Showing posts from 2008

What in the World is Happening to Christian Churches....

About a month ago I posted a reflection about this issue. Here is a shorter, revised version of that reflection.

There have been a number of articles, over the last few years, in the news and circulating in emails, about the collapse of the Episcopal Church. These articles cite as an example of the demise, the crumbling budgets of parishes and dioceses, and lay blame on liberal influences on church teachings. In response I have some thoughts, most of which are grounded in the studies of sociologists concerned with the state of Mainline Christian Denominations and the Episcopal Church in particular.

To understand the situation with some depth it helps if we begin by looking back 150 years ago and then progress forward to the situation today. Beginning around the year 1850 a world view known as “modernism” was developing. This point of view grew out of the development of scientific methodology, asserting that “for every question there was an answer.” By 1870 the concept of scientific rea…

In the beginning was the Word....

A Reflection on John 1:1-14

A few weeks ago we pulled out our boxes of Christmas decorations and began to decorate the house. One box was marked, Nativity set. Now, I have three or four sets and I wasn’t sure which one this box contained. Turns out it was an old, relatively inexpensive one given to me by a former client, and therefore treasured because it came from her. Slowly I pulled out the pieces and set it up: three wise men, a donkey, the crèche, and Joseph. Carefully going through each piece of newspaper and wrapping paper to make sure I had all the pieces. But in the end I realized that two were missing…..Mary and the baby. How, I thought, can you have a nativity set when Mary and the baby are missing? A donkey or a sheep can go missing and the story is still ok. A shepherd too, maybe even one of the wise men could be missing – and well we could just pretend he was coming along later….but, there is no nativity set with Mary and the baby….Thus far I have yet to find them…and no …

A Christmas Reflection


There is an ancient story about the richest man in town. Although his house was next to the church, he spent every Sunday sleeping through the worship service. One morning he awoke early, just in time to hear, through the open window, some verses of scripture where God instructs the children of Israel to place twelve loaves of bread on the holy table.

The man, in his half awake bewildered state, believed that God had spoken to him directly, instructing him to place twelve loaves of bread on the holy table, the altar in the church. The man felt somewhat honored at the thought that God needed him. But, given that he was wealthy enough to do anything, he also felt somewhat foolish that all God wanted was bread. That did not seem very important. Nonetheless the man got up and made twelve loaves of bread.

Later, the man entered the church with his bundle of bread and wondered how he could possibly leave it without being seen. Finally the room was empty and he was able to place the…

The Great Experiment

A reflection on 1 Thessalonian 5:16-24 for Advent 3B

Some 26 years ago, when I was working in theater, I had my first experience of sushi. Sushi, for those of you who may not know, is steamed rice pressed into a small bite sized cake upon which a thin piece of raw fish is placed. During that time I had colleagues from New York City who came to Chicago several times a year for performances. On one of those trips we went to a local Sushi restaurant on Clark Street called, Happi Sushi. Now, I had never had sushi before, but I was willing to try it. I let my colleagues order the fish and then, with great enthusiasm, dove in.
The required side dishes for proper sushi eating include: soy sauce for dipping the sushi, marinated ginger root for cleansing the palate between pieces of sushi, and this green garnish that looks like mashed avocado. Assuming it was avocado I enthusiastically dipped my piece of sushi into the soy sauce and then into the ground avocado, and popped it into my mouth. Imag…

Christian Formation

Last week I found myself in the middle of a delightful conversation when a group of five women gathered for lunch and a discussion to plan the upcoming Lenten Program for our church. I knew all five, two were parishioners, and two will be presenters at the Lenten program, and me. It was however the first time the others had met each other, including the parishioners. So, it was really wonderful that the conversation went so well.

In the course of the conversation one of person raised the idea of "Formation." This lead to a conversation about what it is. What is Christian Formation? Her idea, the one who raised it in the first place, is that formation is the way God speaks to us and we respond. Over the course of time God speaks into our being and our efforts to respond to that movement of God in us, is formation. I didn't ask this at the time, but I suppose this is particularly true when we decide to be intentional in that response to God, when we intentionally work on ou…

A Response to the "Demise" of the Episcopal Church...

