Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

Can it really be the end of another year? Or the beginning of one? They do seem to speed by, and yet looking back, so much happens in these 365 short days. These years in particular, the one just gone and the one to come are big ones. In 2009, getting engaged, making plans....for what will happen on May 15, 2010. Now I am in no way a person who thinks that the wedding day is more important that the marriage. I am in fact appalled by that kind of thinking. R and I are working on planning a celebration that will be reflective of us and our love, and will not cost an arm and a leg, all of which does take time and some amount of work. We've been going at it as a team for some months now. And lots is done. The most of it, in fact. We have the places, the people, the stuff of it pretty much all arranged. One day last week I saw some sample invitations with all the relevant real details filled in. It suddenly became very real. It took my breath away. At a point well past I ever thought it could happen....I am getting married for the first time. To a man who fills me with such happiness on a daily basis that I can hardly contain the gratitude. Yep, quite a year...coming and going.

We went to the New Year's Eve dance at the country club last night as we did last year. And again it was a wonderful evening. Last year it was like a dream come true, and I'd felt kind of like Cinderella at the ball. There was all the excitement of being held in the arms of this man I was so clearly falling for, along with the nervousness that still lingered with the newness. This year there was nothing but the comfort of the familiarity of "us." He is mine and I am his. We share our own shorthand language, little jokes, and the safety that over a year together brings. As I danced I looked around at the space and realized that probably the next time we will be there it will be for our reception. The more "real" this becomes the more I want it to hurry fast and come!

This morning I feel kind of creaky. Clearly this body is not used to HOURS of dancing. The list of the places that don't crack, ache or twinge is much shorter than the one of those that do. But worth it? Oh yes! It's probably not helped by the fact that I went to three yoga classes this week. But that is a good thing too, as one of my intentions for the new year is to try to revive my practice as one my spiritual disciplines. There was a time when I had a thriving daily practice. Then one just ....went away. Well, it wasn't really that simple. Life changed, schedules changed, I changed, and I never really took the time or the discipline to figure out how to put it back. But the time has come. I miss it in many ways. So when the local studio offered an "intensive week" between the holidays I jumped on it and went to class three times. OY! I am studying with a new teacher also. She does Anusara, which is much more like where I "come from" in the past with yoga. I love it, but it gets me in touch very fast with how inflexible and wimpy I have become. So it's back to beginners, which is kind of humbling after all these years. But then, I suppose yoga was never really intended for competition, even with oneself!

Today is going to be a very laid back day. Leftovers, time on the couch. That's what I'm up for on this first day of the new decade.

Wishing all of you a most joyfilled, blessed and prosperous 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

On Not Passing Go and Getting Out of Jail

L's lawyer and I had a little e-mail exchange today. It all started because I needed some info about his upcoming release which was...yes was scheduled for January 9. R and I were going to take him down to his girlfriend's parents' house about three hours from here, and I suspected there were some things he might need to take care of before he left town. I was right on that score. However....the bad news....he has "done something" according to Mr. N and he has lost more good time. Now he gets out February 8. Maybe. Unless of course something else happens, and he loses more. Mr. N is concerned. He said in his e-mail, "I hope he makes it that long." Yes, Mr. N, so do I, so do I. When I saw him last, he was pretty much hanging by a thread by the hope of his pending release. With that now pushed back yet again....I don't know how he will stay positive, or hopeful or do the things he needs to do to stay safe in there. And every time he does's more time added. I don't know how long the total could be. In truth, I am afraid to ask. I will go see him again on New Year's Day. The new system in the "remodeled" jail does not allow face to face meetings, even for his priest. We must talk over the phone. I can "see" him on a TV screen as he sits in the public area. He sees me as I sit in the lobby, talking to him at a "station" next to as many as three other visitors. It's not very private and it's hard to talk and harder to pray. But we will do both. He needs to know we are here and caring for him. He needs to know that God is here, too. That none of us have given up and he cannot either. Of all that has gone on for him, I think this makes me the saddest. Please, please pray for L.

Friday, December 25, 2009

On Christmas Day the Snowflakes Came and Came and.....

It's still snowing....R has blown out my driveway once today so the dinner guests could get in. R said he thought there were about eight inches at that point. That would have been since he blew it out yesterday. We did have church. And that sermon did get used after all. What with one thing and another, M did not get hers done and asked me about half way through the day yesterday..."since you have one, would you?" And of course I said yes. So we split the service, concelebrated the Eucharist and I preached after all. We had a choir of two priests, one choir member and R, who also did doubles as acolyte. The total attendance was sixteen with the four of us and the organist. But we were there and church was had and a joyful noise was made. Our little choir did a rather nice four-part rendition of "O How a Rose Ere Blooming" with very little rehearsal after we decided we had to abandon the anthem for lack of choir. We had the traditional candle lit "Silent Night" after Communion, and we sent ourselves off into the night with a fairly rousing "Joy to the World" recessional. Immediately following our service R and I hustled ourselves back to the Presby church for a very quick turkey dinner and on to C's service there. My friend and her daughter sang, C did a wonderful first person meditation from the point of view of a shepherd, and we did the traditional candle light singing of Silent Night! You just can't do that too much on Christmas Eve!

Today has been a quiet and lovely Christmas. The original plan was to travel with R's daughter to his sister's house about an hour from here. But of course that got nixed with the weather, so he invited his daughter here to have dinner with us. Her mom got invited too, so she wouldn't be alone today, and the four of us had a lovely time enjoying R's fabulous lamb curry and rice, apple pie and pumpkin cheesecake. Now the comapny is gone, , the dishes and clean-up are done, I am in my sweats and there is nothing left to do, no place to be until Sunday morning when I will celebrate and preach again.

It's been a lovely Christmas all in all. Unlikely blessings in strange places. But that, in the end is where they often come when I remember to look.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve's a Snow Day!

Anyone need a Christmas Eve sermon? I have one that isn't going to be used tonight. We have cancelled the late service, the one I was going to be preaching. So far we are holding for the five o'clock. Who knows if anyone will be there....but M will celebrate and preach, R will acolyte and I will be congregation and perhaps the entire choir as well! Such is life on the wild and wooly Midwestern prairie in the depths of winter. We have had about three inches overnight with another two to four on the way today, more tomorrow and Saturday. The winds are coming as well, so all in all it sounds like it's going to be kind of a mess.

R made it out the door bright and early. He will spend the day moving the white stuff out of the way so the last minute shoppers can get to the stores at his mall. I was going to donate blood this morning, but I just got the e-mail that the blood drive has been cancelled due to the storm. So I have nowhere to be until this afternoon when I go help the Presbys set up for their Christmas dinner. That is still on as far as I know.

That's how my Christmas Eve is shaping up at this point. Hanging out, hanging loose, trying not to stress, trying not to really care that all the best laid plans avail us nought. Trying to remember that whether or not we have a service, or sit home and pray our grateful prayers together....Christmas is still Christmas. The Incarnation did and does continue to happen. God is among us.

So in the meantime, if you need a little cheer for the day, a friend of mine sent me this link to a very funny YouTube video that a friend of hers was part of creating. I can't figure out how to embed these things, so I'll just pass it along this way:

Merry Christmas Eve to all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blessing Bag

I didn't have to cheat today. "Something that happened that I'm really grateful for...."

Well we all kind of know what that's gonna be now don't we? Yep....that I met R, that we fell in love and that we've decided to spend our lives together. It was just about this time last year that this whole amazing thing began unfolding. We were just talking about it the other night, how we sort of "backed in" to the whole idea of marriage and forever. Both of us were, to say the least, a little gun shy about the whole idea of love and forevering and were pretty sure we didn't want to go there. Yes, we said, we wanted to find someone to spend time with, go to dinner, be friends, companions. But more? No thanks. Been there, done that. Too troublesome and painful all together. Ha. A few months into dating it started to become apparent that we just might be having a little problem in that it was clear that we were coming to care about each other a bit more than planned. First we talked in vague and general terms, "the five year plan" and "maybe someday"....but as December turned into the new year it was clear where we were really headed...and of course on Valentine's Day we got engaged.

Love is such a powerful thing. I have known this intellectually...but I know it now with all my being. I have changed as a result of knowing this man in all sorts of ways. I feel freer and braver, softer and stronger, safer, calmer and less "wound." I laugh way more than I used to and I find life is a lot more fun than it used to be. I know that I face the world with a true partner, if I fall there is someone to catch me, and no matter what hour of the day or night, if I need him...he's there.

So as I look at the gifts under my angel tree, I am grateful for each one. But I am most grateful for the one sitting in the recliner next to the tree.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blessing Bag (just a little cheat)

So this morning I pulled out "Something beautiful was....." and I gotta admit....I was kind of not in the mood....and I finished the sentence ".....NOT the snow!" Or for that matter the forecast. We are a mumbling and a grumbling out here as we look towards the next few days. Or at least some of us are. Some of us who are wiser and more sanguine about the whole business are saying things like, "no point in worrying ahead about things you can't control, it will be what it will be." But of course I am. Worrying ahead. When will it hit? How much will there be? What will happen to the Christmas services? What about Christmas Day? Will we travel or be at home? Who will come? Will it be ok? Yes, yes, Kate is worried about many things. it is one of things I do best. And used to do even better. I am, of course, wound much less tight than I used to be, though today you might not know this. I do worry about all of those who are taking to the highways this week. Some of my friends have long trips planned. Important trips to see loved ones who are ill, for Chrstmases that hold great meaning to them and their families. I pray that they will be able to make these trips and make them safely. Our own plans are small. We will have church. I have less than a block to walk. So even if the driveway is blocked, I will be there, as will R. Where two are gathered, there will be a Christmas Eve service. On Christmas Day an hour drive to the future SILs if the roads are "go." If not, a lovely Indian dinner at home with R and his daughter and perhaps another snowbound refuge or two. All will be well on this homefront. Even if, as the weathermongers on MPR are saying, "It's like the storm of October '91. I remember that one--we had three feet! So though I am a bit grumbly about it right now, I'm working on letting it go, on seeing the sparkle as it sits on the trees and reflects the Christmas lights, on appreciating the hush as it absorbs the noise of the traffic, on realizing, as my wise R says, that it is not mine to control, so I might as well just let worry go and let it be what it will be anyway!

