Monday, December 31, 2007

You're Never Too Old


...to sit on Santa's Lap.

Herewith, my dear father-in-law and I getting our gifts from Santa out in Windy City. Santa must have very strong quads. Father-in-law is wearing the sweater I knit for him a couple of Christmases ago - it portrays noble Norse birkebeiners saving the baby king Haakon from the bad guys. Yet another thing I don't have enough time for anymore.


Miserable with the cold. I'm hoping it fades fast, because I'm in charge of hospitality for our seniors who are taking their General Ordination Exams starting on Wednesday. Heaven forbid any of them should catch this icky thing in the midst of four days of exams!


News on the children front: Litigator passed all of his courses last semester, so he is now done with college. Hallelujah! Took him 5 and a half years and a change of major, but he hung in there and got it done. He will "officially" graduate in May, but he is done. He is a screenwriting major, and they're still on strike, so it seems he'll be working at Chili's for a bit longer. Ah, well.


StrongOpinions is spending New Years in the Big Apple, where she is contemplating transferring to complete college. It would be nice having her closer than a five hour plane flight. We shall see what happens.


Time to squirt some more nasal spray...what a lovely, romantic New Year's Eve!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cold

The temp, and my health...

Preached this a.m. at Cool Presby Church. It was well-received.

The good thing about it was that I was feeling too awful to worry. Dear friend LL from Big Old Seminary was there, as well as PH's cousins (B & D, and B's daugher S and her husband F). Bless them for coming to lend moral support. We went out for brunch afterwards, and I kept my game face on because they are all so sweet, but I'm happy to be home now on the sofa, with my fleece robe and warm slippers. We're supposed to go to the home of Saint Middle School's vicar for a post-Christmas party. I'll see how I feel in a couple of hours, whether we'll drive the hour it takes to get out there...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Back from Windy City

...and here's the sermon for tomorrow morning at cool Presbyterian Church in Gen-X neighborhood:


Sermon: December 30, 2007
Text: Matthew 2: 13-23

You know the feeling.

You sit up straight in bed in a cold sweat. It’s two in the morning, and you’re wide awake. A dream has shaken you out of a sound sleep, and now your heart is racing and your head is aching.

So it is with Joseph in this story in today’s gospel.

We can picture it. He’s sitting up in that cold sweat. He looks toward the heavens.
“Again with the dreams, God? This is you again, isn’t it? The last time, you sent an angel to tell me I should go ahead and marry her, pregnant as she was, despite the fact that the child wasn’t mine, because….because why? Because the child was from the Holy Spirit? It was a strange dream then, but I obeyed it, because when You send a messenger, we’re supposed to obey.

So now I have another strange dream, a frightening dream, and I’m supposed to pack her up and the baby and travel quickly to Egypt – no easy trip, mind you, with a wife who has just given birth and a newborn. Yes. Yes, I’ll go…but what is this you’ve gotten me into now?”

Yes, we can picture it, his confusion, his fear. Herod had a reputation for doing bad things. He was worse than his Roman masters. The Lord warning Joseph that Herod wanted to kill this child, well, it was a strange thing that Herod would take notice of Jesus, but strange things had been happening to Joseph lately, so he took heed and took them to Egypt. In the aftermath of that escape, a generation of Bethlehem’s infant sons was killed at Herod’s command. Then it was quiet, except for the weeping of the grieving mothers. Herod assumed he had solved his problem, this problem child whom he feared would challenge his throne.
A few years passed. It was quiet. Herod died. Joseph and Mary and Jesus were living under the radar screen in Egypt. And once again, Joseph’s sleep was disturbed by a dream. God’s voice, once again: "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead." That familiar voice, once again commanding him. And all the gospel tells us is that he didn’t question, didn’t negotiate…he just did as he was told…but he was afraid. He had heard that Herod’s son, just as frightening as his father, had taken the throne. So God gave Joseph another dream, and Joseph took his little family to Galilee.

Kind of makes you wonder about Joseph, when you hear about all those dreams, and how each time, Joseph obeyed, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you want to question God at least a little? At least say “Why me, God?”

Because above all, Joseph was an ordinary man. Extraordinary things didn’t happen to him. He was just a carpenter, an older guy, lived simply. He just wanted a wife and family, and he got…this. A pregnant wife who wasn’t pregnant by him. A child who came from some sort of action of God, he wasn’t sure how to explain it. And dreams. Dream after dream, ruining his sleep, making his life so much more complicated than he wanted it to be. He was an ordinary man, and God called him to be extraordinary.

There’s a picture at the National Gallery. It is small, just a pencil sketch, really, by Rembrandt. It is later in Jesus’ life. Remember when Jesus was twelve and got separated from his parents after the Passover feast and he started teaching in the Temple? This picture tells the tale of the three of them, reunited again, heading for home. A mother, a preteen boy, the family dog, and dad. And let me tell you, dad is mightily ticked off. The expression on his face, his strong carpenter’s hand gripping his son’s wrist like a vise, his hat squashed down over his grumpy face. The tension is so high in this little sketch that even the dog is cringing, running alongside them, looking like he’s afraid he might get whacked with Joseph’s walking stick. This is not a handsome older gentleman who is distant from Mary and Jesus, this is an angry workman whose son got lost, whose wife had been a basket case for the past three days, who is wondering, for perhaps the thousandth time since the first dream, what he had gotten himself into and why he kept saying “yes” to the God who had put him there. His face is an ordinary father’s face. This ordinary, faithful man who loved a child who in the sketch is staring up to the sky as if he wants to commune with his heavenly father. This ordinary man with an extraordinary child.

And that’s the most remarkable thing of all. In Matthew’s gospel, Joseph is given only a hint of what is to come. He knows from the beginning that this is a special child, from God, destined to “save the people from their sins.” This is a child to fulfill the prophecies of old. Joseph knew his Isaiah, that passage that was read this morning. He knew that there was to be a savior, and God told him that this little child was it. But how was this to play out? Was this to be a military leader? A king? Joseph knew they were from the line of David, but it was beyond all comprehension, what this all would mean. And yet, although he did not know the whole story, he followed God’s directions. He acted on faith. This ordinary man who just wanted a family of his own ended up with something very different, but he didn’t shrink away from the task. He stayed with Mary, and he raised Jesus as his own.

The gospels don’t tell us anything about Joseph after the incident at the Temple, but I picture him as an ordinary father, letting his toddler son play with blocks of wood in the shop, while keeping the sharp tools out of his reach, I picture him asking the boy if he had said his prayers in the evening, telling him to help his mother with that heavy bucket of water from the well, showing him how to throw a ball. I imagine him wondering what the future held for this boy, who in childhood seemed like any other little boy. His boy, and yet not. Not his boy, and yet utterly his. An ordinary man, with a child who held the promise of us all.

Sometimes we are shaken by what God seems to be asking us to do. When I realized I was being called to ordained ministry, I said no for several years, before I was brave enough to say yes. It frightened me. I was just an ordinary woman, wanting to live my life in a way that was good for my family and was faithful to God. But God asked me to do something I didn’t expect. I sat up in bed, shaking, in a cold sweat. I was frightened, even though what God was asking of me was a great deal less than what he asked of Joseph. But Joseph was my teacher.
What did Joseph do, in those moments of his dreams? When God was asking him to do the unexpected thing, something he felt was beyond him? He said yes. And his yes was a deeply moving one.

When Jesus was born, Matthew tells us that Joseph named him. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It’s more significant than that brief phrase suggests. Scholars tell us that by giving Jesus his name, Joseph was identifying him in that society, in that time, as his own son. He was adopting him as his own.

There may have been whispers about Jesus’ paternity in those days; the town was small and there was little privacy. The gospel doesn’t tell us. But if there were, those whispers would have been shut down by this act, this naming. It protected both Mary and Jesus. It was a first act of love toward a child who was a mystery to him. The name, too was an act of faith. The name he gave him was Jesus, or Yeshua – God saves. An act of faith, in that name, an act of belief in the God of his dreams. And the subsequent acts of love, of protecting, of teaching, were the same beautiful acts of a caring father, an ordinary man who did the extraordinary. Why? Because this ordinary man was extraordinary in his faith, in his righteousness, in his love of his God.

So this day, after the glory and angel songs of Christ’s birth, when the presents are unwrapped and some toys are already broken, when we’re thinking we really should take down the decorations and put the tree out on the curb, when we begin to move back into the humdrum of short winter days, we remember an ordinary man who listened to what God told him in his dreams and who said yes, and yes again.

We are ordinary people. God may not ask us the big things. But there may a thousand little extraordinary ways in which we can be faithful in our days, even in these short, dark, winter days, that will make the light shine and the angels sing once again,

Amen.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Post Christmas Post

Yesterday was quiet and delightful. PH and I slept in a bit (anything past 6 is sleeping in for us), had coffee in bed, came down and opened the stockings, then had breakfast and opened the rest fo the gifts. My big present was a Palm PDA - PH's was software and cabling that allows him to convert his LPs into MP3 or CD format. We spent much of the day playing with our toys...it never gets old, does it?

I talked to StrongOpinions, who is up north with her dad, and Litigator and StoneMason, who were working during this busy season in CA and VT. StoneMason and StrongOpinions will be here for their second Christmas in a couple of days - Litigator won't make it east until Feb. We are waiting for him to get his grades back from this past semester. If he passes everything, he will (finally) graduate from college. I think we all willl be relieved and grateful when that happens. College was not intellectually difficult for him, but he had some growing up to do.

Dinner was rack of lamb, sauteed brussels sprouts, roasted new potatoes, carrots, a bit of red wine, and German chocolate cake. Today the diet starts again.

