Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Leavin' on a Jet Plane...

.... early tomorrow morning. I'll be back sometime Saturday evening.

The rumor is that the place I will be staying does not have internet access. Serious blogging withdrawal will occur, I'm afraid.

Also, serious dog and husband withdrawal.

I'll be at a women's leadership training event. Stories will resume when I return.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Holy Roller

Storytelling, Part III
My father and my mother did not go to college, but I did. I went to a small midwestern Lutheran college just far enough away from home to qualify as 'away from home.' I decided to go to this college because I was a dyed-in-the-wool Lutheran girl, because I wanted to learn the Scandinavian language they offered at this college, and because they had a good Literature program.

I did not go to college to become a holy roller.

I did not know what a "holy roller" was.

I have two sets of god-parents: both Lutheran, and both religious, but in different ways. For example, one of my godfathers liked to quote Karth Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the other one gave me a copy of The Cross and the Switchblade. My second set of god-parents would also say things like "we're praying for you," sometimes, which I took to mean: "We think you are in a lot of trouble, spiritually."

I went to college, this small Lutheran school just a little bit away from home, and I tried a few things for the first time. I went to a beer party (I didn't like it). I tried cigarettes. I went out a few times.

And I signed up for a course called, "The Neo-Pentecostal Movement" for January Term.

We read a few books, had some class discussions, and had several speakers with different points of view. I remember a few of them: A history professor from a nearby Lutheran school, a lay woman from the local Four Square Gospel church, and an Old Testament professor from one of our seminaries. We learned about Azusa Street and the turn-of-the-century revival there, and how it grew. We also learned about Lutherans and Episcopalians and others who had experienced pentecostal revivals, but who did not leave their churches.

Many, but not all, of the students in the class had had some experience with this pentecostal movement. In the evenings, some of us would get together for worship.

On the night before the last session, there was a sort of a prayer-meeting in someone's room. A number of people were there. People were praying for each other, and some of them were speaking in tongues.

At one point, they started praying for me. I'm pretty sure I wanted them to, although I was also nervous about it. I remember it was dark, and there were candles around, and everything seemed sort of mysterious. I don't remember exactly what happened, but that at some point I realized that I was speaking in tongues. I heard someone say "praise the Lord!" and then I figured out what was happening.

It was late at night when I got back to my dorm room. More properly, it was early in the morning. But I felt exactly like the apostles in Acts, chapter 2. I didn't want to go to sleep. I pulled open my Bible, and started reading the letters of Paul, and I thought, "I know exactly what he's talking about." It seemed like the Bible now applied to me in a way that I never thought it had before. I wanted to read it. It was my story. I had the exhilarating and arrogant feeling that I might understand it.

For a few months after that, I was on a kind of spiritual high. I was interested in everything about God, and almost nothing else. To be honest, I was also, in some ways, insufferable to be around. When I think back on that time, and the patience with which my aunt and uncle (for example) treated me, I think so much more of their Christian commitment than I do of any amount of speaking in tongues.

I still look back fondly on the experience I had that evening in the dark, with the candles. But there are other things I do not look fondly on. I don't look fondly back at the limitations charismatic leaders put on women; I don't look back fondly on the judgments some made of those who did not claim the exact same spiritual experiences; I don't look back fondly on what I perceived as a quest for bigger spiritual 'highs.'

After all these years, I'm still looking for a way to integrate the experience I had with the kind of Christianity I claim: a faith that seeks justice, and does kindness, and walks humbly. be continued... (if anyone is interested)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

MacLeish, Kierkegaard, Camus, Jesus....

(Storytelling, part 2)
During my Senior year of high school, I took a year-long college-level literature course called "Honors English." I still remember the first day of class, because our teacher told us our assignment for the evening was to go home and read the book of Job. How often do you hear that in a public school? (Probably even less often these days).

I went home and read all 42 chapters of the book of Job in my confirmation Bible, which was the Revised Standard Version. The next day our teacher handed us each a copy of Archibald Macleish's prose-poem, J.B.

Thus began a year-long struggle with faith.

The theme of the play J.B., like the book of Job, deals with the question of suffering. Some of the lines from the play are lifted straight from the Bible. And both the Bible and the play raised what seemed (and still seem, to be truthful) unanswerable questions about God and evil to me. A particular recurring couplet in the play troubled me:

"If God is good he is not god/if God is god he is not good/Take the even, take the odd..."

