Sunday, November 30, 2008

"Plays Well With Others"

I missed Scout -- just a little -- while were were in Chicago. I heard she had a good time while we were gone, though.
I showed the little ones the videos of Scout. Here is a picture of me and the little boys in Chicago. The smallest one kept pointing at the computer and saying, "Doggie?" They wanted to see Scout over and over.

We picked her up tonight at the dog sitter. They had sixty people for a party on Friday evening and Scout did great! She hung out under the table and with all of the people who like dogs. Or so I heard.

As usual, there were several other dogs staying at the same time as Scout. There were dogs of all sizes, big and small. Scout especially got along with a yellow lab and a Shih Tzu.

It's nice to know that Scout does not discriminate on the basis of size. We must have raised her right, in at least one respect. She really does "play well with others."

Friday, November 28, 2008

Things I Like About Chicago

The first time I visited Chicago, I was 23 years old. I had just graduated from college, but an old room-mate of mine had transferred to Wheaton College near Chicago. It was one of my first trips out of parochial Minneapolis/St. Paul by myself. I spent one day going to classes with her (I will say that evangelicals do higher education a little differently than Lutherans). Saturday we spent the day at the Art Institute and the Sears Tower. We also did a little shopping, although I don't remember where.

I also visited Chicago and had some high times when I worked for the now-infamous AIG. A couple of underwriters took me places in the evening, and I believe I went shopping at Watertower Place. One trip involved both the Art Institute and the Museum of Science and Industry (jokingly referred to by one of my hosts as the Museum of Commerce and Industry).

Now, I think of Chicago as the home of many of my husband's relatives. I think of it as a place to relax, and feel at home. When we visit, sometimes we don't even get out of the suburbs.

Here are some of my favorite things about Chicago. Feel free to share yours:

  • The Art Institute. This has to be always on the top of every list. It's worth it just to see the originial American Gothic, and the wonderful Impressionist Art. The Art Institute scene is one of my favorites in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off (itself a minor classic, right?)

  • Carl Sandburg. As in his famous poem poem about Chicago, Hog-butcher for the world. It really is the City of the Big Shoulders.

  • The Pump Room of the Ambassador East Hotel. I used to stay at the Ambassador East when I worked for AIG (now infamous). I got really excited when I found out that my aunt and uncle had honeymooned there, back when it was a Really Big Deal. Also, I later recognized the Ambassador East from the movie North by Northwest.

  • Studs Terkel. Interviewer par excellance. He can get a story out of anyone. My favorite books are Working, and Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

  • Chicago Style Pizza. What more can I say?

  • The beginning of Historic Route 66. The mother of The Mother Road, right here.

  • The Ell, and the other trains, especially the one we take from here in the 'burbs. I especially like to sit on the upper deck. I bought my first Bark magazine (Dog is my co-pilot) at the train station in Hinsdale, and read it cover-to-cover before I got downtown.

  • My sister-in-law's homestyle cooking, and my brother-in-law's fabulous mixed drinks.

  • In Chicago, you never know who you might meet! I have a blogger meet-up later today with Jennifer of An Orientation of Heart. Pictures to follow!

Do you like Chicago? What are you favorite things?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

I am being a Thanksgiving slug at a relatives' house today.

I am pondering the question: "What are you thankful for?"

I am considering the Scripture I heard at the revival Tuesday night: "In everything give thanks." In EVERYTHING give thanks. In everything GIVE thanks.
The house is filled with food, with babies, with toys.
There are still many cares. In the midst of them all, I give thanks.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Road Trip

We are leaving for Chicago tomorrow afternoon, spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my husband's sister and her family, and two new babies (that makes five total, but who's counting). My husband's boys (actually young men) are packing and preparing and figuring out what music and food to bring along (the two most important things, right?). Scout will not be traveling with us, which makes me kind of sad. On the other hand, she will be having a good time with her family-away-from-family, and we'll be a little freer too.

