Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sermon for Sunday, July 24, 2011 Gen 29:15-28 “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”

If you’re of my generation, or if you’ve got a taste for older music, you’ll remember a famous song by the Rolling Stones: “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.”

You know the chorus, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”

It should be the theme song of Jacob, our friend from the Old Testament, as we hear the latest episode in the soap opera that is his life.

When we left Jacob last week, he was headed to Paddan-Aram, the place where his mother’s family came from, to find himself a wife. He stopped and slept on the way, and had a dream that shook him to his very core: God spoke to him and said he was going to lead the nation of God’s people. He made a shrine, an altar to God, using the rock that had been his pillow, and named the place “Beth-El,” the house of God, and then he kept on moving until he got to his uncle Laban’s place. You’ll remember Laban – he was the one who negotiated for Rebekah when Abraham’s servant came looking for a bride for Jacob’s father Isaac. It would seem that Paddan-Aram was the go-to place to find a nice Jewish girl.

We don’t hear the whole story in today’s passage, but Jacob has already seen one of Laban’s two lovely daughters. Here’s what we hear from Genesis about that first meeting:

Genesis 29:10-14 10 Now when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother's brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother's brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the well's mouth, and watered the flock of his mother's brother Laban. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and wept aloud. 12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's kinsman, and that he was Rebekah's son; and she ran and told her father. 13 When Laban heard the news about his sister's son Jacob, he ran to meet him; he embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things, 14 and Laban said to him, "Surely you are my bone and my flesh!" And he stayed with him a month.

It’s a twist of the story of the servant of Abraham who went to find a wife for Isaac, Jacob’s father. He spotted the lovely Rebekah at the well, and she was kind to him and offered him water for him and his camels. And now, once again, we have an encounter with a pretty girl at that well, only this time, it is Jacob who sees her and helps her and falls in love.

Well, now we are at the point where it gets interesting.

Laban welcomed his kinsman – of course he would, that’s the nature of hospitality even now when you live in the desert. He said, “Jacob my nephew, you don’t have to work by rolling away the stone from the well. You’re a relative! How can I pay you back for helping Rachel?”

You can imagine Jacob, thinking “Wow, what a question! I know what, or rather WHO, I want. I want Rachel to be my wife!”

But the rules of desert hospitality and kinship meant that there was a certain form to be followed. You just didn’t say, “Give me that girl,” you offered to pay a bride price. So Jacob said, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you let me marry Rachel.” Hard labor, to be sure, but Jacob was on the run from Esau anyway, so he might as well stay here with his kinsmen, even if he had to wait seven years to actually marry the girl. So what if it was a long engagement!

Well, seven years passed. A lot of hours and days and months herding the sheep, working for Laban. Finally the day came, and there was quite the party. A good amount of wine was drunk as they celebrated. The bride was all dressed up, with a veil over her face. That had to be so, because when Jacob woke up the next morning, who should he find on the pillow next to him but Leah! Not Rachel, the graceful and lovely one who he had longed for every day of those seven years. No, Leah, the older sister. Yes, she had beautiful eyes, but she wasn’t Rachel.

Jacob was heartbroken. He went to his father-in-law and said, “This wasn’t the deal! I was supposed to get Rachel!”

And Laban simply looked at him and said, “Around here the older one gets married first, so you get Leah.”

You can’t always get what you want, it seems.

So Jacob, he who had manipulated his way into all sorts of trouble, stealing the birthright from Esau, tricking his father into giving him the blessing that should have been his brother’s, was now himself the victim of what seemed like a cruel trick.

Seems like he finally got his just deserts, doesn’t it?

But Jacob knew what he wanted – Rachel – so he said to Laban, “Okay, I get it. You’ve saddled me with Leah. But I still want Rachel. Let’s make a deal.”

And so a deal was cut – he was to spend a week in their equivalent of a honeymoon with Leah, and promise to give Laban another seven years of labor, and Laban would then also give him Rachel, his beautiful Rachel.

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.

