Friday, December 30, 2005

Friday Five - New Year's Resolutions

1) Do you make New Year's Resolutions?
I don't make them.

2) If so, are they generally successful?
See #1

3) Do you write them down, or make a mental list?
See #1

4) Even if you don't make resolutions, is there something you want to focus on in the New Year?
I'm working on an idea for my sermon on Sunday (hey, is anyone else going to be in CHURCH on Sunday? Prolly not, I'd reckon. But I'll be there, preaching) about making one resolution - to be intentional about being in the present moment - and then the rest of the resolutions will fall into place. Sort of a Christian-ish Be Here Now. And that will be a good message for me, too, btw.

5) And do you have plans for New Year's Eve?
Um, there's that sermon that needs working on.
And probably a movie and dinner and lots of being grateful that we're all home together and mostly well again.

And now for something completely different

I found a cool new-to-me site today, en route to looking up stuff about the desert fatherers and mothers, bless 'em, for my sermon on Sunday. The Hermitary - about everything hermit....

Suddenly kind of, well, cute is really the word that comes to mind

Hmm, guess I'll have to take back all that snotty stuff I said that one time about Peter Jackson and his greasy hair.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

movie review

We went to the Narnia movie today and let me first say that I've probably read the book fifty times and I spent most of my childhood banging around in the woods pretending to be Lucy, so there's no way it could be on any screen the way it already lives and breathes in my bones.

That said, the good stuff. Aslan (although incomprehensibly small) was a good mix of regal and sad and they got his hair right, which is often distracting to me in CG. The child actors were excellent, especially William Moseley, who played Peter. And the special effects, particularly in the battle scenes, are great - another score for WETA. And MR. TUMNUS (James McAvoy) rocked the HOUSE.

But, but, but...

It's not WAR story, you guys. It's an ADVENTURE story that has a battle IN IT, and that's a totally different thing. By spending so much time, money and effort on getting the battle at the end nailed, the production missed out on a big chance to really develop the rest of the characters so we could know them and love them. Even the change from winter to spring, which SHOULD happen quickly, was just absurdly rushed, presumably so that the story could hurry up and get to the battle scene, which we had no emotional investment in by the time we arrived there, kind of out of breath.

Another disappointment to me was the way Susan and Peter kept talking about trying to get "home." One of main delights of the book is the way that the children, once they enter into the world of Narnia, are totally immersed in it, without distraction. And if the story is really a metaphor for the Christian life, then focus is part of what we're aiming for, right?

Well, I wouldn't say "stay away," but I think a big opportunity was missed. I'll be very curious to see what happens with Caspian, which is now tentatively set for 2007.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Book report

Don't worry. When I slipped on the steep mossy driveway while taking out the garbage and fell flat on my back and skinned my palms and shouted out a filthy cuss word, I had luckily just taken two tylenol for the muscles that are still sore from coughing for the last six weeks (can you actually CRACK a rib from coughing when you are 37 years old, or does that just happen to really old women who already have osteoperosis?), so it hardly hurt at all.

Nah, you definately don't want to hear about what's going on with me.

Instead, let me tell you what I've been reading.
First, wunderkind Zadie Smith's big rip on academia, On Beauty, which I read alot ABOUT before reading. It's funny, like they said it would be, and I was definately rooting for some of the characters, and at first I was very captivated by her writing. She puts words together really well and, unlike some of the reviewers on Amazon for example, I forgave her for writing British English, instead of American English. Since most of the characters had at least one foot in each world, it sort of made sense to me. But in spite of the humor of it (one main character is a Rembrandt scholar who hates Rembrandt) it was ultimately so cynical and kind of sad that I gave up on it in the end. Maybe I've seen too much of the real thing to ever think that The Results of An Affair can actually be all that hilarious.

And Jeff and I have been trading back and forth - sometimes reading aloud and sometimes waiting til the other one's asleep and sneakily reading ahead - these books by George R R Martin. We've finished the first one, Game of Thrones, and are now about half way through the second, Clash of Kings. (Thanks to Songbird for the recommendation!) These are funny, too, although in a different way, and good characters, too, although in a very, very, very different way. But we are really enjoying them - the author is a screenwriter, too and you can tell, and I mean that as a complement. The books, truly, have pretty much everything in them - compelling relationships, unfathomable plotlines, fascinating religious/cultural/social stuff, humor, fighting, and great character (both male and female). These are books you can really get lost in. If you aren't too squeamish about violence or ten year old girls having to choose between starvation and eating live worms, and aren't daunted by a series that, in total, is certainly going to run at least five thousand pages, I totally recommend them.

Can you tell anything about yourself by looking at the author headshots of books you're reading? If you can, I cant help but see it as confirmation that I'll probably never be all sophisticated and gorgeous and super intellectual, but instead am pretty much certainly consigned to life of cheerful geekiness.

So reading. One little part of the last month, while I've been mostly blog-free. I haven't been reading anyone else's or hardly writing at all and I miss it. Hopefully, this will be a jump start. Thanks for prayers and good thoughts, by the way. Elijah is doing AWESOME. He just bounced right back from pneumonia. In fact, as I write this, it's 9:45 pm and he's lying in bed hollering for me to bring him a ham sandwich. Yes, things HAVE gotten a little out of hand here at the Brownells since we've all been sick. But a new era of discipline is starting today. I am not bringing him a ham sandwich in bed. I'm not.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

"You will probably actually have a merry Christmas"

Silent Night
You are 'Silent Night'! You really enjoy
Christmas, and you like your Christmases
conventional. For you, Christmas is about
family and traditions, and you rather enjoy the
rituals of going to church at midnight and
turning off the lights before flaming the plum
pudding. Although you find Christmas shopping
frustrating, you like the excitement of
wrapping and hiding presents, and opening a
single door on the Advent Calendar each day.
You like the traditional carols, and probably
teach the children to sing along to them. More
than anyone else, you will probably actually
have a merry Christmas.

What Christmas Carol are you?
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Sunday, December 11, 2005

2 emails

Sent this one on friday:

Date: December 9, 2005 1:53:49 PM PST
Subject: prayers please....

Hello dear friends,

It's a sick-y time around here and I"m writing to ask for prayers and patience.

I've been coughing for almost a month, and now Eli's picked it up and turned it into pneumonia. As of yesterday, he is in Children's Hospital, where he'll likely remian thru the weekend. (Doing much better, btw, under the influence of wonder drug - straight oxygen up the nose). Now, I have totally lost my voice and Jeff's got a fever. Luckily, my Dad is arriving from Wisconsin tomorrow (SAturday) and he'll help out considerably.

In the meantime, I know i have meetings or phone calls or other obligations scheduled with some of you, and I'm just writing to say I dont know when I'll be back on my feet to get back to you individually. Dont know when I'll be back at email, and I obviously cant really talk on the phone right now. For sure anything this weekend and the early part of next week is out, and possibly later. We just all have to get better before we can be out in the world again and I dont know how long that will be.

Thanks in advance for prayers and etc,
Blessing to you and yours,

...and this one today

Date: December 11, 2005 6:40:03 PM PST
Subject: eli update

Dear Ones,

Just a note to thank you for your many kind prayers and help and visits and etc - we are now home from the hospital and Eli is doing so much better. Those doctors actually told him he could go back to day care on Monday which seems, a little, I dont know, hasty or something, considering he had to be hooked up to machines to make sure he was breathing just yesterday. They have great faith in antibiotics, I think.

Anyway, we'll be taking it easy for the next couple of days - I still cant talk at all and I took a nap today from 11 to 4:30... Jeff is somehow the healthiest of any of us. :) My dad is here and he is being a big help. I am so grateful right now for all my family near and far!

All this is making me feel weirdly full of Christmas Spirit and helping me think alot about the real sacrifice of the One Among Us. Discuss among yourselves: Did Christ ever get a head cold? If not, was the Incarnation all that it could have been in terms of really coming to terms with being human?

Oops, getting punchy. Better go.

Thanks again and love, love, love,
Jennifer and the rest of the B's

And did I mention that today I turn 37? So happy (um, or whatever) birthday to me, too.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Cleaning out my inbox...

...and here's a sample of what's in there from the last week or so.

First of all: there's a good, long article about the United Church of Christ winning an award for the "bouncer" ads here.

And if you want to know how cool it is to live downtown, check out this photo from one of Jeff's co-workers, who took this picture of the monorail crash right out of his apartment window. (Don't worry, no one was hurt, but the poor, beleagured monorail will not be running for awhile).

Oh, I just HEART Rev. Billy, don't you?

The landlord (who's from California) warns us about the dangers of cold weather and the possibility of the pipes freezing. The tenants (who are from Minnesota) snicker a little in our sleeves about people who dont know anything about cold weather, but we're covering those outdoor faucets anyway.

Here's an ad from Sojo for a poster of Gandhi's list of 7 Deadly Social Sins - still so sadly relevant.

