitting there next to her, praying. And then I had to stand up. When I did I noticed that I felt so much better. All of a sudden I was filled with this sense that everything would be all right. It's like I heard God speak to me and say, 'Your mother will be alright."

So, I asked him, "What does that mean to you, that your mother will be alright?"

He said, "She will be healed and be fine." I said, "Ok."

He continued to his story, telling me about what a horrible person he has been, much like his father. His mother was good, but his father was awful, and so was he.

"But now," he said, " after that experience yesterday, I am no longer like my father. I am like my mother. I have a way to really believe, to understand what it means to believe in God. So, I've been going around telling people about it. I just have to share it. I want people to pray with me and for me."

"I know that somewhere in the Bible it speaks about people arguing with God. I 've been looking for that but I can't find it."

"Well," I said, "You'll find it in Genesis, in the first book of the Bible. Abraham argues with God..." and I went on to tell about Abraham, then Moses arguing with God, and then the Psalms..."The Bible tells us an amazing story of the history of people and their relationship with God. We believe that God lives in and through people and is active in history, in our lives. You've just had an experince of God. It's called an 'Epiphany.'

"Oh," he says, "I know that word, I never really knew what it meant." "It means," I said," An experience of God breaking through into our lives." "Wow," he says.

Then he says, "My friends are not people of faith. Some of them may believe in God but most of them are agnostic or aetheist. This story of my mother is blowing their minds. One said to me, 'I just don't believe in that invisible man in the sky."

I said,"Maybe God is not an invisible man in the sky. Maybe God is a woman, or a Being, or a presence..."

"NO," he said "I cannot, will not believe that God is a woman. It says in the Bible that God created man and woman in his image, the woman from the man."

I said,"Well, that is one of the versions of creation. Our Bible has two."

He stopped and said, "What???" I said, "Yes. Chapter one in Genesis and chap two in Genesis are both creation stories. But they tell a very different story about the creation of human beings..."

"Woa," he says, "You've just 'flatlined me..." I smile and waited.

Then I said, "The Bible is full of contradictions. In one book it will say one thing while in another it will say something else. As a whole it gives us a rich diverse picture of how people have experinced God. And it is not a black and white picture, it is shades of gray. On top of that the Bible was written a long time ago and has been interpreted and reinterpreted many times. Not every Bible says the same thing as another."

"Well," he said, "How do you know which is the right one to read? There has to be one 'right' tome?"

I said, "You read the one that speaks to you and helps you understand God, the relationshp people have with God and helps your relationship with God. You have just had your own real experience of God, that is your story. Now the Bible will help you make sense of that story along with the story of a history of human beings."

And he sat there stunned. Finally he said, "No one has ever said that to me. I am so glad I stopped in here today. I have a lot to think about."

Somewhere in the conversation we also spoke about his mother being on life support and "getting well." I said that even though God desires her to be well our bodies are not controlled by God. Anything could happen. God has a desire for us to live healthy lives but shit happens. And when it does God scoops into the muck and strives to pull out good. God does not make the bad but God strives to restore good from chaos. And so, I said, whether or not your mother recovers and lives or if she dies, she will be fine. You know that now because God has told you she will be fine. He said, "I already know that if she is not better by Friday I will pull the life support. The doctors have said she is fine on it until then, but after that the life support she is on will begin to cause other complications. So, I will have it removed and we'll see what happens. Either it has given her time for her body to heal and to what it needs to do or not. But, yes, now I know she will be fine. And so will I."

I ended our conversation with a prayer for him and his family. I prayed for the grace of God to continue to fill his life.

Like I said, after my day yesterday, when all went askew, today the world tilted the other way...

The Aim of Life

Like most people, when I was in my twenties,  I was focused on trying to figure out my life. I struggled to figure out what I was going to...