I remember coming to my teacher with my doubts. To her credit, she took me seriously and said that the Christian answer to suffering might simply be to be present with the sufferer. At the time, that did not quite make sense to me.

Throughout the year, we read Pirandello, Kafka, Dostoyevsky, Camus and Hermann Hesse. Our teacher gave us a lecture on Kierkegaard to help us to understand Camus' novel The Plague. We learned about Jung and the Collective Unconscious, and studied the Holocaust in order to read Eli Wiesel's book Dawn.

In the meantime, I was searching and questioning. The things I learned in Sunday School and at church camp did not prepare me for the things I was learning. They did not give me any ammunition to fire back at the unbelief that was creeping in. Not only that, my Sunday School lessons did not prepare me for the deep conversations I had throughout the year with Jewish friends, who asked me if I thought they were going to hell, and "Jesus people" friends who asked if I was "saved."

It seems funny to think about it now, but do you know what I did?

I went to the library. I found the theology section and I took out books about Jesus. I no longer remember the titles of any of the books that I read, or tried to read. I believe that some of the books were Historical Jesus books. I learned a little about Albert Schweitzer and the Search for the Historical Jesus. I didn't understand everything I was reading (including the word 'eschatology', which I heard for the first time), but I gathered from what I read that, in the end, the Historical Jesus was notoriously difficult to pin down. Some blamed Paul for Christianity. Others contrasted the Synoptic gospels (synoptic! another new word!) with the gospel of John.

It was a whole new world, and it didn't help at all.

The thing was, I wanted to be a Christian. I wanted to believe in Jesus, even though he was notoriously difficult to pin down. Believing didn't make much sense, but not believing made even less sense.

I remembered something my English teacher had taught us about Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish Lutheran theologian and philosopher. Kierkegaard talked about "the leap of faith" -- he seemed to think that finally, in order to believe, you just had to leap over the absurdities that were strewn in your path. (Anyway, there was something comforting about acknowledging that faith didn't always make sense.)

So I did.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Cabin Fever Friday Five

Singing Owl from Revgalblogpals gives us this Friday Five:

Here in snow country we are settled in to what is a very long stretch of potentially boring days. The holidays are over. It is a very long time till we will get outside on a regular basis. The snow that seemed so beautiful at first is now dirty and the snow banks are piling up. Our vehicles are all the same shade of brownish grey, but if we go to the car wash our doors will freeze shut. People get grumpy. Of course, not everyone lives in a cold climate, but even in warmer places the days till springtime can get long. Help! Please give us five suggestions for combating cabin fever and staying cheerful in our monochromatic world?

I'm also in snow country, although it's not like it was when I lived in rural South Dakota. So my five suggestions are a hodge-podge of things we do now, and things I did to pass the time when I was literally "snowed in."

1. Find a "movie of the winter." I used to do this because my town was so small that we didn't even have a video store. So I developed the habit of finding a movie that I didn't mind seeing over and over again, whenever we were snowed in for a few days, and the number of TV stations went from 4 to 2. Some "movies of the winter" included: Gigi, Strictly Ballroom (great Australian movie), While You Were Sleeping, and Roman Holiday. Yes, my movies of the winter ran to "chick flicks." Two other "movies of the winter" that I'd like to recommend: "The Major and the Minor" (with Ginger Rogers), and "The More the Merrier" (Jean Arthur/Joel McCrea.)

2. Take up knitting, or counted cross-stitch. I got a lot of cross-stitch done during snow storms, while watching "the movie of the winter" and the weather news. More recently, I have taken up knitting again. I'm working on a bright red scarf: the greatest contrast possible with winter white.

3. Have a dog that likes winter. Our Scout gets me up to play in all but the coldest weather. Sometimes it's ok just to watch her play. Other times, a brisk (and I mean brisk) walk does the trick. After the walk, it doesn't hurt to have a husband who is so impressed that you walk your dog in below zero temperature, that he gets up and makes oatmeal.

4. I really really really like lap blankets. I have lots of them, in bright colors. They are fleece, knitted and quilts, small cozy wraparounds that make evenings in seem less boring.

