Showing posts from January, 2011

Monday Morning Musings

I continue to slog away reading Karen Armstrong's "The Case for God." Typical of Armstrong, it is fulled with detail. I loved the first chapter on prehistoric "religion" and rituals. She argues that
The desire to cultivate a sense of the transcendent may be the defining human characteristic....
and this

Like art, the truths of religion require the disciplined cultivation of a different mode of consciousness. (and, referring to cave drawings) the cave experience always began with the disorientation of utter darkness, which annihilated normal habits of mind. Human beings are so constituted that periodically they seek out ekstasis, a "stepping outside" the norm. Today people who no longer find it in a religious setting resort to other outlets: music, dance, art, sex, drugs, or sport. We make a point of seeking out these experiences that touch us deeply within and lift us momentarily beyond ourselves. At such times, we feel that we inhabit our humanity mor…

RevGals Friday Five Meme: Fave Verses edition

Songbird. over at RevGals, wonders what five Bible verses are our favorite:

My first response is  - any verse I am preaching on. After spending days and hours pondering the readings for any given Sunday and working the text like I'm kneading breading, until it has shape and form and is pliable, I end up loving that text. In the process the text has likewise given shape and form to my life and faith. This is particularly true for those texts that I really struggle with, or those  challenging occassions when preaching seems an impossible task and yet words come....

That said there are some favorite:

the woman (Mary) in John 12 who annointed Jesus' feet with nard and wiped them her hair

the woman at the well with Jesus in John 4

Matthew 22 - when the pharisee asks Jesus to list the one commandment that is the greatest:
"When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36“Teach…

Monday Morning Musings

By Karen Armstrong

One of the books I'm reading is Karen Armstrong's The Case for God. I've only read the introduction and the first chapter - but find it captivating and interesting. I am drawn to the primal rituals and myths that have shaped and formed our modern religions. I'm also curious to read how she will argue her case for God. She offers this in the introduction:
“Religion is a practical discipline that teaches us to discover new capacities of mind and heart.” Pg xiii It requires hard work, practice, and discipline to understand its truths and falsehoods, which only become clear from ritual and practice – one cannot assess the truth of a religion from reading about it. Theology, like music and art contain meanings that will not translate into logical structures or verbal expression. (page xiv)A rationalized interpretation of religion has led to fundamentalism and atheism – fundamentalism chose logos over mythos (logic over mystery).Then she goes on to say this…


This morning I decided to go for a walk. No matter that the outside air temp was 13 degrees. I was not going to be confined or intimidated by the temperature. I bundled up in my mom's old down coat. It's a long coat from LL Bean, one she purchased many years ago. After she died I saved it, finding it a good coat for winter dog walking. She would have liked that, being a dog lover herself. It's a little too big for me but it was my mom's. And, the added layers I had on under and over helped it fit a bit better than usual.

Anyway, I was wrapped from head to toe in down, and an old Irish wool scarf, a hat and some insulated gloves and shoe/boots. I gathered my books and movies and trudged off to the library.

I could have driven the car. I walked right past it as I headed out on my walk. But the library is a mere three blocks from my house, an easy ten minute walk. It is really silly to drive unless I am running other errands, which I was not. Now that I think about it, I …

RevGals Friday Five Meme: Books!

(photo by Jan)

Jan over at RevGals is thinking about books today and offers this Friday Five Meme:

1. What books have you recently read? Tell us your opinion of them.
I've read several books by Julia Spencer-Flemming. I started with the third book in her series and moved on to the fourth. I find the books compelling even though they are filled with, in my opinion, significant errors about the Episcopal Church. For example I have NEVER heard of a deacon, even an Archdeacon on Diocesan staff, being called "Father." Deacons are called Deacons, by title, so it would be Deacon N.N. We do the same thing with Bishops, Bishop N.N. And, some think we should do the same with priests....but so far we tend to call priests, "Father." I've had people call me, a woman priest, "Father." Father in this regard becomes less about gender and more about role....although of course it is still about gender for some.

I also think the lead character, a female Episcopal prie…

Cold and Restless

It is cold in Chicago. I'm not complaining, it just is. Cold. My dog comes in from a brief time outside to take care of her business and she's shivering from head to toe. In fact, (she cracks me up), she starts to shiver as she walks to the door, before I open it, before she goes out. Yes. She's Ruby, my short-haired Viszla high strung eight year old. I do put a sweater on her. She also has a heavy duty blanket/coat, like horses wear, for longer walks.

The real problem with this cold are the brief bursts of moisture we get at night which promptly turn to ice on the cold ground. Sidewalks are covered in layers of ice. It's treacherous!

