Monday, December 24, 2007

Silent night

Aside from the dogs' grumbling a little at the occasional street noise, it's dead silent here tonight. Or rather, it's a live silence, as if the earth is waiting. Outside, the sky is clear and cold, and the moon is brilliant and nearly full. Next to the moon shines Mars, so close to the earth tonight that it shines more brightly than any star I can see.

J., his mother, and his sister have gone to bed. The kids are sleeping elsewhere, to free up beds for family, and will be back in the morning. I am treasuring what is left of Christmas Eve, as the world and I wait for Jesus to be born yet again.

For the last week or so I've been engrossed in Matthew Fox's book, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, a wonderful overview of Creation spirituality. I'm really loving the book, but every now and then the author says something that sends me spinning off on a tangent with memories of childhood, and then I realize that fifteen minutes have passed and I haven't read another word. But Fox's view of the spiritual interrelatedness of all things makes perfect sense to a person who picks up rocks and stones and brings them home. I have been doing this for years, and I can't tell you why -- but I have a whole collection of rocks from various places. I'm hardly a rock expert; I have no idea what they're made of, for example. All I can say is that it seemed important to pick them up and stick them in my pocket. I guess they speak to me in some way. I have a few on my desk, and they seem perfectly pleased to be here.

(I know, I know, you're all thinking, Man, she needs to get out more. Point taken!)

I guess that's why I love the language of the Psalms, where nature seems so conscious and alive. In the Psalm for tonight, Psalm 96, for example, we read:

Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
let the sea thunder and all that is in it;
let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy
before the LORD when he comes,
when he comes to judge the earth.

I may just open the curtain here and take another look at Mars, my own personal Star of Bethlehem on this holy night, and wait (again) for Jesus.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

An unaccustomed calm

What's this about? It's 5 days before Christmas, I have all my presents wrapped, and I'm feeling a stillness that I haven't felt in Advent before. A watchfulness that I'm not used to. Normally, on December 19, I'm running madly from pillar to post, trying desperately to tie up all the loose ends. Either I have no loose ends this year, or I have decided to let them all hang. The latter, I think.

This is not like me; or maybe this is the real me. I have been struggling with things at church for so long that perhaps I have forgotten what a deep breath feels like. How peaceful it can feel to cut yourself adrift with another shore in your spyglass. Advent is the season of hope, after all.

Even so come, Lord Jesus.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

Doing the happy dance in New Jersey!

Make all the jokes you want to about the Turnpike and the mob, but I LOVE New Jersey!

In this state we have not executed anyone since 1963 ... and we may never execute anyone else. This is from the KYW newsradio website, and I have been waiting to read it for years:

The New Jersey state senate has approved a measure outlawing the death penalty in that state. If this measure becomes law, New Jersey would be the first state to abolish the death penalty since the US Supreme Court allowed states to reinstate it in 1976. A vote is expected in the state Assembly on Thursday, and Governor Corzine has said he will sign the bill into law.

Yee hah! I have felt for years that the death penalty is barbaric, insupportable, unevenly applied in the courts ... a tragedy. Tonight I'm saying a prayer for all those legislators who have voted to outlaw judicial murder. May NJ be the first of many states to take this step.

So this proud Jersey girl is praying for Thursday's vote ... and asking you to pray with her!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Blue blue Christmas ...


This year, Christmas will be blue at our house.

"Not gold?" asked J., with a memory of having purchased lots of gold ornaments last year. "Not red?"

"No," I said, handing him several blue garlands for the tree. The tree will be mainly blue, with lots and lots of white lights, glass icicles, and glass raindrops. I also have a blue-accented wreath, which will find its place on the living-room wall the next time J. goes out to play tennis. And there are blue candles. And blue lamp oil in the lamps.

J. looked around in dismay. "Blue isn't even a Christmas color."

"It is now," I answered.

OK. Maybe I have overdone it. Next year I will be more restrained.

Maybe next year will be green.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

And the Holy Spirit Said ...

"8:00!! Jude! Get up!"

And I rolled over and groaned -- I was so warm under the covers. I thought, I can try a new church next week ...there's always next Sunday ..."

And the Holy Spirit said again, "Jude! GET UP!! NOW!!"

And I rolled reluctantly out of bed. And I thought, What if I don't like it? What if they don't like me? What if nobody talks to me?

"Then talk to them first," the Holy Spirit said. "And, while we're on the subject, it's OK to stop whining now."

The Holy Spirit has always sounded a lot like my mom. Perhaps that's why I listen sometimes, and why I have always thought the Holy Spirit is female.

So I went to the little church on the hill in the country, after picking up my friend for moral support. It was a beautiful late-fall morning. We finally got our fall color, though after Thanksgiving this year.

The church was charming: small, old, with about 12 pews on each side. The service was blessedly familiar. The sermon was a real sermon -- it made me laugh and cry, the hallmarks of a good sermon. At the announcements, a charming and funny woman made a pitch for the Christmas pageant. It was like the Church on the Pike in better times.

At coffee hour, my friend and I were surrounded by people who had heard us singing. It's clear that we would be welcome in the choir. When asked about the parish, everyone said they adore the rector (she is on vacation, and the wonderful sermon was the work of a supply priest), and that the feeling of family is what keeps people there.

So, less afraid, I'll be going back there next week. Perhaps I have found a new home.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mix-and-Match Holidays

OK, I'll admit it. I'm confused.

Today it was so warm that I had to turn on the air conditioning in order to bake pies for Thanksgiving. Unseasonable weather just annoys me.

But I'm not the only one confused. When I got home from work last night, I found a large box had been delivered to my porch. It was my Christmas wreath from L.L. Bean. Two days before Thanksgiving! I laid it in a shady corner of the porch, next to my large pumpkin, and I'm trying to remember to keep it moist.

Then there's my daughter, home from college for Thanksgiving. Now, one of her usual jobs -- because no one else can stand the tedium of it -- is putting together the artificial Christmas tree. She normally does this the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and I feel that's really too early, but you're not going to find me doing it. This year, however, the only free time for the task was -- you guessed it -- today.

So I have pumpkins and gourds on the mantel, chrysanthemums in the kitchen, and a 6-foot-tall, naked Christmas tree between the living room and dining room.

Maybe we'll play Christmas carols tomorrow while we eat Thanksgiving dinner by the Christmas tree in our air-conditioned house!

Merry Thanksgivingmas!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Welcome Retreat!

Last Wednesday I went on a one-day retreat at a Roman Catholic retreat center about 15 miles from home. This was a first for me, and I was a little nervous -- but what a wonderful experience! The retreats are scheduled once a month, and attract several people each time. This time, several of us had come on our own, and a group of women also arrived together. Spiritual direction is also available, if desired.

Despite its location near a major exit of I-295, the silence in the house was stunning. We began with prayer in the chapel, and got suggestions for reading and pondering. Then we were basically given the run of the house and grounds. I settled down in the sunny front room near the cat, said a couple of rosaries, did a bit of still prayer, and then read awhile. I also bundled up and took a turn around the field, discovering in the process a wonderful labyrinth constructed by the simplest of means: the paths are demarcated by shallow trenches dug in the ground to separate them. I walked the labyrinth and was at peace.

Then it was my turn for spiritual direction. What a blessing it was! The nun I spoke with listened patiently while I explained the difficulties I face at church: the loss of friends who are leaving, the growing sensation of disjunction that I feel -- that the sermons are aimed primarily at new Christians and not at me, that there is a real dearth of programming for those who have been in the church all their lives, that the Church on the Pike is not "home" anymore.

She referred me to a book about coping with change, called Who Moved my Cheese?, which I have ordered. She also recommended ... that I find a new church.

But, but, but ...

Noooo, nooooo .....

Whine!

But she may be right. I am not ready for this, however, so if I do it, it will follow a long period of prayer and discernment -- and a lot of visiting. The Holy Spirit is going to really have to kick my backside for this to happen. I'm going to have to find a place that clearly fits me better, where I don't feel superseded. A place where God wants me to be.

