Saturday, March 31, 2007

Psalm 22 (The Message)

God, God!

Why did you dump me miles from nowhere?

Doubled up with pain, I call to God all the day long.

No answer.


I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.

And you!

Are you indifferent, above it all, leaning back on the cushions of Israel's praise?

We know you were there for our parents: they cried for your help and you gave it; they trusted and lived a good life.

And here I am, a nothing—

an earthworm,

something to step on, to squash.

Everyone pokes fun at me; they make faces at me, they shake their heads: "Let's see how God handles this one; since God likes him so much, let him help him!"

And to think you were midwife at my birth, setting me at my mother's breasts! When I left the womb you cradled me; since the moment of birth you've been my God.

Then you moved far away

and trouble moved in next door.

I need a neighbor.

During Holy Week all of our scripture readings come from The Message. I just love this version of Psalm 22....

Thursday, March 29, 2007

RevGal Friday Five: Holy Week, Batman!

Reverendmother posts this on the RevGals site: Well, the Clergy Superbowl is almost upon us, and so, I offer up this Friday Five (with apologies for the irreverent title):

1. Will this Sunday be Palms only, Passion only, or hyphenated? Palms and Passion, both! But actually in place of the congregation reading the Passion Gospel, and rather than me (priest) offering a homily - our kids have written meditations and prayers for the Stations of the Cross and they have done artwork (or performing arts pieces) for each of the stations. Groups of parishioners will walk the stations, led by a child guide, during the section of the service normally designated for Gospel and should be very cool...and this was the kids idea....

2. Maundy Thursday Footwashing: Discuss. Love the footwashing. I always get a pedicure first, red toe nails...and I just love it. Sometimes I even stay bare foot through the rest of the service, or until the peace, which comes just before the Eucharist. (Then I step out to really wash my hands)....Of course I was a massage therapist before ordination and feet were always one of my favorite to have worked on....and to work on...true some people have stinky feet, but I just deal...

3. Share a particularly meaningful Good Friday worship experience. The choir singing the Gospel, the whole thing, very powerful. Followed by men only singing "Were you there"....

4. Easter Sunrise Services--choose one:a) "Resurrection tradition par excellence!"b) "Eh. As long as it's sunrise with coffee, I can live with it."c) "[Yawn] Can't Jesus stay in the tomb just five more minutes, Mom?!?" I'm at church long before the kids (I have an show up for the 10, and usually late...think about the priest kids coming in late for Easter - and we live next door...) - so for them it is definitely, just five more...For me, Easter Day is easy, following the three days of the Triduum (Maundy Thu, Good Fri, Great Vigil) just a more festive Sunday service. No sunrise stuff.

5. Complete this sentence: It just isn't Easter without...Bonus: Any Easter Vigil aficionados out there? Please share. I make one huge booklet for the Triduum, that includes all the components for the worship services for Maundy Thu, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil, in an effort to really help people remember that these are one service over three we share these services with smaller church down the street - we go to their church for supper and Maundy Thur service, they come to our church for Good Fri, and we do our own Vigil. Also, we do a fab Garden of Gethsemane prayer vigil in our chapel - huge loaf of home baked bread, big cruet of wine, loads of flowers, candles, and people sign up to pray all night, (well in one hour segments)....

But for me, it just isn't Easter without jelly beans....good ones...none of the yucky tasting ones

Read in AARP

Yikes, yes, I'm now 50, which means I've been given an offer to subscribe to AARP (I think it stands for American Association of Retired Persons/People)....and well, I am a long way from retirement....but recently I picked up the mag in my chiropractors office and read an article of Optimism...or pessimissim, depending on how read the article.

What really stood out for me was the section on "Emoticon for Pessimists." Now, I am really an optimist, almost a "pollyanna," but I must admit pessimism is ok sometimes too. So, here are the Emoticons:

"I'm sad."


"Princess Leia is sad"

"Everyday is a bad hair day" (My favorite)

"Why bother"

"Colonel Sanders is dead"

oo oo o

"The big bus of life squashes everyone."

Ok, so there you have it, pessimist emoticons....

But, I'm sure you all will just hate them.....
Oh, wait...actually no one will even read this post....
let alone leave a comment...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Discerning What is Godly and Good

"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God." 1 John 4:1

Discernment. Recently a parishioner asked me what discernment means. He said, "It's such a harsh sounding word, D I S C E R N M E N T." And I have to admit he took me by surprise. I have used this word many times in many ways over the last twelve years. I first began to use it when I started my own discernment process toward ordination and haven't stopped using. I invited the congregation into a time of discernment from Christmas until Lent. Which is the impetus for my parishioners question. What are we doing, he wondered? Yes, I thought, what are we doing. I, however was wondering from a very different place than he.

In "Christianity for the Rest of Us," Diana Butler Bass offers a chapter on discernment. In it she says that, "Discernment is a gift to the whole of the Christian community, one that can be strengthened and nurtured by engaging the practice. Discernment serves as a spiritual compass, helping us negotiate the unfamiliar territory of our truest selves as we seek to find meaning in God's call." (pg. 91).

Discernment is how we Christians (and maybe others, I don't want to be exclusive or possessive of the process) figure out who we are and what we are about in relationship to God. It is our attempt to live lives grounded in God. It is how we strive to know who are and whose we are.

For the parish, this time of discernment was challenging, but fruitful. It was challenging to encourage a group of analytical problem solvers to function like mystics. But we did it. During that discernment time I invited them to pray a poem every Sunday in worship in place of the Nicene Creed (shhh, don't tell my Bishop).

It's from Ted Loder (Guerrillas of Grace, prayers for the battle).

Grant Me Your Sense of Timing

O God of all seasons and senses,
Grant me your sense of timing
To submit gracefully
And rejoice quietly
In the turn of seasons.

In this season of short days and long nights
of gray and white and cold,
teach me the lessons of waiting;
of snow joining the mystery
of hunkered-down seeds
growing in their sleep
watched over by gnarled-limbed, grandparent trees
resting from autumn’s staggering energy;
of silent, whirling earth
circling to race back home to the sun,
O God, grant me your sense of timing.

