Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saturday Afternoon Video...

The MCC denomination has watched Amanda grow up and has cheered her all the way. What an amazing young woman. Have a hanky ready--she will move you.

Random Thoughts on the Way to Becoming a Sermon...

Joseph. The carpenter. The spouse of Mary. Jesus' earthly father. Him.

The Lectionary reading is about him this week, and I like that. I'm all about the ones who get overlooked, who no one notices, or really thinks about. And Joseph is one of those.

It must have been difficult for him--in his society, pregnancy before marriage just didn't happen--especially if the baby wasn't her fiance's. He had no idea what was going on, but it didn't happen in "decent families" and so he decided not to marry her after all. Now, I'm not sure, on one level, that he was being truly "righteous" when he decided not to marry her after all but not to make a stink about it. But then, we don't know what conversations Mary and Joseph had about it--if any.

Mary: "Look, I know this isn't the done thing. But it was the Spirit of God."
Joseph: (Incredulous) "Sure it was."

Another of those instances where we know the story so well we don't see these twists in it. "Speed bumps," one of my Biblical Studies profs used to call them.

I mean, how would you react if your significant other/daughter/sister said she was pregnant by God? Indeed--a quick trip to the psychologist.

At any rate, Joseph had made his decision. And then he had a dream. Someone in the RevGals lectionary discussion on Tuesday drew the connection between this Joseph and his ancestor Joseph, the dreamer of dreams in Egypt.

So he changes his mind, based on a dream (which doesn't make much more sense than what Mary might have told him), and does something very radical. He accepts Mary's scandalous pregnancy, even if the facts have been kept fairly quiet within the family so that all the village doesn't know, and marries her.

I wonder what went through his mind--was he simply resigned, quietly resentful at God putting this task on him, awed and reverent at the honour, uncertain but willing to step out in faith? I wonder if this drew him closer to Mary, as he understood better what it must have felt like, to be called to a task that was difficult, an honour, bound to cause trouble for you in your culture, a blessing...all those things.

I'd like to think it did strengthen their bond, this common call to bear and raise God's child, to stand in the face of derision or skepticism from their families and friends. It's easy to forget that these were real people, not creche figures or cardboard characters.

It's a tough job to be a parent in any case--and how much more difficult when your child is born under, shall we say, unusual circumstances (whether premature, from artificial insemination, adopted--or the child of the Most High). I'm sure there were times when either or both Mary and Joseph resented this task, and times when they were overjoyed with the child.

My last question about Joseph has always been, "What happened to him?" The traditional answer is that he died before Jesus began his ministry. It makes sense--there's mention of Mary and Jesus' siblings but not Joseph. And I find it difficult to believe that a man who could accept that his fiancee was pregnant by the Holy Spirit would be unable to accept the child of that pregnancy becoming an itinerant rabbi. The two things go together. So Joseph never saw the most earth-shattering parts of Jesus' life, even though Joseph had prepared Jesus for them.

Now, in a certain sense, I can see another purpose for Joseph and his dreams. The goal, for the gospel writer, was to show that Jesus was the child of God, not the child of Joseph. So not only did Mary have a vision, but Joseph had a dream, and both had the same result--they accepted the child and were married. So Jesus was clearly the child of God, but at the same time, was legitimate, in the terms understood in his time and place.

I like Joseph. In the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC is a statue of Joseph. It's in a side chapel, the one usually used as a Lady Chapel in Roman Catholic churches, dedicated to Mary. Well, the whole church is dedicated to Mary in this case, so it only seems fair somehow that Joseph gets a chapel. At any rate, the statue really caught my eye. Joseph cradles a toddler-age Jesus in his arms, as the child looks up at him happily. We know it's Joseph and not St. Christopher (who's also often shown carry Jesus, since that's what his name means and his whole claim to fame)--there are carpentry tools at Joseph's feet. I like the statue because it shows a nuturing, caring Joseph. So often Joseph is depicted in such marginal roles as leading the donkey, holding a lantern in the stable, or, later in Jesus' life, teaching him carpentry. All needed nad useful, but really something that could have been done by almost anyone; or else hardly surprising. But this tender Joseph is wonderful. I couldn't find any information on it when I went looking on the internet, unfortunately, but I remember it very clearly from a visit only four years ago.

Joseph. He willingly, if reluctantly, took on an enormous task that was bound to cause him trouble, on the basis of a dream.

Do we listen to our dreams? We may not have angels visiting us every night, but we do feel those calls, those commands, the voice of an angel speaking to us in the darkness of our nights, when we lie awake wondering what to do or how to do it or why we should. Listen to those angels. Joseph did.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Tired, hungry

Week One of Pastoring/Office administering is behind me. I'm feeling frustrated because everything takes me twice as long as it really should--because I'm learning how to do it, and so I make mistakes. Lots of them. But it's very forgiving atmosphere (well, one would hope...) and the former OA is still volunteering. This week, he's training me and picking up the slack. Why did I decide to start the week before that Big Event that Will Smama mentioned earlier? Oh, yeah, a week's salary!

Tonight though, I'm feeling weary and hungry and worn out. I will grant you that part of that is because I was out late last night with Man About Town and some of our friends, celebrating the holidays before everyone takes off this weekend. And guess what that dear man gave me for Christmas? A gift certificate to the studio of my skin artist! (Lest you think all my friends are financially well-off, he received it because he donated some canned goods to our local mission through the studio; he started to refuse it, saying he wasn't going to have anything done soon, and the artist said, "Well you *know* someone who is." Man About Town smacked his own forehead and said, "RP! Of course!" And gave it to me last night. Have I mentioned how sweet and generous he is? Oh, I have? OK....)

Anyway....I'm rambling, my tummy is grumbling, and I'm going to take it as easy as possible tonight. I do need to move some furniture for Roomie's arrival next week, but that shouldn't take long. Or I may put it off until tomorrow, when I have nothing scheduled at all (except writing 2 sermons, some prayers, and wrapping the creche*).

John Adams and I have a date--and I had better finish his biography, RDQ is beginning to question my sanity, since I am claiming to date dead presidents!

Off to have a burger and fries (OK, soy burger and baked potato)!

*Brilliant idea from a clergy collegue here in River City. Wrap up all the figures in tissue paper, pack them in a larger box, wrap the box, Talk about Christmas and the Christmas story, tying in presents. Open the large box, have the kids (and I plan to enlist some adults if I don't have enough willing children) each take a package, unwrap them one at a time, and talk about the significance of that figure in the story. The donkey carried Mary to Bethlehem, the shepherds were visited by the angel, the good news the angel brought, etc. DO NOT wrap the Christ child. He goes in your pocket. Then when all the other figures are in the stable, talk about how nice it is, and complete and finished. And if one of the brighter kids doesn't say anything, suddenly realise the Child isn't there, fish him out (ooh bad pun, sorry), put him in the scene, and discuss how he's the centre of the story and the real gift of Christmas.

[This is the management. We regret RP's babbling, but assure you she will be fine once she has some supper. Please continue your normal activities. There's nothing to see here.]

Monday, December 17, 2007

Coda (which it doesn't fit either post but is interesting and an update)

Remember back in September I decided to get some skin art, inspired by Will Smama? And remember how the first appointment I could get was in January, and how I told them that if something came open earlier to call me?

Well, nothing's come open. And in talking to Man About Town the other day (he's a cousin of the artist), I learned that the wait time is now SIX FREAKIN' MONTHS! I feel lucky I only had to wait three.

And still excited by it--can't wait....January 23, 2008...

Two Weeks--Continued...

Well, in so many ways I am feeling blessed right now (see below). But I would trade it all for the health of two friends and active church members, one here in River City and one in Big Capitol City. They are wonderful people, and both are fighting variants of the same disease. Grief and worry is mingling with my happiness.

Two Weeks?!

Holy Advent, Batman! Has it really been two weeks since I blogged? Yikes...

Well, I will resist going back to the book I really would like to read (and highly recommend: "Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth Century America" by Lillian Faderman) to update you (yes, all ten or so of you!). There's been lots happening here in River City!

