Saturday, August 22, 2009

What I Did This Week

  • packed up all the dishes from the china hutch in newspaper, put them into boxes to store in the "pod"
  • chased the dog. Once a day so far she has escaped out the front door while we were moving a piece of heavy furniture. She runs up and down the street, sniffs a few shrubs, generally makes herself a pest. If I wasn't so mad at her, I could admire her great running stride (she's part husky). Today she has not run out the front door yet. I'm praying that we make it to tomorrow without another incident. Tomorrow she goes to stay at the pet-sitter.
  • tried to set up a first planning meeting for our Children's Sabbath this year
  • visited two people in the hospital
  • nursing home call
  • shopping for sofas; we are throwing out the old one but haven't settled on a new style yet. We admire Stickley furniture, mostly from afar
  • packed books, packed books, packed books
  • cleaned closets, most notably the pantry, the linen closet, and the closets in all rooms. We have too much "stuff"! Existentially, I know this now.
  • had a brief conversation with one of my parish members at the grocery store yesterday. He mentioned the churchwide assembly news, and that it was controversial. However, he also mentioned the argument by some that "it's been this way for 2,000 years! We can't change it now!" He remarked, "But 2,000 years ago, we also thought the earth was flat." (By the way, this is not one of my younger members, but one of the more senior members of my congregation.)
  • planning meeting for a fall prayer breakfast with city officials and pastors
  • lunch with parish member, who asked what I thought of the churchwide assembly actions. Afterwards, drove home in the torrential rain that was right after the tornado hit.
  • read the book Julie and Julia. I was just getting through it, until last night, when one particular section made me laugh so hard I started crying
  • had a brief conversation with a woman at the check out of a local supermarket. She said, "I guess the Lutherans aren't going to be advocating abstinence any more." I said, "What are you talking about?" My position, unfortunately, unlike some others, cannot be reduced to a sound byte: you know, the people who say, "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." I think the position we have taken is entirely consistent with advocating abstinence.
  • dusted, dusted, dusted
  • met with a couple in prepration for a baptism tomorrow, still one of my favorite things ever

How was your week?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gentle Blog Readers,

First of all, I want to apologize for being so spotty on the 'net lately. I have not been keeping up with my blog reading. I do think I've gotten in a little over my head.

But, before it gets better, it will probably get worse. We are in the midst of moving most of the furniture out of our house, in preparation for getting our hardwood floors re-done next week. If I can, I'll post some picture of the process. But we'll see.

As well, I found out that I have a computer connection problem. I need to have my laptop go into the shop because there appears to be a loose connection somewhere. I got a new cord, and that has helped some, but the connection seems to be loose in other areas as well.

The good news is: it will be covered.
The bad news is: they say it takes about two weeks.

So, this is going to be interesting.

So for the next couple of weeks, I'm not gone, I'm just more "loosely connected."

P.S. now they say they cannot find evidence of my extended service agreement. Two weeks ago they assured me I was covered.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sunday Sermon

"Seeing God’s Big Picture: From Whom All Blessings Flow"
Ephesians 5:15-20

In my family, one of our favorite stories is about the time when a bunch of us cousins all went to the old TV show "Dialing for Dollars" sometime during the Christmas season.
We got to be in the studio audience that day, a very big deal indeed – I think my sister, my cousin and I all harbored secret dreams of being discovered in some way or another.
Lo and behold, the host was asking children in the audience to get up and sing a Christmas song that they knew by heart.
My sister, my cousin and I sat there, thinking about raising our hands while other little kids raised their hands and pretty much all sang the same song: "Jingle Bells."
We knew plenty of other Christmas songs! Why wouldn’t they pick us?
We raised our hands, but not very high, probably, and we were sitting in the middle to the back of the audience.
Then, much to my surprise, my little brother, who was about 4 years old at the time, and was sitting in one of the front rows with my dad, raised his hand.
The host picked him.
He stood up under the bright lights of the TV studio, and belted out the song: "Santa Claus is coming to Town." He knew all the words. I mean – ALL the words.
And he won a prize – which made us jealous enough to think to ourselves – we didn’t want one of those plastic horses and cowboys, anyway.

