Sunday, March 30, 2008

Well and Truly Home

PH and I were down at a conference of his for much of the past week. It was a celebratory event for him - he's qualified for Diplomate status (a big deal earned by very few folks in his profession) and he's been elected VP of his professional association, which also means he will automatically become president in two years. I went along to lend wifely support (he got dragged along to a bunch of my conferences back when I was a lobbyist in the banking industry, so this is turnabout-fair play). Because he is a pastoral counselor, and many of the conference presentations have applicability to the work I'll do in parish ministry, I went to learn new things. A good conference, with some interesting speakers. I'm glad I went.

It's a sign of how very ingrained seminary has become in my life that it felt odd not having assigned reading, not having written assignments, not being required to do anything except sit there. Of course, having gotten used to not doing anything like that over the past several days, going back to regular classes at Big Old Seminary tomorrow will be a shock to the system.

A good shock, though. I love what I'm doing,, and I'm glad I'm back to being healthy enough to dig back in.

The cats are still being disdainful of us as a way of punishing us for being gone so long. Since this so closely resembles their everyday behavior, we are not unduly concerned.

A shout-out to the RevGals who are off on the cruise. Have a drink with a little parasol in it for me. The sound you hear is a longing sigh.

Time Flies

Litigator and StoneMason. Note the black eye on StoneMason and the scratch on Litigator...common events in their lives. The phrase "No Fear" was invented for them, particularly StoneMason. Actually, I think this one dates back to when their father totaled the station wagon with them sharing a seat belt while sitting on the front seat. Enough said. Now Litigator has a goatee and StoneMason is over 6 feet tall.

And on the left, here's StrongOpinions. Somehow I don't think she'd wear a bow like that any more.
Hard to believe these pictures are 16 or 17 years old.
Then I look in the mirror, and it's suddenly much easier to believe!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


All the work for the incompletes is done. I turned in the paper for Theology of Mission this morning. Then I went shopping for some stationery, got some yarn to knit a stole for a friend, went to lunch at L's house, and came home to relax, watch some "Balllykissangel," do some time on the elliptical and look forward to going out of town with PH for the rest of the week.

Feeling good...

Sunday, March 23, 2008


We had our Easter sunrise service on the land donated for Saint Middle School's church building. It'll be a while before we're ready to build, but it was wonderful having the first-ever service on the land...but oh, my goodness, it was cold! When I got out to the site to help set up our "church in a box" at 6:45 am, it was 32 deg F. The vicar and I were stylishly togged out in our cassocks, our matching black wool coats on top of the cassocks, and our white surplices on top of black gloveswhich we wore for the whole service except for communion. I had my nice warm winter boots on - a good idea, since it was a bit of a hike up the hill and through the brush to get to our stone cross. No hats, though...should have thought of that. A brief Eucharist - 24 minutes in all - followed by hot coffee, mimosas (I love being an Episcopalian) and doughnuts. By then, the sun had risen high enough that we 24 hardy souls could fool ourselves into believing we were warm.

After that, and a quick second cup of coffee from the coffee shop nearby, we went to Saint Middle School's usual location for a more traditional, and considerably longer, Easter Sunday service. All time high in attendance - 200 at the 10 am. Gee, if we could have those numbers every Sunday, we'd be ready to think of building! The service was followed by a potluck brunch and an Easter Egg hunt, and then the long drive home.

I celebrated the completion of my first Easter week assisting as seminarian in Field Ed by taking a hot bath, to get the last chill out of my bones. Time for a nap! Alleluia!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Five: Good Friday Edition

TOH to Rev HRod at the RevGalBlogPals site for this meme:

Our prayer concerns are as varied as we are this day.

For whom would you like us to pray?

For PH's uncle who is having a difficult time recovering from two surgeries for cancer, and for his wife, who is having a hard time with all this. For my priest friend in Kenya, Samuel, whose mother died this week after an illness that would have been treatable if there was a good hospital in his part of the country. For those who are trying to discern God's will for them and are struggling to hear God's voice amidst the clutter of life.

