Thursday, July 31, 2008

Anniversary in Paris

Actually, today is our anniversary (#9), but my husband tells me to tell everyone, "We went to Paris for our anniversary."So, that is what I am doing.

However, tonight we did go out to a nice restaurant, Lord Fletcher's on the ritzy shores of Lake Minnetonka. We sat by a window and watched the motorboats go by.
I had walleye. (I had to say that, because I have heard that it is a fish unknown outside of Minnesota. However, it is delicious!)
Have a romantic evening -- on me!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

7 Facts Meme

Katharine over at Meaning and Authenticity tagged me for a meme, and I've been thinking on it for several days.

Here are the rules:

a. List these rules on your blog.

b. Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog.

1. Until last week, I had never traveled to Europe in my life. I lived in Japan for three years, but I have never been anywhere in Europe. I haved wanted to travel to Sweden since I was a little girl, and I saw home movies of my older cousin's trip to Sweden with my grandma. They travelled by boat.

2. I collect old children's religious books. I like to find prayer books, Bible stories, and hymnbooks, especially those with lovely or unusual illustrations. Here's one example:

3. We only took two extended vacations when I was growing up: the first was to Seattle, when I was in the 5th grade, and the second was to Disneyland, when I was 16. For the trip to Disneyland, I sewed two pairs of shorts, one midriff top and two halter tops, so that I would have some new clothes for the trip.

4. "Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service" is one of my favorite hymns.

5. My sister is a graphic designer in Phoenix Arizona. She designed my ordination announcements AND my wedding service bulletin cover.

6. My brother has won international foosball tournaments.

7. The summer after my first year of seminary, I ran a summer program for children in two inner-city churches. It was very stressful, and I barely survived. I had an integrated staff of high school age youth, and it was a crash course in racism poverty, and adolescent psychology.

c. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
I can't think of anyone to tag right now, but if I do, I'll revise the post and say, "You're it!"

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Some of you have been wondering about Scout....

She did not go to Paris. She got to go to dogsitter R's house, and play all day every day with a yellow lab named Max. She seemed to have a good time, probably better than if she had gone to Paris. We missed her though, especially when we saw all the dogs in Paris! Scout was very tired when we picked her up Wednesday morning. And R said she didn't know what Max would do without her.

For some reason, she has had better manners on returning home. She comes right in when we call her now. She sits by the door and waits, and does not run away when I open the door, the way she used to. I think she ought to go to the dogsitter's more often.

She apologizes for not putting up a post herself yet, but it's not her fault. It's her lazy Mom's fault.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How to Spend the Rest of Vacation

We took naps.
We did Acroustics.
We read.
We took a day trip to a lovely historic town nearby.
We took Scout to a lake, and to a nearby park that neither of us had been to for years.
We got ice cream bars from a good humor man at the park.
We went out to breakfast (I had Swedish pancakes with lingonberries).
We discovered a new cafe and the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.

And every evening, we have made popcorn and watched movies that feature Paris. So far we have seen A Little Romance, Everyone Says I Love You (you have to wait a long time for Paris, though!), Charade, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939 version), and (tonight), Paris, Je T'aime.

The last segment of Je T'aime will stay with me a long time. The vignette seems to be making fun of the American Tourist in Paris, but at the end... well, I won't say more than that.

And in so many ways, our time in Paris was like a disconnected series of small vignettes. It's up to us to make the connection, to see the stories as part of something greater, older, more significant. Like hearing the choir at Notre Dame; seeing the children carrying long rolls of bread under their arms; walking back and forth along the river and across the bridges, listening to the voices of many centuries and many countries.

Whereever we travel or don't travel, it's the same task: in all humility, finding ourselves in the world, in the stories of the world, in God's stories of grace and freedom and heartbreak and forgiveness. We're so small, but the story is grand -- grander than we ever know, wider than the whole world.

....And He's Lutheran Too

I enjoyed Rick Steves' thoughts on "Faithful Travel," an interview he did for our church. Right now, some of my own thoughts on Travel and Spirituality are percolating, and I hope to share them with you soon.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Five: What you Absolutely, Positively Can't Leave Home Without

I wasn't going to do the Friday Five this week, honest. We just got back from Paris (not a road trip, I know), are home but lurking about anonymously in the area, but I must say that Singing Owl over at Revgals really got me with this one:

We will be at a chaplain's convention when you all are answering the Friday Five Questions. I'll look forward to reading your answers next week when I get home. At the moment we are trying to get the car loaded so we can hit the road, so this will be a simple F.F. This running around madly in order to leave has me wondering: what are the five things you simply must have when you are away from home? And why? Any history or goofy things, or stories?

