Friday, April 28, 2006

Friday Five: Procrastination

You KNEW I had to do this one, didn't you? All together now: "My name is (Name), and I'm a procrastinator." "Hi, (Name)!"

1. Surf the Internet. This is great for when I'm trying to write the sermon and nothing's happening. I can pretend I'm checking for commentaries, or for relevant news stories to use as illustrations, or looking at the comment boards, or any number of things. Even when I'm not doing the sermon, I can "plan worship for next week," or "research for the Bible study," or even "check email."

2. Blog. 'Nuff said.

3. Run errands. I have to get them done so I can settle in and work on whatever it is that I'm putting off. Right.

4. "It's too early/too late to call." For some reason, I have difficulty with "cold calls." Not calls to members who are shut in, or people I know that I need to talk to, but people I don't know that I should talk to, make an appointment with, etc.

5. Chores like dishes, laundry, etc. Not that they don't need to be done--they just don't need to be done right then. "Oh, look! Three mugs and a spoon in the sink! I'd better wash them up!" That sort of thing.

Things I DON'T do to procrastinate: Scrub the bathroom. Read a book (I'm not sure why--you'd think it was a natural). Play with the dog/cats. Take a walk. Do my nails. Lose paperwork. Mow the lawn. Groom the dog (I procrastinate on this one--it's too cold/hot outside, I don't want to groom him inside because of the hair, I have my good clothes on--I got a million excuses, until the poor dog looks like a cottonwood tree in full moult).

I've also got a milion reasons why I procrastinate, but I'll talk abut them later.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ten Simple Pleasures

Well, LutheranChik tagged me (just because I read her blog, I'm tagged; is that fair?). Grump.

Actually, I've been at loose ends today--can't get traction on the sermon, already have everything else done that needs done right now (how rare is that?), but can't seem to find anything I want to blog about either. So, in reality, thanks, LC!

In no particular order:

1. Salt and vinegar potato chips. Especially Miss Vicki's. Either you love salt and vinegar chips or you don't. I love them. My mouth is watering as I type. There's something about salty/tangy/crunchy that is soooo good--especially with either Vernor's or a good local beer.

2. A certain kind of non-fiction book, perhaps history, perhaps anthropology, perhaps cultural history, which is interesting enough to keep me reading, but not so absorbing that I can't put it down. It informs me without boring me, and is never shallow or superficial. I can read it over my morning coffee or my lunch, and put it down when I need to, but when I'm reading it, it's absorbing and my mind doesn't wander. For example, Why Civilizations Choose to Die, by Jared Diamond, or my current read, The Death of a President, by William Manchester (a classic that I had never read).

3. Which leads me to my next simple pleasure, a used book store (they're simple pleasures, not cheap ones). I can browse for hours in almost any book store (do not allow me in the Harvard Coop, Barnes and Noble, Borders, Chapters or Indigo--oh, or The Tattered Cover in Denver). My reading tastes are eclectic--I don't really read art books, how-to books, or business, but the rest is fair game--literature of all kinds (I was an English major, after all), theology, modern fiction, Biblical studies, biography, psychology, cultural studies, history of many kinds (ancient, Holocaust, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered, Renaissance, Victorian, art, American...), zoology, gardening, popular culture, autobiography, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries (I used to collect first editions of female mystery writers)... So I can easily emerge from a used book store hours later, bemused, dusty, and laden with books (but with a much lighter wallet, alas).

4. Spa day. OK, so it's not really a whole day, and it's not really the spa treatment. But a haircut and colour, brow wax and manicure are a splurge for me (unless I really go wild and have a pedicure, too). Yeah, I'm lipstick.

5. Keeping up with my planner. I have an electronic PDA, which is useful for keeping track of dates and appointments and phone numbers. But it is NOT useful for the diary-keeping I find I need--who did I meet with, what were the telephone messages, what did I talk about with person X on the telephone, etc. For that, I need a page opposite the appointment and to-do page in my paper planner (I've used Franklin Covey and Day-Timer both; I like FC better but it's more expensive). There's something about being able to look back three weeks and say, "Oh, yes, I called and left a message with that person and she never got back to me," or, "Gee, I've been carrying that to-do item for a month--I'd better do it." Organized procrastinating, that's me!

