Wednesday, March 31, 2010

give me a hand

Yours, specifically.

I'll explain.

There are a number of blogs I visit, some regularly, some occasionally, that have given things away just for fun. "I want to do that!" I exclaimed to myself. I searched for an occasion.

Blogoversary? That's not until summer (I think).

Number of posts? I'm approaching 900 but I've got a few more weeks until I reach that number.

Number of followers? Yeah. Right. I've got a staggering 22! Popular as I was in high school.

So then I got an idea, inspired by a giveaway hosted by my friend Kim. I'll save the giveaway until the 900th post. For now, here's the deal.

Please trace your hand on a piece of fabric and send it to me. If you don't have fabric, trace your hand on paper and send it to me. I'll find fabric and retrace. Or I'll send you some fabric. We'll figure it out.

From there I will applique all your lovely hands onto a quilt. This project is inspired by a true story.

Some years ago a colleague of mine had a stroke. Following the stroke he retired as rector of his parish. His wife, also a priest and at the time serving as associate, stepped into the role of rector. Subsequent to Bob's recovery from the stroke he was diagnosed with cancer. As an expression of their love for him, members of his parish traced their hands on fabric and then their hand tracings were appliqued onto a quilt. As Bob's cancer progressed there were days when he struggled with fevers. The quilt, finished and blessed, was delivered to Bob, and as he shivered with fevered chills the quilt was placed over him where he lay. Within moments, his fever broke. Ah, those healing hands.

A member of my church is dying from cancer. He has but a few days left on this earth, but as I think about quilts and cancer and Bob, I feel inspired to create a quilt that can be healing hands on someone down the road who can benefit from that love and those prayers.

I'm asking for your hand.
I don't know yet how I will place those hands, what sorts of colors they will be, or even how many I will receive to help me in this effort. But I need to begin the work. It's coming up on Easter, and as I anticipate the revelation of new life from the ashes and shadow and heartbreak of what was, I want to apply that love to something special.

Join me. Trace your hand, say a prayer and send it on its way. In fact, trace the hands of your family, too. I'd love to have some smaller hands be part of this. Together we will touch a life, or more, with the love that knows no end. I can't think of a better Alleluia to celebrate the victory of life over death.
Leave a note in the comments if you want to participate and I'll email you my address. 


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

borrowed questions

I have a lengthy to do list today, and time to conjur up a blog topic just can't be squeezed onto that list in a timely way. So, I'm borrowing questions from Kate at Chronicles of a Country Girl for today's fodder. I do like that word.

1. What’s your favorite magazine?
We have eliminated subscriptions from the budget for the time being, but there are times I just can't resist a magazine at the grocery checkout line. What I bring home most often is Cooking Light, so perhaps that ought to be considered a favorite.

2. What book are you currently reading?
To be honest I'm not reading these days--I'm busy writing! Newsletters, policy statements, emails, and other assorted work-related stuff. I really need to carve out time to read and make it a habit. The book to which I am eager to return is Introverts in the Church.

3. What activity recharges your inner battery?
Ah, that's easy. Anything creative, especially if it doesn't have a deadline attached to it. I'm enjoying making the rehearsal dinner invitations, but those have really got to get into the mail soon. Fortunately I'm still waiting for a handful of addresses, so I am buying time.

4. Do you remember your favorite show/cartoon when you were very little?
I don't know about favorite, but Sky King (and his niece, Penny!) comes quickly to mind, and with Captain Kangaroo right behind it.

5. What do you usually eat for breakfast?
Yogurt. I used to be faithful preparing oatmeal with flax seeds and raisins, but I got out of the habit.

Anyone else want to play?

Monday, March 29, 2010

so, shoes...

The other day I ventured forth into the land of retail to begin the search for wedding weekend attire. Since expanding in size I loathe shopping for clothes, but necessity called. I came home with three dresses (or two dresses and one "outfit"). The wedding outfit itself may be replaced with something of better quality and fit, but will do. The two above are in contention for the bridesmaids lunch. First let me say that they look shorter than they are. They come to just above the knee. And the first one I tried on for a lark--it just didn't look like, you know, me! The colors, especially. But it sure enough came home with me, so there you are. The second one looks in the picture like a blue and black nbumber, but in fact the darker color is chocolate brown.

So. Shoes. Can I get away with black for both? I hear an excited little voice in my head say, "color! go with color!" to accompany the, um, colorful dress. I see the point. My challenge is that a foot injury requires me to wear flats or a very modest heel (sure, just try to find that in today's shoe market!). Then there's potential cost (ouch). I have black flats. I'm not trying to talk myself into black, don't get me wrong. It's the rare opportunity to be in something other than black, and seizing the day, or the color as the case may be, sounds like good mental health. I just want some opinions on this other than my own.

So jump in. What shoes would you wear with these outfits?
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Sunday, March 28, 2010

for Betty, by request

Pork and Potatoes

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. grated fresh gingerroot
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
3-lb. pork loin roast, well trimmed
3 to 4 small or medium-size sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup bite-size pitted dried plums
1/2 cup water or apple juice
Fresh rosemary sprig (optional)

Combined brown sugar, gingerroot, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub pork evenly with sugar mixture. Place pork in slow cooker. Arrange sweet potatoes and plums around pork. Pour water or apple juice over sweet potatoes and plums.

Cover and cook on high 1 hour. Reduce heat to low and cook 6 to 7 hours or until pork and fruit are tender. Cut pork int o slices. Garnish with rosemary sprig, if desired.

makes 4 to 6 servings.