My husband's sister is a great hostess. We always feel very relaxed and at home when we stay with them. She's the most excellent cook; she gets up and puts the coffee on early in the morning; we can sleep in as long as we want. She never makes me feel like I have to do anything to help, but I always want to. One year I made my special raspberry walnut muffins for breakfast.

Road trips have a long history in my family. I never flew anywhere until I was 21 and a senior in college. Our family road trips included frequent travels to the family farm in southwestern Minnesota, a trip to Duluth in 1969, and two extended vacations by car, one to Seattle, Washington, and the other to Disneyland. I was ten when we travelled to Seattle. I took my first pictures of the Pacific Ocean and the Continental Divide and Yellowstone Park (and got two cameras for Christmas, that year). I was sixteen on our trip to Disneyland. We had a tour guide and our group included people from France. Afterwards, I decided I wanted to be a tour guide in Disneyland when I grew up. Instead, I am a pastor. I wonder what that means.

We considered the possibility of flying instead of driving this year, and asked the boys about it. They chose the road trip.

Here are some lessons I have learned "on the road":

1. The journey is as important as the destination. Now that in itself is a cliche. But it's still true, because the scenary, the detours, and the travelling companions are all a part of the journey. There are things you just don't see when you are up in the air, or at least don't see in the same way. And in the car, there are opportunities for the dirt-road turn-off, the deep conversation, the sudden realization. On the road, the journey is a shared experience, and it deepens our connections with each other. Maybe that's why the boys opted to ride instead of fly.

2. You always take more than you need. This is especially true for me on the road. I always think I am going to need my knitting, my piano books, 3 or 4 different books to read, my camera, my travel alarm, my curling iron, music for the car. On our family road trips, we took a cooler with food and snacks as well. This year, I am taking a picture of my dog. I will not need all that I take, but I want to make it seem like "home."

3. The anticipation is part of the event. This is true in small and big ways. Before we went to Disneyland, I prepared by sewing new clothes for myself all summer. For Paris (not a road trip, I know), I didn't have much preparation time, but I dreamed of the Louvre and Notre Dame.

4. You always learn something. Sometimes it's just: I don't have any comfortable shoes. Other times: the world is so large, and so beautiful, and I am so small. And still other times it might be: I could travel forever, and not see everything.

I'm over 50 years old now, and, unlike Hank Snow, I haven't been everywhere. Not even close. A road trip isn't always the most efficient way to travel.

But maybe it's not just about where you go and what you see. Maybe of all the things you learn, the most important lessons are about who you travel with: what makes them cry and what gives them hope, the things they can't stand and the things they can't live without.

Like Godiva chocolate. The Allman brothers. The dog. And each other.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Small, Good Thing

Today was our annual meeting at church. Today I preached "When Did We See You?" and asked people to reflect about where they think they might see Jesus in our congregation, and in our community. I would like to know what some of them saw. I used part of Julia Dinsmore's poem, My Name is Not "Those People", and talked about the people that we do not see.

Today was our annual meeting at church. My report was written and in the book, but I chose to get up and talk about the work I have been doing (with a team of lay leaders) on Education in our community. I said, "(Our community) is changing." I hope we see Jesus in some of those changes. If that is too much, I hope we can see people, children of God, at least.

We have a large budget shortful for the coming year. We did not balance the budget today. We will be working on this and presenting another budget in early January. This could be a huge opportunity for us to change the conversation about what is means to be a congregation, a community of disciples in this place.

In the meantime, when I was going out of church this morning, greeting people, one woman shook my hand and told me that her daughter (a pastor) reads my blog every day. She says that her daughter also reads it to her over the phone. Like most of the people in our church, I suspect, she doesn't "do" computers. She said those words I have loved and wanted to hear, ever since the 4th grade, "You are a good writer."

I think we do catch a glimpse of Jesus, on occasion. But I wonder if we really ever will see Jesus in the poor much.