1. book(s). For the short trip to Paris, the challenge was to pack light (only carry-ons), so I had to pare down my obsessive need to bring many different books just in case. I brought a book to read on the plane (Les Miserables: only 1100 pages to go!), a small devotional, and our DK Paris Guidebook. We discovered that people all over the world have the DK Paris Guidebook in many different languages.

2. Comfortable shoes. The shoes I brought to Paris, ufortunately, weren't comfortable enough. I thought they were (Danskos and sturdy sandals), but I still had terribly sore feet by the end of our second day there. I am considering investing in some SAS Tennis Shoes. (now I feel old.

3. New Digital Camera! I have often gone places and FORGOTTEN my camera. And on the trip to New York, I forgot to put FILM in the camera. But we now have a new digital camera (first one) and had a lot of fun taking pictures, getting used to how they come out and experimenting.

4. I always take pain reliever, (like tylenol or advil) and on this trip I, for the first time, put in one imitrex, in case I would get a migraine. Thankfully, I didn't need to use it.

5. Curling Iron. I can get by without almost anything else, beauty-wise, (or else buy something in the drug store) but I really need my curling iron! Bad news: we didn't take a European adapter to Paris. Good news: the hotel had one.

Also: on this trip, we needed not cash or travelers checks, but a special debit card you can load up and put into machines all over Paris to change your dollars into Euro. It worked great! But I must say: right now our dollars do not buy many Euros. We also needed passports (couldn't forget those).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Words Fail Me...

We have actually been back from Paris since late Tuesday night. It was a short trip, I know: too short, you'll say, but as I keep telling myself, better than not going at all.

It was wonderful. It's hard to know where to begin. I could write a travelogue, detailing our minute-to-minute activities, but I'm not sure anyone would find that very interesting. I don't want to bore anyone, because our trip was anything but boring. I've had a hard time writing anything; I don't seem to be able to do justice to the experience.

However, to begin, just a few tidbits:

Saturday: we got in early morning; rode the RER with an American woman and her three children. She taught me how to say "Tuileries", which was our Metro stop, and the only word of French I knew how to pronounce. We dropped our luggage at our small, old, charming hotel, where the concierge greeted my husband personally ("How did you know?" "Only American name"), and had every intention of walking up to Notre Dame, but stopped at the Louvre, just to check, and ended up going in. We spent most of the morning in the "Denon" section, where we saw the Mona Lisa and scads of other paintings. Took a long nap in the afternoon (having not slept at all on the plane), and got up to walk down to the Champs-Elysees. Had wine, cheese and bread at a sidewalk cafe, wondering about what a lovely evening it was.

Sunday: Woke up with a start at 9:00 a.m. Almost didn't make it to the hotel breakfast. We walked up to Notre Dame in time for the late Mass. We were actually not there for the Mass, but as we walked around with all the other tourists, we noticed a choir filing in, and listened for their anthem. The liturgist chanted the verses in French, but we kept hearing the congregational refrain, and recognized the words, "Jubilate Deo." Our eyes grew wet. Then the priest began his homily, and he opened with a few words in english, words of welcome to tourists, and a hope that by attending the mass we would be transformed from tourists into pilgrims. Yes. We later wandered along the Seine, back and forth over bridges, listening to music, watching artists, peeking at used books on the stalls on the street. We took a boat ride and wandered around the Latin Quarter, where we had supper.

Monday: We went to the Eiffel Tower, and back to the Louvre for a little while. We walked up and down Rue de Rivoli. We tried to go up near the Moulin Rouge area, but my feet were hurting so much I couldn't stand the walk. Plus Husband discovered that he left his Paris guidebook back at a bookshop on the Rue de Rivoli, a famous English bookstore, with better selection than some of ours.

Regrets: We meant to return to the Crypt at Notre Dame; what happened? And while in the Latin Quarter, why did we not go to the Pantheon?

More reflection later...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Friday Five: What's in a name?

I can't believe I'm doing the Friday five, as I am almost set to go on vacation, but RevHRod over at Revgals got me thinking about names and blogging. Here are her five questions:

1. So how did you come up with your blogging name? And/or the name of your blog?
I use my own name on my blog, so no creative taxing of my brain was needed. My blog name, faith in community, comes partly from organizing work, where we have been emphasizing community over isolation, and from my conviction that the church is all about "faith in community."

2. Are there any code names or secret identities in your blog? Any stories there?
I can't think of any code names, except the discount store with the Big Red Circles, which isn't so secret, really.