Notes: we used apple juice (the real thing, so more like apple cider). By day two the natural sweetness of the fruit and potatoes stood out, making the brown sugar seem a bit too much. We had already cut the brown sugar by half (we use a substitute). I'm thinking that a rub of gingerroot, rosemary and cinnamon would work well as a substitute.

from Fix-It and Forget-It 5-ingredient slow-cooker recipes, 2010
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Saturday, March 27, 2010

grant us peace

Last evening we attended a choral concert at a local university. Among its programs offered is a degree in music, so there is some real talent there on the risers. Talent that makes it possible to sing Mozart's Missa Brevis in G so well that for the first time I wished I had a video camera to record the performance and upload it to YouTube.

The entirety of the Missa Brevis was beautiful, but my favorite was the concluding Dona nobis pacem. I confess a bias toward music with this name, thanks to the Dona nobis pacem I am posting here. In the silent Quaker worship of my youth and early days of spiritual formation, there is no music. The point of silence is to wait upon the Lord and quiet one's heart to receive the Holy Spirit. Music, much as it enhances worship in other traditions, is a distraction in this setting. We sang and made merry outside of worship, and had a wonderful music leader who brought and played her zither to accompany us.

One of the things we sang with regularity (or so it seems in my memory) was this Dona nobis pacem. Through it I fell in love with rounds. It is also one of those pieces of music that affects you by singing it--by the time the last phrase is released to the world peace has transcended the moment.

The world in which we live and move and have our being these days is full of anxiety and fear. The behavior and rhetoric birthed from that state is far from peaceful. The painful lesson that I, for one, learned from our "venture" into Iraq is that prayer is not enough to respond to the forces that so many of us recognize as harbingers of destruction, destabilization and demise of all kinds. Action rooted in peace, love and justice is demanded. Courage to act is another matter, one I feel ill-equipped to summon forth.

If I believe that this round, and other music with the same kind of subtle power can transcend a moment from uncertainty and chaos to the experience of peace, then there is hope for the likes of me. With prayer, I seek a way to act to respond with love and compassion to the forces of vitriol poisoning our world.

To quote another song:
One woman's hands can't break the barriers down.
Two womens hands can't break the barriers down.
But if two and two and fifty make a million,
we'll see that day come 'round. 
We'll see that day come 'round.

Friday, March 26, 2010

friday five: redo, refresh, restore

At RevGals Songbird writes: We're in the thick of it in church life as we approach the end of Lent. Palm Sunday and Holy Week await. In the midst of this busy-ness, I undertook a little redecorating here at RevGalBlogPals and found a new template for us.It's the sort of task I like in the middle of chaos, a chance to redo something, to refresh the way I feel, to restore some sense of order.Please share with us five ways you redo or refresh or restore your body, your space, your blog, anything in your life that needs perking up this week.

1) games of the solitary kind: primarily crossword puzzles and sudoku, though lately I have been a captive of spider solitaire.
2) de-clutter: there's never a shortage of areas in the house that need attention.
3) walk the dog (well, one of them, anyway): I have finally discovered that I need to hit the two-mile mark in order to feel the endorphin release. Burn those calories, baby!
4) a trip to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens (Nashville).
5) cooking: I love to try new recipes or revisit favorites. I've discovered two great new ones lately: pork tenderloin with Gorgonzola cheese sauce (Oh. My. God.), and crock pot pork roast with sweet potatoes, prunes and fresh ginger. I'm not even a fan of sweet potatoes but this one is a total keeper. And good for you!
bonus) laugh! There are some favorite blogs/web sites I visit that I can count on to inspire laughter. This morning I learned of a blog post at Clergy Family Confidential from a facebook friend that I think will amuse the RevGals!

PS - If you haven't already discovered Maggie and McGee, the new stars of cyber space this week go pay them a visit!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

signs and wonders

When I'm at the kitchen sink the view out the window travels through the side yards of the house across the street, and the house behind that. Across the street from that house a side street comes to its end. That street disappears from view after several hundred yards, lost behind tall pines that provide a green screen for an empty lot. (Sort of odd in this neighborhood of many one-acre lots and nicely maintained homes, but that's not the point of this post.)

Headlights coming up that street-visible-through-the-yards caught my eye this morning. While I was busy identifying the garbage truck another sight caught my eye, this one closer to home. Directly across the street at the edge of the lawn were two doves, and one of them was white.

I'm used to seeing (and hearing) the gray-brown morning doves in the neighborhood, but I have never seen a white one in the company of another dove. I stared. They took flight.

In the few seconds it took to see, take in and process this sight, my mind was going in a new direction. "This is a sign," I thought. Of what, I have no idea. But when anomalies appear I pay attention.

Last night at our final Lenten program we talked about prayer. It was a great conversation and we covered a lot of ground. We talked about simple prayers, prayers of petition and intercession, and prayers of tears. We talked about when we prayed, how we prayed and to whom we prayed. I told a joke! We touched, inevitably, on the "everything happens for a reason" take on life. We did not talk about signs, but I think that my inclination to lean that way this morning is an extension of the conversation last night.

So what does the dove have to tell me? One of the things that we didn't get to last night is the notion that prayer is as much (if not more so) about listening for God than it is about sharing our heart's yearnings with God. This morning I'm listening. I'm hearing rain against the windows, the distant splash of a car driving through a puddle, and the flapping wings of a dove. I hear it coo. My heart is open wide to receive the divine offering and it fills with the whiteness that is the dove.

I suspect that I will have to wait to receive whatever this sign has to say to me. There are times when divine whispers are clear and distinct in the moment, but more often than not discernment must be practiced to tease out the voice of love. Or maybe the dove is not itself the sign, but the suggestion that there is something to receive. By opening my heart to listen about the dove my heart is also available to receive other things. Ahhh. Maybe that is it.

