Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When

When I rise up
let me rise up joyful
like a bird.

When I fall
let me fall without regret
like a leaf.

(Wendall Berry)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Forlorn

Two poems by Dorothy Parker

Interior

Her mind lives in a quiet room,
A narrow room, and tall,
With pretty lamps to quench the gloom
And mottoes on the wall.

There all the things are waxen neat
And set in decorous lines;
And there are posies, round and sweet,
And little, straightened vines.

Her mind lives tidily, apart
From cold and noise and pain,
And bolts the door against her heart,
Out wailing in the rain.
-----

Godmother

The day that I was christened-
It's a hundred years, and more!-
A hag came and listened
At the white church door,
A-hearing her that bore me
And all my kith and kin
Considerately, for me,
Renouncing sin.
While some gave me corals,
And some gave me gold,
And porringers, with morals
Agreeably scrolled,
The hag stood, buckled
In a dim gray cloak;
Stood there and chuckled,
Spat, and spoke:
"There's few enough in life'll
Be needing my help,
But I've got a trifle
For your fine young whelp.
I give her sadness,
And the gift of pain,
The new-moon madness,
And the love of rain."
And little good to lave me
In their holy silver bowl
After what she gave me-
Rest her soul!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Prayer 21C

Form IV (The Book of Common Prayer, Episcopal Church)

Let us pray for the Church and for the world.

Grant, Almighty God, that all who confess your Name may
be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal
your glory in the world.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.


Guide the people of this land, and of all the nations, in the
ways of justice and peace; that we may honor one another
and serve the common good.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.


Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation,
that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others
and to your honor and glory.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.


Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant
that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as he
loves us.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.


Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or
spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles, and
bring them the joy of your salvation.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.


We commend to your mercy all who have died, that your will
for them may be fulfilled; and we pray that we may share
with all your saints in your eternal kingdom.

Silence

Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Crossposted on RevGalBlogPals and RevGalPrayerPals

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mother


(The view from my mother's final resting place, along with my grandparents and an aunt, Salt Lake City, Utah)

On September 21, 2004 I received a phone call about 11am. I was in the office at small church. The caller was my mother's roommate, a long time friend. My mother had a massive heart attack in the middle of the night and died. I left work and drove to her home, spending time with her body before she was taken away.

My relationship with my mother was complicated. She was a lovely, charming, delightful, funny, woman. She was also profoundly damaged. She was 65.

In her memory, a Mary Oliver poem. Complicated with a mix of delight, joy, and sorrow, including a child who has worked to find her own voice.



Mary Oliver - Flare


1.

Welcome to the silly, comforting poem.

It is not the sunrise,
which is a red rinse,
which is flaring all over the eastern sky;

it is not the rain falling out of the purse of God;

it is not the blue helmet of the sky afterward,

or the trees, or the beetle burrowing into the earth;

it is not the mockingbird who, in his own cadence,
will go on sizzling and clapping
from the branches of the catalpa that are thick with blossoms,
that are billowing and shining,
that are shaking in the wind.

2.

You still recall, sometimes, the old barn on your
great-grandfather’s farm, a place you visited once,
and went into, all alone, while the grownups sat and
talked in the house.
It was empty, or almost. Wisps of hay covered the floor,
and some wasps sang at the windows, and maybe there was
a strange fluttering bird high above, disturbed, hoo-ing
a little and s taring down from a messy ledge with wild,
binocular eyes.
Mostly, though, it smelled of milk, and the patience of
animals; the give-offs of the body were still in the air,
a vague ammonia, not unpleasant.
Mostly, though, it was restful and secret, the roof high
up and arched, the boards unpainted and plain.
You could have stayed there forever, a small child in a corner,
on the last raft of hay, dazzled by so much space that seemed
empty, but wasn’t.
Then–you still remember–you felt the rap of hunger–it was
noon–and you turned from that twilight dream and hurried back
to the house, where the table was set, where an uncle patted you
on the shoulder for welcome, and there was your place at the table.

3.

Nothing lasts.
There is a graveyard where everything I am talking about is,
now.

I stood there once, on the green grass, scattering flowers.