First, my ex, Army Guy, in a truly blessed moment of generosity, bought me a plane ticket to go to Big Capitol City and visit my son and friends after Christmas. He knows my financial situation (see below) and felt this was the best way to get TO and I together for the holidays. He didn't have to; but he did. And the interesting thing is, it's helped me heal some of the resentment I was (and am, a little) still feeling toward him. The most difficult part was moving past my pride to what's best for TO and our relationship (and thank you, Brit Boy, for the kick in the a** needed there). And blessings to Army Guy for seeing that need and rising to the occasion.

Second, my finances were/are in some distress--this is a part-time pulpit and I don't have a partner to help with some more income; I don't have a trust fund; heck, I didn't even have another job. That's right--"didn't have." I do now, in another church of our denomination not too far away (not, however, as pastor). With the combined salaries, I'll be OK. Added bonuses: closer ties between the two churches; with one salary in US dollars and the other in Canadian, I'll be OK no matter what the exchange rate is (and it's been weird lately); I can regularly shop in US stores for those things I can't seem to find in Canada (sweet pickles, Pounce for the felines, L'eggs hose, etc.); a US-based chequing account makes sense again, and will be so useful; and access to some of my favourite stores/restaurants on the planet in the GLBT area near the church (OK, the last may be detrimental to the paycheque, true).

Third, a young woman I knew through the church (hereinafter known as Roomie) is returning to River City for schooling, and needs a room. Guess what? I have a bedroom I'm not using . Congenial company and a bit more income.

Fourth, a dear friend from seminary and his partner are making it possible for me to attend a denominational conference next year. Because they live near the conference site, I'll be able to stay with them, and therefore actually visit with them. Icing on the cake? They're using their frequent flier miles to upgrade me to first class for the trip.

Fifth, Brit Boy let me know how much he values our friendship in words that touched me deeply. I knew how much his friendship meant to me; now I have an idea what it means to him. He had so better invite me to a certain event (involving a pretty young lady and a church) next year!

I am feeling so very very blessed in my friends these days. I don't think I'm a better or kinder or more loving friend than anyone else they know--but these wonderful people are all giving and giving to me. Army Guy, Roomie, Cali Pastor, Piano Man, RDQ, Man About Town, The Professor, RED, The Stylist, Brit Boy, The Small Church Cabal, Monsieur, Guitar Lady, Denizens of the Yellow House, the Campers--all have been very present and loving for me. I can only say, "Thank you, God, for these wonderful loving friends through whom your Presence is made known in my life. They have taught me the meaning of grace."

Friday, November 30, 2007

Advent Grumping Friday Five!

This week’s Friday Five sees Will Smama at her best:

Parishioners pushing for carols before you digested your turkey?

Organist refusing to play Advent hymns because he/she already has them planned for Lessons & Carols?

Find yourself reading Luke and thinking of a variety of ways to tell Linus where to stick it? (Lights please.)

Then this quick and easy Friday Five is for you! And for those of you with a more positive attitude, have no fear. I am sure more sacred and reverent Friday Fives will follow.

Please tell us your least favourite/most annoying seasonal....
1) dessert/cookie/family food
2) beverage (seasonal beer, eggnog w/ way too much egg and not enough nog, etc...)
3) tradition (church, family, other)
4) decoration
5) gift (received or given)
BONUS: SONG/CD that makes you want to tell the elves where to stick it.

I know, I know.... pretty grumpy for November but why not get it out of our systems now so we are free to enjoy the rest of the festivities.


Ooooh, I’m ready for this. I’m in a grumpy mood anyway, after finding two of the tires on my car slashed this morning. It seems to be random hooliganism (old-fashioned word, but it says how I feel), and not personal, as two or three other cars in the area also had tires slashed. Screwdriver. In the sidewall. Twisted about. In one tire, there were two holes. The capper? The tires were just a bit more than six months old.

So here goes:
1. Mincemeat pie. I mean, what’s the point? I’ll go for most any pie—apple, peach, banana cream, pumpkin, key lime, sweet potato, grasshopper—but mincemeat just doesn’t taste like anything. Or if it does, it’s the spices. No thanks.
2. Actually, I pretty much like them all. Hot chocolate, eggnog (see my archives for last year, where I included a recipe for killer eggnog), Christmas beer, hot spiced wine, champagne, hot cider…bring them on! So I guess that stuff that calls itself low-fat, no sugar, pastuerised non-alcoholic eggnog you can buy at the store in a carton--that's what I don't like.
3. Tradition..hmm. The retail tradition of placing a Christmas tree on top of a haunted house. I mean, can’t we at least get through Halloween before we have Christmas? And then the way they over-decorate!! Every inch of the mall has ornaments or lights or flags or poinsettias or fake holly. Ugh.
4. Speaking of decoration… Those fake icicle lights. In the US South. Where they never have icicles. I mean please. (OK, and now I’ve offended every RevGal to the South of the Mason-Dixon line in the US).
5. Gift… Hmm. This is potentially dangerous, because what you really mean here is “Worst gift given by someone who never reads your blog.” No, actually, I’ve rarely gotten gifts I didn’t appreciate. Perhaps the washcloths with my name printed on them that my grandmother gave me when I was six.
Bonus: “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.” Boo Hiss. I mean really. Of course, it could be worse. “Rocking Around the Manger Scene?”

Can I offer a quick antidote? Here are my favs of each:
1. Sugar cookies with frosting
2. Champagne
3. Coming home from the midnight service and then—and only then!—putting the Christ child in the nativity.
4. The brass stars my mother had in her windows for many years—they lighted from the inside,and were pierced with star shapes for the light to glow through. Lovely.
5. The gold cross my son gave my for Christmas while I was in seminary. It was his own eight-year-old idea; and I still wear it most days.
Song/CD: This is tough. One of Mannheim Steamroller’s Christmas CD’s, Handel’s Messiah: A Soulful Celebration, Chicago’s Christmas CD or just the song, “Mary, Did You Know?”

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2007

Well what's to be said?

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) was passed by the House of Representative of the US Congress, but without including gender identity. Non-Discrimination that is not inclusive is discriminatory.

And in Canada, gender reassignment surgery has not been added back to coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP). Ontario has the highest population of any of Canada's provinces.

The situation is not much better elsewhere.

The list below includes individuals who were killed by others out of fear and hatred as well as some who took their own lives out of pain and despair. We cannot accept this as simply status quo.

Those of us who call ourselves Christian have an obligation to include; to draw the circle of God's love as wide as possible.

God did not say to love your neighbours who are like yourself; but to love your neighbour as much as you love yourself.

We remember the ones we have lost--friends, neighbours, loved ones, family members, strangers, email friends--to the cruelty and pain and hatred of others.

Nakia Ladelle Baker, Nashville, Tennessee
Hasan Sabeh, Baghdad, Iraq
Keittirat Longnawa, Rassada, Thailand
Tatiana, Trani, Italy
Moira Donaire; ViƱa del Mar, Chile
Michelle Carrasco "Chela", Santiago, Chile
Ruby Rodriguez, San Francisco, California
Erica Keel, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Bret T. Turner, Madison, Wisconsin
Manuela Di Cesare, Pescara, Italy
Unidentified Male Clad in Female Attire, Kingston, Jamaica
Victoria Arellano, San Pedro, California
Oscar Mosqueda, Daytona Beach, Florida
Stefania, Roma, Italy
Maribelle Reyes, Houston, Texas
Ian Guarr, Holland, Michigan
And finally, all those who have no names, who died alone and unnamed…

Friday, November 16, 2007

Whatever is Pure, Honourable, Just, True, Pleasing, Excellent, Worthy of Praise…

Well, that’s the meme for the RevGalBlogPals’ Friday Five today. So here goes:

1. Just: The Heifer Project. You’ve probably heard of the Heifer Project. An individual receives an animal or animals (heifer, flock of chickens, swarm of bees) from the Project, and thus has a start on a good income. When the flock/swarm is large enough, they are to share the extra with their neighbours; when the heifer calves, the young one goes to a neighbour. And so the wealth is shared. And you can too, here.