Monday, December 21, 2009

And a 1 and a 2 and a 3....Ho Ho Ho!

Hard to believe, but we're into the final week. And I have achieved the third Ho in the Christmas joy meter. I think it's having things done for the week to come...the sermons are writ, the plans are made, the packages are wrapped and tucked under the tree...and I can just finish out the work week and enjoy myself for the most part. There was a brief blip a couple days ago when I realized that there was another Sunday left in December after Christmas....and that it was mine. But that sermon too is now done, and all is well. I finished the last of the shopping this weekend, and R and I did cards last night together. We wanted to use the "Christmas letter" opportunity as a save the date for his family, so he wrote a funny one to them including the "big news" for those who didn't yet know. Sitting there with my little angel tree sparkling away, carols playing, laughing with him as I messed up addressing yet another envelope....I had such a sense of feeling that this was all exactly right.

Today's Blessing Bag question was "What is one your favorite Christmas traditions?" We talked about lots of them in the Friday Five last week, but one I didn't mention there that came to mind as was out on my quest this weekend was "the ornament." When I have been with someone, I have always tried to find a special ornament for them each Christmas. This was very challenging this year. I am still not entirely satisfied with what I ended up with. I knew what I wanted and it just was not to be had in this town. I had to settle for something a little more traditional. But I know that in the end R will know that it's all about how much I love him (even if it is a little on the mushy side) and he'll roll with it.

The day job tasks on to it.....Happy Monday.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Five: Christmas Traditions

Jan says: "Christmas traditions vary from family to family and from regions afar. I've been pleased that my oldest son's wife AA loves to be with our family for Christmas, though I don't think we do anything out of the ordinary. It helps that DC has one brother and two sisters to liven up our home.Since I finally decorated the Christmas tree and have started baking Christmas cookies, I am thinking of Christmas only being one week away.So for this Friday Five, tell us five things about the traditions in your family." Think of....

  • Traditions you always do....For much of my life a church service has been part of the Christmas tradition, and often the "midnight" or late service on Christmas Eve. My mom and I went to Midnight Mass together every year up until I left home for college. We were able to resurrect that tradition for a few sweet years again before she died. Now of course, it's often the service I'm doing which makes it very special for me in lots of ways.
  • Traditions you always cook or eat....This is a hard one. For many years it was oyster stew with the family of my ex. But with the end of that particular relationship that changed. Last year I thought I would try my mom's old fashioned fudge. I made something resembling chocolate cement, so I don't think that will become a tradition. The closest thing I can think of is turkey. It seems that whether at home or at the Presbyterian church where I helped out with the Christmas dinner last year, and plan to again this year, or at a friend's house....there is always a turkey in there somewhere!
  • Traditions you would like to start ...Continuing to be less focused on "stuff" and more on the other parts of the season. I'd like to make more gifts if time would cooperate, to spend more time just "being," to go caroling, or to go see the lights, to sit in the quiet and enjoy the peace of the night.
  • Traditions you would like to discard...obligation gifting
  • Anything about your family Christmases...One of the things I always remember about my kid Christmases is that I always got a new pair of pjs. It was the one gift I got to open when mom and I would come home from midnight Mass. They were always flannel and I would wear them to bed that night. I can still call up that new flannel smell and the feel of the sizing as I snuggled down into bed, still chilly from the walk home from church, the hymns still running through my head. Santa was still to come, all was right in my little world.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Blessing Bag

    I was going through my desk drawer this morning looking for something to put a Secret Santa gift in when I ran across a little red Christmas bag full of folded slips of white paper. For a minute I was puzzled and then I remembered, "Oh the Blessing Bag!" An Advent or two ago, my friends the Presbyterians did this as part of their Advent observance, and I had liked it a lot and joined in. Basically the idea is using the bag as a trigger for thought or meditation by simply picking a one of the slips and letting your mind go. The slips in my bag say the following things:

      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...

      One of my favorite things about my family is...

      I felt at peace when...

      One of my favorite Christmas traditions is....

      Something beautiful was...

      One of my favorite Christmas memories is when...

      I felt loved or loving when ...

      If I could take baby Jesus a gift, I would take...

      So I'm thinking that for the rest of Advent, in the interest of ramping up that joy quotient in the right direction, I'm going to resurrect my blessing bag....starting now.

      Ok....I pulled the one about being grateful for family....that's a good one for today. I'm thinking about my "new" family, the K's, or "the Clan" as R calls them. And Clan they are. They are big, they are raucous, and they stick together and love and take care of one another, even when they do not always see eye to eye or even particularly like one another on a given day. Today R is off taking his dad to a funeral. He got up in the wee dark hours to drive off to fetch him and deliver him a couple hours across the state. He is doing this because his sister called and said, "L died and dad wants to go to the funeral." R said, "When and where?" That's how it is with these folks. "The piano needs moving?" "The roof needs shingles?" And the Clan culture says as many as possible will appear to help. The Clan culture has made it possible for Dad to remain independent in his own place. It has also made it easy for this new future"outlaw" to feel welcome and at ease despite the sheer numbers of them to be met and sorted. The Clan culture, going back into generations has shaped who R is. Deeply good and generous, the best and broadest that term can mean. I tell him he was raised well, and I mean it! I have had a deep longing in my heart for family and I am really grateful for this one.

      Tuesday, December 15, 2009

      Ho, Ho.....and I could be going on Three

      I just attained "Ho" number two and I could be headed for three. The cause is a first....I have finished my Christmas sermon ten days before Christmas! I don't even have my Christmas shopping done this is very strange, but I am not complaining. I had some holes open up in my schedule this morning and suddenly found myself with a few hours of bonus free time and so I thought I'd just play with some ideas that were floating around in my head....and lo and is written. It is on the short side, but that is a good thing. I'm on for the 11 p.m service and no one is going to want to hear me going on and on anyway at that hour of the night.

      And now, I think I will resume Adventing.

      Monday, December 14, 2009

      Breathe In....Breathe Out

      That's what R kept saying to me all day yesterday as I ran from one thing to the next. It was a long, busy, churchy day. I preached and celebrated at St. J's in the morning, had the nursing home service in the afternoon and last night it was Lessons and Carols. In between I managed to get the house decorating done. We decided less is more this year. There is a table top tree in the living room that I call my "angel tree." It's the tree I started the first year I moved to the prairie when I was feeling so alone and isolated out here. I decided I needed a little Christmas. so I went to Goodwill and bought a small tree, bedecked it white lights and scoured every store in three counties for angel ornaments. Every year since an angel or two has been added. Sometimes it's a supplementary tree, sometimes it's the main one, depending on the year. This year it is accompanied by R's tiny tree on top of the piano and my mom's ceramic one that comes out every year no matter what on the buffet. That, a bit of garland and the creche complete the decor.

      We had a nice full house for Lessons and Carols. A choir of fifteen and fifty or so in the church. In our little place that counts as a big crowd! Our soloist was wonderful, and we didn't do so badly ourselves for the most part. It was fun to look across at the choristers and see my own R singing away in the bass section. Today I have tune snippets running in my head and feel a bit muzzy from a liturgical hang-over. Today holds a full slate of clients, Christmas shopping to be done over lunch and a yoga class after work. R is cooking us Indian food for dinner, so that should help my recovery.

      There is something about this time of year that always makes me so nostalgic and "remember when-ish." I leaf through pages of Christmases past, thinking about where I have been and the twists and turns my life has taken. I am very content and exceedingly grateful. But it has still been hard to find something that feels like joy. I'm still running up to Christmas on about the one Ho scale. This time last year I was crazy falling in love, the year before I was crazy falling apart. This year I think I am sitting in some calm place that resembles but does not yet feel like normalcy. I look at the little angel tree twinkling away in the corner and think of that first Christmas here seven years ago. I knew that God was calling me to something new when I left the security of the only life I had really ever lived to come to this strange place alone, to be in solitude. Little did I know all it would entail! That first year I cried myself to sleep under the angel tree on Christmas night, lonely and homesick. I've traveled far since then for sure. Finding a place, finding a home, finding a love. "Surely it is God who saves me.....I will trust in God and not be afraid......."

      Friday, December 11, 2009

      Friday Five: Soon and Very Soon

      Sophia says: "It's the last week of the semester here so I offer another very simple Friday Five in honor of the past, present, and eschatological dimensions of this powerful season of the church year."

