Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Year In Review

As seen at Inner Dorothy and elsewhere, the game is to take the first line of the first post for every month. So I did it, and if I spread it out and divided it by month, it revealed juniper as one of those stultifying bloggers who pretty much blogs about blogging. Crap. However. If, instead, you read them as one big paragraph, it's kind of ok. And it least it goes faster. For your reading pleasure: 2006 In A Paragraph of Nonsense.

Aren't you already kind of bored of New Year's News - the recaps, the promises for the future, the resolutions - and ready for nostalgia about Christmas? I'm so grumpy. Do you wear a cross? Miracle - My family can't stop watching this since we checked it out from the library a couple weeks ago. Our denominational conference annual meeting coincides this year with the Cinco de Mayo celebration here in Yakima. Memo To: Juniper From: Blog Subject: Abandonment issues. Where were you 10 years ago? I think I've been just a little too attentive to Beauty Tips for Ministers. When we got this dog (Hank, his pound name, has stuck) a month or so ago, my mom expressed surprise. "I just never thought of you as a dog person," were, I'm pretty sure, her exact words. Friends. Here's today's Ordinary Time devotion, (edited very slightly to get rid of some little stuff that's always bugged me about this piece.) I haven't blogged in so long that I've kind of forgotten how.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Prayer for my son

In going back through old posts (Thank you Blogger for the magic of labels!), I found this which I wrote last spring but never posted. I dont know why. Maybe it was too tender then. But for those of you preaching soon on The Boy Jesus, and for all of us wondering about the incarnation, it seems right now.

Jesus,

You were four years old, once.

Did you learn new things every day? Did you take pride in those things? Did you bounce? Did you giggle?

Did your friends hurt you in the careless way of children? Did you cry, then? Did you struggle to make yourself heard - and when heard - understood?

Yes. To all of these, yes. Then you know, Jesus, and understand, better than me (who can barely remember this time in life.) I can see that so much feels out of his control, so much is yet to be learned, so much is frightening, so much is exhilerating. I can't stop him from feeling confused, sometimes, and frustrated. But you can.

Be with my son in these tumultuous days. Surround him and fill him with your love. Help him to find balance in you.

And I ask the same for me.

In your awesome name,
Amen.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Friday Five

by way of the Rev Gals, and with thanks to Songbird:

Tell us all about:

1) a dream you remember from childhood
In my late teens, I had a dream about driving across country with a friend and ending up on a high cliff overlooking a sunset on the ocean. For a midwestern girl, it was an incredibly powerful, freeing image. And, 15 years later, it came true when I moved way out west!

2) a recurring or significant dream
The most significant dream I've ever had was when I was pregnant with Eli.
I was walking through a vineyard and saw a kind, beautiful man picking grapes. He said something encouraging to me (cant remember what he said, but later I realized the man must have been Jesus - he doesnt appear in my dreams very often) and I kept walking. I walked fast as I came to and went up the steep hill and did not feel tired. When I got the top of the mountain, I saw a huge statue, like the one ones on Easter Island, of a mother holding a child. Two little blonde boys ran by, one of them pulling a kite, and shouted "What's the name of that baby?" and I answered back "His name is Elijah" and it echoed all across the mountain like "Elijah-ah-ah-ah...."
During my pregnancy, we tried a lot of other names on for size, but none of them stuck. When he was born a month early, we still hadn't decided, but when the doctor held him up and said, "what's his name?," I answered just as clear as in the dream "His name is Elijah!" so that was it.

3) a nightmare
Oh, not long ago I had a nightmare in which I couldnt find my husband or son - it was pitch dark and I was calling for them and feeling panicky. Then I heard my husbands calm voice saying "we're right here - just open your eyes and you will see us."

4) a favorite daydream
My favorite daydream is that I will feel settled somewhere.
I always have the feeling that whatever I'm doing it's just temporary until the next thing comes along and sometimes that's very exhausting.

5) a dream for the New Year
I've been having lots of wonderful, complicated dreams every night (I was in a rollercoaster recently and it was AWESOME, much better than real life, where rollercoasters make me sick) and my dream is for God to continue to speak to me in my dreams.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Get behind me, Santa

There's a slight chance that this whole no-Santa thing at our house isn't really working out like we planned. While we didn't talk about Santa, we hung stockings for small gifts. Although Eli saw us put presents in the stockings for each other on Christmas Eve, his remained empty all day (since his stocking presents were big and would stick out). Alas, we did not try to develop an alternate mythology around them.

Christmas Eve Night:

Mommy: "OK, time to go to sleep. And when you wake up, your stocking will have presents in it!"

Child: "I'm so excited! Tonight while I'm sleeping, The Guys will come into my house and put toys in my stocking!"

The Guys. I'm thinking now that he has either a squad of mobsters or a basketball team or a bunch of aging barflies as his Santa substitutes. Sigh.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday Five

Since I seem to be blogging again, (last night I dreamed that David Letterman read my blog and had me on his show, then I watched my computer as my inbox filled up with more than 4000 messages. Heh. Havent had a Delusions of Fame Dream in a while, Christine!)here's the Friday Five by way of the RevGals.

1. Favorite cookie/candy/baked good without which, it's just not Christmas.
Well, I haven't had them in years, but Mom's turtle cookies - some kind of sugar cookie with pecan legs and brown sugar/butter melted in a little dimple on top are pretty unforgettably incredibly awesome. And, of course, Martha's Lime Meltaways (esp if made by sister-in-law Norah, The Goddess of All Holiday Baking).

2. Do you do a fancy dinner on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, both, or neither? (Optional: with whom will you gather around the table this year?)
Well, let's see...
Christmas Eve: I thank the newborn baby Jesus every year that husband Jeff's family tradition was spaghetti, right out of the jar, on Christmas Eve. It lets me feel like I'm doing something really nice for him, while making the easiest meal ever on the busiest day of the year. I do, however, have to eat it with a big apron on to protect my pretty church clothes from splotchies.
Christmas Morning: The Great Big Waffle Open House.
Christmas Evening: No big plans, but maybe we'll have my family's favorite dinner - popcorn, apples and cheese.
Hmm...I guess this would have to qualify as definitely not fancy.

3. Evaluate one or more of the holiday beverage trifecta: hot chocolate, wassail, egg nog.

Wassail? No idea what that even is.
Egg nog? First, unintentional drunkenness, at a parent of my friend's Christmas party occurred because of a couple glasses of egg nog. Nothing too traumatic happened as a result, and I still like to drink eggnog (unlike hard cider, which I can tell you about some other time), so I guess it doesn't actually make that great a story. Let's move on.
Hot Chocolate? No thank you. Chocolate is poison. (says Migraine Lady)
Goodness, my holiday beverage answers are woefully lacking in holiday cheer. Try the next one.

4. Candy canes: do you like all the new-fangled flavors or are you a peppermint purist?

I have no opinion about that. Oh dear, this is just getting worse.

5. Have you ever actually had figgy pudding? And is it really so good that people will refuse to leave until they are served it?
Ah, high-carb baked desserts! Now THAT'S what I'm talking about. I've never had figgy pudding, but this summer I got a big batch of fresh figs and made a kind of Fig Crisp out them with nectarines and it was real, real yummy.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Mary, Woman of Promise

I haven't blogged in so long that I've kind of forgotten how. No reason, just out of the habit. Oh, and December happened. You know.

I started a post tentatively called "every single thing I've done in the last 5 weeks," but all those stories about Christmas movies I've been watching (it's just not Christmas until I've heard "Light the lamp, not the rat! Light the lamp, not the rat!"), trips to the ER for asthsma treatments (tiring but fruitful), visits from my mom (wonderful but...well, just wonderful!), and The Weather (what I usually say, which is "there's no reason to talk about the weather in Seattle because it's always 43 degrees and either raining or not raining, end of conversation" is suddenly SO NOT APPLICABLE. Snow! Wind! Power Outages!) - anyway, all those stories added up to something that read like your least favorite cousins' Christmas letter, so I deleted the post and thought about giving up blogging altogether. Catching up was just too daunting.

Instead of writing, I went dorking around some other blogs, and found this meme where you open the first book you see to page 123, and post the fifth sentence, and then the next 4 sentences after that. "I can do that," I thought.

Uncovered under a pile of papers, the only book on my desk at the moment: The New Century Hymnal. There's not exactly page numbers, but hymn #123 happens to be an advent hymn, one about Mary that I'm pretty sure I've never sung.

