Thursday, January 31, 2008

Six Quirky Things About Me

LJ tagged me for this meme a long time ago. Then she quit blogging. I hope it's not my fault! I hope she will start blogging again soon!

So, without further ado:

1. I like kosher dill pickles. This goes back to high school, when I used to frequent (or should I say nosh at) a local restaurant here called The Lincoln Del. Also learned to love pastrami sandwiches there. Later on, I discovered: it was the garlic.

2. I was bald until I was about two years old. I think it was a Scandinavian thing. I have a pretty good head of hair now.

3. I can't whistle, but I know a lot of songs, including Irving Berlin's "We're Having A Heat Wave/A Tropical Heat Wave." I've been humming that a lot lately (it's up above zero today).

4. When I took typing in high school, I started to "pretend type" what people were saying, moving my fingers on desks, tabletops, and other surfaces while people talked. Please, somebody else, tell me you did this.

5. I have "hyperextended" elbows (I believe that's what it's called). It's a little like being double-jointed, but not exactly.

6. Sometimes I forget to wear my gloves. But not last Tuesday.

I think everybody has done this quirky meme, but if not, please feel free to tell me and go right ahead!

In case my congregation was wondering...

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

They are so cute when they're asleep....

please notice her new "cactus" squeaky toy from Arizona.
By the way, this is my 300th post.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bad Weather Stories

...will get back to serious posting, really....

We had a lovely weekend here, with weather soaring up near 40 degrees on Monday and lots of melting. We drove up up to Duluth on Sunday to deliver a piece of furniture (and I do mean 'piece') to the brilliant younger stepson. And everything was warm and melting up there, too. Scout came along for the ride as she always does. Several shopkeepers know her by name, as does every night clerk at the hotel where we always stay.

But today the temperature has been plummeting all day. Those two warm days were just a foretaste of the spring to come (kind of like transfiguration is a foretaste of the resurrection, maybe?). We were supposed to get snow, but that all went south of us. However, the wind is howling and temperatures are well below zero as I type this. (14 below? and windchills are 37 or 38 below now). And I am remembering all kinds of Bad Weather Stories. Here are two:

It was the time of my first car, the Renault, which I bought because it was the only car I could afford. And it was the coldest December in years. I was living in an apartment in the kind of hip Uptown neighborhood, and parking on the street every night. And there was a solid week when the temperature did not get above 15 below. And the car would not start. If the temperature got one degree higher, to 14 below, I could start the car, with a lot of finessing. I was not supposed to pump the accelerator, but I did, and I could start the car if I pumped the accelerator. Until 15 below. Then nothing I did helped. So in desperation I called a service station one day. They told me it was flooded. I said it was not flooded, but oh well, what did I know? And they towed it in. When it got nice and warm inside the garage, it started up fine. So I brought the car home (it was a Friday night) and set my alarm for 2 in the morning, so that I could get up and drive the car around in the middle of the night. Then it was up again at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday to drive it again. All this so I could do Christmas shopping on Saturday.

During seminary sometime, the Renault breathed its last and I instead started driving a cute little red Mazda. During my last January in seminary, my senior year, we again had some incredibly cold weather. One morning I was set to give a presentation for a class. But I needed to get some materials printed at the local Kinkos. I hopped in my car, which started right up (although it of course complained about it.) In less than five minutes I was putting together my presentation, then headed back to my car, which WOULD NOT START. This time it was (see above) flooded. It was a long cold and shall I say humble walk to campus that morning. And later a long walk back to the car, which started right up this time.

Needless to say, I love my Toyota.

And, tonight at least, I am glad I do not live in the part of Canada where Crimson Rambler lives.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mom, Can I Get One of These?

Courtesy of Old Lutheran

Find out about Pastor Grace here

I don't think I can add anything to this. Can you?

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Couple of things I Don't like about Chasubles

(or maybe three)

This fall our church bought a full set of chasubles, in every liturgical color. Previously, we had one fancy chausable, which we wore on Christmas and Easter. But since about the middle of November, we have been wearing chasubles every Sunday. Whoever presides ducks out during the offering, and comes "dressed for dinner", as one of my worship professors liked to say.

So, at first I got a few comments like this, "That color really looks good on you." I asked the Senior Pastor if anyone ever said that to him, and he said, "No. Nothing like that." One thing I like about albs is that no one ever comments on my outfit. And I prefer that. I prefer that, during worship, people aren't thinking: "What a great suit! I wonder where she got that?"

I didn't know what a chasuble was until seminary. I never saw a pastor wear one, so it didn't really seem Lutheran to me. Since then, I have discovered that there are plenty of Lutherans east and west of me who are familiar with chasubles. But we in the Midwest: well, some of us don't even wear albs. So many Lutheran churches here don't have chasubles and that is okay with me. It's just one more thing to think about, another layer of church garb. And in the winter, it is a cause of static electricity in my hair.

But here's the worst thing: the chasubles are A Little Too Big For Me. They were obviously not created for a person of my (ahem) stature. If they had sleeves, I'd have to roll up the sleeves. They are about an inch and a half from being too long. In the case of chasubles, of course you would like to think that one size fits all, but that's not true exactly.

There's a picture of me on my ordination day, standing with my pastor and the bishop and the other pastors who were participating at the service. (If I find it, I will post it.) Of course, almost everyone else was male, but everyone else (including the woman who preached) was about a foot taller than me. This was so striking that one of my friends commented on it. She seemed to think that it was a sign of another level of progress that even someone like me could become a pastor.

So not only are chasubles a little too fancy for my piety, they are also a little too Big for me. But today as I was presiding it occurred to me: so is the Call to ministry a little too Big for me. In fact, it's too Big period. As writer and pastor Gerhard Frost once observed, "The things that are worthy of us, as persons, are often beyond us." I have been called to the ministry of Word and Sacrament, a vocation that I can never completely master, but am always striving toward.

But that is not true only of my vocation. When God calls each of us to be God's person in the world, that call is always a little too Big.

For me, I need to call on God, and on my friends. Because the Call, like the Chasuble, is just a little Too Big.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


(this post will be printed in a somewhat shorter form in our church newsletter)

This morning I was out in the just before dawn walking my dog. I was wearing my coat, my scarf, my boots, my mittens, my earmuffs, the whole armor of God, so to speak. And I was thinking, that aside from the snow and the ice, it felt, well, almost pleasant. I can do this, I was thinking, as I watched the darkness begin to give way to light. It's not so bad.

It was 21 degrees.

Now, the last I heard, 21 degrees was still considered well below freezing. It's colder than my refrigerator, in fact. I think all will agree that it is a cold temperature. And back in November, when the temperature dipped to 21, it was a major catastrophe. It was unbearable. It was almost the end of the world. Today, it's a veritable heat wave. Or, at least I can stand it. I can deal with it. So what changed?

I got acclimated.