So, the really real problem with this cold and ice is that I can't walk my dogs. Not only do I fear slipping and injuring myself but I worry about my dogs on the ice. Roxie, my13 year old dog,is having issues with her hind legs, a spinal/nerve degeneration issue. She's very feeble - even as she is incredibly strong and healthy fo…


I had my first latte over twenty eight years ago. At the time my roommate was a dancer and I was a lighting designer for dance. I lived in a building owned by a group of people, all friends and family, a co-op of sorts, most of us artists.

One warm summer night we had a party in the backyard. I wore a fun red strappy dress and we danced for hours to "Thriller." A few months later we had another party ringing in the "ominous" year of 1984, having fun but grateful that life was not really as George Orwell had written about.

Every morning we ground our beans and brewed our coffee on the stove top in an Italian espresso brewer using french roast coffee beans. In a small pan we scalded milk. The coffee was rich, flavorful, hearty. This is still one of my favorite ways to brew and drink coffee.

Years later, with the popularity of Starbucks, I found myself standing in line to buy my lattes - iced soy latte in the summer and mocha lattes in the winter. And spending a fair…

Monday Morning Musings: Living Into Dreams

I learned of the death of John Kennedy on a school bus as I was heading to first grade. The bus had a radio and it came over the news. I was living in Salt Lake City. I remember a very solemn afternoon at school and later watching the funeral.

I don't remember where I was when I learned of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death. I think I may have been watching "The Monkeys" and it came across the news. I do remember learning a lot about the racial tensions on television and from my mother who was sympathetic to equality for all people, races, and genders. I lived in Wisconsin at the time, in a small community not far from Milwaukee.

I was sleeping the night Bobby Kennedy was shot. My mother woke me up to watch the news with her. She was watching Bobby's speech and saw the shooting. Although I was young I understood how difficult it must have been for her to watch that news alone and her impulse to wake me up.

These events have shaped how I understand life. The yearni…

RevGals Friday Five: Time to Get Up and Play....

SingingOwl over at RevGals invites us to play this Friday Five Meme: Share five things that helped me get out of bed this morning:

1. Hungry dogs staring at me while I tried to bury myself under blankets. Their stares were burning holes through those blankets and the wagging tails of anticipation were evident. So, I had to get up. I just had too.

2. But before I fed those dogs I started the coffee maker so my coffee could brew. Then I fed the three dogs and let them out.

3. And then I poured myself a cup of steaming hot coffee. Really there are some nights I go to bed anticipating the morning cup of coffee. Is that bad, should I worry about myself?

4. If its Friday I do like to get up and see what has been offered for the Friday Five. And I enjoy reading the responses. You might say I need a life...LOL

5. and there are my cats. If the dogs aren't staring me down and disturbing me with wagging tails then the cats are talking. You know that cat-talk - the one that says - "feed …


One of the meditative prayer forms I practice is in the coloring of mandalas. As a process of meditation coloring mandala's is also a healing exercise. The mandala is a symbol of the self and our inner-being, so practicing prayer through coloring mandalas is an invitation to explore our inner selves through prayer. The  mandala above is one I found on the Internet. It's Celtic and one of my favorite. I love the way earth and sky are interconnected through trees. Years ago one of my blog friends introduced me to a mandala coloring book (Shambala Publications). I have taken that coloring book with me on silent retreats - a wonderful way to be mindful, prayerful, and quiet.

I haven't prayed with mandala coloring for about a years. But, last night feeling called into this prayer form I started another one. This particular mandala is swirls in a circle, like chaos becoming order, inner and outer realities wrapping through each other, darkness into light into darkness. I chose …

The Beauty of the Sonoran Desert

Some photos from my time living in Southern Arizona, which I found to be a beautiful place (in many ways):

 Ocotillo, Saguaro National Park

Night blooming cactus, blooms a couple of times a year

 Storm clouds over the Santa Rita Mountains, the view from my backyard and kitchen

 Sunrise over the Santa Ritas, view from my backyard

 Saguaro Cactus, Saguaro National Park, but also found everywhere in Southern AZ

 Ground squirrel family, outside the fence of my backyard

A winter sunset, view from my backyard

Living in southern Arizona took my breath away - the vastness of the sky, the beauty of the desert, the wild life, the rising and setting sun, the mountains - were simply beautiful. I made some good friends there too. And, I found a silent retreat center that I will return too one day, with a profound sense of peace, prayer, and beauty.

