Friday, February 27, 2009


Yesterday was a verrrrrryyyyy long day. I got up at 0 dark 30, drive the 100 miles down to Richmond. Blessing of the ride (outside of the traffic thinning out when I got 30 miles down the road) was a group of six deer nibbling in a field while bits of fog still layered the ground. I met with the psychologist for the 2nd psych eval. For my first one, I only was required to do a single online test. This psychologist was much more test-oriented, so I had to do an MMPI, a depression scale, some neurocognitive stuff, and an interview. Meh. He was more focused on my MS and whether or not I showed any indicators of neurocognitive deficit (I did not), but it wasn't bad, and I have heard nothing from him indicating that I had problematic scores on any of the tests, as he had told me he would do, so I am presuming he passed me. Since the diocese pays for this eval, I won't see his report unless I specifically request it from the diocesan folks. Frankly, that's not high on my list of things to ask for.

Then I met with our Diocesan Deployment Officer. It turned out to be a fun time - we walked to a downtown church for their lunch and sermon series. Lovely meal, interesting sermon by a Baptist pastor in a church with the most gorgeous Tiffany windows. It is a place where Robert E Lee and Jefferson Davis worshipped and it still has some feel of Southern privilege, but the folks in the pews were probably 40% people of color. I wonder what old Jeff Davis would think of that.

Then the long drive back. Did I tell you that I have a miserable nasty cold and cough? The good news is that my platelets have remained in normal range, and in the past when I got something like this, they would drop precipitously, so that seems to indicate that the splenectomy did what it was supposed to do. The bad news is that it is still a nasty cold and cough, so I spent the day carefully dosing myself with nondrowsy cold meds and sucking on mentholyptus cough drops. This worked pretty well - I did have some coughing, but nothing too bad - but when I had to drive north, I was already pretty tired. By the time I was 2/3 of the way up, I was feeling really sleepy, so I pulled off to make a couple of phone calls and get a doughnut. The sugar and fat gave me enough of a boost to make through the drive and the next meeting. Not a healthy choice, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

So I made it into DC in time for my 4 pm appointment with the Canon for Deployment for the Diocese of Washington. Gracious, encouraging, although she doesn't have anything right now, had some astute observations and suggestions about my resume. It was a good meeting and a good personal connection to make, and I'm glad I was awake enugh to present myself reasonably well.

I made it back home in time to crash on the couch. A 14 hour day on Ash Wednesday and a 12 hour day yesterday in the midst of a bad cold had pretty much used me up, so PH called for some Chinese food to be delivered (home delivery of food is something we've done maybe three times in the almost 15 years we've been together) - an indicator of how pooped we both are right now - and it was an early night.

I'm spending today on the couch, trying to knock the cold out of me. PH is off to Dallas for a 2.5 day meeting. Poor thing has a cold, too, but his doesn't have the coughing piece. I wish he didn't have to fly with a cold, since it's such misery, but he is well-armed with decongestants and such.

Tea. Time to drink much tea.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Long Weekend Past, Long Week to Come

This past week seemed to be focused primarily on pastoral care for some folks with troubled hearts, bodies and minds. I had several very intense conversations, for which I felt only modestly equipped. I came away from them exhausted but feeling that at least I did no harm.

StrongOpinions was down for the weekend. She appears to be headed into another depressive cycle, but it is remarkable that she manages to keep going. I wish she were a more fundamentally cheerful person, and I wish I could let go of trying to "fix" things with her, since it doesn't work. I was just fried by the time she headed back to the Big Apple.

Now that GOe results are behind me, the next hurdle is my psych evaluation on Thursday. Since there are no folks currently on the approved list in northern Virginia, I will have to drive down to Richmond (2 hours south) for it. And since the person who did my eval for postulancy is not doing them anymore, I will have to explain myself all over again to a new guy (while in the midst of feeling very much not myself due to the steroids). The good news is that the diocese pays for this eval, as opposed to the first one. My plan is to listen to favorite music and podcasts on my iPod while driving down, drink no coffee, and trust that God will get me through it. While down there, I'll also be meeting with our Diocesan Deployment officer regarding my job search and the status of the search for a new vicar at Saint Middle School (no, the parish profile still isn't done yet). Two of the jobs I thought I might be a candidate for have been filled, both by folks already ordained to the priesthood. It is a challenge right now, it seems, to find something if you are not yet priested. Sighing and trying really, really hard to trust that God has a place for me. On the same day, I'll go into Your Nation's Capitol to meet with the DDO there for an informal conversation. They have fewer openings than in VA, but it's worthwhile to at least have the conversation.

