Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sunday Sermon

"All I Need to Know...."

A number of years ago a small essay was published and immediately became wildly popular. It’s the kind of essay that you’d find going around the internet these days, forwarded around the country via email. Except that this was before email, and still, it seemed that everyone had heard of this simple little essay. It was written by a man named Robert Fulgham (who wrote a few other things, I’ve heard), and it was called "All I need to know, I learned in kindergarten."
It contained such simple wisdom as:
"Share Everything.
Play Fair.
Don’t Hit People.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone.
Warm cookies and milk are good for you.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you got out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.".
And I wonder just why it is that this essay got so popular? Perhaps because the lessons seemed so basic, so simple, so fundamental. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all did simple things like this? And perhaps because for many of us, kindergarten was the foundation of our life of learning. Back before the lessons got real complicated, back before there was higher math and world relations, back before there were prepositions and psychology – there was kindergarten. And we’d like to think that the things we learned at the beginning of our life, provided a foundation that set us on the right direction throughout our life.

In a way, every single lesson for this weekend has something to do with foundations. The gospel lesson, with its picture of solid and sandy foundations, the words of Moses, exhorting the Israelites to remember the things that God taught them, and to teach them to the children, the reading from Paul about the bedrock of the gospel: the power of salvation. Every single lesson this weekend has something to do with foundations: foundations of faith, the basic instructions, the things we most want to teach our children, the things we most want them to know: the simple lessons like: share everything. Play fair. Say you’re sorry.... hold hands and stick together. What are the foundations of our faith, what are the things we most want our children to know, to believe, to hold onto? Every single lesson today has something to do with foundations, so you know, it must be important. But for today, and to begin, I want to take a look at the gospel story, the story of the wise and foolish men, the ones who built on rock and sand.

Jesus tells the people who are gathered, "The one who hears these words of mine and acts on them is like a wise man who built his house on a rock." Is anyone here curious at all about what Jesus is referring to when he says THESE WORDS OF MINE? These are the words to hear and to act on, and if we do them, if we live them, we are considered wise. Jesus is speaking here at the conclusion of a sermon: he is actually finishing off his famous "Sermon on the Mount," which is full of simple instructions on how to live. Did you know that the Golden Rule, "Do to others as you would have them do to you" is from the Sermon on the Mount? Matthew 7:12. You can look it up. And there are other simple instructions for living in this sermon as well: "Do not just, so that you may not be judged." "Do not store up treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume." "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." "Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." Okay, perhaps the sentences are simple, but not so simple to DO. In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, really honest with ourselves, we’ll admit that it’s really difficult, really impossible to do most of the things Jesus preaches about in the Sermon on the Mount – just like, it’s really difficult even to follow some of the simple lessons we learned in Kindergarten. The words are simple, but the lessons are not easy: whether it is to "share everything" and "play fair" or "Say we’re sorry" or even "treat others the way you would want to be treated." And yet Jesus completes his Sermon by telling us: "The one who hears these words and ACTS on them is wise.

You know, in studying around, I have come upon a lot of Bible scholars who deal with these words of Jesus by kind of trying to sweep them under the carpet, telling us: here is why they don’t really apply to us. For example, they say: This is the way it’s going to be when Jesus comes back, but of course there’s no way we can live by these words now, some people say. It's true, it would be a better world if everyone could live by Jesus' teaching -- but -- it's not going to happen. And yet -- there's something foundational in Jesus' words -- the Sermon on the mount ---- there's something basic -- and we see it in his conclusion, in the story of the wise and foolish men, who built on rock and sand. The one who built on rock: that’s easy enough to understand. Rock is solid, sure, and immovable. But sand: what’s that about? In the story, this is not just any sand: the foolish man builds his house on something called a "wadi", which is a dried-up river bed. It’s the dry season now, but inevitably, the rainy season will come, and that sandy place will become a river again. Why wold anyone build a house in a place where they know there will be a river sometime in the future?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the elementary school in China that fell down so quickly and completely because they used poor materials. The people who were building must not have been thinking of the long-range consequences of what they were doing. For some reason or another, they weren’t thinking about the future. They weren’t thinking about the earthquake that would inevitably occur. Now I can’t read their minds and tell you why: whether it was greed and desire for profit, or poverty and a desperate attempt to get something up quickly. Whatever the reason, in the earthquake, that school did not stand. And it’s ironic that this was a school, a place where future citizens and workers are educated. I was reading an article that talked about one of the parents, and how he scrimped and saved to get his child into that school, because education represented hope for him, hope for a better life for his child. And someone betrayed that hope, and the children suffered.

A couple of years ago we held a community forum here at (our church) on the topic of education. Really it was more like a "Table Talk" where we were encouraged to talk about our fears and our faith; our values and our hopes – for our children, and for all the children. There were no "experts" at this meeting, just citizens meeting to declare what they believed. And I remember that near the end of the meeting, the Superintendent of the Bloomington School District stood up and said, "The most important question about education to me is this, ‘Will our children have hope?’ Will they have the hope that a good education provides? Will they have hope for their future? – because you know, children who don’t have hope for their future get into trouble, join gangs, go astray. People who don’t have hope for the future build their dreams on lies and their houses on dry river beds. And the rains come. The rains always come.

Will our children have hope? Will our children have a strong foundation? You know, it's the SAME question. The foundation of our faith IS our hope -- the knowledge that because of Jesus' death and resurrection, we have a future. "We have been born anew to a live hope". And we need to go back to kindergarten to learn and relearn this lesson.

And we need to go back even farther than kindergarten. We need to go back to the baptismal font, where we were proclaimed beloved children of God, sealed by the the Holy Spirit, and marked with the cross of Christ forever. We need to go back to the baptismal font, where our basic identify "Child of God" is given to us as a gift, and where there is nothing we Have to do. We need to go back to the baptismal font, where we received a candle, and were called to "Let your light so shine before others so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." That's what we receive in baptism: a rock solid identity: beloved child of God -- and a calling to live up to -- to strive for.

