Saturday, May 31, 2008

Another day, another game!

RevSS has tagged me to play a summer meme. Whoo hoo for summer, I say!

1.) What first tells you that Summer is here?
Well, in Chicago it was easy - the first hot and humid day. It usually happened in late May or early June. The temps would go from moderate to MUCK in a day. Hot and humid, dripping kind of weather. Here in the SW it has been summer like for months. But now I guess the real summer is about to hit. The forecast predicts 100+ temps for the next 10 days. heh...I just laugh when I see it. BRING IT ON! I say. Yes. I know it will be tiresome and I will grow to dislike the constant heat and need to use AC...but, it will never be as bad as that humidity. And it does cool off at night. And I have a pool.

So, I think what really tells me its summer is the ability to swim outside every day. That and the fact that I am using artificial tanners to look like I actually spend time in the sun. Which I do, but with major sunblock plus subtle color... The other thing that tells me its summer is the food we eat, grilling meat and fish, and making cold salads - pasta, potato, veggie and enjoying all of that outside with a chilled glass of white wine. Usually summer is having a slower pace with my kids and school. But not this year, our son is summer school so, on it goes. What tells me its summer is planning some vacation time and some time off from work. And, usually what tells me its summer is that my reading changes from church related books to fiction...but, haven't done that yet...hopefully I will soon! Anyway, I love summer.

2.) Name five of your favorite distinctively Summer habits or customs. Well, I've already started that list in my answer above: changing the rhythm of life by slowing down, spending more time outdoors, grilling foods, reading novels and fiction, taking vacation time - which sometimes for me is of the "stay-cation" variety. That's a new word I heard recently - people who stay home during their vacation time is a stay-cation.

3.) What is your favorite smell of Summer? Here in the desert the favorite smell of summer, (and although I've only been here 10 weeks I know it will be true) is rain. It rained a few weeks ago for one night and the fragrance was divine.

4.) What is your favorite taste of Summer? Oh gosh....a nice meal of grilled fish with grilled veggies and a chilled glass of good white wine. Or iced tea and dark chocolate in the late afternoon. Or an iced soy latte late on a hot morning...cold sweet watermelon...or peaches...fresh peaches...yum...or a good fruit salad, no pineapple please since I'm allergic....I guess I have too many to just list one.

5.) Favorite Summer memory?....pick two: I will always remember with great fondness the summers my kids and I spent together while I was in seminary. We lived "on the block" which is to say we lived in student housing. The seminary was across the street from Lake Michigan. And during the summers the kids and I were all off of school. So our days were long and lazy....most days we'd walk or ride our bikes to the beach and spend the day there, then come home late in the afternoon, exhausted. I loved the feeling of exhaustion from well spent energy (rather than stress). And I loved spending that time with my kids, so low key, relaxed, fun.

Another memory is of our trip from Chicago to SLC a few years ago. The kids and I drove, leaving my husband home because he had to work, and besides he could take care of the animals....the three of us had a great time driving across this vast country of ours and visiting friends and family along the way. It was awesome.

6.) Extreme heat or extreme cold? Which would you choose and why? I actually like both...although I only like the cold if I don't have to go out in it, if I can just bundle up and stay indoors drinking a hot beverage of some sort. I really hate being cold. So, perhaps I like extreme heat better - we'll see how I feel after this summer....

7.) What books do you plan to read for the season? I'm going to finish "Take this Bread," then I'm going to read, "Water for Elephants," by Sarah Gruen then "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, and then, "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" by Lisa See...all books that folks have lent me...after that, who knows?

8.) How does the Summer affect your faith? Is it a hindrance or an ally? Oh, summer is usually an ally for my faith. It gives me time to enter another pace of life and reflect in other ways. I am usually able to exercise better in the summer and that is good for my faith life too!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More bird stories

Yesterday, after the Cooper's Hawk caught breakfast, probably in my backyard, I continued to watch the birds at the feeders. They slowly returned and before long the feeders were filled with birds. They'd fly in to the feeders and then out and off. All of a sudden one small yellow finch flew into our sliding glass door. It lay on the ground, stunned. My cat was sooo excited and wanted out. My dog was glued to the screen. I moved the cat and dog and went out to check on the bird. It was lifeless. I felt so sad. Again, trying to feed birds had cost one it's life. So I used a small shovel and scooped it up and laid it under a tree behind my fence. When I went back to look a few minutes later the bird was gone. Gone. I have no idea where or how or why. Maybe I just couldn't find it under the tree. Maybe something took it. Maybe it flew off. Who knows.

