Monday, December 29, 2008

I'm IN!

So, the real reason I started this blog is because I have been reading the revgalblogpals blog for over a year, and, well, I want to be a cool revgal too! When I finally got my preaching license I thought it would be a good time to start. And now, today, when I haven't written anything for weeks - I'm a revgal! Thank you Mompriest for introducing me, and I will try to become more faithful at writing now that people may even actually read what I write (wink)

I don't have a lot of time for formatting here, suffice to say I love to read revgals and there are a couple of you whose blogs I follow...and I like to see what you are doing, look at your photos, and read your fantastic writing. I would love to meet you all IRL, someday. And I hope to post here more often and give my take on life in this old rust belt town where Starman and I are working and raising our family.

Blessings to all on this 5th day of Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2008

RGBP Friday Five - Windows of the Soul

Sophia over at RGBP writes:
This Friday Five is inspired by my husband's Lasik surgery yesterday....He'd been contemplating it for a while and was pushed over the edge by the fact that we put too much money in our healthcare spending account this year and it would have been gone anyway. (There was only enough for one eye, but the kind people at the eye clinic figured out a way to divvy up the charges between surgery and followup in January=next year's spending account). So please say a little prayer for his safe recovery and share with us your thoughts on eyes and vision.

First of all, Sophia, prayer said - and I hope the recovery goes well!

1. What color are your beautiful eyes? Did you inherit them from or pass them on to anyone in your family?
I have blue-green eyes, not quite hazel. Starman's eyes are almost the same color. Skye's eyes are blue gray, and really quite beautiful - she has had comments made on her eyes since her birth. Freckleface also has big blue eyes, but Brown Eyes, the 4 year old has - you guessed it - brown eyes, and has since she was born! How did two blue eyed parents have a brown eyed baby? I have no idea!

2. What color eyes would you choose if you could change them?

A little deeper blue would be nice, but really, I don't mind my color at all.

3. Do you wear glasses or contacts? What kind? Like 'em or hate 'em?

I have worn corrective lenses since 3rd grade, and contacts since 9th grade, when I started running track. After so many years with contacts, I find wearing glasses really annoying, and when I must wear them, I feel very unattractive and nerdy - of course, part of that issue is that I AM a nerd, with two science degrees, so perhaps I should embrace the part? I know I will need to go the bifocal route soon, and I am not looking forward to that!

I have a "lazy eye" like my dad, and he at 65 or so gave up driving because of eye problems - so I wonder if things will get worse down the road. I dread going to the eye doctor because I really just can't see well out of my right eye at all, even with correction it is still about 20-40. I always tried to memorize the chart when I was younger, but now I just admit, I can't see! Fortunately, my left eye is pretty good

4. Ever had, or contemplated, laser surgery? Happy with the results?
No surgery here, too expensive for me, and I am so used to wearing the contact lenses.

5. Do you like to look people in the eye, or are you more eye-shy?
I am definitely someone who likes to make eye contact with people. WHen I preach, I find myself focussing on one person, then another, for just a split second, but I try to be careful about that so they don't think what I say is meant "just for them" in the wrong way! But I find face to face conversation very important - I can tell a lot about how a conversation is going by looking someone in the eye.

Bonus question: Share a poem, song, or prayer that relates to eyes and seeing.
I was going to share Brown Eyes' song which is of course, Brown Eyed girl, but many of you have shared that already. I thought of one of my favorite Elton John songs, but I am too tired to figure out how to post a link, so I will just include the lyrics here:
Your Song
It's a little bit funny this feeling inside
I'm not one of those who can easily hide
I don't have much money but boy if I did
I'd buy a big house where we both could live

If I was a sculptor, but then again, no
Or a man who makes potions in a travelling show
I know it's not much but it's the best I can do
My gift is my song and this one's for you

And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it's done
I hope you don't mind
I hope you don't mind that I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you're in the world

I sat on the roof and kicked off the moss
Well a few of the verses well they've got me quite cross
But the sun's been quite kind while I wrote this song
It's for people like you that keep it turned on

So excuse me forgetting but these things I do
You see I've forgotten if they're green or they're blue
Anyway the thing is what I really mean
Yours are the sweetest eyes I've ever seen

Thanks Sophia, for a Fun Friday Five!

Friday, December 5, 2008


So, how do you thank two friends whose favors you could never return? I am feeling exceedingly grateful today. This week, my friend MusicMaker took two days out of her hectic family and work schedule to drive me 8 hours away to a nearby state. In that state lives a friend and her family who used to be our neighbors. This loving friend, SaltOfTheEarth, gave me, that's right, gave me, her car. It's a 1995 Toyota Camry, it has 108K miles on it and it runs just great.

I am in awe. I am amazed. I hope I can somehow pay this forward someday. Now Starman doesn't have to walk in the rain and sleet and snow to pick up the girls from school while I am at work. Now we can get the girls to different places at the same time. Now, I don't have to drive a gas-guzzling minivan 90 miles twice a week just to get to the church. Wow.

Thank you, MusicMaker. Thank you, SaltOfTheEarth and your families, too. What could I ever do to deserve such wonderful friends?

Advent Simplicity, light and beauty Friday Five

Sally over at RGBP writes:

"Imagine a complex, multi-cultural society that annually holds an elaborate winter festival, one that lasts not simply a few days, but several weeks. This great festival celebrates the birth of the Lord and Saviour of the world, the prince of peace, a man who is divine. People mark the festival with great abundance- feasting, drinking and gift giving....." (Richard Horsley- The Liberation of Christmas)

The passage goes on, recounting the decorations that are hung, and the songs and dances that accompany the festival, how the economy booms and philanthropic acts abound....

But this is not Christmas- this is a Roman festival in celebration of the Emperor....This is the world that Jesus was born into! The world where the early Christians would ask "Who is your Saviour the Emperor or Christ?"

And yet our shops and stores and often our lives are caught up in a world that looks very much like the one of ancient Rome, where we worship at the shrine of consumerism....

