Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
I couldn't find anything like that. I know, there's Liz Curtis Higg's book Bad Girls of the Bible -- and that the women might find that amusing. But that's not exactly what I was looking for either. I think the Zondervan has a big book of devotions about women of the Bible too. I haven't seen it around lately, though.
So I decided to try to write something myself. I wanted to call it: Four Biblical Marys.
I haven't started it yet.
I'd like to work on it, from time to time, in this space. And I'd be interested in feedback from those of you who read this from time to time.
The first Biblical Mary is Miriam, the sister of Moses. Now I know, Miriam is not really a Mary. But all of the Marys in the New Testament, famous or obscure, mothers or disciples -- are really "Miriam." Miriam is the namesake and model of them all. Mary is the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew "Miriam". It's possible that Mary seems to be such a popular name in the new testament (causing actual confusion among readers in some cases) because Miriam is such a popular and important figure in the Old Testament. She is, in some ways, larger than life -- standing alongside her brothers Moses and Aaron and leading the people of Israel out of Egypt and into the promised land.
We first encounter Miriam as a girl. She is instrumental in saving her brother as a baby. She hides in the weeds as Pharoah's daughter discovers him and offers her own mother as a nurse for the baby. She is quick-witted and clever, thinking on her feet. She also leads the women of Israel in joyous song on the banks of the Red Sea. Some scholars think that Moses' song at the Red Sea really belongs to Miriam: "Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has thrown into the sea." Miriam is also famous challenging Moses' authority, along with her brother Aaron. She alone is punished for her impudence. God gives her a skin disease and banishes her from the community for seven days. She also dies before entering the promised land. But so do Moses and Aaron. In each case, the Lord's chosen leaders are barred from crossing over into Canaan.
What do you think? This would just be the introductory information for Miriam. I would also write a prayer, or prayers, and have a couple of reflections/devotions connecting her with us.
I would like to "blog" updates every once in awhile, and would appreciate feedback on this project.
Monday, May 28, 2007
I love baptisms. I'd baptize every day if I could. And every age too, not just babies. I'll always remember the Sunday I had five baptisms -- 1 infant, 1 four year old, 2 third graders and a 5th grader. It was the most fun I'd had in a long time. Another baptism party involved 5, with three from one family, in our church's small chapel service on a Saturday night. Unlike some Saturday night services, this one is traditional, and mostly attended by older people. So we had these five children being baptized, of all ages, and one of the little boys could not sit still. He was checking out behind the chancel in his spare time, and his parents looked a little overwhelmed (they had two others to keep track of). After the baptism, he said in a loud voice, "That was fun! I like baptizing!" I'll always remember that too.
I remember the Sunday afternoon I went over to a hospice care center to baptize a woman who was dying of brain cancer. She was about 40, and had three children, who were carrying around bouquets of dandelions. I tapped her on the shoulder to wake her up, said a brief prayer and spread the water on her forehead in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Then she said, in a loud voice, "That was great!" She died two hours later.
Yesterday we had a baptism at church. A baby just under one year old, quintessential Scandinavian baby, square jar, deep blue eyes, no hair even now, and completely charming. She waved and pointed to people all during the baptism. Her great-grandparents are members of my congregation. They transferred over when their own church closed. Great-grandpa sings in the choir, and was wearing red.
The parents and great-grandchild do not know so many people in the church. After the baptism, we always have the parents and godparents share the peace (and the baby) with the congregation. About two-thirds of the way down the aisle, all of a sudden, mother and baby stopped and gave an older couple a big hug. My first thought was, "That's odd. They're not related." And then I remembered: this older couple also came from that small church that closed. They had probably known this woman since she was a little girl.
That's why we baptize in church services. Because, as I had forgotten for a moment, we are related.
Maybe that's why I love baptisms.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
I have always considered myself to be a Cat Person. There was always a new batch of kittens on my grandparents farm when I would go to visit them in the summer. I loved to try to catch the kitties on the farm and dress them up ins doll nightgown and take them around in a doll carriage. Then I would eventually have the sublime experience of watching a fully-dressed cat leap out of the carriage and race into the woods. (I never saw the nightdress again.)
We had a cat named Fluffy when I was growing up. (Creative, huh?) She loved my mother best of all, liked just a little bit of raw hamburger occasionally and, once in a while, did a little walk across the piano keys. We called it "the kitty waltz." I got "Kiki" (on the left) when I was ready to be on my own. She kept me company for many years, and in many situations. When I lived alone in south Minneapolis in an efficiency apartment, Kiki waited for me to come home, sometimes unrolling a roll toilet paper in my absence. (Once she also unrolled a typewriter ribbon -- back in typewriter ribbon days.) She used to jump on my bed early on Saturday morning with a little ball in her mouth. When I threw the ball to get her off the bed, she went and got it for me. Yes, she fetched. But she would never take a walk with me. I tried.
I always knew I was a Cat person. I love those bags that say "Cats. Books. Life is Good". I love the sensual pleasure of a cat curled up in my lap. I love to watch cats get into a paper bag, or how they sit right on top of the Sunday newspaper that you have spread out, and are reading. Cats are good companions for non-athletic, sedentary, deep thinkers like me. I love to try to read their minds (which I can't). Besides, dogs were too much work, I knew.
So how did I end up with this amazing creature, Scout the wonder dog? It all started with a regular visit to Redeemer Residence on 31st and Lyndale. After riding the elevator up to the 3rd floor, I practically tripped over a box of 2-week old golden retriever puppies. At least that's what they looked like. Their mother was a golden retriever. She was running around the third floor, where apparently they had all taken up temporary residence. I spent the entire visit with a puppy in my lap. So did the woman I was visiting. It was very therapeutic.