Now I suppose that we as a species would not survive if we didn't learn to acclimate. This is especially true in extreme climates, like Minnesota -- and Arizona. My sister tells me that something similar happens where she lives. We visited once in the middle of July, and whined and complained the whole time. "How can you stand it?" we asked. "It's not any different than the cold in Minnesota, she informed us, a hint irritated. "In fact, it's easier than Minnesota."

But, it got me thinking today: there are some things we need to get acclimated to, the things we can't do anything about, like the weather. But often we learn to live with things we should, instead, be trying to change, things we should care about.

I think the prophets got angry because the people of Israel got too acclimated to the presence of the poor and needy among them. Instead of working for justice for their neighbor, they looked the other way.

Sometimes we get acclimated to injustice against ourselves. I think of women or children who are abused and who learn to believe that this is normal, that this is the way it is supposed to be. Or countries that live with war for so many years they no longer remember what peace is like.

The people of God can't afford to get too acclimated to injustice in the world. We are called to be salt and light, not only to seek justice for ourselves, but for other children of God as well. As the apostle Paul wrote: Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2) In other words, don't get too acclimated.

In the meantime, we have the coat, the scarf, the boots and mittens, the whole armor of God. We need to feel the pain of injustice, of grief, of sorrow, but we can't let it stop us from going out into the world. After all, it's cold out there.

Friday, January 25, 2008

It's a Winter Friday Five

Singing Owl from Revgalblogpals says:

Brrrr! Baby, it’s COLD outside! At least that is the case where I am this morning. We are in a January deep freeze. Have a cup of hot tea and tackle five easy seasonal questions.

1. What is the thermometer reading at your house this morning?
Well, not in the house, but in the car the reading was 2 degrees this morning! Which is a significant increase from 13 below, the low on Wednesday night, when even the dog didn't want to go out.

2. Snow—love it or hate it?
I Love looking at it, but HATE shoveling it, sliding around on it and getting stuck in it. Is that called a Love/Hate relationship? Before cars, my feelings were much less complicated!

3. What is winter like where you are?
Looooong and cold. Sometimes it begins in the middle of November and lasts until the middle of April.

4. Do you like winter sports? Any good stories?
Sadly, I'm not much of a winter sports nut. It's too cold. I used to like to go sledding, when I was a kid. I'm not good at ice skating. I've tried cross-country skiing once or twice. I think I would like it, and it's good exercise. But, it's COLD, you know.

5. What is your favorite season, and why?
Summer. Summer is Minnesota's reward for surviving winter. We are silly in love with summer here. The whole state is, I think. Personally, I like the summer sports, like swimming and hiking. Other Minnesotans, weigh in, if you like.

Bonus: Share a favorite winter pick-me-up. A recipe, an activity, or whatever.
Hmmm. This will tell you something, but our favorite activity is going to Arizona for a week. Last year we also took a couple of days and stayed in a historic hotel. Happened to go right as we were getting a blizzard. It made the days fun. We got massages, and I got a manicure, and we went swimming. Sadly, we did have to shovel our cars out when we came home.

Another story: a few years ago, when I served in South Dakota, we had a terrible winter. I planned an intergenerational "I Hate Winter" Party at the indoor pool of a nearby town. Unfortunately, the "I Hate Winter" party had to be postponed because of a blizzard.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Last Wednesday, I visited a baby boy and his mother in the hospital. We haven't had many hospitalized in the last week or so; just the baby boy, four months old. And his surgery was good news: everything had gone well, though he was still attached to an IV, and had stitches running all the way across his head.

On Monday, he had had surgery to remove part of his skull, a deformity at his birth. Since he was born 4 months ago, they have been preparing for this day. And when I walked in they were preparing him for a bath, a momentous and somewhat complicated occasion, since tubes had to be removed or covered so they would not get wet. Mother and nurse worked together to get him ready to put in the tub, which just had a little bit of water in it. Then they poured cups of warm water over him and bathed him.

It turns out that the most important thing they were doing was washing his head, specifically his stitches. As the nurse gently poured water on his head so that he would not get an infection, he cried and cried. He was NOT a happy little boy. As I watched her I remembered his baptism, less than two weeks before. He had cried then, too, as we gently washed away his sin and proclaimed him a child of God. Later on, during the picture taking, he was happy and comforted again.

What does that mean, anyway? "the washing away of sin." What does a four-month old baby know of sin? Nothing, really: at 4 months a baby has neither means, motive or opportunity for sin. Still, I tell the parents: we are all born inclined to sin, and sooner or later we all get there. But on that day I saw baptism in another way: healing. And we all need healing, don't we? From the youngest to the oldest among us, we all need to be healed, to have our stitches washed, even though it makes us cry.


On Sunday we woke up to temperatures of about 13 below zero, not counting the windchill. Needless to say, attendance at all three services was smaller than usual. Besides the cold weather, it is now flu and cold season as well. If I hadn't been preaching, I might have considered staying at home myself!

Our small 11:11 service (Called the Little Liturgy) took the worst hit. I wasn't even sure there would be a service. And as I have been fighting a cold, part of me was kind of pulling for a last-minute cancellation.

We had two visitors, a father and a son. Four or five others eventually joined them, and we had enough to worship together, huddle together, perhaps more accurately. I was embarrassed to have a manuscript in front of me, and resolved then and there to begin to have an outline version ready for these more intimate worship services.

However, the son sat in rapt attention to my every word. He didn't seem to mind that I had a "script". His father told me after the service "my son drags me to church." I am glad they came, and reminded me that hearts, and not numbers, are important, and that Jesus usually changes lives one or two at a time, and not "en masse."


Sunday night my husband and I went to the Large Chain Bookstore for coffee and to decide what to use our gift cards for. In the corner sat a young woman pastor from a tradition different than my own. She was wearing a black clerical shirt and collar, and writing on her laptop computer. I felt significantly underdressed in my jeans and sweatshirt. Is there something wrong with me, that I want to get out of my "work clothes" as soon as possible on Sunday? I don't always want people to know who I am.

A friend of mine said that she was on a train once with a group of nuns. When the train encountered difficulties, she was somehow comforted by their presence. Their dress set them apart and let people know who they were. On the other hand, when I first told my co-workers I was going to seminary, they suddenly stopped inviting me to their parties. I guess that I wasn't such a comforting presence in that context.

I'm not sure if I was comforted or disturbed when I noticed the pastor sitting in the corner and working on Sunday evening.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Book Review #1: March

"We have had enough of white people ordering our existence! There are men of my own race more versed in how to fetch and carry than you will ever be. And there are Negro preachers aplenty who know the true language of our souls. A free people must learn to manage its own destiny." (March, p. 268).