      Please share five ways that God has come to you (your family or friends, your church or workplace, our world) in the past year, that God is coming to you right now, and/or that you are longing and looking for God to come.
      • God comes in love. In the last year for me of course that has been most obviously and tangibly present in the love of my sweet and wonderful R. Even though it embarrasses him completely when I say this, I feel that understand how God loves me ever so much better since I met him. He finds me wholly acceptable, he has my back, he rejoices in my joys and aches along with me in my hurts. I had before a kind of intellectual understanding of "this is how it must be to be beloved." Now I know.
      • God comes in love again. R of course is not the only place I find the love of God made manifest in the people around me. The love of friends always sustains me. I have been so fortunate in having people to sustain me in times good and bad. Through this whole long year plus of the falling shoes there has been the support of my Soul Sisters, my anam cara C, the blog friends met and unmet, my priest friends M and C from my team here. Literally everywhere I turn....there God is in the face of someone.
      • My wing. I wrote about "my wing" a lot last year as the way I experienced God's presence...tucked under all warm and safe and secure, like a mother hen and her chick. This year for a while I've not been in that space as much. I know it is not God who moves away from me, but I get distracted and wander off into another place. I have trying to find my way back there. It is an Advent longing.
      • I seem to always find God in music. It might be liturgical (almost always), but it could be classical, or wailin' blues, or someones beautiful poetry sung to a guitar line. Or it could even be the bum-ba-ba-bum of a bass line that transports me on any given day.
      • God-incidences. Yes I do believe. Even though there is a part of me that wants to be all scientific and sophisticated, my mystical Celtic soul wins every time. God does break into the world in ways I do not understand or apprehend. That book that "mysteriously" falls into my hands that has just the right words, just the right thoughts when I need them most. That person I have been thinking about for a week who turns up on my doorstep or voicemail. The random comment that makes everything fall into place in my brain. The thing that happens that is the prayer's answer, whether I know it or not at the time. Random happenstance? Perhaps. Or not. God is God and I am not. So I think we'll leave it in the mystery and believe and just be grateful.

      Thursday, December 10, 2009

      Check, check, check

      OK....the wind has died down, the temp is still in the you don't want to know range. (It's minus eight in case you really DO want to know). The car groused a bit, but it started, and there were no driveway events. So all in all, we are off to a good start today. I'm on-call for the day job today and my phone rang while I was in the shower. Now while that's better than in the middle of the night, it does have it's complexities as well. Like finding a pen to get the info down, and the fact that all my referral info is out in the cold, cold car. Thankfully, they live here too and can be patient with such human fraility.

      Further progress is being made on the "get'er done" list. All writing tasks have been accomplished and the ones that needed to be sent off have been duly dispatched to their respective places. The remainder of today will be spent in catching up on day job paperwork that got neglected while I was mad rushing to meet all the other deadlines. Tonight R and I are going to a holiday concert. The group is called Tonic Sol Fa and they are quite fabulous. They started out as a local group in one of the small cities not far from here and developed a national following. I try to catch the holiday concert every year if I can. This will be R's first time to go with me, so it should be fun. Saturday night is the holiday party for his part-time job. We are going bowling! Other than on wii I haven't bowled in years, so that should be interesting. I am laughably bad. So bad that I have been known to throw my ball into the next lane. When we used to go regularly back in the day, other bowlers would request not to be next to us.

      Then Sunday it will be church, church, and more church. Mine, the nursing home and mine again for Lessons and Carols. I only hope to be transported once again by the singing of the L and C. It is often the thing that jumpstarts my Christmas spirit. Something needs to, because it is a little on the paltry side. We have some garland on the porch railings and an Advent wreath. This could be it. R is in retail. He is not gung-ho about my home decoration....he has been there and done that with wreaths and trees several weeks or so ago already at his mall. Some years it really matters to me....last year it did as I reclaimed my space. This year, not so much. I don't really Christmas shop anymore. That used to get some juices flowing. But there is little of that to do, and the pushing of the Heifer and ERD buttons, while very satisfying, is just not quite the same. So I'd say on the Ho-Ho-Ho scale I'm about at a Ho. Not really Bah-Humbug as I have been some years, but not really at Merry and Bright either. I think I have not totally recovered from last week's adventure as far as my mood and general state of being. And I am aware how many people are struggling right now with losses and suffering of various kinds. My clients, my friends IRL and in blogland. Sometimes that awareness makes it hard to get that holiday jolliness all ramped up.

      On a bright note....XDO has found someone new and is getting married on Friday in a small private ceremony. They seem very happy together and appear to be well-suited to one another. I wish them blessings and a long and happy life. This is good for us all.

      So I guess that's about it from the cold snowy prairie. Time to go to work and get that paperwork caught up.

      Wednesday, December 09, 2009

      Makin' a List and.....

      Whew! It's Wednesday and I am still slogging away on that sermon. I have checked some of the other stuff off the list. That may be by way of procrastination, or it may be just getting other things done....but....I am still staring down the barrel of John and his vipers looking for joy. At any rate, the newspaper article is sent off, the robes are neatly hung and waiting for the singers, the coffee spill on the church carpet has been attacked with the Little Green Machine, and my service bulletin for the nursing home is done and waiting to be sent to the copy machine.

      It's minus twenty-seven here today with the wind chill. The snow is blowing like crazy. I have already had two cancellations for this afternoon. Two hours in which I can write, with more possible. Given that I'm about halfway there, that should be plenty of time if the Spirit and I can stay on the same page and I can keep my mind from wandering. There is certainly no temptation to go outside for any reason. It's not a lovely day in the neighborhood. My morning began with R having to push me out of the driveway. Always a great start to the day. Front wheel drive avails us nothing when the drifts are deeper than the axles. At least I'm dressed for it....five layers when I left the house, not including the scarf and hat, hand warmers in the mittens (two layers of them to protect my delicate digits) and some serious boots today, no little girly shoes. When the first thing you are aware of when you wake up is the sound of the wind, it's not a day to dress frivolously.

      "If you have two coats....share one." This weather makes me think about those people who have so little, and also reminds me it's time to get cracking on my "Christmas shopping." Have to make the big decisions about what to get people this year....ducks or geese, bees or trees, or maybe some seeds or tools. Wish I were flush enough to get someone a water buffalo....well, maybe someday. It's always fun to see what Heifer and ERD have put together on their websites for holiday giving.

      Just got the word that my last appointment for the afternoon cancelled. No more excuses....the sermon will get done today! But for now, it's time to get back to work.

      Monday, December 07, 2009

      To Find the Joy Again

      I am practicing the fine art of sermon writing procrastination. I know I need to get moving....I should have been at this thing last week, because this one is going to be crazy. I preach Sunday and have the nursing home service as well. It's also our annual Lessons and Carols blow out on Sunday night. That means an extra rehearsal on Saturday, plus finding time to get over to church one night this week to get all the choir robes organized for the extra singers we import from the college and the community. Our church womens' party is Wednesday night and I have an column due Wednesday morning for the ministerial association's contribution to the local paper. Thursday night we have concert tickets, and Saturday night is a party with some friends. I am foregoing a six-hour round trip to the Big City on Thursday for a meeting. The weather forecast and my sanity just seemed to say "don't" and I listened. And then of course there is my day job!

      The theme of course for Sunday is "joy" (if you don't count that pesky little brood of vipers business). Trying really hard with that.....and not quite getting there. Friday was a pretty tough day. The falling shoes meeting had a good end overall. It is done and there is no ultimate harm. But I am still left feeling kind of shell-shocked. Clearly my understanding of what I do and how I am called to do it and theirs is very different. This would all be well and fine if they had no power to tell me how it is I should be doing it. But at least at some level they do. And so they told me that at least in one certain instance I did not do something in a way that met with their approval and in future I should not do it that way again. By extension they also intimated that my approach to my vocation(s) is probably more than a bubble or so off (by their lights), and if I wish to stay safely in the game as they play it I should tighten things up a hair. Safe to say it has raised my anxiety again. And it did not create any joy what so ever.

      It is not all dark though. Seeds were planted that with some tending could become tender little shoots of hopefullness and maybe even joy. I so knew I was not alone. I felt the love and prayers of friends IRL and virtual. There was a visceral sense of being borne on that energy and it did carry me. And then there is R. He is my knight in shining armor and guardian angel. He delivered me safely there, let me cry out my frustrations afterwards, and distracted and entertained me to help me move forward and away from it. My "God-wing" gone so long is back. Comfort right now, and maybe....just

      I know that having a group of people with power tell me I was "bad" has triggered some old stuff. The critical voices woke up, stretched and got busy again. Quieting them will take some doing and some time. But for now, I know it's just a matter of the finding the good news in here somewhere. Isaiah has been my touchstone for a long, long time....."surely it is God who saves me, and Paul rejoices even in prison. Can I do less?

      Tuesday, December 01, 2009

      O Come, O Come....

      I am trying to feel Advent-y, Advent-urous, Advent-ageous.....oh Advent-something! Instead all I am feeling is ansty! Waiting. that part ok...waiting. At least for the part that comes when I have to sit before the Falling Shoes people. I am not sleeping again. No surprise there. That is always one of my best stress indicators...along with other things which we shall delicately refrain from discussing here, but which are also indicating right now. I am instead taking naps punctuated by bad dreams. I don't recommend this as a way of getting any kind of restful sleep.

