Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ends and Starts and Hiccoughs

So this day marked the end of January Term - I made it over to school for registration and for lunch with friends, and then I came home to crash for a couple of hours. I had grand plans of finishing the paper for my Jan-term class, but I fear I just didn't have the energy. Perhaps tomorrow after lunch.

Spring semester classes start tomorrow. A blessing - I only have one class tomorrow, plus community eucharist. I'm hoping for more energy.

Yes, I'm still coughing, despite my new inhaler. It's somewhere between a cough and a hiccup, thus the traditional spelling "hiccough" which seems an apt description.

My troubles are nothing compared with those of my classmates from Kenya. One has lost her house, all have heard frightening stories of families and friends under fire. My classmates are both Luo and Kikiyu, but they are supporting each other through this horror. Pray for them please, and for peace in that beautiful country.

Ultimate Irony

After the challenges (!) of last week's Do-It-Yourself home infusion, this morning I packed up the infusion pump in the mail-it-back box they left with me, and called UPS to have it picked up...

and UPS charged me $5 to pick it up.

Grinding my teeth.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Today's Sermon: The Art of Figuring It Out

Matthew 4:12-23

I had dinner with my friend Karen the other day. She’s an impressive person, a graduate of UVA and Harvard Law School, a litigator who recently left one of the fanciest law firms on K Street. I was curious to hear what had brought her to abandon her partnership and the concomitant income.

“Well, Mary,” she said, “I feel like God’s calling me to do something, and I’m just not sure what it is. I’m praying and thinking and taking classes, but I’m just not hearing yet, you know?” Karen is one of those folks who can power her way through any problem, any question, and it was clear to me that she was frustrated that her usual techniques weren’t getting her anywhere. She was struggling to figure it out.

Some of us are slow to figure things out. It’s not a slam on our intelligence, it just takes us a while. We don’t get the direct call from God to drop the nets and start fishing for people. We may get the more subtle call, and because we’re used to thinking of the world in a particular way, and because we’re more than a little stubborn, it takes us a while to figure it out. It certainly sounds like that’s what is going on in the church of Corinth, inspiring that letter from the Corinthian church’s founder, the apostle Paul. Paul knows all too well how people can misunderstand the message, and his letter is essentially one big “What were you thinking?” By the way, I love that he mentions that he’s heard from Chloe’s people about this problem. Chloe, a woman, is the leader of one of the house churches in Corinth. Some folks like to think that Paul is anti-woman…this passage says it’s not as simple as all that. But I digress…back in Corinth, people are trying to align themselves based on who baptized them. They’ve heard a call, and they’ve responded. They’ve been baptized, a risky business in those days. But then they get confused about what they’re supposed to do next. They think it matters who baptized them. They’re dividing up into armed camps – Apollos’ people, Cephas’ people, Paul’s people, as if there really was a difference, since they are all supposed to be followers of Christ. They get confused as they try to interpret what God is calling them to do. They get halfway there, and then get off track.

It’s a sharp contrast between that scene and what happens in the Gospel. Jesus walks up to Peter and Andrew and the Zebedee boys by the Sea of Galilee, tells them to drop their nets and follow Him, and they do. Simple as that. “C’mon. Drop the nets. Come with me. I’ve got a job for you.” And they go, not even asking what the job is, and he starts to preach and teach and heal, and they are forever transformed.

For most of us, our call is a little closer to Corinth than Galilee. It’s rare to hear God whispering in our ear saying “C’mon. Drop the nets. Come with me. I’ve got a job for you.” More often, we start off alright, but then it’s all about trying to figure out the next step, getting confused, doing something silly, and hearing “what were you thinking?” More often, it’s like my friend Karen, struggling with the question. We start off alright, but then we hit a wall. We’re doing all the things we usually do to solve a problem and none of it is working.

