Monday, February 27, 2006

Sheep: Part Two

Look at these little sheep in their green pasture!

After church today I took off my suit and donned my pajamas. (I'm not feeling quite up to par.) Then I dug out an old cassette from my days at college. It's a cassette of Nova Choir. One of my best college memories is of singing in this group of 15 choir members. We traveled one spring break, and the Lord did wonderful things among us. I wanted to remember a song that was quite popular at the time, "The New 23rd." I thought I might even play the tape on Wednesday as part of the Bible study.

Wow. Perspective changes. On the cover, in the second row of the choir, I stand smiling. I'm wearing an afro though. Eek! I'd forgotten. Something is really wrong about that. The cassette tape is scratchy and tinny, and the sopranos are....oh dear....a bit flat on some of the high notes of the song. Sigh.

I loved the 23rd Psalm then, and I still love it. I loved sheep imagery and I still do.

Thank you, Good Shepherd of the sheep, for still calling to us. May we follow where you lead us.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Baaaa -- Sheep: Part One

Psalm 23 A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside still waters;
He restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
For you are with me;
Your rod and your staff,
They comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup overflows!

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Someway or other, I have started collecting sheep. I didn't decide to collect sheep. It just sort of happened. I don't mean real sheep. I mean toy sheep. I think it started with a large painting called "The Shepherdess." It used to hang in a rather dark spot in my church building till I moved it into my office, and then when my office location changed the little shepherdess and her two sheep moved into the sanctuary where they grace the back wall. I often look at her when I am preaching. It's a good reminder of just who I am and just how humble it looks to be a caretaker of sheep.

A mom and her teenaged daughters in our congregation bought a small ceramic one, and then there was a Beanie Baby sheep, and a silly ceramic bobble sheep with sad eyes. Someone at church gave me a lovely small carved shepherdess and lamb. Then it was those cute sheep called "Woolys" (I think) from DaySpring cards. I bought myself one at a Christian bookstore, and then a friend bought me a second one. And then one from the local "thrift store," and then another from another thrift store...and then one from the Hallmark store. It's getting out of hand!

I've started a series on Sundays about Jesus. (How original, eh?) Well, really. My recent Sunday sermons are based loosely on a Bill Hybels Bible study that we are gathering to share on Wednesday nights. Today it was time for "Jesus: the Shepherd."

Of course, we read the 23rd Psalm together. It is so familiar--but no wonder. What imagery, if we just take time to ponder it. Jesus, the one who cares, guides, protects, disciplines, comforts....and so much more. There is a key word in Psalm 23. It is not enough just to quote it, or sing it, or pray it. David says, "Because the Lord is my shepherd, I have everything I need..."

The Good Shepherd wants us, his sheep, to listen to him. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice." The shepherd, Jesus, loves us so much he gave his life for us. But he wants sheep who listen--and stop when he says stop--and come when he calls them.

You know what? After the prayer, I said, "...and all God's sheep said..." and the congregation answered "..Baaaaa." Can you believe it?

Today I talked about what a difference a word makes. And I believe the Lord asked us the question, "Am I your shepherd?"

At the end of service as everyone was exiting, a young black man came up to me. He attended our church for a while but we haven't seen him lately. I know he's in some trouble. Today he said quietly, "I need to change." Tears filled his beautiful but deeply sad eyes. I asked him if he knew what to do about that, and he said no. I asked him if he was willing to follow Jesus, the Shepherd. He nodded yes, wordlessly. A good friend, our worship leader, had come up with him and now stood near with a supportive hand on his friend's shoulder, and I knew he was praying silently.

We spent some time talking, and then we spent some time praying, and I leaned my head forward. What a funny picture we must have made, in a way. A tall young black man, and a white, silver headed, lady pastor, heads touching as he leaned over and we prayed together. I thought of David's words, "You anoint my head with oil..." and I reached for a small bottle of spikenard scented anointing oil I keep in the pulpit. I placed a small cross of oil on the forehead of this young man, and then I gently placed my hand on his head, as we bowed in prayer.

