Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year's Intentions

It's New Year's Eve. That means that at least one person has asked me if I am "making any resolutions." And the answer for the second year now is, no. I am, instead, "setting my intentions" about some things.

So what's the difference? Mere words? I don't think so, at least not for me. Resolutions are really fine in themselves. I just can't seem to keep them very well. I spent many years making them, setting up these lovely plans for what I was going to accomplish in the coming year, laying them out so neat and tidy, with elegant little outlines and manifestos for their execution...and they would last about a week or two and phffftttt....I'd have stopped doing them and I would feel that I had failed and once again be feeling bad about myself.

Maybe it is simple semantics, but when I think I about intentions, I think about something that is grounded in now. Intentions for me are about alignment, like a good yoga pose. About matching my manifesting in the world in the here and now, moment by moment, with the deepest desires of my most authentic self. It is a spiritual discipline for me to do my intentions, something that I have to keep checking back in with myself on, and also something that (and here's the cool part) I feel like I can't really fail at. So my intentions for 2008 as of today are:
  • To choose "compassionately curious" over judgement whenever possible regarding the behavior of myself and others.
  • To continue to take the risk of authenticity in all areas of my life.
  • To do a better job taking care of my physical being...including letting other people nurture me even when that level of vulnerability gets a little scary.
  • To be consistent in my spiritual, solitude, journaling, prayer... those things that sustain me if I sustain them.
  • To be a better steward of all my blessings, including (or maybe especially) the material ones.

That's enough for now. It could change.

A blessed New Year to you all.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

On the Sixth Day of Christmas

I sat in my friend's church up in the Big City this morning and listened to a fabulous sermon preached by the deacon who shares her pulpit. A year ago today I preached on this same text. It's not like I've never heard John 1:1-18 before. But this morning, that was kind of what it felt like. He made the message so compelling, so....newly important. He talked about light... Jesus....this Light that the the darkness could not comprehend....he used the analogy of a room with light in it, and a door is opened, the light spills out into the dark, but the light does not diminish in the lighted room. He quoted Joan Chittester, how we are all capable of being light-bearers, but we must be willing to be alight. But the thing that hit me....just knocked me out....was that part about the darkness not being able to comprehend, overcome....the light. That what we are promised is not that there will not be darkness, we all know there is, but that because of Jesus, because of the Incarnation that darkness will never again overcome the light completely. It was new good news this morning for some reason. And it made me pretty fizzy!

It was that kind of a day. I've lived out here for five years and change now. There have been a lot of trips back and forth to the Big City three hours from here where I spent twenty five years of my life, and where I really had planned to spend the rest of my life before things started getting really interesting a while back! In all those trips, as I was making the return leg after a visit back I can remember thinking many times that I'd be glad to be off the road, or back here, but today, I found myself feeling a longing to be....home. It was a whole new feeling. I like it, and it continued the fizz as well.

The really amazing thing about all of these fizz-inducing little gifts is that I could easily have missed them. On Friday I had managed to get my feelings hurt pretty badly. I had done that thing that is most often dangerous to do....Taken Something Personally. Dear One had a made a decision that I did not agree with (and did NOT have control over!) and decided that we needed to drive separately for a whole host of reasons that really did make sense. At the time however, I did not think so, and felt all abandoned and upset, so in response I got a wee bit snitty and I was just going to show everybody and punish the world by depriving them all of my company and just stay home and sulk! Fortunately, I had time to pray and sleep on it ( it's a good thing that Compline mentions that business about confessing our sins to God...) and reconsidered.

It was a good choice. The drive time was good solitude, the time with our friends was fun. And I would not have lived well with myself had I gone with the other plan!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

An Auld Lang Syne Friday Five

Singing Owl writes: "It is hard to believe, but 2007 is about to be history, and this is our last Friday Five of the year.With that in mind, share five memorable moments of 2007. These can be happy or sad, profound or silly, good or bad but things that you will remember. Bonus points for telling us of a "God sighting"-- a moment when the light came through the darkness, a word was spoken, a song sung, laughter rang out, a sermon spoke to you in a new way--whatever you choose, but a moment in 2007 when you sensed Emmanuel, God with us. Or more particularly, you."

This could be hard. It's been a pretty spectacular year. My first full year as a priest, and a blogger with the RevGals! Both of these things along with many other blessings have created a kind of amazing synergy resulting in some significant changes in the way I see myself and move through the world. But, hey, let's give it a whirl!

1. Easter. I baptized my first baby. She was so beautiful. All sleep and angel sweetness. There was such joy in welcoming her to our community. But before I could even get my vestments off, I was summoned to the ER where one of my clients was in a serious mental health crisis. Worlds collided, the heights of joy and depths of sorrow all in one day. And God was with us in the midst of both on that Easter day.

2. The Yurt Adventures. My trips to the Yurt were definitely memorable. Each a unique jewel of time and solitude, each with its own gifts of wisdom, each just what I needed at the time. God is so tangibly present in that place.

3. The first day of school and my encounter with M, the challenging student. She set off a growth spurt for me that sent me reeling a bit but it all ended with some really important lessons the teacher needed to learn in her own life-school. And of course the last day of school brought us full circle as we were able to get closure together. She too was a blessing...another God sighting.

4. And no review of this year could be complete without talking about L, and my visits to the jail. A chance if there is such a thing in this God filled life! I met him the day I "tagged along" for a little orientation on how the ministerial folks do the Sunday afternoon services at the jail. L was one of two young men who came that day. He struck me with his earnestness about Scripture and a kind of sweet innocence. Strange things to find in the county jail! When I returned a couple weeks later to do my own service he was my sole congregant. We had a long talk that day, and I asked him if he'd like me to come see him again...he said yes and we have been at it ever since...across two counties now! He knows you all pray for him, he smiles when I mention all my "pastor friends on the Internet." God has been so present in all of our conversations. We laugh and cry together and the air fairly dances with the presence of the Spirit.

5. There is a tie for #5...Lessons and Carols or my little Vespers of Gratitude and Release with my SD. One so big and publicly celebratory, the other so personal and intimate and transformational. And yet both speak to me so clearly of who God is in my life, especially in this year. It has been a year of finding my voice and place in public ministry, of celebrating that in all sorts of sparkling and wonderful ways. But it has also been a year of going deeper, of allowing others access to a more vulnerable side of me and in a strange sort of way "allowing" God access to that side of me too, of letting go, making space, being quiet, being more authentic. The Vespers celebrated and allowed healing for that.

I don't think I could possibly pick a single moment for that bonus. Somehow, whether it was an ordination gift, someone has been praying for me especially, or I am just the recipient of pure grace, this year has been a series of moments, strung like beads of gift upon gift. The sense of God present has been most palpable. It truly takes my breath away how often it does happen that I KNOW that God is truly with me. And that IS a bonus. Another bonus and gift in my life this year have been the friendships that have come from this ring. I think it's so apt that whomever it was that created these internet linkups decided to call them "rings" because we are a circle, I feel encircled, surrounded by the warmth and witness and friendship and support of you all. I know well from my professional life the power of reflection in the presence of compassionate witness. What has become so clear in this year is that it works in this little corner of cyberspace as well. And for that I am grateful. A blessed New Year to all.

