Saturday, December 30, 2006


When I was in seminary, a certain professor, with whom I spent quite a bit of time thinking about writing, went on a small rant (rant-let?) about a grammatical pet peeve. He (and most of the folks gathered for Writing Boot Camp that day) found it especially frustrating when people use the word "literally" but actually mean "figuratively." For example... if there is a terrible storm outside, and someone comes in drenched and exclaims "It is literally raining cats & dogs out there!" Unless that person is drenched in dog hair and kitty fur, then they are using the word literally incorrectly.

So, AKMA, I thought of you when, yesterday on Luke's birthday, I literally came to a fork in the road.

No, really.

We were driving out of our complex, running late for birthday lunch and birthday IKEA run, when my back passenger tire starting going "THWAP! THWAP! THWAP!" I was pretty sure I'd blown a tire, but the steering wheel didn't jolt or anything. So, we slowly and carefully drove around the block into another driveway. Luke got out to inspect the strange noise.

I ran over a fork. The tines were jammed into the tire, and the handle was bent back, now curved to match the shape of the wheel. The noise was the metal hitting the pavement. Since we are fortunate enough to have two cars, we drove home, switched cars, and continued with our plans for the day. All told, the delay was only an hour or so.

After meals and visits and shopping, we came home, and stopped into Meijer to deposit a couple checks before we go on vacation today. While Luke was at the ATM, I was listening to the store music. The song was - I kid you not - GreenDay's Time of Your Life.

"Another turning point
A fork stuck in the road..."

We're off. Feliz navidad y espero año felicidad.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Advent 4

At this time of year, it seems that music takes a more prominent place in our daily lives as Christmas music and winter songs are piped into shopping malls and through radio stations all over town. There are school concerts, holiday concerts, marching bands in parades, and music specials on television. I’m not sure that there is really more music surrounding us as Christmas approaches, but something about the season tunes our ears in a different way. A particular magazine I enjoy recently capitalized on this awareness in one of its motivational columns. The author writes about the day she discovered her personal theme song. She was on her way to a meeting with a potential publisher, and each moment of travel time was raising her anxiety level. Then she remembered the story of a certain dancer’s earliest Hollywood audition, where the studio had written “Can’t sing. Can dance a little.” on the comment card. That dancer was Fred Astaire. The author concluded that he must have drawn his courage to keep going from music – and so she decided to sing the song that came to her – “I’m The Greatest Star” from Funny Girl. By the time she arrived at her meeting, she was filled with confidence and energy, and she had her personal theme song. The author writes that she still sings that song whenever she needs a boost of energy and confidence for a difficult situation: she doesn’t always “make the sale, but she always brings her best self.”

A source of strength that prepares us for whatever comes next , that energy to move forward is the finishing touch to the season of waiting and watching we call Advent. After hearing the warnings to be ready,
and the annunciation of what is coming, on this Fourth Sunday of Advent, we have come to that final moment of expectation. The young, single, pregnant teenaged Mary travels to her cousin Elizabeth – perhaps to share her news with an older and wiser friend, or perhaps she was simply running away from her own town where the likely consequence for an unwed mother was being stoned. Whatever brings her to the home of Elizabeth, what she finds there is a warm welcome and a blessing.

And in that moment – in the relief and warmth of that moment - Mary finds her song. The song that will carry her through whatever is to come, whatever the world throws at her. For a task as great as hers – to bear the Son of God into a broken and hurting world – not any song will sustain her. Rather, she sings a new song, the Magnificat, to mark the creation of a new world beginning with the child she carries. It is a song born from wonder and waiting. It is a lullaby and a battle cry all in one. It is the song of a young woman who finds welcome and blessing, and through that welcome, is able to remember that God’s promises are never empty, and God’s mercies are never-ending. The Magnificat is the hope of the generations, given voice and set to music. It is the final and joyful song of Advent.

What is your Advent song? In the waiting and watching of life, what words are there to describe the fulfillment of God’s promise in your life, in this community, in this world? If you have been welcomed and comforted, received a blessing through family or friends, or glimpsed the joy of expectancy, then the Magnificat is your song too.

But the Magnificat is born from more than joy, because Mary’s story is more complicated than that. The song of Mary sings of promise, but also of the hungry and the lowly. It is born not only from blessing, but from long fearful journeys and years of unanswered prayer. It dreams of the time when God’s justice and mercy rule the earth – but only because Mary is too familiar with a world where justice and mercy are altogether rare. So for many who wait and watch this Advent, unable to find their own song of hope: Mary will find one for you, and this is your song too.

Tradition claims Mary as mother of the church, and so her song is the song of all the faithful. Its joy is born not from na├»ve optimism, but from traveling through darkness and then glimpsing the light. Its hope rests not in our own exaltedness, but in knowing that God would come among us and share our lowliness. That is the hope and joy we are called to, not only in this season of Advent that is drawing to an end, but in our lives as disciples of Emmanuel. God was with Mary and Elizabeth, not only as they gathered together as women of faith, but before that, in the waiting and the wondering. And in this place and time, God comes to be with us not only moments of welcome and blessing, but in moments of fear and confusion. It may be harder to know God’s love in those moments, but that is the gift of community. It was Elizabeth speaking words of blessing that enabled Mary to sing. Our prayers and actions can lift one another until we can look for God-with-us and sing together “My soul magnifies the Lord.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


ABD: In academic circles (for those of us who don't really travel there), it means "All But Dissertation."

In our household parlance, it also means "Heck yeah, baby! Luke defeneded his proposal sucessfully!! Now all he has to do is write the damn thing."

He commented that it seems silly for people to congratulate him on this step, since all he gets is the privilege of writing a 200+ page pager. But the milestones are important, and yesterday's defense marked an important point. So, happy happy joy joy!

Next steps? Job hunting and disseration. Oof.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Fa La La La La La - LA Friday Five

Thank goodness for Friday Fives. Oh, and cinnamon-laced coffee. And working fireplaces.

Where was I? Oh yes. Christmas music. I should preface this by saying that I love Christmas music (and Advent music, but we covered that last time.) In December, I entertain myself on car rides by singing Advent and Christmas hymns. On the way home from Thanksgiving, I kept Luke awake by doing this. For an hour, with no repeats and no slow ones - he said they would make him fall asleep, no matter how pretty I think "A La Ru" is. Sigh. So, I am siginificantly *more* steeped in the non-seculart stuff... but what can I say? I'm a hymnal geek. None the less: the Friday Five!

1. A favorite 'secular' Christmas song.
I don't know if its a "favorite" per se, but Luke and I always find ourselves singing Winter Wonderland this time of year. Living in Michigan helps. But I tend to mix it up with Let It Snow, which, incidentally, is not ever a sentiment I actually mean.

2. Christmas song that chokes you up (maybe even in spite of yourself--the cheesier the better)
I love Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, especially if Judy Garland is singing it. I love the movie Meet Me In St. Louis and the scene where she sings this Margaret O'Brien... how can you not get teary?

3. Christmas song that makes you want to stuff your ears with chestnuts roasted on an open fire.
The most annoying Christmas song ever is Suzy Snowflake. But thats probably a person issue...

4. The Twelve Days of Christmas: is there *any* redeeming value to that song? Discuss.
Yes! Occupying kids for a long time. While you are in another room.

5. A favorite Christmas album
Barenaked Ladies, "A Barenaked Christmas" Oops - its actually called Barenaked for the Holidays - their combo of God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman and We Three Kings is sooooo fabulous.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Advent of Advent

Advent is coming! Advent is coming! I love Advent. I love the music and the candles and the quiet and the preparations and the waiting. So of course, I'm playing the RevGals Friday Five today!

1) Do you observe Advent in your church?
Absolutely! We are Episcopalians, after all. This year we are having an Advent pageant, that explains the different names for Jesus in the hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and other years we've had craft stations after service to make Jesse Trees, explore December saints, and of course, make Advent wreaths.

2) How about at home?
Heck yeah! We have an advent wreath, as well as an Advent calendar. Also, I kinda never put the creches away from last year, so they're around too...

3) Do you have a favorite Advent text or hymn?
Lots. From our hymnals, I love Comfort, Comfort, ye my people, Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus, and People Look East. I also have a cd called Keepin' The Baby Awake by a (now separated) duo called The Miserable Offenders - its Advent and Christmas music, and I love it.

4) Why is one of the candles in the Advent wreath pink? (You may tell the truth, but I'll like your answer better if it's funny.)
The Advent wreath was orginally intended to be a birthday cake for the Baby Jesus. But when Baby Jesus was three, he really looked up to his cousin John, who has very strange eating habits. So that year, the cake was made of leaves and dirt. The pink candle is the "one to grow on".

