Tuesday, December 30, 2008

tuesday is today

There is a reason I don't work at work. I have a lovely, large office, with windows and extra chairs and bookshelves and everything. And I really can't work in it very often. it's connected to the main office and right now there are people copying and running the folding machine, having discussions about running other copies and other things and the guys who are working on the sound system, and, and, and.

Closing the door make me seem - unavailable. And that is a dirty word.

This week - the week between - I desire to:
  • Rewrite and layout a workbook for First Communion - our denominational publishers have nothing suitable.
  • Start thinking and planning for alternative worship for Lent. This is a new thing, asking what worship would be like if we didn't feel tied to old forms
  • Review my semon texts from now until Lent. I have been running so hard that sermon prep has taken a back seat. Look at the difference between my posts now and at the beginning of this blog, in summer.
I would like to do some of those tasks here, in my office.

I need one of these: The Cone of Silence


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Day Message

Christmas Day, 2008- I heard the bells on Christmas Day.
Lesson – Luke 21-20

I heard the bells on Christmas Day, their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of Peace on Earth goodwill to men.

This carol, now one of the old familiar carols for us – is really not that old. It was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – yes, the Song of Hiawatha guy – in 1864. It reflects his deep reflections on the words of the Gospel, in a time in which there seems to be no peace on earth, no end to suffering and no personal joy,.

Longfellow himself had had his share of suffering – in 1861 his beloved wife Fanny died from burns after her dress caught fire in a freak accident. Longfellow was himself badly burned and suffered as he healed. Two years later, his oldest son Charles was severely wounded in battle.

A year later, at the end of the year 1864 – with Charles recovering, the wounds of his own grief becoming manageable and he started writing again, and with the re-election of Abraham Lincoln, Longfellow published this poem, with its blend of sorrow, anger and hope. Two verses have been removed from our sung version, between verses 2 and 3 - verses that refer to the on-going Civil war, and use the image that the cannons of war drown the song of the bells. And when the poet hears those cannons – he writes:

And in despair I bowed my head: There is no peace on earth I said. For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, goodwill to men.

Longfellow touches on a common response to our holiday Gospel -
Think about it, after weeks of preparation,
after decorating and planning and traveling, or waiting for travelers to arrive
– after watching movies that honor, if not the Christmas story itself, the good feelings, the family strength, the emotional heart of the holiday
– after cooking and drinking and eating
– after listening to songs and seeing cards that point to this story – this sacred moment – after all that . . .
– we stumble out of the church on Christmas Eve, from the place of lights and song and beauty, into a world of crystal clear air and beautiful snow – and for a few hours, we can believe that the message of peace has been heard.

One newspaper took this approach to an unusual degree. The December 25, 1962 edition of the St. Petersburg Times in Florida had a very unusual format. For this one day, the paper came out with an edition that had two front pages. One front page had only good news. The second front page had all of the bad news that was occurring--rioting in the Congo and a large bank robbery in Chicago. The editors explained that they did this out of deference to the season.

Ah, but we know that is incomplete. We listen to the news, the real news, the stories of lives lost, jobs lost, families lost – internationally, nationally, locally – and it seems there is no peace on earth. We hear stories of outrageous Ponzi schemes that have devastated not only rich families, but charitable foundations, municipalities, retirement funds. We think the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

We know our own families, our own worlds, are struggling with the question of Good will to all – the patterns of our words can be uncharitable, the differences between generations huge. Like Longfellow – we may hang our heads and ask, where is Peace on Earth, Good will to men?

Hope we ask, Where is Hope?
What brings hope back In Longfellow’s poem it is the bells themselves.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: God is not dead, nor does he sleep,
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.

The Bells themselves, and all they stand for – they are the carriers of hope.
The bells of the churches, the voices of the believers, the resolution of the Christian, shall stand up to the mockery of the message.

The hope of the world has been born, the hope of the world lives. We say that God is not dead, or asleep, and it is in us that the world will know that.

This is in marked contrast to the notion of the two front pages of the newspaper. You will find no two front pages as you read the birth of the Christ child in Luke's Gospel. There is no attempt to separate the good from the bad. There may have been a star over the manger, but the child was also born to a woman who was considered disgraced by society. The angels may have proclaimed peace on earth good will towards men, but Rome still marched her legions wherever she pleased. The child may have been born a King, but the place of his birth certainly lacked the trappings of royalty. (esermons)

Yes, there is a great deal of difference between the Christmas of Luke's Gospel and the Christmas of the St. Petersburg Times. And, I would suggest, that is precisely why the Gospel is so appealing to us. It tells us about a God who is with us in both the good and the bad. That God does not change the events of the world to usher in his word.

God is with us in both Good and Bad. That is the message of the Christmas Bells – that we are the ones who will remember the true meaning of Christmas in a time of competing messages.

The true message of Christmas is not
Get the best, biggest or most elaborate toy and you will be happy
Is not: a little bit of help now, and you are on your own for the rest of the year
Is not: a brief time of family togetherness and then back to the usual -
passing in the night, angry silence,

The true message of Christmas is that Peace on Earth, Goodwill to men is a sentiment for everyday. It’s a message of Good News for December 25th, and January 25th and July 25th. It’s a hope for all humanity, a hope that soars above all the silly things we do to trivialize it.

Because this message: Peace on Earth, Good will to men – is connected with the beginning of the story of this baby, this child, this man – this master, this lord, this Messiah, this Christ – this redeemer, this Lamb, this sacrifice – our friend, our teacher, our master.

This message: Peace on Earth, Good will to men – that the bells do ring out, is the message for us, and to us. We are called by this story to be the people of peace, those who work for peace. We can ask for forgiveness, we can give forgiveness. We can listen to others, and work to help the needy. We can become good neighbors. We can support adolescents in their turmoil, and encourage them in their growth

We can be those who sing everyday, in the midst of news that shocks and hurts us that the bells still ring out – On Christmas Day, and everyday - the news: Peace on Earth, Good Will to men.

5. Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

last minute

How do I do it? Two days ago I purchased all sorts of toiletries to put in DS stocking, and now I can't find them. How do I lose things so quickly? and frequently?

Famous story. We are moving out from church #3 and in a cupboard I find presents from 2 years before! I thought I had purchased a sweatshirt!

Porridge was good this a.m. Bob's Red Mill 5 Grain with honey and half & half. Close to the food of the angels.

Christmas Day sermon - on Gospel & Longfellow's "I heard the Bells on Christmas Day" is done.

Christmas Eve has been refreshed and rehearsed once.

Lil Sis is here with a cough. She will stay home and drink tea this p.m., and wait for us with soup.

It's Snowing again!

His Majesty thinks - great, my mattress is home today.

Merry Christmas world (and my few readers.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

breathing & sermon

I am actually home for dinner. In time to cook the dinner. It is a bag of something from the freezer, but even that contributes to the cause of emptying the freezer.

I'll go to the library tonight, because the book I was trying to read just isn't keeping my attention, and I would hate to be without a good book during the quiet hours of Christmas.

Sometime I'll think about my sermons. I don't want to re-use my Christmas Eve sermon from last year - in structure, it's a lot like the one I want to do on Christmas Day. I could re-use it, I'm preaching at a different church

The Christmas Eve sermon last year used "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" as a frame to tell the shepherd's view of the story.

The Christmas Day sermon will use "I heard the bells on Christmas day" to reflect upon our adult perception that Christmas joy is just beyond our grasp. And it is if we think that all has to be well, peace has to be concrete on earth, etc. But Longfellow's hope is that the bells themselves are a sign that hope lives.

They really aren't that much alike, are they?

I guess I don't want to memorize and sing all that I did last year. Yes, this was all from memory, including the Gospel reading.

Christmas Eve – Dec. 24, 2007

Ah, what a great vision is called up in those words – long ago, a woman, a man, a tiny infant. There is an intimacy about the first act of the story – the three of them, despite old prophecies and angel dreams and visitations – the reality is that a baby has been born, cleaned, swaddled for comfort, and finally is at rest. Feeding trough or manager, whether it was in a cave or stable or perhaps even outdoors, under a canvas lean-to, we aren’t sure. The details we have added don’t really matter.

