Thursday, July 31, 2008

Like my car doesn't have enough stickers...

Gonna need one more:

And I guess it'll also mean that I shouldn't cut anyone off in traffic, huh?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bread, circuses and Emmanuel

... Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man,
the People have abdicated our duties;
for the People who once upon a time
handed out military command,
high civil office, legions - everything, now restrains itself
and anxiously hopes for just two things:
bread and circuses.
Do you remember where you were when the planes hit the World Trade Center?

I do. It's sort of the New Defining Question for people of my age, replacing the moon landing and the Kennedy/King assassinations as the Moment When Everything Changed.

Except that it didn't, really. WE did. We comfortable Americans looked fear full in the face, and it changed us.

Like so many others, I was standing in my living room, toothbrush hanging out of my mouth, jaw agape as the horror and magnitude of the moment settled over me. I remember watching the flames and the shocked look on Matt Lauer's face, thinking to myself, "The world has just shifted. Nothing will ever be the same again. This will be a new Dark Age."

That was the shock and horror talking. But there are a lot of ways in which that has been true: War. Fear. Suspicion of our neighbors. A quest for personal and national security at all costs. A wish to not know what we know now: that life is dangerous, and our first-world sense of security and entitlement is an idol.

Really--no price seems to be too high in order to go back to a time when we average Americans didn't have to think of ourselves as vulnerable, of our archetype as anything less than heroic. We can no longer maintain our happy illusion that we're the cavalry, or at least the cowboy, in that Great Global Motion Picture. Because the danger and anger and insecurity of the world has landed on our own doorstep, and our hands have blood on them, too.

There have always been people who have been willing to try to see the world be true citizens of their communities, their countries, their world. And, well-fed as most of us in the States are, it's scarily easy to let others do that seeing for us, and to keep on driving to Wal-Mart in our gas guzzlers, one of the many versions of Clear Channel on the radio, seducing us into just one more level of disengagement.

If we can't have safety, we'll settle for the illusion of safety. We'd like our bread and circuses, thank you.

But what about those moments when life takes us by the hand and makes us see the burning building or the hungry child or the scary diagnosis? When our next-door neighbor loses her house to foreclosure, or when an angry, messed-up guy hoses a church sanctuary with gunfire? What do we do then? Turn up the radio? Buy a new toy?

Love to. But it doesn't really work, does it?

So then, the questions remain:
  • What do we do when we realize again we are not specially favored, safe from the vagaries of life?
  • How do we muster the courage to be more fully citizens of our world, our communities, and to really inhabit our own lives?
  • Where do we turn our faces when, on one side, there is the seduction of bread and circuses, and on the other, the blackness of the abyss (in any of its many forms)? How do we keep these things from distracting us?
No simple answers, least at the outset. But there's a way in which these questions lead us more deeply into our lives.

Did you ever wonder what was in Abram's mind when God said, "Pack up and go?" I mean, the guy just went. I feel more of a kinship with Moses and Jonah, who basically said, "Me? WHY? Ummm...I've got something in the oven. Let me just finish this project and I'll be right with you. No, really, ME? Do I have to?" Or listen to Jesus, praying in the garden of Gethsemane just before his betrayal, torture and crucifixion: "Father, if it be thy will, let this cup pass from me. And yet, not my will, but thine be done."

That last line is where the world turns. Because Jesus found a way out of that human "this is about me and I'm not enough" consciousness and a way into trust: "not my will, but thine." Jesus found a way to hear what God said to all those others in their moments of crisis: basically, "I will be faithful. I am in covenant with you, and I will be with you the whole time."

God is with us all the time. Now, it's easy...even reasonable to say, "So what?" when you're in your own Gethsemane moment. God's presence usually doesn't make the cancer go away or bring back the loved one or close that crack in the earth.

But God's presence gives us ground on which to stand. God's presence locates us in a deeper reality, where despair is not the final answer. God's presence locates us in a reality in which all roads lead not to Rome, but to love and grace.

This world is both beautiful and broken. Flowers bloom while steeples are falling. BUT the reign of God also underlays that world with something stronger and deeper. We can tap into God's reign when we co-create love and grace, when we see past our despair and fear and can truly pray, "Not my will, but thine be done." We tap into God's reign by acknowledging the mess we're in and by reaching out to one another anyway. By telling the truth. By putting one foot in front of the other, even when we're weeping or terrified. By trusting God's promise and sharing our bread.

We don't need to rely on bread and circuses; we have instead the reign of Emmanuel, God With Us. We have instead five simple loaves and two fish that create the abundance to feed, comfort and inspire not just us, but also our neighbor, through us.

So, friends, know that no matter where you are, God is with you. Share your bread. Love one another as God loves us. That's better than security; it's life itself.

Thanks be to God.

The great escape

So. We have smart dogs. Perhaps they're smarter than we are.

Envision the four of us at S&J's cabin, which is absolutely lovely (he loves to build, she loves to decorate--it's really something!). Know also that Beloved and I are hyper-vigilant about the pups not messing it up via tiny teeth or even tinier bladders.

Finally, Beloved and I are in SUCH need of a getaway; it's been a busy, somewhat stressful summer, and we really need some quiet time.

Oh, and sleep. Did I mention sleep?

