Friday, November 5, 2010

Revgal Friday Five: It is Well with My Soul

Revgalblogpal Friday Five: It Is Well With My Soul Edition
Kathrynzj has posted an interesting Friday Five:

We lead privileged lives.

True, some are more privileged than others but the fact that we are communicating right now via technological devices puts us in the privileged category.

There are many perks in my life for which I give thanks and then there are some that make everything right in the world during the moment I am enjoying them. I'm wondering what a few of those things - five to be specific - are for you.

It is easy to get into a whinetune about our lives during a recession. But after I worked as a missionary in Latin America during my 20’s, even my working class status was considered privileged. I owned a car—therefore I must be rich! But it was a beggar woman who really taught me how poor I was. It was her generosity that lifted me to understand what it meant to be a child of God who is blessed in ways that have nothing to do with the world’s standards.  Muthah+

1. Last night I bought an Iphone. For me, who has carried an ancient BB for which I could no longer see the keypad, this acquisition is the height of luxury. I haven’t learned really how to use it but I DID text my first message to a friend last night. But it isn’t the phone itself that claims that it is well with my soul. It is more than this item really does ‘make my butt look big.’ (Nothing makes my butt look big—it just IS big—TRUTH!) And even though finances are tight, I have succumbed to keeping up not with the Joneses but with the young people that I am now ministering to in a local campus ministry.

2. Education. Presently I am a part of an international effort within my denomination and I am so profoundly grateful for an education that allows me to understand different cultures, and appreciates the vagaries of values placed upon different understandings of the Gospel. This allows me not to be afraid of differences. In a denomination and a locale in which fear-mongering has been developed into an art form, my education has allowed me to listen a bit more deeply to what is being said by those who are discussing issues “on high C.” This does not mean that I don’t get hooked by some of their comments, but the knowledge and being conversant with a broader world-view allows me to slow the conversation down and listen to the fear that is under outrageous accusations.

3. Love: That old hymn “Love Lifted Me” comes to mind. I could have written Faith or Christ or God or Grace here. But as I really get to it, somehow, somewhere, I was found by love. I didn’t ‘learn’ to love at home, I don’t think. I WAS loved, sort of, but I did not understand that because of the way that love was manifested at home. So, somewhere, somehow love FOUND me. I identified that love in my 20’s with Christ—the incarnated holy first manifested by Jesus. And I have been trying to manifest that love since. I think at one point I would have used the word ‘Truth’ to explain this privilege but now I know it to be something much more relational.

4. Social Media: When I was small, my grandmother lived in a small No. MO town that had a ‘telephone central’. All phone calls were on the same trunk line. My mother remembered the when the first telephones were installed. Now I have an Iphone, a laptop and yet feel woefully out of touch because I have just learned to text. And yet last night I sat and corresponded with friends in Scotland, Canada, Australia, the UK and Uganda. I have no idea of how the technology works. I just know that I can type things in a computer in my lap and the disembodied words from all over the world show up. And often they are words of love and encouragement, of faith and respect. I don’t need a visa; I don’t have to cross any time zones. I find it a privilege to live in an era so that I can do this.

5. A house all on one floor: For the past 8 years I had lived on the 2nd and 3rd floors of an ante-bellum horse barn. Before that I lived in split-level dwellings for 15 years in which stairs were ubiquitous. Interestingly enough the churches I served were mostly on one floor. But since June, J and I are living in a house with NO stairs—not even a step—except in the garage. My knees and my whole body consider this a blessing. God is GOOD, All the time!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday, October 29, 2010Revgalblogpal Friday Five: Comfort Media Edition

Friday, October 29, 2010Revgalblogpal Friday Five: Comfort Media Edition

Katherine posted today's Friday Five:  It is about movies that comfort, but I have gone beyond the movies....Muthah

I don't get to watch that much tv anymore, but I actually wrote today's Oprah show down on my calendar. Why? Because she is hosting a Sound of Music cast reunion!!! Those of you who know me may be surprised that I would care so much about such a stereotypically girly flick, but I love it (although admittedly fast forward through the Reverend Mother's rendition of Climb Every Mountain). I can watch this movie over and over and over again.

It seems no matter how many new movies, tv shows or books come down the pike I still have my ol' stand by favorites that I can watch/read over and over and when I do they actually bring me comfort - like an old sweatshirt or a favorite food.

Today's Friday Five is an opportunity for you to list five of your favorite 'go-to' movies/tv shows/books. You can use images, links, explanations or netflix.

If you play the Friday Five at your blog and would like visitors, be sure to share a link in the comments. For a complete how-to on how to post your link, click here.

Thank you for playing

I didn’t catch Oprah and I am not a DVD fan. We have one but I don’t know how to make it work. So I don’t watch movies over and over unless they are being shown on the TV channels. It takes me a long time to read novels because I am a bit dyslexic so I don’t reread novels too often either. But there are a few movies that I rewatch and a few books I reread that just feel comfortable.

1. For some reason, I enjoy True Lies. I am not a Schwartzeneger fan, but I do enjoy Jamie Lee Curtis and the whole incredible story is just catches me and I laugh at the same jokes over and over. The scene with the Harrier Jet just cracks me up!

2. Any Harry Potter film I will watch again. I have seen them all. I love to go back and see Harry when he was a little kid and then think of him as a grow person as he is now. But I just have always loved the British school scene of Hogwarts.

3. A couple of British mysteries I read over and over: Dorothy Parker’s Gaudy Night and Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time. And now I turn to Laurie R. King’s Folly which I think is the best mystery of the 21st century that I have read. Laurie’s husband attended my church in CA back in the ‘90’s. And I feel privileged to have met her. But that novel touches me in a way that few have. Deeply feminist, deeply attentive to the creative work of women, deeply imbedded in the family systems that often create us.

4. I think that comfort has taken a different turn since I have retired. I find great comfort in writing and thinking about where my life has been and where it is going now. Perhaps it is because I am no longer preaching and this “voice” of mine will out, no matter what, but I am finding comfort in writing about church, faith, lgbtq presence in the Church and where I think that we are headed or where I would like to go. It isn’t memoires, per se. But it is the same kind of energy that I would find in bringing the Gospel to life in the parish. Cf.

5. I have found comfort in cooking in times past. But for some reason I don’t find it as much now that we have moved. I think part of the reason is that I don’t have Wegmans, the supermarket that I loved in NY. My local markets here in FTW are not as foodie-friendly as Wegmans was. The supermarkets here in FTW are so far away that it makes it hard to get excited about coming home from the store and fixing something special. Also, I find that food does not store well here. We can’t buy a gallon of milk and have it last. It sours much faster than it did in NY. Also during the summer, it was hard to bring home delicate items such as chicken livers, or freshly baked bread without it ruining before it could be fixed. My menus have gotten rather prosaic here. Sigh. I guess I will have to find something else that gives comfort.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I have been going to a number of conferences lately. Some have to do with LGBT issues and some have to do with the Emerging Church. All of it has to do with CHANGE. And change is what I try to facilitate as a pastor/priest—the change that comes as a result of being loved by a God who calls us to be better each moment.

While I was still functioning as the pastor of a parish, someone accused me of being a “gay activist”. I was startled by that. I felt that I had been fairly low-key about being lesbian in a congregation. I didn’t demand that the church fly the rainbow banner. I didn’t call for registry with the ‘affirming’ parishes. While a parish priest or a pastor, one cannot, in my mind, be a one-issue person. The demands of serving a parish require what used to be called a “Renaissance Man” or a person who could address a multiplicity of issues. But LGBT issues have been in the view of the Church of late and what I included in sermons was appropriate, I thought, to address the zeitgeist.

But the events of the past couple of months, with the coming to light of numerous deaths by suicide by young gay teens calls for something more than a passing comment in a sermon, or prayers “for those who are alone.” It requires speaking out like the Ft. Worth Councilman Joel Burns and Bishop Gene Robinson have done to preserve our young people who find that they are different.

LGBTQ teens are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. Mostly this is due to just not being able to ‘fit in’. The demand for the young to be acceptable to their peers and/ or their families is often so overwhelming that young people do not know what to do if they find that they are attracted to those of the same sex. Add to that the bullying that is so prevalent in our society (not just in our schools) and the demand by schools and parents that the “gay agenda” be kept from our young, means that LGBTQ kids never get to see good and wholesome LGBT folk to emulate.

Kids know that it isn’t just getting through school. Being gay or lesbian is a life-long recognition that you will always be a minority, that you will never ‘fit in’ and that is crushing to adolescents whose only goal at that point in life is to be just like one’s peers. I have not checked the statistics but I would imagine that the level of depression among LGBT kids is much higher than the average population. I know that my own bouts of depression were often rooted in my identity and my inability to embrace my own sexuality. They began in 7th grade and did not stop until I came out.