Here's an Emo from Barbara Crafton at the geranium farm that contains this awesome little Advent gem.
What happens to you if you don't pray? Bad things? Does God turn away, refuse to hear you when you really do need him? None of the above. Bad things don't happen to the unobservant any more often than they do to the devout: stuff just happens, as those bumper stickers used to say. The love of God falls gently upon us all, people much wickeder than I am and people infinitely more righteous. Prayer has nothing to do with staying on God's good side.

All that happens is that you don't have a life of prayer. And, if a life of prayer is what you want, rooted in the exploration of what it mean to be a human being beloved of God, you drift further and further from what you want. You are like a person who needs a hammer but refuses to go to the hardware store.

And, oh dear, I've won this on ebay. Evidently, this was the date and time of my bid: "Dec-01-05 21:30:57 PST." Twenty-one-hundred-hours? When is that exactly? Ovbiously, an injudicious and sentimental hour, probably in the middle of the night. And I have so much shopping for actual presents for real peple that I could have been doing then. Sigh.

I guess before any more of my bad habits are revealed (such as not getting back to old friends who are trying to get in touch with me), I better end this little email inbox tour.

But now I'm so curious (as our friend The Bear would say). What's in YOUR inbox?

Too good to be true!

What a marvelous person! You are the splendid
Christmas tree! You are a spirited person who
almost always in a great mood. Your smiles and
laughter are some things that people usually
look forward to in you. You are someone who is
full of energy and ready for a good time. Most
likely you are a social butterfly. All of these
characteristics make you a beautiful person
inside and out. People just really enjoy to be
around you. Merry Christmas =)

What Christmas Figure Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

New Banner!

I guess there's nothing to really say about it, but take a look at that art up there. :)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Friday Five

It's 11:22 pm, so I'm kind of pushing the envelope on having this be the FRIDAY Five, but sermon avoidance continues and this is as good as any distraction I know.

1) Did you cook or bake anything for Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving was at our house this year, with a motly, delightlful assortment of about a dozen others who've washed up on the west coast. It was just a wonderful, relaxing time. Everyone brought stuff, so I made turkey and Grandma Kandi's cranberries and Martha's cranberry chutney and brussel sprouts (instead of the green bean goo everyone seems to eat.)

2) How was it received?
The turkey was, truthfully, not the best I ever tasted, and no one said a word about it, so I'm thinking most everyone else felt the same. The main problem was, I didn't make enough gravy. (When I explained this solemnly to mom on the phone, "Well who DOES make enough gravy?" Right on, mom. Never enough gravy...)

The cranberries, everyone was like "Oh, very nice," but really, who EATS cranberries? I had a regular sized bag, made two different things with them (Martha says twice what I made was supposed to serve 8) and still had piles of leftovers.

Everyone's crazy about brussel sprouts, which are so seldom served that they're like something really exotic. And so thrilling to find that they are delicious! What is your secret? (half a stick of butter, friend, but don't go telling just ANYONE that).

3) Anything left over?

Cranberries, of course. 3 brussel sprouts which I bull headedly saved in tupperware and will throw away in 10 to 12 days. A little turkey. And (woo hoo!) since we were hosting, we got lots of pie! And the yummiest mashed potatoes ever eaten (more butter secrets - melt it first! - thank you Adrian!!)

4) What's the best use of Thanksgiving leftovers you have ever seen?

I'm on the pie for breakfast bandwagen.

5) And the worst?
This year's turkey travesty - sob! Left out the carcass and all the yummy meat on the bones all night because of being so easily distracted by, you know, life. I've been looking forward to that amazing turkey stock from last year for months. I'm already planning when I can try again to roast another turkey.

Still Friday, and I'm signing off.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Fogged In

It's been foggy for 4 days at our house.

Just a few miles away, the sun is shining.

I'm trying not to be too metaphorical about it, or anything. But it definately has become an excuse to sit at the computer all day and stare dreamily out the window.

At least there's a little excitement out there. The cats and squirrels have discovered our bird feeder. So there's lots of cross-species drama. Yesterday, a squirrel who obviously had a higher degree in physics, was swinging on the fushia, trying to get the right tragectory to bounce into the bird feeder. Didn't work yet, but I have no doubt he will. If the cat doesnt get him first.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Only real sci fi geeks need apply

The Top 100 Things I'll Do If I Ever Become an Evil Overlord

Really, it's the cumulative effect of a thing like this that makes it worthwhile, but in case you want a peek, a few favorites are:

#5 The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.

#24 I will maintain a realistic assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. Even though this takes some of the fun out of the job, at least I will never utter the line "No, this cannot be! I AM INVINCIBLE!!!" (After that, death is usually instantaneous.)

#35 I will not grow a goatee. In the old days they made you look diabolic. Now they just make you look like a disaffected member of Generation X.

#86 I will make sure that my doomsday device is up to code and properly grounded.

In a related note, I'm preaching on Sunday, which I hardly ever do. And I'm trying to study today (on a Monday!) which I also hardly ever do, so that I don't have to get gravy on my notes later in the week. Maybe it's too much reading of and reading about this week's lectionary texts that have put me in a weirdly giggly, apocolyptic mood. Probably it's time for a walk or something.

Buy Nothing Day - Friday November 25

Buy Nothing Day - one of my personal favorite holidays of the year - is coming up this Friday. For more information, check out Adbusters website. If you want to contemplate some really amazing action, instead of or in addition to, not shopping - then click on the Walmart icon on their home page and find the "whirlmart" video.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Homeward bound

The question I have is: how long have you lived where you live now? Did you live your childhood in one place?

The question started forming because Husband Jeff's parents recently sold the house they had lived in for 40 years.

Ok, I can type that sentence, but I can hardly imagine it, let alone believe it. 40 years! Who does the same of anything for 40 years? Jeff and I were talking recently...Yeah, you heard that. We went away for the weekend! Alone! Together! So we were, you know, talking. To each other. And no one interrupted us to ask for a snack or tell us about their poop or demand that we sing "All God's Critters Got a Place In the Choir" for the seventeenth time today.

As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted by my own train of thought, we were talking recently about how that whole childhood in one house thing made his neuroses different than mine. He's afraid of wrecking the house, which I'm not at all afraid of ("if we break it, who cares? we'll just move!"). I'm more afraid that our neighbors all know something we dont know and that they're all talking about how we dont know it.

Anyway, since 1968, the places I remember, in the order in which I remember them are:

the seminary apartment
the Taylor's Falls motel
the green house with the orange door
the Hardy's house
that house by the river
the Iron River house
the parsonage
the Ashland house
1425 Woodland
the 3rd Avenue house

and then I turned 21 and I was kind of on my own and it was the usual parade of roommates, dives and duplexes (and, really briefly, co-owning a fixer upper which is a whole other story) until I moved to Seattle seven years ago. My parents, incidentally, got divorced right about then and they've gone to opposite extremes regarding the house thing. My mom and her husband have pretty much made a third job between them out of renovating the farm they live on - they're nesters now. My dad, on the other hand, has kept on changing houses every year or two.

Oh, but this is about me (and really, what isn't?).

So then Jeff and I lived at 6700 (although in two apartments) for 6 years. But that never felt permanent because it was so tiny and anyway I was in school and we looked over the parking lot of a big grocery store and the building manager was dealing crack out of the office. Anyway, we're renting a great house, as of a year ago, which really is just about perfect for us - if I give you all the details (fenced in yard! huge windows! charming fireplace! totally and completely wheelchair accessible!) it's impossible not to sound like a disability rights real estate agent, so I wont give all the details. But it's pretty great.

We've been here a year and we just signed another year lease, because buying a house just seems ecomonically (as well as, you know, given our limited interest and ability in home repair and upkeep projects) a bad idea.

Still, I was surprised that I DID feel jealous when I got a message from my friend today saying that she and her husband are buying a new house. I think I turned out pretty good overall, and all that moving had its advantages, not the least of which is that I can REALLY pack a box of books. However. Somewhere deep in there is that feeling that because we have this kid now, that means settling down and settling down means BUYING A HOUSE. Maybe because of our deep conviction that our landlords (who are expecting a kid of their own in the spring) are going to want THIS house back, this house doesnt seem like our final destination either. (Does anyone RENT the same house for 40 years?)

Where is this rambling all going?
I think it's something about roots and where you put them down, and how.
And if you even need to.

So that's where it came from. The question, I mean. Did you live in the same place for your whole childhood? What difference did it make? Let me know.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Report to your Blog Station

If you don't read Janell's blog, check it out. She's pretty great. And so when she asks a simple thing, like "can you show me a picture of where you blog?" I want to do it, if only to compare our yellow walls. Yellow walls! Isn't that what you always wanted? And now that you're a grown-up, you can have them!

When I blog from here at my desk, I look at my favorite pictures of Jesus, instead of out a window, which I've found is no good at all for my eyes. (There's something very, very wrong with the grammar of that last sentence, but you know what I mean, right?)

