25 December 2007

Merry Christmas!

07 December 2007

Friday Five -- Preparation

Sally writes: This has been a difficult week for me, the death of a little six year old has overshadowed our advent preparations, and made many of us here in Downham Market look differently at Christmas. With that in mind I ask whether you are the kind of person that likes everything prepared well in advance, are you a last minute crammer, or a bit of a mixture.....

Here then is this weeks Friday 5:

1. You have a busy week, pushing out all time for preparing worship/ Sunday School lessons/ being ready for an important meeting ( or whatever equivalent your profession demands)- how do you cope?
Scrabulous! no (OK, sometimes). I tend to outline what needs to be done -- then fill in as time permits. That way I can jot notes into appropriate sections as time permits and I can wing what I have to if I run out of time at the end. The things that have to be done (bulletin or agenda or handouts) I do before deadline, but only after I have enough data from the other prep.

2. You have unexpected visitors, and need to provide them with a meal- what do you do?
Pile them into the car. There may or may not be something in my frig/freezer but I doubt they want Mrs Leepers (Gluten free hamburger helper) which is my basic fall-back dinner. (Hey, at least I add frozen green beans to soak up some of the salt.)

Three discussion topics:
3. Thinking along the lines of this week's advent theme; repentance is an important but often neglected aspect of advent preparations.....
no. I want a sterile manger and Mary with perfect hair and baby that doesn't cry or need changing and... OK. Reality. My metaphorical house needs cleaning before the advent guests show up. But that's an unpleasant though with all the holly and candy canes and presents.
I think repentence and preparation are crucial, but so frequently overlooked because we ditch Advent for Christmas too quickly. Some of us even change the purple to blue so it's even less like Lent when it ought to be more like it. In many ways I can even see the whole clean up and prepare for the incarnation more than the preparation for Holy Week.

4. Some of the best experiences in life occur when you simply go with the flow.....
I am with you here. I have often heard the quote "to make God laugh, tell Him your plans" There was a wonderful seen in Evan Almighty where Evan is laying out his life plans to change the world and Morgan Freeman (God) just starts laughing. I could never have dreamed where He would take me. so, quit kicking and enjoy!

5. Details are everything, attention to the small things enables a plan to roll forward smoothly...
This is NOT generally my strong suit. I tend toward the big picture, ask certain people to handle their parts and expect it to happen. I do no micro manage and I resent people who make me do it. I know, I need to get over it. But I'd rather something not be perfect than to do everyone else's job. (That said, I do have mitigation plans for the critical elements).

Bonus if you dare- how well prepared are you for Christmas this year?
Christmas? Well... I've had a few other things on my mind, but the tests have just come back negative. So now I can think about maybe putting up the tree. But sometimes all I can think about is all the work of taking it back down again. Does that make me a Scrooge? I haven't even pulled out the advent wreath this year. And I had the nerve to preach on being ready last week!

01 December 2007

Are you ready?

In a sentence: As we prepare our homes for the coming of the Christ Child, let’s remember Christ the King who is to come and prepare our lives for him.

Well, here we are, the first Sunday in Advent. Many people will have out of town guests coming to stay, others will just have local guests stopping by. Are you ready? Is the frig stocked? House tidied, dusted and vacuumed – plenty of clean sheets and towels? Then there’s the hustle and bustle of the shopping, the decorating, the baking… so much to do before they get here… the wrapping, did we forget uncle George’s gift? They’ll be here tomorrow… have we gotten the cat hair off the guest bed? I thought YOU were buying his favorite soda. AAAARGH. Welcome to the Season of Peace.

Our society -- the endless advertising and store decorations (which have been up since before Halloween) are designed to make you buy, Buy, BUY! That is what Christmas is all about, right? It’s my job to answer that with a resounding NO!

As a matter of fact, if you want to get picky (and I do), it’s not even Christmas time. It’s Advent. Christmas time is historically the time between Christmas day and epiphany – The 12 days between the church celebration of the birth and the celebration of the arrival of the wise men. That was the time for gift-giving and parties. Advent is about contemplation, preparation, examining ourselves and our lives to see if we’re ready to receive the Lord of the Universe who is also our savior. But…it’s hard to market that.

But it is what I’m going to challenge you to do today, to look at advent as a time of preparation. We lit a candle today to remind us of the waiting. but, Today is only the first Sunday in advent. We’re not at Christmas yet – there are 4 more candles in that wreath. We have begun to look forward to the celebration of the incarnation of Christ, but for Christians, Advent is also tied to the expectation of Christ’s second coming. As a matter of fact the passage we read today is about the return of Christ.