It's not just that
1. the theme is totally appropriate to the season, OR
2. there was just this big article in the UCC News about how Protestants are reclaiming Mary (which quoted only former Catholics - hmm, a topic for another time), BUT
it's also the way the sweet words seemed to resonate completely with What I Needed to Hear right now about just exactly what it means to be a woman of faith. In light of possibly big changes that are looming in the distant but see-able horizon for me and my family it felt almost like that freaky thing where you go to the Bible, open it at random and any verse you point to will totally clarify your current situation. It's like magic, or the movement of the Holy Spirit, or at the very least a really fun game.

And I realized, how can I stop blogging now? The world must know of this song! So although it doesn't follow the rules of the meme exactly, I'm including the words to the hymn in its entirety here. (You might want to hear a horrible midi of the tune.) Thanks Mary Frances Fleischaker - you are rocking my end-of-advent world tonight.

Mary, Woman of Promise
Mary, woman of the promise
Vessel of your people's dreams:
Through your open, willing spirit
Waters of God's goodness streamed.

Mary, song of holy wisdom
Sung before the world began
Faithful to the Word within you
As you bore God's wondrous plan

Mary, morning star of justice;
mirror of the Radiant Light;
In the shadows of life's journey
Be a beacon for our sight.

Mary, model of compassion;
wounded by your offspring's pain:
When our hearts are torn by sorrow,
teach us how to love again.

Mary, woman of the gospel;
humble home for treasured seed:
help us to be true disciples,
bearing fruit in word and deed.

This picture of Mother Mary can be found in India and here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Where have you been?

Got a call from a dear friend today, asking in the gentlest and most loving possible way where the hell I've been. Since it was 12 hours later when I got her message, and too late to call back, I wrote her a long email. And, having read Christine's comment in my last post, thought you might be curious, too. So here is a section of my email to her, typos and all.

I'm sorry to be such a lousy correspondent this week -I am stretched to the limit at the moment, time wise. Last night, I made a list of all I had to do today and realized that I was feeling so stressed because there was absolutely NO WAY to fit everything I had scheduled into my waking hours, so this morning I had to make several calls from the car to cancel stuff. Then I felt better, but sheepish that I got into this binge/purge situation of overbooking and then cancelling, which is right in "women who do too much" - hmm, maybe I should be reading that, huh?

We've also been van shopping, which mostly has involved me driving all over puget sound** IN THIS HORRIBLE RAIN (have I MENTIONED how the WEATHER is getting me down ALREADY? Sister, it's not even December yet!!), and going to Yelm (!!) today to get one! Which means that everything will be much lighter for me in terms of LOOKING for a van, but also that I'll be doing more driving, as I'll be transporting Jeff to and from work some days.

Our new van, btw, is GREAT. It's very low mileage, and we got a good deal on it, mostly by what felt to me like taking advantage of a guy whose mom had just died, but which felt to him, I think, like a big relief. Anyway, it's a red ford windstar, with all bells and whistles, including a funny button that brings the brake pedal closer to your foot (in case you're such a princess that you cant bring your foot to the pedal, I guess) and a 6 CD DISC CHANGER! (LIke I"m not distracted enuf in traffic...)

LUCKILY, work is lightening up considerably. Coming up- tomorrow (Weds), I am preaching at our neighborhood THanksgiving service, then leading worship on Sunday, then --whew-- I can scale back my job some to it's actual size! I'm not on the calendar to preach at all into the near future, and no special services either, and no big crises that I KNOW of (knock on wood), so I'm feeling hopeful that I can actually do my actual job without thinking - "ok, next week I'll make up this extra time by taking a day off..." Because if you do that for weeks and weeks it kind of stops making sense.

For Thanksgiving, which I usually make a big fuss over, we are keeping it tiny this year - going to volunteer at a soup kitchen here in Ballard in teh morning, then we'll stop at our good pals' in teh afternoon. It feels good not to have people here, and all the prep that takes, to add to my List.

Ok, gotta go now and get that sermon ready about how we are not really feasting at God's table, because we're too busy running around nibbling at the edges. Preach whatchya need to hear, I guess...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Forgiveness

Hey, pastors, does anyone have a guided meditation on gratitude or thanksgiving - either on hand or in a book? Does anyone have a copy of Sharon Moon's book The Healing Oasis? If so, is it worth trying to order from our friends Across the Border?

I'll trade you this one that I wrote for an interfaith women's retreat a couple of years ago on forgiveness. In fact, so ahead and use this freely, even if you don't have one thanksgiving for me to use. But if you DO have one, that would be SO GREAT.


(edited to add: I forgot to say that I didn't put in too many of those ellipses that things usually have. Feel free to add them yourself wherever you need them. Don't rush through it.)

Intro: Forgiving the past is like extending unconditional love to the future. Guided meditation to lead you in safely forgiving something that needs it – please remember that you control this time – there are some things that are not ready to be forgiven – so don’t feel that you must go somewhere you don’t want to go.
Let the spirit guide you.


Close your eyes and take a deep breath and another.
imagine yourself rooted to this earth,
to the energy and the solidness contained in the soil and the rock.
Take another deep breath.
Now imagine yourself standing, beginning to walk,
walking, and (sustained by the energy of the earth) never tiring.
Imagine that come to a hill and you begin to climb, noticing the terrain around you.
It is the most beautiful kind of hill you can imagine
What does it look like?
Is it dry dessert and rock? Rain forest? Mountain meadow? Glacier?
Imgaine this beautiful hill and imagine yourself climbing it – never tired in your body, never tired of looking around at this beautiful place.
Now imagine that you get to the top of the hill, and the view of the valleys and plains around you opens up. You can see a long way.
Imagine that the place spread before you is the country of your life.

It is populated with all the people you have known and every place you have ever been and everything you have ever done. As you look over it, you can see it at a disance, yet you can see it all clearly – the country of your life.
Take a few moments to locate someone precious, or something that brings you joy, or someplace that brings you peace from sometime in your life. Enjoy your memories and feelings as you look upon that beloved person, object or place….

Now turn your gaze. Somewhere in the vast country of your life, there is something that still feels out of place. It is time to look at thing that it is time to forgive. From your safe place, high on the hill, you can look at it with fresh eyes. You can see that thing for what it is – one thing in the country of your life, but not the whole of it.
You know what it is – this thing that needs forgiving…..
Is it something in yourself? Or in another? …..
Is it some regret? Some broken promise? Some act of violence? ….

Look at it from this distance and with this clarity. See again how the thing that needs forgiving is only one place in the country of your life – one part (whether large or small) of all the vastness that you have seen and known.

Allow yourself to imagine how it would change the geography of the country of your life if you were to forgive the thing that needs forgiving…. Would the thing change in shape or color? Would it reflect or absorb the light in a different way? …. Would it become smaller? Would it disappear altogether, leaving room for something new? …

Allow yourself to imagine forgiving that thing. Allow yourself to imagine that it is already forgiven, and that all you must do now, from your high, safe spot is it to say the word….

Although you have felt strong and powerful, grounded, on all your long walk, you might notice that you feel lighter now. You feel satisfied about the future of the country of your life. You know there are new places still to explore, new relationships to be savored, new life still to be lived. Renewed, you return back down the hill. You might find yourself walking more quickly now – almost running, your feet almost flying off the ground.

Imagine you come to the bottom of the hill. Imagine that you return to this place, to this land, to this sacred circle. You return to your place, settle your body again. You rest. At last, you rest. (Silence)

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More about incarnation, from a real expert


Elijah's toy cars are talking to each other:

Car #1: Hey, can I hang out with you?
Car #2: Ok.
#1: I think poop is funny.
#2: What?!? (pause) I think poop is funny, too.
#1: OH-KAY!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Ted Haggard, the abuse of power, and the worst swear you ever said.

That which I would not do, I do; and that which I would do, I do not.

Songbird posts wisely (really, "wise" goes without saying when we're talking about Songbird, don't you think?) about what pushes our buttons about Ted Haggard. I started to comment over there and it got out of hand, so I'm throwing in my two cents here.

She says (I'm paraphrasing wildly, here, so correct me if I'm wrong) that this whole thing is really about power, and the abuse of power, as much as it is about sex. She also says that sexual sins upset us so much because they are hidden, unlike other sins which are right out there.

I agree that those reasons are part of why we are upset. (If you're not upset about Ted Haggard, I guess you can go ahead and stop reading right now.) And I would go further. This kind of thing dismays us so much because we don't, any of us, really understand incarnation. We don't really believe the mystery and the wonder that God came to us in a body, in the person of Jesus, which means that it is a cornerstone of our Christian faith to love our bodies as God-given gifts. In fact, most of us kind of hate our bodies when it comes right down to it. And yet, there we are, in our bodies pretty much all the time. So anything that smacks of body-ness both repels and fascinates us, just like our own bodies do.