My church is in a small town of mostly German descent. I couldn't help but smile inside, as I felt his short and thick wooly hair. And I couldn't help but think of how God had led this little sheep to our Anglo congregation. According to Revelation, chapter one, Jesus may have hair like that.

"Jesus," I prayed, "This wandering sheep wants to become part of your flock..." Later, in the entryway, I asked him to tell someone what had happened to him. He turned to one of our older parishioners, and said shyly, "I became a sheep." The church lady smiled and said, "Wonderful!"

Please pray for him. He has a rough time ahead.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Who Are You? Who who who who

Your #1 Match: INFP

The Idealist

You are creative with a great imagination, living in your own inner world.
Open minded and accepting, you strive for harmony in your important relationships.
It takes a long time for people to get to know you. You are hesitant to let people get close.
But once you care for someone, you do everything you can to help them grow and develop.

You would make an excellent writer, psychologist, or artist.

Interestingly enough, I completed a Meyers Briggs test last year that was MANY pages long and got the same result as this little blog quiz. Funny, eh?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Curling Chowder

In the comments Questing Parson requested a curling recipe. So I spent a few moments perusing my cookbook as I sipped a morning cup of coffee and tried to pry my eyes open.

The "Hot Off the Ice" cookbook contains a wide variety of recipes from appetizer through dessert. But as you might suspect, there is quite a large selection of stews and soups.

This one is from the kitchen of Milwaukeean Marg Zoesch. If you can't find walleye, other firm whitefish will do. Walleye is a favorite in the northern USA.

Walleye and Potato Chowder

1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 onions, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon tumeric
2 Cups potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
7 Cups canned clam juice
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
2 pounds skinless and boneless walleye cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups milk
1 cup cream
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In a paper bag, shake the onion, garlic and four together. In a large frying pan, over medium heat melt the butter and cook the garlic and onion till just tender. Add tumeric and potatoes, cook one minute. Add clam juice and Tabasco. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add walleye. Return to light boil and simmer for one minute. Stir in milk and cream. Bring just to a boil. Add parsley and serve.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Winter Olympics Friday Five

The Rev. Gals Friday Five is about the Olympics. We've been watching on and off all week.

1) Which of the Winter Olympic sports is your favorite to watch?

Figure's, women's, pairs, I like them all.

2) Do you speak Snowboardese?

No. DH and I were just saying how they should put a glossary on the screen or something. I enjoyed "The Flying Tomato" however. So just what is a "fakey fakey?"

3) Define Nordic Combined. Don't look it up. Take a guess if you must.

I think it is a combo of cross country skiing and then ski jumping?

4) Curling. Please discuss.

I never see enough to figure the game out. I have NO idea what it is about. I used to work in an office next door to an office in which worked a woman who was a major curling enthusiast. She and her friends spent every weekend curling...all winter long. I once tried to quizz her about the game, but I never quite grasped the major concepts. I did come away from the encounter with a great cookbook though. It is called "Hot Off the Ice" and contains recipies from a large number of curling Milwaukee area folks and others from curling enthusiasts from around the world.

Here is a table prayer from the first page:

Bless our friends, bless our food
Curling has brought us together!
See our joy, feel our love,
As we break bread together.
Friendship and love are our guiding light,
Guiding light forevermore,
Bless our friends and bless our food,
To all, good curling forever!

Um, I guess I can say AMEN to that?

5) If you could be a Winter Olympics Champion just by wishing for it, which sport
would you choose for winning your Gold Medal?

Ooh, figure skating. No question. Not because it is my favorite. Because if I was a figure skating champ I would be graceful. Gracefulness rates high in my book of characteristics I wish I had but do not. I would have great balance--something I've also never had...and I'd get to wear cool costumes...and then there is the music and the footwork, and....well, I just get to wish for it, so of course there would be no bruises or broken bones or frozen butt cheeks or embarrasing falls or nerves...just the good stuff.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Surprised? Who, Me...?

This is rather funny since I just had a conversation about this very topic. I actually think this little quiz was pretty much correct.