I was tempted. I have a high level of frustrated maternal instinct. I want to take care of something. And I can't get another cat. My husband and one of his sons is allergic. But the puppies were all taken. This was probably a good thing. After all, dogs are a lot of work. Too much work. And I am a cat person.
Then someone called and said, One of Them Might Be Available. What did we think? We really thought hard about the responsibility. We thought we were up for it. The boys were for it, and promised they would help out. So when Scout was 6 1/2 weeks old, we brought her home.
To be continued.....
Friday, May 25, 2007
As many of you know, I have been experimenting with some severely curtailed Internet usage. I realized that I had gotten into some bad habits, which got me thinking about habits in general. I understand that a habits/random facts meme has already been going around. In the hopes that it hasn't hit too many of us yet, be as lighthearted or as serious as you'd like with the following:
1. Have you ever successfully quit a bad habit, or gotten a good habit established? Tell us about how you did it.
The best habit I have ever established is my daily walk. Throughout my life, I've always wanted to exercise more. I've usually persisted for awhile, and then the habit has fallen off. However, in this case the daily walk is ... walking the dog. So, the dog makes me do it. And I also lost 20 pounds (clap, clap, clap). As far as food obsessions, I have tried giving up potato chips or french fries for Lent, which usually works, but only for Lent.
2. "If only there were a 12-step program for _________________!"
a. Book lovers! I could, I suppose put this under "healthy obsessions". It could go either way. But it's not just about reading books. Books are a sensual pleasure for me. I love seeing, feeling, and reading them. And I like all kinds of books, kid's picture books, novels, memoirs, prayers, history, music, old books, new books...books about pets, books about hobbies. It is a sickness. When I was younger, my dad came into my room and said, "Think about all the money you would have if you didn't have all these books." So, yeah. Books.
b. "People who check their blog too much." It's not the blogging so much. It's checking the blog. "anyone been in?" Really, it has become quite neurotic for me. (and I've only been doing this for 1 1/2 months.)
3. Share one of your healthy "obsessions" with us.
Actually, I consider blogging a healthy "obsession". Right now I am learning something new every day, so I feel really good about that. Also, the writing itself has been good. For a long time I thought I had "writer's block." Apparently, I don't. At least so far.... but please, somebody, stop me from checking my blog!!!
4. Share the habit of a spouse, friend or loved one that drives you C-R-A-Z-Y.
Hmmm, they might read this. I'd say, leaving the towels on the floor after a shower.
5. "I'd love to get into the habit of ___________________."
Meeting with parish members (and friends) more regularly one to one to listen to them and learn their stories. (connecting with the "face to face" community)
Bonus: What is one small action you might take immediately to make #5 a reality?
Make appointments with 3 people next week... to sit down for coffee or something and really listen to them
Bonus 2: Try it, and let us know how it goes in a future post!
If I can, I'll share a "non-confidential" story.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
I am not judging her as an individual. She and her husband know what they can handle as new parents. And she has had other children: a 33-year-old, 29-year-old and 6-year-old, so you can't say she doesn't know what she is getting into. But I do have doubts about the "role model" idea.
Obviously, she has wealth and opportunity that are not available to many women. She can fly all over the world. My hunch as well is that, if she works, it is because she wants to, not because she has to. I also have a hunch that if she needs help for these babies (i.e. day care) she will not find it difficult to pay for. So even though people are living longer, I believe that her situation creates a false assumption about how easy/difficult it is to be a parent at any age. Also, these medical procedures are expensive and not everyone can afford them. How much can a couple afford to spend on their dream of having a "child of their own"?
I know that in vitro does not work for everyone. I know people who have tried several times and were heartbroken when they first came to the realization that they would not have children of their own. But they do have children of their own. They have adopted: some from China, from Korea, and from Ethiopia. Some have adopted older children. I consider them "role models". They have taken in a stranger, and called her "my child." So I believe her actions create false hope and false expectations about what parenting is all about. "Having your own child" becomes a kind of Holy Grail, instead of a gift from God.
I'm not saying that people who are trying to have children are wrong to try to reach for their dream. But for myself, when I see an article like this, I do get a brief pang "I'm only 50. What if...?" I feel the grief all over again. And according to the book of Ecclesiastes, there is a time and a place for everything ... and I believe that this includes a time to reach for our dreams, and a time to accept our limitations. A good role model can teach us both things.
My husband and I took Scout to an agility class last week. It's called "Agility for Fun" because it's not necessarily for dogs who are going to enter competitions. Scout, who is 1/2 Golden Retriever, almost 1/2 Husky and a little ?, is never going to be eligible for competitions. But lately we've been thinking... she just needs something to do, an outlet for her energy. I thought about a Tricks class, and I'd also like her to be a Therapy dog someday. But when I talked to our trainer, she suggested that we try agility -- something I had never thought of. In the past, all I ever knew about dog training was "Sit", "Down" and "Heel", although our dog never really mastered "heel" (or "down", come to think of it.)
Scout has been to Obedience I and II. She wasn't a stellar obedience student (which actually says more about us than it does about her). For example, we still have issues with "coming when called," especially if there is a squirrel or rabbit nearby. For awhile, we had BIG issues with coming when called -- we never wanted to let her off her leash in the back yard, because she never wanted to come in. She would keep running away instead. It was very frustrating.
However, we are happy to report that -- at least for this first class -- she was the Best One. She learned to do the "dog walk", go through the tunnel, and even jump over the bars very quickly. After she was used as the example dog for the tunnel exercise, my husband patted her on the side and said, "I can see her rescuing people from burning buildings." He was proud of her. (He doesn't always see her best side.)
At the end of the class, she laid down at my feet, very contented, more content than she had been when we walked into the class, and she wanted to sniff and play with all the other dogs. She was a pain in the neck! But now she was focussed and obedient -- and tired. The trainer says that this is often the case. He told us that it's good for dogs to exercise their brains as well as their bodies. Often "modern dogs" who have all of the comforts of a cushy life with us, are not as stimulated, either physically or mentally, as they can be. Often this is what leads to misbehavior.
