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.