Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Waking up in a Strange Place

We were away, just overnight Sunday night, and I must have slept pretty well and deeply, because when I woke up, I had that feeling you get sometimes, "Where am I? How did I get here?" It took a few minutes to orient myself to reality, and to remember the events of the last twenty-four hours, including the worship services, the animal blessing service, the trip up to the City by the Great Lake, the dinner with Earnest Younger Stepson.

Our new organist played beautifully, with passion and proficiency. You really can't explain music, can you? I particularly liked the way he "played latin" on Cantad al Senor.

We all loved the Animal Blessing Service at my husband's church. If you have never heard Bill Staines' song, "All God's Critters Got a Place in the Choir", you have missed something fantastic. Scout liked getting blessed, but she loved meeting and sniffing the dogs more, I think. She's been a little skittish around people the last day or so. We don't know why.

We went home long enough to throw a few things in a bag, and then we headed up to to the Great Lake City, where we delivered a few things to Stepson #2. I didn't look much at leaves because I spent more of the trip up reading our book club book, Giants in the Earth. I'm glad I'm re-reading it; it was far beyond me in high school. But I will say that it is a challenging book for a busy September. It has made me think about courage and community and hardship.

So yesterday morning I felt that "waking up in a strange place" disoriented feeling.

I can't seem to shake it, totally.

No, I really know where I am: that's not it. But I can't get over a strange, disoriented feeling. It's partly the economic news. On the radio on the way home, a talk show host was saying, "If things are so bad, why did I see everybody out to the restaurants, and Home Depot, and grilling in their back yard this weekend, just like nothing was happening? What's that about?"

He had a point. I just have a feeling that there is another shoe left to drop, and I can't quite articulate what it is.

But it's not just the economy. It's a sense of the church, and the spiritual life and health there, where I am a leader, where I am responsible for inspiring people, and helping them to see God in their lives, and equiping them to live grace-ful lives: not just for an hour on Sunday, but every day.

I always thought that this blog would help me with that. I love to write. I need to write.

But, I think I need to take a break.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sunday Afternoon

We went to an Animal Blessing service at my husband's church yesterday. Scout got blessed (she needed it!).

We are out of town now. In the meantime, I wanted to share a picture from the blessing service.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I thank you god....

Tomorrow at church we are installing our new music director and organist. There will be no sermon, but plenty of music tomorrow, at all services. Even our contemporary worship service will have a mini hymn sing, featuring the organ.

Between the hymns or songs, the other pastor and I will have short reflections. I decided to read e.e. cummings poem, i thank you god for this amazing day. When searching the internet for it, I found this marvelous choral version I'd like to share with you.

Personally, I need a break from "other news" these days."

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Quote for the Day

I found this quote on Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish. I've been obsessed with his pithy little thoughts lately, even when I don't agree with him.

"Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban … At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question... Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals ... If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear," - George Orwell, from his proposed preface to "Animal Farm."

So what are some of the things we do not want to hear right now?

I know one of the things I am thinking is:

So, with all of the talk about stimulating the economy and tax cuts, what ARE we going to do with the national debt? How much is it right now? Does it not matter any more?

Another is: I believe that one of the best hopes for this country is to resurrect and re-invigorate the promise of citizen democracy. Early on, I thought that Barack Obama's theme, "Yes, We can" might represent that post-partisan promise. But, being a citizen is hard work. Maybe "Yes We Can" sounds good, but is really too difficult to do. What do you think?

What are some other things you aren't hearing anyone saying?

Fall Equinox Friday Five

Songbird from over at Revgalblogpals says:

It's that time of year, at least north of the equator. The windows are still open, but the darned furnace comes on early in the morning. My husband went out for a walk after an early supper and came home in full darkness. And yes, where we live, leaves are beginning to turn.

As this vivid season begins, tell us five favorite things about fall:

1) A fragrance
My mother used to tell me that she didn't miss the farm at all, except in the fall. Harvest has a smell, and that is what she missed: the smell of hay, and crisp coldness just starting, and the turning of the wind. It is a smell of abundance.

2) A color
I like that rusty red color that you get in some of the leaves of fall.

