Sunday, April 30, 2006

It's Over

Overwhelmingly, that's how I feel about this morning.
It's over! Whew!
I occasionally preach without a full manuscript but rarely preach with nothing written down. When that happens, I at least have thought through (obsessively) about how the sermon will go -- ie, what I'll start with and how it will end, hoping that the Holy Spirit gets me through the middle.
My creative edge came today through having people in the congregation volunteer to read summaries of scripture verses about the resurrection. I talked (preached?) a bit in between the readings and when all was said and done I had taped the pieces of paper together to form the image of a person -- emphasizing the humanity of Christ and the fleshy-ness from today's Gospel.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
There were some things that I could have done better -- had tape already rolled and lined up, pre-selected the readers, actually thought about what I was going to say... but, before I watch the tape and nit-pick the work of the Spirit to pieces, let me share two things that I thought were pretty cool:
1. People laughed and actually were involved
2. It wasn't just adults who volunteered to read -- high schoolers, elementary schoolers and middle schoolers all read -- with no prompting from me. To hear the second grader read in front of the whole congregation absolutely melted my heart.
Who knows what I'll hear, if anything, from folks in the coming week, but for now I'm just glad it's over!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Behold! Something new!

I often preach using unconventional ways -- or at least I try to do things with a tinge of creativity -- sometimes.
Tomorrow I'm doing something that I've never done before and that I've never seen done before.... and I'm scared, in that nervous fluttery way. If it works, it'll be really stinkin' cool. If it doesn't work? It'll stink, though not literally.
I'll let you know how it goes, but for now, I'm just nervous.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


As RevEm has tagged me, and I get so excited about being tagged, and after my whiny post this afternoon, I figure I should reflect a bit on the blessings... So, in no particular order, 10 Blessings...

1. Most things blogg-y: writing, reading, leaving the occasional comment, receiving comments, obsessively checking my sitemeter....

2. My family and their amazing ability to make me laugh

3. Coffee

4. The simple fact that there's a roof over my head and money to pay the bills

5. Friends

6. Books to read

7. A sunny day with a hint of warmth

8. Music

9. Having people in my life who get the potentials of church and who in small ways get me.

10. Other women in ministry who support each other

I tag... YOU! Really, if you'd like to play, please -- play! It's always good to recount our blessings!

Don't Wanna

I don't wanna ...
... talk about the newsletter (because I'm secretly not sure if anyone reads it)
... write my sermon (because even though I love this passage, I'm for some reason tired of it)
... clean my office (because it's relatively clutter free at the moment, therefore not a valid procrastination technique or distraction)
... buy the wedding present that I have to buy before Saturday (because I want to be creative and buy something that's not necessarily on the registry, but I know that's what I'll end up doing because I have not one good idea)
... shop for jeans (because even though I really only have two pair that fit me, I'm not in a particularly good place with my body ... which makes for disastrous bottom-shopping)
... try to be positive or discern or figure out what the heck is going to happen in the next year (because there are just too many variables to think clearly)
... do much of anything that's productive (because ... well simply because!)

This started out to be an "I don't wanna" and then I decided that I should take the time to figure out why I was so whiny.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Checked Out

Warning, or at the very least, FYI: This will be a random post, unified by the above words or some conjugation of them.

1. After the stress and the tension surrounding Holy Week (I know, I know, it's over) and a funeral and staff transitions and sad circumstances in the parish, I find myself checking out in the middle of things -- meetings, while driving, meetings that I'm facilitating. I'm thinking a lot about boundaries and how to set them or re-establish them. Discernment questions: How do you know when it's time to leave a call? Is it possible to re-shape congregational culture? If yes, to what extent?

2. Small blessing in the chaos of my: I forgot to pick up a prescription for my Baby Boy before I retrieved him from the Best Daycare Ever. Dear Husband is out of town and I decided it would be a good idea to pick up said script on my way to my meeting tonight, with my child. Thinking it would be a quick in-out deal, I clearly didn't factor in things like: prime-time for shopping at the grocery/pharmacy combo platter and hence a line. Blessings in all of this? The man in front of me in line let me go ahead of him, as my son laughed and giggled and clapped and as I checked out, the pharmacist held the receipt so I could sign my life away in the name of clear skin.

3. Quick romantic read of the week that I checked out from the library? The latest from Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Match Me If You Can. I started and finished it Sunday night and it proved to be the perfect way to wind down after the weekend.