Hold your breath for a moment – it is the peacefulness of the scene that enchants – that the Savior of the world, the One hoped for, the Messiah promised of old – enters so quietly, so humbly. It is quiet and tiny, this royal birth. No one important knows about him, only his parents know what has been said about this one, only they know what that name – Jesus – really signifies. Like Joshua of old, he will save his people. Even his parents will not understand how that salvation will come about.

1 Infant holy, infant lowly, for his bed a cattle stall;
oxen lowing, little knowing Christ the child is Lord of all.

Then the second act – and the news cannot be kept secret any longer. Others must soon learn what is happening. Shepherds – drowsy in the night-time watch for wild dogs and bolder thieves – find themselves looking at a sky full of miracles. No, not stars, not comets, not new moons or even the northern lights – but a figure of such beauty and power that it could only invoke terror – the ANGEL OF THE LORD, with the brilliance that is that glory of the LORD shining. And of all things that ANGEL says: Don’t be afraid. The news is good news – the best news of all.

Swiftly winging, angels singing, bells are ringing, tidings bringing:
Christ the child is Lord of all! Christ the child is Lord of all!

See, says the angel, “over in the city, the city in which the great king David was born and the great king David was chosen by the prophet Samuel and anointed with oil, in that city, another child has been born – the Savior, who is God’s Anointed One, the Lord. But not in a palace, and not in a great house, but you will know it is him because he is still wrapped in swaddling clothes and he’ll be lying in a feeding trough.”

And not content with stunning the shepherds with that announcement, all the angels in God’s heavenly army show up to sing the highest praises of God – the heavenly chorus only before heard by the prophets and the visionary are shared – Glory to God in the highest! Peace has come to earth!

2 Flocks were sleeping, shepherds keeping, vigil till the morning new
saw the glory, heard the story, tidings of a gospel true.

Now in the third act the shepherds check with each other – realize they have all had the same vision – which probably calmed them down a bit - and decide to go to town. We tend to think that they found the babe right away, but we only know they went in haste, not that they found that child quickly. They had to check every feeding trough in the city. Any babies in this one? In that one? And when they burst upon the startled Mary and Joseph – Hey, guys, here! Baby, swaddled, in a manager. This is the one!

Maybe they were ready to give up, before they found that last box filled with hay and oats and baby. But here it was – this odd combination of infant tiny and humble circumstances. The vision in the field has been confirmed, the angels were not hallucinations, and that message was true – God has done something wonderful! God has sent a Savior, a Christ, a Lord.

Mary and Joseph had been quietly adoring their child, as parents will. They had been wondering about all the circumstances that had brought them to this place – Angel visits and the empire’s taxes, but they had been just the three of them, no one else knew. Until those shepherds arrived. Lady, do we have a story for you!

A story that began then, and was completed 33 years later, or rather, a story that has never ended. For we are like those shepherds, every Christmas, delighted to hear the good news from the angels: Christ is born! God has acted! And the world is different. The world is different, because Christ was born. The world is different because the followers of Christ – all of us who love this story, are different. We cling to a truth, that our God became human, a child, a man – and loved enough to teach us how to live as children of God, how to serve each other, to turn the other cheek, to open our hearts to the poor, to forgive as we have been forgiven. Our God loved us so much he sent his only begotten son to die for us. Loved us enough to promise to be with us until the very end. And that is GOOD NEWS.

Thus rejoicing, free from sorrow, praises voicing, greet the morrow:
Christ the child was born for you! Christ the child was born for you!

Text: Polish carol; tr. Edith M. G. Reed, 1885-1933, alt

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Viva la buick!

Started the day really early at 5:00, and was pleased to see the moon, which meant the snow had moved on. It also meant that the bitter cold and high winds had come. Last night I arranged to take the SUV (yes, we do own a smallish one!) and pick up our part-time pastor and take him to work with me.

The first clue it wasn't going to be a walk in the park was that our road wasn't plowed at all. Now our street is an alternate route for the fire truck and it's usually clear. Main city roads were okay. On some of the city roads to my co-worker's house no one had driven on them at 6:30 a.m

Head down on the county road - and the very point that the city plowing stopped there was just snowy ruts - 8 inches of snow and one car ahead of us pushing along. Forward motion seemed our best bet. 10 miles of quite interesting driving followed. At one point there were only one set of ruts and we weren't sure which side of the road we were on. At another point the blowing snow had covered up the ruts.

I felt like I was delivering the serum to Nome. I mentioned that in the announcements at church - all the children had blank looks on their faces - they had never heard of Balto. "The Cruelest Miles" is a good book on the story.

Settling down later in the day. I was shamed into finishing my Christmas cards. Slept for 3 hours. I think I've done most of my Friday Five list - writing sermons and finding if shut-ins are home is on the list for Monday.

Peace to all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Five


Songbird posts:
There are only five full days before Christmas Day, and whether you use them for shopping, wrapping, preaching, worshiping, singing or traveling or even wishing the whole darn thing were over last Tuesday, there's a good chance they will be busy ones.

So let's make this easy, if we can: tell us five things you need to accomplish before Christmas Eve.

1. Cards. I am way behind on the cards. It seems, when we moved DS out and put in new carpet, and put the house on the market and had open houses - one of the things that was put away too well was the Christmas Card list. Silly me - we never updated last year on the computer. Do you think this excuse will fly - "the cat ate your address!" Epiphany cards this year.

2. Gifts. Sent flowers to far-away sibling last night. Trying to get on the website for the local Very Good Meat site for the second part of that gift and can't - it's too busy. Should of stayed up late last night. And gifts for Lil Sis since she'll be here. And a gift for Aquila. And something to let DS know he's loved even though he's exasperating as all get out. All this has to happen sometime today.

3. Buy gift cards for church. For the hardship tales and last minute handouts.

4. Sermons - Sat/Sunday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day. And my youth worker just called and asked for help since he's preaching on vacation!

5. Pray. Pray for MP who is having a medical thing today. Pray for all the hardship cases and the families who grieve and our churches as they flounder. Pray for DS who doesn't want help. Pray for continued inner peace. Pray for my patient eagle. Pray for Barack and Michele and the girls as they enter their new and strange life.

I know - only 5. But
6. Sleep. Cut back on the wine, and eating late at night and protect my sleep.

7. Enjoy when I can. Things are still good. God is Good.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

getting a life

I am not going to complain. Too much work, too many hours, etc.
I want to complain. But I will not.

I have a day tomorrow to do my Christmas stuff. Cards, shopping, preparation.

I will sleep in. It will snow - but it's not the big one for us. I will try to take a mental break from work. From the funerals and the sermons (Sunday, Christmas Eve & Christmas Day). From the list of things that need to be prepared. I will look at my e-mail but will not answer anything (unless it is really, really time sensitive.)

I will read my Advent book, and my ordinary book. I will go e-shopping and grocery shopping. I will cook a really nice dinner, or we will go out for Mexican food. I will find a movie to watch at night. I will call and tease lil sis in Chi-town about the snow.

And I will unwind. Before Christmas. And I will be a better pastor because I have a life.

Real people have lives.
About time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Received a 'Christian' e-mail today.

I really wish people wouldn't send these.

I won't reproduce the pictures. Imagine smiling sunflowers and cute bears.

Unfortunately I opened it before lunch.

God Saw you hungry & created McDonalds, Wendys, Taco Bell, Andys and Dairy Queen
He saw you thirsty & created Coke, Juice, Coffee and Water

GOD saw you in the dark & created Light

GOD saw you without a Good looking , adorable , FRIEND.........
So He created ME !

Wash your hands and say your prayers ...
Because germs and Jesus are everywhere!

What can I say? I'm going to Culver's for lunch. I don't know if the Master of Universe, the Almighty Blessed Creator of all put it there for me.

Edited to add: I know my friend is a good friend, and a blessing, but still!

And Jesus and Germs?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

sunday pm

This morning we went a different direction at our two services. I knew the 2nd service was the Children's program and I wouldn't have to preach, so I was able to base my message around hymns for the more traditional service.

Of course, not everything I selected was traditional (wink, wink). We have the new Evangelical Lutheran Worship, so I wandered through the Advent section and we took a trip to France (Wait the Lord), Finland (Lost in the Night) and Cameroon (He Came Down). It was fun. I didn't sing off key. Our organist had fun - and since he works with the band - He Came Down will probably join the rotation.