3) An item of clothing
I just got a new cordoroy jacket: barn red color, that is rapidly becoming one of my favorite items of clothing.Also a big brown cable sweater. I do love sweaters, of all kinds: cable and cardigan, casual or dressy, plain or colorful.

4) An activity
I love to go to apple orchards, and come back with a basket of apples. We used to take my neice and nephew, when they were small, to an apple orchard north of us. Not only were there many varieties of apples to pick and to sample, but there were also activities for children: and apple pie!

5) A special day
The fall equinodox is a holiday in Japan: a day off from work and school. But not here! I can't think of any "special days" except the ones we make for ourselves: the day trip down the Mississippi river, admiring the changing colors, the overnight stay at a small town near here, looking for antiques and remembering what a small-town autumn looks like. We will try to make our ordinary days special.

The last shall be first

Do you remember, 6:00 P.M., August 1, 2007? It was the day that the 35W bridge collapsed. Thirteen people died.

Today at 5:00 a.m. the new bridge opened.

There was a lot of fanfare: a sort of mini-parade across the bridge to open things up. On the radio I heard the voice of a man from our congregation. He came on his motorcycle, because he wanted to say that he had been the first motorcycle over the bridge.

At my bag lunch Bible study on Wednesday, we had the opposite reaction. We discussed the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, and paused over the curious detail that the workers who were hired last were paid first. Think about it. The vineyard owner would not have run in to any problems if he had paid the early workers first; they would never have known that he had paid everyone the same.

But that's not what he did.

And then there is that curious line: "The last shall be first, and the first shall be last." We talked about why it is we all want to be first in line. We're in a hurry, maybe: that's one reason. Or, it is a shame to be at the end of the line, sort of like it is a shame to be the last one chosen to be on the softball team.

Or, maybe we are not sure there will be enough. Supplies may be limited, you know. So we don't want to be last in line, stuck with empty hands and dashed hopes.

Yep, we all wanted to be at the front of the line, not at the end.

Except for the bridge. We all decided we could wait and not be the first to go over the bridge. We would gladly let all those other people test it out, and make sure that it worked.

So, tonight I'm celebrating: the new bridge, put up in record time. I'm celebrating the motorcyclist from my church, brave enough to be first across. I'm celebrating the last who will be first, and the promise that supplies will not be limited.

And I'm wondering: why can't all bridges across chasms be so strong, so quickly built, so bravely crossed?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Small Town Values

I used to shop often at an antique store in a regional city near my home in rural South Dakota. It was a regular day-off stop, so much so that I got to know one of the shop managers pretty well. We'd talk a little about the antique business, farm auctions, folk crafts and regional artists. There were certain items that they wouldn't carry in the store, because there wasn't any market, she said. Most people didn't have money for that.

Then she said something that has stayed with me for over ten years.

"They really take advantage of the hard-working people of this state."

What do you mean? I asked.

She said, the business community and the political community in her town banded together to keep wages low, knowing that most people would by their nature work hard no matter how little they were getting paid.

I've been thinking about "small town values" lately. We love those small town values: work hard, go to church, know your neighbors, care about each other. We love those small town values: independence, simple living, growing gardens, telling stories, knowing your history, knowing your limits.

But, it's a funny thing.

Those great small towns, the best places to raise children, the backbone of our country: most of them don't seem to be doing very well. My town, for example, had no bank, no school, no cafe, no grocery store and no gas station. Just the church, and the grain elevator, and the post office.

Not all small towns are in the the same boat, I know. A few have figured out creative ways to flourish. Some benefit by their proximity to larger cities.

Still, I wonder, if we love small towns so much, if we think they are such good places to raise future citizens, why are they getting to be endangered species?

While I don't agree with everything in this article, it does give some excellent food for thought.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Long ago, in a galaxy far away...

When I first got back from Japan, many years ago, I wasn't sure what I was going to do next. I had felt called to be a missionary, and I loved my work. I really threw myself into teaching English and working at the small church where I served.

But when I returned to the United States, I needed a job.

I started working "temporary" at a small insurance office in my city. It was a very small branch of a large company; in fact, I believe there were just 5 of us in the office when I started.