Some people do get the gift of God whispering clearly into their ear. But it certainly didn’t work that way for me. I was a Corinthian all the way. I was baptized as an infant. But for a brief flirtation with mission work when I was a teenager, I was a pretty conventional Christian, going to church, doing the kinds of work in the church that was expected of me, maybe a little bit more here and there. I was living my conventional life, working my way up the professional ladder just as my friend Karen did, marrying, having children, raising them, dealing with the struggles of life. But somewhere along the way, like the tune you can’t get out of your head, there was something happening inside me. God was calling. I chose not to listen, or to understand the tune, or to respond to it. I chose to ignore it, because it was a frightening song. I ignored it because it was safer, easier to ignore it. I knew it was in there, but I didn’t want to face it. My life, after many ups and downs, was happy, settled, comfortable. But now there was a tug, an inexorable pull, to do something entirely different, and it terrified me. What would this thing mean to my husband, my children, my life? It would be impossible. It would mean too many changes. So I ignored it. And the pull became stronger. I might turn away, but God would not. “Drop the nets. Come follow me. I have a job for you.” Slowly I began to understand that this wasn’t going away, and I started to entertain the idea. For a time, I couldn’t say the words aloud “I believe I am being called to the priesthood.” I had a conversation with my priest where I asked about it, without saying that phrase. He was a wise man, and he knew what I was asking. He respected my fears, and gave me wise guidance. “Pray, and listen for God’s voice. Be patient. You’ll figure it out.” I got to the point where I could say the words, but not without bursting into tears. It was too big, and I was too unworthy. My spiritual director reminded me that God picked all sorts of unlikely folks to do his work – just look at Christ’s genealogy – so what made me think I was any worse than they were? And didn’t I believe that the Spirit could equip me? God equips the chosen, He doesn’t choose the equipped. All those confused people in Corinth – they were going through the same thing – what am I supposed to do? How is this supposed to work? What is God calling me to do? The questions were the same.

I didn’t have Paul to send me a letter, but I had some wise spiritual guides who talked me through what I was struggling with, who prayed and laughed and challenged and sat with me in silence. It was the Art of Figuring It Out, and I was a beginner at it.

The Art of Figuring It Out may start with hearing the first voice, the first words of love, of being one with God in the rite of Baptism. Or it may be a hearing of a call to start working, without much detail about what that work might be. It may be sitting in the pew and feeling drawn to some kind of work, without knowing quite why. But it may be more opaque than that.

In that case, The Art of Figuring It Out may start in silence – listening for God’s voice. Prayer is not always about talking – much of the time, it’s about listening. Listening is an art, a learned art. Our society militates against silence, against listening. We’re supposed to find our voice, use our voice, make ourselves heard. We’re not supposed to hide our light under a bushel basket, Silence is deafening. Silence = death. Silence is something to be broken. And yet silence may be our best chance to figure out what God wants us to do.

The Art of Figuring It Out involves asking for help. It seems counterintuitive that we should ask for help – aren’t we supposed to go into ourselves to find these answers? Not necessarily – in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a character says “For the eye sees not itself, but by reflection, by some other thing.” We have to ask for help, for others to walk on this road with us, to be both mirror and challenger.

The Art of Figuring It Out involves patience. Rainer Maria Rilke, in his Letters to a Young Poet, says it: ...I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. Can we love the questions themselves? Can we be patient enough to live into the answer?

The Art of Figuring It Out recognizes that we poor human beings, impatient as we are, don’t necessarily understand that these things happen in God’s time, which is entirely different than our time.

And the Art of Figuring It Out is not about us – it is about God, and God’s work, and what we can do to contribute to God’s Kingdom. Paul says it best: “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel… For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

There is work waiting for us. The Lord’s graciousness is so very vast that he includes us in the process of making His kingdom. We are reborn when we hear His voice, asking us to drop the nets, come follow Him. We have a job to do.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Saturday Night Lite

Dodged the meeting about Saturday night service at Saint Middle School because I'm still feeling a little punk. I completed the second infusion yesterday more efficiently than the first one, thank goodness - it only took between 9:30 in the morning to 5 pm. I'm just not feeling back to normal yet - woke up with a wicked headache, but I had committed to going to our Diocesan Council to help out, so I had to get my sorry self up and out. It was great to go - saw a lot of old friends and did the networking thing. Went home, had a little lunch and crashed for an hour, then went to rehearsal for our "Sing Me a Love Song" concert tomorrow afternoon. Remarkably, I sang well.