But really the thing that gets us about Ted Haggard is that, for all the outrageous celebrity of the key players, the whole thing hits kind of close to home. We could be the wife in the passenger seat of the SUV, with the reporter's microphones in our faces. And we could be Ted, too.

Ok, maybe we're not snorting (shooting? smoking? what is it exactly you do with meth anyway?) or hiring prostitutes. Don't get me wrong. I'm with you in thinking that what Rev. Haggard did is a terrible betrayal to his family and his ministry. But the fact is that all of us, all of us, at times do things, even if they're small in comparison, that would shock or dismay those who rely on us. (If you think I'm wrong about this, think about the nastiest swear word you've ever said. Now imagine the sweetest lady in your congregation being there while you said it. See what I mean?) None of us can live up to the standards of the Christian people we want to be all the time.

You're saying "Yeah, okay, so I swear (or your gentle little sin here) sometimes. Big deal, it's not like I'm cheating on my wife, all the while telling thousands of people every week how wrong it is to cheat on your wife." All I'm saying is, it's just a matter of degree. And, okay, the degree here is taken to such an extreme, that it seems impossible that we could ever go there. But I'm betting ol' Ted didn't start out paying for massages. I'm betting he started small.

In his letter to his followers, Haggard says, The public person I was wasn't a lie; it was just incomplete. I'm taking that as a piece of advice. Here's what I'm reading between the lines: Be authentic. Keep praying, not that God will make you different, but that God will make you more of what you are already, only better. When you think you might be getting into trouble, tell someone about it. "Love God and your neighbor as yourself" means you gotta love yourself. If only Ted could read between his own lines like that. Now he's in the clutches of James Dobson and cronies, and I'm afraid the only way to come out of that little trip to the head shrinker is even more full of self-loathing than before. And self-loathing never healed anyone, as far as I know.

Last spring, I was at a workshop on Clergy Misconduct (er, that is, "Prevention Of")and this week, I keep remembering the message of that day: "Don't get too tired. Don't get too stressed out. Find some people who can really hold you accountable. You are responsible not to make yourself vulnerable to the possibility of mis-conducting." Here's the bottom line. It's not just power hungry megalomaniacs who sin, my brothers and sisters. It could be me. It could be you.

People with bodies doing things that we are capable of? That's why it upsets us. That's why we can't stop blogging about it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

something I did a while ago and just found again


Which Classic Female Literary Character Are you?





You're Elizabeth Bennett of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen!
Take this quiz!








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Friday, November 03, 2006

today's question

What I want to know about Ted Haggard is, if it's all true and it seems like some of it must certainly be, what I want to know is when did he have the TIME?

I mean, I've just got this dinky little job, only one kid instead of 5, and I'm not the president of any major organizations of any kind and I can just barely make time to get a PEDICURE once every couple of months.

sermon writing avoidance aka friday five

from the rev gals

my mind is on the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth.

Please share your thoughts on the following:


1) The Tooth Fairy
Since I'm soon to become one, I guess I should develop an opinion soon. I'm pretty anti-Santa (much more about THAT in the months to come I am sure) but I have absolutely no feelings about the tooth fairy one way or another.

2) Flossing
Twice a day. And I surprised a friend recently by revealing that I carry floss in the car. Just because, you know, you could have a broccoli situation at any time.

3) Toothpaste Brands

Always Tom's. Cinnamint if they have it.

4) Orthodontia for Adults
I try not to, but I always think "Oh, that's so cute!" when I see an adult in braces.

5) Whitening products
Hmm. Never tried 'em.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

pruning back

I'm not much of a gardener. In fact, today I threw the last remaining houseplant, the one that had somehow survived our alternate smothering and starving for all the years in Seattle before finally giving up the ghost this week, into the yard waste bucket.

Since I can't even keep one hardy house plant alive, you can imagine that I dont know much about what to do in the garden. And to tell you the truth, the garden here doesn't require as much as you'd think. It's a big jungly mess, which somehow works as part of the Pacific Northwest aesthetic. Still, every now and again, on a sunny day, I get out the big pruning sheers and whack everything back.

My sporadic fits of pruning always throw Jeff into a mild panic, and I can't actually say I blame him. "What if it doesn't come back?" he'll worry. Then, a few weeks later, "Well, I guess you really killed it this time." Depending on how I'm feeling, I either nod gently or sigh with exasperation, "You're a BUDDHIST, remember? Impermanence of form and all that..."

I'm pruning back these days, and not just in the garden. It's so hard to have faith that if old things are cleared away, they'll either come back bigger and better or new ones will grow up. It's counter-intuitive and risky. It's hard to believe that growing things have to lie fallow before they can grow, that those bare twigs will yield flowers, and that which once was green will be green again.

It's hard to believe it, but you gotta, don't you? I sure do.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

One more from Ordinary Time

Here's today's Ordinary Time devotion, (edited very slightly to get rid of some little stuff that's always bugged me about this piece.)

Then Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man said to him, “My teacher, let me see again.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.
Mark 10:51-52


Jeff was already in a wheelchair when we crossed the lines of friendship to become lovers, but at the time I hardly noticed. What I did notice was his indomitable intellect, patience, beautiful eyes, depth, candor, artistic talent, remarkably deep speaking voice, air of complete trustworthiness, spiritual curiosity, unexpectedly vigorous laugh, the surprising sweetness of the sound he made when sneezing, and the kissing. I’d done quite a lot of kissing before, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t really get the point of it until I bent near Jeff to pick something up and he put his hand on the back of my head and kissed me for the first time.

I don’t know what usually happens to people when they marry into a disability, but I can tell you what happened to me. At first, I was all about fixing everything. I knew intellectually, of course, that there is no fixing muscular dystrophy, a muscular and neurological disorder that causes muscles to weaken slowly over time. By the time Jeff was three, his family noticed that he harder time getting up from a fall than the other kids. By the time he was 18, he was using a wheelchair to get around most of the time. By the time I first knew him, six or seven years later, he was in an electric wheelchair for good.

So I didn’t really believe I could fix him in the one one-day-he’ll-walk-again-by-God sense. Not really, anyway. I did, however, think of him as a project that needed doing. I come from pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps kind of people, the kind of people who call you up and ask what you are doing, not what you are feeling. My people believe in hard work, and in efficiency. They are not as joyless as this makes them sound but they like action, and they rely on it. Also, I knew from countless girlhood re-readings of Heidi and A Secret Garden that all Jeff needed was more spunkiness, and more time outdoors and maybe less time brooding and before you knew it, his life would be better.

After it became clear that there was no fixing what was wrong with Jeff – namely, that he was always going to move more slowly than anyone I will ever know – I got really really sad.

We were newly engaged on my first really sad day. We sat on a ferry in Jeff’s van, cars parked in neat rows all around us and no way for Jeff to lower the ramp of his van and roll his wheelchair out. I really wanted us to go out to the deck together (that fresh air, you know). I wanted to get out of the van with him, but he couldn’t get out and no amount of spunkiness was going to fix that. I cried that whole ferry ride, and the whole rest of what was supposed to be a romantic getaway day.

I was sad for awhile. Then I got mad. I stomped around our tiny apartment, in my head a list of escalating “can’ts” that only increased my fury. Can’t pick up a phone book. Can’t pump his own gas. Can’t get too tired or he’ll get sick. Can’t get too sick or he’ll die.

I seethed on the way to our one appointment with the therapist whose office was only accessible by a locked back door, which was half-blocked with boxes and broken chairs. I fumed in church as the others blithely sang When the Saints Go Marching In, a former favorite hymn that now seemed to be mockery. I ground my teeth in my seminary classes as we studied Bible passages like this one as if they were just some kind of academic exercise. Jeff was disabled, but I was the one who needed healing.

It was hard to let go of the myth that even with all my hard work and all my adorable spunk, I still was not going to be able to fix Jeff. Gradually it occurred to me that Jesus, who understood bodily suffering, might be able to help. In desperation, I prayed to him to release me from my unproductive grief and rage. It didn’t happen overnight, but so slowly that I barely noticed how it happened, some days I found that I was not trying so hard to fix Jeff.

Like so many clich├ęs that are based in reality, the less hard I try to fix him, the easier everything becomes. On those days, and there are more and more of them now, I see in the rhythms of our life together more of what is possible than what is impossible. I find reserves of patience I never knew existed. We laugh a lot more. And in my conversations with God I find I’m expressing less anger about the “can’ts” and more delight in the “cans.” Can take pictures of flowers that make me want to reach out and pick them. Can support me with his whole being, both emotionally and financially. Can beget the most remarkable child either of us have ever known.