But it is the culture of bulling that most disturbs me. Trash talk is considered de rigure these days. Sit coms are full of it. Even when there are gay-friendly shows, the humor is still about being different, being on the fringe. We use bullying in sports so that we can win. We use bullying just to get the basic needs from institutions in order to get what we want or need. The police bully the ‘bad guys’. Our political candidates resort to smear campaigns and bullying rhetoric. We resort to lawyers who bully to maintain our rights from other bully lawyers and we bully nations as a normal foreign policy.

An adult gay couple of my friends had to move just this week because their neighbors threatened them and the police would not do anything even when there were witnesses to the harassment. I am leery about putting a rainbow ribbon on my car here in TX or fly a rainbow flag or wear rainbow earrings in this environment where macho still reigns.

The problem with bullying is that the only way that bullies will stop is to ‘bully back’. “Might makes right” is learned early on the school ground and is carried on throughout our lives. Personally I am not easily bullied, whether due to size or sharp tongue, I am not always clear. But I do not like when I must “bully back” just to be heard, or just to get what is just or safe. I do not like what I must become to live peacefully in this world.

Christ was not a bully. Even in the anger he displayed in the cleansing of the Temple, Jesus was not a bully. He called people to hear a radical message in which manipulation and force were greeted with humility and generosity—difficult tools in this post-modern age.

Yes, I am an activist in my retirement. I am an activist that says that LGBTQ kids do not have to abort their lives in their teens because there are those who interpret some scriptural passages wrongly and heap it on youngsters grappling with their own image. As a person of faith I must be willing stand against those whose religion says that they can demonize people who are different because they manipulate some 7 passages of Scripture to ostracize those who march to a different drummer.

I live now on the ‘Buckle of the Biblebelt’ and I must be willing to say to the bullies of the religious right that the time has come to say NO to religious exclusivism for the sake of the Gospel.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday Five: Connecting

I have somehow lost a day. I have had a mean cold for 2 weeks now. I have done the antibiotics, the stay in bed, the sleep the clock around and still I have no voice. I feel really disconnected and this Friday Five seems to highlight this. In addition I am often stopped dead by the questions that my friends on Revgals (usually Boomers) ask. Some of these question are asked in ways that someone of my generation (Silent? Never! War Babies, always!) would ask them.

So here are some questions to ponder for this Friday Five about connecting with:

1. Self: Who was your hero/heroine when you were about ten years old?

Let’s see, I think my heros at that time were cowboys: Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry. I had only lived in TX for about 6 years at that time and cowboys and Indians was the game we played endlessly. It may have nurtured the Crusader Rabbit syndrome I have.

2. Family: Who are you most like? Who is most like you?

Visually I think I look like my dad. My brother says I look like my paternal grandfather. He knew him; I did not. I have a temper like Dad had to my great shame and burden but in some ways I am like my mom. The nose which so many of us in the family have was my maternal grandmother’s. A noble Crowder nose. But my concern for others I think comes from Mom. But in many other ways, I am not like anyone else in the family. I have always felt that I was the black sheep or the odd duck. But that may have just been from being lesbian. There doesn’t seem to be anyone in the family who is like me either.

3. Friends: How do you stay in touch?

Email! and telephone:  I don’t text yet. When I get a new phone (which will be fairly soon) I will get texting capabilities but that will be AFTER I have had the second cataract surgery next month. I just can’t see the keyboard of my Blackberry. The problem about getting older is that Social Media leaves those of us who were not teethed on the computer in the dust. I find it increasingly more difficult to keep up with technology. I miss much of what the young people are saying and doing simply because I do not understand the jargon of the technoworld. I want to shout, “slow down, you’re going to fast” but it doesn’t seem to do any good. When I ask the young people at the Verizon shop, they smile at me like I am some doddering old biddy; they can’t explain to me how things work because they speak a totally different language.

4. Neighborhood, community: What are ways you like to be involved?

We have just moved to my hometown in June but are still trying to figure out how to get home at times. We have registered to vote but we still don’t know our polling place. We have met our neighbors on either side and across the street. Many on our street are Spanish-speaking only which is a problem for J as she has no Spanish. But at least I can wave hi and comment on ‘la clima’. We are taking our time getting into neighborhood things. I have made contact with my high school reunion group and will assist with our 50th reunion coming up in 2012. Maybe the world will end before that????

5. Job/church: Do you see a need that will help in developing connections?

The bishop asked us to visit the parishes in the diocese. We have been doing that but we want to settle down in one parish or another. J and I usually go to different churches—we find it works out better that way but it doesn’t witness to what we want to say in our relationship. I haven’t really settled down. I can’t figure out where I want to go—where the worship is good so that I can worship OR where I can be a part of a community that I find fulfilling and can assist. They don’t seem to be the same here. But until the Diocese gets it property back from the schismatic group, we both have to be ready to step into parishes if needed. Most of the retired clergy have churches at present.

Bonus: A link or anything else about connecting.

Being a blogger is a connection to a much wider community than I would have thought. Last week I attended the national gathering of Believe Out Loud. I met so many people who knew me from my blogs even though I have not been writing as much lately. Going on B3 was helpful and have made a few connections. I am so aware that the Gospel is preached in so many more ways than standing in a pulpit. I preach so much more effectively from my laptop than I do to 60 people on Sunday mornings. And I am finding that the connections I make with others are important to my sense of well-being. The isolation of the pastorate seems to wither in the face of them.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Church of the Past-The Church of the Future

I am going to a small (2hr) workshop on the Emerging Church today.  I have been reading about the emerging church or the future church for some time now, but have heard very little about how to introduce emerging church principles into already functioning churches.  I have heard about churches being started under emerging church principles of hospitality, post-christian era theology, etc.  But I have not heard how to help a church or a parish to embrace emerging theologies into present Christendom.  If anyone would like to post about what is happening in their churches regards to address, I would love you to comment.

Photo:  Libby Hedrick

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Five: Insomnia

Mompriest is having difficulty sleeping. They are “beast sitting” with extra dogs and cats in the house who feel that the bed is theirs. Bleary-eyed she has posted the following Friday Five:

"A number of my facebook friends seem to have similar challenges sleeping....
So, on that note our Friday Five today will focus on sleep, or the lack there of."

1. Are you prone to sleep challenges? Insomnia, snoring, allergies? Other sleep challenges?

I snore. Even the cat won’t sleep with me. But he sleeps with J. who snores louder and flops around more than I do. Go figure.

Every week or so, I have difficulty going to sleep, or wake in the middle of the night but I have meds for that. I have a hard time GOING to bed. J. is a serious night owl and is most active between 2 and 4 am. My best time is from 9am to about 2pm. If I stay up to have some community, I am not good the next day.

2. When you can't sleep what do you do? Toss and turn? Get up and read? Play computer games?

I read. This is where my Kindle comes in handy. It is not too heavy and it will turn itself off when I go to sleep with it in my hand. I also can have more than one book on hand. If I am too wound up, I read some professional reading: theology, biblical history or something that is fairly dry that will put me to sleep. If I have a gripping mystery, I may stay awake all night.

3. When you do sleep do you remember your dreams? Or just snipets of them?

I seldom remember dreams, just the feelings produced by them. Those feelings often stay with me for a good while after I have awakened. I have tried to write my dreams down, especially when I was in therapy. It never worked. I am just hoping that the confused look I have on my face before coffee is due to my confusing dreams and not Altzheimer’s.

4. Can you share a funny or confusing dream you've had? Or a dream you have over and over?

There is one that I think I have had since I was a child—it is like I am walking on a large vat of milky way nougat that is being stirred in a huge copper vat. (OK, Process Counselor, what can you do with that????)

5. When you don't sleep how do you get through the day? Lots of coffee? or a nap later in the day?

I don’t drink a lot of coffee. But protein seems to help—an egg in a milkshake or something like that helps. A nap often helps. Of course I take my “nice” pills.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I remember when..

There is one thing about being retired: there is a great tendency to reminisce. It is one of the more discouraging aspects of getting older. I have never really been a “give me the good ole days” person. I have always the bear who wanted to get to the other side of the mountain so I could “see what I could see.” With that said, there are some things that I long for from my past:

• I miss a time when people who “talked to themselves walking down the street or driving their cars” were understood to be “a bit tetched” as they say here in TX and not having a conversation on their cell phones.

