Monday, December 31, 2007

You're Never Too Old 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


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,


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 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) 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.


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


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.


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


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


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: 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?


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...