There have been a number of emails sent round in the last few days about the demise of the Episcopal Church. These emails cite as an example of the demise, the crumbling budgets of parishes and dioceses, and lay blame for this demise on the liberal influences on church teachings and thought. Much is made of the idea that liberal thought has watered down Jesus until he has become meaningless. In response I have some thoughts, most of which are grounded in the studies of sociologists (Diana Butler Bass, among others) concerned with the state of Mainline Christian Denominations and the Episcopal Church in particular.

To understand the situation with some depth it helps if we begin by looking back some 150 years ago and then progress forward to the situation today. Beginning about 150 years ago the world was adopting what has become known as the “modern” philosophical and sociological view. This point of view asserted, following a scientific methodology, that for every question there was a…

Hearing the story anew....

A reflection on Mark 13:24-37

When I was a little girl one of my favorite activities was to lie outside and watch the falling stars. During the month of August, my brothers and I would line up on blankets in our front yard excited that we were allowed to stay up way past our bedtimes. We would lie there in great anticipation of seeing the falling stars, hoping to see a really big one! As our excitement eased and we became quiet I found myself pondering the immensity of the universe. I tried with all my might to imagine an endless universe, a space that went on forever and ever. I tried to imagine other planets like ours with life on them. I tried to not be limited by the images of our favorite TV show, Lost in Space. If alien life exists in outer space, I thought, it was probably not dangerous monsters out to harm us, but rather beings that expressed the mystery of God acting in all creation.

Heading into Advent, the season of the church year that we begin today, beckons us in a similar…

A response to emails about the demise of the Episcopal Church

Thanksgiving Poem

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

I'm thinking a lot about the "family of things" this Thanksgiving. There seems to be so very much to think about...such as

Trust. How do people in organizations function when they fail to establish a basic level of trust?

And, if we fail to trust one another, how then do we manage to function with inte…

Homeostasis part 2 (Balance)

From Edwin Friedman, "Generation to Generation"

"As stated, family systems thinking locates a family's problem in the nature of the system rather than in the nature of its parts. A key to that relocation is the concept of homeostasis: the tendency of any set of relationships to strive perpetually, in self-corrective ways, to preserve the organizing principles of its existence. Theories based on the individual model tend to conceptualize the "illness" of a family in terms of the character traits of individual members, and in ways in which their various personal problems mesh. The family model, on the other hand, conceptualizes a system's problems in terms of an imbalance that must have occurred in the network of its various relationships, no matter what the nature of the individual personalities.

Family theory assumes that no matter what the various members' quirks or idiosyncrasies, if the system exists and has a name, it had to achieved some kind of…

An Award...

Katherine E at meaning and authenticity awarded me the Super scribbler. You can learn more about it here.

Of course, as with every Bloggy Award, there are A Few Rules. They are, forthwith:

Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.

Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.

Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to this post, which explains The Award.

Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!

Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Thank you Katherine E. I am grateful for this honor, and will pass it on. Today though, I am not feeling well - a flu bug I think....So, once my head stops pounding and my tummy settles down, I'll tag five others, if t…


I've been thinking a lot about homeostasis, from the family systems perspective. I need to re-read "Generation to Generation" - it's been a number of years since I last read it. I should also see if I can find my notes from a workshop that Edwin Friedman gave at the seminary I attended. This workshop was on Friedman's last book, "A Failure of Nerve." I have to admit it was pretty awesome to be in that workshop with him, sitting at the feet of the teacher. It was also really sad to learn of his death a few months later, before the book was completed. I never bought "Failure of Nerve" because I have those notes....but now I'm thinking it would be a good idea. Just because I have a Masters of Social Work and specialized in family systems for congregations doesn't mean I remember all this stuff. Anyway, I think I'll begin with "Generation to Generation" and continue my thinking about homeostasis - that desire to restore balan…

From Fredrick Buechner, "Wishful Thinking"

"In Hebrew the term dabar means both 'word' and 'deed'. Thus to say something is to do something. 'I love you.' 'I hate you.' 'I forgive you.' 'I am afraid.' Who knows what such words do, but whatever it is, it can never be undone. Something that lay hidden in the heart is irrevocably released through speech into me, is given substance and tossed like a stone into the pool of history, where concentric rings lap out endlessly.