Home in my jammies eating a little macaroni for supper (PH is out of town for a conference - he just got elected VP of his professional association, and will eventually move up to the presidency - I'm so proud of him) and chillin' with Prairie Home Companion.

So it's a "lite" night for me. Hopefully tomorrow I'll feel better. If not, I'll be putting a lot of makeup on for the concert!

Friday, January 25, 2008


An interesting experience. Past infusions were in a hospital setting as an outpatient, with a nurse right there for the whole thing. This experience began with the stuff being delivered the night before (14 bottles of the infusion mixture take up a large part of a small refrigerator), and the nurse showing up in the morning, starting everything, then leaving. That would have been okay, except the line clogged up mid-afternoon, and again in the evening and I had to flush the line and put new tubing into the system. When I called the company to ask for help with the problem, they didn't send the nurse back over, they gave me DIY directions over the phone..and sounded somewhat annoyed that I had disturbed them with the call. Even after replacing the tubing and flushing the line, it ran slowly, so I didn't get done until 1 a.m. I had been told it would be done between 3 and 4 pm in the afternoon, so it was a definite downer. Thank goodness for PH, who was there all evening and night, putting up with me whining about how sick of it I was. And thank goodness for my friend K who sat with me most of the afternoon, and L who brought dinner. I am blessed.

Hopefully, today will be easier. We won't have the bottles, just one big IV bag, so that sould make it a little bit less of a pain. I hope there's a way to improve the flow so it doesn't take so darned long. PH will be with me for some of the day, then C will come over and hang out, and W, who's a nurse, will come over to take out the IV.

No, the infusion company doesn't send the nurse back to take out the IV...bizarre. I don't think I'll do it this way again. Better yet, I'd like to never have to do it again, period.

The good news is, though tired, I feel pretty good. Thank you, Lord.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Yes, I'm still around. No major changes. I'm just sittin' here, waiting for my IVig infusions tomorrow and Friday. I actually ventured out this morning to have a meeting with the rector of the church just a couple of miles down the road where I'll do my summer internship. He is a delight and, as they say, willing to let me play with his toys, so it should be a really wonderful opportunity to stretch and do all sorts of stuff.

Then I did the critically important stuff: got the car washed (it was FILTHY), stopped by school to see if any of last semester's papers had been returned yet (of course not - what was I thinking?), picked up PH's pants from the dry cleaners (it was on the way), and went to the library (if I'm gonna be stuck on the sofa with an IV, I want some trashy reading).

So instead of doing school reading, or something useful and edifying like the three new books of poems (Mary Karr and 2 Mary Olivers) that Amazon just delivered, I will be reading...(drum roll, please)

Last Rituals, a murder mystery by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, an Icelandic author
The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown
Not That You Asked: Rants Exploits and Obsessions by Steve Almond
Right Livelihoods, a collection of novellas by the incomparable Rick Moody
Chronicler of the Winds, another murder mystery, by Henning Mankell
and (I'm embarrassed to say)
Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon.

If I'm going to be in fantasyland, I may as well REALLY be in fantasyland. And I just finished Elizabeth Strout's Abide with Me, which is one of the most transcendent bits of writing I've had the pleasure of reading in the past few months, so I figure I can get away with reading some semi-trashy stuff before school re-starts.

And there is a batch of chocolate chip cookies in the cookie tin, and I will make apple crisp tonight - carefully - so I won't starve. Wonderful L has insisted on bringing dinner Thursday night and , knowing her, chocolate will be involved in some form. There's a batch of beef stew in the freezer. And I get to spend two whole days sitting around in my jammies.

It isn't all that bad.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Not a Good Day

The platelet count is down to 15 (normal is 150-450). I'm waiting to hear if we can get a nurse to come to my home to give me the IViG infusions. They are also concerned that I'm still hacking and coughing, so I had to get a chest x-ray, to rule out walking pneumonia.