I'm trying not apologize about the piles of papers and dirty dishes. The rest of my house is not spotless, for sure, but it looks a lot better than this. A blog post for another day is why my office and the top of my dresser are always the last things I manage to get to, even though I AM a feminist (and an excedingly lucky one) with A Room of Her Own. And that entry will go on to explore the idea that once you get your room, it turns out that you still have to really claim it by helping it become a place you love to be. And in order to do that, you have to priortize making it neater sometimes.

Ok, enough explaining. Just here it is.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Once upon a time, there was an oldest sister...

Last night at a meeting I was so cool and professional until someone tried to schedule something on December 9. "Hey! That's the opening night for the NARNIA movie!" I cried. Just in case you are also counting down the days, here's a little something to pass the time. (Post this at your own risk - I had to do lots of goofing around with the code to get the banner to show here).

"As Susan, you are mature and respectable, yet with your 'motherly' role you can be quite bossy. Still, you can always be trusted to be loyal and faithful."

Oh, and by the way. Yes, I AM totally bummed that I tested for hateful, prissy old SUSAN instead of You Know Who but I guess it's not surprising. 37 years (well, 35 and a half years, I guess) of being a big sister don't just get wiped out just by reading about it, it turns out. Sigh.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Loose ends

Well, it's Sunday morning.

Daylight savings time had us all up way way way early.

Eli's playing with Uncle Jacob - just arrived from New Hampshire and happy for a scooter ride at 8 in the morning.

Jeff's in the shower.

I've swept the floor, done a load of laundry, worked out, had breakfast, thought about my part in worship for today.

I dont have to be at church for an hour and I actually have no idea what to do with myself.

Monday, October 24, 2005


When I was discerning a call to ministry 10 years ago now, I asked a hippie-Jesus-freak-convert-CatholicWorker-poet pal of mine how I could possibly work for a church with all that baggage in its trunk that Rachelle described here so eloquently.

"Look," he said, infinitely patient, "the official story is never the whole story. Somehow, the Spirit kept working in good, small ways in good, small people even while the powerful were abusing their power, just like they would in any system."

Which is not a way of getting out of the apologizing that needs doing, but a way of acknowledging that there's more to The Story than abuse, and also a reminder that there are those whose hunger for power will lead them to corrupt any system they find themselves in, not matter how good it may be at its core.

I know about the guilt of this this abuse in a real, personal way btw. My great grandfather was actually named Alleluia Iraneous, but he was called A.I.. He was a missionary in India who somehow one day talked his way into Gandhi's house (yes, that Gandhi) while that beloved leader was fasting and not receiving visitors and tried to CONVERT HIM TO CHRISTIANITY. "As Christ is to your people, I am to my people," Old MG said. Which A.I. heard as some kind of Savior complex, but which I'm pretty sure Gandhi (just months from his death at the time) understood in a suffering servant kind of way. AI considered it a failure for the rest of his life that when Gandhi was assasinated, his last words were a prayerful cry: "Hey Ram" instead of "Jesus." This is a true story. So when I stand in my metaphorical spiritual ancestor's shoes, (as Rachelle says) I'm standing in literal ones, too.

And I deal with it in both helpful and not-helpful ways. Making fun of an earnest and energetic but misguided person, dead now 50 years, on my blog? Probably not the healthiest way. But I do think that reaching out in healing love, like Rachelle did to Soeren, is healing, in a small way, those scars.

That one person at a time method seems like never, never, never enough, but personally, I'm trying to get over that piece-of-shit-at-the-center-of-the-universe view of myself that because I PERSONALLY havent saved the whole world, it's not going to get saved. Or, put another way, if I personally havent atoned for these sins, they're not going to be atoned for. Which, taken to the extreme, can be zealous in the same way my great-grandfather was.

All this doesnt get at the major apologies and reparations that need to happen, and the grief and guilt that all of us as Christians bear. I rejoiced, for example, when The United Church of Christ apologized for its role in overthrowing the Hawaiin monarchy and then put their money where their mouth is. I just think that in my own corner of the world, and with my own Savior complex to deal with, it's better for me to concentrate more on one by one by one person at a time,

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Elijah-logue, II

(Overheard while we were both out riding these cool micro scooters that we have gotten second hand, in separate events, from neighbors who seem to know more about what we really need to have a great time than we do.)

Him: Wow, Mommy, you're my best friend!
Me: still beaming 4 and a half hours later

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Who are YOUR jailers?

You know how you get all serious and intense and take about 1000 words to describe something that's really, you know, REAL for you and then someone else says the same thing but in a lighthearded way and in about 987 fewer words?

I got to see Jamal Rahman briefly on Friday at a workshop, and he told the group this story:

I asked my father, what is life all about and he told me,
"Whosever's approval you seek,
you are their prisoner."
And I thought about that and I thought I understood it
but then he said,
"Choose your jailers with care."

Friday, October 14, 2005

Stand in the place where you live

This friday five seems very hummable for some reason....

1) The weather in your location: It's Seattle. So it's cloudy and 50. And the forecast is "might rain. might not."

2) Where you are typing this: A room of my own.

3) Where you might like to be sitting if you could be anywhere: This is pretty great, actually! What a revelation THAT is!

4) A chore you have to do this weekend: Hmm, folding laundry is my least favorite household chore and I see some of that in my future. Hopefully I'll get out to the garden a little bit, too.

5) Something delightful you will do or would like to do this weekend: Watch Elijah sing with the kids in church for the first time. (And speaking of hummable, it's a song about Pharoah sung to the tune of Louie, Louie)

Thursday, October 13, 2005


Look, I dont know how to begin to write about this. I don't know who I'm writing it for, even. Is it God, or myself, or you, reader, whoever you may be? And I'm not sure what the outcome will be or should be. All I know is that every time to sit down to write about this, I write about something else instead. And every time I get up from the computer, I'm dissatisfied because I didnt say it again.

I really just want to say that lately I feel lonely. A writing mentor I knew once said the word "lonely" was probably wrong, and didn't really get at it. "it's more alike alone, in the cosmic sense, with the capital A, Alone." she would say. But I don't think that's it - I really do think it's lonely. I have great friends, a wonderful husband, a delightful child, a large and funny family, an abiding faith, meaningful work and still, still, still I feel lonely.

Once last summer, I went to hang out with some people I met on-line. I liked meeting them in person. It felt so cool that we had connected in this virtual, invisible way and now we could catch each other's facial expressions and play with each other's children IRT (as we cool bloggers say, and if you dont know what it means, I'm glad, because it means that I'M the IN one, even if it's just for a second). If I were still in the big small town of my childhood, reading about something like this happening in a big city, how wonderful it would seem! And how jealous I would feel! That, I would say to myself, THAT is real connection in the 21st century.

I'd always said, and always believed, that I wanted to live in Christian community. In my vaguely specific vision, I knew it involved a lot of prayer and eating together and celebrating and being very intentional about dividing finances and household work. It was about wanting to know each other on a soul level and being able to count on each other long term. And, most importantly, it would be supportive when I felt like company and it would leave me alone when I wanted some privacy. It was, as I see now in a way I did not see then, a complete fantasy, no more real than my adolescent imaginings of the perfect marriage.

Anyway, before I saw the unreality of it, I told those new virtual, real friends some of my hopes about living in community. As I talked, I thought about how this conversation always made me feel like a kid on a rainy night outside a candy store - looking in at all the people laughing and eating, and figuring they have the Kingdom of God all tucked in their pockets, and if only I could get in, I could have it, too.

One of the other women said something about some people she knew who lived in Christian community, how they brought all their hurts and wounds to it and expected them to be fixed, how disappointed they were when nothing was fixed at all.

The other woman talked about some plans she had for living together with a group of other people, and how the whole thing fell apart and now she doesn't even see those people anymore. And how she believes now that as urban people, we can't really plan our family lives around other families and make promises about forever and ever.

I nodded and smiled and I went home completely deflated.

The next morning, I talked to my husband while he was taking a shower. I sometimes do this to him, because he is (as he would tell you) unusually wise in the shower.

"We can't live in Christian community" I announced tragically. Never mind that the closest I'd ever gotten to the contentment of my ideal is right here in my own little family. Never mind that my attempts to really belong to communities in the past- the boys in my family, the jewish students at my tiny college, the lesbians the northern forests, the other moms at that little playground up the street - pretty much ended in, at the very least, a creeping sort of dissatisfaction. Never mind that it wasn't even REAL - the end of that dream was still tragic that day.

"What? Why?"

"Because. I only want to do it because of all my worst parts - mostly my pathetic, desperate loneliness. Nobody wants someone pathetic and desperate to be in their group. I have to heal this loneliness before I can even be around other people."

His eyes got all gentle and loving. "Oh sweetie. Don't stop being lonely. I love your loneliness. And other people love it too. That's why people are drawn to you. It's the thing that makes you want to gather other people around you all the time. It's good, really."

