Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Five: Child's Play Edition

Kathrynzj writes: "While traveling with my 4 year old we were both pleased to find a HUGE indoor playground. Now he can maneuver himself around those things no problem but I have found myself at the top level of what amounts to a glorified hamster tube more than once either rescuing an article of clothing or The Boy himself. There was a small part of me saddened to find that I no longer had the convenient excuse to be a kid and go up in the playground, but mostly my aging knees and back were quite happy to skip the experience.Maybe you are better at it than me, but my first-born, responsible demeanor rarely lets up enough for me to do frivolous silly things – like playing on playgrounds – without a good reason. My friend will stand up in a crowded restaurant and serenade me with an operatic rendition of Happy Birthday. My sister is very good at grabbing the joy in the moment. I seem to need a child to bring it out in me and even then… it takes a lot.Today’s Friday Five celebrates the spontaneous child in all of us… or at least the one that we admire in someone else:"

1) On a scale of 1-5, with 5 being "I can’t do this now, I am about to jump into a pit of plastic balls at the mini-mall;" and 1 being "I can’t do this now until I can get all of the fonts on my blog to match" – where are you? I am a newly hatched five and proud of it! Oh the joy of falling in love with someone who is unabashedly a twelve year old! Since meeting R and becoming more and more his partner in life (and crime!) lots and lots of little tight and squidgy places in me are unwinding. I was preparing myself for this I think, as last summer I had written a post or two about my process of finally learning to play, by going out with Soul Sister A and sticking my head in dead trees and getting bit by mysterious bugs while hurling myself into tall grass while geocaching. And learning to ride a bike again, and allowing myself to be silly and do things that had no apparent redeeming social value. But my playfulness quotient is rising daily. Twice this week I have caught myself going "wheeeeee" as I cruised off down the street on my (second) new bike of the year (Story in a later post). I find myself giggling often, and laughing to the point of "I can't breathe" on a regular basis just over sheer silly stuff. There is a new willingness in me to try things, take chances. I was looking at shore excursions for our dream honeymoon cruise, and I realized that there was very little there that I wouldn't consider. A far cry from the past uptight scaredey girl I used to be! Much more fun this way, indeed!

2) What is the silliest/most childlike thing you have done as an adult? Well, since I am relatively new to silly and childlike, I don't have a really big repertoire here to call on. Maybe I'll have to take a poll and see if I can fill this one in later.

3) Any regrets? That I didn't stop being so serious and start playing sooner.

4) What is the silliest thing you have ever seen another adult do on purpose? I can't thing of one specific thing, but I'm sure it had something to do with either alcohol or reality TV shows.

5) What is something you wish you did when you had the chance? I had the chance to parasail in Mexico one of the times when I was there, but fear held me back. I'm hoping that on our planned trip there next year that will be one of the things I'll get to do.

BONUS: For our ‘I told you so’ sides – what thing did you skip doing and you’re really glad you did! Jello shots.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Another Saturday in God's Country

It strikes me how little I've written lately, here or elsewhere. Sermons, a couple Friday fives, a few reports for work. It's feeling a little dry and of the "on-demand" kind of thing. I just popped into the office for a few minutes this morning. It wasn't on the agenda. Gazpacho was on the agenda. I'm taking that out to Soul Sister C's farm later today. We're having a going away party for SS A who is moving South. Way South. Yes the SS's are losing one of us, at least in the flesh. It's sad and hard and we are working madly to figure out how to use webcams and IMs to keep our little "SSBS" group intact and functioning. We know this move is good for A and her hubby. He has a fabulous new job that seems as if it were tailored just for him. She will have more opportunities for satisfying work in her field, too. And they will be a mere drive away from the beauteous granddaughter, instead of hours by plane. But we grieve this loss of her in our midst. So today we will eat and kayak and paint and laugh and do all the things that make us the Soul Sisters. Oh and cry of course, as we say "we will see you soon....when you visit, or we do." We are planning trips already. C's hub wants to see a football game in A's territory and we all say, "Road trip! Why not?" And we've committed to a once a year retreat together. We know that next May will find us gathering for a few days of fun and merriment for sure! But the reality is that long distance things are hard, we all know it and feel it. So the Soul Sisters are a little sad today.