Christmas Continues....

In these continuing days of Christmas, the Henri Nouwen Society website has had some lovely reflections on reconciliation. I thought I'd share some of that with you as it's been fertile meditation ground for me these last few days:

"What is our task in this world as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus? Our task is reconciliation. Wherever we go we see divisions among people. All these divisions are tragic reflections of our separation from God. The truth that all people belong together as members of one family under God is seldom visible. Our sacred task is to reveal that truth in the reality of everyday life. "

"How do we work for reconciliation? First and foremost by claiming for ourselves that God through Christ has reconciled us to God. It is not enough to believe this with our heads. We have to let the truth of this reconciliation permeate every part of our beings. As long as we are not fully and thoroughly convinced that we have been reconciled with God, that we are forgiven, that we have received new hearts, new spirits, new eyes to see, and new ears to hear, we continue to create divisions among people because we expect from them a healing power they do not possess.Only when we fully trust that we belong to God and can find in our relationship with God all that we need for our minds, hearts, and souls, can we be truly free in this world and be ministers of reconciliation. This is not easy; we readily fall back into self-doubt and self-rejection. We need to be constantly reminded through God's Word, the sacraments, and the love of our neighbours that we are indeed reconciled."

"To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others. Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our mind about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we will only create more division. Jesus says it clearly: "Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge; ... do not condemn; ... forgive" (Luke 6:36-37).In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible. But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation."

One of the first things that my SD and I talked about oh, so long ago (18 months or a life time, depending on how you look at it) when we were just starting to meet was this idea of reconciliation. I have to smile at myself now…(with compassion….truly!) I was so driven and earnest to understand this thing that did not come easily to me. I was in a place at that time when I was struggling with some important relationships. And it was truly torturing me that this was the case, as I was approaching deaconal ordination and something in me knew that all was not well with my soul. So I did what came naturally to me. I researched! I went to Scripture and read all about reconciliation. And headwise I got it. But there was that disconnect…. What I know now, no let me rephrase that, what I have experienced now…what I have allowed myself to experience is God’s compassionate, healing, reconciling love in my own heart. I have let grace work on me. I have given myself the gift of being present before God, scary as that was at first, but finally trusting that God truly was longing to love me, not to judge me and find me wanting, as I was so sure was the case. I was so very afraid to allow myself to be God, by another, even by my own authentic self, as I was sure that what was there was not good enough for God. But through a series of very fortunate and blessed circumstances, God gifted me with people and events which allowed me to know that this simply was not true. God let me somehow see my soul, as one of the Soul Sisters said so eloquently, with God's eyes, and somehow, that opened something in me, set something free in me. In Nouwen's words, I let the truth of God's reconciling presence permeate every part of my being.

And now having experienced this reconciling presence, I can pass it on. I can incarnate that for others ever so much more effectively as well as being a non-judgemental, compassionate, presence for myself. Many days this one is still the harder of the two. But I think I am a whole lot easier on all of us than I was before. Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas 2007

Oh my goodness! This has been quite the Christmas. I'm finding it a little hard to believe that it is 11:30 p.m. on Christmas night and I am looking at the end of Christmas day. Yesterday and today have been so full; both in terms of time and emotion I hardly know where to begin. Christmas Eve day the plan was to finish my last minute grocery shopping, head up to the county next door and see L at the jail, then get ready for all my various church activities with plenty of time to spare. My first inkling that all was not going to go as planned was when I blithely announced myself to the little intercom at the jail as "L's pastor, here for a visit" and was told, "Oh he is not here. He was released to the custody of the other county on December 18th." "He was what?" I asked, rather aghast, "Does that mean he is in jail in my county?" "He was released to the custody of the other county on December 18th," the voice repeated, "that is all I can tell you." "Wow," I said, "This sure makes it difficult for those who are trying to visit people!" "Yes, Merry Christmas," said the voice, in a We Are Done Now tone. "Merry Christmas" I replied as I left the jail and headed back to my car for the thirty mile drive home. I immediately called C. "I’ve lost L again!" I wailed. We talked for the first several miles of my drive and agreed that a) this pretty much bites, b) I don't have a whole lot of control over it, and he has less, and c) it's time the ministerial association and the jails talk about how we can work together on pastoral care. Thirty minutes later, somewhat calmer, I arrived at the jail back in my own county and sure enough, there was L. He had been frantic when they moved him again. Had tried to call me but didn’t have enough minutes left on his calling card. Had been praying he said right before I came that I would somehow find out where he was. He cried though most of this visit. I was a little damp myself. He had a Christmas card for me in his "effects" but the jailer said he could not get it for me. Policy. L said he had done a drawing for another inmate in trade for the card. I told him I can wait till he gets out for my Christmas card.

So given all this I was now behind schedule. Got to church late to get ready for the five o’clock. Unfortunately so did a lot of other people, and Things Went Awry. The carol sing that was to begin fifteen minutes before the service actually began five minutes before and was, shall we say, brief. As I processed ( as a member of the choir for this service) up I looked at the altar and realized that the altar guild person had forgotten to change the paraments and…well, it was still Advent! All three of us were there, none of us had seen it. Oh, well. This sort of set the tone for the service….things that could go wrong did….missed cues, forgotten lines, acolytes not being in the right place at the right time...

I’ve written before about my overfunctioning nature. I am working on not doing this. But there is a fine line sometimes on knowing when to just let things go. When I do, sometimes things just well….go….and that is not a good thing, especially on Christmas Eve! So after service I had a little liturgical meltdown. I had a chat with the acolyte (who was returning at 11). I talked with my team member who was coming back to celebrate with me at 11 as well, about my need to tighten up the ship and clean up our act. I think I did it respectfully from that place of “this is my need” and ownership of my liturgical geekiness. We did much better overall. We still started late. But we got in three carols. The altar was beautifully dressed in Christmas white. The choir sang quite well despite little rehearsal with a late arriving organist. C came over after her service and sang with our choir, as did M’s daughter. M’s sermon was lovely. M and I had decided to concelelebrate. She asked that I start the Eucharistic Prayer, as we sing it and the Preface, and of the two of us, I am the more confident singer. Or I guess I should say, normally I am the singer. Last night I opened my mouth and croaked. Apparently a month of Lessons and Carols rehearsals, the event itself, two services and whatever else just had it’s way with me….or God decided to play with me one more time….but the beautiful Preface of the Incarnation was one long tortured scratch, and I have never been so glad to get to the Sanctus in my life. But the rest of the service went beautifully and it was really quite wonderful to celebrate the Eucharist together with my friend, fellow traveler, and colleague in ministry. I could feel the shared holy energy and spirit present there and it was very, very wonderful. After communion we sang Silent Night by candle light and I got teary as I gazed upon our little flock on this holy night of light with their faces reflected in the flickering candlelight.

Between our first and second service, I went to C’s service. It was really lovely. Her congregation traditionally shares their appreciation of their pastor on Christmas Eve and it was so wonderful to hear a member of her congregation publicly affirm the gift that they have in her in a very clear and articulate way. The service itself was really sweet. C sang part of her sermon, it was simple and beautiful and it just….worked. A friend in the congregation who is also ordained agreed that we think this is an awesome and wonderful thing to do….and we are not sure we could do it, even though we both sing and perform in our “other lives.”