As Sister said, "God wants you to be at peace in your worship. If you're not, it may be that, for you, He has moved elsewhere. You have to find Him again!"

It's great advice -- but can I do it? I promised I would come back after Christmas and speak with her again.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Unlikely bedfellows ....

My husband and Bishop John Shelby Spong.

Not in the literal sense, of course! But my agnostic husband seems to have found common ground with the former Bishop of Newark, and I haven't stopped smiling yet.

It began when I first subscribed to the weekly email essay the Bishop sends out, and started passing them on to my husband (J.). He read them enthusiastically, and asked for more. Lately, I read Spong's Resurrection: Myth or Reality? which I found very thought-provoking. I passed this on, too, and J. read it practically in one sitting. Now it has disappeared from my bookshelf, and he's sharing it at work. "I like the Bishop's intellectual approach," J. told me. "He's struggling!!" Hmm. The implication is that any intellectual would struggle with the Gospel narratives.

I'm not so sure about the struggle. After all, Resurrection does affirm Jesus's close connection to God, and his appearance in some form to Peter and/or other disciples, though in Galilee, not in Jerusalem, and not necessarily within three days of the crucifixion. Bishop Spong's analysis of the midrashic method of the Gospels' composition (framing Jesus's life-events in the light of Old Testament events) does seem to me to be a reasonable approach. In the end, however, he leaves us with an assurance that "something happened" on Easter, whenever it took place, that transformed the lives of the disciples forever. This seems to me to be the most we will ever know in this life.

It's the Easter part I want J. to weigh in on. Come on, honey, I'm waiting!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

California Fires

This morning I emailed a friend of mine, who works at UC Irvine, to see if she'd been evacuated (my knowledge of California geography is sketchy, at best, so I email her any time there's a fire). She replied that things are much worse in San Diego County than where she lives in Laguna Niguel, but that she's worried about the smoky air. It seems her parents live with her and her husband, and they both have cardiac issues. Not a good scene for them.

So I have been praying fervently all day for the Santa Ana winds to die down. For rain. For anything that will save lives and homes. For Wanda and D.J., and for Wanda's mom and dad.

And for everybody else. It's a big prayer, but there you go.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Left Behind ...

I've been rather chirpy on this blog lately. Moonflowers, spiders, Niagara Falls -- all part of my life, and all worth a mention. Home life, in general, is good right now, thanks be to God.

Church life, however, is not so hot right now.

The Church on the Pike has embraced the "purpose driven" principles set forth by Rick Warren, of Saddleback Church, in California. This is a "megachurch," with many thousands of members and programs galore. I've read the books; I was part of the Vestry that developed a vision statement for our church, incorporating purpose driven principles. I approve.

That is, I approve in principle. Approving in practice, even for a person who has spent many years in management and an equal number of years catching "fast balls" thrown by children, can be difficult. I try, but I'm creaky. I'm used to change, but it's hard to let go of the parish model that I was so comfortable with.

And some people have started to balk. Some people are leaving. There's no need to go into detail here. But three people I dearly love have just left. Others are thinking about leaving. New people are coming in the door, and that's good. They will be very happy in this church. But I can't escape the idea that we are also diminished by our losses. There is no one who is not important. It hurts not to see those who have left. This is a grieving process for me.

And of course, there's the unacknowledged subtext to this problem, one I haven't wanted to think too much about. If the Church on the Pike once again becomes the flagship parish of our diocese, as it was back in the middle of the last century, with a thousand people attending services every weekend, will it still feel like home? I am not so much a flagship type of person.

A tugboat. That's more like me.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Slowly I turned ...


Wow, that really dates me, doesn't it, in addition to marking me as a Three Stooges fan!

My husband and I spent four lovely days in Niagara Falls, Ontario recently. We did every touristy thing we could find, with the exception of the helicopter ride (I was too cheap for that). We stayed in a great B&B, and it was a real treat to get away from the house and family, drink some wine in the room, and have no responsibilities. Husband told me he had forgotten how I looked when I was completely relaxed.

I need to do this more often.

And now back to the salt mines.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Just back from vacation ...

and this is the best I can do for a post:

You Are a Blue Crayon

Your world is colored in calm, understated, deep colors.
You are a loyal person, and the truest friend anyone could hope to find.
On the inside, you tend to be emotional and even a bit moody.
However, you know that people depend on you. So you put on a strong front.

Your color wheel opposite is orange. Orange people may be opinionated, but you feel they lack the depth to truly understand what they're saying.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Detente

She's called an "orb-weaver," and I respect her skill at making webs, but we have a sort of chilly relationship. She's made herself a nice web at the end of my porch, between the porch ceiling and the woodpile. Fortunately, that's the opposite end of the porch from where I sit, and she doesn't interfere with our coming and going through the door.

I sit there, usually at night, with one of my dogs, and I keep a close and fearful eye on her. Now and then she catches a tasty bug -- I can't fault her for that -- and moves slowly to devour it. Then she takes her place again at the center of the web, swinging ever so lightly in the breeze, waiting for her next victim.

I have been afraid of spiders since before I can remember. As a child, I woke my parents many times to kill one that had strayed into my room. As an adult, I try not to kill anything outside the house -- but I am still terrified and repulsed! This doesn't hold true for non-arachnids: I love reptiles and amphibians, and when my kids were at camp, I disgraced them at Parents' Night because I was the only mother who wanted to hold the garter snake.

But I am trying to live and let live. I try to look at the spider as God looks at her -- not as something to be chased with a can of Raid, but as part of His creation, with her own part to play. I try to respect her as another creature, doing God's will in her own way.

Oh, how pious! But if she comes down to my end of the porch ... I'm afraid my phobia will overtake me, and the Raid will do its evil best.

Pray for the poor orb-weaver to keep her distance!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Moonflower report

My little moonflower plants, which used to look like this,
grew like mad all summer, twining around and around my center porch post. June turned into July, July into August, and Labor Day arrived -- but no flowers. I had begun to think the light was wrong; I had overwatered them; I had not fertilized them enough.

Then, on my way out to choir practice tonight, I noticed little bulgy white buds! This is what they looked like at 6:30 PM.

When I got home from choir, it was fully dark, about 9:15 . And since moonflowers bloom only at night, this is what greeted me on my porch.
Woo hoo! Only one flower has opened, but it's one more than I had yesterday.

Back when my moonflowers were only seedlings, I recall feeling they might be a metaphor for my spiritual growth. I don't think I have flowers yet, but I possibly have leaves.

Small leaves! But it's a start. Thanks be to God!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Stretching our prayer wings

Great minds think alike (LOL). Either that, or the Holy Spirit is behind this newest endeavor!

Some of us who are members of Prayer Fellowship at the Church on the Pike subscribe to Pray! Magazine, a publication chock-full of useful information for intercessors (check it out here). This month's issue was no exception. One article I really liked dealt with prayer stations, a way of bringing prayer to people on the street. Prayer teams station themselves at public events and offer prayer for anyone who requests it, or offer to place names on a list for intercessory prayer later. I was intrigued by this idea, even though I have never been especially good at spontaneous prayer.

Now, as it happens, our town festival takes place early in October, and the Church on the Pike sets up a booth and mans it with volunteers who sell homemade goodies, answer any questions about our church, and pass out brochures with information about our service times, ministries, etc. So I thought: why not a prayer station too? The idea was scary but exciting.

At church this past Sunday, I discovered a few of my friends had read the same material, and were having the same thoughts. So it seems we will be putting out the ever-popular and ubiquitous sign-up sheet and asking for volunteers.

But none of us is sure we can really pull this off. This, after all, smacks of the "e-word" (evangelism). We are Episcopalians, remember ("God's frozen people"; "Many are cold, but few are frozen"; I have a million of these jokes!). We have never been really good at the e-word. And it's going to be a real shame if passersby hear us offering to pray for them while we're huddled in a lump underneath the booth, out of sight, or fearfully peering over the top!