Remarkably, I have no anxiety whatsoever about the Ash Wednesday service I'll lead Wednesday evening at Saint Middle School. We've planned it, I know what I'm going to do (with the exception of the sermon, which isn't done yet), and I know I can do it. I also know that if I mess up, or if something else goes awry, we will still get through it, I will still place ashes on people's foreheads, and Lent will go on.

We had a guest supply priest yesterday, not one of our usual rotation, and what a joy it was to serve with him at the altar! He was calm, knew what he was doing, gave a great sermon on the Transfiguration, adjusted to our way of doing things but also had some ideas we might consider with sound theology behind the suggestions. It was a gift.

I'll have supervision with my supervisor from our mother church on Wednesday. I should put together an agenda for the meeting, but we seem to drift far afield from it when we meet. Better to have something to start from, though, than simply to drift, I suppose.

The thesis is going more slowly than it should. I work in fits and starts. Some of it is the steroids fogging my brain, some of it is February, but I've got to get moving on it. Yes, another thing to worry about! That really helps, doesn't it?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday Five: Taking a Break

A great Friday Five from Songbird today:

"Where we live, it's February School Vacation Week!

Yes, that's an odd thing, a vacation extending President's Day. But it's part of our lives here. Some people go South or go skiing, but we always stay home and find more humble amusements.

In that spirit, I offer this Taking a Break Friday Five. Tell us how you would spend:

1. a 15 minute break
2. an afternoon off
3. an unexpected free day
4. a week's vacation
5. a sabbatical."

I wish this was break time for us, but in fact we are hot and heavy into the Spring Semester, and won't have a break until late March. I can fantasize, though, and I can certainly have little bitty breaks.

1. 15 minutes? A cup of tea, a brief conversation with a friend standing outside the library (my home away from home these days until the thesis is done), two games of computer solitaire, a prayer.

2. The best kind of afternoon off would be one where PH is also free, and we can go for a ride or visit one of Your Nation's Capitol's wonderful and free museums. A side trip to a local coffee shop cum bakery. A nap.

3. An unexpected free day doesn't happen. At least not in recent memory. If such a miracle occurred, though, it might mean simply a longer version of #2, with lunch someplace ethnic, cheap, fun.

4. You can go pretty far in a week - I could imagine a trip to visit our relatives in the Middle East (really!), a trip to Italy, visiting grandbabies in New England, any number of lovely places. I could also imagine that my next full week's vacation that is truly a vacation as opposed to school break will be spent packing our house in anticipation of a move to my first call (please, Lord?)

5. A sabbatical might be built around the big international preaching conference held every two years, and might also include some study of preaching in transitional/interim/expat settings. It might also be built around the shaping of liturgy in different places as a reflection of context. It'll be a while before I have to chew on what to do on sabbatical, so these are very tentative nibblings around the edges of ideas.

Okay, enough Friday procrastination - time to do some work.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Yes, it Will Be...

...a celebratory dinner. Thank you, Jesus, Holy Spirit, all those who prayed for us, and a good work ethic. On to the next challenge.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

No News Tuesday

The GOE scores didn't arrive in our mailboxes today. Drag. I just want to see what they are so I can deal with them, whatever the result. The waiting is not fun.

Nevertheless, I decided this morning that I was sick of feeling cranky and ready to burst out of my skin so I (mirabile dictu) went downstairs first thing this morning and worked out. Not much - some time on the elliptical and some gentle weights - yes the doctor okayed this - and stretches.

The result is that I was in much better humor today, and was actually able to do some good work on the thesis, and do a good job serving as co-leader of a group that I am mentoring. Of course, it may have been that I used up all my crankiness on Monday. I'm trying to convince myself that it was the exercise, though, so I keep doing that.

I did get one bit of news: one of the jobs that I applied for was filled. They really wanted someone already ordained to the priesthood, and the person who got the job is a great priest, so I have a hard time feeling bad about it. God has a place for me. It will be interesting to learn where that place is, and I sure hope God doesn't wait too long to reveal it.

