Sunday, November 30, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
I also visited Chicago and had some high times when I worked for the now-infamous AIG. A couple of underwriters took me places in the evening, and I believe I went shopping at Watertower Place. One trip involved both the Art Institute and the Museum of Science and Industry (jokingly referred to by one of my hosts as the Museum of Commerce and Industry).
Now, I think of Chicago as the home of many of my husband's relatives. I think of it as a place to relax, and feel at home. When we visit, sometimes we don't even get out of the suburbs.
Here are some of my favorite things about Chicago. Feel free to share yours:
- The Art Institute. This has to be always on the top of every list. It's worth it just to see the originial American Gothic, and the wonderful Impressionist Art. The Art Institute scene is one of my favorites in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off (itself a minor classic, right?)
- Carl Sandburg. As in his famous poem poem about Chicago, Hog-butcher for the world. It really is the City of the Big Shoulders.
- The Pump Room of the Ambassador East Hotel. I used to stay at the Ambassador East when I worked for AIG (now infamous). I got really excited when I found out that my aunt and uncle had honeymooned there, back when it was a Really Big Deal. Also, I later recognized the Ambassador East from the movie North by Northwest.
- Studs Terkel. Interviewer par excellance. He can get a story out of anyone. My favorite books are Working, and Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
- Chicago Style Pizza. What more can I say?
- The beginning of Historic Route 66. The mother of The Mother Road, right here.
- The Ell, and the other trains, especially the one we take from here in the 'burbs. I especially like to sit on the upper deck. I bought my first Bark magazine (Dog is my co-pilot) at the train station in Hinsdale, and read it cover-to-cover before I got downtown.
- My sister-in-law's homestyle cooking, and my brother-in-law's fabulous mixed drinks.
- In Chicago, you never know who you might meet! I have a blogger meet-up later today with Jennifer of An Orientation of Heart. Pictures to follow!
Do you like Chicago? What are you favorite things?
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
My husband's sister is a great hostess. We always feel very relaxed and at home when we stay with them. She's the most excellent cook; she gets up and puts the coffee on early in the morning; we can sleep in as long as we want. She never makes me feel like I have to do anything to help, but I always want to. One year I made my special raspberry walnut muffins for breakfast.
Road trips have a long history in my family. I never flew anywhere until I was 21 and a senior in college. Our family road trips included frequent travels to the family farm in southwestern Minnesota, a trip to Duluth in 1969, and two extended vacations by car, one to Seattle, Washington, and the other to Disneyland. I was ten when we travelled to Seattle. I took my first pictures of the Pacific Ocean and the Continental Divide and Yellowstone Park (and got two cameras for Christmas, that year). I was sixteen on our trip to Disneyland. We had a tour guide and our group included people from France. Afterwards, I decided I wanted to be a tour guide in Disneyland when I grew up. Instead, I am a pastor. I wonder what that means.
We considered the possibility of flying instead of driving this year, and asked the boys about it. They chose the road trip.
Here are some lessons I have learned "on the road":
1. The journey is as important as the destination. Now that in itself is a cliche. But it's still true, because the scenary, the detours, and the travelling companions are all a part of the journey. There are things you just don't see when you are up in the air, or at least don't see in the same way. And in the car, there are opportunities for the dirt-road turn-off, the deep conversation, the sudden realization. On the road, the journey is a shared experience, and it deepens our connections with each other. Maybe that's why the boys opted to ride instead of fly.
2. You always take more than you need. This is especially true for me on the road. I always think I am going to need my knitting, my piano books, 3 or 4 different books to read, my camera, my travel alarm, my curling iron, music for the car. On our family road trips, we took a cooler with food and snacks as well. This year, I am taking a picture of my dog. I will not need all that I take, but I want to make it seem like "home."
3. The anticipation is part of the event. This is true in small and big ways. Before we went to Disneyland, I prepared by sewing new clothes for myself all summer. For Paris (not a road trip, I know), I didn't have much preparation time, but I dreamed of the Louvre and Notre Dame.
4. You always learn something. Sometimes it's just: I don't have any comfortable shoes. Other times: the world is so large, and so beautiful, and I am so small. And still other times it might be: I could travel forever, and not see everything.