I also got to talk by phone to the grandbabies. The Princess was very taken with the American Girl colonial dress I got for her AG doll. There is a lady at the Old Town Farmer's Market who makes them by hand - appropriate in a town that prides itself on its colonial roots - and they are precious. D-I-L wondered if I had made it myself. There was a time when I did do such things - StrongOpinions had mom-made outfits of all kinds for her AG dolls, and I also made her princess costumes and her dress-up-go-to-church clothes when she was a sprout - but I fear I no longer have the time for such lovely pursuits. Hard to believe a student has less time than a lobbyist, but that's the truth!

On this last day before we fly to Windy City for a couple of days with PH's family, I think I'll clean the house and organize my very messy closet.

Or I may just read and knit on a pair of socks...

What are YOU doing in the aftermath?

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Peaceful Christmas Eve

PH and I slept in (for us) all the way to 7 a.m. A leisurely breakfast of Swedish pancakes with lingonberries, then a drive to Annapolis to wander through shops and have crabcakes. We came home, I wrote the sermon for 12/30, I cooked us dinner (steak, pureed cauliflower, zucchini sauteed with garlic, dishes of fresh raspberries with whipped cream, red wine) and rewrote the sermon for 12/30. I suspect it will go through at least one more rewrite before it's done.

In 90 minutes we'll drive to St P's, my home parish, to sing with the choir for the 11 pm service. Candles, a packed house, a lot of familiar carols and a few unfamiliar ones, hugs with friends, then home by 1 a.m.

StrongOpinions is up north at her dad's, Litigator and StoneMason are working through the holidays.

The quiet is good.

Tomorrow we may actually sleep until 8 a.m. A blessed Christmas in so many ways to each and every one of you!



(P.S. - for Lorraine - the high tea was fabulous. Little open-faced sandwiches with cucumber and shrimp, egg salad, chicken mousse. Scones with clotted cream, lemon curd, raspberry spread. Mini-pastries with chocolate mousse, raspberry tarts, pine nut and candied fruit tarts. A glass of champagne. At least a dozen teas to choose from. Plus great conversation. We've decided that this will be a tradition amongst us. Life is good!)

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday Five: It's Almost Christmas!

What was one of your favorite childhood gifts that you gave?

It has to be a warm nightgown I gave my mother. Daddy gave me the money, but I picked it out myself, for the first time. I think I was seven or eight. Mom loved it.

What is one of your favorite Christmas recipes? Bonus points if you share the recipe with us.

Buche de Noel. A chocolate Yule Log cake made like a jellyroll, with delicate chocolate sponge cake surrounding either whipped cream or mocha ganache (rich chocolate and espresso buttercream), frosted with dark chocolate ganache. You slice a bit off the end at an angle, and attach it to the side of the main log to make a branch. You use the tines of a fork to make a bark pattern on the frosting. My kids always called it "Log" after the faux ad on "Ren and Stimpy" - remember the song? "It's log, it's log, it's better than bad, it's good!"

What is a tradition that your family can't do without? (And by family, I mean family of origin, family of adulthood, or that bunch of cool people that just feel like family.)

This is one from PH's Swedish family - it's a Christmas smorgasbord, with sil (pickled herring), potato salad, korv (a pork and potato sausage), crispbread, pickles, rice pudding with lingonberries, limpa (Swedish rye bread)...an amazing feast.

Pastors and other church folk often have very strange traditions dictated by the "work" of the holidays. What happens at your place?

Because our big Christmas services are the night before (including a service that finishes at midnight), we usually come home, have a drink of some suitable libation, and open one present. The other gifts are opened after the Christmas morning service.

If you could just ditch all the traditions and do something unexpected... what would it be?

One of my friends from seminary will be winging his way to a January term in South Africa at Christmastime, so he is flying to Paris for Christmas Eve, staying at a lovely hotel, having a fine dinner, going to Notre Dame for midnight Mass, and spending part of the next day relaxing and walking around Paris before he heads to the airport and his flight to Johannesburg. Sounds like a wonderful trip, doesn't it?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Almost there...

The ST exam was fine. At least I think it was fine. She posed a series of practical questions that someone might ask us in a congregational setting. We were to compose our answers drawing on a couple of the several theologians we had read in each topic area. I know I passed, the question is just whether it was a B or a B+. I doubt it was A material. I'm just glad it is over.


The ST paper is essentially done. I want to do some final edits tomorrow and will drop it off. Then I can breathe. It is a sign, however, of the fact that I am almost done that I actually baked StrongOpinions' favorite cookies this evening.

Today I dropped off the Church History Christian Ed project - it ran to 100 pages of materials plus two CDs - and tomorrow I will drop off the St paper. Then I can truly say I am halfway through seminary.

Wow.

Then it's time to start writing the three sermons I am preaching between now and the end of January.

Update:

8:32 a.m. on Thursday - ST paper is done. Life is good!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Functioning, Barely

The husband of dear friend L lent me a power cord, so I have a functional laptop. After speaking to Dell folks in Mumbai and Texas, another power cord is winging its way to me, but won't arrive until after the ST exam, so I am doubly grateful for the lent cord.

A dear friend is leaving seminary to take some time to heal his heart and soul. Peace to him.

The Systematics exam looms tomorrow. I am given to understand that the prof is very gracious in her grading. May it be so. My brain is mush.

The long paper for her class is now over 10 pages and is still not done. I think it will clock in at 13 or 14. I hope to finish it tomorrow afternoon.

Several of us are going to tea on Friday afternoon at the Ritz. We can probably ill afford it financially, but we can most definitely use the pampering after this semester. Several of us will be celebrating the mid-point of our life at seminary, two will celebrate heading into their last semester, two will celebrate surviving their first semester. These measures are not reflective of the depth of the feelings we have about all this, and the length of the journey we are all on.

Thank God for the time to step away from our studies and immerse ourselves in this season of hope and family.

Humbug!

The power adapter on my laptop has died. A major project and a major paper are on the laptop, which has no power...the battery has no juice either. I'm on the phone with Dell support to get a replacement power adapter which won't get here until tomorrow, after the Systematics final. The project is due tomorrow. I've got an earlier version of it on my flash drive, but it would mean a few hours of reconstruction to get it back up to speed.

This stinks.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Progress Report

The Church History final is now done - I just sent it off via email to the prof. I think I did a B+ job on it, but the TA is grading it, and he's a harder grader than the professor, so we'll see. He did it like a General Ordination Exam question. Timed, with a fairly complex question that drew on familiar and unfamiliar sources. In a strange way, it was fun.

The Church History team project is 3/4 of the way done. Just waiting on the last set of materials from the third person on our team. It will take me another hour or two to integrate her pieces, then it gets a final proof-reading, and it's ready for delivery.

I'm still procrastinating on the ST paper. I really only have one more section to write, maybe expanding a little in the other parts, but it's really close. I don't know whether I'll get it done tomorrow morning or Tuesday, but I'm determined to get it out of my hands and into the prof's mailbox.

That leaves only the ST exam. Daunting but manageable, I think. A study session tomorrow afternoon, maybe one more on Tuesday, then the exam Wednesday morning. I will be very happy to have it over with.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday

Two momentous things:

I am now at the halfway point at Big Old Seminary. One more paper to wrap up and two more exams to complete for the semester to be truly over, but this is manageable.

I am now officially retired from the bank. I continued working part-time doing government relations work for them for the past year and a half. It has been hard to balance competing interests, but the bank has been quite flexible and the income has been a blessing. It will be good to have all the bank stuff off my desk, making room for more school stuff. I unplugged the computer and printer and BlackBerry and such this afternoon. It felt very cathartic.

Now I am truly on the way to a new life! I will celebrate by going to a party tonight.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Countdown

524 days until graduation.

Not that I'm counting or anything.

Rainy Thursday, Too

It's gray and cool and damp, but it's okay. The Systematics paper isn't done yet, but it's okay. I'm not done studying yet for my two exams, but it's okay. Dinner isn't ready yet, but it's okay.

Somehow, that stuff doesn't really matter.

Christmas is coming. Christ is coming.

I had to remind myself of that when I heard of some troubling news from one friend, and some sad news from another. Nothing world-shattering or fatal, just the sort of thing that makes you shake your head and sigh.

People around Big Old Seminary are getting a bit antsy with exam week coming up. For some reason, I'm not feeling that way. I know I'll at least pass the tests, and the paper will get done in time, and will be at least adequate. Those things are not the point of what I'm doing.

If I keep praying, then I'll be able to do the real work of this time of my life. And prayer is something I do know how to do. Thank you, Jesus.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Rainy Days and Mondays

So very tired, and the gray damp weather isn't helping.

The preaching went well on Sunday morning, and the singing went surprisingly well Sunday night. I guess when you're singing the Messiah and you have to go to the bathroom through the whole dang thing, and you're thinking about that, you don't have the bandwidth to worry about the singing.

Not enough hours to sleep and do all the reading, so I think I'll opt for sleep. StrongOpinions has been ill, and there have been several tearful phone calls, so I'm short on sleep right now.

Spiritual direction was a real blessing today. An hour of lectio divina wasn't nearly enough, but it helped. I am so ready for this semester to be over.

On a positive note (one should always end on a positive note, right?) I found some really cool music (check it out: http://www.savae.org/echoes1.html) for my Church History Christian Ed project. Very wild stuff, very Middle Eastern. If that doesn't make students feel they're in Jerusalem in the time of Jesus, I don't know what would.

I got my three parishes to check out for my summer internship. Interviewing with two of them on Thursday, and hoping to hear from the third tomorrow. It's hard to have energy about it right now, but the sooner that gets decided, the better.