I worked as an assistant for a woman who was selling basically two kinds of insurance: Directors and Officers Insurance for large corporations, and Errors and Omissions Insurance for Professionals. I started as a clerk, and eventually became what is known as an "underwriting assistant."

I started to handle more and more of the responsibilities until my boss left to take a position at a well-known brokerage. Then those in the regional office in Chicago discovered just how much I had been doing.

I got a nice raise, and a promotion. I got training in the regional office in Chicago, and more training in their national headquarters in lower Manhattan. We went out for dinner, dancing and fun almost every night.

The company also told me that they would like me to consider another promotion, which would take me to Chicago. This was just about the same time that I started to wrestle with the possibility that I might be called to ordained ministry.

The move to Chicago sounded interesting, and of course it was flattering to be considered to be on the fast-track in a field that, to be honest with you, bored me to death. In the end, seminary won.

Oh, and the name of the insurance company that I worked for many years ago?

I'm very interested in what will happen in the next days....

Monday, September 15, 2008

This is all I am going to say about it

Last February, I wrote a post about sexism and racism in politics. I think the basic message remains.

I respect women in leadership for their accomplishments. But, especiallly in politics, that doesn't mean that I have to agree with them. And I don' t think that is sexist. So, I can react with respect, and say, "This person is a talented and astute politician," but also, ask the question, "Does this person share my values?" I would afford that respect and that questioning to men and to women.

....and that's all I'm going to say about it.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday Sermon

Pentecost 18/Genesis 5:15-21 (mostly)

One of the favorite TV stations at our house, Turner Classic Movies (or TCM), offers a once a week program simply called: "The Essentials." Every week they run a different movie that they consider to be one of the great ones: Sometimes it’s The Wizard of Oz, sometimes Mr. Smith Goes to Washington or To Kill a Mockingbird. They call these movies: "The Essentials" – the movies you just have to know, the movies you just have to have seen if you want to call yourself a movie fan at all. Afterward they have a discussion about just why it is they claim that this movie is one of the "Essentials." It might be the acting or it might be the story or it might be the theme – but for one reason or another, they believe this is a ‘must-see’ movie.

The Essentials. It seems to me, reading this week’s readings: the story of Joseph and his brothers, the story of Peter and Jesus, and the unforgiving servant: these are, after all, the essentials. These stories point to what is most important in our faith. It might be the stories themselves: after all, the story of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is famous not just to regular church-goers, but to all kinds of people, thanks to that popular musical. This story has family rivalries, it has intrigue, it has romance and reversals of fortune: as some might say, all of the essentials to make a good story. And the story of Joseph take up a huge chunk of the action in Genesis, starting in chapter 37 and continuing all the way until the end of Genesis, at chapter 50. It’s one of the essential stories of our faith. And the story of the unforgiving servant, while not quite as famous, also has all of the elements of a good story, especially if you know a few extra details about it: if you know, for example that the debt forgiven the first servant was on a par of about a million dollars. If you can imagine that someone had wracked up a credit card debt of about a million dollars, and then they were told that this enormous debt was totally forgiven, totally cancelled out – then what a shock to hear that the next thing they did was knock on their neighbor’s door and demand the $100 owed. In fact, when I put it that way at a Bible study the other day, I heard an audible gasp. (Don’t you think that might have been the original intention of this parable?) Yes, this parable has all of the essentials of a good story: drama, complicated characters, surprise ending.

So maybe it’s the stories themselves that make them "essentials." Or maybe it’s the theme of today’s lessons. After all, the theme of both of these stories is the same, isn’t it? It’s all about forgiveness, and forgiveness, for us, is one of the essentials of our faith. Think about it. It’s really what our faith is all about, isn’t it? Every week we ask God to forgive us for things we have done and things we have left undone. Every week we hear that God fully forgives us all our sins, and sends us out in the name of God’s son and in the power of his love. Every week we also pray together the Lord’s prayer, with its kind of scary petition: "forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us." As a Bible study participant said last week about this large and important word: Forgiveness: so difficult, and so necessary.