4.

Nothing is so delicate or so finely hinged as the wings
of the green moth
against the lantern
against its heat
against the beak of the crow
in the early morning.

Yet the moth has trim, and feistiness, and not a drop
of self-pity.

Not in this world.

5.

My mother
was the blue wisteria,
my mother
was the mossy stream out behind the house,
my mother, alas, alas,
did not always love her life,
heavier than iron it was
as she carried it in her arms, from room to room,
oh, unforgettable!

I bury her
in a box
in the earth
and turn away.
My father
was a demon of frustrated dreams,
was a breaker of trust,
was a poor, thin boy with bad luck.
He followed God, there being no one else
he could talk to;
he swaggered before God, there being no one else
who would listen.
Listen,
this was his life.
I bury it in the earth.
I sweep the closets.
I leave the house.

6.

I mention them now,
I will not mention them again.

It is not lack of love
nor lack of sorrow.
But the iron thing they carried, I will not carry.

I give them–one, two, three, four–the kiss of courtesy,
of sweet thanks,
of anger, of good luck in the deep earth.
May they sleep well. May they soften.

But I will not give them the kiss of complicity.
I will not give them the responsibility for my life.

7.

Did you know that the ant has a tongue
with which to gather in all that it can
of sweetness?

Did you know that?

8.

The poem is not the world.
It isn’t even the first page of the world.

But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.

It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.

9.

The voice of the child crying out of the mouth of the
grown woman
is a misery and a disappointment.
The voice of the child howling out of the tall, bearded,
muscular man
is a misery, and a terror.

10.

Therefore, tell me:
what will engage you?
What will open the dark fields of your mind,
like a lover
at first touching?

11.

Anyway,
there was no barn.
No child in the barn.

No uncle no table no kitchen.

Only a long lovely field full of bobolinks.

12.

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or no.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the dili gent leaves.

A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

This is the dark bread of the poem.
This is the dark and nourishing bread of the poem.


Mary Oliver

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Prayer Proper 20C, a lament

God of all that is, was, and will be
Have mercy on me
As I stumble, lost
In my ways,
Ignorant of what I’ve done,
Now, dismay has taken a hold of me.

Have mercy on us, heart sick are we,
Whose joy is gone
With grief upon us
We mourn, for dismay has taken a hold of us.

Defiled are we, buying the poor for silver
The needy for sandals,
Our pockets full,
Theirs empty, and
Now, dismay has taken a hold of me.

Is there no balm to soothe this sin sick world?

Gracious God who lifts
The needy and raises the poor
Who urges within us

Have mercy on us, hear our prayers
May the intercessions in my heart
Become the actions of my hands
May my feet move into the ash heap
May I work to restore hope
May I work to restore justice
May I work to restore love
May I be bear the balm that soothes
As you would have me do
And may there be thanksgivings for everyone.
Amen.

Crossposted on RevGalBlogPals and RevGalsPrayerPals

Saturday, September 18, 2010

It Matters How?

A reflection on the readings for proper 20C: Luke 16:1-13: St. Edward and Christ, Joliet, IL

There are a few television shows I love to watch. Among them are Gray’s Anatomy, The Mentalist and Brothers and Sisters. Each of these had season finales last May that I found particularly dramatic, violent and unsettling. I remember because some of them played in reruns this week as the networks prepare for the season openers. Gray’s Anatomy left us in a cliff hanger with one surgeon, a resident, about to operate on her best-friends husband, the chief of staff, who had been shot by the irate husband of a woman who had died in a previous episode.


The story begins as if it were just another ordinary day. The staff arrives for work. Meredith finds out she is pregnant and is excited to tell her husband, mr. Mcdreamy, the chief of staff. But then chaos happens as the shooting spree takes hold. Each scene is filled with some characters falling prey to the shooter while others hide and try to survive.

Although I’m not sure who survives, it seems a number of cast members were “shot” off the series in this episode that left me closing my eyes and turning away. And don’t even get me started on CSI. I can’t watch that show anymore with the close up visuals of bullets penetrating flesh, or blood clots racing through arteries, and one violent act after another.