I know one thing for sure. I am on alert. There is a sense of expectation and anticipation that comes from having traveled this road before. Come what may there is one thing I know I will do. I will wait upon the Lord. On wings like the dove I will soar on the current of what is holy and feel the breath of God beneath those wings. I don't know where I will land. Wherever it is, however, it is a destination of divine design. That's a sign with which I can live.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

the smile of spring

At this time of year this is one of my favorite parts of the neighborhood where Juliet and I walk. Pictures don't do it justice, but this daff-decorated rock is at the corner of a property which is itself at a street corner. Just three doors down from my old house! The natural look of these daffodil clusters around the rock is what I love, not to mention my love for daffs. The other day when we walked past here I made a mental note to get back with my camera at the same time of day. Ah, spring. It's lovely to see you.
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what's in your inbox?

I was lacking inspiration for a blog post this morning when an email arrived from Tervis Tumblers announcing a special: buy four "french twist" tumblers and receive a matching tote for a mere $15. I can't resist totes, especially good looking ones, and though I would carry this one proudly I really can't justify the purchase of another one while we're scraping pennies together for the wedding (still need a dress, probably shoes, spanks...).

It suddenly struck me that a variety of email "lists" come into my box during the course of a week, so I decided that I would share my riches with you. Aren't you lucky!

Tervis, of course, was the latest arrival, and I am only recently on their list. Love Tervis. I ordered a tumbler each for Junior and Trisha for the rehearsal dinner to mark their place: John Deere for him, Georgia Bulldogs for her.

The Great American Quilt Factory. Even if I didn't quilt (well, I'm not currently quilting, but the sewing machine is set up and I am working on my tissue cozies) I would want to receive their emails. They are SO colorful! If only I lived closer to Denver! Then again...

LL Bean. Love Beans. Love the dogs that appear in the catalog. Love the quality. Wish I loved the prices better.

Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores. Coupons, constantly. Good for in-store and online. When a shopping "area" was developed westward in the county Jo-Ann's was finally close enough to get there with some regularity. Since I have coupons on a regular basis I almost always get good deals. Jo-Ann's has things on sale all the time, so often the coupons end up applying to the $2.99 item, but hey, a price break is a price break.

The Container Store. Oh. My. Goodness. I am a container freak, so I practically drool over everything in that store or catalog whether I need it or not. When our row-boat comes in I have a significant purchase in mind to fine-tune the closet in my office.

Missing from the collage above is You've probably heard more about my ancestors that you'd like, but I'm glad to have the opportunity to access records and verify data that I already have on file. The email from them reminds me that I have that luxury, whether I use it or not!

There are other sites to which I "subscribe," but they haven't been in my box in the last week. And what about you? What temptations come your way by way of your email in-box?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

gathering light

Sunday afternoon we were invited to a "wine party at home" event. Like other home parties, the product is demonstrated/Sampled, and guests have an opportunity to purchase what they sample. It differs from home parties in many other respects, but we had a fun time with the people gathered at this party. Our hostess had tasty vittles (meatballs!), and we laughed and sipped and ate and laughed some more.

As a consultant for a home-based business myself I look at these events through somewhat of a critical eye. In the end, however, whether or not the consultant could pronounce the names of the wines wasn't as important as enjoying good company and having a fun time out with friends.

Icing on the cake was a break in the rainstorms that passed through our area all day, and being treated to this amazing double rainbow outside our hostess' front door. It was an incredible sight, and the rainbow was brilliantly defined as it arced through the sky. A lovely ending to a delightful gathering.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

you, too, can have a role in the military industrial complex (should that be hyphenated?)

As a military dependent (spouse is retired Army) I have a military ID. Like a driver's license, it has a limited life span and requires renewal. My time had come. Yesterday we headed up to Fort Campbell, home of the 101st former-Airborne-now-Air-Assault to take care of updating my ID.

There's lots going on at Fort Campbell. Buildings are coming down, offices and departments are being moved here and there, and there's evidence to suggest that they're on the eve of new construction. Fort Campbell is now home to a Special Forces unit, growing even as we speak, which explains some of the activity.

The ID renewal office had moved, and after checking in and collecting my "take a number" number, I had barely taken my place in a chair when my number was, in fact, called. I liked this place already. I have a heart for efficiency and short waits.

The electronic sign on the wall told my number to report to station 8, and I went in search of it. The chair behind the desk was empty, but we sat down dutifully. While we waited we noted that the date on the wall calendar was highlighted in neon green, with the note "last day" written with emphasis. In short order, the woman at station 8 returned to her desk with apologies for making us wait.

While Jennifer took care of the necessities of updating my ID card we chatted. Last day? Yes, she said. Her husband was deploying soon, and she would be staying home with her kids. Her two sons have autism, and there was no provision for them to attend local child-care and school. (I confess I have forgotten some specifics of what she told us--was it day care? school? The boys have IEP's, so I'm thinking school). This got my newly discovered Irish up. Ken's, too. We asked more questions.

It turns out that forty-percent of the kids on base at Ft. Campbell have autism. FORTY PERCENT. And there is no provision for them to attend school. We were utterly dumbfounded. Jennifer has written her congressional representative, written the Pentagon, written to Obama, with perfunctory replies. We brainstormed with her about who else she could write, what else she could do, and then it struck me. The families of individuals with autism should not be the only advocates in this fight. This is, of course, stating the obvious. I guess it was the fact that our government, vis a vis the military, was ignoring the plight of a significant portion of its citizens that put me in gear. I'm attributing my response to being hit by the drop that makes the cup overflow. As of yesterday autism awareness and a role in raising it joins my list of causes.

