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.