Then again, there are days when I can’t watch the local news either. Headline after headline of disaster: famine, war, violence, shootings, robberies, disease, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes....the list is endless. I just want to shut the television off and pretend I live in a quiet world where not much happens.

Turning our heads and pretending we don’t hear or see is what we sometimes do with our scripture readings. We have readings like this morning, which like every Sunday morning are read well from beginning to end, and yet we sit here in our seats and...what? Do we really listen? Or are these readings just one more way we shut down and close off, unable to be fully present to the confusion that lies within?

Me? If I weren’t preaching on these readings, would gladly look the other way. I mean really, what in the world is Jesus suggesting? That we support people who embezzle other people? That we feel proud of and honor thieves and deceit? Does this sound like the Jesus we know and love?

In our reading from Luke we have a shrewd and dishonest manager who is called to account for his work by the owner, who had become aware of the deceitful activity of the manager. In response the manager goes to each of the employees and settles their debts in a way that gives the owner something, saves face for the manager, and helps out the employees at the same time. It’s not exactly honest, but it’s shrewd and it works.

Now imagine you have just experienced some horrible tragedy – like the flooding in Pakistan or the earthquake in Haiti, you and your children are suffering profoundly. In fact if you don’t get some clean water and food you all will die. Soon.

Do you care, in that moment of desperation, who gives you the food? Do you care what is in their heart? If they are good and honest people or just people who happen to be doing the right thing for all the wrong reasons, like to save their own skin? I think we’d want someone to save us and our children no matter what. Thank you for that food and water, we’d say. Thank you.

Now we know that your priests Kathryn and Richard are in Haiti this week tending to the needs of some children up in the mountains. I imagine that the people in Haiti are much like I was suggesting earlier – so stunned by their fractured lives that they don’t feel much anymore. There is only so much pain and suffering we humans can take before we shut down and tune out. You all are not there to see the work that Kathryn and Richard are doing. But you have supported them in this endeavor. And you’ll hear their stories when they return. Stories of love and care. You all have acted from your hearts. In your support people from Haiti will come to see the face of Christ in Kathryn, and know the hands of Christ in Richard. There will be healing and new life. And maybe you’ll go on to do more of this. Maybe this will become just as transformational for you as it surely will be those children in Haiti and for Kathryn and Richard.

Even though you weren’t there literally, you will be impacted by this work because you’ve supported those who have gone to do the work. Children in Haiti will live because you have helped. Children you have never met. Children whose faces you won’t know. Children whose hands you will not hold. And yet your help for them will be profound.

Jesus tells us in this reading that what matters most is that we do something. It matters that we do what we can, more than we can, actually. It matters that we not only feel in our hearts but DO with our hands and feet and brains, too. Through us and the power of the Holy Spirit Jesus will be right there with the suffering child and the parents of that child. Jesus tells us story about a master who goes along with acts of justice because it profits the master too – but regardless of the masters profit – justice is served and people are helped. To the people helped it matters not what is in our hearts.

However, what’s in our hearts does matter to God. And there is every likelihood that when people experience the process of helping others, even if they initially did it for personal gain, once they experience the benefit of helping others their hearts are changed. Perhaps they even begin to help from a place of love in their heart. They not only love but they act on that love.

I’m hoping that the season opener of Gray’s Anatomy has Christina saving Dr. Shepherd from the bullet wound. I hope her hands do not succumb to the fear that is surely in her heart as she operates. I hope that we hear in our texts this morning a call toward hope, a reminder that what is most important is that we do something about the injustices in our world. And I give thanks that your priests are in Haiti helping those children. May the life and love they extend to those kids be yours as well.



(Thanks to Dylan's Lectionary blog and to Janine on the Feminist Theology blog  for some inspiration for this sermon)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

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)

I stumbled upon this poem again, last night, in a book I'm reading called, "Slow Love: How I lost my job, put on my pajamas and found happiness" by Dominique Browning, editor of Home & Garden before the magazine was closed down and everyone laid off in Nov. of 2008. It's an easy read and enjoyable. It's not unlike, "Eat Pray Love" except it doesn't purport to be a spiritual book, just a story of her life after being fired. She talks about eating, a lot. And about love, complicated and messy. And she talks about prayer, a little bit.