I'm over 50 years old now, and, unlike Hank Snow, I haven't been everywhere. Not even close. A road trip isn't always the most efficient way to travel.
But maybe it's not just about where you go and what you see. Maybe of all the things you learn, the most important lessons are about who you travel with: what makes them cry and what gives them hope, the things they can't stand and the things they can't live without.
Like Godiva chocolate. The Allman brothers. The dog. And each other.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Today was our annual meeting at church. My report was written and in the book, but I chose to get up and talk about the work I have been doing (with a team of lay leaders) on Education in our community. I said, "(Our community) is changing." I hope we see Jesus in some of those changes. If that is too much, I hope we can see people, children of God, at least.
We have a large budget shortful for the coming year. We did not balance the budget today. We will be working on this and presenting another budget in early January. This could be a huge opportunity for us to change the conversation about what is means to be a congregation, a community of disciples in this place.
In the meantime, when I was going out of church this morning, greeting people, one woman shook my hand and told me that her daughter (a pastor) reads my blog every day. She says that her daughter also reads it to her over the phone. Like most of the people in our church, I suspect, she doesn't "do" computers. She said those words I have loved and wanted to hear, ever since the 4th grade, "You are a good writer."
I think we do catch a glimpse of Jesus, on occasion. But I wonder if we really ever will see Jesus in the poor much.
If we can minister to him anyway, that will be a large enough task.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
A few days later, our teacher held up just one of our essays for special mention. But it wasn't my essay. It was one of my classmate's, a girl who lived just down the street from me. She and she alone had written her essay, not about the Pilgrims, but about Native Americans.
A long time later, I lived in Japan. First I lived there as a missionary and teacher of English. Later I studied some Japanese at a college in Tokyo. I used to like to go to the campus library and sit in a big chair and read newspapers from the United States.
One Sunday I read with interest an article in the Sunday New York Times called "American Survivors of the Atomic Bomb." The article was an in-depth exploration of the fates of a handful of prisoners of war who were in Hiroshima on August 6th. I hadn't known that there were any American prisoners in Japan at the time, and drank in every aspect of the long, detailed article.
A week later I read the letters to the editor. Many letters thought that the in-depth article was quite illuminating. But one I have remembered for all these years. This letter-writer took the article to task for not mentioning the many Japanese-Americans who happened to be in Japan when the war broke out. After the declaration of war, they were not able to return to the United States. Some of them had been victims of the atomic bomb, too. Why were their stories not researched?
A number of years ago I was working at a church in a large Western city. Our congregation was in a central-city, diverse location: large mansions and poor neighborhoods within a few blocks in different directions. Our church held a food pantry, a mental-health center, congregate dining for seniors, and a variety of other ministries. However, we were not a terribly diverse congregation.
One Sunday morning an African American woman and her two adult sons walked into our Sunday worship service. Though nobody talked about it at the time, we discovered later that several of us were thinking I wonder if they will be able to follow the liturgy.
Turns out that they knew it by heart.
So much of what we believe depends on what we see -- or what we choose to see.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
It was the day we gave Bibles t0 all of the Third Graders.
This year we had fourteen third graders come to receive their Bibles. Most of them also attended, with their parents, two classes designed to help them get acquainted with the Bible. They play games, learn songs to help them to memorize the books of the Bible, and spend some time looking up Bible verse with their parents.
I like that part too.
I love how they sing their Bible songs for the whole congregation. I love knowing that we have the parents secretly inscribe the Bibles with a personal message to their child. I love giving the Bibles to the parents to give to the children. I love watching the children clutch their Bibles as if they were diamonds.
This morning I had all of the Bibles on a cart with wheels, the kind we use in our kitchen. I transferred them all to a table in the chancel and was wheeling the cart back up the center aisle. One of the ushers asked, "What are you serving?"
"We're serving the Word," I answered.
I love today.
We give the CEV (Contemporary English Version). Sometimes the translation seems unfamiliar to the parents. The Golden Rule, for example, reads, "Treat others as you want to be treated." On the other hand, it is easier to understand, especially the stories.