Are there things you have done or will do today to help the young ones understand this important day in our lives?

When mine were little, we talked about what a hard day this was, but how necessary it was, and how great a gift it has been to all of us.

Music plays an important part in sharing the story of this day. Is there a hymn or piece of music that you have found particularly meaningful to your celebrations of Good Friday?

Bach. The Passion Chorale ("O Sacred Head Sore Wounded").

As you hear the passion narrative, is there a character that you particularly resonate with?

Pilate's wife. So often I speak, but don't take the next step and act.

Where have you seen the gracious God of love at work lately?

The kindness of my professors when I was ill, the privilege of participating in a review for full professorship for one of them, the healing power of music and Scripture, the importance of family and the gift of familial love.

Peace be with all of you on this day, and this weekend.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy Thursday

Just back from the Maundy Thursday at Saint Middle School - it went very well, including the footwashing. I felt like my part in it went well, and I certainly left feeling uplifted by it.

I also got the Church History paper done and delivered to the seminary. Tomorrow I may start the Theology of Mission paper, or I may not. Somehow it doesn't seem like I should be doing schoolwork on Good Friday (I have a service to assist at in the evening - another 80 miles on my poor car). We'll see. I may just quietly read.

Time to go rest...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Can we please just cut to the chase and put this guy in the White House right NOW?

The speech about race in America and, parenthetically, about Reverend Wright, was genius. He was not defensive about his relationship with Reverend Wright. He said what he disagreed with. But what impressed me - yet again - was that he turned it into a teachable moment about race for all Americans. He turned something that could have been mere political defense into a statement of what we face every day, what African-Americans and other people fo color face every day, and what we might turn that into if we have the courage.

Is it all about his ability to give a speech? Maybe. But to me, what it's really all about is the imagination and intellectual curiosity to think beyond the quick political answers and get to a vision of what this nation might become if we are willing to take a risk.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a President who doesn't follow the old playbook every time?

Blah, but Maybe Moving Towards Ah

The praise music Tenebrae went well, and I was glad to have helped out in the soprano section. No, I didn't like the music, but it was sung well, and was heartfelt, and we had a good bunch of parishioners who seemed genuinely touched by it, so it was worth the 80 miles' drive roundtrip. The truly interesting service will be the sunrise Easter Sunday one - we will do it out on the land that has been donated for our church, when we can afford to build it. I'm wearing my rubber boots to deal with the mud, then changing into less hardy gear for the 10 a.m. service...although the rubber boots may go back on for the Easter Egg Hunt.

I'm having a hard time getting moving on the two papers I have to write. I don't know whether I can blame it on residual tiredness from the illness of a few weeks ago or not, but I would just like to sit down and churn out the darned thing, plus the other paper that needs finishing (actually, it needs starting, to be accurate). I've got until April 15th for both of them, but I'd like to get them done a) before the fourth quarter starts; and b) before we leave for Norfolk next Wednesday. Enough whining, though...

My advisor called early this morning to read me the draft of my Middler Evaluation letter. Big Old Seminary is required to send an annual letter to my bishop advising how I am doing. The one for the junior year is pro forma - basically "doing the right stuff and learning and all that" unless one is doing something illegal, immoral, or unethical. The Middler one is a big deal, since it precedes our interviews with our Commission on Ministry for candidacy for ordination. So when she called, I wondered what would be included. It was actually quite lovely, saying all sorts of nice things just short of "she walks on water," which would of course have been innaccurate. I doggy-paddle. Anyway, nice to get that affirmation from the advisor. The Middler eval committee may wordsmith it a bit, so it will be interesting to see what the final looks like. I guess I'd better do a good job on these wayward papers that are due - I'd hate to have my profs think that they said all those nice things in the letter and they weren't really true.

Enough procrastination. Time for lunch. (Wait - is that procrastinating?)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Getting Things Done

Two exams completed today: Church History (online) and Theology of Mission (oral final). I think I did adequately. That'll do for me these days. One more exam to go - Christian Ethics.