I was incredulous. But then I had a few more tentative conversations with people I trust and I started to really believe it. Maybe Christian Community didnt HAVE to be based on Acts (in that story everything went to hell in a pretty fast handbasket anyway) and maybe the sweet little weekly gatherings we have with friends could really be IT, even if we DO sometimes begin our meals with the theme song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang instead of something like a lovely Taize chant for the prayer, since that's the kids favorite song at the moment. Maybe those moments of contentment I sometimes feel with my family when we're all walking to watch the sunset together were really real. Maybe all of this, and me in all of this, could be enough.

For a while, my eyes were really open to the abundance around me, and I was so grateful.

Then, just recently, I threw my hat into this webring, which includes a sort of suggested daily reading list of noteworthy posts. Before I joined, I used to check the round-up of what others were writing, grateful to see what else was out there. With more than 70 blogs on the list, it's impossible for anyone to read them all, or list something noteworthy about every one, every day. But now I find that instead of finding the wisdom in others' words, I check the page with my fingers crossed. I'm 8 years old again and all sweaty in gym class, my brain going "Pick me, pick me, pick me...." Once someone DID pick me and I was so pleased that I couldn't even really say "thanks."

Instead of feeling like I'm part of something, I'm on the other side of the glass again (still?) and I'm not sure of the right words to get in. I'm still having that same fantasy I thought I was done with - the perfect community and me perfectly ensconced in it, in sight but just out of reach. And that fantasy is impeding my ability to embrace and enjoy the abundance that is actually available to me right here and now.

I said at the beginning that I didnt know what I was writing this for, but now I know why. I'm going to keep writing, but not because writing is some kind of ticket into a candy shop which doesn't even exist anyway. I'm going to keep writing because there's a voice in there that wants out.

When I close my eyes and picture my words now, they don't have to be, as I was imagining for a while, in the center of a circle with everyone jostling to see. We're not much into sacrifice in my tradition, but I see them now on a table, laid before God. Now I know why I am writing this. To bring me back around to where I always need to be brought around to - to trust. I'll put my words out here. I'll stop trying to make them a ticket to the Imaginary Kingdom. And I will trust in God, just as much as I possibly can, that these words will fall where they need to and heal who they need to - even if it's just me.

Monday, October 10, 2005

It's embarrassing to spend time on a thing like this,

but still good fun. Google your name (or psudonym - yikes, spelling?) "needs" A selection of mine follows:

Juniper needs to start playing the big game
Juniper Needs to Buy
Juniper needs Euny’s powers to pull off this final quest
Juniper needs well-drained soil
Juniper needs to prove that this near £2.2bn purchase has not derailed it from its core competency in the service provider space.
Juniper needs to be deeply involved
Juniper needs sunshine
Juniper needs something different
juniper needs to be cut down more than halfway

Ok, that was fun and all, but SOMEBODY has to get those dishes washed, man. That'd be me, I guess. No more goofing around starting now.

Rush right over.... the Paris Project to read the most moving thing you've read in a long time about mommy-ing and getting it 97% right.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

On Reading and Watching and Taking It All In

I'm trying not to rush through Parable of the Sower, the first I've read by Octavia Butler and so oh-my-god! good that I want to gulp it down. Luckily there's a sequel...

We're easing into winter by watching Lord of the Rings, all 63 hours of it, again. It gets better and better every time. And tonight, in an attempt at family movie night and to delight our 3 year old boy ("You've worn the underwear, now see the moive!!") we got Robots. Which the grown-ups liked, but which gave the boy the willies and made it hard for him to settle into sleep.

He's kind of at a jumpy age, I guess, since he hasn't ever really been a nervous person up til now. The other morning, for example, he soberly informed me, "Mommy, Jesus is in my room." Struggling to wake up, all I could think to say was something brilliant like, "really?" And then he added: "Yes. And there are monsters in my closet." So for now, I've stopped telling him that he's safe in his room all night because Jesus is watching out for him, just in case, you know, that might actually be a SCARY idea. And a dozen times a day we have this conversation. "Monsters are just pretend, right, Mommy?" "Right." (repeat, repeat, repeat).

Question: How do you help your kids develop a faith life at that mystical age when there is no line between the seen and the unseen, and most things scare them half to death?

Open 24 Hours. Except when we're not.

So we're having this auction at church and in trying to be creative and all, I've been goofing around with turning some of my husband Jeff's lovely photographs into greeting cards (everyone needs 'em, right? right??? you better say yes when I'm talking to you, buster).

Said project has entailed way too many trips to Kinko's, including the one where the surly girl monotoned "yes, ma'am, we are open twenty four hours" and the one tonight in which I went to pick up the finally hopefully absolutely perfect cards and they were CLOSED! At 9 pm on a Saturday night! Not to re-open until Monday morning! And these are their regular hours! Don't they know that ministers have deadlines, too?

WHY should we put up with all that city life entails - the impossible gridlock, the noise and dust, and worst of all, the knowledge that we're horribly trapped in the materialism and inauthenticity that is life in the matrix if we can't go to Kinko's whenever we want? Sheesh.

This project is now officially Never Going To Be Done, and my own personal hell is going to be spent eternally filling my tank with $45 worth of gas and driving in endless circles around the copy store.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Friday Five

Havent posted in a week, and still not sure what to write about today - BUT thought this might be a kickstart from the RevGalBlogPals:

1) What is your earliest memory of church?
My dad (and pastor, but I dont think I knew that then - I think I was just relating to him as my dad) telling a scary story about being alone with his brother when they were small and his brother telling him a scary story. Which is weird, because church wasnt at all scary for me - in fact I mostly remember it being really safe and getting to do fun things like drinking all the dozens of tiny cups of leftover communion juice (we were Methodists in those days, natch) and one time, chasing a bat out of the sanctuary. But I still think the very first memory is the scary story.

2) How old were you when you first took Communion?
Hmm, are we counting the leftovers (see #1)? I guess I don't remember other than that. I find myself wishing here that this was a bigger moment for me.

3) What is your favorite Bible verse/passage?
This SO depends on the day. But ones that keep coming to the top are: Psalm 46 (especially the king james, but only for this one) or Romans 12 or the story of Thomas getting to see Jesus (don't call him The Doubter to ME, sister) or pretty much anything about Moses.

4) What verse/passage nicks you uncomfortably?
Well, I got kind of zinged during my ordination interview on "no one comes to the father except through me" and that one still always makes me kind of squirmy.

5) What's your favorite hymn or praise song?
Oh, geez, this is even harder than the Bible question. Not counting Christmas carols (my current favorite of which is Eli singing Hawk De Hewawd Angews Sing) Probably all time fave would be "Joyful, Joyful..."

But when I closed my eyes and thought "what's your favorite hymn, honey?" (SEE, you CAN be your own spiritual director!) I started humming "In the Midst of New Dimensions" which is #391 in the New Century Hymnal. Do the rest of ya'll have that one? Well, it's as good a vision as any I know of the Kingdom, and it has a pretty great tune, too. So I'll stick with that.

But ask me again in ten minutes and it'll probably be another one.

Friday, September 30, 2005


I dont usually record what happens in pastoral care visits, but when, after a tense-ish week (did I tell you about the worst nightmare of my life that I had a couple nights ago, after which I sat staring into the abyss and shaking for half an hour?) when an 85 year old woman says

If you just kind of relax, life just kind of happens to you

I sit up and take notice.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

What the Internet is for

It's past midnight, and I just wasted a perfectly good hour Googlewhacking.

Don't get interested in it, it'll suck you in forever and bring the rest of your life tumbling down around your ears like a cheap deck of cards.

BUT enroute to researching my whack, (unctuously paraneoplastic, in case you are interested) I found this incredibly cool site. Check it out!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Angela's Amazing Adventure

So Angela, the coolest Baptist I know, is grieving the loss of her father. Please keep her in your prayers, and while you're at it, check out her incredible blog entry about giving the eulogy at his funeral in the presence of 4 (that's right, 4) ex-wives - and a fiancee, too. Whew.

How To Get Your Husband to Eat Squash

This is a recipe I adapted tonight from the new Cooking Light and it was so yummy and filling and (since I'm doing that weight watchers thing and since it's really working!) now a little leaner than the original.

2 T pine nuts
2 T plue 1 t olive oil, divided
1-2 T fresh sage

1 garlic clove, minced
2.5 c water, divided
1 LB winter squash, peeled, seeded and shredded*

1 t maple syrup
1 t salt
.5 t black pepper

12 oz uncooked whole wheat rotini

parmesan cheese and italian parsley for garnish

1. Toast the pine nuts over med-low heat in a large, non stick skillet. Add 2 T olive oil and sage. Remove to a small bowl.

2. Heat remaining olive oil in a pan over medium high heat. Add garlic, saute 30 seconds. Reduce heat to medium. Add 1 cup water and squash to pan. Cook 10 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Add remaining water, half cup at a time, stirring occasionally until each portion of water is absorbed before adding the next. It will take 15 - 20 minutes. Be careful that it doesn't get too dry.