Words are power, essentially the power of creation. By my words I elicit a word from you. Through our conversation we create one another...

God never seems to weary of trying to (Gods)self across. Word after word (God) tries in search of the right word. When the creation itself doesn't seem to say it right - sun, moon, stars, all of it - (God) tries flesh and blood..."

I love this quote. It speaks deeply to what I believe as well...however, I changed all the male pronouns Buechner used for God...the older…

How Did I Feel?

Thursday I wrote about the big meeting and one of the comments was, "How Did I Feel About It? or rather, how do I feel about it?

At the time, as I led the meeting I was not as calm and self-differentiated as I would have liked. But of course the meeting was all about me, how I am being perceived, how I am leading, what I am doing. Its hard to write about...not because I don't want to talk about failure on my part or mis-perceptions on their part. But because I don't want to be public with their emotions, their comments, and their feelings, which need to be respected and held between us.

So, without saying much more, I will aim to write about how I felt, how I feel. Like I said, I was not as calm and self-differentiated as I hoped to be. I imagined myself inviting them to speak, talking notes, and listening gracefully. I imagined myself taking a few moments to respond and share with them my take on the dynamics at play. All of that happened....just not calmly. My voice, I th…

Well Today...

So the BIG meeting today went well enough. It was fortuitous that I found an important back up document before the meeting - one that supports a great deal of what I have done and am doing - and reflects the initial support of this group - support which seems to have dissipated over the last two months. It has been very weird, these last two months.... The forgetfulness, the anger, the vitriol, the assumptions, the confusion...

The opportunity was offered today to clear the air. I hope that is what happened...I hope that what we said is what we will live into...

I guess time will tell.

Preparing the Spirit

A reflection on Proper 27A

I have a good friend who is always late for everything. Whenever my friend and I schedule a date to get together I plan to arrive 15 minutes to a half hour later because inevitably she will call and say she’s just leaving. Of course, occasionally she’s on time, which then makes me the late one!

At first brush, the Gospel story of the bridesmaids seems very critical of those who procrastinate and are late. Unusually harsh because the story says that none of them knows the day or the hour that the bridegroom will come. So, if you don’t know the day and the hour how are you supposed to know when to be ready? Under those conditions even the most conscientious of us could be late and unprepared.
Like many other stories in scripture this story raises more questions than it answers. It stands in sharp contrast to all the other places in the Bible that speak about grace, generosity, and hospitality. Since this Gospel reading seems incongruent with other pieces of scrip…

Back Home Again

This week I was blessed to spend two nights and two days at a retreat house north of where I live. In the mountains and the desert this retreat center is a place for silent comtemplation and centering prayer. I have to admit I was not perfect in my silence. My daughter called. My husband....on the cell phone. We only spoke for a moment to check in. It's not that being silent is difficult for me. It's not. But for this particular retreat I was unable to leave my life behind.

Even more distracting than the two brief phone calls, the chatter in my head. Some of it has been worked through and I have a clearer picture of where to take all this chatter. So, that's good.

On my retreat I spent some time drawing. I haven't put pencil to paper in ages. The first thing I did after I arrived and unpacked was draw two pictures, one with pastels, the other with charcoal. The next morning I took a long walk in the crisp morning air. The center has the stations of the cross built along …

History Made

Back in the primary he was not my first choice, but he was when I voted today... tonight I wept to see history made...thank God the voting was so decisive, thank God there is no doubt who we wanted....I have hope for the future....(and am glad I don't have to start packing)...