When I was a girl, one of my uncles decided he wanted to build his own house, in southeastern Minnesota. I remember visiting them before they even got started. We camped in a tent on their property, and it seemed like an adventure to me (I don't know how it felt to my aunt). Of course, the first thing my uncle needed to do was to build the foundation, which was in this case the basement. And I have fond memories of that basement, for two reasons: they lived in the basement for a LONG time. I actually remember the basement better than any other part of their house. And also because they had (I thought) the most beautiful multicolored carpet squares on the floor, the kind you get cheap or free from the carpet store. Now it was a long time building this house, and it must have been discouraging at times, with failures, and mistakes, and setbacks, but my uncle had a vision of the finished house, what it looked like, what it would be, and that kept him going, despite discouraging times, and failures. He had a hope -- and that hope was also his foundation.

Everything we need to know -- we learned at the baptismal font -- where we received a rock solid identity "child of God" and a vision of mercy and justice to live by, to strive for, to hope for, for the rest of our lives. "Share everything." "Play fair." "Love your enemies." "When you cross the street, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together." And the peace of Christ, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds united in Christ Jesus. AMEN

Friday, May 30, 2008

An Emblem on our Forehead

The first lesson for this weekend, the one from Deuteronomy, exhorts us to remember the life-giving words of God's covenant. "You shall bind them as a sign on your hand," Moses says to the people. "And fix them as an emblem on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." My commentaries don't speak specifically about the purpose of having God's words on our hands and on our foreheads, but in my imagination, God's words are on or in our hands, so they are near to us, reminders to us of who and whose we are, and how we are to live. I wonder about the forehead though: perhaps the words are on our forehead not for our sake, but for our neighbors's. Perhaps God's words are an emblem on our forehead because our very lives proclaim God's goodness, and help others know and remember God's steadfast love.

This week I did something very stupid, which I will not be specific about. Let's just say that when I look in the mirror, I see a minor but noticeable injury. (Let's also just say I kind of "hit the wall, literally.) Every time I look at myself, I think, "How could I have been so stupid?" It's not exactly an emblem on my forehead, but it might as well be. It proclaims my utter brokenness, my weaknesses, my tendency to beat myself up. Deep down in my pretty-good, pretty-normal childhood, I also learned how to be ashamed, how to diminish myself, how to consider anything less than perfect not good enough, how to be afraid. It's called human sin. Try as I might to hide my bruise, people will see some of that when they look at me. But I also hope they see something else, something deeper and stronger.

"Child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever."

"You shall put these words of mine in your hearts and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead."

Thursday, May 29, 2008


My evening began with the voice of one young man, rapping about his identity as a child of God and his experience of racism, and calling out periodically, "If not us, THEN WHO?" He walked up and down the center aisle of an inner city church, filled with Lutherans and Catholics and Baptists and Episcopalians and Methodists, Hispanics, African Americans, Asians and Anglo Christians. "If not us," he repeated, "THEN WHO?"

The question sticks with me. If not us, then who?

It's so easy to keep separate. I have many things on my mind, all the time: work, family, health, friends, the different pains others have confided, the little enrichments I have indulged in. All these take time, and are important. It's so easy to keep separate. But the question remains, If not us, then who?

I don't know how many people filled the church, people of faith, people of hope. Some people confessed their times of hopelessness, until they banded together to work for justice: in health care, in education, in living wage jobs, in housing. A Lutheran pastor cast a vision of a banquet table with room enough for all; an integrated Baptist choir sang Feast of the Lord and invited us to sing along, to come along, to eat at the banquet where there is room for all. The Pastor talked about the paralyzed man, and the friends who dared to mess with the roof of the house so that he could have a place at the banquet. "Do we dare to mess with the sytem?" "Yes!" we cried, together, and strong.

But it's so easy to keep separate. There are so many things to do, good things, and not enough people to do them.

The church was filled tonight, but there were many people who didn't come, who were invited. They weren't evil people, just busy people, with many things to do, things to juggle.

But some of us were there, and we know (or at least some of us know) (or at least we are beginning to know) that there is power, and there is hope in being together.

We are beginning to cast a vision for creating Healthy Communities, to dare to talk about Race and Justice, especially as it affects education among us.

I was in charge of "turnout" tonight. I called all the churches, and took their numbers, and encouraged them to not give up, and to keep calling and inviting their people to come. I didn't know, even at the last minute, whether the church would be full.

The church was full. And it was powerful.

Now we are used to saying that it doensn't matter how many come. "Wherever two or three are gathered" and all that. And that is true: wherever two or three are gathered, Jesus is present, doing his good work, softening hearts, strengthening the feeble knees and hands.

And yet: Turnout is important. Because some of us know, or are beginning to know, that there is power and there is hope in being together.

The hard work is still ahead. And of course, there are many ways through which we serve.

But "if not us, THEN WHO?"

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Get Behind Me

It's a well-known fact that Martin Luther once threw an inkwell at the Devil. His adversary was prowling around, looking for someone to devour, and Martin would have none of it.

Some modern people might think him hopelessly superstitious, deluded, perhaps needing therapy. I on the other hand, think he was -- realistic. More and more in my life, and especially as I grow older, I find hidden wisdom in Martin's view on things.

We all have demons to fight, demons that try to keep us from doing the work God has called us to do. Some of us hear the devil hiss in our ears, "what you do does not really matter; you are really quite insignificant." Others hear, "what others think of you is what really counts." Or, "It has to be perfect. You can't make a mistake." Or, "You are justified by what you do, not who you are." Or, "You can't do that! You are (too old, too young, the wrong gender, ethnicity, not smart enough, or talented enough)."

We all have demons to fight, and anyone, even the nicest, most God-fearing person can be the devil, at a certain moment in time. When Peter said to Jesus, "This shall never happen to you, Lord!"(about his crucifixion), Jesus said to his best friend, "Get behind me, Satan!" Sometimes we have to say it, too.

When I was going to college, and people asked me if I would be getting my "Mrs. degree," implying that the only purpose for college for me would be to find a mate, I should have thought to myself, "Get behind me, Satan!" When I told someone I was going to be a pastor in South Dakota, and they said, "Oh, that's too bad," I should have said "Get behind me, Satan!" When people imply that the social justice work of the church is not integral to our congregation, but somehow peripheral and unimportant (and that I am somehow unimportant), I need to say, "Get behind me, Satan!"

