Friday, January 23, 2009

A friday 5

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

1. Dress in bright colors - I favor turquoise, pink, red - all these with black, ivory and white.
2. Love up your pet. Ours is a cat - he's in winter mode and will occupy any available lap. We accelerate cabin fever by giving him catnip toys. You dog lovers will have similar activities.
3. Read books about warm places. You know some - beach books, summer romances, books about India, Alexander McCall Smith's #1 Ladies Detective Agency books set in Botswana - where it is never winter. (If you haven't read these - start at the beginning - they are exquisite and delightful. I love Lisette Lecat's audible book versions.
4. Try new foods. This is the winter for learning how to make the perfect risotto.
5. Stay in touch. I just discovered facebook - it's fun, free and a great time waster!
6. Bonus: start a new bible study - I was pleased that folks said January was a good time to begin something new - it fit their resolutions.

The best answer is one not everyone can do. For the first time in my life - a winter vacation (not a mission trip and not just a conference) to a warm place.

Take off to Florida is only 60 hours away!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


The first piece I've heard so far was Rev. Lowry's benediction.
And I teared up.

Yesterday one of my worshippers, an elderly (90+) lady - the first thing she said, as she reached to hug me - oh, aren't we lucky, to be seeing this, to have lived to see this.

I still haven't seen the speech, or the actual oath-taking. I was working all day.

I didn't even vote for him and I am moved.

All those people, going to Washington, standing peacefully, happily, just to be there.

Now the work starts.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

away, away

Got through Sunday after a long week. The sermon, posted below, didn't preach well, so I just jumped onto the trampoline and the Spirit let me bounce. I spoke about Philip and Nathanael as spiritual friends - Philip was trustworthy, spoke a true message, and met Nate where he was, and we can do that too.

Getting excited about alternative Lent. I confabbed with a friend on artsy options for confession/reflections. We would like to end up with an art object for each of the five weeks. And are thinking about have a sub-theme of using recylced materials - how can we use CDs, for instance, to create a cooperative cross?

One more week. Then it will be warm.

In one week we'll be in Florida. First a few days of vacation, then attending the Spiritual Care Summit. Aquila will be recognized for getting his certification - I have three workshops on grief. Fun. It was that or new age mysticism. I should have gone with the workshop on the spirituality of Disney.

D-place really doesn't sound that great to have the conference at. If you don't do the parks, what is there to do without a car? And the parks are expensive, and the restaurants are expensive and I don't need to shop.

Still - we're out of the snow-whipped tundra for a week and a half. sounds good to me - and to most of those I mention it to. But they are getting tired of having me mention it.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

battlestar theory

The battlestar theory.

There are many, many cylons. Raiders, and centurions and hybrids and others. The creators were humans, many, many generations ago. They created these beings as intelligent machines, to serve humans in many ways, but especially to be the warriors - to do the dirty work.

Over time the Cylons became smarter and smarter, and eventually they were able to think, to reason and to become self-aware. This wasn't obvious, this wasn't clear even to most of their 'creators' - the military-industrial complex that programmed and used and spent these - now living - creatures.

One scientist/engineer realized what the increasing sophistication had created - being even quicker, even more creative than humans, because they had no pre-conceptions, no moral barriers, no intellectual or emotional or familal inhibitions. But the reality was, the most sophisticated, most elegant, most flexible housing for intelligence was the human body. Nothing could compare.

How to get this incredible intelligence, this new species, into the most adaptable, most desirable host? Human tissue was harvested, experiments were made. Cyber-biology was explored. The desire to have a complex human life, to have bodies and all that bodies entail was the holy grail.

The research split. The research may have been directed by a human, or humans, or by the sentient Cylon labs. One research direction went the way of creating many bodies for each consciousness - the way that resulted in the resurrection hub, the numbered Cylons. Only a few genetic lines survived to create models. Many, many models can be created from the existing lines, but there are no other lines. There is a limited amount of creativity. Their existence depends upon an ability to broadcast and connect over distances, but their ability to pro-create is hampered by the process of their lab-based 'growth.'

The fact was, the factory-model cylons were considered adequate, but the real hope for individuality lay in the second research path. Could the intelligence-patterns of the artifically created Cylons be imprinted upon 'womb-grown' beings, each individual in pattern, in identity and in skills,but stronger, faster, and superior.

The only way to accomplish this was through using the wombs of human women. (So the 'farms' - lab-Cylons were trying to recreate these rumors sucesses.) In years past, the Cylons had some idea this was possible, but the reality of the reseach was supressed, for fear of unrest. So the Cylons aren't supposed to ask about the 'final five.'

The final five are the five successful implantations of the Cylon technology into human women. The first one was Tigh - long before any others, and this was the success that kept the experiment alive. Through 'fertility clinics' and complicit doctors - five implants took place over 2.5 generations. They were from difference colonies and had different backgrounds. Human biology encases alien processes, programming, wiring, nervous systems. The Humlons were not aware of their 'true nature,' because the 'electronic or magnetic field' hadn't triggered consciousness yet.