Clearly we have to get to work on this. And it won't be easy!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A possibility for the future ...

Our local paper had an article yesterday about a woman who volunteers as an "Abider" at the nursing home where her husband is a resident. I had never heard the term before, but several area organizations are apparently starting up volunteer Abider programs. Abiders are volunteers who sit with patients in the process of dying, to address any spiritual or physical needs they might have, and to assure them they are not alone. What a wonderful idea! The woman featured in the article often reads to patients from the Psalms or the New Testament, sings hymns, talks to them, and holds their hands. So no one has to die alone.

This really strikes a chord with me. I did not do such a good job of abiding when my parents were at the end of their lives: my Mom died while I was heading home to collect my kids from the various neighbors who were looking after them, and my Dad died while I was waiting at the door of his hospital room for the surgical resident whom I'd paged (naturally, my back was turned to Dad). So at present I'm about 0 for 2. Nothing to brag about there.

Yet, I think this is an important ministry, and I think it's one I could do. Of course, there's the little problem of my job at present. Unless there's a way to schedule dying for nights and weekends only, I'm going to have to wait till I retire ...

Another thing to add to the growing list of future possibilities.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ten things meme ...

I got this meme from Share Cropper.

1. I have lived in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. I'm your basic Delaware Valley Girl. I have always lived near the Delaware River.

2. I have witnessed the grace which sometimes accompanies great suffering; people dying with dignity and in peace; the innocence of children; the astounding beauty of the world entrusted to us; the visceral bond which links me to my children; the strength of a parish in time of crisis.

3. I have heard the song of crickets on a summer night; rain on the roof and wind in the trees; my friend Carol hitting notes I couldn't hit with a stick; dogs barking in the night; fog-horns, one of my favorite river sounds; my kids' first cries.

4. I have lost my mom and dad, without really having time to say goodbye; my way in my 40s, when the hormones were wild and raging; my need for approval; my desire for an exciting career;

5. I have found new love with my husband in our third decade together; that you can never have too many dogs; that I might actually like to learn learn to cook someday (it's never too late!).

6. I love my husband, kids, and dogs; my parish family; the Order of Julian of Norwich, and the friends I have made among the affiliates; the Communion of Saints; leading the Sunday service as a lay reader; offering the chalice to the parish family at the communion rail; older people; funerals which celebrate someone's life in all its fullness; smiling and waving at babies on the subway; Friday nights!; the Weather Channel and CNN; horror novels and movies; being near any body of water.

7. I can read French, German, Italian, a little Latin, a little Welsh, a little (very little) Polish; I am formidable with a crockpot (that's easy -- anyone can do it!!); I can crochet (but not knit!);
I am a good low alto and mid-range singer, but spare me the high notes!; I am good in a crisis, and at taking care of the sick.

8. I loathe top-down management; bosses who can't remember your name; Mondays; my treadmill; coming home from work and having to cook dinner; summer; hot weather and humidity.

9. I hope to do something meaningful in retirement; to leave my kids something more important than money; to be able to adopt a greyhound one day; to be able to buy some land in the country and build a little house for my husband, the dogs, and me when the kids have moved out; to enjoy my grandchildren when (if) they come along.

10. I am trying to lose some weight; to develop a habit of daily meditation; to not resent having to get up and go to work; to go to bed earlier; to read the Bible daily.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Missing the absent

I almost hesitate to blog about this, but there are many faces absent from the Church on the Pike this summer.

Now we all know Episcopalians often take the summer off, as they head to their beach houses, but the pews seem strangely empty, even for summer. On those Sundays when I'm one of the Eucharistic Ministers, communion is over in a flash. It seems like we go down the rail only once or twice. I'm not liking this.

Some people who hardly ever miss church, even in the "off-season, " have been largely missing this summer. I suspect some of them are church-shopping. Change has come rapidly to our church, since we have become "Purpose-Driven," and some parishioners have told me they don't feel like they're in an Episcopal Church anymore. I don't like hearing it, but I do know what they mean. The atmosphere has changed quite a bit.

I don't want people to leave! Can't we all get through this together?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A day at the beach, and a surprise

I took a day off earlier this week, and went to the beach with one of my dearest friends, who dates back to college. The last time we were there together was the summer of 1977, another hot one right before I left town for grad school. I'm sure we were a picture, among the thong-bikini-clad high-school girls: two women, well into middle age, wading in the surf in their shorts. Oh well, youth fades, but friendships remain.

And I learned something I hadn't counted on. My friend has known for years how involved I am at church, but she's a former Catholic, and I haven't wanted to go overboard talking about religion. But we did start talking about it on the way home, and I told her about my association with the Order of Julian of Norwich, and how much it has meant to me to find a group of like-minded people. I also told her about this blog, and that I'd started it because I had no one at home with whom I could discuss religion.

"I haven't got anyone either," she said. Turns out she tries to read some of the Bible every day. and it also seems that her husband, like mine, is sort of unsympathetic to religion.

So on we rode, with the corn and alfalfa fields of southern Delaware opening out broadly on either side of the highway while the clouds threatened rain, and I felt so awful that I had not known this about my own nearest and dearest. I know in my head that most people are seeking God in some way or other, but I didn't know she was -- because I didn't ask.

"After all," she said, after a bit more talk, "If you thought this is all there is, how could you go on?"

How, indeed? I guess we will have a lot to talk about from now on. We need to make up for lost time.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Happy Lammastide!


Today was the feast of Lammas Day in medieval England. The word lammas is probably derived from the Anglo-Saxon hlaef-maesse, or "loaf-mass, " a celebration of first-fruits. On this day, August 1, it was customary to bring a newly-baked loaf to church, so that the first wheat harvest could be blessed. Lammas was originally a pagan feast, and, falling between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox, signalled the beginning of autumn in early England. After Lammastide, people expected the days to become shorter as the year waned. Winter actually began on October 31!

It's 90 degress or so here, and will be even hotter during the next few days -- not very autumnal! Nevertheless, I always feel more cheerful when August arrives. It's the beginning of the end of summer. There's something different about the light, somehow, as we move through August; and, of course, the days get slowly shorter. It won't be fall here for quite awhile, but never mind ...

I'll just smile and pretend I'm in England.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Not exactly Mardi Gras ...

The Mardi Gras scene to the left is one I did not see on my recent trip to New Orleans but would love to return for. I had a lot of fun, though we had tropical downpours nearly every day, and the occasional thunderstorm in the morning. The food was great, and I got a really lovely piece of needlepoint canvas at a shop called the Quarter Stitch -- where I went in a cab because it was, as usual, raining.

The New Orleanians I met were glad to see us. One of our convention bus drivers expressed his relief that conventions have begun to return to the city in significant numbers. So we were glad to be able to help with that.

Now, back at home, we are in the dog days of summer, which I have just learned extend from July 3 to August 11 -- we are nearly halfway through. That should be some consolation. But I have no energy and no focus, and am longing for fall!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Letting the good times roll?

Tomorrow morning I'm heading off to New Orleans for a library conference, so I probably won't be blogging for a bit.

I feel guilty going out in the evenings for a good time in a city that has suffered so much, especially since I know I probably won't even leave the relatively undamaged French Quarter. On the other hand, I will be spending considerable amounts of my employer's money, and some of my own, while I'm there, and I know the area needs tourism. Still, I feel uneasy about the whole trip.

So I might be letting the good times roll, but I'll be saying a lot of prayers, too, especially if I can find a nearby Episcopal Church.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Summer blahs ...

OK, I'll admit it. I've been slacking.

I know I should be blogging about spiritual matters, but the fact is, I'm tapped out.

I really struggle to get through summer. Now, I know how silly that sounds! My dad suffered in the winter from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), but I don't think there's an equivalent diagnosis for those who find summer days tediously endless. But that describes me. I loathe heat and humidity, both of which we normally have in abundance here. I love the beach, but never seem to get there. I come home from work and sit on the porch in a funk, reading pulp fiction to pass the time. I don't think I'm depressed; I'm just not inspired.

