Thursday, December 31, 2009

More year in Photos

In no particular order, the animals this year...

Our dogs, Roxie the lab-mix and Ruby the Viszla


A lizard on our back wall

King Ollie, our daughter's dog waiting for her in the office of the barn

The ground squirrel family outside the wall of our backyard

Baby doves in the tree on the side of our house

The bobcat family that resided on the roof of the empty house across the street

Cardinal and dove at the bird feeder

Ollie snoozing in the back of daughters car, nose in her boot...what a goof.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Year In Photos

Here is a snapshot of my year:

A meet up with Diane in Feb. (or was it March)

A winter storm in Feb. that left snow on the mountains behind my house

A summer storm and rainbow

BE 2.0

A trip to the knitting store during the BE 2.0

A trip to the Grand Canyon with RevGals following the BE 2.0, in April

General Convention in LA, where I was a page in the House of Bishops

My God-daughters on their first sledding trip

A serious dust storm, Dec. 22

The sunset on Dec. 30

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sun and Sand

The winter sun in Arizona crosses the sky, from horizon to horizon, at a sharp angle. No longer directly overhead, blistering hot, the winter sun is nonetheless intense. Blinding rays blast relentlessly into car and house windows for hours as it crosses the southern sky, east to west. Visors are not made for this angle of blaring light. Closing curtains and blinds is mandatory to tolerate being in the house and avoid fading furniture and artwork. The Sonoran Desert offers some 340 days of sun.

Sand is another constant in the desert. Sand comprises most of the soil content, the ground is harsh to any but the most tolerant and hardy of growth. Cacti, shrub trees, some amazing flowering bushes. Sand is the color of the earth and homes. Sand refuses to absorb water, which runs off in dangerous currents until it finds some places to stop, or evaporate in the dry air. And when the wind blows, which it does every time the weather is changing - storms blowing in, change in temp. whatever, the wind howls up to 50 miles an hour. For a day or more. And of course the sand, because there is nothing to hold it in place, blows with that wind.

Sand blots out the mountains, obscures the sun, creeps into every crevice, layers clothes on closets, scratches windows, peels paint off of cars, and brings in illness and disease from whatever animal excrement lies in that sand.

A week ago we had horrible wind and terrible sand storm. While the Midwest was suffering from blizzard and snow we were suffering from wind and sand. Sadly this storm proved to be fatal. A 24 car pile up happened on the main highway between Tucson and Phoenix, a fiery fatal accident that took the lives of one adult and teen aged sister (17) and brother (14). The highway closed down for some 12 hours. And the next day, when I had to make that drive from Tucson to Phoenix, I was horrified to drive through the debris of burned black semi's and cars, melted together, so intense was the fire.

I think often, and pray, for that family who lost their daughter and son two days before Christmas. Who lost them in such devastation. I don't know who the adult was, I think the semi driver...that person too, I pray for.

The photo on my header was taken that day, the day that wind and sand obscured the sun. A reminder that the very things that are normal to life here in the desert are also the very things that take life.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Prayer for Sunday, Christmas I

Holy One
Growing in wisdom
Teach us your ways
That we may love as you

Eternal One
Bless leaders of every
city, nation, world
with your wisdom and grace

Gracious One
Heal those who suffer
Mend the broken
Fill the empty, tend the ill

Lover of Souls
forgive our weaknesses
Bring forth your strength
in us, through you, with us

Holy Teacher
help us to know your ways
may all we say -
all we do - be for you

Crossposted on the RevGalBlogPal blog and RevGalPrayerPals blog

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Vision of Love: A Christmas Homily

The scene opens with Jack, a high powered wealthy business man, preparing to buy out another company, on Christmas Eve. He insists that all of his employees stay and work late, and then come in and work again on Christmas Day. Family time for the holiday does not matter. Jack is fully in control, and gives the impression of a man who thinks his life is perfect.

The next scene: a few hours later Jack is in a convenience store when he encounters what looks like a potential armed robbery. He intervenes by offering the thief $200 dollars to leave the store, and after some haggling the two of them walk out together. As they wander down the street Jack continues to offer help to the thief, ideas and suggestions for changing his life. The thief is amused that Jack is trying to help him. At one point the thief says, “Wow, ok, you want to save ME, that’s incredible. Alright then, just remember, you brought this on yourself.” That’s when we, the audience watching this movie, get our first clue that this thief is not who he appears.

The next morning, Christmas morning, Jack, wakes up in a room, in a bed, he does not know, with a woman he knew 13 years earlier, a woman who is now, apparently, his wife. And instead of a high rise apartment in New York he is in a house in New Jersey, a married man with two kids and a dog, and a beat up minivan instead of a Ferrari. Understandably Jack is stunned, confused, speechless. And despite the fact that it is Christmas morning and family is arriving to open gifts, Jack bolts out of the house and drives into Manhattan, in a futile effort to find his life again. After a series of events that tell Jack that the life he knew is gone, or never happened, he then encounters the thief again, this time driving Jack’s Ferrari. It turns out the man, played by the actor Don Cheadle, is not a thief, but an angel. And Jack, played by Nicholas Cage, is about to learn that his perfect life was not so perfect.

Over the next scenes Jack begins to realize what is really missing from the life he led as a powerful business man. At first it is a struggle, he misses the fine restaurants and clothes, the luxury of his “former” life. But he also comes to realize the deep emptiness within him, from a life without love. Eventually the movie returns Jack to his old life, back to Christmas Day and the corporate buy out he was completing. Only now he has a vision of what his life could be like. He no longer wants to live for wealth alone, he wants to live for love. His vision of life has been transformed, and now he yearns for nothing more than to find that love and live the life of his vision.

This time of year is filled with movies like this one, The Family Man, or It’s a Wonderful Life; movies and stories about the transformational power of love. Each story contains a pivotal moment when we see the main character transformed.
On this night we celebrate the pivotal moment in our salvation history, the Incarnation. The birth of God into human flesh is for us the most important act of love that God offers humanity. The incarnation is the pivotal moment in the Christian story of salvation – God’s love in human form – defines for us who we are and what we are to do.

It is the birth of God in human form that shows us a vision of the life God desires for us. It is the birth that leads to the death that culminates in the ultimate sign of love, the new life, the resurrection. The birth is the event that brings God’s love to us in tangible human relationship.

In the Gospel of Matthew there is a crucial argument that takes place between Jesus and Pharisees. Well, most of Matthew is an argument between the Pharisees and Jesus – but this one question changes everything. The Pharisees ask Jesus which commandment is the greatest. Now, it is helpful if we remember that in scripture there are not just the 10 well known commandments, but 613 commandments that God gives to Israel. 613 rules for living in right relationship with God. The Pharisees ask this question of Jesus, but it is a trick question, because what ever one commandment Jesus chooses they will argue for another – well, what about this one, or that one?

Jesus, showing his brilliant understanding of God and what God is doing in the world, offers the one answer the Pharisees cannot argue against. He says, “The greatest commandment is this, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, your mind, your soul, and your strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On this hang all the law and the prophets.”

Love God, love self, love neighbor. From the incarnation and the life that Jesus lives, we have a vision of the depth of God’s love for creation, for us. Not just a vision, but a real experience of love, of being loved and of offering love in return. Tonight we celebrate a simple humble love born in a human baby to a human family -not to grandeur, power, and wealth, but under the most modest of circumstances.

Simple, and yet, it’s the only love that can comfort us in our deepest sorrow. It’s a compassionate love that fills us with peace even during our darkest moment. It’s a merciful love that sees into every kind of difference between us and shows us what we have in common. It’s a grace-filled love that laughs with us and celebrates our joys. It’s the love of a friend, a parent, a companion, a colleague, a stranger. It’s the kind of love that transforms every face into the face of Christ, every hand into the hand of Christ, every heart into his heart – mine, yours, theirs, ours. It’s the kind of love that mends brokenness, heals wounds, restores wholeness, even when the possibility of such a love is just a glimmer of light, a star in the dark night sky.

That’s the vision that God offers us in the incarnation. The potential of what could be if we let the vision take hold of us and guide our lives. That’s the vision that comes to us anew this night. That’s the hope God offers us for our lives and our world, simple, humble, yet all encompassing love.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Morning Booooondt Cake Recipes

I got these recipes off the Internet and adapted them. I used a layered star bundt cake pan instead of the usual pan. I made two cranberry orange cakes with cranberry orange glaze, two cranberry spice cakes, one pumpkin apple cake, and one carrot raisin cake.