Support our troops? You bet. At home and abroad. And that means their families, left behind as single-parent households with the added burden of daily prayers and concerns for their loved ones in harm's way. And for this pacifist, it's the perfect way to live one set of values while not compromising another. In fact, it's the perfect way to do my part, to support the men in women who make a different choice than I could ever make, and show my love and yes, patriotism.

Will you join me? I will try to learn more about the specifics at Fort Campbell, and see what I can learn, as well, about provisions elsewhere affecting military families, as well as others. My dear friend Jayne has a son with autism. Ken's cousin, Teresa, has three children with autism. And there are so many others. We are all touched by the reality of this difference in the lives of people we care about. It's time to show the love and share the fight.

Friday, March 19, 2010

friday five: at the movies

At RevGals Jan invites us to "Share your preferences, opinions, and recommendations about movies! Choose 5 types of movies to discuss":

I need to begin with the confession that I am terrible with recall when it comes to movies. I can remember a film if I'm reviewing a list, but sitting here trying to conjure up films in categories is a bit of a challenge. And some movies don't fit neatly into a category. Ah well, such is life!
  1. action:I'm a sucker for good action when violence is minimal or non-existence. I love The Great Escape, for instance. I like all the Jason Bourne movies, The Hunt for Red October, and so on. The best action films are based on books, I've discovered. The plot is sufficiently complex and interesting, which makes for a tight script.
  2. mystery: Mysteries are my first choice in reading fiction, but I'm not recalling any that made it the screen that stand out. This doesn't mean there aren't any, it's my faulty memory! Oh, wait! Sleuth!
  3. drama: Probably my favorite category, since my favorite movies fall into this genre. At the top of my list at Chariots of Fire, Lady Hawke, The American President, and Gone with the Wind.fri
  4. comedy: It's got to be good, clever or fresh comedy. I'm not a fan of silliness masquerading as comedy. The film in this genre that I've seen most recently was The Proposal, which I thought was hysterical. Sandra Bullock and Betty White stole the show.
  5. chick flick: give me Sleepless in Seattle or You've Got Mail any day. I can watch those two movies again and again.
Bonus: Tell about the first movie you ever saw and/or the last one!
           The first movie I remember seeing was The Miracle Worker, about Helen Keller. I can recall asking my mother as we drove to the theater, "If she can't see and she can't hear and she can't talk, then how does she have a face?" That really puzzled me before I saw the movie, and the mystery has obviously stuck in my mind!
           The movie I saw most recently is Up in the Air. I enjoyed it up to the end. I guess I know too many people who have suffered as a result of the circumstances revealed, and that took the "air" out of it for me for some reason.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

there's nothing so good as a good bs session

Reconciliation statue at Coventry Cathedral, Coventry, England
And by that I mean bible study, of course. Our bs group is tackling a series published by Cokesbury called Jesus in the Gospels. The women who attend this bible study are hungry to know the gospels, and hence the Gospel. The workbook we use makes a point to draw the distinction between what is written (the gospels) and the message conveyed (gospel). But that's a technical point. Still, the fact that this study plunges into details is part of what makes it equally rich and annoying.

Yesterday, however, was rich day. The workbook suggested that Paul sums up the Gospel in a section of 1 Corinthians (15:3b-8). According to one translation this text reads, in part: "...Christ died for our sins... was buried.. raised on the third day... appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve..." I was stopped in my tracks.

Wait a minute. Yes, yes, yes, all those things are true, but this confines the message of the gospel to the climactic conclusion of Jesus' life without even tipping the proverbial hat to the ministry that was at the heart of his life. Paul makes it sound as though the action of God is all that is important. What about the messages of compassion, love, forgiveness, mercy and justice that Jesus preached? What about healing? What about the sinners and women at wells? What about the commandment to love, and the commission to go and make disciples? What about the kingdom of God?

We began to address the question--what, then, IS the message of the gospel? In the midst of weighing ministry versus divine action we queried the purpose of Jesus dying for our sins. His ministry emphasized what is true for Judaism in this day and is celebrated at the high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: God desires that we treat each other well and deal rightly with each other and that we forgive one another. Until then his forgiveness is of little value.

So then we shifted our focus to forgiveness, and our understanding that the point of the resurrection wasn't forgiveness as much as it was reconciliation. We then raised this question--if one practiced forgiveness but didn't work toward reconciliation, is there limited value to forgiveness? Is forgiveness more like a down payment toward the fullness of what reconciliation is all about? Questions, ponderings, possibilities...

I can't begin to do justice to the substance of these questions, or their significance, here. And a day later the particular of the questions we asked and the subtleties of the points raised as we responded are not exactly available for recall this morning! I offer it here as grist, and invite you into the exchange.

In the meantime I adore both of these artistic expressions of reconciliation and want to share them with you.

Blessings on your day, your Lent, your journey, your life.

Reconciliation, by Ellen Lindner, Quilter

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

where's your green?

of course there are sheep in this picture, what did you expect!

A happy St. Patrick's Day to one and all! Now that I've discovered I'm a wee bit more Irish than I thought, this day is even more fun than before! Who doesn't love a day when you don't have to worry about making a choice about wardrobe? Truly, we need more days like this. Pentecost and St. Pat's are not enough. (Sporting events don't count.) There's a whole rainbow out there waiting to be represented!

There's more Welsh blood in my veins than previously thought, too. Wasn't the feast of St. David a little while ago? (I just looked it up--March 1. Jayne!)) Time to make it a day for celebrating. Yellow, I believe, is the color--daffodils!

Let's make this fun. What "day" on the calendar would you like to see get more attention? What color would be associated with it, and how would the day be celebrated? Go wild!