• I miss when “taking Sabbath time” on Sundays was a given, not just something you fit in between the football game or the kid’s soccer practice, when Sunday dinner was de rigure.

• J. misses the Orange Julius stand. For me, it was snow cones in the summer.

• I especially miss the freedom that children used to have to play in their yards, pick-up games of football or ‘catch’ played in the street and the call of parents at supper-time to come home to a family meal.

• I miss a time when you could pull your car into the mechanic’s shop and you could both put your head under the hood and listen to that strange sound that made you bring it in and the mechanic would say, “let me put that up on the rack and see what the problem is” without having to schedule an appointment. Same thing about doctor’s and vet’s appointments.

• I miss the time when you could depend upon having at least one wonderfully creative gay guy as your hair dresser who would help us helpless dykes figure out what was attractive. Now they are technocrats, lawyers or financial consultants. ( I know, I know—stereotyping is a bad thing, but I’m just sayin’)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Five:De/Re/CLutter?

Jan has left an amazing, timely Friday Five:

Since posting about decluttering, I am still muttering about the need for it in my house. How about you?

1. What things do you like to hang on to?

As the daughter of a saver—my parents were just newly married during the last Great Depression, I save almost everything of any value. J is also the child of savers and would recycle TP if she could figure out how. Even when things are not of value, I am loath to throw it away. I am also not a good organizer so I seldom know where things are. So I am likely to buy another do-jinger to replace the one I can’t find. A luta continua…

2. What is hard to let go of?

3. What is easy to give away?

Clothing that I can no longer wear. But I do pass them on to J first because she can often wear my hand-me-downs and then SHE can’t give them away.

4. Is there any kind of stumbling block connected with cleaning out?

I have often laughed off the comments about my desk.  I always knew where things were:  They were on my desk and all I had to do was dig long enough and I would find it.  Files often defied me.  Once something was filed, I could never remember where or under what topic it was filed. 

As I have said, organization is the most difficult. My brain just cannot seem to figure out where things can go. In this most recent move, I have finally hired some women to come in and help me unpack. They have so far gotten the Living Room and the Kitchen in some sort of order. (One of them has a new apartment and does not have things to go into them. I have been giving her things that she needs if we have too much or too many.)

5. What do you like to collect, hoard, or admire?

I am not much of a collector except for books. J. collects "little things." (paper weights, little figurines, etc. Now that I have a Kindle, that is beginning to help with accumulation of novels and mysteries. Before we moved, we gave away tons of books to the libraries in our area, but we still moved 40 boxes of books. We haven’t even begun to unpack those yet. (Next week’s chore)  What do you with all that fine China that was left to you by great grandmothers but you NEVER use?

Bonus: Tell us about recycling or whatever you can think of that goes along with this muttering about cluttering

Recycling is the best way to go for us hoarders/collectors/conservators. By giving books to the library, I knew that they were going to be valued as I had valued them. By giving my kitchen extras to the new apartment owner, I knew that they would be used. By giving my clothes to a “nearly new shop” I know that someone who needs them will get them.

I HATE fill landfills! And I am having a hard time with the new recycling rules in my town. I grumble and fuss about having to wash out cans and plastic containers. I fret over the over-packaging of all products. And I REALLY don’t know what to do with all the wires and extensions cords that I have accumulated to things that I don’t know what they go to. AND WHAT DO WE DO WITH ALL THAT OLD COMPUTER STUFF THAT WE HAVE IN THOSE BOXES IN THE GARAGE???? Even the recycle guys won't take them.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Memories, memories Friday Five

Sally from Revgals gave us a memorial Friday five:

This year Tim and I have planted and nurtured a vegetable garden, and I have just spent the morning preparing vegetables and soups for the freezer, our veggie garden is producing like crazy and it is hard to keep up with, that said it'll be worth it for a little taste of summer in the middle of winter :-). That got me thinking of the things I treasure, memories are often more valuable than possessions. How about you, can you share:

1. A treasured memory from childhood?

In 1949 I was 4 and we moved from Illinois to TX. My father had asked for a transfer because the northern winters were getting too difficult for his lungs and the doctor had told him to move to the southwest, I don’t remember the move per se, but I remember the train trip that brought my mother and I here. My father and 16 year old brother had preceded us. My father, who had wanted to be an artist and not a draftsman, had made me a coloring book of the event. I have since lost that coloring book, but I can still remember the pictures.

2. A teenage memory?

When I was a junior in HS, I made the state band. It was a great experience for me. The sense of personal worth that came from that experience undid much of the put down I heard at home. It was also from that HS band experience that I got a scholarship to university.  And that introduced me to a whole different world.

3. A young adult memory?

I came to know Christ at 25 and not long afterward entered the convent. The two are not necessarily connected, but I am clear that it was the call of Christ to know him intimately that was the reason I entered religious life. I am very thankful for both of these events in my young adulthood because I learned to pray—various methods and they have all served me well though my ministry and my life.

4. A memory from this summer?

I retired and have moved back to my family home in TX after being away for 38 years. Lots of memories have been coming up since I moved back here. But honestly, I don’t want to remember the agony of moving or do it again!

5. A memory you hope to have?

J and I have been visiting churches in the diocese. Finally last Sunday while sitting in a large parish, I suggested that we need to choose a parish in which we wanted to have our funeral! We have never gone to the same parish and will continue that practice so that we can both have a parish community where we both can be of assistance to the local rector. We also thrive in different kinds of parishes. For years we did that so that people would not think of us as a lesbian couple. So on my part, it was done partly out of fear. A memory I would like to have is for people to respect the relationship that J and I have, honor it and support us the same way that they support others who have made commitments to each other. We celebrated 32 years of living together this year. Married couples don’t generally do so well. Just sayin’….

Bonus- a song that sums up one of those memories

Friday, July 30, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Friday Five: Love the One You're With

Katherinezj has posted today’s Friday questions:

This Friday Five will post while I'm at the beach which for me is more than a vacation destination, it is a trip home. I have found it quite easy to wax nostalgic about the places I used to live (well, except for one) and have begun to wonder what it is I like about the place I'm living now? For instance I sure do love the beach.

And so I ask you to please name five things you like about where you are living now... and as your bonus - 1 thing you don't like.

1. I have just moved back to my family home after being gone for almost 40 years. My parents are dead but my brother and his family live in the area. I feel connected to family once again even though we are not emotionally close. I am just sorry I couldn’t have gotten back here before mom died. But her memories abound.

2. Even though we have not gotten really unpacked (we cannot even get a small car into the 2 car garage, I love our house. It is all on one floor. It is light and fairly easy to clean.

3. When I attended the clergy periscope study last week, a couple of the older priests began to use phrases like “He’s all hat and no cattle” and “it’s dryer than a Sunday afternoon in Abilene”. Such phrases are ‘Texasisms’. Molly Ivins made them famous and Dubyah made them infamous. But they are wonderfully cornpone sets of word pictures that convey so much. I think when I left the state in ’72, I wanted to get away from that kind of speech judging it ignorant and backwards. But over the years I have found such ways of describing things ready on my lips, falling back into rather homespun ways of describing that which cannot be described except in rather artful phrases and humor.

4. Ft. Worth is much larger than Binghamton, NY where we were living. It is nice to be able to go to many different restaurants and not have to duplicate or have a choice of which doctor we can go to or hospital system. Yes, the traffic is a bit heavier, but the road system is easy and so far we have not had to sit in too much traffic.

5. The Church here is one in major transition. The diocese is the remnant of a diocese that chose to leave the Episcopal Church rather than welcome women and LGBT people in the ministry. I was never able to celebrate here when I was active. When I would visit my family, I gave up on going to church. It just wasn’t welcoming. Now, the change is remarkable. The lay folk of the diocese have found their spines and have thrown off a culture of repression by the bishops and clergy of the schismatics. It is fun to be around recently liberated people who are just learning to be Church. It is wonderful to be around joyful Christians.

Bonus: THE HEAT. I am not fond of heat and I knew that I would find it difficult. Getting into one’s car after coming out of A/C is like walking into an oven. But J. swears by the sun. She loves sitting under the pecan tree or even baking out the permafrost of upstate NY winters. But I love the idea of wearing shorts (even tho I don’t look good in them) and sandals everyday and most of all not having a clock that regiments my day.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Five: Decisions

Songbird wrote:

Since I've been in the midst of a discernment process, I've done a lot of reflecting on how we make decisions. But don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to reveal a dark story about a poor decision, or a self-flagellating story about an embarrassing one. Let's keep it simple and go with five word pairs. Tell us which word in the pair appeals to you most, and after you've done all five, give us the reason why for one of them.