Cranberry Orange Bundt Cake

1-1/2 c whole wheat flour
1-1/2 c white flour
2/3 c butter, softened to room temp
1-3/4 c sugar
1-1/2 c plain low fat yogurt
1-1/2 c cranberries, blanched in 3/4 c water with 1/2 c of sugar
grated peel from one orange

Glaze: 1 c sifted powered sugar, remaining water from blanched cranberries, 1/4 of orange peel.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Blanche cranberries in 3/4 cup of boiling water and 1/2 c of the sugar, boil just long enough for cranberries to begin to "pop." Set aside to cool.

Spray bundt pan with Pam or other spray on oil then flour.

Sift together flour and soda, set aside.

In another bowl (or Kitchen Aide) beat butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and 3/4 of grated orange peel. (reserve remaining orange peel for glaze) Beat until fluffy. On low speed slowly add flour mixture alternating with yogurt, beat until just blended. Drain cranberries, reserving liquid. Add cranberries, save liquid for the glaze.

Bake 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees. Tip over on a rack, remove pan, and cool. When cool mix sifted powdered sugar stir in enough cranberry liquid to make a glaze consistency, add remaining orange peel. When cake is cool dribble glaze over cake. Store in a 2 gallon zip lock bag.

Pumpkin Apple Christmas Bundt Cake

3-1/2 c flour (or split 1/2 and 1/2 white with whole wheat)
1 Tbl baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/2 tsp salt
1 c butter, softened
1 c granulated sugar
1 c dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 c chopped apple (I used a peeled granny smith)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour bundt pan.

Combine in a mixing bowl or Kitchen Aide, butter, sugars, eggs, pumpkin mix. Add and mix well - flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices. Stir in chopped apple. Spoon into greased and floured bundt pan, bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.

When cool, glaze with: 1 c sifted powder sugar, grated rind of one orange, juice of orange to thin powder sugar to glazing consistency - approx. 4 tbls per c of sugar.

Carrot Bundt Cake

Soak 1 c raisins in 1/2 c boiling water.

1-1/4 c canola oil
1 c granulated sugar
1 c dark brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 teasp vanilla
2 c grated carrot

1-1/4 c whole wheat flour
1-1/4 c all purposed unbleached white flour
2 teasp baking powder
1-1/2 teasp cinnamon
1 teasp baking soda
drain and add raisins

pour into greased and floured bundt pan, bake 60 minutes at 350 degrees. Turn over pan on rack, cool.

1 8 ounce package of cream cheese softened
1 Tbl butter softened
1 Tbl orance juice
1 tsp vanilla
I tabl grated orange peel
1-1/2 c sifted powdered sugar

mix glaze ingredients and dribble over cooled cake.

OK. There you have it, the recipes for three of the four cakes. The fourth one I didn't add orange but instead used cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg and vanilla to taste.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday Morning Musings

For all intents and purposes Advent is over and now we head straight into Christmas. On mornings when my husband is home he turns on the TV and we watch the TodayShow. This morning they are offering Gift ideas, quick simple board games. My shopping is mostly finished, just one or two very small things for my son...So on this Monday after Advent and before Christmas I am musing about:

The scarves I knitted, the one I will finish today, and the two I never got too. Also that pair of small socks that I never finished because they were too small and I kept making mistakes. Back to those later.

The Christmas bundt cakes I want to make for the folks I work with at Back in the Saddle Church. (Whole wheat yogurt cranberry orange - really delicious). And the carrot bundt cake I want to make for our Christmas morning. My son loves carrot cake, this will be a rendition of that, in breakfast cake style.

The sermon I have to write for the 6pm Christmas Eve service...

and the massage I will have at noon today.

That's what's on my mind this morning, what about your day? your week?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

God of Love, Come forth for us
May our Lives magnify you

Surprise Us, shower favor
On all your people, me, you

Have mercy on the needy
Tonight, each day, always

Mighty One, heal the broken
heal us to be your hands, heart

Bless our lives that we can be
a sign of your heart, your hope

God of Love, startle us
with new life, heart rejoicing

Savior God, Come forth for us
May our lives magnify you.


I offer prayers this morning for my friends, near and far, who are suffering, who have been abandoned by the Church or by human love, and for all who are in particular need this day. May God's love embrace us all in new ways, with new life and hope.

Crossposted on the RevGal Prayer Pal blog and the RevGalBlogPals blog.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bearing Worthy Fruit

A reflection the propers for Advent 3C: Luke 3:7-18

A few days ago I decided to make chocolate chip cookies, a double batch. And while the butter softened in the afternoon sun that streamed in the kitchen window, I took my dogs for a walk. It was a clear, crisp, sunny day, following that winter storm that packed near hurricane strength winds. Debris still littered the streets, branches and shriveled cacti, and streams of mud. I plugged in my iPod, popped in the earphones, leashed up the dogs and walked out the front door. There I encountered the roar of an engine. Even through the music and the headphones, I could hear it, a border patrol helicopter. Looking to my left I saw it, almost close enough to see the pilot. The helicopter was making a small circle around an area about block from where I stood.

With a deep sigh I headed off on my walk, the hum of the helicopter vibrating through my headphones. By the time I returned home however the copter was gone. So, too, probably whoever they were looking for. Although this is common around here it still gives me pause to think and wonder, sadly, about whomever it is they are looking for.

Now I have no idea where you all stand on the border issue. I know some folks who easily say, “They’re illegal, and breaking the law, so just shoot ‘em.” I find that a little extreme. I know other people who leave water jugs in the desert along known pathways, and people who cross over the border to help bandage the feet of those returned. I know the border patrol is doing what it is supposed to do and some of that includes tracking down violent drug cartels and the illegal smuggling of human beings. But sometimes it just a desperate person doing a foolish thing in an effort to try and make a living. And it is that person my heart aches for.

It’s a person like this who became the catalyst for the creation of Just Coffee, which we were selling here last Sunday. Ten years ago Eduardo left his home in Chiapas after Hurricane Mitch which followed on the heels of the dramatic fall in coffee and corn prices, all of which undermined the financial structure of his community.

Eduardo migrated 2000 miles north, from Guatemala to Agua Pietra where he found a job in a factory and joined the Lily of the Valley Presbyterian Church. Not long afterward Eduardo was offered a better paying job at a golf course in Phoenix and on Oct. 4, 1999 he migrated, illegally over the border. The journey was arduous, Eduardo fell, injured his knee and was caught by the Border Patrol. He was sent back to Mexico where the members of his church cared for him as he healed. A broken man in many ways, he helped his Pastor understand the pain that the coffee growers experience when they are unable to make a living wage and have to leave their land. The pastor, collaborating with an Episcopal priest in Douglas, AZ, along with their parishioners, began the process to establish Just Coffee, a co-op based in Chiapas and Agua Pietra.

Generally speaking the grocery store coffee is manufactured by companies who pay the coffee growers a substandard wage. As a result many coffee growers around the world have taken to selling their land or finding other ways to supplement their income, usually illegal means. Just Coffee offers an alternative – the families who join the co-op work together to grow, transport, roast, package, and ship the coffee. The proceeds go back to the families in the co-op providing a living wage profit. Think about it – for the price of a bag of coffee you are helping families stay together, support a community of people to earn a living wage, and reduce illegal border crossing. That’s the gift of Just Coffee, but it is also the gift of buying any Fair Trade merchandise, be it coffee or jewelry or pottery. In this season of gift buying Fair Trade offers us a way to give in more ways than one. And it’s possible that if we all bought Fair Trade more often we could shift the global economy and reduce poverty around the world. Now that is a radical thought.

Being radical is exactly what John the Baptist is calling us to do – think and act in radical ways – ways that will change the world. John is harsh, wild, critical - he calls his own followers a brood a vipers - and proclaims the end of the world with the coming of the Messiah.

But ultimately the Gospel of Luke seems interested in something else – not so much the destruction of the world but rather the transformation of the world. In pointing us toward Jesus Luke is pointing us in the direction God would have us go – a direction that is focused more on transformation of ourselves and our world than on condemnation of our selves, of others, and of our world. Luke wants us to see that in the coming of Christ God is calling us all to a new way of life – a life that asks us to love in very profound ways, life changing ways. It seems that John in the Gospel of Luke is pointing the way to a new social pattern, one that will change the entire world – entire communities built upon the premise that God is calling us to love more deeply than we can possibly imagine – to “bear fruits worthy of repentance”…

We might wonder what it means to bear fruits worthy of repentance. Certainly the people listing to John did and asked him, “What shall we do?” John’s response was direct and specific: if you earn a living don’t earn more than you deserve, if you own things don’t own more than you really need, share with others, and lastly, while John calls it extortion, we might think of it as allowing ignorance to protect us from recognizing the consequences of our actions. For example, what are we buying and who is benefiting from those purchases? The latest collapse of our economy is indicative of what happens when ignorance and greed prevail over compassion. Perhaps ignorance, greed, and lack of compassion are the chaff in our society that needs to be burned in an unquenchable fire.

