Monday, April 30, 2007

An Update

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for my mother, my family and me. Kris brought Trinity and they spent the weekend here. That was a great blessing to my mom especially, but to Ken and me too. Mom was admitted to the nursing home today, somewhat improved. She can swallow now, so she is eating pureed food. She still cannot move much on one side, and her speech is mostly unintelligible. She is starting physical and speech therapy tomorrow. As I said, "we'll see."
Visiting Great Grandmommy in the Hospital

Sunday was a beautiful, warm and sunny day, maybe the nicest day we have had. After church we went out back and let Trinity be "nekkid" (as my mom says) in the sunshine. She waved her little arms and legs, gazed up at the trees in rapt concentration, and smiled happily at us. A totally new experience for her, since she was born in January. It was such a sweet little time of joy and peace.

There are some important things that must get done here, and then I might be able to take a couple of weeks away. We'll see. :-) I am attending a silent retreat this weekend at a nearby abbey. I'm lookiing forward to 2 1/2 days of silence, and I wish it were at least a week! I am okay, but very tired, physically, emotionally--every way I guess. Thanks again for the prayers. What wonderful friends I have, both in cyberspace and real life. May you each be blessed for your kindness!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My Mother

It has been a long couple of months.

My mom had a stroke yesterday. We were on our way to Minnesota for a quick visit. We haven't seen Trinity since the baby dedication, and she was excited and happy to be going. Instead she spent most of the night in the ER and then was transported back to a hospital near home.

Thankfully, she was seated in the car, so no fall or serious injury otherwise, as happened last time. This one is significant. She understands what we say to her, and she nods yes or no, but she cannot move her right side, has significant facial droop, and she, so far, can't swallow. She tries to talk but can't and that is distressing to her. I expect that she will be in the hospital for a few days and then probably will go to the nursing home. We'll see.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Five

Rev Gal's Songbird offers this Friday Five.

Jesus said to them, "Children, you have no fish, have you?" They answered him, "No."He said to them, "Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. (John 21:5-7)

Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5b)

This weekI've been watching parents of the young people slain at Virgina Tech trying to make meaning out of the lives of their lost children, and each one seems to begin by focusing on something joyful about that child. It's a gift that most humans have brains wired to respond in that way. For some of us it can be harder to work our way out of dark places, but I believe joy remains the key. It is the spirit of resurrection. Tell us about five people, places, or things that have brought surprising, healing joy into your life.

This Friday Five is a quick one for me because I am posting from a motel lobby. This is difficult for me to answer, because it is a challenge to narrow it down to just five.

1. Trinity Ann
This has been a sad year for me. I am dealing with my mother's slow and steady decline, the horrifying and wrenching loss of my vital, brilliant sister to the ravages of Alzheimers, and the dawning realization that some things I long to accomplish probably will not happen. In the midst of, at times, nearly overwhelming sadness this last week, I looked at Easter photos of our new little grandbaby, Trinity Ann. She is a bright spot of joy and hope, and I thank God so much for her, and my dear daughter and her husband! I'll post the picture when I get home.

2. Animals
Small, but lovely moments of joy can come to me watching my mother's little cat, stroking my daughter's big dog, Rex, watching the birds and squirrels, etc. A visit to the zoo is in order, I think, now that I consider this one.

3. Friends
There are three who are an unfailing blessing, willing to pray, to listen, to laugh or weep as the occasion demands.

4. Spring!
It has arrived! The snow is gone. The birds are happy. So am I. I awoke this morning to the loud call of a kingfisher. Much2Ponder, I thought of you.

5. Music
What would I do without it? Classical, southern rock, praise and worship, bluegrass, hymns, gospel. Music certainly has power to soothe this particular "savage beast.'

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Church for Men Only?

I'm off to do church business, eat banquet food and listen to a speaker or two. Yes, I am packing to leave for our denominations district council in the a.m. A highlight will be the ordination service. But I can't resist just one post before I am gone for a few days. First, just a little snippet of news...

