Church Life, Crazy Busy, Learned From My Mother, Pray First, Prayer

The To Do List

My mother used to write them out in longhand, her beautiful penmanship rising above the mundane nature of the lists. She wrote of groceries needed, or projects she hoped to accomplish, or books she planned to read. She wrote in pencil, knowing that the tasks ahead of her might change and the list might need revising.

I type lists in the “Notes” function on my iPhone, because I can email them to myself, or know they will be with me when I arrive at Maine Hardware or Trader Joe’s. The icon taking me to it looks like a tiny, little yellow legal pad, and when the app opens, the screen looks like one, too. Just like my mother, I can edit easily, as changes warrant, but instead of striking through or checking off the things I’ve completed, I simply backspace over them until they disappear.

Some lists I still write by hand, though, and those are full of line-throughs and amendments, sometimes in pencil and other times in eccentric colors of thinline markers. I’m working from one right now, trying to use my four days of Study Leave the best possible way. As always, there is plenty to do and more:

1) Write three sermon review articles for a preaching publication
2) Write a new Christmas Pageant, hopefully involving the well the Sunday School is building
3) Read a short book for the worship class I’m teaching at Bangor Theological Seminary, to be discussed the Monday after I return
4) Write a sermon! I’ll need one to preach when I get back. 🙂

In and among all the projects on my list, there weaves a whisper reminding me to pray:

•Pray before writing.
•Pray before reading.
•Pray to be open.
•Pray to be inspired.
•Pray to get the words right, if not perfect.
•Pray to be faithful to God’s purposes.

I think I might need to put it at the top of the list:

Pray. A lot.

What’s on the top of your to do list?


Crazy Busy


Hey, there. I am still alive. I am having a busy week. Life is full and beautiful and challenging in the best sorts of ways.

I'm leaving in the middle of the night to travel to the Big Apple and see #1 Son in a play


I'm excited, to say the least.

I'm grateful to the people who are making it possible for me to get away for an overnight and to the friend who is meeting me there for a girls' night out!

Regular blogging will resume eventually, I feel sure.

Christmas, Church Life, Crazy Busy

Those January Newsletters

Janus-Vatican For my pastor friends struggling with the January newsletter article while it's still December, here's the beginning of a a sermon I wrote a few years ago, when January 1 was a Sunday:

It’s the first day of a New Year, and it is the time when we
make all those wonderful resolutions, well meant but seldom well kept.  It was the Babylonians of 4000 years ago who
had the notion that a new year ought to be a time for personal renewal and
self-improvement. Their new year was in
the spring.  We have the Romans to thank
for setting the calendar with which we are familiar.  They named the first month after the Roman
god, Janus, who had two faces, one looking backward and one looking
forward.  And that is what we all tend to
do at this time of year.  The news shows
have been full of lists of the Ten Best movies, or the most important people of
the year, or the most significant photographs, and of course the most important
stories of the year, one of which you all lived through four months ago.


What will last year
mean for this year?  We send each other
wishes for the New Year, hopes that all will be healthy and happy, and that the
world will be a more peaceful place.
I imagine those thoughts were with
the Babylonians as well, if in a bit different form.  They weren’t worried about spending too much
time on the Internet, for instance, but some things, such as repaying debts or
returning what we have borrowed or treating people better, go beyond time and place.


So what do we think of when we contemplate New Year’s
Resolutions?  According to the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion,
the top 11 resolutions are:


  1. Get a better job—I’m not sure if
    this means more lucrative or more meaningful—I suppose it could be either
  2. Be a better person—I find this one
    especially interesting.  How do we
    do that?  Perhaps we should continue
    with the list and see if it draws any conclusions for us.
  3. Lose weight—The Today Show claims
    this is in fact the number one resolution among Americans.
  4. Stop smoking—that’s always a good
    choice, but probably one of the hardest to stick to.
  5. Spend less money—in this culture
    of plastic cards (credit, debit, special store cards), it can be very easy
    to forget that actual money is being spent!
  6. Exercise more—That’s on my list
    every year.  Last winter we even
    bought an exercise machine for our house, but I still face the same
    dilemma—finding the time to use it.
  7. Improve health—many of the others
    on this list could have this effect.
  8. Get closer to God—Ah,
    finally.  The inner life is
    addressed.  But just at number
  9. Stop drinking
  10. Be kinder to others
  11. Go back to school

(Hope this helps!)