In this season of short days and long nights,
of gray and white and cold,
teach me the lessons of endings:
children growing, friends leaving,
jobs concluding
stages finishing,
grieving over,
grudges over,
blaming over,
excuses over.
O God, grant me your sense of timing.

In this season of short days and long nights,
of gray and white and cold,
teach me the lessons of beginnings:
that such waitings and endings
may be a starting place,
a planting of seeds
which bring to birth
what is ready to be born –
something right and just and different
a new song,
a deeper relationship,
a fuller love –
in the fullness of your time.
O God, grant me your sense of timing.

Over the course of the weeks we prayed this it took on deep meaning. There is a season for everything. Even churches have a season of life. Sometimes churches die. Sometimes they find new life, but not until they have looked their own death in the eyes.

What will this small church do? I don't know. They are trying to forge on and figure that out. I am most discouraged by the degree to which they are satisfied with their faith and spirituality as it is, no need to grow anymore. I mean, that's fine if this is all they want. But me, I want more. How can I want more and pastor a people who are content? Our spirits are not in the same place, and so I feel like I am spinning wheels...

Now, after months of entering search processes and phone interviews and answering essay questions, my own searching is coming to a closure. Sure, it may take several more months until I am offered and accept a call. Then again it may be soon. I have one church search committee coming here for a site visit in April (14 and 15). And I have been invited (me and family) to visit another church the end of April. I have another one that really interests me, waiting to hear back from them.

So, discernment takes on a whole new level...what if I think I want one church but it is slow to come around, while another church, which is Ok, offers me the position? Do I say no and hope for the other? This is a tenuous process, one never knows what the outcome might be. I've been a "finalist" before. I know that the table can turn either way....

This is the point at which I think discerning becomes my job. I think God has already been active in bringing these places to me and me to them. Now it is my job to discern. I don't think God is going to say that there is only one right place or way to discern which place is "right". God will go with me, what ever I discern. Now it is my work, to listen. To pray. To be still. To envision a future. To feel. Of course, I could be wrong. God just might help me see one place over the others...God is funny that way, never quite doing what I anticipate...

Again, from "Christianity for the Rest of Us," "Discernment does not simply confirm our hunches or intuitions. Instead it is a perilous practice that involves self-criticism, questions, and risk - and it often redirects our lives." (pg 95).

Oh, God, grant me your sense of timing.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wild life back yard

Our backyard is a great place for nature and wildlife. In the time we've lived here we've seen woodchucks (with a den under the deck), possum, squirrels, bunnies, and a family of foxes (and coyote). This year, in addition to all the birds at our feeder we have mallard ducks, eating the seed that falls to the ground.
Hard to believe we have a BUSY street on one side of the house and all this wildlife on the other...

Tuesday Topics: Talk Amongs Yourselves

This Sunday I am not preaching, the first in a long while...

Although this Sunday is Palm/Passion Sunday we are doing something fun! Well maybe not "fun," but very cool....
Our children have written meditations and prayers for each of the stations of the cross. They have also designed each station with some art work or "performing" art piece. So for example at the station where Jesus is nailed to the cross one child brought in pieces of wood, nails, and a hammer, and people will hammer the nails in the wood at that station

Instead of our usual Passion Reading with members of the congregation and instead of a homily, the kids will take us on a walk through the stations, they will be our guides. In small groups the parish will walk each of the stations with the kids leading us, we will reflect on their meditations and pray their prayers and ponder their art work for each station. Sure, we will begin the service with our usual Liturgy of the Palms, processing around and singing "Oh glory laud and honor..." and we will listen to the readings of OT, Psalm, and NT...but for the Gospel/Passion reading and sermon time we will leave in groups with the kids and walk the stations they have created. They are being built all around the church space, in and out of various rooms, so we will literally be walking around.
We will also have a booklet made with the meditations, prayers, and pictures of the artwork for folks to take home.

This whole thing was their idea...I did a "Stations of the Magi" reflection for the season of Epiphany and created a labyrinth of sorts in our worship space along with a mediation book. The kid walked this labyrinth and decided they wanted to do one using the stations of the cool is they did.

This has been a very cool exercise for our kids...I'm excited for them and for our parish.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Leaving Church: a book discussion from RevGals

Many of you who will read this are from churches much less structured and hierarchical than The Episcopal Church.

  • However, I wonder, to what extent do these problems face all churches?

  • What are you and your churches doing to carry out the Gospel in its true sense?

  • I am also interested in the wisdom and experience you bring to your reading of this book with regard to self-care and renewal for clergy and laity.

A couple of thoughts:

I have not yet read this book, although it has sat on my bookshelf since last fall. I have read lots of BBT books and looked forward to this one. After reading only a few pages I had to put it down. It was hitting too close to home for me. I am a priest in a small struggling Episcopal church and over the last three and half years we have faced all these issues head on. It has been exhausting for me in part because I think the Holy Spirit just might be in on all this. I think that if we as church just continue doing our ministries of caring for one another, caring for ourselves, and caring for this world, then it will all work out. I don't think we need to take tough stands for the TRUTH and RIGHT BELIEF, especially if that means meddling in the affairs of other churches or judging others.

So small church where I work, for whom many of the people were deeply torn by these concerns, has learned a lot oveor these years about love of neighbor. We are not the most active group, nor do we have a some powerful ministry through which we live out the Gospel. We spend a lot of time talking about it. Mostly these folks just want to come to church on Sunday and have a "nice" worship experience, a cup of coffee, and go home...

True, some folks at small church are looking for what that dynamice Gospel ministry might be for us. But it can't take up too much time or require too much work or cost too much...Small church has just worn me out with their complacency.