Some excerpts:
We wait – the time of Advent is a time of waiting – waiting for the day of Christmas – waiting for answers to our questions to God – realizing that waiting – living in time with expectation – or dread – of the future – is our human condition. We wait for joyful news – a grandchild is born – we wait for sad news – someone has lost their battle with illness – we wait for the economy to improve – we wait, we wait. And we wait for the promises of God to be fulfilled. That is the huge dominant theme of ‘Advent’ – we wait for the promise – Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

So we can sing: "Wait for the Lord, whose day is near, wait for the Lord, be strong, take heart."

From Finland we receive a different perspective, a haunting folk tune, full of yearning and heartache.

This was first a missions hymn – and the first English translation had in the first line – lost in the night the heathen do languish. Changed to “the people” do languish in the 1960s it was placed in the Witness part of the LBW. Now it appears as an option for Advent – the mournful tune and depth of yearning expressed capture this time of our church year.

Now we see that the need for new life and light does not just apply to ‘them’ out there, but is a need that exists among us, right here. "Those who live in deep darkness, on them has light shone” – the old prophet’s words were taken to heart in the Scandinavian countries, where winter’s darkness lasts longer and comes to symbolize all that weighs us down. We experience the fear of death, the weight of despair, the overwhelming sense that we are powerless to change for the good our lives or the lives of others.

Together we turn to God plaintively sighing, "Will not day come soon? Will you help us soon?"

“Lost in the Night” was originally directed at those in far-away lands, but in the lands where missions have taken hold, such as Cameroon, the culture transformed the hope that Christ will come into a joyful affirmation of that he has come, and his coming has made a difference.

The Advent theme that Christ has come, is present, and will come again is joyfully expressed in the Cameroon song – “He came down.”

He Came down that we might have love - Hallelujah forever more.

So we live – knowing that He has come and he has not yet completed his work – and, as the scriptures today remind us – we are allowed, even encouraged – to rejoice.

Friday, December 12, 2008

more on vision

Wow! A lot of comments about my Friday Five!

Real vision and metaphorical vision questions seem to be in the air.

Re: real vision - a plug for good eye care. My keratoconus went undiagnosed and untreated for 20 years because I skimped on good eye care. I went to the place that was cheap, or the chain that was covered by the 'add-on' vision policy. It was not until I became so frustrated with my contacts that I went to a real eye clinic that I got the complete exam that set me to getting proper correction.

So, if you have astigmatism that is hard to correct, if you see halos or distorted shapes around lights, if you have a lot of trouble with glare, if you look at your Christmas tree without correction and the little glow around the bulbs is not round, but oval or squashed, if your toric contacts always flip upside down (that happened to me) - go up to a complete clinic with all the diagnostic tools. Ask if they have them - computerized topography, automatic refraction assessment are two.

And if you are diagnosed with KC, then ask/look for an OD who has specialized training in fitting the KC lenses. This is not something that most docs do - there are special courses/training through the manufacturers for the lenses. My OD limits her practice to this condition - she has it herself.

And make sure the clinic fights with the insurance company for coverage for your exams - they may not cover contact fittings - although they should - or the contacts themselves, but the exams need to be regular (between 6 weeks and 6 months, depending on where you are on the disease spectrum) and are medically necessary. The exams check for rapid changes, edema (swelling) and associated problems.

And vision as metaphor. It's funny that vision is the topic because vision is the buzz word around work right now. "What's our vision?" "We need a vision for this worship service." "We have a vision statement, we just don't use it." "You - pastors - should be leading our vision."

During one conversation I said something like: "let's restate that idea as 'we want to be inviting people into community.'" And later I realized that common-sense and practical statement was a better 'vision' statement than the abstract and careful official ones of my congregations.

We can use that statement to judge ourselves right now - do we have a community to invite people to? How does it function? Are we being inviting or not? Unlike 'living out the Body of Christ' - there isn't a lot of theology to explain. And the verb isn't as abstract - it's right out there - invite.

There's a lot to be said for just saying it straight.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

mother guilt

The day after my birthday I got an e-mail from my mother - hey, why don't you call/e-mail me. I was feeling horrible until I realized on second reading that she had sent it to all my siblings, too. Then I could divide the guilt by 6.

The first reply all was from my born-again brother. Then I replied this morning. MP said - of course, it's the Christians that understand guilt.

I promise to stay in touch with my mother.

Friday Five

From RevGalBlogpals - This week's Friday Five.

1. What color are your beautiful eyes? Did you inherit them from or pass them on to anyone in your family?
My eyes are brown - cinnamon brown. Mom's were brown and Dad's were very dark. One sis has hazel, everyone else has brown eyes. It's interesting, when you look at the eyes of the next generation - you can see the resemblance. The cousins still look related, even though some have Greek heritage, some Irish, etc. Even the adopted kids - sort of. My son is one of the adopted ones - his eyes are a changeable sort of green brown.

2. What color eyes would you choose if you could change them?
I wouldn't change them. Not the color. They are impressive, I guess - they were described in college as 'flashing'- by a professor! He did not want my 'flashing eyes' snapping at him! I would change them to be healthy. I have extreme myopia, floaters, some vitreal damage and keratoconus (a condition which results in thinning, 'cone-shaped' corneas and oddly disturbed vision. http://www.nkcf.org/

3. Do you wear glasses or contacts? What kind? Like 'em or hate 'em?
I wear two contacts in each eye - one soft, for comfort, and one custom made hard lens for accurate vision. And I wear reading glasses over those. I also have a pair of regular glasses for times when I can't wear the contacts - they are quite thick, even though they are made with the 'lighter' lens material. My next pair will be outside of the parameters for thinner lenses - they will be true coke-bottle glasses.

I have to love them - I have no choice if I want good vision. And because of that I am grateful for the technology that allows for this clarity of vision.

4. Ever had, or contemplated, laser surgery? Happy with the results?
The only possible surgery would be corneal transplant, which make me philosophical, and extremely grateful to those who consider organ donation. My condition has stabilized, and transplant is not likely, unless I have an episode of edema or a lesion develops, both of which are possible. Years of handling contacts has resulted in infection with ocular herpes. My eye doctor has remarked that I have the best results with the worst collection of problems! I am fairly close to my eye doctor, since we see each other 4 times a year.

5. Do you like to look people in the eye, or are you more eye-shy?
This is an interesting question, because ever since my internship year, I have been told I do not look people in the eye, and this habit has been identified as a negative, a strong problem for many people. My response was surprisingly emotional - it was like a fist in the stomach. I've worked on this pattern - trying to be conscious of my eye-contact being appropriate. (These types of comments have been used as manipulation as well - but I am speaking now of the sincere comments)

Just a few years ago my nephew was identified as autistic. I now wonder if a little bit of that heritage - along with the geekiness, and social awkwardness that is seen in me and my siblings - is part of the eye-contact complaint. I know that I tend to look away when I'm thinking of something - and when I'm not trusting of the person I'm speaking to. It has been a problem when preaching.

Still working on it - in my fifties!

Monday, December 8, 2008


It's my birthday! It's not as important as it once was. I don't mind working at the usual things.

Aquila and I had a date on Saturday night, and he and the DS will cook for me tonight when I arrive after Monday worship. It's likely to be a snow day tomorrow, so I can even treat it like a Friday night.

(And I see the first flakes of snow outside my window!)

Notes and confessions from 53:
  • I dye my hair. Let to itself it would be faded brown to dark grey with silver hairs. Kinda like my mother's at 60. I'm not ready for that yet.
  • I wear a night retainer again. Just like in junior high.
  • I am starting a cateract.
  • One knee is permanently larger than the other.
  • I'm not worrying that much about my weight.
  • My feet have changed sizes
  • I realize now that I was once very naive and clueless - but at the time I thought I was wise
happy birthday all us 'Feast of the Immaculate Conception' babies!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

This is my new project. It's for DS, except that after all that work I'm not sure he'll get it.
Knitpicks.com. The choose-your-own colors Andean hat. It's addictive.

I took it to work on Wednesday and knit for an hour and a half late in the afternoon. It made me happy for a short time. Even though I had to frog a lot.

Sunday after

So now the marathon begins.

I work some part of every evening until next Sunday. Of course one of those evenings is a staff party, and it's not at my house, so maybe that's not work. But I'm out of the house for 7 evenings.

