Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Page Count Update - Tuesday

I'm now at 66 pages. Finished Chapter Five and am into Chapter Six, the final one. I still have another page or two to do on the second excursus, but I've decided to come back to that after this chapter is done.

This horse is heading toward the stable. If I don't get it done by Friday night, it will definitely be done by Monday, when I meet with my advisor.

The first list of seniors' new jobs was posted this morning. Two surprises, one not-so-much surprise, a few others that I had heard were in the works. The Diocese of Texas folks are in the home stretch of finalizing their curacy placements - the diocese places them. Okay, God, give me a clue here. Most of us don't have jobs yet. Just a wee bit stressful. Sigh.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Page Count Update - Saturday Noon

At 54 pages, into Chapter Five. Through the "signs and wonders" at the end of 27, now discussing the centurion and his response to what happened. I restructured some of the earlier material to create two "excursus" sections, and the second one will need some more work. I am getting more hopeful that the draft will be done by the end of this week. Whew.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Page Count Update - Friday

Only up to 50 pages today, but I did some extensive editing of earlier pages and I pretty much finished Chapter 4, so I can live with that. I will also do some writing tomorrow. My hope, insane as it seems, is to get this draft done by April 6th, when I meet again with my advisor. I think I'm done for today.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Page Count Update - Thursday

Only up to 47 pages. Three and a half today. A little drama that needed attending to, plus a job interview that is probably not the right place for me, ate into the day in a very annoying way. Still about five pages away from being done with the chapter. Maybe tomorrow I can wrap that up and start in on Chapter Five. That shouldn't be more than twelve pages (famous last words) and the Conclusion chapter no more than five. If I can get this draft written prior to Holy Week, it will be a.good.thing. I've got three sermons to write for Holy Week. Dang. Time to pray: " The day is over. What is done is done..."

Oh, and StrongOpinions got another tattoo this evening.

Parenthood is hard work. Writing a thesis is hard work. Thank God for God.

Many Miles, Many Questions

I had a good but exhausting day yesterday.

Left home at 0 dark 30 to drive down to the land of Mr. Jefferson's academical village.

I met with a member of a search committee who is also a friend. Her church, a fascinating little multicultural place in the midst of a university town, will be posting their position announcement for a new vicar the day after Easter. They have been through a bad patch with a vicar who wasn't the right fit, and the aftermath of that experience has taken a couple of years to work through. My friend is convinced that I might have the right skill set to help this place move forward and grow again.

Then I spent several hours with an old friend who is the rector of a large church (ASA 511 over two services) about 20 minutes away from the downtown of the same university town. He is looking for an associate rector. His current one is leaving because her husband is going back to school elsewhere. The area is growing, the church is financially healthy, the parishioners are an interesting mix of old and new (and the old welcomed the new), and they have a beautiful new organ and a growing music program. I also went to lunch with the rector and his former senior warden, who is on the search committee. It was one of those job interviews that masquerade as "it's just lunch." I suspect this job would be mine if I wanted it.

Then there is St Middle School, which is still in play and is wonderful but complicated. I would be the easy choice for them. They know me, I know them, we'd remain in the general area where PH works so he could maintain his existing practice, but the cost of living is higher.

The choices look something like this:
1) a place where I would be boss, would work a zillion hours, be in an extraordinarily cool place with very interesting parishioners, would be a hero if I turned it around after it went through some very hard times, and if it worked out I could stay there for a decade, making it worthwhile for PH to start a new practice;
2) a place where I could learn how to be a priest by apprenticing with an experienced, generous and successful priest who is also a grown-up, work a 40-hour week, be a part of a team but not the boss, and would get itchy to leave in two years (which is a challenge for poor PH, for whom building a new practice takes a few years);
3) a place where I would be boss of a sub-unit of a resource-sized parish (vicar of the mission) part of the time plus assistant for outreach and mission the rest of the time, probably work less hours than # 1 but more than #2, have to live out in the 'burbs, a little further out than I would like, but not have to move PH from his practice, and might be a place to stay for several years if it continued to grow, but would involve working with a wonderful but challenging rector (visionary, not detail-oriented, doesn't always close the loop).