Later I saw my cat and dog looking out the other screen door, the front door. This screen door is heavy duty, a security door. I wondered what the cat and dog were looking at. So I wandered over. Yes, you guessed it, a bird. I have no idea how this house wren ended up in the corner between our house and the screen door. But it didn't look good. I pulled the dog and cat inside the wood door hoping that the wren would fly away. Later, when we went out to walk the dogs we saw the wren, clearly dead, a few feet away from where I last saw it.

So peculiar, a day of life and death, of feeding and being fed, of saving life and giving up life, of hope and sadness. I am crafting my own response to the changes here. I am working with the staff to help them understand and be prepared for the questions and concerns they will get. Because the staff are all members of the parish, they will hear things. The staff is all on board and good to go. Then, when the vestry meets we will continue to craft a response, written if necessary.

No death today, just life....and hope.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Now, 92 and 50 miles per hour wind...

So last night my husband, son, and I had a lovely night. We went out for pizza and then came home and swam in our pool under the stars. We tried really hard to get the dogs in the pool - but no way! Still the rest of us had a really nice night. The water was wonderful and the moon was full, or mostly full. It was great.

We slept with our bedroom door open to the outside because we have a security screen with a deadbolt lock. It was a nice night for sleeping following a great night of family time.

Then today. Oh my. The temperature dropped a lot, 92 degrees. But it felt much cooler because of the wind. And I MEAN WIND! WOW. I think we had sustained winds of 20 or 30 miles an hour and frequent gusts of 50 miles per hour. The sky filled with dust. The mountains were obscurred. Breathing was awful. And the noise was relentless. A constant humming and clanking of wind through the house. My nerves were totally on edge. Weird.

Now at last the wind has died down, the air is cool, the crickets are chirpping. So much better. What a day.

Now. How was YOUR day?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Yesterday the temperature reached 101. We did not turn on the AC because I hate it. We sat outside in the shade and the breeze and hung out in out pool. Last night it cooled off nicely and we slept well. But today, since I spent the day in an AC office I suggested that my husband and son not suffer and turn on the AC if they wanted too. It is after all 104 outside. And, the windshield on my car cracked...I think from the heat...Yeah, it's hot. They say the entire month of June is usually in 100's. Guess I'll spend a lot of time in the pool...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

God Is More Mystery than Known...

A reflection on Genesis 1:1-2:2 for Trinity Sunday

I recently renewed my subscription to the NY Times, a paper I love to receive on Sunday and spend Monday, my day off reading. One of my favorite articles, found in the NY Times Magazine, is “On Language,” written by William Safire. Last Sunday he wrote a reflection on a new word that has come into common usuage, that word - “wackadoodle.”

Here is part of what Safire said, “In a friendly conversation with Bill Moyers of the Public Broadcasting Service….the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. noted that he had been ‘painted as some sort of fanatic’ and called a wackadoodle by someone he referred to in sarcasm as ‘the learned journalist from the New York Times.’ In …March…my columnist colleague Maureen Dowd…wrote, ‘Hillary got a boost from the wackadoodle Jeremiah Wright.’

Safire goes on to write, “In 1995, The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted a state legislator, David Heckler, saying that those wanting to repeal a firearms law were only a ‘few wackadoodles.’ In 2005, the Associated Press quoted a former prosecutor of Michael Jackson, ‘It may sound kind of wackadoodle, this is his world…a separate reality.’ The Dallas Morning News zapped ‘Tom Cruise’s wackadoodle public behavior.”