Advent on the other hand calls us into the darkness, a time of quiet preparation, a time of waiting, and re-discovering the wonder of the knowledge that God is with us. Advent's call is to simplicity and not abundance, a time when we wait for glorious light of God to come again...

Christ is with us at this time of advent, in the darkness, and Christ is coming with his light- not the light of the shopping centre, but the light of love and truth and beauty.

What do you long for this advent? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? What is your prayer today?
In the vein of simplicity I ask you to list five advent longings....

1. I long for my children to know what it means that their God came to earth in a little baby, that this baby grew just as they are growing, that this baby came for the whole world

2. I long for myself to find a balance between worshiping and decorating, gathering with friends and finding time alone to be in God's presence.

3. I long for a way to be able to give more - more out of my pocket, more time, more freely, to those who are truly in need.

4. I long for those who are in need to know some peace this season, to be warm, to be fed both physically and spiritually.

5. I long for peace, here in my community, in our country, in the world. True peace.

May each of you be blessed with satisfaction of your own longings this season. Thank you Sally, for a chance to reflect on this cold and gray December morning.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mix and Stir Friday Five

Songbird over at RGBP writes:

In a minor domestic crisis, my food processor, or more precisely the part you use for almost everything for which I use a food processor, picked the eve of the festive season of the year to give up the ghost. A crack in the lid expanded such that a batch of squash soup had to be liberated via that column shaped thing that sticks up on top.

Can you tell this is not my area of strength?

Next week, I'm hosting Thanksgiving. I need your help. Please answer the following kitchen-related questions:

1) Do you have a food processor? Can you recommend it? Which is to say, do you actually use it?
Starman is the cook. We got a cuisinart as a wedding gift 19.5 years ago, and we like it. Every week, he uses it to make pizza dough (Thursday night is pizza night). Other than that, we use it rarely. It has a home in a cabinet under our buffet.

2) And if so, do you use the fancy things on it? (Mine came with a mini-blender (used a lot and long ago broken) and these scary disks you used to julienne things (used once).)
Nope, uh-uh. Too scary looking!

3) Do you use a standing mixer? Or one of the hand-held varieties?
I bought a Big Honkin' Mixer last year. I LOVE it. I really like to bake, especially cookies, but my arm and shoulder could no longer handle mixing stiff dough. Now I make cookies way TOO often! But it is so easy, and they come out great!

(And isn't that color delightfully retro?) Yes! I love it! Our kitchen in my growing up house was just that color, a la 1970s. Mine now is black, matches our appliances, but not quite as cute!

4) How about a blender? Do you have one? Use it much? Yes, also got a blender as a wedding gift in 1989. The color of the base has turned sickly yellow for some reason, but it still works. During the summer, the girls get "slushies" of juice and ice almost every morning.

5) Finally, what old-fashioned, non-electric kitchen tool do you enjoy using the most? Gee, all I can think of is that I MUST have a complete set of measuring spoons and cups on hand for my baking. And I recently lost my pastry blender, and have yet to find one that is up to the job. Good cookie sheets are also worth their weight in gold. Anything else, ask Starman!

Bonus: Is there a kitchen appliance or utensil you ONLY use at Thanksgiving or some other holiday? If so, what is it?
Probably the baster, and the potato masher.

Songbird, I would say go for the Big Honkin Mixer - it is way cool! Have a great Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No More Whining

OK, I am done with whining. Yes, my husband is out of town and it snowed and two girls have been ill, and then last night little Brown Eyes fell and cut her chin open, necessitating a trip to the emergency room and some special glue to stick her back together.

BUT really, I don't have much to complain about. I don't have any big work responsibilities this week, so I can be housefrau and not get concerned. I have a warm house, a good running car, in short, I have it pretty easy. And Starman will come back Sunday and won't be gone for a good long time. So that's it. I am done complaining. I hope. Give me strength!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

There Must Be A Law

There must be a law, really. My girls are generally VERY healthy. They rarely get ill. Starman left last Thursday for 10 days in Argentina. He is unreachable except I know he will TRY to call every night.

Thursday night, Freckleface woke me up at 12:30 am saying she was feeling like she was going to throw up. I spent about 45 minutes with her, and when she didn't, I went back to bed. The next day she told me she had barfed 4 times. She never woke me up, and cleaned up after, she stayed home Friday. Thankfully, she seems better now.

Today, Skye woke up and said her throat was really sore. It has been "itchy" for the past couple of days. We went to church #1, skipped church #2, and came home. AFter lunch she collapsed in bed. She has a fever of 102 degrees.

It isn't fair. How come I have TWO girls getting sick with different viruses all in the four days since Starman left? Thank goodness I don't have to preach next weekend, but really, there must be a law. A law that says "when the spouse leaves, the kids will get sick" and another law that says THIS JUST ISN'T FAIR! For the girls, who need extra care, or for me, who can't give it to them and do everything else too.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

Yesterday, I celebrated my first baptism, of a 50 something year old bachelor who has been coming to our little Saturday night service for about 8 months. He is quite shy, but has a good sense of humor. I like him a lot. He has been going to membership classes for the past month and wants to join the church, and found out by asking his mother, with whom he lives (and who has never been to our church) that he had never been baptized. So yesterday at about noon I got a phone call from our parish visitor telling me that he hadn't been baptized, and would I baptize him after the service?

Well, I don't really believe in private baptisms. So I tried to call him but got his mom instead. Then I finally reached him. He didn't want to do it at first, but he was pretty easy to convince. When I got to the church, I sat with him for a couple of minutes. "We are your family" I said, "and we want to share in this." He agreed quietly.

When it came time for joys and concerns, I told the congregation we had a big joy to celebrate, and he and the parish visitor came forward. We went through the entire order of service from the United Methodist Hymnal. I got to pour the water, play with it, and finally got him quite wet with a Trinitarian dousing. It was really powerful for me, and I think for him too. This morning he told WisePastor, the senior pastor, that he was really glad I got him to do it with the whole congregation rather than by himself.