Chez Songbird, Children, Crazy Busy, Food and Drink

Slow Cooking

Because I've worked every day since I returned from vacation, I took off early yesterday and have a full day off today. All three of my children are here, as well as #1 Son's new friend, Pretty Poet. She arrived by bus from Slice of the Big Apple yesterday.  We spent part of the afternoon looking at his baby pictures and most of the rest cooking another ridiculously complicated and delicious dinner. #1 Son is clearly his grandfather's grandson. Papa has always cooked for pleasure, studying with James Beard years ago in a class at Beard's brownstone, making every family meal an event. #1 Son and I thought up the menu, and he expanded it by including everything in the refrigerator that could possibly be a part of it.

After reading Michael Pollan's article in the NY Times Magazine (online version, I admit) and then hearing the interview with him on Fresh Air last week, I want to cook more. I want to be part of a movement to keep cooking alive! But wow! Really cooking things takes a lot of time. The big meals we cooked this week reminded me of cooking on holidays. They felt like Summer Festivals of Dinner!

When we played D&D the other night with the kids and Snowman's good friend, Underhill, I planned to cook, but Pure Luck suggested pizza instead. Why? Because if we cooked, the boys and I, he could see we would never get around to playing!

Hubert Chopping things takes time (unless you are working with Hubert Keller).

Cooking sauce instead of simply heating it takes time.

Yesterday we made pesto to serve on tortellini, as well as red sauce with vidalia onion and grape tomatoes and fresh basil to serve over linguini. #1 Son created a vegetable dish of rainbow chard and baby carrots and more vidalia, with chili powder and red pepper flakes. We bought the chicken sausage and a big crusty loaf, and we didn't even make dessert, but the whole thing took hours. We sat down to the meal as if finally going to a long-awaited party, and every bite tasted delicious.

Washing up takes a long time, too, when you have spun greens in the salad spinner and used the food processor and cooked in every pot you own and served the dishes family style at the table. I got a load into the dishwasher last night then came down to finish cleaning up this morning.

I was, you see, exhausted, and the young people had gone out to a concert.

Another load is washing now, and I washed all the knives by hand and returned them to the knife block. A few stray pot lids remain in the sink.

I loved cooking with them, and I think one of the factors Pollan didn't mention is that in the old slow-cooking days, when you had to catch the chicken and butcher it yourself before you could eat it, people cooked together. Life centered around the home. Most of the time more than one person helped prepare the meals, at all levels of society. Now, not only do people commute and work long hours outside our homes, which means we take and perhaps need short-cuts in our more solitary cooking, we seem to be losing the art of the family dinner. I'm not sure how to overcome this trend. LP and I, when we are the only two at home, will sit in front of whatever is on The Learning Channel and eat together. Our kitchen table functions as my home office, and the big dining room table feels, well, big for two people. We're cozier perched on the sofa.

I'd like to thing it's eating together that matters most, but I'm beginning to feel cooking together counts, too. I'm glad my sons both know how to cook and enjoy doing it. Now we just need to bring LP along, too. Maybe we need to hand her a knife and let her simply start chopping.

Crazy Busy

Live! Bullets Over a Busy Day!!

  • I needed to start my sermon today, and it's over half-finished. Go me!
  • I had to squeeze in a trip to the doctor for Light Princess (ear pain, not an infection, we got drops in case it bothers her again in the night). The doctor's description of non-draining Eustachian tubes helped her to finally understand the problem I have with my right ear. So, that only took six years.
  • I can't wait to see Star Trek, except that I have to wait until Sunday.
  • On the other hand, it's a good Mother's Day present to myself.
  • Started writing a skit for the young people at 1FP to do on Youth Sunday and considered that of the kids who are active in our Sunday School, more than half do not live with both original parents (some divorces, one adoption, back and forth custody, and one family with two moms). The skit was going to have a Mom and Dad as characters. I told LP maybe I ought to make it one parent, and she said, "Mom, you are worrying about this too much. No one will be upset if there's a mom and a dad." But is this right? The theme of the skit is parents trying to get kids to participate in a family yard cleanup, as a metaphor for our care for the Earth. I like the idea of a family because of the ease and intimacy with which families tend to talk together.
  • I may be worrying about this too much.
  • What do you think?
Crazy Busy


I wrote on Tuesday: "So that's three sermons, two bulletins, a newsletter piece (plus other items) and an e-mail reflection."

Sermon 1 — Reign of Christ (this Sunday)
Sermon 2 — Thanksgiving Eve (next Wednesday)
Sermon 3 — Advent 1 (next Sunday)
Bulletin 1 — this Sunday
Bulletin 2 — next Sunday
Newsletter Piece
E-mail Reflection

Getting there…

Did I mention I'm a little behind on my mileage reports?

Add those to the list, too.