On a more sober note. Did you know that St. Patrick was a slave in Ireland for six years before escaping and sailing off to France? He chose to return years later as a priest and bishop to a place that had to have been associated with enormous pain, and there converted the folk of Ireland to Christianity (as is well known). The guy had guts, but he also had great humility. He must have been an extraordinary person, and clearly compassion and mercy were among his virtues. Sigh. What a model. He deserves better than green beer. But I'm ever so thankful that he had the good sense to banish snakes.

Happy Day!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

what makes good blog fodder?

First of all I have to say that I don't consider my family to be fodder. I was looking for a picture to go with this post and there wasn't an obvious one. I decided to post these pictures of my grandsons and step-daughter in response to a request from Jan to see a picture of Luke (the older) after the cutie-pie picture of Cross posted the other day. So here is Luke with Cross when he was born, and below, a recent picture of the munchkins with their Mama. I think Cross is going to be a character if facial expressions are any indication!

As for blog fodder...

I've been giving a lot of thought lately to what I write here. Speaking for myself, I began this blog to post pictures and share news with friends and family. Along the way other people began to follow. Blog-following seems to me to be somewhat arbitrary. There are some blogs I visit that have, understandably, huge followings. They are funny, or poignant, or consistently thoughtful and inspiring. Others have huge followings for what seem to me to be no apparent reason!

So I wonder about this blog--what appeals to those I don't know IRL--why do readers come here? I don't blog to gain an audience, but it does occur to me to wonder what makes a blog tick, and why mine seems to fall into the category of one that doesn't (going strictly by the numbers). I've been thinking that since blogs are available for public consumption, then there ought to be something here that makes it worth the reader's while to stop by. Maybe my audience is small because I'm a peculiar combination of interests, but honestly I have no idea. I'm curious.

If you feel so inclined, please share in the comments what brings you back here. This inquiring mind would like to know.

Monday, March 15, 2010

the divine vortex

Sometimes I think that God is like a vortex. Hang around long enough and you get sucked in.

I need to explain that.

Way back when, in the early days of what I used to call my conversion and now refer to as my spiritual renewal (it was really both), I read a lot. All kinds of stuff. Books about the Church, books about the spiritual life, books about prayer, books about faith. If it helped me get a handle on this new phase (more accurately an ontological shift) of my life, I soaked it up.

One such book was recommended by a priest with whom I got acquainted very early on. I never got past the introduction because something written by the author struck a note of deep fear in me. She wrote, in essence, that sometimes it is the will of God that some people remain single.

I ran, screaming from the notion. I wanted very much not to be single. I wanted married life, children, the whole nine yards. I was already 30 years-old and beginning the long recovery from the most devastating heartbreak of my life. I was in despair. The idea that God might desire a solitary life for me was beyond my threshold of what was acceptable. The idea that my new, refreshing relationship with God that I had sought for so long could result in shoving me into a dreaded solitude weighed like a death sentence. Somehow I needed to prevent God from tossing me into this abyss of darkness.

How I thought I could accomplish that was to hold out. As much as I believed, as much as I prayed, a part of me would not allow myself to yield fully to God. It wasn't a conscious choice. It was a determination driven by fear. I would not relent to a life of imagined misery with a nilly-willy God who would deny me my heart's desire. In my infant days of faith I naively bought into another person's view of who God was and fear sunk its teeth deep into my soul.

For more than 20 years I danced with God holding on with one hand. The practice was so familiar and ingrained that even as I began to recognize my need to plunge fully, I didn't know how. I was stuck. I was lost.

And then as easily as breathing one night not long ago, my eyes closed and my being drifting into sleep I whispered the words out loud. "I surrender," I said. I yielded, willingly to the full will God, come what may.

And nothing happened. There was no whirlwind of power dictating what I could or could not do, who I would or would not be. There was nothing but silence and peace. I slipped into the vortex of love that I had resisted for so long and discovered it to be a place of knowing. I know that it will not remain silent and peaceful. I suspect God is so far ahead of me in knowing that this wound of fear needs healing before this holy adventure takes another turn and reveals another dimension of sacred mystery. But I'm ready. I'm in. Fully in. I've learned, experienced and witnessed so much that I believe God trusts that my toolkit is sufficient for what comes next. Whenever it comes, I am there with my whole heart and soul.

It is the paradox of the divine that what I needed most was what I resisted most. For whatever reason it would appear that God was willing to let me come to terms with this in my own time, through my own yearning. Come I did. One of these days, the page will turn and off we will go. May it be according to God's will.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

crawling through the family tree

The bug bit. I got curious and went online to look up "a couple of things" related to my family tree. Spent more hours than I want to tell you there yesterday! In my defense I'm trying to make the most of a 14-day free trial of online access while I've got it. Can't afford to pay the annual fee for continued use.

Anyway. I had a blast! Thanks to the work of others before me I was able to go back additional generations here and there, as well as fill in some gaps in the information I already had. And I learned, for instance, that I've got a lot more Irish in me than previously thought. Just in time for St. Patrick's Day! Of course this will probably start an inner conflict with my stalwart Scots cheering section, but I'll deal with that later.

It can be dangerous, however, to rely on the work of others, and there's some fact-checking I need to do soon. For instance, does it not occur to the eight family tree chart-makers already posting that the daughter of a couple from whom they descend has a birth date five years later than the death of her mother? Or that another daughter on another branch of the tree has a birth date more than one hundred years later? Hello! No matter how much the information makes sense on the one hand, it doesn't stand up to the test of reality.

I will confess here and now, however, that my own transcription errors have been caught in the process of doing this. But it's also fascinating to see the actual, hand-written census data from 1900 and get some interesting information. Handwriting can be a trick to read. And then there's the grandfather named Louis whose name was written Lewis. I am appreciating anew that there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to recording human information. Genealogy is not a science.