Another milestone in my life as a pastor. Some (well, really most!) days being a pastor is the only thing I ever want to be. That, and a mom, although I could do without cleaning up after everyone (Starman is in Argentina!)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Remembrance Day Friday Five

Sophia (formerly known as Mother Laura) over at RGBP writes:
Earlier this week the U.S. celebrated Veterans' Day, known in many other countries as Remembrance Day. At this time last year I was commuting to a postdoc in Canada, and I was moved by the many red poppies that showed up there on people's lapels in honor of the observance. Unlike a flag lapel pin, which to me has political connotations and implies approval of our current war, the poppies simply honor the sacrifice and dedication of those who have followed their consciences by serving--sometimes dying--in the military.

This week's Friday Five invites reflection on the theme of remembrance, which is also present in the feasts of All Saints, celebrated in many liturgical churches on November 1, and All Souls--known in Latin@ cultures as the Day of the Dead--celebrated in some the following day.

1. Did your church have any special celebrations for All Saints/All Soul's Day?
on All Saints Day, November 1, I was preaching and leading worship, since it was a Saturday night. We had a table with candles, and the other associate pastor read names while I lit the candles. A bell was rung as each name was read - 24 this year in this parish. One was the first funeral I have ever done, last Thanksgiving, and her widower husband and daughter were there - I was so glad to see them. We also showed pictures of each one on our screen in the sanctuary. It was quite powerful. I preached on the All Saints theme as well.

2. How about Veterans' Day?
I did mention in during my prayers, but we had no special service or hymns during the service. I am a dove, but I strongly support those who have sacrificed so much. I wasn't quite sure how to deal with the whole issue during a normal church service though...

3. Did you and your family have a holiday for Veterans' Day/Remembrance Day? If so, how did you take advantage of the break?
The girls did have the day off from school, two of them, the four year old did not. Thankfully my parents were visiting and took the two older ones to the NASA museum nearby, a treat for my dad, who worked on rockets for part of his working life as an electrical engineer. I had to work.

4. Is there a veteran in your life, living or dead, whose dedication you remember and celebrate? Or perhaps a loved one presently serving in the armed forces?
My dad was a sergeant in the Army for two years, serving in the Army Corps of Engineers in Germany during the Korean conflict. It had a profound impact on his life, and especially made him angry when Vietnam vets were treated poorly on their return to the US. Other than that, most of the people I am around are, like me, pacifists.

5. Do you have any personal rituals which help you remember and connect with loved ones who have passed on?
I often share memories of my grandparents, especially my mother's mom, with my girls. And I see snippets of her in them. Whenever we go back to Wilmette, I make a point to stop and spend some time in the cloister garden of our church there, where the ashes of two of our born-too-soon sons are buried. I am not a "date oriented" person, but at times will remember their birthdates (December 31 and February 2) as well as their due dates, but it is a private memory.

Thank you, Sophia...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Oil Reserves - sermon for Pentecost +26A

In our Old Testament reading for today, we come upon the Israelites as they have finally reached the Promised Land. We have skipped over much of the book of Joshua, including Joshua’s crossing of the Jordan into Canaan, the conquest of Canaan by Israel, and the allotment of Canaan to the 12 tribes of Israel. The Israelites have now settled in their new land, and so Joshua asks them, “whom will you serve?” What is your choice, now that you have finally gotten where you have wanted to go for so long? Will you choose to follow the Lord, or will you choose another way?

Choices. We have just gotten finished with making some choices, haven’t we? Whether you voted absentee or stood in line last Tuesday, the time for making choices for who will be President of the United States for the next four years, who our judges will be, whether or not we will have casinos in our state – all of these choices have been made. If you didn’t vote, then the choices were made for you. But I hope you did, and I hope you took the opportunity to make your voice heard.

Sometimes it seems as though we make a thousand choices every day. As a mom of three young girls, I am faced with not only my choices but their choices as well, as they turn to me for decisions. “Do I need to wear my winter coat today?” “Can I watch TV now?” “Can I have a piece of my Halloween candy?” Often, these choices don’t have clear consequences, and I find myself wondering if I should say “yes” or “no.”

The Israelites don’t really have a “mom” they can ask to help them make their decision. But they do have a choice. God isn’t going to force them to serve God. The Israelites can choose to be incorporated into the local culture, worship the local gods, or go back to serving the gods of Egypt.

What makes it easy for you to make a choice? What makes it difficult? I am sure there are some choices we make every day, choices that are good for us or bad for us, that we make without a second thought. Things like what we will have for breakfast, what we will wear, whether we will return a phone call or an email, or even answer the phone. What does it say about the human condition that so much of what we are and how we define ourselves is lived out in the choices we make? What do the choice we have and the choices we make tell us about God?

And by the way, sometimes those little choices add up to becoming one big choice. Sometimes those little choices lead us to a place where we realize that we've made the wrong choices. Sometimes making small bad choices put us in a place where we are find ourselves with no choice at all. That little warning light on the dashboard means it's time to get the car serviced. It's a busy life, so we can put off the trip to the repair shop one more day, right? Then days stretch into weeks, and before you know it, you find yourself and your disabled car on the side of the road, facing a major bill for a new transmission, not to mention the towing fee and the fact that you just missed your critical appointment. Small choices sometimes lead to big consequences.

We as a nation have made those kinds of choices over the years. I have titled this sermon “Oil Reserves” mostly because of the gospel story, but when we think of this term literally, we are faced with the crazy shortage and supply and demand economics we went through this summer as oil prices topped $100 a barrel and gas prices were above $4 a gallon. At that point, many of us made choices – choices to stay home or combine our errands into one trip. Choices to not go on a car vacation or to walk to places rather than to drive. Some of us even made a choice to buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle, if we were able to make that choice. I thought about getting a motorcycle for my weekly trips out here from our home in Cleveland Heights, but then I realized that riding a motorcycle in the winter doesn’t really work.