Now remember, Jacob remembered what God had told him in the dream. He knew he would be the father of a great nation. So maybe it was a good thing that he had two wives, because then he’d have lots of children. Having more than one wife was not uncommon in those days, as long as you could support them.

He got what he needed, right?

Well, not really. It was pretty clear to everybody, especially Leah and Rachel, that Jacob loved Rachel best. Leah was heartbroken. God felt sorry for Leah, so he “opened her womb,” and she became pregnant, but Rachel was barren.

You can’t always get what you want…

The story of Jacob and Leah and Rachel got even more complicated – even their maids Zilpah and Bilhah got into the act – and you’ll hear a little more of it next Sunday, but I think you get the picture. Jacob had a clear idea in his mind of what he wanted, but it didn’t exactly play out as he had planned. It seemed God was a part of the story, too, and things played out as God intended them. Jacob, the manipulator par excellence, was not in control as much as he thought he would be.

You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.

There’s no surprise in the song, or in the story. We, like Jacob, have the things that we long for, the things that we crave. We do what we think will deliver those things into our hands. We do it all the right way, and then it falls apart. We can’t always get what we want. We are not as in control of our circumstances as we think. And the thing we wish for most may not give us what we thought.

It’s like the old proverb, now immortalized in a song by the rap star Eminem, “Be careful what you wish for, because you may get it.” Jacob wished for Rachel, and was sorely unhappy when he got Leah first. But it was Leah who gave him his first three sons, while Rachel continued to be barren. Had he gotten only Rachel, he might have never had his sons.

Jacob is not the only person who found this out.

Have you ever wished you’d get a particular job, only to discover that the boss was awful and you had to work like a dog and never got to spend a waking hour doing anything except the job? Have you ever longed for a hot sports car, only to discover that it always required repair and cost a small fortune to maintain, not to mention the speeding tickets?

Or is it like the song: you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need?

Perhaps when you went to buy that sports car, you discovered that the monthly payments were beyond your reach. Instead you got a slightly more boring sedan, one that you could afford. And you drove that car home and found out that your wife was pregnant, and you’d need to fit a babyseat in the backseat. You got what you needed, and it was good.

Perhaps you were turned down for that dream job, and then another opportunity presented itself, and you took a job that turned out to be a blessing for you and your family, and you were grateful you were there when you discovered that the first company was laying off workers in the office you had longed for. You got what you needed, and it was good.

Perhaps you wanted something, and it was denied you. You can’t always get what you want, after all.

But something else happened. Something that you couldn’t have predicted or hoped for. You got what you needed.

That’s the thing about wishing for things. We don’t always know what is best for us. We react with our hearts or our guts, and we cannot see the full picture of how what we want will affect our lives. But somehow, somewhere, God makes sure we notice what else is right under our noses. The very thing that we need, although we may not recognize it immediately.

We are imperfect in so many ways, especially when it comes to our wants and needs. It’s a good thing, isn’t it, that God looks past those imperfections and helps us find what we really need.

You can’t always get what you want, but God helps you get what you need.


"Let it Bleed," the album pictured above is where you will find the iconic Rolling Stones song "You Can't Always Get What You Want."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sermon for Sunday, July 17, 2011 Genesis 28:10-19a “Jacob's Ladder ”

It happens quite often. Doug and I are having breakfast, and he says “I had the most unusual dream last night…” and then he proceeds to tell me in incredible detail what he dreamed about. Often, I’ll say “Where do you think that one came from?” Sometimes he surmises that he had that dream because he had heard bad news about someone the prior week who now was in the dream. Sometimes we would speculate that it was because he was worried about something, or because he was excited about a new plan he was about to carry out, or even because he ate too much spicy food for dinner!

That’s the way we try to interpret dreams, isn’t it? We assume there is something that causes a dream, and we can figure it out. That’s a very modern view, that ties dreams to our physiology or to our psychological state. Brain scientists take EEGs of people as they dream. They think most dreaming occurs during a part of the sleep cycle called “REM sleep.” One brain scientist says that dreaming is the brain processing all the stuff that’s sitting in our short-term memory from our waking times the day before; another says it is the processing of things in our long-term memory.