Since we didn't get around to celebrating Valentine's Day this weekend what with the Conference on Ministry and all that, PH and I are taking advantage of DC Restaurant Week and enjoying a nice prix-fixe dinner at a favorite restaurant tomorrow night. If the GOE scores arrive and are good, it will be an additional cause for celebration. If they arrive and aren't so good, it will be a consolation. If they don't arrive tomorrow, I'll simply celebrate that the important thing is that I have someone wonderful who loves me no matter what. And that's the best Valentine's present of all.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cranky Monday

I'm on the couch, having given up on doing reading for the thesis - my brain is tired, and the prednisone is taking its toll today.

Tomorrow the results from our General Ordination Exams should arrive in the mail. I alternate between being terrified that I've failed and annoyed with the flawed system of evaluation.

I have heard virtually nothing from the various and sundry places to whom I have sent resumes. This is the down side of church work. Usually much of the preliminary work of screening and reviewing is done by a volunteer lay committee, which may or may not meet more than once a month. They may not have clarity about what they are looking for yet, or may feel no sense of urgency. Meanwhile we dangle in the breeze. In other dioceses, the bishop places the new seminarian in the first job, or at least gives the person three parishes to interview at and choose from. It would be nice to have the stress of "where" taken away. Then again, that hasn't always worked out very well for some folks I know. All I know is that this is a process where I have to relinquish control, and that's not one of my strong suits, so I'm trying to just pray my way through it.

Meanwhile, in light of the academic evaluation in the form of the GOEs, I am reflecting again on the holes in our practical preparation (how to actually DO the premarital meetings, how to run a budget meeting, models for handling walk-ins requesting financial help, dealing with funeral homes, dealing with first responders in traumatic situations). There is a tacit assumption that these things are handled as part of on-the-job training in our first cures, following behind the rector. But that's not the model for every one of us.

So is seminary an academic institution? Is it a priestly professional training school? Is it a place where we more deeply understand our relationship with God and our call to serve? As much as I love my seminary and am grateful for those who have taught me and mentored me there, it seems it, they, I, and our church as an institution are all confused as to what seminary is supposed to be, and GOEs are merely one symptom of the problem.

And for all the screening, there are still some deeply troubled folks going through the system, and no one seems to want to take the responsibility for pulling them off the ordination track at least long enough to get them some help.

Yeah, it's Monday, all right. I think I need some coffee and chocolate.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Weekend Updates

This weekend is the COnference on Ministry at Bog Old Seminary. Prospective students and their partners/spouses/parents/significants come for the weekend. Last night was the dinner and Eucharist (I conducted the choir), today they've been in various and sundry meetings and on tours, then will have dinner at faculty or students homes, then we'll have the variety show tonight. since we will move out of this seminary off-campus housing in June (assuming I get a job), we opened up our place for an off-campus housing tour. We had about 40 folks walk through, I think. They had clearly hit information overload by the afternoon, poor things, but I hope they liked what they saw. Not that we've got a dog in that fight, but since we fixed up the basement, we'd like to see a seminary family get the benefit instead of the property management company.

Looking at their faces, I remembered what it was like for us three years ago. So many fears, so many questions. Remarkable that we've come so far. A gift of God's grace.

I got to meet David, who frequently lurks here and occasionally speaks up, and his lovely bride, who will most likely be at BOS next year. What a pleasure!

So I'm spending Valentine's night singing a bowdlerized version of "A Little Priest" from Sweeney Todd for the variety show. Not quite as romantic as I'd like - PH and I are going out for dinner on Wednesday night to have our personal, belated Valentines Day celebration, but fun nonetheless. I will miss this place, and these people.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

What were you doing when ...?

TOH to Rev. dr. Mom for this one. It's about the limit of my mental capacity at this point today.

1. Challenger space shuttle exploded (1986):

In a taxicab with a sales rep for a professional magazine who was trying to sell me ad space. I was massively pregnant with StoneMason at the time. I was amazed that she took me out to lunch (a very expensive one at La Colline) and continued to try and close the deal.

2. Berlin Wall falls down (1989):

Changing sheets in my son's bedroom, with the tears running down my face.

3. Oklahoma City federal building bombing (1995):

Working on Capital Hill. Strange times. That is all I can say about it.

4. OJ Verdict (1995):

Working on Capital Hill. Watched the verdict with the rest of the staff of my committee. Somehow we knew that there was so much more to this than the particular decision being made.

5. Princess Diana dies (1997):

A beautiful sunny day, and the incongruity of the news on the television. Great sadness and anger at what our media-driven culture had become. Those poor boys, and that utterly clueless family.

6. Columbine massacre (1999):

Working downtown in Gucci Gulch. Fear for my own children, that there would be copycat events.