Let me testify here for a moment – music and singing is important in my family, have always been important in my family – although there is not one professional musician among us.
Since I was a little girl, I remember singing songs around the piano, singing songs in the car, singing songs along with the records that played on the record player.
And music and singing are important for my life of faith, too, from the songs and hymns I learned in church and at home, to the songs learned around the campfire at church camp, to the Christian popular music that started to take shape when I was in college.
That’s how it has been for me, at least – music and singing have been an integral part of practicing my faith – how has it been for you?
There are certain songs and certain melodies that I have known for so long that even though the words might change a bit, I still know them, and can join in when I hear

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise God all creatures here below
Praise God above ye heavenly host
Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost

The apostle seems to have a similar view. After spending three chapters of Ephesians reminding us and extolling us and painting a picture for us of God’s great vision,
God’s great love which is going to bring all things together, all things in heaven and on earth – the apostle gets practical.
He starts teaching the Ephesians about what it means to practice our faith.
He wants us to know that practicing our faith has much to do with our relationships with other people – how we treat each other, how we great the strangers among us, how we treat our enemies.
So, today, he also urges us to "Make the most of the time that we are given."
Important words from the apostle, who was sure that the world was going to end soon – and for us,
for every time we live in is an important one, and every time we live in has urgent issues,
and in every time we live there is the threat that evil might overcome us, and there is the opportunity to overcome evil with good.
So, he says – don’t get drunk, that’s a waste of our time, but instead – sing. Sing songs to God. Sing songs to one another. Sing songs to yourselves, even. Does this strike you as odd in any way? Singing is an essential activity?

That is not the way many of us would imagine it, these days.
Oh, music is still important, music is background music for our lives, and it’s everywhere – in our offices while we work, in our car, on elevators.
But listening to music, as important as it is, is not as important as singing, actually lifting our voices out loud, whether we sing in tune or not, whether we are confident or not, whether we sing soprano or bass or don’t know what part we sing.
As the apostle writes: "be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts."
This is an important, a crucial, an essential activity even. Something happens to us and in us when we come together and sing

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise God all creatures here below
Praise God above ye heavenly host
Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost

It does seem that, like with so many other things, though, we don’t sing together much any more.
We mostly let the "experts" do our singing for us – the people who we listen to on the radio, on our ipods, on our CDs, or even live in concerts.
They do most of the singing any more, except in church.
Oh, there are a couple of exceptions, of course: you can usually get a rousing chorus of "Happy birthday" going no matter where you are – and there’s also usually a good response to "Take me out to the ball game" during the seventh inning stretch.
But other than church, those are the only times I can think of that people get together and sing any more.
We go against the grain, it seems, in more ways than one here.
We go against the grain in our singing, and we go against the grain in our living, in the values that we hold, values that call us out of isolation into community, and our of our fear into a greater hope.

Lately, though, even singing together in church has gotten more difficult.
It’s partly that everybody doesn’t know the same songs any more.
Maybe in this age of recording perfection, we are more self-conscious about our singing voices. I recently worshiped as a guest at another Lutheran congregation.
We attended the late service, which was the contemporary worship one.
There were many things wonderful about the service: great music, good preaching, friendly people – but we noticed that many people didn’t join in on the congregational songs.
I’m sure it wasn’t the intent of the very excellent worship team to intimidate people by their excellence, but people just weren’t joining in as enthusiastically as I expected.
Even in the church, people are starting to get used to music being a professional activity, not an act of the gathered community.
But just like our faith is not a spectator sport, all of us and each of us practice living out our convictions about God’s grace and justice – so also music and singing is not just for professionals, but it is for all of us to lift our voices, because something happens to us and in us and among us when we sing:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise God all creatures here below
Praise God above ye heavenly host
Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost.

Yet the apostle warns "do not get drunk with wine.... but be filled with the Spirit, singing songs and hymns and spiritual songs...."
Now I don’t think the apostle means to say that abusing alcohol is the only thing he is worried about, or that singing is the only good.
But I think he means something like this – People sometimes say that they "drink to forget".... but singing helps us to remember.
The apostle believes that in these important times, we cannot to afford to forget – who we belong to, where our true hope lies, and what is the purpose of our lives.
And so he urges us to sing, for when we sing the truth from outside us gets way down inside us, forming us and giving us hope and comfort and yes, even courage.
Singing forms us as individuals in the life of faith, and singing forms us as a community, a community who can stand up together for the truth of God’s love for us, and for the truth of God’s justice and the truth of God’s mercy for all people.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with one of the older members of our congregation, a mature Christian with much to teach and share.
This person has had his share of ups and downs in life, his share of times of blessing and also times of grief.
He shared with me the importance of the old hymns, especially times when he was feeling low.
He said he knew all of the words to "Love divine, all loves excelling" by heart, and sang the verses to himself when grief threatened to overwhelm him.
Think about the message of that hymn, learned by heart and taken to heart over many years, and think about how the words become part of us, giving us comfort and courage at the times when we need:

Come, Almighty, to deliver, let us all thy life receive
Suddenly return and never, never more thy temples leave.....

