Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Brainstorms?

I had a terrific (in the sense of terrifying) migraine last night--the worst I've had in years. I had to resort to Imitrex(R) and going to sleep; then woke up two hours later with the pain gone but not the nausea. Ugh.

Woke up feeling like a new person this morning though--there's a kind of relief and euphoria when that pain finally goes away. I feel energized and excited about getting things done.

And in working on preparing the order of service for Sunday, I came across something on my favourite preaching bulletin board (desperatepreacher.com). One of the other desperate preachers mentioned something he had done in the past--taking a variety of translations and inserting one in each of the bulletins. During announcements, the congregation was informed that they were doing the Scripure reading as a congregation, and that they might not have exactly the same reading as the person next to them, but that they should keep on reading. And behold--many voices, saying all different things, but one message. A sort of Pentecost, indeed.

I'm going to put that into practice, with one change--we have a couple of Francophones and a German-speaker (me), so I've got a couple of French translations and a German one, just to add a bit more spice.

In the past, I've used different languages for different parts of the Scripture--we started out and ended in English, but also heard German, French and Spanish along the way. One year I did the invocation in Hebrew (and wasn't that tricky, since I've never studied Hebrew? Luckily I found a phonetic transliteration and a translation...).

We're also using a new hymn, by Brian Wren-- "Source of All, Sustaining Spirit." Well, new to us, at any rate!

And I think I will shock them once again and wear a red dress.

What are you doing for Pentecost?



Pentecost

Quilt, Linda Schmidt

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Saint Joan!

Today is the saint's-day of Joan of Arc. I grew up in a tradition that didn't have an official list of recognized saints--anyone who was in the church was a saint. We remembered giants of the faith--the Christian faith--but we didn't venerate them. On All Saints' Day (or the closest Sunday thereto), we once or twice recited a litany of them--Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther, Calvin, the Wesleys (Susanna, John and Charles), and more modern-day saints as well; Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, etc. So I was aware of the tradition, but it never loomed large for me.

But Joan of Arc--now, there was a saint I could get interested in emulating--armour, horses, strong, advisor to the French king Charles VII--except for hearing voices, which spooked me a bit. I knew she had died horribly, but somehow my adolescent mind skittered away from that, sure that in my case it would have been different.

She made me think about honour, though, and what was worth dying for. I read a novel that included her as one of the characters, and at the end, another character, who loved her, had managed to get a place at a window in the market square in Roen where she was to be burned. He had a cross-bow, and his plan to was to shoot her before she suffered too much. He didn't care if he was caught and executed himself; he wanted to spare her. But his friend talked him out of it. He said that Joan had refused to recant, knowing what lay in store for her; she went, in some measure, willingly to the flames. Could he (the lover) decide that Joan had made the wrong choice? It was Joan's life, and Joan's choice to make, and not the lover's. In the end, the lover sees that his friend is right, and leaves town rather than see her die. It was heart-wrenching, but I understood, even at 15 or so, that we cannot make decisions for others--if a person is capable of making that decision, then we must allow her to know what is best for her life. We may not agree, but we cannot make someone's else's life decision.

I have a feeling that, while the character of Joan's lover was not based on a known historical figure, there was probably more than one person like that in the crowd, who wanted to spare her agony, but who also understood that this was her choice, her testimony, her witness. She could not lie about the voices she heard; she could not pretend to confess to witchcraft in order to save her life. She died with integrity.

Many people in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community take Joan as their saint, because she cross-dressed, she dared to speak her truth, and she was truthful about who she was and her call in the world. She did not, could not, pretend to be the quiet, dutiful woman she was "supposed" to be. She did what she heard God telling her to do, and not what the world felt she should do.

She's somewhat controversial, and has been used by many political and religious groups as a figurehead, because of her reputatoin as the champion of the marginalized (Charles was fighting to get northern France back from the English). So take it all with a grain of salt if you like. I admire her, personally. Joan did what she felt she had to do, even if powerful people didn't approve.

She was an "uppity woman," and may God bless her and her memory forever.



1450 - 1500
Centre Historique des Archives Nationales, Paris

Saturday, May 27, 2006

My Iris! It's Blooming!


Well, there she is--my Hemstitched Iris! Actually, this specific photo isn't of the iris in my garden (I don't have a digital camera), but this is what it looks like.

The first one bloomed today, and there are at least eight more buds. Yay!!

I do love iris--can you tell?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday Five--What I Believe

Here they are: five things I believe:

1. Jesus loves me. Not 'cause the Bible tells me so, but because I feel it in my inmost being.

2. You get what you give. If you put arrogance and anger and judgment out into the world, then you get that right back. If you put love and acceptance and at least an attempt at understanding into the world, then you get tolerance and openness back. Not necessarily from the same people, but it's out there!

3. Someday the Red Wings will win the Stanley Cup. Quixotic, I know, and I'm not even much of a hockey fan, but I know it will happen someday.