So difficult and so necessary: that’s what we see in the essential stories of forgiveness we hear this week. It’s not just the theme that is so important, and it’s not just the stories, but it’s the way forgiveness is and is not practiced. And that’s the way it is in our lives as well. We play out stories of forgiveness every day, in large and in small ways, in our private lives and in public debates. We play out not forgiving in wars fought and in political grudges held, and in family squabbles that continue over generations. And we play out stories as well of amazing forgiveness: Amish families that forgave their daughters’ killer; a Mennonite couple who pleaded for mercy for a murderer; a well-known wife who forgave her husband’s infidelity. Why did she do it? People wonder, some questioning her motives. Forgiveness: so difficult – and so necessary. The stories of our lives and the stories from the scripture tell us both these things.

So difficult to forgive: That’s the first lesson we learn today. Real forgiveness is no easy matter, especially if we have been really hurt, really sinned against. I consider the story I have told before, about the woman I knew whose son was beaten up by two older boys. They stole $2 from him – his fireworks money – and left him laid up with a severely broken leg all summer. It might have been easier to forgive them if they had attacked her instead of her son. So difficult is it to forgive, especially if we have been really hurt, really sinned against. Consider the story of Joseph, one of the essentials of our faith. We hear today only the end of the story, but it’s a story whose beginning goes back many years: do you recall who Joseph was? The favorite son, he received that special coat, that special present from his father.

And Joseph, he also had those dreams, those dreams of his where he was the master and all of his brothers were bowing down to him. And he told those dreams to his brothers. Can you imagine how they felt? You probably can. And yet you probably can’t imagine what they did: they actually conspired to have him killed – that’s how much they hated him. They were going to kill him, but instead they decided to sell him as a slave. He probably thought he would never see is father again. How do you forgive something like that? So difficult – and yet so necessary.
But why? Just why is it that forgiveness is so necessary? You can hear many reasons from many different people. The self-help people will tell you that it’s about your own mental health. You must forgive others, not for their own good, but for yours. If you don’t forgive, you will end up bitter and angry and alone. Your grudges will end up hurting you more than they could ever have hurt another person. And perhaps that is true, but that’s not the main lesson we learn from Joseph’s story. It’s not the reason that forgiveness is so necessary.

A number of years ago, I used to get my hair cut up near my parents’ home in Fridley. The woman who cut my hair was a German woman, who had emigrated here as a child. We used to have lively discussion of about her childhood, her life, her family now. One day I came in wearing a green "Lutheran World Relief" T-shirt I had gotten. She saw it and gushed, "Lutheran World Relief! I love Lutherans! They gave me my first pair of shoes." She had been a young child in Germany just after the war; she had been a refugee, and had been shown kindness by the Americans who had defeated them. She got her first pair of shoes from her enemies.

That’s the way it was just after World War II, when the Allies decided that instead of punishing their enemies, they would reach out with kindness, with food, with service. They helped rebuild the cities of their former enemies. It was called "The Marshall Plan," and the idea was to help turn enemies into friends. For the sake of the future, for the sake of peace, for the sake of the world, we forgave, and we turned instead to what could be in the future.

This is what Joseph does as well. Instead of dwelling on past wrongs, he decides to dwell on what can be in the future. He reassures his brothers that he no longer bears a grudge and he promises them, ‘I will provide for you and for your little ones.’ He promises to feed and clothe and sustain his brothers and their children– to forgive them not only in words, but with his actions. And why does he does this?

Probably the most incredible thing that Joseph says in this story is this. He says to his brothers: "Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people." You intended it for harm, but God intended it for good. Really, what an amazing statement. Joseph does not deny the reality of the evil that they had done to him, but he believes in something else even more. He believes in God’s future – both for himself and for his family: maybe, who knows? Even for the world.

For let’s remember who this family is. This is the family who will become Israel, the people who will later on, be rescued from slavery in Egypt, and brought into the promised land. This is the family that will become a sign of God’s loving purpose for the whole world. This is the family that will bear a special responsibility to bless the world, as it was promised to Abraham, "I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing." This is the family of Kings David and Solomon, the family who heard the words of the prophets, the family who first learned of God’s mission to the world. "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to preserve a numerous people."

