Saturday, December 29, 2007

and the three mystery days...

I'm too tired to create, so I'm sharing this great classic Christmas song from up north here.
It's just audio, but you can imagine the greatness!

Monday, December 17, 2007


I think it was the Tao of Pooh that mentioned one cannot save time only spend it...

Well. It seems that there has been a landslide of time being spent... So much so, that it seems the bank is overdrawn.

So if we can't save time, only spend it; what happens when there seems to be none left?

One scenario: get sick and lose one's voice. Thus going into more time debt.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Five: Preparation, preparation

Prayers go out to Sally as she writes:
This has been a difficult week for me, the death of a little six year old has overshadowed our advent preparations, and made many of us here in Downham Market look differently at Christmas. With that in mind I ask whether you are the kind of person that likes everything prepared well in advance, are you a last minute crammer, or a bit of a mixture..... Here then is this weeks Friday 5:

1. You have a busy week, pushing out all time for preparing worship/ Sunday School lessons/ being ready for an important meeting ( or whatever equivalent your profession demands)- how do you cope?
Just kinda barrel on through. Although a good glass of red wine at the end of the day often helps...

2. You have unexpected visitors, and need to provide them with a meal- what do you do?

Behold, the power of cheese. We always seem to have cheese available in our household. We love the cheese, and our lovely cheese monger - who we make a pilgrimage to at least once a month- has us set up well, ready for any and all people who come to share the beauty of cheese. Oh. and wine. maybe Belgian beer as well....

3. Thinking along the lines of this weeks advent theme; repentance is an important but often neglected aspect of advent preparations.....
When I lived in Russia I was first introduced to the idea of Advent being a mini-Lent, of sorts. The orthodox priests described it as the 'short' fast. Since then I've come to appreciate colleagues and friends who take this time to return to the source, either by cutting things from their diet, or purposefully stay away from the capitalist Utopia which we call Christmas shopping. Advent is a call to return to our source.

4. Some of the best experiences in life
occur when you simply go with the flow.....
Hmmm. Not an easy statement for us type A personalities to, uh, flow with.

5. Details are everything, attention to the small things enables a plan to roll forward smoothly...
Well, details are important, but not everything. There is enough of a rebel in me to enjoy some unexpected aspects... especially when I am reminded that I am not in charge of everything, the world does not rest on my shoulders, it's like the quote I have in the front of my calendar:
"You are not totally, personally, irrevocably responsible for everything.
That's my job.

Bonus if you dare- how well prepared are you for Christmas this year?
Ha! I laugh at the thought!
Are we really ever prepared for Emmanuel?
Emmanuel is ready and waiting for us

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

early, early morning wanderings

I woke up at 4:07 this morning.

Actually, that was what the clock said when I finally gave up on finding a comfortable sleeping position, and turned to see how middle of the night it really was.

It has been a few weeks since I have woken up thinking (OK, obsessing) about things. Usually my tendency is to wake up around 1:30 or 2am, but 4pm, well it's just late enough in the morning, that falling back asleep will really mess with the REM cycle.

So, I got up. The worries about everything: from trying to quiet down folks during the prelude to worship, to finding money to increase staff salaries, to broaching the topic with my folks about bringing the dog with to Christmas celebrations, to getting the press release out about the concert... the list goes on.

What is it about laying (lying?) prone at 4am that starts this tidal wave of thoughts, concerns, worries and fears. Everything is amplified as I look up at the bedroom ceiling. Everything seems to rise or fall based on my ability to keep the people in pew 3 on the right from talking during the music director's prelude.

So, I rose, grabbed a notebook and started writing down everything that was swimming in my mind. Set it aside, made the coffee, prepped food for supper tonight, cleaned up clutter in the rooms of the house, and waited for the light to come.

And as it gradually got lighter, the fears and worries melted away. No beautiful sunrise, just a growing glow. No epiphany of understanding, just a steady dissipating of fear.

The light shines in the darkness. And the darkness has not overcome it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A little early holiday spirit

What Would Jesus Buy?

holy and steep ground

The past few weeks have held many, many things. But this morning I get to sit, looking out of our front window at the gently falling snow, and reconnect with my writing self, my quiet self, and my warm and furry dog (the last one, a bit strange, yes, but big, hairy dogs are quite wonderful this time of year.)

Today feels somewhat like standing at the top of a huge sledding hill, looking out at the well traveled path ahead, but still learning the turns and curves that are veiled with this year's new snow.

It's a huge and steep hill, for the next months will be a fast paced ride. And in sledding one really doesn't have time to plot the course, but rather we react to what comes, and rely on our vision that we had at the top.

So as I stand at the top, looking out toward the valleys which hold the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter free falls of joy, the Advent and Lent tree-shaded difficult paths, and the Epiphany moments of bright light, I stand in wonder at this whirlwind ride that is about to begin.

It will pass in a flash of light, and when we reach the bottom, we gather up our sleds, our strewn out mittens and boots, pulling them together to begin climbing back to the top to begin our ride again next year.

So with a deep breath, a quick sign of the cross and a jump start... we're off!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I should have knocked on wood...

I should not have tempted fate with my last post.

The past week was powerful, beautiful chaos. But in the midst of it, I don't feel as if I am off-set from a place of peace. This is rather unusual. Perhaps it is that I now have a few years of full time ministry under my belt, and I'm no longer scrambling to keep up with congregational and worship life.

Or perhaps it is growth.

A colleague who is new to ministry had been commenting to another who had been in ministry for 30 years, about how she had lost sight of her own spiritual discipline. His reply: 'welcome to pastoral ministry.'

Now, this is not a new phrase or comment for most of us who work in parish life in some form. Which, in and of itself, is terribly sad. But for a veteran of this call to welcome a new pastor to a rather hope-less voyage of ordained ministry...

But it does not have to be this way. This is not the path of ordained ministry I signed up for, nor will I follow it. When we are called to offer a Gospel path to the folks who asked us to serve their congregation, we are called to take care of our own spiritual lives and invite them to care for theirs as well.

Peace in chaos
Creation in stillness
Prayer in demanding times
Hope in bare, unyielding landscapes.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Holy Grounds: November Days

I think November may be the quietest month of the church year.
There are no new programs beginning for the fall.
High school games are done with their regular seasons.
Most confirmation Sundays are in October or April.
The first three Sundays are pretty low in attendance due to deer hunting season.
Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter... all of them still a hopeful planning distance away.

In the north country, November doesn't bring an end to autumn, that has long since been over. There are no more colors on the trees, or in the distances. Harvest has long since been over as has all the canning activities that go with it.

So November is the stark month. There is no beautiful blanket of snow to cover the brown grass or muddy trails. There are few holiday lights decorating houses (thank God) for the first part of the month.

The landscape is bare, the air is cold, the wind carries woodsmoke, the land has gone into hibernation.

It is quiet, and it is absolutely beautiful.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween = Inclement Weather

I can't remember a Halloween where I have not needed:
A. rain jacket
B. hip waders
C. down jacket
D. skis

Why is it that this day always seems to hold rather terrible weather?

Perhaps it does draw back to the original understanding of All Hallows Eve. Where the spirits would wander the earth in anticipation of All Saints Day. It's like they would come early to the party, check out the guest list, and catch up before the actual formal festivities began.

I've seen enough fantasy movies that tell us the weather brings with it tidings... sometimes fearful ones, think of fog rolling in, thunder clouds suddenly gathering, and like today: snow falling.

If I was a more superstitious person... but in this line of work, who isn't at times?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Searching for meaning... picking up pieces

Our hearts are breaking again...

Thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of a young woman in southern Minnesota. Which echoes the horror felt only two months ago by another community in northern Minnesota.

Perhaps as we get older, and we just get better at picking up the pieces, and holding them out to God to reform and reshape.

The hardest part is helping those we love do the same. The woman in southern MN was a close friend of my brother's. And while he isn't a stranger to grief, my heart still breaks for him. It can be a tiring exercise... moving from funeral to funeral, saying goodbye to friend after friend.