First night there, we've put Linus & Lucy's yellow and blue nylon travel kennel in the living room, outfitted it with chew toys and got them into it. We're in the bedroom, discussing whether or not to close the bedroom door (I think it'll comfort them to be able to hear us; Beloved wants not to hear THEM, just for the sake of one good night's sleep.) We close the door.

In the morning, we open the door to be greeted by a flurry of wagging tails. They've escaped. They're pleased with themselves and excited to see us.

It's cute. And there's no damage (alleluia).

Night two: we're ready for 'em. There are two zipper tabs that close the kennel. We've hooked them together with a paper clip. We're pleased with our problem-solving.

Let the tooth-brushing begin!

Five minutes later, there's the tailwagging thing again. In the bedroom, next to our bed. Really can't help but laugh. They're grinning.

Smart puppies. Tired mamas let them into the Big Bed for the duration of the trip. Much sweetness, but it's continually amazing to me just how much room a small animal can commandeer in a people-sized bed.

How do they DO that?

We got played. :-)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Friday five: my old kit bag

OK, so it's Monday. We just got back from the cabin, and this Friday Five was too appropriate NOT to play! Singing Owl writes:

We will be at a chaplain's convention when you all are answering the Friday Five Questions. I'll look forward to reading your answers next week when I get home. At the moment we are trying to get the car loaded so we can hit the road, so this will be a simple F.F. This running around madly in order to leave has me wondering: what are the five things you simply must have when you are away from home? And why? Any history or goofy things, or stories?
  1. If I don't have an extra-large, fountain diet Coke with ice within 2 miles of leaving my driveway, I get very Veruca Salt about it ("Daddy, I want an oompa loompa, and I want one NOW!!!"). Don't test me on this. In most other ways, I'm a reasonable traveling companion--I think. :-)
  2. Copies of Beloved's and my medical power-of-attorney. 'Cause we're married, but we're not married. And if anything terrible happened, I'm thinking her family would be fighting me about any decisions I tried to make on her behalf. So we've got the paperwork, and it comes along wherever we go, in case my least rational fear is not groundless (click here and scroll down to #89, just under the penguins). Looking forward to not having to worry about this someday.
  3. Books. Must have books. Beats the DTs.
  4. Traveling music for the car's CD player, please...either some playlists we've made from iTunes (in which Beloved and I will enthusiastically sing several different voice parts, to the annoyance of the pups) or an audiobook with a well-told story; the Harry Potters are excellent for long trips!
  5. Comfy jeans, t-shirts, my oldest Birkenstocks and my favorite hat. I'm on vacation. Mmmmmmmmmm...
Thanks, Owl! Great idea!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