This stinks. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Go see "Atonement." It is a powerful movie, beautifully filmed and acted. If anyone has doubts about the horror of war and the intensity of love, this is the story to hear. Vanessa Redgrave. Still the best actress on the planet. Saoirse Ronan, who looks to be about 12 years old, may turn out to be one of the best actresses of the next generation. Not your usual Hollywood film. Keep your eye out for the brilliant director Anthony Minghella (of "The English Patient") as an interviewer.

My platelet count appears to be worse. More petechiae (little red dots indicating bleeding under the skin) on my arms as well as my legs. I went for a blood test this morning (draw from the back of my hand - blecchhh!) and am awaiting the results from the doc. I'm hoping to avoid a hospitalization. Autoimmune diseases stink.

Dreaming of a trip to the Greek Isles, sitting on the sunny beach with a big straw hat, a cold drink, and a pile of good books. Instead I'm sitting on my couch with tea and no hat and a pile of work I should do (like finishing the Post-Apartheid Reconciliation paper and writing my sermon for next week). Oh, well...a girl can dream.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Ups and downs

I started off the day babysitting for the dear 21 month old son of my Homiletics professor. He was still asleep when I got to the house, which was a good thing, because I suddenly felt pretty awful (sweats, nausea, dizziness). Fortunately, it passed. I am presuming it was from some cough medicine I took before leaving my house. I sure wish this malaise would leave. I have to revisit the hematologist on Tuesday (after the annual mammosquish) and hope the news will be good. Anyway, His Nibs was his usual charming self, with a couple of new words (camel and zebra) to share with me. Sitting for him is a substitute for spending time with my grandbabies who live so far away, and is a pleasure.

Then it was off to lunch at a nice restaurant with a lobbyist friend from my past life. Many restaurants in the area of Your Nation's Capital participate in Restaurant Week, when you can try different venues that have a prix-fixe menu (lunch is three courses for $20.08, dinner is three courses for $30.08). Suffice to say you couldn't normally eat this kind of grub for such a price, and it was a delight being treated by my old friend and having a fun conversation with him about matters political, theological, parental and marital.

I swung by the seminary on my way home to pick up a paper from my Pastoral Care and Counseling course - I knew it had finally been graded and was waiting in my box. The prof had written to me a couple of days ago, asking if she could use a redacted version of it as a sample for future students, a lovely compliment. When I picked it up today, I saw she had written "one of the best papers I've seen in my teaching career in terms of its comprehensibility, writing, solid research and pastoral grasp." Gee whiz! Of course, next week I'll probably get some other papers back in other courses that decry my inability to articulate a theme, my clumsy use of language, my thin research and lack of pastoral understanding, so my head is staying firmly its normal size, and not swelled up. Still it's nice to get an A+ and such kind words.

Tonight PH and I will go to the movies to see "Atonement"- the rest of the weekend will be quite busy with icon-writing on Saturday midday, contemporary service at Saint Middle School Saturday night, regular services at Saint Middle School Sunday Morning, lay committee meeting after church, rehearsal at St P's for our "Sing Me a Love Song concert,"and (I hope) the wrap-up of my paper on Post-Apartheid Reconciliation in the late afternoon and evening. PH has a congregational meeting Sunday evening, so it seems we will be ships passing in the night or something. I may get a silly video for Sunday night, since it seems we don't have any good "Mystery!" stuff on PBS lately. I miss my Inspector Lynley Mysteries, although the new Helen is nowhere near as interesting as old Helen.

So much for a restful week. I babysat 14 hours, had a lunch and a dinner out with friends, and dealt with the aggravation of medical issues.

Next week should start out light, but ends with diocesan council on Friday and Saturday. At least this year it's only 30 miles away from home instead of 100.

I think I'll go have a drink.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Prayers, Please

I'm having a recurrence of a blood problem (ITP, for those who care about such things) that has been in remission for a couple of years. I noticed a lot of bruising and little red dots called petechiae on my legs and arms over the weekend, and when I had my blood tested, the platelet count was quite low. So now we're watching and waiting for a week - if it doesn't resolve itself (which it has sometimes in the past), it means a couple of days of being hooked up to an infusion pump and getting major drugs pumped into me.