6. TV in bed. Decadence. The only thing to make it more decadent is to have a glass of wine in bed while watching TV. Well, and maybe having just had a shower. And clean sheets on the bed. And if I'm watching ER. OK, so it's taking a shower, getting into a bed with clean sheets on it, drinking a glass of wine and watching ER.

7. Sitting on my front porch, drinking iced tea and reading. It's almost warm enough for that again--can't wait! Actually, sitting outside anywhere and reading. Don't know why I love this combination so much, but I remember reading under my favourite tree when I was about 8, and again on the patio of our apartment when I was fifteen, and in the courtyard of my dorm when I was eighteen, and dragging a chair into the tiny front yard of the shack my ex-husband and I rented as our first home, and the balcony of the apartment in Germany when I was in my 20's, and the hammock in my backyard in the first house we owned...even the benches in the courtyard at seminary. The porch of my parsonage. The back deck of the first place DP and I rented together. Yep, always loved to read outside.

8. Watching my son argue a point with another adult (you don't think I want to argue with him myself, do you? I mean, more than we already do, over other parenting-type issues). He's bright and articulate, and yet he takes the oddest positions that don't (to my mind) mesh with each other (although they do to him, as he has tried to explain to me). I love seeing how intelligent and clever he is, and how he takes in what the other person says and responds; and it's also interesting to see how the adults respond to him as if he were an adult, too.

9. A cup of coffee first thing in the morning, with my Celtic breviary and some quiet time. A book on leadership I once read noted that successful leaders (not called successful because they were wealthy, but because of what they had accomplished) spent time reflecting, on a regular basis. Just sitting and thinking about where they had been, what they had done, where they wanted to go (or wanted the organization to go), and how to get there. I find that when I take that reflection time (separate from prayer time), things go better for me, too. And there's something about that quiet time, getting my caffeine rush, preparing to face the day/week with a definite goal in mind.

10. Chocolate. Anything (except chocolate-covered insects. And crosses and crucifixes.). Coffee beans. Ice cream. Frozen yougurt. Milk. Candy (Snickers, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Junior Mints, Twix, Coffee Crisp, Ritter Sport, Cadbury, Milka, Droste orange apples). Syrup. Cake. The wonderful box of handmade chocolates Mom brought DP and I for Easter from Burdick's in Cambridge, MA. Hot chocolate. Shakes. Coke floats with chocolate ice cream. Cheesecake. Chocolate peanut butter pie (Car Man makes a wonderful version). And any combination of the above (chocolate syrup on chocolate cake; chocolate-covered coffee beans garnishing chocolate peanut butter pie; a Snickers bar with chocolate milk).

11. I know the meme said ten, but I have to add this one, even though DP will laugh. Gardening. Like walking, it's one of those things I like in the abstract, and remember liking very much when I was younger (I raised corn, zucchini, and pumpkins when I was ten; the zucchini did so well, I never planted it again; we ate every zucchini recipe known to the human race and Mom took some in to work to give them away). But I haven't done much recently. Seminary, partly--the rush of finals and the end-of-semester activities kept me busy just when I should have been planting, and then summer classes kept me busy when I could have been working in the garden. But that's not the whole reason, and I'm not sure what it is. But I'm hoping to do more of that this year. We have a mess of seeds and bulbs and a bunch of bare ground that needs something planted. I love to put seeds in the ground, and then see them come up and bloom (and then turn into tomatoes or cucumbers or whatever, if they are vegetables). The part that I need is the patience--you have to wait to see them grow!

And I have to add, these can be combined in various ways--reading in my garden (or about gardening), eating salt and vinegar potato chips while reading, doing my planner thing outside, etc.. Double the pleasure!

There. If you'd like, play along--just leave a comment so I can come check out yours!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Lost and Found FIlm

This has absolutely nothing spiritual or theological about it today.

I have loved to take pictures for a long time. And then I met DP, who is a professional photographer. And it seemed kind of--redundant, I guess, for me to take photos, with her around. It's not anything she's done--in fact, she's encouraged me to keep on taking pictures. After all, we each have our own "style," so there's no reason not to take our own pictures of events or trips or whatever. But I haven't.

However, I finally had film developed that had been in my camera so long I didn't even remember what was on it. Some of the photos were from a trip we took to California three years ago! Anyway, here are a couple of the best.