2. True: Mr. M., my dog. He’s older now, and finds stairs a challenge (well, he does anyway, being a Welsh Corgi). But when I come upstairs to work in my home study, he ignores my commands to “stay” downstairs and struggles up to be with me. Unfortunately, I can’t carry him up and down on a regular basis, as he is just over my carrying limit at 35 pounds. But he wants
to be where I am (typical Corgi), and will do what it takes to make that happen.

3. Excellent: The care of my friends. I can’t begin to name them all, but Denizens of the Yellow House, Deacon, Brit Boy, Cali Pastor, and the Professor have been especially loving and supportive recently. They care, and they let me know in ways both tangible and intangible that they do. My life would be much greyer and sadder without them in it.

4. Worthy of praise: My Regional Elder ( = Bishop/District Superintendent; my immediate superior in the denomination). She has one of the most difficult jobs going, does it on a financial shoestring, and exhibits grace, wisdom and intelligence whilst doing so.

5. Honourable: A friend who took the difficult and challenging high road when the easy and simple low road was available and even expected. I honour him and love him the more for it—in fact, it was one of the (many) reasons I knew I wanted his friendship.

Short and sweet this week...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Extravagant Unbusyness…


I love the name and the idea!

Sally at RevGalBlogPals is using this for the Friday Five. It’s all about self-care, and finding those little bits of the day to do something for oneself. So without further ado, here we are.

Five things I would do to:

1. Care for my body

Move more. Living close to downtown River City as I do, I can often walk to events and all those band venues I love so much—also the main library, one of the two hospitals in town where I often have members, my favourite record store, my hairstylist, several friends and a couple of bookstores. The church is a bit too far, and I usually have too many heavy items to walk to the grocery store, but otherwise I don’t have to drive. I need to walk more often. It doesn’t add that much time, and it would be good for me.

2. Care for my spirit

Look out my window. I have two in my study at home (the ones in my office at church are frosted), and there are trees and squirrels and flowers (well, not any more, given the season here), and I need to take time to enjoy them and recognise their beauty. In all seasons!

3. My mind

Read. There are lots of moments I can use for reading…over lunch, the fifteen minutes before I turn out my light at night, while I’m waiting for the doctor…I need to take advantage of those. And not all “professional reading,” although I find most of such reading fascinating. Might even give me an edge in that “fit this word into the sermon” challenge Music Man gives me so frequently!

4. Bring a sparkle to my eye

Talk to my friends. A conversation doesn’t have to last for hours to be good. I’d like to take the time for those five minute catch-up conversations, whether by phone, instant message or Skype. I’ve discovered, now that I live alone, that I can theoretically go for 24 hours without speaking a word to another human being. To an ENFJ like myself, that’s torture and crazy-making. Even a short conversation can pick up my spirits and put things into perspective.

5. Place a spring in my step

Listen to not-soothing music. I enjoy my Josh Groban and my classical and Enya and Loreena McKennitt when I’m trying to focus. But I also like to get up and move to house music, to jazz and hard-edged rock and some that can’t be categorized. So I’m going to start taking a few moments to dance around the office between appointments, or while I'm cleaning the house (nothing makes bathroom-scrubbing go faster than some house music, trust me). Try Freemasons “Rain Down Love,” the 2007 Club Mix ( see the video here ), or one of my current faves, Citywide Vacuum’s “Much Too Jung,” found here. An edgier choice is Scout Niblett singing about kisses and dinosaur eggs. Good stuff, as Brit Boy would say.

Bonus:

Which one will I put into practise? I think number 4. I already sort of do the others, I just need to be more “intentional” about it (I wish I could come up with another word besides that jargony one but it fits). The trick will be keeping it short and sweet instead of a time-suck. While there are times when we need to talk and vent, sometimes just a short, “Hi, I’m thinking of you,” or “Hey, how did the meeting go last night?” can be an amazing tonic.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Friday Five on Sunday!!

Special Edition! Only two days late!

Mother Laura’s Friday Five on interviews…. (yes, I’m running behind this week)

1. What was the most memorable interview you ever had?
This one’s easy. My final interview before being sent to the conference’s three-day ordination interview (technically, consecration interview, since it was for probationary elder status). It took place at 10 am on Wednesday, September 12, 2001, near Washington, D.C. Needless to say, neither myself nor any member of the district committee on ordained ministry was in a fit state to decide my future. Nonetheless, we forged ahead, calling on the Holy Spirit for strength and guidance and comfort—many of us had friends in the Pentagon.

The worst ones ever have been two of my ordination interviews. Nerve-wracking, with questions that I knew I had to answer honestly even though the answers weren’t what the interviewers wanted to hear (and they weren’t wrong answers, just not “politically correct” according the mores of the denomination), and in one case, over three days, and in a group of four, with my fellow interviewees there to hear my questions and responses (as I was to hear theirs). As a friend said, three of the four most stressful days of my life.


2. Have you ever been the interviewer rather than the interviewee? If so, are you a tiger, a creampuff, or somewhere in between?

Oh yes, mostly for jobs. Definitely a creampuff, although I don’t hesitate to ask the difficult questions (“You stated in your letter of application that you’re planning to open a gift store in the near future. How do you plan to work that around the 20 hours you’ll be working for the church?”).

3. Do phone interviews make you more or less nervous than in-person ones?
More nervous. I’m very bad at recognising different voice over the phone, and the distortion of speaker phones makes it even worse. Plus, as others have said, you can’t get those body language cues.


4. What was the best advice you ever got to prepare for an interview? How about the worst?
The best was to have three or four questions prepared to ask the interviewers—not about benefits or the company cafeteria, but substantive questions about the work I’d be doing, the make-up of the congregation, per-capita giving, community involvement, etc.

The worst was when I was told the interview was a “formality” and I didn’t really need to prepare for it. HAH! It was not a formality and I should have prepared for it. I did OK, but still.

It wasn’t asked, but the saddest/most confusing advice I got was to wear slacks for an ordination interview, so that I would be taken seriously as a fully out LGBT woman. The mind boggles.


5. Do you have any pre-interview rituals that give you confidence?

Read my responses to the paperwork (because that’s where their questions will probably come from), pray, imagine the worst possible questions they could ask and how I would answer, and breathe. Oh, and use the washroom about three times.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

In Honour of Music Man's Challenge This Week....



One of my all-time favourite comedy routines...I laugh until I cry every time!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Food and the Friday Five!


RevHRod at the RevGals is posing food questions for the Friday Five...

If you were a food, what would you be?
Chocolate Volcano Cake. Warm, generally liked and popular, with hidden depths not everyone is aware of. Also sometimes a mess.

What is one of the most memorable meals you’ve ever had? And where?
When my ex-husband and I lived in Germany, we had German friends who had a “cottage” on the Starnberger See, near Munich. One Sunday afternoon we went for a sail in their boat and returned to the cottage for dinner. The wind had picked up while we were on the water and clouds had come in. By the time we got back to the cottage, changed, and sat down to dinner, the rain was coming down in gentle gusts. Eva had made sauerbraten (marinated in town and brought in the day before in expectation of our visit). To “take away the chill,” we had shots of Jagermeister, then beer while we waited for dinner to finish cooking. Besides the sauerbraten (and a good burgundy—in the days when I was still drinking red wine), there were roasted potatoes and a salad, with some kind of rum-soaked cake for dessert with brandy and coffee. To sit in their house (designed by Dirk), looking out through the enormous windows and watching the rain sweep across the lake, warm, full of good food, surrounded by friends and laughter…it was incredible.

What is your favourite comfort food from childhood?
Tuna-noodle casserole. I could eat it all week—and sometimes do! Topped with potato chips, please.

When going to a church potluck, what one recipe from your kitchen is sure to be a hit?
I have two—Seven-Layer Salad, and a decadent brownie dessert called Wheaton Road Cake, which is basically very moist brownies with a layer of marshmallows and icing that is closer to fudge.

