Friday, April 23, 2010

Home again, home again ,jiggedy jig.

Back from the fabulous RGBP BE3 Cruise. A delight in every way, with new friends, new ideas, some great rest and relaxation and a bottle each of duty-free tequila and dark rum. Sara - Dark and Stormies coming up!

I'll blog a bit more later and share some pictures...right now there's laundry to do and a husband to hang out with.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Preparation of the Soil

I'm headed out tomorrow morning to go on the RevGals Big Event, a cruise from Miami to the Bahamas, with lectures by the wonderful Rev Nanette Sawyer of Wicker Park Grace. I'm looking forward to meeting so many great RevGals whom I've gotten to know on the Web over the past five years or so. It's also a good unhitching from Alexandria just prior to our move.

A little enforced replanting for a few days reminds me that I can thrive in new soil.

That said, there are things I'll miss about this place:

  • The doe that lives in the thin strip of greensward between Van Dorn Avenue and Rt 395, an urban and heavily trafficked environ. Nature overcomes human predation somehow. The doe wanders back and forth amid the trees, seemingly placid in spite of it all.
  • The cluster of parents in the neighborhood seeing their children on to the bus. Two women in niqab, three in saris, one in shalwar kalmeez, two guys in loose basketball shorts and Redskins t-shirts, a woman in extraordinarily tight jeans and a Be-Dazzled t-shirt that says "I'm a sexy bitch." All smiling, all waving at their children on the bus as it pulls away.
  • The Smithsonian Folk Festival each July. Nothing since has equaled the Silk Road year (Tuvan throat-singers! Yo-yo Ma!), but there is always something interesting to see (who knew that fishing for eels is a big industry in Ireland?) and the people-watching is almost as wonderful as the exhibits and music.
  • Finding out that your neighbor can't tell you what he does in his job. If he told you, he'd have to kill you. But he'll never tell you. Seriously.
  • Meeting people who think big, about all sorts of things. Even if I don't agree with what they think, they stretch my brain in new ways.
But there are also things that I will gladly leave behind :
  • Traffic. The Beltway is the deepest circle of Hell. Rt 95 and 395 are tests of Christian forbearance...I fail miserably on a regular basis.
  • Excessive focus on what you do for a living as a measure of status. I can remember one dinner party where I was pretty much ignored by the hostess (wife of a person with whom I had a business relationship) until she learned what my pay grade was (how things are measured in Your Nation's Capital), then decided I was worthy of her attention. SES (Senior Executive Service) is more prestigious, it seems, than the GS grades. Not that I really wanted much of her attention, but that really is the way of things more often than it should be.
  • High, high cost of living. Not quite San Francisco, not quite NYC, but pretty damned high, particularly housing. For those who do the manual labor in this town, this means they live out a ways and endure long commutes on public transportation, which is not always as reliable as it should be. For those of us who don't make megabucks, you have to make some very strategic choices to live as you think you should.
  • Hard place to raise kids. Mine are mostly grown now, but I cannot tell you the number of times that I've heard about cliques, "mean girls," overwhelming pressure for kids to get into the best colleges, a lot of pressure re sex and drugs in schools both poor and rich. On this side of the Potomac, a large number of kids get a fancy car when they get their license. Across the river, kids struggle to avoid getting drawn into gang/drug/gun trouble. Many don't succeed. Something is very wrong here.
In all, my time in the DC area (fifteen years this go-round) has been rich and wonderful. I got here a mess, in the final stages of a painful divorce and difficult custody struggle. I met PH, remarried, changed from a career to a vocation, was ordained, and began to serve God's church. Now I go to another place, very different from the last one, and begin again.

I pray I find the humus beneath my feet, grow new roots, and thrive. And I am grateful for this week of respite and rejoicing. Necessary preparation of the soil, I'd say.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pack Your Bags Friday Five

A great Friday Five from Songbird:

"I'm preparing to pack my bags for the Big Event Three, and as I gather what I need I'm thinking about just that: what do I *need* to take with me? As a person who likes to pack light, I worry that in the end I may underpack and wish I had other things with me. I own the gigantor version of the bag to the right, but my morbid fear of having it go astray and not get to the ship means I'm more likely to try to pack it all in a carry-on bag instead, especially since I have a very tight connection on the way to the cruise. But won't I be sorry if I don't bring _______________?"

With that in mind, here are five questions about packing to go on a trip.

1) Some fold, some roll and some simply fling into the bag. What's your technique for packing clothes?