Desert House of Prayer: A Silent Retreat

Tomorrow, after a full morning of meetings (and some filled with "complaints") I will head off with a parishioner, who is also a Benedictine Spiritual Director, for a silent retreat. This woman invited me to go away for some time of silence, prayer, and renewal, and I am grateful. We are going here. I have purchased sketch paper, charcoal pencils, colored pencils that can also be water color pencils, and grapite pencils. I hope to draw. I hope to reconnect with that side of me that loves to connect with nature through drawing. I am not a good artist, but I am good enough....besides, drawing is like meditation for, I care less about the technique of my art.

I will be gone until Friday morning, giving me two nights and the better part of two days to slow down and rest.

Since life continues to be complicated at church with numerous dynamics at play (sigh)...I hope this time is not only restful but restorative....

Election Day

The first time I voted was in 1976. I was 19 years old and a junior in college and took my voting privileges seriously. I did my homework and voted for the candidate I thought would do the best job for our broken country. That election the candidates were Gerald Ford (R), and Jimmy Carter (D). My first Presidential election and I voted Republican even though I was (am) a die hard liberal. I voted for Ford because I liked him, but also because I did not trust Carter....I did not trust someone coming into the White House with a Christian agenda. It's the only time I have voted for a Republican Presidential candidate, although I have voted for Republican governors and green party officials if I like there policy stands.

Since 1976 I have voted in every election except one, 1984 Ronald Regan and Walter Mondale...and that was only because I could not get to the polls to vote...for some reason. Of all the times I've voted for President my vote has been cast for the winning candidate…

Ollie Update

Apparently all went well with Oliver (Ollie) for his first night in his new home. Our daughter said he played hard, seems to get the idea that he does his business outside, and is bonding with her. He likes to sit on her feet, bring pieces of his food to her, drop it at her feet, look at her, wag his tail, and then eat it.

Funny things about him: he's been an out door dog, on a cattle farm. Coming into a home was a new experience. He is afraid of mixed floor textures, such as her tile bathroom with bathmats. When he stepped from the tile to the rug, he turned around and ran out of the room. Carpeting was a little freaky to him. Stairs are impossible, he's only 6 weeks old and 11 pounds.

Thankfully he slept in his crate all night. He woke up once and wimpered, she put her hand in his crate and touched him and he went back to sleep. He woke her up at 5am to go outside and pee. yup. He can't always manage that, but in one day he's learned a lot.

The only issue, when she tr…

Taking a Break from the Celebrations....

Image say that Ollie is home. Our daughter picked him up today. She said he's doing great, played all night and finally crashed...

...on her slippers.

A Question of Anxiety, or the Way to Love?

A reflection on Matthew 22:34-46

One of my favorite television shows is found on the Discovery Channel from 6:00pm to 7:00pm Monday through Friday; it’s called Cash Cab. The premise of this show is a New York taxi driver who hosts a game show in his taxi.

The game show is simple to play. The host/driver asks the riders a series of general knowledge questions and the riders respond. Each time the contestant gives a correct answer they earn prize money. Each wrong answer is a strike against them. Three strikes and the cab ride is over, they have to get out of the cab immediately and they lose all their accrued prize money.

Once everyone agrees to the rules the cab starts the trip and the driver asks the first question. The first few questions are worth $25.00, then after awhile the prize money doubles to $50 and then the last few questions, if the riders get that far, are worth $100. I’ve seen people win over $1000 in just one cab ride. The questions are supposed to be general knowledge …

The Fist

One of the rare but chronic symptoms I experience under stress is a spasm in my chest. The spasm occurs in the proximity of my heart, but it isn't my heart. I've had it checked out. It is caused by a spasm in the intercostal muscles near my heart. These muscles are literally in the intercostal spaces between the ribs and attach at the sternum. When my stress is high, the kind of high stress that comes from a breaking heart, these muscles hurt. They twinge and spasm. You see I have what is called a Trigger Point in the muscle. Maybe the TP is in the pectoral muscle, not the intercostal, but who really cares? I know that the spasms are from a TP because I can feel it, and when I put steady pressure on it, the TP hurts with the same kind of pain of the spasm. But after a few minutes appling steady pressure on the TP the pain ceases.

And so do the spasms.

I think that when under stress my body tightens like a fist, angry and protective and preparing to protect. This is not always t…