I'm at the office because I had to find "something to do" at the little emergent-y church thing R and I are involved in. It is struggling right now. The "designated leader" who was very passionate, committed and charismatic has moved away and there is a definite leadership void. We are trying leadership by group but it's faltering on takeoff as the group dynamics are a little wobbly. We care about it enough to do a little rescue breathing but not to drown ourselves trying to save it....and sometimes that is a fine line. There are a couple more leader folks who feel the same way, and others who just seem to come along each week and see what transpires. In other as usual! I have one church I am responsible for. I don't need or want two. But this place does meet a need for some folks so I hate to just walk away and let it die. So, given that this particular week, R and I know that if we don't step up...there will be nothing in the way of structure....I'm here on Saturday morning throwing together a little something. Fortunately, it is that! A reading, a few questions to spark discussion, a couple songs for the CD player....and the rest flies by the seat. Tonight R will make some hotdish and we will review what I've thrown together and we will be good to go. If only liturgy planning were always this simple!

My sermon for my own place has been done since Wednesday. This is week four of four and I'm feeling it. Fortunately RevC is recovered and we are back in our rotation again, so I'm not on again for a few weeks. As much as I enjoy celebrating and preaching, doing it every week with a forty hour day job gets a little stretchy! My sermons have been of the "ok" variety. I thought last week's might have needed a leash and collar but my trusted feedback said no, it was decent on delivery. HS all the way! I feel a little "meh" about this week as well. I seem to keep saying the same thing. And not that it's a bad thing to say. "God loves you beyond belief...Jesus is the great both/and...coming into history to show us who God is and who we can be....go and love one another and be the bringers of the kingdom." Said several different ways using whatever is at hand....pretty much the Good News of the week lately.

So it's good to be going off to a day at the farm and the lake. I get to try kayaking for the first time. That should be good for some laughs. SS A promises to take pictures, especially of any compromising positions I end up in. She feels she owes me for some reason. It could be the fact that I took some of her trying some "things" on at the Great Bridesmaid Dress Buying Event. I am looking forward to sun and water and love and laughter with my sisters and then coming home to an evening with my sweet guy. We may actually make it to the hot tub tonight if weather and schedules and timing permit!

Friday, July 24, 2009

"Friday Five at the Perfect Church"

Singing Owl says: "Please pardon me for talking about church in the summer when many of you may be on vacation. However, the church we are talking about today is the one you dream of. I've been thinking about this because I miss pastoring and preaching, because I am sending in resumes, and because...well...jut because. So have some fun with this. Tell us five things that the perfect church would have, be, do...whatever.We can dream, right?"

In the perfect church:
  • We could all get in (Handicap accessibility which we don't have right now)
  • We would would all get out and do (or realize as many are already doing) God's work in the many places our lives take us and not be confined to thinking that "church" only happens in that cute little building on the corner on Sundays.
  • We would talk directly to (not about) each other.
  • We would talk directly about our relationship with God and Jesus Christ. (Gasp! We are Episcopalians after all)
  • We would give thanks for God's amazing grace and abundance in our lives here and now, be a less worried about perfection and and go be the church.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Five: Games