Two papers to write over the next seven days: Lutheran Pietism and its Radical View of Lay Religious Education, and Themes of Mission and Grace in the Hymnody of the Wesleys. Ten pages each. That's do-able, despite all the Field Ed work that lies ahead.

I sang the praise-music Tenebrae Service this evening at Saint Middle School. Forty miles out there in rush hour traffic. Gack. Yes, I know Tenebrae is normally done on Wednesday of Holy Week, but this was when the space was available to us. Tomorrow evening is a break, then services on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. I am so glad I don't have classes the rest of the week.

It feels good to know that I'm getting caught up, slowly. It also feels good to know that I'm managing this at a reasonable pace and not pushing myself to exhaustion. Yes, I can knock out a ten-page paper in a day if I really go full bore, but the quality of the paper isn't as good, and it would take me a couple of days to recover. This plan seems much wiser.

Things have slowed way down in the Fat Club world, but that is no surprise. The good news is that I've started some gentle exercise, so that may move things along a bit. It sure would be nice to drop another ten pounds. Heck, it sure would be nice to drop another five. It'll happen. It'll just take time.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday Random Dots

  • After last week's great big drop in weight, I'm up almost a pound at Fat Club. Sigh. I know this is the way it goes sometimes, but...

  • 2nd Stepson turned 31 yesterday. It seems like only yesterday he was five years old (when I first met him). He was cute then, and he's still cute today. Happy Bday, B.

  • Stonemason requested a replacement engine for his mini-bike for his 22nd bday, in two weeks. They may be chronologically adult, but there's a still a little bit of little boy in all of them. Thank goodness, I think.

  • Today is a busy day. I went to Fat Club, came home to do a very light workout on the elliptical, and will leave soon to do icon-writing, then out to Saint Middle School for our Saturday Night Contemporary Service. It feels good to be getting back into the swing of things, although I still get tired. Yes, I'm being careful.

  • This week will be rock-'em sock-'em. As with all folks in the religion business, this is our busiest week of the year. Tenebrae on Tuesday, Maundy Thursday service, Good Friday Service, sunrise service on Easter morning, later service, Easter egg hunt, potluck brunch...thank goodness there's no school. Somehow I think I'll be relying heavily on Trader Joe's prepared foods rather than cooking this week. No time to do ANYTHING domestic (which is why I'm doing wash today and sorta giving up for the next eight days. I think I've got enough clean clothes...

  • The cats are very grateful that I have made it easier for them to get their daily supply of water by leaving a cup of water at my bedside. The cup is just big enough to get a paw into. They are also grateful that I left out my meds, which roll very amusingly across the nighttable when batted by a paw.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Friday Five: Time and Transitions

1. If you could travel to any historical time period, which would it be, and why?

Venice in the time of Vivaldi (early 1700s). It would be interesting to see one of my favorite cities and hear the first performances of one of my favorite composers, the Red Priest.

2. What futuristic/science fiction development would you most like to see?

Clean air, clean water, food for all, nonpolluting transportation.

3. Which do you enjoy more: remembering the past, or dreaming for the future?

Definitely the future. I love possibilities.

4. What do you find most memorable about this year's Lent?

Participating in the Holy Week activities as a seminarian - very different from behind the altar.

5. How will you spend your time during this upcoming Holy Week? What part do you look forward to most?

As usual, I'll be assisting at the Palm Sunday service. I'll be singing in a Tenebrae Service on Tuesday, assisting in footwashing at the Maundy Thursday service, assisting at the Good Friday evening service. I'll be "off-duty" on Saturday, then helping with the whole wild Easter Sunday celebration, from the Eucharist to the Easter Egg Hunt. I think I'm looking forward to helping with the footwashing the most, because it feels like such a "first" for me.

After all these years of cooking Easter Sunday dinners, I think I'll be doing something very simple since it's just PH and me this year. Maybe I'll have him grill some lamb. No, I won't be eating chocolate bunnies. Too many Fat Club points....

Thursday, March 13, 2008

It's Working

...the prayers, the support. I'm getting stronger, slowly, every day.