How is it that Joseph could say words like this to his brothers after all those years?
We can speculate of course, about all the hard times Joseph must have suffered. He had many years to speculate on just why his brothers had come to hate him. We can speculate that perhaps he became more humble than he had been, more willing to see himself not just as favored son, but also as a man in need of mercy. Suddenly his brothers are bowing before him, just as his dreams have always told him they would, and instead of gloating, he understands, suddenly understands something. His dreams were never about him, and about his greatness. His dreams were really about God’s mission, God’s mission to preserve the people, and God’s mission to love and bless the world. "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to preserve a numerous people."

Forgiveness: so difficult, and yet, so necessary. In fact, it’s one of the essentials. And so God sent his son to heal our broken lives, to cover our sins, to love us forever, to forgive us and to give us a future with hope. But you know it’s never just about us – because God is sending us on a mission of forgiveness as well, setting us free to be agents of forgiveness in the world.

Because forgiveness is one of the essentials: like bread and wine, water and words. Difficult, but necessary for life.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Five: Back to School

Mother Laura over at Revgals says:

It's time for a Back-To-School Friday Five!

1. Is anyone going back to school, as a student or teacher, at your house? How's it going so far?
My stepson went back to college this fall: this is an occasion for both grieving and rejoicing. We are sad to see him go, but also a little glad. This year he's in an apartment off-campus for the first time. Seems to be going pretty well. Also, my husband goes back to school every year; he teaches college music.

2. Were you glad or sad when back-to-school time came as a kid?
I was glad. The first two months of vacation were heaven, but as August wore on, I got a little bored, so I was looking forward to school by the time September rolled around. On a related note: I remember after college, the first time I did NOT go back to school in September, as I had a full-time job. After so many years, it somehow didn't feel right that I was just going to keep doing this job instead of going back to school!

3. Did your family of origin have any rituals to mark this time of year? How about now?
We went to JCPenney and bought new tennis shoes, pretty much every year. Shopping for school supplies seemed also be a kind of ritual. Right now: I think going to the State Fair is our end of summer/back to school and whatever else ritual.

4. Favorite memories of back-to-school outfits, lunchboxes, etc?
My mom made all of my clothes, so my first pair of jeans (store-bought) was a huge deal. I remember a pair of really stiff jeans I bought just before college. I tried to "distress" them myself, by hurling them against "Old Main." I can't remember if it worked.

5. What was your best year of school?
I don't remember a "best year", although 8th grade was my definite worst.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

September 11, 2001 in memoriam

What I remember is the Great Silence, the sense of disbelief, and the sense, for a brief period of time, that we were all in this together as Americans, comforting one another and standing up for one another.

I remember that the Sunday after September 11, the church was full. Perhaps after this great evil, we would turn to the things that matter: faith, family, our communities, serving one another.

I remember a Great Sadness at lives lost, the horror of seeing bodies falling, and learning of extraordinary acts of heroism by ordinany people on that day.

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and our strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult......
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

May we learn again, Lord, that you are our refuge -- not just my refuge or yours, but ours. May we learn to trust the strength of the cross, may we hope instead of fear, opening our hearts instead of closing them, sharing instead of hoarding, and coming together despite all differences. May we be brave without bitterness, speaking the truth in love, and forgiving one another, because Lord knows, we all need it. Amen.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Deleting Spam

About a week ago I did something stupid in my facebook account (I don't want to get into it, but it involves trying to figure out something about that darn animated dog, "Pokey"), and unleashed an endless stream of spam into one of my email accounts. This could be called a minor annoyance, in some ways: somewhere along the line of getting a lot of junk mail every day. At least with this spam, there isn't any physical clutter in my house.

However, every time I see a new list of 10 or 20 or 30 spam-mails, I'm reminded of my dumb mistake.

At first, I checked off each one separately, before I deleted it. Then I discovered a little button that would automatically delete all spam for me (although I do get the ominous warning "Are you sure you want to delete all these messages?" right before I hit the button). I don't take the time to read the spam (there are too many for that), but sometimes I have caught a glimpse of the first few words, and I've noticed that sometimes they are desperate for me to respond, i.e., "We have been trying to contact you for several days!" or "This is the last time we are going to contact you!"

They don't think they are "spam." They think they are incredible offers that I would be foolish to pass up. They even (sometimes) know my name, which you might think would soften me a little. But it doesn't.