I wonder if that's true for us as well. In some ways modern life is more challenging than it ever has been. But in other ways -- well maybe we don't get as much of some kinds of exercise as we used to. I think about this especially when I think about Radio and TV. My dad grew up in the Radio era, and used to tell us about all the old shows he "watched." (The Shadow, Henry Aldrich, Fibber McGee, etc.) Think about all of the exercise those brains got imagining what their favorite characters looked like, or imagining what was happening -- just from the sounds.
A true spiritual life stimulates all parts of our lives: our hearts, our brains, our bodies and souls -- and I hope, even our imagination. For us, there are all kinds of training available: from centering prayer to the discipline of showing hospitality. And in all those things, the goal is to learn to be more focused and less distracted, more open to God's working in the world.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
He has also informed us that the soy milk brand we have been buying is owned by Philip Morris. Truly unfortunate. But lots of things are owned by Philip Morris now. Even Kraft -- the Macaroni and Cheese people.
This feeds my dark paranoid fantasies that soon the world will be owned and operated by three large corporations. One of them will probably be Philip Morris.
There is probably some truth in this. After all, we fight against dark powers of the universe. The danger is in thinking that there is nothing we can do about this, and giving up.
But we can do something. And we can start by reading labels.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
After he retired, he served as the interim pastor at the churches were he grew up. He held his last service the week before I arrived. He announced to all of the churches that he would not do any pastoral ministry: no baptisms, no funerals, no weddings. From now on, he said, they would have a new pastor. At the time, I don't think I realized the magnitude of his gift, or his sacrifice.
My second day of ministry, I got a phone call from a funeral home. One of the members of my parish had died. I remembered that we had prayed for him on Sunday, and I had checked in on him at the hospital when I was in town getting my checking account. This family had not been in church on Sunday and had not heard Pastor Arlo's announcement. They wanted him to be involved in the funeral service in some way. What should I do? I didn't want to turn down their request to include a beloved pastor, and someone they had known since childhood, as well.
As it turned out, I didn't have to do anything. When they called him, he said "No." And that's what he always said, every time someone asked him to help with a funeral. He was always available if I wanted him to help -- once I lost my voice due to a bad cold, and he offered to help with the services. And he preached and presided for me when I was on vacation, if he was available.
Sometimes he would come to my office and ask me questions about the changes in the church: why did we have Passion Sunday now instead of Palm Sunday? What is the significance of the "imposition of ashes"? What's the difference between the Christ Candle and the "Paschal Candle" we are supposed to use now? All these things were new to him.
Sometimes he would come to my office just to make copies to send to Medicare. He told me that his doctor told him he wasn't supposed to drink cofffee any more. He said that in one small community he served, he saw what happened when a retired pastor stayed in the community. Every time there was a special event, a baptism, a funeral, a wedding, they asked the former pastor. "That young man never really got to serve his people," he said. "That's wrong."
He was unfailingly supportive of my ministry. If he had questions regarding women in ministry, I never knew about it. Often he would take the time to comment on something from a sermon he and his wife had enjoyed. He supported me publicly in congregational meetings.
I described him once as a "gracious pietist." He was a tall man, but he always walked with a little stoop, as if he were bending over to hear you a little better. He never gave advice unless he was asked, but when asked his advice was always sound, and always with the gospel -- and the people -- in mind.
With our ears to the world and its values, we often hear about "winners" and "losers." If you want to "win," they say, you need to get a plan and stay on it. You need to buy your home early so that it will appreciate in value. You need to start putting away money when you are 18 or 22, and you need to look at every transaction as a financial one. There are no other values to look at, and if you think so, then you are one of the "losers".
Should Pastor Arlo have left the farm and gone to college and seminary? Was he a "winner" or a "loser"? When he died in 2005, he wasn't a rich man, as the "winners" define wealth. He didn't own a home until he retired. He served out in prairie towns, where often pastors are reluctant to go these days, where towns are dying now. He was a faithful pastor in an age when many people decry religion as bunk.
As for me, if I can tune out the noise long enough, I think I can hear the music of a still small voice, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Monday, May 21, 2007
We always have a rehearsal on Saturday, because the confirmands lead the whole service the next day (except presiding at communion). We're kind of hard on them on Saturday, because we know that on Sunday they will be nervous and forget a lot of things. At one point all of the readers were lined up and the other pastor was making a big point about how how they should stand (reverently) and where they should look (toward altar) and where they should get their cues (from me).
Then yesterday morning, I was standing at the altar. The congregation was singing the "Gloria." All of the students came up to the chancel and stood in a line as we had rehearsed. Suddenly I noticed: they were all turned toward the altar, and looking at me.
And they were smiling.
I didn't get a chance to address the confirmands yesterday, except in the words of the liturgy. But as I saw them all dressed up and smiling, I thought about my own confirmation, many years ago. I was smiling pretty hard that day: there were 23 of us in that small congregation's baby boom generation. It was pretty 70's: I wore white boots and had a shag haircut, popular at the time (I hope it never comes back). I had on a lavender checked dress with a ruffle, made by my mother.
I have two sets of godparents, one is pretty dyed-in-the-wool Lutheran and the other Lutheran Pentecostal types. Both serious Christians, though, and both came to my confirmation. The Pentecostal types noticed how hard I was smiling and said that if I had really understood what I was doing, I would be crying. I suppose they meant that I would cry because I would realize the magnitude of what Jesus had done for me.
Yesterday, the confirmation students were smiling. And I felt like crying.