May we all sense God's peace in this troubled world.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday Five: Pumpkins and Apples

Singing Owl writes....

All Hallows Eve (Halloween) is near. As a child, Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. We didn’t yet worry about razor blades in apples or popcorn balls or some of the other concerns people have with Halloween these days. Halloween was a chance to be mildly scared, and better yet, to dress up and pretend to be something we really weren’t.
Let’s talk about that a bit, but then let’s add in some food ideas for this year. Where I live the leaves are falling, the temperature is chilly and pumpkins are for sale everywhere, along with many kids of apples. What's more, the "Holiday Season" will soon be upon us. ACK! I could use a new idea for dessert. So, here we go…

1. How did you celebrate this time of year when you were a child?
Of the three children, we all started with the "beginner" halloween costume- which was a rather scary clown outfit. With a little of mom's eyeliner and shadow, we were set for our trick or treating adventures. After a few years, our parents would switch off- one would go out with us and the other would dress up and do a theme as they handed out candy to kids.

2. Do you and/or your family “celebrate” Halloween? Why or why not? And if you do, has it changed from what you used to do?
Since we don't have children, the dog refuses to be dressed up, and we live in a rather remote area, we don't celebrate much. But I still buy candy in hopes that we will get some brave souls... the ones that make the drive to the pastor's house.

2. Candy apples: Do you prefer red cinnamon or caramel covered? Or something else?
Definitely caramel covered. Definitely.

3. Pumpkins: Do you make Jack O’ Lanterns? Any ideas of what else to do with them?
I gotta carve at least one pumpkin a year... but I'm not the most artistic of carvers. So on Halloween sales last year, I got a carving kit with real nifty designs! Carving begins this weekend!

4. Do you decorate your home for fall or Halloween? If so, what do you do? Bonus points for pictures.
Like my sister, I am only allowed to decorate one month before the holiday. So I will often do a general fall theme of colors and candles- not as much the halloween stuff, though... see #3- no one to see it!

5. Do you like pretending to be something different? Does a costume bring our an alternate personality?
I've never been much for dressing up. Perhaps it is because now people ask to borrow MY work uniform -the collar shirt- to dress up. It's an interesting thing to now become a costume idea. I suppose it is a bit like being a superhero...

Bonus: Share your favorite recipe for an autumn food, particularly apple or pumpkin ones.
Pumpkin Soup. (For more details, email me) Take a moderate size pumpkin, clean it out, rub with veg oil, salt and pepper inside. Place in a sheet pan with lip or roasting pan. Fill 3/4 full with chicken broth and any other yummy soup-like ingredients:carrots, celery, onions, cooked chicken, rice, etc. (best to partially cook rice or grains before adding).
Then place in oven at 325-350 for at least 1 1/2 hours- or longer. Serve the soup out of the pumpkin, scraping the sides of the pumpkin to add the meat. Makes a great center piece as well as a meal!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thursday sermon procrastination

Oh the dangers of facebook and myspace... they take away valuable time from blogging...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fear factor foods...

I was reminded this weekend that I did try one of the more disgusting things in this world -

A little over a year ago, a group of us were traveling in Peru where we tried the local delicacies of cuy and chicha: Guinea pig and a fermented corn beverage.
The guinea pig was a little tough and not too remarkable.

I nearly gagged when I learned that the fermentation process involved old women spitting, yes spitting, into the great big vat of liquid as they prepare it.

I still shudder a bit at this... but am somewhat proud of myself for trying it. I can handle anything, right?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday Five: Homage to the Top Chef!

This Fall Rev Hrod's family has been energetically watching Top Chef on the Bravo channel.

The winner for this season was Hung. Not the fan favorite, but he won fair and square. In his bio, he says if he were a food "I would be spicy chili - it takes a while to get used to, but once you eat it you always come back for more!" With that in mind, here is this week’s Friday Five

1. If you were a food, what would you be?
Hmmm... this is kind of a tough one. I think there should be online test for this... but if I had to be a special secret ingredient for Iron Chef, I would probably say: the avocado. While I don't believe i am the world's most perfect me, I think the avocado is the world's most perfect food. It is great for protein, vitamins, minerals, good by itself or mixed up in things. Plus, where else do you get to each such beautiful shades of green?

2. What is one of the most memorable meals you ever had? And where?
After months of living in Russia, we left the country to renew our visas in Estonia. Tallinn is an ridiculously charming city. In the town square, we sat down to a lovely meal of fresh greens, a good red wine, and a beautifully prepared steak topped with roasted pears and Gorgonzola cheese. Might have been the fact that the waiter actually wanted to speak English with us, that we were welcomed as foreigners or that fresh greens and pears were actually available and affordable. We still talk about that meal...

3. What is your favorite comfort food from childhood?
Rolled out shortbread Christmas cookies. They are fabulous. 3 ingredients: butter, sugar and flower. Mix together, roll out, make crazy cookie cutter shapes, put on pan and douse with various colored sugar crystals. The whole house smells like butter for days. And they literally melt in your mouth. Cookie making was an all day affair at our home growing up, and I loved the family effort it encouraged.

4. When going to a church potluck, what one recipe from your kitchen is sure to be a hit?
Wild Rice salad. It's not as dowdy as it sounds... but the key: hand picked, hand parched wild rice. Seriously. It's worth the cost. Nothing is as good. Toss the cooked rice with lots of freshly chopped vegetables like bell peppers, roma tomatoes, red onion, carrots, etc. and some good balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Yummm (plus it can sit out for a while without too many fears....)

5. What's the strangest thing you ever willingly ate?
At an Armenian restaurant with my sister and brother, we ordered an appetizer plate (we had no idea what was on it... it was in Armenian!) Set before us was a beautiful mix of pates and spiced meats. We all enjoyed the thinly sliced meat and onion dish on flat bread until my sister exclaimed... "I know what this is: It's tongue! I can see the taste buds!"
Needless to say, we didn't eat much of it after that...

Bonus question: What’s your favorite drink to order when looking forward to a great meal?
A really, really good glass of red wine. Either a bordeaux, pinot noir, or malbec (these days, anyway)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Is love all we really need?

Today I had a visit that just knocked me out. I am still wondering so many things about pastoral care, about my role as pastor and spiritual guide. And I am, in essence sad.

For this evening, I counseled a woman to leave the marriage I blessed not even a year ago.

She feels like a failure. Her husband feels like a failure. They both are squeezing so tightly and looking in such different directions that I wonder how I didn't recognize this during the pre-marital counseling.

So, in essence, I feel like I have failed both of them.

I couldn't, in good faith, counsel the woman to stay in this marriage that keeps her bitter, angry and tormented.

But a small voice has me wondering if I should attempt to preserve the institution of marriage as much as possible. Is that my call?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Holy Grounds: Rainy Sundays

The past few weeks have left a mark- so it wasn't a surprise that I woke up at 3am this morning worrying about the worship service where:
A. we were trying something different, again. (would people walk out again?)
B. We have started another "low attendance season" aka. The hunting seasons begin...
C. the vocal complainers would be present and looking for their "suggestions" to be implemented.

Yeah, I worried about that for about an hour or so. Climbed back into bed, put my cold feet on my husband (he's still pretty good about that, maybe after 5 more years of marriage though..) and proceed to have scary dreams about the service.

Really scary.
Like showing up naked and forgetting the sermon - scary. (which is worse? Hard to say)

After a swift make-up job to mask those eye bags, I was off to church- adrenaline flowing.


It all went well. No one walked out. (of course certain people didn't show either... their loss) A couple of duck hunters actually arrived (promises of good food in the freezer!) and complainers were (for the most part) satisfied.

But the thing that still constantly amazes me is how I always love my job during and after worship. The people, the hugs, the prayers, the songs, the conversations, the children, the grandparents. All of them served me today in reminding me that God is still calling me to this life of mine.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

What you didn't learn in seminary could fill a library...