This line, spoken near the end of the novel March by an African-American woman named Grace, has stayed with me for several days. I turned a flap on the page down just as I read it, and have returned to it often. Perhaps it is because I have been thinking about the Civil Rights Movement recently, and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Perhaps it is because I have been thinking about Barack Obama's candidacy, and what it means, and doesn't mean. (I skimmed Shelby Steele's latest essay/book at the bookstore recently; he weighs in on Obama's candidacy himself.) Perhaps it is because I've been hearing about Bill Cosby's crusade lately as well, how he has been traveling to speak to black communities in large cities. By far the most radical thing I have heard that he says, is: I don't care what white people think.

That being said, this is not one of the main themes of the novel, by Geraldine Brooks. This book imagines the absent father from Louisa May Alcott's novel, Little Women. As Alcott's novel imagines how these four young women grew up during one year, so also this novel imagines how Mr. March (and Marmee, as well) grew from his experience of war. We meet both March and Marmee as both idealistic and flawed people, who love each other but hurt and misunderstand each other, and whose best intentions sometimes result in tragedy. It's not just their sins, but their virtues that sometimes wound.

The depiction of the war is also harrowing and heartbreaking: realistic in the cruelty of the South and the mixed motives of many in the north.

We will be discussing this book tomorrow at our church's book group meeting. I'm looking forward to what more we will uncover.

with nods to Besomami for the idea of recording and reviewing books finished in 2008.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It Was a Very Good Year...

A while back Wyldth1ng tagged me for this challenging meme, regarding the year I was 25. This has been quite a challenge for me, since I was 25 about a quarter of a century ago. One thing that helped: I lived in Japan during my 25th year, so that helped me to remember a few things. (I hope to add pictures to this post later.)

I turned 25 on April 16, 1982. Here are 5 things I remember from April 16 of that year to April 16th of 1983.

1. I had just moved from Tokyo, the urban center of Honshu, to the "little" town of Kumamoto, on the island of Kyushu. The school year in Japan runs from April to March, and I moved to teach junior and senior high school at a Lutheran School called Kyushu Gakuin. By the way, it was (and I believe still is) a Boys' School.

2. The first day of teaching 7th grade boys was extremely challenging for me. There were fifty boys in the class; the first thing the other teacher and I did was divide the boys into two groups. They didn't know any English. In theory, I knew some Japanese. But I realized just then that I didn't know "classroom English." After taking roll, it was touch and go. I was trying to ask them to write their names and one of the boys was trying valiantly to ask me whether I wanted them to write in capital letters or small letters. I didn't know the Japanese word for "capital letters" so I had no idea what he was asking. He ended up jumping up and down to signify "big" until I figured out what he was talking about. I will also remember the day I picked up a pencil from a student's desk and said, "This is a pencil." to which he replied, "This is a dorobou." (Dorobou, it turns out, is Japanese for "thief.")

3. I remember shortly after the school year began, getting a school break for what was called "Golden Week" back then. It was called Golden Week because there were three national holidays within about a week and a half. One of them was the Emperor's Birthday. Since there has been a new emperor since I left Japan, I wonder if there is still a "Golden Week". Perhaps my new friend Tanya, who lives in Japan, can tell. Anyway, during Golden Week we took a train and went to a famous pottery festival in Arita, where we bought lots of bowls, teacups and other essentials -- cheap. It was wonderful! P.S. yes, there still is a Golden Week.

4. During the summer break, (mid-July through August) I traveled with a group of young people to Kagoshima prefecture for summer fun and relaxation. If there weren't pictures, I don't think I would remember much except having fun by the seashore. For this midwestern girl, being near both mountains and oceans was quite an experience.

5. In March, my parents arrived for a two week tour of Japan. They visited Tokyo, the old capital of Kyoto, my town of Kumamoto, and also visited Hiroshima, where the missionaries were having their annual meeting. I also took them for an overnight stay in a ryokan, which is a Japanese-style inn. My parents recently told me they remembered the night I told them I was too tired to translate for them any more; they were on their own! So they got a little supper in Kyoto without any help.

The picture is of "Kinkakuji", the Golden Pavilion, in Kyoto, one of the many places I visited with my parents.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Lunch with the Pastor

On Saturday, I got to go to "lunch with the Pastor" with 6 children from our congregation, ages 3 to 11. This is a program that our Children's Ministry Coordinator started; the children draw names for the honor of having lunch with one of us a couple of times a year.

Originally we were going to have lunch and go skating, but with subzero temperatures throughout the day, that plan seemed ill-advised. So, instead, we went to a local library to hear a special interactive program about Martin Luther King. Local actor and singer Mychael Rambo walked in, reciting a portion of Martin Luther King's "I have a dream...." speech, and almost immediately after that, broke into song. He learned the names of the children, and engaged each one individually. He said, "Great people aren't born. They are made." And then he told portions of the history of slavery that "made" Martin Luther King great. He told us about the secret messages in songs like "Wade in the Water" (if you "wade in the water" while escaping from slavery, the dogs will lose your scent). He sang "No more auction block for me" and showed us how it was transformed into "We Shall Overcome." He told all of us to consider the Martin Luther King Day Holiday not a Day off, but a Day ON, a day to work for justice. And, somewhere during the presentation, he said recalled this quote from Dr King:

In the end we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.

The work is not done; Martin Luther King's dream is not yet fully-realized.

Let us not be silent.
image from here

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday Sermon: Come and See

Epiphany 3 Year A 2007
John 1:29-42
"Come and See"

At the coffee counter of one of the Large Chain bookstore we stop in at, there is now a bright new display which reads "Coffee and conversation with an Icon." It invites each passerby to consider, "Whom would you have coffee with?" and offers matching coffee mugs and little books of "interviews" with eight famous people: icons, as they say. How about it? Would you like to have coffee with Groucho Marx? Or with Plato? How about with Ernest Hemingway? Or with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? Or with the Buddha? These are just some of the conversations that they offer. "Whom would you like to have coffee with?" It’s worth thinking about. What famous person from history would be compelling enough for coffee and a conversation – for you?

I noticed that, although the Buddha was on the list, Jesus wasn’t. Martin Luther wasn’t either, but then, I’m not sure he drank much coffee. And I wondered why Jesus was not included – to my mind he’s every bit as fascinating as any of the others – just the sort of person I’d want to spent time with. Wouldn’t you?

That’s also the way Jesus is portrayed in this opening portion of John’s gospel. It’s quite a picture, isn’t it? John the Baptist, at this point the most famous person in the gospel, sees Jesus somewhere on the streets and testifies about him, "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." He also calls Jesus "the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit" and "the Son of God." And simply on the basis of this testimony, two of John’s disciples turn and follow Jesus – literally. They actually follow Jesus down the street and ask where he is staying. He tells them to "Come and see," and they continue to follow him and to stay with him for the rest of the day. Coffee and conversation? Who knows? Both John’s testimony and Jesus’ presence must have been compelling to inspire such a conversion.