It's also true that the Church on the Pike cycles way back during this time of year. The Rector takes a long vacation; while he's gone, we either have supply priests, if they're available, or we do Morning Prayer. Small groups also tend to go on hiatus. The choir is having a rest. I had a friend who referred to this season as the "long, green liturgical tunnel," and she was so right!

OK, enough whining. Fall (my favorite season) will arrive eventually. Now, where did I put my book?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday fun

Gee, I always think of myself as kind of resourceful. Guess not. You guys will have to fight the zombies by yourselves. Good luck! Go with God!

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Crabgrass on the loose!


Having read quite a few articles about declining populations of songbirds, frogs, and honeybees, my husband and I have asked our lawn care company (known at our house as the "Grass People") to cease using any and all chemical pesticides on our lawn. Naturally, they argued with me a bit, and employed their secret weapon. "You know you'll have weeds now," said the Grass Person to whom I was speaking. "We can still use organics on your lawn, but they won't prevent ... crabgrass." I guess she was waiting for the gasp of dismay that didn't come. The threat of the evil and greatly feared crabgrass failed to move me. World hunger moves me. Genocide in Darfur moves me. Dead songbirds and mutated frogs with two heads move me. Crabgrass -- no.

Lawns are highly overrated, in my view, and if I had my way, we would completely cease paying money to the Grass People. In fact, if I had my way, we would let the front lawn grow into a luxuriant meadow, full of wild flowers, and populated by field mice and chipmunks. I know my neighbors, most of whom have professional gardeners, would take a dim view of this, which is another reason I want to do it.

Here endeth the rant. Weeds, hit me with your best shot!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I've been tagged ...

I've been tagged by Share Cropper. So here goes.

1.I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
2. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged (which I have forgotten to do several times!), and to read your blog.

My eight random facts.

1. I love cookbooks and cooking magazines. I love to read recipes! I love to do all this while I'm eating my peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and my Progresso tomato soup. With dill pickles and chips. Or while I'm eating my formerly-frozen chicken pot pie or fish fingers. Actual cooking is not for me, except now and then on the weekends. I would adore going out to dinner on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I haven't been able to sell this to the family so far. I would also love to be a food writer, but fear I might have to learn to cook along the way.

2. I'm a sucker for candles and oil lamps. My common sense tells me the house sometimes looks like a funeral home -- but I don't care. Especially in the winter, I love to have lots of candles burning at night, and a fire in the fireplace -- I guess this hearkens back to my Celtic roots. I'm a "home-and-hearth" type. I'm as domestic about this as I am undomestic in the kitchen.

3. My second favorite place in the house is the front porch. While I'm not a gardener per se, I do like to have things in hanging baskets and containers on the porch, and I fuss over them all summer. Probably the porch looks like a funeral home, too. Sometimes I sit there to read, and wake up at about 2:00 AM covered with mosquito bites. I love to sit on the porch and watch thunderstorms (see point 7 below).

4. I love the fact that where I live we have four seasons. I'm not one of those folk who could retire to the tropics. Even though I could live without the summer heat and humidity, I love anticipating fall, winter, and spring, those ancient rhythms of the year. I'm big on seasonal decorating.

5. I have more jewelry than I need. This is not something I'm proud of, but I do seem to accumulate it anyway. Right now I'm addicted to Pandora. Is there a 12-step program for this?

6. I have three 50+ pound dogs who think they're lap dogs, and act accordingly. I'm short, so depending on where I sit, sometimes it just looks like a pile of dogs with a ponytail sticking out at the back. I could say I want them to be more independent, but that would be a lie. The more dogs I have around, the happier I am.

7. I'm a weather weenie. Wherever I am in the house, I'll probably have the Weather Channel on. I know things about the weather that no sane person ever wonders about. I'm also dying to take one of those vacations where you ride around in a van for two weeks with a few other nerds and chase tornadoes -- but I haven't got my husband to agree yet. He's sure I'll get myself killed.

8. I hate flying, even though I do a bit of it for work. I used to need 2 gin & tonics before I could even get on the plane. Now I can wait till I've actually boarded before I have them. Is that a sign of improvement? I probably need one of those programs where you go to the airport and stroke the fuselage, repeating, "The plane is my friend ..." But I know it's not!

Well, there you have it. Here are the lucky bloggers who are getting tagged by me.

Sophia at I Will Sing
Gabrielle at Contemplative Haven
Sr. Claire Joy at Flavor of the Month Whoops! She has been tagged already!
Susan Rose at Musings of a Discerning Woman
Sandy, CSJ, at Nunsuch
Rachel at The Big Dunk
Sr.Julie at A Nun's Life

Monday, June 11, 2007

Worship Leader crashes and burns!

Yesterday was my first time as Worship Leader (what the Church on the Pike calls Lay Readers). Let me tell you, I covered myself in glory -- NOT.

At the 8 AM service, which is a Rite I spoken service and very traditional, I inadvertently started the wrong form of the Nicene Creed ("We believe ..."). About 3 lines in, everyone reverted to the "I believe" form (the Rector, standing next to me, was giggling in my ear over this). So I just followed the congregation.

At the 10:00 service, which was Morning Prayer because we were going directly afterwards to our annual picnic, I introduced the Apostles' Creed as the Nicene Creed! Now I say the Apostle's Creed AT LEAST once per day, so you would think I'd know the difference!

So there you have it: my debut. I'm now 0 for 2!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Eucharistic theology

Uh oh! Looks like I'm slipping in an eastward direction. First the icons, now this quiz! What would Mom say to this?

You scored as Orthodox, You are Orthodox, worshiping the mystery of the Holy Trinity in the great liturgy whereby Jesus is present through the Spirit in a real yet mysterious way, a meal that is also a sacrifice.

Orthodox

75%

Calvin

69%

Catholic

50%

Luther

44%

Zwingli

31%

Unitarian

0%

Eucharistic theology
created with QuizFarm.com

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Icons

Icons?

I can hear my mother's voice now. She was never shy about expressing herself.

Icons? What's next, a plastic light-up Virgin Mary for the front lawn? A little grotto back by the birdbath?

Mom was fiercely protestant (maybe, in her case, Protestant -- and Episcopal "low church"). Communion should be once a month, whether you needed it or not. I never saw her cross herself. Confession? We do that all together on Sunday. Who needs to do that in a dark, little booth?

And icons? Forget it!

Maybe she would be relieved by my very sparing and judicious use of icons (I would be more lavish, but my study is a very small room). Mother Julian, Jesus, Mary, and assorted saints line one bookshelf. I have several wall crosses of varying styles, from stained glass to ceramic to wood. And then, above my desk, there's Big Jesus.

Big Jesus is not really that big -- he's about 8" x 10". I picked this particular icon because, to my mind, its depiction of Jesus is somewhat "normal." He actually looks like some of the long-haired guys I knew back in the seventies (except He's better-groomed). What I like best about Him is His expression, which is neither judgmental (a feature I have noticed on some icons) nor maudlin (as in the pictures of Jesus, illuminated by sunbeams and patiently gazing up to Heaven, or tenderly embracing little children). His gaze is level and calm, His expression is serene but focused. The icon depicts him with His right hand raised in blessing, and in His left an open book, the pages of which bear the words: "I am the light of the world ..." and the look on His face says, "Here's the message. It's for you. Get it?"

Next to my computer sits Little Jesus. This icon is similar to the one on the wall, except that only Jesus's head and shoulders are depicted. Jesus seems to be wearing a waffle-weave long-underwear shirt, yet more evidence of His fondness for the seventies. But His expression is that one I love -- the calm regard that I find so inspiring.

In her book about her conversion to Orthodoxy, Facing East, Frederica Mathewes-Green notes that icons are "windows into Heaven," and that the icons displayed in Orthodox churches are simply visible representations of holy people who are really present with us always, but cannot be seen (I'm sure I'm not saying this quite correctly). So it's not the icon itself that we worship, but the living reality it represents, just as I have a pictures of my family I take with me when I travel -- it's not the pictures I love, it's the people.