This job can really get to a person.

It is a ridiculous notion that 1 person is expected to fill the needs and expectations of a multitude of individuals, each with a differing priority agenda, and fill them now.

I know pastors encounter this regularly, but it still doesn't seem fair. They never trained us for this in seminary. If they did, would we still go out to these calls, bright eyed and filled with hope and Gospel? Maybe...

Through all this, I have found colleagues that often find themselves in the same predicament in this little community. This has been good. And many of them, my congregation members, so it deepens our understanding of ministry.

Jobs I now empathize with: school principals, hospital administrators, funeral home directors, and union leaders. (this is a short list, but it is a small town, after all)

The problem arises then, when even through our mutual experiences of unreasonable expectation and entitlement, suddenly, the collegiality and friendship is taken advantage of. The exact same behavior we lament over together is used against a colleague and it forms a wedge between community leaders.

And the whole community feels it- and is paralyzed to do much about it.

Sometimes I wish we had a support group for this. Perhaps a leaders anonymous. LA. A 12 step program which helps us understand the power we have in this community, how to manage it, how to understand our abuse of it, and ultimately realize that it is not ours to control.

How can we find Grace in positions of power if we are so weary from the onslaught of raw human need and unreasonable entitlement?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Preparing for a Holiday

We are going on Holiday... this was a term I first came across when I lived in Europe. The diverse community of expats and residents in that country always referred to time away as "going on holiday."

In the US - we call it vacation. It does have a very different tone: vacation- to vacate a place - or to go on holiday- to go to holy days- to find holiness.

As I prepare to vacate this town and this work (which, never really is vacated) for a week - the days leading up to the holiday are pressured. It is almost as if the world is telling me that I cannot leave, I can't vacate. There is too much to do. To many fires to put out. To much brokenness to help mend. Too many problems to solve.

And I grow weary. Because now, I can't vacate. These things will come with me. They will be in my computer, in my calendar, in my ever-list making head...

How then, do we not attempt to vacate, but instead honor the holy days ahead?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Guard the Mondays!

It really is amazing how quickly a day off can be taken away.

Now, for pastors, notable exceptions may be funerals and emergencies that involve hospital visits, family care and general loving care in the name of our God.

But it all starts when a meeting is scheduled for a day-off night- in this case, a Monday, and then it is easy to be coerced into more...

Well, Pastor, since you'll be there for x meeting (did I say I was going to be there? I must have) the can we meet about y as well, it will only take 20 minutes or so. And since you will be there for x and y we should meet about z. (How long is z?) well, we just need to meet for a bit about z.

Sigh. Getting cornered after worship on Sundays, when I'm flying high on coffee looking forward only to a nap... I'll agree to anything to get out of the church door I guess.

It is, indeed, a slippery slope. Now it's off to church for the evening! Yipee!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Five: Meetings, Meetings

In honor of a couple of marathon meetings Reverend mother attended this week:

1. What's your view of meetings? Choose one or more, or make up your own:
a) When they're good, they're good. I love the feeling of people working well together on a common goal.
b) I don't seek them out, but I recognize them as a necessary part of life.
c) The only good meeting is a canceled meeting.

I'd have to go with a). And I might clarify: when they are run well, facilitated well, and there is a spirit of hope and mission. Since I am not a particularly creative individual, I am happy to put energy and hope into process: administration can be a great gift!

2. Do you like some amount of community building or conversation, or are you all business?

If we are only all business, then nothing to do with community and conversation will ever be developed. I had a new member of our staff relate a comment she made to her spouse: "we don't get anything done at staff meetings! I mean we pray, we check in, we read devotions and go through the calendar, but there are no lists to check off!"

3. How do you feel about leading meetings? Share any particular strengths or weaknesses you have in this area.

To be honest, I'd rather lead a meeting, if for no other reason then the fact that I know how. Meetings need to be facilitated well with a clear leader who keeps us on task, respects every person and the time that is given to the meeting. Time for discussions and airing of grievances is better after the meeting perhaps one to one.

4. Have you ever participated in a virtual meeting? (conference call, IM, chat, etc.) What do you think of this format?

Not as big of a fan. Soooo much can be learned from facial expressions and body language. So much- it's almost as important as the topic itself.

5. Share a story of a memorable meeting you attended.

Are you ready? Drum roll please: The council meeting that was under an hour.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Holy Ground: 6 years of Ministry

It's hard to believe that we have been revenging for 6 years now.

So much has happened since then. The day the attack happened, I had just started seminary. Strange to think that my entire training and ministry has taken place during a time of war.

As I read, studied, communed, learned, preached, and witnessed it was always in a context of a war; of a time of revenge; in a time of getting back at the bad guys... whoever they may be, because they seem to change often based on whether or not they have what we want.

So after 6 years of a weight that has overtly and silently sat on my and the whole world's shoulders, I can't help but wonder:

What is it like to preach the gospel in a time of peace?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The simple life

I've always found it interesting the number of books that are written about people's adventures to quaint, country lifestyles and simple basics. I came across the latest of these in a magazine, where an author decided to learn about raising goats by traveling across 43 states.

I may be way off but it seems to me that the only way to really learn about raising goats is to sell your city cabin, move to the country, buy a farm and some goats.
Subletting your condo, and traveling with the book advance isn't quite the same thing.

There are many folks that try this- whether they sample different religions, try to eat local food for 2 summer months or sample country living by leasing a fully renovated farm house with no plumbing problems or mice infestations.

A recent report tells us that now over half of the US population is no longer rural. And it seems that some kind of romanticism has popped up about the good life in small farms. But it is simply another form of tourism.

If life in rural areas was really encouraged to continue, the Farm bill wouldn't be helping corporate agribusinesses, but family farming practices and health agriculture practices.

People would know that canning vegetables is a full time and tricky business- and in February, your are either out of dill beans or really, really sick of them.

An author would learn that raising stubborn goats for milk is a dirty, messy, financially strapped, and sometimes very lonely job.

How can we simplify our lives if we can't give things up?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Please pray for our small broken community.

How long, O Lord?
Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
and my enemy will say, "I have prevailed"
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken

But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

~Psalm 13

Friday Five: Seasons Change

It's Labor Day weekend here in the United States, also known as Summer's Last Hurrah. So let's say goodbye to summer and hello to the autumn.

1. Share a highlight from this summer.
I love our little town fair. Actually I love any and all town fairs, street festivals and music gatherings where folks gather together, support local fundraisers, enjoy music and each other. In small towns we don't have neighborhood night outs, but we do have great little festivals.

2. Are you glad to see this summer end? Why or why not?
Yes and no. Summers are quite busy in the north land - all of your folk that leave the city take up temporary residence here, so we enjoy a vibrant congregation for these 3 months. And with that comes busier times, that just translate to different busy-ness the rest of the year.

3. Name one or two things you're looking forward to this fall.
or more... I love this season: Football games, long walks, warm sweaters and venison sausage.

4. Do you have any special preparations or activities to mark the transition from one season to another?
I know the summer is coming to a close after a visit to the state fair. The last great summer "get together." Filled with fried food and a lot of dairy products, we begin the autumn diet.

5. I'll know that fall is really here when:
Well, it's actually here already in the north country. It's been here for a few weeks now. I'll know that winter is here when I pull out the tubs of sweaters and pack away the tank tops and sundresses.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A little grace for Miss South Carolina

So perhaps, yes, I was a bit harsh in the last post. Based on a number of blogs and news shows (not to mention the judges who voted this candidate in 3rd place...) maybe I was quick to judge this young, uh, scholarship candidate.

But really, where did South Africa and maps come in? Someone please, explain this to me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


It's great to know that beauty pageants have not defied the stereotype... yet...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

August Sabbath

The quiet has arrived

The sermon is finished
The wedding has been celebrated
The gatherings have happened
The sun has set
The sauna is hot
The meal is prepared

The sabbath begins...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Five: Word Association, Redux

This one is patterned off an old Friday Fivewritten by Songbird, our Friday Five Creator Emerita:
Below you will find five words. Tell us the first thing you think of on reading each one. Your response might be simply another word, or it might be a sentence, a poem or a story.

