Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Another New Year's Eve

As I seem to keep finding myself saying....How did we get here!?! This has been such an incredible year. It seems like it was just yesterday that it was the beginning of 2008...and yet when I think back to that beginning, it feels like a very, very, long time ago. When I think about all that has transpired, about the things I did not know even know about my life then that have completely transformed it now.....well, it's kind of mind-boggling, to say the least.

I did a post last New Years Eve on intentions, my version of New Year's resolutions. The intentions I chose for 2008 were the following:

  • 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.

As I look at these it strikes me how many of them have turned out to really be manifested in some pretty big and important ways in my life this year, considering that I really didn't commit the list to memory or hang it on my bulletin board, or do any of the things that one is encouraged to do with the things one is truly intentional about. I can only assume that these were things that I really truly did want, and that God in God's dream for me also saw as good, and thereby the opportunities were provided for me to work on them.

I've been reading back through some old journal entries and blog posts for the year as I often do as a kind of life inventory at year's end. It's always interesting to look back and see the things that I boldly stated and then totally and completely ignored, thereby indicating that I clearly did not or could not know them at the time that I wrote them.

Of course the big events of my life this year have been on the relationship front. The closure of one chapter of my life as XDO and I parted, and moving into what I assumed was going to be a long time of being single and exploring that in a new way for myself. And instead of course I am exploring something else entirely! Going on the BE cruise was such a pivot point for me as things began to disintegrate in my relationship life last Winter. I honestly don't know if I had not had that liminal space with the safety and love of all y'all, to whom I could say what felt at that time to be some pretty unspeakable truths, if I could have claimed myself, if I could have released the tethers with which I had bound myself for so many years, if I ever could have let myself really be free. There just isn't ever going to be enough gratitude....ever.

The other "Big Event" has of course been the so-far unbloggable situation that I have referred to as the "falling shoes." I got in trouble for something that I did that I believe was right and good and some other people did not. I am hoping to be out soon. I am hopeful about that. It too, was an interesting time in that I learned that faith holds, God really is there in the dark and that the prayers of others are a real and tangible force that will hold and carry me if I let them.

I learned a lot about being cared for this year. In taking that risk of allowing nurturing I have found it to be not only just a good thing, but a truly transformational one. It has opened my heart and softened me in some pretty important ways, I think. For perhaps the first time in my life I am not afraid to say, "Help me, please....I need...." And to know I can, and that someone does...well, it connects me with God yet again and reminds me that I am blessed and beloved.

So yes it has been quite the year. Flying by at the speed of grace bringing blessings and changes and transformations all over the place. Oh, and love. We must not forget love. Not just the one that looms so large on my horizon right now....the one that lights up my heart (when it's not giving me panic attacks), but all the love in my life. My friends near and far. Those whose faces I have seen and those who I have not. The people whose love does carry me and bring me God every single day. I literally feel as if I live surrounded in a cocoon of blessedness simply because of those friendships. As this is not something that has always been, I do not take it for granted and I treasure it deeply.

I'm still thinking about my intentions for next year. For now, I simply wish to all a blessed and peaceful 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmasing on....Love Came Down

There is some kind of balance I am trying to find between life in this space and relational life here in my every day world. I'm not there right now. I miss having time to read the blogs of all my "regulars" daily, or almost so, and making connections in comments, but there has been another kind of connection that has been occupying a fair amount of heartspace lately. Apparently it's been very obvious to those closest to me IRL what is going on. Perhaps I am just as transparent in bloglife. I seem to be in love.

This of course was not the plan. As I type this I do believe I hear God giggling somewhere. When things ended with XDO, I fully intended to be single for a very long time. There were some really big things I needed to figure out, some serious life issues I needed to resolve before I even considered dating anyone. So through the Spring and the Summer I relished the solitude. I cleaned and I purged. I claimed my space and myself. And, I admit as Summer began to wane....I fussed a bit...Who, I wondered, would ever be interested in this complicated well-used mid-life priest who came to the party with lots of baggage. I had no idea how to even begin again I wailed, after so very many years. And I said, there was this one person in town....if I could date anyone....but of course what would ever be the chance of that as I was quite sure he had no idea he even knew I lived. And three weeks later (by no connection to the person I said this to) I had an e-mail from this very same person asking if I might be interested in coffee sometime.....and one thing led to another and......

This was not the plan...casual friendship was the plan. Love was not the plan. Perhaps it is time I simply admit that I am not a casual kind of person. There simply is not much in my life that is casual. Pretty much everything I do, I do with a fair amount of intensity and passion. I guess that is just who I am, how I'm wired. It has it's down side for me as well as the people I wear out, but it's who God created me to be and it has its positives as well. R and I are a good match in that respect as he is as laid back as I am intense, grounded and solid and pretty unflappable. These are but a few of his many fine qualities. Oh but don't get me started...we will be here all night!