5 What's the funniest/kitschiest Advent calendar you've ever seen? I used to love the chocolate ones. My calendars aren't usually all the kitchy. My mom buys them for me and sends them to me - even when we lived in Chicago she bought them for me. Its just a thing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Taking Names: A Playlist

When I got home last night, I was fired up from a meeting. I had plans, I had ideas, I had energy. Then I went to bed, and woke up to a gray & rainy day. Its so hard to be a night person in this work. But, I was determined to keep up some of that determination - and as I left, Luke called down the stairs "Kick some and take names!" So, I put my iPod on shuffle and skipped through to some songs for a bit of entusiasm with just the right edge of attitude. Here's what I've listened to so far:

All American Girl - Melissa Ethridge
I Will Not Be Broken - Bonnie Raitt
Do Something - Macy Gray
Thank God I'm A Country Boy - John Denver
Jonas & Ezekiel, Go, It's Alright - Indigo Girls
Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison
Song of the Soul - Cris Williamson
Let's Go Crazy - Prince
Straight To the Point- Carrie Newcomer
Undo Me - Jennifer Knapp

Of course, I've been skipping several songs inbetween these - all Norah Jones, a couple that would be fun to listen to but really aren't so good for work, and anything from Into the Woods.

I think I need some more music along these lines. What do y'all listen to to wake up and energize for the day?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Christ the King

Before I attended seminary, I worked at the career center at UM for a short time. It was the kind of office anyone might want to spend some time in after college – the staff cared about their jobs, cared about the students, and enjoyed one another. This was especially evident in the way career-humor would be shared around the office. I remember a particular article that made the circulations between desks and email boxes – it was the report of a mock study showing that the number of girls who wished to be princesses when they grew up was shrinking. It claimed that our democratic political system, with its lack of princesses, meant that little girls weren’t really sure what princesses actually did all day. Interviews with imaginary princesses such as Butterlilly and Twinklerose bemoaned the lack of understanding of the royal life of ease and beauty among today’s children. As a result, little girls were forsaking this once prosperous and popular career for vocations they could understand, such as teachers, veterinarians and astronauts.

Silliness and satire aside, however, that article gets at a particular conundrum for theology today – that is, most of us in this country, both children and adults, have very little idea about what kings and queens really do. There has not been a king with power in these United States for 230 years, and we wrote a declaration and fought a war to bring an end to that power. Even outside America, many kings and queens are no longer powerful monarchs, but figureheads whose families make more headlines in gossip tabloids than major newspapers.
In a world where “kings” have such little impact on our daily lives, how are we as Christians to understand a feast called Christ the King?

This morning, let me suggest that our inexperience with earthly kingly power is exactly what we need, because the kingdom of Christ will not look like any reign or regime this world has seen before.

The title of King is only one attempt to understand what the power of God is like. Look again at today’s Gospel, and the encounter between Pilate and Jesus. Jesus does not say “I am king,” but “you say that I am a king.” We have heard other claims about who Jesus is: Elijah or John the Baptist, a drunkard who eats with sinners, a prophet. All of these are attempts of the human imagination to understand the power of Jesus. But there in the Roman headquarters, Jesus explained exactly what his power was. He goes on to say, “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.” As a powerful man in a powerful and oppressive empire, Pilate knew the importance of those words. He would have known that truth is power, and not the kind of power one can lose in a battle or an election. Truth is the kind of power that proclaims good news to the poor and opens the eyes of the blind and gives them hope. Truth sets people free.

And that is what it means for us to claim Christ as King – it sets us free to imagine the world as the location of the future reign of Jesus Christ.
When we celebrate the feast day of Christ the King, we celebrate the truth that God created the world and all that is in it. We claim the hope that one day, people of all nations and tribes and races will be one people, freed from poverty, famine, disaster and war, free to seek truth and understanding

But as we know so well – faith without works is dead. So the feast of Christ the King calls us to do more than have visions of the reign of God. It calls us to stake our lives on the truth of that vision, and do our best to build glimpses of the kingdom here and now. And so, it is this Sunday, the feast of Christ the King, that our national church has chosen to reflect upon the Millennium Development Goals as part of our mission priorities. The Millennium Development Goals – or MDGs, as they are sometimes called – are part of a declaration written in the year 2000 by leaders of 189 countries. These world leaders pledged to fight the extreme poverty that slowly kills millions of people around the world each day. They adopted the eight goals, each of these which is then developed into more specific tasks and indicators to measure progress. The eight goals are:
* Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
* Achieve universal primary education.
* Promote gender equality and empower women.
* Reduce child mortality.
* Improve maternal health
* Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
* Ensure environmental sustainability.
* Develop a global partnership for development.

The United Nations, legislators, international aid organizations, even celebrities have signed on to continue this campaign – along with churches and international faith-based organizations. Why would churches all over the world sign on to the Millennium Development Goals, a project of a distinctly secular organization? Perhaps because our churches envision the reign of Christ as a time and place where the secular and the sacred are no longer separate categories because God’s love will touch all things. Or perhaps it is because theologians are no longer the most highly educated group of people, and it is good for us to partner with experts in all areas of our common life.

But mostly, I believe it is because the MDGS, and the work they require of us – are a spiritual discipline. The tasks and goals laid before us – eradicating extreme poverty, achieving primary education, reducing infant mortality and combating diseases that affect millions of people – these goals keep our eyes focused on what the Christ’s reign will be like. It is hard work, that calls us to see the reality of the world around us, and then speak of that truth to those with power. But working together with people of all nations and tribes and languages to see that “they will hunger no more, and thirst no more” moves our vision beyond current reality, and gives us a glimpse of the kingdom where “God will wipe away every tear.” This work stretches our imaginations and strengthens our hope. It is how we how we celebrate our allegiance to Christ the King and claim the greeting of all Christian disciples: “Look, the kingdom of God has indeed come near.”

Thursday, November 23, 2006

On The Menu

From our kitchen:
Chipotle Smashed Sweet Potatoes
Roasted Honey Mashed Sweet Potatoes (with no wheat, for our gluten-allergic family)
Green Beans with Cider
Dinner Rolls (Luke's in charge there - his first solo attempt at bread!)

From kitchens of our parents:

Cranberry Sauce
Jello Salad (Hernandez family tradition)
Various Pies (My mom's doing dessert, so I'm guessing... 3?)

Plus, the usual trimmings:

phone calls to friends
discussion of sermons for Christ the King (my father-in-law is also a priest)
enjoying having in-laws who would rather spend holidays all together

The table is set - have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Then Our Lives Would Be Thanksgiving

I'm sitting here, trying to cobble together a sermon for this evening's service, and needed a break. And what better way to take a break than come visit over here and catch up with all you blog-o'-riffic folks? So, pull up a chair if you're looking for a coffee break! I'll be sticking with the non-caffeinated root beer, but you're welcome to whatever you can find.

First, the update. Michigan 39, OSU 42. A rough day for us Wolverines, but as David said below - what a game! Of course, that score is much easier to swallow after the BCS standings came out on Monday , and Michigan held out at #2. A rematch in the making? We shall see after this weekend, but its awfully great knowing that OSU wasn't able to knock us out of the top two position. Plus, Troy Smith threw an interception and had at least one fumble. All in all, not as bad a day as it could've been.

Of course, all of this was overshadowed by the death of Bo Schembechler. As an Ann Arbor kid, Bo was a household name. He and Woody Hayes made the Michigan-OSU rivalry what it is today: such a great rivalry that it was actually mentioned in a book prayer and public ritual for Liturgy 1 class. His passing was sad news indeed, and the number of folks who gathered to say goodbye and give thanks for the ways he touched their lives was a testament to a life well lived.

Which brings me back to my sermon for this evening. From the time we are toddlers, we're taught that saying "Thank you" is a response to a completed action. In this life-as-clergy, I go to many more funerals than I probably otherwise would. One of the frequent themes of burial services is giving thanks for the life of the person we remember. Saying thanks is our response to the completed action of their life - gratitude that may have been missing from someone's life.

Why do we wait so long to say thank you? I think because we're out of practice. Last Saturday's game - a three hour, forty-five minute blip in history - was decades in the making. Hundreds of guys spent hundreds of hours practicing over the years to make that game happen, and not a single one of them would imagine wearing that Wolverine jersey without putting energy and passion into the dream of having the heart of a champion. Why do we as Christians think a heart of thanksgiving will come more easily?

A heart of thanksgiving takes skill and practice. It takes patience to filter out the anxiety that clouds our vision. It takes wisdom to see the blessings of God in our lives. It takes faith and generosity to recognize our abundance, and share it with others. It takes the work of the Spirit.

So, here is my first Thankful Heart practice drill, in no particular order: music, the church I serve, Luke, families and in-laws that enjoy one another, friends both near and far, Laura on her birthday, the blog world, coffee, dark chocolate, sweaters, cookbooks, and photographs.

Oh! And, I'm thankful for de-lurking week! Join in the fun, and leave a note!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Simple Gifts

It doesn't take much to make me happy, and today was a very happy day: sleeping in, chatting about vacation possibilities over coffee, a little TV, new recipes that turned out well.

But the crowning moment of the day? Discovering this.