We all have persistent demons to fight, as we seek to be faithful to God's call in our lives. And one of the keys to success is recognizing the demons when they appear, both within and without. The other is recognizing that we are first, last, and always, children of God.

Scout's accomplishment

Scout caught and ate a rabbit today.

We gather she feels good about herself right now. However, we don't feel the same about it.

I don't know. Perhaps she'll write about it later.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Any port in a storm...

Sunday brought severe weather warnings for the afternoon. Possible strong winds, hail and torrential rain, they said. However, sometime in the later afternoon, my husband said, "Hey, where's our rain?" It totally passed us by. Alas, the rain and stormy weather veered north, where, in Hugo and parts of Coon Rapids, a tornado wreaked havoc, killing a two year old and injuring others.

Saturday evening was the first thunderstorm of the thunderstorm season. We noticed the wind coming up first, the sky darkening, and then, just at bedtime, the loud cracks.

And Scout was gone.

We found her in my Husband's office, cowering under his desk. We called her to come to bed, but she stayed put. When I approached her, she flinched a little, and as I reached out to pet her, I could feel that she was trembling.

I finally convinced her to come to our bedroom for the evening. I moved her dog bed over to be closer to me, thinking that this would help.

But when she came into our room, the first thing she did was leap into bed with us -- all 58 pounds of her. My husband and I both started laughing. For the first time, I think we felt like parents comforting a two year old afraid of a storm. I, at least, imagined my girl saying, "Mom, can I sleep with you tonight?"

I do my best to comfort her.

And she returns the favor.

Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day. I can't think of anything new to say, but I'd like to direct you here.

Last year, I posted on this annual event at church. At around this time of year, we have honored one of our World War II veterans at a reception at church. We have heard a story of the heroism of an ordinary man.

More than flowers or memorial services or parades, I think the best way to honor this day is to listen: to listen, honoring the sacrifice and recognizing the horror that is war. Listen closely to the stories, for they will speak softly, these humble and haunted men and women. And they will speak the truth.

I think the second best thing is to realize that all ordinary people can be heroes, both in times of peace and in times of war.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Plastic Cup full of Dandelions

Early this morning Scout and I took off on our walk. This morning we were on a mission: we were looking for dandelions, some dandelions I would use in the children's message this memorial day weekend. I knew that the house on the corner had a pretty good crop of dandelions. I had admired them just yesterday. But when we arrived, I discovered that they had already turned from bright yellow to balls of fluff, and some had already blown away.

So we had to look a little farther to find enough dandelions, and that was absolutely okay with Scout, whose main job is to stop and smell the roses, the dandelions, the streets, the garbage, and anything else in any way smelly. The dandelions, at least most of them, looked a little scraggly and bedraggled, not anything like I had hoped, as I bunched them all together in my hand. I guess they had gotten beaten down in our rainstorm last night.

At the last minute, I also grabbed a handful of creeping charlie from our back yard (yes, I confess, we have some Creeping Charlie). It doesn't look so great on the lawn, but it looked great in my bouquet.

I put everything in a blue plastic cup, added water and took my bouquet to church for the children's message.

The first thing I noticed was: by the time of the children's message, the scraggly yellow dandelions had opened up nicely. They looked pretty and healthy, just like real flowers. There were only two children at the first (outdoor) service, where it threatened rain but stayed dry. When I asked whether they had dandelions in their yard, their mother put her head in her hands. I resolved not to ask that particular question at the next service. When I asked whether God loved them better than God loved dandelions, the older sibling looked at me as if to say, "I am too old for this stuff. Of course God loves us better!"

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of children at the second service. At 10:00, it was still looking pretty thin, but by the time we were done singing, it filled out a little. Still thin attendance, but a pretty good crop of children. I gave them each a dandelion, to remind them about how God loved them, like God loves EVEN dandelions, and creeping charlie.

And it occurred to me: this might be a simple and a "nice" message, or it might be more. Think about all the dandelions in your life, the things you'd like to get rid of. Think about the creeping charlie. (We are sure that the creeping charlie marks us as undesirable homeowners.) Think about the dandelions and the creeping charlie, the people you have marked as troublesome, bad influences, the wrong political party, the wrong ethnic group, too poor, too rich, lazy, sinful, greedy.

God loves them. Keeps creating them. Jesus died for them. He thinks they are beautiful, and have a purpose in life, to be redeemed and rejoiced over.

Of course, I didn't tell the children all this.

But it's all true.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Lutheran song -- and commentary

Someone sent me this in an email this week. As my brain is dead from the Festival, and I am struggling with too many profound thoughts that aren't quite ready to be born yet, I thought I'd take a little commerial break with this. One caveat: I believe a couple of the people named "Lutheran" really aren't. Garrison Keiller didn't grow up Lutheran. I'm not sure what church he attends now. Several governors of Minnesota have been Lutheran, but I'm pretty sure that our current one isn't. Steve Jobs I think used to be Lutheran, but now is Episcopalian. Also, there is another governor on the list I'm not sure about. Feel free to add or subtract Lutherans. Otherwise, enjoy!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

This stays with me....

Anna Carter Florence said, in her lecture, that her students ask her always, "Can we talk about ourselves in sermons?" She replies: "If only they knew! Even if you never say a word about yourself, people will know all about you when you preach, by how you interpret the scriptures. They will know.....
where you are willing to go -- and where you're not,
what you are willing to read -- and what you are not,
what you believe with all your heart --
and what you don't."

Probably the most profound words for preachers I heard all week.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Today began very early (5:30 am to be exact) as I had a breakfast meeting before I was to head down to the Festival of Homiletics. So I got up and walked Scout and headed off to my meeting, On the Other Side of Town.

For some reason, by the time I got there, I didn't feel that well. This was a special fund-raising breakfast for our church-based community organizing group, Isaiah. I was very impressed with the testimony, and a special video they had created regarding issues like creating jobs for low-wage workers, and empowering victims of domestic violence. I won't speak for the people from my congregation, though; sometimes the things that inspire and energize me are not the same for them. I'll be checking in with them to find out what they thought.

I headed down to the Festival, still feeling -- oh, not quite right -- and headed to the worship. The preacher was Carol Miles, a new professor at my seminary. She talked about the cross as a compass. Next was the highly regarded Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann. He requested that, before the beginning of his lecture, we sing Love Divine, All Loves Excelling. I found that I had tears in my eyes by the end of the song.