Mostly she talks about trying to find purpose and meaning in her life, and to some degree finding it through gardening. Makes me want to pick up a shovel, at least in more than the figurative way I have been shoveling this year. The book, and the poem, remind me how far I've come and how sometimes the most difficult things that happen to us can somehow produce gifts as well.

Sometimes. There are some sorrows for which, as we move through it, or maybe just learn to live again with the sorrow as the dominant reality of life,  whatever gifts life brings us will never compensate for the sorrow itself. Maybe I'm wrong about that? Only time will tell, I suppose.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Reframing Hope: a book review

Reframing Hope: Vital Ministry in a New Generation by Carol Merritt Howard, reviewed by The Rev. Terri C. Pilarski

When I first began reading Carol Howard Merritt’s on her blog, Tribal Church, I found much of what she had to say echoed that which I had already read, thought about, or was implementing at my small church. I wasn’t sure why there was so much excitement about her and what she was saying. In Reframing Hope Merritt has synthesized the ideas brewing around church dialogue and concerns about the shifts of a postmodern world and its impact on church life. Reading this book was exciting providing me with a focus for the questions I’ve been asking myself for years. She addresses many of the questions I’ve pondered about what it means to be church today and how we build dynamic communities of faith without losing our denominational identity. For example she says this:

“Church leaders are often told that in order to reach out to the image driven MTV generation of Christians, we need to be flashing photos on big video screens and using PowerPoint in every service. This new generation has an attention span of no more than two seconds, we’re told, so we need to keep them entertained at all times in our services. I would never want to disparage the creative innovations that are taking place in many faith communities—from writing interesting new music, creating engaging visual art, and drawing inspiration from their own time and place. Yet I hate for small congregations that cannot afford the flashy images to become frustrated and feel that vital ministry in a new generation is out of their technological and budgetary reach. Because even as many of us put ourselves under considerable strain buying expensive equipment, uploading images, and finding just the right songs, words, and photos to make our services exciting and compelling, members of the MTV generation are leaving our churches, grabbing their mats, and flocking to yoga studios in order to get some peace and quiet.” (page 116)

There occasions when I do not go to church on Sunday morning and instead head off to the local fitness center for a yoga class. The yoga class is always full. Based on the conversations I hear going on around me, the participants are mostly mothers of young children. Why, I wonder, are these women here instead of with their families in church? Merritt begins the book by considering what it means to be church in a world where women work full time jobs outside the home and no longer have the time or energy to devote to volunteer work in the church. She considers the sociological reality that we have shifted our understanding of “authority” from institutions to individuals to communities.
The second chapter,” Reforming Community” is perhaps one of my favorite chapters in the book. This chapter offers some of the clearest thinking I’ve read on the significance of maintaining denominational church structure while at the same time forming community in new ways. For some the unstructured worship of the emerging church concept may speak deeply into their need for God, community, and a spiritual life that helps make meaning out of life. But that does not mean that for Christianity to survive we throw out our churches and our structure. After several decades of mega church charisma, with their shopping mall buildings and movie theater presentations, people are beginning to seek smaller churches that offer a quieter spiritually richer approach to faith. Here is one way she frames this:
“Does it make sense to create a counterculture that simply imitates culture? I ask this question not as a person who is against popular culture but as someone who has found that church people do not often copy pop culture well, if that is their main intent. We can try to make our music and presentations appealing to a new generation by imitating what they are used to, but there is a growing longing for something else. For wired women and men, people who live constantly alert to incoming e-mail and flashing images, there is the hope for a bit of time when we might unplug.” (page 116)