If we can minister to him anyway, that will be a large enough task.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Christ the King

So this weekend is Christ the King Sunday, time to contemplate, among other things, what Christ the King looks like. Our youth went to an event a couple of weeks ago called "Celebration of Confirmation" where they sang, worshiped, saw skits and heard about the issue of youth homelessness. Julia Dinsmore, a local poet and activist, was also there. I hear in my mind some of the words of her poem, "My Name is Not 'Those People'":

...My name is not "ignorant, Dumb or Uneducated." I
lived with an income of $621 with $169 in food
stamps. Rent is $585, that leaves $38 a month to
live on. I am such a genius at surviving that I could
balance the state budget in an hour.

The wind will stop before I let my children become
a statistic. Before you give in to the urge to blame
me, the blame that lets us go blind and unknowing
into the isolation that disconnects us, take another
look. Don't go away.
For I am not the problem, but the solution.
And... my name is not "Those People."

Lord, when have we see you?

picture by Kristie Bretzke, local artist

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What We See

When I was in about the 3rd or 4th grade, I remember getting a school assignment at about this time of year (nearing Thanksgiving, that is) to write an essay about the First Americans. I remember procrastinating for awhile, thinking for awhile, and finally getting out our set of Golden Encyclopedias to find out all I could about the Pilgrims. I loved to write, even then, and felt proud of my work.

A few days later, our teacher held up just one of our essays for special mention. But it wasn't my essay. It was one of my classmate's, a girl who lived just down the street from me. She and she alone had written her essay, not about the Pilgrims, but about Native Americans.


A long time later, I lived in Japan. First I lived there as a missionary and teacher of English. Later I studied some Japanese at a college in Tokyo. I used to like to go to the campus library and sit in a big chair and read newspapers from the United States.

One Sunday I read with interest an article in the Sunday New York Times called "American Survivors of the Atomic Bomb." The article was an in-depth exploration of the fates of a handful of prisoners of war who were in Hiroshima on August 6th. I hadn't known that there were any American prisoners in Japan at the time, and drank in every aspect of the long, detailed article.

A week later I read the letters to the editor. Many letters thought that the in-depth article was quite illuminating. But one I have remembered for all these years. This letter-writer took the article to task for not mentioning the many Japanese-Americans who happened to be in Japan when the war broke out. After the declaration of war, they were not able to return to the United States. Some of them had been victims of the atomic bomb, too. Why were their stories not researched?


A number of years ago I was working at a church in a large Western city. Our congregation was in a central-city, diverse location: large mansions and poor neighborhoods within a few blocks in different directions. Our church held a food pantry, a mental-health center, congregate dining for seniors, and a variety of other ministries. However, we were not a terribly diverse congregation.

One Sunday morning an African American woman and her two adult sons walked into our Sunday worship service. Though nobody talked about it at the time, we discovered later that several of us were thinking I wonder if they will be able to follow the liturgy.

Turns out that they knew it by heart.


So much of what we believe depends on what we see -- or what we choose to see.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Clutching Their Bibles

Today is one of my favorite Sundays of the entire church year.

It was the day we gave Bibles t0 all of the Third Graders.

This year we had fourteen third graders come to receive their Bibles. Most of them also attended, with their parents, two classes designed to help them get acquainted with the Bible. They play games, learn songs to help them to memorize the books of the Bible, and spend some time looking up Bible verse with their parents.

I like that part too.

I love how they sing their Bible songs for the whole congregation. I love knowing that we have the parents secretly inscribe the Bibles with a personal message to their child. I love giving the Bibles to the parents to give to the children. I love watching the children clutch their Bibles as if they were diamonds.

This morning I had all of the Bibles on a cart with wheels, the kind we use in our kitchen. I transferred them all to a table in the chancel and was wheeling the cart back up the center aisle. One of the ushers asked, "What are you serving?"