They are words from outside us, it is hope from outside us, but over the years and years of singing this melody and these words, they have gotten deep inside us, and transformed us more and more into the kind of person God wants us to be.
We learn scripture verses and we learn about the kind of God we have when we sing, and we share this with one another.

I also had the opportunity recently to be a part of a group that went to the State Capital together.
I mentioned how as we advocated for transportation jobs for women and minorities, we also sang songs together, songs about God, but also songs about our resolve to keep working for justice and dignity for all people.
And I thought about how many of the Civil rights songs were first gospel songs, church songs: "Keep your eyes on the prize.... Hold on, hold on,",
the people sang as they marched to places like Selma and Montgomery and Washington, DC
and as they remembered that they were God’s children and that the work they were doing was important work.

Do not get drunk with wine, but be filled with the spirit...singing songs and hymns and spiritual songs.
Sing songs and hymns and spiritual songs, the apostle urges.... because, one day, perhaps soon, perhaps not, the lights will be on us, and we’ll want to raise our hands.
Someday, perhaps soon, perhaps not, we’ll be called upon to speak, or to act the wide wide love and mercy God has for us.
Someday the lights will be on us and someone will ask us to stand up, and we’ll stand up ... and the song and the words will come out from deep inside us, and we’ll know that the saints from all of the ages of ages sing with us, but, most of all, we’ll know that it is the love of God that carries us, we’ll be able to stand up and sing. ....

"Praise God, from whom all blessings flow,
praise God all creatures here below
praise God above you heavenly host
praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost. AMEN

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Two Old Friends

A couple of weeks ago I had the rare pleasure of getting together, on two separate occasions, with two old friends. The first was an old friend from my seminary days. This doesn’t seem like such a long time ago, until I realize that I have been ordained for 15 years (as of July 16). My seminary friend was a "study buddy"; I met her when we were both first moving to one of the campus dormitories. We studied Greek and Church History together, among other things. More than that, though: she and I were part of a small group of women seminarians who shared our hopes and dreams for ourselves in the future. I admired that my friend was always clear, from the beginning, that she wanted to be a professor.

And now, here she is teaching New Testament and Homiletics at the seminary we both graduated from. She's one of the regular contributors to the popular Working Preacher website, among her other accomplishments.

I can’t help admiring her clear vision and ability to go out and achieve what she wanted. Our conversation that evening ranged from "shop talk" to family to the new visions and dreams we have for ourselves and our church. I can’t believe we live about seven minutes from one another, and we haven’t done this before. I hope we will do it again.

The second old friend was one from my high school days: we haven’t seen each other since we were both 18 years old, which was longer ago than I care to think about, at least on some days. She went out east to a prestigious college, and I did intend to keep in touch, but I didn’t. One day I was noodling around on facebook, and thinking about friends who shared my passion for writing back then, and I found her name somewhere. She and I weren’t "best friends" but we were good school friends, and we had (as I remember it) a lot of deep discussions about writing and philosophy and religion and creativity. One of the most important things I didn’t know about her when I was in high school was this:

She was crazy about dogs.

Turns out, she still is. In high school, it was German Shepherds that she loved the most. Now, among other things, she is a well-known breeder of a rare dog native to Israel called the Canaan Dog. She has now living with her, four adult dogs and three small puppies who were just born about a month ago. Her adult dogs are: Tovah, Naftalia, Mazel and Yomi. (My favorite of the four was Naftalia: all the dogs in that litter were named after the sons of Jacob.)

Canaan dogs are descended from the pariah dogs that existed in Canaan from pre-biblical times. They became the guard and shepherd dogs for the Israelites in ancient times, but remained mostly undomesticated until recently. Dr. Rudolphina Menzel began developing the dog in the 1930s as a sentry to guard isolated Jewish settlements.

As for me, when I think of the Canaan dog, I can’t help thinking about the story of Jesus and the Canaanite woman. I can’t help remember how Jesus told her, "It’s not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs." I can’t help remembering her great reply, "But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table." It's fascinating to think that the dog they were perhaps envisioning was something like the Canaan dogs that my friend breeds: intelligent, loyal, beautiful.