Merritt offers a quick summary of the sociological dynamics of the generations from the Great Depression, to WWII, the social upheaval of the 60’s and 70’s, and the reality of self-destruction through nuclear power, and how they have influenced who we are today. She talks about the movement from a modern worldview based on the assumption that there is answer to every question to a postmodern world where there are more questions than answers, a world where our security in institutions and voices of authority are replaced by an emphasis on the individual. Then, acknowledges that a lingering unhappiness prevails which is leading people to find community. She writes:
“Which brings us to our current religious milieu. We retain the cynicism that remains wary of institutions yet we are weary from radical individualism. Many of us became tired of bearing our own burdens in congregations where we were not allowed to question or wrestle with our faith. A new generation is longing for authentic community, a place that nurtures our spiritual lives and develops deep concern for one another. We look for groups that understand the need for both individual responsibility and communal action. We seek religious communities where our salvation is not dependent on a litmus test of belief or adherence to a particular code of behavior. We seek communities of faith that will hold us, communities within which we submerge ourselves into a river of sacred traditions centuries long.” (page 34)

This is a shift from “isolation to belonging” with a heavy dose of innovation and entrepreneurialism. We are living in a time when people are taking things apart and putting them back together, and this includes our churches:

“In the midst of this yearning, we see new movements rising and converging all around us—new monasticism, postevangelical emergents,the multicultural church, the outlaw preachers, and those Phyllis Tickle calls the “hyphen-mergents” (Presbymergents, Anglimergents, [D]mergents, Methomergents, etc.) who mingle the sensitivities of the emergent movement with their own long-standing denominational traditions. I tend to refer to these men and women as loyal radicals, because Tickle’s terminology suggests that those us in this group will eventually have to choose between our denominational structures or the emergent church.10 Unless we are kicked out of our denominations, most of us have no intention of leaving—yet we fully realize we are a part of a shift in ecclesial thinking. We feel comfortable with the tension of working in a denomination, even with the reality that we live in a postdenominational culture.” Churches that are effectively reaching out to new members and the younger generations are able to bridge the gap between maintaining all the best of our denominational identity while opening up and becoming better at being sharing, networking, and conversational communities.

Merritt builds on this thought in the third chapter which she calls, Reexamining the Medium. As human beings our relationships are crucial to our wellbeing and health. To be in relationship we need to spend time with others, hear and share stories, grow to love and care for each other. Crucial communication no longer takes place only through the spoken word, much of it is also happening through the written word and in short sound bite comments. There are losses in this, time not spent with others in living rooms or on porches, lingering over a cup of coffee, a physical presence and the spoken word, are lost. But those losses do not mean that community is lost altogether. How we build community and share stories has expanded with the advent of social media networks. Rather than diminishing community these networks are forming the bridge for vital community to form.

In chapter four she talks about, Retelling the Message. Not only is it important for churches and church leaders to utilize social networks, but it is also important to have a story to share. Storytelling is a powerful tool for building community.

Living as we do in an age where people have to work 80 hours a week to support a household there is little time or energy for spending time with friends and family and sharing stories. Stories are most powerful when shared in person, where we can use all of our interpersonal cues, especially observing facial expressions. Still a social network is arising through blogging, Facebook and other personal pages, and twitter, where stories are shared and community forms, through short shared phrases that build a story over time and through longer stories shared on blogs, even as many of the participants may not know each other in real life. Merritt writes:
“Since it often takes eighty hours of work instead of forty to support a household, our social lives have been cut short. We are not able to gather with friends or connect through civic organizations as we once did. Our chance to talk to one another has diminished. Yet in a new generation, an astonishing movement has occurred. In the busyness of our schedules, in our anemic social lives, people are turning off their televisions and they are using flat screens to tell their own stories. Through innovative social media, they now gather together in virtual communities, report on their days, and relate the stories of their lives. Now, through blogs, podcasts, social networking sites, and Twitter, the power of the narrative emerges in new ways, as an amazing proliferation of words arise. Through enterprising mediums, creative messages form and people share stories—and this allows spaces for communities to take shape.8” (page 80)

I am reading this book on my computer from a PDF file sent to me from Alban Institute. Also open on my computer are window for the three email accounts I maintain, plus Facebook, and windows for several blogs I write on and follow. I easily move from reading the book to checking email, to posting a comment on a blog, and back to the book where I’m taking notes so I can write this review. We are multitasking multimedia people.