Today is the last day of classes before exams and spring break. Given the busy Holy Week schedule, that's a good thing. We can do what we need to do in both arenas, school and Field Ed, while not being overwhelmed. Even for me, who will be playing catch-up on writing and exams, this is manageable, and is a blessing.

I'm participating over the next couple of days on a review committee for one of our profs who is being considered for full professorship. Keep the members of this committee, made up of students, faculty, administration and an outside consultant, in your prayers, that we do the work that honors the gifts of this prof and that recognizes the shifting needs of this seminary.

Driving out to Saint Middle School tonight for a rehearsal for our Tuesday night Tenebrae Service. It will be my first time back among them since I got sick, and it feels so good to be doing that.

Are you ready for the week ahead?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


After a slightly rocky start this morning, I actually had a very good day. I was at school from 9 to 3:30, three classes plus a meeting plus lunch, and didn't need to nap when I came home. I also cooked dinner (a great scallops and cauliflower and spinach recipe from Epicurious that would probably have set off all my tummy sensors last week). Tomorrow and Thursday are the last two days of class in the quarter, and are both light days. Friday I've got a couple of meetings, nothing the least bit strenuous. Then I can chill and get the rest of the work wrapped up at a sane pace over the next couple of weeks.

Life is good, and maybe even getting better.

And, bliss of blisses, the new LitterMaid automatic cat box arrived today, along with a whole beautiful box of citrus fruits from PH's dear family to help me get healthy and him to stay healthy!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Grand Plans

..usually come to naught. Today was no exception. I was set to go to church this morning.

I got up on time, despite the evil Daylight Savings Time change, eat breakfast and showered, in anticipation of going out to Saint Middle School for Field Ed...and promptly lost all steam and had to have a lie-down on the couch. I called my supervisor who was gracious (or did I hear a teensy bit of a sigh in her voice?) and said I just couldn't get out there today. Given that it's over 35 miles in each direction, I think I probably made the right choice, although I still feel guilty about it.

So I sat on the couch in a half-dead state for a while (PH was off preaching on Dry Bones at his church), then got a couple of short papers knocked off for school. I'm going to see if I have the energy to do the three-pager for Ethics, but I just can't seem to get started on it. Maybe that's another grand plan that will have to wait another day. I spent some time on the Systematics assignment, a doctrinal sermon on the Trinity. It's now three-quarters done, and unfortunately, it's a dog that needs putting down. I will, however, wait until I've written a replacement that is better before I shoot the old one. The dog may just need a bath and some grooming.

This may be the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in action. I thought this might be a cool sermon for the David HC Read competition, and now I'm wondering if I'm trying too hard for exactly that reason. Bah.

Only two classes tomorrow, thank goodness. Don't know if I have energy for more than that. PH is making Beer Can Chicken tonight, so all I have to do is a couple of veggies. That's about my speed. I cooked the full meal last night and I was whupped. Time for more energy, God, please....

Saturday, March 08, 2008

One More Bit of Nice News

Fat Club weigh-in this morning was a pleasant experience. 6.4 pounds, for a total near to ten pounds lost thus far. Hitting the ten pound mark would have been nice, but it was a bridge too far. Most of this week's loss was my body normalizing after a week of IVs and a transfusion and various and sundry meds, but I'll take it gladly. I expect next week's loss will be much more modest. There are many more pounds to go, but I've got until next January (when I'll have to start job search).

This point thing seems to work....

Friday Five (Belated); Hopeful Edition

Via the revgals --

What have you seen/ heard this week that was a :

1. Sign of hope?
Feeling a bit stronger and starting to attend classes again.

2. An unexpected word of light in a dark place?
The wise encouragement of a number of my professors that I take some incompletes rather than trying to push my way through the last of this quarter, when I am still trying to get healthy again. So many said "You're a good student, we know you are capable, we trust you'll get it done, and this is what incompletes are for." As someone who struggles with people's perceptions of me as "good enough," this was a great blessing.

3. A sign of spring?
Sprouting bulbs in the little flowerbed we planted by the entrance of our seminary townhouse, earthworms on the sidewalk after spring rain, warmer temps, recognition that after Spring break, it will only be six weeks until Middler year is done.