"We're serving the Word," I answered.

I love today.

We give the CEV (Contemporary English Version). Sometimes the translation seems unfamiliar to the parents. The Golden Rule, for example, reads, "Treat others as you want to be treated." On the other hand, it is easier to understand, especially the stories.

I got my first Bible from my grandparents when I was in the third grade. We didn't get Bibles from the church until I was in confirmation. In my opinion, that's much too late. I hear some churches give "Toddler Bibles" now when children are entering Sunday School. If I had my way, my church would give the ABS/Scholastic Read and Learn Bible to all our Kindergarteners.

I heard a few parents having their children look up some familiar Psalms during our cake reception this morning. I heard a few children telling their parents what they were going to read when they got home in the afternoon. And I saw a few children who didn't want to put their Bible down, even to eat cake.

Here's a prayer for today from The Divine Hours:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant me to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that I may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Friday, November 14, 2008

So Many Bibles, So Little Time

I used to make just a little fun of the Life Application Bible. "You know," I would say, "it's not like those other Bibles, which don't apply to your life." Then someone from my church got one of them, and I decided to be a little less satirical about it.

You can't help noticing these days, if you're Christian at all, how many Bibles there are. First there are all of the differant translations and paraphrases: there's the venerable King James Bible and the New American Standard, newer scholarly translations like the New International and New Revised Standard Version, simpler and more modern translations like the Contemporary English Version and The Message. There is the New English Version and the New Living Translation, and the New Jerusalem Bible. ("New" seems to be a big thing, doesn't it?) I'm sure I left out somebody's favorite translation here, but I can't forget the translations which, for some reason or another, have been allowed to go out of print: The Revised Standard Version (the one I grew up with) and the Good News Bible (at least I haven't seen it around lately.) The Good News Bible started out as a New Testament called "Good News for Modern Man". The title prompted one elderly widow to wonder, "What does this have to do with me?"

Of course these days, it's not just the translations that multiply. There are also many kinds of Bibles: not just the Life Application Bible mentioned above, but also the Women's Devotional Bible, the Men's Devotional Bible, and the Sports Devotional Bible (do you know how many sports metaphors there are in the Bible?) There's also the the Adventure Bible for Kids and the Celebrate Recovery Bible for people in recovery.

A couple of days ago I was at my local evangelical bookstore and noticed The Reese Chronological Bible, which does exactly what is says. Today I was at the seminry bookstore and caught sight of The Peoples' Bible, which includes the Apocraphya and must be the Bible for Barack Obama, since it sounds suspiciously socialist to me. (On the other hand, I'm glad progressive Christians are learning a little bit about marketing.) I've also noticed The Green Bible recently. Instead of the words of Jesus printed in red, this one includes God's words about creation printed in green.

They say that the Bible is still the best-selling book in the world. We know how to sell the Bible, but do we know how to read the Bible? That's what I want to know.

In my tradition, we always come at the problem of Bible reading from the angle of competence. We want to give people the tools to correct interpretation, and then assume that they will begin to read the Bible on their own.

But I wonder: how do we teach people to love the Bible, to love to read the stories and the poems and the wisdom in that impossible and wonderful book?

Almost all children learn how to read. But some children learn to devour words, to eat up stories, to hunger for poetry, to mine the secrets hidden in all kinds of books.

I'm not sure that even the Life Application Bible can do that.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"Fundamental Change"

I have been reading in several places recently essays and writings by people who wonder what Barack Obama meant by saying that he was going to preside over "Fundamental Change." I can't figure out exactly what tone the people are using with that question: suspicion? fear? disgust? contempt? The writers often seem to think that "fundamental change" means somehow the dismantling of democracy.

Here is what I think "fundamental change" means.