How do little choices add up for you? Since you are here, I can assume that you have made the choice the Israelites made – as they told Joshua not just once, but three times “We choose to serve the Lord.” What does that mean for you? What does it mean for you to serve God? What does it mean that God gave the Israelites this choice anyway? If God is all-powerful and since the people of Israel were God's people, why didn't God simply command them to serve? You must serve God! End of story. Why give them a choice, especially when the Israelites have such a track record of making poor choices.

What does it mean for us today, as Christians to have a choice about how we will serve God. You may think that you have already made this choice. After all, here you are. But in fact, do we not need to decide over and over to what it means to serve God? Doesn't choosing to serve God mean a lifetime of making this same choice over and over?

For me, choosing to serve God can be reflected in a thousand little decisions that I might make every day. Little decisions, like whether we are going to have an Advent wreath in our home and do a devotion with the girls each night. Or whether I will try to say prayers with them before they go to bed, even when they don’t really want to and I am feeling pretty tired and not much like praying either.

What choices do you have to serve God every day? What are the decisions you must make over and over again? Decisions like whether or not it is just too nice outside to go to church this week, or whether you should call that person who sits next to you in worship who hasn’t been here for a couple of weeks. Decision about what it means to actually live out a life of service to God by serving our neighbor.

Perhaps can think of those decisions we make, the ones where we choose to serve God, as a kind of oil – oil for our lamps.

Our Gospel lesson for today is the story of the ten bridesmaids, and it can be a difficult passage to hear and understand. We read in the gospel that the bridesmaids were waiting outside of the banquet hall, waiting for the bridegroom. To gets some context, we need to understand the wedding customs in first century Palestine. Weddings in those days didn’t start at a particular time, but instead began whenever the groom arrived. The bride got herself ready and waited. And in this case, waited and waited. As the preacher Sharyl B. Peterson writes,

When guests received an invitation for, say, 4:00 Saturday afternoon, the wedding itself might start Saturday afternoon, or it might start some time Saturday evening, or perhaps on Sunday morning, or maybe not until Monday or Tuesday.

The possible hold-up wasn’t the bride but the bridegroom. Bridegrooms were busy, working people, and time was understood quite differently in the Middle East in those times from the way we understand it here today, and you didn’t hurry these things. So, the wedding ceremony started whenever the bridegroom got there, and you never knew just when that might be.[1]

So the bridesmaids wait. And they all fall asleep, despite the admonition at the end of our passage to “keep awake”. But then when they are awakened to learn the bridegroom is about to arrive, there is a problem. Some of the bridesmaids have extra oil for their lamps, just in case their wait was longer than they anticipated. And some have not.

Now, at this point, the bridesmaids who have the extra oil don’t share their oil with the others. Instead, they tell them to go out to buy some more. And by the time the “foolish” bridesmaids return, the doors to the banquet hall are closed, and they have been locked out of the festivities.

It doesn’t seem really fair, does it? Why don't those bridesmaids who have the oil share with those who do not? Where is God's grace here? Where is the grace for those bridesmaids?

There is a children’s song that goes along with this passage that I most recently heard performed by the Veggie Tales – those animated vegetables that act out Bible stories. They sing:

Give me oil in my lamp keep me burning

Give me oil in my lamp I pray

Give me oil in my lamp keep me burning

Keep me burning till the break of day

It goes on like that, with the next verse, Give me joy in my heart keep me singing, and then - Give me love in my heart, keep me serving. I am sure you could think of some others (there is one “give me gas for my Ford keep me running for the Lord”, but that doesn’t really help me with my point here).

It's worth remembering that the story of the bridesmaids is a parable, and the oil in the lamps is a metaphor for something. And, to my thinking, it would be a mistake to think of the oil as some kind of transferable commodity, something that can be bought and exchanged, having monetary value. No, I think the oil instead represents something much less tangible, something that is not easily transferred from one person to another. To me the oil in the lamps might represent the choices that have been made, the choices over a lifetime, the choices we make to serve God. And each time we make a choice for God, we fill up our lamp with a little more oil.

Now, just to be clear here, I don’t want to say that it is our job to judge the foolish and the wise bridesmaids, or that somehow we can pile up a list of good deeds that will allow us to enter the banquet – to join Jesus at the heavenly banquet. I really do believe that the grace of God's love is available for all, everyone, and that there really are no actions we can take, no choices we can make, that can deny us this grace in the end. All of the bridesmaids had access to oil before the wedding. God's love is available to everyone.

The question for us, then is what we choose to do with the gifts of God. Will we chose to serve God all of our days? Or will we make foolish choices, choices make it harder to see and understand the love and grace that God has offered us. The gift of God is the ability to make a choice. The oil in our lamps are the consequences of our choices. When we do good things for others – especially when we join together in Christian community with one another – and when we spend our time cultivating our relationships with others and especially with God – we are adding oil to our lamps.

And what does this oil bring us? Why is it important to keep our lamps trimmed and burning? Because when we have lived a life of choosing to serve God, we are prepared for any eventuality. We know that God is with us, no matter what life's journey brings to us. When we reach times of stress or pain - as we all will - we will find ourselves turning to God for comfort and hope. That turning, that opening of ourselves to God’s healing presence, will not be an easy one. But perhaps it will be somewhat easier, if we have already spent our lives turning to God. When we have already taken the time to cultivate our relationships, to be there for others, to really know one another in our communities, especially our community of faith, then we have the oil we need to get through good times as well as bad times.

As most of you know, before I had my three beautiful daughters, my husband and I endured many pregnancy losses. Of course, these were times of great grief for us, times when we didn’t know what we were going to do next, times that tested our faith.