Tonight I gave the 'oration' at a lodge. I've never been in a lodge before. This lodge is the type that has antlers. They were very nice to me. It was a little service, about the memories of the members no longer with us so I adapted a funeral sermon. They told me they once had 700 members and now have 100. Only about 10 members were there, from what I could tell. Like many organizations (including the church) they have lost the next two generations, their children and grandchildren.

Preached the final lesson on Stewardship. The fun part was preaching on Luke 2:8-19 - the angel's song to the shepherds - and doing that outside of the usual pressures about it being 'CHRISTMAS EVE.'

And it was a busy day all around. The youth hosted coffee hour (stewardship asked them to do that - but I think it should become a tradition - it was good for the youth and the takers of hospitality as well). There was a silent auction and a cookie walk.

I taught my section of 'what's so amazing about grace' with a pretty good crowd. Christine Amapour's book & special 'Cry Bloody Murder' came up. It sounds like an astonishing, but difficult subject. Rwandan forgiveness, among other things, was, as my friend Sue said - so hard to get our heads around.

It felt like a lively church - we don't always get that when everyone scatters out of different doors. My prayer is that God blesses others with enthusiasm and hope for this community of faith.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

on a scale of one to ten

On a scale of one to ten, one being crawl-into-bed and sob and hide the knives and ten being in-love-with-the-universe, last Tuesday was about a 3. Which isn't good. I even spoke to the eagle about 'tracking' my moods.

The trick with the chronic/major depression as I experience it is that I can slip down and down and since I am getting depressed, it all seems to fit, all seems to be the way it should be. But it's not okay, it's an under-functioning of my happiness receptors.

So Aquila will ask again in a few days. I don't buy the 'feel bad for three days and see the dr.' pattern. If I'm at 2 or 3 for a week or two, then I worry.

(And why should I not see my dr.? I really dislike the whole 'change the meds' experience on SSRI - I had the withdrawal symptoms for weeks last time. My current meds have dealt well with the depression and the fibromygalia)

And yesterday and today have been about 5. Which is okay. Not great. 5 is snow-and-cold-and-a-little-too-much-to-do. Which does describe my day today.

So I wait, with the rest of us, for the coming of Jesus.

The best thing in the last two days was the second Advent service on Wednesday. We preached to the choir, literally. MP was annoyed - why are we doing this worship service for 15 people? (this is in a situation with average 650 for a weekend). But as I celebrated communion I just felt full - these few were good folks, they sang well, the word was preached, and the promise (the 2 or 3 together in my name) was true.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

leading with trauma, pt. 1

Today I am either having an anxiety attack or a blues attack. Saw a person with a sad story and cried with her, and I'm still feeling teary hours later. It may be reaction from the events of yesterday, when Aquila had a dizzy spell and ended up with a CT scan. (him: you know the good news? I have a brain! Me: but it's a little wobbly, isn't it?)

I usually want to be seen as being altogether, as being okay with myself. I don't want to show my weaknesses. If asked why not show my weaknesses - I would respond with the experiences I have had of being discounted, of being ignored or dismissed, because of my 'moodiness', 'instability' or 'history.'

I'm told it's good to be vulnerable. It makes me approachable. Mentioning some of the issues with my son opened a door last month.

The truth is I have had significant trauma in my life. Lots of stuff has happened.

Once I entered a new therapy group and was asked - tell us about yourself and why you are in therapy and I accounted all that 'stuff'. At the end, there was silence. 'okay, she wins.' And I wasn't even 40 yet.

But I hesitate to be the poster child for 'getting your act together through faith.' I do not want it to seem that I say - look, I survived *this horrible thing* and you can too. I can say 'I have been there' and now I'm here, but I want no judgment placed by that. There are no simple answers to human recovery from trauma.

The crucifixion was Christ's act, not mine. I would be really uncomfortable - am really uncomfortable - if it was said of me: she's knows what she's talking about because of *this horror* and not: she's knows what she's talking about because she knows Christ.

I have been led through the shadows and the valley of death. I have seen light in the darkness. I have forgiven others. I have accepted that I am forgiven. I'm not perfect. I am a work in progress.

And I am awfully uncomfortable with using my recovery as sermon material. But, the question remains - am I closing myself off?

Friday, November 28, 2008

things I've done

Picked this up on 'Processing Counselor's blog'
Green is my color

Want to play? Copy and paste. Pick a color for the things that you have done.

1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland/world
8. Climbed a mountain

9. Held a praying mantis,not - but have caught grasshoppers.
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightening at sea
14. Taught myself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping

27. Run a Marathon (and have no desire to!)
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run - not within my competency
32. Been on a cruise
if 4 hours to the Apostle Islands counts!
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person - lots 0f times!
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors - Does Iowa count?
35. Seen an Amish community

36. Taught myself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance

47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business - made money on e-bay for a few years.
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
65. Gone sky diving
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma - I've started again after 10 years

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy - not my toy, but I've saved other peoples!
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar- ugh!
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous - depends of definition of famous? Henri Nouwen?
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

100. Ridden an elephant

Got 52 - with some stretching I could tag a few more.

Friday Five

From Rev. Gal Blog Pals -

Phillipians 1:3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.

"I'm musing about giving thanks for people today, partly because Americans celebrated our annual Thanksgiving holiday yesterday (I try not to just make this holiday "turkey day" even though its main feature seems to be eating till one is nearly comatose) and partly because I read the above verse this morning. It started me thinking about individuals in my life for whom I give thanks. For this post-Thanksgiving Day Friday Five, share with us "Five People For Whom You Give Thanks to God" and maybe tell us why they are significant. "

My Five:

1. Roger - he was the best for me at a time when I really, really needed it. A father-figure and a mentor, challenging and counseling and showing the way. My own Priscilla (Acts 18:26) who taught and even better showed how Christ lives in a life. His marriage has been a model for mine.

2. Ministry Partner - I am just blessed to be working out this example of working together in ministry. I know very few people who have really experienced this kind of respect and trust in their working situations in ministry. I suspect we were separated at birth - the brother I should've had.

3. Little Sister - wow, that mind goes places I can't even fathom, and she's always present for me. Love it that she's only 4 hours away now. She's the one who doesn't see me as a pastor but just as me. We are aging well together.

4. Dear Son - this is a hard one because we have such a history - and I continue to worry and be hurt at times. But I am thankful that he's in our lives. Being his mom has forced me to grow and to grow up. I've had to learn patience and letting go, protection and vulnerability. I work on the love thing - how to love without allowing that love to be manipulated. I work on the pride/legacy/hope thing - how to lean into the future without assurance of how things will turn out.

5. Aquila - the eagle. He's still there for me. He has lived through so many changes and new versions of me, and still hangs in there. I know his sadnesses and hold them gently. He is like that eagle - very solitary and stern and unique. It's been quite a journey - this marriage. May we have many more years.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

little things and thankfulness

I could grouse about the continued series of little things that have gone wrong, that end up being something I have to explain. Since I do not throw others under the bus, I hem and haw while protecting my staff. But I am so tired of finding something new everyday.

At the same time I had the Thanksgiving services and my sermon had the point that one can find thankfulness where 'the world' sees only complaint.

so. . .
I am thankful my attachments are being stripped off my e-mail messages, because it means I have a computer.
I am thankful that the mistakes made are only for this week, because next week is a new set of problems.
I am thankful that I have someone else to protect, because it means I have others working with me.

I am thankful I have a 5 hour drive tomorrow, because it means that my in-laws still want to get together and include the outlaws, too.

I am thankful that my husband takes off once a month on the weekends, because it means my husband still can visit his mother.

I am glad that my son is grumpy with me, because it means we're still talking.
I am thankful that we
argue about his plans and job-hunting and all that, for the same reason.

I am thankful for:
  • Public libraries
  • days above freezing
  • my partner in ministry
  • Little sister and the good work she does in a field that is so esosteric I can't come close to understanding it
  • velour sweat pants
Have a blessed Thanksgiving

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

are you a . . .

this is interesting . . .

Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...

You Are a Marilyn!



It's about responsibility, I swear! I was sure I'd be a sensitive Ingrid.
Now, along with Cheesehead in Paradise, I'll really have to worry about my pjs.

I can't get back to the site to copy the rest of the results.