Unfortunately, this was not just because the song was so moving.

I was developing a migraine.

My story is, that I don't get migraines very often. In fact, for a long time, I called them "sinus headaches." And I usually only got 2-3 a year. But, recently I have learned that they are not really sinus headaches. They really are migraines.

The good news is that I finally have medication that I can take for my headaches. When I had "sinus headaches" I never had any medication that would touch them.

The bad news is that I did not bring this medication with me. Remember: I don't get migraines very often. That's my story. And I had one last week, took the medication right away, and it was gone.

I ended up having to leave the Festival before the lecture I was most looking forward to: Barbara Brown Taylor (and others) on "Writers in the Round." Words cannot express how disappointed I was.

At first, I didn't take my medication, even when I got home. The doctor told me, "take it as soon as you feel a twinge," which I took to mean, "It won't work if you wait." Finally, I called the Nurseline, and she told me to go ahead and take one. It worked.

So, I didn't get to experience as much of the Festival as I would have liked today. But I learned 2 things (at least)

1. Always take my migraine medication with me.
2. It works, even if I wait too long.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Highlights of the Day (at the Festival of Homiletics)

  • taking the 18 Bus downtown (I haven't done that in years); remembering that the first time I took the 18, I got on by mistake (I thought it was a 17) and got lost!
  • listening to Thomas Long's sermon and not taking notes, just listening
  • hearing Anna Carter Florence talk about preaching as "inviting listeners to live in the world in a new way"
  • eating lunch at Jerusalem restaurant
  • meeting Possible Water, InnerDorothy, StCasserole, Cheesehead, Mags, Pink Shoes, Against a Brick Wall, and many others (linking later, I'm too tired....) Also, it's possible that names will be added later
  • Possible Water's joke: "What did the 0 say to the 8?" "Nice belt!"

Monday, May 19, 2008

Festival of Homiletics

I am at the Festival of Homiletics this week. I didn't have to travel to get there, as it is right here in the City of Lakes, but the schedule is pretty tight and may not leave much time for blogging.

I am looking forward to a Revgals meetup tomorrow at Taxxis Restaurant in the Hyatt Regency.

I heard an incredible sermon by Anna Carter Florence and a lecture by Thomas Long. The church was packed for a concert by the National Lutheran Choir. We sang one of my husband's favorite hymns, "God of Grace and God of Glory".

My friend turned to me after that hymn and said, "That alone was worth the entire cost of the week."

I really really wish you were here.

Except for one thing: it took almost an hour to get out of the parking ramp. Tomorrow I'm thinking: maybe I'll take the bus.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Matisse Artist Widget

Confirmation Sunday

You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.
--- Psalm 16:11 ---

The path of life to me unknown,
through your word it now is shown.
Though the road goes up and down,
your loving face shows not a frown.
You’ve made my life eternally blessed,
my faith to you I have confessed.
Your followers Janet, Jon, Gene have found,
your heavenly body above sacred ground.
You lead the way through bad and good,
in you the strong have stood.
You strengthen, you cure, you love all
I know you will never let me fall.

A follower I intend to be
forever faithful as you speak to me.
An answered prayer I always seek,
for love, for hope, for a higher peak.
I wait for you in the shadows,
like a lamb in the meadows.
I look for you in the stars,
and see you in the flowers, the clouds, in passing cars.
I follow in your footsteps like a winding trail,
not sure where you’re taking me, but I won’t bail.
Send me an angel from your side,
uncover my path do not hide.
I will come out unscathed,
by your love I’ve been bathed.
In my Confirmation adventure
my path is still unsure,
I believe you will lead me to use talents
and keep me on my track to balance. -- Alison O.

Today was confirmation for 20 young people in our congregation. At our last service this morning, they said the prayers, read the lessons, carried the cross and torches, helped with communion. They led the service, except presiding at the communion.

Outside in the narthex, their faith statements and banners they had created were displayed for everyone to see. This is one faith statement; she and her parents gave me permission to share it here. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Oddly Familiar Meme

Jan at Yearning for God tagged me a few days ago for an "oddly familiar" (or is it strangely familiar?) meme. As I am procrastinating on other writing projects right now, it seemed like a good time for a meme!

The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
Each player answers the questions about himself or herself.
At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Ten years ago:
Ten years ago at this time of year, I was packing to leave my first call churches in rural South Dakota. My last Sunday there was in the middle of May. I drove to Minneapolis to start at my current church, but returned at the very end of the month to meet the moving truck. I hear they are planning some kind of special event to celebrate my ten years here. I can't believe I've been here this long. I really can't. I remember that the Sunday I was installed, there was a picnic on the lawn.

Five things on today's "to do" list: (today is almost over, and tomorrow is Sunday, so...)
Feed dog supper
Go out to eat (at least, that's what I'm lobbying for)
Send out two more "thank yous"
Organize my "things to remember list" for the week I'll be at the Festival of Homiletics
Clean bathroom

Things I'd do if I was a billionaire:
Finance a college education for my neice and nephew.
Re-model this house, and build a cabin somewhere on the North Shore of Lake Superior.
Fund education projects for under-performing schools, to help bridge the achievement gap
Do other things I cannot comprehend because I cannot comprehend that much money

Three bad habits:
Not finishing books
Not finishing sentences.......

Five places I've lived:
St. Louis Park, MN
Kumamoto, Japan (2 year)
St. Paul, MN (3 years)
Denver, Colorado (1 year)
Vienna, South Dakota (4 years)

Five jobs I've had:
Clerk Typist
Administrative Assistant
Missionary/ESL Teacher
Insurance Underwriter

Five people I'm tagging:
Greenish Lady
I Am Chorus
Dog and God
Carolyn at Law and Gospel

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Five: Grand Tour

Songbird from over at Revgalblogpals offers this Friday Five (with a complementary map of Minneapolis included!)
One of our original ring members, jo(e), wrote yesterday about a trip she and her sisters are taking overseas with their parents, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Many other RevGals are headed for the Festival of Homiletics in the coming week (click here for information on a RevGals meetup!!). In honor of these upcoming trips, herewith your Grand Tour Friday Five.