Free laptops, surveys I can take, degree programs, mortgage deals: I delete them all. I recognize them as "too good to be true." Or, as theologians might say, "another gospel."

I wish it was always so easy, and simple to delete the false messages in life, and simply a messy inconvenience as it is with "spam." But not all the sirens out there are so easy to resist. And how is it that we discern the true from the false, what is real from what is leading us astray? For me, the words of the absolution, "In the name of Jesus, your sins are forgiven," are a great gift that sets me free. To someone else, those words might sound just like spam. Too good to be true.

The gospel, truly lived, is an even more incredible offer than a free laptop or a mortgage deal. But maybe that's the rub: truly lived. As I hit "delete" on the spam I can recognize, I renew efforts to speak and write words which are not spam.

It's not so easy.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Consumers of Democracy/Producers of Democracy

I've been reading this book called The Citizen Solution lately. I bought it in part because the organiziation I am involved in, Isaiah, got a whole chapter in it. Several of my friends were even quoted, so I suspended my "no new books" rule temporarily and bought a copy.

The book is a call for citizen participation in our democracy, and its general rules and insights apply to all of us, I think. But it's published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, so all of the examples of different kinds of citizen participation are local.

I was intrigued by a table early in the book, developed by Marie Strom of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa. The table contrasts two ways of looking at Democracy: Public Participation and Citizen Agency. Here are just a couple of examples:

Definition of Democracy in Public Participation: Democratic state with free elections
Definition of Democracy in Citizen Agency: Democratic society created by citizens' ongoing work

Outcomes in Public Participation: Customer Service:
People consulted/Government takes note/Services delivered.

Outcomes in Citizen Agency: Creation of the Commonwealth:
Public problems solved/Public wealth created/Civic capacity and democratic culture developed.

Attitudes in Public Participation: Condescension by government and dependency by citizenry
Attitudes in Citizen Agency: Respect for the capacities and resourcefulness of citizens

What are elections about (Public Participation)? Which candidate can fix things
What are elections about (Citizen Agency)? What leader works best with citizens

I have two thoughts going on in my mind right now:
One is that community organizing is deeply democratic; it empowers and relys on citizens to create the commonwealth; it is not only about voting, but about the ongoing work of making a better community together. The author (Harry Boyte) also names the "Citizen Agency" model of democracy as connected with the populist tradition in American politics.

The other thought is about the church and its leadership: there are times when I think we have a "public participation" mindset in the church as well, which fosters a "which pastor can fix things" attitude, condescending clergy and a dependent laity, and "church" as a service to be consumed rather than worship that we produce together as the body of Christ.

But, what do you think?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Highs and Lows (you decide which is which)

It was Rally Sunday today, which means that Confirmation classes start this week for our 7-9 graders. One of the things we do every week in our small groups, without fail, is "check in" with our highs and lows. Here are some of mine lately:

  • We took Scout to Nine Mile Creek this afternoon. Temperature was 67 degrees. I only wish I had taken the camera along. She met (and sniffed) many nice dogs.

  • In worship, I saw many people for the first time since May. I'm so glad to know that they didn't leave the church. I thought the worship and the brunch were both delicious.

  • I had my very first Facebook "chat" with one of my cousins this Friday. Unfortunately, I may have "said" the wrong thing, in answer to his question, "Wasn't Sarah Palin an awesome choice for Vice President?" I hate Facebook chat.

  • I found out on Thursday evening about a five hour meeting on Saturday, which effectively ruined family plans to take a day trip to the local Renaissance Festival. And no, I couldn't get out of it.

  • During the last few days, I have experienced a growing sense that I need to have at least two difficult conversations. But who's counting?

  • I did someting stupid in Facebook, and now I am getting a lot of spam in my email account.

  • Last Sunday we celebrated my husband's birthday. His oldest son grilled salmon and garlic shrimp for us and his grandparents.

  • I also had a wedding last weekend. Beautiful weather for an outdoor ceremony, but due to last minute stressful situations, my husband ended up not being able to go with me.

  • We moved my husband's younger son back to school last weekend, to his first apartment. It ended up being much much much more stressful than we had anticipated. And we did anticipate that it would be stressful.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Thursday, September 4, 2008

It's been a quiet week in Minneapolis....