Roll and stuff. I can fit bunches of things into very tight spaces. Part of it comes from having a mom who was in the military in WWII and who learned efficient packing in a duffle bag, part of it was having been a road warrior in my prior life, and traveling a lot all over the place. I also am good at finding clothing that is space-efficient and non-wrinkling. That sure helps.

2) The tight regulations about carrying liquids on planes makes packing complicated. What might we find in your quart-size bag? Ever lose a liquid that was too big?

Never lost a liquid that was too big. In my quart-sized bag are basic toiletries including the contact lens stuff and moisturizer and such. I've also got, I'm sad to say, another quart-sized bag with meds. Such is middle age. Glad I don't have to fit that stuff into the first bag or else I'd be un-deodorized, un-moisturized, un-toothbrushed - yuck.

3) What's something you can't imagine leaving at home?

The iPod and a couple of books, and maybe some knitting.

4) Do you have a bag with wheels?

Mais certainement! Life is too short to have a sore shoulder or back.

5) What's your favorite reading material for a non-driving trip (plane, train, bus, ship)?

Mystery novel or design magazines, usually.

I'm happy to say I'm going on BigEvent3 - my first with these women - and i cannot wait!

How about you?

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Last night was another in our list of good-bye events. Folks from my sponsoring parish, the place where PH and I met and were married, gathered for a lovely party.

On Friday night, we were feted at the adios party thrown by Saint Middle School for us. One of my farewell gifts was Deacon Gabrielle, pictured at right. They decided I could use an extra pair of hands at my new call at Church by the Lakeside. Gabrielle has a whole backstory (daughter of parents who served as missionaries in Indonesia, experience at several churches in Ohio and Maryland...) too adorable! Gifted Parishioner, who makes all the vestments and altar paraments for Saint Middle School, crafted Gabrielle's vestments, inspired by the fabulously vested Rev. Barbie of St. Barbara's by the Sea in Malibu. Other lovely gifts, too, for which I am so grateful, but mostly I'm grateful for the time I've spent in both these communities. They were part of what molded me into the person I am today. There will be two more such events, one at PH's church and another party with PH's work colleagues.

Last night, a friend reminded me of an "alto lunch" - at that point I was still singing in the alto section in the choir - when I had started dating PH, where the assembled group grilled me through the entire lunch about PH. They wanted to see if he was good enough for me. Of course at the same time, PH's cousins in the area were grilling him as to whether or not I was good enough for him! A delight to remember those times and those stories.

That, I think, is one of the gifts of these farewell gatherings. They bring to the forefront of our memories the stories that we most need to cherish of time and relationship and love. Bittersweet, these parting get-togethers, but worth it for these moments and this love.

And the Midori martinis weren't too bad, either!

Friday, April 09, 2010

RevGals Friday Five: On the Road Again

A fun Friday Five from Sophia today:

"My family is heading out to my husband's parents for the weekend later today. They would have preferred that we come at Easter, but I preferred that my choir director not bring my life to an early end! (Five liturgies to sing between Thursday and Sunday, two with major solos). So Low Sunday it is.

Some Gals and Pals may have been able to travel to join family or visit a vacation spot last week; some who had to stay put then may be traveling this weekend; and, if I recall correctly, some lucky ones are heading out to the Big Event next weekend. Hence: a road trip Friday Five."

1. When was your last, or will be your next, out of town travel?

Depends on what counts as out of town. I've been running back and forth to Richmond, where I will begin a new call on May 1st, to meet with church folk and get ready to buy a house there. I was there on Wednesday. Next trip will be on the 19th, when I join the RevGals on BE3. Whoopee!

2. Long car trips: love or loathe?

I adore long car trips with my husband. PH is the best traveling companion - mellow, curious, funny, able to be quiet some of the time and conversational other times. Long car trips with my kids, even now that they are adults - not so much. Their dad and I used to drive from Little Rhody to Stowe VT every weekend during the snowboarding season when they were younger. It did not help our already faltering marriage. Just sayin'

3. Do you prefer to be driver or passenger?

Depends who is driving. If PH is driving, I am very happy to be the passenger. If one of the kids is driving, I wish I were behind the wheel. They are not bad drivers, per se, it's just that they don't pay attention in the same way a more experienced driver does.

4. If passenger, would you rather pass the time with handwork, conversing, reading, listening to music, or ???

Sleeping is always my favorite. Can't read or do much craft stuff because I get carsick. I like to converse some of the time, listen to music or books on tape some of the time, just watch the world go by the rest of the time...or not: "Oooh, look at the cute little shop. Let's stop and take a look."