Adding to the mix is the fact that this diocese does not normally name transitional deacons to head churches, even as vicars, which would mean the Bishop doing something potentially precedent-setting by approving me for either #1 or #3. That said, I do have the skill set to do the job. Mostly.

Suffice to say, I have a lot to chew on. What say ye?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Page Count Update: Tuesday Edition

Up to 44 pages as of today. I thought it was 45. Wishful thinking. Close, though.

The analysis of the Canaanite woman's story is done, and I'm on to the formation of the church, the last section of Chapter Four. Tomorrow will be a road day, so no new pages, but I've got some reading material with me in case I have a break to prepare for the next section. I think my eyes need the change - looking off down the road for a few hours in each direction will be a break from looking at small print (why do commentaries have those sections that aren't even footnotes but are written in 7 pt fonts?) and at the computer.

Road trip! Road trip!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Page Count Update

As of 4:30 this afternoon, I was at a total of 38 pages. A lot of progress in a single day. I'm hoping tomorrow will be as productive, and Thursday, Friday and Saturday. That would take me to 66, which is a good number. I've got maybe 3 more pages in this section of this chapter, then maybe 10-12 on the final section in this chapter. Next chapter will be shorter, perhaps 12-15 pages, then the conclusion, which I doubt will run more than 6 pages. An end in sight, maybe.

Wouldn't that be nice?

Editing will follow. I may have a few brain cells left when I am done. Maybe.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Yeah, I'm still alive.

Cranked out another 20 pages of thesis these past few days. Aiming for another 20 this coming week, which is spring break at Big Old Seminary. Add another 10 or 15 and I'll be done. The advisor likes what I've done thus far, but the clock is ticking. It has to be sent to the outside reader on April 15th.

I've got conversations with two different churches this Wednesday in the vicinity of lovely C-Ville, home of Mr. Jefferson's academical village. Although this is not the direction we wanted to move to, they are both interesting opportunities (very different) and the Albemarle County area is wonderful. So I'll get in the car at 6:30 on Wednesday morning and head southwest.

It's a rather remarkable story, how I found out about these opportunities. I had gotten rather unhappy about the invisibility of assistant rector jobs, and how it all seemed like an old-boy network, and how they only seemed to want to talk to young guys and not experienced women. So when I met with the Commission on Ministry, and they asked how things were going, I said, "Frankly, I'm getting a bit frustrated in my job search...you all have been so supportive and such an important part of my formation - now I need you to help me in this next step. I need you to be MY search committee, helping me to find out what is available out there." And remarkably, two women from the committee approached me as I was leaving to tell me about the first of these two opportunities.

Even more remarkably, the rector of this church was the former assistant at my sponsoring parish, and he had assisted at my wedding to PH.

More remarkable still, when I contacted him, he had already offered the job to someone else, but a week later, when the candidate had turned down his offer, he called me and wanted to talk.

And the other opportunity is with the mission parish of the woman who gave me the lead on the first job - they will be posting the job the day after Easter.

Something is happening here. I hope it is the Holy Spirit working, as usual, in ways I never expected. In any case, we shall see what happens next.

Meanwhile, I'm chilling out this weekend while PH is away at a conference in Charm City. Tomorrow is Saint Middle School (which is still in play as an opportunity as well) followed by my Lay Committee. Eight more weeks there as their seminarian. Wow.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Today's Sermon: Lent 3, John 2:13-22

When the world turns upside down, it’s surprising what things you will cling to. It may well not be the things you’d expect – the things that have monetary value. It seems that every time people are driven out of their homes by natural disaster, what they grab to save are things that mark what is close to their heart – a picture album, a china cup that was Grandma’s, the family Bible.

I think of being part of a work crew in Pascagoula MS after Hurricane Katrina. We worked on a house owned by a sweet older lady, Miss Virginia. When the hurricane hit, she was in mourning because her beloved husband of fifty years had recently passed after a long bout with Alzheimer’s. That death had been preceded only a few years before by the death of Miss Virginia’s mother, whom she had nursed for almost a decade. In the aftermath of the hurricane, Miss Virginia was understandably depressed, living in a claustrophobic FEMA trailer in her front yard, all alone on a street where everyone else had left town. She had nowhere to go. As the team was clearing out her home – it was to all purposes an interior demolition, since the storm surge had brought a seven-foot wall of water through the one-story bungalow – they noticed something in the back yard. A bit of colored plastic, nothing much. One of the men bent over to pick it up – it was Miss Virginia’s husband’s driver’s license. The man went over and knocked on flimsy door of the trailer of this dear woman who made the workers a pot of coffee every morning and gave her the discolored, storm soaked memento. Miss Virginia burst into tears, hugged the fellow and said, “All of our pictures were lost in the storm. This is the only picture I have of my husband. Thank you so much.”