I got my first Bible from my grandparents when I was in the third grade. We didn't get Bibles from the church until I was in confirmation. In my opinion, that's much too late. I hear some churches give "Toddler Bibles" now when children are entering Sunday School. If I had my way, my church would give the ABS/Scholastic Read and Learn Bible to all our Kindergarteners.
I heard a few parents having their children look up some familiar Psalms during our cake reception this morning. I heard a few children telling their parents what they were going to read when they got home in the afternoon. And I saw a few children who didn't want to put their Bible down, even to eat cake.
Here's a prayer for today from The Divine Hours:
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant me to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that I may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Here is what I think "fundamental change" means.
I think fundamental change means means a shift to empowering citizens to participate in our democracy. I hope it means calling us to speak, and act upon our values, instead of simply being asked to "go shopping." I hope it means calling us to vote, but even more, to organize for the things we value: whether those things are health care, advocacy for children, equal access to education. I hope that fundamental change means empowering a grass-roots, bottom-up democratic republic. I hope that fundamental change means teaching civics and citizenship. And I hope that fundamental change means valuing both personal responsibility and a more just society.
The weekend before the election, I watched Rev. Al Sharpton and D.L Hughley on CNN. They were talking with real wonder in their voices about the possibility that an African American might really become president. It was as if a door had been opened, not only for one man, but for a people, and the name of the door was "Full Participation." Rev. Sharpton said, at one point, that now was "the time to step up, to take responsibility, to take leadership, to prove that we can do it."
I thought, if this is what Barack Obama means by "fundamental change", it truly is not about him.
It's about us: our voices, our leadership, our power, and our resonsibility.
He may be the President-elect, but he is still a human being. When he is right, we will need to support him. When he is wrong, we will need to call him to account.
It's the same in the community of the church. The church is not primarily an institution, but a body of people committed to a common mission. We're grass-roots, bottom-up servants and leaders, supporting each other and holding each other accountable to the truth.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Sunday, November 9, 2008
The second poem was Lift Every Voice and Sing. It is the Black National Anthem. He was going to recite that poem too, but one of us suggested that we might sing it, instead. So we did, all twelve of us around the table a capella.
I didn't know this at the time, but Lift Every Voice was sung often in the schools in the segregated south, just like I remember singing My Country 'Tis of Thee.
After our lunch, I met briefly with the other African American pastor. We are planning the next Martin Luther King Day worship service, which will take place this year the day before inauguration day. We also took a moment to check in about the social justice organization we both work with.
He confessed to me that he was not sure who he would vote for until he went into the voting booth on Tuesday. (He didn't tell me, either.) Neither candidate, he thought, was perfect. Both were good, but flawed people.
I told some of this story in church on Sunday. Most people did not know there was an African American church in our town.
We still have a lot of work to do. But we're starting.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
- March, Geraldine Brooks
- The Mysterious Journey of Edward Tulane, Kate DiCamillo
- God's Echo, Sandra Sasso
- The Dwelling of the Light, Rowan Williams
- Purple Hibiscus,
- Giants in the Earth, Rolvaag
- The Double Bind, Chris Bohjalean
- Half Magic, Edward Eager
- Neither Here Nor There, Bill Bryson
- A Three Dog Life
- The Competent Pastor, Ronald Sisk
- Murder in the Marais, Cara Black
- Red Bird, Mary Oliver
- Sleeping With Bread, Linn
- Praying in Color
- If Your Name Was Changed At Ellis Island
- Atonement, Ian McEwan
- Water for Elephants
- Tall Grass, Sandra Dallas
- Take this Bread, Sara Miles
These are the books I already read and reported on. And new additions:
- The Kommandant's Girl
- Here if you Need Me
- The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls
- Preaching as Testimony, Anna Carter Florence
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
- The Citizen Solution, Harry Boyte
- Jesus for President (though I confess to skimming some parts)
There you have it, a record of my failure. I've only finished reading 27 books so far this year. I just don't get enough reading done. I won't get 50 books done this year, that's for sure. But I've realized a few things so far:
a) I can't read in bed for very long unless I get new glasses.
b) I need to be more self-disciplined in how I read; I have too many half-finished books lying around.
c) I have a lot of things to do.