This still was not the plan. As I watch myself trying so hard to be careful and cautious, to remain aware and wise....I even make myself tired. "Stop thinking so hard, Kate" he says. "You're giving me a headache," C says. "Relax and enjoy the ride," says another friend. Easy for them all. I don't want to mess it up. As if I am in charge! Back to that again....the old belief that life is mine to control. Perhaps they are all right. What if I could just let go and be in love...accept this as the great gift of God's grace that it is and relax and enjoy it? Wouldn't that be something?

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sermon for Christmas 1B 2008


What we hear today in John’s Gospel is the other telling of the Christmas story. Not the one we heard read at our Christmas services that forms the basis of our traditions and rituals. Not the one that is so familiar to many of us, at least in its original King James form, that many of us can recite it by heart from Sunday school days. That one is such an important story to us, a formative story. It talks about all those events of the birth of our Lord Jesus in such a human way, and it reminds us that Jesus came among us as a tiny and vulnerable human baby in the most humble way, and that he came because Mary said yes to God’s request, and because Joseph was willing to be part of her life.

But John has some different things to tell us in his version of the Christmas story. John goes all the way back to the beginning because he wants to remind us just exactly who it is we are talking about here in this Christmas story….”in the beginning was the Word…or the Logos…the creating, revealing, acting, mind of God….way before the stable or the shepherds, way before Mary and the angel, even long before Isaiah first foretold it. In the beginning, because even then God so loved the world, the Incarnation had already begun.

John says in his Christmas story, the Word – who was with God from the beginning – The Word who is God became flesh and lived among us, or in another translation, pitched his tent among us…sounding perhaps like he is planning to stay. And he says, “From his fullness we have received grace upon grace.” Gifts. Unasked for. Undeserved. Just simply given for the love of it. And John has more to tell us in his Christmas story. “No one,” he says, “has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart who has made him known.” And this of course is one of the wondrous gifts of the Incarnation – in Jesus we see God, and in coming to know Jesus and living a life of discipleship in loving relationship with him, we as mere humans can become more like who God is. It is the great both/and of the Incarnation. In Jesus we see who God is, and we can be as he gives us the power to become, as John says, children of God. We can become more like Jesus, and in becoming more like, in acting more like Jesus, we can show the world that wondrous light of God’s amazing love for us.

He is the light, the one who has come – the one that has been shining in the darkness for over 2000 years and has not been overcome. We know that we live in a world that is in desperate need of light. As followers of Jesus we are called to be the light bearers, the witnesses that God does have this overwhelming love and commitment to God’s people, that God is faithful and has been in covenant and relationship with us throughout all time. Oh, not in a happily-ever-after, nothing bad is ever going to happen kind of way, because that would not be real life. But in never- abandoning presence, in the gift of God who comes – Emmanuel God with us in Jesus – the God who became us and lived among us as one of us and knew our pain and sorrow and suffering and fears. We are called to let the world know that. We are called to let the world know that God does not abandon us but is with us in the darkness. And we are called to be God’s light in those dark places. This of course challenges us, it means that we must have the courage to go to into those dark places, to take on some of the pain and suffering that is there, to be the light there, to be Christ, to be grace, to be gift. This is not an easy task. It is not something that we may be naturally inclined towards. It may frighten us to think about engaging with the poor or the sick, the angry or the oppressed. It may not thrill us to think about forgiving our enemies, or turning the other cheek, or continuing to give and not count the cost. But we know that this is where the light is needed the most, that this is where we are called to witness to God’s unceasing love for God’s people. And when we do find the courage to do these things, in return we find we grow in our own relationship to God. A friend of mine who lost her twenty-four year old son earlier this year explains it this way: “To the extent to which we welcome and participate in the life of Christ, so we will enter into the weight of suffering that pervades our world. And perhaps the reverse is true as well: to the extent that we absorb that suffering, so we will encounter the astounding love of our Creator that makes God's donation of self to us possible, a gift offered in our own form, as one of us, through one of us. "

This is the life which will be the light of all people, but it is up to each of us. In this world we are the ones called to be the hands and feet and voice of Jesus. We are the ones who testify that the light is still shining and even though the darkness is all around us, it cannot overcome it, because this is God’s story, the Christmas story, and even after all these years, it is still being told every day. Amen.

Friday, December 26, 2008

"Boxing Day Friday Five"

Mary Beth says: "It's Boxing Day! Whatever that may mean to you, I invite you on this day to simply share five things that today, December 26th, will bring for you."