In the fifth chapter titled “Reinventing Activism, reframing hope,” she discusses media and social networking movements and their impact on social justice. Is travel, Internet and global access increasing our sensitivity to justice issues or overwhelming us and shutting us down? Merritt argues both are happening, a sense of being overwhelmed while at the same time providing new ways of mobilizing for justice, peace, and the reign of God’s kingdom. Again for the book:

“The idea of the reign or kingdom of God has been used in different ways throughout our history. It has been a utopian vision for settlers establishing a new world; it has been a battle cry for wars; and it has been a promise held until after you die. Now, it is being recognized once again in our hope for our world to be different. Right here and now, we are longing for wars to cease and for peace to reign. We are praying for a world in which each and every person is fed and sheltered. We see the great inequities, and we know we can do a better job caring for one another. We realize that each person is made in the image of God and has dignity and worth, no matter what his or her earning potential is. The requirements of justice, mercy, and humility ring true for us.” (Page 83)

Chapter Six, “ Renewing Creation” examines aspects of the stewardship of creation. From community gardens to Vacation Bible School to the water we drink, there is trend toward reimagining how we use our vital resources. As a source for reimaging community, entire ministries can be built around developing sensitivity to the world we live in, the food we eat, the air we breathe. These ministries can renew congregations and build a reputation within a community which revitalize churches.

We live in a culture where many people say that they are “Spiritual but not religious.” It’s not quite clear what is meant by this, what is “spiritual” and what is “religious?” Merritt considers this in chapter Seven: Retraditioning Sprituality. Here is part of what she asks and ponders:

“Our Christian churches have not always encouraged an embodied spirituality. Have you ever wondered why so many people who grew up in the rich tradition of Christianity choose to explore other religions when they want to learn how to meditate? What does it say about our churches when so many people declare that they are “spiritual but not religious”? Why are our congregations known more for fighting over ordination standards than for being places where we can learn to open ourselves to the still, small voice of God? In our churches, why are our members more likely to learn how to put together a meeting agenda than they are to learn how to sense the Holy Spirit’s movement?” (page 115)

She then follows that with a reminder that intuition, listening for God is a discerning process: “It’s far too easy for us to claim God’s blessing on our own agendas. We can quickly replace the humility required to listen for God with a pride that assumes our thoughts are the same as God’s. So, we listen for God with a bit of fear and trembling, a whole lot of humility, knowing we may not be right.” (page 119) This is a critical point in this day and age, when people throw around the idea that God is behind what certain people are doing, their political agendas and the issues we face.

One point of criticism I have with the book and her thesis is this generalization: “Right now, our congregations are beginning to grapple with remorse, as many of our national errors come to light. We know we will not be able to sustain unending growth in our financial markets at the same rate that we did in the last couple of decades. We will not be able to use coal, fossil fuels, and nuclear energy without any regard to what it is doing to our environment. We realize our predatory lending has led our nation into a cycle of shameful debt.” (page 128) It's true that churches are grappling with remorse. However our congregations, filled with fear and frozen in time, are hoping for just the right pastor who will lead them BACK to the haydays of the past. Many are not looking at the issues we face in our world today finding those issues daunting. Too many churches do not want to be "political." Instead churches hope for a Pastor who will bring in families and young children, a Pastor who will return them to the grand old days when the pews were full.

Thankfully, on that note, she offers an assessment of the old, dying framework of church and the new frameworks of the world we live. When congregations can reach into these new frameworks they begin to find new life and energy.

“Old” framework and New Framework:
1. Within our old frameworks, our church ministries reached out to a different family structure.
a. New framework: Single parents, couples w/o children, mothers work fulltime outside the house – reducing the volunteer work women used to do in churches
2. Within our old frameworks, our churches could flourish in a Eurocentric society.
a. New Framework: More diversity, no longer primarily white anglo protestant
3. the people to whom our churches reached out were largely from a Christian background. Within our old frameworks, we could rely on social conditioning and denominational loyalty to drive people to church.
a. New Framework: Now a wide array of backgrounds, faiths, religions, beliefs,
4. Within our old frameworks, we could rely on social conditioning and denominational loyalty to drive people to church.
a. New Framework: Now, reach out with more intentional caring and compassion
5. Our modes of communication have changed so dramatically and so quickly that the church has struggled to keep up.
a. New Framework: Social media and networks – some churches can’t even keep a website going.....how to build creative outreach into social media arena?