But the last miscarriage I had, on New Year’s Eve 1997, turned out to be one where I found out about spiritual oil. I started seminary in the fall of ’97, so after the miscarriage, I returned to the seminary one cold January morning, just in time for the chapel service. I hadn’t personally told anyone what had happened to me, but the community, a community of faith, knew. As I walked into the chapel, two of my friends found me. Each of them silently took one of my hands, and we sat together for the entire service like that, hands clasped together, hope literally flowing from them into me. My “oil” was replenished that day, because I was a part of that community of faith, because I had made the choice to make myself vulnerable, because I had chosen to take the path God had opened to me to go to the seminary in the first place.

Perhaps you have a story like that one as well – a story of how this community has helped you get through a loss or a disappointment in your life. Each week, as we sit together, as we share our joys and concerns with one another, as we worship together, we are refilling our lamps with more oil. If you think about it, this is really part of what worship is about. We come here to be in the presence of God and each other, to be renewed and refilled. God's love pours into us like warm oil into an empty vessel. We are filled with goodness and love. And that oil will be available to us when we need it. We can keep it in reserve all week long. We can take it with us wherever we go throughout our whole lives. It won’t even fluctuate in price. It is a great gift, and it doesn’t cost us very much at all.

Thanks be to God for the many ways in which God has filled our oil reserves each week – for friends who encourage us, for communities where we can share and support one another, for a God who longs to be in relationship with us. Thanks be to God who have given us this wonderful choice, a choice we make with all of our minds and all of our hearts and all of our souls. We have been filled. Let us make the choice, again and again, to serve God.


[1] Sharyl B. Peterson, “Oil Crisis”, found at,

Been A While

I started this blog mainly because I admired the people and the blogs over at RevGalBlogPals but I haven't written much lately...for no good reason other than I seem to be in major writer's block. I've been up to little snippets over on Facebook but that is about it.
So, nothing deep nor profound, but I'm still here, thinking, praying, writing sermons, figuring out what to do next.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Singing Owl at RGBP writes:

My daughter, her husband, and their toddler, Trinity Ann, are moving from Minneapolis, Minnesota to our place. It's a long story, but the short version is that they will be loading a Ryder truck on Saturday, and on Sunday afternoon we will
unload it into a storage unit in our town. They will move themselves, their two cats and their BIG dog into our place. Yes, there will be issues, but this Friday Five isn't really about that. (Prayers for jobs for them and patience for all of us are most welcome, however.) This post is about locations. My husband has lived at 64 addresses in his life so far (16 with me) and he suggested the topic since we have moving trucks on our minds.
Therefore, tell us about the five favorite places you have lived in your lifetime. What did you like? What kind of place was it? Anything special happen there?


Wow, 64 places - I can't even imagine....I have lived in three different states, and 9 different places in my life. Not very many, especially because I lived in three of those places for less than 3 months. So, the five favorite:

1. Definitely the co-ed fraternity Epsilon Theta at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I lived from 1984-1988 with about 30 other people in a big Victorian house in Brookline, MA. Always someone to do something with, lots of trips out for ice cream, lots and lots of studying. I met my husband Starman there on the first day I stepped foot into the house, and my two best friends to this day, one of whom Skye is named after. It is a beautiful house, but more than that, I love co-operative living, and we did it well there.

2. For two years after that, I lived with Skye's namesake and two other friends at a neat little apartment in Somerville MA - above the mom of one of our church friends. She was a wonderful landlady, and it was such fun to set up house with good friends.

3. My parents' house, where they still live in a small town north of Boston, is a great place. I had a very small room to myself, a mate's bed with the drawers under it, a desk where I could write, two windows looking out on a big oak tree....I still love going back there.

Can you guess, I miss New England? I love the sea and the mountains, I love the hills and the woods. We go back once a year. It is never enough...But

My last favorite place is where I live now, in the first house Starman and I have ever owned - I love the family we have created with little girls and critters...I love our bedroom up on the third floor where we can go to escape the chaos.

In my dreams, I would live in a snug cabin in the mountains of New Hampshire, near a rushing stream, somewhere like Zealand Falls Hut. It will never happen. But it is a dream.

Thanks Singing Owl!

If you have lived in less than five places, you can tell us a about fantasy location.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Swim test Update!

I am so proud of Skye! After the terrible Monday swim test, she told me she wanted to try again. Tuesday she worked with Miss Mermaid, and Thursday, she, her friend, and I went to a pool that had a 12 foot end. She held on to my back and we swum to the deep end together, then her friend and I went under as far as we could. Then we used kickboards, and finally she did the swim test twice with me - treading water and then swimming to the end. She felt much more confident.

Yesterday, we went back to the pool for the real thing. She tried it once, but got water in her face and couldn't breathe. The instructor let her try again, and she did it! She still stopped about 3 yards from the end of the pool, but the instructor recognized that she was nervous and passed her anyway. She starts practice Monday, and she is excited!

I was so scared that she would freak out again, I was almost beside myself. Miss Mermaid recognized that there is a very deep emotional connection between Skye and me, more than with the other girls. She is my first child to survive, after 5 previous losses, and I have a very fierce love for her. I need to learn how to separate that, and how to separate emotionally from her. I know that.

BUT! I am so happy for her to have succeeded, and glad she took the opportunity to try again. I am hoping she will enjoy the pratcices and understand what it means to be able to trust your body, and to know what she is capable of physically, which is a lot! Yay!

Friday, October 10, 2008

RGBP Friday Five - Business Trip!

Mother Laura over at RGBP writes:

I spent a good bit of time today registering and making travel arrangements for the American Academy of Religion meeting in Chicago at the beginning of November. (Anyone up for a meetup? Shout out, okay?) I'm not presenting this year, so I'm busy sending out resumes and cover letters, but at least I'm not stressing about getting a paper written.

I'll see friends and teachers from grad school, try to resist temptation in the book hall, attend some presentations if time permits, and, God willing, have some preliminary interviews in the everlasting college-teaching-job-search process--prayers welcome, as always. And, thanks to my dear Mom who agreed to babysit and donated some frequent flyer miles, it will also be a busy-but-happy getaway with my sweetheart.