  • Working at my day job. I have one client this morning, and this afternoon I will go over to CH to consult. It's kind of sad over there since they are closing on December 31st as they have lost their funding. The clients are moving out one by one and the staff are closing out paperwork and dealing with their own feelings of loss and fear of what the future holds. As I am not dealing with that issue, I am trying to support them and be the non-anxious presence.
  • Looking towards Sunday. I have two services, so I'm trying to get a jump start. I do have a good run on things and just have a little tweaking to do on the sermon and a little finish to do on the bulletin for the service at my soon as I find out whether or not I actually have an organist!
  • Thinking about heading over to the 70% off all clearance items at my favorite clothing store after's very tempting.
  • A little daydreaming....been catching myself doing that lately. Hmmmmm......
  • Since it's positively balmy (in the 20's) perhaps a walk with the wee doggy after work would be a good ending to the day.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to the best group of friends a person could have. I number each of you among my blessings and know that I could never have gotten through this incredible complex amazing hard wonderful painful transformational year without each of you and your prayers and caring and concern and wonderful comments. You each mean so much to me, those I have met IRL and those with whom I still wait to have that pleasure.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

On the Night Before the Night Before Christmas

The last day of work before Christmas is done. I have just come back from learning how to run the mixer and light the big industrial stove over at the Presbyterian church. Tomorrow I'm going over early to start the corn and make the mashed potatoes for the community Christmas dinner before some of the other folks get off work. Since my church is so small that we only have regular size appliances, I needed a little tutorial on these.

I'm getting pretty excited about Christmas Eve. In addition to the dinner there will be church with the Presbys, some time with R, and of course my own service, which M and I will celebrate together at 11 o'clock. That late Christmas service holds such magic for me, to be the celebrant is still the most wondrous thing. This year, having R there will add a whole new dimension. He is being very game about fitting into this "pastor life" of mine. Coming to the community dinner, attending two services, it's all just fine with him. I find myself amazed and touched by this.

On Christmas Day, L has asked me to drop by his mom's house for a while where he will be visiting with family. I am so touched by this, and can't help thinking about last Christmas Eve day when I went to see him at the jail in the county up the road, only to find that he was not there....and came hurtling back down here to track him down again. This year to be able to see him enjoying Christmas with his mom and brothers and sisters and perhaps even his little son fills my heart with incredible joy.

So as Advent winds down I am filled with anticipation as Christmas comes.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

On Advent's Fourth Sunday

The Fourth Sunday of Advent is five minutes old. I am sitting by tree light, the carols are playing on the radio. I am filled with such deep peace and joy and wonder at all this Advent season has held. So many changes and shifts. Letting go of fear, moving toward goodness it sounds like Christmas, doesn't it?

I am so full of gratitude for the blessings in my life, for the love that surrounds me. I am particularly grateful at this Christmas time for the new blessing, the new growing love in my life that R is. As we lit the fourth Advent candle together tonight and he read the lesson, I could barely hold back the tears. I could never have imagined that I would encounter someone who would be a good fit to me in all the myriad ways that he is, and who would do so while being unassuming, funny and just generally likable.

I am also grateful for the grace and decency of XDO. We talked recently and ironed out some things that needed ironing and closed some things that needed closing. Given that I am clearly moving on, it was an important conversation, and I appreciated the generosity of spirit in which some things were said and offered that made it easier for me to do that with a lighter heart.

I am also really, really grateful for my friends who are walking this journey with me. There is just nothing like having good girl talk when you need it when you're dealing with all this relationship stuff....whether it's a "you go girl" or a cautionary reminder to "slow it down, sweetie, you're getting ahead of yourself again" I cannot be grateful enough for my wonderful friends.

So in these last few days before Christmas, I want to just take time to really bask in all these gifts that I have been given. So much more than anything that could ever come wrapped up in paper and ribbon, this really is Christmas, God incarnate, love here in my life in real present and tangible ways, every day of the year. Thanks be to God.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Five: Countdown to Christmas Edition

Songbird says: "It's true.There are only five full days before Christmas Day, and whether you use them for shopping, wrapping, preaching, worshiping, singing or traveling or even wishing the whole darn thing were over last Tuesday, there's a good chance they will be busy ones.So let's make this easy, if we can: tell us five things you need to accomplish before Christmas Eve."
  1. Sit down with M and figure out what the tiny remnant of the choir plus one Presby friend will sing at the 11 on Christmas eve. At this point we are heading for one of the L and C numbers if the voice distribution works out. She preaches this year, so my only other "business" with that service will be for her and I to divide up the prayers and figure out the who does what as we will celebrate the service together.
  2. Find out (again) why the e-card did not go out to let someone know I gave a charitable gift in their name. I tried a new place for just one person on my list and apparently they don't have all their bugs worked out. Back to Heifer!
  3. Do Christmas cards for my co-workers. I don't usually "card" people I see all the time, but it seems to be the culture here, so .....when in Rome, I guess....
  4. Buy tickets for the New Year's Eve dance. While this is not exactly Christmas related....I hear they are selling well, and since this is a little bit of a sugarplum fairy dust dream come true event for me, I don't want to be taking any chances with not getting there cuz I didn't get tickets!
  5. Get a haircut!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Apparently God Answers Rants, Too....