1. vineyard
The economic system of the ancient near east. Whenever it is used in text, I like to think it is a model for the whole world. Wine was as important to trade then as oil is to us. It defines us, uses us, helps us and feeds us. Yup, I'm in academic social science mode today.

2. root
What I find myself talking to alot of parents about these days. Especially those who are sending children off to college for the first time. The importance of giving people roots and wings.

3. rescue
What I need when I'm drowning in administrative crap like people who complain to people who complain to people about staff members who overstep their job descriptions and need to be needed for their own self-worth. Yikes, it has been a full week.

4. perseverance
God's church will survive, and even thrive.

5. divided
It will be a good sermon this Sunday- tying in some of number 3 and the division within the congregation and those that threaten the larger church. All will be honored in the power of gathering together around a common table.

What comes to mind for you?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Holy Grounds

Three separate gatherings today
Three separate cups of coffee

holy grounds ~ planning a wedding service with a young couple

holy grounds ~ praying for healing in a hospital room

holy grounds ~ beginning plans for a memorial service for a woman with terminal cancer

Some days I am so overwhelmed by this work.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunday afternoon musings

Rarely do I dare to post on Sunday afternoons... at the risk of draining an already low well of vocabulary and coherent thoughts. But today something happened, something rather extraordinary.

Now, I'm sure it's not the first time this has happened, but it was the first time I noticed it. And a few things had to happen in succession...

1. I gave a truly uninspiring sermon (due in some part to the very misplaced popular culture reference... know thy audience... it seemed like a great illustration)

2. the music was jumbled, too fast or too slow. The musicians only had time to practice just before the service.

3. The pastor (me) was tired- and that Sunday adrenaline rush never quite managed to kick in.


4. People still left filled, happy, commissioned, active and hopeful.

I'm so glad that this whole church thing is not about me.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

There are weeks when my sermon is written by Wednesday afternoon...

And sometimes those sermons must be rewritten:

"vanity of vanities... all is vanity"

~Ecclesiastes 1:2

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Even the fridge is hot

Which came first? The oppressive heat or the need for air conditioning in the oppressive heat which gives off greenhouse gases which heat up the earth and cause more oppressive heat?

I've read countless articles, poems and stories about surviving winter. You know, the stark beauty, the dark, cold land, blah blah. Winter is great.

Now seriously how about surviving summer?

Humid and heavy air, swarming, biting black flies, distant loved ones (don't touch me- your feet are hot!)

Where are the poets for this stuff?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Back from even more backwoods

I am back to the land of wireless after being in a different kind of wireless place. That place was wireless, toliet-less, running water-less, and comfy bed-less.

But it was:

beauty-full, grace-full, clean air-full, God-full, and hope-full.

8 days with kids and adults out of our comfort zones and ordinary patterns. It was wonderful, frustrating, inspiring and trying. All the things that come with good adventures.

Now, it's back to the lists and tasks. But- also back to beds and showers!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Friday Five: Wocher, Harry!

As you may have seen in this Rev Gal's Wednesday's Festival, Pottermainia has hit the RevGals--though not all of them. So today's Friday Five is a Choose your Own Adventure: that is, another version of the quiz is available at RevGals for the muggles...

Accio Friday Five!

1. Which Harry Potter book is your favorite and why?
hmmm... this is a tough one. Because I tend to like to have all my options in front of me and I need to read 7! But in many ways I'm still loving the very first one, because it introduced me to the beauty, wonder and imagination of the characters and the world of Harry Potter.

2. Which character do you most resemble? Which character would you most like to get to know?
Well, most quizzes tell me I'm like Hermione, which I probably was a bit like when I was younger- kind of a intellectual nut, but I do admire her fierce loyalty and intelligence.
And I think a dive into the psyche of Firenze, the new divination prof would be a fascinating time!

3. How careful are you about spoilers?
a) bring 'em on--even if I know the destination, the journey's still good
b) eh, I'd rather not know what happens, but I'm not going to commit Avada Kedavra if someone makes a slip
c) I will sequester myself in a geodesic dome to avoid finding anything out

I'm pretty cool about this stuff- Goodness knows I've been reading enough blogs about it, so I'm probably a "B" but I will be out in the woods next weekend so I'm not too worried about the spoiler- in any case, it will still be a great book!

4. Make one prediction/share one hope about book 7.
Like other bloggers, I still hold out hope that Snape is on the side of good, not evil.

5. Rowling has said she's not planning any prequels or sequels, but are there characters or story lines (past or future) that you would like to see pursued?
Again, I can't say for certain, not knowing what the next book will hold and the paths it will lead, but I love following the lives of Fred and George- I sort of live vicariously through them- throwing caution to the wind and living it up!

What's shape is your Pottermania taking?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Expectations of the Office: Growing Edge

Well, he didn't show. I can't say I'm terribly surprised, but I am torn between relief and a bit of sadness.

Whatever made him stop in to ask for help, maybe the desperation, maybe the 5 beers he had on his breath... the bravado must have left or the immediate situation got better- so he didn't feel he needed to talk to someone anymore. I am saddened, because it sounded like he really could have used a listening ear.

I am relieved as well, an a bit ashamed of this, because I tend to have little patience with people who demand things from me. I was worried about my reaction to his need. I guess this is a big place for me to grow pastorally: patience and grace.

So, I continue to lift him in prayer and others who are in similar places in life. And maybe, he will stop by again, hopefully looking toward the future rather than buried in the past.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Expectations of the Office

It's always interesting to encounter people who feel they are "owed" something from the church.

The man came in one afternoon, demanded to see the pastor, (me) who was out visiting parishioners. The office staff (who did not recognize him) refused to give him my home phone number or the parsonage address (God bless level headed office ministry staff!) but he finally left with the assurance I would call him.

Saturday morning I did. The phone was answered with some anger over how long it took me to call him, "a member" (who never attends worship, is not on our roster, nor recognized by 15 year veteran staff) because he needs to meet with me because he is depressed but refuses to see a counselor.


Sometimes its hard to love people through difficult times when they show little respect for others. I agreed to one pastoral counseling meeting, which will occur tomorrow. But it is difficult not to approach it with a bit of a chip on my own shoulder. God help me to be present to this person!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday Five: Hasty Edition

Reverend Mother tells us of her family-induced haze these few days, with the July 4 holiday and taking time off while relatives are visiting. The haze is, indeed smoky and a bit sticky. So she encouraged us with an oldie: Today, what are you:

1. Wearing
Since I didn't get my morning workout-hoping to transfer it to the early afternoon- I am pretty comfortable in capri khaki microfiber pants, a Merlefest T-shirt of the light green variety and my dusty hiking boots I am attempting to break in some more.

2. Reading
Trying to catch up on the mountain of theology journals that are weighing down my desk. the big question is do I wade through them by group title or just by chronology...

3. Eating
Special K for breakfast... (prep for that hiking trip), yummy Mexican stew for lunch, and hopefully some grilled chicken for dinner, using some of our lovely herbs and adding home grown tomatoes with the meal.

4. Doing
Procrastinating. That is, not working on: my sermon for Sunday, the article for the local paper, my sermon for the wedding I'm performing this weekend, the article for the online 'zine, and the autobiographical statement for a program application. Oh, and not exercising yet either!

5. Pondering
Whatever moves people get up at 4am to wait in line for garage sales?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Industry: Religion

I just received another packet of, well, let's call it what it is... crap... through the mail.

Encompassed in a large plastic sleeve which must be thrown away, 5 "magazines" of religious product news fall out. Under the guise of articles, various companies are writing to promote their products which range from clerical shirts to church playground equipments to sound system offers.

How does this fit into the message of the gospel?

