Saturday, September 29, 2007

Priorities: An Elijahlogue

Mom: (By way of explanation for the Small Scene which resulted in Mom having to go for a little walk to compose herself). I'm just having a lot of big feelings right now, honey. We all are. If you were just going to kindergarten, we'd all have big feelings. Or if I was only starting a big new job , or if it was only that our house was all torn up so we all had to live all squashed together, or if it was only taht Daddy was in a cast from an accident and having a hard time getting around , or if it was only that we were trying to find our way around a new city where we dont know where anything is - any of those things would give us big feelings. So it's like big feelings times five.

Son: (comfortingly) Well, we know where the bowling alley is.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Friday Five

Havent done the friday five in a while, but I've been thinking alot about endings, so here goes:

1. Best ending of a movie/book/TV show
Book:I'm with RM on Charlotte's Web.
Movie: West Side Story (classic). Pieces of April (not classic).

Question: So, a good ending has to make you sob until your eyes fall out?
Answer: Yes, why do you ask?

2. Worst ending of a movie/book/TV show
Dont tell Sue how much I hated the ending to the Sparrow, since she's reading it right now and loving it. But it did TOTALLY piss me off.

3. Tell about a memorable goodbye you've experienced.
I'm just reading a book about clergy transitions that says that how you enter a room is how you enter any situation. I"m not sure how I enter a room, but I know how I leave one. When we're out with a group, I always tell J I want to go way before either of us is ready. "But we're having a good time!" he used to say back in our courtship days. My response: "Right. Perfect time to blow. Why wait until we're having a miserable time to get out of here?" So "always leave when you're having a good time" is one of our inside sort of lines. (Not inside anymore, eh, blogospshere?)
Our family just last month said goodbye to the city we've lived in for eight years. I keep trying to write things about that and erasing them. Because for sure that was the biggest goodbye we've had in a while, but I think it might be a little too raw still to write about. For now I can say that we left at the right time and came to the right place, so being on this side of that goodbye feels pretty good.

4. Is it true that "all good things must come to an end"?
Hmm...hope not...

5. "Everything I ever let go of has claw marks on it." --Anne Lamott
See bonus. Control issues? Nah....

Bonus: "It isn't over until the fat lady sings." I've never loved this expression. So propose an alternative: "It isn't over until ____________________"
I say so.

Bonus bonus: MW (are you reading this? if so, you can out yourself if you want) ends a boring evening by saying to her husband, "Honey, let's go to bed so these nice people can go home." Ha! That is so GENIUS!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I actually have a method for something

There's a conversation going on at More Cows about preaching without manuscripts. I wrote such a carzy-long commment that I deleted it from there and posted it over here. I'm delighted to discover that, although I'm so green at this full time solo ministry biz that I actually have an opinion about something.

I've preached both with and without manuscripts. It's not more work, just a different kind.
Here's the method I use. I had a colleague who told me once to think of it like stringing pearls on a necklace (I think he heard that from Walter Brueggemann). If you have a story or two you know you want to tell, it helps. Also, study the text like usual, but instead of writing things down, listen for what sticks with you. Pray, however it works for you. For me, praying involves a brisk walk. Then:

1. On a card, write this sentence: "the theme of this sermon is..." then fill in the blanks with a short (I mean 3-4 words!) sentence.

2. Stand in the sanctuary.

3. Read the scriptures out loud.

4. Read them out loud again. (this is to get you used to the sound of your own voice).

5. "String the pearls" - that is, say out loud names or keywords by which you'll remember the stories in a row like this: "sermon theme, Father Mike, story about lost wallet, exegesis of passage #1, story about field of flowers, exegesis of passage #2, read Lamott quote, repeat sermon theme" It's best if the sermon theme kind of ties all the stories together. (ha! in this and all preaching, I guess!)

6. At this point you might want to arrange or re-arrange the "pearls".

7. Repeat 5 and 6 two or three times until the "pearls" are all really set in your mind.

8. Go through the whole sermon one last time, this time telling each story outloud. In other words, filling in the stories that until now have been only titles or keywords.