Two old friends: they are so different in many ways, but in one way alike: they are both women of passion and accomplishment, both with the ability to see visions and dream dreams, and with the ability to make them real. Both of them women of God, faithful to God's dreams and visions for them, and for the world.

They give me courage to risk my own dreams, even the wild ones.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

They Are Us: A Book Review

Not many days after our return from New York and Ellis Island, I happened to make a visit to our local seminary's book store (a veritable garden of delights and temptations, by the way). While I was at the counter making other purchases, I noticed that the book They Are Us: Lutherans and Immigration was prominently displayed. Of course, I had to have one.

This is not a difficult or scholarly book, but it is full of passion for the gospel, and passion for the people who are coming to our shores. We are not too different than they, the authors remind us, telling the stories of their own immigrant ancestors. The book highlights the need for both advocacy and mission. The advocacy section is not particular to Lutherans, although I believe that the positions outlined are the positions taken by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. The authors contend that our immigration system is broken, and offer illustrations that make their case. Here are the four questions they believe we should ask regarding any immigration proposal:

1. Does the proposal promote familiy unity?
2. Does the proposal promote human rights and worker rights?
3. Does the proposal enable those without status to come out of the shadows and live without fear?
4. Does the proposal provide a path to permanence as a full member of society?

The authors also do a good overview of the history of immigration in our country, from colonial tmes to the present. They also contend that even if we differ on immigration policy, we can agree that it is our responsibility as Christians to welcome the stranger, and to share the hope of the gospel with all those in our communities, and particularly those who are newcomers and vulnerable. They highlight several Lutheran churches who have been renewed and revived in their mission by doing just that.

This book's strength is also its weakness. It speaks to Lutherans, and from a particular Lutheran perspective. I am glad that the great work of Lutheran World Relief and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services are highlighted. But I think both the policy questions and the ministry questions would be great for churches of all denominations and theological positions to wrestle with. I wish there were a more generic version, so that more churches would have the opportunity to join this most important conversation.

By the way, this is book #27.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Sunday Vignettes

At this morning's early service on the lawn, we finally got the weather we have been waiting for all summer -- hot and humid. One of our older members approached me before the service began and asked me who was preaching. "I am," I replied, "for good or for ill." (I was trying to appear humble.) She patted my arm, and said, "No, that's good. We like you." Then, as I turned away after a moment, she hit me with her cane to get my attention, and added, "We respect you, too." (I appreciated her comment, and also had the opportunity to experience real humility.)


One of my stories for this morning's sermon was taken from Shreve Stockton's book The Daily Coyote. I've thought a lot about her courage and compassion in adopting the baby coyote, and about her tenacious resolve to train him and work with him even after he grew up and became more like, well, a coyote. I especially remember one story she told about "Charlie" as a baby: most of the time he was like a pet, but when he was afraid or in pain, he would bare his teeth and act threatening, like the wild animal he was. I thought about how "tame" animals like you and me sometimes do that same thing, lashing out when we think others are going to hurt us.


At the close of the second service (indoors), I heard the ushers discussing our recessional hymn, "Marching in the Light of God." The cross-bearer had been kind of swaying during the song, and one of the ushers said that his wife had offered him $5.00 if he would dance out during the recessional "like in that wedding video." Someone else said they would match it. Still didn't happen. I have to admit, the wedding video is getting a lot of people at least talking about dancing in church, and that can't be a bad thing, especially for Lutherans. And, I ask you, what more appropriate song than "Marching in the Light of God"?


After church I stopped in for a little while at the birthday part of a 90 year old member of the church. His family and friends filled our fellowship hall. I heard that when our fellowship coordinator called for help, the first people she called all said "yes." That's what you get for being a really nice person.


A little later I walked up and down one of the main streets of our town: today was our 2nd Annual "Penn Fest." Some of the local merchants had outdoor displays, sales and demonstrations. A young woman who grew up in our congregation was signing cereal boxes for a new cereal that she has developed. At the local martial arts school (owned and operated by members of my congregation), they were having demonstrations during the afternoon. I arrived too late for the final demonstration, but said hello to the owner's two daughters, who seemed pleased to see me. I can't believe that in all the time I've been at this church, I've not ever seen in inside of this school before.