In less than three weeks, my family, including children and their partners, will be gathering in Seattle, WA for 12 days. After various days in Seattle sightseeing and in Bellingham seeing family, we will travel to the coast of Washington State to spend three nights in a large rented house. With nine adults (from almost 20 years old and up), I am thinking that we need to have some activities pre-planned--like GAMES! (Any ideas will be appreciated.)So this Friday Five is about games, so play on ahead. . . .
1. Childhood games? I was an "only" by virtue of my late late birth, and grew up in a neighborhood where there were not a lot of other kids, so I played with the grownups a lot. We played cards...Canasta, Euchre, 500, Pokeeno, and some dice games. When there were other kids around I remember some hot summer nights playing Statue and Hide and Seek through the neighborhood.
2. Favorite and/or most hated board games? For some reason I was never a fan of Monopoly. It seeemed to go on forever and I just didn't get the point! I liked Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit when that came along.
3. Card games? Yep. Cut my teeth on em! Canasta was my favorite, though I was sitting in on Euchre hands at about age eight and was kind of a little ringer by about ten.
4. Travel/car games? Making up phrases out of the letters on the license plates, seeing who can find certain items, NOT singing 100 Bottles of Beer! Please, oh Please!
5. Adult pastimes that are not video games. really is not a lost art. Going for walks or hikes. Geocaching. Going to museums and plays. Reading. Painting. Playing musical instruments and singing. Learning a new skill. Gardening. Fixing something instead of throwing it out. Cuddling. Spending time with a kid or a pet. Traveling (even locally). Going to a concert. Going to the library. Visiting a shut-in or the nursing home. Calling or e-mailing or writing (on paper--gasp!) a friend. Blogging, writing or journaling. And all this in a small town where people tell me on a regular basis there is "nothing to do." Boredom? not in my vocabulary!

?Bonus: Any ideas for family vacations or gatherings? Croquet, Bola, badminton, bag toss...all those "old fashioned" games are great fun in groups. Especially if there is a little spirit of competition going!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Today's Sermon---Good News Even Here!

Sermon for Pentecost 6B Proper 10
Amos 7:7-15, Mark 6:14-29

I'm on a preaching run for about four to six weeks, depending on fast my colleague heals from her surgery. This is always a challenge of time-management with the day job and life in general, so I try to be proactive and work on my sermons ahead as I have the time. When I saw this Sunday's lectionary a couple weeks ago I literally said, "God, you have GOT to be kidding!" I thought about avoiding the whole thing by going with one of the OT readings or the Epistle, but I got to thinking that Mark is judicious what he includes, so you know, there's just got to be some Good News in there somewhere! So I set myself the task of finding it and this is what ensued. It preached pretty well this morning at my place, and I will be giving it another go in a little while at the nursing home.

A “perplexed” king, a seductive dancing girl and a beheaded prophet. What on earth does any of this have to do with Jesus? Well here it is before us in the Gospel of Mark, and we know that Mark’s purpose was to tell us of “the good news* of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”. How on earth does this work, we might wonder? Jesus does not even show up in this Gospel, let alone do any of the things he is usually about in Mark. So, what’s the point?

I have to admit, when I saw that this reading was the one assigned in the lectionary for this Sunday, my first reaction was less than enthusiastic. And I had to ask that question, too. Why on earth tell this story then or now? What could possibly be the good news here?

Let’s start with the big picture. John, as we know was a prophet. Just like Amos, whom we heard from in the Old Testament reading this morning. Prophets. The scriptures are full of them. In addition to Amos, we have Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Nahum, Jonah, and Ezekiel. And of course there were the women …Sarah Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, Esther and many many more. Prophets. Those who told the truth about God. Because that is what a prophet does. Whether he or she does it willingly and fearlessly or only after great prodding and with some reluctance…the prophet is called to stand and tell the truth that “God is here and wants you to join in relationship with God to bring about God’s kingdom.” The prophets appear when something has gone amiss in relationships. When injustice and opression are front and center, when hatred, not love are ruling…a prophet’s voice is heard crying out. And it is inevitably and always a call to conversion, a call to repentance, a call to acting like the kingdom of God is at hand right here and now.

Because that was John’s message…he said it at the very beginning when he burst out of the wilderness…”Repent for the kingdom of God is near.” And people were apparently stirred up by this wild and wooly man. This prophet John was not a mainstream kind of guy. He lived in the wilderness. He did not dress well or act refined. He was out there at the edge and he preached a rather unsettling message. And yet something about him and what he had to say drew people, at least some people, in. We hear in the Gospel that “The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”

The kingdom of God is near. Imagine a world where the radical love of God is the dominating force…a world where we would wage peace instead of war, where we would strive for generosity not acquisition, where justice and mercy would be common, and tolerance and concern for others would be an everyday thing. It would be a world in which it would be safe enough for all to be vulnerable, safe enough for all to live and love freely as God loves. God’s kingdom, the world we are created for in God’s great dream for God’s beloved ones. God’s kingdom is near….we need only repent. This very same message of God’s kingdom being near is not only John’s message but it is the one that Jesus preached and lived, and it is the same message that Jesus instructed his followers to proclaim. This is the good news and at least one of the reasons why this particular story appears in the middle of Mark’s Gospel.