This is even more incredible when we consider that Jesus has not yet done anything. He has preached no sermon, healed no lepers, multiplied no loaves or fishes. He has not yet dared to forgive sins or heal a blind man. Changing water into wine? That will come in the next chapter.All these new disciples have is John’s word and Jesus’ presence. And yet, there is something about Jesus that is so compelling that they decide to follow him. They begin by literally following him down the street, of course. But by the end of the day they are "followers". They are disciples.
They are no longer curious onlookers. They are people who will go where Jesus goes, even though they do not yet understand everything, and even though they do not yet know where the path will lead.

I’ve always been fascinated by conversion stories. Perhaps it’s because as a person who was brought up in the church, I wonder about all the different ways that people come to faith, and learn to follow Jesus. One story that has fascinated me is by a young woman named Lauren Winner. Her story, "Girl Meets God," talks about her journey from orthodox Judaism to Christianity. As you can imagine, it’s full of twists and turns and insights. But I remember two different elements of her conversion story. One is a series of books she read: The Mitford series about a small town and a small church in the South. Perhaps you’ve heard of them.
Anyway, she read these books, and was fascinated by the portraits they drew of the ordinary Christian people and their lives together. Who would think that something like these simple books would play a part in a conversion? Another is a dream she said she had more than once.

There was a mysterious figure in it, whom she identified as Jesus. And Jesus just kept coming to her in this dream. He was such a compelling figure, and she just couldn’t get him out of her mind. And eventually, Lauren Winner decided to become a Christian. But she started following Jesus, following after him, for a long time before that.

Jesus’ invitation to the two disciples is just as simple, and just as compelling. "Come and see," he tells them. He offers no explanations, no justifications, he doesn’t talk about who he is. Later on they will be following him and they will see and hear and experience things, because they have followed him. But right now all he says to them is "Come and see." And they come. And eventually, little by little, they begin to see.

A while back I went to a seminar on evangelism. The person leading the seminar was talking about traditional ways that his faith tradition had of introducing people to Jesus. And he said, that the common traditional wisdom is that it works like this: First, you get people to Believe in Jesus. You have them make a statement of faith, say a prayer, invite Jesus into their lives. Then you help them to learn to behave like a Christian – teach them about the Christian life, and what it means to be a disciple. And finally, at the end, they join the church. They belong. This is the traditional order of things, he said: Believe, Behave, Belong. But, at some point he discovered, in his work, that it really works better and more naturally in another order: first, he says, you belong. First you "come," whether to a church service or a fellowship event or to a dinner: "Coffee and conversation with Jesus", maybe. Then as you learn to follow, you learn to BEHAVE like a Christian. You learn more and more what the Christian life is all about: mercy and forgiveness, service and sacrifice. And finally, as you are learning and sharing and belonging, you discover that you Believe. You have come to see Jesus in your life, see his love guiding you, see his forgiveness setting you free. "Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Like Lauren Winner, and like the disciples, first you "come" and follow, and then you learn to "see" and believe in who he is for you – lamb of God, Anointed one, Son of God, friend of sinners.

One of those two disciples who comes and stays turns out to be Andrew. Andrew, it turns out, has a famous brother, Simon. Andrew himself is not so famous, although he has gained a minor reputation for introducing people to Jesus. Andrew hears Jesus’ invitation to "come and see" – and not only does he follow Jesus himself – he also invites his brother to "Come and see" Jesus for himself. This Jesus was so compelling to him, so powerful, so life-giving that he had to share him with others. "Coffee and conversation with an icon?" – not enough. Something about Jesus – his wisdom, his power, maybe his love? – had made an impression on him. Here was "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Here was "the anointed one." Here was "the son of God." Here was the healer and giver of life, friend of sinners, bread of life, good shepherd ... so many things he would find out as he kept following Jesus. Except: Jesus hadn’t done anything: yet. These are things he would learn as he followed Jesus, on the road to the cross, and to true freedom. These are things he wanted to share with his brother, Simon. "Simon," perhaps he said, "I’ve met the anointed one, the lamb of God, the bread of life. Come and see."

So the invitation doesn’t stop with Jesus’ invitation to us – it continues as we also invites others to "come and see" for themselves. We invite people to come and see Jesus in our lives; we testify how following him has changed us, why we follow him, how we have opened our hands and he has fed us. And I’ll be truthful: this might be a frightening thing, for all we have is our words, all we have is our witness. Most of us don’t have a miracle to point to, a special "sign" – just ordinary ones like bread and wine, like water, like people who forgive each other, however imperfectly. And yet still we are called to say "Come and see. Come and see Jesus in my life. Come and see Jesus when I am courageous and when I fail. Come and see Jesus as we serve the grieving and the wounded. Come and see Jesus as we lead children and hold their hands. Come and see Jesus as we fall and pick each other up. Come and see Jesus as we listen and when we speak."

On Saturday, a group of children from our congregation went to the Oxboro Library to hear a speaker sing songs and tell stories and remember Martin Luther King Jr. He began by sharing part of Martin Luther King’s "I Have a Dream" speech. And I remembered hearing once that at first, Martin Luther King did not want to be a leader of the civil rights movement. He just wanted to be a pastor, following Jesus, and encouraging his congregation to "come and see Jesus" too. But this is where the road led, for him. This is what happened when he heard the invitation to "come and see Jesus" and when he invited others to come with him. Disciples of Jesus took action – and changed the world.

"Coffee and conversation with an icon" Remember that display? I wondered why there was no book or coffee mug for Jesus. Perhaps this is why: when we sit at table here with Jesus, sharing words and a meal together, we get up to follow him – and to change the world together. "Come and see" he invites us. "Come and see me in bread and wine, in acts of service and sacrifice, in one another. "Come and see" we turn to invite others – "come and see Jesus in your life." Who knows where it will lead? AMEN

Friday, January 18, 2008

Winter Sniffles, Sneezes and Good News

Here at Right Next To Canada, it's about zero or so, with windchills of up to 20 to 30 below zero. You have to be from the midwest to fully appreciate the windchill factor. Tonight, we're staying in and ordering hoagies. And sniffling, sneezing, wheezing and coughing.

Both of us have colds. Wednesday night, as I drifted off to sleep, I mumbled, "I have a sore throat." And husband said, "I have a sore throat too." Thursday, I took a couple of hours off of work and took a nap. I'm doing my regimen of: lots of hot tea, aspirin or tylenol-type product, Vicks inhaler and one antihistimine. Plus, a little whining.

On the plus side, Scout has returned to her old self. She appears to have gotten a doggie-virus (so did a couple of others at the boarder's). Now she's back to her old ways -- she even had enough energy to destroy a leather CD case and (thankfully only) one CD. Beethoven for Book Lovers is now history.

So bundle up everyone! Hope you are all warm and cozy tonight!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Friday Five: Read any Good Books Lately?