We stopped in at Barnes and Noble, where I picked up a new book for the church library. I also bought a book for myself: In Defense of Food. I was tempted by several cookbooks, but did not succomb (so far).


For supper, I tried a new recipe I saw in a magazine: Eggplant Pomodoro Pasta.

Do you know, I never ate eggplant before I lived in Japan? I knew the funny purple vegetable was "nasu" before I learned that it was eggplant.

I still have a lot to learn -- and not just about food, either.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

You Are What You Eat, or Cook

I've been thinking hard about food lately. I've even taking to looking back into some of my late, lamented, food-stained and now-seldom used cookbooks, cookbooks from my single days, like New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest (which I bought mostly because it had the word broccoli in the title). I've even pulled out my old, stained copy of the More With Less Cookbook, reminiscing about my earnest early attempts at eating "lower on the food chain", as we called it then.

Why? Younger stepson, Young Man of Value, is considering going vegan.

He has been flirting with becoming vegetarian for some time, but would make an exception for fish. Now that he's talking about Vegan, though, I'm looking through all of those old, radical (I thought they were radical, then) cookbooks, and finding out that most of their recipes are not radical enough.

My favorite fancy mac-and-cheese recipe from the Moosewood cookbook? One word: Cheese. The great eggplant recipe I tried for a guy I was trying to impress: That one had cheese, too. And other recipes that I have invariably considered healthy, no-meat stand-bys often had milk or eggs.

I admire Young Man of Value's desire to eat ethically, although I'm not myself fully convinced of the Vegan option. One thing that has been good, though, is that's it has gotten me thinking -- both about food, and about cooking.

I've always had sort of a love/hate relationship with cooking.

I've never felt like I was a good cook. I don't have any tales of terror from the kitchen to relate; it's not that so much as it is my knowledge that I am the kind of person who pretty much sticks to the cookbook when it comes to cooking. And when I see a really long list of ingredients or when the instructions start looking complicated, I tend to panic, like when I try to play a piano piece that is way over my head.

I've gone through stages, though, when I've enjoyed trying new (though not terribly complicated) recipes. In Japan, when I longed for the taste of macaroni and cheese, I pulled out the Betty Crocker cookbook and learned to make it from scratch, plopping cubes of cheese into my white sauce and watching it melt. (I was surprised to learn later that a white sauce can be tricky to make.) Just after returning to the U.S., I fell in with some vegetarians and tried a few easy, but exotic-tasting recipes from the aforementioned Moosewood Cookbook (all in my very tiny apartment kitchen). And shortly after getting married, I relied on my Cooking for Two Cookbook and regular advice from the two home economists who happened to be members of my congregation.

I've also gone through stages (like right after we got Scout, our high-maintenance puppy) when I couldn't imagine coming home from work, cooking dinner and heading back to church for the evening round of meetings. Or I couldn't imagine coming home alone as a single person and cooking and eating all by myself. Or I just couldn't imagine what it would be like to cook and eat and clean up all those dirty dishes all by myself (sometimes the cleaning up part did it). I longed for good food, but didn't have the energy to create it.

This past Sunday, though, an article in the New York Times magazine got me thinking again: about food, and the art of cooking. By current food guru Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore's Dilemma), the article talks about how we are cooking less and less (food manufacturers now market pre-made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, even), but are fascinated with cooking shows. Somehow, he thinks, cooking makes us human. But we have designed our lives with less and less time for these tasks.

Cooking makes us human. Also, cooking makes us healthier, I think. One of the surprises of the Pollan article was the statement that a poor woman who cooks is going to be healthier than a rich woman who doesn't (yes, and that's exactly how he wrote it).

When I cracked open the More with Less cookbook again, after all these years, I remembered the three principles:

1. Eat more whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
2. Use meat and dairy products in moderation
3. Avoid processed and convenience foods.

This is where Young Man of Value has it, I think. It's not in the Vegan diet, specifically, but it's in the commitment to cooking and eating real food. This makes me think about what I am missing when I design a life so fast-paced that there is no time to create a simple meal. This happens more often than I like to admit.

But I also admit to a certain joy when I get something real, however simple, on the table. The other night I made a Greek Salad from a recipe I found in a magazine; I've been eyeing another recipe, with Eggplant and Angel hair Pasta, from the same magazine.

They say you can make it in 30 minutes.