Suffice to say, I'd like to avoid the infusion if possible. The funny thing is that I feel fine, except for the remnants of the cold in the form of a dry cough. Ah, well, stuff happens.

On a lighter note, I had lunch with the rector of my sponsoring parish today...yummy Indian food. Lots of hard-core theological conversation (he has a doctorate in theology and ethics), and it was fun to be able to have such a conversation and be able to hold my own in it. Guess I'm learning something after all.

Off to organize my closet and drawers!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Today's Sermon

Despite still feeling under the weather, I went to my home parish, St. P's, and preached for the first time. Here it is:

It’s good to be here with you, but I must admit it is rather odd standing up here, preaching. The preaching itself isn’t new: I’ve been preaching at least once a month at my field education site, Saint Middle School, since I started there in the fall. But this is the first time I’ve preached for YOU, and it is a very different thing preaching for my church family than it is to preach there. When I began to attend Saint P’s in 1995, I couldn’t have imagined standing here, and preaching the Gospel.

So this is a beginning of sorts, coming back here to preach. It is a redefining of our relationship, you and I. I am no longer Mibi who sings in choir, or Mibi who was Senior Warden, or Mibi who likes to cook. Now I am Mibi, on the road to becoming a priest. A beginning.

Beginnings are wonderful and frightening things, fraught with possibilities. When I began seminary, I had ideas about what it might be like, the work, the opportunity to pray in community so often throughout the day, the chance to study Scripture in depth. My ideas were uniformly wrong. The work was more intense than I expected. I needed to change my style of writing to an academic style I hadn’t used in thirty years. There wasn’t enough time to read everything that was assigned. There wasn’t enough time to truly digest all that I was given in my Scripture classes.

There were many joys, though. And in the midst of it all, I found a deeper, more spiritually mature relationship with God.

But make no mistake about it, beginnings are scary, even as they are exciting.

Our Gospel today is another beginning story, full of things that don’t turn out as expected. Just as I couldn’t have imagined preaching here a dozen years ago, neither did John the Baptist imagine that the Messiah would come to him and ask to be baptized. Think about this passage, and where it is in Matthew’s story: just before this, John has been telling off the Pharisees and Sadducees who came down to the Jordan to see what he was up to: “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me…He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
Harsh words. So John sets up a vision of the coming Messiah as someone powerful and even frightening. But now John is standing with this man, his own cousin, and he knows somehow who he is. Jesus quietly asks him for baptism in the River Jordan. John protests: “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus is firm, saying it is necessary, “proper to fulfill all righteousness.” So John goes ahead as Jesus has asked.

And an unexpected thing happens, not the thing that normally happens when John baptizes people. The skies open, the spirit descends like a dove, the voice of God speaks. God, confirming who this is: His SON, in whom God is well-pleased. John may perform the act of baptism, but it is the spirit who anoints Jesus and God Himself who proclaims Jesus’ identity. “This is my son, my beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” A Son of God, sent from God, beloved of God, made man.

This is not the baptism that John expected. It is something entirely different, a new kind of washing and anointing, the beginning of a new relationship between God and humanity, because God has sent his Son to be one of us.

It might be useful to take a moment to think about baptism at that time. Remember that ritual baths for cleansing – the mikvah - were a common part of the religion of the Jews. Very Orthodox Jews still use the mikvah as a melding of spiritual and physical cleansing. And in that time, when Gentiles were converted to Judaism, such a ritual bath would be part of the rite to affirm their new faith. So washing one’s body and one’s soul in the waters was a familiar image to them, and John’s act of baptizing would be seen as such a cleansing. Remember John’s words “I baptize with water for repentance.”