In the aftermath of the storm, her world turned upside down, the thing that was most precious to Miss Virginia was a marker of her most important relationship. The things of the world – her lost jewelry, the bank books, antique furniture – were worthless in comparison to what mattered most – the memory of a precious relationship, a blessed relationship. To her insurance adjuster, the recovery of that driver’s license didn’t fit in to the equation of what Miss Virginia had lost – what she had found that was so precious to her was not something that could be quantified in the ways of the world. What she had found was, in the words of St Paul in today’s reading from first Corinthians, foolishness.

But God’s foolishness, the foolishness of the heart, is wiser than the so-called wisdom of the world, so we often miss the true value of it, just as on the face of it, a Messiah who dies on the cross doesn’t seem like a success for the good guys.

This past week has been a difficult one at my seminary. Because of the awful economy which has meant great losses in our endowment fund, the Dean announced a restructuring plan that meant that several people would lose their jobs. Others would be taking early retirement. Suffice to say there was great sadness and some anger at this change from the world as we knew it to a harsher, more difficult reality. The grief was to a large extent for relationships that would be broken, or at least changed, as these people left us. We were left to cling to memories of one of them advising a student going through a personal crisis, another of them fixing a problem with a computer, yet another doing the sort of behind the scenes work that made the seminary such a smoothly running place. With the world turned upside down, the memories of the relationships were the only comfort, the most important things to cling to.

This sort of event is no news to many of us here in St Gabriel’s. Some of us have lost our jobs, or have seen our small businesses struggle with lack of customers. For others of us, our retirements are in jeopardy, and we are wondering how the bills will get paid.

It is a world turned upside down, and it is disconcerting, to say the least.

In hard times like these, we do figure out what is truly important.

Think about our Gospel passage today. Jesus goes into the Temple. He sees the money-changers exchanging the Roman coins for ritually acceptable tender. He sees the sheep-sellers, the pigeon merchants, offering animals for sacrifice. He is so infuriated by the commerce going on in the Temple, in a house of prayer, that he weaves together a makeshift whip and drives the merchants out, yelling at them, saying that they had desecrated the Temple – his Father’s house - by their actions. He turns the table upside down.

Now if you’re a priest in the Temple in Jerusalem, you know that much of the work and worship of the Temple is predicated on sacrifice and on monetary offerings. The Book of Leviticus has vast lists of what kind of animal you sacrifice in response to a particular malady or sin. There were prescriptions for guilt offerings, for sin offerings, for peace offerings, and in most cases, the priests got a part of those sacrificial offerings for their own meals after the sacrifice was made. So imagine this Galilean shows up and drives away the people who provide the animals and the appropriate coins for the tithes. You are going to be deprived of the ability to do the work that is outlined in Torah, in Leviticus, the work of making sacrifices that relieve people of the burden of their sins. You are also going to be deprived of your livelihood.

Suffice to say, you’re going to be angry at this Galilean. So you ask him “What gives you the right to do this thing? What gives you the right to turn these tables upside down, to upset our system and our ways of worship?” And the response is so strange, so incomprehensible, that it makes your head reel: “Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days.”

What? Three days? The Temple is enormous. It took over forty years to build. Three days? That’s absurd. But Jesus is speaking of another temple, the temple of his own body, which will be destroyed and yet be resurrected at Easter. And at that time, the disciples will remember that Jesus said this.

Jesus was speaking at a time when there were a number of reform movements or sects within the Jewish religion; ultimately the Pharisees, who were just such a reform movement and who got such bad press in the gospels, became the predominant voice in how the faith of Israel would be lived. It is safe to assume that Jesus was not the only one who spoke against conducting commerce within the Temple, but he was certainly the only one who said he was the son of God. It would have gotten the attention of the religious leaders who had a vested interest in keeping things exactly as they were. The disaster to come – the increased oppression of the Jewish people and their unsuccessful revolt against Rome – was not yet visible to those religious leaders. To them, maintaining the status quo was important. Jesus, knowing what was to come for them and for himself, spoke out against the accepted way of doing things, the way that was of the world. He turned the tables upside down, said things that didn’t fit in with the world as the people around him knew it.