4. There is no force greater than love. Nothing. Nada. After all, God is love.

5. I am where I am for a purpose; my job is find out what the purpose is, and then fulfill it.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wednesday night

Yep. Still Wednesday night.

I'm staring at the computer screen, with nothing to say. Or rather, lots to say, but can't yet, not even here in cyberspace where no one knows your name. Soon, I promise. In a week or two. And it is good news, too.

Let's see--reading. What am I reading currently? Well, I'm reading "Original Blessing" by Matthew Fox (still in the introduction). I'm finding myself nodding furiously so far. Let's hope it continues. I'm also reading "Changing Ones," by Will Roscoe, on the role of alternative genders in Native cultures, and "Clergy Self-Care," by Roy Oswald. The last is published by the Alban Institute, and when I finish it, I'll write a review. So far, though, it's pretty good (i.e., realistic).

Bloom blog note: the iris are beginning to open. I should know tomorrow what they look like (of course it's supposed to rain tomorrow in River City!).

What are YOU reading?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

That Movie

I did in fact see that movie which gets a famous artist's name wrong (not simply misspelled, as I said yesterday).

****SPOILER ALERT***
I will discuss plot points, so if you don't want to know what happens, read no further!!

You have been warned.

****

Violent. Bloody. Disturbing.

I went with a group of friends, and one of us left after half an hour, unable to stand the brutality and gore. If I hadn't felt a sense of duty, I doubt I would have stayed.

I don't remember that the book (which I read) had so much violence in it; but it may be that seeing it, graphically, makes it more powerful than reading about it on the page. That said, there were two murders, a cilice and self-flagellation in the first half an hour. More than enough for me.

That was bad enough, but the history! According to the "experts" in the movie, Constantine convened a council that decided the contents of the Bible; the Christians pulled down the ancient gods of the Romans (and only one goddess was mentioned), a French King conquered Jerusalem solely in order to regain the Grail, etc. I won't even go into the mess they made of Templar history. It's not that it's simply flat wrong--although it is, sometimes--it's a compressing and over-simplification of what really happened. And then theory is presented as fact--that Mary Magdalene and Jesus had a child, that she was rushed out of Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion, and bore a child in France, where the descendents of Jesus have forever after been protected by a secret group, because the Catholic church would destroy them and the child if they were ever located (which is where Opus Dei comes in), because it would destroy the Church's power. Which is, according to the movie, based on the erasure of one of Jesus' primary relationships, and the subjugation of women.

Now, I won't entirely argue with the latter--that women (and other groups) have been marginalized in much of traditional organized religion. But it's overstated and made into a vast conspiracy, with money and blood and cellphones and the Louvre playing huge roles.

Tom Hanks sleepwalks, Ian McKellan chews scenery (although, given the character he plays, it would be difficult to resist).

The plot was full of holes, the largest (to my mind) being: if the purpose of the Council of Sion was to protect the descendents of Jesus, why is the tomb of Mary Magdalene so important? The living children would, logically, be the focus. But she is called the Chalice, she is venerated, it's all about where Mary is buried. That seems pointless, to me.

Yes, the feminine has been marginalized in much of organized religion in the West in the last 2000 years; but this is a bit much.

Even if there were incontrovertible proof that Jesus had married and had children, so what? It would not jar my faith. Jesus was human and divine; he wept, he laughed, he had human parents who raised him, he surely felt all the emotions a human being can feel--otherwise, he was not fully human. So it does not bother me to think he might have had children. What matters to me is his teachings, his love for humankind, his death on the cross and his resurrection. Period. I do not think that Jesus' message of love and salvation is so meagre, so weak, so tenuous as to be destroyed by the idea that he might have--or even did--love a woman. That's what "fully human" means.

So. Go see it if you think you need to in order to discuss it with your congregation, but be prepared for gore, frustration with the twisting and obliteration of facts, and annoyance with plot holes.

Otherwise, wait for Over the Hedge--now that looks like a fun movie!


Monday, May 22, 2006

Happy Victoria Day, Y'All!

Today is Victoria Day here in Canada, a statutory holiday--meaning everyone, pretty much, gets a day off.

It's the traditional start to the summer, when people put their boats in the water for the first time this year, and open cottages, and have BBQs and open their pools. It's the beginning of fireworks season, too--next weekend is Memorial Day, which we are at least aware of here, being so close to the border, and then there's the Queen's Birthday, which is not a statutory holiday, but a good excuse for fireworks nonetheless, and then JuneTeenth, which we remember because River City was a popular terminus of the Underground Railroad, and then Canada Day. That Thursday we have huge fireworks, with River City and The Large American City Across the River celebrating both Canada Day and July 4th with an enormous display over the river. I've seen the fireworks in Washington DC and in Boston, and they are both puny compared to what they put on here. Maybe it's the river...