I think fundamental change means means a shift to empowering citizens to participate in our democracy. I hope it means calling us to speak, and act upon our values, instead of simply being asked to "go shopping." I hope it means calling us to vote, but even more, to organize for the things we value: whether those things are health care, advocacy for children, equal access to education. I hope that fundamental change means empowering a grass-roots, bottom-up democratic republic. I hope that fundamental change means teaching civics and citizenship. And I hope that fundamental change means valuing both personal responsibility and a more just society.

The weekend before the election, I watched Rev. Al Sharpton and D.L Hughley on CNN. They were talking with real wonder in their voices about the possibility that an African American might really become president. It was as if a door had been opened, not only for one man, but for a people, and the name of the door was "Full Participation." Rev. Sharpton said, at one point, that now was "the time to step up, to take responsibility, to take leadership, to prove that we can do it."

I thought, if this is what Barack Obama means by "fundamental change", it truly is not about him.

It's about us: our voices, our leadership, our power, and our resonsibility.

He may be the President-elect, but he is still a human being. When he is right, we will need to support him. When he is wrong, we will need to call him to account.

It's the same in the community of the church. The church is not primarily an institution, but a body of people committed to a common mission. We're grass-roots, bottom-up servants and leaders, supporting each other and holding each other accountable to the truth.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Keeping our Lamps Lit

Last Sunday, our gospel reading was the Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, five wise and five foolish. Although the parable does include a riff on the importance of being awake, I contended that "awakeness" was a red herring, and that it all comes down to oil: the wise bridesmaids had all that extra oil, ready for a long wait for the bridegroom's arrival.

I talked about the meaning of the "oil" -- some say faith, others say good works (as in "Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.") As a Lutheran, I can reliably be expected to come down on the "faith" side; however, I define "faith" as a relationship of trust that expresses itself in action.

One thing I wish I had brought up in my sermon was the whole idea of the bridegroom's delay. In popular Christianity, passionate faith and the imminent return of Christ are strongly linked. However, in the parable, those who expected the bridegroom any minute now were the foolish ones. The ones who believed it would be awhile before his return, and yet lived faithfully in the meantime: those were the ones deemed wise.

Matthew is advocating a spiritual practice that is good for the long haul: for centuries, maybe. It seems to me that this kind of spiritual practice would include not only prayer and worship (and worship that takes into account the many and long traditions of Christian worship), but also care for the poor, care for creation, and social justice.

On Sunday, I asked the congregation to meditate on two questions: "What keeps your lamp lit? What keeps you going in your faith?" and "What causes your lamp to flicker?" Then I asked them to share with the person next to them one thing that keeps them going in their faith.

I know, it was pretty risky for a Lutheran congregation! And all of the services went long, so I didn't get a chance to hear what people thought of my little experiment.

I also didn't get the opportunity to hear how people might have answered the question on Sunday. I hope a few of you will take the opportunity to share: what keeps your lamp lit? what keeps you going in your faith?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"She's No Trouble"

We are going to Chicago for Thanksgiving again this year.

We weren't sure for awhile it was going to happen. A lot of things were up in the air: the Chicago relatives might be out of town; they weren't sure we could stay with them; they are in the process of selling their home; the boys' schedules were up in the air.

But in the end everything worked out, and we are going to Chicago all together as a family, perhaps for the last time. After all, everyone is practically grown up now. The Chicago relatives have five babies growing up now. One will be baptized on Thanksgiving weekend.

One thing is: Scout will not be able to go with us.

It's too bad. She has been to visit the Chicago family before. They are dog people, and Scout has a few dog cousins in Chicago. But, since the relatives are trying to sell their home, they weren't able to welcome her as they have done in the past.

Two years ago, we took Scout to Chicago for Thanksgiving. She was so excited when we arrived that she ran out of the car, into the house, and straight out the back door! (Fenced in back yard: whew!) On Thanksgiving, she ran out the front door when great-grandpa wheeled his wheelchair in. Three cousins chased her around the neighborhood for twenty minutes while stepsons calmly sat in the living room watching football.