Name five places that fall into the following categories:

1) Favorite Destination -- someplace you've visited once or often and would gladly go again
No matter how many times I have been to the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, I would always go again. As a child, we never got north of Duluth; we've been taking Scout along for the last couple of years, and it's always beautiful, welcoming, relaxing, and the trip is never long enough. I have many "favorite destinations" -- New Mexico and Arizona, Japan and the Black Hills, South Dakota, Pennsylvania and San Francisco (and New York!), but the North Shore is still number one.

2) Unfavorite Destination -- someplace you wish you had never been (and why)
I wish I could think of someplace I wish I had never gone, but I can't. Maybe there are a couple of seedy hotels along the road..... (yep, there were), but there has always been something positive at the destination.

3) Fantasy Destination -- someplace to visit if cost and/or time did not matter
I have many fantasies. I'll name just two: Sweden, where my grandparents grew up. I don't have as many close relatives there as I used to, but I'd like to visit the places my grandparents lived -- and probably find some spots in Norway and Denmark, too. And the other is: Mesa Verde, at the 4 Corners of Colorado. I'd like to go sometime while I can still hike a bit. Since this is not anywhere near a big airport, it seems a fantasy to go, even though it's not such a time consumer as a round-the-world tour.

4) Fictional Destination -- someplace from a book or movie or other art or media form you would love to visit, although it exists only in imagination
I would love to go to Narnia sometime. Through the wardrobe, like Lucy did.

5) Funny Destination -- the funniest place name you've ever visited or want to visit
Hmmm. I can't think of any place that was funny on purpose. There's the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, but I don't think that they think it's funny. I'll be back later if I think of another one.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pre-emptive Sleeping

Isn't this a nice phrase? A co-worker of my at the church said it: "pre-emptive sleeping." It took an hour to get home from work yesterday, 1 and 1/2 miles, but I kid you not. It took (okay) really 45 minutes. Still. I was getting a migraine by the time I got home. And I needed to go back to church for a leadership board meeting. But I decided to go home early. I had the early-morning matins service this morning. And my co-worker, who was also still at the church, called my action "pre-emptive sleeping."

I had another headache today, more the tension variety, while driving in traffic after taking my mom to a doctor' appointment. My body may be trying to tell me something. I am trying to listen.

I have been praying and trying to imagine the unimaginable suffering in places like Myanmar and in China. It is almost too vast. It is overwhelming.

And then there are the little things that keep me thinking, and praying: a wayward neice, a suffering co-worker, the gruesome road repairs right here in my neighborhood, and the times when it seems that all the roads that lead forward are closed.

"Pre-emptive sleeping" -- not a retreat from the world, but a way to be refreshed to work and to hope another day.

P.S. I would like to recommend to you that you visit two "new" (or perhaps, relocated) blogs: Dog and God, where the Typist is finding a renewed voice, and Still Fruity, where Rowan's guardian now shares her unique slants on life, and God. Have some fun. But, also, get some sleep. Tomorrow, again, we have good work to do.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Product Placement

I got some lovely presents a few weeks ago at my birthday party. But one of them was a complete surprise. A friend of my husband and mine stopped by late in the afternoon with a card and an apology for her lateness. Everyone else had already gone home.

When I opened the card, there was some tissue paper inside. There was also a pen. And not just any pen. It was a Namiki retractable fountain pen.

I love pens. I have loved pens ever since I was a little girl, and I wanted my mom and dad to get me the 12 pack of pens you could get for Christmas at the local Woolworth's store. One of my high school teachers suggested that I switch from ball point pens to fountain pens long ago (this was before gel pens and roller balls were even a gleam in someone's imagination). I do have one fountain pen, a Lamy brand, which I consider affordable. And I have looked at the Namiki pens when we trek over to our local pen store, usually to pick up refills. But I have never dared to hope that I would ever actually own a Namiki retractable fountain pen. It is a luxury beyond my means.

Our friend had filled up the little cartridge (called a bladder) with a kind of blue-ish black ink. She showed me how to do this, for when I would want to refill it myself. But I didn't have any ink or cartridges yet.

Sunday I ran out of ink, so we went over to the pen store to get some bottled ink and some cartridges. We discovered that the pen lacked something like a 'cartridge cover' needed when you use a cartridge rather than bottled ink. Since it is an older model pen, he didn't have any replacements in the store.

So today I called the company, and explained my dilemma. She asked whether I could get a replacement locally. I named our store, and said that they didn't have any on hand. "Oh, that's too bad," she said. "Why don't I send you a complementary one?" And she took my name and address. She also gave me some good websites that I could go to for information about their products.

I told my husband, "That was one of the most pleasant conversations I have ever had with customer service."

After a moment, he replied, "It's because they think we're rich."

I'll bet Rolls Royce customers get pretty good customer service, too.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Very Simple Mother's Day Menu by exhausted daughter

.... while thinking, "next year, I think we should just go out to eat."

1. Chicken-Bacon Ranch wraps. Very easy to make.
2. Tuna Salad with grape tomatoes.
3. Now famous White Jello (with strawberry garnish)
4. Banana Bread.
5. Store-bought fruit salad.
6. Pie (always the dessert of choice that my brother brings).
7. Kristian Regale Sparkling Pear and Apple Juice Beverage.

I know it's kind of an odd variety, but keep in mind that my last service ends at 12:00 and that people were supposed to be at my house at 12:30. And that I had to stop at the store on the way home, because they were out of rotisserie chickens yesterday. And that my brother could only stay until 2:00 p.m., because he had to go to work.

So I was throwing together quickly the ranch wrap mixture in the kitchen, pulling little pieces of chicken off and throwing them in the bowl, and ordering my brother to squeeze a cup of ranch dressing into the bowl, and mix in those onions and bacon! And I was thinking, "really, next year we should just go out to lunch."

And after lunch, I was apologizing for the modesty of our meal, and my mom said, "I'm so glad you do this."

All right then.

Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sunday Sermon: Pentecost

"Varieties of Gifts"

A number of years ago, a popular children’s book imagined a brightly colored fish swimming through a great sea. I think at least a part of the book’s appeal, at least with young children, were the glittery images of the different scales on this special fish. He was called – for obvious reasons – The Rainbow Fish. And he loved and was proud of his brightly colored scales – who wouldn’t be? – and he was very offended when a little blue fish, an ordinary fish, came up to him and asked him: could he please give him one of his bright shining scales? Just a little one, please.
Of course, he wouldn’t give up one of this scales! Those were the things that made him beautiful! They belonged to him! And the beautiful Rainbow Fish swam away from the little blue fish.