5. Finally, there is the Great Midwinter Getaway that my husband and I have been taking for the last three years or so. It's not even that far away. We just try to take two or three days off in the middle of winter, go to a near-by small town and hole up in a hotel.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I spent my internship year in Denver Colorado, working at a central city congregation, living in the community at Urban Servant Corp, and simply Living Somewhere Other Than The Midwest. When my car wasn't being repaired, I travelled around a bit. I got around the mountains of Estes Park. I went south to the Pueblo area. I found Route 66, Winslow, Arizona, and hummed a little of the Eagles' song, "Take it Easy." I also found out that New Mexico really is the Land of Enchantment.

There I also discovered the Storyteller doll, a folk craft of the Pueblo Indians. I knew immediately that I wanted one, even though on my intern salary (minus car repairs) I knew that I couldn't afford one.

I wanted one because I knew that I was a storyteller.

I remembered something that happened to me when I was in the eighth grade.

I took a class called "Communications." It seemed at the time to be one of the few electives for eighth graders. The course description said something about writing. I knew I was good at that, so I signed up.

I didn't read the fine print. In the fine print course description, "giving speeches" was also listed. I didn't want to give speeches. I wasn't good at giving speeches. To be truthful, I was not good at standing in front of people. at. all.

One of the first thing we had to do was give a speech. It wasn't a hard speech. It was a speech about how we spent our summer vacation or something. But I was nervous, and spoke very rapidly. It was not a moment of triumph, not at all.

I remember as well the "Pet Peeve" speech, and the "demonstration" speech. I remember them as slightly less horrifying. And then there was the storytelling speech.

I chose to tell the story of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Why, I do not remember. I remember that I liked the story, and that my sister and I had once co-written a poem based on the story which contained this memorable couplet:

"That dastardly man built like Jack Lalanne/Was driving poor Ichabad Crane insane."

I put off giving my story speech until I couldn't put it off any longer. I was the last one. I had to do it. I was so nervous. I had followed the directions of memorizing the first few sentences, and the closing few sentences. But, to be perfectly honest, I didn't remember much else of what transpired. It seemed a little like an out-of-body experience.

I finished and sat down.

I'll always remember what the teacher said next:

"Everyone in this class told a story. But Diane is different. Diane is a storyteller." She gave me an A+.

I'd always been an ok student. But it was the first time in my life that anyone told me that I was the best at something.

In the next few days, I plan to share a few of my own stories -- not necessarily in order. I'm not sure yet what they're for. Maybe by telling them, I'll figure it out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

An Inaugural Greeting

"Happy New Era."

That's the first thing my husband said to me this morning.

That's what I want to say to you, too.

The weight of so many expectations, and so many hopes for change, must be enormous. As for me, behind all of my specific hopes, is one:

that this might be a new era of participation in our democracy, that citizens are empowered to find their voice, and to work for justice in their communities.

What is your deepest hope?

"Happy New Era."

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Reminder for Martin Luther King Day

I found this quotation over at Wounded Bird:

The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.

Martin Luther King, Jr., "Strength to Love", 1963

I can't add anything to that, except to urge all of us to take it to heart.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Singing and Snow

Today was an ordinary Sunday after the Epiphany: ordinary time. I preached on the call of Samuel, and had parish members complete the phrase: "Speak Lord, for your servant is listening." We had an important budget meeting after church, to approve a new budget. (It was approved.) In the meantime, we are starting to discern God's calling to us in this place; our community is not the same one that built a church in 1947, and welcomed the young families of World War II veterans. We are more diverse today: economically, generationally, racially.

I said that the first step in our discernment is to ask God to speak to us, and to trust that God will speak to us.

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

To me, the story of Samuel has so much poignancy: the old priest, who has the wisdom of serving and loving God for all these years, but not the courage or the vision to do what is needed now. The young Samuel, sleeping next to the Ark of the covenant, hearing God calling him, but not knowing who it is, or, more important, the implications of God's call. For all his faults, I love the old priest Eli, even though his time is ending. And one of the things I love about him is how he accepts the word of the Lord, how he accepts God's judgment. "Let him do what seems good to him," he says.

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

Our community is changing, I said, but we can still be a community church. We can still be a church that welcomes the people who are moving here. We can still give people a place to worship, learn, and learn to hear God's voice to them. But we will serve, welcome and nurture a more diverse community. To tell the truth, I don't know exactly how to do that. I do know one thing: I believe our children, like Samuel, will show us the way. The question is: are we Eli, with the wisdom, but not the courage, to serve God?

