Monday, February 20, 2006

President's Day

Today is President's Day. I happen to married to someone who loved presidential trivia as a kid. He is observing the day by reading more in his latest presidential biography, Team of Rivals. Tonight we may even play his old trivia game Hail to the Chief. Ah, the things we do for love! In honor of that, here are a few questions for you

1. What is your favorite presidential movie?

2. Who is your favorite president? (Of the real ones, I mean. No, Martin Sheen doesn't count)

3. Do you have a favorite bit of presidential trivia?

4. What do you think would be the most fun about being president?

5. For all you fans out there who feel cheated by #2 - What is your favorite West Wing episode? And how do you think they will wrap up the series?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Sermon for Epiphany 7B

The story of the paralytic man always reminds me of my favorite Christmas show. I know it’s a bit of a stretch to get from late February healing stories to a commercial Christmas show, but bear with me for a minute. We always watched the Christmas specials in my house – How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christimas. My favorite one for as long as I can remember is called “Kerplunk, Kerplooey”. Well, its actually only called that in my house – if you looked for it in the TV guide, you’d find it under the name “Twas the night Before Christmas.” Its an expanded version of the Clement Moore poem, and tells the story of a two families – a human family and a mouse family who live in a small town. Santa has become angry with the town because of a letter written by the mouse child, and the father of the human family builds a clock to bring Santa back. Well, things break – kerplunk, kerplooey – and a little before midnight on Christmas Eve, the children decide there is no point in hanging stockings. The father tells them not to give up hope. Then, as people in cartoons often do, he sings a song. The words go like this: “You hope, and I’ll hurry. You pray, and I’ll plan. We’ll do what’s necessary ‘cuz even a miracle needs a hand.”

And that is what this story reminds me of. I love this miracle story because it involves people doing their part in working with God to create a moment of grace and wonder. What drives these men to climb to the roof and dig through to get to Jesus? Perhaps they had come a long way and did not want to be disappointed. Perhaps they were impatient fellows. Perhaps their friend’s case was so desperate that they were willing to try anything, see anyone, in the hopes of finding healing. But whatever their original motivations may have been, by the time they reach the inside of the house, Jesus sees only one thing: their faith. Jesus is so moved by their faith that he heals the man of all that ails him, spiritually and physically.

The paralytic man and his friends took the first step of faith in healing: reaching out because you can’t do it on your own, and they leaned on God to do the rest. This is faith – turning to God, leaning on God in hope. Faith is not passive, it moves us to bold action because we trust in God’s promises of grace. It balances our abilities with God’s gifts, and holds grace and effort together in our search for wholeness.

This journey towards healing and wholeness by the grace of God is a road not unlike those in southeastern MI – that is, it is full of potholes to be avoided!

First, we must be cautious when we go down this road that we are not equating the bold actions of faith with old adage “God helps those who help themselves.” Bold and faithful action is not the same as self-sufficiency. In the Gospel story, the paralytic man, in fact, does not help himself. What would this story look like if he had? Well, for starters, it probably would not have made it into the Gospel. Without help from friends, he may have made it to outer edges of the gathered crowd in Capernaum – but how would he have gotten in to see Jesus? Even the Beatles understand this part of the life of faith: we get by with a little help from our friends- and God smiles upon those efforts.