Well, at least I can recycle the sleek pictures of a 7,000 seat sanctuary...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

5 Things I Dig About Jesus Meme

I was tagged by St. Inuksuk for this, my very first meme: Yeah!

1. I dig that Jesus was all about being human - life, friends, food, drink, etc.

2. I dig that Jesus saw through all the gunk that has us drawing lines and putting up walls: he walked through lines of gender, class, race, ability, sex... he crossed them all.

3. I dig that he was really with people - in all aspects of their lives. He was there in their passion, their hurt, their joy, their frustration, their hope, their fear... and our's too.

4. I dig that Jesus loved the world so much he became a part of all of us to live on in each of us.

5. I dig that Jesus didn't ask for membership cards, faith statements, documents, creeds or proof that people deserved love and healing.

Passing along the great love of our buddy Jesus, I tag:
Amused, Walking Wet, Pastor Peters, JJ

But if you haven't been tagged- tell us what you dig about the great JC!

Rules for this meme:
a)Those tagged will share "Five Things They Dig About Jesus".
b)Those tagged will tag 5 people. (if they can find someone untagged!)
c) Those tagged will leave a link to their meme in the comments section of the
blog of the person who tagged them (meaning this post) so that everyone can
keep track of what's being posted.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Backwoods Living

Living in the north woods, we have found there are some tools, machines and other doo-dads that everyone owns and just assumes everyone else owns. For example, almost everyone has some form of a:
fishing boat with at least two kinds of motors
a 4 wheeler or ATV
a snow machine (snowmobile to us urbanites)
an ice auger
a wood burning something or other
wait for it...
the ultimate show of backwoods manly man-and woman-ness....

The chainsaw.

We don't own a chainsaw up here in logging country... but I think my big city, urban loving husband is in deep chainsaw envy. As we had parishioners help with the downed trees in our yard, he stared longingly at the 3 - count them 3 for the 1 downed tree- chainsaws that were roaring away as he sadly pushed the lowly wheelbarrow of branches.

Of the list above, we actually have 3 - but the ice auger is a hand crank, and completely, I am told by those in the know, outdated, but hey, at least their pastor and her husband are slowly adjusting to rural backwoods living.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

cliffs notes for bookclubs?

Since reading time is hard to come by these days... I am rather picky about the books I read.
I want to know that I will like the book, because I am jealous of my time and want to be entertained.

In order to counter this tendency, I began a book club at the church. Our goal was not so much to read Christian literature but to read book whose authors have a story to tell that can enhance our lives as Christians.

This has been really a good experiment, but the one drawback to book clubs is when I really don't like the book, when I really can't finish it, (or I am drawn to re-read the 5th Harry Potter book in anticipation of the movie release) I feel really, really guilty. Like I've skipped a test.

(yes, oldest child syndrome is kicking in; yes, I am anal-retentive; yes, I turned in all my assignments on time)

And I am really, really bored by the current book.

I can't get past page 57.

I am leading a discussion on it Saturday. Sigh.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday 5: books, books everywhere... and even more to read!

RevGal Sally just returned from a meeting in Cambridge and I took the opportunity of a free afternoon in Cambridge's wonderful book shops. Showing much restraint, she only bought a few- and on sale at that! So with a head full of books we begin:

1. Fiction what kind, detective novels, historical stuff, thrillers, romance????
Fiction? What's that? Oh the kind of books I devour in one sitting and drink in like a thirsty traveler. When I have the luxury of fiction I love: Fantasy and Sci-Fi like: Tolkien, L'Engle, the Harry Potter books and the less lineage, but big dragon fight sort of D&D stuff. Great epic novels like Michener. Sometimes a trashy romance (because really, is there any less no-brain entertainment). and Most often the everyday- not a particular genre novel by Sue Monk Kidd, Barbara Kingsolver, or Lorna Landvik.

2. When you get a really good book do you read it all in one chunk or savour it slowly?
Sadly, my books end too quickly. They are inhaled- and sometimes I'll go back and read a good one again, a little more slowly. I think this comes from the fact that I don't get to read as much fiction as I used to.

3. Is there a book you keep returning to and why?
I have found that certain books are great to read every 5-10 years because new and beautiful thing appear. Some examples: A Wrinkle in Time, The Alchemist, Dakota, Teaching a Stone to Talk.

4. Apart from the Bible which non-fiction book(s) has influenced you the most?
Dakota by Kathleen Norris, Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Freire, Mere Christianity by Lewis

5. Describe a perfect place to read. ( could be anywhere!!!)
Well, pretty much anywhere I can grab some space. A couch, a chair, a bed, a comfy floor. Any uninterrupted place. When I lived in Moscow, the Metro was the best place to read- especially on the 30 minute commutes.

What books influenced and keep on influencing you?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Holy Grounds: Human Touch

Just when I am so overwhelmed by darkness in the world, God sends a friend, who sends me to this link - and I can't help but smile through the tears.

The Free Hugs Campaign

Thanks Amy- I watch this when I need to remember that God so loved the world that he sent himself to live, breath, and embrace humanity.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ecumenical Relations

Our small town clergy gathering is always an interesting one. As the only female and the youngest by about 20 years - the dynamic is very strange.

In make up we have a rather varied group with three conservative protestants: varying in conservatism and congregation size, two mainline protestants and a RC priest. Let's just say the group is diverse. I am the newest member of the group: 2 years I've been here now, and I have found myself in the role of: secretary, announcer, convener, copier, coordinator, press releas-er, facilitator and general light the fire under the guys' asses -er.

Yet I still don't have my name on the emergency fund checkbook. WTF?

Guess I keep hitting that small town glass ceiling. Words of widom? Anyone?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Are we there yet?

After way to much thinking, hrrmphing, changing our minds and other distracting and energy sapping activities, we finally decided to indeed make our way to the big city.

You might think this is a small thing, but one does not take a 8 hour round trip drive lightly. Especially when petrol is still at $3 a gallon.

But it was a great trip- even if we had to get there in two vehicles because of conferences and meetings in various locals. It involved fantastic Neapolitan pizza, yummy breakfast corn pancakes, amazing Thai curry (noticing a food pattern here...)

But then, after much research, study and walking up and down staircases: a long awaited addition to my gear geeky-ness:

Ain't she purty? This is my new best friend all ready for me to take her out west this summer! And the best part, I still get to add more geeky stuff like hydration tubes and stuff- you know, backpacking stuff. Everybody's doing it: Titanium silverware and neon orange bear boxes.

Now: Since I'll carry an extra 35 lbs when we backpack... I just need to lose 35 before we go. Right? right.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Friday Five: Getaway Island Edition

A lucky Rev Gal snitched a bit of time on an quiet island nearby this week. It was a last minute plan, escaping with a minimal amount of preparation. One must have essentials that make it a relaxing time. Perhaps you have had this opportunity to escape, or maybe it's only been a thought to get away. However, suppose you were told to pack some essentials for a trip to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Describe your location, in general or specific terms and....
Living in the middle of a continent and far from the city: I want a city cabin. Most people retreat to where I live, but I want to retreat to anonymity, to alive, busting marketplaces, to coffee shops full of people and art museums filled with seekers.

1) What book(s) will you bring?
Ahh... books... To be honest, I'd grab the first few that are lining my "to read" shelf behind my desk. They include: God of the Oppressed- Cone, A Generous Orthodoxy- McLaren, Our Endangered Values-Carter, Real Sex-Winner, Drinking from a Dry Well- Green... just to name a very few.

2) What music accompanies you?

A new album from Carrie Rodriguez, Beatles- real and covers, Girl power driving music like Indigo Girls and Dixie Chicks. But- planning to catch as much live music as possible while I am there!

3) What essentials of everyday living must you take (as in the health and beauty aids aisle variety)?
Soap. Shampoo. Hair gel stuff. Toothpaste and brush. light makeup. Hip outfits with accompanying shoes.

