Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advent Beginnings

We begin again.
It's time to look forward.
It's waiting time, planning time, preparation time.
I love this season and its mix of preparation and waiting.

Navigating the balance between preparing our hearts and lives and doing some real, authentic waiting is a very, very difficult thing.

Gunilla Norris frames waiting like this:

What do we do when we wait? Plan? Fidget? Fret? Dream? Rest? Pace? Why is it so hard to do nothing? The simplest, easiest thing to do is to let things be. Why not "be" in the sun this little moment? Perhaps when we do nothing we see how naked we feel without plans? Perhaps we feel useless without goals? To be without agenda-- is that not the most lovingly present and accepting anyone can be?

There is so much waiting that we do, and so much preparing.
May these days be ones of faithful balance as we open our hearts to the coming of the Christ Child, who embodies love and healing.
Gunilla Norris, A Mystic Garden, p. 16.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Yet more reasons for thanksgiving...

I will long remember the day I met my first blog friend.

When I learned from a post on her blog that Diane would be in Chicago for Thanksgiving, I commented "How about coffee?" and she accepted the offer.
It turns out that Diane has family in the town next door to mine, so we had our choice of five or more coffee shops at which to meet. We chose one right in the thick of a neighboring town's Holiday Walk. I should have said, "You'll recognize me because I'll be the only one who isn't fourteen."

We had no problem spotting each other when we met yestreday afternoon. Neither one of us is anonymous on our blogs, so it was easy. I knew right away that Scout's mom was in the house! Diane's personable and talented spouse joined us, too, and it was a delight to compare notes on our three different church settings, our families, and our our impressions of all that Chicago has to offer.

It was a joy to meet Diane and her beloved, J., and a further reminder of the reason I love blogging. It is fun to get one's thoughts out there, but for me, the real fun is the connections made, the bonds formed, the relationships launched thanks to technology. It's caramel syrup on the ice cream sundae to have the fun of meeting in person!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Five People....or twenty five?

Philippians 1:3 Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.

Singing Owl offers this as the Friday Five on the RevGals blog:
I'm musing about giving thanks for people today, partly because Americans celebrated our annual Thanksgiving holiday yesterday (I try not to just make this holiday "turkey day" even though its main feature seems to be eating till one is nearly comatose) and partly because I read the above verse this morning. It started me thinking about individuals in my life for whom I give thanks. For this post-Thanksgiving Day Friday Five, share with us "Five People For Whom You Give Thanks to God" and maybe tell us why they are significant.

This is easy for me (although I will be cheating, by grouping folks,thereby making more room to give more thanks.)

1. Every member of my family of origin. They were strikingly interesting, smart, complicated women.Remarkable women, all members of the Church Triumphant now. I give thanks for them.

2. Every member of my family by covenant. DH and his family are all wonderful people. They've allowed me to be myself and embraced me as part of the family since Reagan was in office.

3. FBC and SBC. I give thanks to God for them every day. I still marvel that I gave birth to them. They are funny, messy, interesting people and they love me back. No one could ask for more.

4. The Godfamily. They are an outstanding assortment of kindness, gusto for living, values I respect and seek to emulate, cuteness, talent, and humor. Really. This is all true.

5. The siblings I never had. You know who you are.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Peace to you, and quiet pleasures.

Turkey Chef

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We gather together

Soon it will be time to gather together.

DH and FBC will arrive home tonight from a business trip and college, respectively.

Tomorrow night we're having an joint service with a neighboring Presbyterian Church.
Lots of voices, lots of reasons to be thankful for our connections, new-found and greatly celebrated. They've invited our congregation to their long-standing tradition of breakfast on Thursday morning. We'll be donating a massive amount of food to area food pantries.

My family's hosting three guests, perhaps more, for T Day.

And then, the Advent fun begins. We have a lot going on that truly makes preparing for the Christ child a great joy. More on that later.

Gathering, gathering. Our president-elect is gathering a cadre of advisors and nominees to key White House posts. People who are grieving are gathering up emotions that would threaten to undo them at this time of year. Many are trying to identify and gather resources to face an uncertain future.

As individuals, as neighbors, as citizens of a nation and global citizens as well, I pray that we can gather together so that no one feels alone or bereft; so that there can be quiet peace in the hearts of all people.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mojo? Mojo?