Monday, November 24, 2008

jangly today

I'm feeling jangly today - if that's a word. Like my nerves are too sensitive. It's in part because I've been listening a lot, been professionally present, so to speak, and now I'm just stretched out. I'm an introvert, and I've been in those places which took much out of me.

Sometimes being the pastor is okay, and more and more I can roll with the demands. Today it was hard. Not in major ways, but today's issues took me back to CPE (ick!) and the demand of being with someone without answers.

And I can feel it physically, dry eyes and upset tummy and gut and tight muscles. I think it is not just today, but the last few weeks.

Right now I'm at the quiet place an hour or so before the last late worship service of the weekend. Tomorrow the calendar is clear. Maybe I should not say that - because something will happen!

When you know people know you too well. Someone showed up with foot all bandaged up. "What happened?" I asked. "Bunion surgery," she said. "Ooh, " I said, "My doctor has hinted at that for me." Foot-surgery-husband "look at her feet, she's got them on both sides!, both sides of one foot!' A new hazard of being the one in dress shoes - people can see and comment on your feet, on your bunions!

And I'm going to avoid bunion surgery if I can!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

a principle

I believe I heard this from preaching professor Gaylord Noyce. (that places and dates me, for those of you who recognize the reference!)

'Every sermon is heretical'


the sheep and the sheep

the original core of my message for Sunday - I'm leaving out the borrowed stories

Yes, the title of this sermon is “the sheep and the sheep”. I wasn’t going to call anyone a goat. In fact, that’s one of the sticking points for me about this story of Jesus’. Who, really, should be called the goats – the folks on the left? Is it for me or you to say? Well, today, let’s think about the sheep. Let’s think about the right hand.

. . . a story or two about seeing Christ in neighbor.

Now us Lutherans, we worry about whether we’re getting convinced that our works will save us. Works don’t save – only Jesus can save. That’s our mantra. And that’s still true, even in this story about the sheep – those who will inherit the kingdom. They are blessed, not because they did the charitable thing (and were proud of it) but because they loved, because they had mercy, because they followed the lowly path of their Lord.

They aren’t inheriting the kingdom because of what they did as much as because of what they saw, how they saw the world around them – especially other people – they saw them as fellow sheep.

The sheep see differently than the goats. Those in need are not a nuisance, but a question. Good things in their own lives are not seen as something to be kept, but as resources to be shared. Their own identity is not about doing the ‘right thing’, it is about being merciful, being open, always relying upon the surprising wideness of God’s mercy, learning daily that they are stewards, not owner, of all they possess.

In these days we are learning a new/old lesson. We have relied, for a time, on the easy ways to be charitable – we have given from our bounty, quite rightly – an example of this has been the interest from endowment funding all sorts of great endeavors. All the sudden that bounty isn’t abounding any more.
Here is the challenge – can we still practice ‘seeing like sheep’ even when our own resources seem smaller? Can we remember our neighbors, our ministry, our outreach, our call to see Christ in the least of these – even in these days when we are anxious and troubled?

. . . another story about sacrificial love for neighbor

Followers of Christ have a heart for those in need. We see Christ in the poor and in the suffering of the world. We see fellow sheep and enter into their need and try to serve them, and something extraordinary happens.

They also see Christ in us! Surprise! “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came too visit me. . . . Just as you did it to these least of these, you did it to me.”


The ending needs to be improved.

Surprising - after this busy, busy week, sucked into the less significant details and petty feeling-traps of day to day administration - I'm feeling the Spirit in this reflection. This text has always been a difficult one for me - I sense it is so significant for Matthew - really the high point and conclusion, but I have not know what to 'do' with it.

For this time, for this place, this is something they need to hear.

Thank you Lord, for being present for me today.


Thursday, November 20, 2008


At another meeting tonight I looked back at the last 7 weeks - 49 days. I have worked 27 evenings. Every one of those evenings I have not been at home for dinner. I have worked 15 of the last 28.

I have not had a complete day off - without either writing a sermon, making phone calls, responding to hospital/nursing home requests, doing a wedding, funeral, attending an educational event, writing for stewardship, e-mail responses to stuff at the office - during those 7 weeks.

Tonight we (MP & myself) were asked - not in front of everyone, but by one person - 'are you getting your time off.' and in one breath we both said no. MP has had longer days - up to 16 hours, he figures. (he starts earlier than I, but doesn't make me feel guilty.)

So tomorrow. I could write the sermon, but it is to be my DAY OFF. So the bad habit could be to write on Saturday. A good habit would be to study on Monday, think on Tuesday, write on Thursday. Well, we know how that goes.

That is one of the sub-reasons for my growing 'blues.' I'm not in control of my schedule.

my book club

My book club -
Peace Like a River - Leif Enger
Population: 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time - Michael Perry
Our Lady of the Lost and Found - Diane Schoemperlen

Each book has struck me as deeply spiritual and in some way - reflects the Story.

Monday, November 17, 2008

so true!

At Savage Chickens this morning!

So True

I used to work for Prod3000!
He was a senior Pastor!
He was always there before anyone else and I often heard - "I would have spoken to you about that but you weren't "in" yet."

At the same time he would go away every afternoon and no one could reach him after 12 noon. (I think he read too much Eugene Peterson and truly thought his call was to be thinking deeply for 4 hours every day. Of course, thinking deeply happened on the golf course and at the gym, etc.)

He would come back to the rest of us slug-a-beds, who had not been at work at 7 a.m., and throw out brilliant ideas and we would go - huh? where did that come from?
We were to be team players, but he was the only one with any ideas about the team. And I was the worst player, since I questioned him.

(I shouldn't be too hard on him - this does mean he was in the office for 5 to 6 hours a day. Just at times when no one else was there. And when he never needed to talk to others. Or let them know what he was thinking, planning, etc. It was all in the mystery, I guess.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008


A full Sunday.

It was a full Saturday as well. I reached the office just in time to speak with the funeral family, and was going to then spend some time doing calendars and tweaking the sermon for 5:00 p.m. But in the midst of the conversation I was called out to the nursing home to visit with someone there.

Did that - returned just in time to get the heat on. Burned a CD of church music for the lady in the nursing home. Worship. Stopped back at nursing home. Got home.

Today went the same way. Lots of things stacked up. Two trips to Work Town. I really want a day off. A real day off.

Here is my sermon-ette (somewhat edited)
November 15, 16 – FELC - Stewardship, week two – the Magnificat –
Mary’s Song, Our Song – “He has done great things – He will do great things”
Praise and Trust (reversed order from Trust and Praise – review of past through Praise leads to trust in regard to the future)

Most of us won’t be in Mary’s situation. In fact, I suspect none of us will be exactly – angel visitation – miraculous motherhood – all that.

Most of us won’t be in Mary’s situation – but we can learn from what she says here in her great song. For that is what the Magnificat – the “magnify the Lord” poem really is – it is a song. It is a song of praise, and of trust.

Mary praises God for what has happened to her – even for this surprise movement of her life.
She looks back and connects that with thanksgiving for all God has done in the past
– then looks forward to the future – exclaiming with trust that as God has supplied in the past – God will be present in the future. “He has done great things – He will do great things

Please realize that Mary is living in a time that was not especially optimistic. For her people, the Jewish people were living under a foreign occupying power, the government was in the hands of corrupt pagans, the very religious establishment was full of strife and competing voices. People who went into debt would go into prison, and slavery was a reality all around. Life-spans were short, and illness, accidents and violence were never far away.

So young Mary discovers she is pregnant when she should not be. She flees to see her elderly cousin Elizabeth. It is during this visit that she discovers she can sing, that she has something to sing about. You see, Elizabeth herself is pregnant and knows that something wonderful is happening with these two unborn children. It is God’s Work.

And so Mary can sing the praises of God. She can look back over centuries, and generations and see that God’s hand has never left – God’s will has been done.

Mary’s song, the Magnificat, is her song of faith. In it Mary tells us what God’s people believe. She expresses her commitment to fill her role in a way that glorifies God and advances the kingdom. Even though her life was filled with anxiety – personal anxiety about this child in her womb, what people would think, what her betrothed would do – she could sing. Even though her land was filled with anxiety – would the crops be good, would the taxes not go up, would there be work tomorrow – and even greater political issues – will there be a rebellion, a war? Even though – she could sing.