Think too about where this is happening: It’s the river Jordan. It’s the very water that Joshua led the Israelites through to the Promised Land. You may recall that when the feet of the priests touched the river waters, God parted those waters so the Israelites could cross, much as God parted the Red Sea when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. It was a beginning when the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, a fulfillment of God’s covenant to deliver them from the Egyptians. This River Jordan is a marker of new beginnings for the Jews. And it is a marker of new beginnings for Jesus, too, for this act of baptism is the first act of Christ’s active ministry, it is the first step on a long journey to Jerusalem, and to the cross.
If you were a Jew who was listening to this Gospel in the time that Matthew wrote it, you would have been give enough information to know exactly what was going on here. The location at the River Jordan, the reiteration of the quote from Isaiah, even the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, all would have established that Jesus was the Messiah. That would have been the central question to those listeners at that time.

But what of us? We are twenty-first century Christians. How do we hear it? When we hear this story, our likely question is the same as John’s. Why does Jesus need to be baptized? Isn’t he without sin? He doesn’t need cleansing.

Jesus says he should be baptized to “fulfill all righteousness.” These are words that aren’t common parlance for us. What does righteousness mean? Nowadays we’d say it means virtue, morality, justice, honesty. All those are good synonyms for righteousness in our time, in our culture. But perhaps we need to hear it as those first century Jews did. It is a word heard over and over again in the Hebrew Bible, and in that context, it means honoring the covenant. It means keeping one’s part of the contract, in this case the contract between God and his people.

All those prophecies of one who is to come, all those words about God keeping His promise: these are fulfilled in Jesus. He is the covenant. He is God keeping his promise that he will not forsake his people who believe in him. And this act, this anointing, this washing, is not only the act that identifies Jesus as God’s fulfillment of the covenant, it is the sanctification of that act itself, of that water, for us, too, to be blessed, to be one with the Son of God who was himself the fulfillment of the promise. Jesus Christ became man to save us, and in solidarity with humanity, he too stepped into the water of new beginnings, sanctifying it forevermore so that we might have a new beginning, washed clean in that holy water.

And here is the wonderful tension between the old and the new in this great story. This is a new beginning, a new story, a new covenant. But it is also a fulfillment of the original covenant between God and his people. Just as our baptism is a new story, a new contract, it also fulfills the original covenant. Think of the words of the Thanksgiving over the Water in our Service of Baptism: “We thank you for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of Creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the Land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.” It is a reiteration of the old promise even as it is a covenant of the new promise. And as my relationship with you all is an affirmation of all that has gone before, it, too is transformed into something new, a road that you all put me on.

We have put away the Christmas decorations, vacuumed up the pine needles, started our New Year’s diet, and begun a new year. But the calendar and the clock are not the only markers of new beginnings. The water is, too. In our baptism in that sanctified water, we have the opportunity to rewrite our own story, in faithfulness to our baptismal covenant, with God’s help. We can make the choices that reflect God’s priorities, not our own. We can reflect on our relationship with God, and what it might be, if we are willing to fulfill all righteousness. Christ has done it first. We need only make a new beginning, to step in His footsteps.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Strange Weather

Yesterday, it made it all the way up to 73 degrees Fahrenheit. Today, it's 63. One would hope that it would have baked this nasty cold out of me, but it is not so. Still have a nasty cough.

I'm taking a Jan term course this week, "Reconciliation and Transformation in a Post-Apartheid Culture" with the woman who runs the Spirals Trust in South Africa, which does a lot of work in helping people heal in that world. Difficult issues, difficult conversations. Taking this class from 6:45 to 9:45 at night is exhausting. The class is a good mix of seminary students and laity. Ages run from 24 to somewhere around 75. A diverse group in every way. It has really gotten me chewing on the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is something I give someone else, because at the heart of it, it is healing for me to do that. Reconciliation is a reciprocal act, and requires the person who wounds to acknowledge their act, repent of it, and ask to reconstruct a broken relationship. It is not a quick process.

So much of what we seem to focus on these days is the quick fix in a crisis situation. We tell the little child who has struck her playmate "Tell her you're sorry." And she does, but we can tell from the tone of her voice that she doesn't mean it, doesn't understand it. I wonder if it leads to a mechanical "I'm sorry" with no heart behind it that we use for the rest of our lives.