Yep. A punk-rock version of Lord of the Dance. We're having a youth group lock-in this weekend, and I wanted to find an interesting version of the song. Turns out I was sucessful - and now I'll be giggling all weekend.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Normally, Purple is My Favorite...

... but I'm awfully fond of blue this week! Anyway, after a few weeks away, here is the return of the Friday Five - a special (non-election) red/blue quiz!

1. Favorite red food
I do love food... in the crazy artificial category, I'd have to say Faygo Rock & Rye - a dark-red colored pop that is kind of like vanilla cream soda. In the more normal category, this roasted red pepper sauce we make for pasta: 3 or 4 roasted red peppers pureed with garlic, basil, olive oil and parmesan cheese. SO good - especially when you can roast the peppers on the grill.

2. Tell us about the bluest body of water you've ever seen in person.
In high school, I got to travel to Italy with the Latin club. We spent one day on the island of Capri, and took boat tours of the Blue Grotto - a small cave where the water glows blue. Its a little bit like the lights at the bottom of a really blue swimming pool, except its actually natural. Gorgeous.

3. It's movie rental time: Blue Planet, The Color Purple, or Crimson Tide?
I think none of those... how about Moulin Rouge! - I even own that one! Or, to go with the blended theme, Primary Colors, which I still haven't seen.

4. What has you seeing red these days?
After the elections, the fact that this passed, despite the efforts of the group linked. In other news? I've actually just come out of a slump of seeing red, and now the world is looking rather rosy again.

5. What or who picks you up when you're feeling blue?
This week: Friends who patiently put up with my ranting until we can get down to the heart of the matter. Friends who leave me cheery voicemail because they know I'm having a bad day/week/month. Friends who leave me voicemail in song-form telling me they are coming to visit next month. And, having a husband who is so understanding and funny that when I read that my childhood church-crush got married last month, he actually responed, "Aw, I'm sorry honey". I'm still laughing, a day later.

With friends and loved ones like that, the forecast is definitely rosy!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Choosing a Blessing

One of my favorite things about this priestly life is distributing communion. I love interacting at the communion rail through this simple act of placing the wafer in people's hands. I love the personal-yet-communal receiving that happens at this kind of distribution (as opposed to standing stations). I love that some people really seek eye contact, and even that some people don't. I love the really little kids who are practically bursting they are so excited to come to God's table, and I love the kids who forget to hold out their hands. I love how different everyone is when they come to this altar rail, and how they all receive the same wafer. And, happily, I get to participate in the Eucharist this way every week.

As much as I love this... I struggle often with the "blessing" portion of distribution. There are all these beautiful babies at my church - just tons of them! - and, well, they don't really eat solid food. So, they don't receive Communion yet. So, we make the sign of the cross on their foreheads, and say a prayer - and some kids receive this until they are 6, 7 or 8, depending on their parents theology.

Here has been my struggle (besides the whole children-not-receiving thing, thats a whole other issue!): I want to say a prayer that helps the children hear and know that they too are welcome at the Lord's table. So, I experiment with wording. My usual blessing is something like "May the blessing of God who made you, Jesus who came as a child, and the Holy Spirit who lives in your heart be with you always, Amen". This past Sunday, for whatever reason, I had a musical version of 2 Corinthians 13 in my head.... "May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God..." So, I changed my wording and said, "May the love of God, the grace of Christ, and the presence of the Holy Spirit bless you today and always, Amen"

As I laid my hand on one baby girl - a very very cute baby with big wide eyes, pink chubby baby cheeks, and two little brown pigtails that stick straight up and out - after I finished the prayer for her, she clapped. She grinned and she clapped.

I think I'll be sticking with the new wording for a while. It has baby approval.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

And I Want To Be One Too

Let us now sing the praises of famous men and women,
our ancestors in their generations.
The Lord apportioned to them great glory,
his majesty from the beginning.
There were those who ruled in their kingdoms,
and made a name for themselves by their valor;
those who gave counsel because they were intelligent;
those who spoke in prophetic oracles;
those who led the people by their counsels
and by their knowledge of the people's lore;
they were wise in their words of instruction;
those who composed musical tunes,
or put verses in writing;
rich men and women endowed with resources,
living peacefully in their homes--
all these were honored in their generations,
and were the pride of their times.
Some of them have left behind a name,
so that others declare their praise.
But of others there is no memory;
they have perished as though they had never existed;
they have become as though they had never been born,
they and their children after them.
But these also were godly men and women,
whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
Their offspring will continue forever,
and their glory will never be blotted out.
Their bodies are buried in peace,
but their name lives on generation after generation.
- Ecclesiasticus 44:1-10,13-14

In my home church, on All Saints Sunday, we used this reading every year. After each line describing the works of these famous people, the lector would pause, and various people from the congregation would stand and read names of saints and heroes who have impacted the world in those ways. And then, after the link "But hese also were godly men and women, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten", we would simply pause. And remember.

All Saints Day is the day to remember heroes of the faith, living and dead, ancient and recent, and to give thanks to God for their lives and ministry. I love this idea. I love singing the songs about meeting saints "in the lane or at tea" (Oy, how Anglican are we??).

So, today when thinking about heroes of faith, I'd like you to consider a particular group: parents. Specifically, parents with very sick children. Last week, I asked your prayers for a young girl, Caroline, having surgery. The surgery was sucessful, but it was indeed cancer. This very little girl has a very long road ahead of her, including radiation and chemo - yet, her mamas got dressed up and got her a costume so she could attend the Halloween Party at the hosptial. They are pushing through with strength and faith and prayer because Caroline needs them to, and because they love. And today, we will pray for them, and give thanks for their quiet testimony.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Off To See The Wizard

I am sitting in the Anglobaptist's kitchen, drinking my coffee, before I head off to day 2 of my seminary alma mater's Alumni Conference. The keynote speaker this year is Diana Butler Bass (see her books here and here).

Before I got here, I had the song from The Wizard of Oz running through my head, and I couldn't quite figure out how it got there. Granted, coming back to the Northshore and meeting up with friends can feel a bit like going to Oz - and the going home part almost always feels as conflicted as poor Dorothy was at the end of her time in Oz. And then, there are Tripp's ridiculous cats that I'm sure were actually flying monkeys in a former life. And this time around, there is a chance for a blogger friend first-time real life meet-up! *Waves at Emily!!*

But no, its not any of those reasons. It turns out that my subconscious already knew what I know now: Diana Butler Bass is a genius. Not because she has fancy smoke-and-mirrors tricks to help you grow a congregation in 3 easy steps!!! - because she doesn't. No, listening to her talk is really truly like Dorothy's trip through the magical land of Oz - I am learning everything I already knew all over again and in a completely new way, and it is a wonderful gift.

Back on the home front, however, please let me request your prayers for a small girl named Caroline. She is having surgery this week for a brain tumr, and we are very worried about her - and her parents. Please keep this family in your prayers.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

By Any Other Name...

So, if I enter my given name:
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

But if I use what I go by:
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

And that, my friends, is the beauty of nicknames.

Thanks to Jane for the fun game

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Because I Occasionally Listen...

Tripp told me to post. He even tried to bait my competitive side to make me post.

And since I'm such a good listener, here is my random thought for the day:

I have my iPod going in my office when I'm doing work like making postcards and organizing folders. Current music? U2 - Wild Honey. On our mission trip this past summer, great youth minister guy commented that he thinks Wild Honey is Van Morrison tribute song. Which makes perfect sense, and explains why the song feels out of place on the album style-wise. But now, for some reason, the song gets on my nerves - and I like Van Morrison.

Discuss amongst yourselves.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


The NY Times has an article this morning related to the horrific killings in Pennsylvania. To be honest, of course the NY Times actually has several articles related to this story. But this one caught my eye: Strong Faith and Community May Help Amish Cope With Loss. (Free registration is required to read articles.)

Yesterday morning, I attended a Clergy Education day sponsored by the pastoral care department at one of the major hospitals in the area. For the first session, a hospice social worker talked about the role of "companions in grief" - walking with those who are facing loss, helping them find sacred space to do the work of grief when they are ready, and before that point, just helping them get through the days.

The NY Times article concludes with this quote,"“For the families who lost children, there will be a tremendous community outpouring of love and support,” Ms. Schmidt said. “They will not suffer alone in their grief at all. People will bring in meals for weeks. As devastating as this is, there’s so much strength they can draw from their community.”

This morning, I'm glad that this will be true for these families, and still, I'm sad that it isn't true for so many more. I hope we in the church take these small reminders that our God promises to comfort all who mourn - and we are vessels of that grace. I look forward to the day when a supportive Christian community is newsworthy only in the sense of proclaiming the Good News.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


"The divine in me honors the divine in you" - or so I've been told.

Last night, I started yoga class again. Again might be a bit misleading, since the last time I went to yoga classes I still lived in Chicago and I only went spring term of my senior year. But even after only one class, I'm so happy to be doing this again.