So who knew that I had a bigger range with this cold than without it! Of course tomorrow I will no doubt be practicing the smile and nod school of psychtherapy... but it was SO worth it! Lessons and Carols was everything it needed to be. The church wasn't packed like last year, due in part to the weeknight reschedule, I think, but it was beautiful and wonderful and I got to sing my heart out and yes, I do believe my feet left the floor. All was well. And I am as tired as I remember being in very long time. So happily, it's off to bed. All is well in Kate's world tonight. God is good and grace abounds.

A Wee Advent Rant....

Just a brief post of crankiness. I feel like a giant germ factory. A walking histamine. Tonight is the rescheduled Lessons and Carols and I have no idea where my vocal range begins or ends. I have tentatively been singing along with the tape, but it produces coughing fits, so I've been a little reluctant to push it. I did go to work yesterday. At least my body was present. After the Zyrtec hit, the 3:00 hour was a serious struggle with leaded eyelids. I went home and hit the bed at six last night and slept straight through until this morning at seven. Unheard of! I'm leaving at noon with my boss' blessing to take a nap and try to get myself in some semblance of order for tonight. And on top of everything else it's really really cold outside and yes, I am taking it personally! It's supposed to snow again tonight. Bah! Whose idea was it to have Christmas in December, anyway?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And on the Seventeenth Day of Advent....

I am getting a little more free time than I bargained for. Perhaps this is in the be careful what you hope for line of things, or maybe like snow, germs happen, too. But I seem to be full of enough those pesky little critters that I simply could not see the wisdom in going to work today. So I am home on the couch stocked with tea and Vitamin C and Echinacea and Zinc tabs, lots of water and lotioned tissues. I am not known for very good self-care when sick, and truth be told, my biggest motivator is trying to have some vestige of a voice for Lessons and Carols on Thursday. That and the fact that when last I checked I had something like 480 hours of sick leave. I talk a good line about this to other people, but when it comes to myself....not so hot I fear. Someone accused me of being self-important in my refusal to stay home. I had to examine my conscience a bit about I really think I am all that important that the world will stop turning if I am not in it for a day? No, it's not that....but I do remember what it was like when I was in the depths of my own depression....that therapy appointment was sometimes the thing that got me from week to week. It wasn't CS, my therapist herself, though she was wonderful. It was more about knowing that for an hour there was a place where I could pour out my pain and someone would hear me, would witness how much it hurt to just be in my skin in that time and place. And on the rare occasions she had to cancel, I would be pretty devastated. So I try not to do that to people, especially if I know there are folks on the schedule that day that are in those kinds of really painful places. But once in awhile there is a day when the people on the schedule are a little more able to cope with a cancel or I am little less able to rise above my symptoms, or figure I'm so miserable I'd likely not be very present to them anyway.

So the trade off is more quiet and solitude. Enforced on a day when I have not enough energy to do and therefore must simply be. My own little retreat day. And there is even a task at hand. The Soul Sisters have given up the ghost on Discipleship. It seemed that the consensus was that DB was just not working for anyone but me, so we have decided to do a Mark study instead. The task for this week (due today!) is to read the entire Gospel for an overview and come prepared to discuss (somewhat intelligently) Mark's grand plan, themes, etc. Then we will go back and savor and dissect slowly for as long as it takes, bit by bit. Last week being what it was, there was no Mark reading, so today would seem to be the day. Our hope is that this will be creative and generative as we are doing this in a pretty self-directed way, no book....just our own research ability, our care for one another and the Holy Spirit to guide us. We are planning to each do some writing about our "discoveries" along the way to share as we are all writers. We are also planning time in January to take a painting class together, and we are hoping that this will find it's way into our Markan experience. Once again, I'm thinking I am blessed with the best Bible study group ever.

So I think I'll settle in now. Turn the tree lights on, brew a big pot of tea, turn on some Gregorian chant for background, get my favorite study Bible and see what Mark has to say.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

On Advent's Third Sunday

Bah....the weather is frightful and Lessons and Carols is a casualty! We are rescheduling...Thanks be....I'm afraid it just would not be Christmas quite as much for me without L and C, to say nothing of all the work we have put in preparing. So it will be Thursday, and we are hoping for a better day weatherwise. As for today, it's blowing and drifting and cold cold cold! We were a whopping five for church this morning including me. No organist so we didn't even try to sing the hymns. It all felt a little out of sync somehow as we also didn't sing the other parts of the liturgy we usually sing. It all threw me off a tad...I kept thinking I forgot to do things. And I missed singing. I had picked out Comfort Ye My People because I like it so much, and it's not one we get to do often. Oh, well. Snow happens.

M and I will head out to the nursing home later this afternoon for the service. It's in town so we can traverse the weather to get there....and our congregation is there already! We will sing for sure, as she is my piano player. We are doing some good Advent hymns and I will do a slightly revised version of the Isaiah/Mary/John sermon I preached to the multitudes at St. J's this morning. And then, instead of running to get ready for the excitement of Lessons and Carols, I will be done for the day....home to a warm but quiet house. My decorating is done, preparations are pretty much finished except for some of my mom's old candy recipes I want to try. Perhaps this is a little gift of time in the too short Advent season. I did complain in my sermon of Advent moving too fast, of not having time to savor the mystery, to think about all that it means that this Incarnational event involves and calls to each of us to define ourselves around and against it.

