Monday, November 29, 2004

Daily Clicks

Are you all familiar with The Hunger Site? Every day you can click on their website, and the sponsors for the day contribute a certain amount of food for every person who clicks. Plus, the Hunger Site folk raise money for the cause through ads on their sites and an online store. Really, its a great idea, and takes very little effort on our part - all you have to do is remember to visit everyday. Besides hunger, there are sister sites for child health, rainforests, breast cancer, and animal rescue shelters. Recently, they launched a new site: The Literacy Site. Go visit them and check out the new place- and trust me, this is one place where you won't wear out your welcome even if you come every day!

Saturday, November 27, 2004

My Holiday Litany

For safe travel for our family, even with snowy roads and rainy skies... and that the windshield wiper that flew off the car on the turnpike was on the passenger side
Thanks be to God

For Grandma Shaefer's health... that even at 94, she can make the trip home for our family gathering
Thanks be to God

For the Genesis Erev Thanksgiving service, my home parish's joint service with the Reform Jewish synagogue we co-own our building with, and for our nearly-30 years of friendship
Thanks be to God

For a feast that included old friends, nearly all the siblings from both of our families, four generations, three kinds of cranberry stuff, four desserts, and the biggest group of people I've ever shared a holiday dinner with
Thanks be to God

For baby kitties, and the great excuse they are to make time for visiting friends on family day
Thanks be to God

For car cd players, NPR, and all those other things that keep the driver up so the spouse can sleep in the car
Thanks be to God

For marrying into a family where my small family can fit right in, a family that laughs a lot, eats a lot and can have fun sorting 200 t-shirts
Thanks be to God

For finally being back home, and being glad to see the Chicago skyline
Thanks be to God

My life flows on in endless song
Above earth's lamentations
I hear the real though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation
O'er all the tumult and the stife
I hear its music ringing
It sounds an echo in my soul
How can I keep from singing?

What though the tempest round me roars
I hear the truth, it liveth
What though the darkness round me close
Songs in the night it giveth
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that rock I'm clinging
Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

Sunday, November 21, 2004

A Rose By Any Other Game...

Michigan is going to the Rose Bowl!!! - although, as my mom put it, "by no fault of our own". Ouch. We played a hideous game yesterday against Ohio State, in Columbus. Luke and I were at the wedding of my college roommate (Congratulations Christine!), so we missed most of the game. We did manage to watch part of the fourth quarter- the part where our star receiver dropped a one-yard pass, and the part where our freshman quarterback threw an interception, right when we got to first-and-goal. But... as we were leaving the wedding reception to drive back to Chicago, we turned on the radio to hear that Iowa pulled it out over Wisconsin- which means Michigan shares the Big 10 Title, and we get to go to the Rose Bowl!

I called my best friend and her Michigan Marching Band Alumni husband to celebrate. He was less enthused, wishing that we had actually gotten to go to the Rose Bowl by our own efforts and beating Ohio State instead of someone else's win. So, I framed it like this: "Just think J! Ohio State was so far behind this year that even them beating us can't keep us out of the Rose Bowl!" He laughed and replied, "So thats what they teach you at seminary! You can put a postive spin on anything!" Hope and faith, my friend. Its all about hope and faith. Go Blue!

Friday, November 19, 2004

Green Light

Its finally official. I got a call from my Bishop's office today. In exactly one month, I will be ordained a transitional deacon in the Episcopal Church. I am overwhelmed, excited, humbled... really, my head was just sort of spinning for about an hour after I got the voicemail. I was also the cantor for the service that started 20 minutes after I got the voicemail. Turns out that Chapel is the perfect place to be in that situation though- especically when you're as extroverted as I am. It'll be a good day- I'll be in very good company for ordinations that day, even if that isn't physical company. I will be ordained with three other women, Shannon, Joyce and Lisa. Please keep all of us in your prayers- and hey, if you're in the Detroit area on December 18th, stop by the Cathedral of St. Paul at 10 am! Its a lovely place, and we'd love to have you.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Semon on the 24th Sunday after Pentecost

Also known as "my first sermon at my field ed site".
Malachi 3:13-4:2a,5-6
2 Thessalonians 3:6-13
Luke 21:5-19

A new attack was launched this week, and fighting continues daily as numbers of wartime casualties climb. Devastating earthquake claims one hundred victims, while thousands more are left homeless. Ongoing drought leads to starving children.