100th post: "100 things" navelgazing extravaganza

I'm a lap or two behind my friend Ruth on that Great Blogospheric Cinder Track, and so I'm going to swipe her fun idea for my 100th post!
  1. I'm half Norwegian and half Swedish. I like the sweaters and I make great lefse, but will not eat lutefisk (best description I ever heard was "warm anchovy jello"). Eccchhhh.
  2. I'm an associative learner; I make sense of the world through comparison and relationships and always tilt toward synthesis.
  3. In case you haven't guessed from the names of my puppies, I'm a Peanuts fan of the first rank.
  4. I have an extra kidney. Apparently, it's not that uncommon, but most people don't have occasion to know it.
  5. I love cobalt blue and fire-engine red.
  6. I think chocolate is sufficient evidence that "God loves us and wants us to be happy" (to rip off Ben Franklin's comment about beer).
  7. Not wanting to upset the venerable Mr. Franklin, I also enjoy a good microbrew. :-) My friend P convinced me to try beer and M&Ms together. It's gooooood.
  8. I read The Cat in the Hat to my kindergarten class when I was five.
  9. I'm trying to like being a bicyclist (have a very nice blue bike, but don't like to be bent over for so long).
  10. I have murderer's thumbs.
  11. All my shoes are Birkenstocks. (Gimme a break...I AM a lesbian!)
  12. In that same vein, if I had another life to live, I'd be Emily Saliers.
  13. And I had a terrible crush on my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Hager.
  14. I've read The Stand (Stephen King) eleven times.
  15. I'm not a great cook. I am an appreciative eater.
  16. I wrote and bound a book of 40-or-so limericks in fifth grade for a class project.
  17. Millipedes creep me out. No spring in their step; it's more like they're oozing along. Eeeeyew.
  18. A child of the '70s, I used to crack up my mother with my Jimmy Carter impersonation. How was I to know he'd become a statesman and a peacemaker?
  19. I made friends with L in high school through an epistolary relationship my freshman year. I was in the third-period Concert Orchestra and she was in the fourth-period Symphony Orchestra, and we shared a cello. We'd leave each other notes tucked between the strings. In later years, we'd serve two terms as co-presidents of the Symphony. We were Ubergeeks.
  20. I used to be a corporate trainer for a financial services company. Zzzzzzzzzzzz...
  21. I first saw The Sound of Music in utero at the Coronado Theater in Rockford, IL. Every year afterward, my family would watch it together when it came on TV. It was the first VHS movie I bought, and then the first DVD. I've never seen the stage version. Since I can remember, I've always wanted to solve a problem like Maria...well, Julie Andrews, anyway. :-)
  22. I had sinus surgery ten years ago and was awake for it. I remember the sound of the bones being broken in my head...and how much I just did not care, thanks to the rather impressive drugs they gave me.
  23. I have a book with me almost everywhere I go. I'll read a couple of pages in any spare 30 seconds that present themselves to me. I'm usually reading 4-5 at a time, and STILL, the stack of "to reads" would probably reach the ceiling. But I love it.
  24. I'm wildly self-conscious about dancing. Apparently, I possess several left feet, even weirder than Eugene Levy in Best in Show.
  25. Which leads me to mention that I have a head for trivia, dialogue, lyrics, etc. My mother says she used to push me in her supermarket shopping cart when I was little and I'd sing the commercial jingles from the products we passed. Hmmm...maybe a tad too much TV.
  26. I have NO head for "I have a meeting at _______ with ________ to discuss ________." Fortunately for me, I have two coping strategies: an organized wife and a day planner, which I use religiously.
  27. I am happiest in bluejeans and a t-shirt.
  28. I have a sister who is 3 years younger than I am.
  29. The only non-U.S. place I've been is Canada.
  30. My veins are full of diet Coke.
  31. Beloved and I had been together for 9 years and 10 months when we married last October. The experience was amazing and stuffed with love.
  32. When I was in middle school, I was quite sure I would grow up to sing backup for the Captain and Tennille. Still have a semi-sheepish affection for their music (but she's got PIPES if you hear her singing blues stuff!).
  33. I have a child's love for chocolate chip cookie dough. This horrifies Beloved, who would prefer that I didn't contract salmonella. And she's pretty sure I'm going to, if I keep eating raw dough.
  34. I'm an ENFP on the Myers-Briggs scale.
  35. When I was in grad school, I started (never finished) a cantata based on Madeleine L'Engle's poetry...the stuff in which she speaks in the voices of various Biblical characters. I cried when she died last year; her writing has had a profound effect on me.
  36. I've had my guitar since I was ten years old. His name is Marty.
  37. I like the smells of baking bread, rain in the forest, vanilla candles and sleepy puppies.
  38. The first boy I ever kissed is gay, too. Wow, did THAT not go well. :-)
  39. Warm sesame semolina bread with real butter. Mmmm. Give me a piece of that and I'll do whatever you say. (Hey, we all have a price, right? Ha ha ha.)
  40. I first met Beloved at a choir audition. She was the best voice in the room.
  41. I drive a white Saturn named Hildegard. I got her in grad school, when I was doing a semester-long project on Hildegard of Bingen. Love them both.
  42. I have five lovely godchildren: Celia, Colleen, Kytessa, Mirabeau and Corbett.
  43. Like Truvy in Steel Magnolias, "Laughter through tears is my favorite emotion."
  44. I admire Bill Moyers for his intelligence, eloquence, curiosity and moral courage.
  45. My first job was at the McDonald's next to my high school. I loved it. I was Queen of the Breakfast Grill. I'd wanted to work there since I was little and Grandma took me there every week to share a Filet-O-Fish and fries.
  46. I like and support Barack, but am a little sad it isn't Hillary.
  47. I was twelve years old, the summer that Grease came out in theaters. I saw it nine times. Summer movie, had me a blast...
  48. I don't like crowds; I get sort of claustrophobic. So I'm not a huge fan of the MN State Fair (though it's a good one); there, I can be claustrophobic in August humidity. What an opportunity!
  49. I refuse to eat anything whose label informs me that it's food (cheez food, etc.). If I can't identify it as food without the label, maybe should leave it alone.
  50. When I was in sixth grade, I was completely taken in by two fads in my class: playing jacks (I was good, but not one of the greats) and signing the covers of each other's spiral notebooks.
  51. I love to cuddle quietly on the couch with Beloved and the pups at the end of the day.
  52. I wonder if I'll be a pastor someday.
  53. Many of my best memories of childhood took place at Bebak's Forest Lodge in Winter, WI. My dad's side of the family started going there in the 1930s, and we continued 'til I was out of high school.