And in the aftermath of that world turned upside down, what was preserved by Jesus’ death and glorified by his resurrection was indeed a relationship – our relationship with God, through the risen Christ. Like the driver’s license recovered in that back yard covered with the detritus of the storm, our relationship with God was recovered on a hill outside of Jerusalem.

The story of Jesus cleansing the Temple is a foreshadowing of the turning upside down of the world that is coming during Holy Week, completed on Easter morning. Jesus is giving us a preview of what is to come, in his angry actions in that Temple courtyard. As we see the storm clouds gathering in the distance and hear the weather report that a hurricane is coming, we may not understand the larger picture of what is to come. But we start to understand that we may need to figure out what is really important, what relationships endure through the storm, and what God will do to preserve them.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Some Up and Some Down on Friday

I had a good meeting with my marvelous and slightly scary thesis advisor this morning. The first five minutes, like all meetings at Big Old Seminary now, was a discussion of the state of our little world on the Holy Hill, and the angst around the restructuring. Once we got past the requisite pastoral check in ("How are you doing with all this? Do you need to talk?") we got down to the business at hand, and she very much liked what I had done thus far, so I am grateful. I was braced for some comment about how little I've actually written thus far, but there was none of that, thanks be to God. I know, however, that I've got to turn out at least fifteen pages a week for the next couple of weeks to make the deadline, and that's a scary number. I am happier now that I am out of the Matthean context stuff and into exegetical work. I can rock on that. My study carrel looks like a bookmobile projectile-vomited into it, what with the various books and journals with thousands of post-it notes and such. Remarkably, I know where everything is. Chance favors a disorganized mind?
BTW, this picture is NOT my study carrel. I have a laptop...

In the category of "God has a sense of humor", I had written to an old friend who, I was told, had a job opening. He had emailed back, saying he had already extended an offer to someone, but would be happy to talk to me about opportunities in his area. When we finally got around to talking yesterday, he said that it now seemed likely that the person to whom he had extended the offer was going to take another job, and he might be reopening the search. He, of course, saw the Holy Spirit in all this, and so do I, but until I know that a) the other person tells him the other offer is the choice and b) my friend is reopening the search and is interested in me, I'm simply going to keep on praying for patience and not assign it to anything except the world turning on its axis. It was, however, a nice counterbalance to another job for which I had applied and from which I had received a "no thanks" today. I've got a meeting with someone on Monday afternoon. We shall see where this all goes. My Diocesan Deployment Officer is away at a meeting of the Transition Ministry Network, and that may bear fruit. Oh, this is a slow and less than rewarding process - there must be a better way.

I'm getting some good work done in a number of other areas that require my attention, some of which even pay me. On the non-income side, I may actually be preaching on Easter, a prospect that scares the {insert metaphor of your choice} out of me. I'm preaching this Sunday and the sermon isn't done yet. My poor folks at Saint Middle School - they deserve better than this, but I'm too swamped to do more.

Tomorrow morning is another field work morning. I've got a couple of other hours of fieldwork this coming week (mostly evenings) - it turns out writing up the field notes is extraordinarily time-consuming. On the other hand, it is paying better than anything else I'm doing right now, and money is tight, so it seems worth the effort.

Ancora imparo.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mud and Daffoldils

Walking around the campus of Big Old Seminary today, I squished through some mud heading for the library. Out of the corner of my eye I saw two daffodils, the first ones I've spotted this season. It was colder today, after a few days of downright summery weather, and I was shivering in my light jacket. The daffodils, so rich a shade of yellow against the green and brown, warmed me a bit.

That bit of warmth was a needful thing. Today we got word of some of the people on staff who have been told their jobs are being eliminated. One is a mentor and dear friend, another an admirable staff person who always answers our silly questions with gentle grace. I don't know who the others are yet. No matter. It hurts losing any member of the BOS family.