I was worried about whether we would find a place for Scout to stay while we were gone. I called our local Pets Are Inn franchise to get started on her application. They assured me that they could probably find a home for her.

But before I made the final confirmation, I called our dogsitters, the family who took care of Scout when we went to Paris. I wasn't sure whether they would be able to take care of her because of the holiday.

R. called me right back. She assured me that they would be happy to have Scout stay with them. They were going to be home, and would have company on Friday.

"She's no trouble," R. told me.

You have no idea how that warmed the cockles of my heart.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sunday, November 9, 2008


On Thursday, we had our regular community clergy gathering. This month we were slated to meet at the local African American church. They had prepared a wonderful lunch for us: sandwiches and wraps and pie and other sweets that I can't even remember now. It was quite a feast. One of the pastors there had printed two poems by James Weldon Johnson. He recited the first one for us, and could barely get through one of the stanzas, he was so filled with emotion. He told us that he had called his 93 year old father in Chicago on Tuesday morning, only to discover that his father had already voted. He said that his father felt so grateful that he had lived to see that day.

The second poem was Lift Every Voice and Sing. It is the Black National Anthem. He was going to recite that poem too, but one of us suggested that we might sing it, instead. So we did, all twelve of us around the table a capella.

I didn't know this at the time, but Lift Every Voice was sung often in the schools in the segregated south, just like I remember singing My Country 'Tis of Thee.

After our lunch, I met briefly with the other African American pastor. We are planning the next Martin Luther King Day worship service, which will take place this year the day before inauguration day. We also took a moment to check in about the social justice organization we both work with.

He confessed to me that he was not sure who he would vote for until he went into the voting booth on Tuesday. (He didn't tell me, either.) Neither candidate, he thought, was perfect. Both were good, but flawed people.

I told some of this story in church on Sunday. Most people did not know there was an African American church in our town.

We still have a lot of work to do. But we're starting.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Am I Reading Enough? An Update

  1. March, Geraldine Brooks
  2. The Mysterious Journey of Edward Tulane, Kate DiCamillo
  3. God's Echo, Sandra Sasso
  4. The Dwelling of the Light, Rowan Williams
  5. Purple Hibiscus,
  6. Giants in the Earth, Rolvaag
  7. The Double Bind, Chris Bohjalean
  8. Half Magic, Edward Eager
  9. Neither Here Nor There, Bill Bryson
  10. A Three Dog Life
  11. The Competent Pastor, Ronald Sisk
  12. Murder in the Marais, Cara Black
  13. Red Bird, Mary Oliver
  14. Sleeping With Bread, Linn
  15. Praying in Color
  16. If Your Name Was Changed At Ellis Island
  17. Atonement, Ian McEwan
  18. Water for Elephants
  19. Tall Grass, Sandra Dallas
  20. Take this Bread, Sara Miles

These are the books I already read and reported on. And new additions:

  1. The Kommandant's Girl
  2. Here if you Need Me
  3. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls
  4. Preaching as Testimony, Anna Carter Florence
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
  6. The Citizen Solution, Harry Boyte
  7. Jesus for President (though I confess to skimming some parts)

There you have it, a record of my failure. I've only finished reading 27 books so far this year. I just don't get enough reading done. I won't get 50 books done this year, that's for sure. But I've realized a few things so far:

a) I can't read in bed for very long unless I get new glasses.

b) I need to be more self-disciplined in how I read; I have too many half-finished books lying around.

c) I have a lot of things to do.

I'm currently working on Tribal Church, and In the Bleak Midwinter.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A New Day

What can I say? He will need all of our prayer, and all of our work, and all of our wisdom, and all of our service.

Minnesota State Turn-out

Some may not know that Minnesota usually has the highest voter turnout of any state in the union. I wonder if we will keep that honor this year.

We have some wild and some weird and some extremely negative races this year. It hasn't always been this way. I'd rather be known for our high voter turnout.