  54. I was a brownie and a girl scout--third generation, on my mom's side!
  55. I wish I could play the piano better, but mostly because it would be useful; not a real longing.
  56. When I was in fourth grade, I made a really cool red/orange/yellow piece of spin art at the school Fun Fair. My string art and macrame (also attempted that year) didn't come out as well.
  57. I never, EVER want to skydive or bungee jump. My maternal grandfather was a ski jumper, and had all five of his grandchildren up on skis in the back yard as soon as we could stand up. The back yard was about perfect for my level of adventurousness and physical courage. All things considered, I should really be able to ski now. Nope.
  58. I think I'm a Buddhist/Universalist in Lutheran clothing (vestments?).
  59. I'm fascinated by the beautiful food on Top Chef. I'm tickled that Stephanie won!
  60. I was a good ice skater when I was a kid. Janet Lynn (Olympic bronze medalist in the '72 Sapporo games) was from my hometown, and I thought she was pretty cool.
  61. My favorite sounds are water hitting the shore, a well-tuned chord (especially a choral one) and the voices of my loved ones, in all their glorious individuality.
  62. I love my iPod, and have a barely-held-in-check lust for an iPhone.
  63. I'm frightfully competitive at board games and cards.
  64. Well-planned, innovative worship in a singing congregation is, to me, a Foretaste of the Feast To Come.
  65. I miss thirtysomething, Six Feet Under and The West Wing.
  66. I had a pair of boat shoes in college that I wore to tatters. Sockless, of course.
  67. When I was on high school orchestra tour in Chicago (paid for by selling SO MANY CANDY BARS), I was in the front row to see Shelley Winters star in The Gingerbread Lady at the Music Box Theater. She was magnificent.
  68. Wonderful Colleague makes opportunities for me to preach, every once in awhile. I love it.
  69. I'd like to learn more about wines and cheeses. (Praise cheeses!)
  70. I'm a punster (not a Jedi), like my father before me. I'm always apologizing for it.
  71. I was ninth in my high school graduating class of 325.
  72. I get very crabby when it's humid. If hell is tailored for each person, my version would be thus: it's a humid day, I have an itchy rash, and I'm trapped on the "It's a Small World" ride at Disney World, in a car with Rush Limbaugh. Ooooo...the horror...
  73. If I were an animal, I'd be a beagle; they're cuddly, they're social, and they sing!
  74. The greatest influences on my professional sensibilities (other than my own teachers and colleagues) are Alice Parker, Walter Brueggemann, Rene Clausen, Madeleine L'Engle, Krista Tippett, J.S. Bach, Benjamin Britten and Martin Luther.
  75. I love candles. Our house is overflowing with them, my favorites of which are Danish iron.
  76. I'm an absolute sucker for a well-executed boo-boo lip, a surprise act of kindness, beautifully-crafted language, a kiss on the back of the neck, the sound of kids singing, moral courage, and small, furry cuteness in all its forms.
  77. I swear a lot in the car. I'm working on it. Also, my car is usually full of junk. Sheet music, books, water bottles, food wrappers...yech.
  78. I don't drink coffee. This bothers my family of Scandinavian Lutherans MUCH more than my sexual orientation. ;-)
  79. Before I die, I'd like to meander through Europe for a year or so, learn Greek and Hebrew, and have more regular "discretionary" time built into my schedule.
  80. I'm freakishly good on the nose flute.
  81. I secretly love all those lists that appear in magazines and on TV during the second half of December every year--the Ten Best __________ of 200_ (as you may have guessed by this exercise). There's sort of a "taking stock" aspect of it that I enjoy.
  82. I'm thinking that my next car might be a Smart Car, but I hope Hildegard still has some healthy years left first.
  83. I think that Eddie Izzard might be the funniest person on the planet. See this post to find out what I mean.
  84. My cousin Steve is deaf. I asked him when we were teens if he'd teach me to sign, but all he'd teach me was how to swear.
  85. I have a scar on my thumb that I got when I was five, peeling carrots. The others (on my elbow, brow, knee and hip) came from bike accidents (see point #8).
  86. I hate elliptical machines with a fiery passion. I want more freedom of movement than they allow.
  87. When I was a kid, my mother woke up one morning with a spider sitting in the hand she'd tucked under her pillow. After that, I wouldn't put a hand under my pillow until I went away to college.
  88. Our Christmas trees are always Fraser firs, with white lights, red wooden beads and ornaments that are mostly red and blonde wood...with the exception of Beloved's penguins (I get her a new one every year) and my Snoopys.
  89. I have an irrational fear of driving behind trucks with ladders on them. Pretty sure I'll be decapitated in a car accident. Oy.
  90. When I was tiny, I liked to play with all my grandma's Tupperware and empty margarine tubs on the floor of her kitchen, with breaks for a drink of orange juice & 7-up mixed together.
  91. I would still play with Legos, if I had them...and the time. :-)
  92. I have sworn off nylons for life.
  93. I can't go on any kind of vacation without a book of crosswords. Curse you, Will Shortz!
  94. I saw The Exorcist when I was in middle school and going through a horror phase (appropriately timed, it seems...). It scared me so badly, I threw up. I also read The Amityville Horror (against the advice of my English teacher), and that was good for a couple of years' worth of nightmares. SO much scarier than the (dumb) movie.
  95. I have treasures from each of my grandparents: my maternal grandmother's engagement photo (signed to my grandfather) and her lefse recipe; my maternal grandfather's Norwegian Bible (with a bonus: stuck in the pages, I found a newspaper clipping about my parents' wedding); my paternal grandfather's green stepladder (he was King of the House Project; Beloved uses it now); my paternal grandmother's set of Corelle mixing bowls, and her recipe for un-freaking-believable sugar cookies (which, somehow, aren't as good when I make them).
  96. I'm teaching myself to play the trombone.
  97. My first car was a silver 1979 Fiat Strada, bought from an amazed friend who referred to it as her "lawn ornament." Dad got it going and kept it going for 3 years.
  98. While I was in seminary, in order to make money, I directed two church choirs, baked bagels for Bruegger's, was a nanny for two sets of sibs and served as a grad assistant to Paul "Pops" Westermeyer.
  99. My lucky number is nine.
  100. I'm happy with and grateful for my life.
Now, friends, it'd be fun if this became a meme! I loved reading Ruth's, and it was fun to write my own. (Hmmm...weird, these were numbered instead of bulleted in "edit" mode...)