3. What are some blog titles that you just love? For their cleverness, drama, or sheer, crazy fun? I really like "Freshly Ground, Freshly Brewed", "Dog and God", "Singing Owl", among others.

4. What three blogs are you devoted to? Other than the RevGalBlogPals of course!
FranIAm, Still Fruity and Wounded Bird. Actually, there are more than three. These are just the three I could remember really late at night (staying up so I can sleep on the plane). Please add Ruth's Visions and Revisions (I know that's four) and of course innumerable Revgal blogs, too.

5. Who introduced you to the world of blogging and why?
My #1 stepson had a blog, which intrigued me. After I bugged him for awhile, he gave me blogger's website, and the rest is history. I must admit, that I was also influenced by the article some time ago in the Christian Century.

Bonus question: Have you ever met any of your blogging friends? Where are some of the places you've met these fun folks?
I have met Pastor Eric , HotCupLutheran and her husband, Kate, Auntie Knickers and Jan, all here in the City of Lakes. I met Fran when my husband and I traveled to New York City last fall.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just A New Purse

"Beware of enterprises which require new clothes." --Henry David Thoreau

In preparing for our short but exciting trip to Paris, I decided I needed a new purse. I usually carry a very small purse (on the advice of my doctor). But I wanted something of a lightweight fabric and slightly bigger, so I could fit a book and my new camera in it, and take them on the plane.

I don't go to department stores much any more. I go to the bookstore slightly more than I should (especially when I have gift cards), and I look in the window of one favorite dress shop on occasion. But I don't go to department stores much any more. I had a store credit though, so I thought it was the most economical idea.

I had a pretty good idea about what kind of purse I was looking for and found an acceptable one quickly. It was a new model LeSportsSac. everyday bag. What do you think?

What surprised me was how tempting it was to keep looking around. There were so many bags and purses in beautiful colors; there were many different brands of "green sacks"; there was the cosmetics counter, with women getting eye liner and blush applied; there was the jewelry counter (I've always had a weakness for earrings.) There was something seductive about the lights and the sparkles and the colors of the displays. I didn't need any of it, really; but I found myself kind of wanting this handbag or that pair of earrings.

What temptations a trip to Paris can bring on!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Overheard at a funeral lunch....

(yes, I had a funeral today)

Woman from family: We have pie. And we cut it crooked, so that it doesn't have any calories!
1st Woman at my table: What you eat at church NEVER has any calories.
2nd Woman at my table: I have to start going to church again!

What do you think? New evangelism method?

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Bastille Day Announcement: Yes, it's True

We're going to Paris. This weekend. It was an idea from Husband's #1 Son, who works in Travel.

I would say more about it, but right now I am very tired, a little numb, and I'm not sure I totally believe it.

Vancouver: sadly, will have to wait until next year.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sunday Sermon

9 Pentecost Year A
Matthew 13:1-9; (18-23)
"That crazy gardener"

I have a confession to make. I am not much of a gardener. If you were to drive by our house, you would notice this immediately, because you would not see – -as some houses have – lots of varieties and colors of flowers all around in our front yard. I love to admire other people’s gardens, and in theory I would love to have a more beautiful garden of my own, but in practice I seem to find it hard to make the time for all of the different kinds of work that a garden entails:planting and fertilizing and pulling weeds and watering the young plants. One summer I did try to plant a few flowers on the south side of the house, but I didn’t keep an eye on them as I should have, and it got hot and well: they didn’t do very well. Probably I also didn’t choose the right plant for that particular place in the yard. However, while those flowers did not survive, there are other plants in our yard that are doing quite well – and no, I’m not talking about weeds. I’m talking about saplings, young trees. Early in the spring, we see the helicopter seeds, and it seemed this year even more of them than usual – and all of a sudden, there are saplings all over our yard, saplings on the side of the house where the flowers didn’t grow, and saplings in the midst of our peony bushes. In fact, the saplings kind of snuck up on us there, and got pretty big before I saw them. So I have been spending some hard labor this summer digging out pretty hefty saplings from among our peonies, as well as other places in the yard. It’s made me consider the whole issue of roots, among other things, because these saplings have strong and deep roots – they want to stay – as much as I don’t want them to.