Once we do ask for help, however, we must also be careful not to confuse “faith” with “certainty.” It is sometimes thought that the opposite of faith is doubt. But as writer Anne Lamott and others have noted, “doubt is not the opposite of faith – certainty is.” Confidence is God’s ability to work through us is one thing - but being too certain of what help will look like can distract us from actually receiving the help! Perhaps you have heard this story: A certain man lived in a town where the river was about to overflow and radio reports warned the people to leave town for higher, safer ground. He was not worried however, because he said to himself, “I’m a good and religious man, I pray to Jesus, and I am sure that God will save me.” The waters came, and the man waited on the second floor of his house. Soon, another man came by in a row boat and called to him, “Friend, come with me in my boat away from the flood!” But, the man said, “No, thank you. I’m a good and religious man, I pray to Jesus, and I am sure that God will save me.” The waters continued to rise, and the man waited on the roof of his house. A helicopter flew overhead, and lowered a ladder to bring the man to safety. But, the man said, “No, thank you. I’m a good and religious man, I pray to Jesus, and I am sure that God will save me.” Soon enough, the man found himself at the gates of heaven. When he came to Saint Peter, he demanded an audience with God. He asked God, “God, I’m a good and religious man, I prayed to Jesus – why didn’t you save me?” God answered him, “My child, I sent you a radio report, a rowboat, and a helicopter. What were you waiting for?”

This is where we see the scribes in Mark’s story. They are so sure they know the law and the scriptures, that they cannot see the redemptive work of God when it is literally right in front of them. I wonder how often we are like the scribes, and miss moments of grace and wonder because we are convinced that grace does not happen that way.

A friend shared a quote this week from a book he is reading by Bishop Desmond Tutu. It went like this: “Dear Child of God, it is often difficult for us to recognize the presence of God in our lives and in our world. In the clamor of the tragedy that fills the headlines we forget about the majesty that is present all around us. We feel vulnerable, for vulnerability is the essence of creaturehood. But we are not helpless and with God's love we are ultimately invincible. Our God does not forget those who are suffering and oppressed.”

The eyes to see God’s presence and majesty, and the boldness to act on behalf of those whom God loves, a longing for wholeness and healing –these are the gifts of faith. May they be yours and mine today and always.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


***LATER EDIT: Oops, I had a couple quantities mixed up in the recipe. Its all fixed now.***

In our house, we like to mark events with food. So, we decided to celebrate Valentine's Day with new and different food this year. Monday night we picked out recipes and went shopping, and after a short trip to the Y, we cooked for a while, and then ate for a while.

Over dinner, we recounted our ten New Year's together (we are coming up on the tenth anniversary of us dating. trust me, you'll hear more about that soon.) We could only remember one other Valentine's Day though. It was the year we decided to make special dinner and discovered our favorite recipe: Bowties with Artichokes & Sundried Tomatoes. Since that is one of my signature dinners, I will not give you the recipe. I will however, give you the recipe for the very excellent dessert we had. I recommend sitting around and not doing much after you it eat it. We recommend an episode of Gilmore Girls.

Chocolate-Chunk Bread Pudding
from the Jan/Feb 2004 issue of Cooking Light
serves 2. Or one, I guess, if you're seriously needing chocolate and a stomachache.

1 & 3/4 c. cubed Hawaian Sweet Bread (about 3 of the little rolls)

Toast the cubes of bread in the oven til golden - about 5 minutes at 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine:
2/3 c. milk
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2T sugar
1 & 1/2 T cocoa
1T Kahlua
one egg, slighty beaten

Whisk it all together til combined. Add the bread cubes, and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate for a while (at least 30 minutes, not more than 4 hours).

Corsely chop 1 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate.

Fill two 6 oz. ramekins halfway each with the bread mixture. Sprinkle half of the chocolate between the two. Add the rest of the bread mixture, then sprinkle the rest of the chocolate on top. Basically, you're layering bread mixture and chopped chocolate - we did it in one bigger ceramic dish and it worked fine. Plus, sharing is good for you.

Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes or until set.

Try not to burn your mouth eating it too fast. And put some whipped cream on it too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Fragmentary Present

In response to an email conversation about parish calling and visiting, I pulled a book off my shelf - Turning to One Another by Margaret J. Wheatley. We read this book in a class on congregational leadership, taught by an adjunct prof & parish priest who really makes a point of visiting for the sake of it. Flipping through it, I came across this quote from sociologist John Berger:

There is no continuity between actions, there are no pauses, no paths, no pattern, no past and no future. There is only the claomor of the ... fragmentary present. Everywhere there are surprises and sensations, ye tnothwere is there any outcome. Nothing flows through; everything interupts.