4) What technological gadgets if any, will you take with you or do you leave it all behind?
The laptop- while it has been a giant leap for our human technology, has managed to worm it's way into my psyche and I will not go far without it- especially in wireless territory where I will download live music schedules.

5) What culinary delights will you partake in while there?
Oh My. Everything. Everything Ethnic: more the question: what won't I eat? Burgers, fish fry, limp pizza and broasted chicken.

As a bonus question, what makes for a perfect day on vacation for you?
A wonderful mix of engagement with the world and an observance of the world. That is, listening to a lecture, meeting friends for breakfast, and then sitting in the lobby of a museum or a downtown park. Yin and Yang.

Where will you take yourself: physically or mentally?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Holy Ground... stormy weather

The past few weeks have been filled with weather adventures.

Almost every day has carried brilliant sunshine, loud thunder, torrential rain, muggy sunsets and cool breeze. One does not leave the house without layers or rain jackets.

As I am preparing for my sermon this Sunday, texts I have been wrestling with all week, I am watching the afternoon storm slowly roll in. Today it is a gradual darkening of the sky. The lights in my office become more and more important, because the natural light is dimming.

I know it is coming, the darkness. The sudden noise. The fierce pounding of water. Water that is life giving, but can also be life taking- in drowned flower beds, rushing rivers and flooded homes.

But I can also trust, as the past few weeks have shone, that the sun will reveal itself again on the other side of the storm. We will all slowly emerge from homes, basements, and shelters to shake out the wet clothes, bail out our flower beds and splash in puddles.

Perhaps this is the way we can understand the joy of the psalmist:
You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
so that my soul may praise you and no be silent.

It is after the storm, when we emerge from our shelters we have build to hide and protect ourselves from the storms of life, it is then that we dance in the revealed sunlight.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Summer is here...

The birds are singing, the thunderstorms crashing, the lawn is growing, the fish are jumping and... the puppy stinks.

Last year she had an, ahem... aroma rising from her back end and it's back again. Our wonderful vet claims he can teach me to "squeeze the glands" to rid her of this unpleasantness. Right.

Well. I saw the look on her face last year, and I am confident that the vet can do a better job. 75lbs of unhappy puppy is not something I wish to wrestle with. Can you imagine accidentally squeezing some of the stuff onto your eyebrows? Shudder.

But, I cannot claim exemption from this summer phenomenon:

What is it about having polyester clerical shirts, anyway? They don't breathe! Plus, they usually look terrible without a sweater or jacket over them. As we move into summer months, I forgo the robe and heavy vestments- no need for the pastor to faint during the Eucharist- but then there is the issue of the collar shirt and sweat stained attire.

Alas, I need to remember this complaint when I am wearing 17 layers of clothing in January...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Holy Ground: Lilacs

With his arms swinging, he flagged down our car as we drove past his house.

"You need some lilacs" he said. My husband and I looked at each other- we were already a bit late for another engagement. "They are beautiful," we said, "but we don't need any- we can't cut them anyway"

"Oh, don't worry. I've got a branch cutter all set for you."

C is about 85 years old, and a retired carpenter. He comes to church faithfully every Sunday, sits 3 rows back from the pulpit on the right side, and loves, LOVES to belt out old gospel hymns like "the Old Rugged Cross." Every Sunday as he leaves the sanctuary, he shakes my hand and says "now have a good rest of the day"

So we pulled over, got out of the car and started clipping lilacs. the back seat was filled. And as we cut, C told us of moving the bushes from his father's farm out to the lake. Planting them lovingly, and now his yard was filled with lilacs.

As we drove away, the car was filled with their lovely scent.

I think we'll plant lilac bushes this year. And maybe ask C for some advice...

Thursday, May 24, 2007

As I listed to news commentators talk about how long this war has gone one- longer than WWII, for so many months now I realized...

For my entire married life, my country has been waging war. I have never known what it means to be married and to not be worried, angry, frustrated, fearful, enraged, sorrowful and despairing over this war and this world.

While neither my husband or I serve in the military, we have friends and family members who do. How many relationships are affected by this. Even indirectly, we all suffer the weight of the violence that is happening in the world, and we absorb it into our day to day interactions with each other.

How long O Lord? How long?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

visions of the kingdom...

This last weekend I took part in the coolest pastor installation service I have ever witnessed. (never mind that I can probably count the number of installation services I've attended on one hand...)

My friend and colleague is at a small and very rural congregation that has left the mainline denomination- so... there was no official representative there to officiate. While he used the traditional service, his approach was novel and wonderful.

He invited each pastor in the town ministerial to attend and asked them to take part in the service. We ranged from catholic priests to retired ordained pastors to self appointed preachers.

As we all gathered around the small altar to lay on hands and pray for our new colleague the spirit was moving. (for some, moving in tongues... this skeptical Lutheran just marveled at that one)

And then we all shared the peace with one another afterward- even the uber-conservative- women-should-never-be-preaching-to-men guy shared peace with me.

It was pretty amazing. And my friend celebrated his call from God, his love for his new congregation and his affirmation of his community colleagues.

I can't imagine another way to begin serving as a pastor in a community. For a brief moment, we caught a glimpse of the kingdom of God.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Ah marriage...

I love my husband.

Tonight over the dinner table, he looks up at me and says:

"Sh#@! I was going to bring you flowers!"

I guess even the thought still makes me a little fuzzy romantic... how that changes after some years of marriage...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday Five: Big Event Edition

Getting Bloggers together! Peace on Earth! Te Planning Committee is formed!
In that spirit, Songbird presents the Big Event Friday Five.

1. What would the meeting be like? (Continuing Ed? Retreat? Outside Speakers? Interest Groups? Workshops? Hot Stone Massages? Pedicures? Glorified Slumber Party?)
A little bit of this, a little bit of that: my biggest dream for continuing education is that we actually do self care rather than receive lectures and books on the subject. My CE is at my discretion (thankfully) and this would be a good use for it.

2. When in 2008 might you be able to attend? January? Shortly after Easter? Summer? Fall? Some other time?
After Christmas- before Lent. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day. And the weeks preceding Advent. And if it's not already stated- midweek is MUCH better than trying to use a precious Sunday vacation.

3. Where would your dream meeting location be? (Urban Hotel? Rural Retreat Center? New England Camp? Southwestern Fantasy Hotel? Far away from civilization? Nearby Outlets or Really Great Thrift Stores?)
Dreams are different than, what I think should be reality (yes, yes, I am constantly the parade rain-er- but a good realist) somewhere near a major airport. Folks from all over this great world will need to get there, and no matter how we try, our carbon footprint will be big for this. So I'm sayin': Vegas Baby! Everyone flies there cheap!

4. Who would make a great keynote speaker? (That's if #1 leads us in that direction.)
Hmmm, now I am in the dreaming stage... a gathering of women who were among the first to be ordained in their traditions. Great preachers like Barbara Brown Taylor. Activists, Yoga practitioners, Academics, Superstars... all would be great.

5. Did I leave out something you want to suggest?

if it is a big slumber party, is someone bringing the silly string?

Other big thoughts out there?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


After all the ranting about the downsides of the internet, here is an amazing way the internet is being used to connect people, to speak truth, to build solidarity and courage.

Ava Lowery is a 16 year old peace activist from Alabama, and her skill and talent with media has her making amazing videos that she posts on her website

One of her videos is WWJD? which is one of the most powerful things I've seen in a while.

May we all find our voice to speak out against destruction, violence, hatred and war.

Monday, May 14, 2007


I have been working under the assumption that I am somewhat techno-media savvy. I mean, here am I- blogging, using search engines, finding info on the great world wide web. I appreciate the tools the Internet offers.

But... I just do not get facebook and myspace. I have a facebook page. I really couldn't tell you why, except that it seemed the thing to do. I don't know why I need one. Especially since I see my husband and friends relatively regularly or I email them. I have come to the sad and somewhat scary realization:

I am old and curmudgeon-y. Sigh. I guess it was bound to happen.