So for today's Friday Five, you're invited to share your experiences with the exciting, challenging world of business travel....

1. Does your job ever call for travel? Is this a joy or a burden?
Typically, I don't travel at all for my job as associate pastor - but the church where I work is 35 miles from our house, so I do commute! The commute is becoming a burden more and more as I spend more hours there, as gas prices go up (and thankfully recently came down) and as I want to be at more of the congregational activities...

2. How about that of your spouse or partner?
Ah, this is different. Starman is an experimental astrophysicist (sounds impressive, doesn't it?) and his current experiment is in Argentina, a long way from the upper midwest US where we live. He has always traveled for his work, from South Africa, to two three-month stints in Australia just before we were married, to Albuquerque where his last experiment was. Because he works with international collaborations, he often goes to meetings overseas - last month he was in Switzerland for a week working at CERN, where the Large Hadron Collider was turned on and then broke right away (nope, he didn't break it!). It is because of his extensive travel (up to one week every month) that I have chosen to dial back my career to half time or less while our three daughters are young.

3. What was the best business trip you ever took?
When I was an environmental engineer, I spent three weeks in Kalamazoo, Michigan, floating down the Kalamazoo River in a small motorized rowboat, doing oversight for the EPA while another group took sediment and water samples. I became good friends with the crew I worked with, and we had a great time together, joking and laughing and getting to know one another on the river, eating and even dancing together in the evenings. That was the time I loved my job the most.

4. ...and the worst, of course?
Hard to say. I like to travel, but I guess the hardest time for me was the month I spent in Detroit, living at my inlaws and working in the city an hour away on a sewer mapping project. I was working by myself, in another consultant's office, and they were not as friendly as my rowboat crew, so I spent my long days alone, poring over maps, and my nights trying to get some sleep away from my new husband and not put out my in-laws (who were very gracious). I was exhausted and bored.

5. What would make your next business trip perfect?
Well, I leave Monday for three days at an Order of St. Luke Convocation/Retreat - but I don't have any close friends in the Order, so I will not have any joyful reunions. I am looking forward to attending the Lectionary Homiletics gathering in the spring, when I hope to be able to meet some RGBPs, see some old friends, and stay with a friend from our Chicago days...springtime in Atlanta sounds just about right!

Thanks Mother Laura!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Swim Test

This is a post that is hard for me to write, but I am trying to work through some things, and I would love to hear any comments or suggestions.

Last night, Freckleface (our 7 year old daughter) and Skye (our 9, almost 10 year old daughter) went to a pool in Next Door Town to "try out" for the swim team. I say try out in quotes because there really was no failing, as far as I could see - all they had to do was tread water for 1 minute and then swim one length of the pool. Now, Skye has been taking a private 15 minute swimming lesson every week for the past 6 years. That's right, 6 years - every Tuesday, we go to a nearby nursing home with a 92 degree pool and all four of us (Brown Eyes included now, she is 4.5) get in the pool, and our wonderful teacher, Miss Mermaid, gives the girls each some part of her time. Every Tuesday.

We had been working with Miss Mermaid for weeks to prepare for this "test" - Skye and Freckleface had been swimming laps, working on strokes, and when they weren't working with Miss Mermaid, I had them swimming laps with me. They were ready.

The pool was a lot bigger than they are used to, but they have swum in big pools before. And all they had to do was get to the other end

Freckleface went first. She easily tread water but had trouble getting to the other end, so she got out and tried again, and made it.

Then Skye got in the pool. She easily treaded water too, but then as soon as she started to swim she stopped. The pool was too deep, she said (12 feet). She didn't want to look down at the bottom.

I told her not to look, but she got out, crying. She got in again, but got out right away, sobbing that she couldn't do it. It was over.

I can't even hardly write about this without crying too. Skye is extremely bright, does very well in school. But she will not push herself phsyically. Or in any other way. She had the chance to take up an instrument this fall, but refused, because she didn't want to practice. She had the chance to play piano and take lessons, since we recently were gifted a piano, but she also refused to practice that. She said she would play soccer this fall, so I bought her cleats and shinguards, and signed her up, and she played for one week and now refuses to play. She can't ride a bike yet, despite many hours of my and Starman's working with her, and now she refuses to try.

I am getting tired of all these refusals. I know she can swim, and I know the team will be a good thing for her. She doesn't need to compete, just practice, no one is forced to enter a meet. I think she needs the physical activity, especially as she heads toward adolescence, and swimming is a sport you never have to give up. In short, I am considering forcing her to keep going to the tryouts until she makes it, and then to keep going to practices.

But part of me just wants to give up. Stop pushing her. Let her face her own consequences.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I was getting all the girls in bed (Starman is in Geneva, yes, Switzerland this week) when I found out that a parishioner I visited a couple of times in the hospital, whom I fully expected would go home just fine, had died. This is the second visit I have made to someone in the past four weeks who has died. And I just started doing visits five weeks ago. It hurts, although I barely knew her. It just hurts to know that those she cares about are grieving, and that someone I prayed with, someone I prayed for, is no longer here.

WisePastor just wrote "Part of the problem with being a "parson" (ME person) is that you work with your heart, and it gets broken over and over again" Ouch.

I am feeling rather raw tonight anyway, with Starman gone, and having to take care of three girls and a dog and two cats all by myself, and, well, just life - figuring out what it really means to take on this mantle of pastor, to be God's representative in the world (that seems too presumptuous anyway!). I need a big hug, but I will have to settle for three little ones - I guess that isn't that bad. My heart is broken, but that means it is also open, open I hope to hear what God has to say to me through all of this.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Slow Down

So every Wednesday I come out here to BigChurch in MediumCity and I see things I would like to do or change. But every week I remember that I am not WisePastor the senior pastor, and I have not been here very long, and I have not even been doing ministry for very long. And usually there is a very good reason things are the way they are. So I tell WisePastor what I think, and he agrees, but then he tells me that before he got here, things were even more not the way we both want them to be, and they are slowly going in the direction we want them to be - fortunately at least, he and I tend to agree on where we are headed. It is kind of like piloting a large cruise ship, change takes time. I am used to steering a canoe, not a cruise ship. A couple of J strokes, and you are back on course. Not with BigChurch. There are more layers here than I know, and making a turn involves moving that rudder slowly, and changing engine speed slowly.