Now the final five are being revealed. The lab-Cylons face the end of their consciousness. They become more like humans all the time. One of the unforseen consequences of the 'womb-grown' research line was the emotional and mental torment the individuals experienced all their lives (Sam may be the exception - because he was an athlete?)

Now - humans and Cylons will need to live together - earth is a wasteland - now what?


Who is speaking to you?

of course the title could be - are you speaking to Me? I remember seeing that movie - Taxi Driver - when I was in college and I had no idea what to make of Travis Bickle. I was such an innocent. What a great movie.

But not for this week - the title of the sermon is actually 'come and see' - quite tame. But I am asked on Monday and I usually have no idea what the hook will be for the week.

So here' s the rough sermon. Rough because it will be spoken, not read.

January 18, 2009 –
John 1:43-51. 1 Sa, 3:1-20 (call of Samuel)
Come and See: Do you know who is calling you?

1. Opening – here are a series of ‘hear jokes’
Did you hear about the man who was so bashful that he couldn't even lead in silent prayer?
Did you hear about the student archaeologist who found his career in ruins?
Did you hear about the minister who said he had a wonderful sermon on humility but was waiting for a large crowd before preaching it?
Did you hear about the guy who is both a taxidermist and a veterinarian?
He has a sign on his door: 'Either way, you get your dog back."
Enough groaners

That’s my theme today – did you hear? Samuel heard – but he wasn’t too sure about what he was hearing. (The church members of Corinth heard, and didn’t like what they heard). Nathanael heard Philip make a great claim, but discounted that claim in the context of his time and place.

How do we know what we are hearing? Or even better – do you know who is calling you?

Telegraph operator applicant story – this is an old preacher story. It is set in the days of Morse code. A steamship company had advertised for a Morse code operator and had their best candidates waiting for an interview. As they sat in the outer office, they could hear the telegraph clacking, the phone ringing and the voices of various workers filling the air. They were told to fill out the application and wait to be called. One more candidate entered, filled out his paperwork, then went right through the door.

After a few minutes – the hiring director came out and said – “thank you for coming, we’ve filled the position.” “But, you never asked any of us in for an interview.” “Well, boys, that’s it, the telegraph was signaling over and over – if you understand this message come in and ask to speak to Mrs. Martin. Only one of you concentrated enough to hear the message.”

How do we know what we are hearing? Our lives are rather like that busy office – filled with competing messages and noises. Filled with too many tasks. Filled with many ways to entertain ourselves. How do we hear – how do we know who is calling?

If we are like the young Morse Code operator, first we must learn the language, then we must evaluate the truth of the message, and finally, hearing means trusting the speaker.

1. The Language of faith – the language of church, Bible, Spiritual growth.
The language of faith sometimes seems like a code – and inside the church we haven’t always realize that it is a code that people are not learning at their mother’s knees. What is a chalice, a nave or a narthex? What is the Trinity, what is confession or liturgy? Those are one kind of faith-language – but there is a more fundamental language that can be used – it’s the language that Philip uses – come and see.

Here you will find your hopes fulfilled. Here you will find a place for your heart, a God worthy to be worshiped. Here you can find a home for your soul, a place to confess sins and be assured you are forgiven. That’s the language we need to speak, the language of witness and hope. The language of testimony.

2. The truth of the message – Bible, core of church – orthodoxy.
So, we’ve resolved to learn a language of invitation so that we can speak and hear the invitation. Then, We need to check the message we are hearing against the core of our faith, against the Bible story and against Christian orthodoxy.

I love stories. I think getting to read a story is an incredible moment of transcendence between human beings. This other person has shared a narrative – written or spoken or filmed, and has drawn me in. That’s why the Bible is a most powerful story – it is a story with everlasting significance. It is a story meant to draw us in, to become our story. This means getting to know the characters, the dilemmas and the tragedy, the comedy, the hopes and dreams and despair.

It’s our story because it’s about people like us. We are like Samuel and Eli, like Philip and Peter and Andrew and Nathanael. We are the Prodigal Son or Daughter, or we are the eldest son or daughter. We are facing the same terrors and frustrations of the people of the kingdom of Israel, of the early church.

The second touchstone is what is core for the historic Christian church – the Trinity, the creeds and what is called orthodoxy. For 2000 years these concepts have been the comforting center of the faith.

3. Finally, we ask – can we trust the invitation – and if we are offering the invitation – are we truthworthy ourselves. Samuel trusted Eli, Nathanael, despite his crack about Nazareth – trusted Philip, at least enough to meet Jesus. Then he recognized in Jesus a truth he had been seeking.

Now Eli wasn’t the best priest in the history of the temple, and Philip wasn’t a great scholar when he told Nathanael to come and see – but both of them were fundamentally trustworthy in their own spiritual quests, and the invitation to listen to God – to come and see – came from their own experience of the trustworthiness of God. It’s the kind of role parents must play for children – and sometimes children for parents. It’s the kind of role pastors play, yes, but also ushers and readers and communion assistants. It’s the kind of role we all play even when we leave this building.