I celebrated by moving my desk out of the teeny tiny room DP and I were trying to share as an office and into the spare bedroom. Now DP and I don't bump chairs every time one of us gets up (or sits down or moves or turns to answer the phone). Of course, we had to bring one of our friends from the Lil Yellow House (LYH) next door to help out (DP had hurt her hand and couldn't lift my large-and-heavy-but-not-massive desk). I took advantage of the moment to clear out a bunch of papers and magazines that had collected on my bookcase (also moved). I feel very virtuous now, and as if I have earned the right to go see a movie this afternoon.

We're going to see That Movie--TdVC (the one that misspells a famous artist's name). I'm in about six minds about the movie. I thought the book was poorly written, and badly edited (a dial tone on a cell phone, to name the least of the errors), and the ideas were nothing new, lawsuits notwithstanding. On the other hand, I'm very interested in feminist theology and the ways women have been edited out of history. On the third hand, I hate to support Dan Brown, On the fourth hand, I think I need to be able to talk about it intelligently (I know people will ask!). On the fifth hand, I like Ian McKellan and Tom Hanks and whatername, so I want to see them. On the sixth hand, I'm NOT up for watching self-flagellation. On the seventh hand, it's also a social outing with friends.

I'll report back afterwards.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Bloom Blogging!

Well, sort of--I don't have pictures of anything at this moment, but I did do some gardening today--yay!

The rain has finally stopped, the ark it stopped a-movering, and I mowed the lawn (front and back) this morning! Amazing how much better a yard looks when you mow. DP and I then cleared up some debris and did a bit of weeding--looks ever better. We have these horrible thin thistley things (alliteration!). They don't cling tightly, but if you don't grab them just right (difficult to do with gloves on, but of course you need the gloves, they hurt like the devil if they stick you), the stem breaks off. But if you do get it just right, the root slides right out and that one's gone. We had a thicket of them around our brand-new iris plants (gifts from garden-clearing friends--thanks, guys!), but now the iris stand tall and proud--and when they bloom in a week or so, they'll look great. I'm amazed they're blooming this year, to be honest--I thought they'd need a year to settle in. We planted them in the fall, so they did have the winter.

Aren't iris amazing? The deeper you plant them, the worse they do. And they spread themselves, and look gorgeous when they bloom. Even their foliage looks great--very sculptural. Like most bulbs, you can plant them and pretty much forget them--until they've overgrown the spot you had for them and you have to lift them and give some away--as our friends did. I don't even know what colour these are...I think I was told purple or blue. My fantasy of what they will look like:


Blenheim Royal Iris

Once they do bloom, I'll post a photo, and we'll see how right I was!

I have the sermon pretty much written (except for the usual last-minute editing on Sunday morning), and I've done my yardwork, so I can relax the rest of the day! And a potluck dinner tonight!

We're taking cake, I think.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Summer Plans

I'm planning my continuing education for this year, and what I would like to do is a personal retreat. Mostly this is to work on a project I've been thinking about for a while, which DP has been encouraging me to do, but I haven't found the time to do. It's a (deep breath) book.

I've been thinking about spirituality and women, specifically lesbian and bisexual women, and the ways traditional feminist theology reads differently for women attracted to other women, not only Christian women, but women from other traditions as well. I think I have some things to say about it, and I'd like to get them out there. On the other hand, it may all be a bunch of nothing. So I want to at least try to write this, to put it together and see if I really have enough to say about it, or if I need to refocus or try another angle.

However, with life getting in the way, I haven't had a chance to do much. I've done a lot of reading, and that's been rewarding, but I'm getting to a point where I need to start putting together an outline, seeing where the gaps are, and figuring out how to fill them.

Thus my desire for this retreat. Ideally it would be a week long, in some isolated (but not too isolated) place, perhaps a cabin in the woods near a lake about twenty minutes from town. Alternatively, it could be in town, but in a place where the proprietors wouldn't be in my face all the time. Also nice would be the availability of canoeing and/or hiking. My dream retreat would include a meeting or two with someone who has been published, who has gone down this road of putting together a whole book before and can offer some guidance through the wilderness. My treasurer would like someplace not too expensive...which means B&B's are out. Oh, and somewhere within about four-five hours from Detroit would be perfect.

To sum up:
  • Privacy
  • Writing coach
  • Water (lake, river, pond)
  • Reasonable cost
  • Location
Now, here's where you come in! I need suggestions on finding such a place! I have a couple of leads, but I realized that I have a wonderful resource in RevGals.

Any and all ideas welcome...and many thanks!

Follow-Up Adventures in the Imaging Department

I went in to see my doctor this morning about the results of my MRI. I was a bit concerned because her office called me yesterday afternoon and wanted to set up an appointment right away ("concerned" = "out of my mind").

She says all is well, the cyst hasn't gotten any larger (6 cm/c.2 1/2 inches is quite large enough), and my brain appears otherwise normal (good thing she said "appears," bwahahaha).

Phew.

Oh, and the dizziness?