I recognize that I am blessed. I have a house and the resources which enable me to make chocolate chip cookies and own an iPod. It might be easy for me to live in my own little world and ignore what is happening in my own backyard. But John won't let me. He names our chaff, calls us out of ignorance propels us to self awareness and from awareness into action.

In our confession each Sunday we ask to be forgiven for things known and unknown. I know that there are things I do that unintentionally cause harm. It’s startling to think that it can be as simple as the brand of coffee I drink. Transforming the world into what God desires includes becoming self aware, choosing not to live in ignorance, and repentance.

So, burning the chaff by asking for forgiveness of things known and unknown, is one step in the process of transforming this world into that which God desires. Repentance, changing our behavior is the next step. Bearing the fruit of repentance is the third step and it requires us to take action to change not just ourselves but the world around us. For me, one simple action is coffee. Perhaps for you it is something else. But if we all take steps to become aware, repent, and take action together we can follow the cry of John the Baptist, bear fruit worthy of repentance, and rejoice!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Napping Puppy

Yes, this is Mr. Ollie, napping in the back of our daughter's car, nose in her boot.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Silence After the Storm

Yesterday, as the wind blew in southern Arizona, I drove from the southern end of the state to midsection and back, some six hours of driving. In the early part of the day the southern section had sustained winds around 25 miles an hour with gusts up to 50, the midsection had pouring rain. I have not seen rain like that since we moved here. Last night we tried to sleep, but as our bedroom is on the corner of the house, nearest the arroyo (canyon) and open to the southwest, the wind raged, no idea at what speeds, and everything shook. There is damage outside. Grapefruit trees blown over, hibiscus trees knocked down, the pool full of debris. But no broken windows. And, now, silence.

There have been lots of storms raging these days, in the lives of people I know, my own life too. Humans can inflict such violence, verbally, physically, and psychologically, against one another. Often the infliction is nothing more than a person lashing out of their own hurt, inflicting pain on others, as a way to ameliorate their own. You know the parable of the unforgiving servant, found in Matthew 18? The one who pleaded for mercy and then failed to have mercy for others? Of course the parable reminds us that mercy is the better response, lashing out of our pain and our anger and our fear, to hurt others, will never actually end our own pain.

I am currently leading a Bible study on the Gospel of Luke. Our focus last week and this week is on the parables. We are using an "African" bible study method to consider a few parables. This method is a spiritual reflection, like an Ignatian approach. We choose one parable. Someone reads the parable while the rest listen for what word or phrase stands out. What word or phrase causes your heart to flutter, your spirit to say, "What?" or "wow!" or "What does that mean?". Then we share the word or phrase with the group. Another person reads the parable again, this time from a different interpretation - different voice, different interpretation, another way of hearing the parable. This time we are listening for what the Spirit is saying to us right now, how is the parable speaking to us in our lives at this moment? Then we share that and a discussion ensues. The parable is read a third time, another person and another interpretation, listening for where the Spirit is leading us as we go forward. We used the parable of the sower and the seed in Luke. Much of our reflection last week focused on looking inward instead of on others.

The work we need to do is internal, not external, focusing on the self and how we can each become more faithful, closer to God, kinder people, and not on the failures of others. It seems to me that this is often what happens when the storm has quieted, after so much hurt has been hurled around, suddenly the quiet comes, and with it a moment to look inward. What have I done?

Some folks, I imagine, never actually do this. Not during the storm, nor after. Some folks just feel satisfied, justified, like the hurting was fair and goal accomplished, regardless of the fall out all around.

But God calls us to something else. God calls us to self-awareness, to love and mercy. Even in the midst of the storm, but if all else fails, at least in the calm that follows. To do as God does, love with compassion.

We are nearly at the middle of Advent. As always the season flies by. Time remains though, to ponder the ways we are hurting this Advent season, and also the ways we hurt others. We all do. And then make adjustments, turn and return to God. Ponder and pray, and wait. God is coming again, making all things new.

Friday, December 04, 2009

RevGals Friday Five: Do Nothing Meme

Sally over at RevGals offers this Friday Five:

I am reading a wonderful little book for Advent it's title: "Do nothing Christmas is Coming!"

So this weeks Friday Five is simple.

List Five things you won't be doing to prepare for Christmas.

And while you are doing nothing play the bonus, put your feet up and listen to your favourite Advent Carol, and post it or a link to it...

1. ....putting up a real Christmas Tree. Not in Arizona. I hear they dry up nice and crispy and cost about twice as much as any where, artificial it is. Now, how to get that wonderful pine fragrance?

2. ....going on a shopping frenzy to buy gifts. I will buy gifts, but slowly...and only a few.

3. ....traveling (well, maybe I will, but no plans to do this, yet)

4. ....making Christmas cookies? Well, I may do this too, but no plans yet...

5. ....decorating the house...probably will be skimpy on this too. We are beginning to pack for a move, seems silly to pull all that stuff out at this time.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Advent Virtual Retreat

A meditation on the readings for Advent 2C for the RevGalBlogPals Virtual Advent Retreat:

Entering the Advent journey is an invitation to travel, intentionally, into the wilderness – the dark night of the soul. One hopes that the Church guides this journey offering opportunities to pray, ponder, stirred up, conflicted. John, the desert prophet, proclaims the burning chaff, the background to our Christmas shopping. Advent sings of incongruous images - new birth and end of life, the Alpha and the Omega, of oppression and freedom, of despair and ultimately of hope. The path is uneven and twisted, spiraling in to the depths of our being, certain we are lost. And then, quietly, the Spirit of God calls to us, “Awake, arise, my love, my dear one.” The early morning desert sun illuminates the way - through the valley to Jordan’s bank - our God is near. Awake and hearken, let each heart prepare a place for the Word to break in, a child to come anew, whispering peace into you and me. Come, our long expected One, come.

Within in our darkest night
A starless chill
Calling, “Emmanuel
Oh where, are you?”

Within our deepest soul
Astounding one
Cries in the wilderness
the way of the Lord!”

Within our darkest night
A still small spark
Hark! The glad sound calls out
Awake!” Jerusalem

Rise up and give walk in light
from darkest night -
Our Daystar comes, the night

Dispelled, every valley filled,
mountain low, the rough made
A light, a light bathes bright

Discard the garment, sorrow
Arise! Put on the robe
with love and mercy

Photos from the personal collection of Mompriest

Cross posted at the RevGalBlogPals blog.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Most gracious God, by whose knowledge the depths are broken up and the clouds drop down the dew: We yield thee hearty thanks and praise for the return of seedtime and harvest, for the increase of the ground and the gathering in of its fruits, and for all the other blessings of thy merciful providence...And, we beseech thee to give us a just sense of these great mercies, such as may appear in our lives by a humble, holy, obedient waling before thee all our days....Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, page840)

Wishing everyone a blessed day of Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


The light slants from the south
casting shadows in its wake
startling the afternoon
- a breath of brilliance
before the final
sigh -
and the sun falls
into darkness

Daylight comes late and leaves early
dark more than light,
and yet,
busyness takes over
calling out You must!

while inside
my soul whispers
be still
for just a
be still.

It's Coming Around Advent

Endless indigo
beckoning inward
dark night, soul

another dawn
anticipate warmth
new light life

Wait, pause
Slow down, take time
let the moment

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Finding Beauty in a Broken World

I am trying to prepare the discussion for this book, which will appear on the RevGals blog on Monday. I have over three pages of quotes....

and a sermon I wrote about refugees from Rwanda and preached on Pentecost 2008.

Here are a few quotes from the book:

Page 264: It is so easy to spiral into fear toward paranoia. We become the terror that possess us.
Page 253 Compromise is fine on anything that is not essential, but you cannot compromise your principles. You cannot compromise the dream or the dream dies, and you suffer spiritually.

Page 249: The full range of emotion: A bag of skulls, a bag of potatoes, both tilled from the same fields.