I believe that they were probably smiling for some of the same reasons I smiled: because they were proud of the things they had done in 3 years, and they were looking forward to the party and the fun with all of their friends and family, because they really do want to be regarded as an adult in the church from now on, because they're glad to be done with this time of studying.
As for me, I was crying because I was proud of them -- I knew how far they had come. They were little girls three years ago. Now they were young women. They had stood together with a friend when her mother died. They had supported each other and included each other even though they go to different schools and have different interests. They had come a long way, and I want to make sure that the church does include them as adult members and values their gifts.
But I was crying also because I know how far they still have to go. I know that their faith statements are only the "first try" at what it means to be a person of faith, a disciple in the world. I know that, as some of them have experienced pain and doubt already, they will experience those things in the future, as they follow Jesus and fall away, and return again. And I was crying because I want to be there for them, and I know that I can't be. All I can do is give them a book of prayers, and promise to pray for them, and really pray for them.
Each of their journeys will be so individual, and yet will be trod in the company of other saints. And I will miss our weekly study and fellowship sessions, probably more than they will.
"I give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers..."
Saturday, May 19, 2007
But his death has got me thinking about one thing: his ability to go public and to act on behalf of something he felt passionately about. How was it that he became, in some people's minds, the definition of what is means to be a Christian? He stuck his neck out and spoke up about something. Now we may argue (and some have) that it wasn't so risky, because he gave voice to opinions that were popular in his own community. But it doesn't explain how he could become so identified with the Christian community. Except for one thing: there were not other voices willing to stick their necks out with alternative visions, alternative definitions of theword "Christian." Or perhaps they were not loud enough. Or perhaps not interesting enough for the media.
For myself, I'm thinking about what it means to stick my neck out about things I'm passionate about, risk getting in the paper, and letting people disagree with me.
A couple of years ago, I went with a few people from my congregation and other churches to our local City Hall, to advocate for a group of people that aren't very popular in my community. I'm not by nature a very courageous person. More than I should, even for a preacher, I keep my opinions to myself. After the meeting, a reporter for the local suburban paper interviewed me, and then quoted me in the paper. I remember a feeling of dread. What would happen when my name got in the paper?
A week later, a young man came up to me after one of our church services. He said to me, "That sounds like a good cause you are involved in. I want to know more about the work you are doing."
When you stick your neck out, it's true that your enemies might come out to hurt you. But friends might come out too. Maybe Jerry Falwell knew that. It's one thing that all of us who are passionate for truth, for compassion, and for justice need to learn as well.
Copyright 2007 Spencer K. Roth. All rights reserved. No part of this picture can be reproduced or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, downloading, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from Spencer K. Roth.
When I think about "images of God", I think about people -- not just John's son, but all kinds of people, each with all her brilliance, with all of the ideas and opinions and gifts each brings to the world. I think of each of us -- bright little pieces of God, fallen to earth, each with some sharp edges, some with cracks, not perfect at all, but together somehow making a pattern that makes sense. This is not to say I don't see the opposite as well: that's a subject for another time. Right now I'm thinking of the image of God I see in each of us and in all of us, in confirmation students and in Alzheimers patients, in mothers and fathers, in artists and business people, in immigrants speaking and singing in a mosiac of tongues.
The tricky part of saying this is, of course, that then I have to admit that the image of God is somehow in people I disagree with, or don't understand. The image of God is even in people who don't see the image of God in me. I suppose that's why the image of the cross is an important part of the picture, reconciling us to each other and to God.
There's a song that I have heard the Seventh Day Adventist Congregation at our church singing, called "When He Cometh." I love the glittering imagery about the children of God:
When He cometh, when He cometh
To make us His jewels
All His jewels, precious jewels
His loved and His own.
Like the stars of the morning
His brightness adorning
They shall shine in their beauty
Bright gems for His crown.
Friday, May 18, 2007
RGBP, Inc. now has a planning committee, and we are in the early stages of planning the RevGalBlogPal Big Event. What, When, Where and Who are all on the table at the moment. In that spirit, I bring you the Big Event Friday Five.
1. What would the meeting be like? (Continuing Ed? Retreat? Outside Speakers? Interest Groups? Workshops? Hot Stone Massages? Pedicures? Glorified Slumber Party?)
I'm kind of a nerd for continuing ed, but I also like the idea of having massages and pedicures as well? Do I have to choose? Can we have a kind of continuing ed/ and retreat getaway?
2. When in 2008 might you be able to attend? January? Shortly after Easter? Summer? Fall? Some other time?
Not January -- at least in 2008 (Lent is early next year) Actually, Fall sounds really good.
3. Where would your dream meeting location be? (Urban Hotel? Rural Retreat Center? New England Camp? Southwestern Fantasy Hotel? Far away from civilization? Nearby Outlets or Really Great Thrift Stores?)
a) the Benedictines have great retreat centers and are very hospitable (they often have wine, cheese and other "goodies" available).
b) anywhere near good antique shopping would also be fun
c) I've always wanted to travel in the South, and have never been
d) if you like the Southwest, look at some spots in New Mexico (it really is the Land of Enchantment)
4. Who would make a great keynote speaker? (That's if #1 leads us in that direction.)
Anne Lamott, Barbara Brown Taylor ... but we've probably all heard them...Marcus Borg, if you had John Dominic Crossan my husband would go (but maybe this should be all "gals?"
5. Did I leave out something you want to suggest?
Are you thinking about music, and therefore musicians? Is there a kind of music we should have or musicians we should invite? Will this event include some kind of worship?
Riverboat cruise would be fun...
As a newbie, I don't feel totally qualified to play with y'all, but I hope I can come to an event like this.
Dream big for the Big Event!!!
Thursday, May 17, 2007
It also meant that when I said, "Scout, Come!" in my brightest, most dog-appealing voice, she just laid down and looked at me. And licked the rabbit.