Regarding the book and clergy self care: many of my colleagues have read it and liked it (all of us being Episcopal priests and clergy women). But many felt that BBT's decision to take the job at the small church was discerned using the wrong criteria. She choose that small church because of it's location and appeal, she did not choose it for the people. So, she made a good decision in terms of where she needed to live, but it was not the best discerning moment for vocation. Those of us, my colleagues and me, who are discerning a new call are actively trying to consider this time from a deeper level than the book portrays (or so I've heard, since I haven't read the book). Diana Butler Bass, in her book, Christianity for the Rest of Us (RevGals next book discussion) says this about discerning on page 91: "Discernment serves as a kind of spiritual compass, helping us negotiate the unfamiliar territory of our truest selves as we seek to find meaning in God's call." Bass means this to be true for individuals and communities of faith.

We are all seeking meaning in our call., lay and ordained. I think BBT found hers, just not exactly where she thought it would be when she bought that house and land - it did eventually lead to teaching and having that home, both of which feed her soul. The parish was just a step in the process. Perhaps a better title would be "Finding Home," instead of leaving church....

I guess I think that my small church experience is also just a step in the process of me finding meaning in my call to ordained ministry. I know that ordained ministry in the parish is my calling, now it's just about finding the community I need to serve with. People who are also excited about their Christian faith, who want to engage in life long learning, who want to address and learn about the global world and the concerns we all face regarding issues of inequality in gender, sexuality, health care, finances, education, etc. I am looking for a people who really want to explore faith and practice the ancient disciplines of the Christian tradition in new ways that transform us. - And that is about self care for me - finding a place and a people that share my passion for mission and ministry. I am not concerned with the exact way we do this, ie the poor etc. rather that we find an exciting way to live out the Gospel, a way where our passions as community meet the world's deepest need.

Monday Morning Musings

Daughter arrived home very late. She is still sleeping so I haven't had a chance to check in and see how things are at the barn. But last I knew, it was only the hay barn that burned, and they were finally able to get all the horses back in their barn and stalls...That fire could have been so much worse. A Sunday afternoon. She was riding her last horse of the day, only one other person was at the barn, doing the same thing. She saw the smoke and said, Christina look, what is that? And Christina bolted! It was just the two of them for a long while calling the fire department and removing horses, others came back as they heard the news (borders to check on their horses, etc). Had it been later, everyone would have been gone, and everything would have burned....

(Long pause)

daughter up, things happened as reported above...20 fire trucks to put it out, and some wonderful folks off the street who came to help, people who even knew what they were doing...daughter, who also works in retail and can be jaded about human nature said, "sometimes people can be amazing!"

23 horses saved, no humans hurt, even the cat that lives in the hay barn survived. Some smoke inhalation, but not serious enough to go to the hospital (daughter and Christina who removed all 23 horses with the help of those strangers off the street)....

So, thank God for small blessings: that daughter and Christina were still there, for strangers who run to help, for neighbors who come to help, for fire trucks and firefighters, and the BIG grace in this - for all the lives that lived.

Now, I can enjoy another real day off. Son is on Spring break, he and I will go out for lunch. Another beautiful day here in the Midwest, 70's, record breaking warm, and I'm not complaining...and although rain is predicated all week we had none yesterday and perhaps not!

Also, preparing for a search committee visit April 14-15, from "very cool church out west". And preparing to visit another church out west the end of April. Churches in the east are quiet until after Easter...very busy time ahead.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Barn Fire

Daughter called this afternoon to say that the barn was on fire. She works and rides at a barn that houses horses and trains riders (an equestrian center)...she quickly said that they were getting all the horses out into the paddocks and she would be home late, but also that her car may have burned since it was parked near where the fire started.

Husband immediately set off in our car to help. I stayed behind with dogs, cats, and son (who was out with friends). I waited anxiously for the hour it takes to drive to the barn, then another half an hour until husband could call and give me an update...

Thankfully only the hay barn burned. No one was harmed! No human, no horse, no dog...thanks be to God!
Nothing was lost except the hay and the barn that stores it. (It seems the hay self-combusted from being wet and then getting very warm today, think of fertilizer and then heat it puts off)...

Husband on his way home. Daughter's car is fine, so she can drive home once all has settled down. Other cars are fine, all can get home. They are waiting for the Fire Marshall to give the all clear and confirm that the fire is completely out, then horses can go back into their barn and stalls (if they can catch 'em all in the paddocks and in the dark....).

Wow. What scare. I am so grateful that all are well and safe.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Judas or Mary?

I recently started watching a new TV series on Fox Monday nights at 9pm called “The Riches.” This show, starring Eddie Izzard as Wayne, and Minnie Driver, as Dahlia, tells the story of a family of Travelers. These gypsy like people travel around in RV’s and steal for a living.

The opening scene in the pilot episode of this dark comedy shows Wayne and his kids at a high school class reunion. Wayne has posed as another guest, a comedian, who is supposed to entertain the crowd. In the meantime he and the kids are stealing out of coats, pockets, and purses. They make a hilarious get away just before they would have been caught. Next we learn that they are on their way to pick up Dahlia, the wife and mother, who is being released from prison for stealing. From here they end up back at the family gathering place where the entire band of Travelers has gathered. The show takes a dark turn with the release of Dahlia. While Wayne is often funny, Minnie Driver brilliantly portrays Dahlia as someone on the edge of sanity.
Dahlia is a member of the royalty of this vagabond group of travelers and the large extended family treasurers her. All is going well until the clan leader tells Wayne and Dahlia that their daughter has to marry a dim witted young man from another family. Wayne refuses and the family flees looking for a better place to live. But trouble will follow them; it’s not so easy to get out of this family of thieves and travelers.

On the road Wayne and Dahlia come upon a terrible car accident. In a desperate effort they try to save the injured couple, but cannot. There is a scene played exquisitely by Izzard as he ponders what to do next…all this emotion crosses over his face in a moment’s time.

And what he decides to do shapes the plot for the series: they take over the identities of this couple, a very wealthy couple who were just about to move into a new home in a new town. It’s perfect; no one knows the couple or anything about them. It is easy for them to move in and start a life…

Whether or not I continue to watch the series remains to be seen. But I am intrigued by any show that attempts to unpack the complexity of human life and the fine line we walk between making the right decision and the wrong one. It’s hard to know if Wayne is a bad person or a good person who has just made some bad choices…

And that is our question for today: can you think of a time in your life when you had to make a decision but you weren’t quite sure what the right thing to do was?