The day finally ended with present opening with Dear One. It was well into Christmas when I finally got to bed. Today was planned to be simple. A gathering with good friends. Good food, singing and movies, laughter, silliness. A bit complicated by some unexpected snow. But we live in Minnesota. Snow happens! It was a very sweet day.

And now it is Wednesday, and Christmas Day is over for another year. Back to work and the responsibilities and expectations of everyday life. Has anything changed because this day has come and gone? I noticed a theme…there was a lot of talk in all three of the sermons I heard about the light. About noticing the light and remembering that Jesus is the true Light, about being the bearers of that Light to one another, about remembering, as I like to remind myself and others now and again, Who and Whose we are….God’s own, Light’s own, Love's true Light ….the Light that the darkness could not apprehend. So maybe that would be a good thing to take back into the workday world….this light, this Light….it could shine…..

Merry Christmas to ALL

So many things in my heart on this Christmas much to share of a crazy busy wild and beautiful, incarnational Christmas Eve in which God played with me all day long! But alas right now the press of time to get to the celebration with friends I will merely say...a blessed Christmas Day to all of you my wonderful friends who have come to mean so much to me over these last months....and details to come!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Return of Joy

Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5

I am happy to report the return of joy. I celebrated and preached this morning...and if there is something that this is not a cure for, I have yet to find it! The sermon left the pages with the Spirit and sang, as sometimes it is blessed to do, and I am grateful for that. We were a little bunch of hearty souls, blown in on a cold wind, but we welcomed a young man from Kenya who is a student at the college and a woman from North Carolina here visiting her son who always worships with us when she's in town. The energy was warm and alive with the sense that Incarnation is immanent!

I actually found myself beginning to feel incipient joy returning yesterday. The ease with which the sermon almost wrote itself, the day spent in happy productive ways....time hanging out with C doing wardrobe and tech things for her Christmas Eve service, gettting ready for and hosting the dinner bunch, all were parts of this. As was the sense, as some of my friends here and elsewhere have pointed out, that I did what I needed to do with this....talked, cried, prayed, moved through and with it.

Today after service M and I firmed up the plans for the Christmas Eve late service which we will celebrate together. We made a last minute anthem change to one of the lovely things we sang at Lessons and Carols (a very good choice IMHO!) rather than trying to sing a less familiar and harder song. At the five we will sing another lovely anthem (with a different choir configuration) that we also know from years past. I think we are getting smarter, not harder!

The rest of the day today will be all those last minutey wrapping, do my Heifer gifts, I may even make it to yoga by five! Tomorrow, weather permitting I will go up to the jail to see L in the afternoon, then it's Christmas Eve and church abounding.

So while the winter winds howl ferociously outside on this last Sunday of Advent, I am warm of heart, and dare I say...even a bit fizzy again....Thanks be to God!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Sermon for Advent 4

“They shall name him Emmanuel which means God with us.” God with us. What an amazing thought. That the God of the universe, creator of all time and space would desire to be so intimate in our little lives that this God would become incarnate…..with us….

But lest we be tempted to get all romantic about this….get caught up in a Christmas pageant version of the story all covered with angel songs and reverent shepherds…. Matthew wants to remind us that there is more to the story as well.
Matthew’s Christmas story is the one that begins with the long line of genealogy, fourteen generations leading to David and fourteen more beyond him. What we know of this history is that it is a story of God’s faithfulness to a covenant with God’s people. It is a story of a God who called God’s people back again and again and again through prophetic voices and simply being faithful through the times when humanity wandered away from God and in enduring faithful relationship on God’s part whether the human part remained faithful on their side or not. It is a story of a God who called God’s people to something. A story of a God who continued to hold fast. A story about a promise of something, of someone to come.

And now Matthew is writing the story of the birth of this promise….making the connection through history, but also making the connection with this faithful God who called God’s people, called them out, called them back, called them to be faithful just as their God was faithful. Throughout all of time and history, in all of these stories God is always doing the unexpected, always doing a new thing with God’s people. They are never allowed to become complacent, never allowed to become comfortable. With God, things are never business as usual, because God is, after all, in the business of transformation, of salvation.

In today’s Gospel we meet Joseph. Joseph was at the end of this long lineage of descendants of the House of David. He was a man who know the ancient stories. A good man. A faithful man, and a law-abiding man. And because he was these things, we can only imagine his horror when he finds out that his betrothed is pregnant. In the shame-honor culture of that time, the punishment for this was that Mary would be stoned to death if this became common knowledge. And to be the father of another man’s child was not an option in a time and place when your birthright was your claim to everything. So Joseph was going to do a compassionate thing for that time and place. He was not going make a public accusation that would get Mary killed. He was going to keep the whole thing quiet, perhaps thinking she could go back to whomever the father was and all would be well. But then of course Joseph has his dream in which he learns that Mary is the God-bearer and everything changes for him. He is called into a new relationship with this situation. God has once again done a new thing.

This story of course focuses on Joseph’s dilemma. The Luke Gospel narrative focuses much more on Mary and her yes to participating in the incarnation. These two very human people whose lives were changed by allowing God to be at work in them, allowing God to do a new thing in them, to transform them. Just like the whole sweep of the First Testament that brought humanity to that place. And certainly what follows continues this amazing story of lives touched by this ever-faithful God incarnated in Jesus that were to be never again the same.

This gospel like all of scripture tells the story of a working together of divine and human faithfulness and energy. This is the true mystery of the Incarnation, this great both/and in human history, as our summer seminary professor put it so well. That God, in Jesus, shows us both who God is, and who we can be.
Because the story isn’t over. What happened for all of those people in the twenty eight generations in the lineage of David, what happened for Joseph, what happened for Mary….it is still happening for us, right here and now today. God is still calling us into faithful relationship, now with the Incarnate one who comes, not once or twice but ever and always. This Jesus who is ever present with us in Word and Sacrament, this “God with is” is still saving us from our sins every single day. Because we do sin. As much as we don’t like to think about it, or admit. We do. We break relationship. With God, with one another, with ourselves. We need to repent, to turn and start anew, to be forgiven. And the really truly wonderful and amazing, absolutely dazzling Good News is WE CAN and WE DO…...and it’s all because of what began on Christmas and ended on Easter. And because faithful people said yes along the way. God called them to do a new thing and they responded.

God calls us to do a new thing every day as well. Like Mary we are called to be God bearers. Like Joseph we are asked to put compassion first and have courage. We are asked to trust in God and be faithful so that Christ might be born again in our world every day. And the other really truly wonderful and amazing, absolutely dazzling Good News is WE CAN and WE DO this also. We are beacons of that in our individual and corporate lives in this place.

Faithfulness….those many years of waiting for an uncertain future, then being willing to change the vision of what that future looked like, trusting that God and the Spirit would carry us through…..taking on an MDG project, being willing to reach out to others a world away when we ourselves are far from secure…and now taking our “Leap of Faith” for accessibility, trusting that in some way with God’s help and our work, another new thing might be born here.
Over and over our loving God calls us to new opportunities, new life, new love. Over and over we are offered the chance to say yes like Joseph and Mary did to the Incarnate one to life more abundant in this unending Christmas gift. May it be so.