Stress.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Adventures in the Imaging Department!

I survived it. My MRI, that is.

You may remember that I had a “dizziness incident” in late March, attributed to stress by my doctor. But, hearing that I had an arachnoid cyst*, she ordered up an MRI. Just to have a baseline, she emphasized. Just so they know.

So, I got up at five-freakin’-thirty this morning and tottered over to the hospital (having only one cup of coffee because of the lack of a bathroom break during this thing). The MRI department is part of the Imaging Department, which includes Xray, ultrasound, CAT scans, and MRI--and probably a couple of others I'm not up on, now that I'm out of the medical world. I was checked in, and then called down to "Room 8," which turned out to be the MRI lab. The technician asked me if I had ever at any time had metal left inside my body (metal plates, joints, dentures; ever been shot with a bullet or BBs? Any gold on my teeth?). Was I possibly pregnant (if I am, it’s a miracle)? Etc. I divested myself of everything containing metal (read: watch, underwire, glasses, jewelry), wrapped up in a gown one size too small, housecoat ditto, and was slid into a plastic tube with a grate over my face (I did get a blanket over my knees, which was appreciated--it was cold in there! For the machine, I suppose). There I lay for twenty minutes, while the machine went “bambambambambambambam” three inches away. I did have earphones with a local radio station playing, but, well, not much can cover up that kind of noise!

The technician kept saying (through the earphones), “Now keep real still,” and of course just then I would get short of breath thinking of how small the tube was, not daring to open my eyes and see just how small it really was, and trying to keep my eyes still, because after all this is a brain scan and they might want to see what my eyes are doing in there…

Anyway, it was eventually over. I re-vested myself with metal and came home. More coffee and a dose of Matt Lauer in Paris later, I am feeling better. If sleepy.


*An arachnoid cyst is a benign collection of fluid in the arachnoid layer of the brain. It is thought to be congenital, and usually causes no problems. The brain forms around it and compensates. Researchers believe more are being diagnosed because more brain MRIs are being done, and therefore the ACs are being noticed (they don’t show up on an Xray).

Monday, May 15, 2006

Monday Moanin'

It’s raining. Again. It’s rained for the last six days. I’m beginning to think I’m in Vancouver, not River City.

The grass is growing, and so are the dandelions. It looks horrible. But we can’t mow it because, of course, it’s raining. The only consolation is that everyone else’s lawn looks the same way. For the same reason.

We have plants to plant. They are getting potbound. But we can’t plant them because it’s raining. Now, before you think I’m a total wimp who can’t get her not-so-dainty feet wet, let me say that we’re not talking a misty-type rain here. It’s buckets, folks. It only stops at night when you can’t do anything outside.

And it’s chilly, too.

Reminds me of my first spring in Germany, when it rained for a month straight and the temp never got above 68F.

Brrrr. Coffee and a good book weather.

And West Wing’s ended.

Grump.

Monday’s my day off. Maybe I’ll just go back to bed and try to get warm.

Grump.



Saturday, May 13, 2006

Not Martha Stewart!

Today I’m preaching to me again, but y’all are welcome to listen and chime in when desired.

It’s about finances. I think I’ve mentioned that it’s tight for us here in River City. We love it, we’re not planning on leaving, but sometimes we run out of pay cheque before we run out of month. That said, we have ways of doing things to survive that are legal, moral, sane, and even healthy. I’m not just talking about at the grocery store, but just life in general. There are all kinds of ways to make money go farther. Our garden this year will be huge and beautiful, filled with flowers and colour. And we spent less than twenty dollars. How? Friends who were clearing out their garden and redoing it gave us bulbs, seeds, and rootings. We bought plants that were on sale. We belong to a local online group called “Plantshare” for frugal gardeners to share plants, extra pots, lend tools, etc. We don’t have the fanciest furniture but we keep it polished and clean. Our house isn’t decorated to the nines, but it’s comfortable and inviting (seems to be, from the number of people willing to come over). There are ways to live well on very little (many years of military spouse-hood taught me that!).

So what sparked this train of thought? A letter to an advice columnist. The writer said that she and her family lived in the “poor house” on their block; she couldn’t work for medical reasons, so they were living on her husband’s paycheque and home schooling their children. But they had a house with books, music, pets, a huge back yard, etc. When people came over, she said, whether it was adult friends or her children’s friends, they never came back. She was very hurt and ascribed it to snobbery, because her furniture was old and her house not very fancy. The columnist’s response was good, but it didn’t go far enough, I thought (although I know those get edited down, so it’s possible she really said more). She said that attitude counted a lot, and if the writer was defensive or insecure about how the house looked, then that would affect the way guests saw the place. The writer may or may not have said anything that would sound defensive (“no, we can’t afford pop; here’s some water”), but her attitude would come through nonetheless. My thought was yes, perhaps it’s her attitude, but maybe there’s something more going on. There are lots of ways to live well on a budget, even an extremely tight one.