I mean really, what is the point of high schoolers (in a school that graduates 30 kids per class) all having myspace pages even though they see each other almost all waking hours of the day? Here is a place where I am worried about the Internet taking the place of meaningful relationships. Really. Will soundbites on a blackboard or a wall push out good conversation? Am I worried about nothing?

Friday, May 11, 2007

As I have danced around the blogging world (reading, but rarely commeting, I know, I know) I've noticed that I am not the only one who is a little silent...

It is May, after all... the season where everything speeds up in anticipation of slowing down. There is confirmation, graduation, mother's day, spring cleaning, summer hiring, staff training, spring visiting, snowbirds returning... the busy month of May.

I think I am seeking wisdom from outside myself- rather than finding it within. That's why I am staring at the computer screen right now, trying to share something of value (and hopefully spurring a meaningful sermon to honor our graduates)

As the heat turns up for summer (which, in northern vacation land means that our congregation actually increases during the summer months) may the fresh breezes of spring fill you with peace.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday Five: It's My Party...

It's a Friday Party over at the RevGals today-

I hate to say it, but over the years I've been to too many parties where I, or the birthday child, has felt much like the chorus of Lesley Gore's old tune. I am therefore not the biggest fan of birthday parties.

For this Friday (which happens Songbird's birthday), tell us these five things about parties, birthday or otherwise. Happy birthday Songbird!

1) Would you rather be the host or the guest?
Host- I love hosting parties- and it is something that my husband and I do really well together. We love planned parties, small parties, big parties, impromptu parties- the only thing really needed is some good sitting areas, a porch or patio, tiki torches, some games and some good beverages.

2) When you are hosting, do you clean everything up the minute the guests go home? Will you accept help with the dishes?
This has been a growing edge for me- I will accept help in cleaning, but I try to clean as much ahead of time as possible... and I'll let the dishes sit till the morning, but experience has taught me that a good soak for those pans is never wasted!

3) If you had the wherewithal, and I guess I mean more than money, to throw a great theme party, what would the theme be?
FOOD THEMES! After the great success of the paella party (see #5) Food and drink parties, while horribly expensive (so got to save those pennies!) are the way to go! Next on the list: pocket food party: share the love, and bring your favorite food you can fit into some kind of dough pocket: examples: pasties, calzones, steamed dumplings, empanadas, samosas... the possibilities are endless!

4) What's the worst time you ever had at a party?
My very first sleepover at a friend's birthday party: her parents decided to really celebrate, and got really tanked. I ended up calling my dad to come pick me up because I was really scared. It was an awful night, and I always felt like I abandoned my friend to her parents- she soon after moved away.

5) And to end on a brighter note, what was the best?
Once upon a time, some lovers of good food, good wine and good experiments got together for a paella party. With 4 kinds of paella, 2 kinds of Spanish wine, great appetizers and creamy burned cream dessert, the evening, sporting 13 guests was a huge hit! We set up a bistro in our dining room and laughed, ate and drank the whole night. We are hoping for a reprise in another cuisine...

How about you? What's the best party you've had or want to have?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

only one day?

In the US, I grew up thinking May 1 was a day where we would leave some cute baskets of candy on friends doorsteps. In other countries the plight of the working class is lifted up, recognized if even for only one day. Then it is back to reality.

Sometimes this feels like an empty gesture. Kind of like the National Day of Prayer is today. For one day we should pray as a nation? And gather around the town hall to do it? I must admit, I find this really difficult. I don't need the government to set aside time for me to pray. Nor do I need a school to do it. And really, just one day?

For one day only, (whether it is May 1 or Labor Day) we should remind ourselves that most people work very hard for little pay (and most people don't get a paid holiday on either day)? For one day we should remember the horrors of war and the people who have sacrificed their lives in pursuit of ever elusive peace?

Ah, May. The month that seems to have many one day celebrations. We don't have enough time to truely honor these events. Can we really hope to internalize them in our lives?

Can we make issues of justice, spiritual hope and memories of peace our own?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Holy Rest

Vacation: a respite or a time of respite from something: an intermission

Often times when I return home from a vacation... I'm ready for another vacation. A sort of vacation to recover from the vacation. I love to travel and explore new places, but often when I travel, I try and take as much in as possible. This, while a vacation, (because it is a time of respite from the busy pattern of my work life which tends to consume much of my social life....) is not always a time of rest.

For the first time in a long time, I returned from vacation today... rested. I reveled in this on the drive home. While I was still tired returning to a not-as-clean-as-we-should-have-left-it house, I found myself welcoming the challenges of work, church, family and all those things that will be juggled again.

What a gift.

Thank you dear friends who hosted us, laughed with us, entertained us and listened to us. It was indeed holy time and holy ground (and grounds- on those coffee porch mornings!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Holy Days

Holidays to places south and east.
Good friends, good music, good air, good food. It is good.

May the ground beneath your feet give you holiness, enrich your spirit, and offer you space to breathe.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Holy Ground: Spring Burials

You know it is spring in the north land when the funerals and burials line up. I've had two funerals this week and some more graveside services next week.

The issue? The ground is no longer frozen. And people have been waiting all winter to be laid to rest.

There must be dozens of small cemeteries in this area. It's not uncommon for the funeral procession to drive over 30 miles from the church. When we arrive, there are around fifty lovingly cared for sites in a small field. The caretaker and grave digger usually lives next door- and usually is over 60.

While I didn't grow up in an urban or suburban area, it is still very new to me to be such a part of the burial service. Many cemeteries do not require vaults, and many people cannot afford them- so I am an actually part of the burial.

It goes a little like this: Two straps are looped under the casket and through the handles on the side. The caretaker, two funeral directors and myself each take a strap edge, and then lower by hand the caskets down 6 feet, past the frost line, into the ground. We then help the caretaker fill in the grave- that is- if we are not rushing off to another cemetery for another burial.

It's a connection with death I had never expected to encounter. As we live in a growing age that sanitizes death, the chance to literally bury someone is very powerful.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Out of Words

For the past week and a half, I have been having a difficult time putting together sometimes even simple sentences. I think I am out of words. Hopefully, this is a temporary condition...

I am out of words for sermons, for newsletters, for reports and for letters. I steer clear of multi-syllabic words (just found the spell check on that one). I search for vocabulary match ups in conversations.

So, I am using others' words. In an effort to keep communicating, I will try and let others speak for me.

However, this will not be acceptable for the confirmation sermon that must be preached on Sunday... I hope the words come back.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

gone but not forgotten

don't let the light go out
it's lasted for so many years

don't let the light go out

let it shine through our love and our tears...

"Light One Candle"
by Peter Yarrow

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen:
not only because I see it,
but because by it I see everything else.

~ C.S. Lewis

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Holy Ground: Fasting

If you have never fasted before, I would encourage you to try this discipline.

All the new age-y, earthy crunchy publications are for it because it cleanses the toxins from the body, and realigns metabolism.
The church is all for it because it encourages us to walk with Jesus in his suffering.

For me, the above reasons are good, but I believe it cleanses me of my selfishness, realigns my relationship with food, and encourages me to walk with those who are hungry in this world.

When you wake up in the morning knowing you cannot eat, food consumes your thoughts. When your stomach cramps because you need nourishment, the need for food consumes your body. If you are finally able to eat, your body grabs the food quickly, and then grows sick because of the invasion.

I have never had to worry about where my next meal was coming from. Much of the world wakes up hungry, works hungry, goes to be hungry.

Fasting gives us a chance to be in solidarity with with those who hunger, and hopefully moves us to action. How can we be the change we want to see in the world?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Light and Shadows

angus Dei
qui tollis peccata mundi
miserere nobis

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Holy Ground: Snowy Ground

It's Wednesday- the busiest day of the church week. I have three sermons to write, two worship services to get in bulletin format, a funeral service to plan, a family to meet, muffins to bake for the Easter breakfast, council retreat to plan and a dog to walk.