This is Daughter Brat Cat guarding Mr. M's food for him. (Not artistic, but cute!)


These are the morning glories on our friends' patio in Malibu.

This is the beach in Santa Barbara, a city we loved. Can we live there, pretty please?


And now I want to start taking photos again.

The fun thing was that because I had forgotten what was on the film, all the photos were a surprise!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Children of God...

One of the unplanned things DP and I did this weekend was go to the neo-Nazi rally on the Capitol steps in Lansing. DP being a journalist, she wanted to check out the action. Me, I was a bit nervous, in light of the riots in Toledo a few weeks ago after a similar rally.

But we went—well, I dropped her off a few blocks away (as close as police barricades would let me get). She checked it out and came back to meet me (I circled the perimeter, checking out the police cars blocking access to the Capitol, remembering just how darn many one-way streets there are).

I have to hand it to the city of Lansing. They allowed the neo-Nazis to speak (freedom of speech), but the city also had a Diversity festival at a local high school, and set aside lots of space for the counter-rally. There was also space for the supporters of the neo-Nazis, but there weren’t many of them. The police were out in force, but mostly for crowd control and observation. The counter-rally folks (the anti-Nazis) did get out of hand at one point, knocking down the fence separating them from the “safe zone” between the other groups and the Capitol steps, but on the whole, things were peaceful. I think the papers said there were 16 arrests, mostly for not obeying police orders.

A group of university students chanted so loudly the neo-Nazis couldn’t be heard. Many people had signs saying things like, “No Racism in Michigan;” and “Nazis go home.” Rainbows abounded. The young people DP talked to (and also the ones interviewed on the local news) said that the neo-Nazis were (I quote) “messed up.”

A Lutheran church held an interfaith prayer vigil at the same time as the rally.

My favourite event, though, was the group that came up after the rally was over and washed the Capitol steps. With simple water and sponges and mops, this group of men, women and children cleaned away the hatred and racism, the words of fear and death and hate and anger. Powerful, powerful symbolism.

Racism, homophobia, sexism, prejudice of any kinds—these have always provoked a visceral response from me. On the one hand, it feels so wrong—to every fibre of me, my heart, my brain, my spirit. I can hardly breathe, it feels so alien to me.

And at the same time, I know that these people, too, are children of God. That’s the hard part for me. I can pray for them in a disembodied sense—“those who do not know the loving kindness of your mercy and truth’’—but when I see them in the flesh or photos, or read their words online or in the paper, my response is anger and a denial of their common humanity, because they truly do not seem human in their unreasonable hatred of others.

This is my challenge—to continue to fight against the hatred, and racism and heterosexism and sexism and all the other evil they put out, without ever losing sight of the fact that, much as I may not want to admit it or have anything to do with it, they are my brothers and sisters. I have no idea how to maintain such a balancing act and many days I don’t want to do it. I know I should, but I just don’t wanna. It’s much easier and more satisfying, in the short run, to hate them right back. But it doesn’t get us anywhere. Trading anger and spite and detestation is fruitless. Who said “An eye for an eye results in a nation of blind men?”

Besides, I know that on my worst days I'm no better than they are--after all, I hate their lies as much as they seem to hate me and what I perceive as truth.

I’m not sure where this leaves me. A human being, I guess, striving to be the best person I can, seeing my faults and knowing that I will never ever be as Christ-like as I would like to be (“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”), but doing my best every day, succeeding some days more than other, but always working at it. God being my helper, I’m working at it.

We’re baaaack!

DP and I had a wonderful weekend with Mom. We had nothing scheduled at all—except church on Sunday, of course. So we went to one of the out-of-the-way parks near Lansing to see the wildflowers blooming and the river flowing, and enjoy the sunshine. Wonderful!

Saturday DP and I went to Ann Arbor, where I attended UM for a couple of years, ‘round about the Stone Age. If course it has changed a great deal—stores closed or moved, new buildings, others gone. But my favourite lunch place (Cottage Inn) was still there!