      This has been a long haul....seventeen months to be exact from the time I found out that this thing was happening until now. Seventeen months of uncertainty, of wondering, of waiting. Initially I was frightened for my future, and my primary and overriding feeling about the whole thing was anxiety. Now I am pretty sure my future will still be there in the morning, and I am getting to some other emotions....deeper darker being royally torked about the whole blasted business ever happening in the first place. Like smarting from the injustice and unfairness of it all and wanting to stomp my feet and flail my fists and tell them just exactly what I think of this whole process. Which would not be smart or helpful, or have any point what-so-ever. So I will try very hard not to do that. I will try to take the advice of those who love me. I will try to keep my counsel on that day. I will think of Cheese's lovely goat and not let them get mine. I will remember other instances of unfairness and injustice far greater than this and I will accept what comes from this with whatever grace I can muster. And it will be over. And then perhaps we can resume our regular Advent programming. And sleeping. It would all be a good thing.

      Monday, November 30, 2009

      Well There Goes November.... And Here's Advent

      And so much for frequent posting. Time seems to be my frenemy these days. I enjoy it so much more than I used to when I was burning it madly in an attempt to hide from myself, but on the other hand, it seems to move even faster in some ways than it did then. As I arrived back in the day job office this morning I could hardly believe I'd just had a four-day weekend--it seems like I just left, and yet....when I think of all the things these days have held.....

      Wednesday night was our community Thanksgiving service. Those who have been with this blog a while know this service is one of those markers for me by which I sort of measure my life and times here in little town on the prairie. I so clearly remember my first one....sitting alone in the big Catholic church, looking around me wondering if I would ever feel any sense of belonging in this community. The second year and third years I think I may have too. Before I knew it, I was there as part of the clergy, then for the last two years on the planning group. This year as I sat with the other clergy I was able to smile out at R, sitting in the congregation. Another year, another milestone, another gratitude.

      Thursday we went to R's sister's for the day. We took his young adult daughter along. She is usually away at college, so it's nice to get to spend time with her. There were a passel of siblings and in-laws, almost grown up kids and a couple little-uns along with his Dad. We stuffed ourselves with the usual fare, teased, laughed and visited. There was a card game and a chance to revisit the past playing My Little Ponies with little great-niece L.

      R had to work on Friday, so I spent the day doing some much needed house-foofing, erranding and grocery-getting. It was also the day to put up the garland on the house-front. This was the year to replace lights and generally spruce it up, so when R got home from work we spent some time on that and it looks very festive.

      Saturday we celebrated his birthday (which was actually on Thanksgiving) with some friends. I made my first ever scratch cake--carrot, and lasagna. We played wii and a good time was had by all.

      And of course Sunday we are suddenly in Advent. Every year it seems to surprise me. Wasn't it just Lent for heaven's sake? But the Advent candle lighting has begun, the Trisagion is being sung, the altar is dressed in blue....all the inescapable clues that indeed it is here. Advent is one of my favorite seasons, and it always seems too short. I'm not sure why, but somehow I want to wait longer, savor the anticipation more. But it too will fly by I think. The schedule for the next weeks is heating up. Things that fill me with both anxiety and joy. The falling shoes event is this Friday as is R's work party. Both coincidentally and conveniently are in the Big City on the same day. So we will be traveling later this week. I am praying that there is no "weather" to further add to my anxiety. As December moves on there is the ECW church womens' Christmas gathering, our annual Lessons and Carols, with its rehearsals and robe mongering for all the "extras" (my particular task), a nursing home service, another round of preaching at St. J's....oh yeah and the day job. All mixed into the usual tumble of craziness that the holidays bring. Its easy to forget in all of this that it's about something, toward something. But I want to slow it down a little, savor it and the reason for it, remember why it is we celebrate this holiday at all. I want to reflect a bit on how absolutely incredible it is that we are loved this much, I want to let the fact of the Incarnation sink in a little more, revel in my belovedness, see the Gift for what it really is. That's my hope for Advent this year. What's yours?

      Friday, November 20, 2009

      Friday Five: Thanksgiving Thoughts

      Jan brings us this poem and an opportunity to reflect on Thanksgiving for our Friday Five......

      The Cure
      Lying around all day
      with some strange new deep blue
      weekend funk, I'm not really asleep
      when my sister calls
      to say she's just hung up
      from talking with Aunt Bertha
      who is 89 and ill but managing
      to take care of Uncle Frank
      who is completely bed ridden.
      Aunt Bert says
      it's snowing there in Arkansas,
      on Catfish Lane, and she hasn't been
      able to walk out to their mailbox.
      She's been suffering
      from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
      The cure for the mulleygrubs,
      she tells my sister,
      is to get up and bake a cake.If that doesn't do it, put on a red dress.
      --Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)

      So this Friday before Thanksgiving, think about Aunt Bert and how she'll celebrate Thanksgiving! And how about YOU?

      1. What is your cure for the "mulleygrubs"? Distraction, distraction, distraction! Doesn't really matter what as long as it interrupts that mulleygrubbing cycle. Some of my favorites are music, a good book, a rousing bout of cleaning, a walk with the dog, a talk with a friend, a computer game or some blog reading, or if time permits....a sure cure is always a road trip to just about anywhere in the little red Mini-Cooper!

      2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving? We will be up near the Big City at my future SIL's house. Tradition says that R's clan gathers for this holiday for a day of food and family. This will of course be my first time attending (LOTS of those this year) but they are such a welcoming bunch that I already feel pretty much at home.

      3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family? It's potluck, and as the new kid I'm not sure if there are any hard and fast "traditions." I'm sure there will be turkey and all its accompaniments. We are charged with dessert. R is a fabulous baker so we will leave that to him! His cakes are already legendary in my workplace (and as of this week, so is his banana bread).

      4. How do you feel about Thanksgiving as a holiday? I think it's good to be reminded to stop and be grateful. The historical underpinnings leave me mixed.

      5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for?
      • First and foremost my sweet, sweet guy! I still have to pinch myself now and again to make sure I did not just dream him up. I never imagined I would find someone who is a such a "fit" for me and with whom I could have so much fun as well as feel so safe and secure. He is such a gift to me and I thank God for him all the time!
      • I am also grateful that XDO has found a new beloved and is moving on into a new bright future. That makes more happiness in both of our lives. I am now able to be grateful that XDO and I were. I learned a lot in our twelve years together and I have learned a lot in our almost two years apart. XDO did not pass through my life and leave me unchanged and I am grateful that I can be glad for that now.
      • I am grateful for my job....first of all to have one and the way that they have hung in here with me through the last sixteen months of this uncertainty....which I am also grateful will be over soon.
      • As always I am grateful for my ministry...for being called, for the congregation I serve, for the ways in which all the funny twists and turns of my life brought me to this place.
      • Friends! My soul sisters, C, my virtual friends from RGBP that I have met IRL, and those that I have not yet. It's a wide community that holds me and I am thankful.
      • My clients. I am grateful for their trust in me. I am grateful for their tenacity and their courage, their resiliency and their hope. I am grateful for all the things they teach me.
      BONUS: Describe Aunt Bert's Thanksgiving. Got an e-mail from Aunt Bert.......she says: "I've been suffering from a case of the mulleygrubs. It's been snowing here and we haven't been able to get out of the house atal. Not sure how we are going to git down to pick up the fixins for the Thanksgiving dinner. Jest looked in the pantry and its purty bare. Gotta a ham in the freezer and some things put up from the garden of course. Theres taters in the celler and onions. So we wont starve. And I can always make a cake. It won't be traditional but we'll eat! And we will have the family if they can get here. Elswise itll be Frank and me. And thatll be ok too. We have spent many a day just the two of us...and if needs be, I guess we can spend one together just being thankful and having us a good meal. So I guess them mulleygrubs is lifting a little now that I think of it, so I best git to cookin! You have yourself a Happy Thanksgiving all y'all!"

      Monday, November 16, 2009

      The Shoes Are Landing at Last!

      Well it did not happen on Friday the thirteenth, but on Monday the sixteenth. And I do not know quite how to feel about it all just yet. Is is a good thing or is it not? Time will be the final judge. What I do know is that as of a few weeks from now those "shoes" that have been hanging from the edge of that shelf in my life, threatening to fall for the last sixteen months will make some sort of landing and It. Will. Be. Resolved. I have been summoned to a meeting. The letter advising me of this, while not exactly friendly in its tone, is fairly non-threatening. It talks of closing and dismissing. These are good words, words I like hearing. It feels like getting on with life. My life, as I think I know it, with little to no major disruptions. And yet, and yet....Life has been disrupted. I have been disrupted at some level. Oh not in the way some people's lives I know have been disrupted in this same irrevocable ways that leave me breathless to even think about. Not with devastating losses of lives or jobs or a sense of self or the world as it was. Not that at ALL! But small wavers in my worldview. I am no longer so sure of my ability to choose the good thing, the right thing for all concerned, no longer so able to trust myself in some areas, and surely not as trusting of some of the systems I interact with. I no longer feel quite so optimistic about the outcomes of things, so sure that if I throw myself in, put myself out there it will all be ok....though now it appears that it will. There were some dicey times, or more accurately some times that felt dicey there for a while. In reality I guess, there was no real danger to me or my little corner of reality. Or at least now I don't really think think there was. I am assuming here that all will actually be well at the end of this, when there is an end to this. Which won't necessarily be right after our little meeting. There will still be fallout, still be stuff. I will still have to, for a period of time after this, say in certain places to certain people, "Yes, I was once accused of being a person who had shoes precariously that fell on that may have hit others....I was not a good minder of my shoes....I did not do as well as perhaps I should have in keeping track of all those shoes, making sure that they were all lined up neatly so they did not touch other shoes, fall off the shelf in a disorderly fashion..." But for the most part I think it will be done. And after over a year of looking up at those teetering shoes, THAT will be something to be thankful for.