I’m thinking of an acquaintance who was an accomplished dumpster diver. She haunted yard sales and estate sales, and was not averse to picking up furniture left on the roadside for the garbage haulers to pick up. She knew how to refinish and reupholster, she was imaginative at seeing other uses for things, and she wasn’t afraid to make do. Her home was very comfortable—not elegant, that wasn’t her style—but a place you felt happy to be.

And it was clean. That’s important, too. Keep the pet hair to a minimum, clean the yard after your dog, wash the dishes, put them away, keep the laundry out of the living room, dust once a month or so (she says, tongue firmly in cheek).

Just because you can’t get new furniture doesn’t mean your house can’t look decent. Not everyone can upholster, true. But it’s very cheap to refinish a tabletop, or toss a blanket over a worn easy chair. You don’t have to have a sewing machine to make simple curtains from fabric you find in the remnant bin at the fabric store. “Plantshare” and its sister email list “*Freecycle” are great ways to get things to people who need them while getting what you’ve been looking for, and clearing clutter. I have actually found that an internet connection really pays for itself. Besides needing it for sermon research and blogging (hah hah), emailing my family cuts down on long-distance calls, I can read the headlines and obits in the local paper for free, not to mention papers from around the world, I can do research and have access to resources without having to purchase them, print coupons, and so on. You can trade expertise with a friend—she helps you refinish the table, you help her bake a special birthday cake for her son. I really hate to sound like a housekeeping pamphlet from the 30s, but there are so many ways to have a nice (not fancy, but nice) house without spending a lot of money—it just takes some imagination and, sometimes, a little more work. None of that is costly.

Maybe the writer of the letter was doing all those things. I don’t know. But I wonder.
How sad she sounded. How desperate. How lonely. And I wonder if she has tried some or all of those things I mentioned (after all, it’s not rocket science; if I can figure these things out, anyone can), and they just didn’t work for her. And I wonder if there’s something else going on, that she feels so isolated, and seems so friendless.

Maybe it’s resonating with me because I was once in a similar situation, although I didn’t have any children at the time. I was living in military housing in another country, I didn’t speak the language, there were no jobs available, and we didn’t have much cash. For the first three months, I spent my time borrowing trashy romance novels from the library, reading all day while drinking too-sweet instant coffee. Can you spell depression? The only reason I didn’t spend the afternoon watching game shows on TV was because the Armed Forces channel showed children’s programs all afternoon.

I didn’t get out of that rut on my own; and it wasn’t overnight. But I learned that the way to have friends is to be a friend. I learned to look around and see what’s right in front of my face. I learned to enjoy things that are free, and how to find them.

That sounds like Pollyanna, I know. But to modify a cliché, you can’t make lemonade until you’ve been handed some lemons. I’ve had some lemons. And I’ve learned how to make a passable lemonade.

So I’ll pray for that woman tonight and tomorrow and next week. I hope she finds what she needs, and some extra sprinkles on top as well.


*”Freecycle” and “Plantshare” email groups are found all over the US and Canada. The idea is that when you have something you don’t need anymore (kid clothes, a stroller, books, dishes) you post that on the list, and people who can use it email you; you give to them. When you need something (a crib, a posthole digger), you post, and people who have one or can loan it to you contact you. They are local, so you’re talking to someone across town, not on the other coast. “Plantshare” works the same way with garden stuff (wheelbarrow, seeds, plant identifications, etc.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday Five!

1. Describe a memorable conference, retreat, workshop or convention you've attended.
A three-day retreat on spirituality and sexuality that was held in a wonderful remodelled cottage in the mountains of North Carolina. It was small (9 of us) and I was the only woman, but we learned so much from each other, connected on so many levels, that I know if I ever meet any of the other participants again, we will pick up right where we left off. One of those weekends you don’t want to have end.

2. Tell us about a memorable speaker or preacher you've heard.
One of my seminary colleagues, with whom I had a preaching class, always blew me away. He was able to cover the important bases, touch on other issues just enough to clear them up, never skipped over difficult issues, was always pastoral, and did it all in a way that was engaging and thoughtful. He didn’t mix metaphors or change themes in the middle of the sermon. Needless to say, all of us were very grateful the course was not graded on a curve!

At a conference/workshop, the best was a sermon on AIDS, given by an HIV+ man. He was passionate, honest, and clear in his call for justice, without self-pity or bathos. One of the most touching moments was when he called on all the men to thank the women (lesbians, bisexual, and straight) for their care, their support, and their hard work on behalf of their HIV+ brothers, He made the men applaud for a whole minute. “Make some noise, boys,” he said. “They took care of us. We need to show them we know it and thank them. Make some noise!” His theology and understanding of the depth of God’s love and care was so rich and full, it made me ashamed of my understanding. His sermon has affected almost every sermon I have written since.