Yoga is wonderful for impatient exercise types like me. I love that even in a one hour class, I can feel improvement in my postures - the fourth or fifth time around on a pose, and I remember how my hips are supposed to line up. I remember what it feels like to let my head and neck hang loosely, and to straighten my spine. These are good things to remember.

I also like being in yoga class because I like the instructors. Yoga teachers have a calm energy about them, as though nothing can phase them. Maybe they aren't like that outside of class - but to spend an hour a week with someone who seems so grounded certainly can't be bad for those of us who try to be grounded and non-anxious the rest of the time.

Of course, all this happiness may just be related to how much better my back feels today. Note to self: If you wish to keep picking up the godson-who-got-very-big-lateley, keep going to the yoga class.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

All The News There's Time To Print

Vacation is a wonderful thing - nothing bad to say there. Wine country, nephews, good friends, swimming pool, ice cream, meeting anew blog-o-sphere accquaintance IRL, cedar point, family game of Apples to Apples, and Michigan starting the season 2-0.

Coming back from vacation... well, lets just say thats more of a mixed bag, with entries on "both sides of the ledger", as our church musician would say.

    When I got home, Heather moved much closer to me!

    People at church missed me. More specifically, small people missed me. Thats just a good feeling, no matter how you slice it.

    Our bed is just so darn comfortable.

    Church school managed to start, despite all the tasks I didn't quite finish

    We ended up with enough acolytes on Sunday, despite the fact that I forgot to schedule any for this week

    The super awesome church secretary moved a piece of furniture out of my office while I was gone that was too heavy for me to move.

    LOST Season 2 came out on DVD, and we joined Netflix, for our procrastination pleasure

    Staying in other people's nicely painted homes has inspired us to re-do our living room - and visit the new IKEA in our state. (Technically, thats a "pro" for entertainment, a "con" for finanical.)


    I'm so behind on reading blogs that I have no idea whats going on with most people

    My "lets move to California" energy is running high again

    Or, even my "lets move back to Chicago" energy, for that matter

    Taking the last two weeks before church school starts as vacation isn't the brightest idea, if "church school administrator" is part of your job description

    Things that weren't done before you left - they don't magically get finished while you're gone.

I'd say the score is still in my favor. I hope your day is as blessed.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Football, Tripp-style

Its opening day of football season! As my best friend just put it "Its just like a holiday!"

So, we're watching the ESPN Gameday coverage, and they're hanging out on the campus of Georgia Tech for the GA Tech/Notre Dame game. Whatever campus the ESPN guys hang out on, there is always a mob scene of college students behind them waving signs and yelling and generally acting like college students. Occasionally, there are some clever signs.

Today's clever sign for the Georgia Tech game?

"Calvin. Defeating Catholics since 1509"


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Suburban Morning

We're coming to you live from Wilmette!

I'm blogging at Tripp's dining room table in suburban Chicago. We've been a little quiet lately because I am on vacation.

Vacation, all I ever wanted, vacation, had to get away

We spent the weekend at a fabulous Shaefer family get-together. There was Cedar Point time with our almost-teenage nephew, and bounce-on-lap time with our new four-month nephew. Now we are in Chicago, flying to California to visit friends and wine country. All of this includes kick-butt food (mmm, including this mango-banana-orange smoothie in front of me), good hang out time, and the opening of college football - GO BLUE!!!

Hail to the Victors, valiant, Hail to the conquering heroes! Hail! Hail to Michigan..

Sorry, got distracted. Anyway, all this is to say: I'm having a great time, hope you are too, I miss you all and I'll be back soon.

Love, S

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A Few Thoughts

I'm back from camp, which was exhausting, though I'm glad I went. I have some hope for the future of Episcopal camping in Michigan, although there is work to be done.

I made the silly mistake of planning my vacation for the two weeks before church school starts, so I've been very busy at work since I got back, so blogging will continue to be light.

While I'm getting ready for vacation (California, here I come!), its hard not to remember that on this day last year, I was getting ready to leave for California when I got this call. Luke and I just recorded another version of Amazing Grace for a cd we're making.

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see.

May the souls of all the departed rest in the peace of God's eternal light.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday Five, Mango version

Tomorrow I leave for a week at camp. Those of you who've been reading for a while might remember that "my camp" - the one where I spent all my summers growing up, where I worked for eight summers, where I met some of dearest friends and got to know my husband - "my camp" was closed. Last summer, the diocesan council decided to sell the property. So our new Canon for Youth & Young Adults (who is super-swell and was ordained with me) has inherited the task of figuring out how to have camp without having a camp.

This week is one of the experiments: we're joining next-door-neighbor's diocese for a week of their camp session. I'll be a counselor for the counselors-in-training. I'm not quite sure how that'll work, but I think I'll enjoy it. I also think it will be hard and sad, being at camp without being at Camp.

Needless to say, this whole endeavor has been bringing back all kinds of memories. Which is where the Friday Five comes in. Work was kind of hectic today (and that was with the office officially closed) in that "I'm leaving town for a week" kind of way. So, I just skimmed the F5 post, and saw that comment at the end about Generosity being a banana.

Banana? Nope. Generosity is a mango. A seven year old taught me that, a long time ago.

One summer at camp - my last summer working there - I was what we call "administrative staff". I supervised some folks, and part of "supervising" meant helping cabin counselors with the kids who were kind of a handful. This particular boy had a problem with his hands. They kept balling up into little fists and landing hard on other kids. One evening before bed, early in the week, the assistant camp director & I were in the office, and the little boy needed a time out - and so his counselor needed a break. So, he came to sit in the office with the Ad Staff. This was not a reward. After a bit of quiet time, it was our job, the three of us, to come with a "behavior contract". Since it was snack time, the other staffer & I had been sharing a mango - she'd gotten it at the store on her break that afternoon. She offered him a piece, which he took cautiously. But - mangos are sweet, tangy and messy. What self-respecting seven year old doesn't like those things?

With markers and paper in hand, we made a list of two behaviors the little boy needed to work on: keeping his hands to himself and... well, I don't even remember the other one. Behavior contracts had three other parts. First, there were consequences - if he couldn't stop hitting people, the next thing would be to call his mom. Then, there was a reward. What reward would he like? He pointed at the plate with the mango peels. "Could I get more of that?" And so it was included. The reward for a good behavior day would be a shared mango at snack time. That made the third part of the contract easy: we needed a secret signal to help him remember what he was supposed to do. So for the next day, whenever he was starting to have trouble, we'd whisper "mango", and he'd remember to keep his hands to himself.

The next night, I'm happy to say, the three of us enjoyed a perfectly ripe mango in the office together. It was much more fun than the previous night, and we were so proud of him for getting through the day without any incidents.

Unfortunately, even with the promise of the mango reward, the next day he punched another kid, and then a counselor. It was only the third day of camp, but it was clear that he just wasn't ready for camp. His mom came and picked him up, and we said goodbye. The assistant director & I both cried after he left. He had tried very hard, but already in his young life, someone had taught him that violence was the solution to any problem that comes your way.

I don't know if he came back to camp, or where he is now. But I really do hope that the one day of success, and his sweet reward, stuck in his mind. And I know that sharing a mango taught me a great deal about "fruits of the Spirit" - patience, love, kindness, self-control. A little can go a long way - especially if you're willing to share your fruit.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Snack Time

I've long been a proponent of churches leasing space to other organizations during the week. Many of us have large buildings with classrooms and kitchens and meeting rooms that are empty during the week. Now, of course, I also think that church activities should fill those rooms, but that just isn't going to happen all the time. So, for example, I think that having pre-schools in churches should be a regular occurance. We tend to have Sunday school rooms built for small people that stay empty outside Sunday mornings - and there is such a need for affordable day care.

Anyway, our church has a rental arrangement. A catering company works out of our kitchen. There are some downsides that I've encountered - for example, their business requires a lot of cold food storage space, which leaves the church with very little refrigerator/freezer space. But there are serious plusses too.

For example, right now I'm enjoying a mid-morning snack of strawberry pie because they made too much for a luncheon. Good things come to those who share their kitchens.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


Today was my last day flying solo at church. It was an uneventful couple weeks, honestly. Its funny to think how much anxiety I had last year around being on my own. I guess a lot changes in a year.

My sermon from the day is below. But for a really good sermon, you should go over to AKMA's place, and read the sermon on Transfiguration from his book Flesh & Bones. Look in his sidebar to find the links you need.

In other news, there is much rejoicing in the Shaefer house tonight, after I discovered... the return of televised football!!!! Tonight is the "Hall of Fame" game, featuring not one, but TWO teams with Michigan alum. So, if you need me sometime after 8pm tonight, you know where to find me, my beer, and my super-awesome Michigan bottle opener.

Sermon- Feast of the Transfiguration 2006

Coming up with titles must be a particular talent. A good title captures the essence of a story or song into a short phrase – it pulls at your curiosity without giving away the entire book. Sometimes a catchy title makes the difference between a best-seller and the bottom of an obscure shelf in the back of the store. Perhaps I exaggerate… but even in the Bible, it seems that the best known stories have their own catchy titles. Where do those titles come from? I’m really not sure. The Prodigal Son is what we call one of the best known parables – even though the word “prodigal” never appears in the story. Or today’s story, for example. We call it The Transfiguration. This story in Jesus’ life is so important that is gets not only a title, but its own feast day which we celebrate today.