Florida 'Church for Men' Features Rock Band, One-Hour In-and-Out Guarantee

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — No hymnals. No pews. No steeple. No stained glass windows. And no women...Organizers say that guys are "bored stiff" in many churches today... The service features a rock band, a shot clock to time the preacher's message and a one-hour in-and-out guarantee. The church is part of a national movement to reverse what many Christian pastors and ministers are calling a troubling trend. Studies show that men are less likely than women to show up on Sunday mornings, and the reaction has been an emerging testosterone theology of sorts. Churches nationwide are now reaching out to men.

Testosterone theology?! I'm all for reaching out to men. I'm all for any kind of music in church that works for the particular attenders. I'm all for church that is not boring. But there is so much wrong with this particular approach that I don't know where to start.

Let me tell you a little about church this morning. My sermon was not very eloquent; actually I struggled and fumbled a bit. But I spoke about Jesus and his women followers. We considered the stories of just a few of them, noting how Jesus treated them, and contemplating the radical shock that he must have sometimes caused by his actions.

There was a variety of men in church, aged about 16 to 65. Lots of young guys, which made me smile. The church is not dying where we are.
At the close of the service I asked the guys to form a double-sided line in the center aisle. The women walked down the line and the men prayed for each one. It took some time. Somewhat to my surprise, it was very quiet. I asked the men to think about being "Jesus" to us, touching us with respect and honor and speaking words of affirmation. This took some trust for the women to do this, and I (of course) do not know what was prayed over anyone except me.

Things I remember:
The 20-something guy with piercings, t-shirt, jeans--taking my hand and praying with quiet intensity. Opposite him, a big man put one hand on my shoulder, raised the other hand and quietly prayed for me to speak the words God would have me preach. Others prayed for courage, for strength and wisdom, many of the men thanked God for bringing me into their lives and their church (that made me get teary-eyed). Another man prayed that I would never feel alone in the battles that come, and yet another young husband and father wept openly. I hugged him, and he said, "For some reason, every time I pray with you I get so moved!" (He is a manly man, rest assured.)

About halfway down the aisle I was filled with such an awareness of God's peace. I don't know what happened to anyone else, but judging by some faces I saw, the Holy Spirit was in the house.

Men-only church indeed! Harrumppph!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Imus and the Rest of Us

I am not now, and never have been, a fan of one of the original radio "shock jocks," Don Imus. But I have heard his show once, and I did pay attention to the media storm over his racial/gender slurs and his subsequent firing by CBS. I listened to a snippet of his radio show where he not once, but at least twice, made rather lengthly remarks about how the women of the Rutgers team were ugly, unlike the Tennessee women, who looked good. He followed that up with the "looks like a lot of nappy-headed hos out there" remark...and my mouth fell open in dismay. Nappy headed? Hos?

In my opinion, he deserved to be fired for this unbelievable stupidity, if nothing else. But I soon began thinking about how ironic it is that Imus gets canned for such language while at the same time, rappers who use such epithets, and much worse, win Grammy awards.
I used to work in Milwaukee and spent a fair amount of time driving in the city. Almost every warm day I could hear rap music booming from someones car, music which demeaned every woman, and specifically every black woman. Many times I sat at stop lights and listened to language that graphically insulted a woman who sat in the car (usually in the passenger seat) . I find this inexplicable. However, it is not different than the white girls I used to see sporting Motley Crue or some similar heavy-metal band's T-shirt and I'd wonder, "Girl, do you listen to the insults they are singing about you? Their songs say you are good for banging, and not much else." Once, I actually said that to a girl about 14 with a sad face and lots of eye makeup. Of course, she looked at me as if I was nuts.

This article is excellent, I think, in how it discusses this issue. I am glad that Mr. and Mrs. Imus went to talk with the team, that the coach's pastor was involved, that the coach and the girls are working through this with truely admirable graciousness and "class."

A couple of snippets from the article follow.

“We all know where the real battleground is,” wrote Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock. “We know that the gangsta rappers and their followers in the athletic world have far bigger platforms to negatively define us than some old white man with a bad radio show.”

We have to begin working on a response to the larger problem,” said the Rev. DeForest Soaries Jr., who as pastor of the Rutgers coach helped mediate the Imus imbroglio...the culture that “has produced language that has denigrated women.”

The larger issue was alluded to by CBS President and CEO Leslie Moonves when he announced Imus’ firing: “The effect language like this has on our young people, particularly young women of color trying to make their way in this society ... has weighed most heavily on our minds as we made our decision.”