What’s the strangest thing you ever willingly ate?
Interestingly enough, at the very same table and with the same people I had my memorable meal (see above), I had eel. Not that strange, really, but there it was, baked and on a platter and staring at me. Or perhaps it was the tripe—also at that table.

Bonus: What’s your favourite drink to order when looking forward to a great meal?
It depends on the meal, to be honest. In a nice restaurant where I may be having a beef or chicken, I love a dry sherry. If I’m thinking seafood (except pasta), probably a frou-frou rum drink. If it’s a burger kind of night, a beer (preferably German, Polish, Czech, Irish or British). If I have no idea what I’m ordering, white wine, a vodka martini or water (!!) are my choices.

Oh my, I sound like quite the gourmand! But I have certainly discovered that certain things go together better than other things. And I like what I like. But I wouldn’t say I’m picky.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Self Care in the Form of Ink--Postponed...

...Not through my procrastination, for once! I consulted, we designed, we agreed...and the first available date is at the end of January!!

Which will do several things: allow me to save up the cost separately from my "splurge fund;" allow me to get very nervous; allow me to become more certain; allow RDQ and Man About Town plenty of time to save the date.

So. I'm on hold for the moment. Maybe this will also allow me to learn some patience.

Thank You For the Friday Five!


RevGalBlogPals is recognizing Harvest with a Thankfulness Friday Five. So here are six things I am grateful for.(I never was good at math).

My mother.
She’s unfailingly supportive, even when she doesn’t quite understand why or doesn't think it’s a good idea. She’s never said, “I told so.” She’s raised me and my sisters to be independent women who never thought we couldn’t do anything we wanted to do. She lived through some difficult times, both in her own life and family and in the world at large, and has come out of it a strong, positive, happy and healthy woman who smashes all the stereotypes of older women.

My son
. TO is my favourite person in the whole world. We haven’t spent as much time together in the last few years as either of us would like, but we love each other and keep in touch in a variety of ways (a subsidiary thanks here for cell phones and Facebook). He has grown into a intelligent, caring, aware young man, and I am very proud of him.

My friends here
. I’ve lived in River City just about three years—but many of the friendships I have made are so deep I feel I have known the individual far longer. This was reflected in the care I received just this past weekend from a group of those friends—loving, protective, care I didn’t expect and appreciated so much! They are wonderful people and they are a blessing in my life—the Professor, RDQ, the Stylist, Fellow Pastor, Monsieur, Man About Town, PR Dude, Radio Man, and all the rest.

My online friends. Most of them I haven’t met in person and probably won’t, although I have learned to never say never. And yet, through the medium of teh Internets, we have formed deep and lasting friendships. Brit Boy, Music Man, Shytown Girl, and many members of RGBP—in crazy times and happy times you’ve listened and responded and given, far beyond what I could ever have expected.

My health.
When I was young, I went through a major illness and several injuries. Since then, however, I have been remarkably healthy. I just had a check-up and the results were stellar. Yes, I have a bit of avoirdupois to say farewell to, but otherwise—heart, innards, cholesterol, etc.—all are good. My doctor loves me. Now if we can get this menopause thing sorted…

And I have to add one more—books! All my life, books have been at the centre of my life. I read when I’m hurting, when I need distraction, when I want to know something, when an instructor told me to, when I was bored, when I was traveling… Books have been companions when I felt like I was all alone, and have given me words to speak when I was happy. I cannot imagine a house of mine that is not overflowing with books.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

More Self Care in the Form of Ink


Wyldthing crystalised it it for me..."Put it where you want it...Pain is temporary."

This is my art, my body, my body art--am I going to let a stupid thing like pain stop me from getting what I really want?

H-e-double-hockey-sticks no!

RDQ and Man About Town have offered to accompany me. The company will be appreciated--more fun to share, don't you think?

So I'm going to set up an appointment with the artist today...

And that feels very good.

Edited to add: I'm going for the consultation tomorrow. We'll find out if this is even feasible. Editing may be required.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Self Care in the Form of Ink


Will Smama, over at Preacher, blogger or procrastinator, is brilliant. She's getting some skin art next week and her posts about the journey toward that event are labelled "self care."

I like it.

I've been toying with the idea of a tattoo for a long time. More seriously since I've been single. I went so far as to actually consult with an artist a couple months ago. The good news? He knew exactly what I wanted--the triquetra symbol--and felt able to design one in rainbow colours. He was enthusiastic about it, in fact. The bad news? The location I had in mind (over my heart--well not literally, but on my chest; a root chakra), it turns out, would be painful, as there is not much padding there. Apparently, the bonier the location, the more pain. I never thought I would 1) hear that I don't have enough padding somewhere, and 2) have a complete stranger prodding that area of my anatomy in a public place.

We discussed some alternatives--other locations--but since it is a symbol of the Trinity, it doesn't seem right to put it where I have the most padding (ahem). But not on my shoulder, either, really, as I would like to see it myself. I'd also like it to be somewhere I can cover it if needed--hopefully a rare event, but still. So my wrist is out. The ankle doesn't feel right, either, or my calf or shoulder blade (suggestions from friends). Perhaps the shoulder blade. But I wouldn't see it. Maybe my shoulder.

So. This is my choice: perfect location/more pain or not-so-great location/less pain.

Part of me says, "Suck it up, be strong. Show you can be tough. Other people do it, you can do it too. Do you want Man About Town [my main supporter and encouragment in this endeavour] to think you're wimping out? (etc.)" Part of me shrieks and wants to hide.

Currently I'm leaning toward the perfect location.

Thoughts?

Friday, September 14, 2007

The RGBP Friday Five from ReverendMother… We’re talking meetings!

1. What's your view of meetings? Choose one or more, or make up your own:
a) When they're good, they're good. I love the feeling of people working well together on a common goal.
I have to admit, I do like a good meeting. I like to work with others, hear other points of view, hear what other people are doing in their jobs/agencies/committees, figure out how we can work together to meet a common goal, and get ideas from other people on new ways of solving problems or doing things.

2. Do you like some amount of community building or conversation, or are you all business?
I do like a few minutes of “checking in,” if no other reason than if someone is having a crisis or even just a bad day, it’s going to impede the group. But more importantly, I really do view groups as organic, and we’re only as strong as we are together. We have to support each other, and that includes where we are in our heads.

3. How do you feel about leading meetings? Share any particular strengths or weaknesses you have in this area.
I don’t mind it. I’m good at making sure everyone is heard, and I follow an agenda religiously (hah!). But, while I’m usually goal-oriented, I can be distracted fairly easily if the distracting topic is interesting to me—whether to not it’s related to the meeting at hand… I’ve been known to take over when the putative meeting leader was being pusillanimous. But I try not to do that. It's very rude, unless of course I’m asked….

4. Have you ever participated in a virtual meeting? (conference call, IM, chat, etc.) What do you think of this format?
I’ve done conference calls and chat sessions. I think the conference call tends to work better, at least if you’re familiar with everyone’s voice. For chat meetings, you want to be sure everyone is comfortable and familiar with chat.
Both are great ways to communicate with people who are far away and have meaningful conversations; not always easy to actually get business-type stuff done, but for discussions and reporting on progress, that sort of thing, they work great.

5. Share a story of a memorable meeting you attended.
Oh dear, where do I start with the bad memories? Just one, then. There was the meeting of the company that my company was subcontracting for; the owner insisted on the subcontractors attending the “company holiday meeting” and handed out bonuses to her staff, announcing that of course we weren’t eligible for any.

There were good ones too—when all the sides of a question were explored and discussed, and a decision was made through a process of negotiation that resulted in everyone’s happiness and a successful event.

Bonus! Pet peeve about meetings: when people don’t follow the agenda. I don’t mean in a slavish, Robert’s Rules of Order fashion. I mean asking a question about an item that has already been discussed, or jumping ahead to something that is on the agenda, but later. Or bringing something up in the middle of the meeting that isn’t on the agenda at all! And then the meeting leaders that let people get away with that, when all that is needed is “That’s a good question, Bob, and I think we’ll cover it under the discussion of the picnic in a little bit. Let’s finish our discussion of the music director’s contract, and we’ll get to the picnic in a bit.”