Rev HRod gives us this Friday Five:

The website promoting this piece of art says, "For the first time, the worlds most influential religious texts are brought together and presented on the same level, their coexistence acknowledged and celebrated”. The shelf is made of reclaimed wood that contains seven religious books. The designers have put them – literally – on the same level.Well, pish posh! I think that some books ARE better than others! How about you?

What book have you read in the last six months that has really stayed with you? Why?

I just finished Geraldine Brooks' novel March, which is about Mr. March, the father of the Little Women. Haunting vision of war and what it does to people. Also, quite an insightful portrait of people who are both idealistic and flawed.
Also, like Mompriest, I have been reading Mary Oliver's poetry.

What is one of your favorite childhood books?

I always liked Little Women. I know I am not unique in this. I got an abridged edition when I was pretty young, and graduated to the thick illustrated edition. I think (no, I know) I identified with Jo, who wanted to be a writer, and was devastated that she didn't get together with Laurie.

Do you have a favorite book of the Bible? Do tell!

I can't help myself. I do like Romans. I guess I'm Lutheran, after all. Although my favorite verse of the Bible is from 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 17: If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. Everything old has passed away; behold, everything has become new.

What is one book you could read again and again?
True confessions: I have, on occasion, read certain sections of To Kill a Mockingbird over and over again. Maybe one of the reasons our dog is named Scout.

Is there a book you would suggest for Lenten reading? What is it and why?
Well, the one the Revgals has chosen, Bread and Wine, is pretty good. The readings are varied and reflect lots of different traditions. One year we read Henry Nouwen's book With Open Hands during Lent. I thought that was a wonderful meditation on prayer.

And because we all love bonus questions, if you were going to publish a book what would it be? Who would you want to write the jacket cover blurb expounding on your talent?
Right now my best book idea is a memoir of my years on the South Dakota prairie, learning from experts what it means to be a pastor. Possible title (taken from my post on Lutheran Cable Network shows: "They ordain Women, Don't they?") I'd love if Anne Lamott and Kathleen Norris could recommend it!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

An Atheist in the Pulpit

The January-February issue of Psychology Today has a very provocative cover. But that's not what attracted me to it, and why I finally bought a copy, as we were headed home from vacation. No, it was the feature article titled above, "An Atheist in the Pulpit", which begins with a pseudonymous Lutheran minister struggling to write a sermon and realizing that he did not believe in God any more.

The Lutheran minister goes to his bishop (a woman, by the way), who does not take him seriously. Either she does not believe that he really lost his faith, or she doesn't care (as long as he puts asses in the pews, as he puts it). The article doesn't specify exactly what happens to this particular pastor, but goes on to tell the stories of other pastors and religious people who finally decide to quit the fiction and call themselves atheists. By the way, in case anyone is worried, most of them are not pastors any longer. There are a couple who are Unitarians, and continue to find some place for religious practice in their life, if not what they call "faith." Most (including one former Pentecostal minister) are now as zealous in their atheism as they once were in their faith.

The article references the current spate of books by zealous atheists. An interesting subconversation is the idea that the belief in God is replaced by a kind of a "belief" in science and an awe of the natural world. Another subconversation is about the "two leaps": one from literalism and fundamentalism to a more expansive faith, and the second to outright atheism.

The article makes it clear that this is not simply about losing faith in the church, or the church's policies. This isn't just about the problem of "organized religion." And one of the illustrations is about Mother Teresa's serious doubts: she is either, the article says, "a phony" or "her trials actually make her religious life more meaningful." Obviously, I would be on the side of the second interpretation. But it does make you think, doesn't it? About two things (at least.) First, what is faith? In my interpretation, Mother Teresa has faith because, despite her deep doubts, she keeps going, she keeps working, she keeps doing what she believes God has called her to. That's at least part of my definition of faith.

And the second: What is your definition of God? What kind of a God do you believe in (or not believe in)? I'm thinking of the story NT Wright tells, about when he counsels students who tell him they don't believe in God. He asks: "Well, what kind of God do you believe in?" If they say, "a being who lives up in the sky, looking down disapprovingly at the world, occasionally intervening to do miracles, sending bad people to hell while allowing good peole to share...heaven", he would answer, "I don't believe in that god either."

What do you think? What are your doubts? Your faith? What God do you believe in?

And if you want to join in on a fascinating discussion of the Meaning of Jesus, go see Barb

image from here

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Environmental Meme

Fran tagged me for this a long time ago, and I am finally getting to it -- it comes by way of Delia, who has a birding blog (that in itself sounds interesting). Here's the idea:

Try to think of one way you and your family can lessen your environmental impact in 2008. You could consider doing something relatively easy--like giving up paper plates and napkins (yup, more dishes and laundry, but oh so worth it at
trash-time)--or more difficult--like trying to carpool more (which can be a
pain, but saves a ton in gas money, not to mention in saved emissions). It
doesn't have to be hard--it could be something as simple as trying one of those
new fluorescent bulbs in your desk lamp. How about it?

This is hard for me, because there is so much I could do -- but if I'm honest I know I haven't been very good as "making a smaller footprint." (as Ann Bancroft would say.) For example, I bought two cloth bags from our local grocery store so that I wouldn't use so many grocery bags (paper or plastic), but I sometimes forget to use them! So one of my environmental goals for 2008 would be to use cloth grocery bags more often. I'd also like to use cloth bags for some of my other shopping as well. And third, I'd like to do "using up" what we have -- whatever itis. Those are my modest goals for 2008. and oh yes, I think we will look into getting some of those LED lights as well.

I'll tag Mompriest and Katherine, because I'm really interested in their environmental goals!

What I did today

While on vacation, I decided to adopt the small discipline of taking a daily multi-vitamin. I started taking them about half-way during our vacation, and I think they did help a little, with my energy level.

So, we returned home last night. From 69 degrees and sunny to 1 below zero and snowy. And dark. We got semi-unpacked, and I made my lists of things to do today. And oh yes, we picked the dog up from her dog sitter. She got mixed reviews from the sitter this time. I still have a couple of questions for the vet regarding some of her dietary issues.

This morning we got off to a flying start. I had an early meeting with the superintendent of schools, and Husband had The First Day of Classes. We were both to scrape off our windshields and be off at about 7:30.

So, I'm feeding the dog, and getting ready to give her her medicine, when I see my multi-vitamin on the counter, and I think, oh, I better not forget to take that this morning. And then I get a glass of water and I proceed to swallow one of my dog's pills by mistake.

I also took a vitamin.

And I gave my dog another pill.

I think I still feel ok. I think.

Or, maybe I have another reason to call the vet.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lutheran Cable Network Shows

I know I said I wouldn't post, but I've had this in the back of my mind for awhile...

Back in the 1960s, Lutherans broke new ground when they introduced Davey and Goliath. I remember watching this cartoon often when I was a child. According to my extensive research, Davey and Goliath ran from 1960 to 1975.

