Whether or not it did, please come join the discussion at RevGalBlogPals about responding to breaking news events in sermon and worship.
I've finally landed on Mondays as my official day off, and today I had plans to spend it quietly participating in the RevGalBlogPals Virtual Advent Retreat.
But just like a pediatrician or a veterinarian, a pastor sometimes finds Monday morning holds the emergencies built up over the weekend, and after several hours on the phone, I decided to call it a work day.
The good news is that part one of the Retreat is aimed at this coming Sunday, thus possibly counting as work.
The bad news is that it's not on the text I'm planning to preach.
And I have a mother's task to perform this afternoon, one involving driving and waiting and driving some more.
So I have to work harder to make the space to pull back from life and work and look for God on this first weekday of Advent.
Here's a snippet of the Isaiah passage in the first post for the retreat:
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
We're in Isaiah 11, and the words were written about the hoped-for Messiah to people who needed saving, from themselves as much as from the geopolitical enemies in their time and place.
Really, aren't we all like that?
I read something recently about how social rejection creates an inflammatory response (hat tip to Liz), and it gave me a lot to think about since I have an inflammatory auto-immune disease. Actually, I have two, both rheumatoid arthritis and eczema, but the medicine for the first one seems to have gotten the better of the second one, if not the first one. Either way, the tendency in this direction exists in me. And oddly when I went back to look at the link, after mulling it over for more than six weeks, I see it's SENSITIVITY to social rejection that causes the problem.
For the sensitive such as your Songbird, a Messiah who would slay the wicked with the breath of his lips, literally, would be sah-weet! We want just that kind of a champion. We are the ones who look at life when things are going wrong and invariably find the fault in ourselves.
I'm struggling today with new symptoms of RA, pain in places I have not had it before, and the feeling that my own tendency to care how other people feel (or don't) about me has made me sick in the first place. I don't like that conclusion.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
That's the next thing about the Messiah.
Some days I wish the rod and the belt could be used more actively. I try to be satisfied with the sash around his metaphoric waist, to believe God is faithful to us, even when things hurt. Especially when things hurt.
I would hope that on the day Isaiah describes, on the holy mountain where wolves of various kinds live quietly with lambs and other sweet creatures, the wolves will be healed of their emotionally carnivorous wolfishness and the lambs of their delectably edible lambliness, and all will be beauty and joy.
Meanwhile, I need to get ready to drive up and down the highway, hoping for a place to sit during the waiting portion of the program that doesn't hurt me.
It's a happy day at RevGalBlogPals – the fifth birthday of the webring!
To celebrate I wore this:
I'm forever grateful for them, and all the rest.
I'm sadly behind on the pace, but I am still reading. In the past few weeks I've read Nanette Sawyer's Hospitality~the Sacred Art: Discovering the Hidden Spiritual Power of Invitation and Welcome (the author was our presenter at the RevGalBlogPals Big Event 3), and I've also dipped into a resource she shared with us, Psalms for Praying: An Invitation to Wholeness, by Nan C. Merrill. Merrill has written absolutely gorgeous inclusive language versions of the Psalms. They make you feel like you're in an intimate relationship with God. I found Nanette's program, which included the use of Merrill's book, consciousness-altering. It's hard to say more about it–it's all a bit of a blur–but I am grateful to both authors for the ways in which they are touching my life right now.
Here's a picture taken on the top deck, in the evening, where we experienced the grace of Nanette's leadership and where I had the chance to be one of the readers when we passed Merrill's book, one to another.
I had a great time on the cruise, but came home with a sore shoulder and arm (RA-related) that make typing unattractive.
I may be looking at a cortisone shot, which honestly I would rather avoid, because the last one hurt and made me faint, which seems ridiculously Victorian.
I got a little sun and some little braids with beads at the end.
I'm hoping to leave them in a little longer.
One attendee said I looked just like my cartoon girl, and that pleased me.
I brought my knitting, and I finished the sock in this picture and actually made the heel turn on its mate before my shoulder started to hurt for unrelated reasons.
My planned trip to Farzona next week is off because Pure Luck's job ended early and he is on his way home.
Sam was anxious in my absence and did not enjoy staying at the dog walker's house.
LP had a good break and got in the habit of staying up far too late.
I attended the Association meeting yesterday, which was a half-day of work, but true re-entry comes tomorrow.
This blog post cannot contain the joy I felt at being with RevGal friends. I love them so much!
Sun and sea and sky healed and strengthened my spirit.
The program on hospitality opened me up to new possibilities.
I hope you had a good week, too. More soon.
For now, here's the view from the deck where kathrynzj and I played Scrabble, but didn't keep score.
Yes, I was that relaxed.
I just finished reading Book #7, Barchester Towers, which I could.not.put.down., and even before I quite finished it, I got my hands on a copy of The Help, which I also can.not.put.down., with the result that I put my knitting down too soon and stayed up too late last night. It's my day off, and I wouldn't be surprised if I finished it before I go to sleep (hopefully not too late) tonight.