Today is a kind of a "Rainbow Day" – for it is the Day of Pentecost, the day that the Holy Spirit fell on the disciples, all gathered in one place. It was a day of brightness, and great power – the colors of fire and the sound of wind, a day God opened God’s hand and poured forth gifts on ordinary people, scared people, wondering people. A variety of gifts came down from heaven, and caused ordinary disciples to do things they never imagined that they would do. So what do we do to make this day special?Some of us wear red – a bright color – to try to capture the passion, the excitement of that day long ago. Sometimes a congregation will try to capture the energy by hearing the readings in different languages, or bringing wind chimes, or some other sound effect – what can we do really to help us to experience what it was like on that day? One moment the disciples are inside the house, together – the next they are outside – with tongues of fire dancing on their heads and the word of God dancing on their lips. That’s what is looked like, when the apostles first received the gifts of the Spirit: a rainbow of color and sound.

The gifts of the Spirit: that’s what Paul is talking about as well, in our lesson from first Corinthians. "There are varieties of gifts, but the same spirit," he tells them. "There are varieties of services, but the same Lord, and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone." So the Holy Spirit that fell down on the believers on Pentecost kept falling on Christians – even in Corinth – giving them a variety of gifts, glittery and beautiful. And the Holy Spirit that fell on Pentecost – and that fell on the Corinthians – as well falls on us, here and now, and gives us as well a variety, a rainbow of gifts.

Except that with the Corinthians, there was a problem. And we get an inkling of the problem as we read Paul’s letter, when he tells them: "To each is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." It seems that the Christians in Corinth were acting a little like the Rainbow Fish – they were proud of their beautiful gifts, and they used them to compete with each other, to try to figure out who was better. They thought that the gifts they had received were for their own benefit only, and not for the sake of one another – for the common good, as Paul writes. So what was supposed to be a good thing turned out to be the cause of pride and arguing and division. There are many gifts – Paul reminds us – but only one Lord, only one God – and our many gifts are be used for one another’s sake, for the "common good".

The common good – we hear this phrase sometimes, in a political way, and in fact, Paul is borrowing it from the political life of his own day. But what does it mean? I once heard a friend of mine talking about living in a cooperative versus a condominium. They seem similar in many ways. Both are places where people live together. They are something like apartment buildings, but they are different. He explained the difference this way: "In a condominium you think about what’s good for ME. In a cooperative, you think about what’s good for us – and that’s good for me."

To me, that’s also a good description of "the common good" – there are some things that are just good for me, but there are also things that are good for us, for all of us, that make our community better – more beautiful, more just. Paul writes that the many varieties of spiritual gifts that have been given to us as Christians are not simply for our own benefit, but to share with one another. Then he recites a list of gifts: wisdom and knowledge, healing and miracles and tongues – not in an attempt to limit our minds about God’s gifts, but I think to expand them. There are probably many more gifts than these listed: gifts of listening as well as speaking, gifts of compassion and mercy, gifts of hospitality. Paul wants to open our minds to the many gifts that the Spirit is giving to us – and to those around us. For I think the Corinthians had a limited vision of both God’s gifts – and of who could have them.

You know there are two pitfalls for us when we think about the subject of gifts of the Spirit. And one is the pitfall that the Rainbow Fish fell into: He believed that his beautiful scales were given just for him, to make him beautiful. The first one is pride – and a temptation to think of ourselves as better than someone else. But there’s another temptation as well – and that’s the temptation to think that we don’t have any gifts, that what we do isn’t valuable, that we are useless. Perhaps it’s either because we are too young or too old. Perhaps because we think we are too small and insignificant. Perhaps it is because others put us down, and tell us we don’t know what we’re talking about. Sometimes you might be tempted to just give up, because others are ignoring you, don’t think you have a contribution to make.

I remember many years ago seeing a cover of the Lutheran that shocked me. It was a picture of a starving child in the Sudan. I remember that it was so painful to see that in our house, we kept it face down on our coffee table. And I remember that many people wrote letters to the editor of the Lutheran, protesting because they had put such an image on the cover of their magazine. And finally, I remember hearing that a Sunday School class somewhere had seen that picture, and decided to collect pennies to send to those children. "If everyone would do a little, it would be a lot, and there would be no more starving children," they said. And I am glad that no one told them that they did not have a gift to share, for the common good. I think they had the gift of faith: what do you think?

I was privileged to go to the 9th grade confirmation retreat last weekend. One of the things we do on the retreat (besides not get much sleep) is to complete a "Spiritual Gifts Inventory" on Friday night. There some of the students discover that they have the gift of Leadership, others Encouragement, some the gift of Service and others Administration, or Mercy, or Hospitality. Then on Saturday, they spend the afternoon at doing a "challenge course" where they spend about 3 hours using these gifts (and others) for the "common good": to complete challenges that they could not do alone. The different tasks required coordination and imagination, leadership and compassion – and many other gifts, too many to be numbered. And they required that the students learn to work together for the good of all.

There is one more pitfall, too, when we consider the gifts of the spirit: and that is to forget what OUR common good is. For us who gather here this morning, and for the apostles who gathered on that first Pentecost: Our common good is the common mission of going out into the world, and sharing the love of God in word and deed. Our common good is to share – not just with one another – but with our neighbors and with strangers, with friends and with enemies – the hope that is in us. Our common good is to share God's wide and forgiving love -- and do it with words and deeds of mercy and justice.

We have a beautiful gospel, a story of a God who loves us each in all of our variety, who came to heal us and forgive us and to share his life with us, and to die for us. We have a beautiful gospel of a God who took a small band of ordinary people – gave them a mission, gave them gifts, and made them into a Church. And in this Church, even one of us, from the youngest to the oldest, from the richest to the poorest, has gifts to share – with us, and with the world.