I mean the right thing to do in terms of what God wants for us: to make decisions that improve our relationships with God, with one another, and with ourselves. At the very least to avoid decisions that hurt others, hurt ourselves, or hurt our relationship with God.

Maybe this kind of decision was as simple as choosing to let someone into the lane in front of you instead of being impatient with the traffic? Maybe this decision was about being nice to that person who really annoys you? Maybe that decision was about being a truth teller - you know some one is doing something wrong at work or at school, but do you tell or not?

Think of a time when you have encountered something like this in your life. Now, you don’t need to share the circumstances but can you share what it felt like to face such a decision?

Maybe you only came to realize that the decision was good or bad after you had already lived into it…what did it feel like then, to face the consequences of a bad decision?

Were you able to admit it to yourself? To others?

Well today our Gospel reading compares the decisions and actions of Mary and contrasts them with the decisions and actions of Judas, each making significant decisions.

Judas’ decisions are covert and secretive. He acts like he is doing one thing, when he is actually doing another – he says, “couldn’t you have sold that nard and used the money for the poor” – but what he is really doing is embezzling from the money that ought to go to the poor. He is a thief.

And now Jesus has given him the opportunity to rethink his actions, to do something different. And what does he do? We know; we know the rest of the story…

But at this moment in time, in the context of our reading, Judas may not know exactly what he will do. Maybe he will spend the next few hours or days pondering his plan…maybe he is already certain what he will do…Of course we know he makes a bad decision. He sells Jesus to the Roman soldiers and causes Jesus’ death. He does this for money. Perhaps more money than he has ever seen before. Perhaps he thinks it will be great to have money, that all of his problems will be solved, that he will be happy…but then, unable to live with the consequences of this decision: the loss of his friends, the death of Jesus, the reality of what he has really done… he takes his own life.

But Mary... She makes some very different choices. She has been a disciple, a friend, a follower of Jesus for some time. Jesus is her friend, a family friend to Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus. In fact, if we had read one chapter earlier we’d know that Jesus has just raised Lazarus from the dead and they are having a meal together. Somehow Mary knows that Jesus’ time is short, that who he is will cost him his life. He is too kind. He is too accepting. He loves every one equally. He threatens the leaders of the community and he threatens the Romans as well. He will not be able to continue this way.

And knowing this Mary comes to anoint Jesus. She brings the best of oils.

When I was a massage therapist I loved using good oil with a gentle fragrance. Good oil glides on better and feels wonderful. A gentle fragrance lingers with you and reminds one of the treatment. It’s like whenever we are anointed using the chrism oil. This oil is scented with a wonderful fragrance, made of ancient herbs. We use it for all our baptisms and we use it whenever we anoint one another with prayers for healing. It carries with it the scent of healing that comes from one of our deepest primary sacraments the new life of baptism.

It is this kind of healing that Mary offers Jesus. It is a deep healing that is not about curing the body of illness, but of restoring the soul to its relationship with God, of filling us with a profound sense of peace. The peace of Christ is just this, a fragrant sense of deep inner peace.

The traditional Christian understanding of who Jesus is and his relationship to God tells us that Jesus would not need healing, the spirit of Jesus is divine, of God, he is already whole.

But Jesus is also human. And the human in him would be filled with some anxiety, some trepidation of what was about to come to fruition. In the Gospel of John Jesus knows who he is and what is going to happen, he is the Word of God expressed into this world from the beginning of creation, speaking God in all the earth. But now, the Word of God is also a man about to face a terrible trauma.

And Mary cares for him. Her actions are not hidden or secretive but open and public. In the Gospel of John, all things that are of God are things that happen in the light, in the open. Mary is of God and she is meeting God’s son and caring for him in a time of need.
Mary rubs Jesus feet with her hair and takes into herself the essence of Jesus, the same essence that fills the oil with fragrance.

In their two decisions Judas and Mary portray for us the extremes of human life. One makes a clear decision that costs him his integrity and his life – he is lost. When we make decisions that cause a brokenness of relationship with God, or with other, or even with our selves, we too are lost. We too live in darkness.

As we approach Holy Week and the climax of the Christian story we will hear again and again about the lost and the broken: the disciples who deny Jesus and run away, the people who misunderstand and make bad choices. Bad choices that break relationship with God by denying God’s love poured out in Christ. Bad choices that break relationship with Jesus by running away and denying the friendship. Bad choices that break relationship with self by failing to be a person of integrity.

And then we will have Mary. Who builds relationship with God by caring for God’s love. Who builds relationship with Jesus, her friend. She stays by his side. She is there at the crucifixion and the cross. She never leaves him. She comforts his mother. And she comes to anoint his body once again in the tomb.

The power of the Christian story is one of ongoing possibility; no matter how tragic our lives, no matter how lost we are, God is with us. And sometimes God’s love is revealed to us through the person standing right next to us, caring for us. Like Mary caring for Jesus. All of his friends abandon him, but not Mary, she stays. And by staying she represents the love of God to him. Decisions like that are risky. But God is like that, loving us no matter the cost. Lucky for us, God finds someone through whom to pour out God’s love. Someone willing to make the right decision, one that builds healthy relationships, willing to do the hard work this takes.

So, this week, as you live out the Christian story of life and faith, as you make decisions in your every day life, pay attention to the tough ones, the decisions that make you pause and wonder, what do I do now? Think about Judas and Mary. Aim to make decisions that will bring you closer to God. Closer to other humans, caring deeply for others in our lives at work, school, or the neighborhood. Strive to be like Mary, open and public with your faith.

Friday, March 23, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Rivers in the Desert

From the RevGals blog site Songbird says: I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19, NRSV.