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Momentary Lapse in Joy

I am finding myself in a strange place tonight. An odd brew of emotions. I have been walking in joy for so long, and last night was such an amazing experience. The culmination of so much, coming for so long. I slept the best sleep I have had in a very long time and woke in such a peaceful place. The meditation on the Henri Nouwen website this morning spoke to me powerfully: Some people say: "Although some people have unique experiences of God's presence and, therefore have unique missions to announce God's presence to the world, all of us - whether learned or uneducated, rich or poor, visible or hidden - can receive the grace of seeing God in the fullness of time. This mystical experience, is not reserved for a few exceptional people. God wants to offer that gift in one way or another to all God's children." What struck me was the connection between experiencing God in what he referred to as mystical experiences and the responsibility for mission. Somehow this had never been quite so clear as it was today.

By noon though, I was crashing. Exhaustion was the first thing that hit. I decided I simply could not be present in any meaningful way at work, so I went home, hoping maybe I could nap or do some of the house sprucing that needs to get done for our church dinner party tomorrow night. Listlessness precluded either of those things. I blog hopped, did some desultory TV watching, wrapped a present or two, and finally, when the work hours had passed, went out and ran errands. The evening found me back at church dropping off some things. Finally, in the dark on the same altar where we so joyously celebrated so few hours ago I found myself crying in the dark. I felt a kind of loss, emptiness, bereftness...that sort of stunned me. I found myself wishing that I could be in the presence of a truly incarnated Jesus...that is enfleshed NOW...not one that was once so long ago...not one coming in our hearts again and and song and story and symbol but here in the physical realm.

I have no idea where this is all arising from. I can't really get a handle on's a complex mix....exhaustion I'm sure. I have not been sleeping well this week...largely from just too much joy and fizz! It may also be a little bit of post-excitement let-down. This thing, coming so long is done. And even though my rational adult self knows that done is simply begun on a new level, some primitive part of me feels bereft. And a lot has been let go of....there is some...vacancy I guess, some loss, even loss of that which is not good for us is still loss. And Dear One pointed out something interesting...that, historically, I do not allow myself to enjoy my "highs" for very long. Hmmmm. From Dear One's perspective at least, in the past I have tended to cut myself off prematurely from my "radiant" moments, and I may be doing it again.

I have even entertained the notion that it may be the presence of evil sneaking up on me...I'm not always so sure where I stand on the embodiment of evil, but it did occur to me as I sat in the dark church between tear storms, to wonder of this might be possible.

I am calmer now than when I sat in the dark church. My plan is to go to sleep very soon , to get up early and write a sermon for Advent 4. Then I'll prepare to entertain my Dinner Bunch and find my joy again. I know it is there. It is real, solid and certain and it has not gone far...this is just a little momentary departure. Regular programming will resume soon. I remain hopeful.

It's Almost Christmas Friday Five

RevHRod debated with herself about serious vs lighthearted on the F5 this week, The playful side triumphed and she says: "So after consulting with my fourteen year old daughter, we're going playful, pals o' mine! I love stories, so I hope you'll tell some about your favorite Christmas memories."

What was one of your favorite childhood gifts that you gave? It varied from year to year with maturity and income but hands down it was always whatever I gave my mom. I have no idea now, of course what all those things were through the years. I'm sure some were fine gifts, given with much thought, some were given from a child's perspective...."I like them, I know she would." Some years it was difficult, I was broke, time was tight and I did not do as well. The last year she was in the nursing home was hard, too....she had lost so much ability to "be" in life, there was little to gift her with that she could really partake of. But whatever the gift, extravagant or tiny, thoughtful or cobbled together at the last minute....she always recieved it with such grace and wonder and appreciation. Especially as a kid it made it fun to give her made me feel like the best gift-giver in the world!

What is one of your favorite Christmas recipes? Bonus points if you share the recipe with us. My friend Jan's Hot Buttered Rum...It is sooooo good. I know it has about forty bazillion calories and I.Don't. Care. I don't have the recipe but I'd rather just sit in her lovely recliner by her fireplace and sip away at hers than make my own anyway.

What is a tradition that your family can't do without? (And by family, I mean family of origin, family of adulthood, or that bunch of cool people that just feel like family.) Christmas Eve late service has been a centerpiece of Christmas for big parts of my life. I started going with mom with I was very small and my best memories are of that great over the top Catholic church completely bedecked in flowers, full of people in their finest clothes, the organ so loud the place would vibrate with sound....incense and processions of acolytes (though we called them altar boys) in red cassocks and lace cottas, priests in gold vestments....and then the silence....broken only by the bells to announce the consecration....and then singing again and again. Walking home in new snow. Opening one gift....traditionally the new jammies, having some cocoa and off to bed to wait for Santa. There were of course times I "skipped church" during those years when I thought I really could hide from God. But I am so grateful that before mom died, I was able to go to midnight Mass with her one last time and we were able to share that. At one point she turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, "I'm so happy I got to hear you sing in church again." Now of course it's at "my" church. Last year and this I'm the celebrant....and I know that mom will be there listening. So this is a once and now again tradition that I want never to lose.

Pastors and other church folk often have very strange traditions dictated by the "work" of the holidays. What happens at your place? This being "Christmas 2" post-ordination we are still working it out. One thing we learned last year....just because you can do it does not mean you should! We have three priests, it was Advent 4 on Christmas we had three services! That was silly, we were exhausted, and people were very spread out and confused. Down to two this year....five and eleven. I will be choir at the five and celebrate the 11. M will preach-Bless her! And at 6:30, between our two, Dear One and I will go to SD's church for her service.....just because I love her and some of her folks as well and want to celebrate with them, too. After late service, Dear One and I will open our gifts. I'm hoping there will be jammies. We will have cocoa and go to bed to wait for Santa. These are becoming our new traditions in this the second year of my ordained life.

If you could just ditch all the traditions and do something unexpected... what would it be? I don't think I would want to ditch the traditions....they are so much of Christmas joy to me. Changing them up a little evey year, that's all good, elements of surprise, keeping the joy and wonder...but ditching....nope....I'd rather KEEP the traditions and do something unexpected TOO in the tradition of the great both/and!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gratitude and Release

It seems like a long time ago now that this conversation began. But really it was only last summer. My SD and I began talking in earnest about disempowering the critical voices , what it would take to do that in some sort of formal way. For it was clear that there was a need for that, to in a sense "exorcise" them from the powerful sway they held over me. In their fullest power they constituted a hazard to my spiritual life, an obstacle to authenticity and kept me from being who God called me to be. We talked about all sorts of things and finally determined that since so many of them have their seeds in my religious life, that their disengagement should also probably have some "liturgical" aspect to it. So sometime last summer, it became my charge to construct "something" that achieved this. It has been through many incarnations. It has been frustrating at times as I have attempted to force it into being, mold it into formats that did not fit. We started out, only half in jest, talking about it as an exorcism. From there I thought "confession" as I wandered about in shame-fog for awhile. But nothing worked, nothing fit, and I kept having to say every month as we met, "No, not yet." But then, I was ready and pieces began to emerge. First there was the Litany of Gratitude and Release that wrote itself in one sweep. And for a long time, only that. And then, one of the Soul Sisters from Bible Study passed along a Sweet Honey CD with an amazing sung sermon that I still cannot hear without weeping. And then there was the amazing weekend of training in November and driving back for Martinmas Vespers, and I was a Vespers service....with that Sweet Honey song Sing Oh Barren One and my litany....the other pieces found their way in....Psalm 103, Canticle 11, the clay jars reading from Corinthians....I invited C to add a piece and she chose the renewal of the baptismal covenant from the New Zealand prayer book...very fitting. It all seemed to center around very appropriate that it just "happened" to finally end up in Advent!