Quiet. Time. Solitude.All unexpected gifts of the season on this blustery Sunday of Joy.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sermon for Advent 3B 2008

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11, Canticle 15 (Luke 1:46-55). John 1:6-8, 19-28

Advent always moves too quickly. It seems that we just begin to get into the rhythm of this season of waiting and expectancy and it is almost over. Even if the world did not place so many demands on our time during this season, I think Advent could still fly by…there is so much to think about, so much to consider, so much to imagine.
Advent reminds us again of who God is and who we are. Advent calls for a special kind of vision…it asks is to stretch and think big, to see ourselves with God’s eyes for a moment. God’s vision of course is always so much bigger than ours, filled with so many more possibilities for transformation than ours could ever be. God’s vision never reflects the world as it is, but as it could be or already is…in God’s time.
In this morning’s Scripture we hear clear voices of people who caught this vision, at least for a moment….who at their own point in time allowed God to move through them, and became co-creators with God in that vision of God’s kingdom. Isaiah says:
“The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and release to the prisoners;
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
In these beautiful words, a promise is made that hope lives on in the midst of despair, that even in a time when all seems lost, God still has a vision that good news and justice will come forth and that it will come from those who had been the least, the powerless and the oppressed. This is a theme we hear echoed again in the Canticle of Mary. Mary, the young girl who not only says “yes” to her own personal transformation in being the God-bearer, but, at least as she is portrayed here, echoes some of the themes of Isaiah
“He has shown the strength of his arm, * he has scattered the proud in their conceit.He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, * and has lifted up the lowly.He has filled the hungry with good things, * and the rich he has sent away empty.”
She too seems to have caught God’s vision for God’s kingdom, and gave testimony that God is about turning things upside down. Indeed the child she carried who would be the Incarnate one would be a strange King. Born in a stable, killed on a cross. And his life would serve as an example of this vision of the countercultural life of the justice of God’s kingdom. Forgive your enemies , exclude no-one, turn the other cheek, become poor, love one another.
And John the Baptizer. Clearly John was a person who got it. He knew who God was, who he was and what he was to do. He witnesses that it is the time of the Messiah, the long awaited one who was to come. The one who would be the light that the darkness could not overcome
As I hear these readings I can’t help but notice not only the message but these messengers. Each of these people is making a response with their whole selves and beings to a call from God, bearing witness with their very selves. When I preached earlier about Isaiah, one of the commentaries had made the remark that Isaiah was likely suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder from all he had witnessed in the horrifying destruction and chaos of his time. And yet he was able to speak forth God’s message of hope for reversal and for justice. And Mary – Mary who knew full well what her “yes” could mean in a time when the fate of a woman who became pregnant without a husband could be death by stoning. And yet her question to the angel was simply, “How can this be?” and her canticle sings praise to a God of justice and mercy whose concern is for those who are least and in need. And John – his challenge was resisting those who would give him the power and the glory that rightfully belonged to Jesus. In knowing who Jesus was, he was able to find a place of certainty in himself that enabled him to resoundingly tell the world who he was not.
Each of them….hearing a call from God and responding with their lives. Are we so different? Isn’t this in some way what each of us is asked to do every day? Oh, perhaps not in such dramatic ways, but this really is our vocation – to simply know who God is, to know who God has called us to be and to say yes.
We are celebrating an anniversary here at St. James this weekend. Along with the joys of the season and the excitement of our Lessons and Carols service tonight, this weekend is the third anniversary of the commissioning of the Total Ministry team and of Marilyn and Coleen’s ordinations. (I followed along in getting ordained a bit later) This was a wonderful “saying yes,” not only for those of us on the team, but for this entire parish community…a yes to risk, a yes to a new way of being church together, a yes to our future. And as someone in the congregation said to me about a year or so ago…it does seem to be working out. One of the wonderful things about Total Ministry is that it reminds us that ministering to each other really does belong to all of us as baptized members of the body of Christ. Whether “officially” on the team or not, what we all know about this place is that there is no-one here who is not active in ministry in some way, whether in this church community or in the wider world. We are all vocational beings who say yes to God’s call to be co-creators of God’s kingdom, whether we name it as such or not. God has anointed all of us to bring the good news to the oppressed, bind up the brokenhearted and proclaim liberty to the captives. We live in a world that needs that good news of justice and comfort every bit as much now as it did in the day of Isaiah. God has asked all of us to be the God-bearers, to lift up the lowly and fill the hungry with all of the good things God has promised us in God’s infinite love and mercy. God asks all of us to be witnesses. To give testimony to the light, to be the voices that cry out in our own wilderness. And we do say “yes.”
I said at the beginning of this sermon that Advent is a time when we remember who we are and who God is. We remember most especially who the Incarnate one is for whom we wait….the one who is the great both/and…who shows us who God is and who we can be…the one whose story is told in our creed and to whom we make our promises in our baptismal vows. In a few moments we will renew those baptismal promises together as a way of remembering both the gift of the One who breaks into history and the gifts that we are to this broken world as we respond to God’s call to co-create with God this new kingdom to come. As you pray the words of renewal, listen for God’s call deepening. He comes. Prepare the way.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

On the Eleventh Day of Advent

Random things floating in my brain on this cold Advent morning.....