Some defenders of rap music and hip-hop culture, such as the pioneering mogul Russell Simmons, deny any connection between Imus and hip-hop. They describe rap lyrics as reflections of the violent, drug-plagued, hopeless environments that many rappers come from. Instead of criticizing rappers, defenders say, critics should improve their reality. “Comparing Don Imus’ language with hip-hop artists’ poetic expression is misguided and inaccurate and feeds into a mind-set that can be a catalyst for unwarranted, rampant censorship,” Simmons said in a statement Friday... The superstar rapper Snoop Dogg [said] “(Rappers) are not talking about no collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports,” he told “We’re talking about hos that’s in the ’hood that ain’t doing ---- that’s trying to get a n---- for his money.” [Speaking of offensive words being offensive no matter whose mouth they are in...but that's another post.]

The Rev. Al Sharpton, among the loudest critics calling for Imus’ termination, indicated that entertainment is the next battleground. “We will not stop until we make it clear that no one should denigrate women,” he said after Imus’ firing. “We must deal with the fact that ho and the b-word are words that are wrong from anybody’s lips. It would be wrong if we stopped here and acted like Imus was the only problem. There are others that need to get this same message.”

I find myself agreeing with Al Sharpton. (Will wonders never cease?) I might have been slightly tempted to think that we really don't need to worry much about this and that Imus' comments were just weird, however I was astounded to learn that (as of this moment) about 67% the respondents to a CBS survey (at the article) believe that he should not have been fired, or that it was "not that big a deal." Excuse me. It IS a big deal to call college women whores.

I read this, elsewhere, "He's a shock jock. He was doing exactly what he gets paid for, so why should he be fired?" Interesting point. Why are "shock jocks" like Imus, and much worse, heard in the first place? What does that say about our culture? But does Snoop Dogg have a point? Does art imitate culture or does culture imitate art, or both? What role does the church play?

The issue neither began, nor should end, with the firing of Don Imus.

Monday, April 09, 2007

More of that WHITE STUFF?

Someone throw a snowball at the weatherguy!

Those beautiful tulips are what I am longing for, but I had to put them here on my blog. Why? Because the forecast is calling for up to 10 inches of.....SNOW! The just-now-budding tulips and daffodills and irises are going to be snowed under!

This is not doing good things for anyone's temper around here. April showers bring May flowers, but not SNOW showers, fer cryin' out loud.

Sigh. Spring does come. Nothing like it, when it finally does arrive. Lady Spring is a big tease, that's what she is. I just decided to put my winter clothes away. What was I thinking? It isn't July yet. :-(

Just a few other random thoughts.

I love this song by Big Daddy Weave. Thanks to Amy for the reminder. It is speaking to my heart today.

I am pondering the watchman painting. If anyone knows who the painter is, please advise. The watchman image is tugging at me. I feel as though I am a wathcman on a wall of sorts, but I am not alone. There are others with me. Perhaps I will post more about this later. But insights about the subject are welcome...anyone heard a good sermon, read something, etc.?

My mother is fading away before my eyes. It is very sad. She is swinging between sweet, docile and exhausted or angry, stubborn, mean and totally unreasonable. It is an unhappy state of affairs, and I am waiting with some apprehension for what comes.

God knows. And in that I can seek peace.

Change is in the air. I can feel it somehow...with the season. Some is good and welcome, and some will be less so. Change is often good, but it is not often easy.

One more thing...Look! It is Mona Lisa Baby!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Women and Jesus

Mystery writer, theologian, advocate for women, devout Christian, Dorothy L. Sayers wrote, “Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man – there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as 'The women, God help us!' or ‘The ladies, God bless them!’; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension’; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male ego to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unselfconscious.” (100 Christian Women Who Changed the 20th Century, p. 189)

What absolutely brilliant, wise, wonderful words!

Yesterday at the community Good Friday Worship I participated in a drama about twelve of the women in Jesus' life (I'm wealthy patroness, Susanna--so I got to wear bling). Here are two pictures.
"We have come to tell our stories..."

Clergywomen played many of the parts. Father Loren narrated.