So tonight in my beautiful little jewel box church, we had a small and lovely candlelight vespers. Just the two of us. In contrast to the grandeur and volume of Sunday night, this was all quiet, simplicity and peace. It has been a journey to this of discovery, of letting go, and of becoming more authentic. It has also been a journey into unexpected grace and gift. Released. Blessed. Grateful. Joyful. So many gifts already before Christmas even comes.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Final Week

It really was not my intention to gush and run. Life just kind of busied up, and suddenly it's Wednesday morning. It's almost 1 a.m. and I'm waiting for the Amish Friendship bread to come out of the oven. Someone brought these bags of goo to work ten days ago with instructions and I couldn't resist taking one home. It seemed like such a long time until I had to actually do anything other than "mush the bag." But it kind of sneaked up on me when I was busy doing other things and was the day! So at eleven o'clock, there I was at the grocery store, getting the right stuff to put the bread together and make more bags of goo to pass on. It smells good, I'll say that for it. It comes out in a few minutes, so we will fact there goes the timer now....Well, it's out and sampled Aside from the fact that I burnt the bottom a bit, it's not bad. Kind of tastes like a muffin. I'm ok with it, I'd do it again, and bake it less.

This is the metaphor for life this just keeps sneaking up on me. Things are getting done. They are maybe a little less than perfect and I am just peachy with that. This is of course nothing short of a miracle. In the past anything short of absolutely perfect in every detail and I was getting all up in everybody's everything let me tell you! Overfunctioning and overcontrolling and wound up like a spring ready to go at any moment. But I have attempted to repent of appears that perhaps it's working, I have made the turn, it seems to be sticking for the most part. Oh, there is the default....there is always the default. Under duress I know where I go! Imperiousness and perfectionism sing their siren song...regression at it's finest! But I am finding that this is so much easier. And so much more fun! A little lost sleep, a little burnt bread is really a worthwhile trade off for the joy! And so it goes in this wonderful imperfect, human life in the final week before Christmas....

Sunday, December 16, 2007


So I hope you'll all just humor me while I gush. I am in serious afterglow here. Lessons and Carols was some good stuff. We had over a HUNDRED people packed into my tiny little church including the sardines in the choir up on the altar. We were not musicallyperfect but we were really really good....and even better the sense of it was reverent and focused...there was an energy about it that was right where it needed to be. I have loved Lessons and Carols since the first time I head it...the telling of the story in song and word, it just grabs me and pulls me in so totally. I was pretty excited when I moved out here and found out that this wee place had the audacity to pull this thing off every year...and in rather fine style. This was the best yet, at least since I've been here. I did truly love the musical setting his year. But I think it's more than that. Last year I was all stressy. Overfunctioning in a hundred different ways. Doing eveyone's jobs, micromanaging and getting all in a snit about things. This year I stuck to my robing chores and pretty much stayed in my own zone. Let other people worry about their stuff, helped out when needed, but gave up the overfunctioning and getting into other people's outcomes. Oh so much better. Kept me happy, and I daresay, probably did not upset them too much either!

So the adrenaline is ebbing away, I am fading into the lovely tired of a good thing done. Bed is calling. The Sunday of Joy is complete.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Twas the night before Lessons and Carols....and all things considered...we are all pretty calm! This is my congregation's Big Blow-Out! We are pretty musical for a little place on the prairie. Our director is a professor of music at the college, he has high standards. We import a group of his music students (referred to as "the schola"). We also invite in community members to sing with us. This year we have about thirty singers. Bear in mind my CHURCH only has about that many members! I know our poor liturgist is burning the midnight oil tonight putting together the bulletins. My robing chores are done until tomorrow. It all worked out pretty well. For some reason we have a plethora of robes....left from the days we were a bigger church I guess. We only had one man who won't snap all the way...but a cotta hides a myriad of ills! So tomorrow will be church and more church....all my favorite and candles and more music and more candles....processing and even a little incense thrown in for good measure. Liturgy geek heaven! Some of my best childhood memories have to do with church splendor...I think this connects to that simple child faith and beauty for me in a very heart deep way. All I know is when I think about tomorrow night, I get all fizzy! And for someone whose been on the planet as long as I have, I think it's very cool that there are things that I still get fizzy about.

Jail Visiting

I visited L tonight! With Dear One for company on the road, I made the sixty mile round trip to a new jail in the county next door to see him. There was one scary moment when the guard seemed truly baffled by who I was and why I was there, and a bit disinclined to allow me access at 7:30 on a Friday night for a face-to-face visit. But a little judicious drop of the jail administrator's name and a flash of my hospital clergy badge did the trick, and three clanging locked doors later, I was in.

If I'd ever had any doubts that I needed to follow my guy, which of course I didn't, they were dispelled the moment I saw his face. "You came!" A mixture of joy, disbelief and something else....a tentative trust perhaps....a coming to believe that maybe , just maybe this person who speaks of God to him stands on her truth?

We had a fabulous visit. He had a paternity hearing for his son last week. It just kind of popped up the way things seem to in his life. He told me they had tested his DNA a while back. And then lost the sample and had to do it again. He told me when he went to court he told the judge that even if the test showed the child was not his he would sign any paper it took to claim him and see that he was taken care of. He says he is worried about little D as mom is drinking. Part of his motivation for getting his life together now is seeing if he can get custody eventually. On his way to the hearing (held in yet another county, such is rural life) he had a discussion about being forgiven "70 times 7" with the officer who was driving him. He says "He was a really nice guy...he let my call my brother on his cell phone just to say hi, my brother thought I must have broke out of jail when he heard my voice!" Turns out D is his, and he pretty much impressd the judge as well. He was given $50 a month child support starting the month after he gets out of jail, and other developments to follow, "depending" on how it all goes for him.

His hearing is January 4th. His public defender has not returned my six phone calls. L gave me his e-mail address. We will try that. Otherwise I show up at his doorstep! I do not know what ails the man...I am trying to help him do his job and have made that pretty clear in my well as the fact that I have the contacts and the wherewithal to do that....lest he think I'm just a do-gooder preacher woman going all heart-soft on some delinquent kid!

I told L that I was part of a big group of wonderful people on the internet who knew that I was seeing a young man in jail and were praying for him. He smiled hugely and said, "Cool! Because I can't do all this stuff I have to do by myself." So pray on, my friends, pray, on!

Friday, December 14, 2007

"Friday Five: Rejoice!"