I was recently telling someone that this is how I've been feeling - like days and weeks just rush by me. I think that our modern habit of multi-tasking is part of the problem. Being organized is a gift. Being perpetually distracted by the next thing on your list is not.

Of course, I'm writing this with four different projects and tasks open on my desk. But, I am going to commit right now to leaving them on my desk in every possible sense when I go home so I can enjoy the fun and fancy dinner Luke and I have planned for Valentine's Day.

Maybe if I'm focused, I won't end up with a second-degree burn on my hand like I did last night. At least its red and pink for Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Lazy Blogging

I am on my way to a funeral today. Please keep Geri's family in your prayers. It was not really an unexpected death, but she was a lovely, gracious and brave woman, and she will be missed.

In lieu of blogging anything else, I'm gonna post some quizzes that have been floating around. Be ready to be.. um... not shocked.

From Frog and some other folk:
You scored as Oboe. Oboe.
You're an oboe.



French Horn










String Bass














If you were in an orchestra, what instrument would match your personality?
created with

And from Beth and Raisin...

You are a

Social Liberal
(71% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(11% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Friday, February 03, 2006

Circle of Life

Some weeks I feel like my time flows from the marker of my day off, which I am enjoying in a thoroughly lazy style today. It is almost one o'clock, and so far I have slept in, read some of my book
for the Lenten book review program at church, made oatmeal and watched Crossing Jordan. Have I mentioned that this is our new favorite show? We discovered it last spring, mostly because it came on Sundays at 9 pm, when we are very likely to want to turn the TV on. But, the main character is sassy yet caring, and Jerry O'Connell is adorable. So there you go.

But I digress. It is now almost time for me to shower and get dressed and accomplish some things. There are two big events in the next day and half, and both need some prep work. First, my mom is coming for dinner tonight and we are going to see The Lion King. I'm pretty excited about this - I've wanted to see it for a long time, ever since the Sacristan and his wife saw it in Chicago - she raved about it for days. We're going for my mom's birthday which was earlier this week. But, in order to eat dinner, I need to go grocery shopping, which also means figuring out what we're having.

I also need to go the store to obtain bread-making supplies like flour and, um... flour. Luke has recently decided that he wants to learn to make bread. I happen to know how to make bread, although I haven't done it for a couple years. I am really looking forward to spending the day mixing and kneading and baking, and having the house smell like dough and fresh-baked bread. Plus, I am sure the activity will help me finish those pesky RevGal devotions on Psalm 34: Taste and see that the Lord is good. Indeed.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Things I've Learned on Hiatus

I've been away, and when we've been home there have been many people in our house. Somehow that translates to less blogging for me. So, here is an update of sorts for you all.

♦ In Berkeley, they have big hills. I would call them small mountains. If you are not used to walking around in this kind of territory, your legs might be sore for several days. Just a tip.

♦I love living in a place where our home can be always open to friends who need a place to stay. Even more, I love being married to someone who thinks this is as important as I do.

♦ When you go to the local cheesburger & fries place, and their burgers come in "Regular", "King", and "Kolossal" - and you know that you are a regular eater - get the regular burger. I don't care if you're hungry. Get it anyway.

♦ Sometimes, the church you work in is not the church you would choose to attend. And that can be an incredible gift, even if its kind of a weird adjustment. Having friends help you articulate that is also an incredible gift.

♦ Children's movies about an evil count who murders people are not necessarily children's movies. Or good movies to watch right before bed. Especially if you are very afraid of snakes.

♦ I wish that everyone thought "playful" was a complimentary adjective. Even more, I wish it actually described more people.

Not bad for a couple weeks, I suppose. How 'bout you? Did you learn anything intersting today?