The Dean met with the community this afternoon. A couple of things struck me about that meeting. First, people are hurt and angry, as anyone would be at the loss of a dear family member. Second, I suspect the Board pressed the Dean hard for this solution, and it was not his first choice. Third, because he was willing to stand in front of the community and answer questions, he bore the brunt of the anger and pain.

I am not sure that the choice that the Board and the Dean made was the right one. Some elements of the plan seem to be wrongheaded in tone if not in result. Time will tell. Nevertheless, the decision has been made, and it seems better to expend our energy on helping those who have lost their jobs and praying for the future of the institution than on banging on the one person in the leadership who was willing to face us.

It puts an ugly punctuation mark at the end of my time at seminary, but it is reflective of the larger world.

It would be nicer to have to tread through less mud right now, and see more lovely daffodils waving their yellow faces in the breeze. But I guess we're still in mud season here, whatever the temperature, and all we can do is to pray for warmth and sunlight and flowers, not just for us, but for a troubled world.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


The first two sections of the thesis are written. Five more, each of which will be somewhat lengthier than these first two, await. I'll be doing some serious writing over spring break. I'm grateful the logjam has broken. PH tells me when I complain that it is going slowly that folks working on dissertations expect to get one good page a day done. I'm doing better than that, but that factoid helps me be realistic in my expectations. I have had occasion to knock out a 20 page paper in three days, but this is a whole different kind of writing, and it is impossible to work that quickly. My thesis advisor and I will meet on Friday morning, and we shall see what she thinks of what I've done thus far.

I have a job interview on Monday. Some things about this job make it a good fit, some do not, but I like the rector and am looking forward to further conversations with him. It just feels good after not even getting in to interview on some jobs to finally have one set up.

Big Old Seminary is, like so many other institutions, struggling with the economy. Our endowment is still larger than any of the other Episcopal seminaries', and we're not crashing and burning, but it seems there will be some staff cuts in the near future. Folks are pretty edgy around here. There is some wondering about the impact of all this on scholarships and such, so that adds to the nasty brew. Rumors are flying, and it will be healthier once people know the full extent of the cuts and what it means. Having been in several organizations that had to lay off staff (and having had to do the laying off on a couple of occasions), I know how distracting and painful it is. Let it not be too bad, and let those who are laid off find other employment quickly.

StrongOpinions has the mid-term wimwams at her new school in the Big Apple. I can sympathize. Going from a small, very freeform college to an Ivy is intimidating. On the other hand, she has just gotten word that another piece of hers will be published, this time in a literary anthology. As she said, "A real book that will be on the shelves of real bookstores!"

It seems that all my kids and grandkids will be coming down here for my ordination. I haven't had everybody (all eleven of the contingent) in my house in forever, so it will be a trip in every sense of the word. PH's family will come for the commencement at BOS, which is a week and a half earlier. Probably a good distribution of family over the time period. I still have to figure out what we'll do in the way of party or whatever after each event. Can't be distracted by that until after I get the thesis done.

It dawns on me that I've got about 8 and a half more weeks at BOS. Shocking. Scary. Joyful. Wow.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Today's Sermon: Mark 8:31-38

How many people here have worked in technology businesses? Software engineering? Government contractors? High-tech manufacturing?

And how many of you have worked in start-up businesses?

An interesting world, isn’t it?

I’ve been associated with six high-tech startup businesses. In two, I was one of the founders. In the others, I was an early-stage employee, paid more in stock that we hoped would someday be valuable than in real dollars.

In each case where I was an employee, the companies were led by charismatic visionaries.

These were men with big ideas. Our job was to implement those big ideas. Both the blessing and the curse of those leaders was what Alan Greenspan used to refer to as “irrational exuberance.” They believed, with great fervor, that their idea was the best, that this company could make millions of dollars, that the market would adore us and our product. We, as mere employees, would worry about the promises the visionary leader had made to investors, to potential customers, to us. We were the ones who would actually deliver the product, and we suspected how hard that task would be.

So when I hear this gospel story today, with a powerful and charismatic Jesus who suddenly starts talking about things that make the disciples distinctly uncomfortable, I know exactly what Peter is talking about when he starts to rebuke Jesus. I can imagine what he is saying in that rebuke: “Wait a minute, Lord. Don’t talk like that. You’re scaring all the people away. You’re making promises that frighten us, all this talk about how you’re going to suffer and die and rise again.” Peter, a pragmatic and rational fisherman, thinks his leader has gone a little crazy, and wants to talk him off the proverbial ledge.