Page 248: I I hear William Coffin’s voice: “The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love.”

Page 228: If you do violence to me, you do violence to yourself because we are all human beings.

Page 167: I close my eyes. Two images emerge: one man spitting on the prairie dog on the side of the road and Sarah pressing her lips against the dying prairie dog baby’s lips as she gave him mouth to mouth resuscitation.

Page 155 Never postpone gratitude. Ingratitude robs of enthusiasm. Albert Schweitzer

Page 88: If you take away all the prairie dogs, there will be no one to cry for the rain.

Page 18: I believe in the beauty of all things broken.

Page 6: A mosaic is a conversation between what is broken.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Mullygrubs: A RevGals Friday Five (LOL)

The Cure

Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I'm not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she's just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it's snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn't been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She's been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn't do it, put on a red dress.

--Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)

So this Friday before Thanksgiving, think about Aunt Bert and how she'll celebrate Thanksgiving! And how about YOU?

1. What is your cure for the "mulleygrubs"? If I wake up with a strong case of them, which I have prone to do, Strong coffee followed by my exercise routine (ab work and arm weights) followed by yoga followed by a vigorous bike ride followed by a shower. Then I make myself get dressed in something other than sweats and I put on make up. After all of that I take myself out to eat. In other words I get moving.

However, on other days I indulge in those mullygrubs and drink coffee for hours while readin blogs, in my yoga attire, AS IF I were going to do the above...

2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving? For over a month we have been planning to go to a friends house. They came to our house for last year and so we are going to their house this year. However now our son is staying with some friends in the 5th largest city in the USA and they want us to come for Thanksgiving. What to do? What to do? Break out plans with our friends here in order to be with our son there? (which would include 6 hours of driving and my husband works the day before and the day after Thanksgiving)...sigh....unresolved at this point in time...

3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family? We will have the traditional Turkey with mashed potatoes and gravey, salad, green bean cassarole, pumpking pie...I am to bring some other kind of dessert and am thinking a homemade apple pie. But I also have a ton of lemons picked off our lemon tree and am wondering if I could use those in some way? Unresolved at this point in time...

4. How do you feel about Thanksgiving as a holiday? I like it. I like to get up and watch the parade, prepare the meal (Usually I have been the hostess), eat a lot, enjoy some good wine, and then collapse at the end of the day when everyone has gone home and watch an old Christmas movie. The next day I like to go to a movie and put up my Christmas tree.

5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for? Lots of challenges lately in my life and in the lives of my family. Grateful we all keep going.

BONUS: Describe Aunt Bert's Thanksgiving.I suspect her thanksgiving would include a house decorated in vibrant reds and oranges. The food would be traditional except for a fancy homemade cranberry sauce and an unusual sweet potatoe dish. My mother used to make a different sweet potatoe dish every year. One year she mashed the sweet potatoes and added brown sugar and cinnamon, then formed the mashed sweet potatoes into a ball around a marshmellow and rolled the ball in corn flakes, then baked them until the marshmellow was melted. I don't remember if I liked them, but I do remember them.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Prayer by Gertrude of Helfa

Lord, in the presence of your love, I ask that you unite my work with your great work, and bring it to fulfillment. Just as a drop of water, poured into a river, becomes one with the flowing waters, so may all I do become part of all that you do. So that those with whom I live and work may also be drawn to you love.

Gertrude of Helfa, Germany, 1256-c.1302

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Is It Wrong?

This morning I am drinking my coffee from a large mug decorated with a couple of snowmen, Christmas tree lights, and snow flakes. The temperature outside is probably 50 degrees at 8:30am, but before long it will a sunny 79 degrees. November and December find me yearning for chilly weather, snow, even some cloudy sky days. Is it wrong?

When I was in Chicago a few weeks ago I delighted in the chilly overcast days. I sat in a Sweet Tomatoe's restaurant drinking coffee with a friend and my daughter and happened to mention this. They, those who have more overcast days than they like, just rolled their eyes. I found however that the cloudy day was easy on my eyes and I appreciated the comfort of wearing a sweater and jeans.

There is a part of me that misses those wintery days when a blizzard locks you indoors. There is a part of me that simply cannot imagine putting up a Christmas Tree when it's sunny and 70 degrees.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Gathering Of Leaders: Christian Formation for the Missionary Church

The highlight for me of the Gathering of Leaders was a presentation offered by The Rev. Dr. Christopher Beeley, professor at Yale Divinity School (in Patristics, I believe). Christopher spoke from The Works of John Newton, "Grace in the Ear" from the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Mark (the parable of the Sower), letter XI. John Newton is the author of the hymn known as "Amazing Grace." He was a ship owner and slave trader before becoming a priest in the Church of England. He went through a mighty conversion, worked to end the slave trade and spent his last years as Rector of united parishes of St. Mary Woolnoth and St. Mary Woolchurch in London.

Beeley focused his presentation on a three step process of faith formation offered by Newton and developed from a reflection of Newton's on the parable of the sower. The first step is "Desire." A person wanders into a church one Sunday morning because....and we were asked to offer up a variety of reasons a person might wander in and HOW they would feel. A person might feel "elation" and "joy" or "relief." The sense of desire propels one into church with a sudden surge of awareness of God's grace and love. This first phase is like the Hebrews freed from Egypt, it brings with it a sense of elation. While the sense of desire and God's love persist they also change with time leading to the second phase.

The second phase is "Conflict." This is the "dark night of the soul" phase where one wrestles with God, with faith,and often faces challenges that were not experienced in the first phase of Desire. If Desire is marked by elation like that of the Hebrew freed from slavery, this phase is marked by a sense of being lost, the Hebrews wandering in the desert for 40 years. One might think upon entering the phase of Desire that all one's problems are over, but in fact, they may just be beginning. This is a time of growing more dependent on God and deepening our trust as we travel through one challenge after another.

The second phase leads to the third phase. Newton is careful to spell out that one is not necessarily a better believer or person in one phase or the other, rather one's sense of dependence on God increases through each phase. To me this phase sounds a bit like what the Buddhists call "Detachment." This phase is marked by a shift in emotions where one becomes less emotionally engaged in the challenges and more able to view them with some distance, having put one's trust in God.

For more information on The Works of John Newton go here. You will find his ideas on these three phases beginning on page 171, "Grace in the Blade."

Our group felt strongly that these phases, A, B, and C were not linear but perhaps a spiral that repeats over and over through life.

The point of Beeley's presentation was to spur a conversation and our thoughts on how to provide Christian Formtion programs in our churches that address where folks are along the spectrum of these three phases. What kind of programming and or ministries can we offer those who are in the state of "Desire" - thinking more clearly about what newcomers might really need? And then what kind of ministries and programs can we offer to those in the "Conflict" phase or the third phase of "Contempltion?"

It left me thinking about how individuals go through these phases, but I also, I think congregations do too. Some congregations are mostly in one phase or another at any given point in their life....and if so what does that mean for leaders? More on this idea later.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Friday the 13th Friday Five

From Sophia over at Revgals comes this Friday Five:

1. How is this Friday the 13th looking for you? It's is a rare cloudy, blustery day here with hints of rain, although that won't happen...a few sprinkles, maybe. It's a day off for me and my husband, but no plans yet.

2. Have you ever had anything unlucky happen on Friday the 13th? I suppose one could say that I've had lots of "unlucky" things happen in my life - but I don't think any of them are related in any way what so ever with the 13th of the month falling on a Friday.

3. Did your family of origin embrace or scorn superstitions? Not really. I had a great grandmother who was a Christian Scientist, and she had a deep belief in the power of prayer. My mother had no belief in prayer. This despite her deep love and affection for the grandmother. So, I suppose I could say that prayer was embraced by some of my family and scorned by others. And, so for some, prayer was like a superstition.

4. Are there any unique or amusing ones from your family, region, or ethnic background? No, none I can think of.

5. Do you love or hate horror movies like "Friday the 13th"? Hate.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Gathering Of Leaders Part 3

The Gathering of Leaders conference focused on what it means to be a Misional church. Much of the initial conversation is now old news for those of us who have been doing church for a number of years, but later on the conversation deepened. We began with the typical questions a church must ask of itself: "Who are you?" and "Where are you going?" and, "What do I/we need to put aside in order to be who it is that God intends for me/us to be and to go where God intends for me/us to go?"