Here they are:

1) Cake or Pie

2) Train or Airplane

3) Mac or PC

4) Univocal or Equivocal

5) Peter or Paul

Try not to pull on the big cat's tail when you answer. :-)

1. Pie as long as it has a good crust.

2. Train: my father worked for the Santa Fe so trains are in my blood. But I would rather travel by air.

3. PC . I wouldn’t know what to do with a Mac, however with Vista I might try.

4. Univocal, I guess. But I think I would rather be equivocal. Therein lies the problem.

5. Paul because I don’t believe he said all that stuff about women! (read Borg and Crossens on this) Paul was a preacher and a passionate advocate for what it means to be a Christian. Peter was the gospel writers’ straight man always using him as a foil for the message.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Friday Five: Memory

I was wondering where the Friday Five was. I got up early to do it. I have been a blogging mood the past few days and wanted to get a head start on it. But by lunch time it wasn’t up. Finally Songbird posted this:

No, it wasn't my turn to do the Friday Five, but it was my job to confirm the new person whose job it is, so herewith, the Forgetful Jones Friday Five, complete with Sesame Street video for those who like such things.

a)What's the last thing you forgot?

Where I put the %^$&^ mouse.

e) How do you keep track of appointments?

Since we have moved here we have had to use paper and pencil because we couldn’t get our electronics up and running very quickly. So we now have a wall “At a Glance” calendar that is printed in the same town that I used to work in. J’s stuff and my stuff is written on it so we can remind one another what we are doing.
i)Do you keep a running grocery list?

At the moment ,yes. I like to work from a list when I go to the grocery but I hate trying to keep one because I lose them.

o) When forced to improvise by circumstances, do you enjoy it or panic?

At my age, there are few things that make me panic. As an ENFP, my whole life has been one great riff—improvisation is my middle name. It is why I was never a good Lutheran!

u) What's a memory you hope you will never forget?

My mother contracted a kind of dementia that robbed her of her vocabulary and finally her ability to communicate. Now at 65, I am forgetting words. I have always loved words. I grew up on “Increase your vocabulary” in the Reader’s Digest. I sometimes get criticism of my sermons that I use too large a vocabulary. The greatest fear that I have of old age is that I will forget how to express myself.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ask the Matriarchs

After bidding this blogsite adieu, I have found I need it to discusss things that don't belong on Stone of Witness. This is just one of those occasions-- Muthah+

Ask the Matriarch - When the Senior Pastor Phones it In
Our question this week comes from a lay leader with a sadly common problem: a senior pastor who seems to be biding time till retirement. Our matriarchs have some great wisdom to share. Read on:

I’m a lay person on the governing board of my church, where I’ve been a member about 5 years.
Our pastor is on track to retire within 3-5 years. I’ve had the impression for a long time that he was sort of “phoning it in” and recent conversations with more than one of the church staff indicate this is definitely true with regard to his leadership of the staff…there doesn’t appear to be any. So what ends up happening is that one of the staff who has a very extroverted personality (and who has been a member of the church for many years) is essentially running things…the pastor sits back and does whatever this person suggests. Lots of resentment ensues.

The church has good leadership from an associate and two retired pastors who help out, as well as from dedicated lay leaders. But finances are suffering, numbers are dropping, and the staff and church need more.

What should I/we do? If you were this pastor, what would you hope your board would do?

As one who has just retired, I know that often we get tired or burned out before the date when our pensions begin. It is hard on the congregation and it is hard on the pastor. There are several things that need to be addressed:
1. The sr. pastor’s needs and hopes.
2. The staff’s needs and hopes
3. The congregation’s needs and hopes.
Sr. Pastor’s needs: Often those of us in ministry—and I am guessing that your pastor is close to my age were not trained to take care of ourselves. We were schooled in the tradition of selflessness and sacrifice in ministry and often ignored vacations, self-improvement, continuing ed. and even the support network of colleagues and friends outside of the church. We have also been cosseted and rewarded with esteem and recognition for doing so. So although the thought of retirement seems wonderful and refreshing, it also means such a loss of status and community that it is hard for us to retire. It is a loss that makes us wonder what we have done with our lives. Some of us run from that or we work ourselves to death. Retirement ain’t for sissies!
Another issue is that we are in an era that has shown a decline in church attendance in all the mainline churches. This has never been seen before and it has happened on our watch. There is sometimes an attempt to lay this at the Sr. pastor’s feet by the laity or even the staff but it is a phenomenon being seen in the whole of the Church, not just in that particular parish. It is also part of the conditioning or our particular mindset for us clergy to take this decline upon ourselves. I have seen more depression among the clergy of my age group in the past 15 years than I have seen at any other time in my career. And feelings of failure or an ability to grasp what is happening to the Church faces those of us who are tired and ready to retire. I can understand that Sr. Pastor who is trying to ‘phone it in’. It is hard to keep doing what you have always done only to see it failing or not getting the results you once got. It is hard to face the fact that “maybe you don’t “have it” anymore. But in reality, that is really not what is happening. We need to read Diana Butler Bass or Phyllis Tickle to see that it isn’t our “fault” so that Sr. Pastors can be at the next stage of Church history to give wisdom to the newness that we are being faced with.
But the younger staff needs to know and the laity needs to know that: a.) this downturn in attendance is endemic and not the result of poor leadership b.) this era is unique in Church history in the US and needs both the wisdom of the elder pastor as well as the visions of the younger ordained and lay members to address c.) we have been in an era of anxiety and argumentativeness for the past 20 years and it will take a willingness to listen carefully and with real Christian concern for one another to meet the needs of the parish for the future and d.) there is no quick fix for this situation because it involves the entirety of what it means to be Christ’s to face this issue.
Staff needs and hopes: When on the staff of a larger church it is easy for clergy to get into one’s “own ministry” and fail to see the bigger picture. Also staff members often have a tendency feed on a type of paternalism that sees the Sr. Pastor responsible for all the administration and communication of the staff. Perhaps the staff can collectively work more organically by meeting regularly and charting out what the Sr. Pastor is not being able to do. Staffs need to be more of a family and pick up when one member isn’t doing his/her job so that all can know that the ministry of that parish will continue no matter who is ‘phoning it in’. This allows all the staff the security of knowing that they can be tired, or sick or distracted and that the ministry will be picked up. It is a way that we show we love one another. And it is the way that we can renew ourselves to do that which we were called to. This reminds the Sr. Pastor that all are in the ministry together and allow him/her to reconnect with the congregation and staff.
One particular statement was revealing. The emergence of a single person stepping into the vacuum. This will always happen if the rest of the staff is not willing to work together to provide the leadership. Of course the whole staff, including the Sr. pastor, needs to address the fact that there is a vacuum. This is best done with a consultant and the lay leadership as well as the staff.
The laity’s hopes and dreams: There needs to be an on-going multigenerational team doing visioning for the congregation lead by a member of the staff. It needs to be heavily weighted with the younger members of the congregation yet constantly in contact with the senior members of the parish. The team needs to be reading the pundits of the Emerging Church or other future related observations of Church. They need to write articles for the Church newsletter keeping the entire congregation aware that there ARE new visions in the offing. The retirement of a beloved pastor need not create havoc for our parishes, especially when retirement is 3 and 4 years away. We do not ignore grandmother just because she is old. We let her tell us the stories of how the family developed their love for one another so that it can support us as we address the challenges of your youth.
Even large churches can understand itself more organically than with the organizational models we have demanded of them. They can know themselves as a large family that can love one another just as surely as large extended families can. I believe that we have used the corporate model for churches to our peril. The church must be the family of God and must be willing to love one another when we are doing our jobs and when we aren’t. We need to be willing to give each other the benefit of the doubt and support one another when there are changes in the way we once proclaimed the Gospel. All too often we use the business model in our larger churches so that we can be indifferent or insular or more cut and dry. These are just words for expediency—the curse of the Gospel. The Christian message is lived out in the time ‘wasted’ loving each other, bearing one another’s burdens, helping each other.
Help your Sr. Pastor to re-engage for the sake of his/her soul. Help your staff get honest about the ministry of the whole of the congregation. Help your laity understand that ministry is not the passive reception of the Sr. Pastor’s ministry or the fault of the pastor that the attendance is dwindling. It is the work of you all to live out the call of Christ.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Change of Season

I have been wondering how I was going to communicate in retirement. For some years now I have tried to keep up with two blogs: For A Season and Stone of Witness both at Blogspot. I wish to continue to blog. As an extrovert in a relatively introverted profession and who lives with an introvert, I need some way to express thoughts so that I can come to decisions. It is one of the ways that I formulate and continue to grow and change my opinions, my convictions, come to grips with what is going on in the world, my relationships and ultimately my faith.