Yesterday was a full, full day, with Commitment Sunday, Reign of Christ, teaching a class called "Growing Generous Kids", helping with confirmation, and leading an adult education class in the evening. For the evening class we use excerpts from the PBS show Religion and Ethics Newsweekly. We've found it to be rich with conversation starters.

I have finished grocery shopping for Thanksgiving. We'll have friends and family and will have all the traditional fare. I'd like to get a jump on the sermon for Advent 1 so that the weekend could be more fun. It will be great to have FBC home from college. I miss her so much!

I think I'm going to try to accomplish just a little at a time, because the mojo appears to be lost.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bucket List

This morning I'm attending the last installment of a quilt class I've been attending this fall. It's been fun to drive to my local quilt store and learn for one hour prior to the shop's opening. I've learned some new techniques and am a slightly more confident beginner.

Turns out that although the class was billed as being for beginners, I think I'm the only true beginner in the class. It's ok, becasue I've still learned a great deal.
I've learned quite a bit about techniques that I imagine using down the road-- how to adapt a pattern, and how to choose different colors than the ones suggested.
Learning to quilt has been one of the things on my "bucket list" (good movie!), and as much as anything, I'm pleased that I followed through and took this class, just because I wanted to. I might take another class, just because it's been fun!

What are some of the things that are on your "fun things you've always wanted to do or try..." list?

Fiber Artists of San Antonio's cool website includes this beautiful quilt by Susie Monday (Earth Angel Kuan Yin).

Friday, November 21, 2008

Kitchen Gadgets. I Heart Them.

Songbird writes:"In a minor domestic crisis, my food processor, or more precisely the part you use for almost everything for which I use a food processor, picked the eve of the festive season of the year to give up the ghost. A crack in the lid expanded such that a batch of squash soup had to be liberated via that column shaped thing that sticks up on top.

Can you tell this is not my area of strength?

Next week, I'm hosting Thanksgiving. I need your help. Please answer the following kitchen-related questions:"

Here are my replies:

1) Do you have a food processor? Can you recommend it? Which is to say, do you actually use it? Yes, I do. Yes, I can. Yes, I do. I have a hand-me-down Cuisinart from my mother that I use often. It is fast. It is super simple. I love it.

2) And if so, do you use the fancy things on it? (Mine came with a mini-blender (used a lot and long ago broken) and these scary disks you used to julienne things (used once).) I do use those fancy gadgets. Not often, because I have a lot of old-fangled gadgets, too. (Disclaimer: cooking was a great love of my parents and my grandmother. In retirement, for fun, my dad has worked for Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma. Great presents!!!!!!)

3) Do you use a standing mixer? Or one of the hand-held varieties?
I've had a standing KitchenAid mixer (navy blue) for about twenty years. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

4) How about a blender? Do you have one? Use it much? Meh. Have one. The kids use it for milkshakes. That's about it.

5) Finally, what old-fashioned, non-electric kitchen tool do you enjoy using the most? I love whisks. And though it's new-fangled, it's non-electric. I really, really love this: (Thanks, Dad.)

Bonus: Is there a kitchen appliance or utensil you ONLY use at Thanksgiving or some other holiday? If so, what is it? The old-fashioned bulb baster.

Connections via scribbling

What a nice surprise!

Jan at Yearning for God nominated me for the Superior Scribbler Award It's my first blogging award.
Thanks, Jan!

The rules connected with the award are these:
*Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
*Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
* Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to this Post, which explains The Award.
* Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we'll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
*Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

I receive much from many blogs, but here are my nominees:

Jan at A Church for Starving Artists. I credit this friend with interesting me in blogging a few years ago. Her creative, thoughtful, brave posts connect current events and theology in ways that make me go "Hmm."

Diane at Faith in Community. More insightful connections between living and believing. I always walk away thinking, "I like how she thinks!"

Hotcup at Freshly Ground, Fresh Brewed. Candid, transparent, authentic. I love this blogger's creativity and deep love for the world.

Knits with Carrots at Vegetarian Knitter. Witty, savvy, practical. This blog makes me laugh out loud- and take notes.