      Friday, November 13, 2009

      Friday the Thirteenth Friday Five

      Sophia says: "The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskevidekatriaphobia, a word derived from the concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή) (meaning Friday), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς) (meaning thirteen), attached to phobía (φοβία) (meaning fear). The term triskaidekaphobia derives from the Greek words "tris", meaning 'three', "kai", meaning 'and', and "deka", meaning 'ten'. the whole word means three and ten. The word was derived in 1911 and first appeared in a mainstream source in 1953. (Wikipedia)With thanks to my dear spouse TechnoGuy for the great suggestion, it's a Friday the 13th Friday Five!"

      1. How is this Friday the 13th looking for you? It's just another at the day job and then off to R's dad's place tonight. We are going to his brother's to make sausage this weekend. Nothing too spooky about any of that! And I'm not superstitious about my in-laws-to be....yet!
      2. Have you ever had anything unlucky happen on Friday the 13th? Not any more than on any other day!
      3. Did your family of origin embrace or scorn superstitions? I don't think it ever came up at home. I remember at school going into the dark bathroom to see "Mary White" in the mirror and then running out screaming (must have been in about fourth grade or so).
      4. Are there any unique or amusing ones from your family, region, or ethnic background? None...we are pretty boring as these things go....
      5. Do you love or hate horror movies like "Friday the 13th"? Hate them. Just like amusement park rides....I never did see the point in courting gratuitous fear....but that's just me.

      Soooo...having re-read my answers and feeling pretty darn boring about this whole paraskevidekatriaphobia business....I bring you, coutesy of's Top Thirteen Bad Events that DID happen on Friday the Thirteenth! Watch out for those black cats under ladders!

      1. Friday, October 13, 2006Buffalo, N.Y. experienced an unusually early snow storm which virtually shut down when the metro area was covered in up to two feet of snow. The storm, which began on Thursday the 12th, resulted in the two snowiest days that Buffalo had seen in the 137 years that the National Weather Service had been operating. Schools remained closed for nearly ten days following the snow fall.
      2. Friday, August 13, 2004During what proved to be a very busy hurricane season, Hurricane Charley came ashore in Port Charlotte, Florida. The 150 mile per hour winds ransacked the coastal town, uprooting trees, tearing down traffic lights and destroying homes. When the disastrous tempest finally left Florida behind, it also left behind a death toll of ten people and over $15.4 billion in damages throughout the state.
      3. Friday, May 13, 2005The Andijan Massacre took place in Adijan, Uzbekistan when troops fired into a crowd of protesters gathered in the central square to voice their anger over growing poverty and other concerns. The final number of deaths is anywhere between 187 to 5,000 depending on who you talk to.
      4. Friday, June 13, 1997One of the worst fire tragedies in Indian history occurred on a Friday the 13th when the Uphaar Cinema in New Delhi caught fire during the showing of a patriotic Hindi movie. Upon discovering the fire, those in attendance panicked and caused a stampede which killed 59 people and injured at least 100 more.
      5. Friday, September 13, 1996 The death of Tupac Shakur. Shakur, a successful rapper, was shot by a drive-by shooter as he rode in the passenger seat of Suge Knight's car through the streets of Las Vegas on the night of September 7. Six days later, Shakur succumbed to his wounds and passed away.
      6. Friday, October 13, 1972This Friday the 13th story has made such an impact that two movies have been inspired by the incident. The Stella Maris College rugby team was supposed to fly to Santiago, Chile on Thursday the 12th but due to poor conditions, the flight was grounded and the trip resumed the next afternoon on Friday the 13th.inspired by the incident.Continuing weather problems forced the pilots to make an educated guess about descent into Chile. They clipped several mountains in the Andes and crashed in the snow covered slopes.Initially, 27 passengers survived the crash. But as food started to run out and the freezing temperatures took their toll, those left struggled to stay alive. A search party, finding no trace of the plane, was called off eight days after the crash and the passengers realized that they needed to escape the mountains on their own. They foraged for warm garments, searched for a way out and eventually had to make the decision to cannibalize their departed companions and classmates to keep from starving.After 72 days in the mountains, two of the survivors found their way to civilization and told people who they were. They then led a rescue team back to their comrades still living in the wreckage of the plane. Only 16 of the original 45 passengers survived the entire ordeal.
      7. Friday, March 13, 1992Erzincan, Turkey was rocked on Friday the 13th by an earthquake which measured 6.8 on the richter scale, and took the lives of 500 residents and injured many more. In addition, many of Turkey's citizens were left homeless after this incident.
      8. Friday, October 13, 1989After a news report released information about United Airlines' parent company botching a buyout deal for the price of $6.75 million on the morning of Friday the 13th, the stock market plunged to a frightening low for the 1980s. The Dow Jones fell 6.91 percent, the NASDAQ dropped 3.09 percent and the S&P plunged 6.12 percent.
      9. Friday, February 13, 1981More than two miles of Louisville, Kentucky roads were destroyed when sewer explosions woke up the entire town at 5:16 AM on Friday the 13th. Since it happened before most sane people were out and about in Old Louisville, no one was hurt or killed in the blasts but witnesses said it looked like a series of bombs exploding.
      10. Friday, June 13, 1930 Sir Henry Segrave was warned not to go out on his boat on Friday the 13th but that didn't keep him from trying to beat the water speed record – an achievement that would cost him his life. He was driving his boat, the Miss England II, in England's largest natural lake, Windermere, when he managed to break the record. But before he could learn how fast he'd gone, the boat hit a log and capsized, immediately killing the on-board mechanic and fatally injuring Segrave. Before he passed away in the hospital, he was informed that he'd broken the record. He died moments later.
      11. Friday, January 13, 1939Considered one of the worst natural bush fires in the world, the Black Friday Fires ravaged much of Victoria, Australia on Friday the 13th. Seventy-one people lost their lives and over 1,300 homes were completely destroyed along with entire towns. Some areas are still regrowing after the damage from so many years ago.
      12. Friday, December 13, 1867In what appears to have been a grand prison escape attempt, a gunpowder explosion targeted the exercise yard of Clerkenwell Goal, a prison outside of London, on Friday the 13th. The blast killed several bystanders including a few prison officials.
      13. Friday, November 13, 1863After what would later be deemed an unfair trial, Josefa "Chipita" Rodriguez became the first and only woman to be legally hanged in Texas when she was executed on Friday the 13th. Convicted on circumstantial evidence, prosecutors never managed to definitively tie Rodriguez, who seemed to be a rather charitable inn keeper, to the axe murder and robbery of a trader named John Savage. In fact, some believe that the woman was really only protecting a man believed to be her illegitimate son.Witnesses to her death claim that she may have even been buried alive. To this day, many believe that Chipita Rodriguez's tortured ghost haunts the region where she was executed and some even suggest that her death resulted in a curse on the entire town which these days only amounts to a little over 300 residents

      Thursday, November 12, 2009

      On the Twelveth Day of November....

      Well so much for more blogging! I did pretty well that first week or so, but this one kind of got away from me. The weekend was busy. We had a ministry team meeting Friday night. Saturday night and into the wee hours of Sunday I did a ride-along with a police officer as part of the Citizen's Police Academy I'm attending. Sunday was our Harvest Feast at church, and I squeezed in a visit to L at the jail. In between L and I finished up the last of the fall yard work, put the hoses and lawn furniture away and made some trips to the compost dump. I started out Monday in the throes of already tired and the week has not slowed down enough for catch-up. Dental visits for me and the cat, an oil change, a haircut, Bible study with the Soul Sisters, another meeting at church....oh yeah, and the day job.

      I'm trying to beef up my tech savvy. Yesterday I downloaded Skype and last night I bought a webcam. This will have use both in my church and other life I think. Our team mentor lives half way across the state and we have been thinking that it makes more sense sometimes for him to join us virtually, so we've been thinking about how to make that work. And Soul Sister A has moved the SS's too have been "meeting" in a new way. So far we have been including her via IM's as the other three of us gather here, each on a keyboard, madly typing away our thoughts, but that's been less than satisfactory. So we are thinking that Skype and a camera is the way to go there too. And that it would be good for each of us to have visual capability for those inevitable days when we cannot meet in one location for one reason or another. This is all very amusing to me, as I download and link and mutter away to myself about hardware and software and ports and bytes. I clearly remember sitting at this very desk not so many years ago (pre-blog it was) and saying to myself...."I think technology has passed me by." I really thought it was true. It felt like there was too much new stuff! Blogs and MP3s, podcasts and downloads.....I just knew I could never make sense of it, so best just stick to e-mails and a little web-surfing now and then. HA! Old dogs, new tricks....and it really did all start with this blog. I learned a little html, realized I too, could download photos and move text, and we were off and running!

      So last night we sat, six of us, in a hundred and twenty year old church basement talking about the Old Testament. And at the head of the table sat a small laptop with a smiling face peering out. Two hours away sat T in his office, happily participating with us, able to be engaged with our study and also move on to his next thing without using half a day driving back and forth. We were talking about sense of place and being home. An interesting thought when you can "be" somewhere you are not.