Peter, after all, has just answered that question that Jesus asked him last week: “Who do you say that I am?” And he’s answered it correctly. “You are the Messiah.” That’s a remarkable exchange, because generally, in the gospel of Mark, the disciples are slow learners who don’t answer any question correctly. Jesus regularly gets impatient with their inability to understand what he has been saying. And here, suddenly Peter gets it right, but he’s only the prize student for a few moments, because when Jesus starts to talk about what will happen to him, and Peter says, “Boss, stop, you’re scaring the guys,” he gets the dunce cap. “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
That’s harsh. He’s telling Peter that he is not only wrong, he’s wicked. He’s a tempter, trying to get Jesus to do something bad.

But wait! There’s more! Jesus isn’t done saying scary things. He starts to tell the disciples what it really means to follow him. It is not only Jesus who will suffer in this work, they will, too. The work is a cross that they must bear. They must deny themselves.

The cost of discipleship. It is high. It is frightening.

But it is not without its reward: if you lose your life for Jesus’ sake and the sake of the gospel, you will save it. It is not about this world, it is about being with God the Father in the heavenly kingdom. The glory isn’t here. It’s in another place, another time beyond time, and it is a glory that must be earned.

Peter got it right – this is the Messiah. But the Messiah, the Chosen, the Anointed one isn’t an earthly king, rescuing the people of Israel from their miserable life under the thumb of the Roman Empire and the Jewish representatives of that empire in Jerusalem.

No, Jesus is offering different, something much more… but it comes at a price. Here’s the hard lesson: there is glory to be gained, there is eternal life, there is that wonderful heavenly banquet. But, here, now, there is only the road to the Cross, because that’s the road of following Christ.

Do you wonder what that means, that road to the Cross? Do the stories of Jesus’ disciples in the gospel seem so alien, so different, that you can’t imagine what discipleship looks like? This is a road that many of us are walking on right now.

If you’ve lost your job and are struggling to find another, and you have an encouraging conversation with another person who’s in the same boat, you’re a disciple on the road to the Cross.

If you’ve received a diagnosis that means difficult and frightening treatment, and you keep praying not only for yourself but for all who suffer from illnesses, you’re a disciple on the road to the Cross.

If your child is failing in school, and you don’t know what to do, and you lovingly encourage your child even though you’re tempted to yell at him, you’re a disciple on the road to the Cross.

If you look at your savings and realize you may never be able to retire, and you send money to a charity that helps those with even less than you, you’re a disciple on the road to the Cross.

If someone you love is dying, and you give them the gift of companionship as well as your prayers, you’re a disciple on the road to the Cross.

As Jesus’ messiahship required that he die for us before he was raised in glory, our discipleship requires that we do the hard work of following, of serving, of living in an imperfect and sometimes painful world, before we are rewarded in the heavenly kingdom.

And that is hard work. It would be easier if Jesus only required that we believe in Him. But our belief must be made visible in what we do. It must be made visible in all that we do.

There’s a wonderful hymn that talks about the work that lies ahead for those of us who want to follow Jesus: Take up your cross, the Savior said, if you would my disciple be, take up your cross with willing heart, and humbly follow after me. This is the message we hear in this gospel. If we want to follow Jesus, we’ve got to lift up that cross. Why? The last verse of the hymn gives us the same reason we heard in the gospel: For only those who bear the cross may hope to wear the glorious crown.

Yes, we get that now. But the carrying of a cross is a hard thing. Our arms get tired, the palms of our hands get sweaty and blistered. Our back hurts. How can we do this work of discipleship? The answer is hidden in the middle verse of the hymn: Take up your cross, let not its weight fill your weak spirit with alarm; his strength shall bear your spirit up, and brace your heart and nerve your arm.

I think we forget sometimes, when we’re walking the hard road of discipleship, that we are not alone. Jesus walks before us on the road. We follow him. His broad shoulders block the wind, and shade us from the sun. He helps us even as he carries his own crushingly heavy cross to Calvary.