In the Christian Calendar, we celebrate the two together – the time leading up to the celebration of the incarnation – Christmas, is also the time of deliberate reflection and preparation for the second coming. 2000 years ago. Christ came as Jesus of Nazareth; one day, Christ will come in glory. The passage challenges us: Are we ready? not just for the little baby safely ensconced in the manger, but also for the King of kings? In order to answer that question we have to ask another -- What does it mean to be ready? I propose that we need to prepare our lives, our hearts, and our souls.

Lives lived in readiness:
The people in this morning’s Gospel reading were going about their everyday lives: farming, cooking, marrying and giving in marriage (which implies generations) when suddenly it happened: “two [were] in the field; one [was] taken and one [was] left”. So we’re not expected to stop our daily living. But there ought to be something different about us. What is a life lived in readiness?

The epistle reading for today gives us more information: Romans 13:11-14 says:
Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
We are to live our lives in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our lives are like our houses. All too often life just overwhelms us and the dust and “works of darkness” creep into the corners. In preparation for the coming of Christ, our lives should be swept clean. We can even add the ornamentation of Christ-like behaviors. Now, something out of place in a clean house stands out, just as a bit of sin stands out in an upright life; However, if we don’t keep things cleaned up, it’s far too easy to miss when they start piling up. What’s one more bit of clutter? One more time succumbing to temptation?

Now on a normal, day to day basis, many of us keep our lives like we (well, like I) keep house. We keep the front room clean and tidy and presentable, but don’t dare let anyone look in the junk room! Or under the beds, or in the hall closet -- that’s where I hide all my secret messes! WAKE UP! THE DAY IS NEAR! As Paul said, live honorably as if Christ were coming any minute!

Heart of Anticipation
Over the past several weeks, Martha was awaiting George's return home from Iraq – first to the States, then to Smalltown. She wasn’t sure when he would come. She finally have a date for his return to the States, but for a few weeks she was in constant anticipation of the phone call saying he was here, or even for him to walk in the door. Martha had a heart of anticipation. (For those who don’t know, George was here last week.)

We should all feel like Martha, or like parents anticipating the birth or adoption of a baby – you can’t contain them. Especially for adoptive parents, it’s very much like the church, you don’t know when it will happen. We want it to happen and we’re ready at any moment, but, especially with overseas adoption, it could be months or years. Like this morning’s scripture tells us: no one knows when except the Father.

But if our lives aren’t ready, if we’re too caught up in the things about us, we can’t really be sure we want him to come. Just like those houseguests. If we have soccer games, and business meetings and the house isn’t in order, we’re not REALLY sure we want them to come. On the other hand, when the house is ready, we’re happy to see guests. When are lives are ready, we can joyfully anticipate Christ’s return because there is nothing to stand between us and God. So, if you’re caught in the nightmare of December busy-ness, WAKE UP! for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

Soul of Peace
Finally, We know the peace of the holiday season comes when all the chores are done, the house is ready, and you can welcome your guests in the peace of knowing that all is ready and in order. The Soul of Peace comes from prioritizing the things of Christ, NOT the things of this world. As we’re told in Philippians 4:
whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I don’t know about what you’ve seen, but what I’ve seen at the mall is NOT what is noble, pure, lovely, or admirable. WAKE UP! December mall madness is hustle and bustle, Jesus is peace.

We need to slow down and wait. There are 4 more candles before Christmas. This is Advent, a time of preparation, a time to examine our lives and prepare for the return of the King. The season is not about being so busy we that can’t hear the baby crying for us.

I challenge you to take time this advent to examine your life: where do you need some house cleaning or a thorough remodel? Do you live a life that’s ready, a heart filled with anticipation for Christ’s return, and soul full of God’s peace?

Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.
Are you ready?

30 November 2007

Friday Five, pre-advent edition

Will Smama asks us:
Parishioners pushing for carols before you digested your turkey?
Organist refusing to play Advent hymns because he/she already has them planned for Lessons & Carols?
Find yourself reading Luke and thinking of a variety of ways to tell Linus where to stick it? (Lights please.)

Then this quick and easy Friday Five is for you! And for those of you with a more positive attitude, have no fear. I am sure more sacred and reverent Friday Fives will follow.
Please tell us your least favorite/most annoying seasonal....
1) dessert/cookie/family food

candy canes. Does anybody really eat all those things or do they all just end up slimy victims of humidity all over the place? OK, maybe 1 a season, but those things are like coat hangers, they just keep multiplying....

2) beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc...)
I never did understand eggnog. YUCK!

3) tradition (church, family, other)
my previous church's (music director's) penchant for cantatas that were nothing but the classics done to new new music. Do the old songs or do new ones, but don't do the classic songs to lousy new music.

4) decoration
I just saw Santa bungee strapped to someone's chimney. That about does it.

5) gift (received or given)
anything from the step mother. They pretty much go straight to the shelter.

BONUS: SONG/CD that makes you want to tell the elves where to stick it.
DH has satellite radio and listens to the Christmas alternative channel. ANYTHING from there, definitely.

I know, I know.... pretty grumpy for November but why not get it out of our systems now so we are free to enjoy the rest of the festivities.
OK, I vented, now back to my sermon with "breathless anticipation"

23 November 2007

Ah, the day after Thanksgiving--groan! Fortunately, I love Thanksgiving leftovers.Thanksgiving is the American holiday when the greatest number of people travel somewhere else to celebrate. Singing Owl was posting this from her son’s home in Minnesota where they were recovering from the food shopping and the preparations and the meal and the clean up. She says it is difficult to think of anything requiring much energy today, and is enjoying her sweet baby granddaughter, so she kept it simple.

1. Did you go elsewhere for the day, or did you have visitors at your place instead? How was it?
We stayed home, just DH and myself. It was quiet.

2. Main course: If it was the turkey, the whole turkey, and nothing but the turkey, was it prepared in an unusual way? Or did you throw tradition to the winds and do something different?
It was the turkey -- an Amish one, so no added ickiness (or gluten) in the meat. But ours was quadriplegic. With just the two of us, the breast was enough. It was roasted in a traditional manner stuffed with apple and celery for flavor, the stuffing is on the side (still haven't gotten the gluten-free stuffing right). But I tried apples and walnuts in my cranberry sauce this year. That was a big success. It also means I'll probably eat the rest rather than having it go to waste. Pumpkin pie with a (gluten-free) gingersnap crust was great!

3. Other than the meal, do you have any Thanksgiving customs that you observe every year?
no. When I was little it was off to my great aunt's to see my great-grandmother;'s extended family and all the second cousins. These days we're boring.

4. The day after Thanksgiving is considered a major Christmas shopping day by most US retailers. Do you go out bargain hunting and shop ‘till you drop, or do you stay indoors with the blinds closed? Or something in between?
shopping requires money. besides, it's snowing here. Although Target on-line is offering free shipping on toys for all the nieces and nephews. hmmmmm. I think I'll stay home and work on candidacy essays.

5. Let the HOLIDAY SEASON commence! When will your Christmas decorations go up?
See previous note about SNOW. Besides, I won't let DH turn them on until it's actually advent. It's my way of showing a little sanity in this perversion that has become more Commerce day than Christmas. The decorations will probably go up mid-week when it's dry and less cold.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

16 November 2007

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8, NRSV)

Friends, it's nearly Thanksgiving in the U.S. and it's the time of year when we are pressed to name things for which we are thankful. Songbird challenges us to offer a twist on the usual lists and use Paul's letter to the church at Philippi as a model.

Name five things that are true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent or worthy of praise. These could be people, organizations, acts, ideas, works of art, pieces of music--whatever comes to mind for you.

1. The Ichetucknee river -- the bestest and most pleasant place on this earth (IMHO)
2. Worship, especially singing, especially unmessed-up classic hymns.
3. The folks who work in the service industry, especially the thankless jobs that we take for granted but rely on. The folks who do those things that can make day good or bad for all the rest of us.
4. Chocolate -- 'nuff said
5. My kitties and their little warm bodies on cold nights.

14 November 2007

Eucharistic Theology

You scored as a Calvin

You are John Calvin. You seek to be faithful to Scripture, and to harmonize difficult sayings. You believe that in the Lord's Supper those who have faith are united to Christ, who is present spiritually, yet in a real way.

Calvin --------------------------------100%
Orthodox ---------------------------- 75%
Luther ------------------------------- 63%
Zwingli ------------------------------- 50%
Catholic ------------------------------ 13%
Unitarian ---------------------------- 6%

02 November 2007

Gannet Girl's friend Tipper agreed to interview us, so we sneaked onto the food giver's computer!

And here's one for the kitties!
Dear Delenn and Padme,

1. Those are unusual names! How/where did you get them?
Delenn: I am named after Delenn in Babylon 5. She was a hero of the Grey council and I'm grey.
Padme: I was named after Padme Amidala. Cause Mom thought I was just a handmaiden, but found out I was really the princess!