      The jail is "into" virtual reality too. No more face to face visits for the clergy in a private room. We have been relegated to the new "face phones" with the rest of the visitors. The only face to face visits now are with the attorneys. You see your person on a TV type screen and talk on a phone receiver. There are four such "stations" lined up in a row about a foot apart with a line of chairs behind them for those waiting their turn. The visits are by appointment so theoretically there should not be a lot of people there at once I guess, but still....not very private, not very conducive to prayer time together. On the prisoners end it looks even less private from what I could see through the camera. But we did get a visit, and L is doing "okay" and counting the days until December 10.

      So today I am grateful for all those creative minds that develop technology that allows us to be in touch in ways we could not be where we are not able to be physically, to meet and know people we would otherwise never encounter, to expand our world and who give us things with which to stretch ourselves when we think we are done learning.

      Friday, November 06, 2009

      Friday Five: What's New

      Songbird says: "There's a new baby on my street, a double PK whose Mom and Dad are Methodist pastors and church planters. I'm hoping to go over and meet her today. I love new babies, the way they smell and their sweet little fingers and toes. Little K has me thinking about all the new things that please us with their shiny freshness.Please share with us five things you like *especially* when they are new."
      • Well of course since my "romance" is still pretty new....that has to go on the list. I mean there anything better and more thrilling than brand new love?
      • Crass and material though it may be....there is nothing like the feel of a brand new car. I don't even have to own it! I just like to drive it around.
      • New beginnings in school years, New Years, new programs, a new group starting, meeting a new friend, trying something I have not done before, visiting a new place.....well you get the idea
      • I recently got a new bed after a very very very long time. It was amazing what a difference it made. So I guess I could say I like new beds!
      • And as much as I love my familiar Rite II BCP liturgy, every now and again I love something new with which to celebrate and language or new music to wake up my senses and move my soul and mind and spirit in a new way.

      Wednesday, November 04, 2009

      And the Fourth.....

      It's another gray one, blustery....portents of things to come. It's lighter now in the morning, of course, since the time change. But somehow that doesn't seem to make it any easier to get up and out on these chilly mornings when the bed seems like my best friend...and always at its most comfortable just after the alarm goes off.

      L was sentenced yesterday. Finally he knows his future, or at least the immediate part of it. I was not able to be there, but I had an e-mail from his PD who tells me that the judge did grant the motion for a downward departure and did not send him to prison. She gave him a 180 day jail sentence, which means, with good time, he would get out of jail on or about December 10th. He is still in the local jail and will be serving the remaining days there until his release, which means it will be easier for me and his other support folks to get to see him. So that is a gratitude today. As I said to his sponsor...kind of good news/bad news....more jail time at all is bad news to L at this point, but good news that it is not more, and also a bit good news that we have time to help him put a plan in place for "what next." In truth had he gotten out yesterday he would have been homeless....again....without a plan. Not a good thing. And this time the CH program is no longer there to catch him, his girlfriend D is a 150 miles away and other options all have their complications. So this is a blessing in its way. We can help him think through how to best set things up, talk to D, see if we can figure out how to help get him to her, which seems to be the best thing at this point.

      His isn't the only life I'm observing these days in which things are working themselves out. it seems to be going around. But it's hard to trust sometimes that letting go and letting things be could possibly be an effective strategy. Some of us seem to think that we need to manage things to a fairly high degree to maintain our safety in the world. I've already worn out my label maker in an attempt to create order in at least some spheres of my life! But I'm starting to realize that there are some things that are more important than pristine counters and tidy spaces, and that perhaps house that looks a little "lived-in" is evidence of the life and love therein.

      So today's gratitude is for things working out. In L's life, in the lives of others around me, in my many blessings large and small, so many things that fall into place, happen in the better way. Sometimes we notice, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we don't even think it is better at the time. It's that trust thing....and it takes me back again and again to "my" Jeremiah verse: "For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future." Jer 29:11

      Tuesday, November 03, 2009

      And on the third day....

      It is Tuesday....a little overcast, more than a little chilly....November. I am waiting for a subpoena to arrive that may or may not result in my spending the afternoon in court. The attorney called yesterday to let me know I may be called. She is not my client's attorney but represents someone who is fighting with him about things that are very painful for him. I tried to explain that going to court and saying the things that I would have to say there might not be the best for my therapeutic relationship with him. My sense was that she didn't care so much. And I guess that it's her care more for her client than for fight for her client's "side" in the courtroom...just as I advocate for the mental health of mine, and the chance that we might get to still work together towards that. I hope if I have to testify he understands that I am not a volunteer.

      Gratitude....yep, some days it's a stretch. To be grateful that I do not find myself in some of the life predicaments of others seems, to say the least....a bit unfeeling...and yet, to be perfectly honest....I am. "There but for the grace of God," I do think sometimes. The mistakes, the missteps that get people in some of the most horrible messes....they are sometimes really not that egregious.... but rather simply thoughtless, human. A lapse in judgement, a loss of awareness, a start down the wrong path....and one thing leads to another. And it seems that some people start out in the wrong spot before they ever begin. I am constantly amazed by the vast amounts of simple things that people don't know, don't understand. Not facts necessarily, but knowledge and understanding about the way people function, cope and manage the "how to's" of life at some pretty basic levels. So I'm grateful that while I didn't have the greatest of beginnings, I got the basics. And for whatever reason, I was fortunate enough to have people and events come into my life to provide the advanced course when I was ready. And while I make my share and more of mistakes, blunder along and mess things up along the way in the usual ways, I think I can safely predict at this point that I won't be doing any jail time, having any OFPs against me, or seeing my name in the paper for a DUI or a disorderly conduct charge. Perhaps it's a strange thing to be grateful for, but that's where my head is today.

      Just a little update....and a gratitude: I don't have to testify....they settled! Thanks be to God for people who can find it in their hearts to do whatever they did...compromise, forgive, let go. We all need to do that a little bit somehow, somewhere, everyday. A good reminder....for them it was a big thing, in my life usually it's little bits and pieces....but I'm just as attached to them. My prayer for today is to help me to be grateful for all that I have been given and at the same time to hold it all very lightly, remembering how truly little there is that is really worth fighting over.

      Monday, November 02, 2009


      Already we are a day into it. My "excuse" for yesterday was being on the the road. Though I did have my laptop it was one of those kind of here and there days. The ultimate destination was home after a weekend away, but there were things to do along the way that were just as important....the journey was as important as the destination.

      This was a momentous weekend. Our Diocese met in annual convention. Once again, the church and the Spirit at work. We met for two days, Friday to do our "regular" convention work of budgets and resolutions, and then Saturday we focused solely on the election, which we accomplished after five votes on Saturday afternoon. We laughed and prayed and sang and cried together. For all those who gathered, for those who were considered as candidates, for our new Bishop Brian Prior, for our Bishop who will retire, and for his many feelings running high and was exciting, emotional, exhausting and enlightening. As always, we were so who we are as the people of God....human and fallible, yet wonderful and dear. I get irritated and frustrated with my church sometimes, yet I do love her in all her messiness. When we gather, there is always this something....this palpable sense for me that we are more than simply a group of folks hanging out together...despite our differences, despite our sometimes down and out wrangling about stuff (yes we do that too!)...when it comes right down to it....there is more to us than us....we are the body....the one body and here and now in this place....God is with us.

      It was momentous in other ways, too. Intersections and conversations. Reflections and thoughts. Bumping into and up against things we know and think we know about others. Finding unexpected hurt and tender places and also unexpected courage in the face of them. And in this too, we seek and find the love of God as we find we are bigger than we can be alone.

      So the intention for this month of Thanksgiving is more posts...gratitude the focus, giving thanks for life as I find it in my little corner of the world.

      Today I am thankful for those who take risks in the name of love. Those who put themselves out there....whether it's in a big allowing your name to be put forth as a candidate for Bishop of a Diocese...risking losing....or being chosen! Or in a smaller but just as important opening yourself to let someone into your heart again, when to do so in the past has meant sure and certain pain. The world is a better place because you make these choices to love and I am grateful. S0 risk on.

      Friday, October 23, 2009

      Friday Five: Our Favorite Music

      "Songbird Says: When I was a very little girl growing up in Virginia, I never missed a Sunday going to Court Street Baptist Church. But there was something else that made Sundays special, and that was "Davey and Goliath." Every week the opening strains of the theme song would find me lying on the floor, chin on hands, looking up expectantly to watch the adventures of a clay boy and his big dog.What I didn't realize was who wrote that music, the hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."

      It was the same Martin Luther who said:"I have no use for cranks who despise music, because it is a gift of God. Music drives away the Devil and makes people gay; they forget thereby all wrath, unchastity, arrogance, and the like. Next after theology, I give to music the highest place and the greatest honor." On this Friday before Reformation Sunday, let's talk about music. Share with us five pieces of music that draw you closer to the Divine, that elevate your mood or take you to your happy place. They might be sung or instrumental, ancient or modern, sacred or popular...whatever touches you.Some of us even love hymns. (Well, I do.)"

      FIVE???? Oh surely you jest! Five artists maybe! Nope, can't even do that. Five kinds, five genres, maybe. Music has always been the backdrop of my life, the soundtrack. Varying with time and place from Catholic hymns to Wiccan circle drumming and pretty much everything in between. But just for the sake of "the five" a few that pop into my head this morning......