There are 6 inches of freshly piled up snow, with bright sunshine and fierce winds. All I want to do is curl up with my steaming cup of coffee and make soup.

I'm not so certain about this north land living. Just as we were ready to suffer through last week of solid rain, we now have snow. In some ways this is good- the fire watch teams will have another couple of days of breathing easy- they predict a very busy summer. The rivers and lakes will rise a bit- which is good for here, not necessarily places south.

But I'm not sure I will ever get used to Easter preparations while wearing my snow boots and skiing to church. It's a whole new experience to equate Easter with snow rather than spring flowers. Perhaps this gives us a glimpse into the celebrations of our southern hemisphere sisters and brothers.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Holy Saturday?

It's the Sabbath day- how do we use it well?

The sermon for Sunday is done- which is a great thing given the last few Saturdays, where sermons have been hurriedly put together. Husband and I usually have a deal: that my sermon will be mostly done by Friday afternoon, since he lives in a city 100 miles away during the week. Due to many circumstances beyond my control, Saturday evenings have been filled with prep time rather than relationship time.

But the sermon is done, the outdoor to-do list is long, the exercising has been completed, and... the day is completely rainy and cold.

I guess a superficial movie is in order! We drive aout 30 miles to see a movie, so we are making and event of it: We'll go to the big box hardware store, the co-op, the big box discount shop and continue with a dollop of hollywood- and then make a food network "good eats" meal.

The Sabbath day: filled with shopping and terrible entertainment... I cringe a bit at the above activities. It is an ongoing struggle for everyone I know: How do we keep our days holy when we need to do laundry, gardening, cleaning and shopping?

A blessed Sabbath to you-

Friday, March 30, 2007

Friday Five: Holy Week, Batman!

From the Rev Gals Blog:

Well, the Clergy Superbowl is almost upon us, and so, I offer up this Friday Five (with apologies for the irreverent title):

1. Will this Sunday be Palms only, Passion only, or hyphenated?

We are celebrating Palm Sunday with the reading of the Passion Gospel- all terms are on the front page of the bulletin- I'm not certain folks would know what I was talking about if I called it Passion Sunday... they would be confused, and think it was a Catholic holiday...

2. Maundy Thursday Footwashing: Discuss.

Not nowhere around her, nosiree. We take our shoes off in the presence of others only if we are going into the sauna.

3. Share a particularly meaningful Good Friday worship experience.

When I lived in Moscow, our Good Friday service involved a time of venerating the crucifix. In many protestant traditions we have moved far away from having a crucifix- the actual body of Christ hanging on the cross. We have clean and beautiful crosses, if there are crosses at all in the sanctuary.

The cross was taken down from the front and layed on the steps. We were invited to come up and kneel at the cross, pray and kiss the feet. In the Russian Orthodox tradition, this is a very important and emotional time- and it was for me as well.

4. Easter Sunrise Services--choose one:
a) "Resurrection tradition par excellence!"
b) "Eh. As long as it's sunrise with coffee, I can live with it."
c) "[Yawn] Can't Jesus stay in the tomb just five more minutes, Mom?!?"

B. Going with the middle ground here- hoping for good grounds! Make a good pot of coffee at home, take it to church, finish it after the sunrise service- it's a good addition to the Youth Group Easter breakfast- and continue to drink weak Lutheran coffee up through the other morning service!

5. Complete this sentence: It just isn't Easter without...

Lillies, fresh flowers, organ and piano music, maybe some trumpets, easter breakfast, green eggs, and the yummy Easter Sunday nap right after the juicy ham is shared.

Bonus: Any Easter Vigil aficionados out there? Please share.

I'm sure it's really beautiful, meaningful, lovely, but really... I don't pull allnighters anymore- and if the vigil ends at 2 or 3am why sleep for two hours and get up for the sunrise service?

What about you? What are your Holy Week and Easter loves and traditions?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Forbidden Word

The Lenten Controversy that surrounds the speaking of Alleluia has always escaped me. What's the big deal? (I know my seminary worship professor is likely experience heart difficulties right now.)

But seriously: There are 40 days of lent- there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. That gives us Sundays- the day that we celebrate the resurrection each week- even during lent. If you ascribe to high liturgy- during lent - including Sundays- we cannot: say/sing/think Alleluia, have any baptisms, any weddings, or really any kind of celebration.

While I get the importance of steeping ourselves in the seriousness of the season, are Sunday worships ruined by the Alleluia addition? Is this blog in trouble because I am writing it?

Last Sunday we sang Alleluia with abandon- it was only my Catholic Husband who made a big deal out of it- we were celebrating outdoor ministry- and frankly, it's hard to find jump around campfire songs that don't have some form of Alleluia in it!

This post comes from a deeper seeded worry- should I be paying more attention to this liturgical tradition?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Holy Grounds: Muddy ground

It's back full speed ahead into Lent and Holy Week!

It was a wonderful two days-great lakes are beautiful places- but everyone I meet is ready for spring- and the weather sends us snow... a few months too late. So now we are all slushy and muddy.

Hmmm... maybe that is a good reflection place, lent/pre-spring: gospel/muddy and slushy -

We tend to wrap up this time of year in already neat Easter baskets- it's like a spoiler for the movie. It's a good story, but when you know the happy ending, our minds tend to hold that during the rough, dark and dangerous places.

How can we get into the muddiness of lent- the dirty walk to Jerusalem...

Monday, March 19, 2007

My Lord What a Morning

Though it seems like terrible timing to take a 2 1/2 day holiday during Lent, waking up this morning with sunlight over the water, coffee brewing, scones baking (thank you, wonderful husband and partner) and the (electric) fireplace uh, flickering... well 3 outta 4 ain't bad...

Let's just say life is beautiful.

I often forget that just when I think I cannot take the time away- when there is so much to do- when there is so many people who need me- well that is exactly the time when I need to have a morning of good coffee and wonderful baked goods.

As the role of pastor becomes more familiar, I can plan for these much needed breaks- for instance, knowing that a mid-March renewal would make the rest of Lent, Holy Week and Easter a better experience for all, especially the worship leader.

Perhaps that is the Lenten discipline to follow: Giving up my self-fashioned sense of self-importance- giving up worship planning, newsletter writing, council mediating and pastoral visiting for simply two days.

Perhaps this is a road less traveled by us pastor-types? This morning- it has made all the difference.

Friday, March 16, 2007

RevGals Friday Five: Whatcha doin?

From our lovely Rev Gals:

Well friends, this is one of those weeks when I simply must work today, which is normally my day off. I know, I know. We may tut-tut all we want, but the fact is, some weeks are like that. So, this week's F5 is simple.

Name five things you plan to do today.

1. Prepare a funeral sermon for a dearly loved member of my congregation
2. Prepare a Sunday sermon for the grieving dearly loved members of my congregation
3. Begin a newsletter article and council report
4. Blog- it's been too long (checking this one off right now...)
5. Start Holy Week service planning

Bonus: If today is about "have-to" for you as well, share up to five things you'd like to be doing today.
1. Run errands- it's amazing how much calmer life seems to be when I know there is enought toilet paper in the house.
2. Make rather than purchase a dessert for dinner this evening.
3. Steep myself in the Sunday sermon, but too many thoughts are wandering aimlessly in my mind- just crank it out!
4. Snowshoe with the dog in our last 4 inches of snow of the season we just received last night.
5. Drink a good cup of coffee. Church coffee, while always available, is rarely good. Sigh.

How about you?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

International Women's Day

To all the women in my life who lend me strength and grace.

by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies
I'm not cute or built to suit a model's fashion size
But when I start to tell them
They think I'm telling lies.
I say
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips
The stride of my steps
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please
And to a man
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees
Then they swarm around me
A hive of honey bees.
I say
It's the fire in my eyes
And the flash of my teeth
The swing of my waist
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say
It's in the arch of my back
The sun of my smile
The ride of my breasts
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say
It's in the click of my heels
The bend of my hair
The palm of my hand
The need for my care.
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman
That's me.