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Cross X

The Cross at Jubilee Assembly of God
From John 19
Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, said, “I thirst!” They filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.
Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.
And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”
After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus. And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds. Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.

Thank you Reverend Mommy, for this beautiful poem.

It is Friday
It is Friday
And I stand at the foot of the cross.
Nothing can be said,
nothing can be done.
Action is futile – hebel.
I can hold the other's hands and weep,
but I cannot be comforted.
It is Friday
And I stand at the foot of the cross.
The air is heavy still with waiting and longing.
Waiting for the inevitable, longing for the impossible.
Can this cup pass from me?
I look around me –
all the colors are muted.
Dusty browns and grays –
Cold and metallic.
Rolling black clouds
cover the brilliant blue of the sky
As my soul is occluded by pain.
All that remains is the red of the blood
Running down the weathered wood of the cross.
It is Friday
And I stand at the foot of the cross.
I reach out and touch the raised grain of the wood.
It is rough against my fingertips.
The pong of unwashed wool and bodies crowds my nose.
I smell fear, pain, death.
I taste it at the back of my throat.
I hear the labored breathing from the cross.
Death is near.
It is Friday
And I stand at the foot of the cross.
Remember Him!
Remember Him
as the silver cord is severed,
as the golden bowl is broken.
Remember Him
as the pitcher is shattered at the spring
and the wheel broken at the well.
Remember Him
as the dust returns to the ground it came from and
His spirit returns to the God who gave it.
It is Friday
And I stand at the foot of the cross.

Last night we shared candlelight communion together at our little church. Tonight, along with eleven other women I will be part of a drama at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church, three miles away. I pray each of you has a "Good Friday" that is indeed good--good with an awareness of what Jesus has done because of love. As we enter into a time of waiting, may our identification with him in the hour of suffering and death make our coming celebrations all the more beautiful and joyous.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Cross IX

Mark 16:33-34 Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Have you heard that Jesus was forsaken by God because He carried our sin? That since God is holy it was necessary to turn away at Jesus Christ's greatest hour of need? Me too. But I don't see that in scripture. It is an inference. Perhaps the preachers are correct. But perhaps not.

I wonder if this is not, at least in part, about the Lord's identification with us. Could it be that Jesus, in his humanity, could not feel God's presence? That he had doubts? Is there any one of us, no matter how saintly, who has not, at some dark hour of the soul, felt forsaken by God?

Even this, Jesus understands. He is our High Priest--one unlike any other. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!

From Hebrews 4:
Therefore since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to the confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.

Precious Jesus,

I am overwhelmed with the thought that you love me enough to identify with me even in my weakness! What glory! What love! What sacrifice! Thank you.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Christian Unity

Weekend Fisher has an excellent post on the subject of unity in the universal church. If you are interested in the topic, it is well worth your time.

The Cross VIII

In our church entryway. A detail is below.

From Phillipians 3

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ —the righteousness from God based on faith. [My goal] is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. Not that I have already reached [the goal] or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus.

This lovely little sculpture of Jesus carrying the cross was a gift to the church from the men's fellowship group. You may not be able to see it in the picture, but the detail is sadly beautiful, even showing the suffering on Christ's face and the stripes on his back.

Lord Jesus Christ,
in this sacred and solemn time
as we ponder again
the depth and mystery of your redeeming love,
help us to follow where you go,
to stop where you stumble,
to listen when you cry,
to hurt as you suffer,
to bow our heads in sorrow as you die,
so that, when you are raised to life again,
we may share in your endless joy.

(adapted from the United Church of Canada worship resource, "Celebrating God's Presence" UCPH, 2000)

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Cross VII

Mark 15:26
A sign was fastened to the cross, announcing the charge against him. It read, “The King of the Jews.”

The Pharisees took issue with the sign, asking that Pilate change it to read, "He said I am the King of the Jews." Pilate was disgusted, I suspect, and probably thought he had spent enough time on these troublesome, stubborn Jewish authorities. "What I have written, I have written" he said tersely.

None of them understood how true it was that they named Jesus the King.