This local column explains it.

Two Prayers for Election Day

Under your law we live, great God,
and by your will we govern ourselves.
Help us as good citizens
to respect neighbors whose views differ from ours,
so that without partisan anger,
we may work out issues that divide us,
and elect candidates to serve the common welfare;
through Jesus Christ the lord. Amen
-The Book of Common Worship, Presbyterian Church, USA, 1946

Sovereign Lord, foolish we are, believing that we can rule ourselves by selecting this or that person to rule over us. We are at it a gain. Help us not to think it more significant than it is, but also give us and those we elect enough wisdom to acknowledge our follies. Help us laugh at ourselves, for without humor our politics cannot be humane. We desire to dominate and thus are dominated. Free us, dear Lord, for otherwise we perish. Amen
-Stanley Hauerwas, 1999

Compiled in An American Prayer Book, ed. Christopher Webber

Monday, November 3, 2008

All Saints and other Sinners, too....

..... working backwards

Yesterday afternoon we had #2 stepson over (he was in town for the weekend) to celebrate his 21st birthday. Grandma and Grandpa came over; I put lasagne in the oven and they brought birthday cake. Also, I tossed up a bag salad; this is the type of entertaining I can muster up after church on Sunday. We kept calling the #1 stepson on his cell phone to let him know that the lasagne was just about ready. But his phone kept ringing and ringing; as it turned out, he slept all afternoon after a really exhausting Halloween party. He did turn up to eat leftovers in the early evening, after everyone else had gone home.

Right after church, I got together at a local coffee shop for a "confirmation reunion" with some of the girls from my confirmation class two years ago. Four out of six of them showed up. We drank coffee, cocoa, and caramel lattes and caught up: one of the girls is going to a TEC (Teens Encounter Christ) event this weekend; another has a part-time job at the Mall of America now. We promised to stop by. They all told me that the best way to keep in touch is by cell phone.

I had the children's message for our All Saints' worship yesterday. I cut out construction paper stars and prepared to tell the children about the Saints being the "stars" of the church -- and how they were stars, too. When I called the Kindergarteners up to the front, there was a cry from the back of the church. "All, right, how about 4 year olds too?" The little girl stopped crying and came to the chancel steps with her brother. So when I gave them each a star, I called them, "St. Molly," "St. Anya,", "St. Anthony." Stars of the church, letting their lights shine.

Yesterday I had the first of two Bible Classes with third graders and their parents. 9 children and their parents looked up Old Testament verses and learned a little bit about the Library of books that is the Bible. We have one more class, in two weeks, and then everyone gets to take home their Bible.

This class is still, after ten years, one of the most fun things I do. It is fun to watch the students and their parents look up passages together. It is fun for them to learn the "Books of the Old Testament" song. It is fun to play the Bible games we have created for them to play. It is also so fun to watch how interested the parents are in in some of these "Bible facts." It really is "Bible 101."

Later on, after stopping in at a wedding reception, we stopped in at Barnes and Noble. We've been going to the Library more and more for books. But we still haven't totally given up our bookstore habit. We buy a lot less,though. I was considering a specific Bible (more on that later) as a gift, and perusing a copy of The Predator State, by James Galbraith. I've been reading a little of the latter book every time we go in for coffee and window-shopping. I read a review in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago; it was critical, but provocative. As for me, I know I'm not an economist, but some of the things that Mr. Galbraith is saying make a lot of sense to me. He writes that the changes in the laws since the 1980s actually discouraged business executives from re-investing in their own companies, and encouraged them to cash in for private enrichment, that seems to me exactly what has been happening.

As we left the bookstore cafe, a man stopped us and asked me about the book I was reading. His name is Luis, and my husband says that he is also a regular at the bookstore. We seem to have similar taste in literature. He was reading The History of Money, by Jack Weatherford, a book my husband just got out of the library.

Somehow, we all have more interest in economics, lately.