Praise and Trust – she sings praises because she knows what God has done. Praise teaches. Praise teaches what God is about because praise tells of who God is and what God has done.

And trust. Mary sings trust because she believes that what God has done in the past – God will do in the future. So we are called to sing – as the people of God, as the brothers and sisters of Mary – we are called to sing songs of Praise and words of Trust.
What shall we say in praise of our God?
God has given us a Word, a scripture, one that we may take for granted, but that is always there, ready to be our companion.
He has protected our ancestors, to bring us to this place, this country, this state, this corner.
He has provided us with a great house of worship, through the sacrifices of those who have gone before.
He has given to us a community of faith, as flawed as any, but one with a great, deep heart.
God has come into our lives as a Savior, Jesus the Christ, both an example and a power for us.

That is a lot to praise.

Now, we may find ourselves saying, in the depths of our heart – but things aren’t all that good – for me. We might find ourselves saying, what has God done for me?

Look again at Mary’s song – it is one of whole-heartedness, really of throwing oneself upon the mercy of God. It is about both praise and trust – personal trust in this God.

What I am saying is that is what Trust is about. In times of anxiety, real trust in the real God is an act of real faith. And that’s what we need now. Trust in the God who has brought you here.

Trust in the God that Mary sings of - even here and now God is acting in this place, even here, even now. Yes, we spoke about money earlier today. The money is a necessity and a symbol of our commitment what we want to be – a living, active place where God can be known.

Praise God and trust in him – trust that your contribution, your commitment to this community, is part of the on-going mighty acts of God our savior. Amen.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

daily saturday

There's a difficult funeral coming up. And the weekend worship work begins in about 4 hours. I'm already dressed for work - leaving Aquila at home to be domestic.

On my e-mail I receive the weekly update from Religion and Ethics Newsletter, and usually zip right through and delete it. Today I stopped. They have the transcript of an interview with Kathleen Norris - her new book, the first in years, is called "Acedia and Me", I guess. Interesting conversation which opens some doors for me, personally.

Questions about my interior life like: Why am I avoiding the scriptures I claim to love so well?
What has happened to my prayer life? How are life and love and this power beyond me active in my life?

Questions about my pastoral work: How am I addressing this 'acedia'? Hiding in details - what is the whole? Public persona - private person - how are they connected? (which is the theme of this whole blog, in a way)

Today the e-mailed scripture was Psalm 90, which Norris quotes. It caught my attention because of the info I had received about the difficult funeral. Anguish and resignation and prayer for re-shaping, all in one poem.

Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding with steadfast love. (excuse the gender - it's from the memory of the sung text).


Friday, November 14, 2008

head down

It's been a head-down week. That is, a time to just keep on and not do much reflection. I look back and wonder where the time has gone.
  • detail work on stewardship
  • trying to figure out if it would be better to change to my husband's health plan
  • meetings, meetings, meetings
  • detail work on worship - planning services, calendars
  • calls on the phone, calls at homes, hospitals
  • coaching dear son on life after the girlfriend
Finally Friday and His Majesty is gracing my lap and only now thinking about Mary's Song, which is our -off lectionary - text for Sunday.

I've been using the phrase Trust and Praise as a summary for this week. But I realize that I should reverse the order. Praise and Trust. Praise is remembering - as Mary remembers all the great things God has done for her! (Mary seems to be referencing the miracle within her - and connecting it with all God's acts in the past. Mary personalizes the past as benefit to her personally) . And Praise, connected to remembering, brings us to a place of trust in God's guidance, presence, mission. This is especially important in time of anxiety. (and there will be anxiety since this weekend's presentation of giving goals).

Mary is wise. She looks back and treasures. She looks forward and embraces. She does it all in love. And that is wisdom.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

little things

It's the little things that get to me, and keep me going.

  • Sniping on staff. Just stop!

  • A lady saying - I've missed you - of course you can come out
  • Another one reminding me, tomorrow is the 'lunch thing' - please come

  • any conversation about visibility
  • knowing some meat has spoiled because I haven't been home to cook it

  • Spending a couple of hours creating a thanksgiving liturgy
  • being on a staff ministry and trusting the others.
  • starting to slow down on the details -

And I have to remember - don't feel guilty for taking care of myself!

I did promise that I would take a retreat and spiritual direction this month. I promised my spiritual director. I had better start planning soon.

Friday, November 7, 2008

stewardship and stuff

Working on a stewardship message for the newsletters that will go out at the end of November. Yes, we work well ahead of it.

This post here at A Church for Starving Artists (on Trinity & Community) caught my attention. I wish we had that kind of expansion of ministry going on. It is what should be going on - a way to catch the Spirit and create places for the Spirit to work in community.

I come from a tradition where Worship - the community at Worship - has been considered THE big event, the core, the significant time. Because of that my tradition has been slow to understand the power of small groups, of interpersonal relationshps and the intensive but somehow light touch of true personal discipling. We may seen these things happening, we may have personally experienced them, but we don't have ways to incorporate those practices into our Church Life very well.

We are still blocked by the centrality of Word and Sacrament - and define that as THE preaching and THE Sunday community meal.

If I were asked why this is so - in truth, I think it is because we are tired. Most pastors I know, seem tired, even if they won't admit it. Many of my laity are tired, too tired to engage in our community. And I think our theology is tired - not wrong, not outdated, and certainly not false or anything like that - just tired and unhappily stuck to that 1950s model of being church.

This impacts with stewardship - here we are, by necessity, asking for money and commitment, but we are tired and don't really know what we are commiting to. And those other arenas for growth - for what JanE called community in Trinity - are not developing as they should.

It would be stewardship to:
  • admit we are still healing
  • conceive of healing things to do together as individuals in community
  • Open the notion of greater connection as a good thing
  • Ask what folks desire (and listen to the little heard voices)
  • Discuss the shift from maintenance (do we really need airconditioning) to mission (how is God working in this place)
  • Reflect on what leadership is about here
and there's probably more,

Each one of those bullet points has so much behind it. So much history, personalities, hurts, social pressure and community issues.

Back to the 'stewardship' message. It's interesting to veer away and come back, because I never know were I'm going to end up.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Today is a mental health day. My noon appointment cancelled and I just stayed home. Of course, I haven't totally not worked - sent some stuff out on e-mail, but mostly it was just me time.

And about time for me time - I have a headache which comes and goes (a weather headache, I think), and my blood pressure is up when I took it with my home kit. I've been suspicious about the BP and hesitant to start charting it.

Last winter when I really set myself up for burnout my BP went way too high. Medication change may have helped, but more likely it was just slowing down and dealing with the stress better.

And now I'm noticing that kind of stressed-out, unappreciated, grumpy attitude is more common than not. Time for deep-breathing, remembering it's not about me. Time for prayer and for knowing that God's in control. Time to distance myself from snarky co-workers and petty agendas. Time to do some deep thinking.

Time for a mental health Weekend! No sermon this weekend means Friday and Saturday are mine too!

And the new bed comes tomorrow.
And the DS has become my yard boy and is doing all the hard work outside.
And I am still knitting.

I can handle those things.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

at work, but . . .

One of my stressors is the length of some of my days. I am often here in Working Town 10-12 hours. Today it will be from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at least. No going home at all, it's too far to drive back and forth and wastes too much time and gas.

One of the things I've realized is that I have to take down time. It's tempting to keep plowing through - keep reading that book there, writing that report, preparing that class, prepping that sermon.

But really, in any other job, I would get a lunch and dinner break, and coffee breaks.

So I will push back the guilt that says doing crosswords in the office (as I was caught doing last Thursday at 5:30) is something inappropriate.

Hurrah for computer games!

P.S. I voted. had to balance head and heart. It was hard. Two weeks ago I wasn't going to vote in the presidential election at all. Our congressman will get re-elected, so the presidential election is the only real race on the ballot. So I cam to a decision, and I'm not sure about it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday after

Three computers. Three people. Each on a computer. Within 12 feet of each other. It's the new version of reading in the same room, I guess.

I'm blogging and reading blogs.
Dear Son is looking at skateboard videos - Mom- look at this guy fall!
If you've never seen a skateboard video, you've missed an authentic America artform -
Kinetic street ballet. With amazing crashes.

Aquila is checking on obituaries.

We are a fun family.