So on this second Sunday of our Lenten journey, we stop, catch our breath, hoist the cross on our shoulder again, and resume walking. Being a good person doesn’t guarantee us an easy life; it’s just the opposite. It guarantees us a hard life, because being a Christian in this world is a daily challenge, and following what Christ told us to do will cause some to question our sanity or our motives. But in that work, on that journey, we will see glimmers of the glory that Jesus promises, not in this world but the next.

What Jesus tells us is neither irrational, nor exuberant, unlike the founders of the high-tech start-ups I worked with. It is honest, and the promise of the reward at the end is infinitely better than stock options…especially in today’s market. So it is worth the work, worth the pain, the blistered hands and tired backs….and we sing what we know is true: take up the cross, and follow Christ, nor think till death to lay it down; for only those who bear the cross may hope to wear the glorious crown.


Friday, March 06, 2009

Random Dots of Friday

Good news on the diaconal ordination front - my interview with the Commission on the Priesthood went swimmingly.

Bad news on the job front - I won't be getting a call to interview at two different places because they think I am too old for their job opening. Ageism still lives in the church. The frustrating thing is that if I could have an interview, I could overcome their objections. But without a foot in the door, it's impossible, even with the best resume in the world. Nothing like being assigned the label "crone" at a glance. Ah, well, the rant is now officially over. Ever so slowly, there are other opportunities opening up, and I am hoping that someone will want to talk to me. God wants me to do this. I know it, and everyone who knows me agrees. Now I just need to find the place God wants me to be.

Semi-good news on the thesis front. I seem to have broken the logjam that was blocking my writing. It isn't going quickly, but I got another few pages done, and have mapped out the next few.

Speaking of logjams and other unsightly messes, there was a miscommunication about when I was supposed to preach next. I was told the 15th. I found out yesterday that I am expected to preach on Sunday. So yesterday afternoon and this morning were spent churning out a sermon. It ain't pretty, but it has a good take-away, I think, so thanks, Holy Spirit, for bailing us all out once again. It's good to know that I can imitate my beloved Calvin Trillin, the "Deadline Poet," and turn out something that's a step above doggerel when necessary and on a tight deadline.

Prayers, please, for a parishioner whose son had a heart attack and was found after he had been without blood to his brain for an hour. His body lives, but his brain does not, and she is in such misery. Parents are never ready to lose their child.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Writer's Block

I'm just miserably blocked right now on the thesis, and worrying about it makes it more so.

I'm in a loop where I can edit the stuff I've already written just fine, but can't seem to get any new sections written. Too much information floating in my head, and I haven't found the hook yet. I got seven pages done last week. I should do another ten this week, and I don't know how that will happen.

I guess I'm thinking of the question I need to answer for the next section (namely, something like what are the key elements of the Matthean community that might have shaped that gospel narrative and how do they differ from the world of Jesus 50 years earlier) and trying to come up with a fresh way of laying out the answer. As I said, I've got tons of material. It's the sorting/discarding/laying out that seems to elude me right now. Veni creator spiritus!

I suspect that part of the answer to the problem is that there is a little voice lurking at the back of my skull reminding me of the meeting with the Commission on Ministry (now renamed the Commission on the Priesthood) that will occur on Friday, along with a meeting with our bishop-to-be. Rational me says that all the other meetings went swimmingly, and this one will be no different. Irrational me says that it's time for the shoe to drop - apologies for the mixed metaphors - and it will all fall apart now, after almost three years of hard work at Big Old Seminary and much money. And our coadjutor is a lovely man, and we've met before, and there is no indicator that there will be any problem with him. But under stress, old insecurities awaken from deep slumber and grumble and gnaw.

Meanwhile, I look at our ever-dwindling nest egg and wonder what the future holds. C'mon, Lord, give me a clue, okay? I need a little something to warm me up.

On a happier note, StoneMason called up this afternoon and was quite chipper. His birthday (23) is in a couple of weeks, and he asked us to contribute to an inexpensive bicycle for him to ride as the weather improves way up north. I suspect he's tired of paying to fix his old car every week or two, and likes the idea of something more mechanically simple to get to and from work.

March, in fact, is the month for three birthdays amongst my sons and stepsons. That alone makes me smile again. And I will have dinner with two of my favorite galpals tomorrow evening.

I am blessed, though blocked.