4. I had lunch with another pastor. We know each other in that professional way that comes from being at similar meetings and moving in the same general circles. It was nice -- a good opportunity to get to know her better. Startling moment? On my way out of the restaurant, a guy sitting at the bar checked me out. Steady eye contact, I looked away, looked back, he's still looking, the whole bit -- without the obviously disconcerting up-and-down once-over. Now that was a surprise!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Color Card

Tomorrow is Thursday and it will have been two weeks since my grandma died. The days since her funeral truly feel like a blur as Holy Week has come and gone along with assorted illnesses in my family. Many details of the past two weeks float unattached to days or times. I know that I had dinner with my mom's cousin, randomly, but I have to stop to think exactly what day that would have been, working backward to affix it to a time within anything else. There were flights and well wishes and worship that in some senses blend together beautifully -- a triduum that flows in my memory without fits and starts.

There's still a lot of "stuff" in the farmhouse, some of it "stuff" with memories attached. When she moved to her apartment a few years ago, most of the actual things in the house went with her. What's left is random, of little value, and some is simply garbage -- empty jars and paper plates and magazines from the 1970s.

My family went out to the farmhouse during that nebulous time when I was home. My nieces climbed the steep steps and proclaimed them scary. Many of us shed tears there that we hadn't or didn't shed elsewhere. We poked around and opened closets and brushed away dead flies and breathed stale air.

I was alone for a moment or two in what had been her bedroom. In a dresser that was otherwise empty save the drawer liners, I found a color card -- one of those strips of colors from the hardware store to help you choose paint. The colors were reds and on the back were notations indicating amounts. I don't know completely why, but I slipped it into my pocket and now I carry it with me. I know that it was my grandmother's and that's enough. It's something to hold, to remember, to remind.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


In these days of Eastertide (OK, so there have only been a couple), I'm almost afraid to think about church. There are many things that I put off until "after Easter" and that time has come. So, like any good little procrastinator, I'm sitting at home with a lovely cup of coffee and a scone, and blogging. I'm justifying this partially out of frugality, ie, if I'd left for work without eating/having coffee I would have stopped to have said breakfast. And, after paying our taxes yesterday (why, oh why, did *that* have to fall this weekend, too??), we are readily aware of our cash situation.

However, I titled this entry baseball, and with a reason.

I love baseball. Not in the way that my husband does -- obsessed with statistics, knows quirky details about players (and owners and managers and farm teams) -- but in a simple, wholesome, I really like the game sort of way.

I've had the good fortune over the past few years to live within a short distance of a minor league team. The team has changed as we've moved around, but the distance has remained close. These minor league games are great fun and provide an evening of entertainment for usually less than a movie. The players are there because they really love the game. There are mascots. There are entertaining games between innings that often involve said mascots. Occasionally there's a scout or two in the stands, or a former "big name" player whose kid is on the field. I never recognize these people, but my husband is quick to point them out to me, and we marvel from afar.

It's sunny out today and that has me thinking about baseball. It has me thinking about summer. It has, momentarily, distracted me from thinking about church.

*Note: While this is more about my love of the game than the actual game itself, there is another Lutheran blogging about baseball -- more regularly, intelligently and concisely than I do! Check out the Lutheran Zephyr. He's a Phillies fan, but that's OK.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

Confession time:
I don't really like Good Friday worship.

I love the day, what it stands for, cling to the theology of the cross instead of a theology of glory, but worship on this day does little for me. Even as a pastor. Maybe especially as a pastor.

Last year I took the challenge to preach this day -- because I knew it would be a challenge and I hoped it would give me something ... some insight as to why I pull away from this day ... some appreciation for the corporate worship of the day ... something. And, while I was more exhausted and a little more high strung because of my status as preacher, I can't say that it enhanced my appreciation for worship.

I am waiting for something, someday to move me out of my from-a-distance observance of Good Friday. I don't want some fancy-schmancy passion play, some over-dramatized portrayal of what happened so long ago. Maybe some simple words with a mournful instrument. Whatever it is, it will have to sneak past my (internal) hyper-critical stance.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Little things

I'll be honest and say that at this point in the week, there are more things going wrong than right. I'm not trying to be overdramatic, and I don't really want to get into details to make people feel sorry for me. I trust somehow that everything will work out and that come Monday, I'll pay our taxes and Jesus will have risen and we all will have eaten our fill of chocolate and ham (though not at the same time) and there might be a wine bottle or two fewer behind the bar, but I will be glad that it's "over." Until Tuesday morning, of course, when everything that I've put off until "after Easter" will have to get done.