Maybe this explanation would satisfy Mom. And she would be happy that I have (at least for now) no plans to build a grotto.



Thursday, May 31, 2007

The mammogram cometh ....

I had my annual mammogram this morning. Thank God, it was OK.

This is a high-anxiety time for me, since I had the biopsy many years ago in 1991 (which was negative. Another big Thank God).

At the radiology practice I use, they understand this anxiety, so the doctor reads the x-ray right away and lets you know. They also have a computer that scans the x-ray and double-checks the doctor. That's a big plus in my book.

So I guess I'm good for another 12,000 miles. Thank you, Lord!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tagged!! Thursday three-book meme

I've been tagged by Gabrielle for the "three-book meme." I, too, was an English major (how did we all end up in the blogosphere?), lo these many years ago, and, yes, this task is daunting! How to narrow down my selections .... Hm.

Generally, these days, I read nonfiction, and on specifically spiritual topics (how much I retain of what I read is another question!). This may be a reaction to having been immersed in belles-lettres forever.

So, here goes:

Nonfiction
Revelations of Divine Love / Blessed Julian of Norwich. Julian rocks my world!
The Cloister Walk / Kathleen Norris (also Dakota)
The Genesee Diary / Henri Nouwen

Fiction
The Return of the Native / Thomas Hardy. I reread this every couple of years. I, like Gabrielle, fixated on it at an early age. Last time I was in England, I went to Hardy's house, Max Gate, and although it was closed for the season, I sneaked around outside and looked in all the windows. I guess Hardy is kind of an obsession. I have all of his novels, even the ones I don't care much for.

Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me / Javier Marias. A guy has a one-night stand, but the woman has a stroke and dies. The novel depicts all the tangled relationships that develop as the narrator becomes anonymously involved with the woman's family members.

Waterland / Graham Swift. A boy coming of age in the watery fen country of England, and a mysterious death.

Authors
Thomas Hardy
Javier Marias
Ursula Hegi
Graham Swift (I know that's four, but I'm cheating)

Three books that no-one should read
Hmmm ... um .... er ....I give up.

I'd like to tag Michael, Rachel, and my favorite seminarian!




Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It's all coming apart ...

Times change, and I guess we change with them. Or we don't, at our peril.

At the library where I've worked since 1981, we are bowing to the pressures of technology. I have spent all day (actually I've spent a lot of time for a couple of years!) cancelling titles which are now available online. Lots of people go to the web first for their information now (and so do I, as a matter of fact), so libraries are cancelling lots of material in print, and subscribing to those materials electronically.

None of this is a surprise. Pundits in Libraryland have been forecasting the death of print format, and while I don't think print will be completely dead for quite awhile, I have to admit that they've been right so far. Our library dumpsters are all full of titles we labored to acquire, catalog, process, and shelve over the years. Our blogs testify to how easily lots of us have adapted to the cyber world.

What is surprising is how this feels, and how quickly it struck. As I was deleting records today, I noticed that I was deleting some of my records -- things I cataloged back in the 1980s and 1990s. Back when I was new in the field, and excited about it. Back when I had great expectations for myself, none of which ever came about (unless they call me right now to be Librarian of Congress, I mean. Time's passing! LOL!).

So it feels like little bits of me are going to that void where deleted records go when you push the button. I shouldn't be so maudlin; it's been a decent place to work, and a good living. But the handwriting is on the wall: downsizing is inevitable here -- it's going to happen. I'm eligible to retire when I turn 55, a mere 15 months from now, so I guess that's a safety net of sorts.

I have to believe that there will be something worthwhile out there for me to do when this job ends, one way or another. I know God has a plan. But I wish he would give me a clue.

Just a little hint, Lord ...c'mon!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Lift-off!

Last night we celebrated Christ's Ascension with a 7:30 service. We went all-out: choir, bell-choir, a wonderful homily, and a nice reception to follow.

Too bad only 6 people came.

OK, it was a week-night. OK, it was threatening to rain.

But where was everyone?

In the chancel, it was beastly hot. Sweat ran down between my shoulder-blades. The Rector had declined, when asked, to turn on the air conditioning (I wish, for him, 15 minutes of menopause!). After I nearly dropped the big E bell because my hand was so moist, it occurred to me that I should have changed out of the jeans that had now molded themselves to my rump.

I guess Ascension seems like an anti-climax to some people. After Easter, attendance goes way down, as folks begin to open up their beach houses and dust off the golf clubs. Jesus has safely risen -- where's the sunscreen? We'll see you again when Sunday school starts up in the fall!

Oh well. These services are not for us, after all.

Jesus has ascended! Alleluia!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

JulianFest 2007

The merry band depicted at the left is the group of attendees at JulianFest 2007, which took place last weekend at the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary Conference Center in Waukesha, WI.

The attendees were Members Regular of the Order of Julian of Norwich, plus Oblates and Associates of the Order. For two days, we listened to speakers, worshiped together, enjoyed meals and social time in common, and did still prayer as a group. This was only my second JulianFest, but I cannot imagine missing it.

I guess the best part, as I told my uncomprehending husband, who cannot imagine going to church at all, much less going numerous times within a 48-hour period, is that at JulianFest I am surrounded by people who are much like me: who share my values, love worship and still prayer, enjoy chanting the psalms, and want to study Mother Julian's writings on a deeper level.

I don't stand out like a sore thumb among them, as I sometimes feel I do in my parish. The atmosphere is calm, accepting, and loving. Everyone belongs!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Excessive love of dogs


The goofy faces to the left belong to Amber and Max, our standard poodle puppies, who will have their first birthday on May 16th. Below is Shadow, our older standard poodle, born June 11, 1996 -- she's the boss! She's not very fond of the pups, and she tends to bully them a bit, though they're both bigger than she is. That's why she gets photographed separately.

I had a boyfriend once who said I had an excessive love of dogs. He was from Ireland, where (he said) dogs just lived outside. That he's not my husband now speaks volumes.

When I come home after work, there they are -- and so happy to see me! They're priceless to me, which is why I call them Woman's Best Friends. When my spirit has dried up like old shoe leather, when life seems like a barren spot surrounded by mountains, there they are, with their tongues hanging out, ready to go running in the woods.

Thank You, Lord, for dogs.

I'm not feeling very profound tonight, just grateful.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

What I can learn from moonflowers

The unpromising little fellows on the right are moonflower plants, the first vines I have ever tried to grow. I chose moonflowers while fantasizing that they would grow up above the trellis onto my porch roof, making the porch look like a southern verandah or an English bower (with nods to Grandmere Mimi and to MadPriest, respectively). I chose them also because they open at night, and since I am still full-time in the rat-race, evening is the only time I get to sit on the porch.

I planted the seeds and was amazed that they germinated so quickly -- a matter of days -- and then two sizeable leaves popped out the top of each sprout. After about two more weeks, a slender tendril appeared at the top of each plant, extending upwards, seeking something to grasp.
I hurriedly got them into the pot, and helped them attach themselves to the trellis. Now that they have got a good grip, a row of new leaves is emerging.

Having been an English major is something of a curse (aside from the difficulty of finding employment). I find typos where no one else notices them. I found a misspelling in the Latin inscription of a stained-glass window at my church ("in memorium," which should have been "in memoriam." Groan! One of these days I'll fix it with a black magic marker!). I find fault with the grammar used on commercials! And where normal people see a plant, I see a metaphor in a pot.

It seems to me that my own spiritual growth has been not unlike the growth of the little moonflowers -- extending myself a little bit, learning new things, getting a grip, although a slippery one, on God. Wondering what He wants for me as I grow. Taking a new hold and putting out a leaf -- just a little one! -- and waiting to see where I end up. The moonflowers are growing quickly, upwards of an inch a day. If only my progress were as rapid!