Mother Laura writes:Can you believe that in two days we'll be halfway through Advent? Gaudete Sunday: pink candle on the advent wreath, rose vestments for those who have them, concerts and pageants in many congregations. Time to rejoice! Rejoice in the nearness of Christ's coming, yes, but also in the many gifts of the pregnant waiting time when the world (in the northern hemisphere, at least) spins ever deeper into sweet, fertile darkness. What makes you rejoice about:

1. Waiting? The first thing that comes to mind about this is the sheer counter-culturalness of it! The lingering hippie rebel child in me smiles in delight to do this thing that goes so against the grain of the have it all and have it now world we live in. To stop, to sit, to simply be and wait....not even sure exactly for what....seems to capture so perfectly some small kernel of the stance it takes to follow this Jesus who comes in the waiting time.

2. Darkness? I love Laura's words above, "sweet, fertile darkness." I have long thought that darkness gets a bad rap. So much good stuff happens in the dark, in the "between," when we are willing to go there and sit with it, be with ourselves in it.....I talk to my clients about the place under the bridge where there is all sorts of good stuff growing...if one is willing to risk a bit....the seed will never sprout if it does not go into the dark earth, we do not become our most authentic selves if we are not willing to encounter our own darkness. Love the dark, love the dark!

3. Winter? This one, alas, I do not wax so poetic about. Living in the North country, sometims there is just too much to love. I would love it if I could admire it more and contend with it less I think. But the moving it and scraping it and sliding around on it in cars and going off roads because of it and all such manner of things....well it makes it kind of hard to love.

4. Advent? Oh what is not to love! Four weeks of being called again and again to remember and repent and recall who it is that comes, ever comes, not once, not twice, but always. God is incarnate... "remember, remember," we are urged. And it is all wrapped in beautiful liturgy and candles and music....a liturgy geek's dream!

5. Jesus' coming? And I stand in need of His salvation....and so with every fiber of my being I rejoice!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hurtling Through Advent at Warp Speed

No matter how much I try to slow it down it just keeps moving forward. December 10, 11, 12, and the 13th. How can it be? Less than two weeks left of what may truly be my favorite season of the year and once again it is going way too fast. I am trying to savor the bits I can capture. I am decorating the house. It started earlier than planned with that fir tree, but now that it's in motion, I might as well go with it and enjoy it. There are some bits that are mine, things I admit that I have great attachment to and that I get quite fussy about and want no one else to touch or arrange. My mom's ceramic tree is one. It's the last tree she had, purchased when she moved into senior housing, when she thought a bigger tree, even an artificial one would be too much hassle. Later it came to be mine, and every Christmas since, even when there have been no other decorations, the "mom-tree" has found its way out to light up my home at the time. It is traditionally accompanied by the six ceramic angels that came from my childhood and a plastic lighted church like the one I grew up with, the original of that one having been lost somewhere in time.

I also put up the angel tree tonight. This is a new tradition. The year I moved here to the prairie, when I was living alone, being the new kid at the clinic, I was on call for Christmas, so I had to stay in town. Making the best of it, I bought a tiny tree at Goodwill and decorated my little apartment. I decided to get all angel ornaments, so I scouted around at the stores and craft fairs and found a whole assortment. And now I have a sweet little angel tree. It hasn't made it out every year since, but we are having the "Dinner Bunch" our church's supper group here on the 22nd, so I thought this might be a good time to do the angel tree.

Lessons and Carols is Sunday night. I am the choir robe mistress. We are importing a LOT of singers so this becomes a rather daunting task. I've been doing time in the robe closet and humming descants, playing my CD in the car and on my computer at work hoping that by some magical osmosis these nine carols will sink into my brain by Sunday. It is a lot calmer than last year though, when the liturgist left town and left me in charge of the director for the week prior. Our director is very talented and wonderful and driven and demanding. It was exhausting and I told her she must never ever leave him in my care again as I already had a full-time job and caring for him comprised another one!

It's kind of funny. I listen to my co-workers talk about hours of shopping and how many presents to buy and wrap, and I'm more worried about how many choristers to robe and carols to learn, and whether or not I will actually sell M on the idea that it would be a great privilege for her to play the organ and preach the late service on Christmas while I celebrate, because after all I did get to preach it last year and I should not hog all the good ones. Sometimes I feel like I live in a parallel universe. But I like it here. Here with my little trees, hurtling through advent at warp speed, I feel pretty blessed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Blessing Bag

I liked it so much I decided to make myself one....the Blessing Bag that is. There was just a bit too much Advent darkness the last few days. I've been missing my gratitudes. So I found a leftover gift bag that "just happenend" to be hanging out in my drawer at work and got busy and copied off and cut out the little questions. And pulled one out. "I felt joy when...." Oh good, an excuse to think about joy! And I knew right away, too. I felt joy last night when I was leaving Bible study and I thought about how very happy I was to be here, in this little town, with these people, having this life. I have written about this I find myself amazed that I ended up here, how totally unlikey it all is....and how much I love my life and consider it such a gift that I get to do the things I do every day in all my various vocational lives. So I guess I'd say, I feel joy often, and that is a wonderful thing. It is Christmas a lot in my life.

I also felt joy today when I talked to the jail admisitrator in the next county over and found out I can see L anytime I can get there. I'm aiming for the permitting!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

School's Out!

I finished classes with my students today. The last one to leave was M, the student who called and challenged me on the first day of school. So I said to her, "So, how was the class for you?" "Well, " she said, "it really turned out ok, soI guess you won after all." "Oh, no," I told her, "It was not about that, it was never about winning. I just wanted to check in with you, to see how it was, if you felt the class turned out ok for you...." The she said something amazing. "Yeah," she said, "I felt like such an idiot after I called you, I guess I jst felt like I was in over my head or something....I felt like a real fool." "It's ok," I told her, "we all get scared sometimes." "Everybody?" She asked, rather incredulously. "Sure." I said. "Everybody!" "Oh" And off she went down the hall.

I'm not real sure what all they learned about the history of psych this semester. But the teacher learned a whole lot about herself. Clealy this was where I needed to be. And clearly I need to be done. I am back in gratitude tonight. School's out. I'm reclaiming some time and space in my life. Thanks be to God.

Waiting Still.....

This was the meditation on the Henri Nouwen website this morning:

Long before Jesus was born the prophet Isaiah had a vision of Christ's great unifying work of salvation. Many years after Jesus died, John, the beloved disciple, had another but similar vision: He saw a new heaven and a new earth. All of creation had been transformed, dressed with immortality to be the perfect bride of Christ. In John's vision the risen Christ speaks from his throne, saying: "Look, I am making the whole of creation new. .... Look, here God lives among human beings. He will make his home among them; they will be his people, and he will be their God, God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness or pain. The world of the past has gone" (Revelation 21:5; 21:3-4).
Both Isaiah and John open our eyes to the all-inclusive nature of Christ's saving work.