Monday, September 10, 2007

Youth Group of a Different Kind

OK, let’s talk about youth. No, I know we weren’t—or maybe you weren’t. But they remain one of the most vulnerable populations in society—kids from 13 to 21 years old. And of those youth, the most vulnerable are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth. They face a higher rate of suicide than their straight peers, a greater risk of being homeless, of being forced into sex work, of substance abuse, and of being HIV/AIDS+.
Why? Simple. If they come out, they are often rejected by family, friends, church, school—the support system they so desperately need at that age, no matter their orientation. So they run away from home or are kicked out, and because most shelters aren’t set up for youth—or are not supportive of GLBT youth, especially trans youth—they end up on the street, often as sex workers.
Even if they are accepted by family and friends, it can be very difficult for them to feel at home in larger society at a time of life when all the forces of socialization are pushing them towards heterosexuality and gender conformity. Homecoming, prom, the whole dating scene, movies and popular music—it is all geared toward heterosexual teenagers. How do you learn how to flirt with another boy when all you see is how to flirt with a girl if you identify as a boy? How do you figure out how to be the gender you feel yourself to be, even if it doesn’t match what others think you are?
If they remain in the closet, they know they are living a lie, but they are also terrified of being found out and ostracized. They fake their way through a heterosexual world, never really feeling at home. Eventually they come out when they find themselves in a place where they can; or they live a double life; or they never do and live life denying who they are. Sometimes they commit suicide, unable to reconcile their knowledge of their own truth and what their family, friends, church, and school are telling them.
Yes. It’s depressing. And no, it’s not like that for all youth, everywhere. We can point to all kinds of exceptions—but they are exceptions.
One of the difficulties is that these issues cut across several areas—mental health, public health, spirituality, social services, child protection, criminal justice, substance abuse….and so on. No one agency can handle all these issues. And yet each of them is bound to deal with GLBT youth in some way—whether they know it or not, whether they want to acknowledge it or not, whether they want to deal with it or not, that’s the simple truth.
Here in Canada, any agency that receives government funds must abide by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms—which includes sexual orientation, and soon, if my prayers and the prayers of many others are answered, gender identity. They simply do not have a choice, they must be prepared to treat all clients equably and well, according to their needs.
River City has a group, an alliance, an organization—we’re not sure what to call ourselves—of representatives from several agencies who work together on just these issues. The child protection agency, the youth health centre, the public health agency, the HIV/AIDS organization, the local GLBT Pride organization, the mental health and substance abuse agencies, and of course the church, are all involved, among others. We’re trying to work together to offer the kind of training the agencies need, the support the kids and families need, the information everyone needs—the whole thing. Our dream is a drop-in centre or even a safe house for the youth, as are available in many cities.
Wild dreaming? Maybe. But the kids need it. Desperately. In fact, lives may literally depend on it. So we’ll keep working. Keep us in prayer as we work to move forward.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What's Your World View?

I'm not sure I entirely agree with the conclusions (or all the questions) but another interesting quiz. Thanks, RDQ!

You scored as Idealist, Idealism centers around the belief that we are moving towards something greater. An odd mix of evolutionist and spiritualist, you see the divine within ourselves, waiting to emerge over time. Many religious traditions express how the divine spirit lost its identity, thus creating our world of turmoil, but in time it will find itself and all things will again become one.

Idealist

81%

Cultural Creative

81%

Postmodernist

56%

Existentialist

44%

Fundamentalist

38%

Romanticist

31%

Modernist

13%

Materialist

0%

What is Your World View?
created with QuizFarm.com

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Testing....


Rihanna - Umbrella lyrics

I'm thinking about using this as an illustration for the sermon tomorrow. Is that too edgy?
Hmmm

Friday, August 31, 2007

Is It Fall Yet?

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five, courtesy of Reverendmother, in honour of the US/Canadian Labour Day weekend, traditional end of the summer.

A highlight of the summer....

Can I say the whole month of July? It started with ten days of my denomination’s General Conference. The term comes from the Methodist church, which also calls meetings conferences. In the early days of the circuit riding pastors, largely isolated from each other except for conferences, there were some clergy who felt Conference should be considered a sacrament. When I was a United Methodist, I didn’t quite understand, as UM conferences have become more business-like and less sacramental. But now that I too am the one and only representative of my denomination in my fair city, I understand much better the value of these meetings—the sacrament of presence with each other. And I personally am spoiled—with 7 MCC churches within three hours’ drive in various directions, I am in a rare position among MCC clergy. So this gathering, once every three years, of clergy (retired, active, in non-church positions), laity, gifted speakers and preachers and musicians and artists of all kinds…inspired and inspiring worship—it just doesn’t get much better. To see friends I haven’t seen in a couple of years and pick up where we left off…to see friends I email with every week, or have lunch with once a month…to meet new friends…well. Conference is indeed a sacrament, if we take the traditional meaning of sacrament as a “means of grace.”

The second part of July saw me up to my eyebrows in Pride. Here in River City, we celebrate Pride for a whole week, more or less. This year we began with a gay-themed play about marriage, written by a young man I am proud to know; opening night we had two same-sex weddings, as that day also happened to be the third anniversary of the passage of Bill C-38, legalizing equal marriage here in Canada. Then we had the raising of the Pride flag in front of City Hall (in place of the city flag), where it flies all during Pride. Then there was a Night of Remembrance of our losses; a bowling night, a (cancelled) art show, a film festival featuring a movie that was recently on the cover of the Advocate (often called the GLBT Time). Then Saturday came, with Brit Boy’s dance set to be sorted and then enjoyed beyond belief; setting up the church’s booth; and the church’s food booth (Texas-style pulled beef and pulled pork sandwiches—thought I’d died and gone to heaven!). And then the rest of the entertainment that I, as surviving co-vice-chair of the organizing committee, just had to stay for (of course I did). Sunday was our worship service, with a visiting singer—and I was treated to a private concert on the way down to the venue as she warmed up. Then a mad dash to the parade marshalling site (with a clothes change en route) for the ride in a convertible. I felt like a homecoming queen! Then back to the venue for booth staffing and visits with friends. Monday was a concert with the singer. Tuesday I collapsed.

Two sets of ten intense days…That was July 2007.

RP as Homecoming Queen...in purple!

Are you glad to see this summer end? Why or why not?
Yes, in a way. The weather’s been mild, it’s been exciting and overall good, but all the same, I could do with a bit more routine and less excitement!

Name one or two things you're looking forward to this fall.
Well, as part of my chill-out campaign (see the entry for Thursday the 30th), I’m planning to be more involved with a community theatre group. I’m starting with ushering in a couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to being part of a theatre scene again (in however minor a way) as well as meeting new people.

Also, one of our MPs is coming to speak on the Transgender Day of Remembrance in November. He is one of the co-sponsors of a bill to include trans rights in the Bill of Human Rights. He’s been a huge supporter of GLBT rights, at some personal cost. He’s a warm and delightful man.

Do you have any special preparations or activities to mark the transition from one season to another? (Cleaning of house, putting away summer clothes, one last trip to the beach)

Hmm. Well I like to put a pot of mums out on the porch. The porch furniture (well the two chairs) come in only with the first frost. I always have ambitions of deep-cleaning the house in the fall but it’s tricky. Sometimes it happens.

'll know that fall is really here when I can take the air conditioning units out of the windows!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Friends

Not Brit Boy...