Transfiguration, according to the dictionary, simply means “change in form or appearance.” Like a good title, it points to the climax of the story. On the feast of the Transfiguration, we remember – and give thanks- for the revelation to Peter, James, and John on the mountaintop: The glory of God shining in, around and through Jesus Christ in a vision rich with meaning and symbolism. First of all, in the Hebrew tradition, mountain tops were the prime location for encounters with divine majesty. It was on a mountaintop – as we heard in today’s Exodus reading –Moses received the Ten Commandments from God on Mount Sinai,
and when he returned his own face shone “because he had been talking with God.” It was on a mountaintop when Elijah hid in a cave, waiting for the Lord to pass him by, when God was revealed in the sound of sheer silence to the prophet. To make the connection between these events even more clear, Jesus appears with both Moses and Elijah.

For a first-century Jew, however, these two figures have another layer of importance. In his preaching, Jesus often refers to “the law and the prophets” – a kind of rhetorical short hand for the entire Hebrew Scriptures. Now, Jesus appears with Moses – the giver of the law, and Elijah – the prototypical prophet – and they are speaking of “his departure in Jerusalem.” The text here actually says that they were speaking of “his exodus” – clearly another significant word in the Hebrew tradition. What Jesus is to accomplish in Jerusalem is nothing less than a second Exodus – the liberation of all God’s people. What happens in Jerusalem? The death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

This vision, then is not only about an encounter with the divine majesty. On this mountain, it becomes clear that in Jesus Christ we encounter God, and the fulfillment of the tradition – of both the law and the prophets – is found in the ministry, and eventual death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ. This is indeed a pivotal moment in Jesus’ ministry: here, on the mountaintop, we have the revelation of both Jesus identity and the essence of his ministry all wrapped up into the glorious vision of dazzling light that we call the Transfiguration.

Transfiguration meaning change. But what really changed on that mountain? The appearance of Jesus changed, but Jesus was already the Son of God, and was already talking about his ministry in Jerusalem. If Jesus appearance was the only thing that changed on that mountain, are we responding just like Peter, trying to hold on to a moment in time, by calling this story “The Transfiguration” and focusing on the dazzling lights?
I believe another important change – a transfiguration – happened on that mountain top.
We know from the Old Testament stories that being a witness to an encounter with the divine changes people. It changed Moses. And I believe that it changed Peter, James and John. I know it did, because they came back down the mountain.

The Christian life is a journey – we follow in the ways of Jesus Christ, and along the way, hope to become more and more like him. Like any road, our journeys of faith will have ups and downs. Sometimes we get distracted by the valleys, thinking that if we are in such a low place, we must not be on the right path. Then, most of the time, someone will come along and remind us that God is with us in the low times, and will walk with us until we are back on level ground. It is much easier to get distracted by the mountains! In the shining moments of our spiritual journeys – the times when we feel closest to God, when we are sure of our purpose in the world and God’s presence among us – we can mistake those moments of the journey for our destination, and we try to stay there. But mountaintop experiences are only a part of the journey.
They are intended to move us along. Their true importance lies is what we do with them when we come back down the mountain.

Once we have seen God in a dramatic way, are we more able to see God in the everyday moments? If we are given a moment when we know that God has a purpose for us, can we carry that confidence into the frustrations and mundane tasks of our ministry? When we have felt God’s love in an almost tangible way, will we be able to offer it to another person who needs to know the same love of God?

That is what a mountaintop experience is all about – it is about getting a glimpse of the Holy One and carrying it back down the mountain, and being changed by the experience. It is the wonder of being transfigured by the love of God, and allowing that love to transfigure the world.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Because its 105 degrees

Last night, we were supposed to go to the local baseball game with friends. But, we ended up cancelling. Because its 105 degrees.
I was gonna get my Sunday sermon fixed up so I could post it. But I forgot. Because its 105 degrees.

So, instead, I bring you the HOT off the presses: RevGal Trivia Game!! Yaaaaaaaaay! (*waves arms like Kermit the Frog*)

Go. Play. Have fun.

Friday, July 28, 2006

HOT Friday Five

Just like everyone else said, its HOT here... and I'll be doing a graveside funeral in cassock & surplice this afternoon. So how can I skip these?

1. What's the high temperature today where you are?
According to my computer this morning, it gonna be 92 degrees... but with vestments, I'm guessing 97!

2. Favorite way(s) to beat the heat.
So... our house has A/C. Except it doesn't really do anything for the bedroom. So, we have moved our comfy pillow-top mattress downstairs into the nice cool living room. Sitting in bed, drinking beers, watching movies (a rare treat - we've outlawed TV in the bedroom as a favor to our marriage) - its quite loverly.

3. "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." Evaluate this statement.
Ah! So true. I've been to Albequerque, in August. Its nothing like the weighty, suffocating, humid air we get up here.

4. Discuss one or more of the following: sauna, hot tub, sweat lodge, warm-stone massage.
Yesterday's trip to the Y included both a hot tub and a sauna - but the second one only because I was curious. I went with Luke and our friend Hans though, and the sauna is single-gender, so I thought it was boring. I highly recommend the hot tub, especially after doing two miles on the treadmill and then kinda learning racquetball. (I know - go me!)

5. Hottest you've ever been in your life
Hmmm... when I was a kid, I was really sick and had a temperature of 104 - I remember, because it was my best friend's birthday and I had to miss her first slumber party.

Non-temperature related bonus: In your opinion... who's hot?
Sorry, the phone's ringing... maybe its Brad Pitt or Jonathan Rhys Myers calling...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Enough Is Enough

A Sermon for Proper 11, Year B: Mark's Feeding of the Five Thousand Men

Isn’t it amazing what can happen when one person steps forward and offers to share their gifts? Those moments are often nothing short of miraculous. Certainly, the miracle of feeding the five thousand people couldn’t have happened any other way.

I imagine that most of us can sympathize with how the disciples were feeling on that evening by the shore. They had been working hard – so hard that they had not even had time to eat. There was so much need among the people – sick people needed healing, lonely people needed comforting. The overwhelming needs simply wore the disciples down – and when the crowd needed to eat, they said “Send them away, because what we have will not feed them – its just not enough.” In their exhaustion, the disciples chose to see need and scarcity – but not Jesus. Jesus sees with the eyes of abundance, and asked the disciples to share what they had – five loaves and two fish. And that small gift made all the difference: five thousand men – plus the uncounted women and children – were fed that night. And twelve disciples learned that what we are given is enough, if we are willing to share our gifts.

Twelve different people learned similar lessons this past week. As most of you know, this past week was the youth mission trip in Tennessee. Eight youth and four adults spent the past several days clearing trails, taping drywall, swimming in the river and getting to know each other a little bit better. On our last full day in Tennessee, we spent time in group building activities. One of those activities was called the Muse. Our guide led us to a clearing in the woods, with several small platforms and a few wooden beams. Our task was simple: as a group, we needed to get everyone across the platforms using the wooden beams, and if anyone or anything touched the ground, we would have to start over. It looked simple at first, but after several attempts, the group began to get frustrated. We didn’t have enough people strong enough to carry the beams, the beams weren’t long enough to cover the distance between all the platforms, and we didn’t have enough energy after three days of mission work to think of any other way to solve the task. Some of the youth started to get creative, wanting to use other materials from the forest – but the guide told us “What you’ve been given is enough to get across.” After an hour or so of trying, the guide was right. All of us made it across the platforms to the goal. We had enough boards, enough people to carry them, enough patience, enough creativity, enough perseverance, and enough willingness to reach out and help each other. The gifts we had were enough, as long as we were willing to have faith and really use what we had.

Rabbi and childrens author Sandy Eisenberg Sasso recently commented in an interview that as a culture, we are good at teaching our children to be competitors and consumers. The consumer mentality teaches that we never have enough, that what we have isn’t quite good enough. We always need the better car, the newer toy, the latest clothes or music. We can’t fall behind because then we will not be enough, and we will not have enough. Jesus tells us something different. Each of us have been given extraordinary gifts – talents, skills, interests and experiences that we can choose to use and to share. We are called us to see that what we have might be enough – to see the possibilities the way that Jesus sees, that two fish and five loaves are enough to feed thousands of people.

The problems of the world are overwhelming, and it is so easy to get caught up in fear and focus on scarcity. But as Christians, we are called to witness to the abundance in the world. God has given us enough. There is enough food in the world to feed everyone – yet 30,000 children die each day. There are enough strong and skilled workers to spend their time fixing substandard housing, enough creative minds to find treatments for all kinds of diseases, enough ears to heard each other’s stories, and enough love to share with anyone who needs it.

All of these are gifts from God, and we are called to use them – because when we share what we have, miracles beyond our dreams can happen.