In the afternoon, we came back to Lansing, because the neo-Nazis were rallying on the front steps of the Capitol and we (DP, the journalist!) wanted to check it out. More on that in another post…

We spent the evening talking with Mom, making family plans for the summer…I’m officiating (with my brother-in-law) at the wedding of one of my sisters. Here’s ironic—it will be in Massachusetts, the one state to allow same-sex marriage, and it will be heterosexual—my first! Not sure what to do with that, besides make the observation.

Sunday we went to church of course—the same church I grew up in. I went there for almost twenty years. And then, after a leisurely lunch at Mom’s, we drove back in the pouring rain to River City—and a zillion emails and a few phone messages. I have to hand it to my church, though—they didn’t call or email me once! They understand that vacation means “gone and unavailable.”

I feel recharged and at least a bit rested. And I’m trying to take today off, too…

Friday, April 21, 2006

Friday Five and Farewell for a Few Days!

Here's my Friday Five!

My Favourite:

1) fruit: apples! Especially a nice crisp Roma. Apples are so versatile--cook with them, just eat them, smear 'em with peanut butter, munch on them with some cheddar cheese on the side...

2) song: Hmm. The music we use for consecration has been running in my head, but I'm not sure it's my favourite. The hymn "In the Midst of New Dimensions" has a lot of meaning for me right now.

3) beverage: Vernor's Ginger Ale! If you're not from Michigan/Southwestern Ontario, you just don't understand...

4) shoes: Docksiders--today! Tomorrow it may be my Tevas or my clogs.

5) flower: Irises, hands down! I like most bulb flowers (except allium, for some reason, although I love to eat garlic, which is in the same family), but something about irises just gets me. German bearded, Persian, Japanese...if it's an iris, I probably like it.

There--the Friday five, ON Friday. I'm frightening myself...

But then, DP and I are off to my mother's for a weekend of relaxation. Mr. M is joining us--he loves trips to "grandma's"--but the cats stay home. They hate the car.

May you all have a blessed weekend, with everything good!

And just for my online friends, here's my absolute favourite iris--Batik.



Thursday, April 20, 2006

LC's Alphabet Meme

(Programming note: the earlier blog from today actually was written yesterday, I just didn't get it posted until today, due to computer gremlins and my own procrastination.)

All right, here we go!
Accent: Listening to myself on the taped sermons (now available on podcast!), I'm nasal, and fairly devoid of accent, having lived in the upper Midwest, down south, overseas, and here in Canada... If anything, there's a hint of southern (y'all) with a touch of Midwest.
Booze: I prefer beer (legacy of five years in Germany), especially a local microbrew (here that would be Old Walkerville, especially their Lager). I also like a single-malt Scotch (when I'm in the money, it's McCallan's, most of the time it's Glenfiddich) if I'm contemplative. For a mixed drink, I love a Kir (Creme de Cassis and white wine, preferably champagne for a Kir Royal; but try finding a bartender that can make one, or has Creme de Cassis on hand--it's a black currant liqueur). So usually I settle for a 7 & 7.
Chore I Hate: Scrubbing the bathroom, cleaning the cat's litter box (hmm, certain similarity there)
Dog or Cat: One getting-up-in-years (11) Welsh Corgi, Mr. M; two Heinz 57 cats, Mama Cat (3 years) and Daughter Brat Cat (2 years).
Essential Electronics: Laptop, CD player (car, home, office)
Favorite Cologne(s): Flowering Herbs by Bath and Body Works (sadly, it's been discontinued, and I'm almost out of the stockpile I bought when I found out three years ago that they were discontinuing it); Night Blooming Jasmine (BBW) for everyday, and Shalimar for special days
Gold or Silver: I actually prefer silver, but have more gold, since I received most of my jewelry as gifts
Hometown: Lansing, Michigan (and I still visit often)
Insomnia: Rare; usually caused by too much coffee too late in the day, or life stuff (bills, church conflict, etc,). I usually treat it by getting up and reading something mindless that will suck me in and make me forget the issue and get sleepy.
Job Title: Senior Pastor (hah--and only)
Kids: One, TO, and that's enough, thanks! (although DP has two, one of each)
Living arrangements: Rented house with a teeny lumpy back yard full of beer bottle caps, a great front porch, and the best neighbours possible (in the yellow house! They are our friends--feed the cats when we go away, bring us wine they make themselves, and show us neat places in River City; we share movies, food, and lots of good times!)
Most admirable trait: Warmth/genuineness (Least admirable trait -- bonus): Conflict avoidance
Number of sexual partners: One at a time, please!
Overnight hospital stays: Way too many: I had chronic tonsillitis in kindergarten, until I finally had my tonsils out; then I had an auto-immune disorder in fourth grade that finally resolved when I had my spleen out, and for which I was in and out of the hospital; and then I had a cesarean when my son was born
Phobias: Heights; centipedes/millipedes/other hairy things; doing math in public
Quote: "Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than the fear." --Ambrose Redmoon; "You choose to play God, and the Deity points out that the post is already adequately filled." -- Dorothy Dunnett
Religion: Christian; Metropolitan Community Church built on a United Methodist foundation with various and sundry additions of Native American and Eastern spirituality
Siblings: four sisters (three older, one younger)
Time I wake up: Time my dog thinks I should be up: 6:30 am. I actually get up about 7 - 7:15 am.
Unusual talent or skill: I can't think of a single one. I'm pretty boring at parties--no ear waggling, no double joints, no famous person impressions...
Vegetable I refuse to eat: Brussels sprouts (although I'm picky about others, some of which I will only eat raw, like spinach and broccoli)
Worst habit: Procrastination (I'm doing it right now)
X-rays: I've had so many, I don't think they've missed a single one of my body parts (perhaps my knees?)
Yummy foods I make: Sugar cookies; Eggplant Parmesan; Chicken Oregano; Beef Burgundy; Chicken Enchiladas; Molasses cookies; Pork chop casserole; 7 - layer salad
Zodiac sign: Solid Aries