At the end of the story of the Rainbow Fish, the little Rainbow fish finally learns to share. It is a difficult lesson for him, but he starts to give away his beautiful scales, one by one, to the other fish in the sea. Finally, all he has left is one beautiful scale – but the sea is filled with color, and filled with life, and filled with glittering fish. That is the vision for us as well: to go out and share our many gifts, so that finally, in the end, the whole world is filled with the love of God in Christ.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Gifts of the Spirit Friday Five

Presbyterian Gal from Revgalblogpals shares this Friday Five with us:

Anyway, it's Pentecost and my very first Friday Five! Thinking about all the gifts of the spirit and what Peter said of the "last days"......
Have you or anyone you know

1. ...ever experienced a prophesy (vision or dream) that came true?
I used to have things happen, and think, hmmm, this is kind of familiar, I think I dreamed about this. Maybe this is more like a "premonition" than an actual prophesy. Or, maybe it's because I don't pay enough attention to my dreams. I did once have a dream about a dove flying around my apartment .... which I later took to have something to do with the Holy Spirit.

2. ...dreamed of a stranger, then actually met them later?
No. I think my husband has, though.

3. ...seen a wonder in heaven? (including UFO's)
I think seeing the stars out in the country when it's clear, like the big dipper and the little dipper and the north star, is a wonder in itself. The haze of the city has blocked these out for us most of the time, and it's a wonder to see that they are there, even if we don't notice them. It reminds me of something I read a long time ago about hearing God's voice: God is still speaking, but there is so much noise in modern life that we don't hear.

4. ...seen a "sign" on the earth?
Not anything like crop circles or things like that. I would like to see Stonehenge sometime. But I see "signs" in other people or in ordinary things all the time. I saw a woman dancing with a man who was in a wheelchair once, and saw that as a "sign" of God's grace. I saw a man taking long strides and his five year old daughter runnig to try to keep up, and saw that as a sign too, but a different one altogether. I saw a twelve year old African American girl bend down to kiss an old woman in a nursing home, who was a stranger to her.

5. ...experienced knowledge of another language without ever having studied it?
Once, in my Bible study in college, when we were praying together, one of the members did start praying in French, even though he had not studied it.

Bonus Question: What would a modern day news coverage of the first Pentecost have sounded like?
Personally, even though I have a lot of respect (usually) for the fourth estate, I think the news would have wrecked this one. Tongues of fire? Babbling disciples? "We're not drunk!"? And the mighty, rushing wind! Headline: FIRE IN JERUSALEM! DETAILS AT 5:00.....

Thursday, May 8, 2008

More from the Retreat....

Last weekend, while at the confirmation retreat, one of the adults was showing me some yoga moves she learned during a not-so-recent class. She saw me bending over and gave this advice, "Don't bounce." Then she demonstrated a graceful yoga bend, complete with advice on when to inhale and when to exhale.

One move she showed me was a king of a lunge, and it looked a little like a sword-fighter stance, I thought, as I tried to imagine my body between two panes of glass, as she instructed. And again, there was the inhaling and the exhaling, the intentional breathing, in and out.

Now I don't know anything about yoga, (I can't emphasize this enough) but at that moment, it seemed that breathing was really the key to understanding, to practicing.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Intentionally.

And that breathing is really the key to life.

"He breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.""

What is the Holy Spirit? That's the question always as we approach Pentecost. This mysterious force, this mysterious third person of the Trinity, seems so hard to grasp, to get ahold of. What is the Holy Spirit? Fire? A mighty wind?

Life. The Holy Spirit is life, God's life, Jesus' resurrected life, in us, among us, working through us.

Can these bones live? O Lord, you know.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Ratings...

Just for your information.... I don't know where they came from. I don't know how they got there. Does anyone else?

Or, am I the only one who sees them?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Just One Book

A while back, Carol over at Tribal Church tagged me for a particularly cruel meme, at least if you are a biblioholic as I am. Here is the idea:

Books are scarce in the world. They are illegal in some provinces. They are not easily replaced if not impossible to replace if lost in many
if not most circumstances. If you can replace a book or buy one it is usually through the black market at astronomical costs that you cannot afford. Yet you have been able to maintain one of the best collections in the world. If your entire library was about to burn up (think of the firefighters in Fahrenheit 451 invading your home) and you could only have one* book to take with you other than the Bible, what would that be and why?

Simple Rules: Answer the question. Offer one quote that resonates with you. Tag five people whose response is of genuine interest to you and inform him or her that they have been tagged. Cheers!

*And it cannot be an entire series of something, that’s cheating.

Okay, here is why this is difficult: I collect books. And I mean "collect" in many senses of the word. While I was gone at the confirmation retreat last weekend, my husband starting counting. When I came home, there were little sticky notes on all the bookshelves: 125 books, 87 books, 143 books. Thank you very much, dear. (He collects books, too.) I have fiction, theology, history, biography, memoirs, poetry, children's books, pop up books. I could be the old woman in Fahrenheit 451, who was willing to be burned up with her books.

Among all of my books, I have a few old, somewhat collectable books. I have a book called From Snow to Snow, by Robert Frost. It's a slim volume, with one poem for every month of the year. The Road Not Taken is the poem for October, and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is December.

I also have a copy of A Christmas Carol, illustrated by Arthur Rackham (without dust jacket). It would be a hard choice, but between these two I would pick the Arthur Rackham. I can memorize some of the poems I love, and much as I love literature, I can still pick it up from the library. But if I could only keep my Bible and one book, I'd like the illustrated edition of Dicken's A Christmas Carol on my shelf.

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!"

But, are you sure I can't take a hymnal/worship book along with me, too? No? Oh, well.....

Here are five people I believe would give intriguing answers to this question:
Lindy at Two Fruits in the Sukka, Jan at Yearning for God, Mike at The Mercy Blog, Ruth at Ruth's Visions and Revisions, and RevDrKate at Prairie Light.

And of course, anyone else who would like to play. But I found it extremely hard, and a little sad. I mean, what am I going to do with my Mary Oliver poetry books? My little children's prayer books? All of my dog books? (sigh)

Monday, May 5, 2008

What We Carry

A couple of weeks ago I got a nice (bulk rate) letter from the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), requesting that I fill out a survey form for them, and asking if I would consider becoming a member. If I joined, they promised me a number of wonderful benefits, among them, a free tote bag. This one, appropriately green, came with a zippered case that you use to fold up your bag when not in use. I thought it looked, to use Wyldth1ng's word, "nifty." What do you think?