Where are the prophets of our time? Do we have the vision? Do we have the will? How do we understand this? As something that will come upon us or a work that we co-create with God Perhaps in Advent we might discern more our role in this transformation.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Advent Monday 2

I went to see L tonight at the jail. He is gone. The jailer tells me that he was moved last Tuesday to the jail in the next county over. This happens. Sometimes it is because of overcrowding at the jail. Sometimes it is because of conflict between certain inmates. L had told me there was someone who was picking on him and that he was going to talk to the jail coordinator. Mybe he was moved for his own protection. Or maybe because he annoyed the jailer by complaining and the move was retribution.

I cannot get his public defender to return my phone calls. I have left five messages now. Each one a little more assertive than the last. He doesn't return L's calls either.

Tomorrow I will call the jailer up at the other county's jail and find out what their weekend visiting hours are and how I get myself a clergy pass. If I can pull that off I will try to get up to see him this weekend. I don't want him to think I have abandoned him...

Waiting. L even more than I. I know he would appreciate your prayers if he could ask.

Blogging on in Advent

My friends over at the Presbyterian church are doing an Advent activity called the Blessing Bag to help them notice where God is active in their daily lives. They have a bag of questions and each day they are encouraged to pull one out and reflect on it. The questions are things like:
“Something that happened that I’m really grateful for is...”, “Where did God show up in my day?”, “I felt joy when...”, “Something I think made God happy was...” I love this practice and am going to be very interested in hearing their responses to it.

But I am sitting today in another place. What sits heavy on my heart this morning is the things that I think perhaps are making God sad on this Monday of the second week of Advent. I could not write last night. I sat in front of the computer for a very long time wrestling with my commitment to blog daily in Advent. I'd had a lovely day. Full of churchy and life-y things, our service, some errands and shopping, a choir rehearsal, a church women's party. All of them satisfying and good in their own way. But over it all these sad stories of violence and hurt done in and around church and religion kept creeping in.

In my own denomination, a diocese has turned their backs on the rest of us. No longer willing to do the thing we are most about, hold the center in dialogue. The people my heart goes out to the most in all of this are those who do not agree with this choice but whose voices could not carry the day. Voices crying in the wilderness.

While this is deeply wounding, it pales before the violence of gunshots and people dying at the mission center and church in Colorado. At the mission center it was young people mostly, learning to do mission work. Shootings in church settings are always so heinous to me...the one place it seems we might feel safe...God must be saddened.

And even as I write that last sentence, I wonder at myself. For even within our churches we are guilty of inflicting damage and keeping them from being safe places. That too is on my list of things making God sad today. In our own community a misguided minister is doing a great deal of damage by his behavior. He seems to feel it is acceptable to lie and misrepresent himself to infiltrate groups of vulnerable people in order to then "share his message." He has outed some young GLBT students on a video on his blog, resulting in at least one of them having insults shouted at him from a passing car. I watched the video. It is ugly. Full of entrapment and lies and bad theology. In the comments he writes about it on his blog, he talks about them as the "little fishies biting." It's clear that he enjoyed himself. This is spiritual abuse. It makes me angry and sad for those exposed. God too, I think.

My heart is heavy on this second Advent Monday. We are a world in need of saving, a world in need of light. O come, O come Emmanuel.......

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Week Gone Already

I came home tonight to totes all over the living room and a lovely Frasier fir ensconced in the corner. It's a little sooner than I'd planned, but it is, after all about "going with the flow" is it not? Dear One and I have a young man in our lives whose only family is an aunt and uncle across the state. He found out on Wednesday that due to some issues in their lives they will not be having him spend Christmas vacation with him as they usually do. This came as a pretty big blow to him, as it's the only connection he really has to those family holiday interactions so many of us take for granted. Part of their time together includes buying and decorating a tree, so when he asked Dear One if we could do that here today to cheer him up a bit, well....thus the totes! So we will be three for Christmas this year. He will be my acolyte for the late Christmas service. I'll be makng dinner. My Christmas plans just firmed up. So I'm walking in two worlds today. Still firmly in Advent, preparing with John, the way of the Lord. And a little bit Christmas as the lights twinkle on the pretty fir tree in my living room tonight.

Life in the Midst

It is 2:15 a.m on Saturday morning and I just woke up on the couch. I plopped down here about 6 last night with the newspaper and the laptop. I made it through the paper, read my e-mail and my Friday Five comments. I remember some brief conversation with Dear One. And now it's halfway to Saturday morning.

B's funeral was Friday. It was unique and quite wonderful. Sad of course. He was only thirty. And beloved by so many. He had fought his way back from a six week coma only four years ago. Learned to do so many things all over again from scratch. Lived, by all accounts in an altered body in a radically new life with pretty good grace. His dad is devastated. I was worried that we were going to lose him a few times during the service. This is his youngest son, his baby as he said, whom he got back from death once, only to lose again. He asked M "why" earlier this week. Today during the service, during the time when people were invited to share memories of B, one of the professors brought in some of his course evaluations from a class where B had spoken. Clearly and simply, these students each said, "Because of B I will make a different choice when I drink...I will not drive. I see now that it is real. I saw B's videos from before he was in the accident, I see him now, how he must struggle to walk, to learn..." I don't know if his dad could hear that today, but the professor left those for the family to keep, to read again at a calmer time, to remember perhaps why B came back for this extra time, to remember those lives he touched.

The service itself was lovely. Because of our team ministry structure there are three priests on our team, all women, and we were all able to be there today. The family had requested a private Eucharist, so we concelebrated that for them. They run the gamut from evangelical Christians through Presbyterians to Catholics. We welcomed all to the table and all came. It was a holy moment. This was followed by the public memorial service using the prayers from the vigil, readings from scripture selected by the family, a lovely homily by M and sharing from friends and the commendation. Pictures of B surrounded us, and his spirit was clearly present.

Life in the midst of death in the midst of life. I had the most tangible sense of the reality of the promise of eternal life in that room today. A bit of early Christmas in Advent. Another gift from the life of B. Thanks be to God.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The Preparation Friday Five

Sally of RevGals 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? Since September that has been the norm. I have learned to live in the realm of the twelve-hour, six day week, Sundays shorter for good behavior. It has been grueling and I have lived at the fine edge of exhaustion. I have learned that I need to do one thing at a time, make lists and check them twice, eat well, try to keep on top of things as much as possible because getting behind is lethal, keep a sense of humor, vent when I need to, that done is better than perfect, and all things pass. Oh, and breathing helps.

2. You have unexpected visitors, and need to provide them with a meal- what do you do? I must have well-trained friends....nobody seems to show up at my house expecting to be fed. If they did, we would order out or go out, my treat.

Three discussion topics:
3. Thinking along the lines of this weeks advent theme; repentance is an important but often neglected aspect of advent preparations.....Oh I so agree. And I think it is so misunderstood. I absolutely LOVE repentance in it's truest and best form....that we can begin again, make a turn, a complete stop and atone. And that it is joyful, and liberating and transformative. The best Christmas gift, really if you think about it!

4. Some of the best experiences in life occur when you simply go with the flow.....kind of a stretch for me, though I'm trying to loosen up. But I am such a control freak, this is a tough one. It's really a spiritual discipline for me to go with the flow and believe that I don't have to take charge, and often a measure of where I am in my walk with Jesus as to how much flowing I can do at any point, (or "let" others do without trying to control them as well!)