I have found that churches may look at these questions but many do not take the time to consider them and answer them with depth and insight. To do this a parish needs to understand how to pray and discern corporately as well as individually. As clergy and lay leaders our role in this process is to build trust with the congregation and discerning group from which the discerning work can take place. The leadership needs to also take care of all pressing needs - whatever those may be. A common phrase used in this conference to guide clergy in new calls, "Don't move it, dust it." In other words don't change too much, just clean it up a bit.

The next thing we discussed was the need to build a common language. Church folk often presume that people new to the church know the language, or that they should know it. How can we be intentional to make sure our language is clear: narthex, sanctuary, Lord's Prayer - traditional or contemporary (You mean there are two versions?), and so on.

Ultimately we decided that the Missional process requires intentionality. It matters less what that is specifically, rather it matters that a church have an intentional process for articulating and living into its mission. What is the character/nature of the parish? Help people know who the church is, what the church "does" and how each person can be a part of it. I think that is the most critical - "how can I be a part of this?" No secret entrance process, clear ways in. Give new members parish mentors then move that new member into becoming the mentor for the next new member and so on. Create professional formation, don't be lazy or haphazard, tell the parish story, the Christian story, and teach a common vocabulary.

Regarding new members: for those of us familiar with church - spend some time thinking through what it is/was like to be new to church, what it's like to be unchurched or dechurched. Ponder what it takes to
1. physically go into a church
2. what might a person expect from the church
3. why would a person go to church
4. will the person understand the language used, verbally and written
5. is there helpful signage
6. what "hoops" does a person have to go through to become part of the congregation - to find folks in common and join areas of interest

Lastly, we consider how the Twelve Step Program is effective in addressing the above questions: It has a clear mission, process for entering, process for mentoring, process for getting involved, and offers a real hope for transformation and new life. Some concluded from this Gathering that looking into the methodology of Twelve Step Programs is critical to forming an understanding of how we in the church might help church become more "user-friendly"...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gathering Of Leaders part 2

The impetus for this, Gathering of Leaders series, stems from the work of Bishop Payne, retired from the Diocese of Texas. The purpose of the Gathering of Leaders is to assist in the empowerment, support and development of such leaders. To this end, the Gathering provides a place for leaders to come together without contentiousness and partisanship to share their love of the Christ and of the Church, to empower each other through mutual encouragment, to deepen their skills as transformational leaders, to establish networks which will aid their ministries, and to clarify their understanding of God's emerging vision for the renewal of the Episcopal Church.

The Gathering of Leaders is committed to the following core values:
>The Missionary call of Christ
>A hope-filled vision for the Episcopal Church
>Respect for differences
>Creative and innovative leadership
>Spiritual and numerical growth
>Peer learning

The opening session unpacked what this means. The GOL brings together transformational leaders from across the Episcopal Church for mutual encouragement, sharing of ideas and reflection on the spiritual and leadership challenges of ministry today. Participants include bishops, priests, and lay people of demonstrated leadership potential who have at least 15 years of active ministry remaining in their leadership careers. Those who gather agree to respect differences in theology and approach and to leave disputes about divisiveness church issues at the door. Each gathering is limited to 40 persons.

Leaders are encouraged to come to one Gathering a year. The broad theme is, The Missionary Church. Each year the Gatherings will have a theme based on the broader theme. This year the theme is "Christian Formation in the Missionary Church." Each gathering will include Bible study on scripture and questions related to the theme. We looked at Barnabas as an example of missionary discipleship and leadership and reflected on readings from Acts. We also had several presentations from clergy doing missional leadership: from traditional old churches on the East coast doing innovative things to an emerging church in LA. We had a wonderful theological presentation by Christopher Beeley, a prof at Yale, on Christian Formation. I'll write more about that later as it was my favorite part of the conference. We also had time for worship and for panel presentations by bishops and seminary professors. All in all it was quite excellent.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Gathering Of Leaders

A few weeks ago I attended a three day conference called, "Gathering of Leaders." It's premise calls lay and ordained church leaders to gather and reflect on that which brings us together, our common mission as disciples of Christ. To do this we set aside that which might divide us, choosing to acknowledge that all that divisiveness is, in the end, fleeting and futile. Or, as Mary Oliver says,

" ...and how could anyone believe
that anything in this world
is only what it appears to be."

In other words, there is a mystery of God's grace at work and we only see dimly what that mystery might be. Best then to focus on how we are being called to bring forth God's grace and love.

It was a wonderful three days of sharing and exploring. I'll share some of that here in a series of reflections over the next few days or so.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Driving Home

The wedding last Sat. night was delightful. I thoroughly enjoyed officiating at it and spending some time afterward mingling with the guests. My husband was with so that made it even more enjoyable for me. The next morning I rose, not nearly as early as I intended, and began my journey to return Ollie, the giant puppy, back to his rightful owner, my daughter. This meant driving to Chicago. And back.

Our drive to Chicago was uneventful although seemingly endless. I drove straight through stopping only for a four hour nap at a rest stop east of Amarillo Texas, and about seven other breaks (every two hours) to walk the dog, stretch, and eat. It simply seemed to be too much to try and find a hotel to accommodate me the dog. And the rest stop in Texas (I knew from [previous experience) was clean and secure. The stops are staffed with security folk who watch monitors all night. I felt comfortable enough to go inside and wash my face and brush my teeth. Returning to the car I put the seat back, so I was nearly in Ollies lap, pulled out my pillow and blanket and took a comfortable nap. The next day was another long one, landing me around 7:30pm at my daughters townhouse.

Ollie, who has been living with us in Arizona for six weeks, did not realize that he was home. That's because our daughter had moved and I was taking him to a home he'd never been too. His first response upon getting out of the car and seeing J's shadow in the light of the door was to bark. Protectively of me. That is until she said, "Ollie"...and he realized who she was, "Mom." He jumped and flipped and brushed up against her - oh, it was so cute.

The week went by quickly. I saw my brother who has cancer and my in-laws. I saw a couple of friends and got my massage table back. It's been on loan to someone for about four years...

This morning I sadly left Chicago to return to Arizona and promptly got a speeding ticket. It was a lapsed moment of passing a truck and not paying attention as I drove into a speed trap...a sneaky one at that. About four of us were pulled over all in a row. sigh. It's my first ever. I wonder if it is a bad omen?

Now I am resting in a hotel in Weatherford, Oklahoma, about half way, or 900 miles of the 1800 mile trip. In a week's time I will have driven over 3600 miles..... Without a big dog I can stay in a hotel and look forward to a good nights sleep. I've showered, done some yoga, read email, and am drinking some delicious tea (Chamomile nights) sent to me by a friend - you know who you are. It's perfect and has helped me feel like I have stopped. The first little while out of a car after 13 hours of driving one feels like one is still in motion.....but now, I've stopped, and am feeling sleepy.

Tomorrow I'll drive the rest of the way home.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

670 and other thoughts

This is my 670th post on this blog, which I started on Sept. 11 2006. Just thought you'd like to know that statistic.

I have had an unusually busy week beginning with the Gathering of Leaders conference that I attended in Scottsdale. It was a great conference and I look forward to writing up my notes and a reflection on it. But first things first.

Today I have to Officiate at a wedding in Tucson for a delightful young couple. It will be a fairly fancy affair for this area. I look forward to that. Then tomorrow morning bright and early I hop in the car with Ollie, the giant puppy, to drive to Chicago where I will return him to his mom, my daughter.

So, travelling prayers please, that I can manage this drive to and from Chicago (3600 miles round trip) safely and without incident. Twitter me while I'm on the road or call if you know my number. I may need help staying awake...While in Chicago I'll see a few friends and family but I can't do much in just three days....

And I'll write about that conference when I return.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Lifesving or Lifegiving Moments in Life: A Friday Five Meme

KathrynZJ offers this Friday Five Meme over at RevGals.

1) Your lifesaving food/beverage. Oh....most mornings it is a goooood cup of coffee. But sometimes it is that afternoon pick me up cup of tea. Other times it might be a glass of red wine. But as a general rule I drink a lot of lifegiving water, iced or not, depending on the weather.

2) Your lifesaving article of clothing. Some call it a dog-collar. I heard one person call it a bandit-collar. For me though, the clerical collar I wear has been a lifegiving symbol of my ministry. I don't need to wear "the collar" to feel like or priest or remember that I am one. But I wear it with a deep sense of gratitude for that which God has done in my life. The collar is a clear symbol of the ministry I do and love. I love what I have been called to do even though it can be really hard life draining work. When I wear the collar people know who I am and what I am there for, whether it is visiting someone in the hospital or officiating at a wedding or leading worship in church. I do tend to get a few second looks in the grocery store....