.... even though right next door there have been speeches, celebrations and protests. You wouldn't know it at our house, where we have barely turned the TV dial from the baseball station, watching the Twins lose every night. Pick your poison.

It's a far cry from 1968, when I stayed with my grandparents down in Jackson, Minnesota, and watched the whole Republican convention on television, with my grandfather's running commentary about how Nixon was a good guy because he did not grow up rich, like those Kennedys. (My grandfather also said that "Voting for Roosevelt was the worst mistake I ever made." He would say that and then, a little later, tell us that he was going "down to the co-op for a while." When I got older, that confused me.)

It's not that I don't care about politics. Although there are many political viewpoints (and now, even religious viewpoints) in my family, and we have learned to love each other, mostly, anyway.

And it's not that I don't care who becomes President.

But I worry that, for many people, voting has become their only act of civic participation. And of course, a lot of people don't even vote.

So, I was saddened and disturbed by what I heard about the derogatory comments about community organizers last night. One of the things that community organizers do is teach people how to participate effectively in their community, for social change -- for themselves.

I know a little about organizing, as I have received some training from The Gamaliel Foundation. One thing I find refreshing is that organizing challenges both liberal and conservative orthodoxies. It's not about hand-outs, or about rescuing poor people, but about empowering people to act for their own good. And it's not about "rugged individualism" or bootstraps, but about acting together for a common cause.

I found this article by a real live organizer ting inspiring and enlightening.

I'd also like to recommend (at least to Minnesotans) the book The Citizen Solution, by Harry Boyte. It's published by Minnesota Historical Society Press. I may post more about it later.

Finally, as all of the Conventions and all of the speeches fade from our view, and we get back into the pre-election groove of hearing all of the negative advertising, I would like to direct you to this helpful non-partisan truth-o-meter. (yep, they all do it...)

Now, I think I'll head down to the co-op for a little while....

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

"How Does She Do It?" they all wondered

I just got home at about 8:45 this evening, after a meeting with my social justice group. We are planning a meeting to address the achievement gap in our communities' schools. We are also starting to get some ideas for advocacy and new programs.

Before that, I had the meeting with confirmation parents, to get ready for the new year.

Before that, I had a meeting with the confirmation guides, ditto above.

Before that, I went home, let the dog out, and fed her. (my husband did the same thing, so she's FULL tonight.)

Before that, I worked on organizing my desk, returned emails, and emailed people.

Before that, I had lunch.

Before that, I worked on a brochure for the achievement gap forum.

My day started at 7:30 a.m., as I prepared for our Wednesday Matins worship.

I'm exhausted today. And I'm "only" a pastor. I'm not the governor of the State of Alaska. I don't have five children (one of whom is a special needs child), and I didn't fire the staff at the mansion so that I could do my own cooking and cleaning. I do my own cooking or cleaning, although I confess that I don't do it to my own satisfaction.

Obviously, I don't think it is impossible to have a career and a family. In fact, I think those kinds of insinuations are sexist. But I do wonder: is it healthy for women to get the impression that they should, or even that they can, do it all?

Because I can't. Do it all, I mean. And I'm exhausted tonight, even without doing it all.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

....after the new desk

I was sitting at my new desk on Sunday, still organizing some things (ok, many things), and feeling like the chair I was sitting in was not quite the right height. So I called the other Pastor in, to see if we could figure out how to change the height.

He sat down in the chair, and took a look at the left arm, which was frayed and actually coming off.

"I think you need a new chair," he said.

I am getting a new chair soon.

I think I had the oldest chair in the office. When I mentioned this to our treasurer, she said, "Well, you never say anything."

To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure that I noticed that the arm was coming off the chair. Probably, as well, it never occurred to me that I deserved anything better.

This is one of the things I have just been learning lately.

To believe that I do deserve some things.

And it's not just about desks.

Recently, I got a startling insight about self-esteem, or lack thereof: someone told me that, in a sense, low self-esteem was really a selfish position, because it focuses on "me", and whether or not I can speak up, or what I deserve.

"Instead," the person said, "Think of it another way. Other people deserve to hear your voice, need you to share your gifts, and to speak up. It's actually selfish to hold back."

I'm still thinking about that one.