2. I am the only four-legged creature left in my house. Do you have others in yours?
D: Mommy keeps trying but Daddy won't let her near the adoption cages in PetsMart. I for one am glad.
P: I want someone else to chase up and down the stairs!

3. I have noticed that cats don't have much interest in me. What are your feelings about dogs?
D: will you feed me or pet me?
P: Can we play?

4. We had a found cat here for a few weeks last summer. He made himself at home rather quickly. Too quickly, in my estimation. Where are yuor favorite parts of the house?
D: on the foot of the bed, especially if there are nice clean clothes that haven't been put away yet. Second favorite is on Mommy's desk in front of the monitor. I cannot imagine why that flat light is more interesting than I am!
P: in the sun in the front window where the whole neighborhood can see me! Otherwise on anything dark so I can show off my beautiful white fur, And on top Mommy's books when she's studying.

5. My human noticed that your human's blog name is Greek. She is very proud of her quite limited vocabulary, but I am sick of it, because there are Greek worksheets and notes all over my bed. Would you describe yourselves as more Greek, more Egyptian, or more American types of the feline persuasion?
D: Daddy tells me I'm Russian Blue, but the lady at the pound place called me a DSH. That doesn't sound nearly as exciting.
P: I came from a very nice neighborhood, thank you very much. hmph.

Looking forward to learning more about you,Your new friend,Tipper the Dog
We enjoyed the interview! Delenn and Padme

With lots of interviewing going on, Mother Laura invites the RevGalBlogPals to comment on "the wonderful world of interviews":

1. What was the most memorable interview you ever had?

An interview with a prestigious consulting firm. I had flown in the night before and woke up with the worst sore throat ever and had very little voice, and it hurt to talk, and did I mention that part of the interview was to do a presentation? The main thing I remember about the day was that at lunch I ordered tomato soup and felt it burn alll the way down my throat was so raw. I called the doctor that night when I got home and got on drugs. It was HORRIBLE.

2. Have you ever been the interviewer rather than the interviewee? If so, are you a tiger, a creampuff, or somewhere in between?

Yes. I'm somewhere in between. I've done enought interviewing to know that you HAVE to find out if they're qualified, but also if they'll fit. I don't think it works to anyone's advantage, on either side of the table to obscure truth or avoid issues.

3. Do phone interviews make you more or less nervous than in-person ones?

More. I rely too much on non-verbal feedback.

4. What was the best advice you ever got to prepare for an interview? How about the worst?

Be yourself.

5. Do you have any pre-interview rituals that give you confidence?

nah. Just: know the position, know yourself. (eat a mint).

19 October 2007

This Friday Five is in homage to Top Chef.

If you were a food, what would you be?
BBQ - smoked slowly, but worth waiting for; saucy when appropriate; basic, unfancy, down to earth.

What is one of the most memorable meals you ever had? And where?
If I can't think of one, what does that say about me?

What is your favorite comfort food from childhood?
beanie weanies.
And, of course, BBQ.

When going to a church potluck, what one recipe from your kitchen is sure to be a hit?
Pound cake: plain and with variations from Southern Living; but I can't bake anymore because of the celiac -- inhaling the flour dust makes me sick.

What’s the strangest thing you ever willingly ate?
OK. I admit it. I'm a middle class American and I do NOT like funky foods. That said, I was with a student group in Florence and they fed us seafood salad. We american kids were thinking "tuna" -- but tuna doesn't have little suckers on it. I don 't think any of us ate more than a bite or two.

Bonus question: What’s your favorite drink to order when looking forward to a great meal?
A nice glass of Zinfindel. (Not the pink stuff.)

15 September 2007

Bureaucracy and checking boxes

OK. I know there's a reason for the process. I recognize most of what the forms codify, but if they really wanted to know where I need to grow and where I've grown and who I am and whom I'm becoming, then wouldn't they have called, or emailed, or snail-mailed, or otherwise communicated in some way over the past 12 months? So it's really hard to take this seriously.

I must fill out the form because it's a required part of the process. But there's no trust, no relationship with these people so I won't be "real" with them. After all, it goes in my permanent folder. So I check off the boxes and say enough to get through, but not enough to give a foothold to questions. And we'll meet, and they'll give me additional "once size fits no one" goals to work on for the next year, and we'll go our separate ways for another 12 months.

What is this process teaching me? Oh, yeah, How to survive in a church bureaucracy. We can save authentic nurturing community for the webring.