As we near the end of the long journey toward Easter, a busy time for pastors and layfolk alike, I ponder the words of Isaiah and the relief and refreshment of a river in the desert.For this Friday Five, name five practices, activities, people or _____ (feel free to fill in something I may be forgetting) that for you are rivers in the desert.

1. My Husband. Without his love and support I would not be who I am today. He has been one constant source of love in my life which has allowed me to heal deeply. Now, that doesn't mean all has been perfect. But it is still true. I think I have been the same for him.

2. Meditating. As a general rule I meditate every day for 30 minutes. Lately I have fallen out of practice, which indicates the restlessness of my inner being and tells me I really need to find my way back into this practice. Meditating helps me navigate the storms of life with a good eye for the turbulence.

3. My children. I've always enjoyed the company of my daughter. She is an extrovert and talks a lot but she also shares her life with me (mostly). I enjoy going out to lunch with her and window shopping. (It's always better we don't need to buy something since she is tiny and hard to fit). And my son, he is an introvert, so talking to him is my challenge, but I'm up for it...he is really blossoming right now and it's fun to watch this little boy grow up. (And yes, they are also a source of strain and challenge as I hope and pray they make good choices as they wander off into the world without Mom to hold their hand and keep them safe).

4. Walking my dogs. It is just a joy. Especially when the weather is dry and we can go to dog park. These days, no dog park, its a swamp and way too muddy. But soon we can go again. So, for now it's just a 30 minute walk around the block...but still good. It's Spring here in the Midwest, or as much of Spring as we ever get.

5. Preaching in Lent. I have had a really good time pondering and preaching this Lent. It's been rich, and as always gives me lots to ponder about God, life, and faith.

6. I'm adding one more: clergy support groups. I have several: a group of women colleagues from seminary, we meet once a month for lunch, to share our lives and ministry challenges. A laywoman who I also meet with once a month for lunch and we too share our lives and ministries. She is a good listener and points me in some interesting directions to ponder. I'm also seeing a Jungian Analyst who is also an Episcopal priest...this person gives me lots to ponder and really helps me understand the deep spiritual dynamics of my life. And last but not least, the RevGals blog - a place of wonderful community as I live a Jobian time in life, I appreciate all of you. (Plus my own blog is fun, albeit often just a place to safely complain...but that's good too).

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A dream

Husband and I are walking through a house. It is the first house we bought, a small brick room with beautiful stained glass windows and a fake fireplace, dining room, and a kitchen with white metal cabinets and a red floor. We loved this little house. But the neighborhood changed and we had to sell and move. It took a year to sell and move.

In my dream we are standing in the kitchen. I say to Husband, "Oh, I had forgotten those cabinets, that's not how I remember them." (In my dream they were wood not metal). Then I say to Husband, "Are you sure we should buy this house again? We had such a difficult time selling it the last time.?"

End of dream as I remember it.

Analyst asks me: "Is this a dream about church or family?"

Monday, March 19, 2007

A Better End to This Day

Went shopping with daughter and had a great lunch. Really nice to spend time with her, we haven't had much time to just hang out lately. We did a lot of (fun) window shopping but we didn't actually buy anything....not for lack of finding plenty to buy, just not really in the mood to, will have to go back and get those red toe less flats I really liked (yea, flats are back in style, oh fun!)...then went to the grocery store for dinner...ended up grilling salmon with pasta, steamed Brussel sprouts and red wine....

Monday Morning Musings

Lots going on...

  • I've figured out how to update blog with a "photo" in my profile that appears whenever I leave a comment *LOL* too fun...

  • I have figured out how to add links for the blogs I read often, making it easier for me to get to them

  • I have a search committee making a site visit to small church in April...

  • our music director will be gone the day they visit

  • I need to find a good substitute musician

  • working with a new person on that day just makes me even more anxious

  • and, how will I manage these folks visiting while not revealing everything to "small church"

  • plus....I'm fighting with my husband...

  • me and husband usually get along well, fighting is not typical for us...but sometimes I think times of deep change can only be birthed after struggle and "labor"

  • I have a headache...why...'cuz I'm fighting with husband, not sleeping well, anxious

  • so. day. off.

  • maybe exercise will help me feel better.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Why the Smily Face in my Profile???

On various bogs I have read the word "meme"...but I didn't know what it meant. So, I started doing research on "memes" (see earlier post on "memes") and found out that they are a cultural practice or idea that spreads. And when I was little I had one of the original smily face posters (1970's) in my bedroom...The smily face is certainly a good example of a cultural practice or idea that spread...and the use of images attached to one's profile is also a cultural practice that has spread, most of us RevGal bloggers use them...then I found this smily face on the internet and it just seemed like the right thing to use, a meme for a meme. One might even say that ordained women has become an idea that has a meme for a meme for a meme...if you get my drift...(ok, it has been a long day and I need a nap).

Friday, March 16, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: What cha doin'?....

Well friends, this is one of those weeks when I simply must work today, which is normally my day off. I know, I know. We may tut-tut all we want, but the fact is, some weeks are like that. So, this week's F5 is simple.Name five things you plan to do today.Bonus: If today is about "have-to" for you as well, share up to five things you'd like to be doing today.

1. First thing I am doing today is having a cup of coffee and blogging with Friday Five. It's a must do for me most Friday's.

2. Next I am going to get ready and go to the office for a morning of work preparing for Sunday. My Parish Admin works on Friday's so it's "a must do" to be there when she is.

3. I need to call a woman who interested in coming to our church and sent me an email last night. This is a must do!

4. I am having lunch with a colleague. We meet about once a month to share our ministries and process life and work. She is a laywoman, I am ordained....we bring interesting perspectives to the ministries we each live. I look forward to our time together and it is a "must do" of the best kind.

5. When I get home late this afternoon I have to pay bills and do is a must do...

What would I rather be doing today? Well, thankfully I had a GREAT day off on Monday (you can read about it in Monday Musings), the first in awhile. And I may actually have another real day off this upcoming Monday....So, I'm Ok taking care of "must do's" today.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Meme: What I Learned Today

Lately I've read blogs that refer to memes...but gave no real clue as to what a meme I had to look it up...