However, our gospel reading today, appropriate enough for the middle of summer, is not about roots, is it? It’s about seeds, really. It’s about seeds and it’s about soil, different kinds of soil. The image in the gospel is the image of a sower sowing seeds in all kinds of soil – but sowing might be a kind word to use, really, for the sower really throws the seed around in a manner unlike any gardener, or any farmer that I have ever known. When I was more of a gardener, back in the days of my rural ministry, I sowed my carrots and my peas and my beans in neat rows, or at least as neat a row as I could possibly muster. And I sowed my cucumbers in hills, just like the directions on the package. And then I carefully marked the spots where they were planted with little sticks so that I could remember to water and to check for growth and to do all the sorts of things careful gardeners do. So when I hear the gospel story and see the image of the gardener in my mind, the first thing that comes to my mind are those saplings, planted in Good Soil, all right, but right where I don’t want them, right in the middle of my peonies, right in the middle of the lawn. That crazy gardener tosses the seeds around and doesn’t seem to care where they fall down, and that’s crazy in more ways than one.

It’s crazy, first of all, because the sower does not only sow in the"right" places. There are many types of soil, and the wise among us, might designate a specific place for our gardens. But the sower throws the seed everywhere, not just in the garden. The sower throws the seed – on the path, on the rocky ground, and among thorns, as well as in good soil. This attention to the types of soil might lead us to suspect that the point of the parable is the type of soil – and of course the interpretation of the parable also might lead us in this direction as well. But I think that the main point is to notice all of the places where the sower throws the seeds, not just in the "right" places, and not just in the "official garden" with the fence around it, but all along the countryside.

This reminds me of an image from a children’s book I read some time ago, Miss Rumphius. Miss Rumphius was told by her uncle, when she was a little girl, that she should "do something to make the world more beautiful." For a long time, she wasn’t sure what that might be. But as an older lady, when she spent one winter sick in bed, she got an idea: that she would buy seeds of lupine flowers, and walk around the countryside near her home throwing them wherever she happened to walk. The people would see her walking around and they started to call her "that crazy old lady." That is what the sower in this parable is like: like the crazy old lady, throwing seeds around all over creation.

Another reason the gardener seems crazy: what he is doing seems to be a waste of good seeds. Sure, there seem to be an abundance of helicopter seeds, more than we actually want or need, but one thing I learned from farmers is that good seed is expensive – you don’t just throw it away. Not only that: The crazy gardener doesn’t plant neatly in rows, and doesn’t mark the spots with little sticks, and even plants in the hard places and in the dangerous places and where there is no chance that the seeds will sprout and grow. That’s another reason that the gardener is crazy. Because that’s not the way we’d do it, isn’t it? We’d pick the best spot to have a garden, and only plant our seeds there. And we know the best spots, don’t we? Last summer, for the first time in a long time, I decided to plant a little garden, just a few herbs, really, in one corner of my back yard. And since I am not such a good gardener, I asked a friend, someone who IS good, who ISN’T crazy, to come and help me. She helped me to plot out the spot, and to by the right fertilizer, and then she got me going with a good shovel to turn the earth. And all of a sudden she got excited and said, "You have good dirt!" The point is, a good gardener KNOWS where the good dirt is, and where it isn’t, where you should plant, and where you should just forget it. But this crazy gardener plants in spots where seeds are not likely to take root. For some odd reason....

I remember a few years ago I went to the state legislature with a number of other pastors. One of the reasons we were there was because we were concerned about education. We talked to and visited with legislators from all over the state. And I remember in particular talking to one man from rural Minnesota somewhere. When we talked about education cuts in the inner city, he said to me, "Well, these are difficult choices, and maybe some of those kids aren’t worth it." Maybe some of those kids aren’t worth it. That's what he thought. That’s the problem, isn’t it?When we look around, we see scarce resources and we see different types of soil, and we want to be careful, and to put our resources in just the right places, and give them to just the right people. But God has a different idea of where to plant – and – most important of all, only God knows where the good soil really is. Only God knows which seeds are going to take root and sprout and grow strong and bear good fruit.

A colleague of mine was talking to one of her parish members one day, someone who rarely got a chance to come to church any more, because her husband was ill and she had to take care of him around the clock. The woman had called upon a neighbor to help her one Sunday morning so that she could go to worship. In the course of the conversation, she asked her neighbor whether he attended their community church much any more. The neighbor looked at her with disdain, and said, "They’ll let anyone in that church." To which she replied, "Yes, even you are welcome!"