It's been a difficult week for me, and I'm not sure why. Heck, it's been a difficult month. At first I thought I felt depressed and slow and unmotivated because I was tired after eight non-stop weeks. As some of you know, I literally ran from one event to another from early June to early August. TO's high school graduation, with a ten-hour drive on each end of the weekend. Then two weeks of preparation for being gone for ten days with Pride following shortly thereafter. Gone for ten days, come back to a wedding the day I arrived back in River City. Then the three weeks of thousands of details getting ready for Pride week. Imagine Easter and Christmas rolled together for a mainstream church and you get an idea of what the Pride worship service means for a church in the GLBT community. And we had one of our denomination's singers/evangelists coming for that weekend as well, and staying with me as a houseguest. In addition to the church's events (worship, parade unit, food booth, church booth), as co-vice chair of the community Pride organization, I needed to be present at as many of the community events as I could. So the flag-raising, the Night of Remembrance (both of which I was participating in anyway), an art show (which unfortunately had to be canceled due to a storm), bowling, a film festival, Saturday night entertainment, including an amazing dance set put together by Brit Boy (which I was the primary contact for), and then the big events on Sunday--service, parade, entertainment.... And then we had another concert on the Monday and Tuesday it was all over.

So I expected to be exhausted; I had made sure to have worship pretty much planned out for the first couple of weeks. And then I had ten days of vacation, which I thought would revitalize me--I had wanted to use some of the time to look at myself, my life, and listen to what God is calling me to be and do here. Instead I lacked motivation to do anything but sleep as late as the dog let me, surf the internet, read novels, nap and get together with friends.

And I still came back feeling drained and sad. Even having to get back in the routine didn't help.
Tuesday and yesterday were the nadir...staring out the window drinking coffee, forcing myself to respond to emails and do a few really urgent things. I didn't sleep much the night in between either.

And then yesterday afternoon I had a deep conversation with Brit Boy, and last night I went to dinner with the Professor. I don't know if it was the dinner conversation with the Professor or the one with Brit Boy earlier in the day, something else, or a combination of all those, but I did a fair amount of thinking last night after I got home and then this morning. And yes, that cogitation did result in some conclusions.

I realised that I have been so focused on what might happen (good and bad) that I haven't had time or energy for what I know will happen, for what is happening. It's the reverse of that old saying--instead of not seeing the forest for the trees, I couldn't see the trees for the forest. No wonder I felt overwhelmed.

I am a pastor with a church to care for. That's what I am called to do; that's my central task. If I do that well, then anything else I can do is gravy (I'm defining that fairly broadly, by the way--caring for the church includes community work and self-care).

No wonder I felt overwhelmed and depressed and defeated--I was trying to take care of everything in sight. Not in a literal sense--I've finally learned to delegate. But my sense of responsibility (already over-developed) was running as wild as kudzu in June.

The Professor reminded me that I cannot begin to be prepared for every contingency, that the simple things like worship and conversation and presence are most important. He didn't quite put it that way, actually, since he was using academic jargon rather than church jargon; that's my translation. What he meant was to focus on the fundamentals and not worry about the rest until I had to. Brit Boy put it more simply: "Just chill."

And so instead of angsting over a strategic plan and a life mission statement and a global strategy for the church, I'm planning worship for September. I'm working on the guest preachers for the fall. I'm getting to know the new pastor at our host church. I'm cleaning the house. I'm planning meals. I'm thinking about what I'm going to make for gifts for Christmas. I'm focusing on the trees, not the forest. Already I feel happier, more relaxed, less worried, less stressed.

And now you know why Brit Boy and the Professor are two of my favourite people. They both know me well enough to cut through the verbiage and focus on what really matters, and, more importantly, they both care enough to speak honestly. And both would dismiss the idea that they have done anything special--but they have. So thanks, both of you. You're amazing friends.


Not the Professor....

Friday, August 24, 2007

Friday Five: Cultural Edition

The RevGalBlogPals Friday Five this week is about cultural expression and spirituality. Warning...I left the Friday Five behind and got carried away towards the end.

The challenge was to name one of each of these--book, movie, art, etc.--and why or how it affected your spiritual journey.

Book
This one is really difficult for me—there have been several. I won’t include the Bible, since that’s pretty basic. But there have been three that have had a powerful influence. Coming Out Spiritually, by Christian de la Huerta. Should I just say that we can take this one for granted? I can’t overstate the significance this book had on me—in coming out, in being able to recognize on a psychological and spiritual level (rather than simply rational level) that I am and always will be a beloved child of God, and that there are many ways of being spiritual that respect the God I follow. The God of Israel and Christian Theology, by R. Kendall Soulen, pushed me to think about the real-world negative results of our theology. Soulen looks at the roots of anti-Semitism in Christian exegesis and theology—and I felt convicted. Amazing book, amazing writer and teacher. Yes, he was my Systematics professor at seminary! Finally, Embodiment by James Nelson, on the innate goodness of the human body, arguing against the false dualism of the Augustinian view that the spirit is good, the body is evil, and instead for an integration of the two.

Piece of music
John Rutter’s Requiem. It’s a beautiful piece of music all on its own, but the process of learning to sing my part in it over the course of several months taught me a great deal about discipline, practice and patience. The choir I was a member of was preparing it soon after the birth of my son. I would play a tape of it while I walked—my daily fifteen minutes of me-time—to learn my part. Those walks became very important tome—for the exercise, private time, and music--so I also learned the value of taking time for myself in the midst of busy times!

Work of art
Michelangelo Buanarotti’s "Pieta." I always loved it, but until I had my son, I didn’t experience the full impact of this work of genius. From a technical standpoint, the figures are out of proportion. But the piece as a whole expresses so much sorrow and grief—a very human grief, at the brutal death of one’s beloved child—that it moves me every time. It brought home to me the human side of the Human One and made Jesus the Christ real to me.

Film
I took a great course in seminary one summer—Hebrew Bible Goes to the Movies—that examined how film has used the stories of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Ten Commandments, Prince of Egypt Richard Gere as King David, etc. We saw probably 20 films, or clips of them, over the course of those two weeks. So I’m not sure I can pin one down, so many of them affected me—positively and negatively. There have been movies that made me think about spirituality and that of others—how it might affect people—but I can’t say that there was one in particular that changed me. I think the entire genre of science fiction movies has a great deal to say to spirituality, though.


Popular culture
Well, here’s a coincidence. Brit Boy and I had a discussion just a couple days ago that is germane. We were talking about the instant gratification culture, the desire for getting things now in most of Western culture, with the rise of easy credit and Internet accessibility, among other things. Books, movies, a date, CDs, shoes, clothes, wallpaper, a cellphone—any of these can be obtained over the Internet at any hour of the day or night. We don’t have to wait and work and save for things, because we all have credit cards.

More than instant gratification, there’s an alienation from reality. It was the movie The Matrix that brought this home for me. I only saw the first one, so I can’t speak for how the story unfolded in the rest of the trilogy. But the concept of being in state of illusion and thinking it was reality—this is how much of Western culture is these days. There’s all kinds of reality being denied out there—from the fact that some people are more intelligent than others to where our meat comes from to the need for hard work in order to acheive something worthwhile.

The spiritual connection here is with discipleship—a word I dislike but don’t have an alternative for. It’s that process of working, of realizing that faith is a verb, a journey, and hard work, not over in a day or week. It takes work and practice, and is ongoing. There is no instant gratification, not with any substance, in the church. Yes, there are wonderful transcendent moments—I treasure mine. But they are soon over and we have to do the work of the church in this difficult world that requires hard work. I don’t know if you’ve had people tell you they weren’t being “spiritually fed” in this or that tradition or church. And I wonder if these people were sitting there with their mouths open, expecting to have the spiritual food spooned into their mouths, waiting for that instant gratification, instead of recognizing that some effort is required, and sometimes lots of effort.

Well that’s a lot more than the Friday Five really need…but I’ve said it, so there it is. Look what you started, Brit Boy!

Bonus: Is engagement essential to your Christian faith, how and why?
Well I think it’s pretty obvious from the above that yes, it is! It’s how I test what I believe—how I push the limits of my theology and creed outward. If I don’t grow and stretch in my belief, I stagnate and die.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Friday Five--Holiday Edition

The RevGalBlogPals are all about word association today. So here we go.

1. Vineyard

The vineyards on the sloped banks of the Rhine River in Germany, seen through a fine drizzle. A memory of a long-ago vacation.

2. Root


Grounding, basis, foundation. We grow from and are shaped by our roots.