Safire then defines the word, “The adjective, growing in usage with about 9,000 Google hits, takes its first syllable from wacky – that is, ‘far-out, eccentric, off the wall’ possibly from ‘out of whack.’ The doodle ending has a four century etymology as ‘simpleton’ including the derogatory, ‘Yankoo Doodle.’

I have to admit that when I first read this article my thoughts jumped immediately to the Trinity and the complex nature of trying to explain to someone, Christian or not, what we mean by the Trinity - God in three persons. It is a challenging enough topic for us Christians who are familiar with the concept. For those not Christian I imagine they think it a bit wackadoodle. Certainly our understanding of God in three persons can seem a bit “far out,” “eccentric” or “off the wall” and trying to explain it turns the best of us into simpletons.

In the fourth century a huge debate was held amongst various Church leaders from around the world at a church council meeting in Nicea, a meeting that led eventually to the writing of the Nicene Creed. This highly charged and deeply political meeting, something we modern Christians know nothing about, set out to discuss the nature of Christ. Was he fully human? Was he fully divine? What is Christ’s relationship to God? And further more what is the Holy Spirit’s relationship to God and to Christ? What do all three, God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit have in common and what distinguishes them one from another? In some ways I imagine the council, as only we humans can do, belabored a point that Jesus himself would not have worried about.

I think this joke, shared by a colleague of mine, gets at the heart of the issue…

So one day Jesus was speaking to his disciples and he asked,

“Who do people say that I am?”

And his disciples answered, “Some say you are John the Baptist returned from the dead; others say Elijah, or some other of the old prophets.”

And Jesus said, “But whom do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said, "You are the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple."

In response Jesus said, "What?"

The very idea that as Christians we worship one God but that that God expresses God’s self through three distinct entities which are nonetheless united as one is so complex that in the end all we can really say is that God is more mystery than known.

God is more mystery than known. Genesis reminds us that God created all – water, air, earth, female, male, sky, moon, water…God created all and as such God is in all and of all. When we read scripture, all of scripture, we are reminded to be careful of the ways we humans yearn to limit God by claiming that God is one thing and not another. Genesis alone is filled with complex, often contradictory stories, of God and God’s relationship to creation, especially to humanity. The rest of the Bible continues in much the same vein of complex contradiction. God is more mystery than known….

Over the next year or more we are going to explore the mystery of God in a variety of ways. One way is how we experience God in worship. We are going to try a variety of things and see how they feel. We are looking for what excites us.

In worship this means that every season we will worship in a slightly different way. Now, before you panic let me assure you that the basic structure of our worship will not change. Some of you may hardly notice the changes. For example, we will still have an opening acclamation, but the words you and I say will change from season to season. So, instead of “Alleluia Christ is Risen!” which is the Easter acclamation we might say, “Blessed be the One Holy and Living God.” With the response, “And blessed be God’s kingdom now and forever, Amen.”

We will still have an opening hymn, but it won’t always be the Gloria. Instead it will be some other appropriate hymn of praise calling us to worship God. Gone for awhile will be the wonderful Collect for Purity, “Almighty God to you all hearts are open…”. If you

love that prayer I encourage you to pray it as you sit in your pew waiting for the service to begin. It is traditionally a prayer said before the service begins, a prayer of preparation.

We will still have the opening collect of the day, the scripture readings, a sequence hymn and sermon, the Nicene Creed and Prayers of the People. And, of course, the confession returns because the Season of Easter is over.

Beginning in June we’ll sing an Offertory Hymn and bring up the Offering during the final stanza. The Great Thanksgiving, or Eucharistic prayer, will also remain the same in structure but the words we pray will change. So, for the summer season after Pentecost we will prayer a Eucharistic prayer from Enriching Our Worship, an authorized resource for worship. Many of you will already know this prayer having prayed it in other settings. And as we begin the Eucharistic Prayer we will sing an opening response between priest and congregation, which Gerald is teaching us, that begins with, “The Lord be with you…”

As we worship together this summer be open to the process, knowing that in the fall our worship will change again, ever so slightly. Again the structure will remain but the various components and words will change. Through out the year listen carefully to the words we pray and think about the way they describe God and the various expressions of God as Christ and Holy Spirit, and the relationship we have to God.