Living with Jeff every day, I know how difficult it is for him to do many small things that the rest of us take for granted – pulling on his socks, taking a plate out of the cupboard, visiting the neighbor’s house. I love him as fiercely as I did in that moment we first kissed and I will help him when I can. But I cannot in a real fundamental way make him into anything different. It makes me less sad and less mad when I remember that if any transformation needs to happen, that’s between Jeff and God, not between Jeff and me.

This is a story about grace. And so, incredibly, is the story of Bartimaeus, although I have always misunderstood this passage until now. It wasn’t what Bartimaeus DID that changed his life. It wasn’t pushing his way through the crowd, approaching Jesus, or even asking for his eyesight that healed him. It was his faith, Jesus says, that made him well. There are many ways to describe faith, I suppose, but here’s the way I know. Faith is simply opening our eyes to grace. Faith is listening for the voice that is already speaking, that asks each of us, every day, every minute, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Whatever our level of ability or disability, it is the human condition to grieve and rage against those things we cannot change. Those are the times that Jesus appears to us, looks in our eyes, loves us and, reminds us as gently as possible that we are not as in charge as we think we are. Jesus asks, “What do you want ME to do for YOU?”

When that happens, accept the invitation to be healed and to follow him on the way.

Dear Friend, You see me, know me, heal me. I fall into your grace with joy and follow your way with gratitude. Amen.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

As seen at "ordinary time"

Here's the piece I wrote for today's devotion over at Ordinary Time.


They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stood still and said, “Call him here.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart; get up, he is calling you.” So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus.
Mark 10:46-50

I have a friend in a distant state who thinks that junky Jesus toys are hilarious. Once she sent me a book about clowning for Jesus, with all these photos of really very scary clowns. Another time she sent a lunch box with the Last Supper painted on it. But my favorite of her gifts was the Jesus Action Figure.

He is shiny and very serious, and since my husband noted at once his remarkable resemblance to the rock-guitar legend, we took to calling him Santana Jesus. Under his swirly, molded plastic gown, where, if he had any, his feet would be, are tiny wheels. When we took him out of his box and pushed him slowly across the table, Santana Jesus seemed to glide. Gently, as if he were calming a stormy sea.

My son and I enjoyed playing with him for a while, but then, because he reminded me of my friend and because I thought it was hilarious too, I taped him to the dash of my little old Honda.

If Seattle traffic isn’t too bad and if the rain isn’t falling too hard, driving time can also be good prayer time. Accompanied by Santana Jesus, I found it got better. And clearer.
“Whaddya think,” I would ask Him out loud, “should we just take 99, or do you think 15th would be faster?” Gradually, it seemed I could hear him answer. “Well, 99 of course,” he would say. Or maybe, “Hey babe, whatever. It’s all cool.” (Santana Jesus always talks like a...well, you know, a rock star. And he always calls me “babe.”)
“Jesus,” I would fret, chewing on a botched interaction with a parishioner, “I really need some help figuring out what to say to her next.” “Sure, babe. Try shutting up and listening for a change,” he would advise.

Being reared mainline Protestant, with these remarkable Tiffany stained glass windows of lilies our only icons, I wasn’t really prepared for both the allure and the danger of an actual physical representation of Jesus in a place of such prominence as the car’s dashboard. It wasn’t long before the gorgeously fake face of Santana Jesus appeared to me in moments of prayer even when I WASN’T in the car.

When I was pushing him around on those little wheels, he had just been a toy. Anchored securely to the dash of my car, Santana Jesus had become an indispensable part of my prayer life.

Bartimaeus had more than a plastic statue, he had the real thing. When he knew Jesus was nearby, he shouted out, and when the others tried to silence him, he kept shouting. He shouted until Jesus stood still enough to make a little circle of quiet around his holy self and blind Bartimaeus on that busy Jericho road. Jesus stood still, until the crowd took notice; those who had been shushing Bartimaeus a minute ago suddenly began encouraging him to “take heart.” Jesus stood still, and Bartimaeus, who needed him more than anyone in that crowd, went right to him. Jesus stood still.

I wonder if it was the stillness of Santana Jesus that made him seem almost holy. Santana Jesus stood still. Affixed to the dash, no longer gliding around on his invisible wheels, his little face regarded me with an attitude of, if not rapt, then at least undivided attention. Jesus stood still and he loved me even when I got lost, cursed, drove in circles, shouted, and finally stopped altogether. Jesus stood still and I always knew where he’d be waiting for me. Jesus stood still.

Several months ago, I got a new car, more boringly reliable than my cool old Honda. I did not attach Santana Jesus to the dash. I shoved him in my glove box, along with maps and matches and other detritus transferred in the car change.

I’m choosing my next icon with more care. I’m still waiting for the right one to appear. But now and again, when I’m stalled blindly by life’s roadside, buffeted by the crowd, I shout out to Jesus. In those moments, I still see Santana Jesus in my mind’s eye, shiny and calm. And he’s saying, “Hey, babe, whatever. It’s all cool.”

Brother Jesus, thank you for being the still presence in the crowd, the encouraging word in the midst of jeers, the the healing touch in the time of pain. Help us to love those we encounter on the way as gently and completely as you have loved us. Amen.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Things I've been distracted by while I've been supposed to be working on a secret project.

-First of all, thanks for the kind comments and calls re Hank. We healing up around the space he left.

-Didn't Anne Lamott say one time that sometimes a cold is worse than cancer? Well, I've been fortunate not to have encountered cancer up close, but I can say definatively that sometimes a cold is worse than muscular dystrophy. And when you add a couple other physical ailments on top of those two, it makes for one unhappy husband. So I guess we're still asking for your prayers. October has not been Our Month around here.

-So, it's not surprising that I can so relate to this post by Heather about Dissatisfaction In Spite of Life's Wonderfulness. Shout out to Heather: my spiritual director suggests that instead of always asking what is WRONG with myself, I should start asking how God is using that anxiety and irritation and desire for change. This actually works some of the time.

-Anyone know Wayne Muller? I saw him speak today and it was very wonderful - he was engaging, Spirit-filled, kind and honest. Although, he told us not to bother to take notes and I did anyway, and when I got home I couldnt really makes sense of them. Hopefully, I'll tease them out and post them here later. Question: Am I the only one who, when seeing someone give a speech, has to spend the first 10 minutes wondering what it would like to be married to the speaker (and then decide it would be intolerable because of three little tics I've noticed already) before I engage in the presentation?

-I've always enjoyed her blog, but lately I'm a daily reader. Have you been over to Going Jesus for the pix of that little 4 pounder? Oh, so cute!

-Just in case you were thinking of converting to The New Atheism, here's an article to dissuade you. And even if you weren't thinking of switching, it's worth checking out - well written and thought provoking:
On the one hand, it is obvious that the political prospects of the New Atheism are slight. People see a contradiction in its tone of certainty. Contemptuous of the faith of others, its proponents never doubt their own belief. They are fundamentalists.... The New Atheists never propose realistic solutions to the damage religion can cause. For instance, the Catholic Church opposes condom use, which makes it complicit in the spread of AIDS. But among the most powerful voices against this tragic mistake are liberals within the Church -- exactly those allies the New Atheists reject. The New Atheists care mainly about correct belief. This makes them hopeless, politically.


-I would accept any advice about how to organize an ecumenical Thanksgiving Eve service (by myself I guess since lots of calls and emails are going no where) with a group of pastors who have at best mild contempt for each other and at worst, well....let's not go to the worst, because, to quote Anne Lamott again, the worst would make Jesus want to drink gin right from the cat dish. Let's just say that, in our neighborhood, "that they may all be one" is still a beautiful but unrealized dream. Do you have to keep having a service year after year that no one wants? Can you cancel it one year and see if there's enough hew and cry to warrant bringing it back? Or is ministry by hew and cry not at all sustainable in the long run?

-Mostly I keep busy by eating and eating and eating. Ameteur psychologists: am I distracting myself from my unfinished project OR making my own padding, in a pathetic and misguided response to Jeff's recent car accident and possible fears about being in a future accident of my own OR am just plain stocking up for winter?

Good bye, good boy


Thanks for all your prayers and good thoughts. It was a sad little drop off yesterday when I took Hank back to the doggie day care that will be fostering him again. I thought I was pretty well cried-out by late afternoon when I got there, but then we walked in front of the door and I found I suddenly couldn't talk and I just stood there in front of the desk.
"Can I help you?"
More silence and then more tears and then "This is Hank."
And then the nice young woman behind the desk was crying, too.
Then I handed him over and he gave me the old sweetie-pie eyes until the nice woman called him and he followed her into the back room.
Well. He's moving on to his next thing now, and whatever that is, I just gotta believe it's the right thing for him.