3. Do you attend all of the scheduled events, or play hooky? If the latter, what do you do with your free time?
Oh, I usually take an afternoon or so off if I can. Especially when it’s a week-long conference, you really need some down-time from the workshops and meetings and networking. I like to visit whatever makes the city/town a tourist attraction—and everyplace has something! I also like to wander around the area a bit—just to get a flavour for the place. And I try to eat out away from the conference—another way to take a break and pace myself. But I always attend the opening and closing session, the social events, and the worship events.

4. Do you like having a roommate or would you rather have a room to yourself?That really depends on the roommate! If it’s DP, no problem, of course! Otherwise, it would have to be someone who a) didn’t mind my snoring; b)was fairly independent (i.e., wouldn’t need to do everything with me, but could go off on his or her own); c) wasn’t noisy if/when s/he came in at 3 am.

On a retreat, though, I do prefer my own room (again, except for DP), just because I may want to write or pray or meditate at any and all hours, and I don’t want to disturb someone.

5. What's the most exotic location you've conferenced or retreated?
Let’s see: Dallas, Provincetown, near Asheville, Washington, DC (several locations), Puerto Rico, Michigan woods. I guess Puerto Rico—which was beautiful and wonderful! Not only was the conference great, but the seafood was awesome, the people friendly, the weather gorgeous, and the part of town we stayed in (the Old Town) lovely.

Edited to add: I don't know where my brain was. Of course the Puerto Rico retreat was in San Juan, not all over all of Puerto Rico...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

My Hidden Talent

Your Hidden Talent

You have the natural talent of rocking the boat, thwarting the system.And while this may not seem big, it can be.It's people like you who serve as the catalysts to major cultural changes.You're just a bit behind the scenes, so no one really notices.
No comment.

River City Mourns

This has been a very hard day in River City. On Friday, May 5, we lost a police officer. For the first time in River City’s history, a police officer has died in the line of duty. He was shot by an 18-year-old drug runner. When the young man learned what he had done, he was distraught.
It is rare, relatively speaking, for anyone in Canada to die by gunfire. Gun ownership and use is strictly controlled here. If people get in a fight outside a bar, there’s a stabbing, not gunfire. For a police officer to be shot by a suspect is almost unheard of, especially in a city as small as ours.
And that’s the other factor—this is a small town. Everyone in River City knows everyone else, one way or another. They know the brothers and sisters, or worked with the aunt, or went to school with the patrol partner, or have a sister in the police service.
A group of hotels in town are donating 10 percent of their returns from room reserved by the many police who came to town for the funeral. The money will go to a trust fund for the officer's two school-age children (seven and nine). Blue ribbons are popping up all over town--also raising funds for the children.
The city is virtually shut down today. The premier of Ontario paid his respects; the mayor, too. There were more Mounties than I could count, and the Ontario Provincial Police were there, too. The weather is appropriately dark and gloomy and chilly and rainy today. The Mounties and police will stand shoulder to shoulder along the route, saluting as the constable passes by, one last time. His brothers and sisters in the service, along with his family, will escort him to the cemetery. His last patrol.

In memory

Sr. Constable John Atkinson

Monday, May 08, 2006

Monday Morning Meme

Here's one in honour of Mother's Day this coming Sunday: Five women who were or are important in your life. Mine are below--leave a comment if you play!

1. My mother. It amy be a "duh" sort of thing, I don't know; probably every woman's mother is one of the most important influences in their lives. My mom showed me by example that a woman can be very strong and raise children on her own, be a professional, and succeed in a traditionally male profession (she was a civil engineer). She taught me to never settle for second best in a relationship, that every person in a family is important, and to focus on your relationships to make them thrive. She also taught me some practical things, like how to make lemon cake, the joys of gardening, and the value of planning ahead, even for the week's meals. Yep, I'm a big admirer of my mom!!

2. Mentor Pastor She was one of my mentors as I went into ministry. She was there when I got frustrated with my internship placement, and encouraged me through seminary, my divorce, and my coming out. She was pastor of the church I belonged to when I began the voyage into ministry; I had been a member there for many years, and been very active (choir, committees, TO baptized there, etc.). Even after I came out and left the UMC, they were supportive of me, and told me I was welcome to preach there anytime. We still keep in touch, and she is one of my models of the ideal pastor. She shows leadership and is tough when needed, but isn't afraid to cry when something touches her, and she loves that praise music! She is her authentic self, and I love it.

3. Mentor Pastor 2 She was my supervising pastor for the transition into the MCC. She had been down the path I was following, albeit in a more tolerant time (a sort of "don't ask, don't tell" period in the UMC's history). So she knew very well the issues and difficulties I was facing--even knew many of the personalities--and was able to guide and support me with honesty and sympathy. She's another role model for me!

4. Mentor Professor She taught at my seminary, and was an outstanding teacher and guide. I took one formal classroom course from her, but then did an independent study with her and also went on my immersion study tour with her. She became a friend as well, advising me on what to do as I came out and transferred. She was sensitive without being overdramatic, and supportive without being suffocating. If I ever write a book, she will be mentioned in the acknowledgements, no matter how many years have passed since I talked to her.