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

After the first service, I looked out of the front door of the church and saw a thick, beautiful snow falling. Not all snow is beautiful, just ask my friend Songbird, who had a terrifying drive home from church today. But this was just as if someone had tipped over one of those snow globes right outside the church doors. A sudden delight seized me, the unexpected beauty, and I exclaimed, "Look at the snow!" ... and all the church heard it, because somehow my mike was still on.

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

At both services today, we sang Here I am, Lord, and even though it has sometimes become a cliche, and even though we have perhaps sung it too often, I found myself moved.

I will break their hearts of stone/give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my word to them. Whom shall I send?

And at our 10:00 Contemporary Service, we sang a gospel song called Lead Me, Guide Me, and John Bell's The Summons.

Will you love the you you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
So many questions today: our changing neighborhood, and our fear of the future, our call, if we will answer it, the challenges of poverty and racism, the call to do justice. And then there is the unexpected beauty, if we have eyes to see it: the children, our disciples, our teachers.

Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

Are we?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Five: Take Me, Baby, Or Leave Me

Songbird, over at Revgalblogpals, has used a song from the play "Rent" as inspiration for this week's Friday Five.

Although written by a young man, this song became an anthem for women of a certain age ready to be taken on their own terms. Maureen and Joanne love each other, but they are *very* different.

Whether it's new friends or new loves or new employers, what are five things people should know about you?

1. I'm left handed. This means I do some things differently than other people. I iron on the "other" side of the ironing board, knit differently, and one of my former bosses said that I file "backwards." I say: get over it.

2. Love me, love my dog. Never imagined this; I was a cat lover from way back. Go figure.

3. I always wanted to be a mother. This is one of my excuses for my large collection of children's books.

4. I seem to have a distinctive laugh. You might as well know now, because you will either love it or hate it. In fact, a friend just said to me today, "I knew you were in the building, because I heard you laugh."

5. Singing and playing the piano makes me feel better when I am blue.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Two books I probably will not read this year....

I Can Make You Thin, by Paul McKenna.

Subtitle: "You can make me rich."

Sorry if I am skeptical. No, actually, I'm not sorry to be skeptical. Here's my book on dieting: Eat Less. Exercise more. Do not snack between meals. Have fewer pieces of chocolate cake. The End.

Rich Like Them, by Ryan D'Agostino.
Where to start? First of all, I can't believe the audacity of a title that obliquely refers to the 1960s classic Black Like Me, about a man who actually discovered what it felt like to be black. The idea of this book, it seems, is that the author knocked on the doors of the super-rich, with their huge houses, their incredible lifestyles, their unbelievable vacations. He discovered, not surprisingly, that "the rich are different than you and me."

Personally, I suspect that this quote attributed to Ernest Hemingway is accurate: "They have more money." I suspect that there are interesting rich people, boring rich people, hard-working rich people, lazy rich people, just like in every class of person there is.

Finally, I wonder what Tom Petters and Bernard Madoff would have said if the author had knocked on their doors?

What about you? What books are you probably NOT reading this year?

Make New Friends, And Keep the Old...

I have the honor of receiving, and passing along, this "blogging friends award."

Three of my friends, Jan, Mompriest, and Jennifer, all awarded this to me. Ironically, I have met all three of these bloggers, so I now count them blogging friends and more. I'd like to give the award back to each of them, because they each fit the description below:

"These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

However, I believe the idea is to pass the award forward. These are just a few of the friends I have met, or would like to meet one day. Some, like Barb, I have known from my first days of blogging. Others, like Lauralew, I have met more recently. And eight is too small a number. But, alas, here goes:

Bloggers I have met:

Bloggers I would like to meet:

Presbyterian Gal
Proclaiming Softly

I feel bad that there are people who I consider friends that I had to leave out, because the list is already too long. You have all been gifts to me in the last (not quite) two years now. Thank you for your wisdom, your compassion, your friendship, your humor, your love of reading, poetry, cooking, and God.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Books 2009 - #s 1 through 5

I don't know whether or not there is an actual "Reading Challenge" thrown down this year, but I'd like to continue the practice of keeping track of, and reporting on, the books I read during the year.

Last year I only ended up reading 31 books. That's nowhere near the 60 book goal. This year my personal goal is to read 50 books in 2009. And I started early. I read my first book on January1: The Small One, by Charles Tazewell. It's an old book, not well known at all, but the author is well known for writing the famous (or infamous, in some circles) children's classic, The Littlest Angel. The small one is an old donkey, worthless to his owners, but loved by a little boy, who ends up being given a great responsibility.