Barchester Towers, the second in Anthony Trollope's Barchester Chronicles, charmed me. It's full of characters who leap off the page, and situations that play out in very satisfactory fashion, though not before some very human, cringe-worthy moments occur. I just discovered that there was once a miniseries and added it to my Netflix queue! I have the next volume ready on my Kindle.
Today I'm hosting a discussion at RevGalBlogPals of a book I reviewed here late last year, Salvation on the Small Screen? 24 Hours of Christian Television.
And finally, I'm happy to say I finally got into the local paper again. The new regime there will not give me a date to write for and sometimes the seasonal pieces I send them don't get published–frustrating!! But the piece I wrote here about rearranging the living room, with some further work, was in the paper on Saturday. It's on the web, too.
What are you reading?
Over at RevGalBlogPals, Sally writes:
I am reading a wonderful little book for Advent, it's title is: "Do Nothing Christmas is Coming!"
So this week's Friday Five is simple.
List Five things you won't be doing to prepare for Christmas.
Hmm. I think we keep it fairly simple anyway. Most of our changes have to do with the advancing average age of our household and extended family.
I am not mailing any packages.
I am not losing my mind over stockings (this is a big one, I am crazy for stockings, and this is my most likely last-minute freakout).
I am not doing presents for nieces or nephews.
I am not knitting a sweater for anyone, at least not one scheduled to be a Christmas present.
I am not staying up late to do anything related to Christmas. That is my solemn vow. I feel much better when I sleep.
I fully expect some madness when all the men of the family return around December 19-20. Every year the kids and I shop for a needy child as their present to Pure Luck, and this year we'll all be able to do it together if #1 Son's plans work out. And since we weren't together at Thanksgiving, I still need a picture of the kids for a card. That may not get into the mail until after Christmas.
Lastly, I hope we'll get around to putting the ornaments on the tree…
How about you? Are you engaged in Christmas madness or keeping it calm this year?
(I am Part Two of a Virtual Advent Retreat at RevGalBlogPals today.)
7John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. 9Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” 10And the crowds asked him, “What then should we do?” 11In reply he said to them, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.” 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?” 13He said to them, “Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.” 14Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what should we do?” He said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.”
15As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, 16John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people. (John 3:7-18, NRSV)
I have to admit I find that closing verse of the gospel lesson for Advent 3C a little funny. The "good news" John the Baptist came to preach to the people had a hard edge.
He's a tough-talker, John the Baptist. This gospel lesson begins with name-calling. The people who come out to see him and be baptized are a "brood of vipers." Trees that do not bear fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
Undaunted, the people ask him for specifics. Over and over they ask him, what are we to do? He gives them simple rules for life: share with others, don't take more than you are entitled to take, be satisfied with what you earn.
He's powerful, John. People wonder if he isn't the Messiah himself. When we look around the world today we see plenty of messianic figures, people who proclaim one truth or another. He's preaching the opposite of today's popular prosperity gospel, more like the common sense thinking of our grandparents' generation. Make do with what you have; do a hard day's work and earn what you're paid; keep an eye out for those in need and help where you can.
It seems strange that his rules involve money and wages when he lives in the desert and not in the community of commerce. And it seems even stranger that he suddenly changes the subject from the practical to the metaphorical.
"I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire." (Luke 3:16-17, NRSV)
That sounds more complicated than what came before.
And that's perhaps the key to Advent. What's coming will sort us out, into wheat and chaff. The winnowing fork is in his hand.
That's John's take on it, anyway. He has expectations of the Messiah, and in that he's no different than everyone around him. He believes the One who is Coming will move us all to the next level.
That's John's good news.
John speaks of wheat and chaff being sorted, and we tend to think of this as an outer process, a division of faithful people from the rest of the world. But perhaps we can apply this to the inner life. As we begin this Advent, can you identify the wheat and the chaff in your life? Are you ready to leave the chaff behind?
Advent God, in this season of anticipation, prepare our hearts and
minds to receive the truth about our world and our lives. Help us to
sort ourselves out with the help of your Holy Spirit. We pray in the
name of the One who is Coming. Amen.
Many thanks to Jenee Woodard at Textweek for the art links, which I found here.
We take these foot pictures at RevGalBlogPal gatherings not just to show off our pedicures but to protect the bloggers who maintain anonymity. Me, I'm simply pseudonymous for the joy of having a nickname I picked myself (following on "Mickey Mouse" and "Muffin" and "Sponge"), so I will tell you my toes are just past the 6 on this clock and the toenails are pink.
One of my favorite parts of the event had to be the opening gathering, where we read aloud the long-ago blog post that got the RevGalBlogPals started. We debated the form of the name, which started with the suggestion of RevBlogGalPals, and I piped up asking for a version that sounded more inclusive and scanned more prettily, too. This is what you get from a member of both the UCC and P.O.E.M.
We heard a lot about names this weekend and spent time looking at the "begats" in Chronicles and searching for the mentions of women in them. Mostly women appeared defined in relation to fathers or husbands or children, though some earned the acclaim of the chroniclers by their non-familial feats and accomplishments. Over many years, I have complained about being identified as the daughter of my father, and the sister of my brother, the wife of a husband and the mother of my children, but as I flew home yesterday, especially recognizing what a diminished household awaited me, I found I treasured all those definitions.