Psychiatry has had a shot at understanding dreams as well. Sigmund Freud thought dreams were the way we visited our unfulfilled wishes; Carl Jung thought they were full of symbols that required complex deciphering. The early psychotherapist Alfred Adler thought that dreams were our way of figuring out solutions to complex problems. Who knows which of these views is correct? But we do have this persistent notion that our brains work while we are asleep to reflect on our lives, and our dreams are the way we do that. Sometimes they’re fun, sometimes they’re frightening, sometimes they’re incomprehensible.

But all these ways of figuring out what dreams are about are reflective of a modern point of view.

In ancient times, dreams were something very different. Dreaming was considered a supernatural communication or a means of divine intervention. Sometimes understanding dreams would require someone with certain special powers – remember Joseph of the coat of many colors, who interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams? But the clear understanding in those days was that dreams were not something that was concocted in one’s own psyche. Dreams were messages, sometimes complex ones, that came from an outside source. In fact, they often came directly from God.

The Bible is full of such references, of course, and one of the most famous ones is the dream we heard about in our passage from Genesis this morning. It’s about Jacob, that troublesome son of Isaac. The fellow who stole his brother Esau’s birthright for a bowl of lentil stew. The troublemaker and trickster. The thief of the birthright and the blessing of his father.

Their father Isaac is on the verge of death, and Esau has said he will kill Jacob after their father dies. Rebekah, their mother and Jacob’s co-conspirator in the plan to steal Isaac’s blessing from Esau, hears that Esau is out for Jacob’s blood and warns him. Isaac, on his deathbed, sends Jacob to find himself a nice girl from among their own tribe rather than one of the local girls – haven’t we heard that before? – and he is off to Paddan-Aram, where his mother’s people are, to find a bride. He is also on the run, because he knows Esau is feeling an itch for revenge.

At this point we realize that Jacob is a thoroughly unsympathetic character. He has been awful to his brother. He has lied to his father. He has enlisted his mother, who favored him over Esau, in his crimes. It is very difficult to like Jacob.

And that is what makes what happens next so odd.

Jacob stops to rest overnight, on his way to Paddan-Aram. He finds a spot to rest, grabs a rock from the ground, and uses it as a pillow. I can’t imagine using a rock as a pillow, but it’s all that’s available – he had left in a hurry – so he uses it.

And then he has a dream.

Now we would expect he might have a dream about his brother chasing him off a cliff, or his father weeping in heaven because of his bad behavior, or even about a camel standing on his neck and causing it to hurt. This would comport with our modern understanding of dreams as reflections of what is going on in our lives.

But Jacob’s dream is true to the ancient form. It is a message from God. First he sees a ladder with angels going up and down the rungs. Then God speaks: "I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

I don’t know about you, but I would have expected a dream from God to say “You’re really a sad excuse for a human being. Go back and ask everyone’s forgiveness, and maybe then I won’t smite you!”

But here is God, seemingly rewarding Jacob despite his bad behavior. And in the background, those angels keep going up and down the ladder.

Why would God give this gift of a promise beyond imagining to someone like Jacob?

Was God trying to make the point, once again, that the work God has in mind can be done by even the most dysfunctional people? Was God applauding the fact that Jacob was so desirous of the birthright, that blessing that would bring with it the leadership of the great nation promised to his grandfather and father, that Jacob ‘s unsavory methods were overlooked? Was God moving Jacob along a path to be able to appreciate the gift of leadership, on-the-job-training, as it were?

One clue might be the other image in the dream, the angels going up and down the ladder.

What about that ladder? Well, we think of it as a stepladder, but a more apt description of it might be a narrow passageway, even a conveyer belt of sorts through such a passageway. Some rabbis have spoken of the ladder as the steps to a more perfected self, sort of a self-improvement ladder, but I think it is instead what Jesus talked about when he instructed his followers to “enter through the narrow gate,” and when he said “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven,” the eye of the needle being a very small door within a larger city gate. That thin little passageway separating the divine realm from the earthly one, that doorway to heaven, is the place that God’s messengers pass through as they carry out their work.