Not everyone of course was happy with John’s message. The end to John’s life reads like something off the tabloid news. Herod had broken up his brother Phillip's marriage in order to take Herodias as his wife. John had confronted Herod with his message of repentance and the nearness of God’s kingdom, and talked to Herod about the problems with his marriage to Herodias, which upset her greatly. In order to placate Herodias, Herod had John arrested. This, despite the fact that we are told that Herod personally felt John to be a righteous and holy man, and even enjoyed listening to his “perplexing” message. At Herod’s birthday party, the evening’s entertainment was provided by the daughter of Herodias and Phillip, also named Herodias. She so enchanted Herod that he told her that she could have anything she wanted. She consulted her mother, who told her to ask for John’s head. Herod seemingly does not want to grant the request, but does not have the strength of will to refuse and look foolish in front of his guests, who had heard him make his promise to give her anything she asked. So poor “grieved” Herod does as she asks. And John, prophet of repentence and teller of truth bout the nearness of God’s kingdom, is killed.

Jesus continued to preach this message and to live it out in his own life and death. Repenting. Turning our hearts and our lives another way. The only way that God’s kingdom can come is to turn our lives to another way of being…not to the world’s way but to God’s. Entrance into God’s kingdom requires a choice to believe that in Jesus, God’s kingdom on earth indeed is near. And, more importantly as followers of Jesus we are the ones charged with carrying the prophetic message about that kingdom. The choice to do this of course is a challenging counter-cultural one. It flies in the face of much that the world says is important. Sometimes the message is perplexing. Sometimes it requires that we make hard choices and take risks, taking the chance that others will reject the message and even shoot (or behead) the messenger.
John’s listeners were encouraged to take action – “repent” is a verb. In its most literal sense repentance involves turning ourselves from one course to another, stopping, changing direction, setting off in a new way. And being a follower of Jesus may sometimes require that of us. As one writer pointed out, the earliest and most radical Christian form of confession was simple. “Jesus is Lord.” Not money or power or possessions are our lords and masters. Not righteousness, or winning, or being the best and brightest. Not getting it right, or being in control or triumphing over. In the kingdom of God, Jesus is Lord. This Jesus who gave us one commandment -- to love one another as God loves us. John urged his listeners to prove their spiritual intentions by concrete deeds. Perhaps repenting, then, is not the only verb required. Love, too is demonstrated in action, turning our lives more and more to resemble this Jesus whose disciples we are by virtue of our baptismal covenant. As another prophet, Micah tells us, to “Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.”

John’s prophetic call was to repent, to make our crooked ways straight, to flatten the hills and to make space for the coming of God’s kingdom here on earth. May it be so. Amen.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Five: Exercise

Sophia says: "I just got back from an 8 mile bike ride down the beach boardwalk near our home, and was struck with the number of people out enjoying physical activity. Runners, other cyclists, surfers, swimmers, dogwalkers, little kids on scooters....It's easy to lose track of my physical self-care in the midst of flurried preparation for a final on-campus interview Monday for a college teaching position in the Midwest (prayers welcome!) and the family move that would accompany it. But each day that I do make time to walk or ride my bike it is such a stress reliever that it is well worth the time invested!So how about you and your beautiful temple of the Holy Spirit?"

1. What was your favorite sport or outdoor activity as a child? I have just been having some great conversations about this with R as we visited my old hometown. As a kid I loved to ride my bike and would do so for hours and for long distances. My favorite ride was out to a beautiful park that is built up on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. I'd ride out there with my journal and literally spend the day, riding, dreaming, writing and thinking. As we drove up and through the park it brought back great memories of those days, and also amazed me a bit with my ability to do those hills!