We are the ordinary folks who carry the extraordinary message – Come and see. We can be Philip for others – listening for their story and connecting their hopes and dreams with the great Gospel Story – that God came to earth in Jesus – taught and loved and gave himself up for us.

And that is good news.

Monday, January 12, 2009

getting pretty deep

I've been putting off writing the First Communion curriculum because I knew I would get in trouble with some of the sections.

I am trying very, very hard not to copy anything.

So now I am trying to put "incurvatus in se" in terms for 5th graders.

Easier said than done. And it's not easy to say.

But it is the best description of sin I can think of.

We'll see what I end up with.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

one of those Sundays

It was one of those Sundays.

To start with - although I went to bed early, sober and tired, i had my usual disturbed sleep, which was not helped when Aquila was called out at 1 p.m and didn't come home again. I was up at 5:30 and no sweetie. He arrived as I was leaving the house. A sad story about a drunk driver.

Got to the church and we just had tons of stuff to cover. Installation of staff and council, remembering baptisms of kids - and I had to located the candles and water, etc.. We are working with a difficult person, and he was actually not difficult today. The bulb was out on the projector. We underestimated the number at that service and didn't run enough song sheets.

I have a 10 item list of stuff to follow up on.

God's blessings do rain - one of those things is a request for a baptism for a 5th grader.

In the midst of all the sad news in the world - there is light.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Friday Five

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

First list five things that you remember/ treasure from 2008

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

2008 Five to remember
1. A good vacation to Kentucky. After so many years (6, 7, 10?) of being too stretched financially, or too pushed calendar-wise, or having commitments to the DS that meant finances or calendar were otherwise occupied, each vacation (one a year for 3 years now) is treasured. I want to be with this guy for the rest of my life - it's good to practice that.

2. For one-half day, having a picture perfect house. The hassle of getting ready for realtors and open houses was that everything was in place. Of course, not for long. But it was nice to look like magazine. Very serene. I satisfied my need for order, and I realized that need is a secondary one.

3. Knitting fun things. I learned color work, and finished the andean hat, and got into a more accomplished mode. The concentration was mediative. I also became brave enough to take my knitting to work.

4. The Jason Gray concert at church. After all the fuss, and the not knowing what was going on - it was such a Spirit-blessed event. I really enjoyed it. You can meet Jason here. His music is worth listening to. (Click on jukebox and hear the Beatitudes in a new way.)

5. Finding a place for retreats and spiritual direction. Thanks to the farm! My frustration is that I can't get there more often.

Which leads to the next 5: looking forward to in 2009.

1. Taking control of the schedule and marking out that 24 hours each month to be on retreat. To see the change of the seasons from the bottom of the silo. To be pushed to remember my own participation in holiness.

2. Reconnecting - with all sorts of people. One thing I realized last summer was that I had chosen to disconnect. Getting back together requires asking for forgiveness, which is hard. So far, being on FB has been easy. It's a step.

3. Working in harness. Sharing the ministry is a great blessing. I'm so God-thankful that I do not do it alone.

4. Downsizing our personal space. This depends upon so much outside our control - the market, the budget, buyers, but to be in new surroundings always gives me a boost.

5. The cycle of the church. The church year - learning in Epiphany, confessing in Lent (look for Lenten alternative worship this year), celebrating in Easter, resting in summer, learning in fall, stewardship, Advent, Christmas. The life cycle - baptizing, teaching, VBS, confirmation, marriage, birth, illness, death, celebration of the resurrection. Those are the two cycles of my work, they come to me and I play my priestly or pastoral or prophetic or listening part. May this be my prayer - God, show your love through me.

What surprises me is how little these lists reflects my ministry. There were moments - preaching moments, particular services, some counseling - that were satisfying, but they were not at the top. And my hopes for 2009 are about balance, seeking for that balance that had eluded me.

That's my New Years reflection.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

the WORD and words

Actually sat down this p.m. and worked on my sermon. I know it's a holiday, but I'm not a parade or a football watcher - unless it's my team.

the sermon idea is about words and the WORD. How we use words to construct our worlds and in our sinful way, use words to hurt others. God's WORD, however, is love. Creation is love spoken out loud. How God in Christ was the WORD made flesh - not just to experience what we experience, but to empower our word-world away from fear and into love.

It reads a lot less confusing than that!

And I connect it with the Book of Faith initiative - which we haven's publicly done much with, and with all the Bible studies that have started up this year in our churches.

So ends a quiet afternoon. Cold and windy and snowy again.

I am making lamb stew. It's been so relaxing to be at home, to eat at home, to sit down and rest in the evening. I have taken the calendar for Jan and I have marked out all evenings over three or four and I am just not going to be available to work on those evenings. And I have picked out dates for retreat, too.