There you go!

Now, off to do some of those chores I don't hate that I have been procrastinating about!

Another day in River City...

This week is almost a letdown after all the excitement of last week. Yes, I’ve been busy with meetings and worship preparation and so on, but it’s feeling a bit flat. There’s not the anticipation of Easter to look forward to—it’s all over and been done.

Although I should be enjoying this coming weekend—DP and I are off to visit my mother, Mr. M. in tow (the cats don’t travel well). We have no especial plans for the weekend, just relaxing and talking, sleeping late Saturday, visiting friends, that sort of thing. I think it’s probably just what I need!

And today is a very special day—on this date a few years ago, the world was graced by the appearance of DP! We’re having a special dinner tonight, and NO MEETINGS! Wa-Hoo! Considering how we celebrated my birthday, this will be positively sedate in comparison…

It’s finally feeling like spring, so I’m sharing this spring photo with you…

This is a Tintinnabulation iris, a variety of German bearded iris, and one of my favourites.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What Kind Of Christian Are You, Anyway?

LC, as is so often the case, got me thinking again this morning (and it hurts before my first cup of coffee...).

What image of "Christian" do we present to the rest of the world? This is especially timely for me right now. As part of our congregation's search for our own building, I'm making a lot of contacts in the community at large, with public officials, etc. What kind of impression am I making on them? Do they see "Christian" first or "G(ay)L(esbian)B(isexual)T(ransgendered) person" first? Do they see the collar before anything else? Some people, I know, have a hard time reconciling the first two--Christian and GLBT--let alone adding the clergy identification into the mix.

River City is heavily Roman Catholic, conservative Roman Catholic as I haven't seen in a while. The atmosphere reminds me of my ex's family (RC) in Brooklyn, where any mention of a deceased relative was followed by "Godresisoul," and first communion parties rivalled weddings. Thus another issue for them--a GLBT female clergy (they may have been aware of a neighbourhood priest who was "that way," but he was still male, and theoretically celibate, anyway). Many people have this ingrained respect for "the cloth" trained into them from the time they could talk. But in the GLBT community, they've also been trained that who they are is something to be ashamed of. So people hide in the closet, or, when they come out, reject not only Catholicism, but Christianity. So to see an out Christian often opens their mind to a new possibility--that they could be both Christian and out. And, as the town's "token religious GLBT spokesperson," I'm a model for that.