I'm currently working on Tribal Church, and In the Bleak Midwinter.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
We have some wild and some weird and some extremely negative races this year. It hasn't always been this way. I'd rather be known for our high voter turnout.
This local column explains it.
and by your will we govern ourselves.
Help us as good citizens
to respect neighbors whose views differ from ours,
so that without partisan anger,
we may work out issues that divide us,
and elect candidates to serve the common welfare;
through Jesus Christ the lord. Amen
-The Book of Common Worship, Presbyterian Church, USA, 1946
Sovereign Lord, foolish we are, believing that we can rule ourselves by selecting this or that person to rule over us. We are at it a gain. Help us not to think it more significant than it is, but also give us and those we elect enough wisdom to acknowledge our follies. Help us laugh at ourselves, for without humor our politics cannot be humane. We desire to dominate and thus are dominated. Free us, dear Lord, for otherwise we perish. Amen
-Stanley Hauerwas, 1999
Compiled in An American Prayer Book, ed. Christopher Webber
Monday, November 3, 2008
Yesterday afternoon we had #2 stepson over (he was in town for the weekend) to celebrate his 21st birthday. Grandma and Grandpa came over; I put lasagne in the oven and they brought birthday cake. Also, I tossed up a bag salad; this is the type of entertaining I can muster up after church on Sunday. We kept calling the #1 stepson on his cell phone to let him know that the lasagne was just about ready. But his phone kept ringing and ringing; as it turned out, he slept all afternoon after a really exhausting Halloween party. He did turn up to eat leftovers in the early evening, after everyone else had gone home.
Right after church, I got together at a local coffee shop for a "confirmation reunion" with some of the girls from my confirmation class two years ago. Four out of six of them showed up. We drank coffee, cocoa, and caramel lattes and caught up: one of the girls is going to a TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) event this weekend; another has a part-time job at the Mall of America now. We promised to stop by. They all told me that the best way to keep in touch is by cell phone.
I had the children's message for our All Saints' worship yesterday. I cut out construction paper stars and prepared to tell the children about the Saints being the "stars" of the church -- and how they were stars, too. When I called the Kindergarteners up to the front, there was a cry from the back of the church. "All, right, how about 4 year olds too?" The little girl stopped crying and came to the chancel steps with her brother. So when I gave them each a star, I called them, "St. Molly," "St. Anya,", "St. Anthony." Stars of the church, letting their lights shine.
Yesterday I had the first of two Bible Classes with third graders and their parents. 9 children and their parents looked up Old Testament verses and learned a little bit about the Library of books that is the Bible. We have one more class, in two weeks, and then everyone gets to take home their Bible.
This class is still, after ten years, one of the most fun things I do. It is fun to watch the students and their parents look up passages together. It is fun for them to learn the "Books of the Old Testament" song. It is fun to play the Bible games we have created for them to play. It is also so fun to watch how interested the parents are in in some of these "Bible facts." It really is "Bible 101."
Later on, after stopping in at a wedding reception, we stopped in at Barnes and Noble. We've been going to the Library more and more for books. But we still haven't totally given up our bookstore habit. We buy a lot less,though. I was considering a specific Bible (more on that later) as a gift, and perusing a copy of The Predator State, by James Galbraith. I've been reading a little of the latter book every time we go in for coffee and window-shopping. I read a review in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago; it was critical, but provocative. As for me, I know I'm not an economist, but some of the things that Mr. Galbraith is saying make a lot of sense to me. He writes that the changes in the laws since the 1980s actually discouraged business executives from re-investing in their own companies, and encouraged them to cash in for private enrichment, that seems to me exactly what has been happening.
As we left the bookstore cafe, a man stopped us and asked me about the book I was reading. His name is Luis, and my husband says that he is also a regular at the bookstore. We seem to have similar taste in literature. He was reading The History of Money, by Jack Weatherford, a book my husband just got out of the library.
Somehow, we all have more interest in economics, lately.