3. Add sugar, salt and pepper.

4. Cook pasta. Drain and combine pasta and squash mixture in a large serving bowl. Add pine-nut mixture, stir well.

5. Served garnished with the parmesan cheese and parsley.

6. Amaze your husband, who always thought he didn't really like squash. Share it with all your friends - it makes 6 servings at least.

*In case this sounds simple, btw, this part took more than 20 minutes and was a real mess. Urgh! Dull knives! Urgh! tiny food processor!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

"It's good to know there are some memes that can fly right past me" -Jeff

Here at Technology Central, we're not sure how we could have spent so much time thinking, reading and talking about that whole annoying intelligent design debate and not yet come across this. But it's reassuring, somehow, to know that the internet is still bigger than we are. Make sure to click on the link that proves that global warming is caused by a decrease in the number of pirates.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Bottomless Well of Wellness

You might want to describe my family by pathology:
Jeff has muscular dystrophy.
Eli has asthma.
I have a headache.

I know, given the state of the world, it's hard to be too worried about headaches.
But I've had a headache since March.

So far, since May when I started getting serious, I have also:
taken antibiotics
stopped eating all wheat products for one month
had an MRI (which apart from an "artifact" was "normal")
been to the dentist to see if my jaw is mis-aligned
received 3 acupuncture treatments and taken some foul tasting herbs
been on and off the Pill
had air blown in my eyes to see if I need glasses

So I know alot about kooky medical devices and alot about what IS NOT causing these headaches - they're the annoying but usually not debilitating kind that pop up over my right eye - but still not what IS causing them. No one knows what's causing them, but they all say that most headaches are caused by muscle tension, which means I just have try harder to relax or something. With access to this much good health care, a great place to live, satisfying work and a sweet family I'm just not sure what I have to be tense about.

However, I'm certain that if I worry about it enough, I'll figure it out.

Eli's Bloggin

"That's my name. I'm writing it. That's my name."

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hrhghh hbfvb nmhgfwe jvb v vjgyigdv trewv kbehwhehhh
wee eeeeergei3geigegrgggrg hehf fb wjt

Sunday, September 18, 2005

I really dont usually take these, but....

....these last few have been intriguing. And this is a good one with really funny questions (But based on earlier tonight when I tried to tell thisthis joke about George Bush and getting out of New Orleans, and it was followed by that kind of silence in which you can hear the crickets chirp and then somebody goes, "Um, well, anyway...." and tries to talk about something else, I'm obviously no judge at all of what is funny ).

Um, well, anyway, along with the rest of the RevGalBlogPals, I seem to be Julian. Which is too bad, since I kind of was hoping to be St Francis of Assisi. But then I'd have to die some horrible kind of death. (Wait a minute, how did he die? .....thinking, thinking, thinking.... nope, definately cant surface that information right now. But I bet it was gruesome).

You are Julian of Norwich! It's all about God, to
you. You're convinced that the world has a
happy ending. Everyone else is convinced that
you're a closet hippie, but you love them

Which Saint Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Angels we have heard on high...

So many sad, sad, sad images to come of New Orleans in the last few weeks, and just when you think you've seen it all, another one. So much hope and triumph and joy brought down. But so much joy and triumph left to hope for, too.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Now I finally have it all figured out.

Your Element is Earth

Your power color: yellow

Your energy: balancing

Your season: changing of seasons

Dedicated and responsible, you are a rock to your friends.
You are skilled at working out even the most difficult problems.
Low key and calm, you are happiest when you are around loved ones.
Ambitious and goal oriented, you have long term plans to be successful.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

My work here is done

CC: So, do you talk to God, Elijah?
Eli: Yes. I do.
CC: And what does God say to you?
Eli:God says, "Follow me."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Last Friday was the full moon.

By last Thursday night, I'd just about had it. I mean, who hasn't? And it became clear that, although I am not as involved politically as I once was or would like to be, I still had a few tools at my disposal that I wasn't using at all.

So I prayed about it for awhile, tried to call some people to talk to about it, couldn't reach anyone and at 9:13 pm on Thursday night, ended up sending out this email to a hundred or so people:

Prayer Vigil at Green Lake Park Community Center
Friday, August 19
11-11:45 am

Kids and dogs welcome. :)
Feel free to forward this to anyone who might need or want this information.

Like many of you, I have been deeply moved by the stories of the vigils in support of Cindy Sheehan. Those who support her have asked that the vigils continue with prayer on Friday. So, I'm inviting you to join me for a prayer vigil at Green Lake tomorrow (Friday, the 19th) in support of Cindy and other family members like her, in support of the troops, in support of peace.
If you are not able to come to the vigil itself, please consider taking a moment of prayer or silence tomorrow around noon wherever you are.

I dropped Elijah off at JJ's, which is where he goes on Friday mornings. I went to the copy store and made 20 copies of this then walked fast around Green Lake, until I was kind of sweaty, but much calmer. Then I sat by the walking path under a tree on which I had leaned a sign that said Pray For Peace and I sat quietly, most of the time with my eyes closed. No one else came to pray with me, but I didnt really expect them to. No one laughed or shouted or tried to kick me - turns out most people really steer clear of a person sitting under a tree next to a handpainted sign.

After about 25 minutes, which went surprisingly quickly, I felt really good - connected to God and empowered the way you are when you are really being deep and spiritual and quiet. But I still wasnt sure what I was supposed to be, you know, doing there.

I got up to throw my smoothie cup away, and there was JJ ! Who had brought some of the kids (she had six hanging around that day) to pray with me. Then JJ helped us all sing together, which made the kids kind of squrimy with embarrassment, but they sweetly did it anyway and then we started passing out the flyers, which lots of people took, smiling, and one woman asked me what group I was affiliated with and I was so startled I said, "um, unaffilated" before I remembered that I'm actually a pastor now, and I could, if I wanted to, claim affiliation to a church. And JJ said, "This is so GREAT! I'm ready to do this every week!" And she was right, it was great. And if felt like something we all should be doing more of - talking about peace with strangers as well as with people we love, praying about peace in public, as well as at home. So obvious, and yet it's so much easier to be crushed by despair instead.

But we're all of us, aren't we, walking this line between sacred and mundane all the time. Because just then I had to rush off to pick up Elijah (who was still at home with Steve). I took him with me while I went to get the van fixed way up in Edmonds and while we were waiting we walked to McDonalds (It seemed like I had earned it, somehow, after being so egregiously counter-cultural. But as always, a trip to McDonalds filled me with more regret than it was worth. And Eli wouldnt eat anything anyway, so I ended up with two orders of fries that I emphatically do not need.)

After that, we had to wait a really really really long time, and Elijah was a good as he could be, given that the place we had to wait only had one bathroom (and he's doing his best with toilet stuff but is not totally proficient yet) and it was also a wheelchair showroom, so I had to say about 3,458 times "Get off the wheelchair," "that is not a toy" and all the rest of what you'd think you'd have to say in a situation like that to a machine geek like my son. But I felt like I was holding it together pretty well. Until we got back in the van and I said in that chipper voice you can get on a sunny day when you're about to drive all the way through Seattle in rush hour traffic, "OhhhKAY, now we're going to pick up DAAAdy!" and Eli looked at me all cross in the rearview mirror and sighed through gritted teeth "What.Are.You.Talking.About?" He's just starting to speak in real sentences and he totally totally totally cracked me up when I realized that he was sounding just like I must have been sounding all day.

That night, I went with Cathy from church to see Joe Bean which I was moderately excited about but which kicked so much incredible ass that I was literally, actually (I hate to use a cliche like this, but it really is true) on the edge of my seat for two hours. I havent anything in a theater that was so funny, so heart-wrenchingly sad, so engaging, so smart, so relevant, and just so good in a really long time.

I tried, probably unsuccessfully, to describe the show and the rest of the day to Jeff and then he went to sleep, but I just kind of paced in circles for a couple of hours, which I dont usually do. But did I mention that last Friday was the full moon?

And here's what I came to at the end of that long long day. That I'm ready to go back out there. Ready to pray and pass out flyers about peace, just like a kook. Because if some more of us don't start making kooks of ourselves, there won't be anything to be kooky about, if you know what I mean. So look for me, next to the walking path, with my little handpainted sign and my flyers, and join me if you can. It'll be better than you think.

Jeff thinks Jen L was the tipping point

Is it just me, or do you also find the blogosphere kind of lacks...I don't know...focus now that Jen Lemen's taken off? Or is it just that it's summer?

Although Wendy reports that Anne Lamott is now blogging about politics over here . Which might help a little to cure the listless doldrums I've got going these days.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Away for a while

We were only actually IN Minnesota for a week, but the trip seems to have created a black hole in time, which has definately adversely affected my blog time. That, and the drawing class that Jeff and I are taking - about which we could do a whole blog of our own, but all the extra time we have has been going into, you know. drawing.

Anyway, I was checking some other blogs I look at sometimes - found Daniel's. He seems to post about once a month and his most recent post was about a really great sandwich he just had. I was chuckling about that because it seemed so incredible that between July 11 and August 2 the only thing of note to report was lunch, even it WAS a really great one.