Each season, Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentectost, will bring some nuance to our worship. The intent is to help us remember that we gather here to worship God and how God expresses God’s self in human life and history through Christ, through the Holy Spirit, and through us. Remember God is more mystery than known.

The most dramatic changes will be in the four seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter - for they are the most specific in their relationship to the life of Christ – the Incarnation, the Journey to the Cross, and the Resurrection. The rest of the year is known as Ordinary Time and the changes in worship will be less noticeable.

I invite you to this journey in worship. I invite you to be open to the rhythm and the prayers, to explore with an open sense of hospitality and generosity the vast amount of worship opportunities we are given in our Book of Common Prayer and the other authorized liturgical resources. At the end of each season the vestry and I will discuss how the worship has gone, what has worked well and what has not. Please feel free to share with me your impressions. Please feel free to call me directly for we are on a shared journey of exploration. But also understand that if there is something you don’t like it may be the very thing that some one else loves. You know Newton’s third law of Motion, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Which means that while I will listen to how you feel and honor your feelings, it may not change what we do. We are a church that determines who it is based on the consensus of the gathered community and not the voice of any one person.

With this invitation I encourage us to have an open and generous spirit as we explore our worship together. Let’s agree to try stuff, some of which we may decide is just too far out and wackadoodle, and some of which will be provocative, and some of which will be profound, but try it nonetheless - knowing that nothing is sealed in stone and everything is a work in progress. Having an open and generous spirit will also allow us to make room for God. When we try too hard to contain, structure, or limit, God we end up closing ourselves off to the very God who seeks to be with us.

In the beginning God created the world and all that is in it. Not only did God create but as Christians our scripture stories remind us that God continues to create. This means that God is always and forever seeking ways to speak to us. It means we are always and forever being asked to open ourselves to the ways in which God is still active in the world, and the ways God continues to choose to work in and through us. One of the primary ways God speaks to us and we listen is in worship. The collective experience of singing, praying, hearing and reflecting on Scripture and sharing in the Eucharistic meal are all ways we intentionally open ourselves to God. There are also ways God comes to us outside of worship, but that is reflection material for another sermon. Today it is enough to remember that God is a mystery that seeks to know and be known and yet is never fully understood.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Oh my's Friday...already...

What a week. Here is a photo montage of some of my week...

Janine wrote a wonderful reflection for the Feminist Theology blog. I've managed this blog for about 6 months, it is cosponsored by the Office of Women's Ministry through the Episcopal Church. You can read Janine's reflection here.

Cactus are still blooming - the desert is soooo beautiful.

The road runners were out yesterday running around my front yard trying to catch dinner...I think they managed to get about five of the baby quail (since they run through my yard and today there are about five fewer babies...sigh...sad...)...

my daughter and Ryan heading off to the black tie ball where he received several medals in honor of his time served in combat while deployed for 16 months to Afghanistan. They make a nice couple, don't you think? Oh, and then add to that, Ryan injured himself jumping out of a plane Thursday morning (he's 82nd airborne) and had to go to the hospital - has a concussion...and my daughter came home from the trip to NC for the ball with a sinus and ear infection...

And here are my god-daughters...(Baby Z and Little L)...5 months old today...remember that snowy night I spent in the hospital helping them be born? Hard to believe that five months later they are so beautiful and healthy and I live 1800 miles away...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Spirit of Generosity

The family arrived on a warm June day, a mother, grandmother, and five children ranging in ages from 17 to 3. As they scrambled off the van it was apparent just how tired they were. Some time ago this family had traveled from a refugee camp in Cameroon to Darfur, Sudan. There they caught a plane which flew them to Paris, France, and then to the United States. The littlest ones were teary-eyed and clingy, hanging on to the bone thin hand of the white haired grandmother. The mother and older children had that glazed look that comes from bone weary fatigue. This family, refugees from war torn Rwanda, were being placed by the local resettlement agency. A house had been acquired but renovations to ready the house for this family were still in progress. So for the next few days the family would live in the church.