14 September 2007

Reverendmother asks us: In honor of a couple of marathon meetings she attended this week:

1. What's your view of meetings?
a) When they're good, they're good. I love the feeling of people working well together on a common goal.
b) I don't seek them out, but I recognize them as a necessary part of life.
c) The only good meeting is a canceled meeting.
Having spent several years in the business world where meetings the necessary means of working, I have to go with A, but B is there, too. It depends who is running the meeting and the particular culture of the group you're working with.

2. Do you like some amount of community building or conversation, or are you all business?
It depends on the time alotted, the work to be done and the context of the meeting.
  • If the group meeting is not to be a long-standing group, but just meeting for a few times with a specific agenda, I'm all work.
  • If it is a long-standing group it's sometimes great to do a meal or refreshments before (also cuts down on late arrivals).
  • Ice-breakers are also great when forming new groups... in a work environment these are different, but still quite appropriate.
  • For session, I think a devotion time should be part of the agenda, but should usually be managed within a time slot.

3. How do you feel about leading meetings? Share any particular strengths or weaknesses you have in this area.
No problem. I've moderated many meetings in my past life.

the trick is recognizing when people NEED to discuss something and when they're grandstanding. Reflective listening to restate the ramblers also helps dramatically. It's really understanding the people in the meeting, the sensitivity of the topics and knowing when to keep rigidly to the schedule, when to allow flexibility, when to take a break, to table something; to silence someone or to prompt someone for an opinion; the time for humor [or not], and, with session, when to call a break for prayer. Oh, and when to cancel the meeting or topic because people didn't prepare.

The moderation will make or break a meeting and that will make or break the cooperative climate of the group.

4. Have you ever participated in a virtual meeting? (conference call, IM, chat, etc.) What do you think of this format?
I don't like them. All of the non-vocal communication is removed and many of us rely on that non-vocal communication to really understand. There is also a problem with hearing everyone, people who are loud tend to dominate, and it's easy to run roughshod over anyone who is quietly trying to understand.

5. Share a story of a memorable meeting you attended.
2 hour business meetin with 6 team leaders (1 new), we discussed all the issues from all the angles and were all ready to leave when the newbie slammed her hand on the table and said she wasn't leaving until she had a decision. At this point, we realized we had 5 "P"s and 1 "J".

07 September 2007

From the RevGalPals, the Friday five:

1.Have you experienced God's faithfulness at a difficult time? Tell as much or as little as you like...
yes. Husband didn't get basic concept of monogamy. Church community came around me. God worked in so many ways that I can't even remember them all, but he was always there.

2. Have you experienced a dark night of the soul, if so what brought you through?
When someone first asked me how I was getting through, I had to reply that it was my habit of faith. It wasn't even my faith at the darkest time, it was the fact that I had relied on God for so many years that I continued.

3. Share a Bible verse, song, poem that has brought you comfort.
Well, the one that got me through some of that was Twila Paris (it was a while ago...):
Sometimes my little heart can't understand
What's in Your will, what's in Your plan.
So many times I'm tempted to ask You why,
But I can never forget it for long.
Lord, what You do could not be wrong.
So I believe You, even when I must cry.
Do I trust You, Lord?Does the river flow?
Do I trust You, Lord?Does the north wind blow?
You can see my heart,You can read my mind,
And You got to knowThat I would rather die
Than to lose my faithIn the One I love.
Do I trust You, Lord?Do I trust You?

I know the answers, I've given them all.
But suddenly now, I feel so small.
Shaken down to the cavity in my soul.
I know the doctrine and theology,
But right now they don't mean much to me.
This time there's only one thing I've got to know.
Do I trust You, Lord?Does the robin sing?
Do I trust You, Lord?Does it rain in spring?
You can see my heart,You can read my mind,
And You got to knowThat I would rather die
Than to lose my faithIn the One I love.
Do I trust You, Lord?Do I trust You?

I will trust You, Lord, when I don't know why.
I will trust You, Lord, till the day I die.
I will trust You, Lord, when I'm blind with pain!
You were God before, and You'll never change.
I will trust You.I will trust You.
I will trust You, Lord.I will trust You.

4. Is "why suffering" a valid question?
Ah, this would be why I'm taking a Theodicy course this fall....

5. And on a lighter note- you have reached the end of a dark and difficult time- how are you going to celebrate?
I'm going to Disney World! no, just kidding. I 'm not for the celebrating type of thing, I'm more the "heave a sigh of relief and get back to life" type.

29 July 2007

Well, I've entered the blogosphere.