  • Yoga. What a strange thing it is. You move your body and things happen to your heart and your soul and your spirit. Three days running now for no apparent reason, somewhere in the middle of the practice I find I am crying. Effortlessly, unintentionally, soundlessly weeping. It begins as just tears seeping and builds to a point that I have to stop and go to child's pose and let myself simply cry. There are no thoughts with it, no feelings really. Just the tears. And as suddenly as it begins, it is over and I resume my practice.

  • Relationships are complicated things. They are also apparently very interesting to the Facebook world. Just as sort of a lark, as I was feeling kind of whimsical the other night I changed my status from "single" to "in a relationship." It's not that this is really even technically true at this point. Facebook doesn't have a category for where we really are. Nor do I for that matter, I guess. "Dating" would sort of cover it. Someone said that the "In a Relationship" category is probably akin to dating in the Facebook world. OK, I can go with that. I had no idea I'd get reactions. For one thing, I don't know enough about how the silly thing works and forgot about it going on the feed. Oh well. So I declared it there in fun. And it is fun. And I am happy. And scared. It is way too soon to feel anything for anyone, my rational self thinks. Or it should be. Because I always do and I said this time I wouldn't. And I didn't plan to. But I do. And so what do you do with that? It's that darn head/heart thing again. I know I do not have to act on my feelings. I am finally that wise anyway! The main goal here is nobody gets hurt. And what I've learned is speed kills!

  • Blessings. I am showered with them. What I am acutely aware of is how hard it is for me to just be grateful and not feel like I should push them away. This feeling is stronger than I have ever known it to be. Head/heart again. Or maybe not so definite a divide....but some parts of me any rate are very clear that the appropriate response to such fabulous gifts as the call last week from EF, the gift of R, my wonderful friendships, having a secure job despite the falling shoes, loving my whole little life, knowing the love of God, etc. simply "thank you," and sometimes I am there. But there is this part of me that wants to rise up and say "oh, no I do not deserve...." and feel guilty. I know with my rational self this is silly. I have a whole soapbox I do on guilt for others! It's not like there is only so much good to go around and my getting some does not take away from others. My being blessed does not cause XDO to have problems. I do not have to push away my happiness and sacrifice myself on the pyre to make up for anything going on in any else's life. My head knows this. My heart, as usual is on lag.
As the lovely hymns from Lessons and Carols swirl in my head and I try to get my brain around the beginnings of a sermon for Sunday on a Wednesday Advent morning, that's where I am today.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Advent of Winter for Real

If you would lik to be amused tonight, go here and enjoy. This came to me from our ministry team's mentor who was so amused by it the first time he forgot to send the link. I love it of course because it's Anglican but also because it reminds me of blog friends far away.

We are having weather normal for this time of year as well. My entire bathroom is draped in Maggie's and my outdoor gear. It all got a little soggy tonight when we walked in the falling snow. It was beautiful, but very aerobic as it had not yet been shoveled. There was a good coat of ice in places under the snow and the act of staying upright was challenging for the human. The dog's challenge was different as she found the snow up to her armpits in the drifts. She was very intrepid though and plowed right on through. It looks like for real winter out there. In here too where we brought it back in with us.

I'm not a big fan of this white cold season. But there was a beauty about it tonight. Cold. Still. Clear. Still clean, the snow unbroken by tracks other than ours. I can hear myself breathing on such a night, and perhaps hear myself think a little more clearly. Advent is moving very quickly as it always does. I always want there to be more of it, want it to last longer somehow. I am in another Advent now too, more than one really. They are different kinds of waitings. The shoe thing....that waiting of course cannot be short enough. "Be done with you now!" I say. But there is another. A that may be that is filled with that I do not want to take any chances on rushing....and yet somehow my heart keeps getting ahead of me on despite my best intentions. Just a few thoughts on a cold snowy walk.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

On Advent's Second Sunday

As Advent's second Sunday, the one of peace, draws to its close, I'm thinking back to all the moments in this weekend. It runs in my mind like a little film clip, scenes popping....Friday night at the "Parent's Night Out" which turned out to be the "grown-ups night out" when no kids materialized who weren't somehow connected to the people already there. So we partied on anyway...made reindeer from puzzle pieces, ate pizza and watched the Grinch and the Muppet Christmas Carol. Yep, bunch of grown-ups playing together. And a fabulous time was had by all!