Overall I enjoyed this book. It would have been a great resource for the small church I worked for some years ago. It would have been a challenge for the larger church, with an older population, that I worked at. But then again, she is writing to and for a younger generation of church and those who are seeking a way to find deeper meaning in life. I hope people use this book in their adult formation groups and seriously ponder what she offers, looking without fear, into their future and how the Spirit is calling them to new life.

(I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the RevGals are hosting Carol Howard Merritt and this book for our Continuing Ed event in February 2011. More information can be found here)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Prayer 19C



(dust storm sun, Arizona, from the files of mompriest)


Merciful God, who created
the heavens and the earth
and all creation
God who weeps
with us
over the sins we commit, destroying
the earth in so many ways,
But most especially
on that tragic
morning of destruction,
when what was left was waste and void;
A hole, fires all around,
and yet no light
leaving us quaking in sin. Ours. Theirs.

Create in me a clean heart O God
A sinner who repents
And put a new spirit within me.

Be patient merciful God,
With our stiff-necked ways,
Blot out our transgressions
The ways we hurt ourselves
The ways we hurt others
The ways we hurt you,
Eating the bread of greed.
Wash us from our iniquity
Help us see our transgressions
And not just the ones we think
Others commit
Help us, heal us
With your love

Create in me a clean heart O God
A sinner who repents
And put a new spirit within me.

God of mercy and grace
Who creates, renews, restores
Who forgives and heals
Help us to be agents of
Hope.
To forgive as you do.
To love as you do.
To be patient as you are.
To care this earth
To care for others
To care for ourselves
May we be your hands
Your heart.
May we rejoice with the angels
A new day,
For in you all things are possible.
Amen.

Crossposted on RevGalBlogPals and RevGalPrayerPals

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Four Years

I wrote my first post on this blog four years ago today. In that post I reflected on my son and his friends coming home from school for lunch. It was one of the first weeks of high school and these 9th graders were enjoying the freedom of leaving campus. We lived about a block away, so our house was an easy stop for food. I made a lot of sandwiches in those days....

What I wrote about in that first post was the conversation we had over lunch, about what the boys remembered from 9-11-01, which had taken place five years earlier, when they were just in 4th grade. They didn't remember much.

In the four years since I wrote my first post, and in the nine years since 9-11-01, the landscape of my life and this country has changed dramatically.

There has been hardship beyond anything I could have imagined.

There has been much sorrow in my life and the lives of those I care about, deeper, than I could have anticipated.

There have been many challenges.

But in and through it all there has been a growing sense of community in my life. A community shaped and formed through blogging. Some of you have become my good friends, even if we have never met!

I'm currently reading Carol Howard Merritt's book, "Reframing Hope." Here is what she has to say on this reality:

"Through the Internet and our ability to use it to publish theories, disseminate ideas, and organize people, community is forming and friendships are emerging. People who were once segregated are able to hear one another and live together in a different way. Our communication has changed so we can easily move from face-to-face interactions to interfacing communications. Speaking to one another, seeing the expressions, and hearing the tremble in each voice has not waned in importance; it is just that we have additional tools that can enhance our personal narratives and make our interpersonal communication even deeper." (page 134, Reframing Hope, Carol Howard Merritt)

In other portions of this book she speaks about the power of community's that have been formed on and from the internet. This is indeed one of the greatest blessings in my life over these last four years.

On the other hand I don't know many of the people who stop by here and read what I write. I suspect there are a number of people who read this blog and never leave comments. I wonder why you stop by and who you are? I hope you find some food for thought, an occasional laugh, maybe an inspiration.

Regardless, I am grateful for this blog-world and our sharing of life's joys, sorrows, prayers, hope and faith.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Life Was Wonderful



(Sunrise at Grand Canyon, photo from the files of Mompriest)


I am filled with joy
when the day dawns quietly
over the roof of the sky.