5. Are you going, or have you ever gone, on a RevGals BE? Happiest memories of the former, and/or most anticipated pleasures of the latter?

Going on BE3 and I can't wait to meet so many folks I know from their blogs IRL!

6. Bonus: a favorite piece of road trip music.
Paul Simon: "Graceland". Also his "The Rhythm of the Saints." Perfect road music. Strong also-ran: anything by the sublime Eva Cassidy.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Midweek eek

The endless list of things to do continues. Not a bad thing, just, well, endless.

I had a great meeting this morning with the new interim vicar at St Middle School. They will like her and I believe she will like them. Bright, engaged Christians who are not afraid to ask hard questions, they also put their time and money where their mouth is.

Last night was the fourth premarital prep session for S&J - one more and they will be done with this part of their preparation. Sweet couple. I'm privileged to work with them. I do love doing this work!

When I came home, PH had loaded all my boxes of assorted office stuff (books, resource materials, etc, etc) into little Red (his Volvo S40 wagon). I am heading out momentarily to drive south for three purposes: to measure all the various dimensions of the new house so as to plan where furniture will go, to meet with the current interim at my new church and the senior and junior warden to discuss all sorts of stuff, and to unload said boxes. It will be easier to organize the rest of the stuff that needs to be packed and moved in the house if my church stuff is out of the way. At least that's what I'm telling myself. In any case, it's easier to move it once (from my house in Alexandria to the church in Richmond) than it is to move it from my house in Alexandria to my new house in Richmond to the church in Richmond. That's my belief, at least.

The acolyte corps in the Church by the Lakeside has invited me to tea the day before our first Eucharist together. Should be interesting. Given that the acolyte corps is something of a well-defended highly formalized institution at this place, we shall see what this means. For now, I'm presuming it's a warm gesture of welcome.

I'm hoping the drive south will be uneventful, that the unusually warm weather we are experiencing will not bring out the NASCAR attitudes of the drivers on the road, and that the sexton will be around to help move the boxes into the office. If not, I'll be on ibuprofen for the rest of the week.


Monday, April 05, 2010

Monday Morning List

Easter Monday, and I am now officially in-between jobs.

That doesn't mean I get much rest, although I did get to sleep in until (hold on to your hats) 7 am this morning!

Yesterday was wonderful, with a great outdoor service at 7:30 am on Saint Middle School's land, followed by a big festal service at our usual venue at 10, complete with a trumpeter and all sorts of great music. The services went well and we had a great egg hunt and potluck afterwards. PH and I came back home to decompress for a little bit, then we went over to K&P's house for a delicious dinner and great conversation. To bed by ten p.m. feeling like it was a good day's work and play.

But Monday is another day. The list of things to do is quite long, mostly revolving around cleaning and organizing for the move.

I'm headed out to the cleaners to get the alb cleaned. Then it's time to tackle closets - I'm not psychologically ready to handle the basement yet. Since it's in the 70's today, I really have to put away the winter clothes and hang up the light weight things.

On to the rest of my life...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Sermon for Easter Sunday Luke 21:1-12 "Seeing What is Within"

We human beings think we know how things work. We make assumptions.

We think we know what to expect when we examine something more closely, based upon our prior experience with similar things. We think there are predictable behaviors in the natural world, and we think there are predictable behaviors in people, too. We make judgments about how people are based upon what we first see – those infamous “first impressions – and we think we know who they are in all their complexity just from those first senses we get about them.

What a surprise, then, when we discover that our beliefs, our assumptions, are wrong!

Think of it like a geode.

Geodes are geological formations. Geodes usually appear in sedimentary or volcanic rock. They look for all the world like big old rocks. Brown. Unprepossessing.

Pretty boring, actually. But when you break them open, look what you find…gorgeous quartz crystal formations, in glorious colors. Amethyst, rose, yellow. Amazing, and even more surprising given how mundane the exterior looks.

If we thought the inside of a geode was just like the outside, we’d never want to crack them open. We’d never see the glory inside.

We’d have made an assumption – a false one, it turns out – about how this rock was constructed and what it looked like on the inside. And we’d miss something amazing.

It works that way with people, too.