3) Your lifesaving movie/book/tv show/music. Dixie Chicks "Despite Our Differences" love that CD.

4) Your lifesaving friend. I have a couple: Kathryn, Joanne, Jeanette, on any given day, not necessarily in that order.

5) Your lifesaving moment. hum. my baptism at the age of nine. kneeling while the minister laid hands on my head and my new husband and prayed a blessing for our marriage - truly I will never forget that sense that the Holy Spirit was present. My marriage has been life saving and life giving - but by no means rosy. The births of each of my children - definitely.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday Morning Musings

This morning I head off for a three day conference on leadership. Here's a snippet of the email I received preparing us, "Our topic is Christian Formation in the Missionary Church. In preparation, Christopher Beeley, who will be speaking with us about insights from the Early Fathers and others, suggested that we might want to read the attached excerpt from St. Augustine’s De doctrina Christania and to reconnect with the following passages from Scripture..." It's being held at the Franciscan Renewal Center, the same place we gathered last spring for the BE 2.0.

Thursday night I will conduct a class at the "Back in the saddle" church on creating a facebook account and using facebook. We going to create a FB page for the church and help parishioners create a page so they can particapate. It's part of their marketing and growing the church strategy. We may also create a blog for posting Sunday sermons and other info, in addition to their website.

Friday I have a wedding rehearsal for a wedding on Sat. I'm officiating and the wedding of a delightful couple I have been counseling since August. It will be a black tie affair, and fun, I expect.

Sunday I head off for Chicago, driving my daughter's dog back to her. Except for the dog on the first leg of the trip, I will travel alone. That's making everyone a little nervous. I may have to stop in and visit friends along the way in Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. :-) Of course, I will have a BIG dog one way...

That's my week. Now off to do some yoga, finish packing and heading up to Scottsdale, AZ. What about your week?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Go and Do Likewise

A reflection on the readings for Proper 25B: Job 42:1-6, 10-17 and Mark 10:46-52

My family and I live in Green Valley, having moved there from Chicago about 2 years ago. It’s a big change for us, living in a small town in the middle of the desert instead of the hustle and bustle of a major Midwest city. There are some things we really like about where we live. For example, we live on the foothills of the Santa Rita mountains, just a few miles from Madera Canyon. The view out our backyard is spectacular and the birds at our feeders are plentiful and beautiful.

But there are many things we miss about Chicago. The restaurants, or more specifically a good Italian beef, is one thing. We also miss the variety of options on cable television. Where we are we do have cable, but it’s limited. The same movie will play over and over, days on end. Old movies. For example, about every three months one of the movie channels will play Clear and Present Danger, the movie version of the Tom Clancey novel that stars Harrison Ford. I’ve seen it so many times now I’d know it by heart, that is if I were really paying attention instead of knitting.

Ford plays the acting director of the C.I.A. who is caught and nearly murdered in a secret war between the President of the United States and the Columbian drug cartel. Living this close to Mexico we know a thing or two about drug cartels and the violence they bring. The conflict in the movie lies between those who see morality in shades of gray and Ford who thinks a person can know the difference between right and wrong, and that you must respond accordingly.

As the movie runs its course there is a scene where Ford, in the jungles of Columbia, realizes that he has been set up. He and a friend go deep into the jungle trying to rescue survivors of an American commando team. That this team exists, that they betrayed him, and that they now face destruction, have all been hidden from him for much of the movie. But now, knowing of their existence and need to be saved, Ford feels moral bound to save whomever he can find. As it turns out there is only one survivor left. Upon learning this the commando screams, “Who did this? Who is responsible?” Ford’s character steps forward and says, “I am.” It’s a powerful scene. He clearly is not responsible, he is a victim like the rest. But he is now risking his own life to try and fix what others have done.

Responsible is a word that has two meanings. One meaning is blamed ridden – “Who is responsible for this mess?” the other meaning connotes maturity “She is a responsible woman.” Perhaps this joke will help illustrate what I mean:

A mother heard the family cat yowl in pain. She knew where to look: she looked for her son Tommy, and said, "Tommy, stop pulling his tail."

Replied Tommy, "I'm not pulling his tail. I'm just standing on it. He's doing the pulling."

Drawing its meaning from “able to respond” - a responsible person takes action to do the right thing. Ford’s character is able to respond to the situation, he is response-able.

Our readings this morning, particularly Job and the Gospel, focus on responding. Job responds to God and Bartimaeus responds to Jesus, each becomes respone-able for their lives in relationship with God.

By the end of the story of Job we come to understand, as he does, that what matters is not where his suffering “came from” but where it can “go”. Richard Rohr in his book, Job and the Mystery of Suffering suggests that one of the words in the final Job chapter is perhaps misinterpreted. God reminds Job that God is the creator of all and that Job is part of God’s creation. As a result God is always in and with Job, through thick or thin, sorrow or joy, God is present. We then hear that Job repented IN sack cloth and ashes, but Rohr suggests that maybe Job repented FROM sack cloth and ashes. In repenting Job takes responsibility for his own life and he moves from a place of woe and self pity to a place of action and ultimately transformation.
The story of Bartimauus is a similar story of responding, and what can come from it. In the Gospel we have several examples of responding: first we have Bartimaeus who hears that Jesus is coming, his salvation is at hand. “Have mercy on me” Bartimaeus shouts. But the crowd responds by trying to stifle Bartimaeus’ shout.

An entire sermon could be preached on the response of the crowd trying to keep Bartimaeus from Jesus and Jesus from Bartimaeus, how they try to contain God’s mercy…the question we could ask ourselves is how might we, consciously or not, try to keep God contained? But that’s for another day.

The crowd fails and Jesus not only hears Bartimaeus but Jesus responds with a question. Like Job responding to God, Jesus’ question to Bartimaeus pushes him into action. Responding to God, taking action, moving beyond the walls we construct for our own lives and into what God desires for us transforms us.

God meets us in the midst of the chaos of our lives and calls us to respond. The response God desires is always the same: what ever the situation, what ever has happened, we are called to respond in a way that loves God, loves self, and loves others.

Doing this - responding with love - brings forth a new sense of order, and transforms us into a deeper faithful people in the process. From the beginning of creation we hear about God taking the chaos of this world and pulling from it that which can contribute toward a greater good, a new life, a new order. God does it with love and then calls us to do likewise.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Why I Did Not Play the Friday Five

I had to have a mammogram this morning, early. And a bone density scan. At least it is breast cancer awareness month so I got gifts - a pink water bottle! Then, I ran to the dry cleaners to drop of a jacket, dropped off a table at the recycled furniture and clothes place, and got my hair cut, (trust me it needed it).... That was followed by an acupuncture treatment. Then I came home and colored, yes colored, my own hair...economic times being what they are....It turned out ok!....(all those years of working for my sister-in-laws hair salon gave me some idea of how to do this, even though I prefer to pay a professional). Then I had to drive an hour each way to get my son from school. Because I needed the car for all of my appointments and errands.


That's why I didn't play the Friday Five....sigh.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Sitting over words
very late I have heard a kind of whispered sighing
not far
like a night wind in pines or like the sea in the dark
the echo of everything that has ever
been spoken
still spinning its one syllable
between the earth and silence

W.S. Merwin in "A Book of Luminous Things, An International Anthology of Poetry" Edited by Czeslaw Milosz 1996, Harvest Book

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Absence of God

While on my silent retreat I picked up the "Inaugural Issue" of the Weavings. I love this journal, have for years. I love the poetry, the reflections, especially the writings of Wendy Wright. And, given where my life is right now, I figured it was no small coincidence that the lead article was titled, "The Absence of God" written by E. Glenn Hinson.

The article draws on Mother Theresa's memoir, her startling assertion that "The place of God in my soul is blank.....There is no God in me...I just hear my own heart cry out - 'My God' and nothing comes."

He offers this assessment: most contemplatives have discovered "The deeper you plunge into the depths of God, the more likely you are to experience how utterly inadequate is our human capacity for meeting and knowing God."

He then goes on to speak about the apophatic and kataphatic streams of mysticism - that there is no way to really know God or the way to know God is affectively as love.

Hinson writes: "Persons who want to just dabble in religious life and who have only a casual interest in God will not be likely to experience the 'darkness' and desolation' Jesus experience on the cross, 'My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me....or Mother Theresa knew as she immersed herself totally in ministering to 'the distressed Christ in his many disguises.' Like Mother Theresa and many another saint, you have to have known at some time in your life a sense of Presence, God's shekinah, in order to miss it."