God, help me to give up my paddle and learn to ride the waves, not crashing through them like a destroyer, but slowly piloting the ship on the way YOU want it to go.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Mother Laura over at RGBP writes:
It's time for a Back-To-School Friday Five!
1. Is anyone going back to school, as a student or teacher, at your house? How's it going so far?
Four of the five of us over here are back to school. Starman started teaching August 25 - 69 students in a physics-for-masochists class at the unversity. Freckleface and Skye started 2nd and 4th grade respectively on August 26, and Brown Eyes has been slowly starting at her co-op preschool - she will be in class 4 days a week for 4 hours a day when it is all up and going on the 22nd.

Starman seems incredibly busy grading homework, posting solutions, answering email, but he is a very accessible professor. Skye has had at least three total meltdowns about all her homework. Freckleface has made a new best friend, as usual. And Brown Eyes just loves school!

2. Were you glad or sad when back-to-school time came as a kid?
I loved, and still love, school. I love new pencils and new notebooks. I loved seeing old and new friends and I love to learn! I got bored by the end of summer and was ready to have homework again, at least until high school.
3. Did your family of origin have any rituals to mark this time of year? How about now?
There was always the back to school shopping, and still is, although I limit it to one outfit and a pair of shoes for each girl (clothes are really expensive!). That was about it, and is about it. We take lots of pictures on the first day, with them lined up in front of the front door - it is cool to see how they grow!
4. Favorite memories of back-to-school outfits, lunchboxes, etc?
I had a Snoopy lunchbox I just loved. And I thought I looked really "mod" in 1972 starting kindergarten with my yellow tights, plaid miniskirt, and red jacket, made by my aunt. And my pixie haircut!
5. What was your best year of school?
Far and away my second year of seminary. The first year I was too busy worrying how to take notes and "do" classes when it wasn't an engineering school. By the second year, I was loving my classwork, enjoying my new friends, and loving my new baby, who was dropped off every day by her sitter in time for us to go to chapel together...what fun!

Thanks Mother Laura for a great Friday Five!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Clergy, or not?

So, am I clergy, or am I not clergy? I have been trying to figure out this question for some time now. Once I started seminary I kind of felt like I was headed down the path to becoming clergy. What did that mean? For me, a rather introverted engineer, it meant I was finally claiming the name Christian for myself in a very public way. It meant that I was willing to consider myself a representative of the United Methodist Church, although I disagreed (and still disagree) with some of the policies of that church. When I had to wear a clergy collar as a chaplain intern at a Presbyterian nursing home/continuing care facility, it felt right.

Then we moved to Big Midwest City from Biggest Midwest City, and I became more of a mom than a pastor for a while, especially after I graduated from seminary. Then I became a youth ministry coordinator, and the senior pastor treated me more like an associate pastor, having me assist with communions and baptisms, leading worship several times a year. It felt good and right.

Then, a new senior pastor who told me at our first meeting that I was a layperson. She was right. I went back to sitting in the pew every Sunday. That didn't feel right. So I rooted around and WisePastor asked me to take over the Saturday night service at BigChurch in Medium CIty and boom - I was clergy again, in voice but not in name. I was reminded once a month when I had to find an elder to do communion that I was not ordained.

Now, I am a licensed local pastor, so within the walls of this church, I am clergy - I can marry, bury, and perform the sacraments. But outside these walls, I am still a layperson. So when I went to get a badge for the hospital, they asked "are you ordained?" - the answer is no. Do you want the title Rev. on your badge? No, I am not the reverend MumPastor. Yet.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that the district office sends me mail to the church addressed to Rev. MumPastor.

So, am I clergy or lay? Does it really matter? I have the work of God to do, and I am thankful. Confused. But thankful.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

First Solo Communion Celebration and a sermon too

I preached and led worship as usual this Saturday night at BigChurch. The difference was, when it came time to lead the communion service, I was it. There was no elder there. As a licensed local pastor, I get to do it all myself now. Well, not really myself. Actually, the Spirit, the people and I work together. I have been waiting to do this for a long, long, long time. It didn't feel much different, really. But it felt good.

once I figure out how to do it, I will post my sermon from tonight.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Over at RGBP, Singing Owl Wrote:

Here in the USA we are celebrating the last fling of the good ol' summertime. It is Labor Day weekend, and families are camping, playing in the park, swimming, grilling hotdogs in the backyard, visiting amusement parks and zoos and historical sites and outdoor concerts and whatever else they can find to help them extend summer's sun and play just a little bit longer.

It is supposed to also be a celebration of the working man and woman, the backbone of the American economy, the "salt-of-the-earth neices and nephews of Uncle Sam. With apologies to those in other countries, this is a Friday Five about LABOR. All can play. Put down that hammer, that spoon, that rolling pin, that rake, that pen, that commentary, that lexicon, and let's have some fun.

Here is my take on the questions, my First Friday Five (Only one day late!)

1. Tell us about the worst job you ever had.
For three summers when I was in high school, I was a maintenance worker for a large company in my hometown whose business it was to raise rats and mice for laboratory research. I was the first female ever to work in the department and the work was HARD. But that wasn't the worst part. The worst part was the first summer when the guys in the department mostly tried to ensure I wouldn't come back - they wouldn't let me join them for lunch or breaks, and one of them tried to close me in the paint locker with him.

I stuck it out - mostly cause I didn't know better. But at the end of that summer the supervisor handed me two Red Sox tickets - there was a pool betting how long I would stay, and I won!