9. Now go home. You can overpractice it and then it sounds stale - part of the point is to keep it sounding conversational and extemporaneous - like you're just talking about things as they come to you.

10. You might want to write your keywords on a card to keep in your pocket, which I do but hardly ever look at. It's a good security blanket, though.

I'm usually about 12-15 minute preacher and this works well for that length. If you're used to going longer, I'm not so sure. My experience is that I'm more nervous on Sunday morning (which is why I'm not doing this at my new call since I've only been there 3 weeks and I'm nervous enough already!), but people respond really really really well. If they are not used to it, it delights them - like you're giving them a little present. I sometimes use props, which helps alot with remembering what's coming next too.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I feel like I never sleep these days

But I must be, because I keep having crazy dreams, the kind that feel like someone else's dreams because they are so unusual, so unlike my usual dreamscapes. For example, I told J that I had HIS dream the other night, one where he was embarrassingly naked in public and I kept not being able to cover him up. Or I am walking down a road in flat, dry country, almost a dessert. Around me fly dozens or maybe hundreds of tiny, adorable kangaroos, in formation, perfect rows. They are are furious, and one flies close to my ear and shouts "How will you ever take us seriously if you keep telling me how CUTE we are?"

See what I mean? Whose dream is THAT?

Thanks for the blogosphere

Here's a conversation I couldn't have had if it wasn't for More Cows and Any Day a Beautiful Change and their Over the Rhine recommendations.

E: Do you know why helpmeit'smylastnightonearthagain is my favorite song?
Mom: Why?
E: Because it has a wheezy old Ford in it! (laughs uproariously)
E: (five minutes later - still chuckling wheezily about the ford)

For the rest of you, not just five-year-olds with great senses of humor, I can recommend Over the Rhine's Discount Fireworks. My current favorite is Born

I was born to laugh
I've learned to laugh through my tears
I was born to love
I'll learn to love without fear.

Yeah, that's about it, huh?

ETA: Those of you who put the fanatic in fan can feel free to correct those lyrics, if I didnt get them just right.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What it's like in Portland

We've been in a new city for a month and I havent written that much about it yet. Probably because we've mostly been working and settling into our new house and neighborhood, and shopping at Target instead of going to Powells or eating Voodoo Donuts or smelling roses or any of the other Portlandish stuff we thought we'd be doing.

Here's a 15 minute power blog on what it's like to be the Juniper Family in Portland right now.

  • Our house is a cute little ranch house, but we all live in one room of it.
  • Our contractor did that cliche thing of coming by, knocking down some walls, taking a check for $6000 and never coming back.
  • Actually, we are waiting for stuff - like doors and bathtubs - to come in so he can work on them, but when you are doing a renovation, isnt it like a law that you have to complain about the contractor?
  • Also, in the big mortgage debacle of summer 2007 when we didnt even know if we were going to get the house or not, he took another job, so he's been kind of squeezing us in.
  • Which I can't blame him for.
  • For those keeping score at home: number of visits to DMV for me to get a license and register my car = 4. The same number of visits I've made to banks trying to get a new account.
  • The material world is so trying for us mystics.
  • I'm never actually considered a mystic unless beaurocrats are involved.
  • However, I did pass my drivers test on the first try.
  • This is good, because I have Issues about drivers tests and also, I failed the online one I took for practice before I went in so success was not guaranteed.
  • But I only got one wrong (out of 30) in the written test. Did you know that you can drive a FIRE TRUCK with a class c license? There, now you wont get it wrong.
  • Speaking of fire trucks, we have two cool parks in walking distance. One is a little human-made lake. One is the yard of a fire station. E likes the fire station one best. Who can blame him?
  • We have a beautiful yard, but we only have time to sit in it on Sunday afternoon.
  • Then we say, "Gack! Everything is drying up!" and run around watering things.
  • Which is actually fun as gardening work goes.
  • We are curious to see what will come up in the spring, so we are waiting til next year to plant bulbs.
  • This makes the 5 year old our house incredulous.
  • He believes everything should be done immediately.
  • Which is why, for those keeping score at home, I paid $47 for his halloween costume so he can be a Jedi knight with a light saver, er saber.
  • He could pretty much have anything he wants right now because I'm feeling kind of guilty about the move and the amount of daycare I've dumped him in.
  • Except for candy. I drew the line when the first words out of his mouth a couple mornings in a row were: "I havent had any candy yet."
  • We got all this candy when we rode the cool real live public transportation to the Beaverton 50th anniversary parade.
  • Which was the kind of parade where a guy from Kiss was the grand marshall, since he graduated from a local high school and it ended in kind of a vacant lot where somebody from Radio Disney was shouting at people from a tiny, rickety stage.
  • Also, people of many religions including Bahai and Fulan Gong were passing out flyers.
  • If I were not UCC, I think I'd be Bahai. I would not be Fulan Gong. Unless they stopped passing out flyers showing photos of their members who have been tortured to death. I mean, cripes. A kid could have seen that.
  • And then he would have a bad dream.
  • And then none of us would sleep, since we're all living in, did I mention? one room.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More food blogging