From the internet:

meme (mēm) n.
A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.

An idea which spreads.

and from Wikipedia:

The term "meme" (IPA: /miːm/, rhyming with "theme") was coined in 1976 by the biologist Richard Dawkins to refer to a "unit of cultural information" which can propagate from one mind to another in a manner analogous to genes (i.e., the units of genetic information).

Dawkins said, Examples of memes are tunes, catch-phrases, beliefs, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. A meme, he said, propagates itself as a unit of cultural evolution and diffusionanalogous in many ways to the behavior of the gene . Often memes propagate as more-or-less integrated cooperative sets or groups, referred to as memeplexes or meme-complexes.

The idea of memes has proved a successful meme in its own right, gaining a degree of penetration into popular culture which relatively few modern scientific theories achieve.
Proponents of memes suggest that memes evolve via natural selection — in a way very similar to Charles Darwin's ideas concerning biological evolution — on the premise that variation, mutation, competition, and "inheritance" influence their replicative success. For example, while one idea may become extinct, other ideas will survive, spread and mutate — for better or for worse — through modification.

Meme-theorists contend that memes most beneficial to their hosts will not necessarily survive; rather, those memes which replicate the most effectively spread best; which allows for the possibility that successful memes might prove detrimental to their hosts.

Blogs: a place for meming...
(is meming a word??)...
(according to "spellcheck" it is not...)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

What I did with my real day off...

What I did with my real day off...

  • I stayed in my PJ's and blogged or read other blogs until noon

  • I took myself out for lunch, pad thai (yum)

  • Went to the bookstore and bought two books and two CD's: American Bloomsbury, 'cuz I read an article about Susan Cheever and her writing of this book that made me want to read it; Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writer's Guide from the Nieman Foundation at Harvard, essays on how to write nonfiction that looks really good and might help with preaching...a Dixie Chicks and Red Hot Chili Peppers CD...I could have bought so much more, I put back two books and another CD...

  • Waited for husband to come home from work (early) and we walked our dogs - IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL DAY! Sunny and 60 whoohoo

  • Today is going to be even warmer

  • Spring, or what ever we have of spring in Chicago, which is usually damp and chilly, is here

  • Supposed to drop to the 40's with snow showers by Thursday/Friday - typical....

I think I may have another real day off next week, then again, it is too early to tell...oh it was nice.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Monday Morning Musings

Whoohoo! A real day off!

Slept in. Woke up to everyone gone off to work or school, cats and dogs fed and out to do their business. How cool is that?

So, I got a cup of coffee. And sat on the sofa. Checked email and opened my blog...

Nothing on my schedule. No phone interview (next one, last one ever I hope, is set for Thursday, April 12 - but I may have a new call by then???) essays to write. No church stuff to do. No family members to take to the Dr.


I may stay in my PJ's all day. It's raining. I had a very busy weekend, conference Friday and Sat., up very early Sun. to finish sermon, then two services and adult forum, then a meeting after church, and dinner with parishioners last night...

I may just curl up with a book and never leave the sofa.

Or, maybe I will read for awhile, then exercise. And maybe take myself out for lunch, with my book.

Only problem...I don't have a good book I really want to read. Only church-work stuff...

hum, may need to go to library or bookstore...

or I may just get lost on the internet for the day, reading other blogs...

Whatever I do, I will relish this day. Thanks be to God for days like this.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Fertilzer for our Souls: The sermon I did preach

Being There, a movie from 1979 starring Peter Sellers, tells the story of Chancy Gardiner. His real name is Chance, he grew up secluded in a house in Washington DC the apparent offspring of a very wealthy eccentric named Jennings. Chance is always fed on schedule, by the long term cook who has known him all his life, is allowed to garden in the small plot in the walled in backyard, and dressed in expensive handmade suits. His only knowledge of the outside world comes from watching television. But when Jennings dies, and no provisions are made for Chance’s up keep, the attorneys kick him out and sell the house. Chance walks out of the house for the first time in his life and encounters a street gang, which he tries to make go away with a remote control TV changer, and then, in a freak accident ends up in the home of a wealthy but dying industrialist and his wife, played by Shirley McLaine.

McLaine’s character misunderstands Chance when he says his name is Chance, the Gardner, she thinks he says Chancy Gardiner. Over time the characters in the movie find great wisdom in Chancy, his simple minded statements about gardening are applied to life as if they exemplified the greatest wisdom.

He says such things as:

“First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.”

- On economics (actually on gardening):
"In a garden, growth has its long as the roots are not severed, all is well, and all will be well in the garden."

The movie is a political satire commenting on American culture; of people persuaded by appearances, Chancy wears very expensive clothes and in 1979 they couldn’t Google him to learn more, these high powered wealthy people judged him on his appearance and found wisdom where there may only have been a simple minded innocence.

The movie reminds us that we are a people looking desperately for meaning.

We want to know that our lives have a purpose.

We just don’t always look in the right places…

Often we want to believe that we can create that plan ourselves and direct the course of our lives. First college, then a career, then relationship, marriage, family, house, fulfillment.
I went to college in 1974, I was 17 years old, having graduated from High School a year early. I chose to major in Agriculture. I had this naïve dream of having a small farm and raising all my own crops and a flock of chicks. I thought it would be a lovely life, raising kids, raising food, living simply off the land.

But then, I was only 17 and it was 1974.

Within a year or so I changed my major, and then I changed it again.

The naiveté of childhood grows up and we have to face the reality that life is full of change, and sometimes bad things happen to good people.

People get sick.

People lose their jobs.

We struggle.

We wonder where God is.

We wonder why bad things happen.

And sometimes we may wonder why God is doing this?

Is this God punishing people?

In the 1980’s AIDS was the “punishment,” although this continues to be a prominent issue in other countries...

In the 21st century it’s been acts of terrorism and natural disasters that catch our attention most. And in the midst of these disasters some people will point out that somehow “they” deserved it….