Tag. You're It!

Choralgirl news feed

This will be a quickie. Our lives have been absolutely insane for the last week or so, but we are getting a break!

Tomorrow, I'm going with Most Excellent Protege Pal to the St. Olaf Conference on Worship, Theology and the Arts. SO looking forward to it. Great worship, food for the soul, and I'll run into lots of friends there. FUN.

And then we're taking off for a few days. We're going to S&J's cabin (of honeymoon fame), to stare at the trees, hear the waves, read in the hammock, do a jigsaw puzzle, play cards...all the lovely, lazy summer things that have been mostly lacking thus far this summer. Words cannot express my gratitude for the opportunity.

So I'm going to be away from the computer 'til next Tuesday. Meanwhile, two important things about this week:
  • Tiny Singer Child was born yesterday to some of our choir friends. Welcome to the world, baby girl! Blessings to this lovely family.
  • MR could use a prayer for an inconvenience in her health.
Remember them in your prayers tonight, would you? :-)

And, since I'm going to be gone awhile...I'll post my 100th post for your amusement. And I'll tag anyone who's interested!

Traveling mercies, friends. See you next week!

This little piggy was a present...

from MR, my lovely (and talented) co-worker and friend. It cries "wee wee wee" all over the house, as Linus & Lucy love this thing. Funniest moment thus far was first thing this morning, when they had to take it into the back yard with them--neither pup would relinquish its hold on Piggy, not even while they were trying to negotiate the back steps. And a Great, Bouncing Kerfuffle ensued.

Puppies. :-)

Anyway, here are their first ecstatic moments with Piggy. Lucy's dialogue is in blue, Linus's in red (matching their collars):

Wow--how cool is THIS?!?!

Hey--gimme that!

Not a chance, Bub.

I warned you...


Let's share the piggy.

I'm having a moment of Pauline angst here.
I do that which I must not do.
We've all been there, right?

There remains one more chewy treat, which we're saving for August, when the national Republican convention comes to town (wink):

Meet Ellie.

Thanks, Auntie MR! You totally rock!

Love and slobbery kisses,
Linus & Lucy

Monday, July 21, 2008


is the closest thing to the grace of God. --Karl Barth


No, it's neither Linus nor Lucy, but grace, peace and a good chuckle to you anyway!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Friday five: what's in a name?

This week, Revhrod of the RevGalBlogPals writes:

If you are a regular reader of Songbird's blog, you know that "The Princess" has requested a new name. Her older brother changed his "secret identity" a while back and now this lovely young lady is searching for a new name on her mother's blog. This got me to thinking. How do we come up with all of these names? There must be at least a few good stories out there.

1. So how did you come up with your blogging name? And/or the name of your blog?

I guess "Choralgirl" leapt to mind because I'm a choral geek to my very core. :-) I'm also a punster; my mind was sort of toying with the word "choral" and naturally, "reef'" was there almost immediately. I loved the imagery of all those colors and hidden places beneath the surface of the water, and so, dum-ta-DAAAA, a blog was born. Curious choice for a midwesterner, though.

2. Are there any code names or secret identities in your blog? Any stories there?

Mostly just to preserve the privacy of the other actors in my little play...and, to some extent, my own: Beloved, Wonderful Colleague, and lots of representational "first letters" (though I sort of outed M and B here), but that was a special circumstance and I got their approval first. It's weird; many of my readers know one another, so I try to be respectful of those boundaries, and sensitive to the parallel reality that this creates.

3. What are some blog titles that you just love? For their cleverness, drama, or sheer, crazy fun?

Well, I'm a big fan of Reflectionary, 'cause it's such a graceful piece of word play; wish I'd thought of it! :-) On an entirely different note, Cap'n Dyke, Lesbian Pirate Queen and Rogue Blogger is hilarious. Found her through Fran I Am, also a clever one.

4. What three blogs are you devoted to? Other than the RevGalBlogPals of course!

Nope. Uh-uh. Not answering this one! Too many that I love! Take a look at my blogroll instead, 'K?

5. Who introduced you to the world of blogging and why?

Complex question. I think it started with conversation with Wonderful Colleague; this tree has two branches. First, someone we both know shared her blog with us, and I enjoyed reading it and talking with her and WC about it. Second, WC had been reading Real Live Preacher (which is wonderful), and I started, too. I got curious and started clicking around on his blogroll and found Don't Eat Alone, which became a regular staple in my spiritual diet and inspired me to start one of my own.

Bonus question: Have you ever met any of your blogging friends? Where are some of the places you've met these fun folks?

Well, Peg Kerr (see last question) was already a friend when I got into this, as were Mad Preacher, Karen and Sara. I was lucky to have dinner with Cecilia at the Festival of Homiletics, this past spring, and that's been a delight ever since. I'm hoping that I'll meet Diane and the proprietor of the Swandive soon, as we all live in the same metro.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The grace and impatience to wait

Give us the grace and impatience
to wait for your coming to the bottoms of our toes,
to the edges of our fingertips.

We do not want our several worlds to end.

Come in your power and
come in your weakness
in any case
and make all things new.

--Walter Brueggemann, from Advent in Awed to Heaven, Rooted in Earth

I've talked before about M and B, members of my mishpacha, my chosen family. We first met one another (about 6-7 years ago) because B and I were working at the same church. She and I (and later, her M and my Beloved) quickly became the kind of friends that live in the deep chambers of one another's hearts. The four of us share the experience of being lesbians in ministry (and their spouses), and we've tried to help one another to keep right on becoming, to live out our callings faithfully.

It is my honor to walk with her as she does so. She's profiled in one of our local newsmagazines today. Take a look at her story.