Today in the mail, I got a flyer from my local J. Jill outlet, announcing a mid-May summer sale, and letting me know if I came in and bought a certain number of items during their sale, they would give me -- guess what -- a free tote bag!

And come to think of it, at our church's synod assembly a couple of weeks ago (the one where I went home sick), I received, like everyone else who came, a free tote bag from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. It's blue, and was tailor made to carry all of the information we would need for the assembly. We also got a free plastic water bottle.

So, what I want to know is: what's the deal about free tote bags? And, how many do we REALLY need?

Apparently, some people in marketing think that tote bags are really desirable -- just the thing to push us over the edge, just the tool to make us think, "You know, I really want that!"

We love to tote.

Me, I love to tote books. They're heavy, though, and I have to watch that. Others might prefer toting cosmetics, or CDs, or first aid kits, tools or toys. Maybe we're toting all of the things we just bought at the mall.

Sometimes, my back hurts. From all the things I tote back and forth to the office and home, all the things I carry. I could learn to travel light, I suppose. My doctor told me to carry a lighter purse last year. So I did. Now I have a small purse: and a tote. So I'm not yet really learning to travel light.

Sometimes, my back hurts, or my head hurts, or my heart hurts. From all the things I carry, not all of them physical, but some of them heavy. I could learn to travel light. Or, I could get a free tote.

Except I suspect that those free totes -- in the end, are not so free.

What about you? What do you carry?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Campfire Burn, and other pleasures of retreating

This weekend the 9th grade confirmation students and four adults (including me) spent time in a cabin by a lake northwest of here, preparing for their confirmation day. Friday evening was a cold, rainy, muddy, dismal mess: a tough beginning for us, as we holed up in the lodge, writing and reading furiously. It was a pretty serious evening, until after evening devotions. At bedtime, the giggling and loud whispering always begins, at least for girls.

We shared the lodge with a group of developmentally disabled adults from a Catholic church in our city. At one point Friday evening, there was a knock on our door, and two men called out, "We're lost! We're trying to find the lodge!" I tried to explain that they were not far off. They just needed to go around to the upstairs door. But they kept saying, "We're lost! We're lost!" until I decided to lead them through the chaotic disarray of students upstairs to where their group was gathering.

I don't know much about their retreat time, except that sometime on Saturday they were going to make pretzels. And every once in awhile, while we were having our one on one conversations, we would hear them singing:

I am hope for all who are hopeless
I am eyes for all who long to see
In the shadows of the night, I will be your light
Come and rest in Me.

Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine.

Saturday was beautiful, clear and cold. The "challenge course", with 3 and 1/2 hours of low ropes and team-building exercises, turned out to be exhausting and meaningful. One by one students spoke of their deepening trust in one another. The course is not so physically challenging, although some parts are easier for those who are more coordinated and athletic by nature. But the challenge is to work together, to share leadership, and to not leave anyone behind.

Saturday night the final activity was a campfire. Out in the dark, one of the students said, "We look good in the fire. We're glowing." It was true: we were glowing, and our hair smelled like wood and fire, and our faces were red with campfire burn. Everyone shared the most meaningful parts of the retreat, and prayed for each other. They were sad now, that their three years of study were coming to an end.

I had three girls in the car with me, driving home on Sunday. They were tired, but they couldn't sleep, they said. I put in a CD, one of my favorites. "I like that song," one of them said. "What is it?"

Somehow it seemed so right -- for all weekend, I heard the sounds of young people, finding their one voice, claiming their identities as children of God, trying, in faith, to sing and to live together in harmony.

But don't stop praying for them, okay?

Friday, May 2, 2008

We interrupt this blog....

I will be off-line this weekend at a retreat for our ninth grade confirmation students, who will be writing faith statements, designing banners and in other ways preparing for their Confirmation Day.

I am hoping for good weather as a "Challenge Course" is one of their retreat activities tomorrow.

And I'm a little nervous. The "Challenge Course" is not strenuous, but last year, after the retreat, I developed a back spasm that sent me to the doctor and had me in intense pain. I really don't want that to happen again.

P.S. I will read more Friday Fives when I return on Sunday!

Now, I need to finish packing, buy communion bread, and find a rain coat (for if it isn't good weather.)

Wait and Pray Friday Five

Sally from over at Revgalblogpals writes about Ascension day:

Part of the Ascension Day Scripture from Acts 11 contains this promise from Jesus;"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”Then he was taken from their sight into the clouds, two angels appeared and instructed the probably bewildered disciples to go back to Jerusalem, where they began to wait and to pray for the gift Jesus had promised.Prayer is a joy to some of us, and a chore to others, waiting likewise can be filled with anticipation or anxiety....So how do you wait and pray?

1. How do you pray best, alone or with others?
I think I'm much better at praying with others, whether in hospital rooms, in my office, or in another person's home. Having another person to pray with focuses me better. I pray alone as well, but sometimes I get distracted. I have just discovered Praying in Color, which I am using for part of my "alone" prayer time.

2. Do you enjoy the discipline of waiting, is it a time of anticipation or anxiety?
I believe in the necessity of waiting, but I don't like it. I want it NOW. (just like many others in this "instant gratification" culture of ours.) I do believe that the key to fruitful waiting is mindful activity of some sort. I also believe that sometimes this is true: "We are the ones we are waiting for."

3. Is there a time when you have waited upon God for a specific promise?
Yes, many times. If you mean an answer to prayer, I waited many years before I got married. And I prayed for the right person for a long time.

4. Do you prefer stillness or action?
Action. (Also perhaps why I like the book Body Prayer) But not just busi-ness for busi-ness sake. We do have to "be still and know.." But I do believe that prayer leads to action, to doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly.

5. If ( and this is slightly tongue in cheek) you were promised one gift spiritual or otherwise what would you choose to recieve?
Spiritual or otherwise? Hmmm. This is not tongue in cheek. I would like the gift of courage. Courage to pray boldly. Courage to write. Courage to say hard things. Courage to act.

Tongue in cheek? The gift I would like is more time. I don't know which way to go: more time per day, or more years, but I'd love to stretch the time.