It is, however, a fascinating journey that takes surprising turns and offers up frustrating dead-ends. No matter. It's discovery, pure and simple, and we get glimpses of lives in other times and places that launch the imagination. There's nothing else like it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I love the tag line of the Biography Channel: "Every life has a story." It's true.

One of the wonderful things about the blog world is learning about new blogs and new people and amazing stories. I've learned about and stumbled upon a bunch of new blogs recently, and my head just spins with the incredible things that people are writing and doing and sharing with the world.

I find inspiration, motivation, ideas, challenge, and beauty. Just a click away. I hear about truth that is so much stranger than fiction. The stories of people's lives dance or tear across the page. I feel privileged to glimpse the worlds of these strangers, and I'm grateful to have my world expanded. It's as though the cup of life has overflowed and spilled on me.

Last night we watched Who do you think you Are?, the new program that traces the ancestry of several celebrities. One of the things I enjoy about genealogy is discovering the stories behind the names and dates of the people whose DNA I carry. There are mysteries, too, that pique curiosity and invite speculation to fill gaps of knowledge. The mysteries beckon, and I can lose hours trying to tease out the truth from the information available.

As I think about my own story I find it hard to consider whether or not it's of interest to anyone else. I suppose that's true of all of us. Every now and then I contemplate the notion of writing a memoir, more for my own sake of recollection than to entertain or inform anyone else. There are a few members of my extended family who have done that, so the precedent is there. And I wonder, if I were to write my story, what would it be called?

This morning I invite you to consider that for yourself. If you were to write your story, what title would you give it? And for amusement's sake, if your story were to be made into a movie, who would play you in it? (And if you really want to pursue that, there's facial recognition software that will use your picture to see who you look like out there in the celebrity world. Google "facial recognition" and you'll find some.)  Should time and inclination allow, think on these things.

Friday, March 12, 2010

friday five: spirituality and religion

Inspired by what she is hearing at a conference by Diana Butler Bass, MomPriest at RevGals invites us to consider five thoughts, ideas or practices that we consider to be "religious," and five thoughts, ideas, or practices that we consider to be "spiritual." For example one thought about religion might be that it is "salvation" Or an idea about religion might be that it it is an "institution" and a religious practice might be "going to church." An example of spiritual thought might be a phrase from a poem, a spiritual idea might be the inspiration for a piece of art and a spiritual practice might be meditation.

So, five thoughts, ideas, or practices that are religious....and then five thoughts, ideas or practices that are spiritual. OR are they the same thing to you?

Without spending sufficient time to consider the differences between thoughts and ideas particularly, this is truly a challenge. And after reading some other responses to this ff I think I have totally missed the mark of what we were asked to do. But this is where I went this morning, so here goes:

Religious thoughts, ideas or practices

1) Once upon a time someone asked what I thought religion was. After pondering that for a moment this was my conclusion: religion is a man-made construct to explain the mysteries of the world and understand itself in relation to those mysteries and the creator of the same. Within that context, a religious thought would be that there is a higher power.

2 and 3) A religious idea is that we acknowledge the source of creation by means of either personal or communal expression (practice).

4) A religious practice is a funeral rite.

5) A religious idea is that God desires justice for all creation.

Spiritual thoughts, ideas or practices

1) A spiritual thought is that we are all connected to one another through the incarnation of what is divine.

2) A spiritual idea is movement in response to the presence of the Spirit.

3) A spiritual practice is breath prayer.

4) A spiritual thought is that the above photograph of the candle puts me in mind of the presence of God.

5) St. Patrick's Breastplate (I adore this) is a spiritual idea:

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s hand to guard me.

Afar or anear,
Alone or in a multitude.

Christ shield me today
Against wounding;

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,

Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,

Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of Creation.
(St. Patrick)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

on recovering from the blahs

I had one of those days yesterday where things came together. No "aha!-s," just the experience of finding synchronization with parts of the universe. Zenish.

After writing my blog entry I visited my usual round of blogs. At Contemplative Photography I found a picture of a sheep, so I knew all would be well. Diane's post resonated so deeply in my bones that I began to feel my being sorting itself into spiritual alignment. Ahhhh. She, in turn, referred me to two other blogs where I found food for my newly realigned spirit. I've added one of them to my blogroll.

From there the day fell into place. There was money to deposit in the bank, and in it went. Lunch with my husband. A bill paid. Shopping done to take a salad to church last night. And during our Lenten progam we made pretzels (we cheated using ready-to-put-in-the-oven dough). Did you know that pretzels are a traditional Lenten food? Go here to learn more. Fun stuff. We talked about symbols and their power, and the simple things that communicate volumes and ground us in our faith. I came home relaxed.

Today I am tackling carpets with my mighty steam vac, and working on invitations to the rehearsal dinner. And lingering in my pajamas.

May you find an opportunity today to linger in whatever feels like zen to you.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

making a difference

American Express has been airing television commercials with the tag line: "Take charge of making a difference." One such story of taking charge illustrates the impact one man had on the educational future of kids in Harlem. Beginning with one block, then moving to the next, he helped rebuild neighborhood and community pride. From a sense of pride and ownership kids experienced confidence, and from there... It's a feel-good commercial, and the tag line encourages and challenges others to do our part to make a difference.

It's a new twist on an old theme, but it comes at a time, at least for me, when I need to be reminded to take charge. This applies mostly to my own life, mind you. Take charge of my clutter: I'm actually doing much better in that regard. Take charge of my dog: well, not so much. Take charge of my finances: better there, too. Take charge of my future... This is where I get bogged down. I have no confidence about where my future lies.