At least she looked at me.
Every once in awhile she would pick up the rabbit and take it to another part of the yard. A couple of times she let me come very near (that's very good for a dog who was formerly extremely possessive) and would sit for me while I gave her a treat. But I could tell from her posture that she regarded the rabbit as hers. She wasn't going to do the the friendly Golden Retriever "here's what I caught for you" kind of thing. She was, if provoked going to defend this rabbit with whatever kind of scare tactics she could think of. It could be an interesting morning.
But one thing is -- she didn't seem interested in eating the rabbit. She just carried it around in her mouth and licked it and chewed it a little (maybe wondering if it would squeak, like one of her toys?)
Now we are not veteran dog owners. I'm a cat owner from way back. I had a fat blended-Siamese cat for about 18 years. My husband had cats too, but now he's allergic. What possessed us to get a dog is a subject for another post. But what I'm saying is: I was not an expert, going in, on things like Dominance, Possessiveness, "Alpha", training (other than potty training), body language. We had a little dog when I was a teenager, but he never caught a rabbit. So I'm still not sure I have the right instincts about what to do in certain situations.
We did finally find a way to remove Scout from the rabbit. Now maybe that was a mean thing to do. Maybe we should have just left her there all morning, hunched over. Or maybe we should be meaner than we are. Maybe if we were really good dog trainers, we would have a dog that would catch a rabbit, and then run over to us, and drop it at our feet, smiling.
But we don't. We have Scout, the wonder dog. She's not perfect, but then, I'm not perfect either. Maybe that's why we're Right For Each Other.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Sunday was Mother's Day. Which is to say: my mother was coming over to my house. My husband kept asking, when was I going to lay down for my nap? You know, the one I always take on Sunday afternoon. But wherever I looked, I saw something I didn't want my mother to see. Dust. Dog hair. Marks on the floor. And when I touched the can opener, it was STICKY. I chopped fruit and vegetables, scrubbed and sprayed surfaces, and got down on the floor to wipe up dirt and dust. The funny thing was, when I got down on the floor, I found that I couldn't get up.
That had never happened to me before.
Also, I wasn't taking it easy on the weekend, was I?
I am not saying that my mother is judgmental. However, she has always been a good housekeeper, and the most organized person I know. My indelibly etched memories from early childhood are the ways the days of the week were organized by housework chore: you know, washing on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, etc. Floors were waxed, I believe, on Saturday. Now I don't do that. I basically will be sitting around and all of a sudden I will notice: hey, that shelf is dusty. So I'll dust it. Or, the other scenario: People are coming over.
So now I have had a slight knee relapse, and I am promising myself that I am going to try to take it easy for two days. I am not going to go up and down the basement steps, and I am absolutely not going to try to get down on the floor. I promise. Unless my mother says she's coming over again.
Last Wednesday, she did not come to confirmation class. She had a band concert. But we were still committed to the cookie-baking idea, so they all piled into my Toyota and sped over to my house, where we did the fastest and most cursory confirmation lesson in the 2,000 year history of confirmation. (Sample question: Why is it called the Lord's supper? Sample Answer: Because it is a supper, and because it is the Lord's.) I had them working on some things together while I pulled out bowls and measuring cups and flour and sugar. Oh, and a recipe. What recipe would I use??? Luckily, there was a recipe on the back of the Heath bits package, and it was awesome. This is it:
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup Reese's Creamy Peanut Butter (I used whatever peanut butter we had)
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/3 cups (8 oz. pkg) Heath Milk Chocolate Toffee Bits, divided
Heat oven to 375F. Beat shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. Add egg; beat just until blended. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture. Stir in 1 cup toffee bits; reserve remainder for topping. Drop by heaping teaspoons about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet, top each with reserved toffee bits. Bake 7 - 8 minutes or until set. Do not overbake. Cool 2 minutes. Remove to wire rack. Cool completely. About 3 dozen cookies.
All four girls took turns mixing and measuring and dropping and sprinkling. Nobody yelled at each other that they weren't doing it right, even when one girl spilled milk she was measuring into the batter. We did deviate from the recipe in one way: they all agreed that we should sprinkle the remaining bits right after the cookies came out of the oven.
Everyone took a few cookies home. I still have one bag of toffee bits left. Anyone?
Monday, May 14, 2007
Caveat: At the 10:00 family service, the children were worship leaders. One of my challenges was to figure out how to include them in the sermon, as well. Finally, I came up with the idea to say the phrase "children of God everywhere" a few times throughout the sermon, and to have them stand each time they said it. And now, without further ado...
When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a part of a large family. I had one sister and one brother, but that wasn't enough for me. I wanted there to be more children. The Catholic family down the street -- they had five children, and I thought that was wonderful. Why couldn't we be more like them? Everything there seemed more lively, more interesting. And I read books about large families, like Cheaper by the dozen, about a family with 12 children. I even read about one couple who blended families and had 18 children! Can you imagine? I thought that would be wonderful! But you, as hard as I tried I couldn't convince my parents that we oulght to expand our family.
Just after Jesus' resurrection, there were only a few disciples -- gathering together to worship and to pray and to help each other. And in some ways, they were like a small family. In fact, sometimes they spoke about each other that way, calling each other, "sisters and brothers in Christ." Also, most of the first Christians were Jewish, so therewas a sense of "family" -- they had all worshiped and believed the same things before they became Christians. They probably all ate the same kinds of foods, wore the same kinds of clothes, and spoke the same language as well. But little by little, that began to change. First, the apostle Paul -- who we read about in our first lesson -- began to travel farther away from the rest of Jesus' disciples. Somehow he felt God was calling him to go our and tell more peole, different people, about Jesus' love. And some of them spoke different languages and some of them ate different foods and some of them maybe even wore different kinds of clothes. But Paul had the feeling that there might be children of God everywhere -- if only they had hte opportunity to hear about God's love and become part of god'sw fmaily.