When I was in seminary, cable TV was beginning to explode. A classmate and I proposed that we again could be on the forefront with Lutheran Cable Network shows. I only remember two of our offerings from that time:

Luther, Katie, Melancthon, various students, friends, children (and of course Tolpel, the dog) amid the tumult of the Reformation and their own busy household. (1 hour)

Grace Alone
A sit-com featuring single mom Grace, who strives to live by reformation principles as she juggles various aspects of her busy life: parenthood, work, and neighbors, with often hilarious results. ( 1/2 hour)

New ideas just recently:

They Ordain Women, Don't They?
A dramedy about a young woman pastor learning the ins and outs of parish life in a small town. Filled with both humor and tragedy, both endearing and comic characters, and slice-of-life situations about a disappearing way of life. (1 hour)

The Altos
Political intrigue, faith and good music collide in this series about an excellent church choir, their lives, their times, and their rehearsals. Some early questions: Should we move the piano? Will we be able to introduce a contemporary worship service? Should we? How about that new choir director? The show will always end with a different choral anthem.

Pulpit Fiction
In the tradition of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, this series will feature a different story every week, narrated by a famous Lutheran pastor (or is that an oxymoron?), and featuring an ordinary Christian, living in a world where faith saves us, not works, where power is found in humble service, and where forgiveness is the most powerful act. Wait! Perhaps it is the Twilight Zone.

Diet of Worms
A Lutheran Food Show, with both recipes and food ideas, and theological discussions. Among some early programs: 101 Ways with Sauerkraut, The Dark Side of Lutfisk, and a panel discussion on the connection between spicy food and sin.

If I think of any other ideas, I'll expand the post to include them. In the meantime, what are your ideas?

P.S. Coming soon: the environmental meme, the pet meme, Reflections on the Desert, and some recommendations for blogs to visit!

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Truth

I've been waking up every morning with a terrible back and neck ache, and some low grade sinus problems. Today my back is just a little sore, and my sinuses are finally better.

We've been doing some fun things (I'll post more later, if anyone is interested), but I've been disappointed in my lack of energy.

I thought the computer might be behind some of the back issues, so I'm trying to check in briefly.

Also, I had lots of tumultuous dreams last night. One was about trying to get to a pulpit exchange location and losing my car. So I think: I need to stay off the clergy blogs for the next couple of days, too.

Also thinking about the best ways to care for my health these days too. What about you? We are off to our morning walk!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

We are lazy slugs

I'm not sure if I am going to be posting much for the next few days. It's 64 degrees and sunny today.

However, Scout has a new post, a story only she can tell.

See you later!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Monday when it rained we hung out in Mesa, and stopped over at my parents for awhile. My mom is reading a memoir by a man who grew up on a farm in southwestern Minnesota, not far from where she grew up. At one point she asked me: "What do you remember about the old farm house?" (It has been torn down for many years.) So, because Mom asked, this is what I remember:

  • grandma's huge strawberry patch, the biggest part of her large garden

  • fresh tomato juice served in the colorful rooster pitcher, when we had breakfast in the dining room

  • grandpa coming up from the basement. he was the only one who ever went down there, as far as I know

  • the way you had to take a step up from the kitchen into the dining room.

  • the slanted roof on the kitchen (actually, I think the floor was kind of slanted too).

  • taking baths in the kitchen sink

  • grandma's upright piano in the living room

  • the "girl's bedroom" upstairs, with the dressing table and walk-in closet

  • when the phone rang, and grandma would say "it's not our ring." How strange!

  • my aunt telling me scary stories one Christmas Eve at bedtime, so I would not get up in the middle of the night and look around for presents

  • the front porch

  • the doll carriage I found, and the kittens I gave rides in it

  • the time we drove down Highway 71 and went right past the farm! My grandparents had moved into town. My aunt and uncle now lived in the farmhouse. I was six years old, and it was a traumatic experience.
Then my mom offered a few memories: taking baths on Saturday night (that's right, once a week); her mom canning preserves and tomatoes; no indoor plumbing (they did not have the toilet and shower in the basement until she was in high school). I hope she writes a memoir. I would like to know more about what it was like to grow up on a farm in the 1930s and 40s.

I always used to say to my mom when I was a little girl: "I wish we could live on the farm!" I loved to visit so much. She replied, "You don't have any idea what you are asking." Now, I think, I would like to know.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

We Live in Luxury

Here's a description of the place we're staying: a sort of golf resort condominium in Scottsdale, with four bedrooms (three on the 2nd level, one on the 1st), 3 bathrooms, a formal dining room, a grand piano, and a fully-stocked pantry. I know that the fact that the kitchen has a dishwasher isn't a big deal, but it's a big deal to me. I don't have one at home. By the way, the kitchen is also fully stocked with dishes and appliances. We could just stay here all week, and read and swim and cook. However, there are so many restaurants and take-out places around here that my sister-in-law once observed, "I don't think anyone cooks up here." We do, a little. The oven and range are so much better than the one at home I think I should use it, even if just a little bit.

There are vaulted ceilings and balconies and a big-screen TV downstairs. Also there are huge windows upstairs and downstairs. When I wake up in the morning, I see the pink beginnings of the sunrise from our bed.

Our place is also in a gated community, something I have mixed feelings about. Once we left without our little re-entry card and had to convince the gatekeeper to let us back in. "We really are on the list," we argued. They finally let us come back.

It hasn't always been like this. I've been coming to Arizona for about 25 years, ever since my sister got married and moved here. I used to sleep on a sofa-bed in their living room. I thought it was luxurious to stay in their condo in Mesa, when they first moved in there. I couldn't afford to rent a car, and I just hung out and did things with them. When I first started coming here, I hadn't been very many places in the world, and the saguaro and desert landscape seemed very exotic to me. I considered myself more cosmopolitan because I had finally gotten out of the midwest and seen another landscape. I considered getting a subscription to Arizona Highways magazine. In 25 years, I think I've seen a lot of the major tourist attractions, as well. I've been to Casa Grande and the Heard Museum and Tucson and Tumacacori and Tubac. I've been to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon, Florence and Sedona.

Since getting married, I've been to more places. Pennsylvania, New York City, New Mexico, San Francisco -- those are just a few of the highlights. Arizona doesn't hold quite the mystique that it once did. In fact, I'm content just to be here: read, swim, relax, visit antique stores and My Sister's Closet and Trader Joe's. Take lots of walks.

Be that as it may, we are going to take a day trip to Jerome today. It's part ghost-town, part artist's colony. It's both beautiful and falling-down. I'll send you some ambiance.

Thanks to Carolyn

I saw this over at Law and Gospel, and had to try it

The Recipe For Diane

3 parts Charisma
2 parts Laughter
1 part Creativity

Splash of Happiness

Finish off with an olive

Monday, January 7, 2008

It's Raining

We got in late last night. The temperature was 60 degrees here in Phoenix (really, Scottsdale.) My sister picked us up at the airport and we all exchanged late Christmas presents. And went to bed.