Saturday morning choir practice for Lessons and Carols....I can't even rehearse these things without getting goosebumpy. I get flashbacks from last year on top of the pure joy of singing with people I like being with. Saturday night flashes it's own video clips that make me smile. More playtime, laughter and sweet time spent with my newest friend R.

There would have to be some clips of church if this movie would be complete. Today was a reprise of my new "church sandwich" own wonderful place in the morning and a new thing called "WhY Church" in the afternoon. WhY Church has been around for a while, our old mentor priest was one of the folks involved in the start up...he used to urge me to go. "Ok, sure, I said....someday." I knew that the format was basically a little singing, something to kick off discussion, a film clip, something from the news....and then table talk connecting this to God and faith. What I didn't know until I went last week for the first time is that there is warmth and community and concern for the wider community and mission....yeah, it's really church and kind of at it's finest. Oh, and when I came in last week, I felt really welcome. Not like church welcome, but like at your best friend's house welcome. Today R came along. That was special too, having a chance to share that with him. My film clip today from WhY church is R knowing all the words to the Grinch clip that was today's discussion starter. My favorite from this morning would have to be seeing L in his choir robe as we got him outfitted to sing for Lessons and Carols. He of course had to mug for the camera as one of the folks took his picture. He makes me smile.

After church Soul Sister S and I took her 90 year old mom out to see a living Nativity in a little town about 20 miles from here. The clip from there is the camel. Yep. Real live. It was amazing. It was either dancing or trying to stay warm. We opted for dancing. There would have to be a clip of those good bars in the church hall, too. Some I had actually never seen before. I'm wondering if it is a Presbyterian thing since most of my bar exposure has been Lutheran up till now. S's mom thought it a great success all around.

The final clip of the day is a waggy little dog happily enjoying a walk with her doggy pal in the new snow as her mom catches up on the news with the dog pal's mom.

With so many gifts and blessings already having arrived it's hard to believe that it is still early Advent. I am deeply grateful for the joy in my life. It is made more poignant by the awareness that all around me are not so fortunate. It's hard sometimes not to go to guilt but simply to stay in gratitude. And yet....I know that guilt is not a gracious or appropriate response to gifts given in love. So it is my intention to receive with open hands and rest tonight in grateful contentment.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Advent Simplicity, Light and Beauty Friday Five

In a wonderfully meditative Friday Five Sally brings us the following: "Imagine a complex, multi-cultural society that annually holds an elaborate winter festival, one that lasts not simply a few days, but several weeks. This great festival celebrates the birth of the Lord and Saviour of the world, the prince of peace, a man who is divine. People mark the festival with great abundance- feasting, drinking and gift giving....." (Richard Horsley- The Liberation of Christmas) The passage goes on, recounting the decorations that are hung, and the songs and dances that accompany the festival, how the economy booms and philanthropic acts abound.... But this is not Christmas- this is a Roman festival in celebration of the Emperor....This is the world that Jesus was born into! The world where the early Christians would ask "Who is your Saviour the Emperor or Christ?" And yet our shops and stores and often our lives are caught up in a world that looks very much like the one of ancient Rome, where we worship at the shrine of consumerism.... Advent on the other hand calls us into the darkness, a time of quiet preparation, a time of waiting, and re-discovering the wonder of the knowledge that God is with us. Advent's call is to simplicity and not abundance, a time when we wait for glorious light of God to come again... Christ is with us at this time of advent, in the darkness, and Christ is coming with his light- not the light of the shopping centre, but the light of love and truth and beauty. What do you long for this advent? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? What is your prayer today? In the vein of simplicity I ask you to list five advent longings....

  • I long for a world who knows who God is. Really is. The one who created our wonderful selves in God's own image, lamented over how we were unable to sustain God's vision and dream for us, loved us enough to break into history to show us enfleshed both who God was and who we could be at our best. If we knew, really knew that God, that love, we would have to be different with ourselves and one another. The world would change. It would have to.
  • I long for greater simplicity. For the volume to be turned down so we can hear the silence. For the bright lights to dim so we can see the stars. For the hurry to stop so we can
  • I long for a warmer world. For a world where people count more than things and we know there is enough if we would just simply share.
  • I long for justice.
  • I long for peace.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

And on the Fifth Day of Advent....

God sent me a wonderful gift. I had a call this afternoon that left me full of hope. The official person related to my falling shoes thing called to tell me my file was leaving his desk. He also wanted to tell me that while he is not the final say on this, that in his opinion, I have reason to be optimistic that in the end all really will be well with this and life as I know it will go on in some form that I recognize as mine. This is the most hopeful I have felt about this whole business since the day this same man asked me a whole lot of very hard questions. He says it is not likely I will know anything more until the new year, but he wanted to "offer some reassurance." When this is all said and done, if it really does come out ok, I wonder if it would be totally inappropriate to send him flowers? He has been so....decent through a very hard thing.