"Even you are welcome," God says to us this day, as God calls to us to hear God’s words of love and forgiveness, as God calls to us to open our hands and come and eat. "Even you are welcome," God says to us whose hearts are hard, whose lives are full of temptations and distractions, who hear and sometimes turn away. "Even you are welcome," God says to us – pouring out the seeds of his love on us and on – not just us – but the whole world. It’s crazy, isn’t it? Because this crazy gardener, this crazy God, loves the world, the whole world, and not just the good places, but also the hard places: maybe even especially the hard places. This crazy gardener, this crazy God, loves the world, the whole world, and for some strange reason, wants the seeds of his love to sprout in the whole world, and not just in some special garden with a wall built around it. God wants the seeds of his love to sprout and grow – even among the peonies.

"Even you are welcome," God says to us this day and then sends us out to spread this crazy love in the good places and in the hard places, even in the places we think it will never grow. Because we don’t know. Only God knows – and shares with us – the breadth and the length and the height and the depth – of the love of God in Christ Jesus, poured out on us, poured out on the world. AMEN

In the interests of full disclosure, the story which ends "even you are welcome" is from here. I was directed to this post by a blog friend.

So I didn't preach without a manuscript today, as I had planned. I did do one section of the sermon away from the pulpit, but I'm still working on a method to get me away from my paper more. Next time...

After church we had some lively discussions about saplings, gardening (one person suggested I plant prairie flowers), farming methods in different eras, and at least one person talked to me about at-risk children.

I think they are appreciative of my small efforts to get away from the pulpit, if only for a little while -- so far.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Remember when it was eighteen below last winter?

.... It got up to 95 degrees today. I think it was 90 degrees by ten this morning. It feels kind of like a Finnish sauna right now.

Storms are moving through again. Scout is hiding behind my husband's chair, and panting.

I hear a few bolts of thunder.

If the power goes out, I will check in with you later.

Friday Five: Summer Camp!

Mother Laura over at Revgalblogpals brings us this Friday Five:

We're settling into our new new apartment, and after a lifetime at Montessori Katie is having a fantastic summer at YMCA day camp. Meanwhile, Nicholas is packing up for a week at Camp Julian, shared by the Episcopal dioceses of Los Angeles and San Diego. His lists of supplies and rules--except for the ropes course available to the teenagers and the ban on IPODs and cell phones--bring back memories of my own happy times weeks at Y camp Ta Ta Pochon, funded by selling countless cases of butter toffee peanuts.

So, in celebration of summer, please share your own memories and preferences about camp.

1. Did you go to sleep away camp, or day camp, as a child? Wish you could? Or sometimes wish you hadn't?
I went to Girl Scout Camp (Day camp) one week, which was fun, and to Church camp every year starting when I was about in the 5th grade! I was pretty nervous the first time, but I had a good time and decided I wanted to go every year. The first year I went, our week was over the 4th of July, so there were a very small group of campers. The whole camp went canoeing! After that, I thought we would do go canoeing every year, but alas, it was not to be.

2. How about camping out? Dream vacation, nightmare, or somewhere in between?
I'm not a big "tent camper." We did tent camping for a couple of weekends every year as a family, and it's fun if you are a kid, but a lot of work if you are an adult. A cabin vacation is about as rough as I like it.

3. Have you ever worked as a camp counselor, or been to a camp for your denomination for either work or pleasure?
In High School, I worked for a week at my church camp as an Assistant Counselor. We didn't get paid, but we got to go to camp for free.

4. Most dramatic memory of camp, or camping out?
Hmmm. One exciting weekend of tent camping, there were severe weather warnings at the lake where we were camping with several other families. I remember huddling in another family's camper during wind and hail. Luckily, no tornadoes.

Also, I have a couple of wonderful memories of sleeping under the stars at church camp.

5. What is your favorite camp song or songs?
We had a number of favorite songs "of the time," like "He's Everything to Me," and "Pass it On." But we also liked to sing a song called "Today". The only version I can find on you tube is on a John Denver tribute:

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Technology and Nature

I had a funeral this morning, and I wanted everything to be just right -- just right for the family of a lovely woman from my parish. She was the kind of person who did everything just right -- from beautiful gardens to generous holiday dinners to baking with her granddaughters. We had the communion table set just right and the flowers arranged just right and the hymns picked. I had taken time to set up extra mikes for a soloist/guitarist, and that worked out just right, too. The sister-in-law, who gave a eulogy said just the right words.

My wireless mike: stopped working just at the beginning of the service. I heard lots of crackling and the sound went in and out for awhile. I decided to give the sermon at the lecturn. I thought at first I had simply run out of battery, but the funeral director came in with a replacement at the Sermon Hymn, and that didn't work. Then, before communion, my communion assistant came in with several possible replacements, none of which worked. I presided loudly.

Brilliant, no? Technology is not my strong suit.