7. JFK Jr. Plane crash (1999):

I couldn't believe the feeding frenzy of the media. Again. I was so tired of hearing the phrase "Greek tragedy."

8. Bush/Gore crazy election (2000):

Part of the great morass of lobbyists trying to avoid writing yet another check, and watching horrified at the way the Constitution was being squashed and twisted.

9. September 11, (2001):

I worked two blocks from the White House. I came out of the gym I belonged to and saw the news report on the tv. Walked a block to my office, where we were glued to the tv for further news. We saw black smoke in the distance, and couldn't tell if it was from the White House, or the Old Executive Office Building, or something further down. the phone lines were jammed. Our building was evacuated at 9:15, and I got back across to Virginia just before they closed the bridges. I could see the Pentagon burning, and people walking from the city. I couldn't get a hold of the school or my bosses in another city or other family. We watched the towers fall on tv and wondered what would happen next. Sounds of fighter jets overhead. Church at three in the afternoon. I wondered how many of my colleagues in New York at the WTC had died - six, it turned out. I lost no close friends at the Pentagon, although a sister church lost eight. I preached on it this past 9/11. I was amazed at how, even seven years later, the emotions were so close to the surface.

10. Space ship Columbia disintegrates (2003):

The tv was on as I cleaned house. Disbelief. Wonderment that we seemed to do so little to protect these astronauts.

11. Hurricane Katrina hits (2005):

I watched, I cried, I watched more, I cried more. I was part of a corporate diversity council, and seeing the event through the eyes of my African-American colleagues was wrenching. I could see our racism so very, very clearly.

12. A couple of bonuses for us old folks:

John Kennedy's assassination November 22, 1963

I was in seventh grade in a Roman Catholic school run by Irish-American nuns, for whom JFK was pretty close to the second coming. It was announced over the intercom, even as we were watching a PBS French class on the television. I hadn't a clue what it all meant. I just knew it was bad.

MLK's assassination April 1968

Fear and great sadness. I worked in Newark NJ as a church organist. That following Sunday was not a good day.

RFK's assassination June 1968

Very little memory of this except a sense that the world made no sense, and that all that was hopeful was gone.

And now we seem to have some hope again, but our expectations are so very, very high, and we fly like Icarus too close to the sun. I pray hope won't melt, that we temper our expectations, that we have patience, that we wait on the Lord.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Home Again

I was released form the hospital today at noontime. It is wonderful to be home with PH and the cats, stretched out on the sofa, eating my own food. The surgery wasn't bad, all things considered. They were able to do it laparoscopically, which means I have two tiny incisions each about a half inch wide, and two larger incisions about two to 2.5 inches wide. They didn't need to cut muscle tissue, which makes the mending much easier. One thing they do with this kind of surgery is to pump you full of air so the organs are spread out a bit. Once the surgery is done, there is nowhere for the air to go, so it floats around, slowly absorbing. And it hurts, considerably more than the incisions. So yesterday was a pretty painful day, although I took the morphine when I really needed it. That air-pain is much less today. I'm just very stiff and very tired.

We won't know if the surgery solved the problem with my ITP for another few weeks. I will wean off of the prednisone, which artificially increases my platelet count, and then we will watch and see. There are three things that can kill off your platelets: the spleen, the liver and the bone marrow. The spleen can be removed, and is the most likely cause, but you can't do much about an aberrant liver or bone marrow, so here's hoping that this fixes the problem.

I'm just grateful to have this thing over with, to have wonderful doctors, and to have medical insurance. And I'm especially grateful to have so many friends who have prayed me through this. Thanks be!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Taking a Blog Hiatus for a Little While

I'll be having my surgery first thing tomorrow morning, so I won't be blogging for a little while. For those of you who know me on That Social Networking space, PH will be posting updates on my status since he can access my page. Prayers would be appreciated. I'll be back when I'm feeling like myself again.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Sunlight on a February Day

This morning it was gently snowing. Beautiful, but cold and gray. All I could think of, after his recent visit, was how when Litigator was just 1, one of his earlist words was "snow." He didn't say it as "snow," though - it was more like "schnooooo." How he morphed that pronunciation, heaven only knows, but it was quite remarkable. Just thinking of it makes me smile, even as I've been shivering with the cold.

So all morning, with the various classes and such, we were wrapped in wintry raw cold. But now in the late afternoon, we've got some sunshine. This is a hellacious busy day, with one thing right on top of another, but that sunshine has given me just enough extra oomph to make it through.