For a Season began as a response to The Episcopal Church (TEC) and Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Shori’s moratorium on the election and consecration of LGBT persons to the episcopate. It was a mild but important protest against the loading on the back of LGBT persons the real and now outward and readily apparent power plays of some in the Anglican Communion to make the Anglican Communion into something of their own imagination. But that blog morphed into a commentary on the vagaries of serving across denominational lines when I accepted a call to a small ELCA congregation. Those vagaries were both difficult and delightful. They were frustrating and freeing. And on this blog I found some joy and healing that TEC could not provide. I am thankful that For A Season became what it was even though in the past months I have not posted here.

For A Season, as its name suggests was intended to be temporary. The moratorium on LGBT consecrations has been lifted by TEC and I am no longer serving an ELCA church. But I know I have a readership on this blog that I appreciate and do not wish to lose. I need you because you give me a reason to express myself, grow and stay in contact.

Stone of Witness was a blog that I began when I started to work in the ELCA to address issues in TEC and the diocese I was living in at the time. It became a place where I could speak to the changes that were happening in the Church but it was unequivocally an Episcopal site. I knew my other denominational followers did not follow it as closely as they did For A Season.

I have decided to end For A Season and expand the focus of Stone of Witness. A stone of witness is an ancient custom found in Hebrew literature as early as the Jacob stories of Genesis. When one passed by a place of remembrance, a tomb or grave, a battle site, or a place of spiritual significance, people would place a stone to indicate not only that they had been there, but that they had remembered the original event. Cairns marked holy places all over the Middle East much as churches dot our land, or historical markers grab our attention. The simple act of placing a stone not only said that I was there, but that I valued the event or spiritual experience that had happened in that place. The stone tied the placer of the stone to the event, kept alive the event yet said that I would not forget.
Blog writing for me is a form of remembrance for me. It is a way of describing what is important but it is also a place where I return to find sustenance for my faith journey. It is a place where others find themselves addressing the same issues, wonderments, Scripture, events and sharing their thoughts, feelings and taking away something that may have been left. It is a way of communicating in a faceless world, a way in which God is present and visible in our lives and creation.

So I am inviting all my For A Season readers to join me by attending and perhaps bring a stone of remembrance yourselves. It will not be a singularly Episcopal site. It will be a site at which I will share the thoughts that come and raise their heads at odd moments in the journey of faith and life. I plan to continue to comment on the state of the Church but not only that. And because I am in that life that says is supposed to be retired, I will comment on what that means to someone who probably won’t retire as long as I can think.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Five: Who do you think you are?

Sophia has given the revgals a fascinating Friday Five:

I moved across country for a college teaching job last September, and my mother came to visit for the first time last week. We had a fantastic genealogical adventure tracing the family roots of her father's grandfather, who moved away from this state sometime between 1887 and 1891.

We drove a few hours to their county armed with some names and cemeteries, and wondered if we could locate anyone. It turned out there is an awesome local history room in the public library, with a very skilled librarian library, and with her map and a pile of copied records we struck gold! We found, cleared, deciphered and took pictures of old weathered stones marking members of several family branches in four tiny country cemeteries--the one above is my fourth great grandma. Of particular RevGal interest, we spoke with a friendly and helpful pastor at the United Methodist Church (window above) on the site of the Presbyterian church my fifth great-grandpa helped found in 1814!

1. Do you have any interest in genealogy?

Oh, yes! I love doing genealogy. When we get moved I plan to join and do more work on our family tree. I have already be able to get back 9 generations.

2. Which countries did your ancestors come from?

My mother, as a child, was told to identify herself as “Scots-Irish, Republican and a Campbellite.” She ended up as a Methodist but she was still Scots-Irish and a Republican at the age of 97 when she died. My name is Welsh and my paternal grandfather came from the UK in the late 19th century, so I guess I can claim my heritage as thoroughly Celt. There may be a German great-great grandmother back on my mother’s side somewhere but I am predominantly Celtic

3. Who is the farthest back ancestor whose name you know?

In this country it is 9 generations: Alexander and Elizabeth McKinney who are buried in Vernon, CT, a Revolutionary War vet. In Scotland I found records going back to the 17th generation of a Susan Beatt(ie) in Perthshire.

4. Any favorite saints or sinners in the group?

I am especially fond of the stories of my great-grandmother who came from Scotland at the age of 16 to be the nanny for a wealthy family in Chicago. During the Great Fire in that city she was charged with getting the children safely to the family’s summer home in WI. Later in life when she had lost her husband she ran a boarding house for railroaders in Cedar Rapids, IA where my grandparents met.

The picture above is of my Great-Uncle George, brother of my grandfather. George was 20 years older than my grandfather but it was to George that my grandfather was sent when both of his parents died in the great flu epidemic in Ottawa in 1872. George was an officer in the Raj and spent some significant time in Calcutta. This is a picture of him driving his carriage in Calcutta sometime in the 1890's.

5. What would you want your descendants to remember about you?

I believe I am the first clergy person in the family and I was of the early group of women clergy in my denomination.

Bonus: a song, prayer, or poem that speaks of family--blood or chosen--to you.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I am retiring. I will leave my congregation (Lutherans say ‘congregation’; Episcopalians say ‘parish’) on the 13th of June. J and I will be moving to TX to help out a refugee diocese that needs clergy following the wholesale abandonment of their cures by the bishop and the clergy of the diocese. It will be home again for me. I never thought I would be able to return. But I will be glad to be around family and childhood friends. After living in small towns for the past 15 years, it will be nice to live in a city and close to good symphonies, museums, good medical care and quality restaurants.

Most of all it will be good for me be to be back in my own denomination. I do not begrudge my time with the ELCA in any way. My congregation has been wonderful to me and I have found ways of preaching the Gospel that were new to me. I respect their somber approach to faith and the seriousness with which they take the God experience. But I know I am an Episcopalian. I respect TEC’s ways, theology, liturgy and her wonderful sense of governance. I have missed the TEC’s hymns and harmonies most of all.

I guess I could get nostalgic and think of my “career” as something in the past. However, I don’t feel that way since I have never thought of the priesthood as a career. I think I have used that word to describe my vocation, but it isn’t the way I live it. The priesthood is as much a part of me as my breath. I am not especially fond of the idea of the ‘ontological change’ that is supposed to happen with ordination. Some may describe it that way. I don’t. But I do know that I am a different person than the one that used to teach school or who was a professional musician. I am not sure it happened at the moment of hands being laid upon me. I feel that it has come gradually, grace upon grace as I have tried to live in a way pleasing to God. I do know that grace has come upon me has been because I said ‘yes’ to the priesthood and all that entails. I am not sure that grace would not have come upon me if I had not been ordained—grace has to do with God’s gift, not ordination. But the priesthood was and is how I am supposed to live out that grace that comes unwarranted and teaches me the joys and privileges of life.

I will mourn not being in charge of a parish. I have loved being a part of peoples’ lives in that priestly/pastoral way. I visited a couple of people who are in hospital today and I will miss that. I will even miss some of the vestry meeting or council meeting discussions because I have always enjoyed watching how people grapple with God in their lives even when they don’t want to. I will especially miss sharing the Gospel in the weekly bible studies that I have either attended or taught.

There is not much chance of me just sitting in the pew. I have already gotten emails about taking services for other priests. I am not sure I am a good ‘pew sitter’, but I would like some time to just not be in charge for a while. The only thing that I want to have responsibility for is supper and perhaps the dandelions in the back yard. Perhaps I will be able to find a choir that will have my failing alto. It will be nice to have a bishop who will accept me for who and what I am and not expect me to ‘just be nice.’

I AM tired. I didn’t know how tired I was until I went on a cruise/continuing education trip and found that I could fall asleep any time I sat down with a book. I have not written on my blogs much lately because I have been so tired. I need some time just to rest so that my brain can function again.

Know this, I will continue blogging. My two blogs will be revamped and perhaps even renamed. was originally named for the interim in which LGBT ordination and consecration was placed on hold at the request of the Presiding Bishop. It was her phrase that named that blog. It morphed into a commentary on the Together in Ministry and being a Luth-Episk. became a commentary on the ministry in the Episcopal Church and often times particular to the Diocese of Central NY. How these blogs will be redesigned I don’t know and will probably evolve. Lives change and so does a body of work. But I will always have something to say about the God and Christ and Church that I love.

Stay tuned….