Now that sounds a bit conceited, but I'm not trying to say that I am the perfect model. In fact, that's something I still have to come to grips with. People do look to me, to see how I will react to an event, or what I am doing in response to an issue. I am very aware that what I do affects not only how the GLBT community might see the church/Christianity/clergy, but also how "straight" folks view the GLBT community/Christians/clergy. I am very aware of my many faults and failings, so there's a real tension between honesty and providing a role model. In many ways, I'm forced to be a better person than I would be on my own...and that's a sad commentary on my discipleship, perhaps, but there it is--the truth.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Easter Monday!

Ahhh...the hustle and rush and stress of Holy Week is done. I can relax.

I feel somewhat of a hypocrite, though, because while there is a lot of stress and work and anxiety associated with Holy Week (especially for those of us with more than a Good Friday service and one Easter Sunday service...), it is also the most rewarding week, spiritually, for me.

The Friday service went very well--we shared the service with the church we lease space from, which actually was OK. Some of the members of the host church are not very comfortable with the idea of a "gay church" in their space, while others are just fine. However, I think we convinced a few more folks that we don't have tails or horns.

Saturday was wonderful--a perfect balance of play and work. DP and I had a dim sum lunch with friends whom we don't see enough of--even though two of them live next door! Then we drove to the local hand-made-chocolates place, and indulged in chocolate eggs. Saw something there that still has me shuddering--chocolate crucifixes. I can accept (warily) chocolate crosses (which were also there), and chocolate Praying Hands; but crucifixes? That is a bit bizarre to me--although it gives a whole new meaning to "this is my body..." It actually reminded me of the Awful Christian Kitsch page from Christmas-time (I have a friend who really really wants the Nativity kitchen timer).

But then I went home and finished up the sermon, allowing me to go to the women's potluck dinner with a clear conscience! It was a good one (they almost always are), with a lawyer presenting on the legal issues facing same-sex couples (powers of attorney, the need for wills, etc.). Many eyes were opened to just how important marriage is--in terms of taking care of your partner after you are gone. Without a will, for instance, if you have children, they share the estate with your widow/widower; if they are minors, that means that your ex will have a say in how that property (say, a house) is disposed of... Not always a pleasant thought. And, a will is not dissolved by divorce--so if you divorce and don't write a new will, your ex will get everything when you go.

**IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER** I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. The above is my understanding of information received as part of a public event, and applies only in Canada. It should not be mistaken for actual legal information!

(Just for the lawyers out there!)

So how was my Easter Sunday? I was able to sleep in a bit, since my sermon was essentially done (one of the few benefits of a Sunday afternoon service). I had decided to demonstrate graphically the difference between the sombre plain-ness of Lent and the celebration and colour and excitement of Easter--so I actually wore a dress, full makeup and heels! I think I've done that once or twice in the 18 months I've been here. Suffice it to say, this is an exceedingly rare event for me. The expressions on people's faces were priceless, and worth the sore feet! We welcomed a new member, and even had him bite the head off a chicken (see Steel Magnolias), although it was a marshmallow Peep chick...

I also sang the consecration--my first solo in, oh, thirty years... I did OK, though not, of course, as well as I would have liked. I mean, I received compliments from people, but I personally wasn't happy with the way I forgot the words, and came in late once... But I got through it, and with more practise, I should be fine by the end of Eastertide--when we will switch to something else, of course. :}

Then we had Easter dinner with friends, with more friends dropping in later. We didn't close the door on the last of them until 11 pm! Of course, for most people here in Canada, today is a work holiday, so hanging out with friends until all hours was just fine.

I slept in today too--sore back (from the heels or from playing with the cats?), and plan to be proactive by doing some basic worship planning for the next couple of months. If I have the Scriptures, the call to worship, and maybe the invocation and benediction, along with some thoughts for the sermon, planned for the next several Sundays, I'll be ahead of the game--finally!

It will be difficult, though, since we're having a wonderful warm spring day here in River City, and I know DP wants to get some yard work done...and I'll be very tempted to wander away from the computer!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Yay! It's Easter!

I've always loved Easter--and it's not just because my birthday generally falls within a week or two of Easter, either! There's something about this time of year--the daffodils and hyacinths and tulips blooming, the grass growing, the trees (cherry, dogwood, crab apple) budding, the birds singing again...it really gives me the sense of new possibilities, of opportunity available, of fresh starts and new beginnnings.

I begin to understand spring cleaning and the pagan fertility rites, both of them!

Life is back in the world!