After the service, we had a delicious lunch in our fellowship hall. Everything was just right, from the chicken salald to the croissants to the varieties of bars. I went into my office to prepare for the committal service. When I looked up, it was night. Or so it seemed. The sky was totally black. I went back into the narthex, where the wind was howling, the sirens were blowing, and clusters of people were looking out the doors, worried. There were severe thunderstorms, with torrential rains and wind. This was right about the time we were supposed to leave for the cemetery. It was a little scarier than you want it to be for a funeral.

Later on, as the skies calmed, a small group of us made our way to the cemetery. And somehow, despite everything, it still turned out just right.

Sermon, etc.

The experimental "preaching from notes" review? Mixed. Some parts I got away from the pulpit for, and other parts I needed my manuscript for. We'll see about next week. I have a funeral today.

Here are the last two paragraphs of last week's sermon:

....We turn to our first reading, the one from the prophet Zechariah. Zechariah was speaking to people who were in captivity, and who were finally cominbg home -- and rebuilding their temple. They were finally coming home to their own land, but it wasn't really their land still. They were given permission to live there again, and to worship and rebuild, but they still longed for a time when they would be truly free, when a new king would come to them, riding on a donkey, and speaking peace. Zechariah imagines a grand victory parade, as this king marches into Jerusalme, a parade celebrating freedom, but a different kind of freedom -- because it's not just freedom for them -- but freedom for the nations, as well. "He shall command peace to the Nations," Zechariah promises, "and his dominion shall be from sea to sea." this vision give the people the strength to keep going, to do the good work of rebuilding their temples and living as God's people right now. And the prophet Zechariah calls the people prisoners: "Prisoners of hope" he calls them, because they are captive to this vision of a king who will bring peace, who will bring abundant life, who will bring justice and mercy to them -- and not just to them -- but to the whole world.

Dear friends, on this July 4th weekend, as we celebrate the gifts of our national freedom, letu s remember thatin Christ we are truly set free -- but also, that we are "prisoners of hope." For in the mlidst of our freedom we are held captive to a higher vision -- a vision of a kingdom of peace, where abundant life and healing are a vailable to all, where the walls that separate us come tumbling down, where hurts are healed and people are reconciled. We are held captive to a vision of a kingdom of peace, where the dead are raised, where the hungry are fed, where there is no more weeping and no more war. For we are yoked to Jesus, the king of peace who has ridden into our lives bringing words of forgiveness and hope. He has set us free from fear -- but set us free to follow him. It's a great parade -- a parade of the weary and the burdened, the young and the old, the riche and the poor -- all following Jesus on the path to life. AMEN

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


A community leader here in my town wants me to run for the city council. She knows that I am interested in community issues, particularly youth and education, and yearn for our increasingly diverse community to become more intentionally integrated. It's a nonpartisan position. You don't run as a member of a political party. And I think there are two meetings a month, as well. But, when she asked me, I pretty much thought she was INSANE.

1. Where would I find the time?
2. So, it's nonpartisan. But it is still political. How would that work? I'd be in both politics AND religion, both areas that people love to hate.
3. I'm an INFP. (I don't know why, but I think that should figure in somewhere.)
4. And, oh, by the way, how would I feel if I lost?

So I called the mayor today, on a different issue altogether. In fact, I was pretty sure that the deadline for declaring as a candidate was past. In fact, it isn't. She encouraged me to continue to think about it.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

She's So Artistic

In all humility, I don't think I am so artistic, but LJ and Fran seem to think so, and so they have honored me with a prestigious award. But with privileges also comes responsibility, so I need to post and follow these rules as well.

Here are the rules:
1) Pick five blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.
2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4) Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of Arte Y Pico blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award which is here: Arte Y Pico.

Here are the blogs I would like to honor:

1. Barbara, at Views From the Road, has incredibly funny, interactive, thoughtful posts and great blog design. There's always something new I can learn from her!

2. Freshly Ground Lutheran is an artist as well as a pastor. You can see her art on her blog. You can also see pictures of her dog (which is a plus as well). Also, her reflections are honest wrestlings of a serious Christian.

3. Heart of a Pastor just moved over to wordpress, something that impresses me greatly. Also, his blog looks better than ever, and is as thoughtful as ever.

4. Still Fruity. Lindy's posts are thoughtful, her photos of Rowan are the best ever, and her sidebars are about the most fun and informative anywhere!

5. Singing Owl. Serious Pentecostal theology in living beautiful color. Highly recommended.

Now -- pass it on, everybody!