The church had spare rooms not being used over the summer, rooms that had been hastily converted from Sunday school rooms into bedrooms and a living room. Downstairs was a full kitchen, and the bathrooms contained showers. The family would be comfortable, and have a relative degree of privacy, in their temporary home.

The afternoon of their arrival members of the church greeted the family and gave them a tour of the church. The family spoke no English, only a little French, and a native dialect of Rwanda. A translator, a former refugee from Rwanda and now an employee of this federally authorized local refugee resettlement agency, followed the tour, interpreting for the family. “Here is the kitchen. This is a gas oven. You light it this way. Be careful. Here are the pots and pans and dishes. Watch the children outside, do not let them run off the property, cars will zoom by fast, they could be hurt. There is food in the fridge, don’t eat the rabbits in the yard or the birds.” It was clear that this family was in a whole new world. Before the tour was over most of the family members had found and claimed a bed and fallen asleep.

Over the next week the family fell into a rhythm with the life of the parish. During office hours the family was usually still sleeping, their schedule being formed half way around the world several time zones apart. Later in the afternoon they would rise and begin their day. Slowly over the week their hours shifted. By Sunday they were able to worship with the Korean Methodist Church that shared the building with the Episcopal Congregation. It was an amazing sight, a Methodist service in Korean held in an American Episcopal Church attended by Rwandans in full African dress attire. A common language formed in the bond of worship even though the exact words of the service were not understood by the Rwandan’s or the Episcopalians who attended. At the lunch that followed a few members of both the Episcopal and Methodist congregations were able to speak with the family in sparse French. It seems French was a common language in the refugee camp and now a common language shared among this diverse group of Koreans, Americans, and Rwandans gathered for a meal.

Members of the church dropped by during the week to bring the kids some things to play with: soccer balls, used bikes, tennis rackets and balls, and sidewalk chalk. The kids were delighted and ran gleefully off to play. Laughter filled the air, another common language that knows no boundaries.

Six days after their arrival the house was ready and the family prepared to move out of the church. A large van arrived to take their few belongings, three suitcases for seven people. Plus seven beds with bed linens, two scooters, two bikes, and a few balls donated by the church. The sum total of their possessions.

Members of the church helped them pack up. As the family loaded the last of their things the daughter turned and offered the priest a gift, a small wooden picture with some strands of colored wheat and two coasters with psalms inscribed, gifts some nuns had helped them make in the refugee camp in Cameroon. A family with virtually nothing, and yet they came bearing gifts of gratitude. Thankfulness, another common language shared.

One parish member and his son drove the van and helped the family move into their house. With the family gone the church seemed quieter than ever. Lingering aromas from the fragrant meals remained, but otherwise all was quiet. The church learned a profound lesson that week, a lesson about giving, sharing, and living in an abundant yet simple way.

Despite all the differences of language, and culture, and food, and customs, a bond was formed. Regardless of the inability to really speak to one another the church members and the family members were able to communicate a shared compassion for one another and a common love of God. It was truly an experience of the Holy Spirit moving in and through them all.

Our reading today from Acts points us in this same direction. We hear that the disciples have all gathered in one place, people from all over the region, people all speaking different languages. And then a rush of wind, unlike ordinary wind, energized and firey as only the Holy Spirit can be, comes and fills them a sensation that changes them forever. Suddenly they have the ability to hear and understand one another. The room is electric. They stand confused, astonished, and conscious of what has happened, God was in that wind. What an awesome experience it must have been.

On this Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit. In his departure Jesus has let loose the Holy Spirit. The disciples describe this experience as a wind, as tongues of fire. Hildegard of Bingen has a slightly different way of describing the presence of the Holy Spirit. In this translation from Stephen Michell’s book, “The Enlightened Heart: An Anthology of Sacred Poetry” we hear her description:

Holy Spirit,
Giving life to all life,
Moving all creatures,
Root of all things,
Washing them clean,
Wiping out their mistakes,
Healing their wounds,
You are our true life,
Luminous, wonderful,
Awakening the heart
From its ancient sleep.