This morning it is raining and cloudy. I think this is going to be our only rainy day, if the forecast is correct. We had coffee this morning, but did not pick tangelos and make fresh orange juice -- one of the things we like to do.

We had a bit of an adventure getting off to the airport. Dog sitter was set to come and pick up Scout right before we left. But she got stuck and didn't get there. We were worried about missing our flight and finally left a message with my mother-in-law to come and stay until the dog sitter got there. She was gracious to agree, so we left a note on the door and left Scout alone for just a few minutes (we think).

Scout was not so happy about being left in the house after all of the luggage was gone. But we phoned our sitter after we checked in at the airport and found that they were on the way to her house. So she is safe at her sitter's house, now. Unfortunately, they did not get all that hamburger I cooked out of the refrigerator. Just the dry food which is the "new diet" we are trying out.

The vet thinks Scout has a canine version of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. He's just starting us trying some different things, and we are hoping to find something that will work. I'm trying not to worry about her too hard while am here.

It looks like I will have some blogging capabilities here, but probably no pictures or anything fancy! We did go for a short morning walk in the rain already.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

How Far Is it to Bethelehem?

This was the title of my sermon on Christmas eve, at 3 and 5. The Senior Pastor preached at 10:00 p.m.. Usually, I just get the 3:00 family service, but he graciously offered me the opportunity to preach at two of them this year. I'm just posting a few excerpts, as well as a reflection about something that happened after 5:00.

"How far is it to Bethlehem?" I imagine the shepherds saying to one another, after they heard the heavenly host. "Not very far," they might have replied – and it probably wasn’t, from out in the fields where they were staying. They were probably the closest of all of the visitors to the stable on that night. They were even closer than Jerusalem, the capital city – only five miles away, and always bustling with activity. Nowadays it’s even closer. In some ways Bethlehem seems like a suburb of Jerusalem. They are right next to each other. According to someone who knows these things, you can tell the difference between Jerusalem and Bethlehem because on the Jerusalem side are Israeli soldiers, and on the Bethlehem side stand Palestinian police wearing red berets and carrying pistols. "How far is it to Bethlehem?" "Not very far ...." if all you are measuring is distance. In some ways it seems very far away, impossible to get there.

"How far is it to Bethlehem?" I imagine Mary saying to Joseph, when she got the news that they would have to travel for a census demanded by the Roman government. From Nazareth, it’s about 60 miles to Bethlehem, I’ve heard – not very far, by our standards, but perhaps a long way if you are traveling by donkey, or on foot, and you are 9 months pregnant. Perhaps she sounded weary – it was a long journey, and probably neither of them really wanted to take it. And it was a journey forced on them by an occupying army.

"How far is it to Bethlehem? – not very far" are the words of an old carol, written especially for children. It sounds reassuring, doesn’t it?
Here is a little of how it sounds:
How far is it to Bethlehem? – not very far
Shall we find the stable room lit by a star?
Can we see the little child, is he within?
If we lift the wooden latch, may we go in?
"Not very far," sing the words of the carol.
It’s as if the children are trying to reassure each other, so that they will keep going on their journey, and will finally get to see the baby Jesus, their destination. Keep going, keep going, they say to one another. It’s not really very far. But sometimes Bethlehem seems very far away.

How far is it to Bethlehem, anyway? It’s five miles away from Jerusalem, and it’s 60 miles away from Nazareth, whereever that is, but how far is it away from US, from you an me, this evening? Because that is our destination, isn’t it? That is where our hearts want to be, on this Christmas eve. We want to be where Jesus was born -- where we can see the face of God's love so clearly. Some people literally do make a pilgrimage to Bethlehem at this time of year. We can watch their celebrations on television; in this way, it seems that Bethlehem has come near to us, through the miracle of technology. But it’s not really that close, is it?

"Not very far," sing the words of the carol, but it’s not true. Bethlehem is really very far away. It’s a city in a country across the world – it looked it up and it’s 6624 miles away – in a culture very different from our own. Even if we were to go to Bethlehem, we might still feel that it is far away, because its culture and its people and its language would be so different from/than our own. How far is it to Bethlehem? 6,624 miles to go to Bethlehem from right here, if you want to go with the children and see the baby Jesus, with the shepherds and the angels and the animals. 6,624 miles. And we’ve barely begun, haven’t we? How can we ever get there?

After the 5:00 service, one of the worshippers -- a woman I didn't know -- said that the sermon was particularly meaningful to her son that evening. He had just been to Jerusalem recently, and he was struck at that time by how close Jerusalem and Bethlehem were to each other, but how literally you could not get to Bethlehem from Jerusalem, because of soldiers and roadblocks, and fear. In a little while, I was also shaking hands with her son, who told me the same thing -- how he has this image of the distance between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in his mind so near, and yet, impossible to get to.

And I thought about all of the unhappiness, the injustice, the evil in the world. The situation in the Middle East is just one sign of it. Sometimes God seems very close, and sometimes very far away -- not in miles, but in righteousness and justice. Because of human sin, the world is not a place fit for God. And we can think of human sin in terms of personal choices and morality, or in terms of system of oppression and injustice. To me, it's not an either/or. It's a both/and. We make choices that separate us from God. It's as if we are in Jerusalem and Jesus is in Bethlehem, so close -- but impossible to get to.

And yet -- God chooses to be among us, in our hearts, in our lives, in our communities. He's not just in Bethlehem. He's in Jerusalem, and in Kenya, and in Pakistan, and in all of the places where people are suffering. God chooses to make his home among sinners, and on the cross bridges the gap, crosses the line that divides us.

The question is: will we follow him?

Happy Epiphany!

Friday, January 4, 2008


Tonight I am doing laundry and packing (really interesting activities, huh? What a life!) in preparation for our annual trip to Phoenix, Arizona! You can't even imagine (well, maybe you can) how much I am looking forward to this trip. We stay in a really nice condo in Scottsdale owned by my husband's sister and husband. To us, it might even be called luxurious. So for a week, we live a lifestyle to which we are not otherwise accustomed. If the weather is nice, we use the swimming pool. We walk every day. We go antique shopping. We visit my parents (who winter in Mesa). We see my sister and her family, including my wonderful neice!

I really need this vacation.

Tomorrow I have a funeral and a baptism. Sunday I preside at two services. Then we are off! Scout will go to stay at her trainer's house. Part of the frenzy of preparation is making some ground beef and rice part of her meals. She will also be starting a new prescription diet. They think she might have Irritable Bowel Syndome.

In the meantime, I have been tagged for two memes:

by Fran, for an environmental meme, and by LawandGospel, for a meme about pets. I am up for both of these, but be patient with me.