Sorry I don't sound more enthusiastic. I think I need a vacation.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Sermon for Sunday, December 9, 2007

“Shall We Gather At the River?”
Advent II, Year A, RCL. Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 , Romans 15:4-13 Matthew 3:1-12.

What was truly shocking, the view that took their breath away, were the sheer numbers.

It looked like hundreds, maybe thousands, of people clustered all along the rocky riverbank, waiting for their turn to go into that unsavory water. They looked hungry for it, these people, who had come not only from the city, from Jerusalem, but from the four corners of Judea. Their faces spoke of need, of a desire for cleanliness, of a wanting of washing in this water that seemed so unlikely to clean anyone.

And then there was the man himself. He had first been spotted wandering around the wilderness, crying out “Repent!” Word had gotten out about his message, one that resonated with people. What did this mean, “The kingdom of heaven is coming near?” Was he saying that the Messiah was coming? He certainly didn’t look like a herald of a king. He was wearing animal hides, strapped around him with a thong of leather. His skin was as leathery and brown as the thong, bespeaking a man who lived rough, in the outdoors. His hair and beard were matted into dreadlocks. He smelled bad. There were rumors that he just ate whatever he could grab, insects, wild honey, weeds, whatever was available to one living in the wild. Would they be rendered unclean by moving closer to him?

It was a risk, but perhaps worth it. His words were compelling. They had to find out what this was all about, this washing in the river. The people who were coming out of the river now were almost glowing. Hard to imagine anyone coming out of that silty water looking refreshed, but there it was. They looked clean. How could it be?

And yet this seemed contrary to the Law, whether you believed the rules of the Pharisees or the rules of the Sadducees. No, no stepping into the water for them.

Ah, but the temptation was there. The curiosity, what this might feel like, besides just being wet and muddy. And they were there, right at the edge, with the water lapping at their toes. It would only take a step…

But then he spotted them. This brown and wild-eyed man who played a prophet, or was a prophet. Who knew?

And he was ripping into these men, these Pharisees and Sadducees, calling them vipers, calling them pompous, evil fools, calling them barren and useless. What was this? A life spent in dedication to the law, and this is how they were treated, and by this madman?

But what was he saying now? Something about another who was to come, one even more powerful than he? Oh, there’s a thought, someone even more crazy than this one. This new one sounded like he might be violent. Winnowing forks…fire…

Advocating overthrow of the law? Of the government? Such talk was dangerous.

No, they wouldn’t stand there and be insulted by this madman. They would step back from the river’s edge, step back from whatever strange thing was happening here. This was too dangerous.

The old hymn we sang this morning tells it all: Shall we gather at the river, where bright angel feet have trod? Shall we respond to that invitation to come to the water and be washed clean?
So much of our story as the people of God is about water. The water of baptism, the water of the Flood, the water out of the side of the crucified Jesus. This story, too, is about water, but it is also about that brief moment before we touch the water. We are at a decision-making point. Do we step in? Do we step back? We can only guess at what might happen if we do step in, and that’s a frightening proposition. It reminds me of the game my children and I used to play at the little beach near our house.

It was a cove, a lovely little protected beach. The waves were gentle, just right for three children and their overworked mom. We’d run down to the water’s edge, where the water turned the sand from shifting softness to cool hardness. As the leading edge of the little waves would run up the beach, we’d run backward, then as the wave ebbed, we’d run forward, teasing our toes with the bubbly water. Eventually, of course, we’d get our feet wet, and then our ankles, and then our legs, until we were wet all over, and laughing madly as we swam in the cove. Our fear of the cold water washed away as we moved from the edge deeper and deeper. It didn’t seem so cold any more.

Our Pharisees and Sadducees couldn’t bring themselves to get over their fear. They stepped back from the water’s edge; they didn’t even test the waters. And with that decision, they lost their great chance.

But can you imagine what it might have been like if they had not been afraid, if they had taken that risk? Let’s put ourselves back in the scene again, gathered at the river. Let’s go back there again:

What is truly shocking, the view that takes our breath away, are the sheer numbers. It looks like hundreds, maybe thousands, of people clustered all along the rocky riverbank, waiting for their turn to go into that unsavory water. They look hungry for it. Their faces speak of need, of a desire for cleanliness, and we too have that hunger. We know something is missing from our lives. Our curiosity has drawn us to this place.

And now we see the man himself. He had first been spotted wandering around the wilderness, crying out “Repent!” Word had gotten out about his message, one that resonated with people. It resonated with us, even as we struggled to grasp its meaning. So we came here, hoping to learn more. What does this mean, “The kingdom of heaven is coming near?” Is he saying that the Messiah was coming? We have been waiting so very long, and things are getting worse, not better. Could it be? Could the Messiah be coming, heralded by this dirty crazy man? If we step closer to him, will we be rendered unclean? Somehow, it no longer matters.

It is a risk, but perhaps worth it. His words are compelling. We have to find out what this is all about, this washing in the river. The people coming out of the river now are almost glowing. Hard to imagine anyone coming out of that silty water looking refreshed, but there it is. They look clean. We long for that glow, that inner cleanliness. It has been so long since we have felt the Law was clean, that we were clean.

And yet this is frightening. It seems contrary to the Law. What if this is all fakery? What if we step in and nothing happens? We’d look like fools. No, no stepping into the water for us.

Ah, but the temptation is there. The curiosity, what this might feel like, besides just being wet and muddy. And we are right there, right at the edge, with the water lapping at our toes. It would only take a step…

But then he spots us. This brown and wild-eyed man, this erstwhile prophet.

And he rips into us, calling us vipers, calling us pompous, evil fools, calling us barren and useless. What is this? A life spent in dedication to the law, and this is how we are treated? The realization washes over us. We are convicted by his words.

And now he speaks of another who is to come, one even more powerful than he, using words that frighten us. Is this Messiah a God of violence? Winnowing forks…fire…

Advocating overthrow of the law? Of the government? Such talk is dangerous.

But despite this dangerous talk, we cannot bring ourselves to step back from the river’s edge, step back from whatever strange and wondrous thing is happening here. Yes, this is dangerous, but there is something irresistible, a pull toward the water. We know that whatever happens, it will be good. We will be transformed. We must step off the riverbank, into the water, into a new way of being.

And you? Is it too dangerous for you? Can you feel the pull? Will you gather with me at the river? Are you willing to take my hand, and step into the murky water, and be washed clean, in preparation for the One who is to come?

Amen.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Is there anything

...quite as delicious as the smell of a Christmas tree? PH picked our tree and wreath up at our old parish - they bring up a truckload from South Carolina as a fundraiser for the church every year and these trees are fresh and wonderful - and we set it up this evening.

Oh, that smell is Christmas for me!

Yes, I know they shed needles as the weeks go on, and the cats think they are jungle gyms, but it's worth it for that sweet aroma whenever I open the front door and walk in. Those pre-lit plastic trees aren't for me. I need the real deal.

I went shopping briefly this evening at the Mall of Many Ethnicities. Big Old Seminary is doing one of those gift things for poor and homeless families. I got some "church" dresses for a three year old girl - a fun thing, although many of the dresses in the modestly priced store for these little girls look more like Bratz and Baby Ho's than sweet little three year olds. What are these manufacturers thinking? I also got a nice purse for a mom. Moments like this, I count my blessings in a major way.

I also looked at the polar fleece PJs, and was sorely tempted but did not buy. I was wondering if I should regret that when I came home and the house was freezing. The pilot had gone out in the furnace. Thank goodness PH is handy about such things. Thank goodness a match was all that was required to fix it. Thank goodness we have a roof over our heads...

Let's say a prayer for all those who don't, like the folks for whom I got a few meager presents, and like all the homeless who sleep on steam grates over in Your Nation's Capital on frigid, 15 degree nights like this.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Status Report

The Pastoral Theology paper is done and turned in.

The Church History paper is done and printed out and will be turned in tomorrow morning.

The study guides for Aquinas and Barth are done and distributed to my study group.

The short sermon for Homiletics was very well received (probably better than it deserved, but I'll take it).

The Advent Lessons and Carols (I sang a solo and also sang with two different choirs) went well. Incense! At Big Old Seminary (historically a bastion of low-church Episcopalians)! Will wonders never cease? The evening was made even more lovely by our first snowfall of the season. Driving home afterwards was a bit slippery, but there was very little traffic, so I just drove gently with all the trees and bushes and streets and houses glazed with snow. Good to be home, though.

More work tomorrow, but it seems like it's slowly getting done. I've got to wrap up the Church History Christian Ed project (maybe I'll get that done tomorrow) and then hunker down to finish the Systematics paper. The dear prof sent around sample questions for her final. Scared the bejabbers out of me. Ah, well, come Holy Spirit come and all that.

It will get done.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Revised List

Still to do:
the bibliography of the ten-page Pastoral Theology paper - yes, I got it in under 11 pages!
the second half of the Church History/Christian Ed project lecture
the outline of the second lecture
the five-page Church History paper
the ten page Systematics paper.

I have one of two study guides I am responsible for in Systematics done (Aquinas) - the other is Barth and it's 95% done.

The good news is that several major things are behind me. Tomorrow is the five-minute sermon#5 for Homiletics (written and ready to go) and Sunday is the Advent II sermon (written and ready to go).

Other things on the agenda:
Tomorrow is Lessons and Carols at Big Old Seminary, and I've got a solo - not overly stressful
Friday night is dress rehearsal for the new contemporary Saturday Night service at Saint Middle School - it will launch on 12/15
Saturday night is a party at our new neighbors' house
Sunday is Messiah sing-a-long - once again I will sing "Rejoice Greatly" and I haven't had time to practice at all. Drat.
The sing-a-long is preceded by two different parties at which I must make an appearance. Double drat.