From I Timothy 6
Fight the good fight of faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. And I charge you before...Christ Jesus, who gave a good testimony before Pontius Pilate, that you obey this command without wavering...For at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven...King of all kings and Lord of all lords. He alone can never die, and he lives in light so brilliant that no human can approach him...All honor and power to him forever! Amen

King of all Kings,

We choose to acknowledge you now as King of Kings! This sounds grand and glorious, and it is, but we struggle in the day-to-day reality of obeying you and walking in your ways. We want to be your servants, but we like to be in charge too. Help us to wholeheartedly give you glory now, by our lives, our words, our actions, and not just wait for "someday." Amen

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Cross VI

From Matt. 27
The people passing by shouted abuse, shaking their heads in mockery. “Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, if you are the Son of God, save yourself and come down from the cross!” The leading priests, the teachers of religious law, and the elders also mocked Jesus. “He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can’t save himself! So he is the King of Israel, is he? Let him come down from the cross right now, and we will believe in him! He trusted God, so let God rescue him now if he wants him! For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

Even if I thought the men I saw hanging on crosses enduring horror upon horror deserved their fate, I hope I would have turned my eyes and hurried by, or prayed for the poor wretches, or comforted the weeping mother. The fact that passersby added to the indignation and suffering is almost more than I can imagine. What, I wonder, caused them to need to heap additional insults and scorn?

Note that the leading priests, the religious teachers and the elders join in. At last their enemy is finished. Not content, they make themselves feel bigger and stronger and more powerful by calling attention to how God is not rescuing him. Ah, aren't we right, after all?

Might we, perhaps on a smaller scale, sometimes have the same sin in our own hearts? Nothing is more spiteful than a spiteful religious person who is convinced they are correct and must draw attention to their "rightness."

Merciful God, forgive us for the times we, in our misguided zeal, felt we had to be "right" and in that quest did not even see that we pushed others away. Help us never to seek to feel bigger by making someone else feel smaller. May we recognize cruelty if it lurks in our own hearts. May we have mercy on those in pain, may we be willing to be silent, even when we think we are right, and may love characterize us much more than our correct doctrine or proper worship or eloquent prayers. May others "know we are Christians by our love." Amen

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Trinity Ann Gets Dedicated to the Lord

Getting ready to go to church, Trinity wears her new bunny coat.

Today we dedicated Trinity at Jubilee Church. (Our church doesn't normally look like this, but behind us is staging for a drama.) That is me on the left, addressing the congregation, our daughter, her husband with the baby, my mother, my husband, and our son, now not only a new uncle but a new godfather.

The parents promise to help Trinity grow into the woman God created her to be, to love her, to teach her, to tell her about Jesus. The godfather promises to pray for them all and to help his sister and brother-in-law fulfill the vows they made. We pray for her mommy and daddy to be given grace and strength to be good parents, to provide their little daughter with a home of love and peace. We pray too, for the church to be a good and safe place for her where she will learn what it is to be valued and loved. The congregation promises to help nurture her, and all children sent to us, to be good examples, to care for the little ones and not to hinder her in any way from finding God's love and grace.

Grandpa Ken anoints Trinity with oil and prays that God will be with her as she grows, mentally, physically, socially and spiritually.

Yes, her socks are missing. She kicked them off right before the big event. It was a special day, full of love, smiles and sweetness. Trinity's little head smelled of spikenard all day.

The Cross V

There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to on the right hand and the other on the of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

The arms of the cross point starkly, left and right.

The hands that reached to caress a child's face, to touch a leper, to heal a blind man, to wash the dusty feet of his friends --now, red with blood, tortured, cramped--these hands are still extended in love. Even now at the time of dying, Jesus' hands reach toward the two desperate men.
They have a choice, a choice even more stark than the arms of the cross on which they are pinned. Two sinners, lost and broken and now dying. One, even at the end, is cruel, jeering at one who is writhing in pain like himself. His hate and bitterness have grown until he is consumed. Even as death waits, he mocks and refuses the offer of love. The other, in desperation, cries out to the Man in the center. He knows who this is. "LORD, remember me..." and he is assured that his faith will bring him safely into the next life with God.

The choice is still offered today. Sometimes it seems that the love of God causes mankind to run. Which way will it be? Will you run from him? Or will you run to the Lord and receive his love and grace?

Dear Master,
Grant that we may run, always, to you. We receive your offer of love again, again and yet again. Amen