A few thoughts:

At different times we've thought about doing foster care for physically disabled children. I am so not cut out for that. Evidenced by my difficulty letting this dog go after only two months with us.

We're waiting a while before we get another dog, but we'll try again. Eli's voting for, and I quote, "one with no teeth."

I can only conclude that the voice in my head saying "Hmmm, knew you couldn't handle it. Well, I TOLD you not to get a dog. I'm not surprised it didnt go well...." must be The Adversary since every single one of my actual human contacts has been so supportive and kind.

________

And a note to all you dear readers: I'm taking a little break from blogging (including reading and commenting on yours)for the next few days while I push out a piece of writing that is long past due. Many blessings to you all in these darkening days.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The second half of life

Tonight we had dinner with wonderful friends - a regular Sunday night ritual. Since it was our wedding anniversary (6! thanks for asking!) yesterday, and because everything's been hectic and crazy, and we needed the reminder, we had a little renewal of our vows ceremony. I wore the same cute wreath in my hair I wore six years ago. The kids looked at magazines and threw pillows while someone read this poem, someone read this psalm and then Jeff and I held hands and read a few simple words that began "Husband, I am blessed to be your wife" and ended "...in joy and in sorrow, as long as we both shall live."

We are also blessed to have geeky friends who would do a thing like this for and with us. If you are married, by the way, or partnered, and havent said those promise words to each other for a while, I recommend it. It's powerful and sweet.

Afterward, our 20-years-older-than-us friend said, "The first half of life is all about accumulating - stuff, children, positions, information. The second half of life is all about letting go of all that stuff you acquired in the first half."

I will be 38 next month. Am I entering the second half? The loss this month has been considerable. For example, by the number of people I run into unexpectedly, I would say that a certain big ciy annonymoity I've enjoyed in Seattle for 8 years is now gone. Several people around me have also suffered real losses in the last couple of weeks and so has our family. The van is gone, my hearing aids (not essential, but helpful) are eaten, and tonight we came to terms with one more letting go.

Our dear new Hank, who has brought us so much joy and excitement in the last two months, has to find a new home. He bit our boy yesterday, and although it was not a serious bite, it was scary and it did break the skin and we just can't have a dog that nips around a boy who is as active as ours. Unless you, dog lovers, have any other suggestions or ideas, I'll be taking him back to foster care on Tuesday.

It's hard not to cry while I write this - we are all feeling this loss deeply, but also feeling clear that we simply cannot guarantee the safety of our son, and our friends and their children around this dog.

Maybe that's what this second half, if I'm in the second half, of life is all about. It's about being clear about what has to be done, even if it's terrible, and then doing it. At least I hope clarity is what it means. Because I'm ready for a little of that.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Five

From the RevGals: Below you will find five words. Tell us the first thing you think of on reading each one. Your response might be simply another word, or it might be a sentence, a poem or a story. (Yes, they're all from Job 38.)

With friends and family all in various stages of crisis, I'm in the whirlwind.

To pray? Or to beprey? That is really question.

How firm a foundation. I hum the tune, but the theology is beyond me today.

They say lightning never strikes twice, but that's no kind of comfort when it's hitting you the first time.

And moving from the gloomy to the mundane (how job-ish of us...)
Other people call it the den, but because of the color it was painted when we moved here, it will always be the Orange Room.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It's 11 pm.

Sleeping with the light on.


Sleeping with one eye open.


Not sleeping. (Yes, that is TWO computers you see.)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Y Blog?

Heather asked these questions, along with some others, over at her place:

1. Why did you start blogging?

In 2004, after I graduated from seminary, I learned that my biggest fear - that the real world of pastoring a church offered way, way, way fewer opportunities for collegiality than school did - was really true. My husband suggested I start a blog, which I did after googling "feminist Christian blog" and finding and developing an instant blog crush on Jen Lemen (who is back online now after a long hiatus) and her cool pals (including Rachelle The Urban Abbess, who has become a real life friend). I poked at it sort of half heartedly for a year or so, but never really developed a style or sense of community until I stumbled on the RevGalBlogPals web ring.


2. Do you feel that you've developed meaningful relationships on your blog? If so, tell a story or two of a relationship that made a difference to you. How are these relationships different and/or similar to your in-person relationships?
I've loaned and borrowed books. I've gotten a lot of advice and given a little. A fellow blogger stayed at my place for a couple of weeks when she needed a place to stay and I was away anyhow. At least one other blogger has become a real time friend, although we read each other's blogs more than we see each other. I've heard lots of stories that resonate with me, and if the voices that told those stories went away, I would be sad.

I have some really important real friendships, so this does not replace them. My blogfriends are just different. I think that's mostly because so much of real time interactions revolve around sharing food, and that's just hard to do online. But I truly dont know if that means those friendships are better or worse, deeper or more shallow. Just different.


5. Were there ever things that you felt you could talk about on your blog to "strangers" that you couldn't tell your flesh-and-blood friends and family?

My blogger voice is different than my real persona. In my blog I'm less prone to ramble (believe it! or not!) and more likely to present only one side to a situation, or at least tie up a situation in a way that makes it seem resolved. In real life, I'm more likely to leave things hanging in conversation. I am more likely to disclose worries or troubles in real life than on the blog, which I actually think is one of the weaknesses of my blog. If I disclosed more I think my blog would be better and more authentic more people would want to read it.

Wait, I havent really answered the question. The answer is, no.

6. Do your family and "in-person" friends read your blog? Why or why not?
Yes. At least I think so - I hardly ever hear from them about it. But when I wrote that I was going to Alanon, I heard from someone about that (and not in a particularly supportive way, more like in a "why the hell are you doing that" sort of way). And I hear from my mom sometimes about things she's read on my blog, especially if she reads that I have a headache, (Hi Mom, I dont have a headache right now. In fact, that Inderal is pretty much taking care of business...) or if I say something nice about her (which is not nearly often enough, btw - Hi Mom, we cant wait to see you!)

My best friend does not read my blog, and I wish she would. But when I tell her about it, she just looks at me like I'm crazy. I guess those phone calls we make every day already pretty much take care of those "what's going on in your world?" conversations.

7. Have you ever regretted admitting really personal things on your blog? Why or why not? No. I think because I am careful to think about whether I would regret something before I write it. I've deleted one or two posts, but I didnt think they were all that personal, only badly written. :)


9. Do you ever think about quitting blogging? Why or why not?
Every day! It takes so much damn time, and I worry sometimes that my real relationships with family and friends are suffering. Not to mention my housekeeping. Early on, I wrote an email to Jen Lemen asking her to clarify something she'd written, she wrote back, and we exchanged emails a few times, but I stopped writing to her, because I was worried about developing a new friendship, when my real-time friendships were suffering. I'm not sure I did the right thing.

Also, blogging makes me insufferably self-conscious and naval gaze-y. Almost every time I have a cute interaction with my four-year-old son, for example, I think: "Ooo, I really have to remember this for the blog." It makes it hard to stay present in the moment, which is something I need to work on constantly anyway.

I keep it up because
1. I think it's good for my writing, at least when I write something of substance and
2. I appreciate the relationships and besides
3. when I hear a news story or something about "what the bloggers have to say about" a certain topic or current event, I feel cool like I'm part of making history.

As I'm writing this, I'm thinking about a dog who needs a nice long walk, two loads of laundry that need folding and a sink full of dirty dishes. Not to mention a web page I'm trying to finish for work, books to read and a husband to talk to. So I'm never sure that the time it takes is worth the time that is being taken from something else.

It's a bad month to be something expensive at Casa Juniper

Hank ate one of my hearing aids today. That is a $1500 snack.

Edited to add: Also found the other one. Chewed but not swallowed. Doesnt this seem worthy of one of those cutie pie mastercard type posts?

One hearing aid, a delicious snack: $1500
Second hearing aid, an amusing toy: $1500
Dog, who did not at least eat the damn steering wheel when I left him in the car for four and a half fireplacing minutes while picking my son up at preschool: Priceless

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday Five

1. Comfort beverage
Mama Bear's Cold Care Tea; Dole's Pine Orange Banana Juice; Lemon juice, honey, hot water, brandy (is that a drink with an actual name?)