While I was on vacation, I completed a book by Abigail Thomas called Thinking About Memoir. I loved her book, Three Dog Life, and this little book is just as well-written, but it's more a book of writing, and memory, exercises than it is a memoir itself.

I had read parts of In the Bleak Midwinter a couple of years ago, but the dog ate it before I got to the end. In December I read the last two books in the series, so I took the opportunity to go back and re-read the first in the series. It was fun vacation reading.

The Bible Salesman, by Clyde Edgerton, was my next vacation book, and just as fun as In the Bleak Midwinter, but in another way. I blogged about it here.

Finally, I read Timothy Egan's fine book, The Worst Hard Time. It's a harrowing and finely-written account of the dust bowl during the depression, and those who lived through it. It's really an environmental disaster story. I remember a conversation with a friend of my husband's, a free-market kind of guy, who said most people didn't understand that the "market" is a law, like gravity -- you can't ignore it. This book reminds me that there are other "laws" as well -- laws of nature, and that we ignore at our peril.

Monday, January 12, 2009

At long last....Blogger Meet-up!

One of the great fringe benefits of our trip to Phoenix, Arizona this year (and there were many, believe me) was the opportunity finally to meet my friend Mompriest from Seeking Authentic Voice. I believe that she was one of the two or three first bloggers to find me after I joined Revgalblogpals back in May of 2007. I loved her honest and insightful reflections on faith, life and ministry and was sure that someday we would meet. After all, we do get to visit family in Chicago occasionally.

Then she moved south. Waaaaay South. I have family there too, but not as far south as she is. Still, I thought, someday we just might meet.

Tuesday, we did. We shared tea and conversation at Tempe's Changing Hands Bookstore and Wildflower Bread Company (my sister, who has lived in Arizona for almost 30 years, recommended this place).

I hope she enjoyed the opportunity as much as I did. Now, I am plotting to find a way to the Big Event 2 in Scottsdale this spring. We'll see....

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Things I'm Thinking About....

  • It has become clear during the last few days that we've been here that I have gained back all of the 20+ pounds that I lost two years ago. Needless to say, I am disappointed in myself, and thinking about what I can do differently in order to increase my fitness again. I'm also thinking that blogging might have had something to do with it (if anyone here has figured out a way to exercise and blog, please raise your hand).
  • On the other hand, I feel that I have begun a very good reading discipline in the week we have been here. I'm already on my 5th book for January (more on that later), and hope that I can discipline myself to read 50 books in 2009.
  • We leave early Monday morning. On the one hand, it's been too short. I need a vacation. On the other hand, I feel that I will be behind before we land.
  • I'm trying really hard not to make lists of things to do -- at least on paper -- while I'm here.
  • I think I've stopped dreaming "church dreams" -- just in time.
  • We spent the afternoon knocking around in the desert east of Florence, Arizona this afternoon. It's barren, wild, beautiful and empty -- all at the same time.
  • A former pastor of mine, Sharon Betcher, wrote a book recently. It was reviewed in Christian Century. I'm thinking about this for several reasons. Pastor Betcher is probably one of the reasons I became a pastor; she started me thinking about many things in different ways. However, I think it is safe to say that our pastoral styles are very different. Just the fact that she wrote a book is intriguing to me. I almost bought it before we left on vacation. When I get back, the book goes on my reading list.
  • I realized today, spending the afternoon with my sister, how much I miss her, since she lives several states away and has a very busy life.
  • I wonder what the title of my first book should be?
  • coming soon: look for "blogger meet up", desert pictures, etc.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Fine Tuning

It's been an potpouri of a vacation so far. We've been up to small-town Prescott and back, over to the Desert Botanical Garden and done some moderate antique-shopping. Plus, I met a blog-friend who lives in a nearby town (I will say more about this later). Husband has been listening to Alan Hovhaness' Mysterious Mountain; he says it's perfect for driving around here. I've been reading Clyde Edgerton's novel The Bible Salesman.

On the way over to the Botanical Gardens today my husband gave me a mini-overview of 20th century music. This was in response to my question regarding Hovhaness, about whom I knew very little, except that I love his piece, And God Created Great Whales. (Our dog, Scout, seems to like this piece, too.) It seems that 20th Century composers felt that they had a dilemma; what could they do that was new and different? After Wagner, everyone felt that "you couldn't get any bigger." Wagner had taken the genre about as far as it could go. So the 20th century "new thing" was to be atonal, and "not pretty", at least in the way music had been "pretty" before. Composers like Hovhaness and Vaughn Williams are considered less serious composers by some because they composed pleasing music. (I realize that many music scholars may disagree with this.)