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spiritual Practices: Ancient and Modern

I have just returned from a clergy conference with a group of women clergy. It is a group of women that I have corresponded with over the past 6 years but I had only met one of them face to face. It was an interesting topic that I felt that I could introduce to my congregation before I retired: Hospitality. But as we continued to go deeper into the subject, I found it was not the basic concept of welcoming new comers, or saying “Howdy”. The topic delved into how we were receptive to God and how we could invite the Holy into our lives and consequently invite others, both beloved ones and enemies into that Holy space where God dwells.

Many of the techniques that the director of the continuing education module taught were practices that I had learned years ago when I entered the convent: Learning to quiet the mind and heart, opening oneself to God, waiting for God’s word to settle upon us, and hearing and seeing in a different dimension. The group of women clergy was from several Protestant denominations but none of them seemed to know much about the ancient catholic meditative practices. Some of them practiced yoga, some, Buddhist meditation. There was there still a reticence among some to embrace a “catholic” discipline. I sometimes wonder if we will ever get past that 500 year old catholic/protestant division that we have used so long to identify ourselves.

The conference was held on cruise ship. There was no “Grand Silence” to break, or separation from the “World.” For that I am grateful. I have never liked the great separation of being “in the world but not of it.” I am definitely IN the world and OF that world and so is the God I worship. There is no isolation from the Creation that God has made even if some of the antics around the pool and on the beach were activities that I would not participate in. They are the people of MY world. They are creations just as holy and sacred as I. And when they stop to allow the HOLY to enter into their lives, they know God’s blessing just as surely as I.

So often I believe I have taught parishioners that the Church is the place where God is. I certainly have found the Holy there, but so many are not finding God there anymore. I wonder often what I did wrong—but then I also think that the World now is not the World I have always known. The world of social media is not one that is especially facile one in which to live. The technology goes so beyond what I know and can appreciate. But at the same time I do not want to be cut off from the young, the movers and shakers, the conversations about the Holy that remind me that what I have done in my life is not for naught.

The hospitality of God, the welcome that God calls me to and sends me out to offer to others demands that I be willing use forms of communication with which I am unfamiliar and will continue to be unfamiliar as I grow older. Old-fashioned sermons may not have the effect that they once had if they are not illustrated and music played in the background. Music may have to change to capture the hearts of those who long to enter the hospitality of God. But what about those who are being left behind? Do we just pat them on the head and pass over them? Do we call them to change as I must change?

The ancient practices of meditative prayer are still the meeting place for God and humanity. The ancient clearing (kenosis) of the heart and mind to make room for a loving Christ is still the place where we all meet. The singing of Matins and Compline still speaks of the Holy. The newness must make room for the ancient just as surely as “new occasions teach new duties.” The holiness of that which spans the universes, that goes beyond the Big Bang, that draws us into awe and leaves us incapable to describe the Presence is what is important whether it be worshipped in Church or art gallery, among thousands or in one’s closet, catholic or protestant, Greek or Jew, male or female or somewhere in between. Ohmmmmmm!

Friday Five: What is there to smile about?

With the end of RevGalBlogPals' third annual Big Event, I am wondering who went and what it was like. There must be a lot of smiling from the Big Event! Hopefully, the rest of us are not frowning either.

So let us know how your past week was for you.

I went!!! I am still tired from the trip but exhillerated too so I need some time to contemplate what all went on. Some new things are going on within me that are very positive but still too amorphous to articulate yet.

1. When were you smiling lately?

I think I smiled almost all week! BE3 was wonderful!

2. What happened unexpectedly to you this past week?

A lot of BE3 was unexpected—the Caribbean was a lot colder than I thought it would be. I didn’t expect to have motion sickness—I was merely a bit queasy but with drugs all things were good. I was not expecting to like all the women on the event but I did.

3. How was a catastrophe averted (or not)?

Thankfully one of the sistahs had those wrist band thingies.

4. What was the most delicious thing you ate?

Awesome strawberry souflee with warm crème anglais!

5. Did you see any good movies or read any books or articles?

Been reading Dan Browne’s The Lost Symbol. I am glad it is the Mason’s who have gotten lambasted for their symbolism instead of the Church. It is a hoot of a read. My grandfather was a great poohbah in his Masonic group so I was familiar with some of the symbols that Browne uses. I’m also reading Karen Armstrong’s newest, A Case for God. Haven’t really gotten into it yet, but I usually love her stuff. Love my Kindle!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Travelin' and Packin': Friday Five

Songbird is going on the same retreat that J and I are going on. She has packing on her mind:

I'm preparing to pack my bags for the Big Event Three, and as I gather what I need I'm thinking about just that: what do I *need* to take with me? As a person who likes to pack light, I worry that in the end I may underpack and wish I had other things with me. I own the gigantor version of the bag to the right, but my morbid fear of having it go astray and not get to the ship means I'm more likely to try to pack it all in a carry-on bag instead, especially since I have a very tight connection on the way to the cruise. But won't I be sorry if I don't bring ______________?

With that in mind, here are five questions about packing to go on a trip.

1) Some fold, some roll and some simply fling into the bag. What's your technique for packing clothes?

Let my roomie do it! She folds so neatly and compactly. I never get it right!
The problem is that we haven’t really started wearing summer clothes so we have to get those things out. We are also in the process of moving and we have already started packing for that. The house is a disaster of packing and the remnants of book culling.

2) The tight regulations about carrying liquids on planes make packing complicated. What might we find in your quart-size bag? Ever lose a liquid that was too big?

I only take medications and the stuff I will need on the plane in my backpack. Since it will be cold here when we leave, I have to take a jacket, but once I get to the airport, I stuff it in my big bag and then on the return I pull it out when I get to baggage claim. I always wear a suit jacket with extra pockets for such things as passport, tickets, etc. I have not carried a purse for 30 years so everything goes in the backpack. Let the xray do the rest!
I have had to give up a water bottle or two in the past few years.

3) What's something you can't imagine leaving at home?

My Kindle, my Birks and my laptop.

4) Do you have a bag with wheels?

Yes. Not as pretty as yours, Songbird, but serviceable

5) What's your favorite reading material for a non-driving trip (plane, train, bus, ship)?

I always carry one book for fun, a novel of some kind and one book that is professional in nature. Usually I have some spiritual reading too. Now that I have the Kindle, I can have it all in one unit. Makes packing so much easier. At the moment I am reading The Lost Sign by Dan Browne and A Case for God by Karen Armstrong. I think I will use the Psalter for spiritual reading.
Ooooooh, I can hardly wait!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Belated Friday Five: Redo, Refresh, Restore

We're in the thick of it in church life as we approach the end of Lent. Palm Sunday and Holy Week await. In the midst of this busy-ness, I undertook a little redecorating here at RevGalBlogPals and found a new template for us.

It's the sort of task I like in the middle of chaos, a chance to redo something, to refresh the way I feel, to restore some sense of order.

Please share with us five ways you redo or refresh or restore your body, your space, your blog, anything in your life that needs perking up this week.


Songbird has put up an unusual Friday Five this week.

I have had several temptations to refer to Holy Week as Hell Week over the span of my career. And it has come to mind that this is going to be my last Easter before I retire. It feels a bit more like commencement or graduation than the same ole-same ole. I have found that the week BEFORE Holy Week is really the tough week rather than Holy Week itself because of the planning, music and preparation that goes on. I really try to plan everything ahead so that I can live into Holy Week as a spiritual discipline rather than just perform rituals for others. But of course ‘things’ always happen. Last year it was my mother’s death.

1. Prayer—meditative prayer. I really try to spend an hour of quiet meditation each day especially in Holy Week. It may be turning off the CD’s on my commute, or sitting in my chair with a cat by my side but it is quiet time I devote to being with God. It grounds me in who I am, whose I am, and what I have before me.

2. Look at the World—I try to spend a bit of time drinking in scenery, admiring some spiritual reading, watching something uplifting on TV or on computer. And this is a matter of choice of NOT looking at or reading things that are negative. This is not a matter of avoidance. Holy Week is such a dramatic encounter with Evil in the world, it is easy for me to bottom out in Good Friday and never get to Easter. It is always important for me to keep Easter in the picture—the hope for the world that our Lord had.

3. Looking at property listings in Ft. Worth-- Since I have lived in church owned housing much of my life, it is fun to look at some of the possibilities for a new home where we are moving. I just go on line and think of the future in this house or that apartment.

4. Clean off my desk—I am not the neatest person in the world. But one discipline I often require of myself during Holy Week is to clean off my desk. It may be something akin to stripping the altar, or perhaps seeking out the leven in preparation for Passover. But it is a physical and a spiritual renewal that usually makes the ‘neatnicks’ in my parish happy. But it does say something about welcoming Eastertide.