Glory to God whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine. Amen.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday Five

Well, folks, I'm outta here for a week - me, three other adults, and eight kids are heading down to a work camp in Tennesee for a week. We'll be doing work on a Habitat House, as well as some work in a national forest. Keep us in your prayers!

I was going to do the RevGals Friday Five, but the last couple hours have been so... wonderful, that I just can't bring myself to list peeves at the moment. So, instead:

Five Thanksgivings
On the Friday Before Mission Trip, I am thankful for...
... an organized and laid-back layperson who leads our youth stuff. And thankful that he does instant message so we can work out last minute stuff online.

... for having so many great friends, who I called and emailed and IMed today saying "Help! I have nowhere to stay in Kentucky anymore! Who do we know in Kentucky?!" Friends that you can call at the last minute are good friends - and I cleary have many of them.

... the clergy email group I am a part of. Our housing for Saturday night had fallen through at the last minute, but thanks to this group, we have a new church to stay at - plus, our being there helps their deacon-in-charge out a bit too. Nowhere near as much as she is helping us though.

... the lab at my doctor's office, which doesn't close til 6pm. Its just a good feeling to get the little things done before you leave town.

and a bonus:
... for my husband, who lets me call him while he is running late and stuck in traffic and kinda cranky, and still lets me just spill out what a good mood I'm in.

All right y'all. I really do have a million pet peeves, but today... God is good, all the time and everyday, and thats all I have to say about that. See you when I return!

... for my friend Hans, who is in town for a couple weeks and took me out to lunch and ran errands with me. People keep me grounded, especially people I've for over half my life. We laughed, we looked at bags, and he bought lunch. Yay.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Dont Feed The Animals

I'm coming to you from the Big Computer Lab at my alma mater, killing time while Luke sits in statistics class. He is taking a class on regression. I asked if that means they jump on the bed while solving statistics problems. He finds this less funny than I do.

Anyway, I wandered to my favorite deli place for some Greek Pasta Salad, and then over to the computer lab. Its fun wandering around on campus, but a little weird that I never see anyone I know. I suppose if I told them I was coming into town for the afternoon (sorry Terri, but I think you're on vacation). Anyway, on my way into the big building with the Big Computer Lab, I heard rustling in the bushes - about a foot away from me. At first I looked and thought it was a squirrel -until I realzied I had never seen a gray squirrel here. No, it was a RACOON. Eating some trash under the bush. Less than five feet from the door of the big campus building with the Big Computer Lab. What is with the animals on college campuses? Maybe during one of their next never-ending construction projects, they'll borrow some signs from the zoo: Don't feed the animals - or at least, not the ones bigger than a squirrel.

In blog news, I've added a couple links to the list on the left, including the hilarious-yet-educational PeaceBang's BeautyTips. And, I finally got around to posting last Sunday's sermon, but I changed the date, so you can find it below this posting. Happy reading!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Proper 9, YearB

About two weeks ago, I was picking up a few things we needed for Vacation Bible School, and on this particular day, my errands brought me to the party supplies store near my house. Since I was there, I decided to take a quick stroll through the aisles, just in case there were other items in the store that we might use for our program. The last aisle of the store was full of costumes – the kind that come in plastic bags around Halloween. A particular costume caught my eye – it was a Jesus costume! As you might imagine, the costume was fairly plain: a white tunic, with a dark red sash that made a kind of “toga” look. But here is what surprised me: according to the picture, the costume came with a crown made of twisted branches – a crown of thorns. Now, putting aside my feelings about the costume in general, I started wondering about that crown. Why did they include it? You and I know that Jesus didn’t just walk around all the time wearing it. But, of course, the costume needed something to identify it as “Jesus.” Without that identifying mark, it would just look like an ordinary guy wearing some white and red robes – and we have such a hard time with the notion that Jesus probably looked fairly ordinary.

Of course, not everyone seems to have a hard time seeing Jesus that way. In today’s Gospel lesson from Mark, Jesus goes back to his hometown – and the hometown folk seem to be pretty clear on just how ordinary Jesus was. Maybe you know what that is like, to be around people who knew you growing up.

They have this way of telling stories about you – and sometimes, they aren’t the stories you necessarily want to have repeated You might be able to imagine the kinds of stories people were telling when they heard Jesus teaching, and heard about the deeds of power he had done in Judea.

“Jesus? Isn’t he Mary’s son… you remember, the one that caused that big commotion when he wandered off in Jerusalem after the Passover? She was so frantic…”

“I remember around when he was born… there were a lot of rumors, that Joseph wasn’t really the father. Well, I’m not one to spread rumors, but with a family like that, well, I don’t know who he thinks he is teaching in the synagogue…”

The people in Jesus’ hometown knew exactly how ordinary Jesus really was – they knew his family, they knew where he grew up. And, they knew him well enough to remember his failings, to know his faults and weaknesses – and they just could not believe that the power of God was at work in someone like that.

Isn’t that an easy trap to fall into? Bible stories tell us that Almighty God works through fantastic occurrences like the burning bush and the pillar of fire and the blinding light on the road to Damascus. It is so easy to believe that God cannot work through the familiar everyday parts of our lives, in our everyday communities.

Being part of a community means knowing one another – which means knowing each other’s gifts and talents, as well as encountering weaknesses and witnessing some failures. The more clearly we see those cracks and those flaws, the easier it is to think of why God would not choose to work through that person. We stop thinking of them as people with the capacity to channel God’s love.

And then, we start thinking of ourselves that way. We can convince ourselves that God – Almighty God who created the heavens and the earth – that God certainly does not need or want us and the imperfections we are all too familiar with. The more certain we are that other people’s failings will prevent them from witnessing to hope, to the Spirit's work in the world, the more we believe that our own weaknesses prevent us from being images of God and bearers of the Gospel.

It is one of the deep challenges of the life of faith – facing our weaknesses, our failings and limitations, and still believing in the God who knows all those things, and still loves us, chooses us, and calls us into the ministry of reconciliation and love.

Saint Paul struggled with this very thing. Whatever the “thorn in his flesh” referred to, it clearly caused him great distress – so much so that he asked the Lord three times to remove it. Finally, Paul came to understand that God’s power is stronger than our weaknesses, and that God can not only work around out weakness, but works through our weakness to reach out to those around us.

No one is perfect, and the life of faith doesn’t change that fact. What does change is how we view our imperfections. Rather than spending our energy trying to hide our weaknesses from those around us, we are free to follow God’s call to mission. As sixteenth-century nun, Teresa of Avila writes, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours, yours are the eyes through which to look at Christ’s compassion to the world, yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now.”

God is familiar with our various flaws, and still calls us to be Christ’s hands in world. God is familiar with the people and actions of our everyday lives – and despite all their flaws and imperfections, these are places and hearts where God is at work. It is not only our greatest achievements that reveal God’s glory.
God’s grace is seen when a wounded heart recognizes another heart in pain and reaches out, when we offer the best we have in help and comfort even when we can’t fix what is wrong. God’s grace is seen when weakness is made strong by God’s power, and imperfect people live in witness to God’s perfect love.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Short Friday Five

In honor of the shortened work week, we have a short Friday Five. How creative is that?

Tell us about five noteworthy Short things in your life.
Short People
Lately, I've been thinking about two short people - my godson (2 and a half) and his brother (4 and a half). They are spending the summer up north at a famous music camp with the clarinet-professor mom. We haven't seen them in a few months, but we have pictures of them everyhwere. We were going to take a Short Trip up there this weekend, but no longer. Hopefully we will see them in just a short while - next month!

Short Hops
I wonder if fruit beer is short on hops? Isn't hops what makes beer bitter? Once, I had this really amazing cherry beer from Wisconsin...

Short Stories
Once upon a time, the end.

Short Lists
Um, not my to-do list. My grocery list though! I went to farmer's market yessterday, so now I all I need for dinner is dill.

Short Stops

Short stop = what I'm doing on my blog today, cuz I really gotta get going again. Adios, enjoy your day!

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Recipe for Movie Night
1 copy of Spanglish
3 avocados
1 small jalepeno pepper, seeded
juice from 1 lime (but get all the juice)
2 cups ice water
some cilantro (maybe a couple tablespoons)
sour cream

Put the first ingredient in the DVD or VHS player, but don't press play just yet.

Chop the pepper into four or five pieces. Pulse it in the food processor or blender until its finely minced.

Peel & pit the avocado, throw it in the processor/blender along with the juice, the ice water and the cilantro. Blend til smooth, like soup.

Put soup into two bowls, garnish with a bit of sour cream.

Grab a friend or partner, tell them dinner is ready, and press play.

Recipe for Summer Lunch
Vanilla yogurt
Raspberries or Strawberries
Slivered almonds or granola
Drizzle of maple syrup (only the real kind, please)

Mix in cereal bowl to the proportions you like. "Torrential downpour" of maple syrup is a reasonalbe substitute for "drizzle."