I would like nothing better than to be out in the world making a difference. This isn't to say that I don't make a difference now through my work as a priest. It is a vocation, however, whose impact cannot ever really be measured unless people tell you so. I've been fortunate enough to have had some people, along the way, let me know about such an impact. Something I preached inspired one woman to quit smoking. Another found hope to get through months that stretched into years of infertility (they now have four, fabulous children). Others have been less specific, but have pointed to inspiration, uplifting words, or other such things that led to change and transformation. I am humbled by such acknowledgments.

There is a difference, however, between letting go of the outcome of preaching and seeing or feeling the impact of hands-on efforts to bring light or hope into another life. Too often, it seems, my own life needs light and hope, and my vision is nearsighted. That is not my desire. It is more accurately an acknowledgment of a certain reality. It matters to me, though, to make a difference.

I can recall a seminary professor who remarked to me near the end of that chapter of my life, "You must be eager to be done here." I assumed he was referring to studying. Then he continued, "I'm sure you're looking forward to being back in the world where you can make a contribution."

If I were to grade myself on that aspect of participating in life in the world I would give myself a "C." I don't consider myself on the edge of failure, but neither have I excelled in the area of making a difference. It disappoints me that my passions have not led me there, and that my heart has not driven me in that direction.

I don't want to or intend to settle for my "C" grade. I'm not content to lean on the attitude that I am who I am. So I pray for change, for transformation, for some glimmer of how I can be who I am and somehow make a difference. Now. I pray to find a way to take charge.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

falling behind

I tried to take a day off yesterday. An occasional work-related email is fine on such a day, but yesterday one thing led to another. Before I knew it I was at the church for three hours moving furniture and doing my part to pave the way for classrooms to get set up for a relaunch of our Sunday school program this Sunday. The odd thing about this is that I was trying to stay out of the way so that other people could claim their ministry and it wouldn't all fall on me to get done. And yet, there I was. Part of this is a boundary issue I have trouble negotiating with Ken. He thinks nothing of bringing up church-related matters any time he's thinking about them. After a scathing "this is your fault" diatribe I told him to go away. I actually used those words, and he backed out of the room and let me be, knowing he'd crossed the line. He still doesn't get it, though. When I resisted the trip to the church I told him I was trying to take the day off, and he understood that. He's acknowledged how much I work and how hard I work. And still.

I feel like I'm falling behind in every aspect of my life. I can't keep up with the house, with the job, with my friends and family. I can't even keep up with caring for myself. I have no social life. I feel taken for granted. It feels like Lent. Oh wait, it is Lent! But this goes deeper than Lent. There is grief, and lament, and mystery/bafflement about how life got offtrack. I was working so hard to getting it on a track that included hope, and joy, and promise.

Maybe this is just a bad day because it began with dogs jumping all over me in bed and waking me up. Today I simply lack the wherewithall to push all the crap aside and enjoy the sun before the rain sets in. I need a glimpse of Easter, a reminder that new life emerges from the ashes of old. I need a taste of life.
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Monday, March 08, 2010

look at this face!

Is this not a face any Nana would love? Well it just so happens that I'm the lucky Nana who gets to love this face. This is our grandson, Cross, four months old. We have not yet met him, but look forward to doing so at the end of April at Junior and Trisha's wedding. I can hardly contain myself. We will also get to see Luke, who will be closing in on two and a half when we see him. He was six weeks-old the last time I held him in my arms, so this will be a huge heart moment for this Nana to see her grandsons. My tears are flowing just thinking about being with them. Imagine the unstoppable joy when it happens for real. Somebody remind me to pack the kleenex.
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Sunday, March 07, 2010

My brain hurts!

This is me yesterday at the end of the day, only I didn't look this cute.

Talk about information overload!! Between Friday night and yesterday we received ten hours of story, data, strategies and suggestions for greeting, marketing, communicating, implementing, and more. At the back of the handout that includes most of the power point pages we viewed is an evangelism checklist of things to do to improve how we live being "the Church." 45 items are on that list. Forty-five! One of the things we learned was about the use of bold print for emphasis.

Step one? Paint something!

We can do that. We just painted our parish hall-also-known-in-the-episcopal-church-as-the-undercroft last year. It was suggested that when we use terms unfamiliar to visitors that we explain what they are. We also painted the bathrooms. But there's always more. Start with something visible, inexpensive and active.

And I need to start writing in sentences of twelve words. Or less. If you're familiar with this blog then you know that my writing style is more along the lines of, say, Frederick Beuchner, who, as he puts it, opens a vein and lets flow whatever is there. See my challenge?

There is so much work for us to do. The good news is that there is a checklist. The good news is that some of it just takes thoughtfulness and time. The real adventure ahead (like how I avoided the word "challenge?") is to engage the congregation in imagining new life and new vitality, and helping them see that they don't want to miss being part of this wild ride. My own imagination will need to be led toward how I can help make that possible and achievable. Oh, my brain hurts.

Lord, have mercy!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

see ya later!

Day two, the Magnetic Church.

Last night Ken and I attended the first portion of this conference sponsored by the diocesan evangelism committee. I attended a similar program about ten years ago led by Andy Weeks, whose program this is, and found it extremely useful. There is lots of material, and it's all good. This morning another member of the church will join us to soak up and begin to imagine how we can encourage and nurture a process of transformation for our congregation.

Time to grab coffee and get on the road. There's learning to be done (we were advised against using the word job or task)!
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Friday, March 05, 2010

friday five: spiritual spring cleaning

At RevGals Sally invites us to consider this text:

The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you.
(2 Corninthians 5: 17-20 The Message)

All this got me thinking that if we traditionally think of spring as a time for new life, then maybe a spiritual spring clean might not be a bad thing to clear the way for the new thing that God wants to do in us! So with all of that in mind I offer you this Friday Five:

1. Is there a part of your spiritual life that is dry and dusty at the moment, something that could do with a good spring clean?
Journaling. It has been a looooonnnnnnngggggg time since journaling was a regular part of my life, spiritual or otherwise. Lately (in the last 18 months or so) God has given me glimpses of a path for which I have longed and to which he is beckoning. Those glimpses become lost without some way to remember them and peer more deeply into them. Journaling offers that very opportunity. I've got one right here at my desk, but I am so out of the habit...