5. Getting a haircut.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Five: Movies

Revgal Jan has sent a new Friday Five:

Whenever daughter MJ comes home on breaks from college, I get to go to movies, which has me thinking about motion pictures. Plus, it is fun to watch rented dvd's at home, which my husband prefers.

Share your preferences, opinions, and recommendations about movies! Choose 5 types of movies to discuss:
• action
• thriller
• mystery
• drama
• comedy
• foreign
• animated
• children's
• science fiction
• western/cowboy
• ?
Bonus: Tell about the first movie you ever saw and/or the last one!

I am not much of a movie buff. I HAVE seen all the Harry Potter flicks, though, Revmom! ( But then again, I have read all the books!)

I don’t have a certain category that I attend to. Sometimes I go just for the actor: George Clooney ( J. says “sigh!”), Matt Damon, Queen Latifa, Meryl Streep, etc. Sometimes I go for the subject matter: Milk, March of the Penquins?, And sometimes I go because the trailers on TV sound good:

Two of J’s brothers work in Hollywood on sets and such. We have often gone to movies just because we know that they have been listed in the credits. One of them built the room that turned upside down in Nightmare on Elm Street. One of them worked on Fargo. Family loyalty does wonder at the box office!
My earliest movie I think was either Alice in Wonderland (the cartoon version) or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I know I had a record of the music from Alice (one of those little colored 78’s that I sang to for years until my mother almost took it away from me!) I do remember seeing The Wizard of Oz and was very scared.

We are such technical dunces, we don’t know how to work our DVD. One we get moved and we are settled again, we will see if we can figure out how it works again.
At the moment there isn’t much out there I want to see. I missed the Sandra Bullock movie that I wanted to see. We’ll have to wait until Netflicks gets it out.

I saw Doubt last night and it really creeped me out. I couldn’t even watch the whole of it. Streep was awesome in her intolerance and self-righteousness and the guy who played the priest was powerful in his part. The topic is so present to us in our diocese that it was almost too difficult to watch. I will have to gear myself up to watch the whole thing sometime. It is an important flick for these times.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Five: Spiritual or Religious?

Mompriest posted this Friday Five that is quite thought provoking:

Yesterday I attended a led conference by Diana Butler Bass. She is presenting new ideas on the state of the church and why there is hope for Christianity. One of her premises is a Newsweek/Washington Post poll from 2005 that states that 55% of the people in this country describe themselves as religious AND spiritual.

Without going into detail about her understandings of religious and spiritual (you may want to attend one of her conferences, if you can) share with us five thoughts ideas or practices that you consider to be "religious." Then share with us five thoughts, ideas, or practices that you consider to be "spiritual."

For example one thought about religion might be that it is "salvation" Or an idea about religion might be that it is an "institution" and a religious practice might be "going to church." An example of spiritual thought might be a phrase from a poem, a spiritual idea might be the inspiration for a piece of art and a spiritual practice might be meditation.

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


I have been to one of Diana Butler Bass’ conferences but it wasn’t on this topic per se. And there are a few comments that I have come up with re. Spiritual/Religious that I want to make:
First of all, in my mind the two go together because I am truly a church woman. But, I do not mean that spiritual and the institution of the church are necessarily the same. Growing up in any church means that from the beginning of one’s faith, we confuse our relationship with God with the institution and family. The boundaries between the “do’s and don’ts” of parents get confused with the do’s and don’ts of God. Prayer gets confused with liturgy and ritual. We confuse the mega myths of life with the facts of faith and we often use the boundaries of church as boundaries of faith. As we grow we find those boundaries too confining and we jettison those boundaries for something “more spiritual” when all we are doing is claiming the boundaryless dimensions of God. So I come up with the following list.


1. Prayer—usually meditative, contemplative (non liturgical). Allowing me to empty myself of me and inviting God to enter. Centering on communion with the One I love and who loves me more than I can ask or imagine.

2. Music—listening, singing, playing it over in my heart and mind. Sometimes it is religious music but Mahler’s Seventh is enough to fall on my knees.

3. Spending time with a friend or a parishioner at the heart level. I do not have to look for Christ when people get to me at a heart level. It is like an open door to Christ that emerges.

4. Fishing—standing in the middle of a stream with bugs flying off the water concentrating on casting my line with a lightness of hand. Taking in the glory of creation.

5. Driving—I spend so much time on the road these days that there is a meditative element to driving. Most of my driving is on the interstate so it isn’t in congestion so I get to admire the scenery. Once again the glory of God’s hand in creation envelops me.


1. Liturgy—I love the church when it comes together to worship, listen to the Word and gets into worship. My favorite is Christmas Eve which is so magical with everyone with glistening eyes remembering their childhood, children anticipating Santa and hearing the ancient story once again.

2. Church conferences—I love them. I love being around people who are about the same life I am. The business meetings are a bore, but I am usually interested in the way that we shape how we come together: the policy statements, the canons, etc. (Ok, I know I am weird!)

3. The ethos of the Church—Having worked in another denomination for the past 3 years, I know how much I miss the familiar boundaries of my own denomination. My faith is, I believe, is unbounded, but the world in which I live and move and have my being does have boundaries to keep me sane. I love the givens of my denomination: the things that we laugh about, the ways that we discuss our faith. It has been difficult to be in another denomination because I have not been as facile or as glib in it as I am in my own. It has to do with being home.

4. My faith in God is not dependant on Belief. There are no creeds or statements of faith that I even consider when it comes to my relationship with God. (It is why being an Episcopalian is so right for me) So often Religion means “what we have learned about God”. And I think that about half of the parishioners I have had approach God this way instead of inviting God into one’s life.

5. Ritual—All people have ritual. We in the Church have brought ritual to an art form. One of the problems of the present day is that the rituals are changing: the ways that we live have changed. We are no longer living in small towns where all ritualize relationships the same. We are no longer having sit down dinners so that communion has the same meaning. We are not gathering at the swimming hole in the summers to enjoy the dip in the pond. We are no longer finding solace in coming together to mourn our sinfulness. If the Church is going to survive, we are going to have to find new signs of Christ’s presence in our midst and learn what is powerful in those rituals.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday Five: Winter Olympics

Friday Five: Winter Olympics Edition
It's been two weeks of snow, or not enough snow, of heartbreak before the action even began, of snowboards and skis and skates, of joy and sorrow. At our house, we've stayed up too late, and we don't even watch sports any other time!

1) Which of the Winter Olympic sports is your favorite to watch?

I love the ski jumping. I don’t know anything about it. I can’t watch the figure skating—I’m afraid they will fall. I have watched some of the aerials and some of the speed skating. I love to watch the Dutch go nutz. I was interested in the biathlon. And think curling is bizarre. And I loved watching the women’s hockey. But hey, I grew up in TX. We go indoors when it gets below 30!

2) Some of the uniforms have attracted attention this year, such as the US Snowboarders' pseudo-flannel shirts and the Norwegian Curling team's -- ahem -- pants.
Who do you think had the best-looking uniforms?

Bermuda! Shorts in the snow—daft!

3) And Curling. Really? What's up with that?

Agreed! Why am I not surprised to find that it was invented by the Scots in medieval times? I don’t like to use a broom even in my house!

4) Define Nordic Combined. Don't look it up. Take a guess if you must.

Ski Jumping and cross country. Just too much hard work for me!

(There will be a prize for the best answer, but be aware, this is a judged sport.)

5) If you could be a Winter Olympics Champion just by wishing for it, which sport would you choose for winning your Gold Medal?

I would be the Biathlon champ. To be a cross country skier is so much beyond my ken (I have always had problems with my knees just to watch them makes my legs hurt) that it somehow appeals to me. I would like to be able to control my breath and my heart rate like those folks do so that they can shoot. Biathlon requires several kinds of disciplines—cross country, of course and shooting, but a kind of zen concentration that to me is awesome.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Five: Happy Lent!

Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the Paschal Mystery with mind and heart renewed. You give us a spirit of loving reverence for you, our [Mother]/Father, and of willing service to our neighbor. As we recall the great events that gave us new life in Christ, you bring the image of your Son to perfection within us.... (First Preface for Lent, Roman Missal)

1. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras/Shrove Tuesday this year? Any memories of memorable celebrations past?

Not really, I did have ice cream for dessert that night. I was too tired to go to the Shrove Tues. Pancake Supper at J’s church. New Orleans had their Mardi Gras a week early.