Even better, I've been enjoying the fresh fruit of the season as well. Strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, for example. All I have to do is wash and eat, wash and eat. I can't think of anything realer, and simpler, and more gracious, than that.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What a Wonderful World

This morning between the two services I caught the Contemporary musicians practicing the offertory for the 10:00 service. This is the song they were playing:

I realized that this sort of popular song would not fly in many churches (to be honest, it would probably not fly in our church on many occasions.) But I caught myself smiling when I heard it. As I went over the order of service with them, we realized that they did not know that there were two baptisms this morning. However, they were quite pleased -- they thought that their selection was especially appropriate for the day.

This got me thinking about the recent acclaim and controversy over the joyful wedding dance on YouTube. Some focussed on the dancing; others worried that others would request this sort of thing, but not be able to do it as well; others were pleasantly surprised that something like this could go on in a church.

This morning's local paper weighed in on all of the variety of opinion, especially among clergy and church goers. I especially took notice of those who had been long away from the church, but thought they might give it a second look, based on this video. It made me think that the pastor's decision in this case might have been a wise one, despite my misgivings about the content of the Chris Brown song. (In the interest of full disclosure, I'll just say that I'm not a big fan of recorded music of any form, sacred or secular, in a church service. I'll also disclose that I had an outdoor wedding a couple of years ago where the "Austin Powers Movie Theme" was used for the recessional and where each couple made up their own dance steps as they walked back up the "aisle." I thought it was cute and especially appropriate for the close of the wedding service.)

I'm wondering more and more about the strict line we sometimes keep in the church between sacred and secular, between holy and profane. I wonder if sometimes we don't miss opportunities to speak God's truth because we are unwilling to start where people are -- whether that place is Louis' Armstrong singing What a Wonderful World, or Bill Withers singing Lean on Me.

I'm not suggesting replacing Hymns with Beatles songs or Scripture verses with self-help books. But if we allow ourselves the creativity in our sermons to compare and contrast the world of the Scripture with the world we currently live in, why not in our music too?

I'll admit, I don't have this all figured out; I know that not every song is the Lord's song; I know that God's grace and truth are often strange, and not familiar. And yet.... and yet....

It's a wonderful world, and it's a heartbreaking world, a world of hurt and of grace, of terrible evil and redemption behind our imagining. But above all else, the greatest mystery of all is this: it's a holy world, and it's God's world, every single last secular and sacred molecule of it.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I Wish I Was Still Standing By the Stone Arch Bridge

Yesterday was our 10th wedding anniversary. Because ten years seems like a pretty big deal these days (not just for us, just in general), we decided that we'd have a more significant celebration this year. Besides going again to Lord Fletcher's on Lake Minnetonka for dinner, we spent the night in the same hotel (though not the same room) where we stayed the evening after our wedding. Since the pre-refinish-the-hardwood-floor disarray is increasing in our home, it was a welcome respite.

In the morning, we briefly contemplated ordering room service, but decided to indulge in the breakfast buffet. We then visited briefly the Grand Canyon of Malls, where we picked out Anniversary presents for one another.

By a wide margin, however, the favorite activity of the day was our visit to the heart of Minneapolis, and to the Mill City Museum. At the site of the Old Gold Medal Flour Building, the museum includes the ruins of the old mill, as well as lots of interactive and educational displays, a simulated flour explosion, and two separate shows, one about the Mill (shown in an old freight elevator), and one about Minneapolis. The Museum stands next to the new site of the Guthrie Theatre; both are along the Mississippi River, and close to the historic Stone Arch Bridge.

Minneapolis began and flourished as a Mill City, and the Mississippi River was the heart of the Mill. St. Anthony Falls provided the power for the mill, which ran day and night until 1965.

I felt it somehow, standing on the cobblestone streets, wandering through the displays at the Museum. There is something substantial, something life-giving, something vital here.

Perhaps it was the power of the river itself, the power of water -- the power of flowing water through a community. Perhaps it was the sense of building and growth -- the growth of the city, the creation of industries and products that fed people and created jobs. Perhaps it was not just the river but the stones, what was left of the old mill, the cobblestones of the streets, the stones on the old bridge spanning the river.

All I know is that I wish I was still there, where I stood this afternoon. I wish I was standing by the Stone Arch Bridge, just getting ready to walk across the river, feeling warm breezes, watching people walking and talking. All I know is that I wish I was still there tonight, where the stronge stone bridge holds and where the swift strong water flows underneath.

Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked
or take the path that sinners tread;
or sit in the seat of scoffers....
They are like trees planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither. --Psalm 1.