Then I remembered that I havent been blogging at all. So here, I am reporting in from the Village Pub at 1:32. It's a BLT (this will be no surprise to you, mom) and fries. And lemonade. And it's prety tasty.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

More proof that the world does not totally suck

An update about this summer's camp activities from our local UCC camp director, Deeg Nelson included this:

We also created and sent 70 care packages to the company of a former
camper who is now serving in Iraq during Senior High Camp. This was a
incredibly rewarding week for our campers. A patron of the post office
asked how we were paying postage. When I replied "donations," he handed
us $50 for the project.

Remember that next time you hear a warning about someone "going postal"

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Bedside Table Contents Revealed

As per Rachelle's challenge:

On top
Alarm clock
Summer 2005 Brain, Child
May 2005 and July 2005 Harpers (no idea where June is)

In the drawer
non-working flashlight
nail clipper and files
more lotion
small c-clamp (sheesh, what is THAT doing in here?)
2 decks tarot cards (I never consult tarot cards, dont know why these are here either)
pens and pencils
cell phone power cord
some other private-ish stuff

bottom shelf
very pretty journal that sister-in-law Erin gave me - half filled
Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris
18 of Elijah's books - including some from the library that are not yet overdue
Eli's very scary rabbit mask from Easter which always make Jeff ask "why are you wearing that silly man suit?"
Mitch Albom's The 5 people you meet in heaven (Yikes. I'm putting this embarrassing book in the rummage sale pile RIGHT NOW)
Dont Gift Wrap Garbage (another example of a really decent book with a really terrible title- daily meditations)
Wisdom of the Enneagram
What Narcissism Means to Me - Poems by Tony Hoagland
Show Me the Way - Readings for Each Day of Lent by Henri Nouwen (see, it's been a while since I cleaned out under here)
Letters of EB White
Voices of Freedom:An Oral History of the Civil Rights Movement

Hmm, no Bible. I know there's usually one around here somewhere.... I guess I won't look UNDER the bed, though. Too scary.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Just because I can

I think Blogger has made it easier to post pictures, so I'm testing by posting my favorite painting of Jesus by Caravaggio.

I dont know of any image more compassionate, more wise, more human and more profound than this one of him with Thomas.

Moved shoes, unexpected potatoes, and other signs of love

I blog partly because I want to be as cool and smart and spiritual and funny as some of the other (mostly) women that I know a little through their words. But mostly I do it because it makes me feel a part of something bigger than me - it feels like community to know that we're all out there in the blogosphere, trying to figure it all out. There's a little early summer lull happening on the blogs I check most often - Rachelle hasnt been posting all that much (I bet the kids are out of school), Jen is on-and-off because of technical difficulties and Jenell is on maternity leave.

On Thursday night, we tried to go to Monkfish. I called Rachelle just like an hour or so before to see if we could come over, and if I could try out our longest portable ramp, so Jeff could get up the few steps. I like Monkfish so much, but it's hard to get going somewhere on a Thursday evening, and we've never gotten it together to figure out if one of our portable ramps from home will work there and I really dont want to have more things in my life that dont include Jeff and Eli, so I havent been for awhile. Anyway, when we arrived, all the shoes were outside, which warmed my heart completely. See, like most walking people, Rachelle and her family have a big pile of shoes right inside the door. And, in anticipation of and JUST IN CASE Jeff's ramp would work (Which it didn't - it was much much much much too steep and perilous. Now, we have to talk to Rachelle's neighbor about building one, which I guess is what we should have done in the beginning when he offered. But that would have been the easy way, which is hardly ever my path - have you noticed?) all the shoes had been moved out on the porch to make room for Jeff's entrance in a wheelchair.

So much is just not set up for us, you know, but Rachelle, man, THOUGHT about the shoes! When she probably had a few other things to think about just then. It makes me realize how much we have to advocate for, because of the relief of not having to negotiate that one. So even though the ramp didnt work out, it was as good as getting inside to see all those shoes grinning at us from the front porch.

And speaking of front porches, I found a bag of newly dug potatoes and a head of garlic on our front porch this afternoon. I deduced it must be from Julie and Laurie down the street (sometime their albino great dane - yes you read that right - will get a post and hopefully a photo all her own) because I've seen them walking around with bags of produce before. So I knocked on the door - "Are you the potato fairy?" - And it WAS them. And I had to ask them their names for the millionth time, and they very nicely told me and then they asked about our bamboo, so we invited them over to see it. (We're not just imagining it - our bamboo is the talk of the neighborhood.) And they came over and admired our bamboo and Laurie gave me advice about the garden ("Um, no those arent weeds - they're delphiniums. But you can cut them down if you want.") They plant potatoes wherever they have a little space and Julie told us she'll drop off some more sometime.

So community keeps finding us. I miss the everyday on-line check-in I had going for a while, but maybe it's lightening up to make a space for this other stuff. I mean, I love hanging out in virtual space with other mommies who love Jesus in a humorous, feminist way. I feel like they totally get me, which is a good feeling. But when someone with whom I have a passing aquaintance drops produce on my doorstep, I feel gotten in a totally other way, and that's important too.

And I didnt even mention how today we also went to our other neighbors' house and her big boys wrestled with Eli on their big trampoline just roughly enough but with remarkable gentleness, too, until he was weak from laughing.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Cellular gratitude

Sue over at Inner Dorothy writes about her husband's MS (which is multiple sclorosis, which is not the same as muscular dystrophy, which is what Jeff has. But the effect on a family is not, I think, dissimilar.) Anyway, she writes:

There is a wierd ritual-loving part of me that wants to tell P's struggling cells that it's not their fault, that they've done well and worked hard ("Well done, good and faithful servants"). There's a part of me that wants to thank them for hanging in there over the years and allowing him the quality of life that he still has. I want to tell every cell in his body that they are, and always will be, loved regardless of their level of ability.

There is so much sweetness here, and so much generosity. It makes me feel ashamed of my sometimes-impatience with Jeff, with what is slow, with what doesn't work, with what needs fixing. It made me wonder what it would be like if every morning, I thanked God for Jeff's cells, for "hanging in there and allowing the quality of life he still has" instead of constantly what-if-ing.

So having read this post, and thinking all these grandiose thoughts, I went to pick up the book that was waiting for me at the library, that a pal of mine has been urging me to read, If we're so in love, why aren't we happy? by Susan Page (Ugh, a terrible example of what happens when too many marketing people name a book. And believe me, from working in publishing for a while, I can tell you that the name that everyone agrees on is hardly ever the best one.) Anyway, 20 pages into this book, I can tell you that it's about the very thing that Sue was writing about - gratitude at a cellular level.

Page's thing is that we talk about fixing marriages the way we talk about business transactions - it's all about communicating, negotiating and fairness. When in reality, she says, the purpose of marriage is to learn to love and to be loved, and when you act out of love, instead of trying to figure each other out (and change each other!) all the time, your marriage will actually just get better, deeper, realer. She talks about being married itself as a spiritual practice and she offers some tips on how to do this.

In the meantime, I'm practicing cellular gratitude. Starting right now. Yes, now.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

the grass

God bless the grass that grows through the crack.
They roll the concrete over it to try and keep it back.
The concrete gets tired of what it has to do,
It breaks and it buckles and the grass grows through.
And God bless the grass.

Next year we're going to put a surveillance camera on the roof pointing at the bamboo patch in the backyard. Jeff and I lie in bed at night and imagine we can hear it growing. We know it's a grass, and that you have to put a barrier around it that goes 30 inches down in order to keep it from poking holes in our deck or the neighbor's pool and we know the patch in our back yard sent out shoots that have grown up to 15 feet in less than a month, but beyond that, we dont know much about it. It spreads, even with the barrier. The speed and tenacity with which it grows is certainly one of those agricultural phenomena that a childhood in northern Minnesota could not prepare us for.
God bless the truth that fights toward the sun,
They roll the lies over it and think that it is done.
It moves through the ground and reaches for the air,
And after a while it is growing everywhere,
And God bless the grass

I talked to Mom on the phone really briefly yesterday and I asked her more about Matt Lourey's burial and how Becky is holding up. She says Becky is getting lots of supportive notes and emails, and some critical ones too, saying she should be speaking out more strongly against the war. Becky doesn't crumble, though. She says that Matt had a job to do, and that job was to follow his commanding officer. The real question we should be asking, she says, is what the commanders are doing.

Jeff Brownell took the photo. Melvina Reynolds wrote the song.

You can dance if you want to

If you liked the Hamster dance, you'll LOVE...

Now, get back to writing your sermon, lazybones.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

End the war, end in the war, end the war.

Let it be our constant prayer. Our constant shout and wail.

In honor of Matt, and the more than two thousand six hundred other service men and women (well - boys and girls, really. Honestly, just look at their ages) who have died.