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Music Gene

I have a nephew, C, my brother's son, who I will always picture in my mind as a cute blonde boy who looks exactly like my brother did. So, these days I'm always a little shocked when I see him: he dyed his hair deep black and wears it in spikes, so he looks a lot different. I am sorry to say that I have a hard time getting used to his "new" look, even though it's not so new.

On Sunday, he was at the reunion with my brother, and he started playing the little piano out in the foyer. He was playing his own compositions, jamming on the piano, playing by ear in a kind of a jazz style. Not longer afterward, one of my elderly aunts came in, her daughter pushing her wheelchair. "Who is that?" she called out. "Is that C? I didn't know he was so talented!" She had my cousin push her over while she listened to him play in rapt attention.

We found out that one of my Massachussetts cousin's boys is also musical. He also played a little for us, later on in the afternoon. And my cousin took out his video camera at one point and videotaped my nephew, the one with the spiky black hair, playing and singing an acoustic version of one of his own songs.

In an odd sort of way, this brings me back to my childhood, and one of my uncle's rare visits. At some point we would gather around the piano, and he would entertain us with the many classical pieces that he knew by heart. He always closed the "program" by playing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" in the style of every famous composer we could think of, from Bach to Gershwin. Everyone in the family was in awe of his musical talent; everyone in the family also developed a love and appreciation for music, just because of my musical uncle.

My uncle became a pastor, not a musician, but I don't remember hearing him preach much. I do remember, however, listening to him talk about Bach and Chopin, Brahms and Schubert and Strauss. Even now, I'm told he knows a lot of music by heart.

So yesterday we were gathered around a piano once again, not listening to Bach, but listening to and admiring the talent of a spiky-haired young man, who sang and played the same instrument as my uncle, but in such a different way. The music gene has somehow been passed along, from one generation to another.

Thank God that we have been given the eyes to see it, the ears to recognize it, and the hearts to receive it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


It's been a busy weekend, it seems. The Senior Pastor left on Thursday for vacation, so I am holding down the fort right now. This isn't usually the busiest time of the year, but it seemed busy anyway, with July 4th activities and sermon-writing and learning, a ball game last night, and a sort-of mini family reunion today of some of my father's relatives. One of my cousins, who moved out to Massachusetts many years ago, e-mailed my brother and said he was going to be in town this weekend, driving in with his seven children, who range in age from 26 to 3. So we invited my dad's two sisters and their families, and had a little open house in the afternoon for whoever could come.

My dad is the "baby" of his family. That's what his sisters always said, whenever we got together. So everyone was there with a walker, and a few of my cousins were able to make it too. Sadly, even though most of us live in the same city (except for the one from Massachusetts), we don't get together very often. We reminisced about the times we got together on Sunday nights to watch Disney and eat grocery bags full of popcorn. I remembered the hand-me-downs I got from one of my cousins, the sleepovers at grandma and grandpa's house, the chaotic Christmases when we were all young.

My cousin is the same age as I am. But his father was an Evangelical pastor, and we didn't get together very often. I remember a few summer get-togethers, my uncle sitting on the back steps, playing the acccordian (he is a gifted musician), or at picnics. The picture above is one the the few of me with my cousin, when we were both small.

Even when I neglect them, I discover that the family connections are still there. It's the 21st century, and before leaving, we exchanged email addresses. Perhaps we'll keep in better contact from now on. We'll see.

I suspect that the same thing is true in our faith family: we neglect these most important connections, with our brothers and sisters in Christ, and for so many different reasons. But still we are connected, though not even suspecting the faces, the gifts, the relationships we miss. We're connected by the bread and the wine that we share, by music and food and prayers -- and so many other things. And still we let the days tumble by, when family reunions are happening all the time, with our unknown relatives.

Friday, July 4, 2008

A July 4 Sermon

I direct your attention to a sermon I preached a few years ago for the fourth of July weekend.

Happy Fourth of July.

Friday Five: Fireworks Edition

Sally over at Revgalblogpals brings us a crashing friday five:

I have to admit that I am chuckling to myself a little; how strange it seems for me a Brit to be posting the Friday Five on 4th July! I realise that most of our revgals will be celebrating in some way today, but I hope that you can make a little room for Friday Five! From my short stay in Texas my memories of the celebrations are of fireworks and picnics, one year we went in to central Houston to watch the fireworks and hear the Symphony Orchestra play, we were welcomed and included, and that meant a lot! So lets have a bit of fun:

1. Barbeques or picnics ( or are they essentially the same thing?)
Well, it's been a long time since I've been on a real, honest-to-goodness picnic, where you go to a park somewhere else (not your back yard),bring the picnic basket and the cooler with the potato salad, and get together with family and friends. You can certainly barbeque at a picnic, but to me, that's what a picnic is. Once our family had a spur-of-the moment, non-Fourth picnic by a lake with Kentucky Fried Chicken, which was a relatively new thing back then. I kind of miss picnics, but they're a bit more work than just the backyard barbeque.