Somehow it will get done - not sure how, but it will.

A prayer please for StrongOpinions, who had to visit the ER this morning after being sick all night with the flu. She's back in her apartment, but still feeling pretty bad. It is not fun to try to care for one's daughter 2000 miles away.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Too cute!

The B-man and Princess...I love being a grandmother!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Sundays are not necessarily a time for Sabbath Rest

A great Advent I at Saint Middle School, with an all-time high number of attendees, 126! New families, some of whom have already pledged. This is real progress for us. We'd need to be over 200 per week to be able to build -we already have the land - maybe someday soon! The Alternative Gift Fair is going very well. People make donations to local charities in honor of a family member or friend and get gift cards they can give the honored person. Already well over $10K and we may make it to $40K when we're done.

It was one of those mornings when the junior acolytes were antsy, the senior acolyte seemed of the verge of total meltdown because she didn't know when to ring the bells, I messed up one of the page turns in the altar book, but somehow we got through it all. The Vicar's sermon was lovely, and a nice set-up for my sermon next week (thanks, Vicar!) and people were talking at coffee hour. I had a several minute pastoral conversation with someone I hadn't yet talked to - feels like they do see me as a pastor-type.

Then we had my Lay Committee meeting - this is my support team who talk about things like how things are going, how they can support me, what they think about my sermon, ideas and suggestions for the teen sunday school class...lovely people, and interesting conversation.

Got home at 3:15 pm, in time to clean up and cook. The third load of wash is in right now. A classmate, a dear young man who is interested in doing further work in pastoral counseling, is coming for dinner. I wanted to get him together with PH, who is of course a pastoral counselor, to talk about programs and particular interests and such. I should be writing my papers, but it feels like this is more important, for him, and especially for me, since I need to feel like a human and not a student, and do something I know how to do well, like cooking and drinking wine.

The menu is roast pork stuffed with dried fruit, red cabbage, sauteed zucchini, hasselback potatoes (shout-out to Nigella Lawson!), French bread, homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Wine. life is good, if not very restful right now.

Papers can wait.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Various Updates

The icon of Saint Matthew is finally finished. My teacher has taken it home with her to varnish it. Saint Gabriel is next. Next in the queue after that is either a Sophia or a Saint Paul, then Christ Pantokrator. Assuming, of course, that I can find the time to continue the icon-writing class. I'll post a picture of the Saint Matthew when it comes back to me.

The presentation for Pastoral Theology is ready to go, and the accompanying ten page paper is about 2/3s done. It probably will go slightly over ten pages, and I hope the prof doesn't ding me for that, but it's a big subject (pastoral care and suicide).

The Church History paper is still an utter mystery. It's only five pages, but a thesis statement hasn't jumped out at me yet. On the other hand, I pretty much know what I want to do for the Christian Ed project for Church History - it's just a matter of sitting down and actually churning the thing out. I'm really trying to clear the decks so I can concentrate solely on the Systematics paper...maybe in a few days, I hope.

Five minute sermon for Homiletics class (Advent IV) is done.

Sermon for Saint Middle School for Advent II is done.

Oh, and some of the Christmas shopping is done. Not enough, but some.

I could use a few more hours of consciousness in each day...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Espanol

In a fit of bravery or stupidity, I spent my lunchtime at the Mesa En Espanol. On Thursdays, the Spanish speakers all sit together at this table and speak only Spanish. So I - with all of six classes in Spanish under my belt - decided to try it.

I warned everyone at the table upfront that I was a new student and was there to listen more than to speak. Everyone was kind and spoke reasonably slowly and encouraged me to at least try to speak some. I managed to hang in there for 30 minutes and didn't offend anyone, so that's progress. I may even try it again next week!

I do love the Spanish class and the language is infinitely easier than French (my first modern language), I just wish I had more time to practice. It seems if one is going to go to the effort of taking the class, one should try to actually speak it regularly. And here near Your Nation's Capital, many folks speak only Spanish.

In other news, I had a good meeting with the dean about several topics, including the proposed honors thesis. He helped me shape it a bit and had some good ideas for me to chew on. I think I'm getting close to writing up the proposal and taking it to the prof who would be the logical advisor for me. I mentioned it to a friend who said, "But she's a real hard-a**.") Very true words.

But it's like the Spanish. If I'm going to do this thing, why would I want to just dip my toe in? Shouldn't I want to dive right in?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Feeling Very...

...swamped. And blocked. I hate writer's block, particularly when I've got several papers due. Blech!

To do list:
Church History Paper (5 pages)
Pastoral Theology paper (10 pages) plus class presentation
Church History education project
Final paper for Systematics (got the draft back with some great ideas from the prof - now all I need is time to do it)
Sermon for Homiletics
Expanded Homiletics class sermon for Field Ed.

I'm sure there's something I can't remember to add to this list, but this seems like enough for the next three weeks.

Yes, I know.
Stop blogging and start writing.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sermon for Sunday, November 25, 2007: You Never Know

Proper 29, Year C. Jer. 23:1-6, Ps. 46, Col.1:11-20, Luke 23:35-43.


“You never know”

Here we are on the last Sunday in Ordinary Time, the feast of Christ the King. In the past weeks, we’ve read through much of the Gospel of Luke. We are on the verge of Advent. But before we can get to all our favorite Advent stories, here we are with this story of Christ on the Cross. It seems a surprising story so far from Passiontide. It’s unexpected, somehow, to be hearing about this in late November. So how do we bridge the gap from the crucified Christ to the soon-to-be-born infant Jesus?
We’ll start in a place far from Jerusalem, far from the hill called “Skull”.

I.
My husband and I were standing in line in front of the Accademia in Florence. It had been his dream to see Michelangelo’s David, and now here we were, on a crisp autumn morning, with all the other tourists in comfortable walking shoes, waiting for our turn to go into the museum to see the statue. Suddenly a gaggle of scruffy pre-teens came rushing up to us. They didn’t really look Italian; gypsies, most likely. Dirty faces, torn clothes, old shoes. They formed a scrum around us and shoved big pieces of cardboard at us on which were written their stories – I am poor! I have nothing to eat! Please give me money! Even as we were reading the cardboard signs, they were reaching underneath them --- and trying to pick our pockets. One of us in line noticed what was happening and shouted an alarm. We grabbed our respective purses and wallets and yelled at the street urchins. They ran off , cursing us in Italian and Romany. Shaken, we double-checked our pockets and thanked those who had figured out what was happening.

II.
I hadn’t thought of that story for many years, until I saw a newspaper article in the Washington Post a few weeks ago. It told the story of Mario Capecchi, who survived as just such a street urchin in WWII Italy after his mother, an anti-Fascist intellectual, had been hauled off to the Dachau concentration camp. Before she was taken, she had given some money to a neighbor to care for her son Mario, who was then just three years old. The neighbor cared for him until the money ran out, and then turned him out onto the streets. He went from town to town, occasionally living in orphanages, but mostly begged and stole and survived on his wits. He nearly died of malnutrition and was in a hospital in Bologna when his mother, liberated from Dachau, finally found him in 1946. A year later, an uncle in America sent money for them to emigrate, and Mario began a new life, one that included degrees from Antioch and Harvard and a fellowship under the discoverer of the structure of DNA, James Watson. Capecchi did groundbreaking work in gene targeting. And so, last month, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. A street urchin to a Nobel Laureate. Not what one would expect.

III.
This gospel passage is another case of unexpected people doing unexpected things. We shouldn’t be surprised by this; it has been the case all the way through the Gospel of Luke. In Luke’s world, the outsider is usually the hero of the tale, and the folks who are the in-crowd usually get it wrong.
What’s going on in this passage, one that is so very familiar to us?
Jesus hangs on the cross. He’s been up there so long that gravity has taken its toll. The wounds on his head and hands no longer freely bleed. The bloodstains on his face and palms have dried to a dark-wine crust. His shoulders creak with pain. The crowd, who had called for his execution, is watching silently now, but the soldiers and the leaders mock him. The sign on the cross mocks him: “Jesus, King of the Jews.” Even one of the criminals hanging beside him mocks him, daring him to save himself and the criminal, too. In their eyes, this is no king. This is just another broken troublemaker who got what he deserved.
But the criminal on Jesus’ other side sees something more in him than a loser, a failed religious leader. This criminal chastises the first one: “We are being justly punished, but this man doesn’t deserve this. He did nothing wrong.”
That would be remarkable enough coming from the mouth of a dying criminal, but the moment takes an even more surprising turn: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This is more than a personal request. It is an acknowledgment of Jesus as King of a kingdom not of this world.
And then Jesus does what he usually does when a person opens his heart to the Anointed One and asks for help.
Even in the pain of the moment, with the taste of blood and sour vinegar in His mouth, Jesus speaks words of comfort and of promise: “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.”
Jesus turns the eyes of the repentant criminal forward in hope, to a place of salvation.
All those people, watching and mocking, and there is only one who truly sees this broken rabbi on the Cross for the King He is. Only one, an unexpected one, seeing an unexpected King.
Time and again in the Gospel of Luke, throughout these weeks of Ordinary Time, we’ve seen the same surprising story. The conventional religious people just don’t understand Jesus’ message. It is the outsiders, the ones we least expect, who open their eyes and their hearts and recognize the kingship of Jesus, and what that kingship entails. It is not a kingship of this world, and what we are expected to do to pay homage to this King is very different than what the expectations of a worldly king might be.

