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?