      • Gounod's Ave Maria. Family legend says it was playing on the hospital sound system as mom was wheeled into the delivery room and again as she was going back into her room after I was born, and again as we left the hospital. We played it at her funeral. It was sung (in Latin of course) at my ordination and will make another appearance next Spring at the wedding.
      • Handel's Messiah. Not just the Alleluia, fabulous though it be, but some of the little and less heard oratorios just make me weep with the sheer beauty of it all.
      • Hymns. Oh my yes...where do I begin? How Can I Keep from Singing, Be Thou my Vision, Taste and See, Amazing Grace, It is Well with my Soul, and a hundred more that come to me to offer comfort in my brain's little soundtrack on dark and stormy nights, during scary drives, when I can't find my center, when there are no words because the feeling is too big for them....well, you know.
      • Gregorian chant sung well by monks.
      • The music of my life....Chicago, Queen, Three Dog Night, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Neal Diamond...and lately of course Mr. Jimmy Buffet....anything he sings can make me cheer right up, especially if heard in the company of a cute sweet guy while tooling down the highway in a red mini-cooper!

      Thursday, October 22, 2009

      Just Thinkin'

      Well, the "so what" showed up and the sermon got done. The hymns are picked and the bulletin is all neat and tidy and ready to be run. Now if I can continue to ward off whatever bug seems to be wanting to brew up in me....Sunday is good to go. I like being ready for Sunday on Thursday. In this new rhythm of my life, long Saturdays of sermon writing and service prepping just don't do it for me anymore. It doesn't seem to take me nearly as long to write sermons as it once did. I think some of that is experience, just developing an approach to the whole business of sermon-craft that works for me. And I also think that some of that business of spending all my time writing and doing "stuff" for church was clearly other things. That whole overfunctioning business that occupied the first part of my ordained life. It was at least in part driven by my need to be the perfect little priest, which all came before God's graduate courses in post-ordination formation that have finally convinced me that a) I can't be and, b) even if I could, there is no point because God is fine with me as the beloved flawed human priest God called me to be.

      It was also driven by a need to fill time and not deal with things, and what better way to be busy! Between my day job, my church life, and oh, yes, teaching when we threw that into the mix, I could just run forever and never have to stop and listen to my heart and my spirit. Except of course that it didn't work. Because it never does. Really. Not beyond a certain point. Beyond a certain point, all it did was leave me frazzled, strung out and exhausted, never mind so far from my center that I wouldn't have recognized her if I tripped over her! At any rate, I am truly truly happy that the Energizer Bunny has gone into retirement.

      It was also driven by a little bit of arrogance. "I am soooo busy because I am sooooo important in the scheme of things, don't you know." Every time I "confessed" that I had no idea what the current popular TV shows were because I "simply did not have time to watch them," I have to admit, I felt a little frission of what I must admit was pride. I had to find my self-esteem somewhere, and that seemed like as good a place as any, I guess! There's that functional atheism thing again! It seems to crop up in many guises. I needed people to see me as important somewhere because I did not see myself that way. It's, as they say in the Twelve Step world a character defect...and a long-standing one, this inability to see my true self. I seem to have an internal fun house mirror that pops up and distorts me in my own eyes (and its equivalent in an audio speaker for the critical voices). But the mirror grows dimmer and the volume on the speaker quieter these days. And it leaves me free to hang out on the couch with my sweetie and revel in a good episode of House or even Two and a Half Men for no other reason than it's fun and I LIKE it. Whew! Even now I can hear a little critic screaming in there...."YOU DID WHAT!?!?!" is what it is....and yes, I am doing less these days. But I think I'm doing it with more integrity, authenticity and certainly with more joy. That tight little spring in my center unwinds a little more all the time....and nobody cares, and for this, yes, I am grateful.

      Wednesday, October 21, 2009

      Ramblin' Thoughts

      This month is getting away from me. Someone said to me last night, "October is always such a crazy month for you, isn't it?" And yes, it's true, bracketed on one end by clergy conference and the other end by Diocesan Convention, and usually with some other travel thrown in, either for work or church, October seems to be my peripatetic month.

      I am supposed to be writing a sermon right now. It's "some" done. The groundwork is laid, the bones are there...but I'm sitting with the "so what" part. I've noticed since we have been doing Gospel Based Discipleship in conjunction with everything, that my sermons have unconsciously begun to fall into the pattern of ending with the last GBD question, "what is it are we being called to DO as a result of hearing this Gospel" or the so what that's where I am right now. And its not that I don't have some thoughts. It's just putting some language on it, good language, fresh language. So I'm procrastinating. If I were home I'd clean closets or straighten drawers. At work...I blog! I've been enjoying this journey through Mark, Jesus' lessons on discipleship. I've been preaching about every other week, enough to feel like I have kind of a series going that I can hang together, one on the other. That's the good part...themes develop, things can repeat and build. The downside of course is that repetition can get to be simply that if it is not used I'm trying to walk that line.

      Speaking of's raining again. Egads! Good news? It's not snow. But it's cold and gray and it's already starting to feel sort of endlessly that season. I'm thinking about doing gratitude posts in November again. I was at a couple workshops last week, one on the brain and one on forgiveness. They were as different as could be...the first all science and brain scans, the second very spiritual and holistic (my two "me's"), but they both pointed to some similar truths. We go where we point ourselves. Our thoughts are powerful things and they change us. The scan guy showed evidence that they actually physically do that! Just as much as the food we eat, the toxins we are exposed to, the amount of exercise we get....what we say to ourselves and others about our daily experiences affects the amount of blood that moves in our brains, which impacts how the synapses fire, the chemistry works and essentially how everything happens, including perhaps how long and certainly how well we live. The other workshop operationalized a way to "do forgiveness." I was the test subject for the afternoon's demo. I worked through an issue with my brother. I have needed to forgive him since 1992 for some pretty big stuff. Was it a miracle? Am I done? No, of course not! But, there is a little a chink of light that was not there before...and as some of us who were also at the other workshop said after the demo...."I bet there is more blood flow in Kate's brain right now!" So I'm thinking about gratitude posts in November. I do remember the last time....that wonderful month of NaBloPoMo on gratitude. I'm not thinking daily....necessarily....but maybe....who knows. I certainly have thirty things to be thankful for! And I need to write more and be more intentional about reflection in my life, as that has slipped a bit. It could happen.

      But for's back to that sermon for a half hour or so as the day begins and we will see if "so what?" takes shape.

      Wednesday, October 14, 2009

      Fall Falls

      It's hard to believe October is almost half over. Not of course if I look outside....out there it almost looks like it might be November that's passing. The trees have dropped many of their leaves, some without even bothering to change from green, and they wave bare branches against the chilly gray sky. The "s-word" is being mentioned again in the forecast for tomorrow. That would be our third snow already this month. My farmer friends tell me "it's gonna be a long one" and R has ordered a whole pallet of salt for the mall lot. He says he feels it in his bones too. And after fifteen years of managing his mall, his bones know what they know. We scrambled this weekend to get some things done, cleaning the garage to make room for the car, hauling some things to the thrift store, picking the last of the tomatoes before the frost. This morning I brought out the winter clothing bins from the other closet. I can only make layering my summer clothes go so far. It's time for the heavy stuff...and today was a turtleneck day!

      Fall is always kind of a strange bittersweet time for me. It feels like a time of new beginnings, probably because I've spent almost half my life starting school every fall! But it's clearly also the end of things...the ease of warm, warm days which I love, fresh produce from my garden, long long days full of light. And out here on the prairie, it's the end of a kind of simplicity of plans. Because from now until spring, everything we do becomes weather-dependent at a more significant level. And for me, winter driving chicken that I am, plans to travel any distance can be scotched at a moment's notice at the mere hint of an ice storm or impending blizzard. The weather channel, NOAA, and the driving conditions sites on my computer get frequent visits, and if a trip is a must, I am pretty uptight about the whole business until I'm sure it's clear skies and dry roads all the way.

      Tomorrow has the makings of one of those days. I am due for a 5 a.m. departure for the Big City three hours from here to attend a workshop. A "wintry mix" had been promised earlier in the week. It now looks more like it might be just rain....but it's supposed to be around 32 degrees at 5 a.m. and even rain right at freezing makes me jumpy. I'm trying to do all those things I tell my clients...stay in today, not worry ahead, deal with it when it comes...yeah I talk a good line....but inside I am anxious and fretful, and also hopping mad that I have to start dealing with this crap in OCTOBER! I picked this workshop specifically because I figured the weather would not be a factor. There I go again, thinking I am in control. What was that phrase? Oh yes, "functional atheism," the belief that I control everything. We do not -- can not -- save ourselves.....I believe I heard that preached somewhere very recently. Apparently I am not listening to my own sermons again.

      So once again the seasons change. Some things change with them and some things are constant. The trick, I think, is remembering which is which.