And then ends with this:

"Thinking about this dark night causes me to ask another question. Given the fact that God is always beyond our knowing, should we not sometimes measure our faith by our sense of the absence of God as well as our sense of the presence of God?"

Quiet Day

I feel asleep last night at 8pm and slept soundly for 10 hours. As I woke from that deep sleep the sky was turning from dark indigo blue to pale blue with streaks of pink and yellow, rays of sun spilling over the mountain before the sun itself appears. I turned off the air (its unseasonably hot here) and opened up windows and doors to let in the early morning cool. I threw on my yoga attire, spread out the mat, and started the DVD, AM Yoga. I lay on the mat, calm breath, calm breeze. I think, I haven't seen another spider or any other living critter since the fatal meeting yesterday, so I think I can close my eyes.


Calm Breeze.

Cool air.


Twenty minutes of gentle postures work the tightness out of my lower back and shoulders. Twenty minutes of slow movement stretching my body awake. Twenty minutes later I lay on the floor, breathing. An invitation to meditate. An invitation to quiet. It's perfect.

Except inside of me, I am restless, not calm. Tears well up, but like the parched desert I am dry.

After yoga I read the NY Times article about the journalist who spent 7 months and 10days in Taliban captivity. I remember when Ryan was in the Army, stationed in this same area. I remember him telling us about the daily bombings to the army base, his constant fear. The heat, 120 degrees. The article will appear over several editions of the NY Times, which I may read online.... I go to breakfast, yogurt and a banana and coffee with honey and skim milk. I return and read and color mandalas.

And do more yoga. An hour this time. Strenuous. The room is getting hot. I close the door and window and turn on the air. And take a shower. Lunch is quiet, too. A salad with a side of salted nuts and raisins and iced tea. I return to my room and color the mandala some more.

The sun is blazing hot, the sky cloudless pale blue, 97 degrees, probably.

My spirit is restless. I think I'll take a walk. Perhaps the hot sun will dry the restlessness out of me, leaving me parched, but quiet?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Was It Self Defense or...????

This afternoon I arrived at my favorite retreat center, Desert House of Prayer, for a few days of silence. This lovely, simple center is tucked in the mountains of western Tucson, in an area called Picture Rocks. From the window in my little room the Tucson valley lays out before me - as does the mountain range on the other side of the valley, the Catalina's. This is my third trip to Desert House of Prayer in a year. I come prepared to do yoga, read, draw, knit, walk, pray.

Upon arrival I unpack my art supplies, knitting, clothes, computer, and yoga DVD's. I change into yoga attire, spread out my mat, and put in PM Yoga. But for some reason my computer did not want to let me view this DVD. I kept getting a warning message about some copy write issue between the DVD and my computer. This has never happened before and so perplexed I pull the computer onto my lap and begin trying to figure it out. Turns out I need to update some piece of software.

Sitting on my yoga mat, on the floor, I was fiddling around with the computer, initializing the connection to the internet and so on. All of a sudden I see, out of the corner of my eye, the hugest, biggest, fastest

spider I have ever seen - and its CHARGING straight for me.

There I sit in on my mat on the floor, in skimpy yoga attire, no shoes... you bet I let out a yelp "ewwwwwww!!!!"

And then I dropped my lap top directly on it.

After a stunned second I cautiously lift the lap top. The spider is demolished into several pieces.

The computer is no worse for the wear.

Its a bit odd, starting this retreat, taking over what was clearly this spider's domain (who'd have known?) - and then proceeding to murder it. Or maybe I can settle for self-defense...

Sadly, if it really was a wolf spider then it wasn't poisonous and I might have been able to get it outside. Alas, there are so many poisonous creatures in the desert - I tend to kill first and identify later....

Friday, October 16, 2009

Shoes, shoes, shoes, or not....

Jan, over at RevGals, offers this Friday Five Meme:

1. What is your favorite footwear at this time in your life? I wear strappy open toed kitten heels almost everywhere, that is when I'm working. When not working I wear a pair of Merrell sandals.

2. What was the craziest shoe, boot, or sandal you ever wore? In the early 1980's I bought a pair of ankle boots, suede, pointy toed, high wear with those skin tight straight leggings and long tops...

3. What kind of shoes did you wear in your childhood? keds or flip-flops or sandals.

4. How do you feel most comfortable? Barefoot, flip-flops, boots, or what? barefoot, except not here where there are dangerous things that crawl on the ground - like I wear flip flops.

5. What kind of socks do you like, if any? ankle socks, but in fun yarns....which are difficult to find, so now I am making my own socks...

Bonus: Anything you want to share about feet or footwear. Reflexology works under the premise that every organ in our body plus muscles, eyes, and our spine have a reflex point on the foot. Getting a foot reflexology treatment is like a whole body treatment. The same thing with our ears - the ears are a microcosm of the body with reflex points on the ear.

Celtic Daily Prayer: Evening Prayer

Lord, You have always given
Bread for the coming day,
and though I am poor,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
strength for the coming day
And though I am weak,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always given
Peace for the coming day,
and though I am of anxious heart,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always kept
Me safe in trials,
And now, tried as I am,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always marked
The road for the coming day
And though it may be hidden,
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always lightened
This darkness of mine,
And though the night is here,m
Today I believe.

Lord, You have always spoken
When time was ripe,
And though You be silent now,
Today I believe.

Years ago I purchased the Celtic Daily Prayer Book and prayed with it every day for a year. Since then I have prayed the prayers in this book off and on. Perhaps it is time I returned to using it daily.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


"If everything is under control, you're going too slow." Mario Andretti

Isn't is all relative, the pace at which life moves? For some, too slow, for others, too fast. For some change is exciting for others the most simplest of change is overwhelming and disorienting.(OK, this is me pondering, not a quote)

"Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this too, was a gift."

Mary Oliver, "The Uses of Sorrow" in Thirst: Beacon Press 2006

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sunday Prayer

Oh my God, where are you?
I am lost and so alone.
Hear my prayer.

Oh my. God? Where am I?
Alone? Forgotten?

My hope. My only hope.
Hear my cry, my plea
Hear my prayer.

In you I put my trust.
In you I lay my life.
You. My prayer.

Help me to love
You, neighbor, self.

Naked, vulnerable
hoping, more than
hope in you.

This day, yesterday
tomorrow, always
hear my prayer.


Friday, October 09, 2009

RevGals Friday Five: Special Days

Sophia over at RevGals has an exciting weekend ahead, which has her thinking of the special rites of passage in our lives which we participate for ourselves or in which we support and bless others: baptism, confirmation, marriage, ordination, graduation, funerals, etc. Such important days, so exciting and joyous, but also sometimes anxiety provoking or deeply painful....So, this week, please share five memories of such sacred moments with God and her holy people from your life and the lives of those you love.

1. Here is one that I just wrote about: On my 51st birthday my family and I went to a sushi restaurant in the suburbs of Chicago. We had so much fun, laughing and eating. My gifts that night were all Japanese - a tea pot, a set of handleless cups, and tea. They are beautiful.

I barely had a chance to use them, here, after we moved. It was late winter, spring actually in the desert. So, for the most part they remained in their respective boxes in the cupboard.

I did use them last winter, almost every night. Sometimes while watching TV, sometimes while reading by the fire. Always with a sense of love, given by my family.

Now, tonight, it is cool enough to use them again. Along with Tension Tamer tea. Because unlike last winter, which had more than its fair share of tension, this winter will have probably have even more.

2. The day each of my children were born. I'll spare you the details.

3. The day my twin god daughters were born. The mom had been on bedrest for two months, a high risk pregnancy. Some of you may remember the story of their birth, the snow storm I drove through to get to the hospital, the all nighter we pulled, keeping mom comfortable, the intensity of those final hours, and then the births. I was in the birthing room, helping all along the way. Yes. Awesome.

Me, resting in the hospital about 4am...

The babies a few months afterward

4. The baptism of my god daughters - at a small church in Chicago by the Presiding Bishop herself. A totally awesome morning.
Me, the PB, and Baby Z.