In our lesson from Acts today, the apostle Paul is about to set out on another journey. If you were to read just prior to our lesson, you would find out that two places Paul wanted to go were blocked -- somehow, he says, he got the feeling that the Holy Spirit didn't want him to go there. But then he has a vision in a dream -- there are people in Macedonia who are waiting for him, ready for the message that he is bringing. Now I'm not sure whether Paul would have gotten the idea to go to Macedonia by himself or not. By going there, he's getting just a little farther away from home. He's crossing over into another country, another area of the world. For some people, that can be frightening. When I was about 8, my grandfather decided to take me over the border into Iowa, which was only a few miles from their farm. As soon as we crossed over, I looked at him and said, "let's go back!" I was nervous about crossing that boundary. I felt far from home. These days it isn't so much the boundaries of countries or states that give us trouble. We travel many more places than our grandparents did. The boundaries that are still troublesome are those of race and colr and even class and language: it might be more difficult to visit the hispanic family acrossthe street, for example, than to visit Lutherans over in Europe. Despite those boundaries, though, the Holy Spirit wants Paul -- and us -- to know: There are children of God everywhere -- even in Macedonia.
In Macedonia Paul meets Lydia, a gentile woman who loves God. Now there are several unusual things about Lydia that might make her an unlikely candidate for evangelism. First, she is a gentile: not Jewish. She is not of the same ethnoic background as Paul. Second, she is a woman. it would have been unusual for a Jewish man, likek Paul, to speak with a woman -- just like it was unusual for Jesus to speak with the Samaritan woman who came to the well, in John's gospel. Third, she was both a merchant, and the head of a household. She had a family, but it was not a traditional one by the standards of the time. She may have been a widow with children, but her household also probably included servants. And she dealt in purple cloth, which, by the way, was a luxury item, so Lydia was probably connected. But she was at the place of prayer, and her heart was open to god. So Paul performs the ultimate act of hospitality -- he baptizes her and her whole household, and welcomes them to the family of God.
Writer Anne LaMott tells many stories about her journey to faith in God. And she's not ashamed to talk about herself as the unlikeliest person to become a Christian. She was skeptical about religion, she was freewheeling in her life. She talks about having the feeling at some point that Jesus was pursuing her and turning her back on him and thinking, "I would rather die." She just couldn't imagine herself a believer Yet at the same time she found herself at this little Presbyterian church on Sunday mornings. She wasn't even sure how she got there. And -- as I have mentioned before -- the people at this church were kind to her and welcomed her. She says of them, "Somehow they mistook me for a child of God" --but you see, they knew, llike Paul, that there are children of god everywhere -- and one morning -- they performed the ultimate act of hospitality -- and she was baptized and welcomed into their family, their congregation.
Baptism is many things. It is dying and rising with Christ. It is being born again. It is getting a cleansing bath, and then being clothed in a robe of righteousness. But it is also the ultimate act of hospitality. For whenever we perform a baptism, we are saying, "You may be a stranger, but now you are a member of my family." Sometimes we shy away from the "family of God" imagery. I think that's because sometimes the danger in talking about the church as the "family of God" is imagining it as an exclusive place, where we all look and dress and act similarly, where we ha ve come to expect (and even like) a certain family resemblance." That's why I like the image of baptism as "adoption into a new family, becoming a child of god" -- especially in this era of international adoptions, when children and their parents don't necessary look alike. It helps us to imagine better what God's family really looks like.
I used to babysit for a family with two adopted sons. Among their picture books, which I used to read to them, they had one that explained what it meant to be adopted. I remember especially one statement: "You are really special, because we chose you." and the message must have gotten through, because I remember one of their sons used to go around saying, "I am really special, because you chose me, right?" Adoption is really a radical act of hospitality, saying, "You were not born to me, but you are my child." It is to give the homeless one a home, and the lonely -- a family. So Paul welcomed Lydia into God's family, and Lydia welcomed Paul to her household. They were now related -- both of them adopted children of God.
Once, while Jesus was out of the road with his disciples, his mother and brothers and sisters tried to see him. He said, as if to put them off, "Who are my mother and brothers?" Then he said to his disciples, "Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of God is my brother... and sister... and mother." At the time, it might have seemed a mean thing to say: to turn his own family away. But perhaps Jesus was not so much narrowing the definition of a family, but expanding it -- perhaps he was practicing radical hospitality. He wasn't so much turning them away as he was adding others, embracing others.
Today is Mother's Day. It's a happy and busy day for some: a lonely day for others. But here today let us remember that before god none of us is childless, and no one is an orphan. For thereare children of God everywhere (Children, please remain standing.) There are children of God in nursing homes and elementary schools, in Tanzania and down the block: and speaking Spanish, English, Somali and Russian. We are all mothers and father, and sisters and brothers, members of a large and diverse (and sometimes noisy) family. The homeless have been given a home -- both here on earth and later in heaven. The lonely have received a family. The hungry have someone to share a meal with them. God in Christ has come to you, has stretched out his arms to welcome you, has given you brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, as many as the stars. And it is our call, our task, our privilege -- to go out with open arms and hearts -- and to expand God's family. Look around you and see --- there are children of God everywhere.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Here was my menu for the evening:
1.Simple fruit salad (watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, kiwi on top)
2.Pear and Arugula Salad
3.Bought a Cheese Tortellini Salad and added some Pepperoni
4.Chicken and Wild Rice Salad (the moms like salads)
The raspberry muffins and the chicken and wild rice salad were the biggest hits. I asked my brother to bring pies (french silk and blueberry) and J made flavored coffee (some chocolate truffle thing). I asked my neice to help chop the pepperonis and add them.