2. How about Ash Wednesday, past and/or present?

It snowed pretty heavily on Wed. so we didn’t have very many out for ashes. I ended up “preaching to the choir” in reality.

3. Does your denomination or congregation celebrate "this joyful season"? Any special emphases or practices to share?

Episcopalians are usually very diligent in observing Lent. The Lutherans are more laid back about their Lenten observance—less ‘giving up’ (too Catholic in their minds) and more taking on a practice like Bible reading or service.

4. Do you have a personal plan of give-ups, take-ons, special ministries, and/or a special focus for your own spiritual growth between now and Easter?

This Lent seems to be starting out with a bit more ‘sturm und drang’ than usual. I may just let the season take shape on its own. There are some really dreadful things beginning to raise their heads in the diocese and the parish is a bit wonky at the moment, too. I am about to take a week off—something I have never done during Lent. I need to go to my family home. I won’t be gone a Sunday, but it feels strange having to deal with “family things” during Lent. My family doesn’t observe Lent.

5. What is your dream for the image of Christ coming to perfection in you, the church, the world? How can we support you in prayer?

For the past year, I have been working at trying to control my anger. In the past my temper has gotten the best of me. I have made an important decision not to allow my anger or my tendency to ‘fight before fleeing’ in hand. I have a situation in which some angry folk are coming to me the weekend I return from TX. I need to remain non-anxious so that I can hear them. Your prayers would be appreciated.

Bonus: Song, prayer, picture, etc. that sums up your feelings about this liturgical springtime.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Winnah!

We have a gold medal winner at St. Luke's these days. Robin Haskin's dog Cooper took the best of his breed at the Westminster Dog Show on Tuesday. What a thrilling thing for her and for us her at St. Luke's. Good Goin', Robin!

From Robyn:
I have not been able to answer everyone’s emails and phone calls, but I want to thank you all for congratulating both Cooper and I for his Win at Westminster Kennel Club on Tuesday. We had a blast and thousands of breeders go their entire lives without even getting an award of merit at the Garden and we have been lucky enough to get an Award of Merit on one of our chessies in the past and to now have a Westminster winner in the family, in my Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. It is equal to getting an Olympic Gold in the dog world. So thank you to all for your support and accolades. I am so happy for the next few weeks I will be flying High. I was so proud he showed so well as a young dog to represent his breed and our community.

Thank you,

Robyn Haskin and Cooper

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Transfiguration: Sermon

Transfiguration Sunday
February 14, 2010

Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration. It is always the last Sunday of Epiphany and the Sunday before Lent begins. This Gospel story is found in all three of the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. And there is little variation among those three versions. It is the story of an encounter with God that is experienced by Jesus but also Peter, James and John in which Jesus is seen talking with Moses and Elijah. And in the Gospel of Luke, there is one phrase that is different from the other Gospels:

They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

Moses and Elijah are speaking with Jesus. The word for “departure” is the word exodus—it is a word that connotes that there is a religious meaning to his journey to Jerusalem. This is not mere travel to the great city of David; it means that there is something of God’s holy acts going to be accomplished in this journey. This is not a business trip to the nation’s capital; it is the accomplishment of the salvation of all creation. It is his journey to his death on a cross as well as his resurrection to new life and glory.

Why is this story so important to us today? What do we learn of God or Jesus and how does it help us live our lives embracing the fullness of Christ? What we see in this passage is the kind of encounter with our faith that we all long for. It is seeing Jesus while he prays being transformed into all that he is to be. In conversation with the heroes of the faith, Jesus is transformed—his face shines like Moses’ did when he came down from Mt. Sinai with the teachings of God. We see in this passage the possibility of the kind of encounter with God that changes us—that accomplishes the divine purpose that God has for US just as surely as God has for Jesus.

Peter, spokesman for the mere mortals, offers to make booths or tabernacles for the great ones so that they can remain on the mountain rather than down in the valleys where ordinary life continues. But in the cloud the voice of God descends upon Peter, James and John and identifies Jesus as the Son and to LISTEN to him. The transformation is to be accomplished by listening to Jesus. Transformation is not merely a mountain top experience. Transformation is the hard work of becoming what God has in mind for us. Jesus must embrace the journey to Jerusalem and all that entails for him to be all that he is.

Now, I am not speaking of predestination here. Jesus is not DESTINED to die on the cross. He CHOOSES to make the way of the cross because that is how he best can teach the world what self-emptying means, what real living really means.
All too often we find living to be somewhat bland. It seems rather relentless—we work, we play, we raise families, and then are somewhat disillusioned by the seeming lack of meaning it has to it. But life isn’t worth living unless we have found a way to give it away. The accumulation of things, success, even happiness pales if there isn’t a way to empty one’s self of SELF to embrace the fuller life of helping others, making the world a better place, fighting injustice. This isn’t mere humanism. It is at the root of faith. And it is interesting all the major religions of the world have this rootedness in this self-emptying. In Christianity, however, this emptying is found in the single act of Jesus’ embracing the Cross. His act of self-emptying brought about a change in the whole equilibrium of humanity. No longer were we destined to live out meaninglessness through sin and selfishness. He saved us from the kind of inanity that is the result of self-service and personal aggrandizement. His journey to the cross reminded the world that unity and wholeness is more important than the need for satisfaction.

The Transfiguration is our story too. It is not merely that Jesus could shine on the mountain top. The Transfiguration is the story that each and every one of us is invited to that opportunity to choose what our lives are to be. Do we choose to merely return to the mundane valleys from our experience of Christ? Or do we allow ourselves to empty ourselves of our selfishness, or self-centeredness?

This past week I saw on TV a story about Nelson Mandela. He was a man who spent more time in prison than he did free, but led his people out of slavery in Apartide in South Africa to embrace the bitterness so that it had no hold on him. The effort at forgiveness and reconciliation to which Mandela led his people was remarkable and unheard of in Africa. You hear of individuals forgiving. But you do not hear often of a concerted effort by a whole nation to enter into a process of forgiveness and reconciliation so that a nation can heal and move on. For a short while during my tenure in Washington, DC, I had a South African priest who was ethnically Chinese serving at my parish. He was on sabbatical learning of the approaches to minister in the HIV AIDS community—a serious issue in his country. He shared with me many of the ways that Mandela embraced the changes necessary for his country to keep from devolving into anarchy in the early 90’s. “We had been angry for so long” he said, “that we had to have a way to ritualize how we could be a peace with one another. It wasn’t a matter of getting the other to change—it was how we were going to change to keep our nation from becoming a blood bath. We finally realized that if we didn’t forgive, we would not survive.”

The Transfiguration is the story reminds us that we MUST change in order to survive. We must change as a congregation in order for any successive generations to find a home here. We must change individually no matter how righteous we are to choose to empty our selves of our selfishness, no matter how old or young we are so that we may find meaningful lives. We must change as a Church to find in other Christian the life that embraces others whose beliefs and practices are just a worthy proclamations of Christ so that Christ’s mission is not mocked. We must change as nations and cultures so that we can find in emptying ourselves of our nationalism and pride we can find a commonness of humanity in Christian love. We must be willing to embrace the journey to Jerusalem just as surely as did our Lord.

On Wednesday, we celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. We ritualize this time of turning our face toward Jerusalem. Together we will begin this self-emptying. We need to know what it means to be forgiven. But more, we need to know that we are about the kind of transformation that comes when we give up our selves for the sake of others, when we live out the kind of mercy that we want to receive, or when we provide the justice to others that we hope to receive. To be transfigured is not being zapped by God. It is the painful effort of self-denial. It is the hard work of self-emptying so that real meaning fills your life.

The last part of our Gospel reading this morning is a strange story. Jesus returns from the mountain only to find that there is a child that needs healing that his disciples, even though they have been given the power earlier in the chapter, are unable to heal alone.

We are unable to heal ourselves alone. My South African priest friend said that the without the faith in Christ, South Africa would not have been able to heal. Unless we are willing to put ourselves in the hands of God, we cannot know the healing that is necessary to have meaningful lives. The ability to change ourselves is just not ours. It is God’s grace that allows us to make the changes in our lives. Ask any one in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction. It is only through the grace of a power greater than one’s self can that kind of change be accomplished. It is through the grace of God that we can embrace the kind of life that memorializes Jesus.
So I invite you to embrace the Transfiguration as your own. Allow yourself to imagine yourself as God would have you. Then I would invite you to set your face toward Jerusalem—to embrace the pain and selflessness that it will require to accomplish that. Then I would invite you to spend Lent in practicing the self-emptying necessary for God’s vision for you to be lived out. You will find that you will have a holy Lent. AMEN