On the way to the Desert Botanical Gardens, then, we were listening to Mysterious Mountain, and I was reading The Bible Salesman, a wonderful little novel about a young man who in the early 1950s South who is an unwitting accomplice to a criminal. He also is selling Bibles, and, coincidentally, really reading them, as if for the first time. This Bible-reading theme is a background, a curious counterpoint to the story of the naive and earnest young man and how he grows up. He's asking questions about the Bible that he has never asked before, and wondering about whether it is true, and how it can be true. In the end, he finds comfort in different truths that he discovers in the Bible, and in his life.

I thought about how our ears need fine tuning so that, in each age, we can hear God's word -- in the strange words of the Testaments, Old and New, in our words to one another, in the soft or loud voices of those on the mountains or on the margins, speaking a counterpoint to the big and brash news of the day. I thought about how my eyes need fine tuning so that I can see the beauty in the desert, where, the land is big and barren, and it takes a sharp eye to capture a quail walking through the brush, or fairy dusters, small bright red spots among muted browns and greens. Some beauty is loud and brash, and takes my breath away; some beauty skirts along the edges, or even hides; I need to fine-tune my eyes to see it, just as I need to fine-tune my ears to really hear the truth.

In a few days we'll leave the warm and barren land to come back to the frozen north where we live. I hope I can fine tune my eyes and ears again to see the beauty, and to hear the truth of the strange and familiar place where I live.

Monday, January 5, 2009

On the Road Again

I'm up; I should be sleeping. We're leaving in just a few hours for our annual trip to see family and experience warmness in Phoenix, Arizona.

The house is quiet; Scout has already been delivered to her dog sitter's. I miss her already. However, she ran up their steps and down the steps of their split level when we arrived yesterday. We know she's having a good time.

I don't have a big agenda for the week, except:
  • if it's sunny, get some sun.
  • try to meet Mompriest on Tuesday
  • spend time with family
  • go to the Desert Botanical Gardens.
  • read and exercise
  • spend time with my husband (who might have an agenda of his own, ya think?)

I don't know if I will be on line too much in the next week. I may post some pictures.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

There's no such thing As an Average Saturday

I awoke this morning from dreams that Scout was chasing rabbits in the back yard. As I watched, she chased and never caught a rabbit; they cleverly found their way through the slats in the fence by the front gate. In my dream, though, suddenly Scout herself found a hole so that she could escape the fence and continue to chase a rabbit. In real life, I would be anxious about this; in my dream, I continued to find pleasure in watching her run, with a certain grace and abandon.

I woke early to prepare for my Breakfast Bible Study. We're studying John, and these guys are good. They've been studying together for over twenty years, so I'm reading a little bit of Kittel on the word "doxa" as it pertains to John. I thought they might be interested in this. They're Bible scholars, after all. One of them professes to be a "Kiekegaardian existentialist"; another calls himself a "confessional Lutheran."

I ordered my regular oatmeal and toast with peanut butter and drank plenty of coffee. After the Bible study I for some reason did not stop to buy a Saturday newspaper, as is my habit. Instead, I headed straight to the church, where I have a lot to accomplish before I go on vacation.

  • write prayers (I discover that I didn't really have to do this)
  • put together list of contemporary songs we know for music minister
  • contact several shut ins and make appointments; reorganize my shut-in list for 2008
  • get ahead on journal reading
  • make sure appropriate people have my itinerary for next week
  • check up several times on Revgals "preacher party"
  • return library book
  • buy present for my sister!

I have been trying to save money (and shelf space) by getting books out of the library instead of buying them. It's working moderately well, except that I don't always get the book read by the due date (I need to pace myself), and I really have to work to get the books back on time. Otherwise, I think the library is a great idea. I like libraries.

I finished my work day by going to visit a parish member on hospice care, and bringing home my new "Feasting on the Word" study book, with every intention of reading and studying this very evening. Somehow, though, it didn't happen. Instead we:

  • looked for car keys
  • found car keys
  • took a trip to a local used book store (where I got a few good deals)
  • knitted a couple of rows; realized that I really don't know what I'm doing on the braided cable thing, and hoping that eventually it will look ok
  • went out for burgers
  • let the dog out; stood in the door for several minutes calling her to come in; finally got her food bowl and a few kibble, after which she bolted in the door.
  • read a few pages of Abigail Thomas'book Thinking About Memoir
  • starting packing the big suitcase

The rabbits are dancing in the yard; as I get ready for bed, I'm thinking again about the fence and the gate, and the holes in the fence. I'm thinking about the joy I felt when my dog was able to keep chasing the rabbits with grace and abandon.