The dog: ran out the front door and down the block when my parents came. And I mean RAN. She's part husky, and she can really get quite a stride going, but she never goes very far (we live on a dead end). John caught her and brought her back, but when she saw my brother she (all sixty pounds of her) jumped straight up in the air. Needless to say, John was very mad at her. I understand how he feels, but I also am more apt to forgive, because I understand that her deficiencies have partly to do with our lack of time and patience in training. She was so good this morning. Came right in when I called her! And she didn't dig holes in the yard!
I felt good because one person asked for a copy of my sermon, probably because I talked about adoption as radical hospitality, "even though you weren't born to me, you are my child."
It occurs to me that mothering is a vocation, and there are two parts to it. First there is the act of giving birth, painful and courageous, and not to be belittled. But then there is the act of nurturing, teaching and loving, whether you are the one who gave birth or not, and whether there is real blood involved or not, this too is painful and courageous: to love and teach and nurture a child, to risk failure and rejection, to carry and to let go.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
I have to admit, some of Andrew Bird's music is a little too hip for me. But he is fascinating, and some of his music was inspired. He sings, plays the violin and whistles. He also creates loops so that he sings and plays over things he has already done. It creates quite an effect. My favorite song (sorry don't know titles of anything) sounded to me a little like a yiddish lament.
We took my husband's son and a friend. In fact, they were happy to hear the opening band, called Dosh. I'm not sure what Dosh means, or if it is, in fact, a name. Most of the people there were twenty-something, and the packed house stood for about three hours straight (there are no seats at First Avenue).
I don't get out to concerts as much as I'd like. The last one I remember was James Taylor -- and that was quite some time ago. I believe we got to sit down for that one. But there are people I'd enjoy hearing live: Nickel Creek, for one; Dixie Chicks also. Some of the people I'd like to hear are, unfortunately, dead. Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, some of the old jazz musicians.
Friday, May 11, 2007
There are two types of people in the world, morning people and night owls. Or Red Sox fans and Yankees fans. Or boxers and briefs. Or people who divide the world into two types of people and those who don't. Let your preferences be known here! And if you're feeling verbose, defend your choices!
1. Mac? (who-hoo) or PC? (boo!)
My very first computer was a Mac. I loved it. Now we all use PC. Still retain an affection for the original.
2. Pizza: chicago style luscious hearty goodness, or New York floppy and flaccid?
Chicago all the way! If it's pizza you must have. (I'm dreaming now of a Margarita and a Chimichanga...)
3. Brownies/fudge containing nuts:
a. Good. I like the variation in texture.
b. An abomination unto the Lord. The nuts take up valuable chocolate space.
Brownies with nuts are good. Without nuts: VERY GOOD. With Heath chips: VERY VERY GOOD!
4. Do you hang your toilet paper so that the "tail" hangs flush with the wall, or over the top of the roll like normal people do?
Over the top, of course. Is there any other way?
5. Toothpaste: do you squeeze the tube wantonly in the middle, or squeeze from the bottom and flatten as you go just like the tube instructs?
Of course from the bottom and flatten, making sure that every single bit of toothpaste is used. Waste not, want not, right?
Bonus: From South Dakota days: Country music, or anything but country music.
How about as well: Preaching from manuscript, or preaching from notes.
Porter or Gershwin. Augustine or Pelagius (sorry). Dogs or cats!!!!! I used to be a cat person, but I converted. Now it's dogs all the way.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
When I was in high school, I used to ride the bus downtown after school for piano lessons at MacPhail School of the Arts. If I was a little early, I would wander through the cosmetics counters at Daytons (which no longer exists; first it was Marshall Fields; now it's Macys). I'd try on colors of eye shadow and lipstick and of course, nail polish, and feel more grown up. This is before the women in white coats made cosmetics into a science.
Anyway, almost as soon as I put the nail polish on, I remembered a few of the reasons I stopped wearing it. Almost immediately I found myself trying to do some task with my hands, and wrecking a nail or two in the process. Who has time to wait for nail polish to dry? I am too busy to wait, most of the time.
I have also caught myself thinking that perhaps pastors shouldn't wear nail polish. We don't exactly take a vow of poverty -- but most of us aren't rich, either. I think of nail polish as an extravagance, albeit a small one. Should I have pedicures, cable TV, or flashy jewelry? (I actually don't wear much jewelry either ... my one indulgence being earrings.) But maybe it's just me. Once, on a camping trip with youth, I even wondered about appropriate clergy swimwear.
The other day I was stopped at an exit ramp and there was the too-familiar sight of someone with a "Homeless -- Please Help" sign. The one thing that was not so familiar was that this was a woman. I didn't roll down my window and give her a couple of bucks. I always feel torn at those times. How could I deny her a couple of bucks and then go and have a manicure? Is that why I don't have manicures?
Finally, I don't usually wear nail polish because I am often disappointed in the results. It never makes my hands look as fantastic as I think it should. The colors never look quite as good on my hands as they do in the bottles. I'm not suddenly beautiful and popular.
Still, who can resist, with titles like "Down to my last Penny", or "Midnight Mauve" or "Fire Engine Red"?
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
The picture is a sort-of action shot, my brother grimacing as if he were just about to make a shot. If you tried to take a picture during the action, you wouldn't see anything. He's pretty fast.
What is foosball, you might ask? Foosball was wildly popular in the 1970s and early 1980s. Since video games came in style, it has plummeted in popularity, but there was a short while that it was very hot to be a foosball player. Now, you don't hear much about it anymore. It's not quite extinct, but it's definitely waning in popularity.
There are times I've wondered about my brother's strange hobby. Tournaments are often held in smoke-filled bars, which lends a seedy quality to the whole endeavor. I often wonder why he doesn't have a more wholesome talent, like playing the electric bass or hitting home runs. But, he probably wonders why his sister became a PASTOR, of all things. Probably I am an embarrassment ... in certain circles, Christians are even less popular than foosball.