B is one of those people who lives with deep integrity but manages not to be insufferable about it. :-) She lives the vision of church that I described here, though sometimes it comes at quite a cost to her personally. Funny thing is, part of the reason that she does so is that the Institution has made it clear that she doesn't really belong "on the road," for no reason that has to do with her call or her competence.

It's just about That Issue, again. Homosexuality. Yawn.

Don't get me wrong; her pastoral heart would have called her to the barren places anyway. She's an unconventional thinker who looks out for those who have been tossed aside. I'd like to think that this is a Pauline moment, that all things DO work together for the good of those who love God. But that feels like too simplistic an answer, because justice is not present. Though she is, in a sense, doing exactly the ministry to which she's so clearly called, she's also tethered to an unjust, Catch-22 regulation that requires her to choose one of these avenues:
  1. Deny her vocation as a minister in order to live out her vocation as a married person.
  2. Deny her vocation as a married person in order to live out her vocation as a minister.
There are lots of possible versions of those two choices, but that's the distillation. It is a specious choice.

Instead, B has found a third way. She lives in (mostly) calm, clear-eyed and grace-filled protest against the injustice done to her, but puts her ministry first, and keeps her eyes on Christ. As a result, with B (as with so many of our friends in similar situations who have the grace and impatience to wait for the church to catch up with God), new life keeps on springing up around her. You can almost smell the fresh breeze that is the Holy Spirit.

Perhaps because of her vantage point as an outsider in her church, she understands something that's much harder to appreciate from a comfortable berth on the inside of anything. As B says,

In the end, love is stronger than walls.

Thanks be to God.

A note from Lucy

Arf! Arf! Awrooo arrrrr arf!

(translation: I'm feeling much better now. Thanks for your kind concern!)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In these footprints

O God,
you have called your servants
to ventures of which we cannot see the ending,
by paths as yet untrodden,
through perils unknown.
Give us faith to go out with good courage,
not knowing where we go,
but only that your hand is leading us
and your love supporting us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

--Book of Common Prayer

During my campus visit at the first college I would attend, I remember loving the fact that the steps in all the venerable old buildings had grooves worn into them. Generations of students before me had stepped where I stepped, and it comforted me. "See, this isn't scary. Don't you wonder what they saw from this spot? What they thought about? Where they are now? This institution is bigger than you are, but it's a safe place." That last was the promise that those worn stone steps made to me. It made me love the place a bit, even before I matriculated there.

It's comforting to put our feet in others' footprints. The "perils unknown" are a bit less scary if you know that you're not the first person to face them. Footprints give us a pattern to follow, the familiarity of repetition, the security of the group...even the moral authority of the "tried and true." They keep us from wandering off the path.

And here's where it starts to get dicey.

Because so much of real life happens somewhere off the path, and because the seductions of the institution can distract us from the central purpose of the institution:

to shape and feed us
so that we may be sent out into the world
to follow Christ
and to share our bread.

To love the institution for its own sake is an easy slide into idolatry. I love my church, but it's not perfect. It's easy for church to become an end in itself, and the walls that hold it up sure keep a lot of people on the outside.

You know where Jesus would stand in that equation.

There's a fine line between a place of sanctuary and a place of constraint. Sometimes it's just a matter of perspective. As my friend Diane says, Jesus probably didn't come here to start an institution full of "bureaucracy, hierarchy and patriarchy (not to mention a few more 'archys')." He wanted to start a movement.

A movement takes a whole lot of courage. A movement is an experience of constant change. A movement asks us to make new footprints, to move into "ventures of which we cannot see the ending." We don't know what we'll face, and we don't have reliable, traceable, safe patterns to use. We are required, almost by definition, to move off the path.

We don't know what or who we'll find there.

We don't know what they'll believe; how they'll react to us.

They probably won't be just like us.

We might have to do things in new ways, and to stop nosily worrying about where our fellow travelers are walking and what's in their backpacks, because we'll have enough to handle, just climbing the hills with our OWN baggage. That is, if we're really willing to go somewhere new. We might be called to offer our fellow traveler a hand, though, because we might be on a road, but we might also end up on rocky ground or among the brambles.

Who knows what new life might arise from seeds that are planted there?

I'm pretty sure that the only footprints we'll find in a lot of those places are Jesus' footprints. He didn't have much use for the boundaries laid out by many of the institutions of his time, when they became barriers between him and those he came to save. And Jesus had the faith to go out with good courage, even when he COULD see the ending and all the perils he'd face along the way.

So...maybe we can go out with courage, too. As Will Willimon says,
Dicipleship is about risk.

Maybe we can dare to get outside all the walls we build around ourselves and walk as pilgrims in the footsteps of Jesus.

Got your sandals on?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Arte y Pico award

Two days ago Ruth of Ruth's Visions and Revisions bestowed the Arte y Pico award on five bloggers, including me. This award is given to blogs who "deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language." I'm honored that Ruth listed me among her honorees; her blog is one I read every day. Ruth is a gifted writer; she has the courage and insight necessary to see into places that many wouldn't dare to venture, and she uses those tools in ways that are both thought-provoking and lovely. Please go and see for yourself!
Here are the rules of the award:

1) Pick five (5) blogs that you consider deserve this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.

2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.

4) Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of “Arte y Pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award which is here: "Arte y Pico".

May I have the envelope, please?

Actually, each of these five people has been an inspiration to me in some my own blog, in my ministry, and in my spiritual life. I thank them and I'm pleased to honor them in this small way. My choices for the Arte y Pico award are:

1) Grace Unfolding: more than just a blog, it's a haven. It's a beautifully designed page whose evolution I've watched for almost a decade. Anita is a pastor and a partnered lesbian who has created a ministry for GLBTQ Christian folks. When she started this, online resources for this community were scarce, and she has created a lovely gathering space there. Whatever your orientation, there's beauty and grace to be found at Grace Unfolding.

2) Closeted Pastor: the visual design is very simple, and that's appropriate. Complexity would draw focus from Cecilia's courage, pastoral heart and searing honesty. When confronted with opposing and sometimes hostile viewpoints, she stays engaged in conversation in a way that builds trust and elevates discourse. I'm proud to call her my friend.

3) Don't Eat Alone: the blog that got me started. Milton is a former pastor, current chef, and beautiful soul. His art is in the blend of his spirituality, cooking, music-making and poetry. It's never clear what you'll find there on a given day, but I promise you, it will be tasty and gorgeous.

4) Velveteen Rabbi: Rachel is a poet and rabbinical student who offers Torah portions and stunning poetry, along with a glimpse into a world I don't often see. Well worth a trip.

5) Real Live Preacher: Gordon is that rarest of birds, a progressive Texan Baptist. His pithy, easy-on-the-ears preaching is...well, the man is gifted. Words fail me. He's often a source of discussion within my church staff. Go see why.

Thank you to each of you, and to you, Ruth. Blessings!

The big read: second edition meme

So, ever since this post about fiction that the NEA would like us to have read, I've been mulling its incompleteness. These lists are lists precisely because they're not all-encompassing, but I can't help but think that there were some truly glaring omissions (unfortunately, many of them by non-white authors):
  • My Antonia (Willa Cather)
  • East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
  • Beloved (Toni Morrison)
  • The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
  • Native Son (Richard Wright)
  • A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle)
  • The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky)
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)
  • The House of the Spirits (Isabel Allende)
  • Siddhartha (Herman Hesse)
  • Roots (Alex Haley)
  • The Chosen (Chaim Potok)
As well as some I just really loved, that made me want to grab passersby by the lapels and ask if they'd read them:
  • The Sparrow (Mary Doria Russell--searing)
  • The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse (Louise Erdrich)
  • Jayber Crow (Wendell Berry)
  • Kafka on the Shore (Haruki Murakami)
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (Christopher Moore--will make you laugh 'til you have hiccups; also remarkably well-researched)
  • Staggerford (Jon Hassler)
  • A Thousand Acres (Jane Smiley)
  • I Know This Much Is True (Wally Lamb)
  • Saturday (Ian MacEwan)
  • A Lesson Before Dying (Ernest Gaines)
  • One True Thing (Anna Quindlen)
  • The Short History of a Prince (Jane Hamilton)
  • A Map of the World (Jane Hamilton)
  • The Lords of Discipline (Pat Conroy)
  • Giants in the Earth (Per Rolvaag)
  • Montana, 1948 (Larry Watson)
  • Blue Shoe (Anne Lamott)
  • Peace Like a River (Leif Enger)
  • The Time of Our Singing (Richard Powers)
  • Straight Man (Richard Russo)
  • Plainsong (Kent Haruf)
  • Angry Housewives Eating Bonbons (Lorna Landvik--I have a special attachment to this one; it's not just a fun summer read, but she's a daughter of the congregation I serve; the action takes place in a neighborhood I know...and, rumor has it, several of the prototype "housewives" are members of my church)
  • Bastard Out of Carolina (Dorothy Allison)
  • Rubyfruit Jungle (Rita Mae Brown)
  • The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
So, that's 12 "I'm horrified that they weren't on the list" books, and 25 "given my druthers, I'd add these, too..." books.

What would yours be? Consider yourself tagged; I'd really like to know!



It's been quite a week: I was in a 3-day class about navigating the U's new financial system (it's my job to process contracts for our writers, designers, proofers, etc., and to handle all of my office's purchasing); my choir had a summer gig; the choral line I'm editing for the local Lutheran publishing house has reached the proofing phase, which always creates a flurry of e-mails and some packages to mail out; I had a church meeting on Tuesday; I'm preaching tomorrow, and then my parents are coming for lunch; finally, we have friends coming for dinner.

And the pups are sick. Hookworms. Eeeeeyew.

Linus seems pretty OK, with the meds they're on; Lucy has had a tough few days. I'll leave it mostly to your imagination, but she got dehydrated enough that the vet gave her subcutaneous fluids on Thursday. She's on a special diet for a few days in addition to the meds, and the vet hasn't ruled out parvo as the cause. We've been in "watch her closely" mode since Thursday, and I'm starting to be less worried today; but for being a tiny bit subdued, she seems almost back to normal. Whew.

Because parvo would suck.

They were good little campers last week! Better than Beloved and I were, I suspect; we were too exhausted. But M and B are patient sorts, and they (along with one of the women in the next campsite over, who seems to be some kind of "dog whisperer") helped to make it work. Thanks be to them. :-) They took pictures of the pups in the lake for the first time (wearing expressions that said "I'm wet. WTF?") and provided "auntie" laps for campfire enjoyment, among many kindnesses.