The presence of the Holy Spirit is given to us as a constant reminder that God is with us. The Holy Spirit comes not just to comfort us but also to change us, for the love of God will do that, change us from the inside out. Awaken us in new ways even when we do not understand how or why. Through the incarnation, in the person of Jesus, God teaches us that God intends to be active in the lives of human beings. In giving us the Holy Spirit Christ conveys the idea that God intends to work in and through us to bring forth the hopes and dreams of a living God. This God of ours continues to create in ways beyond our understanding.

So, whether you know the Holy Spirit as a firey breath of wind, or a presence that awakens your heart, or in becoming the familiar in a strange new land, Pentecost reminds us that the Holy Spirit is Christ’s gift to us. Given to us in baptism, honed by a life of faith, the Holy Spirit imbues us with gifts which are intended to be shared. Gifts of generosity and hospitality offered with God’s help. Our baptismal covenant reminds us that the acts of caring and sharing enable us to participate in God’s creative worldwide energy. With gratitude for the God who has given us life the Holy Spirit beacons us to open our hearts to the world around us, offering hospitality to those we meet, friend and stranger alike.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Consultant

I had my first phone conversation with the Consultant who I will call Mr. Fabulous (of Mr. Fab for short). I called because he lives about 1800 miles away. I called to set up our first "Official" phone meeting (which we scheduled for next week). In this initial phone conversation he invited me to give him some history. Well, I said, I've come from a small church to a large church. I've come from an all volunteer staff (or at least that's what it was for the last little while I worked there) and into a paid staff of 6 and a 8 volunteers. I've left a place where I was for 10 years and knew everyone to a place where I know no one...and I've been here 8 weeks.

None of that is the issue. The issue is something's some interpersonal stuff...the kind of stuff that happens all the time in church dynamics. And, while I understand it, I really want a third, un-related, entity to process with, for perspective. To keep ME healthy. To keep ME thinking clearly. Also, this is what he does for a living - consult clergy and churches on group dynamic, church staff dynamics.

We had a good first conversation. And I felt affirmed in the decisions I have made thus far. He asks good questions and will point me to think things through in ways I might not otherwise, in addition to helping me feel more confident. So. That will ease some of my stress.

Not a bad week thus far...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sunday...after a long week

Seems like every week is a long week these days. Not bad. (Well some of them have been bad, but not most of them). It's all part of the learning curve that comes with being new in an area and new to a parish community. Everything is new. And with that learning curve of newness comes a level of fatigue and some anxiety. The anxiety is mostly about not knowing people, so not knowing what is meant by one thing or another, and not knowing who the safe people are that I can speak to and trust that they will hold my questions in confidence and also answer truthfully.

There are a lot of weird dynamics going on. I can't really say what - but they are mostly interpersonal. I'm hiring a consultant - an unrelated church professional to talk things through with. And I'm reading a lot of books on this particular kind of leadership issue.

Yesterday I drove my son to the BIG BIG city to the north, a city that feels like where we came from, except for the mountains. It was a three hour drive, one way.

He hung out with a friend. I went to a restaurant and read and read. It was a working day for me. I read this book on the issues I'm facing and began to feel a little better. A little like I was beginning to have some creative ideas for approaching what is going on.

I also went to Barnes and Noble and bought poetry books. Actually I've been buying a lot of books lately. Good thing. The poetry books: Mary Oliver - "Red Bird"; Billy Collins, "Questions About Angels"; a poetry book edited by Billy Collins "Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, an anthology of Contemporary Poems"; and "Women in Praise of the Sacred" 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, edited by June Hirshfield.

I have not been home in days...between the trip north yesterday and two funerals this week and a busy church day today...I now face a full evening home with little to do. Except read the NY Times - which finally got delivered to my house.

I will also try to catch up on my blog friends - assuming my eyes don't give out and I really can read....

yes. the fatigue is such that I can't even read....just sit...

How to know what I don't know that I don't know....

What are the things that I don't know that I don't know? This is the primary question that Faithwalking asks each person to consid...