This kind of thinking, blaming the problem on some action of the person, begs the question asked by the Galileans: “Will this happen to us too?”

To this, Jesus responds:
“Do you think that these Galileans suffered this way because they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you, unless you repent you will perish as they did…”

As always, Jesus points us to stop looking at others, and to look at our selves first.

What are we doing?

Regardless of whether are lives are going well or are filled with challenges, we are called to look at own lives, judging, if you will, where we are, and not judging others. Yes, bad things happen. No we can’t prevent every thing that happens.

And, no I don’t think God is doling out punishment for our "benefit."

Bad things just happen.

So, remember, to repent means to turn to God. Jesus is telling the people to turn to God.
To turn or return to God, because if we don’t we will loose our grounding in life, we will wander lost and confused. We will “perish.” With God at the center of our lives we can be focused even in the worst of times.

God may not cause the bad things to happen to us, but God will help us through them.

In Lent each of us are called to ponder if God is at the center of our lives.

Or, do we need to turn back to God?

Do we need to work at ways to have God be an active presence in our lives?

In times of strife this is all the more challenging. But it is also the time we are most likely to invite God in. This morning Jesus reminds us that we are not to wait until problems come to nurture our relationship with God. We are to do this all the time. No, I tell you unless you repent you will perish as they did…

turn and return to God.

Seek ways to be firmly rooted in God.

“For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?”

Nurturing our spiritual lives, our lives of faith, needs to be an ongoing process. We are shaped and formed as Christians over a life time. The purpose of our intentional formation is to give us deep roots into fertile soil from which we can produce good fruit.

Deep roots of faith.

Deep roots of connectedness.

Deep roots of belonging to this faith community, to these people.

Deep roots that can sustain us and make us stable.

The roots of trees grow all winter long, that’s why we plant them in the fall, so the roots have time to grow. While the world seems cold and barren, covered in snow, the roots of trees are growing deeper into the ground, stronger, more firm. These strong roots are then able to support the rest of the tree as it blossoms in the spring and sends out green leaves and produces fruit.

The winter of our souls are also times for growing deeper roots in order to make us stronger, healthier, more stable and to prepare us for spring, to prepare us for producing fruit.

As a faith community we are living in winter. We have many worries and concerns. I encourage us to see this as a time to grow stronger roots, to become more stable, and to prepare for Spring.

“Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.”

As we are seeing, this reading is a parable, which means that it has multiple layers of meaning for us to unpack.

In the end I think I’ve become a gardener of sorts. I’ve had small gardens in my back yard and raised lettuce, cucumbers, green peppers, the usual Midwest crop. But mostly I think I have been the gardener of my spiritual life. And I have also become the gardener of the spiritual lives of a congregation, a garden of people.

One thing I know, from a life time of gardening…it isn’t just about the quality and expertise of the gardener. That helps.

But gardening is about much more, and a good produce depends on other factors.

“Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.”

So, consider that we are all the gardener, the caretaker of the fig tree. And the fig tree is a metaphor for our spiritual lives. We are supposed to nurture our own spiritual lives, to make ourselves available to God. We do this through prayer, through worship, through bible study, through our Lenten program, singing, helping others, and through our relationships with one another…it is in and through our relationships with others that we come to know God in ways that are most rich and full. These are ways we fertilize our faith and bring nourishment into our lives.

But it also means we need to take action, to do something.

Nurturing our spiritual lives doesn’t just happen. It requires us to be active in seeking out ways to grow. So, even as I am a gardener, each one of you is ultimately responsible for how you respond to the opportunities offered to nurture your spiritual lives. Each one of us is responsible for our own spiritual life. And, each of us working together creates the environment for a healthy fruit to be produced.

We need to make the time to prune and fertilize our souls,

our spirits,

our lives,

in order that we can produce healthy fruit.

As a church congregation the healthy fruit we produce will manifest as an energy around vibrant and dynamic ministry, a focus for us, which will both nurture our faith and help the world around us. The church can offer us the soil in which to grow, the medium into which we can thrust our roots, the source of water and nutrients to nourish our spiritual lives.

Friday, March 09, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Matters of Taste

My mother loved figs.I only like them in a Newton.It's all a matter of taste.Name five things you like a lot that some close relative or significant other did/does not like. This could be food, movies, hobbies, music, sports or whatever springs to mind.

1. I like to listen to music, my husband prefers the TV, especially CNN. When I work at home during the day I work in silence, just the tapping of the keys on my laptop, the barking of dogs, chirping of birds, or the purring cat on my lap, keep me company. But at the office I put on churchy music: Mozart sonatas, Taize, famous church choirs. And in the car, I listen to lots of music, no more NPR or news, I am boycotting it...I listen to Dixie Chicks, Neil Young, Elvis Costello, U2, Indigo Girls, Motown, Diana Krall, Norah name a few. However, I do watch TV at night with husband, and knit. Or, I will leave TV on for dogs, Animal Planet, because I have one dog that will actually watch dogs on TV. She even responds when we say, "Ruby, look, dog on TV!" she runs to the's amusing.

2. I love sushi, especially "contemporary sushi" with the blend of flavors, yum! Most people I know either love sushi or won't touch it.

3. I love wine, good wine. Not too much, an occasional glass or two with dinner is all I consume. But I'd love to have a wine cellar filled with fine aged wines, I don't know why...I just think it would be cool. And I love the color of wine (especially red) in a nice wine glass. For me it's all about the senses -wine is sensual I think.

4. I also love coffee. I start every morning with coffee, fair trade good stuff. I like a rich flavor in my coffee. And this winter I have fallen in love with Starbucks Mocha skim's been a bad winter in the midwest, I lost a lot of weight when sick last fall, so I indulge in the occasional mocha. Must admit, as the season changes it is less of a draw...soon I'll be back to the iced soy latte (ahh summer, will it ever be here?).

5. Ok, as long as I am using this blog as a confessional, I will also admit that I love Earl Grey tea, but always with a few pieces of dark chocolate or cookies...and always around 4:00pm...