***Breaking news*** The pups are galloping through the house in tandem, both having grabbed an end of their latest loofa toy. They look like a yoke of tiny oxen. This is Outer Limits Cute.

So. Very little time to blog or to read others' blogs this week, and I've missed it--and have missed my bloggy friends! The pups and Beloved and I are finding our rhythm together, though. As long as I get the sermon written today, and Lucy's OK, all will be well.

So I'm gonna go do that. :-) Peace, friends!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

When you read, you begin with...

Working on a sermon and an article. Got me some heavy-duty writer's block at the moment...back to the basics:

And, just because this is purely the spirit of play that he embodies when he sings:

Saw him do that in concert once. Pure joy.

OK, maybe now I can write what I SHOULD be writing. :-)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Spiritual generosity

It was my birthday last week. Among the many lovelinesses offered by dear ones, one of them really got me thinking. My friend G is a writer, a poet, a tender and generous soul. She also happens not to believe in God, at least in a "traditional" sense. No big, bearded guy in the sky for G. (Or, actually, for me...but that's another post.)

What she does believe in is generosity. In sharing whatever she's eating. In taking care of each other and giving voice to the voiceless. Or, as that Jesus guy said, in "loving your neighbor as yourself."

She tells me that I'm the only "churchy" person she's ever known well. She regards the Church with suspicion, not having grown up in one, and having heard mostly exclusionary, judgmental messages from our loudest voices.

But G is a writer, and thus has a gift for observation. She "gets" me on a surprisingly deep level for someone I've known only a year. So, among several presents that made me grin, I found this book.

"I saw it on the shelf and knew right away that you'd love it. I had to get it even though I'd already bought your present," mused G.

Understand, please, that the content doesn't set her heart on fire or anything. But she knew that it would do so for mine.

It got me thinking about a couple of things:
  1. It's a gift to be truly seen and to be loved as the person you are. I think that's what our relationship with our Creator is, most fundamentally. It's warts-and-all acceptance, coupled with the desire for the loved one to keep right on becoming.
  2. In order to truly give something, you have to empty yourself. This gift was not about G. Many people I know (and certainly I'm one of them sometimes) would be more likely to offer something that's meaningful to them, in the hope that it will be meaningful to the recipient. And I think there's often a lovely impulse behind that, as well. But the conscious choice to offer a gift with no agenda other than the joy and growth of the recipient...that's powerful stuff.
Which leads me to the question: what if our evangelism looked like that? (as opposed to "edifying instruction")
  • What if we just met people where they are, with all the love we can muster?
  • What if we stopped treating our Christian story as something that needs defense and protection from the unbeliever (or the "wrongbeliever") and started acting in the confidence the love of God is so strong, it can't be constrained?
  • What if we found a way to truly see the stranger, and respond in love to her/his full humanity--the pain, the growth, the joy, the brokenness?
  • What if we could act from a position of equality, instead of one of "I have something you need," or (worse) "I know how you should be living?" Just as fellow human beings on the same level--as friends.
  • What if my churchless friend G has a clearer understanding of what it is to be Church than we on the "inside" do?
  • What if we listened to her and learned from her example?
What a powerful witness to the One who came in full humanity to bleed and sweat and laugh and cry with us: Emmanuel, God With Us.

So, G--thanks for the gift. And for the Gift. :-)

Please, please...

don't piss them off. Sing from the diaphragm, with a pear-shaped tone, and for God's sake, ENUNCIATE!

I can't be responsible for what'll happen if you keep that tension in your throat and shoulders.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Big Read

I got this over at Cecilia's place. This is from something called 'The Big Read', and it is designed to encourage community reading initiatives. The NEA came up with a list of their top 100 books and they estimate that the average adult has only read 6 of these books. I will highlight the ones I've read. Cut and paste into your blog and let us know which you've read.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factor
y - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

In case I was wondering what to do with my free time...


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

And in the seventh month, they rested

Beloved, the pups and I are going camping for a few days with M and B, who comprise one third of our mishpacha. We try to get out in the woods together at least once a summer, and always have a great time together. We'll walk in the woods and make s'mores and sit around the fire and play games and read and wander into town when it rains. We'll be quiet. We'll enjoy each other's company. We'll rest. And this time, we'll have the fun of taking the pups along.

(They made it through the whole night without getting up again last night, BTW. That's two in a row!)

Thanks be to God for times of rest, for beautiful creation, for the sounds of wind in the trees and waves on the shore, the smell of a campfire, and loved ones to shared it with.

See y'all next week!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Take THAT, Barbie!

One of my dear ones gave me a book today entitled "Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West." A fount of loveliness. My lunch companions and I were paging through it, and M found the following, which is attributed to St. Catherine.

I know that there's a lot of dieting going on throughout the RevGals, and I'm part of it. Healthy choices are wonderful and life-giving; sometimes they're truly transformative. BUT, I submit the following to you, Sisters, for those days when you hit a plateau and are feeling badly about it. A helpful counterweight to those feelings of "heaviness." It's called "Your Hair, Your Face."

What is it
you want to change?
Your hair, your face, your body?

For God is
in love with all those things
and he might weep
when they are

They slept through the night.

Thanks be to God
thanks be to dogs, too!