IV.
So we hear this story on this last Sunday of Ordinary Time, on the Feast of Christ the King, before we enter the cold, pre-dawn winter hours of Advent. In the dark, it may be easy to miss who we’re really seeing on that cross.
It isn’t a broken man, a failed teacher. If we truly understand His message, we see Christ the King, whom the Greek Christians called Christ Pantokrator, Christ all powerful, looking forward in hope that we all might be with Him in the kingdom.
Christ opens our eyes and hearts and souls to see unexpected people in unexpected ways, as He too was the ultimate unexpected One. He bids us to see who He is, and how we might see Him in the most unlikely people.
You never know. A street urchin might turn out to be a Nobel Prize winner. A crucified teacher might turn out to be King. And a baby born in a rude stable on a cold winter night might turn out to be the Son of God.

Amen.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Post Thanksgiving Friday 5

From the RGBPs:
1. Did you go elsewhere for the day, or did you have visitors at your place instead? How was it?
We were right here, PH and I and the three kids, Litigator, StoneMason, and StrongOpinions. It was wonderful! We haven't had Thanksgiving with the kids in a couple of years - they'd gone to their father's house in New England, but they insisted that this year they wanted to be with us. Can't say I wasn't pleased that they pressed the point with their dad who is sometimes a wee bit insistent on getting his own way.

2. Main course: If it was the turkey, the whole turkey, and nothing but the turkey, was it prepared in an unusual way? Or did you throw tradition to the winds and do something different?
Since StrongOpinions is vegetarian, we had two main courses: the turkey(actually a roasted turkey breast, since we were a small group) and a whole roasted pumpkin filled with a vegetable stew with seitan, which is a wheat gluten protein. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cranberry sauce. homemade cranberry chutney, soft whole wheat rolls, pumpkin pie, apple pie. It is a sign that they're growing up that they really didn't eat much of the canned cranberry sauce, and adored the chutney.

3. Other than the meal, do you have any Thanksgiving customs that you observe every year?
Nope, just eating until we're immobile. The teasing that her two brothers usually dish out to StrongOpinions has really faded in intensity this year. Another sign of growing up.

4. The day after Thanksgiving is considered a major Christmas shopping day by most US retailers. Do you go out bargain hunting and shop ‘till you drop, or do you stay indoors with the blinds closed? Or something in between?
We usually stay home and avoid the shopping craziness, but we had to replace StrongOpinions' eyeglasses, so we ventured out to the SlightlyRundownMall of the Ethnicities (it's like the UN there - Africans, Latinos, Asians plus some of us poorer Caucasians). PH took StoneMason to Sears to buy a new pair of workboots and I took StrongOpinions to Lenscrafters. Because it isn't one of the ridiculously upscale malls,
the crowds weren't overwhelming and we were able to get in and out quite expeditiously.

5. Let the HOLIDAY SEASON commence! When will your Christmas decorations go up?
In the past, I've put the Santa collection up on Thanksgiving weekend, and the tree goes up on Advent II, along with the creche. I just don't know if I have the energy to do it this weekend, but we shall see. It will not be the end of the world if it doesn't get put up until Advent actually starts.

So how was YOUR Thanksgiving?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

So when you're planning a party...



...in the Windy City, where it's pretty chilly, and you run out of storage space in the frig, because you're making many kinds of hors d'oeuvres for 70+ people, this is what you do.




You put them in the garage, on top of the car.
Sweet!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thankful...

I presided over Sung Evensong this evening. It's one of my favorite services, and it's such a privilege to be able to do this. The intimidation factor was high because the retired Bishop of Oxford was in attendance, but i got through it with only one or two bobbles, and Lord Harries was most gracious and complimentary after it was through. So I'm thankful that I didn't embarrass the school or myself.


All of the food shopping is done in anticipation of the Thanksgiving feast (or Accion de Gracias, as my Spanish teacher reminded us today). Tomorrow starts the cooking extravaganza. I'm making something really labor-intensive: Pumpkin Stuffed with Vegetable Stew. It's a treat that may or may not be edible, for StrongOpinions, the house vegetarian. It being a Gourmet Magazine recipe, there are many ingredients and even more steps to make it, but it will be fun for a experiment. All the other stuff on the menu is te regular Thanksgiving odds and ends. Tomorrow will be prep day for the aforementioned veggie dish, plus baking the pies (pumpkin, apple, pecan). Thankful to have a day off before Thanksgiving to do this, and even more thankful that we can afford to fly the kids in and buy all this food. Many others won't be so fortunate.


The aching hip is doing much better, and I'm thankful for that as well as no MS relapses lately. I think one of the reasons I've signed up for such an intense schedule is that there is a piece of me that is afraid I'll lose my vision again, and I want to get as many credits out of the way as possible just in case. So I'm thankful that my health is holding up and that I can afford to see the doctors and get the very expensive medicines that help keep me well.


PH is his usual wonderful self. We went to a party at the home of a parishioner in my field ed church - several other parishioners were there as well. Delightful people, and he was so good with them. He is a blessing on so many levels. Life is good being married to him. Every day, not just at Thanksgiving, I am thankful for him.


The list could go on and on: my wonderful kids and grandbabies, music, icon-writing class, some amazing professors, the freedom to go back to school at this stage of my life, ...


...but you understand.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Back Again

The trip to Chicago was a whirlwind. The party for my dear MIL was wonderful - 70 or so folks, vast quantities of food, a concert by professionals and family, many lovely stories. My back and hip are complaining after a day and a half standing and doing food prep and cooking, but it was worth it. The littlest grandkids sang "If I Were a Butterfly," complete with the hand motions - I accompanied them. They were precious.

This morning I did a short homily for Homiletics class - needs some serious reworking for the actual preaching at Saint Middle School, but it was a good start. Nothing like taking a little risk in the style of sermon-writing.

I just finished the event account (like a verbatim, for you seminary geeks out there) for our Field Ed Colloquy. It will be interesting to do this...I'm hoping being the first student to present will mean our conveners will be more willing to give me the benefit of the doubt.

It is cold and raw here. Time to get out the winter coat, I fear. Many of the students have already left for Thanksgiving at home, since several of the profs are out in San Diego at the SBL/AAR conference. No such luck for me - I've got classes until 2 pm tomorrow afternoon. I did a pretty intense food-shopping expedition this evening, in anticipation of the kids coming for Thanksgiving, but I'll need to go to the over-priced Hol(y) Fuds for some special stuff for StrongOpinions, who is a vegetarian. No, I'm not getting Tofurkey. There are some depths to which I will not sink.

Herewith, the rawther unusual homily from this morning:

“Shall We Gather At the River?”
Advent II, Year A, RCL. Isaiah 11:1-10, Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 , Romans 15:4-13Matthew 3:1-12.

What was truly shocking, the view that took their breath away, were the sheer numbers. It looked like hundreds, maybe thousands, of people clustered all along the rocky riverbank, waiting for their turn to go into that unsavory water. They looked hungry for it, these people, who had come not only from the city, from Jerusalem, but from the four corners of Judea. Their faces spoke of need, of a desire for cleanliness, of a wanting of washing in this water that seemed so unlikely to clean anyone.

And then there was the man himself. He had first been spotted wandering around the wilderness, crying out “Repent!” Word had gotten out about his message, one that resonated with people. What did this mean, “The kingdom of heaven is coming near?” Was he saying that the Messiah was coming? He certainly didn’t look like a herald of a king. He was wearing animal hides, strapped around him with a thong of leather. His skin was as leathery and brown as the thong, bespeaking a man who lived rough, in the outdoors. His hair and beard were matted into dreadlocks. He smelled bad. There were rumors that he just ate whatever he could grab, insects, wild honey, weeds, whatever was available to one living in the wild. Would they be rendered unclean by moving closer to him?

It was a risk, but perhaps worth it. His words were compelling. They had to find out what this was all about, this washing in the river. The people who were coming out of the river now were almost glowing. Hard to imagine anyone coming out of that silty water looking refreshed, but there it was. They looked clean. How could it be?

And yet this seemed contrary to the Law, whether you believed the rules of the Pharisees or the rules of the Sadducees. No, no stepping into the water for them.

Ah, but the temptation was there. The curiosity, what this might feel like, besides just being wet and muddy. And they were there, right at the edge, with the water lapping at their toes. It would only take a step…

But then he spotted them. This brown and wild-eyed man who played a prophet, or was a prophet. Who knew?

And he was ripping into these men, these Pharisees and Sadducees, calling them vipers, calling them pompous, evil fools, calling them barren and useless. What was this? A life spent in dedication to the law, and this is how they were treated, and by this madman?

But what was he saying now? Something about another who was to come, one even more powerful than he? Oh, there’s a thought, someone even more crazy than this one. This new one sounded like he might be violent. Winnowing forks…fire…

Advocating overthrow of the law? Of the government? Such talk was dangerous.
No, they wouldn’t stand there and be insulted by this madman. They would step back from the river’s edge, step back from whatever strange thing was happening here. This was too dangerous.

And you? Is it too dangerous for you? Are you willing to take my hand, and step into the murky water, and be washed clean, in preparation for the One who is to come?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Yes, I'm still here...

...just a lot of work and not much time.



In the queue:

  • Church History paper (five pages, probably on Saint Francis)

  • Church History Christian Ed Project (five sessions worth of material done by a team of three of us on the sometimes contentious, sometimes uncomfortably friendly relationship between church and state)


  • Suicide presentation (ten page paper and twenty minute classroom presentation for Pastoral Theology)


  • Final Systematics paper (ten pages is what is asked for, but given my topic it will probably run a bit longer, once I get the prof's comments on the rough draft)


  • Sermon for Advent II (I've already written the 5-minute version of this for Homiletics but need to expand it to 10-13 minutes for my parish)


  • Another five-minute sermon for Advent IV.



Believe it or not, this feels somewhat manageable. I would guess this shows how far I've come on this journey .