Luaghing Pastor at...Laughing Pastor. This Presbyterian pastor and half of a clergy couple is clearly loving and called to ministry. I appreciate his candor and the heart he clearly wears on his sleeve.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I live for cafe misto

Session meeting last night was positive and filled with hard, but brave conversation about the economy. Commitment Sunday is this Sunday....we have shared a prudent, responsible budget, but people are still anxious. I think we ended on a hopeful,prayerful note, expecting the best that people can offer in response to a generous God. Sometimes whole days feel like they're just giant, ongoing moments for deep, intentional conversation. It's a good thing, and it's really tiring.

Decaf skim cafe mistos at Starbucks are pretty much half the price of lattes. That's been a great learning of late. I like the misto just as well as the latte. (These are the great issues of our day.)

So much to do today, and nearly all of it is at my desk.
Wishing you a great day of hope and flavor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


7:30 a.m.: attend board meeting of local older adult ministry agency
9:00am-3:00 p.m.: e-mails to newly elected officers; e-mail to congregation
regarding Commitment Sunday (Nov. 23); two bulletins, more work on
sermon; finish Advent wreath liturgies; hospital visit; whatever
else arises
3:30 p.m.: SBC's first orthodontia check-up
4:00 p.m.: transport SBC to wrestling practice
4:30 p.m.: exercise
6:30 p.m.: supper with family
7:30 p.m.: Session meeting

Pretty typical day. Sorry for the boring presentation.

photo from internet.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Autumn, inside and out

Gunilla Norris writes in her book, Mystic Garden,of living in autumn.
I live in the Midwest, where seasons change and the creation sends signs of change all the time.
This morning its snowing, snowing, snowing to the near east of us, but it's just cold and crisp where we are. It's definitely autumn.

I think I'm living doubly in autumn. The season's changing, and so is my life. A lot of the vibrant green of birth and growth in my own life seems to have drifted into thoughts and realities that feel more brittle, more seasoned, more dormant, more like dying than birthing.

What season are you experiencing?

The End of Autumn by Jim Meyer

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Searching for Words

Asking the simple question:
What will serve life today?
is a penetrating practice.
Not what will serve me, my problems,my family,
my desires or worries.

Such questions only lead us to the realm of worry.
When we ask,
What will serve life right here and now?
we begin to live in a larger picture.

Whatever circumstances we find ourselves in,
this question can help us focus our intentions.
It is so fundamental it should lie within
every small choice we make, not just the big ones.
What will serve life today?

Gunilla Norris, Inviting Silence, p. 42

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Trading paces

No McLaren review today. It was fun to have the luxury of time to do a lot of reading. Another time..

Yesterday was spent doing usual ministry tasks: proofing the Sunday bulletin, visiting a member in a nursing home, and attending a fundraiser for a local agency that meets needs of the developmentally disabled. It was a great day, but not one for reading. A Generous Orthodoxy will come up later.

For today, I have an appointment with a family whose baby will be baptized tomorrow, meeting with a committee getting a jump on next year's time and talents focus, a meeting with a member who is re-tooling our environmental covenant display, WorshipAlive! (a wonderful quarterly program we help host bringing great worship leaders to our area. Today: Richard Bruxvoort-Colligan, who'll be helping us experiment with psalms in worship.) and.......a hootenanny sponsored by one of the fellowship groups in the church. It's exciting.....

Hope you're having a great weekend, too!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A New Kind of Christian/the Story We Find Ourselves In/The Last Word and the Word After That

The first McLaren book I ever read was More Ready Than You Realize. A group that was discerning some short-range planning in the congregation with which I served was reading it and it was a treat to respond to a book that was written as a conversation, for the giant stumbling block for the group with which I read it was articulating one's faith. McLaren's modeling of authentic, loving conversation between people genuinely seeking a deeper faith experience was great to read. That it was framed in e-mails and conversation made it even more fun. I recall thinking that the format was so great and that it would be fun to read more.

After the books described below, McLaren published this "creative non-fiction' trilogy, providing three more chances to overhear the gospel in very engaging ways.
McLaren provides very believable characters with dialogue that rings true. Much like C.S. Lewis'Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Lettersand other works, the dialogue format provides a great frame for what it is that most folks who seek faith hope to find: patient, loving, non-judgemental honest responses to "big" questions about meaning and purpose and the presence of God.