Also, I have some posts in the works. I'm sure that you are all staying up nights waiting for my thoughts on:

-Barack Obama
-Lutheran Cable Network Shows
-How Far Is It To Bethlehem? (part of my Christmas Eve Sermon)
-Jazz Sermons

I did not do the Revgals Friday Five today, but my one New Year's Resolution would be to lose 10 pounds. Last year I lost 20 pounds just by walking the dog regularly (hurray for Scout), but apparently, ten of those pounds have found me.

I will blog as much as my husband lets me, while we are on vacation. He has this thing about doing things together.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Please remember to pray for...

The people of Kenya....

God our refuge and our strength, look with mercy upon the people of Kenya who have nowhere to turn for refuge. Forgive us for not being the refuge you have called us to be, for not providing a sanctuary for those who are vulnerable, cold and in danger. Give us new vision to throw upon our doors and spread upon our arms to those who wander the earth, looking for signs of your presence and hope. We pray in the name of your Son, in whose mercy is our only hope. Amen

And the people of Pakistan...

Courageous and mighty God, grant your wisdom and strength to the people and the leaders of Pakistan. Restore order and hope, and raise up courageous leaders who see a vision of respect and dignity for all people. Give us courage as well, that in the face of fear we stand up for truth, for peace, and for justice. In the name of your Son who brings peace and God's favor to earth, and who makes peace with us, and among us. Amen

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

7 Lies About Me

People say to me, "You are a woman pastor. That's amazing! How do you do it?" Well, here's how:

1. I'm not really from Minnesota. I'm from the Planet Krypton, which means that I am faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings with a single bound! I have X-ray vision, and when I blink my eyes, supper is on the table! My grandfather, Kal-El, sent my father here to the prairie where I was born and left me to be adopted by nice people and raised in a stable home.

2. I'm also related to the great Pentecostal Evangelist, Aimee Semple McPherson. She was, like me, glamorous and beautiful, and a mesmerizing public speaker and preacher. She acquired quite a following. However, in the late 1920s, she disappeared for a few weeks. She claimed to have been kidnapped. But, I know that she was really out on the prairie somewhere...

3. I was the world's youngest presidential candidate back in 1960. Because I was a Republican back then, I split the vote with Richard Nixon: and that's the real reason why John F. Kennedy became president. Here's a picture of me making one of my famous stump speeches from my stroller. My platform? Votes for babies! Guess a lot of babies voted for me!

4. I traveled to the Arctic Circle a number of years ago with the famous local explorers Will Steger and Ann Bancroft. I trained for this feat by carrying large packs of supplies for miles, by grueling cross-country skiing, and by walking my dog in the middle of winter in Minnesota.

5. My husband is a world-champion body-builder. He can lift pianos, pews, and just about anything you need. He can carry 20 tons of canned goods for the local food shelf, after a successful food drive. He can even dislodge angry parishoners and move them closer to the front of the church in an emergency.

6. Oh, but wait a minute: I'm not really a woman! Do you remember that story about how there was a woman pope back in the middle ages, Pope Joan? She ascended to power disguised as a man. Well, that is my story in reverse. Not only am I not a woman, I am in fact, the poet laureate Billy Collins. I have a wry sense of humor, and have even been on Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion.

7. Recently, I made a small fortune because I invented famous Jesus Heals Band-Aids! What else can I say? I was divinely inspired! Try them!

This meme was started by Splotchy, I was challenged by the Divine Democrat, and I tag: Presbyterian Gal, Barbara from View from the Road, and whoever else would like to try it!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The New Year In Japan

I don't have a story for this, but I have random foggy memories of a few New Years in Japan. When I first returned to the U.S., I used to say that I had missed Christmases here in the states, but now I will miss the New Year in Japan. Here's why:

1. They close the entire country, for about three days, starting on January 1. There are no stores, restaurants, or government offices open. The trains do run, so someone is working. And there is mail delivery (I don't remember if on the first or the second), but they only deliver New Year's Cards. For the most part, people stay home, eat, visit their neighbors, stop in at the local shrine (if you are in Tokyo, there are a couple of shrines which are very crowded at New Years), eat some more, and relax. It's hard to be a type A personality for those three days. I believe that people will go back to work around the 4th or the 5th of January, but the first day they pretty much have an office party.

2. New Year's cards are post cards that everyone sends out to their friends, family and casual acquaintances during December. You can send them whenever you want, but they will not be delivered until after January 1. I always got a few. My Japanese friends literally got hundreds. One important thing to note is that almost all of the post cards are like lottery tickets. They all have a number on them, and certain numbers win prizes. All I ever won was a couple of pretty stamps, but I did keep them.

3. I don't remember a lot about Japanese New Year food, but I do remember that there were two kinds of soups, one sweet and one not. I believe that both had mochi, which I describe as a kind of Japanese rice dumpling (although that is not exactly right, and I'll link to a place where there is a better description.) All the food is the kind that can be prepared ahead, so that everyone works hard on December 31, but no one has to work at all on January 1. The other food I associate with New Year is the mikan. It is not strictly a New Year's food. But mikans are in season in December and January, and I recall spending many a lazy day sitting under the kotatsu, peeling and eating mikans.

4. I also associate New Years with sleeping. It really is a time to relax, and do as little as possible. One year, one of my students invited me to spend the New Year with his family, who lived near Mount Aso. So on December 31, I took the train and spent a few days with his family. All of the children in the family (teenagers) stayed up late on the 31st and went to the temple to hear the tolling of the bells. We all slept until noon the next morning (at least). And, to me, it was like a big slumber party, because, in traditional Japanese style, everyone slept on the floor, on futon, with lots of thick but light kakebuton. (And, I slept in the same room with the children, all of us on tatami mats.)

5. During the New Year, there are non-stop silly game shows on Japanese TV, all the time, along with popular music shows. That's about it. And I learned a couple of Japanese card games, using hanafuda cards,which it seemed as if we played nonstop, while staying in our robes and pajamas. I still have a set of those cards somewhere, although I don't remember the rules of the game any more.

6. Finally, during one New Year celebration a co-worker at the school where I taught invited me to wear kimono. This was a BIG DEAL and an all-day affair. I had to go to the beauty parlor to get my hair done especially (with brillo pad type things in the sides and a lot of teasing and hair spray to get my blonde hair the right shape), and it took some time to put on all of the layers of the expensive silk kimono. (If I get a picture up, please note the long sleeves, which usually are reserved for young, unmarried women.) Then another young worker and I got in her car and drove to the shrine and a couple of other places, to say, "Yoroshiku", which basically means, "Greetings," I think. I'll tell you, it's no mean feat to get into a car wearing a kimono, much less drive.

7. One of the things that happens during the New Year holiday is that people just drop by. When I visited my friends at Mt. Aso, they got into their car one afternoon, and went visiting a number of their friends, bringing little New Years gifts, and wishing blessings.

This is what you say in Japan at New Year's time: Akemashite Omedetoo Gozaimasu!

And so I wish you a Happy New Year to you as well.