Angels are those messengers. “Angels” in Hebrew is “Malak,” a word that means either an earthly messenger or a divine one. They are the carriers of what God wills…they are going back and forth between heaven and earth, bringing those divine instructions to earth and reporting back to heaven. So perhaps the angels in the dream represent exactly what is happening at the moment of the dream. A message from heaven is coming to someone on earth. The angels may be the planters of the message into the dream, or they may be affirming God’s message to others so they understand what is happening to Jacob. The angels, that parade of them cycling through heaven and earth, are the reminder of the ever-present God who guides God’s people.

So what do we understand of this dream? God employs yet another unlikely person to do the work of building a nation. God reaches out directly – through the dream – to let that person, Jacob, know what lies ahead. God subtly lets Jacob know that guidance from heaven will keep on coming, an endless stream of messengers carrying that guidance.

So that’s the dream. We know how Jacob reacts – he is stunned by it. As with all people who behave badly and then receive surprising grace, he is shaken that the God who knows exactly who and what he is has chosen him in this way. He knows the ground on which he stands is a thin little passageway between earth and heaven, that narrow gate that the angels pass through. So he consecrates and marks the ground and names it. It is Beth-El, God’s House, now, not merely a rocky stretch of desert.

Jacob is transformed by the dream. God has shocked him into recognition of what he is to become, and it is more than a little frightening.

But those are dreams of ancient times….we don’t dream like that today, do we? It’s more the dreams like Freud and Adler talked about, our psyches working out what’s on our minds during the day…or is that really so?

Can we imagine our dreams as the place where we trust we can communicate with God without our doubts and fears getting in our way? Where we do not block out the possibilities that God might set before us, because in dreams we do not defend ourselves from those possibilities? Can we hope that we can sense God’s presence in our dreams, because when we are awake there is so much noise around us that gets in the way?

I cannot say that I’ve had a dream where God spoke to me directly. But I do know that I’ve had dreams where I’ve become calm about a difficult situation before me, and where I’ve gotten some clarity about what I should do.

Adler and Freud would say this was internal – my own mind working out what it needed to work out. I wonder about that. Maybe dreams are times when we are in that narrow gate between heaven and earth, and God’s whispers can be sensed, and in those moments an inspiration or a blessing comes to us. It’s not science. It’s theology, a very different thing. I embrace the dream, and the narrow gate, and the possibilities God sets before us, however the message arrives and whomever the messenger may be.


The image above is a different kind of Jacob's ladder - an electrical one. It is a device for producing a continuous train of large sparks which rise upwards. The spark gap is formed by two wires, approximately vertical but gradually diverging away from each other towards the top in a narrow "V" shape.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sunny Saturday

  • Another great session at St Giles' Gate this morning. Read about it here. Ideas keep burbling up about this ministry, and I have to stop and and remind myself to give everyone else in the church a chance to catch up. I just finished a brochure for the program, so we can share it with other churches and invite them to send their kids who might benefit from it.

  • This will be an intense week of writing - Seminarian and I will try to get the bulk of the plan for the Lakeside Clergy Free clinic on paper. I'll also have a bunch of stuff to do to clear the decks before leaving with our teens on the mission trip to Tazewell a week from tomorrow. Never enough hours in the week for all the stuff that could get done, but I'll try to prioritize, sort of.

  • I think I will repair to my workshop and do some icon writing. It's been a few weeks, which is a few weeks too many.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Five: Gratitude

A great Friday Five from Jan:

"A wise person once told me to make an ABC list of things I am grateful for any time I feel sad or depressed. It is a good practice when one is feeling happier than that, too. So for this Friday Five, I suggest that you use your name or nickname of about five letters and express your gratitude about something that starts with each letter. Some people have longer names, so you decide how you will go about this! (Last names, middle names, and nicknames count!)"

M is for motherhood - the hardest and most wonderful job I've ever had.