It's been a busy week. We had the installation of our new Dean at Big Old Seminary.

It was a lovely service. When various members of the community brought various significant gifts up to New Dean, his administrative assistant brought him a calendar, who got a great laugh out of the assembled congregation of students, faculty, bishops, alums, local clergy, and various guests. I sang the "Panis Angelicus," with the Seminary Choir as my back-up group (no, they didn't go "doo-wop"). It was well-received, although I am never satisfied with my performances - this one was no different.



Last night, we went to the opera to see William Bolcom's "A View from the Bridge" - yes, it's a setting of the wonderful Arthur Miller play. Not hummable, but accessible music with references to jazz and other musical forms from the period. My voice teacher was in the cast in a supporting role, so we got to go downstairs to the dressing room area and see some of the performers, then onto the stage, which was great fun. I was so in need of something not seminary - it was great to have a night away from the work.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

IPod Stuff


I hadn't realized how much I had become addicted to my IPod (B-day gift this past summer from PH) until I was getting ready to drive home from evening meeting at Saint Middle School (40 miles from home). The IPod had frozen up (no, not cold-type frozen, non-functioning type frozen).

Oh, no! I listen to Bible readings, podcasts from NPR, Spanish lessons, music of all types, and audiobooks on it, and since radio reception is sketchy the further I get from home, it makes my commute twice a week to and from Saint Middle School much more tolerable.

I no longer carry CDs in the car, so I had to listen to scratchy radio all the way home.

Yes, I know you REALLY pity me.

Seriously, though, this was a very pricey gift, and the thought that it had died after only three months' use seriously disturbed me.

I got home, where PH was patiently waiting for me to get dinner on the table (he would have done it, but I told him I would do it when I got home). Instead of starting on supper, I immediately got on the computer for guidance on how to fix the problem. Ten minutes later, I had found what I needed and resolved it.

Bless PH, he quietly sipped his gin and tonic while I got it done.

Just count me grateful for things that are simple to fix.

Friday, November 09, 2007

I believe I'll have an order of Ritalin with that...

My advisor once again pressed me to do an honors thesis next year. "You might be able to publish it!" she said with great glee.

Is it wrong of me to be intrigued by the thought of publishing?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

All shall be well...

Dame Julian is kindly requested to perch herself on my shoulder and whisper her famous words in my ear when I get a little frazzled.

The Systematics draft is done - 10 pages plus a page of endnotes and a page of bibliography - and safely in the hands of the prof. Hallelujah!

I'm hip-deep in the next sermon for Homiletics, plus memorizing the text I will preach on - we are expected to say it from memory and try to "embody" it, or perform it, or whatever you want to call it. Memorization is not my forte, so this part of it will be a challenge, but the sermon, for Advent II (John the Baptist telling off the Phraisees and Sadducees after baptizing everybody in the surrounding five counties) is coming along, sort of.

I've got another sermon to write, along with a theological reflection on a particular pastoral situation, for my Pastoral Care class. That's due in a week, so I'd better get cracking on it.

I should also get going on the next Church History paper. Not that it's due really soon, but I've got several other things that will be due later in the quarter, and I hate getting jammed up.

Somewhere in this I've got to do some work on Spanish. I watched "El Gordo y La Flaca" while I was on the elliptical machine today. Still getting no more than every fourth word, and not enough context to figure out what the heck is going on. Oh, well, language study takes time.

We got our forms to register for classes for spring. Third quarter (the first half of spring semester) will be brutal, but fourth quarter should be lovely. The line-up includes wrapping up Church History, Systematics and Homiletics, plus more Field Ed, The Sung Service (that's my treat to myself), Theology of Mission, The Revelation to John, and (gulp!) Christian Ethics. sixteen and a half credits. Not too over the top. All my core requirements will be done, and that will clear the decks for senior year if I decide to do an honors thesis. And if I don't, I can take a few of the courses Pass-Fail and focus on passing GOE's and getting a job.

If that doesn't make me long for Dame Julian's wisdom and calm, I don't know what will.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Tired

Not enough hours in the day.
Too many pages to read.
Too many pages to write.
Not adjusted to Daylight Savings Time yet.

Agita around Big Old Seminary about blogospheric nonsense. A purported conservative seminarian posted on one of the very anti-ECUSA blogs about a gay student forum and how conservative students are kept muzzled at Big Old Seminary. The initial post was sad, but the response threads that followed bordered on the pathological. Ah, well, it was emblematic of the difficulties we face these days.

I find myself wondering which of my fellow students (if indeed it was a BOS student) posted it. Even more, I find myself wondering how I can respond to someone who couldn't gather the courage to speak out to his or her fellow students.

Naive me.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Henri Nouwen is Up in Heaven Smiling


I can recall reading of the great priest and writer Henri Nouwen dressing up in faux vestments playing priest as a five year old. The photo at left is of Henri doing just that, courtesy of the henrinouwen.org website.


The image came to mind this morning at Saint Middle School. There we were, standing around the altar, the Vicar, me, a senior acolyte, and two junior acolytes. As the Vicar was reading the words of the Eucharistic liturgy, and doing certain actions with her hands (term of art is "manual acts") such as raising the bread, or raising the cup or the paten, or making the Sign of the Cross over the elements, one of the junior acolytes, a little boy of 8 or so, was doing all the manual acts right after her. Not making fun, mind you, but doing it with great seriousness, as if by doing this it would help him understand what was happening, and make him more like the Vicar, who is his great buddy.


I told PH this story over dinner tonight, and he smiled and said, "Big Old Seminary Class of 2025, eh?"


Perhaps. But even if that is not so, what a lovely thing to see a little child so entranced with the power and beauty of the liturgy that he wants to imitate it.


It worked for Henri. May it work for this little guy as well.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Home Again

..after two days of racial reconciliation training (a requirement of the canons). It had its rocky moments (a facilitator who was at times a wee bit overenthusiastic), but also had its rich moments. Although this was sponsored for the Diocese of Your Nation's Capitol, a group of us seminarians from Big Old Seminary went to meet our canonical requirements. My table for our small group work was all seminarians, which made for some very interesting conversations. I was the only middler - the rest were all seniors. We are bringing some of what we learned back to the seminary and will continue to meet monthly as a small group to do the exercises we were taught (this is the methodology: http://www.racialsobriety.org/backgroundsitemap.php).

I could have used the time to work on the infamous Systematics paper, but this was a good experience. Now on to laundry, food shopping, and Lindbeck and Hauerwas!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday Five: Interviews

1. What was the most memorable interview you ever had?
Probably my interview with the Commission on Ministry, which would recommend to my bishop whether or not I should become a postulant for Holy Orders. I had heard that their questions could run to the snarky, and I had developed a plan for this with my spiritual director ("My gut says that this feels like an attack. Is it?") In point of fact, the questions weren't snarky, although some of them were challenging. Many of the questions were fascinating, and I was deeply moved by the answers to some of the questions addressed to my husband, my presenting rector, and folks on the vestry and the lay discernment committee who accompanied me. Of course, after it was all over, I sat in the car and cried for ten minutes - stress release and all that - but it was definitely memorable.

2. Have you ever been the interviewer rather than the interviewee? If so, are you a tiger, a creampuff, or somewhere in between?
I've been the interviewer often in my past life. I do tend to think I'm somewhere in between, because I think interviews are two-way streets. There is some baseline information - skill-related stuff - that I want to get at, but then it's more touchy-feely - will we work together well kind of stuff. Of course, if I feel like I'm being gamed, I ask a lot of questions that might leave the interviewee feeling like I'm a tiger.

3. Do phone interviews make you more or less nervous than in-person ones?
They make me very nervous, because I rely on nonverbal cues to assess what's going on. Absent the body language and facial expressions, I feel like I'm flying blind.

4. What was the best advice you ever got to prepare for an interview? How about the worst?
Good advice: Breathe. Say a prayer. Interviews are a two-way street. Don't just respond instantaneously to a question; think about it for a moment before replying. Smile.
Bad advice: Prepare answers to every possible question.

5. Do you have any pre-interview rituals that give you confidence?
Going to the bathroom beforehand (I'm a practical middle-aged woman). Saying a prayer of discernment. Checking to make sure I don't have any food stuck between my teeth. Deep breath.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All Hallows Eve

The ghosties and goblins are trooping through the neighborhood, asking for tricks and treats. Some of the costumes are precious, some are scary, and some are nonexistent. It's interesting that we've got preteens and some teens going around with a pillowcase looking for sweet swag without the dressing up. It aggravated me briefly until I recalled, in this socio-economically mixed neighborhood, that a lot of these young people have to grow up too fast. Maybe it's a good thing that they stay kids for this one night.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Break Is Almost Over

...and I haven't gotten anywhere near as far as I would have liked on the Systematics draft. Ten more days to go on that one. Everything else is done as far as it's going to be, and I've made a dent in my sermon for Advent II.

It dawned on me how tired I am this afternoon. I had gone for lunch with my home parish rector - he was kind and took me to a really lovely Italian place - and when I came home, I slept for 2+ hours. Tomorrow will be more active. The morning will involve getting out my winter clothes, the afternoon will be babysitting one of my professors' 18 month old boy (sheer joy), and the evening will be a vestry meeting at Saint Middle School - 35 miles in each direction for that one. It was probably a good thing that I got my nap in today, because I don't think there will be time for one tomorrow.

I find myself already thinking ahead to the summer, when I'll be doing an intensive field placement. The good news is that it's for eight weeks, not the entire summer. The other good news is that I'll get paid for it. Not great $$$, but something. Since my salary from the bank ends on Dec 31st, we'll be watching our pennies while I finish seminary. I'm trying to just live in the moment and focus on the work at hand, but it's hard not to think ahead, plan ahead, wonder what's out there.