5. Details are everything, attention to the small things enables a plan to roll forward smoothly...well yeah. Paddle like heck under the surface. Glide like a graceful swan above, and never let 'em see you sweat! Recipe for a great performance (and probably a great deal of stress as well). But I am a detail person and I like to know that all is well beforehand so I can relax and be confident in the moment (mostly).

Bonus if you dare- how well prepared are you for Christmas this year?
I am Christmas not too much yet. Have some garland and lights outside. Have an advent wreath within. Have some gift projects in process. That's pretty much it for now. And I am good with that.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home. 2Peter 3:13

That was the reading from this morning's office and it has just been with me all day....a place where righteousness is at home. What, I keep thinking, would that be like? A place where people don't get summarily kicked off my therapy schedule because they have the wrong insurance maybe? Or a place where a minister doesn't tell lies in order to infiltrate a GLBT group so he can terrorize them in order to hurl his version of the truth at them? Or a place where people could go Christmas shopping without worrying about disgruntled guys with assault rifles? A world where those in positions of trust might actually be trust-worthy?

Waiting, we are waiting, Lord. It is dark, and we need your light. Come,Lord Jesus, come.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Work of Adventing

Gratitude was a whole lot easier. Who knew it would ever be simpler to find things to be thankful for than to reflect on that for which we wait? My mind is flitty tonight. I cannot focus on anything of substance. I can, however, come up with enough things I am thankful for to make a list:
  • I have finished grading all the papers for my class...I was pretty gentle with them, all things considered
  • Maggie's eye continues to mend....and she continues to be patient
  • At least twice today it felt like such holy ground in my office I felt like perhaps I should take off my shoes
  • I found myself to be formidable for a good cause today....and it was very satisfying

Adventing....prepare ye the way of the Lord...maybe...I think maybe I'm seeing it now....just maybe.....

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Advent Continues.....

I felt the first chilling fingers of it this morning. That creeping darkness that affects so many denizens of the northern regions this time of year…the seasonal malady that puts a gray blanket over everything; that makes me cranky and sleepy and eaty and all those other little fellows. We are having winter in a way we have not for several years. That beautiful snow I waxed so poetic about last week has become a giant pain in the driveway. I don’t want to be here. I want to be in some warm sunny place where I don’t have to allow for scraping time in my schedule, and where I don’t have to be obsessive about mittening my poor little circulation-impaired fingers lest they go to icy stumps in seconds.

Those who do not wish to see Christmas too soon have nothing to fear from me. I am a bit Bah-Hum-Buggy at the moment. I have no desire to tree, to garland, to gift, to carol. Dressing, brushing and combing are quite enough for today, thank you.

I know what I need to do. I need to eat well, sleep enough, do my yoga, get my walks in, say my prayers…..maintain all those good things which maintain me. To that I say….well, never mind what I say…..

This is neither high-minded nor edifying. It is, as Kathryn would say, whingeing, I fear. And I have no clue what it all has to do with Advent, except there is a great deal of waiting for light involved in it all….and as pk said in a comment earlier this week, adventing is “releasing our inner torment to our Advocate.” I am all for that today.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Dark Place Tonight

We are waiting in a dark place tonight in this Adventing. A young man, the son of some people who have come to our church now and then, and are friends of my co-priest M, died last night. We don't know why just yet. B had been in a very serious car accident four years ago, when traveling at over 100 mph, he flipped his sports car three times. He had a serious head injury and was in a coma for over a month. His life was forever changed. In the last year he had returned to school and was rebuilding a life for himself. He often gave talks to high school and college groups about drinking and driving and what can happen, with himself as a living example. He was a really sweet guy. M will bury him on Saturday. His dad wants to understand why he survived that awful crash, to work so hard to come back only to die now. We wait with his family in their pain and confusion. We remind ourselves of the promise that God waits with us as well.

Monday Maggie Update

We have persevered through the weekend and she seems to be holding her own. The eye is at least no worse. She doesn't seem to be in pain, there is no drainage, and she seems more chipper. So that's the good news. On the down side, it's still red and the ulcer itself has not changed in appearance much. I guess the vet will have to give us a verdict. Thanks for the prayers....we will be happy for more.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

"AdventPoMo"....Yes I Will...So Here's the First Day

It came to me in yoga....the need to go on with the daily posts. Not gratitude necessarily, but daily....something reflective about this season of waiting....adventing here on the blog

I had cause to think about waiting today. I saw L, my little friend in the jail. He is waiting. Waiting for letters from his family that do not come. Waiting for the day he can see his kid again. Waiting for his lawyer to call back. Waiting for a courtdate. Waiting for an unknown future. It is dark where he waits. And yet....he waits in hope. When I begin to talk of the coming of the Light of the world to him, he quotes John 3:16 to me. And tears roll down his cheeks. He says "wouldn't it be something if I got out for Christmas?" Indeed? Wouldn't it be something?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Uh-oh....more Gratitude

I think I have created a monster. I am not sure I can end my day without blogging! I was getting ready to go to bed, doing the nightly ritual things and it just felt "undone" somehow. There were thoughts floating unsaid in my head, things that felt as if they should somehow have voice. Thoughts about the day, moments of humor, of gratitude (of course), just the random bits of life that have been finding their way here over the last thirty days. My life demanding witness? As Kathryn noted, there was a kind of Ignation flavor of examen to it all that put a lovely cap on the day. And a sense of connection, of community as well to those I knew were stopping by, checking in, commenting or not. I felt a sense of closer connection through the daily posts, a rhythm of gathering. I am so fascinated by this whole community of the blogosphere and it's ability to create wondrous connections. Writing to myself daily in the presence of others as transformative practice...and now not wanting to's all just very amazing to me tonight for some reason.

I can't help myself....tonight I am grateful that I finished all four of my Advent candle lighting services! They are DONE. As in inserts copied and everything. And there are only four more classes. Four. Yes. And I. Am. Done. Grateful? Oh Yeah! Then I am going to be Adventing. I have decided it is a verb. I am going to Advent actively. Wait actively for the coming of Jesus. Not sure what that means yet....we will all have to just...wait.

Maggie the Peke Needs Prayers

Maggie, my sweet companion, needs your prayers for patience in healing. She has an ulcer on her eye. We of course have no idea where she got it. They are apparently quite common in her breed, as their eyes protrude and are vulnerable to scratches. Her vet is quite amazed that she has made it to the ripe old age of two and a half unscathed! The lovely Dr. Tracy says it is serious, but she is optimistic. The cornea is ulcerated, but not through all the layers. If this were the case, Maggie would lose her eye for sure. Right now, there is only about a twenty per cent chance of that. But the next week is crucial. She is on antibiotics and an ointment. And we have had to reduce the prednisone she takes for her allergies, so she will be itchier than normal...not a good thing when you have a bad eye. We are hoping to avoid the dreaded Lampshade but will do what needs to be done! So Maggie is even more contemplative than usual these days, keeping to her cell and offering her sufferings with only a sigh now and then to let me know how miserable she truly is. Dr. Tracy says she is really a little trooper, she's seen big dogs have high drama over this! So please keep sweet Maggie in your prayers. We both thank you.