2. P.E. class--heaven or the other place? Oh the other indeed! I was a chubby little unathletic kid. The classic "last one picked" for all the team activities and the child the PE teachers loved to hate. In high school as students from the Catholic girls high with no gym, we were bussed across town to the public school gym for PE and were subject to the catcalls of the guys as they watched us do our jumping jacks in our cute blue jumpsuits out on the track. I managed to wipe out on the cinder track in fine form the week before graduation and graduated in a knee brace. Oh, yeah...I loved PE!

3. What is your favorite form of exercise now? Yoga gave me back my body. It was the beginning of my actually beginning to reside in myself. I also like to walk and to do anything that feels dance-y. Biking is coming back into my life, too. I bought myself a bike for my birthday and R and I took our first cruise the other night. It was quite an adventure. He had a flat that required bike shop intervention. I lost a pedal! That one meant we had to walk the bikes over to his work, so he could get some tools to put it back before we could ride home. While there we discovered that my tire needed air, so we had to detour to the gas station. But it was fun anyway, and we are hoping that we worked all the kinks out!

4. Do you like to work out solo or with a partner? It depends on the activity. Yoga is a solo thing for me, walking and biking, I like a friend along but will do alone if need be....other "exercise for the sake of exercise" is a necessary evil and I'll do it however.

5. Inside or outside? Again, depends... but outside overall and strangely enough, the hotter the better. Heat and humidity energize me. Nothing like yoga on the beach, or a bike ride with the air blowing on a hot day. I know....people tell me all the time. But it works for me!

Bonus: Post a poem, scripture passage, quotation, song, etc. regarding the body or exercise. While this isn't about the body or exercise came to me from one of my yoga teachers at a yoga retreat in Mexico that was a very special experience in terms of reclaiming my body and so it does have that connection for me.....

The Guest House by Rumi
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

You Can't Save All the Starfish...Can You?

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I have been a freely admitting and unabashed Pollyanna about humanity most of the time. My stance has been that I will, until proven otherwise, give folks the benefit of the doubt, believing that their behavior makes sense (at least in their little scheme of things) and that generally they are doing the best they can to get by, and that when they do things that are stupid, hurtful and thoughtless, they really don't mean them in the worst possible way. I excuse a lot, and let people get by with a fair amount. While in many ways this is a trait I like about myself, I think it is also a form of denial that has kept me in some rather insane situations longer than I needed to stay there, and that has allowed others to manipulate me right under my nose while I blithely went along in complete blissful ignorance. R will tell you right up front that he is far more pessimistic about humanity than "Polly" is. When we were first dating we laughed about that bell curve....he the outlier on one side, me on the other. So the two of us together....a good balance?

He has helped me attain some very important clarity about at least one instance of Polly being manipulated by someone. This was a very good thing as it had gone on way too long and it was way past time for clarity. The funny thing was....he didn't have to say a word. He simply witnessed an exchange between me and this person. That was all it observing him observing us....a small mid-course correction, and suddenly I was balanced in a whole new way in that relationship, walking with clarity and confidence along that particular tightrope .

We have been having some serious talks this week about how and with whom we choose to spend our time and energy. Polly still wants to save the world, but she is very, very tired. And she is beginning to see that not everyone wants to be saved. Some of the starfish will persist in crawling back onto the shore no matter how many times you toss them into the ocean. They are that determined to self-destruct. So it is about discernment, too, I guess. I cannot work harder on other people's lives than they do. I have known this professionally for a long time. Perhaps it is a truth that needs to come out into my personal world. I think saving people has been one of my avocations as well as my job. I have been drawn to the wounded birds and the strays. To the needy ones. Yes, it had its payoffs....and its costs. And I think I'm done. After all, you can't walk the tightrope with any kind of grace when your pole is being gabbed by others. It is my pole and I need it for balance. Maybe it's time I take that a little more seriously.