I've been reading about this kid, Zach, who came out to his parents last week, so they sent him to gay re-education camp - after which his blog stops except for 400 comments in his support (as of this moment, and more coming in all the time). And of course, I'm sick to my stomach like any decent and compassionate person would be, and of course I cant imagine it either - having parents act that hateful in the name of something not hateful.

But I cant figure out why we're not riled up about this war, this horrible, useless war, in the same way.

Why aren't we?

I'm not trying to get on your case, whoever you are (I have a limited understanding of who the exact, uh, demographic is for this blog - if there is even a large enough group reading it to be called an actual demographic) anyway - I'm not on your case. Notice I havent quit my cush job to work for peace either.

What will it take?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Three Men and a Baby

Boy, do we love Kipper around here these days. So much less hyper than other kids' shows and the sophisticated yet homey British accents are so endearing and the MUSIC is so great.

I found this review at Amazon that was like, "Love Kipper. But what's with the eyebrow? He only has one, and it's always changing sides." And me and Jeff have spent countless hours when we could be solving the problem of zero or figuring out how to get our troops our of Iraq trying to suss out the relationships between the characters.

'Cause see, there are like 3 sort of grown-up animals, 2 dogs and a pig. And then a baby pig. But it turns out, all the grown-up animals are BOYS. So my theory (that Pig and Kipper were boyfriend and girlfriend, and Pig was a struggling single mother who cant be blamed for always losing wee Arnold because she has so much to worry about what with the rent coming due, and Arnold's absentee father no where in sight) got shot all to hell when we found that out.

Remember when I was pregnant and I kept scoffing at those flowerly maternity tops and saying "HELLLO. I'm HAVING a child, not TURNING into one." Coulda been wrong about that. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

something old, but new

I re-posted an old site from those dark pre-blog days of the early part of the century over on comcast.
Check out the ancient history here, and here if you want.
Monkfish folks alert - collages ahead!

And speaking of greatness

Check out this! My mom's company made Entrepeneur's list of HOT 100 companies. Scroll down to 66. I'm so proud and impressed. And, here's the cool part - look at the amount invested and the amount made compared to the others around it. Alaris, you rock!

Balancing act

So Sara at Going Jesus, it seems, has the knack for writing that stuff that shakes loose what all the rest of us were thinking. Since the comments on this post have already almost reached the same number as years old we are (honestly, who can READ that many?), I'm putting my loose thoughts over here.

What I've been saying this week is this, "If I was full time in ministry, I could be GREAT at it, but that's not an option right now. If I was full time Mommy, I would not be great at it. I would be insane, actually in Harborview Hospital." And it gets a laugh, you know, but it really is true. And it's sad, in a way. I wish I had a nickel for every person who told me before Eli was born - "You will be a GREAT mom, Jen, just great!" and I have to say that I believed it. But how do you measure greatness in that category? A child totally potty trained by 2? (not done). A child who never tantrums at the store? (oops, happened twice this week already). An attitude of complete compassion and unconditional love at all times? (Hmmm, let's be gentle here and say I'm still living into that one).

I guess there's no measuring parenting greatness any more than there is measuring spiritual greatness. Because, what is THAT? Being in touch with God every moment? See, there's something about greatness, or desire thereof, that brings out the excess junkie, in me anyway. Not enough to pray this morning - no if I am to be GREAT, I really have to be in communion with God (and all the saints, even though I am Protestant) every single minute. If I'm spiritually great, I dont have to hanker for a different car, one with air conditioning, so I dont have to arrive at meetings all sweaty with windblown hair because I would consider all the people in the world who dont even have a car and feel gratitude for all my blessings EVERY MINUTE.

So maybe this is the year (nope, I'm stopping sweeping statements and I'M NEVER USING THEM AGAIN -ha!) I mean maybe this DAY is the day to let go of greatness fantasies either in mommying and ministrying and start just living each moment like I'm just enough. And like the moment is just enough for me, too.

Thanks Sara. Great food for thought. And hey, we are in our mid-30's now. Maybe this is bonafide midlife crisis time. Maybe we should get a few toys - you keep your ipod and I'll get that new Jetta - and be grateful we got out that easy....

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Me: (Upon seeing him wander casually by) Hey, where are you going with that roll of toilet paper?
Him: (With a mischeivious chuckle) I'm going to make a terrible mess.

And on another note entirely

Here's something very thoughtful about jumping off our culture's violence bandwagon. Barbara is great!


Hey, here's a funny way to be famous.
The feature that Jeff's team works on
got a mention in the The Onion.

Righteous. Totally.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Anthropologists at the Mall

Last Friday was Jeff's birthday ("I'm a 35 year old boy...") so we went to the Alderwood Mall to get Tiger at the Apple store. (If nothing in that previous sentence made any sense, keep reading, it'll get less geeky from here on in.)

First of all, it was a 20 minute drive made 70 minutes by Friday afternoon traffic - so we all arrived in Lynnwood a little cranky and nauseous from exhaust fumes and that stop and start thing. And also hungry. So we had to scrap our plans to eat at a "nice" restaurant (Olive Garden, anyone?) and headed for the food court. Not having TV, and not getting to the mall hardly ever really made us feel like visitors from another planet while we ate our sbarro's pizza and ziti. And we kept saying, "people really DO this," and we were curious and enjoyed all the people going by and the plastic food but we were definately not, you know, a part of it, even though of course we WERE a part of it.

So I took a picture with my camera phone (have I MENTIONED my camera phone?) so we could document that we had actually BEEN at a MALL.

After we ate, we found the Apple store and ran into Jeremy who was talking with another guy in a kilt, (two of them! in one store!) and Jeff bought his software while me and Elijah found a bathroom and then played for a while on the kids' computers they have thoughtfully set up, since it turns out that a lot of those thirty five year old boys are having kids and then we went to get ice cream and then something really delightful happened.

It's this kind of ice cream place (what is it called?) where they take a gob of plain ice cream and mix it with yummies like nuts and chocolate chips right there on a slab of icey marble. Jeff said, politely, as always, "No thank you. I don't care for sweets." But it was a birthday, so SOMEONE had to eat ice cream. It took a while though, to do all that scooping and mixing, so Eli waited on Jeff's lap over by the door while I stood in line. And at the end, when ours was all mixed, I put a buck in the tip jar.

Earnest, adorable 18-year-old boy behind counter: "You get a song for a tip! Would you like a song?"
Me: "Uh, no thanks. Oh! Yeah, it's my husband's birthday! Would you sing happy birthday to Jeff?"

And they did! All 46 people who seemed to be working there. Not happy birthday, but a special song, composed, I am sure just for this occasion, although they couldnt really tell whose birthday it was, I think. Jeff was grinning his head off. And Eli was entranced. ( Now our boy keeps walking around saying on HIS birthday, he will have ICE CREAM and people will SING. )

And it was so surprisingly sweet, right there in the middle of the mall and all our aloofness and post-modernity to have people sing out loud like they really meant it. Even if they were just a bunch of kids getting paid minimum wage to schlep ice-cream and sing when someone tips.

Happy Birthday, sweetie. (And that's the real one).

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Something sad and beautiful

In honor of Earth Day Week.
Bill McKibbon is just so smart. And wise, too.

Jesus really IS really big.

If only I'd read this before I preached last Sunday, I could have had the real data.

Monday, April 25, 2005

sermon from Sunday

Well, I've been trying to figure out how to do that thing where I show you a little teaser paragraph of this, and then if you really, really want to see it all, you can click on a link and see the rest. But I can't. Shucks. So here is the whole darn long thing. Anyone who knows how to do that trick, can you let me know?

Listen to the singing
Preached at MUCC
April 24, 2005

John 14:1-14

I cant think of a scripture passage I feel more ambivalent about than this one.
On the one hand, I lean into the lovely reassurance that “in my Father’s house are many rooms”. On the other hand, I wince at those 8 words that have done so much damage to our brothers and sisters of other faiths and of no faith – “no one comes to the father except through me.”

One thing I DO like about this passage is that it really really gets me talking to God. From the minute I read these words in preparation for today, I was in dialogue – “Really Jesus? NO ONE comes to the father except thru me? really?“
In my first reading of it, I just could not believe it, mostly because I personally know so many Godly people – including some of you here today – who are not all that sure about Jesus, about who and what he was.

When I get stuck on a line of scripture, as I did on this one, it really helps me to hear what other people have to say.

First I remembered my ordination service last fall. I know a few of you were there, who would remember my dad’s charge to the candidate – the part of the service in which an older, wiser pastor passes on some words of advice and encouragement to the ordinand. I cant rmember all of what he said as he held both my hands and looked into my face and spoke with his eyes full of tears, but I do remember this. Christianity, he reminded me, is your mother tongue, and it is mine. But Christianity is not the only language God speaks or the only language God understands. So I carried that with me into my study – the sure knowledge that God speaks in countless faith traditions.