2. Spiritual disciplines- life-giving/ terrifying: discuss
Life-giving: Music. Walking. Creating. I don't utilize enough of either.
Terrifying: I recently told God that I surrendered. I have been afraid of doing that. It hasn't hurt me yet.

3. Share a practice that keeps you spiritually alive that you think others might benefit from...
Reading the psalms out loud in prayer (when I am alone). It is the rare reading when, at the end, there aren't tears on my cheeks. To me this is a sign of the presence of the Spirit, and restores my soul.

4.Alone or together, how do you pray best?

5.If your spiritual life were to burgeon and bloom into a spring flower what would it be and why?
Daffodil, hands down. First, they're glorious. Who doesn't want to be glorious? Second, they retain the benefit of their bloom and store it for future blooming. Third, they give life to themselves and produce additional blooms. Fourth. They make people smile. Yes, I definitely want my spiritual life to be all those things.

Bonus, a piece of music a picture or a prayer that speaks to you of new life....

Thursday, March 04, 2010

one gift for lent

Though this is a Christmas carol it speaks to the nature of sharing and giving during Lent. We read the text of this hymn last night at our program, but many were unfamiliar with it by name. It's the last line, always, that zings home the message.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

make new friends and keep the old

I've known Anna for a few years. Been acquainted is a more accurate description. She was doing youth ministry in the diocese for a few years and our paths would cross at diocesan events and here and there on other occasions. She's now developing a business as a professional photographer (does great work), and we "friended" one another on facebook a while back. It is through the latter that I've caught other glimpses of her, and through her blog I've seen still other sides of her. Over time and with intention we made the social networking-assisted transition from acquaintances to friends.

Last fall she was seeking volunteers to work on a particular photo project, and I volunteered. Between our complicated calendars we're still trying to work out a date to do the photographic work, but in the meantime we also concluded that it would be fun just to get together and get better acquainted. Yesterday was that day.

She and her husband built a house last year and she invited me there for coffee. She made scones, pictured above. Melt-in-your-mouth-savor-every-bite scones. We sat in her kitchen filled with the profuse gray light of an overcast day and talked. Two hours passed with lots of animated conversation ranging from gardens, to photography (surprise!), misbehaving dogs and housecleaning products (yes, there's a connection there), baking and bishops and things in between.

It was tonic for me. In spite of a dreary day littered with snowflakes and messy windshields, I got out of the house. I drove over the river and through the woods and rolling hills to the house of a friend and left the usual behind. I got to see, hear, taste and touch someone else's world, look out their windows and realign my sight.

It's good to have friends, old and new. It's especially good when they make fabulous scones.

Monday, March 01, 2010

while visions of rehearsal dinner ideas danced in my head

You know how those last things on your conscious mind have a way of plaguing your sleep? Among the emails in my inbox just before going to bed last night was one from Trisha with the guest list for the rehearsal dinner. Funny how that suddenly made this feel like a real event, in spite of the fact that I've been to the site twice, met the caterer, and have a menu ready to go. Now there are names and faces filling the room and sitting around tables with periwinkle cloths.

As I've been scouring the internet looking for decorating ideas several have taken hold. How to execute them (as in, where do I find the supplies) has now become the puzzle to solve, and those questions dance in my head seeking answers. Since the guest list was the last thing on my conscious mind last night, my sleep was full of problem-solving schemes throughout a restless night. Sigh.

Invitations. After looking at options to buy I have decided to make my own. I have all the supplies I need already on hand, except maybe envelopes, so the cost will be practically nil. I like that. And isn't "nil" a cool word? Yes, it will take time, but making cards is something I enjoy, so this is a no-brainer.

Centerpieces. I'm halfway there. Trisha loves quotations, so I have figured out a way to incorporate quotes. Now I need to figure out a way to represent Junior. I'm leaning toward something John Deere, but I'm not sure I can pull that off inexpensively.

Decor, part 1: There isn't a singular theme that represents them as a couple, so I am planning to use pictures to decorate. Still trying to figure out the best way to do that.

Decor, part 2: There is a deck that wraps around two sides of the building, and our room is at the corner of the building with access to that deck. I'm going to put luminaries outside on the deck (pray for no rain, and if there's going to be a breeze it needs to be gentle). I've even figure out a way to dress them up a bit. Heh heh.

Activity: I've been to some fun rehearsal dinners and some deadly ones. I want this to be an experience of the former. A consultant with whom I spoke suggested something along the lines of a newlywed game. So far that's the best idea to come along the pike. I am open to other ideas, and I also encourage readers of this blog to suggest questions for this game! Remember this is a family event.

Favors: I know that favors aren't typical or expected at a rehearsal dinner, but it's just one of those things that give me an opportunity to be creative. My initial idea may have eliminated itself due to cost, so right now I'm exploring variations on that theme. What is it? Hey, I need to keep some things I surprise!

So that's the latest. Is this boring subject matter? If so I'll keep RD posts to a minimum. It's just that it's on my mind this morning, so here ya go.

And unrelated to any of this: Congratulations Team Canada! Both hockey teams played incredibly well and it was an exciting game. I'm especially glad that Canada received the highest number of gold medals throughout these Olympics after the previous shutout on home turf. I love singing the Canadian national anthem.
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