Your Inner Child Is Surprised

You see many things through the eyes of a child.
Meaning, you're rarely cynical or jaded.
You cherish all of the details in life.
Easily fascinated, you enjoy experiencing new things.

Muppet Quiz?

I am suffering froum ennui. That's the word of the week. Of the month. So here is another silly blog quiz. One of these days I will feel Kermitish once again, I am sure.

You Are Kermit

Hi, ho! Lovable and friendly, you get along well with everyone you know.
You're a big thinker, and sometimes you over think life's problems.
Don't worry - everyone know's it's not easy being green.
Just remember, time's fun when you're having flies!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

So let the SON Shine In

This morning I awoke from a dream in which I saw myself in a scene from childhood. I was playing my new ukelele (yes, really) and singing at Vacation Bible School.

So let the sun shine in,
Face it with a grin
Smilers never lose,
And frowners never win,
So let the sun shine in,
Face it with a grin,
Open up your heart,
And let the sun shine in.

Or was that Son Shine? I was never quite sure as a child, and I'm still not sure.

I have had a difficult few weeks. I don't want to post about how I'm not posting, so haven't been here much either.

Last Sunday was another in a long string of cloudy, drizzly days. When we get a bit of sun, it only lasts for a day or so and then the clouds are back. Basically it has been a record-breaking stretch of unseasonably warm but also dreary days. Warm for Wisconsin. Which is to say that there are patches of snow here and there, but for the most part the snow has melted and the grass is even a tinge green.

Last week one of the church woman mentioned (in some consternation) that she had tulip and iris shoots coming up alongside her house. She knows very well that this weather will not last, and no one here wants to see the long-awaited flowers get frozen before they have a chance to bloom! Crocuses and tulips are the first, and daffodills. We get starved for color, so the first shoots of green are generally cause for joy, not concern. Last week two brilliant cardinals sat high in tree branches at opposite ends of my front yard and whistled their territorial call, usually not heard until April at least. Poor things--they had a surprise coming.

The weather seems to have been somewhat of a metaphor for spiritual things too. It has been a depressing and sad few weeks. I've had many disappointments and unanswered questions. Last Sunday the church felt "wrong" somehow. I'll leave it at that. Even prayer before service was "off"--confused, cold, stiff. I spent a great deal of time last week pacing round and praying in our church sanctuary.

Last night the temperature dropped to something more "normal" which means that when I headed out for church the thermometer was hovering around 19 or 20 degrees Farenheit. But OH...the SUN! Glorious bright sunshine blazed in a blue sky. Ahhh.

This morning as a few of us gathered again, as we always do, in a small side room for a few minutes of prayer before church, the sun streamed in on our bowed heads. There was connection and warmth between us. We prayed that as the light of the sun had lifted our spirits and gladdened our hearts, the light of the SON (I know it's a bad pun...but whatever!) would blaze among us, transform us, cheer us and energize us. And then we proceeded into church for what was a wonderful time of joy and praise, a new awareness of Jesus Christ and what he did for us, and a new awareness of one another.

I have no doubt that part of the spiritual darkness I've been feeling was the weather. But it was something else too, someting harder to define but nonetheless real.

Life giving God, how I praise you for your faithfulness. Thank you for the beautiful sunshine streaming in my office window, for the crisp new snow, for the little finches at the bird feeder, for the pair of squirrels that make me laugh with their antics. Thank you for my husband and bless him over at the prison chapel as he preaches, and my mother, snoring softly as she naps in the next room. Bless my chidren so close and yet so far in Minnesota. Thank you for friends, those who know me in real life and those who only know me online. Thank you for the deacons who met with me today. Bless them for their good hearts. Thank you for those who you have brought to stand beside me and hold me accountable, and speak the truth in love, and pray with and for me. Thank you for my church and all it people. Thank you for those who hurt me as well as those who bless me. Help me to never return evil for evil, or to grow bitter. Forgive those who need forgivness, convict those who need to change, strengthen the weary ones, lift up the faltering ones. Help me to do as the Apostle Paul admonishes--and not grow weary as I seek to do what is right. And let your Son, Jesus Christ, shine in us. Shine, Jesus, shine! Amen