Still, I'll keep putting out those tendrils, and see where they take me ...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

My sheep hear my voice

During a brief lull between 10:00 church and a course I planned to take at church this afternoon, my husband and I walked all three dogs off-leash (shh! Illegal ...) at a county park about fifteen minutes away from home. Our older dog is quite at home in the wild (so to speak!), and sort of went her own way. The puppies, who are littermates nearly a year old, mostly hung together, though whenever I lagged behind they would circle around, one at a time, to make sure I was still there. At one point, though, they took off running, and all sorts of things went through our minds: motorbikes, larger, vicious dogs, whatever. But I raised my voice and called, and they came right back, hearing my voice.

Later, during the course, the Rector explained that you can herd cows, but sheep have to be led, and they are typically led by a familiar voice, which they recognize and follow. The sheep have a relationship with the shepherd, whom they trust. This, despite my 53 years of being an Episcopalian, was a revelation to this suburban girl. The metaphor of Jesus as shepherd now makes perfect sense.

I guess this proves that you are never too old to learn, especially where the Gospel is concerned. And that I should be listening harder for the Shepherd's voice.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Your Life is 48% Green

You're life is pretty green - and you know a lot about how to live an eco friendly life.
So congratulate yourself for being good to the earth. And maybe think about implementing some of the ideas from this quiz!


OK, I know I could be doing better. But I was pleased to even get 48% on this quiz! I need to minimize the car trips and turn off the AC more often, assuming those at home will permit it! And I need to get a few cloth grocery bags (where do they come from??) and pay attention to packaging. And (sigh) I guess I need to go more often to the library instead of buying books.

Easier said than done!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Book recommendation


I've just finished reading Markides's The Mountain of Silence, a sociologist's account of his experience with Orthodox spiritual practices in his homeland of Cyprus. The author makes the point that the Eastern Church, unlike the Roman Church in the West, never became involved in the secular concerns of the state, and so developed along a different, more mystical path, demonstrated most prominently by the monastic state of Mount Athos (the "Holy Mountain") in Greece, the site of many Orthodox monasteries like the one at right.

Now, I haven't taken a history course in years (about 30 of them!), but I don't recall ever studying Byzantium. Seems like it was considered the poor step-sister of the West; many historians tend to focus on Rome and its fall, and the development of the European states. So it's probably time I read more about the Orthodox Church. Better late than never!

But this was a great book, and I recommend it.

Monday, April 16, 2007

"Mom, it's me, I'm OK"...

This is what every parent of a Virginia Tech student wanted to hear this morning. My good friend Carolyn did hear it. Her son, Lee, was on his way to his engineering class in the very building where the shootings occurred, when a friend called his cell phone and advised him to return home. So Lee is safe tonight.

But so many others are not.

I cannot even imagine what prompts a person to take life, especially on this scale. And I can't imagine what it is like to be one of the parents of those murdered. My mind won't go there. How do you recover after your child is murdered in cold blood?

And how many dead people will it take, in our cities, in our suburbs, on our campuses, before we get legislation to control guns? What do the Republicans not understand about this? And why do I bother to ask?

Because so many people are dead tonight. That's why.

Friday, April 13, 2007

When life turns on a dime ...

Life is precarious. We all know this, but we often forget it until reminded.

Yesterday morning, my colleague and good friend got a telephone call from his wife at her office, informing him that a neighbor had spotted flames at their house, and had called 911. He and his wife both raced home. Both their boys were safely at school, so that was not a worry. But the fire had apparently burned for nearly two hours without detection, so the house was pretty much a total loss.

But the newspaper this morning captured the worst part: "House fire kills pet dog."

Glacier the husky was in his crate when the fire erupted. He died from the intense smoke and heat. I refuse to picture this in my mind. The family is distraught, especially the two boys, aged 7 and 5. They can rebuild the house, and get more "stuff." But Glacier is gone forever. Or at least in this life.

Dogs, like people, should grow old and die in their beds. No one deserves to go this way.

I guess time and faith will heal these wounds. But I will think of Glacier for a long time.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Saying goodbye to friends

Easter Sunday was wonderful, though the weather was cold here. After singing two long services that morning, I should have been dead on my feet -- but all I could think was "He is risen!" I went home and cooked furiously, and (for once) everyone came to the table without squabbling about anything.

No sooner had my Easter euphoria worn off, however, than bad news hit.

One of the parish's dearest older members passed away peacefully in the hospital on Easter afternoon. Not such a bad time to die, I guess -- but I will miss her. I had planned to visit her on Holy Saturday, but caved into time pressures and did not. There's a real lesson here for me. Never put it off.

At her viewing this evening, she looked as calm, gracious and elegant in death as she had in life. And it made me smile to see that at her feet were the ashes of her beloved German Shepherd, Basil. I am planning on this, too -- I want all my doggies with me when I rise!

On Holy Saturday the parish lost another member -- I learned this on Tuesday. This was a former choir member, only about ten years older than I am, who developed Parkinson's and was in a nursing home. I last saw him some months ago. My track record with visiting is not too great. Did I already mention you should never put things off? I should have this tatooed on my forehead.

But, on a positive note -- two of my friends became grandparents this past Monday. So the cycle of life goes on. I like the coming -- the going, not so much.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Holy Sadness and Confusion

12:20 AM. It's Holy Saturday now, and I should be in bed. But my mind is racing.

During the Triduum, I lose track of time. One disaster follows another. They blend together. On Maundy Thursday, our Lord is betrayed, and led away; we strip His altar, and the Rector washes the cold marble surface with vinegar. We leave the chancel in darkness, by the side aisles, without reverencing the cross. We have removed our choir cottas while the altar was stripped; mine trails along, limp and white in my hand. Like Lot's wife, I always turn in my grief and look back. The empty tabernacle yawns open. The darkness of the church is unbroken. The congregation shuffles out quietly in the shadows. No one speaks.

In the garden of repose, it's nearly as dark. Ten candles are alight on the smaller altar where the bread and wine have been placed. Forsythia blooms in vases, and the lilies have opened. On the windowsills, clear votives glimmer. The weather has turned unseasonably cold, and the wind beats against the stained glass. I am chilled to the bone, though I know the baseboard heat is on. It is a supernatural cold. It is the temporary victory of the dark.

In the pew, I look helplessly at Jesus, up there on the altar. I think of Peter, my favorite saint, struggling to stay awake with the Master, but giving in to fatigue, and cold, and grief. Sleep is sometimes the only answer when the heart is heavy. I can hardly imagine the weight of Peter's grief. I can fully imagine the fear that will make him deny Jesus three times within the next hours. Peter has always seemed to me the most human of the disciples.

My vigil time has ended, but my replacement has not come. I will not leave Jesus alone. Finally, my friend appears, to take over the Watch. I go home. I sit and cuddle large dogs. I do not sleep for a long time.

On Friday, I awaken to sun and cold. I go to church before I need to; I want to sit a bit longer with Jesus.

The service is somber. The sermon is ghastly -- a physiological description of the agony Jesus suffered. The evil work of the lead-tipped scourge. Blood loss through the scourging. The onset of shock. The potential dislocation of Jesus's arms as the Romans stretch him out on the cross. The nailing of the hands and feet, and Jesus's struggle for breath. Finally the failure of His heart.

I am nauseated. I guess that was the Rector's goal. We have become insensitive to the details of the crucifixion, or maybe we never learned them to begin with. I will not soon forget them.

Lord, was there another way You could have done this? I wish there had been another way You could have saved me. I wish You had been able to die in Your bed at 103, and still accomplish what You needed to do.

My heart is broken tonight.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Birds, bees, and creation


I took my lunch hour out in the courtyard today where I work. It's a nice space, with a big, grassy center, wide paths, and ample benches. It's my favorite place to hang out during working hours, whenever I get a break. In full summer, there's plenty of shade from trees around the perimeter, and beneath the trees are bushes, where birds and squirrels keep busy. We have a lot of wildlife in our courtyard.

And we also have bees. The bees make sure I can enjoy my solitude. They're also fuzzy. I tend to like fuzzy creatures.