I is for intellectual stimulation - which comes from so many different sources: conversations, books, classes, the world around me.

B is for beloved - my beloved is mine...what would I do without my wonderful husband, who lifts me up and applauds and reflects and works hard with me? I'd be a mess, for sure.

I is for interior life - the place I go with prayer and meditation. Sometimes it's a very dark room indeed. Other times it is the place of warmth and comfort. It is always there, though, and I always appreciate my time there.

T is for time. I'm older now than my father was when he was killed. I'm as old as my mother was when she had the first of a series of heart attacks that eventually led to her death. I've begun this work of ministry fairly recently, and I am so very grateful that I have the health and the time to live into this ministry. How long will I have? I don't know. We never do. But whatever time I have, I want to relish!

Bonus: You'll notice my blogname is mibi52, so I'll add something to this list by naming the gratitide I feel for 5 and 2.

5 - my five children. Three were born of my body, two came as part of the package with the husband. They are all very different people and are a delight.

2 - my two mothers. One gave birth to me with her body, one shaped me and formed me as a human being by her love. Thanks to both of them. I wouldn't be here, literally or figuratively, without them.

Saturday, July 09, 2011


It was a good and busy day. I spent early morning and breakfast with my COD colleagues - we had gotten much good work done the night before - then drove down to Richmond in time for our second St Giles' Gate class and a noon memorial service for a remarkable 85 year old lady who was both a perfect Southern lady and a feisty broad. Got back home at 2 pm...going upstairs I twisted my hip somehow and saw stars and said a rude word or two. It's still quite sore, 5 hours and one industrial strength Naprosyn later. Hoping it will unkink itself as I sleep tonight.

Wonderful seminarian is preaching tomorrow on the sower and the seed, and PH is doing the Adult Forum, so I get the bliss of simply reveling in presiding at the Eucharist. After the 10:30 we will have a potluck and baby shower for our Sudanese sexton, Timon, and his wife, Mary. Their first child is due on the 18th. Women from the larger Sudanese Christian community will be coming for this shindig...I expect it will run into the late afternoon. Should be utterly delightful, with singing and food and laughter as we all prepare for this little one to come into the world.

I pray your Saturday evening is relaxed and comfortable, with an ice cream at the table and dear ones to converse with.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

On the horizon...

  • Memorial service, interment, gathering with the family, two pastoral phone calls= today.
  • Get Eucharistic Prayer for St Giles' Gate laminated.Go out to retreat center for meeting of the Committee on the Diaconate=tomorrow.
  • St Giles' Gate, memorial service, interment in the memorial garden=Saturday.
  • Two services (wonderful seminarian is preaching and PH is teaching the Adult Forum on Scripture and Sexuality, TBTG, so it will be a relatively easy Sunday for me), hospital visits=Sunday.

Somewhere in there I have some writing to do for the plan for the Free Clinic, some work to do for StrongOpinions, who is going through a bad patch right now (please keep her in your prayers), and a moment to catch my breath and sit and hold PH's hand. We don't have nearly enough time together what with two very busy schedules - he was just named Director of Clinical Services for his pastoral counseling agency - and we've got to do something about that. We did sit together the other night and watch "Biutiful," a gorgeously composed and shot but somewhat depressing movie starring Javier Bardem, who is also gorgeous. The next thing that's in our Netflix queue is "Of Gods and Men," which I expect will also be gorgeously shot, but slightly depressing. Maybe the next one should be a musical or something....

Above: Titian's painting of Sisyphus, pushing that boulder up the hill...

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Sermon for Sunday, July 3, 2011 Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 “The Marrying Kind”

Marriage – it’s an odd and wonderful institution, isn’t it? Over the centuries, as we learned last week in adult forum, marriages came in all kinds. In ancient times, people married to make alliances, to join property, to make people who were enemies into friends, to bring wealth into a household, to create a whole bunch of farm hands, and sometimes even because they were in love. Marriage is at the heart of two of our readings this morning, so let’s think about that state of relationship today, as we talk once again about Abraham and Isaac.