What are we talking about here - headlines from this week’s newspapers, or apocalyptic signs as predicted by Jesus? Luke’s Gospel reading for today certainly sounds like Jesus is talking about our own time. Nations at war with one another, lives claimed every day by famine, disease or natural disaster. Towers fall so that not even a stone is left upon another. Especially since September 11th, it seems as if the world as we know it is coming to an end. Is it really good news for us to hear that Jesus knew all that would happen?

The earliest Christians thought so. Because, before we get too caught up thinking that this Gospel is an awful lot like our own times, we should remember that it also sounded a lot like the times when Luke was writing this Gospel. The Gospel of Luke was written in the mid-eighties. At that time, Jerusalem was recovering from a terrible war, and the Temple had been destroyed. The first period of severe persecution of Christians happened just shortly before Luke was writing, under the reign of Nero. It was a chaotic and unstable time, and Luke relied on the traditions of Jesus’ sayings to comfort the early church in their struggles. Apocalyptic writings are less about predicting the end of the world in some future time, as they are a way of making sense of the chaos in our own time. As Kathleen Norris writes in her book Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith,

“It is a wake-up call…to sharpen our awareness of God’s presence in and promise for the world. The word apocalypse comes from the Greek for “uncovering” or "revealing", which makes is a word about possibilities. And while uncovering something we’d just as soon keep hidden is a frightening prospect, the point of apocalypse is not to frighten us into submission” .

And, in fact, Jesus tells us just that. These signs are not intended to frighten his listeners, on the contrary, Jesus directs his audience “do not be terrified”. Fear is the natural reaction to chaos, but being terrified is not a helpful response. Fear is overwhelming, even paralyzing, especially fear of something we don’t understand. When we are living in constant fear, we cannot do anything – and doing nothing is not how Jesus calls us to live as disciples. Here, Jesus wants us to be prepared in order that we might be courageous. Unfortunately, sometimes the best way to deal with our fear is to name the worst-case scenario- whether it is the destruction of the Temple, outbreaks of violence and disaster, or being persecuted and abandoned. By naming these signs, Jesus tells us that we are not alone when we are in chaos – rather, that these things will happen as part of the order of the world. These things will not be the end, and they are not signs of God’s kingdom. Through this apocalyptic good news, we are freed from the fear that chaos will have the last word. We are free to hope for life beyond the failings and fears of this world. And, we are free to live as Christ’s disciples working towards the realm of God, no matter how the world reacts.

Our job is simply to keep on keeping on. We hold fast to what we have been given: faith, hope, love, and each other bound up in the Body of Christ. We proclaim God at work in the world, even in the chaos. We give our testimonies of hope. What is testimony? It is simply showing that God is working in our lives. As Saint Francis said, we are to “preach the Gospel at all times- if necessary, use words”. We give our testimony each time we find hope in the midst of chaos and sadness, each time we choose to love our enemies instead of seeking vengeance- whether on a global scale or in our individual lives. We preach the good news when we are not overcome with fear in the face of disaster, and reach out to those who are most marginalized among us. We tell the world about the unchanging God of Love when we are able to do these things despite the difficulties on the road of discipleship. And, we should not deceive ourselves.

Although this passage is essentially one of comfort and encouragement, Jesus does not sugar-coat the realities of the world and neither should we.

Friday night I attended a benefit concert for a woman trying to live her life this way. Amy is going to Israel/Palestine with the Christian Peacemaker Team. These delegations train in non-violence work, and then she will spend two weeks working in Hebron. One of their main tasks is escorting children to school, so that they are not harassed by the settlers. This may sound like a simple job, but the level of hostility can be shocking. When Amy stood up at the beginning of the concert to tell us about this work, she also told us that in September, two members of the Christian Peacemakers had been attacked and badly beaten while walking children to school. My friend Ryan commented, “Well, it is a war zone. May as well be upfront about that if you’re going in.” Amy knows what she is getting into – and that knowledge helps her face her fear so that she can persevere in her own work. We all face our own struggles, some more or less dramatic than others. But proclaiming the Gospel happens in all kinds of ways, in all kinds of places, and it is never an easy task. The things that are most worthy of our time are never easy. But we have hope to share- and our hope is not dependent on what happens in the world. Our hope is from knowing the loving God, who is active and present even in this world of chaos.

We do not know the day or hour when Jesus will return, and until then, there is much work to be done. In the chaos, we persevere as disciples because there are hungry people to be fed, there is hope to be shared, and there is good news to proclaim Praise Jesus who releases us from our fear, so that we can get to the real business of keep on keeping on.