My best buddy is graduating this year, so it will make for a slightly less fun senior year, but I'll be focused on other things...

So NPR Says

...that the Red Sox are the new Yankees. Twice as champs in umpty-ump years makes us the new Yankees? I don't think so.

I'm smiling today, not because the Sox won, but because (unlike so many times in my lifetime) they didn't tank at the last minute.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Yeah, the Rockies are Nice Guys, But...

GO RED SOX!!!!

(I'll go sit down and be quiet now.)

BTW, the high point of last week's classes was the announcement at the beginning of a Systematic Theology class by the prof, a gentle, sweet and dauntingly brilliant woman of a certain age, that "Josh Beckett rules!"

As in all things she says in that class, this was truth.

Out in the world, some were saying that Josh Beckett is God, but that doesn't preach in ST class, of course.

Sermon for Sunday, October 28, 2007

Proper 25, Year C. Jer. 14:(1-6)7-10,19-22, Ps. 84, 2 Tim. 4:6-8,16-18, Luke 18: 9-14.


Several years ago, there was a popular movie starring Jim Carrey called “Truman.” He played a fellow living in a world entirely created as a stage set for his life, a life that had been documented from the moment of his birth as a television show. The place where he lived was a lovely bit of suburbia, populated by pretty people who all behaved nicely towards one another. The sun always shone, except for brief, charming showers that perked up the grass and the flowers. No one was ugly, or sad, or cruel. It was all façade. Truman was oblivious to the role he was playing, oblivious to the incompleteness of his life.

I am thinking about Truman and his make-believe world as I imagine what’s going on in the head of the Pharisee as he prays. Think about what he says: “Thanks, God. Notice that I do all the right things, I follow the rules. I’m not a bad person like some others around here.” This is a man who cares about how the world sees him and about how God sees him. He follows the rules. He looks good to the world around him, because he does what he’s supposed to do.

The theologian Jurgen Moltmann points out a very interesting thing about the Pharisee’s prayer. The Pharisee says what he does, and who he isn’t like, but he doesn’t talk about who he is. He leaves an empty hole in his conversation with God. The conversation seems to be about appearances, about the pretty façade, and not about who he is.

So we look inside this praying Pharisee’s head. Perhaps he has doubts about himself, and that’s why he doesn’t talk about what is in his heart and soul. He just talks about what he does and who he isn’t like. He’s concerned about maintaining that perfect exterior, like the perfect town and the shiny people in Truman’s world. He never gets to the heart of who he is, and what that means to him and to God.

The tax collector gives us a very different perspective. Before we even hear a word from him, we know something about him. He is standing far off, not willing to even lift up his eyes to heaven. These are postures of servitude and unworthiness. Before the words of his prayer are spoken, his body tells his belief. He speaks: 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'

This is not a man who proclaims his perfection, this is one who admits his imperfection. He is willing to show God exactly who he is, the core of himself, imperfect as it is, and ask for God’s help.

Let’s take a peek inside the tax collector’s head. We know he knows what the Pharisee thinks about him, because everyone knows the rules about what’s clean and unclean. He knows he’s a sinner. He’s willing to show that to God in his prayer. “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” He’s willing to strip away the façade and talk directly to God, not boasting, not pretending he follows the rules, but saying, “Here I am. I’m a mess. I need Your help. Please help me in Your mercy.”

And what of the words and the world of this story? This is a bold parable, because Jesus is talking about Pharisees, directly to the Pharisees. The first verse says it: Jesus was speaking “to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt”. Those “some who trusted in themselves” is an interesting phrase, because it can also be translated as “some who had persuaded themselves.” Perhaps they had a few doubts. Perhaps they had to persuade themselves to believe that they were righteous. I mentioned the possibility that the Pharisee had doubts before, because I suspect that we all have doubts about how good we really are, and that’s bound to affect our praying.

We’ve talked before, too, about how parables are countercultural. They turn the world upside down. This one is no different. When we talk about a tax collector, we’re not talking about your friendly neighbor who happens to work for the IRS. In this time, in this world, we’re talking traitor. Tax collectors in Jesus’ time were quislings, tools of the Roman Empire. They collected tax money for the Roman emperor and took a cut for themselves as their pay. They were viewed as unclean in every sense of the word. So in this parable, when Jesus talks about the tax collector as being righteous, he’s making an extraordinarily shocking statement…and he’s saying it right to the faces of the so-called good guys, the Pharisees, who were sparkling clean and who followed all the rules. The Pharisees were all about the rules, not because they were bad people, but because they thought that was enough.

It’s not.

It’s not in life, and it’s not in prayer.

So the issue here is how we pray. When we come to God in prayer, are we willing to show God more than the façade, the Thomas Kincaid sofa-sized picture we can paint of ourselves? It’s easy to hide behind the false front. It’s easy to excuse our imperfect words and our imperfect actions, thinking they’re better than nothing. I do it all the time. Each time I just pat my grieving friend on the back and move quickly away, rather than having that deep conversation about her pain, it’s an incomplete and imperfect prayer. Each time I walk quickly past the begging homeless person in Farragut Square because he scares me, it’s an incomplete and imperfect prayer. Each time I talk to God about how unfair it is that a colleague seems to get a free ride, not recognizing the second chances I’ve been given, it’s an incomplete and imperfect prayer. It’s an easy place to go as a Christian, because we usually are halfway there. We just don’t bring it all the way home, in life or in prayer. We hide the imperfection. We hide the incompleteness, because we want God to think that we’re wonderful, and to love us for the good things we do and not notice our failures.

But here’s the truly beautiful thing: God loves us no matter what.

Even more beautiful, God knows us completely.

I wonder if we sometimes don’t construct those prayers that are lists of all the good things we do because we’re afraid God will see the little uglinesses behind the good things. Am I feeling guilty about the nasty thing I said about a co-worker? Don’t talk about that; pray about how I went to church on Sunday. Am I feeling a bit ashamed of how I padded the expense account, just a little bit? Don’t talk about that; pray about the check I wrote for the charity. When I don’t bring my full self to God in prayer, the prayer is hollow. Unless I ask for God to help me with the things I need to work on, instead of simply saying I’m fine, I miss the opportunity to ask for God’s mercy and grace.

Perhaps it’s that we, too, doubt. We, too, need to persuade ourselves. We’re afraid God won’t like what He sees when we bring all of ourselves, the good, the bad, the ugly, to Him in prayer. But He knows us completely, and He loves us no matter what. If we bring it to Him in a full and honest way, He will help us to grow into a more perfect expression of God’s love.

So what happened to Truman, living in that perfect world that was all façade and little reality? Behind the scenes was a platoon of real people who manipulated this world to make it look pretty and sweet, to provide the perfect backdrop for this man called Truman, the unwitting star of the show. The real people weren’t so pretty or sweet. The center of the Truman Show was often venal, and harsh, and manipulative. But Truman, despite being coddled in that lovely make-believe place, began to see the seams of it, and struggled to break through to reality, with all its imperfections and difficulties. Ultimately, he did break through, and he embraced his own humanity and the imperfections of the world around him. The façade was torn. The rain fell. The truth bloomed, and it was a healing moment for a betrayed soul.
Our lives are complicated, and they are often neither perfect nor pretty. But unless we bring the whole of our lives, the whole of who we are, to God in prayer, the truth will not bloom, and we will not be healed. We are called to trust in God’s love and mercy, and to know that we will be made whole.

Amen.

Adios, Old Life

I'm back from Sin City, where I attended my final board meeting for a trade association from my former life. I had been affiliated with this association for almost twenty years, one way or the other, and I had served on the board for the past several years. It is an indicator of how disconnected I feel from my former life that I didn't have a single business card with me. Of course, since my retirement from the bank will be on Dec 15th, there really was no point in bringing business cards. An announcement about my career change was made at an awards luncheon, much applause, a cake in honor of me and two others who were leaving the organization after many years...all very lovely. Many people came up to me and said goodbye and how great it was I was pursuing a "higher calling" and all that. I don't feel terribly comfortable with those conversations. I suspect it is the ongoing issue of "am I worthy?" rearing its ugly head again. It is also the discomfort of leaving, once and for all, a world in which I was viewed as an expert, a one-of-a-kind resource, occasionally adult supervision (no, I'm not going to tell stories), and a grown-up.

In this new world, I am a child.

It's a gift, being allowed to be a child again, to experiment and experience the joy of a new thing. It's a gift, learning and basking in the sheer pleasure of new knowledge and of stretching my brain in new directions.

Like childhood, it's not without its growing pains. This new childhood didn't bring with it a physical rebirth, so doing new stuff with an old brain and an old body is hard work.

I wouldn't trade it far anything, though.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Avoiding Killing Any More Trees


We saved some paper by having an oral Pastoral Care final exam. Three at a time, we met with the prof, who gave us role plays, asked us to defend the theses of the texts we used, asked for explanations of different concepts we had studied, and elicited our ideas about our Myers-Briggs type and how it might influence our work of pastoral care. Great idea, fun and not very stressful, all things considered.

I'm still wading through the Church History paper. I think I'm a page away from completion, although it will need some cleaning up. Comparison of Athanasius and Augustine and their theology of the nature of evil and our response to it. Feels more theological than historical, but I'm engaging the primary sources, so I'm doing what they want. I can't imagine our poor TA reading through 60 of these puppies.

Thus, any tree-saving we managed by the PC final has been outweighed by the paper generated by me and my colleagues in Church History. Ah, well.

Time to finish procrastinating and finish the dang thing.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

You never know

...what will happen at the altar rail.