2. Comfort chair
Sitting up in bed

3. Comfort read
Narnia, Watership Down, People magazine

4. Comfort television/DVD/music
HGTV/Big Lebowski (really)/Paul Simon (any era)

5. Comfort companion(s)
E and J, of course

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

She is a Benevelent Visionary

Yeah! Finally a personality test that is not only fun to do, it also makes me sound like someone I want to be! You can view the whole durn thing here:
My Personal Dna Report


I liked this so much, I added a permanent link to the sidebar over there to the right. Thanks for the link, polarbear.

Hank Needs a Project

So our new dog Hank is great, you know, but it's right what they say about a dog being a lot of work. Mostly because now, not only do I have to figure out a 4 year old boy's psychology, but also a 9 month old beagle pup mix's state of mind.

AND HE IS CHEWING EVERYTHING. Legos, brio trains, pencils, Bandolino (!) sandals, spatualas, stuffed animals, toilet paper (unused), toilet brush (used)....
This last week or so, I'm hardly ever not taking something out of his mouth.

I wrote to our trainer in desperation and her opinion is that he is not getting enough exercise, so she told me to (I am not kidding about this) "increase his cardio." Also, she told me that he might need some "projects" and since he's "not making good choices" in his selection of projects, it's a good idea for me to provide some. She suggests that big square thing that the kibble gets trapped in, that drives them crazy as they try to get it out. (20 bucks! But I guess cheaper than another pair of effing sandals.)

So, how about you, dog lovers? Any suggestions about projects for a dog who needs to keep busy?

The eye is ever watchful

Got the new Signals catalog yesterday. Does this remind anyone else of Lord of the Rings? (And not in a good way.)



Father's Eye Sculpture
EXCLUSIVE! "The eyes of the Lord are everywhere" (Proverbs 15:3). Created by Texas artist Adam Mannon, this inspiring sculpture incorporates the Trinity (three crosses), a trefoil (three interlocking circles), and the Father's all-seeing, ever-watchful eye, a reminder that we are never alone. Made by hand from metal with a copper powder coat, free-standing sculpture is 8"w x 8"h x 8"d; 2 lbs. Story card included.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Something to think about

I very occasionally read Ragged Edge online to catch up on what disability rights folks are up to. Through them, I found this article about disability simulation exercises. I guess if someone had asked me, I would have had either no opinion or a slightly positive opinion of these exercises.

This article, though, has really made me think about it. Check this out:
I AM BAFFLED AS TO WHY nondisabled people see a need to simulate a disability in order to understand our situation. Across our nation in February, we celebrate Black History Month. Is it necessary for people with white skin to paint their faces black to better understand this minority? Should heterosexuals be asked to experience homosexuality so we are not homophobic?

Should I expect to be able to teach someone how to drive a car, diaper and dress a baby and make the bed with their feet as I do? Am I amazing? No; I am just living my life.

It's worth reading the whole thing.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Subtext

Work is heavy this week. And on top of that heaviness, at home we have a crashed up van, colds in various stages and mild crankiness. Time to pray.

Our Father/Mother/Creator/Whatever who art in heaven
...instead of being right here, right now, where I need you. I'm not feeling very like Job and I'm tempted to curse, but the next line is coming so instead I'll say

Hallowed be they name
OK, I'm starting this prayer over. Dear dear dear dear God -

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done
There are two on my mind who have to make some hard choices, and soon - choices between life and death. Help them to choose life, even if it means saying goodbye to a beloved.

On earth as it is in heaven.
We know about goodbye. This week we said goodbye to a dear soul, and you welcomed her home to you. Help us to grieve and rejoice in equal measure.

Give us this day our daily bread
Be with the women who have lost their children. There are no words to comfort them, but you know how be with them in their grief, God. Surround them with love and mercy and as much comfort as is possible.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
A friend takes a new path today, and she's doing it well. As she starts fresh, help me to start fresh, too. Help me to wipe clean the past.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Oh, dear heart, you know the biggest temptation is Temptation Itself, and It showed Itself to me today - just a glimpse, just enough to be tantalizing. Help me remember who you want me to be. Help me to also walk the path you've set before me.

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.
"Thine" means "yours," which is Whose I want to be. Thanks for reminding me. I need alot of reminding, so don't forget to throw yourself in my way as often as possible. Because I need you, God, to put yourself where I can trip over you, especially at times like this when I cant find you by myself. Thank you for that.

Amen.
Amen.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Various and sporadic

Rachel over at the Big Dunk wrote recently about the New Age, and her ulitimately frustrating experience with that belief that God is in each of us, and if we just look hard enough we can manifest The Divine. It was thought provoking, as her stuff usually is, and I found myself agreeing with lots of it, even though it sounds more, well, more theologically conservative than I think I am. But maybe that's the part of me that thinks that progressive Christians can't really stand FOR anything without marginalizing other people, and that's a belief I'm trying to let go of.

And, her post reminded me of this thing I wrote as part of a cool writing workshop a while back. (Sheesh, how bloggy and self-referential is THAT. "As usual, I was reminded of ME and my WORK...." Bleh.). This is part of a much, much, much longer piece, but it sort of stands by itself. Anyway, here it is:

My upbringing was mainline protestant slash secular humanist, with a strong helping of Midwestern practicality. We were in church every Sunday, of course, but it was always more a social and social justice enterprise than a spiritual one. In fact spirituality was a little suspect, a little goofy. My dad joked gently about his mother, a prolific pray-er. He told me and my brothers, “She would pray out loud for hours. Around the world, for everyone and everything, all the way down to Aunt Elvira’s toenails.” I guess it’s no wonder that praying out loud, whether to ask for help or to seek consolation, to rejoice or to give thanks was not exactly encouraged in my family. We prayed before meals but other than that, prayer was left to professionals.

No one ever suggested I pray if I was confused or for help in making a decision. I never saw anyone lift up a spontaneous prayer in a moment of anger or despair. No one consulted the Bible for guidance. Not long ago, when I told one of my brothers that I was sad we did not pray when we were growing up, he disagreed with me. “But when dad was baking bread every week, that was prayer.” By which I think he meant ritual, and also the sort of the spirituality that can be profoundly felt while creating something, especially in the kitchen. But that’s the kind of spirituality that relies on the human, the kind of “spirit” Oprah talks about, which means the powerful source of energy within each of us. Don’t get me wrong. I believe in that too. And I’m grateful for a childhood in a home full of the smells of good, good cooking. But always the question hummed just below the surface, “There’s something else, isn’t there, beyond what humans can create?”


In other news (and somehow related to that last question, although I didn't intend it) Finally saw An Inconvenient Truth tonight. I am now ready to change the world.

Moms and dads (and anyone who loves great writing about spiritual things) - Rachelle the Urban Abbess is now doing a parenting blog. I'm already putting some her kick-ass advice to work. She's the real thing.

Also, thanks all for your prayers for Jeff after his accident. He is doing much better after two days of R and R and is heading back to work on Monday. Keep him in your prayers, still, as he re-remembers bus navigation. Still no word about what's going to happen to the van, but the body shop guy is in favor of totalling it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Free Hugs

I'm so hoping this isnt actually a publicity stunt by some corporation. Although, if it was, would that make it any less beautiful, sweet, of God?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Prayers please

You know those phone calls that start "It's ok and I'm alright, but..."

No one was hurt, but Jeff was in a bad accident tonight - a car filled with teenage boys (evidently from Central Casting on their way to make that movie about misfits who look like trouble but are actually decent kids under the tatoos and bad hair) turned left in front of him and pretty much totalled the van. Nice men (also with hearts of gold - direct quote "Well, I have handicapped people at my church, so I just wanted to help him.") pulled remarkably undamaged Jeff and somewhat mangled (but still working!) wheelchair out of the van. Nice Men put Jeff and chair back together and then hung out to make sure he was ok until I got there.

Our neighbor saw the accident and came to get me, so Eli and I went to the scene, a couple of miles away, and waited while they cleaned up. Poor Eli - it was a little overwhelming, but he did so great. Then the three of us took the bus home.

Which is the first day of the rest of our lives for a while, because Jeff can't really get around in other people's cars. He rides this big electric scooter than doesnt do anything like fold. And it's going to be a couple of months at least to either get a new van outfitted so Jeff can drive it (if the insurance company totals it), or to fix it at the auto body shop where everybody knows our name.

So we're resisting the urge to get all bent out of shape about the major inconvenience it causes us to have to take the bus anywhere we want to go as a family. We're remembering that things mostly work out for us, and expecting that this will too, and anyway we LIKE the bus and we believe in it. It's just something to get used to again, and getting used to things you didn't choose - meh! - who needs that?