There was a professor I met when I first went to seminary. She had a reputation for being fiercely intelligent. Frankly, she scared me. So I avoided her, and didn’t sign up for any of her classes, because I thought she was scary and would judge me a poor student. I avoided her successfully in my first year, but much to my dismay, she was assigned to be my advisor in my middler year. We met, and my impressions of her as an intelligent and rather brusque person seemed to be confirmed. I had been doing well enough in seminary that I didn’t think she would write a bad middler evaluation of me – one of the critical things that would move me forward to ordination or block me – but she certainly wouldn’t meet anyone’s description of “warm and fuzzy and encouraging.” I was sure I knew who she was.

Then something happened.

In the midst of that middler year, the most exhausting one in the seminary curriculum, I got sick. Very sick.

I was in the ICU. I didn’t think I was going to die, although other people, including my husband, worried that I might. Who comes rolling through the door of my room one afternoon, wearing the gown and the gloves and the mask that everyone who came through the door had to don? You guessed it. My professor. She brought me communion, she talked about how she had informed the rest of my professors what was going on, so I shouldn’t worry, and sat and held my hand for a while as I talked about my fears that this illness would derail my ordination process.

No, she wasn’t warm and fuzzy, but she was supportive, and listened to my fears without dismissing them as silly, and helped me in the ways that she could. Not what I expected from her, based on my assumptions, my impressions.

In my senior year, she was my thesis advisor. She was tough. She expected a level of academic performance several notches higher than any other professor in the seminary. One week, when I brought her some writing that was, frankly, mediocre, she told me in no uncertain terms that this was not the level of work she expected, and I’d better get it together. This was all consistent with my original understanding of who she was – the tough, scary person. But she also encouraged me when I did good work, suggested ways of working with the scholar who was serving as an external evaluator of my work – he was a bit difficult, and celebrated with me when the thesis was done.

Yes, she was like my first impression, somewhat, but she was much more. Had I not had the surprise of who she could be under different circumstances, I would have dismissed her as someone with whom I didn’t want to engage.

You crack the geode open, that geode that looks like a plain and hard rock, and you find crystalline glory inside. Surprises abound, when you least expect them.

So it was for the women in today’s gospel. Mary Magdelene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, the other women. They went to Jesus’ tomb with certain expectations. They knew how things went when someone was dead. They were laid in a tomb, and the body needed to be properly prepared, with spices like myrrh, like the spikenard with which Mary bathed Jesus’ feet. It was a sad task, an end to a terrible time when they had watched Jesus brutally killed on the cross, caught in the political crossfire between the religious leadership and the Roman governor. They probably carried the small pouches and bottles of spices in baskets made of reeds. Their arms ached with the weight of the baskets even as their hearts ached with their loss of the beloved one who taught them a new way of knowing God. And their walk was probably a silent one.

Each had their own thoughts, their own anticipation of seeing the cold, white body in the tomb, with the horrific wounds from the nails, from the spear. They knew what to expect.

But the rock was cleaved. The stone that covered the tomb was rolled away. And two strangers, “two men in dazzling clothes,” were standing there, telling them that Jesus was not there, that he was alive, as he had told them would happen.

The rocky cave, broken open. Something much different than they had expected within. Something so beautiful that the only thing they could do was to run back to the others in shock and amazement, to tell them what they had seen and heard.

Unless you actually see the inside of the geode, how could you ever guess the beauty that lies within?

So when the women told the disciples, the men’s reaction was predictable. “No, you women couldn’t have seen that. You couldn’t have heard that. That’s not the way the world works. Somebody dies, they’re dead. Their body remains in a tomb. Maybe Jesus had started to decompose and your mind was affected by the odor and your own stupid, womanish emotions.”

The women insisted, though, so Peter went to see for himself. And what he saw was the rock, cleaved. The crystalline glory within. Not the body of their teacher, cold and dead. Just the winding cloths in which he had been interred, folded, on the stone. Jesus gone, risen from the dead.

Easter reminds us once again that Jesus’ death and resurrection is not what we would expect. It breaks all the natural rules. It turns our expectations of what will happen upside down.

The rock is broken open and what remains within is not a broken human body. What remains is the glorious surprise of what God can do. A resurrection. A triumph over death.

It is unexpected, but the ultimate unexpected act is the one that is also a part of this story. Jesus not only rises, no longer dead but eternally alive – he also frees us from our own death, our own sinfulness.

This is the joy of the resurrection. This is the brilliant crystal within the dull brown rock: we are saved. In one utterly incomprehensible moment, Jesus himself is no longer dead, and neither are we.
Because of what he has done, we are alive, in him. Our sins are forgiven. Our brokenness is healed.