If we can't look into ourselves and see what we have done, when we have done wrong, how can we look into the eyes of someone we've hurt and ask if it is possible to rebuild the relationship?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Christmas is over

StrongOpinions is back in the shadow of the Flatiron Range, the decorations are off the Christmas tree (but the tree hasn't been put out back yet), and the cold is starting to fade, thank goodness. I'm passing on church tomorrow, for fear of giving others this cold, but will go later in the evening to a soup party at L's house with all the folks from school who are in town, mostly GOE-takers. They finished their ordeal today. Blessings on them all.

They had gotten a letter from our Bishop prior to the exam, telling them not to worry - that he viewed GOEs as diagnostic rather than something that would block someone from ordination. So what are the prescriptions that follow a bad grade on one of the sections? Usually a paper of some sort. Some folks are bad test-takers, so doing a paper is a more comfortable thing. I just keep wondering what the true purpose of these exams are. Since all Episcopal seminarians either attend an Episcopal seminary for all three years, or get an MDiv from another seminary and then spend a year doing what is referred to as an "Anglican year" getting Anglican Church History and litugics and such, and since the curricula amongst the various schools is pretty consistent, the product the church gets - we seminarians - is as consistent as it could be, assuming our grades are honest representations of our work. And if our passing or failing these exams has no bearing on whether we are ordained, why take them? If there is a major failing in a particular area, a paper won't solve the problem.

It seems we should either take these tests seriously or eliminate them. The stress - and it IS stressful taking these tests, regardless of the comfort of the Bishop's letter - seems unnecessary. The questions seem directed toward academic interests (one this year was "Do you believe there is such a thing as an intrinsically evil act?" and one was expected to answer it with a three page paper in three and a half hours...heaven help us) rather than the practical problems of the parish.

Just wondering why we do this. I will take them next year and will do adequately on them, I hope. But it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Seems more like a hazing stunt than a useful measure of our readiness for the priesthood.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Foggy thoughts

I'm a bit foggy from all the cold meds, which only partially treat the symptoms of this catarrh that has me in its clutches. Nonetheless, I've gotten some good things done today. I got up early and went over to school to make sure my volunteers had gotten the GOE hospitality all set up. I ran over at lunchtime and a merry band was there, playing Hearts and applauding each senior as they came in from the rigors of exam-taking. Tomorrow my co-leader in this project will be back from Texas and can finish things up. Tomorrow is a light day anyway - they only have one exam section, in the afternoon.

I got about halfway through the sermon for 1/13, at my home parish. It's a very intellectual crowd, and it will be a challenge coming up with something that will be fresh for them. Nevertheless, I'm really looking forward to preaching there.

I made dinner this evening for my best friend L and her family - roast chicken, roasted new potatoes, green beans amandine and fresh chocolate chip cookies. Strong Opinions and I brought it over to her. She looks so happy to be past the halfway point of GOEs.

So I'm back on the couch getting up my energy to make dinner for PH and StrongOpinions - roast salmon, mashed potatoes, asparagus. And the other half of the batch of chocolate chip cookies.

Life - even in the midst of a bad cold - is good.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Snort, snort, Cough, cough, ick.

Colds are nasty things. Mine is wandering around various body parts, trying to decide if it will migrate to my chest and become bronchitis, or simply stay in my head, making it well nigh impossible to breathe in bed at night. I usually get one bad old cold a year, and this is it. I'm hoping that this time next year, when I'll be taking the GOEs, I will not have this cold, or any other cold.

Speaking of GOEs, they started today. My lovely crew of GOE hospitality folks did a good job, with very little work on my part, providing the goodies that helped our seniors survive the first two sections of the exams. The reactions of the seniors reinforced my belief that GOEs cannot be studied for, one can only organize one's reference materials and pray.

StrongOpinions is home from the Big Apple, which she adored. I think she'll sleep for another day to fully recover. She may apply to a few schools there, transferring from her present tiny college in the shadow of the Flatiron Range. That'll be a culture shock. She'd only be two and a half hours away from us by Acela, as opposed to five hours by plane. I'd like that, although when she said her friend's neighborhood looked like a set from Law and Order, I had second thoughts.

Parenting is hard work.

Today is Litigator's 24th birthday. Holy cow - how did that creep up on me?