The next summer things got a little better, and by the third summer I was going out at lunch with the guys, going to their softball games, and generally having a good time. When I wasn't painting that is - I knew then I HAD to go to college! It wasn't really a bad job - I learned so much about myself and learned how to get along with the guys, something that came in handy in engineering school (and in ministry!)

2. Tell us about the best job you ever had.
These two jobs. Mom. Pastor. Right here. Right now.

First, I am getting PAID to read the Bible. I am getting PAID to talk to people and learn about their lives and pray with them. I am getting PAID to write! I love it!

Then, I get to enjoy three girls - play on the playground with them, share their lives...Brown Eyes just came in here and said "dude, you totally rock!" Life doesn't get much better!

3. Tell us what you would do if you could do absolutely anything (employment related) with no financial or other restrictions.
Well, actually, what I am doing. Maybe preaching a little less often. And I would hire someone to get the girls in bed by 8 p.m., I would just come up and read them a story and say some prayers and then they would go to sleep!

4. Did you get a break from labor this summer? If so, what was it and if not, what are you gonna do about it?
Yes, yes, yes! Lots of time in my home state of Massachusetts, hanging out with the girls. A very sweet overnight with Starman in Maine at our favorite B&B. A week in Chicago that was work but didn't feel like it at all.

5. What will change regarding your work as summer morphs into fall? Are you anticipating or dreading?
Fall is here. The big girls started school this week. Starman is back to teaching. And I am back to preaching, with the added bonus of going out to Medium City once a week to visit and to meet with staff. I love it, but I am not quite into the swing yet!

Bonus question: For the gals who are mothers, do you have an interesting story about labor and delivery (LOL)? If you are a guy pal, not a mom, or you choose not to answer the above, is there a song, a book, a play, that says "workplace" to you?
My best labor story is for Freckleface - I was a week before my due date, getting ready to move 6 hours away. Had a great lunch with friends. Hung out all afternoon. More friends came over for a dinner cookout. We were all enjoying the back deck in the summer sun when my water broke...I went to the bathroom, figured out what was going on, called the doctor, went upstairs to change and get a bag. Started contracting noticeably but not too painfully every 5 minutes. Got Starman off his computer where he was telling his work where he was headed...drove the 10 minutes to the hospital and couldn't sit down in the wheelchair - Freckleface was born 12 minutes after we arrived, and it would have been less, but we had to wait for the on-call doctor to get there! Wish they were all so easy!

Thanks for letting me post! This is fun!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Until you can see your brother or sister

Last night was my first night back preaching the Saturday service at BigChurch in Medium City. This is a small service, usually less than 30 souls, most of whom are older than I, and I love them all dearly. BUT the service is getting smaller as more people are either homebound or recovering from surgery or, well, just not there. I have a vested interest in this service - I think it does fill a need in the community, and I think it could be a comfortable home for a lot of people who don't want to go to church on Sunday, or can't go to church on Sunday.

So, of course, I was thrilled when I got up to begin the service and saw a mom with a little baby come in. I welcomed her from the pulpit, which I don't normally do, but I wanted her to know that we were glad she and her little boy were there, and I didn't mind if said baby made some noise - I wanted her to feel comfortable.

Then, as I was making the announcements, another newcomer walked in. He was unkempt and unshaven, older, and I had seen him once before - when he cornered me after the service and asked for money.

Now, as I said, new people don't come to this service very often. When mom and baby came in there was a visible welcome on everyone's face, including mine - the women sitting across from her were just cooing at that baby. But when other man came in, and sat right in front of mom/baby, the whole congregation stiffened. Including me. Through my mind went the following thoughts:

Oh no. Not him. I wonder if he will ask for money again. I don't have any money and I don't know where to send him for help. I need to figure out where else he can go. Oh no. He just sat in front of mom/baby! I hope she doesn't feel uncomfortable. Why did he have to come this week? I hope he doesn't smell too bad and she feels like she has to leave.

The service went on, and Man didn't make any fuss. Baby did, and mom got up for a bit. Then I started preaching on the story of Moses, the little baby in the basket, who was three months old when his mother put him in that basket and into the Nile. It was easy for me to see this precious baby Mom was holding as baby Moses, and I told her she was a great object lesson for the week. But as I preached, I thought to myself

Man was a little baby one time too. A little three month old baby. I wonder if he had a mother who loved him like Moses' mother loved Moses, and like Mom clearly loves Baby.

Man got up and left just before the service ended. He walked down the hall toward the back door, but also toward my office, and I asked the usher to be sure he left the building, since my office is pretty far removed from anyone and I was going to be there for a bit after the service. I never got a chance to greet him. I never got the chance to see him, really, as more than a nuisance or a bother. Not even as a man.

Last week WisePastor, the senior pastor of BigChurch, said in his sermon, quoting someone, that the dawn has not come until we can look into the face of the stranger and see our brother or sister. God, help me to do that not just with Mom and Baby, but also with Man and others like him.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Summer is coming to an end - school starts next week for Skye (the big sister, headed for 4 th grade) and Freckleface (the middle sister, headed for 1st grade). BUT Brown Eyes, the youngster who is 4, doesn't start preschool for good until September 15. This leaves me, who started my new job as associate pastor last week, without child care! Unfortunately Starman, my husband, is also gearing up for a new year teaching freshman physics at the university, and he isn't quite available, so to speak..

Praise God for my good friend who last night told me she adores Brown Eyes and would love to watch her each and every Wednesday, until school starts and then after it does start she will pick her up at school and watch her until Starman can come to get her. So I can go off to medium city to do my job.

Does anyone know how much it matters to find good, reliable, trustworthy and FUN sitters for your kids? I really can't do my job without knowing for sure my girls are well taken care of. So THANK YOU to sitter (I'll call her Jane Austen after her favorite author) and THANK GOD for good friends. Amen!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ta Da! I am finally a blogger! Hopefully this will be a space for me to do some pondering, invite comments on sermons, and grow and learn with God in the midst of the electronic world. Now, back to work on that sermon!