I have to admit, as well, that there are times I wouldn't mind getting into the newspaper. In fact, there was a brief period of time, about two years ago when, 1) I got my name (and a picture of the back of my head) in the paper associated with our congregation's annual footwashing service on Maunday Thursday, 2) I got a letter in the local suburban newspaper advocating for immigrants and arguing that we are more alike than we might suppose; 3) I had a one-minute spot on the evening news ... regarding how Protestants felt on the passing of John Paul II. At the time, I thought, my ship has come in! But there hasn't been a nibble since then.
The genesis of this blog revolved around an article I sent to our local newspaper. I thought it was very good (and well written too). But they didn't seem to think so. So it became my first blog entry.
We'll probably frame the newspaper article about my brother. After all, he is the world champion! They don't have world champion pastors (do they?) and I suppose that's a good thing. But I sure would have liked to see an article in the newspaper with my byline.
Saturday, May 5, 2007
I started journaling in high school, with spiral notebooks. They were, then, part diary and part interior dialogue, a place to write bad poetry and test story ideas. I had a diary once in grade school, but was very bad at it. I never could think of anything interesting to write. But journals were another story. I even named the high school ones, and pasted pictures on the front of them sometimes. (Especially liked my second journal, entitled "The Return of the Journal" and the fifth, "Journal No. 5" (as in chanel). Okay, so maybe you had to be there.
In the years since, my journaling discipline has waxed and waned. I was especially prolific in the months preceding my stay in Japan: trying to figure out what God wanted me to do (this was many years prior to "The Purpose Driven Life"). Sadly, I inexplicably stopped writing about halfway through my stay there. I'd love to be able to go back now and retrieve some experiences and memories. I think I got so busy doing things I didn't think I had time to write.
Lately, I have found that it has been difficult to maintain a consistent journaling discipline. Could it really be that I have run out of things to say? I would sit down with a pen and not be able to think of a thing that was interesting to say. I would write sentences that I was sure were among the most boring in the English language. Or I would simply do "pre-sermon" pondering -- all right, but sermons shouldn't be the sum total of my life, or all that I write about.
So blogging has (so far) been a fascinating experience for me. I've written more in the last two weeks than I have in months. I think some of it might even be interesting. And it's not the same old same old.
But I miss the pen and ink. I hope I don't stop writing things down, at least occasionally. I like the idea of filling a book, with faces and conversations, with thoughts and opinions.
Friday, May 4, 2007
1. Would you rather be the host or guest? Always it's better to be the guest...way more fun and less cleaning, before and after.
2. When host, do you clean up right away? Will you accept help? I will clean everything up right away IF I get help. Yes, I will always accept help. Right now, I don't own a dishwasher, so I'm not proud.
3. If you had the wherewithal to throw a great party, what would the theme be? I would love to have a large area and throw a dog party, invite friendly dogs and their people, have people appetizers and dog ones too.
4. What was the worst party? I don't remember (I must have repressed) but it was probably one that I threw.
5. What was the best party? That's hard. There have actually been a lot of fun parties in my life...I loved surprising my parents one year for an anniversary party. I invited all of their friends for cake and coffee... wasn't expensive, and they really were surprised! My first congregations out in rural South Dakota actually threw a surprised party for my 40th birthday. I was just getting back from taking the confirmation class to a mortuary (yes, you heard it right) and thinking, 'what a way to spend your birthday'. The church parking lot was full of cars. In small churches, any excuse is good to celebrate. It was fun.
Thursday, May 3, 2007
A tylenol with codeine is sitting on my desk. Should I take it? Or not? Will it help? I took a really strong pain killer and muscle relaxant last night, and slept better, but it still hurt whenever I moved.
So today is "office day". I can't deal with going to visit people and limping up to their rooms, bent over. I should have a cane. I'm going to organize and make phone calls and think a lot. Someone once said that being a pastor is one of the few jobs where you get paid to read and to think. So I'll read and think... and call some people... oh, and maybe clean my office... organize the piles, throw out whatever has an ancient date on it.
I'm thinking "I'm not used to this." I've never been that athletic, but I've always been pretty healthy. So, I'm not used to not being able to do the dishes, or walk the dog, or lift anything. Maybe, as well, I haven't been very patient with people who can't just get up and do whatever they want, whenever they want to. Maybe this is what it's like for the older people who tell me, "I just don't feel good." They often aren't specific about their ailments -- they just say, "I don't feel good."
Yesterday before I went to the doctor, I got lots of good advice from the older people who go to our Matins service every Wednesday. One of them told me, "The doctor will say, 'it's the effects of aging.'"
Wednesday, May 2, 2007
This morning I didn't want to take her for her walk, due to severe lower back/leg pain. So I tried just letting her out in the back yard. At one point she found a ball and we played a few rounds of "fetch." Then I went in to sit down for just a minute or two. When I came back, she was digging a hole in one corner of the backyard. Her paws were BLACK. I was so mad I started to yell "Leave it" and ran toward her (which hurt). She thought that was a pretty fun game.
The other fun game is digging the hole, putting the ball in the hole, and then taking the ball back out of the hole. She'd do that forever. I personally don't get the appeal.
I sense that this dog has a lot more potential than our limited training time allows. But maybe that is just "Mom's pride"? No matter how frustratingly "doglike" she is, I still love her. All I have to do is look her in the eyes. She's always smiling, like she's saying, "Wasn't that fun?" She has no ulterior motives. She's not trying to make us mad, or late for work. She's just trying to have fun. A short trip to "Homestead Pickin' Parlor" is just as much fun as a trip to Duluth, or a trip to the dog park. And of course, for her, every day is a "day off."