There's a purpose for fences, I know; but there's a purpose in living with abandon, too, to find a way out of the ordinary -- if only in our dreams.

That's what I'm thinking about tonight, anyway.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Beginnings Friday Five

Sally from over at Revgalblogpals gives us this Friday Five:

As we look back we may come to understand how God has worked in and through us in joy and saddness. how we have grown against what may seem impossible odds. As we look forward we may do so with expectation, and we may do so with fear and trembling. As we look back and forward in New Years liminality I offer you this simple yet I hope profound Friday Five in two parts:

First list five things that you remember/ treasure from 2008

1. The bloggers I got to meet in 2008: Pastor Eric from The Heart of a Pastor, Jan from Yearning for God, Auntie Knickers from Exile's Return, Jennifer from Possible Water (and the many Revgals I met at the Festival of Homiletics), Jodi at Choral Reef, Jennifer from An Orientation of Heart. I never realized when I started blogging how many people I would meet.

2. My Ten Year Anniversary at my current call. It was a good time to reflect back; I received lots of good comments.

3. Our trip to Paris. I had never been to Europe before last summer. Those three days were like a dream to me.

4. The Education Forum held in our congregation in September, and the things I learned about the Achievement Gap. The facts we learned were sobering (Minnesota has the highest achievement gap in the nation), but the relationships and commitments we are forming is hopeful.

5.Welcoming a new minister of music to our congregation in September. He has his own voice, his own style, and I am appreciating that.

Then list five things that you are looking forward to in 2009

1. New Leadership. I suspect that 2009 is going to be a hard year for our country. But I am hoping that, in the midst of it all, many of us will be inspired to find our own voice and that new leaders will emerge.

2. Improved relationships. Today, I don't want to say more about that....

3. Very immediately .... a trip to Phoenix next week. It's warm there (at least I hope), and I have family there as well.

4. Finishing things. Yesterday I took out two very old knitting projects (I mean very old), and am resolving to finish them this year. I might need help, though. Here is one of them:

5. Continuing to find and express my own voice: in my community, in my congregation, in my family.

As you read one anothers blogs today I challenge you to leave a word of encouragement and pause to pray for each member of Revgals as we step into a New Year.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Year in Blogging

I saw this review meme over at Jane 's(Acts of Hope) and Paul's (Buddhapalian), and thought I'd give it a whirl:

The first sentences of the first post of every month. I cheated on three -- they were friday fives, and I decided to print the question and the beginning of my answer. Also I still think I need to learn to write better ledes.

Finally, I am interspering links to a few favorite posts of the year.

January: I don't have a story for this, but I have random foggy memories of a few New Years in Japan.

I don't think I'll ever have a better New Year's post than this one, about opening the New Year in Japan. Akemashite Omedeto!

The Lutheran Cable Network

February: Transfiguration Year A
Matthew 17:1-9/2 Peter 1:16-21
Long ago, a wise old rabbi lay on his deathbed.

March: This is a music video dedicated to a victim of domestic violence.

April: We are now entering my birthday month (woo-hoo!)

Easter Vigil Reflections

May: (Friday Five) 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.

June: I'm typing this at church right now because we have not had electricity since about 7:00 last night.

Who Wants to Start a Movement?

Reflections on my Ten Year Anniversary

July: Marsha over at Just Some Thoughts has given me a very lovely award called You Make My Day. It is pretty, isn't it?

August: 1) How do you amuse yourself when road construction blocks your travel?
I don't know that I amuse myself.

My new desk came in (Almost) A Million Little Pieces

September: 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.

October: 1. Saint Francis experienced a life changing call, has anything in your journey so far challenged you to alter your lifestyle?
When I quit my job and went to seminary, I often half-joked that I was becoming downwardly mobile.

November: Yesterday afternoon we had #2 stepson over (he was in town for the weekend) to celebrate his 21st birthday.

What We See

December: I started blogging in April of 2007, just about the same time I turned 50 (give or take a couple of days).