4. Challenging/ surprising?
Recognition that after spring break, it will only be six weeks until Middler year is has passed so quickly, and there's a piece of me that's a little surprised that theyll foist me upon some parish somewhere so soon.

5. Share a hope for the coming week/month/year....
Week -- continued improvement in strength and ability to concentrate
Month -- completion of outstanding work, and approval of my honors thesis proposal
Year -- a wonderful and rich senior year with some opportunities to do some exciting work in areas that interest me....and then ordination!

Bonus play... a piece of music/ poem guaranteed to cheer you? Brahms Intermezzos, anything by Nelly McKay or Carrie Newcomer, poetry of Cynthia Rylant ("God Went to Beauty School") and Mary Karr, whose new book of poetry, "Sinners Welcome" is pure joy. Herein, a copy of one poem from that collection, as it was reprinted on Karr's website:


Before my first communion at 40, I clung
to doubt as Satan spider-like stalked
the orb of dark surrounding Eden
for a wormhole into paradise.

God had first formed me in the womb
small as a bite of burger.
Once my lungs were done
He sailed a soul like a lit arrow

to inflame me. Maybe that piercing
made me howl at birth,
or the masked creatures
whose scalpel cut a lightning bolt to free me—

I was hoisted by the heels and swatted, fed
and hauled through rooms. Time-lapse photos show
my fingers grew past crayon outlines,
my feet came to fill spike heels.

Eventually, I lurched out to kiss the wrong mouths,
get stewed, and sulk around. Christ always stood
to one side with a glass of water.
I swatted the sap away.

When my thirst got great enough
to ask, a stream welled up inside;
some jade wave buoyed me forward;
and I found myself upright

in the instant, with a garden
inside my own ribs aflourish. There, the arbor leafs.
The vines push out plump grapes.
You are loved, someone said. Take that

and eat it.
--Mary Karr

Friday, March 07, 2008

Hospital + one week

I need to remind myself of the progress of one week since I came home from the hospital, otherwise I will continue to be an impatient whiner.

Today I went to Small Group Worship at my advisor's house, a 90-minute lecture in Systematic Theology, lunch in the refectory (something of a mistake, given the faux Chinese food on the menu, but my innards will settle soon), and choir rehearsal, where I was the substitute choir director while our dear Dr Bill is out of town.

I managed to get through it all pretty well, although when I came home at 2 pm (having left the house at 8 a.m.) I was tired and had to nap on the couch for 90 minutes.

In contrast, I went to school on Monday for two one hour classes and lunch time, and had to spend all of Tuesday on the couch.

This is progress of a sort. I will take it very easy tomorrow, except for the Fat Club weigh-in, where I expect good news, since I've been away from hospital cuisine for a week. On Sunday I may or may not go to Field Ed, depending on how I feel, but this time last week I couldn't have imagined driving 37 miles in each direction, assisting at the service and teaching the teens. I do have a video for them, BTW, so my level of energy can be somewhat less than usual and we can still get something done.

At the Refectory today, I ran into my Commission on Ministry (the Diocesan clergy-lay body that advises the Bishop on those of us who want to become priests) - they were in to do final ordination interviews with our seniors, who expect to be ordained to the transitional diaconate in late May. Several Commission members had heard about my illness and come up to check in and give hugs, even the sometimes intimidating administrator of the group. Another wonderful instance of support from a source that I didn't quite expect - shows how the Spirit continues to surprise me.

I'll be meeting with them in May for our candidate interviews, when they will determine if we are to be candidates for ordination. They call it The Process for a reason. Do we have too many lawyers developing this methodology?