What's the little thing that has made me happy today?

I got a new stapler.

It's standard issue Swingline. It's tan and heavy and very, very practical. I trust that I won't have to drop it from up high to dislodge the pieces from their stuck-together state and then spend an obscene amount of time figuring out how to put everything back together, including that squirrely little spring that rolled away.... Regardless.

I got a new stapler. And, during this week, I've decided that I'm taking what I can get.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Books to Read

Many thanks to all who weighed in on the "What should I read next?" post below... For my own sake I thought I would compile them... and since I did that, I figured I could share the compiled list (along with some of my own notes, in purple) with everyone...

A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (This is one of my all-time favorite books; I will buy copies at used-book sales just to have on hand to give to people.)
Crossing to Safety - Wallace Stegner (It's on my shelf, just waiting to be read...)
Travelling Mercies - Anne Lamott (one of my favorites)
The Small Rain & A Severed Wasp - Madeleine L'Engle
A Place on Earth - Wendell Berry

The Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick
The Sparrow - Mary Doria Russell (This and two of her other books "Children of God" and "A Thread of Grace" have been pivotal in my life. I really, really recommend them to other readers... As St. Casserole commented, The Sparrow could be subtitled "Jesuits in Space.")
Unless - Carol Shields
Jan Karon books. (I have read them.... and in all of their corniness, they continue to be one of those guilty plesures, like I imagine Esther Bollick's cake to be. In the most recent book, Cynthia describes Father Tim's newest church as her favorite, saying, "Because it's so hungry and imperfect." It's an image of the church that I've been chewing on for awhile now.)

The Merrily Watkins mystery series by Phil Rickman.
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro
The Peabody Sisters, Megan Marshall

The Death and Life of Charlie StCloud.-Ben Sherwood
*The Year of Yes- Maria Hedley (I read this recently and wanted it to go on... In fact, I wanted to move to that town and be friends with the people.)

Despite the falling snow-Shamin Sarif
Life After God, Hey Nostrodamous, or Eleanor Rigby all by Douglas Coupland
"A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian"
"The Map of Love" by Egyptian woman author Ahdaf Soueif.
The Secret Life of Bees (Stunning story)

Mermaid Chair
The Blue Castle, by LM Montgomery
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,
Pride and Prejudice and the Princess Bride (Classics)

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris (I've always thought this would make a great small group study book)

Possession by A.S. Byatt
Looking for Mary by Beverly Donofrio –
Telling Secrets by Buechner
I heard Buechner speak a few years ago and he was amazing; I vowed to read some of his fiction at that point, but sadly haven't (yet).

Some authors...
Diane Mott Davidson
Susan Wittig Albert
Madeleine L'Engle
CS Lewis
Susan Howatch (Church of England books)
Diana Gabaldon (Outlander books)
Barbara Kingsolver (She's such an amazing writer)
Jane Green
Julia Quinn (Bridgerton series)

What have we missed?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

She Rests in Peace

It has been nearly 3 weeks to the day since my grandma had a severe stroke.

She died early this morning.

This is the end that we knew would come, and it has come quickly.

For her life and for her witness, her stubborn roots and her legacy, her red-and-white checked curtains and her bright yellow bathroom, her marigolds and her rhubarb, for so many things that I cannot even articulate, I give thanks.

Thanks be to God.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Reading Recommendations Requested

Going to the library is one of my favorite things to do on Mondays (typically my Sabbath). It's one of my favorite things to do almost anytime, but Monday is when it usually happens. We have a great library in our community and on relatively warm days our house is within walking distance.

My usual modus operandi at the library is to scan the new fiction, then the new non-fiction, picking up titles by authors I know or publishing houses I respect. I can usually walk away with at least 2-3 books doing this. Sometimes while I'm at the library I'll remember a book someone recommended or that I read about.

I read a lot. I was an English major and have always been the kid who stayed inside on a warm sunny day to read a book. I like fiction that reads like a memoir, actual memoirs, books that teach you about something while telling a really good story (but not preachy, moralistic books), semi-trashy romance novels (though usually not the historical variety).

I loved "The Time Traveler's Wife" and read it in an afternoon. I don't mind what a lot of people call "fluff" as long as there's a story to it and they aren't trying to sell something. And, despite the fact that I am a pastor, I usually avoid anything overtly religious (unless it's for work, then it's pretty hard to avoid that whole God thing).

So, dear readers, what should I read? Recommendations? Your top 5 books? The book you recommend to everyone? The ones you've read over and over again? Please, tell!