5. Back in Chicago when I used to go to dog park with my dogs: Roxie and Ruby. Loved that dog park. It was many acres, a good 45 minute walk around, woods, lake, grasses. A great place to walk, think, pray, and enjoy my dogs.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Bikes, Hikes, Likes

So I've started bike riding again. Not the indoor stationary bike that I've ridden for years, the one I ride while drinking coffee and reading the NY Times :-)

(yeah, that was a real work out....LOL)

No, I've started riding an outdoor bike. I got the bike so I could do simple errands around town without using my car. But I also ride the bike around the neighborhood, just for exercise, and so I can actually ride it on those errands. In about 20 minutes I can ride up and down steep hills, from end of the area where I live to the other and back, and get a pretty good work out. By the time I'm finished I'm quite winded.

I ride the same route I walk when I take the dogs out. Clearly the walk takes longer than riding the bike...but also the route looks and feels different whether I'm hiking or biking. During the hike we are always on the look out for, well, natural wild life...bobcats, coyotes, snakes...that sort of thing. And occasionally we see them too, hunting under the scrub trees, looking for rabbits or ground squirrels.

Biking it is more arduous. The hills are steep. Going down hill is risky because of the speed but also the wind. The wind races across the arroyo and catches me as I coast at the bottom of a hill - hitting me from the side - and almost knocking me off balance.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Midrash: Genesis

Lately I've been reading: which you can find at churchpublishing.

It's a wonderful book filled with prayers and poems by woman around the world, focusing on the Millennium Development Goals. These eight goals, established by the United Nations in 1995, invite nations and people to work toward the eradication of extreme poverty, lack of education, health care, and gender inequality and work together for a sustainable environment. You can read more about them here.

Most every day I pick this book up and read a few of the prayers. Here is what I read this morning:

Midrash: Genesis

On the seventh day, He rested.

She swept up the scraps,
(saving those big enough to make ears or tails).
She polished the water
scrubbed the sky, and gave the birds song.
She saw that it was good.
Then she danced with the fields.
The wind, watching her, learned to comfort the grass.
Later pools of gold and lavender appeared in the sky
just where she had vanished.

Lynn Dean Hunter
Virginia Beach, Virginia, United States
Lifting Women's Voices
2009: the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society

Monday, October 05, 2009

Monday Morning Musings

This is one of those days in Southern Arizona when the wind is howling. It blows up from the west/southwest. Wide open spaces, one of the aspects I love about this area, also enable the wind to roar across the space. The winds kick up dust and sand. The winds shake and rattle the rafters of the house, creating escalating howls over a constant low pitched hum.

What to do today? I thought I'd go for a bike ride, a long one. But the wind may make that impossible. Unless I want to be blown hinder and yon.

I have three big dogs, at the moment, and two of them are vying for the upper hand - the weimaraner one year old and 7 year old vizsla. They are cousins, genetically by breed, and have very similar personality characteristics. It's alternately funny and annoying. They spar. They do a lot of licking of each others mouths - some parental dominate thing, I think. They run through my small house attached to one another causing havoc along the way. They are noisy.

So, noise. A lot of noise in my environment today. Wind and dogs. And a mind that won't stop. My mind wakes me up at night as my unconscious self wrestles with the state my life is in right now. My sleeping pattern is off, a few hours here and there. It might be this way because of hormones. It could be other stuff.

Next week I may make a second trip to Chicago. To return my daughter's dog and to take my son back for a traffic court appearance. Yes, he got a speeding ticket while there over the summer. THAT will be an expensive 5 minutes in traffic school...sigh. Not to mention another long drive there and back.

It will be good, though, to get this puppy home. My daughter misses her dog. He misses her, and the household needs to return to some sense of normalcy.

The rest of my week includes:

a trip to the motor vehicles to get the title for a car we just bought - a 2000 Blazer. A truck really.

then a trip to Goodyear to get new tires and a battery for the truck.

a few doctor appt's

lunch with the rector of a church I'm going to be working for temporarily. It's unpaid ie non-stip, but an altar to serve and a place to preach on occasion. It's a great little place, looking forward to being there. More on that later...

and hopefully some bike riding. Or a lot of bike riding.

If the wind ever stops...

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sunday Prayer

Gracious God, through all the trials and turmoil of life
through storms
at the time of death
hold us in your embrace, sustain us with your grace

Loving God, through times of great joy in life
through births
new seasons
healing of mind, body, or spirit
hold us in your embrace, sustain us with your grace

God of our mothers and fathers
God of bread and wine
God of morning and night
God of water, sun, earth, air
God of all
We give you thanks for all the gifts of life.

God of all
Bless our lives
bless those we love
our pets
animals of kinds
all creatures
great and small
Help us to care for the earth, your own creation.

We ask this through the great love
of your son, our brother,
the vine, the branches,
the cup, the hand
our savior.


Cross-posted at RevGalsBlogPals and RevGalsPrayerPals

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Return to My Past...(sort of)

Many years ago, when I was young an fresh out of college, I had a job working for a dance theater house. My job was to attend dance rehearsals, design the lights for the show, hang and focus the lights and add gel (colors), manage all the technical end of a shows production including rehearsals, stage manager, and running the technical aspects of the show (light board and sound system). It was a cool job as I met many fine dancers and performance artists. It was also a grueling job - dirty, long nights, every weekend. And it was non-profit in the 1980's when the arts suffered dearly. Many weeks we wondered if we could make payroll.

During that time, living in Chicago, I did not own a car. I took the "L" or I rode my bike. The "L" was easy, not far from anyplace I lived. But it was also dirty, crowded, and, well, late at night after a show, it was unsafe. Or rather, the walk from the "L" to my apartment was unsafe. Still, that's how I got around most of the time.

When I wasn't riding the "L" I was riding my bike. I had a cool 10 speed Motobecane Mirage:

In the summer I was prone to ride that bike to work, some 10 miles one way, along the shore of Lake Michigan. Chicago has some awesome bike paths along the lake and makes the ride glorious. Of course I also had to navigate city traffic from home to lake and lake to job....that was often hairy...

I have fond memories of racing that bike on a coolish summer night up the lake shore, speeding past couples out for a late night walk. Wooosh....exhilarating. I rode that bike on a long distance trip through Wisconsin. I rode that bike all over the place. Until it was stolen. Out of the basement.

When my kids were little I bought another bike, a cheap thing, a mommy bike. The gears were poor and the ride was ok. But it did the trick for riding around the suburbs with my kids.

Being here in the SW I have found myself yearning for another bike. A real bike. I don't intend to do heavy duty riding, like some folks around here, no off road mountain biking or mountain biking of any kind. I intend to ride around town and be good to the environment by not using a car for every little trip to the grocery store or for coffee or to go to the library.

So Thursday my husband and I went to the local bike store. I tried three or four bikes before I found one I liked. The most striking thing I noticed: bike are much more expensive now. And bikes are much more sophisticated: racing bikes, all terrain bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes....

I bought a road bike. It's silver and has 21 gears and shocks in the fork of the handle bar. It's heavier and bigger than my old 10 speed racer, but much nicer and a better ride than my old mommy bike. I road it home, yesterday, about 7 miles.

I had this fear that I'd forget how to ride the bike. But I didn't. It was a great ride.

Except for my knees, which felt as though they were going to spring loose like taut cables...and my cardiopulmonary system, which was definitely overworked.

The good news though is that today I am not sore. I look forward to building up my stamina and enjoying this bike.

Looking back at the past, reflecting on the many decisions I've made, some good, some not so good, is part of what I am doing these days. Building stamina is another thing I am doing. It could be that bike riding may enable this in some fine ways...

Friday, October 02, 2009

RevGals Friday Five: Touching Holiness

Sally over at RevGals posts this Friday Five Meme: How about you, where do you find God's peace and presence, is there:

1. A place that holds a special memory?

This is a photo of the view from my backyard of a monsoon rain over the Santa Rita mountains. In the desert, rain is sign of God's grace. This place will always hold a special memory for me because of the panoramic view.

2. A song that seems to usher you into the Holy of Holies? Taize: sung prayer with candle light, plants, and an icon or two, especially:

3.A book/ poem/ prayer that says what you cannot?
The Summer Day
Mary Oliver
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver
from New and Selected Poems, 1992
Beacon Press, Boston, MA

I love poetry, Mary Oliver in particular, has a wonderful way of bringing a deep faith into the ordinary.

4. How do you remind yourself of these things at times when God seems far away? I blog. Really. God has seemed so very far away for so long. Blogging connects me to people who are not in the same void I feel I am in, and by the love and grace of those I blog with, I continue to be reminded of God's abiding presence.

5.Post a picture/ poem or song that speaks of where you are right now in your relationship with God...

I'm in the desert and it's a little barren at the moment...

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...