I didn't re-read these books this week, as I'm forging ahead with A Generous Orthodoxy. In some ways, it's a little tedious to read and re-read an authors works all in one fell swoop. In this case, McLaren's message is pretty much consistent throughout his works: the church needs a new paradigm; faith in community can't be beat. Well, amen.

Next: A Generous Orthodoxy

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Adventures in Missing The Point

This 2003 work by Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo is very readable and another book that reflects McLaren's conversational style of writing. It's not especially deep, but is helpfully divided into chapters about "big issues" in life and faith.

Once again, I don't agree with all of the conclusions at which either author arrives, but to do so would be "missing the point", I think. And again, in large measure, the critique of the Church that is the starting point for both authors is the critique of conservative American evangelicalism, and both authors are courageous in many of their critiques. If you start from a different place, as I do, it's still a good book and an interesting discussion, but your burning issues may be different.

Next: A new Kind of Christian, The Story We Find Ourselves in, The Last Word and the Word After That

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Finding Faith/A Search for What Makes Sense & A Search for What is Real

First published in '99 as Finding Faith: A Self-Discovery Guide for Your Spiritual Quest, this book by Brian McLaren reaches out to people who are seeking faith, or perhaps have faith that seeks understanding. Last year, Zondervan re-released the book in two volumes and a different format under the titles A Search for What makes Sense and A Search for What is Real.

Reading this book is like having a conversation with McLaren, or attending a class with him. McLaren writes very conversationally and peppers his chapters with stories, questions, charts and reflections and thoughtful quotes from classics as well as pop culture. McLaren seeks to offer a new kind of Christian apologetic that embraces both faith and reason. I think his approach would be especially appealing to those who arrive with questions and wonderings about faith.

I could easily see working through this book with a small group, particularly if the group enjoyed sharing their own stories and wrestling with questions. So much of what McLaren posits is based on the God we meet in community. For those who seek similarly, I think these volumes offer much. While I don't agree with every conclusion to which McLaren comes, I deeply respect his contribution to a conversation that brings people together from very different starting places.

"We experienced God in our friendship." p.175

Next: Adventures in Missing the Point

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Church on the Other Side

First published in 1998, The Church on the Other Side is a revision of an earlier work of McLaren's entitled Reinventing Your Church. McLaren's books are always chock-full of insights, and The Church on the Other Side is no exception. In fact, it's a remarkable thing to read this book ten years after its publication date and see how many of his forecasts are accurate. The need for the church to learn a new rhetoric as former communication patterns become less and less effective is one of many observations that are grounded in careful study and reflection. Although many of his reflections are based upon close study of evangelical congregations, there's much value for mainline readers. This is a very readable book with lots of lasting value.

Next: Finding Faith.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Majoring in Brian McLaren

For the past couple of years I've taken a week and read or re-read books by a particular author of interest. (One would need six months to study the works of Walter Brueggemann...)It's been fun to go back and re-reread Kathleen Norris, Barbara Brown Taylor and Henri Nouwen this way (Nouwen took longer, too.)

This week,since I'm not preaching next Sunday, I'm reading and re-reading Brian McLaren's books, beginning with The Church on the Other Side. I think it will be a helpful author to learn from again as our congregation gets ready for a new year with new challenges and opportunities.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

It's the little things...

We have two godsons who are arguably two of the cutest, smartest, most wonderful children on the planet. Z is four and a half years old and N is fifteen months old.
We're very fortunate to spend quality time with them on Monday afternoons, while their mom gives piano lessons.
We enjoy many things together: music, dancing, pizza, bagels, and the latest is....

Lincoln Logs!

Who knew there was so much fun in a bucket? (Who knew that Lincoln Logs were still in existence?)

We're having an extra play date this afternoon--it's Lincoln Logs time!

Also, in an effort to consume more water, I treated myself to an environmentally friendly SIGG water bottle. This is the one I chose (the image is of pretty, delicate pink blossoms):

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Starting of a Brand New Day

And I have felt a presence that disturbs me
with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thoughts,
And rolls through all things

William Wordsworth, "Lines Composed...Above Tintern Abbey"

Friday, November 7, 2008

No more technical difficulties

Still reveling in the thrilling moment of history we witnessed and participated in on Tuesday!

It's good to be back.

art work: Kim Parker: Image of Hope