Friday, October 31, 2008

my companion

I'm at home, in the recliner, with laptop, thinking about my sermon, as is too common on Fridays, and I've pushed His Majesty off my lap 3 times. He is back sleeping half on the keyboard, head tucked under. He twitches if I use the left shift key. Persistent. Love. Kinda like grace. Blessing.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

patterns of work

One pattern of work I want to establish is spending Thursday morning reflecting on the texts for Sunday. In an ideal world this would be done a lot earlier - like Monday morning, but my Mondays - I work on Monday - seem to be the day for all the little office and program duties. And I've found it peaceful at home in the Mornings. So Monday I look at the texts, and pray them, then leave them.

There is a pericope study that meets on Thursdays to look at the texts for the following week. I have mixed feelings about this. I was invited when I came back to work in this area, and went off one day to find the study, which meets at a coffee shop. No one was there. Turns out they were all at another meeting. The second time I went only one other person showed up and she wasn't preaching that week and so we had a nice talk, but . . .

Shouldn't be too quick to write this group off, however, because I do feel I need additional support.

Introversion - too much of a good thing.

Working with the lessons for All Saints - I have a strong leaning that comes with reading the Beatitudes - that they are axioms for community living - not just individual categories. But, since this lesson has appeared earlier this year, I went in that direction. And it is the day of All Saints - an interesting moment of balancing the individual life of sanctification and the community of worship (the community at worship)

I'm preaching at bi-polar church this week. Very traditional, very contemp. One set of folks has a firm sense that tradition is what they like, what the church is really about. The other set of folks rejects on principle anything 'old', 'traditional', 'liturgical'. American church history, all in one building.

Upon reflection, both sets of folks have 'loose ties', however. Among the traditional set, except for the various family units and some old friendships, connections are distant, the anonymity of the large group - it's actually seen as a positive. On the contemporary side, one pastoral concern has been lack of welcome for visitors and newcomers - it's very haphazard because the 'regulars' turn to each other.

Is there a teaching in these lessons about 'ties' - about the balance between individual and group, about inclusion in the company of the saints, about common purpose (praising God) leading to deliberate welcoming?

I return to that basic question that has been with me for months now. What is the church? What does it mean to be 'part' of it? Is what we are today anything close to what God desires? Is what we have today healthy? Can it be saved?

Praying away

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

no details please

All I can say is that I'm in the middle, and I didn't do anything!

And one way or the other someone will think I'm in the wrong.

What would Jesus do?

He would have a great comeback or baffling question and all would go away amazed.

I got nothing.

except prayer. Going to do a lot of that.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Wednesday's confirmation class was actually fun! I used clips from Horton Hears a Who - available from WingClips - to illustrate the Lord's Prayer. We covered three petitions in 60 minutes - it was rapid-fire. They didn't have time to misbehave. This particular group was been - to put it nicely - difficult over the years.

Lesson being: cartoons are my friend.

what I found in my car

  • many, many receipts
  • a coupon for $1.00 off to the grocery store. It expired yesterday
  • a check from a funeral!
  • more coupons for things I will not buy
  • 4 books with bookmarks in them that I will read sometime
  • 2 prayer books
  • a bible
  • a hymnal
  • a single glove
  • a somewhat broken umbrella
  • a water bottle
  • sunglasses - which is what I was looking for all along, but they were broken
I was pleased that I found no empty fast food containers. I do eat fast food, but I throw away the containers.

Friday, October 24, 2008

friday musings

Letting my fingers ramble to warm up my thinking muscles for the sermon.

“You can’t stand the truth”
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

We are buoyed up by Jesus great statement – the truth will set you free. And as modern, 21st century folks – we know that the search for truth has meant a great deal. But is truth all it’s cracked up to be? One of the points of current cultural identity is that truth differs from person to person – it’s true for me, it’s true for you. And here’s the rub – that’s totally unbiblical – totally outside the frame for Jesus. And the truth he’s speaking of – it’s not an intellectual truth either, it’s about truth as in “standing and being in harmony, at-one-ness with God’s will and law – as expressed in the the presence of the Risen Christ”– since we’re in John-land.

So that ‘freedom’ that comes from this 'truth' looks nothing like the concept of ‘freedom’ or 'truth' we understand culturally. Nothing like the ‘freedom of religion’ or ‘freedom to divorce’ or ‘freedom to abort’ or ‘freedom to spend outrageously’ or 'truth for me''truth for you.'

This 'truth that makes us free' is a lot more like Jeremiah’s having the covenant inscribed on our hearts. As the commentator from one of the Christian Century essays said – it’s a brand – painful and leaves a scar. It’s the freedom to not – not be enslaved to sin, not be enslaved to stuff, not be enslaved to chemicals – and the freedom to be – to be a loved child, to be a loving adult, to be someone who changes over time to look more like Christ.

Since this summer I’ve tried to understand myself as being ‘rounded off’ – being someone who does not have to response sharply, does not have to be defensive, someone who can be with the flow for many matters. It has changed my responses (not consistently – I’m still sharp now and then!) and especially my interior perspective. I think it has given me freedom – the freedom to hold back and wait for God’s urging.

Early thoughts too late on Friday – how do I preach this? The whole semantics of 'freedom' and 'truth' are just so out there. And it's confirmation, too!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

go pack back to work

my morning started at 6:30, and ended at 2:00. Watched the Packers and then the end of the game with the guy who should have stayed retired, and then back to work.

Sermon for this Sunday is done (still to be preached once more), and two lesson plans are over with. The confirmation powerpoint got handed off to a high school senior, and the stewardship writing will be shared by a council member. Things are looking up.

Need a funeral sermon by 1:00 tomorrow, be prepared for a longish set of hospital visits and a pre-baptismal visit. Tuesday - I know I have four meetings on Tuesday, but it's possible I don't have anything to do at them. Wednesday I teach a class of 9th graders. Thursday I have some counseling, and we have a visioning meeting. Somewhere in there the funeral family would like me to drive up to 3 hours one way for the committmal of their loved one. I also promised a clergy friend I saw at the conference that I would connect with her and be supportive.

My dear husband says - you seem preoccupied. Yah think?

Quote from the son. "You've been watching the debates? I can't take my eyes off them, it's the original reality television."

By the way, the message for the day from Matthew 22:15-22 - look hard at the question the opponents ask Jesus - they ask: Is it lawful? That's code for what's in the scriptures. And Jesus answers - hey, the scriptures aren't there to tell you exactly what to do in this exact case - look at the big picture - God is in charge. It's all God's world.

Jesus is doing fast and dirty and deep and profound exegesis in this passage. It's the kind of exegesis we need to do every day in these anxious times. Is it lawful to buy stock? Is it in the scriptures that I should make so much more than others?

It's all God's world - and he works in history and in economies. More important - is it lawful to use our economic power for good, to make socially responsible investments and charitable gifts to justice? Well, of course. Then why don't more Christians do it? "Give to God what is God's" is not just about the money - but it is about trusting God's word.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


I don't particularly care for that comment that ministry happens in what is not planned, but that's kinda the way it is these days.

I counted that I have 8 major projects to complete by next Sunday. Some are time-limited,like this Sunday's sermon (now finished), after church confirmation class, and Monday's funeral. Some go out a little farther - the Wed. confirmation class, next Sunday's sermon (actually 2 of them)and powerpoint. Then there are the things in the stream that need to get done - stewardship writing, Thanksgiving service - that's only 7, but there is another one somewhere.

And then I have two connections to find and just spend time listening, one on Friday, one today. And follow up. And dear son needs a new pair of steel-toed shoes because he thinks he has work Monday - hurray!

Just breathe.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


First day back and my to-do list is too long and too full of heavy things to do. Too many projects that will take substantial time. All I can do is chip away, as I did tonight at home for 3 hours.

Add to this an un-bloggable request to connect with someone who - well, this will be a time for personal perspective, remembering it's not about me.

No real day off tomorrow.

Pleasant weather, though.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

back resting

We are back and we are resting. And Aquila is resting his back. He has been doing the manly man thing and sighing about his backache, lots of anti-inflamatories and heating pads and all that. But today he called the doctor. Three weeks is too long.

Going away together - couple hundred bucks. Argument over theology - priceless. Really, we should not go to these kinds of conferences together. I found it less than valuable for exactly the opposite reasons he did. I thought - teaching tap dancing on the Titantic, and he thought everyone was muddled.