3. Rescue

An image of one person leaning down and pulling another to safety. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about friendship and mutual support and love and caring for one another; rescue is one of the things we do as friends, too.

4. Perseverance

A needle scraping away at a brick wall. Also on my mind recently. It’s tiring and frustrating and sometimes even painful. And sometimes it still doesn’t get you anywhere.

5. Divided

A wall or moat. A river. Perhaps an ocean. Some kind of barrier. It splits and separates what was meant to be together: two people, a nation, a family.

Short and sweet today.

(My apologies for the wonky formatting. I can't get blogger to play nice today)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Put Down the Duckie



What duckie do you need to put down to play your saxophone?

Friday, August 10, 2007

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five Stress Buster Edition



It’s Friday and once again I have posted nothing but last Friday’s meme!

Arghhh!

This week, appropriately enough as I head off on vacation/holidays, we’re talking stress relief.

Sally asks:

First, and before we start busting stress, what causes you the most stress, is it big things or the small stuff?

Both, really. I worry over the big stuff and try to plan for every possible contingency and obsess over what I’m saying or doing or planning. The little stuff builds up—too many little things going wrong in one day can be a huge source of stress.

Exercise or chocolate for stress busting ( or maybe something else) ?

Well, it’s not exactly chocolate, but I do tend to escapism—a book or web surfing or a favourite movie or a computer game—something like that. Usually I can get back to whatever it is that’s bugging me with a clearer head after a while away from it.

What is your favourite music to chill out to?
Some good classic rock and roll. Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Doors, Moody Blues etc. Even some Metallica or AC/DC depending on just how stressed I am. Then segue into mellower rock, like Melissa Etheridge, finally settling into some folk (Loreena McKennit, Anuna) or jazz (Al Jarreau,). Yes, I have a mix (in my head) for chilling. Maybe I should get it onto a CD…hmmm. Stress Relief Mix…

Where do you go to chill?

Someplace comfortable and relaxing. Depending on the season and the source of my stress, I might be on the porch or in the living room, by the riverside or in the coffee shop, or in the library or even the club on a Friday night….

Extrovert or introvert, do you relax at a party, or do you prefer a solitary walk?

Well, I tend to want to go to the solitary walk (or endless journaling), but I do better if I force myself to socialize after a while. Being with people—whether or not I talk about the source of my stress, or even can talk about it—helps me put things in perspective.

Bonus- share your favourite stress busting tip!

Disclaimer: these tips are mostly theoretical. They are my goals.

The first is related to my last comment—keeping things in perspective. It’s my persistent failing—I tend to obsess and over-think things instead of keeping them in proportion—see solitary walks, above. I’m also impatient, so when I don’t get results immediately I get frustrated.

Case in point—I got a new cell phone earlier this week (yay! Back in the 21st century!). When I tried to access the voice mail later in the day to set up the message, I got a recording that the number was not in service. I tried calling the store—had to leave a message. Called the salesperson (who had given me her card and yes she’s cute)—had to leave a message. Finally got through to the company, they said the number hadn’t been activated, so they called the store (must have a special line) and got it taken care of. Apparently I had so distracted the salesperson she forgot to actually activate the number (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). But I got all stressed out and upset and annoyed—as if someone were deliberately trying to make life difficult for me. I happened to talk to Brit Boy during all this, and he told me to chill out and take it easy—he who does not suffer fools any more gladly than I do. And I realized he was right, of course. It’s a cell phone, not a heart pacemaker; I’ve purchased it and signed up for the plan, everything is on order. It will work in time. Patience and perspective.

The other thing that is important, I think, is saying no. I don’t have to do something just because someone asks me to, even if it is a good thing to do and needed. The church tried that at Pride this year—we weren’t going to knock ourselves out to do all the things we usually do, we were going to do what we could with the people and resources we had available. And that’s what we did—and things went very well. Much less stress than last year, everyone had more fun, and we were more successful, too.

Short term stress-busters—delegate what you can. Carve out something for yourself every day—a favourite breakfast, fifteen minutes with a recreational book before bed, an afternoon with the kids, half an hour chatting (online, on the phone or in person) with a good friend.

This last been good for me—the me-time every day. It’s a few minutes that let me relax and not be responsible for anything, just to be me, or escape a bit. Or vent. It’s whatever I need it to be.

So, in summary (babbling is another fault of mine): personal time every day, patience, and perspective (which includes a sense of humour).

Oh, one more thing. Have someone you can lean on—really lean on—when you need to. Partner, colleague, friend, sister, brother, parent—whoever. Mutual support is crucial.

Friday, August 03, 2007

On Pilgrimage



Uluru

It’s Friday and I haven’t posted in forever, so to get things started, here’s the Friday Five meme from Reverendmother at RevGalBlogPals.

1. Have you ever been on a pilgrimage? (however you choose to define the term) Share a bit about it. If not, what's your reaction to the idea of pilgrimage?
My trip to Poland in the spring of 2001 to study the Holocaust was a pilgrimage. Our visits to the concentration camps and ghettos were pilgrimages within the pilgrimage. Each person in our group had burdens related to the trip: German or Polish ancestry, military service, having been raised in the Roman Catholic faith, and so on. The two most powerful moments for me were standing at the execution wall in Auschwitz and at the monument in Treblinka. Two among many.


2. Share a place you've always wanted to visit on pilgrimage.
There are a couple. One is Iona, the site of Reverendmother’s recent pilgrimage. The other is almost literally at the other end--of the world, and of the spirituality spectrum—Uluru, Ayer’s Rock, in Australia. On Iona, I think I would want a solitary, contemplative time with community worship from time to time. At Uluru, I’d like it to be more meditative. I would love to experience both sunset and sunrise at Uluru; maybe spend the night between in prayer. I wouldn’t climb it, as Uluru is sacred to the local people.

3. What would you make sure to pack in your suitcase or backpack to make the pilgrimage more meaningful? Or does "stuff" just distract from the experience?
For Uluru, I would take a journal to write in and nothing else, in keeping with the spare and simple nature of Uluru. More I think would distract me from hearing. On Iona, I would take some sacred objects and create an altar—which is part or my usual practice for a retreat, to create an altar specific to the retreat.

4. If you could make a pilgrimage with someone (living, dead or fictional) as your guide, who would it be? (I'm about thisclose to saying "Besides Jesus." Yes, we all know he was indispensable to those chaps heading to Emmaus, but it's too easy an answer)
Hmm. This is actually kind of difficult, because I tend to prefer solitary retreats and pilgrimages. Maybe St. Francis in the next hut?


5. Eventually the pilgrim must return home, but can you suggest any strategies for keeping that deep "mountaintop" perspective in the midst of everyday life? (don't mind me, I'll be over here taking notes)
Well, my hope, aim and theory is to take back a practise that I can use regularly or at the very least remind myself of how it felt to follow that practise. From my retreat in October, I brought back different eating habits and the realization that I can live without a watch or clock. I try to do the latter every once in a while, but wow is it hard here in “the world.”

And I just realised that I have been looking at the pilgrimage as a retreat, which is not always the case. I know that from my pilgrimage to Poland I brought back many souvenirs; I have preached and written about it many times. So perhaps that’s it—remembering it through words and pictures, sharing that experience with others so that they also have a sense of what it was like. So one way is to tell others. As we do in my church, the mystery of our faith being “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Go and tell!”



Added note: For those of you unfamiliar with it, here's a link for more information on Uluru.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Prayer for Pride Flag-Raising


River City Pride kicked off today with the traditional flag raising at City Hall. The gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered and two-spirited rainbow flag flies in front of City Hall, in place of River City's municipal flag, for the week of Pride. The mayor and the chair of the Pride Festival Committee together raised the flag, where a nice breeze snapped it taut.

As pastor of the River City MCC, I traditionally bless the Pride flag and the Pride Week festivities. This is the prayer I used this year, modified only slightly from last year.