Monday, July 03, 2006

Its Been One Week

Its been... one full day since I was last in the church building, which is really quite a blessing since I kind of missed days off there for a couple of weeks. Except, I left a pair of shoes in my office that I wanted to wear today. Good thing I have several pairs!

Its been... one week since our Narnia VBS started. We had 75+ kids during the week, and as far I can tell, they all had a blast. The curriculum we used (loosely) walks the kids through part of the story each day, and then highlights different theological themes. The church was decorated as Narnia, including a wardrobe (on loan from my friend Kris) to walk through each morning. In "Narnia", the kids encountered characters from the books - teens dressed as Lucy, Edmund, Tumnus, the Witch. We sang songs (got my guitar out again - that was fun!), had a "freeze tag battle" against the White Witch, and closed the week with coronation ceremony and potluck - complete with a moonwalk. It was a smashing sucess. The best part? When the teen playing Lucy was leaving, she gave me a hug and said "I had such a good time. Can we do something like this again next year?"

Its been... one year (and one day) since I stood in front of many people to say my priestly ordination vows. My lover-ly ordination sisters are gathering in celebration next week. One year in, and I'm thrilled as can be with where I am, with ministry, with colleagues. God is good, all the time and everyday.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Vacation Bible School

Its Vacation Bible School time!!! Which means, its a little crazy-making around here, so crazy that I didn't even get to Ice Cream Friday Five. My week is all about Narnia. It should be a great program, once we get the wrinkles ironed out a bit. Keep all our kids and helpers and volunteers in your prayers... and remember: Aslan in on the Move!!

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Here is my new favorite picture, thanks to Laura.

In other news - we have a new Presiding Bishop - Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori!

Proper 6B

This morning I served as supply clergy in another nearby congregation. They were welcoming and gracious - but theres nothing like being supply clergy to remind you just how "local" customs can be! Nevertheless, we celebrated two services (my first Rite I Eucharist - and no, there was no "mea culpa" manual actions on my part) and I had coffee with some lovely people.

And, I preached this sermon. Or some approximation thereof.

Proper 6, Year B - RCL

This summer, my husband and I are living in our first home with a patio, and so we have decided to become amateur gardeners. We wanted to grow basil and tomatoes, so we went to the store and bought plants – and we chose plants that looked like they would do well. The basil plants were already six or eight inches, and we chose a tomato plant that was already sprouting small green fruit. That way – even with our inexperience – we could be fairly certain to have plants with good growing potential, and that wouldn’t take too long for results.

Isn’t that typical of us in American culture? We want things to be fast, and we want them to be reliable. Think of the advertising for computer networks and cell phones – each company trying to convince us that their product has the fastest speeds or the most reliable network. We like safe bets, where the outcome is predictable and in our favor, and we invest in those choices. From the NFL and NBA drafts where teams get to choose the players who will be stars of tomorrow, to public policies that spend extra monies on the already-successful school districts to the stock market fluctuations for the newest “sure-thing” , reliable return on our investments rules the day.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us once again that God’s ways are not our ways. Jesus uses parables to try and explain again that the rule of God is very different from the rules of human society. This time, Jesus proclaims that the reign of God is like the smallest seed that grows into a large shrub. In the kingdom of God – in the places where God’s will is done – the smallest can become great, and the least among us can blossom and flourish.

Jesus could have chosen nearly any plant for this parable – what about acorns growing into great oak trees, or pinecones becoming cedar trees? There are many ways to illustrate the point that even the smallest seed –
the smallest words of kindness, the smallest acts of forgiveness, the smallest demonstrations of God’s grace – the smallest seed can grow into something great. There is great wisdom in learning that even our smallest efforts can flourish, and that our ambition to start out great can sometimes get in the way of actually being great. Plants have a great deal to teach us about the reign of God.

But, Jesus spoke specifically of the mustard seed, and so there must be more to the parable than that. Some of you may be like me, and may not know the difference between a mustard plant and, well, any other kind of plant. Here is what I learned about that this week: mustard plants are weeds. They are not the kind of plant that you try to have around – they have a tendency to take over fields and starve out the other crops. So, the kingdom of God is like a weed that grows into a great bush, so that birds can find rest and shade underneath its branches.

In the kingdom of God, even the weeds have the potential for growth and grace – because God sees potential differently than we do. God views potential differently than we do, because God sees each of us through the eyes of love. In the reign of God, each child of God is valued for who we might be, who God longs for us to be – even though we fail to fully love in return, over and over again.

Just take our story from Samuel! Saul, the perfect-seeming king was not as good as Israel had hoped for. Even the Lord was sorry that Saul had been made king. So, the Lord sends Samuel, and Samuel sets out to anoint the next king as directed by the Lord. He gathers with Jesse and his family, and goes through the “standard” and “likely” candidates, only to find that God has chosen the least likely of the bunch, David, the youngest son. He was such an unlikely choice that he hadn’t even been brought along – he was left at home to tend the sheep! But God chose David as king over Israel. And in David, God got a king who loved the Lord, who wrote beautiful poetry and music - and who committed adultery and murder while leading his people. Yet, despite all of that, God makes a covenant of love with David, and continues to see potential for growth and grace in David and his descendants.

In the kingdom of God, the smallest of us, the least likely to succeed, have the potential to bloom because God’s love makes it so. In God’s reign, seasons of failure do not have to keep us from growing more Christ-like each day. Indeed – since we do not know how the growth happens, who are we to say that it won’t?

The kingdom of God is hope, and so we are called to walk in hope: the hope that growth can happen even when it seems unlikely by the standards of the world, the hope that God is working in us even when we cannot explain it or see it, and the hope that comes from the knowledge that God loves each of us enough to call us into our true potential, failings and all. Amen.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Sermon Sheep

Found here while browsing around for sermon inspiration.

Friday, June 16, 2006

RGBP Friday Five

I just returned from a two-day whirlwind introduction to the General Convention of the Episcopal Church in Columbus. I'll try and post more about that later, but let me say this - the schedule is NOT designed for people who like to sleep. No wonder we sometimes get cranky at each other. So, in honor of that... the Friday Five!

1. In what kind of environment do you sleep best?
Actually, I can sleep almost anywhere. Its a well-honed talent. I do like a decent pillow, and I like to have some kind of cover - even just a sheet will do.

2. How much sleep do you need to feel consistently well-rested? How much can you get by on? What are the consequences when you don't get enough?
I prefer nine hours of sleep. And I ususally get preety close to that, on account of A) no kids, and B) a boss who understands that I am not really a morning person, and doesn't mind if I get to work somewhere between 9 and 9:30ish. I can get by on less - although I've never pulled a true all-nighter, so I guess I need at least a couple hours.

The consequences? Tears. Cranky-ness. Inability to talk. Its just bad, all around bad.

3. Night owl or morning person?
I like sleep a lot. So really, neither. But more of a night owl. I have a hard time being in bed before 11.

4. Favorite cure for insomnia

In-what? See #1 above.

5. To snooze or not to snooze? Why or why not?

I do, every morning. But its oh-so-evil. I keep meaning to move the clock across the room... but I know the woman who is the local host for NPR's Morning Edition, so its kinda fun to listen to her when I'm waking up.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Trinity of Recaps

While I was away from here Recap: I attended a great women's clergy conference, a few people (see here, here and here just to name a few) graduated, some more were ordained, and I spent an awful lot of time working on our Narnia-themed Vacation Bible School, which starts in just two weeks. There were other events in there as well, but those highlights should hold you. Sorry, extended highlights are not available for sale on iTunes.

Anniversary Recap: We had a lovely day in the town where we were married, having lunch with friends, drinks with my mom, and dinner at one of our favorite places. Plus, a visit to Trader Joes! What more could you ask for in celebration? (shush. my mom reads this blog.) The last four years have seen two moves, two masters degrees, two ordinations, and our own house. The next four years will include new jobs, probably another move, and we have decided it should also include linguine.

Sermon Recap: I preached this morning for Trinity Sunday. Why, might one ask, do we like to put our fresh new clergy in charge of speaking about one of the most complicated theological concepts? Well, because we've always done it that way. Anyway, it was a no-notes sermon, but here is the basic idea:

Thoughts for Trinity Sunday 2006

John 3:16 – possibly the most-cited verse of our time. Its so popular that most people don’t even bother writing out the actual words. We’ve shorthanded one of the most powerful ideas in all of Christianity! But really, its no wonder: we are so overloaded with information, that we need to shorten things up to fit the soundbyte, to be seen when the camera scans the crowd before the commercial break. So how do we take what is overly familiar and find new life-giving possibilities?

What we need are more nighttime conversations. The night is for stillness- so says a prayer in the New Zealand BCP. At night, there is nowhere go to go, nothing to get done, and no one to see - and it frees us simply be. At night, when no one is looking, we are free to explore the quetions and understand people we don't have time for in the busyness of daylight. We can share in those encounters where nighttime conversations become nighttime conversions.