It had been a somewhat emotional Sunday anyway - it was "Honor a Friend Sunday" and people stood up during the sermon time and gave testimony about friends they had invited to the service today. There were quite a few tearful and tender moments.

One of the dads of a special needs kid came up to receive communion, and just stayed kneeling with his head in his hands, quietly weeping.

My vicar just stood there over him, saying prayers, with her hands on his head. She talked to him afterwards.

He had tried to commit suicide this week. The stress of a high-pressure job, a child with great challenges, financial difficulties all took him to the edge.

But not all the way there, thank God.

That exquisite moment of inbreaking of God's love saved him and his family. And that same inbreaking made it possible for him to open up to us about his pain and need.

His road ahead is going to be difficult, but I hope we can be there for him and help to know that God is with him even in this awful moment.

It is humbling to do this work.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhh

Classes are done for the first quarter. It dawned on me the other day that in eight weeks I'll be halfway through Seminary. How did that happen?

I was volunteered at Middler Class Meeting (I was at Chapel team meeting) to be the Empress of General Ordination Exam prep. This will involve setting up prep sessions with profs, helping facilitate study groups, getting as much info from past seniors as possible about their GOE experience...apparently I was volunteered by acclamation. I can't figure out if this means they think I'm a smart puppy or I have a Mussolini-like ability to make the trains run on time. I suspect the latter.

It was also somewhat shocking to discover that I'm one of the better ones in Systematics. That truly indicates the sad state of scholarship amongst Episcopalians.

I'm sitting here listening to my ipod Spanish vocabulary...hoping it will enter my head by osmosis or something. Oh well.

Hard to imagine they will foist me on unsuspecting parishioners in a year and a half.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Progress

One more day in the quarter for classes. The Church History paper is done and I'm about to start on the take-home midterm. I've got a self- evaluation paper to write after preaching my sermon this morning (it means I have to actually look at the videotape - a scary prospect). I got inital prep done on my review for the Pastoral Care oral exam. I expect to spend most of break on the rough draft of the systematics paper.

It feels good to be in this kind of shape at the end of a quarter. Of course, the CH midterm will be a challenge, and the ST paper is a bear, but I feel like I've hit my stride - at least for today.

Monday, October 15, 2007

To-Do List

Two page paper on Athanasius' "Life of Antony"
Four page mid-term for Church History
Rough draft of 10-page Systematics Paper (something in the area of Ecclesiology, Polity, and Scriptural Interpretation)
Prep work for the Pastoral Theology Exam
Final clean-up on Sermon for Homiletics on Thursday (Christ the King)
Start-Up of next sermon for Homiletics (Advent II)

It will get done, assuming I stop rewriting the Christ the king sermon for the umpty-umpth time.

Today was the fall Conference on Ministry. A whole bunch of folks checking out Big Old Seminary. Some were using it as a part of their own discernment process, as I did many years ago. Some were using it to decide if Big Old Seminary was the right one for them. Some were using it as an info-gathering session on life at our place, since they pretty much knew this was where they wanted to go.

Their hopeful faces were a good reminder of why I really want to do everything on the list above, why it WILL get done (the Spirit will help deliver), and - most important - how I'll use it, even the convolutions of Systematics once I graduate.

Praise be.

Of course, then I went home after school. Rather, I tried to get home. Most of the streets around our complex were shut by the police. Apparently a despondent man holed himself up in his unit with a gun, and they were trying to get the gun away from him and get him to a facility where he could be cared for. Another reminder of the needs of God's people, and why all this studying and praying and writing and grinding my teeth is important. The stand-off finally ended. No one was hurt. The streets were opened again. The Spirit moved.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Five: B-I-B-L-E

1. What is your earliest memory of encountering a biblical text?
Being read the Noah and the Ark story in kindergarten Sunday School. Of course, it being a Roman Catholic Sunday School, we weren't permitted to speculate on what it meant (only priests could do that back them). So the question of a loving God destroying everybody could not be raised, but I thought it. That's what happens when you get these stories out of context, even amongst five-year-olds, I guess.
2. What is your favorite biblical translation, and why? (You might have a few for different purposes).
NRSV for the scholarship and KJV for the exquisite poetry. Not big on paraphrases like The Message or The Word on the Street (a hip-hop paraphrase). Seems like middle-aged white people trying to be hip and failing miserably.
3. What is your favorite book of the Bible? Your favorite verse/passage?
OT: Genesis, and NT: Revelation. I also feel a deep connection to the Book of Ruth, since that's the first one I translated from Hebrew, and since I love the story. My favorite verse comes from there: "Where you go, I shall go..."
4. Which book of the Bible do you consider, in Luther’s famous words about James, to be “an epistle of straw?” Which verse(s) make you want to scream?
I struggle with Leviticus and Deuteronomy, not only because of the infamous texts used to condemn gay people, but because long lists of what to eat and what to wear and how to set up the table is to me such an alien way to approach relationship with the Divine. Hard to believe from an Episcopalian who loves the rubrics of liturgy, but it's true! I suppose this also explains my discomfort with approaches like "The Purpose-Driven Life."
5. Inclusive language in biblical translation and liturgical proclamation: for, against, or neutral?
If it's done well, I like it. It seems a matter (as RM has said) of hospitality. On the other hand, when it reads like a clumsy attempt at political correctness rather than graceful and grace-filled language, I cringe.
Bonus: Back to the Psalms–which one best speaks the prayer of your heart?
I'm with my buddy RM, Psalm 139. I find something new in it every time I go back to it.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Random Dots of Thursday

Good news, bad news, no news.

* Finally got back the first Church History paper. I knew going into it that my thesis was a bit of a stretch, so I was gambling, but it was an idea that had intrigued me, so I went ahead with it anyway. He wasn't entirely convinced of my thesis but was also intrigued by it, and liked my writing, so I got a darned good but not spectacular grade. I'll take it. It also gives me an insight of how to approach the next paper, which is due the end of next week. Gack.

* Systematics. Bliss. Even reading Barth, which is like pouring warm tar on my synapses. Bliss. I ask questions and I can't believe they come out of my mouth. Of course, the major part of the bliss is the prof, who is amazing and witty and pastoral and willing to answer all sorts of questions, even the out-of-left-field ones. Why was I afraid of this class? (Remind me of this when I get my first paper back from her.)

*The Swede-mobile failed its inspection today. Needs new brakes and rotors and two new tires. Mucho dinero. Gulp. Oh well, it needed to get done. I drive 80 miles a week to and from Saint Middle School, so it's a serious safety issue. PH offered to do the work, but couldn't deal with it until the end of the month, and my rejection sticker requires the problem get resolved very quickly. So it goes into the shop tomorrow morning.

* PH and I are leaving tomorrow after I have a lunch meeting for a weekend away here just for Friday night and Saturday through the afternoon. Tenth anniversary tomorrow, and it's a treat to get out of town with no schoolbooks with me. (I am taking knitting, though.) I am so very lucky. If you want to read the insane story of my adventures baking my own wedding cake, you can check it out here . I was crazy to make the cake, but supremely sane to marry PH, who has been my friend, my lover, my editor, my punster, my challenger, my comforter. I am blessed.


* Got the stitch out on my skin biopsy site today (a stupid rash that couldn't immediately be identified) but no results yet on the biopsy itself. Not anything to worry about - she ruled out skin cancer right away - but I sure would like to get something that would end the rash!


* The Spooky cat is resting in anticipation of her big day - Halloween, when she will terrorize small children ringing our doorbell by her very presence. She is sleeping on my Pastoral Theology homework. It seems fitting, somehow.




Monday, October 08, 2007

Mondays

Mondays aren't usually my favorite days. Trying to get back in gear after the weekend has never been easy, and it's only gotten harder now that I'm doing Field Ed on Sundays.

It is a wonderful thing having today as a holiday (Columbus Day, for my non-US friends). I got to run mulitple errands, have spiritual direction, and - blessing of all blessings - take a nap.

I nearly ruined it trying to read Karl Barth this afternoon, but stopped myself before I got brain freeze.

News on the family front: Strong Opinions has cut her hair, StoneMason is mourning the death of a friend, Litigator is still on track to graduate at the end of this semester, all the kids' flights home for Thanksgiving have been booked, and PH is trying to find a fourth rider to do the Race Across America - an 8 day bicycle race from San Diego to Atlantic City. His original fourth dropped out.

No, I will NOT be the fourth rider.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sunday Morning 6 a.m.

Some people are still asleep at this hour.

I'm not.

The coffee is brewing, and I've just reviewed the lesson plan for the teens in my Sunday School class about money and what the Bible really says about it.

This is not a preaching week for me, but sermons are on my mind. Yesterday I finished my sermon For my next turn in the (virtual) pulpit, Oct 28th. I say virtual pulpit because we preach from the floor at Saint Middle School. I am already starting on the one next in the queue (November 25th, Christ the King Sunday, or Reformation Sunday for non-Episcopalian Protestants) for Homiletics class. Doing one sermon in class on the 10th and another on the 18th is a bit intense, and I'm not clicking on a central theme yet for the new one. Good practice for the real world.

My advisor realized Friday morning at 7 am that she was preaching at noon. She had our Small group Worship and Advisee Meeting and kicked us out at 9:30 so she could complete the sermon in the half-hour beofre her next meeting. She showed up at noon Eucharist with something scribbled on two pages of yellow foolscap. It was brilliant. I wish...

Next Friday is PH's and my tenth anniversary. We're going away for Friday afternoon through Saturday night...such is the schedule flexibility of a Field Ed seminarian. I am so looking forward to a day and a half away with him, it doesn't matter that I've got to get ahead in my reading and writing to make it work. No school books or laptop are going with me.

Time for a cup of coffee..