Life was wonderful
in winter.
But did winter make me happy?
No, I always worried
about hides for boot-soles
and for boots;
and if there'd be enough
for all of us.
Yes, I worried constantly.

Life was wonderful
in summer.
But did summer make me happy?
No, I always worried
about reindeer skins and rugs for the platform.
Yes, I worried constantly.

Life was wonderful
when you stood at your fishing hole
on the ice.
But was  I happy waiting at my fishing hole?

No, I was always worried
for my little hook,
in case it never got a bite.
Yes, I worried constantly.

Life was wonderful
when you danced in the feasting-house
But did this make me any happier?
No, I always worried
I'd forget my song.
Yes, I worried constantly.

Life was wonderful
And I still feel joy
each time the day-break
whitens the dark sky
each time the sun
climbs over the roof of the sky.

(Eskimo Song, from "Earth Prayers" edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon; Harper Collins: 1991)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Monday Morning Musings


"Hey, I was here first...." three of the four dogs at the foot of the bed...

It's Monday after a busy weekend. I woke to cloudy skies and warmer temps than we've had for days. Sadly the warmer, more humid temps made for restless sleep. Well, that and the fact that we are sharing a small house with four big dogs and three cats, each vying for a space in the bed. Unsuccessfully, mind you, but trying nonetheless. And a few of them were successful in finding a spot, temporarily. The kitten, too small to jump up just climbed up. I haven't checked the sheets to see if they are snagged or torn from his sharp baby claws. Sleeping, or trying too, as I did last night, and following a weekend of work, I woke achy and in pain, neck, shoulders, arms, back.

You see, we're staying at our daughter's place. She is out of town, meeting her boyfriend's family for the first time, joining them for their annual Labor Day Michigan camp out. Well, actually they are staying in cottages. She is having a great time, enjoying this family. I'm so happy for her.

Anyway, we're staying at her place, joining all the dogs who love each other, into one house. We're also taking care of our two cats, who live with her, and her new kitten - as yet unnamed. A small white kitten with blue eyes, a Siamese mix. Still unnamed. My husband and I are calling him Simon.

While staying here we decided, as a birthday gift to her, (she turned 22 last Monday), we'd paint the inside of her garage. It was (was)  unfinished dry wall. Now it's white with tan trim on the door frame entering the house. She has been talking about painting it for some time now, so we decided to surprise her.

Now my husband, son, and I are taking bets on how long it takes her to realize that we painted it. Will she notice immediately? Will it still smell like paint and give it away? Will she be observant, arriving home late tonight and tired after the weekend? Will she suddenly realize it two days from now? The three of us who painted it are taking bets, and chuckling about it. A good surprise for her, fun for us. But, oh my am I sore.

Painting was only part of the weekend. I also spent time at the gym working out and walking the dogs at the dog park. Ok, the dogs ran, I walked. It was a busy but not overwhelming week end. Now I face a week with several meetings and some job search work to do. What about you? How was your weekend, and what's ahead for you?

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Sunday Prayer 18C

For those who labor this night, this day
Let us pray.

Pray for those who labor in the world,
To bring peace where there is injustice
Economic, Education, Health Care,
To gather up those who live on the fringes
Pushed aside by power and greed,

For those who work for justice
Let us pray.

Pray for those who labor in this world
Working long hours to feed and clothe children
Over -working for substantial wages
To feed family and put clothes on their backs
Pushed aside by power and greed.

For those who are victims of injustice
Let us pray

For those who weep this night, who suffer
From illness of body, mind or spirit,
Who suffer from broken spirit, broken hearts
Like a malformed pot in the potters hand
Waiting to be remade, whole

For those who seek God
Let us pray

For those who have found healing this day
Those made whole and new again in love
The grace, mercy and love of God,
Who desires us, yearns to make whole
Turn and face the God who loves you

For the love and grace of God,
Let us pray.
Amen

A prayer based on the readings for Proper 18C: Jeremiah 18:1-11 and Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 OR Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Psalm 1; Philemon 1-21 Luke 14:25-33 by The Rev. Terri C, Pilarski, cross-posted on RevGalsBlogPals and RevGalPrayerPals

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