I am such a creature of "habit" with my in the morning, tea in the afternoon, wine with dinner, and herbal tea before be. Every day (well, except the wine)...but otherwise these beverages "frame" my it wrong?
The picture I added is of a "chocolate coffee cup, if I could find such a thing life would be perfect...?"

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Wasted Soil: The Sermon I Want to Preach

"Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit in a year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down." (Luke 13:9)

We are, each of us, responsible for the nurturing of our faith lives. We need to take action, in prayer, in relationship, in community, in some manner, to nurture our faith lives. Our lives are intended to be fruitful, spiritually fruitful, a witness to God's presence, a vessel for God's abiding love to pour out and fertilize a broken, barren world.

For some years now I have been living in a barren world.

Our Lenten program this year, held on Wed. nights, joins "small church" with our sister small church down the road. This year they have about 10 people coming, I have three, including me. THREE. And for that I make a meal, set the tables, prepare the room for our discussion, and clean up.

"We're too tired....we're too busy....we already have commitments on Wed. night...we're satisfied with our faith and our spiritual lives..." Actually, no one says anything. This is what I imagine they would say. But they say nothing and do nothing. They don't even complain. They could at least say, "I hate that idea for a Lenten program..."

"See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and still I find none. Cut it Down! Why should it be wasting the soil?"

For years I have tried to grow the faith of this community. I have tried many things. I have built some grassroots support, a few who have been affected. I have worked hard. I like to be creative. I get excited with Christian Formation...mostly I think they are just complacent....You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink...

And so now, I am considering leaving "small church." They are too comfortable. They love me. They say I inspire them...but since I see no fruit, I wonder what I inspire in are they inspired? To come to church on Sunday? To have a "nice" worship experience, a cup of coffee and some conversation and go home, unchanged?

"Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will perish as they did."

Repent: to turn around. To change one's heart. To turn and return to God.

Unless you turn to God you will perish.

The soil will not nurture you if you only water the surface. The water must soak the roots so they grow deep and firm.

Sometimes though, even deep watering will not be enough. Adding manure will not be enough. Water and food cannot heal if the environment is not ready for food and water. Clay cannot sustain vital growth. Sand cannot sustain healthy plants. Sometimes all one can do is move on to a new spot and start again.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Disorientation: A Jobian State

Disorientation, a state of confusion. A place of darkness. A sense of being lost. Where is God? I move through my life these days like Job, I am in a jobian place. I proclaim to the people the Good News, but I wonder where it is in my own life? I really trust that God is here with me in this muddle. But I just wish I were not so lost.

Some stretches of life are like this. We all go through them. Mine has lasted the better part of four years, each year getting slightly more intense. Job. Small church. Family stuff. Marriage stuff. All aspects of my life are affected right now.

I need to make a change, and despite my best efforts, even that seems impossible. The tires of my soul are stuck in the snow. It doesn't help to accelerate. It doesn't help to get out and push. I'm not even sure it will help to dig my way out.

I think I have to wait. Wait for the spring thaw. Wait for the summer dryness. Wait until this season passes.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Monday Morning Musings

Monday. Day off. But, no rest for the weary.

Another phone interview for a search committee tonight. A very exciting church, a position I think I would love. I need to prepare today - reread their profile, their demographics, and my essay responses. Look through their web site and try to know them well. And I am so tired of doing this, the third time in two months, not to mention the one I did last summer (that makes 4 phone interviews). All total I have entered seven searches in the last year, two have completed their search and I did not get or take the position, but I have five to go. Discernment is wearing me out.

Yesterday, in my sermon, I spoke about the Psalms and Walter Bruggerman's work breaking the Psalms into categories of "Orientation," "Disorientation," and "Reorientation." By this he means the way the psalms speak about the psalmists experience of God:

  1. Orientation = when God is known and the psalmist is confident in God's presence.

  2. Disorientation = where is God? A lament, a place of darkness, a fear of being abandoned.

  3. Reorientation = having come through the state of disorientation, knowing God once again in a new way - transformed.

I am in a state of Disorientation. My heart sings Taize: O, Lord hear my prayer, O, Lord hear my prayer, when I call answer me. O, Lord hear my prayer, O, Lord hear my prayer, come and listen to me....(which is also Psalm 27).

My prayer on this Monday morning is for clarity, to have a direction, and the means to live into it with out undue burden on my family.

Friday, March 02, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Artsy Crafty

1. Would you call yourself "creative"? Why or why not? Yes, I think I am creative...not genius creative, but all the work I have done in my adult life has centered on the creative. I graduate college in 1979 with a degree in Lighting Design for Dance and I proceeded to light dance concerts for six years. I followed that with six years in Interior Design then moved into massage therapy (creativity on a spiritual plane). Now I show my creative side designing liturgy and "decorating" and "lighting" the church for worship.

2. Share a creative or artistic pursuit you currently do that you'd like to develop further. Knitting and cross stitch. I can only knit a straight line, so scarves are good...I stopped work on my cross stitch last summer and need to get back to it...

3. Share a creative or artistic pursuit you have never done but would like to try. Tatting. A friend of mine makes her own lace trim, it is beautiful. And because it is little it is so easy to take anywhere. Also, I'd love to sing better than I do and take voice lessons. I'd like to re-learn the piano and I'd like to go back to pottery wheel and spin pots again...

4. Complete this sentence: "I am in awe of people who can _____________." Knit with four needles and not get confused...and those who can make beautiful patterned sweaters and not get confused...I think I have attention deficit when knitting...

5. Share about a person who has encouraged your creativity, who has "called you to your best self." (I'm pretty sure that's from the Gospel of Oprah). My friend Katharine taught me to knit and she is the one who Tats...our friendship, begun in seminary, has definitely helped me forward in the process of becoming my best self. Now we live too far apart and rarely see one another...we need to be more intentional about this friendship!

Homily for the Festive Eucharist at the closing of the Episcopal Women's Caucus

The readings that we chose for the service tonight were all picked specifically for this service because they lift up the role of women ...