5. Dear Partner Words cannot express how much she means to me. She is funny, sweet, loving and supportive--which also means a kick in the [name your body part] when I need it... She took a chance on getting involved with me, and she took another chance moving to River City with me. She's never complained or blamed me for our financial difficulties, and she certainly could have. She's my sun, warming every day of my life.

So who are your five wonderful women?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Friday Five--Birthday Meme

1. Favorite birthday cake/ice cream/dessert
Well, my favourite is chocolate cake with chocolate icing, but a raspberry filling is nice. Another nice choice is a spice cake with mocha icing. The most interesting "cake" I ever had was blueberry crepes. Mom always asked what we wanted for a birthday cake, and this year I had recently had crepes, and blueberry was (and is) one of my favourite fruits. So she made me blueberry crepes--in April! In Michigan! Amazing.

2. Surprise Parties -- have you ever given or received one?
Both. I've given (or been part of organizing) several surprise parties for friends, co-workers, etc. I've had a surprise baby shower--oh, we're talking about birthdays. Yes, I had three that I can remember. One was for my 14th birthday; my cat had recently died, my parents had split up, I was in the dumps. My friends got together and had a surprise party for me, including motzah ball soup from a Jewish friend, funny poems on the cards, and those candles that won't blow out. Another was for my 40th--the group of friends I was with at the time had a tradition of surprise parties for the 40th birthday. The best was my 36th, though--I was going through a rough time in my life and my friend Like-a-Sister organized my friends from our circle, my work friends, my church friends and even some family to surprise me for my birthday. She called people she didn't even know to try to make me feel better. It was wonderful to have them all there and feel their support.

3. Favorite birthday present
Now there's a tough one. One year my then-husband gave me a camera, which I have used ever since. It was a wonderful gift. Another year it was diamond stud earrings. But as I have gotten older, the value or size of the gift has mattered less and less. TO gave me a painted tile one year for a mug coaster--he painted it blue, my favourite colour. You're right, I'm still using it! And then DP has given me lovely flowers, and a photo portrait...the first year we were together, it was a ring. A friend gave me a set of candle holders that were absolutely perfect. Once my sisters in law gave me a gift certificate to the big nursery in town, so I could stock up my garden for the summer. Other wonderful gifts have ranged from chocolates to mugs to books to movie theatre gift certificates to jewelry.

4. What do you think of those candles that won't blow out?
Way too frustrating. Thank goodnesss no one (recently) has tried them on me.

5. Best. birthday. ever.
I probably would say this every year, but this year was very special. TO was with us, I shared my vocation in a very special way (a wedding and a funeral the same day--on my birthday)--even the weather was beautiful! I honestly don't know what was missing that I would have added--nothing, I think. Big breakfast (my favourite meal), wedding (with a very sweet couple), incredible funeral (which may sound odd, but it was very affirming of the person's life, it was beautiful--and I don't think I had much to do with that, really; the Spirit moved), then a drive along the river in the lovely weather, and dinner at a friend's restaurant, followed by a great movie at home.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Judicial Council Ruling

This is from the Reconciling Ministries Newsletter:
1. JUDICIAL COUNCIL DENIES RECONSIDERATION OF 1031 AND 1032
The majority of the Judicial Council, the highest court of the United Methodist Church in a 5-4 vote ignored the will of 80% of the Virginia annual conference clergy session, the unanimous Council of Bishop's letter and rejected the 2004 General Conference's affirmation to continue the vision of a church with Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors.
With closed minds, the majority refused to even reconsider.
The Judicial Council's slippery slope nurturing prejudice against faithful United Methodists who are gay or lesbian while disregarding church polity reinforces that ¶304.3 must be abolished, along with all phrases asserting the "incompatibility" of homosexuality with Christian teaching.
God's Spirit lives, speaks, comforts and guides many people in many ways, and the church is most honest when it affirms Christian teachings, not a singular Christian teaching such as underlies ¶304.3. RMN regards that singular approach as logical fallacy, doctrinally inconsistent with Wesleyan tradition, and diminishing of the third person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit blesses lesbian and gay persons, their families, their children and calls, gifts and graces some for ordained ministry.
Reconciling United Methodists cannot rely upon or wait for the institution to correct this injustice. The power to correct this injustice now moves to General Conference 2008 in Ft. Worth, Texas. The power to correct this injustice lies in the grassroots movement of reconciling people, in you. Ft. Worth -- will you be there?
Rev. Troy Plummer
http://archives.umc.org/dr_judicial.asp?mid=263&SN=1001&EN=1042&JDMOD=VWL

This decision regards a pastor who denied membership to a gay man. The pastor's district superintendent suspended him, and his bishop upheld that decision. The pastor appealed the bishop's decision to the Judiciary Council, which reversed the decision--in effect, saying the pastor was right to deny the man membership. That decision was appealed, and this ruling affirms the original decision by the Council.