Please pray for Jeff who is so sore and feeling lousy, even though in this "fault" state, he is not at fault. And for me, and for the migraine, the medicine for which Jeff was bringing home in the van, and which was lost in the accident. And for Eli, that his dreams won't be too dark tonight. And for all of us with mixed up hearts tonight - grief and gratitude and fear and shock and joy, but mostly mostly mostly gratitude. Thanks and Amen.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Rip Van Winkle designs a web page

Friends. Here's the thing.

I think I once did not suck at web page design, or at least I was starting to get on the upper levels of the lower section of suckiness...BUT that was, like, three whole years ago. I'm working with Jeff on updating the church web site and I NOW KNOW NOTHING. Urgh.

And curse you blogger, with your super-silly easiness, for making me think the whole web design thing has been getting easier, when in reality it's just been getting trickier behind the scenes and behind my back.

I could go on and on. Like this: "back in MY day, we didn't design web pages using this C and this S and this other S..." But you've probably had enough whinging. So instead of hanging around here, while I keep making little wimpering sounds and banging my head against the keyboard,* you could say something useful and kind over at Going Jesus. Dear Sara has toxemia and is now on hospital bed rest at 31 weeks, and she still manages to get knitting done and also be funny. She's my hero.



*For those who are keeping track of if I'm really reducing the drama in my life, I should note here that I did not ACTUALLY bang my head against the keyboard. The wimpering sounds are real, though.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Another Elijah-logue

Him: That waitress, I sure hope he* can sleep at night.
Me: (wondering what lapses of morality he imagines the nice waitress capable of, that would render her insomniac) What are you talking about, honey?
Him: (with duh in his voice) There's no BEDS in the RESTAURANT.
Me: Oh sweetie, being a waitress is a job - like daddy works at the office and mommy works at church? SSShhhe** gets to go home at night to sleep.
Him: (with a huge sigh of relief) Oh, NOW I get it!




*When Teacher Amelia praised his grasp of the alphabet, giving as an example the way he kneels in the playground and writes his letters in the sand and Jeff said, "he wants to be a graphic designer" and I said "no, dear, he is imitating Christ" we were both however in agreement (as you must be also, reader!) on this practice as being yet another mark of his genius. However, as he is only four, he does not have a complete grasp of all the intricacies of English grammar, and he does still struggle with the third person pronoun, in that he refers to all persons of any gender by the "he." We trust this is something that he will outgrow, and does not any way indicate a tendency to lean toward the Thomas Aquinas-ish girls-are-just-broken-boys-with-no-johnsons worldview.



**Based on my modeling, when he finally DOES get that whole pronoun thing worked out, he's going to think that "she" is a three syllable word.

Friday, September 29, 2006

The examen

You know that practice where you review the day and lift up the good and the bad, and ask God to bless them both (my extremely loose description of what is actually a profound and ancient Jesuit practice)?

Well, tonight I was lifting up the bad, with Jeff as my witness.

Bad
Today I was:

...in a fender bender. Not my fault for once, and no damage to me and just a scratch on the car, but it happened at a place where I actually could not stop the car at all, so I did not get out and Obtain The Other Driver's Insurance Information, which I surely should have tried harder to do.

...ineffectual at my work. A dear, old soul takes her final breaths tonight and my prayers were like straw. Another soul struggled and my words fell on rocky ground.

...witness to neighbor uncomfortableness, and possibly party to it, when one of the Yard Apes (Jeff's name for the tiny gang of tweeners that hangs out on our street all summer) knocked another one off his bike, leaving him crying that his leg was broken in front of our house. I'm no paramedic, but I brought him ice and a blanket while we waited for his dad to come, and assured him that I was pretty sure that his leg wasn't broken, which it wasn't. When the parents of the knocker and the knockee arrived, it all got really tense - no open hostility but none of the "hey, boys will be boys" banter I was kind of expecting either. So I tried to lighten the whole scene with some jocularity that did not go over at all.

Good
As I reviewing this day, Jeff reminded me, "Yeah, but you got a really great Halloween costume for your son." Which is true - the shiny, red fireman's coat and hat (and fire extinquisher! that does not, as promised, squirt real water but is still cool!) that we picked out together today is so much better for our straightforward little macho man than that Batman outfit he's been asking for. Before we could even buy it, he took it out of the package and wore it to the cash register, where he announced to the Joanne's cashier that he "look just great in my new fire fighter costume," and she, bless her heart, agreed without any of the syrupy goo strangers sometimes pour on kids when they're being precosiouly (yikes, spelling?) cute.

Besides a just-right Halloween costume, I remembered the day's other blessings:

I made this and although I'm usually not all that great a baker (just cannot be bothered with all that exact measuring and am known to throw in a handful or two when a cup is called for), these turned out incredibly kick ass. Of course, it's hard to go wrong with a recipe that contains the line "we reduced the butter to 7 tablespoons, but still managed to retain the delicious...." (Almost a whole stick of butter! Oh, just throw the extra tablespoon in there while you're at it.)

I got to go walking at night. This is probably another post, really, but I'm actually scared of the dark, so now that I have a dog, getting to walk around at night under the stars is just awesome, in the original sense of that word, as well as the 80's sense.

Very high on the list of things I thought I'd never do


I found this on ebay this morning, looking for Batman costumes for the boy. OMG! So cute! This opens up a whole new, and hitherto unexplored, territory in the world of photo ops. Can one really put one's DOG in a costume? Will he stand for it, or will he chew it shreds in three minutes flat?
If only this model did not look so deeply offended and unhappy, I would be very tempted indeed.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

How much have I changed?

You've Changed 48% in 10 Years

You've done a good job changing with the times, but deep down, you're still the same person.
You're clothes, job, and friends may have changed some - but it hasn't changed you.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Boo boos

Friday Five as per the Rev Gals

1) Are you a baby about small injuries? I'll let you be the judge of the that.

2) What's the silliest way you have ever hurt yourself? I'm SO GLAD YOU ASKED. I just burned the tip off my finger with a hot melt glue gun earlier this week and it was real ouchy.

But the silliest and longest term way I ever hurt myself was by trying to keep up with the rest of the student workers (all boys) in my college work study job which was in the theater scene shop. I lifted a couple dozen too many wooden platforms that day, and even though it was fifteen years ago, the muscles I pulled in my neck still act up when I'm Trying Too Hard.

I have to go to the chiropractor to help it, which I just hate so much. I had the only bona fide panic attack I've ever had on the the way to my first appointment. But I keep going because it's the only thing that helps. I usually cancel about three appointments for every one I make. I wondered aloud with dear Dr. Mark just yesterday: "Do you think other people feel about church the way that I feel about the chiropractor? Like they can hardly make it here, and when they do it's torment the whole time, but they just keep coming because afterwards they feel so much better?"

3) Who took care of your boo-boos when you were a child?
Thanks mom!

4) Are you a good nurse when others have boo-boos? I tend to be alarmingly laissez faire about others owies. When Eli was small and would fall down, I would congratulate him instead of cuddling him. It worked out ok, but sometimes I think I could be a little nicer. Worst moment in my marriage so far: When DH broke his toe and swore a mighty oath and said "Ow! I broke my toe!" I said, "Oh, stop being such a baby!" Sorry, honey.

5) What's the worst accidental injury you've suffered? Did it require a trip to the Emergency Room? Well, there was that time I broke my toe (lots of broken toes at Casa Juniper, I guess) at the high school graduation party. But we just took the whole party to the ER, so it was kind of fun, actually. Lucky....

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Cutting back

We have gotten to our usual end-of-the-summer surprise - the visa bill that has our annual trip to visit relatives in Minnesota on it has been paid, and we are flat broke. I dont know why this shocks so every autumn. When you fly across country with a guy in a wheelchair - so you have to rent the big van with the lift from Good Old Jim who is midwestern nice, but still running something of a racket and when you can't exactly crash on people's floors so you have to get a hotel room, the cost of travel just kind of adds up. (And this is not even counting our regular post-airplane-travel trip to the ER and then Children's Hospital for athsma treatments for the youngster in the house).

This year, the usual panic is compounded by Eli's preschool fees which are...well, let's just say that they're about what we'd thought pay to send him to a college prep school, if we were going to do that, which we are emphatically NOT going to do, now that we know what it costs.

So there's going to be a lot of rice and lentils around here in the next couple of months and we're trying hard to figure out what else we can cut back. Anyway, just in time, there's a whole lotta energy out there in blogworld to live more simply. And I'm trying to get behind it, because even though it doesnt SEEM like we spend that much money, obviously something is not working.