And that's the whole point of Easter, isn't it? The resurrection of Jesus, new life for each and every one of us, reflected in the world around us. Rebirth. A new start.

We're bringing in a new member this Easter--it's nice and traditional to do so--and I am so thrilled this young man has decided to join. He's a university student, already active in the church, and has decided to make a committment to the church. He's energetic and enthusiastic, and will, I think, be a source of real energy for the whole congregation. He's even baked a couple of cakes for the Easter Sunday coffee hour!

The church is also trying to assist a young man who was recently disowned and thrown out of the house by his family because of his sexual orientation (yes, it still happens, even in Canada). He's far too young (in my not-so-humble opinion) to be on his own. But we're trying to find ways to get him support, in both material and non-material ways. We want to help him find a new way, a new start.

Easter. A new start. A new beginning. A new life. For both of these young men. For each of us. For the whole world. Thank you God!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Gift of Love

Where to begin?

It’s been another one of those weeks—very busy, hectic, where it’s been difficult to find time to breathe, knowing I’m doing good things, yet still barely keeping my head above water.

My Saturday was wonderfully healing, though. It was my birthday, which I was able to celebrate with TO and DP (we went to dinner at a friend’s Chinese restaurant—he brought me a candle with deep-fried wontons and sweet-and-sour sauce all around it like a wreath). TO gave me a beautiful book of Celtic blessings—can’t have too many resources for prayer!

But more than that, I celebrated two events that, to me, pretty much sum up my call. In the morning, I married two lovely women—they’ve been together quite a while, and are deeply in love. Even though their marriage has no legal standing where they live, they know that somewhere in the world, it does—one government, at least, recognizes their bond and their love.

And then in the afternoon, I was privileged to be a part of the departure of a member of our larger community. She wasn’t a member of the church, but she and her extended family are our friends. She died after a heroic struggle with breast cancer. I was asked to lead the service, along with a family member who is former clergy. From the beginning, we knew we wouldn’t be having a traditional funeral service--it was not what she would have wanted, and it would not have expressed her soul. So we tried to create a celebration. I like to think we succeeded--many tears, some laughter, much sharing, lots of hugs. I kept thinking, as I looked around the room, that I hoped I would have half as many people at my memorial service who were touched by my life, to whom I had made a difference, whose lives were changed because they knew me. Not because I think I’m special, but because it seems to me that this is our reason for life—to touch others, to help them find healing, growth and strength, and to allow them to express their life-giving gifts through helping us and guiding us to healing, growth, and strength.

The common bond between the two events of yesterday? Lives that touch each other, that heal and comfort and uplift. I think of the Judy Collins song, “Song for Duke,” about the service for Duke Ellington.

I didn't even know the man
I didn't know the man himself
Even though his music filled my life
As it has so many others.

I knew that he had died that week
After fighting death a year or more
But I had had a rule before
That funerals were a waste of flowers

But something said I had to go
To be a witness to his gift of love
A man who never once gave up on life
Until death took him in his tracks.

The people stood around the church
Ten thousand people there they say, or more
Black and white, rich and poor
Together they were there to say farewell.

In New York City it had rained that day
The streets were silver and the sky was grey
But in the church the music soared and sang
And seemed to fill the air with shining sun.

The man was a hero

He played the music of our souls
He knew that we all have in us
A place where beauty always grows

Outside in the streets again,
The people wandered through the falling rain
They waved their hands and dried their tears
And turned to go about their lives again.

But none of us will be the same
If we hear the things his music said
That loving is the gift of life
And making music was his way of love.

The man was a hero
He played the music of our souls
He knew we all had in us
A place where beauty always grows
Always grows.

May you walk in beauty today and always.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Get Down Off That Cross!

I started to write about how crazy things are, and then I thought, "Well, yes. Everyone's life is crazy right now." So then I started to write about how I'm trying to balance my stress and self-care, especially after my scare last week (thanks for the nudge, Barbara!).

And then I found out about LutheranChik's mom.

And now I'm reminded of what a friend said once when I was moaning about all the stuff I had to do, and how no one was helping me, and how I needed to let others take some of the load, but it was so hard to let go of things... He looked me straight in the eye and said, "Get down off that cross, honey, someone already got crucified for us!"

My self-pity party is now officially over.