I've got to go over to the hospital for one more pre-op screening test. Drat. I will be so glad to have this over with.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Today's Sermon - 4th Sunday after Epiphany

Feb 2009 – Fourth Sunday After Epiphany

So this week we had a storm. Snow. Lots of ice. Schools were closed. And our new president, who comes from Chicago, suggested that we Washingtonians needed to man up a bit – get some of that “flinty toughness” that his compatriots from the Windy City have when it comes to bad weather.

What a hue and cry! You would have thought he’d attacked the beauty of the cherry blossoms, or the inevitability of lobbyists having a steak dinner at the Palm, or that FedEx Field should really go back to being named “The Jack!” How dare he – a Chicagoan – take a shot at a city he had just moved to?

We sure as heck didn’t want to hear a message – an uncomfortable and unexpected message – from a source who had not yet established his credibility on the topic with us.

Sometimes it’s hard to open our ears to strange messages from unexpected people.

A story from many, many years ago: It was noontime Mass at the Church of St Francis in midtown Manhattan. It was Lent, and the church was full. As we sat there, listening to a reading from the Gospel, a man started meandering up and down the side aisles. Singing. He looked a little odd, dressed in many layers of clothing. He smelled even more odd. Wafts of body odor and cheap wine preceded him as he wandered. He was singing “Panis Angelicus,” a hymn about the bread of angels. A lovely voice, although he got some of the words wrong. We sat there, half-distracted, half-annoyed, trying to hear the Scripture. But I found myself thinking in the midst of this, what am I supposed to take from this experience? Is this just another homeless guy acting strange in a place he sees as safe, or is this something more? His voice was surprisingly beautiful, and it wasn’t long before I was lost in meditation on the words of that hymn written by Thomas Aquinas: “the angelic bread of heaven becomes the bread of men…we beg of you, visit us as we worship you.” God was there, in that overpacked church, in the voice of the strange singer in the aisles. Sometimes the message comes from a strange messenger, doesn’t it?

It will come as no surprise to you that there are sometimes some very strange people in church. Gee, there are days when WE are the strange people in church. We are asked to welcome them as Christ welcomed the outsiders, the unconventional ones, the odd people, in his ministry. Strange messengers are part of the deal when we become part of the Body of Christ…look at John the Baptist, that weird guy wearing animal skins, with the smell of locusts and honey on his breath. It’s as if God realizes that he has to do something pretty dramatic to get our attention. The big gesture, the strange messenger or the odd symbolism to get God’s point across…we in our inability to see God face to face need something else to understand who God is, what God is saying to us, what we’re supposed to do with it.

That is the heart of what is going on in the Gospel of Mark today. Jesus comes in to Capernaum and walks in to the synagogue. As was the custom of the day, he as a traveling rabbi begins to teach, and everyone is impressed by this teacher. Mark gets a dig in on the local religious leaders: Jesus taught with authority, and not like the scribes, the local teachers, who presumably were not very good at their jobs. Everyone was intrigued with what they were hearing. Everyone, that is, except the local crazy guy, or at least the demons within him. The demons cried out : “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have to you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”

Can you imagine the Hollywood treatment of the scene? Perhaps Brad Pitt, or even better Clive Owens, playing Jesus, the tall well-spoken teacher, and someone really strange – Robert Downey Jr or Mickey Rourke playing the possessed man…that odd otherworldly voice coming out, challenging Jesus, identifying him as the Holy One of God? And we’re all sitting in that synagogue, having heard this teacher, thinking that he’s a pretty good preacher…and this crazy person says that this is the Holy One of God.

Do we believe that naming? Does this message from this crazy man sound wonderful, or scary, or just plain ridiculous? Does it convince us that this is the Messiah, or does it simply make us shake our heads…because the thought of being able to see the Messiah is utterly alien to us? Does the oddness of the messenger make it difficult for us to hear the message?

God does strange things to get our attention. God uses unorthodox messengers to make us hear.

And that’s part of the problem, isn’t it? If the messenger is strange, or if the message is unorthodox, it’s hard for us to accept it as real. And we’re modern people, so when we read this, it all seems very strange and far away. We don’t know people possessed by demons…or do we? We haven’t seen God intervene in that very direct way that Jesus does in this Gospel story…or have we? What is God’s message, and can I hear it?