(I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Hey Juniper - don't you work PART TIME?? If your finances are such a mess, why don't you go get a REAL JOB like the rest of us??" At least, that's what I'd be thinking if I were you. But processing my issues about working full time is not the focus of our time together today. So just keep moving, buster. Not like I'm defensive or anything.)

AS I WAS SAYING before I was so rudely interrupted by my own train of thought, there was this email I got yesterday recommending the book Not Buying It: My Year of Not Spending, and then via Heather, found this suggestion from a guy who recommends giving away one thing that you really value, and then reflecting on how that feels. I also saw this link on the RevGals site about the woman (the movement really) to go 30 days with less. I started to write something really snarky here about how I could never ascend to the level of simplicity that could be acheived by the kind of person who can homeschool four children and harvest her own chestnuts, for goodness sake. And then I realized that this isn't a contest, luckily, it's about changing our lives and in a good way, and isn't that what God wants for us after all?

And that thought led to the next one - that there's a certain kind of simple living (as practiced by several people in my experience past and present) that seems unnecessarily smug and self righteous and competetive to me, and that's what was making me feel snarky - not the Intent site itself which is as sweet and authentic as anything you've read lately. So I'm trying to enter this time remembering the joy and gratitude for what we have already, the clarity that comes from clearing away clutter, and the creativity involved in making do.

Anyway, we're starting. This week, we got a load of free firewood from a neighbor who didn't want it (!!) and so we had a fire instead of the furnace for our heat these first chilly days of autumn. And my credit card is out of my wallet and in (Whew, I almost told you! But this IS the internet after all, so let's just say) ...in a safe place.

And I'm hatching my plans now for Buy Nothing Day. Anyone want to go down to the mall and pray with me instead of shopping the day after Thanksgiving? Let me know.

Gender Studies 101

The scene: Son and Goddaughter are practicing a new skill that they have learned in preschool, "raise your hand."

Goddaugher: Raise your hand if you like beautiful flowers!
Goddaugther: Raise your hand if you like taking care of babies!
Son: Raise your hand if you like buildings made of wood!


I am not making this up.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More thinking out loud about Satan, part two

Thanks to all for your thoughtful comments to the previous post. (Warning, you have to read through a lot of dog blog to get to the real deal) Along with several long conversations, they really help me so much to clarify my own thinking about this whole Satan business. My apologies for the following to those of you who grew up in an environment where this topic was talked to death - it's all new to me...

I was talking about this with a friend who asked me, "How can you believe in Satan and still believe in God? Does that mean that God made evil?" I dont believe that God made evil, but I DO believe that God creates potentiality, that there are infinate possibilities in every situation and every moment and some of that potential results in evil.

And I think it's helpful for me personally to have an understanding of the Devil, but after the comments (particularly from Heather, for whom this so scary that is was sort of damaging as a kid) I AM left wondering if it's actually helpful in a congregational context. I'm not sure that it's going to help the average person in my congregation, many of whom are still getting their heads around if they belive in GOD or not.

Does Satan have to be anthorpomorphical, as in Sue's comment? I dont think so - my husband just says Empire, but for him, that image is just as powerful. I dont necessarily picture a GUY myself, but I do have definate sense that there is a force that is more intentional than just saying "evil" might imply.

I know that I believe that we live in a broken world. You kind of have to have a "God is great but something is wrong" world view in order for this concept of the Evil One to be helpful, I think. If basically everything is fine for you, I'm not sure it will resonate. I've always had a heightened sensitivity to suffering and grief and, well, brokenness, and this really helps me as I try to put all that in perspective. Yes, there is sadness and sometimes horror, and it's part of something bigger than just me and therefore I dont have to take it all onto myself.

So,(as fundamentalist as this sounds from a person as progressive as me) it's like there's this cosmic battle going on between good and evil and I think it's important for me to have a metaphorical image of evil, so that evil isnt just an amporphous, everywhere problem, but an entity who can be driven back by continuing to walk in the light, (or working for shalom as Rachelle might say) by loving Jesus and creation as ardently as I can.

God created a world in which every moment, every situation, is alive with potential, and some of those potential outcomes may be ones that increase the power of the Evil One. I was thinking about all this as I was listening on the radio to the 9-11 converage on NPR yesterday. Evil’s purpose is not for one side to win, but to create more evil - more anger, more fear, more violence.

I really thought alot about Songbird's comment in which (paraphrasing here) she said that believing in Satan lets people off the hook for their own behavior because the bad that happens is his fault. I think for me, the response is the opposite. Allowing myself to be open to the possibility that we are all engaged in a cosmic battle between good and evil actually makes me want to try harder to make sure that all my actions are for done from love, since the stakes seem higher.

All of this is still new thinking for me, so none of this is set in stone, but it's getting a lot closer. Keep walking in the Light!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Really should be two posts

When we got this dog (Hank, his pound name, has stuck) a month or so ago, my mom expressed surprise. "I just never thought of you as a dog person," were, I'm pretty sure, her exact words. Up to that point, it was my hope that we could just GET a dog without becoming, you know, dog people. I think this hope came from always having cats before. Except for the hairs on your polar fleece and the mug on your desk that says "I live to serve...my cat" or whatever, you can pretty much go through life as an anonymous cat person. But a dog sort of catapaults you into dog personhood whether you plan it or not.

When most every day includes walking the dog, talking about the dog with people you see who have dogs with them and who therefore might be assumed to have interest in dogs, talking about the dog with people who have no interest in dogs whatsoever, picking up the dog poop, going to the pet store for a few toys and a bag of organic dog food, in which, if you look closely you can see the chunks of carrot and rice that prove its naturalness, throwing balls for the dog which he may or may not return to you, hiring ridiculously priced dog personal trainers to come to your house and humiliate you about how unlikely you are to ever be able to manage your dog, calling and talking to alot of other people about the bad experience you had with the dog trainer, going to the pet store and getting something to chew on, finding a new dog trainer and spending even more money, saying 427 times a day to your son "Dont do that to the dog," going to the library to pick up that book everyone says you should read that the monks wrote about dog training, going to the pet store for a new collar to replace the one that got bitten in half, sitting on a bench at the dog park watching your dog exercise, and luring the dog into his crate for a good night's sleep, you have officially become a dog person and I can testify that, as a dog person, THERE IS NOT MUCH TIME LEFT FOR BLOGGING, or really for much else. I know some of you do it, but you also knit and belong to soft ball leagues and watch TV and other distractions I cannot imagine time for.

All this is a long way of saying that I havent been here, or much of anywhere on the blogosphere for weeks and weeks, and I miss you all and I'm trying to come back.

So, gird your loins for a radical topic change because I DO have something specific to ask, and it's a little heavy duty after being off the blog for three weeks. I have a question about evil. Sheesh, is anyone still even reading after that ridiculous dog paragraph? Probably not. But if you are, and if you're feeling theological, read on. It can't possibly be worse than what you've endured already, right?

The senior pastor was talking in a worship planning meeting last night about the book of Job, on which she'll be preaching next month and she was making some comment about Satan "not being REAL of course" and I foolishly chimed up that I believe in Satan, and I would be glad to have a dialogue sermon with her about it, and I think she took me up on it, so now I'm in a pickle.

Here's the thing. Recognizing that there is an evil force at work - whose joy (if I may use that good word for this bad thing) it is to misarrange and break those things that God has made good and perfect (which is to say everything), and who sometimes uses us humans for that purpose - has been very helpful for me in my own personal prayer life and theological development. But that's about all I have to say about it, and it's been a pretty personal thing for me until now. My super progressive denomination doesn't have much to say about evil, even, let alone Satan. And these progressive theology websites (here and here) that are so helpful to me these days aren't really helping either.

So, of course, I'm turning to the blogosphere, source of all real wisdom. What do you believe about Satan - a helpful metaphor? a silly guy with a red face and horns? a real presence? just another way to keep us obsessed with our personal so-called sinfulness and therefore not of use to modern Christians? And, if you're a pastor, extra credit for sharing how you talk about Satan (if you do) in pastoral care or preaching contexts.

Comments from both churchy and unaffiliated types are welcome.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Very Sad News


Our church rents space to a preschool, which has a tight-knit community of parents and kids. That community needs our prayers this week as they mourn a child who died after being hit by a car. Lots of guilt and grief all around.

There will be a prayer vigil on Friday night 4-7 pst. If you're the praying kind, you might want to light a candle for a sad sad sad family.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Going parking





Goofing around on the internet tonight, I found these two signs. The first one is of cards that were actually passed out to disabled people by the city of Brussels, so that they could post them on offender's cars. The other is just found art, I guess.

Found here and here, respectively.



And now for something completely different....