These are bumblebees, mind, not nasty hornets or yellowjackets, which would have me on the run. Bumblebees (which my grandma always called "humblebees," a name I really like) are very peaceful and don't sting unless they feel threatened (which is fair enough). Today there were three near my bench, flying in large circles, chasing each other. Occasionally they circled around me curiously, and, though they are pretty able navigators, one of them bumped into my shoulder now and then -- almost like a friendly punch on the arm. One actually alighted on my jeans-clad knee, and sat there regarding me solemnly, while deciding that I probably was not a nectar source.

No one will come near when there are bees about. It's a perfect system. I get to read my book or say prayers in peace, the bees go about their business, and everyone leaves me alone.

The birds were busy today, too. Those in the courtyard are quite tame, and if they see that you have food, will come and perch boldly on the edge of the bistro table, or on the end of the bench where you're sitting. Back in the fall, I nearly had one eating crumbs out of my hand. It's quite a thrill, actually.

I suppose if I were a real mystic instead of just a hopeful mystic, I would be a nature mystic. Nothing gives me a glimpse of God like being outside does. Nature is constantly creative: in the busyness of bees and birds, in the foliage returning to the trees, in the rhythmic roll and break of waves, in the gentle yielding of one season to the next. In my growing older; in my attempts to peel away habits that are not important, to get to what is. God is busy in Nature -- Creation is never done!

May God be busy in me as well.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Winding down for Holy Week

After the first Palm Sunday procession/service without rain in about 6 years (!!!), I raced around madly doing errands: food shopping, laundry, buying Easter plants, candy, etc. You know the drill.

Now I am trying to wind down for Holy Week. It feels to me like the events we're recalling are so world-shaking that they can be approached only with silent reverence. I never feel like I get this quite right. I'm pretty good at silent reverence, but my life tends to get in the way of it.

But this year I'm getting a break. My husband is leaving Wednesday to see his mother, in central New York State, in order to do her taxes (when I protested that it's Holy Week, he responded that it's not Holy Week for him -- which I guess I can't argue about -- and that I won't be around anyway, since I'll be at church all the time). So, in the evenings at least, I should have relative silence (my son will be home in the evenings, and my daughter, since she goes to a college run by Augustinians, will be home on Easter break, but both of them will most likely ignore me, as they do at their ages). So perhaps I can have some reverent silence, even with three large dogs around.

This is my favorite week of the year, and I especially love the Triduum. I'd love to go on a retreat that spanned Holy Week and Easter, but that may have to wait for a few years!

Monday, March 26, 2007

New chapel debuts ...


This is a picture of the Church on the Pike's new meditation chapel (I have been trying to think of another name for it, but have not gotten very far). If it looks like it's in the basement -- well, it is, in the former youth room. The altar itself is a very nice, solid one in oak, and memorializes some parishioners from earlier times. The altar was formerly in use by the Sunday School for their chapel service, but was abandoned at some point. So we nabbed it!

The dossal is the one that hung behind the altar in its previous location. You can't see the detail, but it's dark blue with golden fleurs-de-lis. We are so inept that we had to have one of our neighbors come in and hang it for us! Then we realized that it was so long that it covered the baseboard heater, and we were probably going to have a fire. In full panic mode, several of our thinner volunteers crawled behind the altar and pinned the dossal up with safety pins. How professional we are! LOL!

We nicked the table on the left from the larger chapel upstairs. We're hoping it wasn't used that much up there. Don't tell! Maybe the Rector won't notice.

So, as you can see, this little chapel is still kind of primitive. We are waiting for a new, blue rug -- I'm just as glad that the picture doesn't show the stains on the current one. Despite the unfinished quality of the space, we held a Lenten Quiet Afternoon on March 17, and, to our surprise, we had good attendance. We did a Bible study on the Lord's Prayer, had a period of still prayer, enjoyed some very good homemade Irish soda bread and Welsh tea cakes while listening to Celtic music, then recited the Great Litany and read Evening Prayer from the Wee Worship Book. It was a deeply satisfying afternoon.

All we need now is a rug and some artwork, and maybe some softer lighting (there are fluorescents overhead, which we don't want to use). All in all, however, we're happy with this new prayer space, and we had a lot of good fellowship putting it together! And the parish seems to have been craving a space like this, off the beaten track.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Episcopal progress!

Hallelujah!

Today's New York Times reports that Episcopal Bishops, meeting in Houston, have rejected the Anglican Communion's demand that we immediately accept alternative primatial oversight for those in the Episcopal Church who find themselves in conflict with our church's inclusive position on homosexuals. I know there has been no decision about the gay-ordination moratorium requested, or the covenant, but this is good news anyway, and an indication of which way the wind is blowing.

But I am so afraid that my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters will still be sold down the river (again) for the principle of unity. I pray this will not happen. We should take a stand (and remain there).

Would this cause a schism? And do we even care?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Spring cleaning -- for the soul

Reading a post on Rachel's blog made me think of the housecleaning tornado that my mother called "spring cleaning." She and my grandmother, who lived with us, worked for a solid week, often during Holy Week. Furnishings got pulled out from the walls so they could clean behind them; walls got wiped down; baseboards were scrubbed till they shone. All closets got cleaned out. Windows got cleaned, and I often came home from school to find all the venetian blinds (remember them?) swimming around in the bathtub. Those blinds later found themselves out on the clothesline, drying in the spring breeze along with all the winter curtains and bedspreads. In the kitchen, the gas range got a thorough cleaning, as did the fridge.

Oh, my. I need a nap from just writing all this down. Spring cleaning for me is just like any other cleaning -- haphazard and done under duress. I hate clutter, but I find I'm quite tolerant of real dirt! And in the spring ... it's time to play in the garden anyway.

All that dirt will still be there in the fall.

And Lent is speeding by. I am trying to attack the cobwebs in my soul -- those musty corners where I don't like to look very often. Giving up elevators and escalators has made me feel stronger and more fit (all this is relative, you understand), but what I really need are extra spiritual calisthenics for these last weeks before Easter. I must get out the Bible more often. I must try to read Morning Prayer in addition to Evening Prayer.

That will do me more good in the long run than a clean house. Believe me, Mom!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Supermarket Rant #1: Ladies, keep 'em home ...

Anyone who knows me realizes that I would rather do ten loads of laundry than set foot in the supermarket. Just like I would rather eat a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich and a cup of canned soup than (gasp!) cook anything.

I go to the supermarket because I have to, not for the sheer thrill of provisioning my family, or for the challenge of chasing bargains. I go because life requires fuel, and there is no one else at my house who would be caught dead there.

OK, we've established that I am grocery-store averse. Ladies, please don't make this any harder for me.

LEAVE YOUR HUSBANDS AT HOME!

Husbands should not be allowed in the supermarket. I'm not referring, of course, to those few, wonderful husbands who actually do the family grocery shopping. Those guys are saints. Where can I find one? Hubby, I'm out of here.

I'm talking about your typical middle-aged suburbanite in plaid Bermuda shorts with his hands folded behind him, peering patiently into the frozen vegetable display chest while his wife loads up. The paunchy, bored-looking golfer who trundles along in his wife's wake (can't he even push the cart?). These guys serve no purpose! A trip to Wegman's hardly qualifies as Date Night, now does it? And they are in my way.

Ladies, please don't plant your pensive spouse in front of the Gatorade when I'm trying to get my five weekly bottles. Don't leave him expectantly contemplating the Campbell's tomato soup as if waiting for a can to speak to him. There is no reason for him to stand in front of the dairy case with the door open, staring raptly at the 2% milk with a beatific expression. He doesn't know what he's looking at! And I need to get past him to get my Egg-Beaters!

Maybe I will write to Wegman's and suggest that they install some kind of playroom for husbands. All they would need is a couple of TV's with (of course) remote controls, or (even better) a few non-lethal power tools for them to play with. That way we women can get the real work done.

Because, you see, I'm afraid of having an accident. I'm worried that I really might mow down some poor clueless husband in my dash for paper towels. I'd hate to have that on my conscience -- even if he didn't know what hit him!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Fresh from the humor mill ...