The geode is cleaved and we see what is within. What do we see? Ourselves, beloved, saved, filled with love and gratitude for the gift of Jesus in our lives. Ourselves, full of possibilities and potential. We have the opportunity to look deeper than the expected assumptions of who we are, and what Jesus means to us.

We can break open the rock and see something that defies what we expect, what we assume. Because that’s the thing – we look at something and then make assumptions based upon past experience, because of what we have seen or read or felt. With God it is different. God looks at something and doesn’t think backwards…God thinks forward. God sees the possibilities and the surprises that are within something. That is why Jesus’ death is not an ending, but a beginning. That is why our possibilities, in God’s eyes, are infinitely more important than how we have failed in the past.

Alleluia! The Lord is risen, and we, too rise, with him and through him. Alleluia, indeed!


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Homily for Maundy Thursday, April 1, 2010: John 13:1-17, 31b-35 “Get Down on Your Knees”

It is an uncomfortable thing to get down on your knees and wash somebody’s feet.

First of all, there’s the posture. You’re down on your hands and knees. You’re lower than the person whose feet you are washing. Your knees may creak a bit, and it may be hard on your back.

Then there’s the whole “feet” thing…touching other peoples’ feet feels too intimate. My daughter won’t get a pedicure because she feels shy about someone else handling her feet. Some folks are afraid to touch someone else’s feet because they are afraid the person may have some sort of foot fungus that they will catch, or that they will face someone with particularly unattractive feet.

In the ancient world, feet WERE thought of as a particularly intimate and private part of the body. “Uncovering his feet” was a euphemism for uncovering someone’s private parts. Even today, in the Middle East, showing someone the sole of your foot is a terrible insult. When that Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at former President Bush, it was a multi-leveled insult. Feet are not something to be shared with others.

So when Jesus prepared to wash the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper, it was a crazy thing for Jesus to do. Peter was shocked; the teacher does not do this…it is the work of a slave. But Jesus was teaching once again in a way that turned the world upside down. The first will be last, the little ones are the ones with proper faith, the rich should divest themselves of all and become poor. And the teacher gets down on his knees and washes the feet of those whom he teaches.

It was an unsettling message then, and it is an unsettling one today. We’re perfectly happy to write a check…well, not always perfectly happy, but generally willing, at least in principle…and we’re perfectly happy to make a sandwich or bring a box of cereal to go over to the Interfaith Food Bank, but the whole footwashing thing feels a bit too much.

And yet…

If we are gathering together as a loving community, about to celebrate a meal that reminds us of the One who celebrated the first meal of this kind, serving each other in some way seems right. If the ceremony we were about to do consisted of washing each others’ hands in a bowl of warm water, we probably wouldn’t shrink at it.

But feet. Feet feels like Jesus is asking too much of us. It’s that posture. It’s the sore back we’ll have tomorrow. It’s crouching on the ground. And yes, it’s feet. Tired, slightly smelly, beat-up looking feet.

And that’s really the point, isn’t it? Jesus doesn’t do the easy thing, directing his disciples to do this footwashing, or deciding that washing their hands is enough of a symbol. No, he wraps a towel around his middle, gets down on his knees, and he washes those dusty feet that walked with him on the road to Jerusalem, to this place and this meal. He shows a kind of extreme humility that is second only to what is to come.

Washing feet, you see, is nothing compared to the radical subservience he will demonstrate on Friday, when he gives up not just his dignity, but his human life, to save us all. Getting down on his knees to wash the disciples’ feet will be followed by getting down on his knees to pray that the cup pass away, and it will be followed by getting down on his knees as he is flogged, and it will be followed by his body being tortured and hung up to die on the cross…for no other purpose than to save us. He makes himself a servant. He gets down on his knees and washes their feet. Then he gets up on the cross and dies for their sins, and our sins, too.

So in a few minutes, when we wash each others’ feet, I hope you do feel the ache in your knees and back. I hope you feel the little bit of unease at washing the feet of another St Gabrielite. I hope when you do, you also feel a little bit of the love that Jesus felt toward his disciples, and toward us, that he would assume this position and do this thing. I hope you direct that same feeling of love toward the person whose feet you are washing. If you do, you will start to understand the magnitude of what he does, wrapping a towel around his middle or accepting the judgment that he must die. That is the love we remember this night. That is the love we share with each other in this simple act of washing each others’ feet. And that is the love that Jesus hoped we would learn from his life and death.