Hope for Our Souls

I didn't preach today but I did go to church. I went wondering what words of comfort or wisdom I would hear to help me understand the violence, anger, and insanity, that fed the shootings in Tucson on Saturday. I know this shooting feels particularly personal to me because I lived there for a time and I have been to several events with Congresswoman Giffords. I hold her in high regard. When I heard the news yesterday I was stunned and profoundly saddened.

Having lived there, I know first-hand the propensity toward anger, prejudice, and violence that exists. Alarmingly, these have been increasing over the last few years,particularly in that region of Southern Arizona. It was disturbingly high and chronic in the small community I lived in south of Tucson. While it's true that members of the congregation carried concealed weapons which were always a concern, there were more pronounced issues to contend with. These included chronic, unresolved anger,a pronounced sense of entitlem…

I Don't Want to Live A Small Life

(Photo taken by Terri C. Pilarski)
I don't want to live a small life. Open your eyes, open your hands. I have just come from the berry fields, the sun
kissing me with its golden mouth all the way (open your hands) and the wind winged clouds following along thinking perhaps I might
feed them, but no I carry these heart-shapes only to you. Look how many how small but so sweet and maybe the last gift
I will ever bring to anyone in this world of hope and risk,  so do. Look at me. Open your life, open your hands.
(Mary Oliver: Red Bird; Beacon Press, 2008)

In this season after the Epiphany may we learn to live with open hands and even more open hearts. May the grace of God's peace flow in you and through you. Open your life, let God's love flow.

The Feast of the Epiphany

Setting moon/rising sun Escalante, Utah taken by Terri C. Pilarski, May 2010

I grew up in a non-liturgical church. I never heard of the seasons of the church year as a child. I never practiced intentional waiting in Advent, nor observed Lent nor wore red on Pentecost. The church I grew up in celebrated Christmas and Easter.
My first memory of celebrating the Feast of the Epiphany was with a church I served as an intern while in seminary. Which means that even my "home" parish didn't make much of Epiphany.  At that home church the kids offered a play on a Sunday after Christmas, which we called an "Epiphany Play." And, we probably had some kind of special coffee hour. I also knew that Epiphany celebrated the arrival of the wise ones, bearing gifts, for the Christ child. I knew what I had learned in my seminary liturgics class.
But I didn't really understand the Feast of the Epiphany  until that night at my internship parish. Epiphany fell on a Thursday night tha…


Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite animal photos. Some share my home, some lived outside my home....

 Bootsie, named by the shelter we adopted her from when she was wee kitteh, is now 13 years old. After being somewhat mean spirited most of her life she has recently decided to be a lap cat. Or, at least, my-lap.

If you look closely you will notice the baby bobcats in this photo. They, along with Momma bobcat, lived on the roof of the house across the street from where we lived in Arizona. We would see them out on the roof every night for the better part of a summer.

This photo is of the ground squirrel family that lived behind our house, outside the stone wall, toward the arroyo (Arizona mountain rain run off canyon) - which was part of our backyard. 

Oliver (2 years old), our daughter's dog, doing one of his amusing tricks.

Shadow, our 6 year old cat, reclining on the recliner.

If you look closely at this photo you may see the quail family on the stone fence, th…


When my daughter was five she wanted riding lessons for her birthday, horse-back riding. When we explored the options we were told that she had to be six before the local barns would give her lessons. I kind of thought she would out grow that desire before her sixth birthday, as kids often do. For that fifth birthday we got her zebra finches. She named them "John" and "Gina." They lived a very long time.

The next year, on her sixth birthday, our daughter wanted the riding lessons. For the better part of the next twelve years my daughter rode. While in high school she worked at a local clothing store for a couple of years while she continued to ride and compete. A few years after that she quit the clothing business and began working at "the barn." A few years after that she became a professional equestrian. She's worked hard, been very focused on her dream, and now is living it. She's really amazing, some days I stand in awe that she is my daughte…

The Logos, A Conversation in the Flesh

A reflection on John 1 and Matthew 2:1-12

A Rector for the first time I found myself, within weeks of starting this position, faced with the events of 9/11. How was I, so new to this call, to have any idea what the congregation would need? It seemed that the only real response was to open up the church that night and offer a place for us to come and pray, sing, and be together. And so we did. In fact we started a series of ecumenical prayer vigils, held over the next year. In a simple Taize style of prayer and song, sometimes in our Episcopal Church, sometimes in the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, or United Church of Christ church, our united communities gathered in solidarity and mutual comfort praying for a world that seemed to be falling apart.

About eighteen months after 9/11, just as the congregation and I were getting settled into comfortable relationships, the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire elected Gene Robinson as Bishop. While personally I celebrated this event my congregation…