To get the context of the passage, I first did some historical reasearch. These are pastoral words, to a community who is desparately in need of of some comforting. Seated as we are in this lovely building, our involvment in this community causing us no real danger, it might be hard to remember the real fear of the early Christian community, the small secret gatherings at friends’ houses.

These were not mainline Christians - these were not mainline anything. They were desperados - just a few of them, their leader gone, oppressed by the forces of Rome on one side, the temple authorities on the other. They were, in the words of Peter, the stone that the builder had rejected. It was hard to remember the second half of that passage – that they would become the cornerstone.

I kept reading, uncovering what these words might mean to us in the here and now.
Even though we DO call ourselves “mainline christians” these days, I do think this passage – and the one we heard earlier – reminds us that our Christianity has to mean something – has to help us stand apart.

In fact, if I can think of one theme of all of the guest speakers we’ve had the opportunity to hear during the last 3 months of Cathy’s sabbatical, it is this:
A challenge to live a Christian life in a way that makes you stand out. Claim christianity, live it fully and you will be changed and so will the world. Remember?
Sandy Brown – turning faith into action
Bill Bailey – life of service to the church
Philip – reminder of the importance of growing and changing in our worship life
Tanya Macovna Barnett – care for the earth and what each of us could do
Lou Taylor – being fully alive so God’s work could be made manifest in us
Jennifer Russell – taking our message of love and service out to the whole world
Shayne Flowers – living lives based on radically risk-taking faith
Kerri Berlin – reminding us, that given a faithful chance, each person can succeed

All of these were about setting ourselves apart, reminding us that we are a holy priesthood, (as Peter would say). NO so that we are better than other people, not so we are above other people, BUT the other way – so we can with all humility remember what God has called us to do and be in God’s church.

Welll, even after all my reading – my understanding that this scripture was comfort for a small community, and a call to live counter-culutrally STILL “no one comes to the father except through me” kind of stuck in my craw.
When I talked to a friend about this scripture this week she said, gently, “Honey, I think you need to ask what Jesus meant by ME – how big is that me, anyway? Jesus and Christ are not the same thing at all, you know.” She reminded me that Jesus was a guy, a guy who walked around and had a LIFE and Christ is the annointing of that very particular guy. Jesus was full up of Christ, lived Christ every single day. And so by looking at Jesus, we can see what it’s like to be totally full of Christ, and then we can learn how to live from the Christ within each of us, to recognize the Christ in each other a little bettter. And by knowing what Christ is like, we can know a little bit what God is like.

“So what IS God like? God is like Jesus, who will sit down with five thousand strangers -- prostitutes and Pharisees, Greeks and Jews, peasants and priests -- to share a meal handed from hand to hand, with no opportunities to check the purity of the kitchen where the bread was baked or the cleanness of the countless pairs of hands that got the food to you. God is like Jesus, who was reviled, persecuted, tortured, and executed, and yet spoke words of forgivenesss to his tormentors. God is like Jesus, who taught us that the kingdom of God would be ushered in not with the political and military muscle of kings and generals, but quietly raised from mustard seeds of touching the unclean, feeding the hungry, healing those bound by disease, inviting the outcast, reconciling enemies.” (thanks Sarah Dylan)

This week, I had a meeting in Wallingford, and afterward I went for a walk by myself in Gasworks park. I was still chewing over this scripture – puzzled and frustrated – even after all that I read and lots of good conversation. I havent been to gasworks in years, so I took my time, walked around the big old rusty gas works and the grafitti, crunched on rocks and broken glass down the concrete steps toward the water.

The sun was dancing on the water so I got dizzy with looking at it and I was praying hard. After all I had read, and all my conversaion, I still wasn’t sure. If it’s true, I prayed, true that the “me” is so much bigger than we’ve been taught - send me a sign.

Now, I’m not much of a sign-demander in my prayer. Usually, the whole idea that God would send ME a personal message seems to domesticate God, to make God small and understandable in a way that I think it not only wrongheaded, but also dangerous. There seems a fine line between “send me a sign” and “I know just what god was thinking” and then another fine line between “I know God” to “you don’t know God.” (Which is the very thing I was trying to pray my way out of!) So I don’t usually pray for signs, but this scripture weighed heavily on me, and seemed to call for some dramatic action of faith.

Send me a sign, I prayed, that when you say “no one comes through me” – you mean a “me” much bigger, much wilder, much MORE than we can ever imagine. Send me a sign that this passage, words of comfort spoken to a small anxious community can have some meaning for us here and now at Magnolia UCC.

And this is what happened next.

I could see kites dancing at the top of that little hill that has the path winding around and up, so not really thinking, I wound up and around too and there they were, the kite flyers. Not children, as I had supposed, but two older gents, grinning up at the wind and the sun.
“Hey,” said one of them to me, “I bet you could see this kite from a long way away!”
“Well, I don’t know” I answered truthfully, surprised, “I was a little blinded by the sun.”
“Have you ever heard a kite string sing?” I shook my head. He was still grinning and he leaned into the string, so it rested on his shoulder.
I couldn’t hear anything but the wind at first, but then I bent closer, and then I COULD hear it – soft and high and sweet.
Still grinning, “Listen to that, will ya? Just listen to it sing.” And he made a big wide sweep with the arm not holding the kite – a big wide circle that took in everything – the string, the kite, the water, the sleepy college students stretched out in front of their books all over the grass, the boats and and the sun and little dandelions poking up everywhere. Listen to that, will ya? Just listen to it sing! And it wasn’t just the kite string he was talking about it – it was all of it, all of us. Then I knew for sure – knew that little “me” meant something HUGE.

Now, I don’t know much about prayer, about why some prayers are answered and why some float away like a kite freed from its string. But I do know this – that was an angel right there in gasworks park. There was my question and then there he was, grinning like the cheshire cat, holding a kite and asking every stranger who passed “can you hear it? can you hear it singing?

Christ’s “me” is big. Christ’s song is deep and wide. Listen for it - in the bible, yes. And at the park, in the new-born child, in the old old woman’s face, in the sun dancing on the water. Listen. Listen to it singing.


Not as yucky as before

I did that stupid thing this week, where, in trying to re-organize something to be better for me and my family, I actually spent so much time and effort, and dragged so many people into it who didnt need to be, that it would have been less hassle for me just to do the original thing, which had seemed in impossible but which probably wasnt.

So, I was beating myself up about that, and told my dad, who sent me this cool photo he took last week, along with a reminder about hanging out in a painful place long enough to learn from it, but then taking off again.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A little of everything

We saw Motorcycle Diaries last night and it was so sweet and beautiful that I can't stop thinking about it. I read several reviews that it was a bad movie because it did not acknowledge all of Che Guavera's crimes. First of all, I'm always amazed that anyone goes to a movie, even an arty one like MD, expecting to see the whole truth of something. But even if it IS about the idealism of youth or whatever, that seems like an interesting truth anyway and raises the question - does the lust for power just automatically make people corrupt and violent? Or is it the other way around (corrupt and violent people lust for power...)? Food for thought, but I bet it's too late for me to follow those thoughts all the way down the rabbit hole.

Seems like on several of the blogs I usually read (see links to the right), everyone is talking about being sad. Which makes me wonder if I'm sad right now. Which would be an interesting topic to explore, but what I know for sure is that I'm tired. So I'm going to see if sleep helps.

Potty training update: Dry all day. And poop in the pot (first time). Hey, I guess I"m not sad after all. Who could be?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

A Good Prayer for Sunday Midnight

From Bob Carlton's blog.

Holy God:
liminal, liminal, liminal.
would that i could
walk through the post-and-beam
into the new unbox
into the next unroom

thy will be done
thy kingdom come,
undo me.

gracefully, though.

and i'd participate
and meld and merge
and rediscover your own you.

i am ready, willing, able, and
unready, faltering, hamfisted.
i am tongue-tied like Moses.

o for loosened tongues .
employ me.

painlessly, though.

could i request a cross
made of popsicle sticks
and velcro?

yet not my will
but thine
be done.

by paul soupiset

Cell Phones

So I got a new cell phone. Well, not a new one, exactly. More like a third party hand-me-down from this guy at Jeff's work who already has burned through two cell phones since he had this one. That link, by the way, shows my phone, but does not reflect it's true coolness, since MY phone is RED. And I have it set to ring at about 500 decibles, so I dont miss the call when Rachel and Nick's baby pops. Which you cant tell from the picture, either.

But the point is, even though I'm sort of thrilled with this new phone, I'm still so deeply ambivalent about cell phone culture - sometime ask Jacob how I lost my temper with him when he made a call while we were on the way somewhere. Let's just say, that in the moment I was not as loving as I could have been.

But now that I can synch my address book, take photos and write a sermon on my phone, maybe I'll become a real cell phone afficionado. (Yikes, can I BE it if I can't SPELL it?)

There's an article in the PI today about people who fake conversations on their cells phone so they can get out of something unpleasant, which reminded me of this guy and his hijinks on the DC subway.

I haven't faked a call yet, but who knows? With my new red phone, the sky's the limit.