If we were those synagogue people sitting around the room, watching this rabbi Jesus of Nazareth come in, teach with brilliance and authority, be identified as the anointed one by a possessed man and cast out the demons from that possessed man, we’d be wondering what this was about, what it meant. If that identification of Jesus as Messiah came from the Chief Priest in the Temple in Jerusalem, we’d probably be a little more comfortable with the situation – maybe – but a crazy guy? How could we process this message?

And that’s really the hard part – is it real? How do I interpret it? Because we’re afraid we’ll get it wrong. Think about the warning in the passage from Deuteronomy this morning, when the Lord reminds the people that he will send another prophet after Moses is gone: “Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak-- that prophet shall die." Makes it really hard to get enthusiastic about those prophets, doesn’t it? If we don’t pay attention to the words the prophet speaks, God will hold us accountable. If the prophet is a false prophet, he dies. How do I know if somebody is a false prophet, because if it’s a real prophet, no matter how strange the words he speaks, I’ve got to obey, and if I don’t, I get punished, and if he’s a false prophet, I don’t figure it out until he dies…but does it have to be a dramatic fire and brimstone death for me to know that he got zapped by God for being a false prophet? Sorting out the messengers and their messages can be confusing.

It’s like here’s the good news: You’re not alone because God will give you a prophet. Here’s the bad news: there may be some false prophets out there. You figure it out.

And that’s one of the core problems we face. The world is full of false prophets, with messages that sound strange. But sometimes the message of God is hard to make sense of as well. We get all twisted up trying to figure out what the message really is.

That’s precisely the sort of twisting up that the Corinthians are experiencing in the reading from Paul’s epistle that we heard. Here’s the starting point of the story: the Christians in Corinth live in a society that is dominated by pagan temples and pagan religious practices. One of those practices is offering of meat in sacrifice to pagan gods. That food is available after those cultic sacrifices for eating. The Christians want an opinion from Paul: they know they don’t believe in the pagan gods, so the fact that the meat has been offered in those sacrifices is irrelevant, right? They can eat the meat, right? It’s just meat, after all.
And Paul says, “you folks are thinking you’re so smart, but you’re not thinking the problem all the way through. Technically, you’re right. The meat is just meat. Technically, you’re right. Nothing really happened in that pagan ritual that changed that meat.” Paul continues: “…but you’re not getting the full message here, and what’s more, you’re sending a message by eating that stuff. There are those who are newer to the faith, and maybe they’re people who used to go to those temples and participate in those sacrifices. You don’t think it confuses them, when you eat that meat? You don’t think it might lead them to believe that they can stay with one foot in the pagan world and one foot in Christianity? The message you send is just as important as the knowledge, the message, you’ve received. So don’t mess with that meat, and by the way, I, Paul, am now a vegetarian, so I don’t send any mixed messages about this stuff.” And why does Paul talk to the Corinthians this way? Because he wants them to get the full import of the message: we are responsible for each other. What we are supposed to do for each other must be grounded in love of God expressed as loving each other.

That’s the test of the message, and of the messenger: what we are supposed to do must be grounded in love of God expressed as loving each other.

That’s why when someone says if I send in my money to a particular church, God will make me rich, I know that this is not Jesus’s message, because if I get rich, it will be at the expense of another. That’s not love of God, that’s love of my own desires.

That’s why when someone says that that person over there is evil because he doesn’t worship at my church, I know that this is not Jesus’ message, because Jesus welcomed all and died for us all, not just the ones who look and sound like me. That’s not love of God, that’s love of that which is familiar and comfortable.

That’s why when someone says that terrorists attacked us because we are sinful people because we are moving toward justice for gay and lesbian people, I know that this is not Jesus’ message, because Jesus embraced the most unlikely people, the ones whom society looked down upon, and called them beloved. That’s not love of God, that’s injustice.

So here’s the test we use when we’re faced with an unlikely messenger or a message that we cannot parse out. Paul tells us clearly that the answer is that love. If we love God, we’ll be able to tell whether the message is true, whether that messenger is a true prophet. God will help us understand if what we are doing is something that shows our love of him by loving each other. That simple.

So was the President right in his message about the weather? Maybe, maybe not. I’d have preferred to think about the safety of drivers and pedestrians on black ice, than whether we were tough enough. But maybe flinty toughness is a necessary thing in hard times, to help each other through. Maybe calling each other to grit our teeth to make hard choices about medical insurance for an asthmatic child in Southeast, or fighting to get food and water to refugee camps in Somalia are precisely what we need to think about.

Where’s God in the message? Where’s the love? That’s what we need to ask.