We ended our story of Abraham and Isaac on Mt Moriah last week with the observation that Isaac was changed in some very fundamental ways by that experience. It was a moment that proved his father’s faithfulness, but it seemed to break something in Isaac. He was never the same again.

We hear more of Isaac’s story today in the reading from Genesis. Isaac is now forty years old, still not married. Abraham must be getting worried about the guy. After all, God promised that there would be a mighty nation, as numerous as stars in the skies. How is that supposed to happen if Isaac doesn’t get married and start populating that nation? And now he’s sitting around moping because his mother Sarah has died. It just doesn’t seem like the boy – now a man – is really not the marrying kind. Horrific thought! Time to do something!

So Abraham steps in – powerful fathers have a tendency to do that. He will get his son a wife. Well, he won’t – he will send a trusted servant out to take care of the matter. He gives the servant some instructions about what the bride should be like. She should not be a Canaanite woman, because those Canaanites, they’re all trouble. She should be a member of Abraham’s own tribe. She should be willing to drop everything and come to where Abraham and Isaac are encamped, and not insist that the family come to her place, as would be the norm.

The servant swears that he will do this, but he wonders why Abraham has not given instructions on whether the girl should come from a wealthy family, or whether she should be beautiful, or whether she should be very young so as to provide lots of children to Isaac…what kind of matchmaker would the servant be if he didn’t consider all the qualities that Abraham has neglected to mention? Should she be a strong woman and good manager to help Isaac run the household, or should she be gentle and kind? Should she be lively, a good singer, to entertain the sometimes withdrawn man she is to marry? It is so hard to know what will be the right match, to turn this somber man into the marrying kind. So he comes up with a test to see if the girl is a good match for his master’s son. He prays to God about it:

Genesis 24:12-14 And he said, "O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13 I am standing here by the spring of water, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. 14 Let the girl to whom I shall say, 'Please offer your jar that I may drink,' and who shall say, 'Drink, and I will water your camels'-- let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master."

What happens? The beautiful Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel, comes out to fill the family’s water jugs, and there is the servant. He asks for a sip of water. She generously gives him some, and offers to water the camels as well. Bingo! We’ve got a winner! He grabs some fine jewelry and hands it to her – what young woman doesn’t like a nice gold nose-ring and bracelets? – and goes and talks to her brother, asking for her hand in marriage to Isaac. It doesn’t hurt when he tells Laban that Abraham is very, very rich. Laban says, “Sure, take her; this is God’s work, so what can we say?” And off goes Rebekah, although her family wants her to stay a bit longer, so the servant has to insist they must leave immediately. The beautiful Rebekah, with only her nurse and a few other women servants to be a reminder of the home she had left, goes off on a camel to her new husband, her new family, a new life. Her family has sent her off to be the wife of the son of a rich man, and to give him many children. So women’s lives were defined in those days.

And what happens when she reaches Abraham’s encampment?

Isaac spots the camel train first, and goes out to see for himself. Rebekah sees him, slips off her camel, asks the servant if he’s the groom, and when she hears that he is, she covers herself – modesty is important – and approaches, for the first time, the man to whom she is betrothed.

We don’t hear the conversation between them. We are once again given only the briefest outline of the action. But the story ends with Isaac taking Rebekah into his mother’s tent, taking her as his bride, and falling in love with her. It seems Isaac is the marrying kind, after all. And the last sentence of the story?

“So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.”

That was unexpected!

The great gift of Rebekah in that moment was not her beauty, or her family lineage, or the children she would bear to continue to fulfill God’s promise.

No. It was simple loving comfort.

Love as a balm to a wounded soul. Love as gift from God in human form. And Isaac was needy enough – humbled enough in his grief – to see it as the gift he had craved, perhaps even from that moment when he learned his father was willing to sacrifice him, certainly from the moment when he lost his dear mother.

We tend not to think of marriage in ancient times in those terms. We think of the alliances, of the temporal reasons that people married, particularly because parents often arranged their children’s marriages for their own purposes. But this time, God – the same God who seemed so difficult and demanding last week – delivers a marriage that is pure love. It is a reminder that God’s actions, even the most incomprehensible ones, are underpinned by God’s deep love for us.