Friday, November 12, 2004


I've been doing a lot of driving this week, mostly on I-94 between the two places I call home. I learned once that messing with the CD player while you're driving is bad, and can even make your car go spinning off the road, so I try not to do that anymore. So, I was listening to the radio, one of the stations in Chicago that I like. The song "1985" by Bowling for Soup came on. Its a fun song - and I'm old enough to get the references, but young enough that they don't make me feel old. The chorus goes like this:

Springstein, Madonna
Way before Nirvana
There was U2 and Blondie
And music still on MTV
Her two kids in high school
They tell her that she’s uncool
But she still preoccupied
With 19, 19, 1985

So heres the thing. The next song they played on this station? One by U2. Without any comment from the DJ or anything. I suppose this isn't the classic definition of irony, but gosh, it amused me for at least 30 miles.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Ob la di, Ob la dah

Last night at this time, I was sitting at a table, surrounded by happy laughing people and the Beatles were playing in the background, and I became aware of all the "changes and chances" of life from the last few days: Tripp was ordained on Sunday. I visited with a friend, who is six months pregnant with her first child. A very brave 18 year old girl named Catherine - my best friend's cousin- has finally lost her long battle with leukemia, and I learned that she passed away a couple weeks ago. Two wondeful friends here at Seabury got engaged (Congratulations!!!). I attended a party to celebrate twenty glorious years of the music ministry of my friend Jula, back at my home parish. Which brings me back to the table of happy laughing people. I had the amazing blessing of sitting at a table with women who have affected my life more than I think any of us even know, and simply enjoy each others time.

Lydia was my confirmation mentor when I was 12 years old. She told me she felt called to the priesthood, and when she said it, I knew that I was too. She moved away from Michigan about 10 years ago, but I've kept up with her progress through accquiantences. After her four boys (as if that isn't enough qualification for sainthood!) were all in school full time, she started seminary, and has been ordained for about two years.

Devon has been ordained longer, but is somewhat closer to me in age. We share a birthday, our undergraduate alma mater, and are both married to academics. Even though I was still in college when we met, she has always treated me as an equal adult, and was my first mentor of adulthood. She used to be the associate priest at my home church, and supported my call to ordination practically from the day we met, and was ultimately responsible for getting me started in my formal process.

Then, there is Julia. She is the music person at our church, but has always been so much more. I sang in Julia's choirs from the time I was 6 (when she arrived at St. Clares) until I moved to Chicago to start seminary at age 23. She was my first mentor and role model. She taught me to pray with music. She taught me about the beauty of liturgy and what it means for worship to really celebrate God's goodness. She is kind, funny, talented. We talked about her hospitality, her love for children and her work to see them truly included in the life of the church. She is the kind of person, who even though she has known you since you were in first grade, can talk with you as a friend and adult because she is simply that gracious. We had a service of thanksgiving, praising God for Julia and all the gifts we have been given so freely. Then, we had a party to celebrate some more. But my favorite celebration was on my drive back to Chicago this morning: for music in the car, I sang all the way from Chelsea to Kalamazoo- hymns, spirituals, songs of praise - the kind of singing that is part of my life thanks to the gifts from God, passed on through Julia's love and ministry. Not many of us get the chance to sit down at a table with the people who have shaped our lives, and even though the night was shorter than I would have liked, the moments will stay with me for a long time. But now, books are calling and its almost time for bed. Life goes on!

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Here We Go...

As Si puts it (in that nagging 17-year-old voice) - "you got your rings back on. the finger is no longer an excuse for not blogging." And, he's right. The finger has healed fairly well, thanks to some friendly advice from folks around here at Seabury and the rest it had from typing. But, then I wanted to wait for a happy occasion to start blogging again. I thought last Tuesday might have been it... and while Obama did get elected in Illinois, it was still a rough night in the Shaefer household. At least West Wing season 3 came out this week... we can escape to our fantasy world where Barlett is President.
But, today is the perfect happy opportunity. Today, George Vincent Hudgins III (aka Tripp) got himself ordained. It was a glorious service - good music, good preaching, good praying. And, apparently it worked, cuz we all shared communion and then we had a party. There was food, music, laughing and teasing, and general merriment. It was a joy to watch, and an honor to be part of the day. My theme song for the night - at least, the one running through my head - is from my children's choir days - but, appropriate to the occasion I think:
Its a long a road to freedom, a-winding steep and high
But if you walk in love with the wind on your wings,
And cover the earth with the songs you sing
The miles fly by.
-Sister Miriam Therese Winter

May all the miles of your ministry be blessed with song and Sprit, my friend, and congratulations!