Prayer for Pride Flag Raising

Spirit of Creation, we know you by so many names—Ground of Being, Grandfather, Gaia, Higher Power, Jesus the Christ, Allah, God, Void, and so many others. Bless us, your people, as we gather to celebrate in the coming days. Bless our pride in who we are, in all our diversity, as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, intersexed, two-spirited, questioning, and straight people, as an expression of your creative love. Bless our differences that we may draw strength from them. Bless our celebration that it may show our joy in living and in health and hope. Bless those for whom it takes great courage to be present, that they may not feel alone anymore. Bless those for whom this is one in a long series of Pride celebrations, as they continue to teach us about courage and wisdom. Bless our calls for equality as we seek to live out your call for justice for all your people. Bless those who support us, who are also working for freedom and justice. Bless each of us here with your presence, and our presence, one with another. Bless this Pride flag as it flies over City Hall here in River City, a visible symbol of the justice and peace we all celebrate. And let us now, each in our own way, close this prayer. So let it be. Amen.

.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Reaction to The Good Sam

Well, several of you have asked, here on the blog and in emails, how it went over.

Sank without a ripple. No reaction afterwards. Not "Good one," nor "You might want to rethink telling stories."

In my experience, that means people are trying to decide if they liked it or not. It might have disturbed them a bit. Maybe it made them mad. Maybe they liked the point but not how I made it.

It's OK. I'm sure I'll hear more in the next few days. One thing about this congregation--they do tell me how they feel about my sermons.

And all I can say is, the Board wanted me to push the envelope. They said so in my evaluation. Can you blame me for taking them at their word?

I'll keep you posted on any more energetic reaction.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Good Sam

(My sermon for this Sunday, July 15.)

Greg groaned and tried to stand. His head hurt, but when he tried to raise a hand to touch it, the pain his shoulder stopped him short. Slowly he remembered; the picket outside that disgusting club—Miss KittyKat’s, it was called, full of drag queens and kings, perverts, homos and lezzies of every kind. He and the others from Missionary Four-Square Bible Church had shown them the power of God’s wrath, for sure. 100 strong, they had picketed that place of sin until the police made them leave. He must have taken a wrong turn on the way back to the subway—he put a hand to his back pocket. His wallet was gone! He had been mugged! The grinding pain in his head made his knees sag and he sat down hard on the doorstep. How was he going to get home? Then the grinding pain overwhelmed him again and he fell into darkness.

Ryan hurried down the street. Marian was going to be furious, that was for sure. Ryan had promised his wife he’d be home by midnight, and here it was almost 1 am. Well, Ryan had responsibilities as chair of the River City Moral Values Coalition, and he couldn’t avoid them. He had had to be there tonight, with the picket that had been promised—and sure enough, had materialized. Three churches had worked together to be sure there were people there protesting. But the police had made them leave, as if they had no right to speak their mind in a public place. Ryan stopped short and peered into the darkness. There was someone sprawled on the steps of the building just in front of him.

The man’s head lifted, wobbling, eyes unfocused. He put out a hand. “Help me,” he croaked. “I….” And he collapsed again.

Ryan stared in disbelief. The man must be drunk—or worse, Ryan thought, reminding himself of where he was. He turned and walked quickly on down the street. No, he told himself. I’m not responsible for every drunkard and druggie I pass.

Alex ducked into the alley. It was a shorter way back to the subway, if a little more dangerous.. Against the light at the end of the alley, a silhouette moved quickly past, and Alex recognized Ryan Roberts. He looked like he was in a hurry. Hoping to catch up with him, Alex moved quickly to the end of the alley. He glanced back the way Ryan had come, in case he was being followed. A body lay sprawled over the steps of a nearby building. He scowled and turned away as the man tried to sit up. Looks like the wino got what he deserved, he thought, as he hurried to catch up with Ryan.

Miss Butt R Fly was exhausted, that was for sure Three shows tonight, and those protesters and picketers on top of it all. They had made it difficult for customers to come in for the first two shows, but they’d been cleared out by the last one. And hadn’t the customers been ready for that last show? Her nerves had been shot by the tension, but she was a trouper—she had gone on like nothing had happened. But now her feet hurt, her head hurt, and she desperately wanted to get home, pour herself some scotch and put her feet up. Maybe she’d stop at that all night curry place and pick up some dinner for herself as a special—Something caught her eye.

“Please…” the voice wavered. Miss Butt R. Fly stared in horror. It was one of the protesters! Why was he asking for help? Then she saw the gash on the side of his head—brick, she thought with the authority of experience—and his torn clothing.

“Somebody…please…” She bit her lip, started on, then shook her head and turned back. Crossing the street, she knelt beside him.

“Come on, honey. Sit up,” she said softly, helping him lean back against the railing. She dug a tissue out of her bag and began wiping the blood from his face. “Someone worked you over real good,” she murmured.

“I didn’t even see them,” he mumbled, turning his head so she could reach the blood on that side of his face. “I—they took my wallet.” Suddenly his eyes flew open as he realized who it was cleaning his face. He was too weak and in too much pain to do anything more than look alarmed and try to pull away from her. But Miss Fly wouldn’t let him, and just shook her head.

“You need Miss Fly right now,” she told him. “Be easy.” She dug in her bag again and pulled out her cell phone.

“Ali? Hi sugar. Need you to pick me up here on Magnolia and…” She craned to see. “Magnolia and Third. OK? Great, baby. See you in a few, then.” She turned back to Greg. “OK, Ali will be here in a minute with a taxi. We’ll get you settled, don’t worry.”

A few moments later, the blue taxi pulled up. Ali and Miss Butt R. Fly helped Greg in. She slid in next to him as Ali took the wheel and as he pulled away from the curb, he said, “To Jack’s?”

She nodded. “He’ll be OK there for the night, and Jack will get him home in the morning.” Again she flipped open her cell.

“Jack? Me, baby. Listen, I need to use that empty furnished apartment for a night or so. No, I wish it was for me. Someone who needs a place to stay. Thanks, then. Ali and I are on the way over.”

Soon enough the cab pulled up in front of an apartment building, and again Ali and Miss Fly helped Greg out of the car and up the few steps to the door. Jack met them at the door, and led them down the hall to the apartment. They settled Greg in bed, and Miss Fly turned to Jack, handing him an envelope.

“This should cover tonight, Jack, and tomorrow too, if he needs it. And if he needs to go to emerg, there’s some there for that too.”

“I’ll take him,” Ali spoke up.

Miss Fly looked at him gratefully. “Thanks, sugar. OK, Jack? Good. If it comes to more, well, I’ll pay you back after the competition next Friday—you know I’ll win.”

Sinking into sleep, Greg knew he was safe and protected and cared for. He struggled for a moment to stay awake, trying to work out how and why a drag queen whose club he had picketed could pick him up off the street and take care of him; but then exhaustion took over and he slept.

"Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Enneagram

Enneagramfree enneagram test

Yep, I'm a Type 2. Mother Teresa or a manipulative s.o.b., depending on whether I'm healthy or not.

Thanks to RDQ for posting hers which led me to do the same.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

We Have a Photo!


As promised, a photo of RDQ and RP at our Conference. RP is on the left (you can tell by the rainbow scarf), RDQ on the right.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Dinner, Part II

Well, I promised to let you know the results of coming out to two friends from high school.

First of all, let me say how much they both are like they were in high school. One is still a little off-centre, off-beat. The other is still serene and sweet. And they’re still friends!

We went to dinner and when the question came up about what MCC was, I took a deep breath and plunged in. The story of leaving the United Methodist Church and transferring to MCC was quickly told, and I looked from one face to the other.

“It must have been very difficult for you to do that,” said Off-Beat. “I’m impressed that you were able to speak your truth.”

“The church has a ways to go,” said Serene.

And that was it.

Now, the emails may have flown fast and furious the next day, I don’t know. But the rest of the evening passed uneventfully, just three friends hanging out talking, drinking the white wine and iced tea. And when she dropped me off, Serene said, “Be sure to let me know when you’re in town next so we can get together.”

So it was not a mad act, nor did it prove very interesting. Which is just fine with me. Anticlimax is my friend.