I don't read a lot of the humor I get on email, but this one seemed worthy of posting, in view of the potential schism in the ECUSA about ordaining gay folk and celebrating same-sex marriage. I wouldn't ordinarily poke fun at Leviticus (honest!), but this is too good not to pass on. All the fundamentalists can just sit on this and spin!

"Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. Recently, she said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance.

The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by an East Coast resident, which was posted on the Internet. It's funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:

1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates
a pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my
neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them.
Should I smite them?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned
in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would
be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while
she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness - Lev.15:19-
24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but
most women take offense.

4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both
male and female, provided they are purchased from
neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this
applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify?
Why can't I own Canadians?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath.
Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am
I morally obligated to kill him myself?

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is
an abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination
than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God
if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear
reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is
there some wiggle room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including
the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly
forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead
pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I
wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting
two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by
wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread
(cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and
blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the
trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them?
- Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a
private family affair like we do with people who sleep
with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am
confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us
that God's word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted fan."

Enough said. Let's get on with fighting HIV in Africa and stopping genocide, please!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

On remembering Margaret Mead

I am frustrated with my children.

This is not a new feeling, but now that they are adults, I try to treat them as adults. So I don't act out. But I want to!

My 20-year-old daughter is a brilliant girl, studying biology. But she is still clinging to the same boyfriend she had in high school, who is not in college, and works for a nearby borough in the Public Works Dept. He's a sweet guy, and I'm fond of him. But I don't think he'll go the distance. I think if she marries him, she'll be sorry later. I want her to take a risk -- meet new people. Easy for me to say! As she points out, this isn't my business.

My 23-year-old son is a challenge of a different sort. He has hated school since kindergarten, and has finally dropped out of college (for the third time). Now he's thinking about trade school. I think it's a good idea -- but I've seen him quit school so often that I have no faith in this new plan. How do I muster up any enthusiasm? I need to bite my tongue, that's for sure.

About twenty years ago, I went through a Margaret Mead phase, reading all of her books. I remember little or nothing now of what she said, except for one observation, in Blackberry Winter, her account of her youth, when she points out (I'm summarizing, and hoping to get this right) that the most fortunate children are not those children who are simply wanted, but who are also the very children their parents wanted (italics mine). Twenty years ago, this statement really hit home when I read it.

I was not, not for one nanosecond, the child my parents wanted. Both were athletic; I dreaded gym class. Both were outgoing; I was shy, bookish, and liked to fade into the background. When challenged, however, I was stubborn (indeed, I still have a mouth on me). I disdained the social graces, and was never the "little lady" my mother wanted (and I'm still not, I guess, going to work in jeans and a tee-shirt every day). Even after I'd grown up, my mother felt she had to lie about my job, telling people I was the Director of the library where I work, instead of a lowly line supervisor. It's amazing that I don't feel any resentment about all this -- just a kind of bemusement.

But it's not the way I want my kids to feel, and I hope they don't. Which is why my argumentative tongue is firmly bitten most of the time. I'm not God, and can't make my children in my image. I should have known this long ago. I, of all people, should have known it.

So I'm just loving them as they are, and I'm hoping that's what they need.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Puffing along in Lent

This Lent, in my walk with Christ, I plan to actually walk with Christ.

I've given up escalators and elevators for Lent.

Ok, stop laughing! I know this sounds like a pretty feeble sacrifice, but you have no idea how lazy I really am! This is a huge thing for me.

I'll keep you posted as to my progress, assuming I don't drop dead.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Spanked in Tanzania

I am, as I mentioned to my rector today in an email, foaming at the mouth about the meeting of the Anglican Primates in Tanzania, and especially because some bishops from the Global South refused to participate in the Eucharist with our own Bishop Katharine, due to the Episcopal Church's liberal views.

I don't have any real perspective on this, and I don't even pretend to be objective. I don't see how anyone, for any reason, could assume that the church has a right to reject God's call to non-celibate gays and lesbians, who have historically not been allowed to marry! It's the old "Catch-22." Get a clue, Africa!

OK. Down, girl. My rector says to remain calm, and to pray hard for all involved. Bishop Katharine's reflection on the Tanzania meeting, which you can read at the Episcopal News Service site (RSS feed is below), is careful to praise the non-controversial aspects of the gathering, and humble (and loving) in relating the rest. She clearly takes the long view: that, with prayer and patience, as Mother Julian says, all will be well, and justice will be served for all our sisters and brothers. Well, the long view has always been hard for me, especially when peoples' lives and happiness hang in the balance. I should work on this.

Just one of the many things I should work on! Good thing I'm not a bishop ...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hoping for snow ...

With all due respect to the hardships suffered by the folks in upstate New York ... I am hoping and waiting for a snowstorm.

Not that I want 100 inches of snow! Not at all! Two feet would be plenty! My husband and I would not have to go to work, and could sit home by the fire, surrounded by dogs. This is pretty much a picture of heaven for me.

We have a chance of snow tomorrow night into Wednesday -- the first real storm of this rather feeble winter. My fingers are crossed!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Building a chapel

There's lots of excitement this week at the Church on the Pike!

The J2A (Journey to Adulthood) group moved into new, larger digs, where they can have a sofa and other soft seating, plus a TV with a DVD player. This was a great move for them and me! What they left behind is a basement room which the Rector said we could refit as a meditation chapel (we have a large chapel on the main floor, but people pass through it on the way to the kitchen and the bathrooms -- not very conducive to quiet prayer).

Now, this basement room in itself is nothing to write home about. It's 8.5 feet wide and 40 feet long, and is illuminated by blindingly bright fluorescent lights (we are determined to find softer lighting). The blue carpet is elderly and stained. But the kids did paint it nicely when they vacated, and at one end we have placed the altar that used to be used for Sunday School chapel services. Bingo! Instant chapel! Now we just have to work on the fine points.

I have lots of wonderful help. One friend is very creative, and came up with a great idea for reusing an old dossal that had been lying abandoned. Another friend is a bargain hunter, and knows the best places to get cheap, good-quality carpet. Yet another person is investigating window film, possibly in a stained-glass pattern, to help us cut the glare. One idea begets another. I am fortunate to have creative friends!

If we can get new carpet laid in time, we would like to have a Lenten Quiet Day on the 17th of March. I'm praying we can be ready by then! Anyone who'd like to share ideas for what else we might need in our chapel should post them here!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Heroic suffering

Over the weekend the cold descended with a muffled thump, and I spent a lot of time in front of the fire finishing Story of a Soul, by St. Therese of Lisieux. Now, there's something wrong with this picture: there I was, all tucked up on my cosy couch, the fire roaring in the fireplace, a cup of chamomile tea next to me, and the head of my oldest dog resting on my lap.

Now, Therese suffered gladly for Jesus. Therese begged Jesus for more suffering, so that she could endure it to His glory. Therese endured a really horrific two-day death agony from tuberculosis, without complaint. So, as a corollary, Therese should perhaps be read:

--in the cold garage, in the dark, by flashlight
--at the bus stop, in the wind and rain
--on a dark and lonely road, waiting for the tow-truck
--at a campsite in the lonely woods, when your food has run out, the
campfire is dying, and some undoubtedly large, hungry beast is howling
close by

But probably not in a comfortable living room with a cup of tea, a fire, and woman's best friend snoozing nearby. What's wrong with this picture is that it has HYPOCRITE stamped all over it.

Here's my problem. Suffering doesn't appeal to me. It isn't something I look for, in order to bear it heroically for the Lord. When I pray, "Deliver us from evil," I am not kidding! Two-day death agony? Please, no (whine). Dose me up on morphine or something.

I think most people feel the same way. There is enough suffering in the average life, without going in search of more. To my way of thinking, there's a thin line between wanting to suffer for the Lord and having some active mental pathology. Not that I'm saying anything was wrong with Therese! There's just something going on with her that I don't get.

Then again, she's a saint, and I'm not. So there you go.