I am still struggling with the Matthew texts, and with the role and authority of the preacher to speak out these words and speak gospel instead of law. Or law and gospel, properly differentiated. And whether folks out there hear this - or do they primarily hear judgment (don't come to the party and you'll be slaughtered = you'll go to hell if you aren't a good church member - which was not what I said - but what they might have heard!) and check out before they hear gospel (the doors are now open to all - good and bad - to come to the feast - put on your wedding garment - which is a grateful heart - and come) which is how I completed the sermon.

I was complimented on actually taking on the question of the wedding garment guy. My line was - it's not about fairness, but about relationship with the king himself. It's not unfair to expect gratitude and joy and a proper response to the great gift.

I used the example of my Dear Son who won't dress up to look for work. What do you expect if you show up at the job fair looking like you've just come from the skate park? No, it's not fair - but if you desire a relationship with another, you have to reach out to the other on their terms.

God reaches out to us - these lessons remind me that there is a response required. A response which acknowledges who God is, what God did for us, and our proper relationship in this.

Friday, October 10, 2008

So for today's Friday Five, you're invited to share your experiences with the exciting, challenging world of business travel....

1. Does your job ever call for travel? Is this a joy or a burden?
Let's see - ordinary travel. 1st interim 30 miles/40 minutes for 9 mo.
2nd interim - 7 miles for 12 months - wa-hoo!
3rd interim - 50 miles/60 minutes for 2 years.
Now long-term call - 20 miles/30 minutes
Usually business travel, such as for contining ed, is really local. Often to Madison. Maybe to the Twin Cities.

2. How about that of your spouse or partner?
Ah, that's different now. He sometimes travels across the state or to Chicago, but I am hitchhiking on the big national conference in Florida - in February. I will register and attend workshops. But we are taking 4 days to go to St. Augustine for the fun of it.

3. What was the best business trip you ever took? Probably going to the Twin Cities with the rest of the staff - we had fun together and were inspired.

4. ...and the worst, of course?
Way back in my last regular call - this was before 9/11, it was that long ago, I attended a seminar by a famous church consultant connected with a famous firm. This was to be joint with the Senior pastor on staff. The famous consultant was rude and dismissive, the senior pastor didn't have time for me, and the flights were - interesting.
We've had much worse experiences traveling for 'pleasure'.

5. What would make your next business trip perfect?
No-stop, easy in and out. Really good and interesting speakers, and a comfortable bed.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

my desk

I hate my desk. Or rather, I have a love-hate relationship with my desk.

My desk is large, and I've made it larger by having a small file cabinet at one side and a table at right angles to it. So I should have plenty of space. I have two 'thingees' to hold upright files. I have my computer turned so I can gaze out the window (past the run-down house with 4 cats who appear and run about on the roof!)

All that space means things have more space to get lost. From left to right in front I have - a pile of folders dealing with the three levels of confirmation I am working on this fall - a pile with Good Samaritian notes that need to be entered into the database and then filed in the safe - an open space with the blotter with the monthly calendars under the plastic - the phone and all the note pads that seem to pile up. Turn to the table and I have a little thingee with cds and cdroms and which is now holding notes for christmas 2008. then the computer and the other file thingee with active committee files.

From left to right in back I have - a pile that is stewardship materials - a pile that is things that have to go to other people or things I still have to read or do something with - a pile that is cute kids books that might make children's sermons - an upright file thingee with directories, extra note pads, wedding info, the master calendar book, and which sometimes holds my traveling sermon book for the week.

Behind me is a box that holds stuff that should be filed.

I took a good look at this because we got a call on Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. that said I was to be at the nursing home at 9:30 (but I had a 11:00 o'clock funeral). Thank God for partnered ministry - MP was able to go - grudgingly - I have his date in Nov.

I can't find that schedule anywhere in this mess. Aquila is gone this weekend - I have all morning Saturday before the wedding to do something.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


We should send a memo out to our staff about e-mailing.

Do not e-mail your concerns without speaking to the person directly.
Do not e-mail everyone on the list if they don't need to know.
Do not e-mail a series of questions that no one can answer.
Do not e-mail 1,2, 0r 3 on Friday afternoon.
Do not forward e-mails without informing the original sender.
Do e-mail ordinary concerns that might be helpful to have in writing.
Do e-mail to remind us of duties.
Do e-mail to ask a specific question.
Do e-mail to ask to talk.

We're all adults.

Matt 22:1-14

Beginning thoughts

God does not play by our rules

Like a cat, God is just God

Do we think our everyday garment of compromise is adequate for the wedding banquet?

Should I spend any part of the sermon trying to explain that the issue isn't that God is unfair? It's that God is God.

Shouldn't we be terrified? (Thanks to BB Taylor's essay "Tales of Terror, Times of Wonder.' found on Textweek.com.)

Where is grace to be spoken here? Where is true grace?

Monday, October 6, 2008


A day that started calmly and turned wilder and busier each hour. An expected funeral consult turned into 4 hours of calling and leaving messages and calling back looking for a soloist and an organist who could play the family's requested song. During that 4 hours I made 4 hospital calls, gave blood and ate lunch. And received calls to visit the dying, arrange another funeral and come to a community organizing meeting. And dealt with a request for familiar religious music that might be familiar to both Christians and Jews. Finalized info for next Sunday. Preached at the late afternoon service. E-mailed all day. Visited the dying. Made it home to watch Heroes. I could use some superpowers. Maybe flight. not freezing people or turning into a fly.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

other men

I stopped by the quilting and others group. The ladies quilt. The gentlemen talk to each other and watch the ladies quilt. They are supposed to stop for a bible study, then have potluck lunch.

Elderly gentleman 1: Aren't there any pastors here?
Elderly gentleman 2: Why, Pastor Prisca's right here!
Elderly gentleman 3: She's our favorite lady pastor.
EG1: What's she going to do here?
EG2: She's going to do the Bible Study.
Me to EG1: What's your favorite Bible story?
EG1: Noah! Love Noah!

At the end of the Bible study EG1 led grace. We went off topic several times. I won't tell his wife. He'll never hear the end of it.

little green men

I actually quoted Luther in the sermon. The text (I preached from Philippians 3) drove me to the idea of alien righteousness. So I had to find Luther on the "Two kinds of Righteousness" (which are the alien and proper kinds). And that was the theme of the sermon.

First we recognize that all we are, achieve and do is 'rubbish', and then we respond to our new track suit of grace by running the race with eyes on the prize.

Yeah, I know, mixed metaphors. For first service I did it straight. At the second service I had powerpoint and pictures - including a little green man for the alien.

There are two retired pastors in our congregation. They seemed to approve. Lutherans tend to be get queasy about santification - it's not a popular subject. Aquila in his pure Lutheran mode had a problem with including the last line of the passage from Philippians 2 for our wedding text - "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (You can tend we were quite the serious couple way back when.)

However, perhaps our reluctance to think about 'proper righteousness' and preach on the challenges of the life lived in grace is part of our on-going problem of cheap grace. Yep, God died for me, now get out of my way.

We encounter the misapprehension of the church and the cheap grace over and over. An e-mail - I'm a member of the church but haven't been active for a long time. I'd like my child and spouse baptized. Can we do this privately? Can we do this without any pre-education? Can we do this without ever talking to one of the pastors? Can we do this without ever darkening the church door again? (I made those last two requests up).

About a year ago I met with a family who presented with 3 children and a baby. They wanted to join the church, enroll all the children in Sunday School and get the baby baptized. Great! Turns out each child was baptized in a different local church of our denomination - each about two years apart. The family had joined each church in succession. Children had never gone to Sunday School anywhere. I started to think that this had a lot to do with family stresses and shame. They were ashamed that they never followed through on their promises. I discouraged them from attaching to us and asked them first to contact their last pastor (a friend of mine, the gentlest soul in the world) and work with her about accommodating their family and it's needs. MP thought I had driven them away. But I felt that unless they heard a word - a considered and thoughtful word, not a shaming word - that asked them to reflect on the separation between their words and actions, they would never come to terms with God's call to them. They did not return. I didn't ask my friend if they came back to her church.

And then there are the 12 year olds who are dropped off on Wednesday night for confirmation who have never been to worship or to Sunday School - really, never. Those parents I get really angry at. And they are the ones we have the most issues with.