2. The park/ the lake/ the beach or staying at home simply being?
I like to relax, so the park is best, as long as there is some "simply being" time penciled in! I also like an outdoor concert. The community I live in does a carnival over the 4th, a street dance, and special concerts.

3. Fireworks- love 'em or hate 'em?
I reallly like them, as long as they are not over-long, and parking is not too much of a headache. We used to be able to watch our community's fireworks from our backyard. Or, if we wanted a better view, we would walk a few blocks. That was the BEST. Our dog does NOT like fireworks, however.

4. Parades- have you ever taken part- share a memory...
I took part in our community's 4th of July Parade the first year I was here. The church had an anniversary banner, and another woman and I carried it, waved at people, and threw candy. We also had a few people ride in the church van (now defunct). It was really a good introduction to the community.

5. Time for a musical interlude- if you could sum up holidays in a piece of music what would it be?

Stars and Stripes forever, played by a band, while Marching in the Parade.

However, here is another interpretation:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Garden Where I Don't Plant or Weed

This is my new favorite place to take Scout for a walk. What else can I say? It contains a rose garden, a peace garden, and a bird sanctuary. Here we can stop and smell the roses for awhile.

On Monday, on our first walk over here, we met a very young bicyclist who took time to pet Scout. I admired his bike, and said it was small: a good size. He informed me that, though small, the bike could go up to 30 miles per hour when he "really got cooking."

A cell phone wielding speed walker stopped long enough to say to Scout, "Hi Sweetie" before continuing her conversation. (I'm pretty sure she was talking to Scout.)

Early this morning we went back to the gardens and ran into the gardeners doing their secret work. A couple of young women were pulling weeds. What a wonderful job, to be able to work in the midst of such beauty, and peace.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Last night I decided to do a little gardening, something I am not good at. I love to admire other people's gardens. Part of me yearns to do it myself. But the combination of many nights working and a sort of (well) innate laziness leads to a lack of prolonged gardening efforts. Plus, I do not know much about plants, other than "I like the way that looks." (I do know the difference between an annual and a perenniel, though.)

Last night I was doing a little digging and planted a few herbs. That was all I was going to do, and it was going to be enough. I went to the nursery, bought dirt and a couple of tools, and started to get the dirt ready (with my new digging fork!). (it is rumored to be ergonomically healthy!)

But then I noticed all of the saplings that are sprouting up in our yard. Some of them are still pretty small, and others are ridiculous, and they are in where the peonies are supposed to be. I started digging up saplings in the garden. It was about 90 degrees out. And those roots were pretty stubborn and deep. They wanted to live. I didn't want them to.

I just got a few saplings out. There is a lot more hard work ahead, a lot more stubborn roots wanting to live, and helicopter seeds still swirling around, desperately trying to take root and multiply. Most of these seeds come from an ancient tree in our front yard, an ancient tree that (we think) is beginning to die. So it is creating more and more seeds, more and more saplings, trying (as one of my parishoners said) to "expand its territory." (Sort of like Jabez, I said.)

But I am the enemy of life right now, digging up deep roots, throwing out branches, going after small trees just trying to live -- all because they happen to be in the wrong place.

It's an odd assignment.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

You Make My Day

Marsha over at Just Some Thoughts has given me a very lovely award called You Make My Day. It is pretty, isn't it? Just the kind of thing you want to put on your sidebar.

Marsha was one of the first people to read and comment on my blog. (Actually, she might have been the first commenter.) Imagine my surprise and delight late one evening as I was writing a blog post, thinking that my wise words were going out into nothingness, and all of a sudden, there were nice words underneath one of my posts! This is when my addiction started.

This was also back in the day when I didn't know how to put up an image, or a hyperlink, or put fancy designs on my sidebar. Marsha actually was one of the people who helped me learn how to do some of those things. (Barbara has also been very helpful.)

Anyway, the hardest thing about getting these awards is deciding who to pass them along to. Several of my blog friends are "can't miss" for their everyday posts, but today I want to honor Ruth at Ruth's Visions and Revisions. I love reading her daily posts, and when she comes over to make a comment, it also makes my day!