What we need are more moments like Nicodemus shared with Jesus. Nicodemus came in the night to ask questions that he didn't know how to ask in the daytime. He may not have gotten it, but that nighttime conversation changed him - and twenty-odd chapters later, we find Nicodemus present at Christ's burial.

In seminary, like many programs I suppose, people attached to circles of friends. Within my particular circle, I had two friends who were a lot alike in some ways - close in age, kids who were close in age... but even though they shared almost identical networks of friends, they just didn't like each other. One night, close to graduation time, several of our friends were gathering at the home of one of these people - and the other one decided to come along. Well, the evening went on, and one by one people needed to leave to write papers and pack and all those other things that happen at the end of the term. And my two friends found themselves sitting alone in the living room. Well, they stayed there, and talked half through the night. To this day, they are probably closer friends than anyone else from our group.

Nighttime conversations have a way of becoming nighttime conversions.

General Convention begins this week, and you will hear about the daytime events – the committee hearings, and the stories that get covered because they sell newspapers. But you won’t hear about the nighttime conversations – the priests from Massachusetts and Mississippi who stay up til the early hours of the morning talking, connecting, exploring one another’s hearts and minds. It may not change their votes, or their minds – but those conversations will change how they look at each other the next day, and how all of us love one another and live together.

Stumbling around in the dark, asking questions, exploring the unfamiliar – it is part of this living and loving in community that we celebrate today on Trinity Sunday. Today we celebrate the mystery that is the three in one. How God as Father, Son, and Spirit, Creator Reedemer and Sustainer are separate but united, different persons but one substance, an eternal community that we have been invited into. It is, as we like to say, a mystery – the depths of self-giving, other-focused love required to sustain the Trinity are beyond our knowing. But it is worth seeking, going to the unfamiliar places to see how far God’s love really does reach.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Power of Two

Four years ago today, I walked down the aisle and found the love of my life waiting for me. Of course, I did already know he was going to be there.

In honor of our fourth wedding anniversary (Thursday), while I waited for Luke to get home, I decided to update the look around here. Unfortunately, I didn't like how it was going, so I'm back to how it was. But - hopefully there will be some changes around here soon.

And by changes, I do mean some posting. There have been graduations, ordinations, new jobs, all kinds of fun stuff. But now its late, and time for bed.

Power of Two - by the Indigo Girls
Now the parking lot is empty
Everyones gone someplace
I pick you up and in the trunk Ive packed
A cooler and a 2-day suitcase
Cause theres a place we like to drive
Way out in the country
Five miles out of the city limit were singing
And your hands upon my knee

So were okay
Were fine
Baby Im here to stop your crying
Chase all the ghosts from your head
Im stronger than the monster beneath your bed
Smarter than the tricks played on your heart
Well look at them together then well take them apart
Adding up the total of a love thats true
Multiply life by the power of two

You know the things that I am afraid of
Im not afraid to tell
And if we ever leave a legacy
Its that we loved each other well
Cause Ive seen the shadows of so many people
Trying on the treasures of youth
But a road that fancy and fast
Ends in a fatal crash
And Im glad we got off
To tell you the truth

Cause were okay
Were fine
Baby Im here to stop your crying
Chase all the ghosts from your head
Im stronger than the monster beneath your bed
Smarter than the tricks played on your heart
Well look at them together then well take them apart
Adding up the total of a love thats true
Multiply life by the power of two

All the shiny little trinkets of temptation
(make new friends)
Something new instead of something old
(but keep the old)
All you gotta do is scratch beneath the surface
(but remember what is gold)
And its fools gold
(what is gold)

Now were talking about a difficult thing
And your eyes are getting wet
I took us for better and I took us for worse
Dont you ever forget it
Now the steel bars between me and a promise
Suddenly bend with ease
The closer Im bound in love to you
The closer I am to free

So were okay
Were fine
Baby Im here to stop your crying
Chase all the ghosts from your head
Im stronger than the monster beneath your bed
Smarter than the tricks played on your heart
Well look at them together then well take them apart
Adding up the total of a love thats true
Multiply life by the power of two

Friday, May 12, 2006

Honk Honk Beep Beep

I'm still a little bummed that I'm not going to the Festival of Homiletics this year, so instead of the festival Friday Five, here is a little thing from Emily's place:

Your Summer Ride is a Beetle Convertible

Fun, funky, and a little bit euro.
You love your summers to be full of style and sun!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Walk to Detroit

A friend and parishoner walked to Detroit this week. From Lansing. For those of you who aren't familiar with Michigan geography, thats roughly 100 miles or so.

Why would someone do this, you might ask? Well, it has to do with a proposed buisness tax cut, his Baptismal Covenant, and how we treat those in need. But don't take my word for it. Matt runs a blog called Michigan Liberal - check it out, read his stories. I think you'll be glad you did.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday Five

I'm back from Miami, but swamped in VBS stuff. So, here is the Friday Five instead of a Post with Thought.

1. Favorite birthday cake/ice cream/dessert
When I was a kid, my mom and I used to pick out cakes that you could make in different shapes and decorate to look like stuff. We did a ladybug one that was pretty cool, and a butterfly one.

Mmmm. Ice cream. Thank goodness thats not only for birthdays!

2. Surprise Parties -- have you ever given or received one?
I was at one- a 30th birthday for a seminary classmate. Her mom flew out from a western state as part of the surprise... it was just wonderful. Who knew seminarians could actually pull that off?

3. Favorite birthday present
My guitar. It was a birthday present, oh, 10 years ago or so, and I still love it. We picked out a really good one.

4. What do you think of those candles that won't blow out?
No thanks!

5. Best. birthday. ever.

Probably my 25th. My 24th was two days into seminary, we didn't know anyone, it was a hard day for me. So the next year, Luke threw me a huge blowout party. He actually formed a committee of a couple of my friends. It took up the entire floor of our apartment building, and we invited the entire seminary. We decorated with stuff from the last 25 years, so some people came in 70s disco outfits... It was just wonderful.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Three Days Off

here i am in the place where I come let go-miami
the bass and the sun set low.
Everyday like a mardi gras- everbody party all day
no work- all play, ok

so we sip a liitle something, leave the rest to spill.
me and charlie at the bar running up a high bill
nutin; less than ill when we dress to kill,
and every time the ladies pass they be like "Hi will"

Ya'll feel me
All ages and races,
Real sweet faces, every single nation
Spanish, Hatian, indian jamaican,
Black, White, Cuban or Asian

I only come for 2 days of playing, but every time we come
we always wind up staying.
This the type of town i could spend a few days in,
Miami the city that keeps the roof blazing.

Party in the city where the heat is on.
All night on the beach til the break of dawn
Welcome to miami (bienvenido a miami)
Bouncin' in the club where the heat is on
All night on the beach til the break of dawn.
I'm going to miami, welcome to miami

Today's post brought to you by Luke's business trip, Will Smith, and American Airlines.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Culinary Conquest & Friday Five

I haven't played the Friday Five in a while, but before I get to that, a bit of procrastination in the form of shameless self-promotion.

I made meringue cookies! They're gorgeous, and nicely shaped, and lovely pale golden color. They're crisp and light, and not soggy on the inside. They are vanilla-flavored, with real vanilla bean seeds and everything. (Beth, I found a use for those left over vanilla beans!) I'd post a picture, but I can't find my camera. Still, this is a major accomplishment for me, and I'm just not sure the youth group kids will appreciate the milestone.

You see, I love love love meringue cookies. In college, I worked as a part-time church secretary, and someone there brought in these amazing cookies with chocolate chips in them. I'd only ever had meringue on pie (which, I also love). I asked for the recipe, as any good aspiring cook would, and gave it a shot. It didn't work out so well. Ever since, making good meringues has been a goal, but they always come out sort of soggy, or really flat, or they turn into powder if you look at them cross-eyed.

This time, I had my trusty Cooking Light with pictures and tips, and I followed the recipe patiently. It turns out that patience is a virtue, even for the kitchen. Now, if only I could be as patient and goal-oriented in the rest of my life and work...

So, on that note: Friday Five, Procrastination Version!
Of course, what I'm procrastinating has a huge effect on how I procrastinate. For example...

1. When I should be cooking dinner and just can't get up the energy... I watch Rachael Ray shows, or read an old Cooking Light. This has one of two very good effects. Either, I get excited about cooking something and I go do it, or I get soooo hungry looking at the food that I can't possibly cook and convince Luke to go out.

2. When I should be writing a sermon... read blogs. Its only sort of procrastinating! I'm sure to find inspiration somewhere in the stories of my friends.

3. When I should be doing just about anything at a computer... instant message. And yes, I realize that my IM is up most of the time. Who wants to wait around to start it up when its time to procrastinate??

4. When I should be going to the gym... naptime. Because, really, don't I deserve a rest before I walk a mile and a half?

5. When I should help clean up... TV. Or napping. Or any of the above activites. Or grocery shopping. Or going to the gym. Or, really, just about anything to avoid this one. I guess thats not so much "procrastinating" as "complete avoidance", but isn't that really just semantics?