      Friday, October 09, 2009

      Friday Five: Personal Holy Days

      Today on her way to her church's yearly Synod, to be welcomed and conditionally re-consecrated to episcopal ministry Sophia is "...thinking of the special rites of passage in our lives which we participate for ourselves or in which we support and bless others: baptism, confirmation, marriage, ordination, graduation, funerals, etc. Such important days, so exciting and joyous, but also sometimes anxiety provoking or deeply painful...." She asks in this Friday five that we share five memories of such sacred moments with God and her holy people from your life and the lives of those you love.
      • If I go waaaaaay back in time, one would be my first Communion. The night before, I had suffered a close call with my overdeveloped little Catholic conscience. While playing "Spy" in the back yard I had said what I thought to be a "terrible bad word" (naked) and I was quite sure I had had committed a mortal sin. Yes, really. Since it was after seven o'clock I knew Father was no longer hearing confessions, and the moment it was out of my mouth, I nearly became hysterical with guilt and fear, quite convinced that I had just eliminated the chance that I would be able to receive my First Communion with the rest of my class. I ran to my mom, who bless her, did not laugh at my silly self, but took me seriously. She told me that I should just go in my room and ask God to forgive me, "say a good Act of Contrition" and it would be ok. I did and it was and by the next morning when the priest placed the wafer on my tongue....I knew that in that moment something special had happened for me, that Jesus was really present in a different way. I have loved the Eucharist ever since. And looking back, I think the night before and her tenderness and care as my "Mother confessor" was every bit as holy and sacramental as the day itself.
      • The day my mother died. Thinking about how she dealt with my little crisis before First Communion reminds of her and her faith. She died as she lived, calmly, sure that God loved her and was simply going to take care things for her. I was there when her soul left her body and it was so....gentle....there was no doubt in my mind she was no longer there in that shell that could no longer support her life. But there was also no doubt that she lived on and does still.
      • Baptising L. When I looked into his dark eyes and drew the cross on his head and "marked him as Christ's own forever" he had the most incredible smile on his face. When he had to go back to jail he told me he took strength from remembering that he belonged to Jesus in that way, really held onto it sometimes like a lifeline. Life has taken its turns for him again lately, and I don't know where he will end up. But he knows he is God's own beloved and for that I am grateful
      • My ordination to the priesthood. . They tell me I radiated. They tell me my feet barely touched the ground. I cannot argue the point. My memory is pretty spotty for most of it. I remember kneeling, and promising "with God's help I will" and the weight of the hands of my Bishop and many priests on my head and tears and feeling incredibly humbled and grateful and....somehow changed in a way that I cannot explain.
      • Falling and being in love with my sweet and wonderful R. He cringes when I say it....but I understand the love of God better because of him. He loves me well, he cares for me deeply, he is my nurturing presence, he has my back. Pretty holy stuff, I'd say.

      Ok, gotta go get my tissues now.

      Wednesday, October 07, 2009

      L's Update

      He pled guilty and the judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation and will set a sentencing date in 2 – 4 weeks, at which time she will make a decision. She did today, however, lower his bail from $5000 to $500 cash bail. Not that it matters. He doesn't have it. His friends don't have it and his church doesn't either. And even if he did get bailed out at this point....he's broke and homeless and his family has all his stuff, and I'm not really sure of their intentions towards it or him. His girlfriend D is with her folks about three hours from here. I don't know if he is welcome there or if that is even an option "out on bail." I plan to see him this weekend. I was hoping it would be in church.

      Monday, October 05, 2009

      Please Pray for L

      His court date is tomorrow. This is the "real one." His attorney tells me that the sentencing guidelines for his offense provide for a 15 month prison sentence. With one-third off for good time, that would be 10 months. The prosecutor had offered a settlement to give L a 12 month prison sentence, which would have been 8 months. L had a choice to take the offer, go to trial, or plead to the judge and ask for mercy, leaving sentencing to her. With a plea to the judge in the best case scenario, his PD could make a motion for a “downward departure” asking the judge to give no prison, and just give local jail, like credit for his time served, and he could be out of there tomorrow. L decided to go for that option, pleading to the judge and go with a request for a “downward departure” and leaving sentencing up to her. From what I have seen of her in court with L and others, she seems to be fair and inclined towards giving people chances to make good. The PD told us we could write letters on his behalf, so that also may help. Prayers, I know will too.

      On the "bad news" front: My congregants went over to clean out his apartment and found out that some of his family members beat them to the punch. The place was empty. Apparently L's landlord has never heard of the tenant's rights, even in absence, to their own property. The rent was paid through the month, but he let the folks in and let them have L's stuff. "Well," he said, "How was I to know? They were his family." No key, no letter of permission....just "hello here we are and we want it" apparently gets you a long way in small town land. I think perhaps he has not heard the last of this. But for now, getting out of jail will be good. Sufficient for one day maybe. As long as the art is safe. Pray God they have not "lost" his portfolio, that is really all we ask. The rest is really just stuff. The art....that is a little bit of L's soul on paper. *sigh*

      Wednesday, September 30, 2009

      Dancing with Light and Shadows

      I am once again at the retreat center overlooking the lake….it is the last morning of Fall Clergy Conference. Whether this gets posted now or later will be up to the will of the mighty WIFI that controls our lives in this place. It is capricious here, and comes and goes seemingly with little rhyme or reason. But , given that it is a retreat center…perhaps that’s not such a bad thing.
      Clergy conference this year has been of the retreat nature. This morning we will conclude with Eucharist and a little business, have lunch and go home. This is our last CC with our current Bishop and will be our final liturgy with him as assembled clergy, and will I am sure, be bittersweet.
      Our leader this year is a clinical social worker and priest who works as a clergy coach. That is not, however, what he says he does. He says he plays. That was one of the loveliest things about this time. It was playful, while also being, at least for me full of wonderful reminders, little “aha” moments, and a few tears. Will started out with us “in the garden,” asking us to go to a place we could remember feeling easy and playful and to just stay there for a while, holding on to the feeling, the essence of that. We shared words that captured that feeling. We got to stay in the garden for a while, but eventually we moved to the wilderness. Will reminded us that after Jesus was assured that he was beloved that was where he went and that this is often where we are. He talked about the shadows we find there and named five ( based on work by Parker Palmer). In small groups we named the shadow that speaks to us most, the one that seems to be our most constant companion…at least right now. The rest of our group listened and heard us. They shared theirs too. Then in the large group we each stood and simply said our name and claimed our shadow. “I’m Kate and I am a functional atheist.” (The belief that I am in charge of the universe, that I have to take care of everything, that I have to do it all). There were a lot of us in that crowd. We could start FAA! Claiming your shadow is powerful. Liberating and lightening. This one was no surprise to me. It’s actually one I have been friends with for a while and have been releasing for some time. I called it overfunctioning. Calling it functional atheism made me sit up and take notice. GOD is in there….or rather isn’t. Uh-oh. It took me back to what the Presiding Bishop said in her talk with us last Spring when she was asked about staying so cool under the pressures of leadership. She said she remembers that its God’s church and then she goes to bed.
      Next Will reminded us that Jesus was not in the wilderness alone. That angels were there “tending” to him. He reminded us that we too are tended, and asked us to call to mind those who tend us on this side of the grave and beyond. Once again we shared those people in groups with our peers. Moms, dead and alive were on lots of angel lists. So were spouses and partners. Mine was. I told them that R was definitely an angel and “tender” for me….and that furthermore I understood the love of God better since he has been in my life.
      Last night’s session took us out of the wilderness and into the world….but by a rather strange route…via the boat….yes that would be the one we need to step out of onto water as Jesus says “come.” It’s about trusting that the hand held out in love is there and the relationship is solid enough to hold us….and do we really trust it. Will read us this poem by Michael Whyte. It felt like a very private altar call.

      The True Love
      There's a faith in loving fiercely the one who is rightfully yours
      especially if you have waited years and especially if part of you never
      believed you could deserve this loved and beckoning hand held
      out to you this way.

      I am thinking of faith now and the testaments of loneliness
      and what we feel we are worthy of in this world.
      Years ago in the Hebrides I remember an old man
      who would walk every morning on the gray stones
      to the shore of baying seals, who would press his
      hat to his chest in the blustering salt wind and say his
      prayer to the turbulent Jesus hidden in the waters.

      And I think of the story of the storm and the people
      waking and seeing the distant, yet familiar figure,
      far across the water calling to them.
      And how we are all preparing for that abrupt waking
      and that calling and that moment when we have to say yes!
      Except it will not come so grandly, so biblically,
      but more subtly, and intimately in the face
      of the one you know you have to love.
      So that when we finally step out of the boat
      toward them we find, everything holds us,
      and everything confirms our courage.

      And if you wanted to drown, you could,
      But you don't, because finally, after all
      this struggle and all these years,
      you don't want to anymore.You've simply had enough of drowning
      and you want to live, and you want to love.
      And you'll walk across any territory,
      and any darkness, however fluid,
      and however dangerous to take the one
      hand and the one life, you know belongs in yours.

      I needed this conference to be a retreat and I’m so glad it was. There is “stuff” in our Diocese. We are electing a Bishop in about six weeks. We have issues. Well, duh! Of course we do, we are church. And just why is that? Why is it all so contentious? It seems that everywhere I look lately congregations and denominations and diocese….they all have all this stuff they are wrangling about. Locally and elsewhere, so many of my pastor friends are in so much pain over things that are going on in their congregations. I think this just makes God weep….we are all God’s beloved. I keep imagining again the garden…the words we came up with….serene, playful, whole, gleeful, peaceful, unworried, well, childlike, unfettered, unselfconscious, creative, happy, laughing, flying, unlimited….and thinking, what if these were the words that described church? Wouldn’t this be the place you would really want to be? And yet, why is it not….the Lover who created us gave us the potential for this. And yet the shadow keeps winning. Not because it is so powerful, but because we refuse to acknowledge its presence. As long as we pretend it is not there it has all the power. But naming it disarms it. Allowing others to name the one they see lurking behind us that we cannot possibly see is more powerful still. But that takes trust and an even bigger step out of the boat.
      Lots to reflect on, lots to pray about. Time to hit the “WIFI hot spot” now to see if this will post…then on to close the conference.