One element of this year in my seminary career is my Middler Evaluation. In our Junior year, these letters which go to our Bishops are pro forma. As long as you're not completely tanking school or doing something that frightens the horses, you're fine. The Middler eval is a different animal. The student writes a self-evaluation first, the advisor writes his/her starting evaluation, then solicits the input of all the professors and incorporates it into the letter. The advisor meets with the student to share the draft prior to it being sent off, at which point the student may respond (which may or may not result in modifications to the letter) and it gets sent off to the Bishop. This letter can generate much conversation in the Commission on Ministry candidate interview. The letters that my friends have received have ranged from "sweet, but dumb as a post" to "gifted, well-prepared for ministry, here are some ideas for continued growth." So when my advisor told me this morning at the end of Small Group Worship, "Mibi, you're next for Middler Evaluation," there was surprisingly little consternation in my heart.

I know I've worked hard and have done reasonably well across a broad range of disciplines, some better than others. I know I've tried to keep myself open to learning new things in contextual learning environments, and that when taught, I didn't need to be instructed twice. I know, most of all, that I so value the gift of this call and am increasingly certain of it day by day, that I am confident that the Spirit will guide me through this process, whatever happens. The evaluation letter may be good or it may be difficult, but the Spirit will guide me through.

This coming week, the last one of this quarter, holds no terrors for me, since I've asked for extensions from everyone. Wisdom finally trumped ego ("I can power this through.")

Than you for all your prayers and reminders that this is transitory and I'm in it for the long haul, not just the next couple of weeks. I'm a slow learner, but I think I'm catching on.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

We're In Mourning...

...the cats and PH and I right now.

The mighty LitterMaid automatic cat box has died.
They tend to last us two years and then they fade into the sunset. Our cats use them as amusement as well as functional necessities.
This is probably not the time to drop $100 for something like this.
But the moment PH came up from the basement and announced the demise, I immediately ordered another one.
Priorities, don't you know.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Slogging towards Easter

I went to noon Eucharist today, led the choir, sang a solo verse and descant...and now I'm resting on the couch at home. It seems like I can only do things in 90 minute chunks, and then I've got to seriously rest. So be it.

Easter is coming up so fast, and there is much to do between now and then, and I may not get much of it done. I'm trying to be at peace with that, but have very mixed feelings.

Someone sent me an e-mail talking about God's power of healing, which of course I believe in and have witnessed, and in the email they talked about a young woman cured of ovarian cancer, who had participated at some prayer services, then passed the tumors like grapes from her body. It reminds me too much, I think, of some of the televangelists who used to pretend to cure cancer by seemingly pulling what turned out to be chicken guts from the body of sick person. In that case, it was all about power and money, and not much about the Lord.

I do believe in God's healing power. I've seen it in my own life, for which I am exceedingly grateful. I've seen it in my children, a couple of whom seemed to be on a downward spiral but have come to a place of peace and healing. I've seen it in the baby who was born with many congenital defects and who was not expected to live, but who is now a year old and as perky as can be.But I wonder about the motives of those who promoted themselves in the story. And if this woman was healed, why not my dear friend M, a devout and faithful Christian who died this past summer, too young, of pancreatic cancer? And why not little Meg, an angel who died of multiple systems failure before she could get a liver transplant at 9 months of age? We prayed long and hard for both of them...and they died. And I'm at peace with that, because I know they are at the heavenly banquet table. But I have a hard time with an approach that says that one kind of praying brings miracles, and if the miracle doesn't occur, you weren't part of the right prayer team.

So am I condemned to damnation? Or am I just on too many different medications?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Long Slog

So I went to two classes yesterday, which was probably one too many. I came home, promptly spiked a fever and got a msierable headache. I spent the morning back at the doctor's getting more tests and another scrip for an antibiotic, Levaquin.

I think this is going to take longer to get over than I had thought. Drat. Thank God for Netflix instant view and the cats.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

C.P.E. (Cat Pastoral Energies)

Reasons why cats are good pastoral caregivers:

1) they are warm as they sit on your lap
2) they have no expectations of interaction
3) they don't sit and talk at you for thirty minutes, say "you must be tired" and then continue to talk for another twenty minutes
4) they've got the "non-anxious presence" thing down
5) they don't have Netflix movie preferences that conflict with your own
6) they know that the Great One is in control, not you, not them.

The downside, unfortunately, is that they smell like cat food.