We human beings may think we are in control of our relationships, that we pick the person whom we will marry, that we can control them (and us), that our marriage is defined by our children or our homes or the places we go on vacation, but underneath all our frantic attempts to make our matches, just as frantic as the poor servant Abraham sent out, there is the steady river of God’s love, shaping and guiding and hoping for us to find a human representation of the many-faceted love that God gives us. We are all the marrying kind, in the end, whomever we are given to have as our partner in life, and that is the ultimate reminder that it is God who gives the gift. Rejoice in love, rejoice in companionship, in partnership, however it may come, whoever it may be. Rejoice. It is a gift from the one whose love knows no bounds. Rejoice! Amen.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Random Dots of Saturday

  • StrongOpinions and the BF arrived last night - the bus was four hours late, but at least they got here. BF is tall, dark and handsome in an indy-rocker kind of way. Many tattoos, Tom Selleck mustache, the inevitable knit cap, and a quirky sense of humor. I can see what she sees in him, and I can see that she is different around him, in a good way. (Hear ye now the sigh of a mom who is dealing or attempting to deal with it all. May they care for each other and be kind to each other, and if they are meant to be, let me be cool about it, and if they are not meant to be, let it not be a source of agita to all involved, especially to Mamma.)

  • It is in the 90s already. PH is out on his bike, doing 40 or so miles of penance for the chocolate chip cookies and ice cream from last night. I worked out early at the gym and hit the Farmer's Market for the first local corn and tomatoes of the season. Don't know what the rest of the day will bring.

  • To go to the fireworks tomorrow night or not? It will mean the inevitable crush of people searching for a parking spot, the late-night difficulty of getting back home in the traffic, the usual mix of wonderful folks and folks who got their party on a little too early...and yet, it's the 4th, and it's fireworks. I'll let you know what we do. Last year, we sat on the median of a local boulevard called Boulevard (nothing like the obvious) and watched the fireworks at the Diamond (our AA-league ballpark - again, nothing like the obvious). Just a mile from our house, much more relaxed, but the Squirrels aren't having fireworks on Sunday night, and the kids are leaving on Monday afternoon.

  • Killer workout in the gym with a different trainer the other day. My shoulders are still complaining. So this morning I went and worked out with the old trainer. Now all the different stuff is aching. Best line of the day on the frustration of working out hard and not losing weight: "Brain cells come and brain cells go, but fat cells are forever." Amen that.

  • We hosted the wardens' dinner on Thursday night. In our tradition, our senior lay leaders are called wardens (a source of many bad jokes in Episco circles). We have a dinner once a month with Senior and Junior Wardens and their spouses, plus another member of our vestry and spouse or partner. We plan the upcoming vestry meeting and talk through the ups and downs of our parish life together. I love these folks! Dinner started with an Alsatian Gruyere-onion-bacon tart, then a Salade Nicoise with grilled tuna steaks and French bread, then a lemon meringue pie. I like to entertain periodically because I get to exercise my cooking chops, and because it forces me to clean the house, or at least make it tolerable. Enlightened self-interest, one might surmise.

  • Summer seminarian is delightful. Very bright, a better preacher than most seminarians, observant. I remember my own state of anxiety about all the formational stuff when I was in her shoes, so I understand it when she gets a little wound up about things that will be meaningless in two years. It is, of course, not meaningless when you're the one going through them. Trying to help her let go of the weight of it, at least a bit...the good news is she's seeing lots of different elements of ministry this summer. This is a good thing, rather than going to a big place where staff are siloed. Hope she is enjoying it - I think so.

  • Spooky the chemo kitty is doing pretty well. Still has some enlargement of the lymph nodes, but we've stretched out her depo shots to every eight weeks. Hoping we have her for another year but who knows? I'm just glad she appears happy and lively and has gained back some of the weight she lost.
As for me, I think it's time to stretch out on the wicker loveseat and read a book! What are you doing on this lovely weekend?