Once again, I ask, what has happened to the understanding of the Holy Spirit? Of Wesleyan theology? We are none of us perfect. If we required lack of sin before we allowed a person to join the church, then the churches would be empty. I cannot agree that to be in a committed, long-term, loving relationship (same-sex or different-sex) is sin. But even if you do think so, how can we allow a pastor to make that decision as to who is "worthy" to join the church? What about people who have been convicted of crimes--embezzlement, robbery, domestic violence? Or people who have been divorced? Or who have lied? Do you see that slippery slope? Who will administer the background checks to see if people are still willfully sinning? And how do you decide if they are really trying to stop or not?

Moreover, I do not find any warrant, either in Scripture or any theology I have read, that the pastor is omniscient enough, powerful enough, to decide who is "worthy" to join the church.

Like the sacraments, church membership is not ours to give, but Christ's--the communion table, the baptismal font--the invitation is Christ's, and all we do as pastors is accompany others on their journey. It is not our decision as to who to keep out and who to allow in. We are all God's children, the sheep of God's pasture. All of us--the thieves (remember the one on the cross?), the adulterers, the caretakers, the lesbians, the liars, the healers, the gay men, the enviers, the bisexuals, the comforters, the swearers, the transgender people, the murderers, the ones who feed others, the violent--every one of us. We know our shepherd's voice--who will keep us from our proper fold and flock?

Apparently, the Judicial Council will try.

I am weeping for the UMC tonight. They will deny membership to more than they know.

Monday, May 01, 2006

**Warning** Theology Ahead!

John 14:1 - 14
1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.
2 In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.
4 And you know the way to the place where I am going."
5 Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?"
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied."
9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?
10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.
12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it."


Here is John at his most diffcult. Through a glass darkly, indeed!

Several things jump out at me: God has a place for everyone (many dwelling places); but then "No one comes to God except through me," Jesus says. "I am in God and God is in me. Believe me, that I am in God and God is in me, but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves." Shades of John Lennon, indeed, as LC pointed out a few days ago. I don't blame the disciples Thomas and Phillip for their confusion!

But mostly I'm trying to reconcile those two contradictory statements: that there are many dwelling places in God's home on the one hand and that no one comes to God except through Jesus. On further reflection, I'm not sure they really are contradictory, but then I'm not sure I really like what it seems to say.

Jesus may simply mean that there is plenty of room in God's home, God's realm, for everyone who believes in him. Which is reassuring, and an argument against predestination, eh?

But what then, do we do with the second statement? Does it really mean that if a person does not believe in the divinity of Jesus that she or he is denied a place in God's realm? Which, of course, brings up the next question--what is the realm of God?

In a nutshell (a fairly large and knobbly nutshell, but a sort of nutshell) here's what I believe. It's taken me a while (many years) to come to this belief, and in fact it's still evolving. But it goes something like this: God created all things; there is a relationship between the creator and the created, the creature; therefore, the creature has some kind of a relationship with the creator, no matter how the creature sees that relationship and however the creature names it. Because each of us is individual, we each have a unique relationship with our creator, with God. Thus, there are many paths to God. God speaks in many ways and in many places and times. God is beyond human understanding and human definitions and human limitations. God manifests Godself as God wishes, and no human being can say that God would not do, say, or be whatever. Jesus is a form in which many humans can see God; but Jesus, like God, is manifest in many ways. Think of the many different portraits of Jesus: as an Asian man, an African women, a blond Swede, a Mediterranean peasant. Each speaks to a group of people who might not otherwise find a way to God. In the same way, God is manifest to each person in a way that person can understand. They may or may not accept it--there are many atheists in the world. But the opportunity for belief exists.

The realm of God, Jesus said to the disciples, is "within" (or among, depending on your translation) "you," meaning within/among us, also. We can experience that realm here, if we act in Godly ways--love your neighbour as yourself being the basic guideline.

Well, there's a lot of theology there! If you've managed to make it to this point, congratulations, thanks, and my apology for dragging you through my musings!

And if my Systematics professor is out there: Dr. Soulen, isn't this at least a bit of an improvement on my final Credo paper?

Images of Christ:

The Savior of the World, by Noehani Harsono, Indonesia

Christ, El Greco, Greece/Spain

The Nativity, China (artist and date unknown)

Celtic crucifix, c.600s, artist unknown

Two of my favourites couldn't be included, because they are copyrighted. One is Jesus Among the Teachers, by Jesus Mafa, here: http://www.jesusmafa.com/anglais/imag5.htm.

The other is the very famous Jesus of the People, by Janey McKenzie, and you can see it here: http://www.janetmckenzie.com/joppage1.html.

These are all powerful images, and all are tuned to the time and place where they were created, showing a Jesus of that time and place.