This validates and affirms again for me something I know so much to be true...that how we are with people is so very important. It's not what we say, or even perhaps do as much as it is how we are present. We talked about this at GBD last night...this ministry of showing up. How sometimes it's all we can do. That sometimes it's all we should do. To do more, even to say something, would be to do too much. Our job is to show up and be present and God will take it from there if we have sense enough to stay out of the way. Some days I need this written on my hand!

So on the fifth day of Christmas the person in the song gets five golden rings. I get hope. And right now I am thinking I got a MUCH better deal. God is good and grace abounds.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

On the Third Day of Advent.....

I decided I have to firm up what I'm doing for my Advent practice. There is some urgency here....I mean it's day three! And it's not like Lent where we have forty days to figure this thing out. I thought about the Exercises....but the book came and I paged through and it's "not now" clearly in my heart....this is not the season. Perhaps I will have my own little season for that, but not this one. It needs more time than I can give now for one thing, and it is not quite in sync somehow. So what I have so far is yoga every morning to Taize instrumental. I'm finding this quite wonderful as it turns the practice to body prayer while it makes me more graceful in my practice on many levels. It also turns the braintalk to the words of the hymns. So if I have to have words in my head...which sometimes I just do....they are good ones to have. Then it's Morning Prayer with special attention to the lectionary readings of Isaiah who seems to have incredible relevance and immediacy. The other end of the day is time spent with Bonhoeffer in Discipleship. We are moving very slowly with him in Soul Sisters, and I think I may still be his biggest fan at this point. I am finding him more challenging as we move further into the book. The first chapter slid in rather effortlessly and I was going for it from there. And now it's read, read, and re-read sometimes, and even then I am not sure I really know what he means to say. But even so, stretched out to grasp, I say "oh, yes!" to his thoughts. It's a funny sensation, like holding these two things in my peripheral mind's eye. If I see one clearly I cannot see the other. I glance back and forth between them at warp speed, trying to hold the image of the first long enough to super-impose it on the second so the whole picture emerges. Theological mental gymnastics, indeed! I want to get him, long to, because I know he has something to say to me. His life speaks to me, and what he says, when I do grasp it, makes sense and contextualizes things in a way that I have not experienced since de Chardin rescued me at age sixteen from the bookkeeper God of my parochial upbringing and gave me the Stillpoint and the God who is endless.

So perhaps I do have enough going for Advent...body, mind, spirit...oh and the heart as well seems to have her own Advent waiting and anticipation going on. As far as the outside world, we have Gospel Based Discipleship Bible study every week now, and rehearsal for our beautiful lessons and carols every Saturday. So I have the songs in my head, and on every CD player I own. I preach Advent 3 and am thinking ahead to that....luck of the draw I get the Magnificat! That and John and Isaiah to preach on....we could be there all day! The greens are hung at church and at home, and it does feel lovely and anticipatory. The song from West Side Story just flashed through my head....

Could be! Who knows?
There's something due any day;
I will know right away, Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye, Bright as a rose! Who knows?
It's only just out of reach, Down the block, on a beach, Under a tree.
I got a feeling there's a miracle due, Gonna come true,
Coming to me! Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something's coming, something good, If I can wait!
Something's coming, I don't know what it is,
But it is Gonna be great! With a click, with a shock,
Phone'll jingle, door'll knock, Open the latch!
Something's coming, don't know when, but it's soon;
Catch the moon, One-handed catch!
Around the corner, Or whistling down the river,
Come on, deliver To me! Will it be? Yes, it will.
Maybe just by holding still, It'll be there!
Come on, something, come on in, don't be shy,
Meet a guy, Pull up a chair!
The air is humming, And something great is coming!
Who knows? It's only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach, Maybe tonight . . .

It's Advent in God's world and anything can happen. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Advent Retreat....

It's 3:30 on the first Monday afternoon of Advent and my last client of the day has left the office. Three cancellations today and a group that is not meeting has left me caught up on paperwork and with time to spare. This never happens, so how blessed I feel that it coincides with the RevGals virtual retreat.

"Where your fear is most deeply seated, there God is already waiting." As I read Kathryn's lovely reflection I could not help but think back to earlier this fall when the whole "watching for God" business began. It all started because I was so much in fear and needed so badly that reassurance that God really is holding my life. And it has been in and out these last two months....rough places being smoothed and, I have to admit, days when my brain insisted on making mountains out of every hill, mole or other. God continues to wait in the yet/not-yet and now it is Advent and it is my turn to become the active waiting one....waiting on the Incarnating One, the always faithful one. And to wait in a way that honors and witnesses, that gives birth to in this world again and again the one who continues to arrive even as we wait....but only if I have the courage, as Mary did to say yes, let it be with me according to your will. Let me have enough faith that even if it makes no sense whatsoever in the human course of events, since it is of God....I will have it be of me as well.