And at the moment I don't feel particularly accomplished in my non-familial pursuits, so perhaps this is a good thing. Although I understand Interim Ministry to be an important calling, and I have worked hard to do it well and professionally, I miss being in a settled call. Soon, I move on to juggling two interims for a short period, and then continue the newer job over the coming school year, give or take. I believe I have gifts for this work, but I also believe I have gifts for a settled parish.
Going to the Big Event 2.0 underscored those feelings. For nearly four years, with a group of others in some ways the same and in many ways changed by arrivals and departures, I've worked on establishing an ecumenical faith community. I've watched it blossom. I've prayed for it to recover from injuries. I've seen it expand in ways I dearly hoped for, that newer members would find the kinds of connections that the original group found with one another.
I'd like to do this in my ministry, too, to be part of making new things happen, to provide support along the way, to enable others to express their gifts for ministry and discipleship and simply being in loving community. A year ago I hoped that would come in the form of planting a new church, and I still love the idea of doing that, but at this point, my Conference will not be funding any new churches. Just as it feels like the right time to begin thinking about next year's BE, while we're still excited over this one, it's not too soon to think ahead about what I will do next. As the old hands at Interim Ministry told me when I asked about when you look for the next job, "As soon as you start this one." I suppose this means another summer of revising my ministerial profile, paying for another background check, writing another Statement on Ministry and worrying, once again, about getting a sermon recorded on audio and/or video.
I wish this all felt clearer, but if I have learned anything from my friends and sisters in RevGalBlogPals it is that the process of discernment never really ends. We are always wondering how God and ministry and family/personal life intertwine, considering what feels right and what seems faithful and what is practical and whether that particular Trinity ever exists in one place and time.
Some Christians subscribe to a theology of "name it and claim it," a kind of power of positive thinking. At the other extreme, I have friends who feel afraid to want anything too much, in case they might jinx it somehow. I find I'm more inclined to believe in the possibilities for my friends than for myself. When considering my own hopes, I get the threads of work and family, personal desire, creative ambition and spiritual hope tangled nearly hopelessly. I'd like to plant a church; I'd like to write a book; I'd like to keep my daughter in her current school system and near her father; I'd like to have time to spend with my husband; I'd like to please God.
Where is the Good News in all that?
In our closing worship yesterday, the Rev. Dr. Wil Gafney preached about the women who came to the tomb, the version of the story in Luke's gospel. Sometimes you have to run to tell it, she said, and that message came after a weekend in which I felt strongly the need to slow down, to figure out a way to walk and tell it. I wonder if I am equipped, if there can be a way to untangle the threads and make something of them. I wonder if a picture will appear, and what it will be?
I want to see a circle, a circle of hope and peace and love, a circle containing family but spreading further, a circle that manages to contain frailty and failure and forgiveness, and most of all a circle of the Good News: that what we see is not all there is, that God works in and through us in ways we least expect, that even the thing we fear is most dead may spring into new life.
Tomorrow in the wee hours, I leave for the airport on my way to the RevGalBlogPals Big Event 2.0 in Scottsdale, Arizona. This week of vacation and continuing education comes at just the right time for me, as I feel a little used-up after Lent.
To celebrate spring and this trip out of town, I had a pedicure yesterday. The color is OPI’s “Feelin’ Hot-Hot-Hot.” I love it!
Today I am cooking five days of meals for Sam. This is no small thing. He will eat, over those five days:
- 30 cups of rice
- 7.5 cups of chicken
- 7.5 cups of ground beef
- 5 eggs
- 10 bananas
- 7.5 cups of cooked carrots
- 5 tablespoons of flax oil
- 5 tablespoons of olive oil
I’ll be sending along yogurt and vitamin pills, too. (He’s doing very well on his new food plan, has regained some of the weight he lost, but not too much.)
We haven’t used this kennel for a while because they keep the dogs very active and while they would have done whatever we needed for Molly, Molly expected to run and have fun there and would have been unhappy in the Old Dogs Room. The kennel property includes extensive woods, and a big romp forms part of each morning and afternoon. Sam and Molly used to sleep in the “TV Room” on a futon couch together, as they were well-behaved guests. I’m told they enjoyed watching Air Bud, though I’m dubious about that.
Meanwhile, Pure Luck will be in another western location, nowhere near where I will be, which seems odd and incorrect, but cannot be helped. My trip has been planned for many months, while his job came up at the last minute. I have a new electronic tool (an iPod Touch) which I hope will enable us to stay in touch while I’m away if we cannot talk on the phone due to our differing schedules.
I’m really looking forward to being warm, to swimming in the pool, or at least standing around in it, to walking a labyrinth, to seeing old friends and to meeting new ones. I’m packing my Kindle and some knitting, as always.
I’ll try to post, but I can’t promise I’ll achieved graceful keyboarding skills so soon.