E manages to sound both pointed and wistful when he remarks that "SOME KIDS get to BRING their lunch." Both J and I remember preferring school lunch - but of course it was all junk food in those days and it's not like that anymore - turkey sandwiches on dry wheat bread and carrot sticks is just not the same as those mostly-soy hamburgers and tater tots we used to get.

But even though I'm no vegan lunch boxer, I have figured out FINALLY how much more pleasant dinner is if I actually get the input of my family on menu, plan the menu in advance and then buy the groceries all at once. We planned a month in advance and shop once a week. (And I just found a grocery store that delivers! Yeehaw!) Probably you're so organized that you're doing this already, but I've found it to be a real revelation.

Some of you are talking about saving time, and this has been the biggest time saver I've experienced in a while, as well as eliminating the stress of 1. having to put together something to eat when I'm hungry and tired from whatever I can find in the cupboard and 2. having to watch my family not eat what I managed to put together. These dinners are some Eli's faves, some Jeff's and some mine, but they all include at least one or two things that everyone will eat. We all actually like eating dinner together now, which has always been my big, unrealized fantasy for my family life. Proof that sometimes dreams CAN come true.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Lentil Soup

It's cool outside - the blessed rain fell today. Although we could have wished the rain would not have fallen on the dear people's church picnic, at this point after weeks of sweating it out in the glare-y sun, we'll take what we can get. And the rain did wait until we'd been in the park for two full hours, so by then we were all pretty much ready to wrap it up anyway.

I'm happy to report there were no deviled eggs left. A line from some long unread Laura Ingalls book comes to mind "it was a credit to Ma that none of her (what was it?) was left" or something like that after a church dinner. (Jody would know which book and the exact quote, but she's busy being controversial over at her place, so I bet she wont be by.) Funny what stays in there when so much that might actually be useful has fallen out my ears. Well, in any case, it's a credit to the new pastor that the deviled ages were neither lumpy nor runny and they all got eaten.

Now it's the end of a long day, the sky is darkening outside, we're clearing places on our desks (my goodness the paper DOES pile up) and there's a pot of lentil soup simmering on the stove. My relationship with lentil soup is complicated. Where I come from, lentils are famine food, what you eat when there's nothing in fridge but a limp carrot and a half an onion and it's the end of January and there's no money but you have to fill up and stay warm somehow.* J, however, had never eaten lentils until he met me. His childhood food was chicken breasts cooked unto death. And Doritos. Anyway, to for him, lentils are the height of exotic and whenever I cook up a batch of the Moosewood lentil soup (from the original printing of the cookbook, where it says "start this early, it needs to cook all day" - that is not true) he is delighted. I do have to admit that the aroma of the first pot of soup of the year is wonderful - reminds me of everything I've always loved about fall. And like all famine food (lutefisk, say, or black-eyed-peas, or kimchi or whatever it is for you wherever you are from) it does have a certain breath of home-ness about it and it actually tastes pretty good too.

I dont use the cookbook recipe anymore, I've made this so many times, but in case you'd like a pot of lentils, too on a cool fall day, here's how it goes.

Lentil Soup (Moosewood says "it's gentle...." Funny ol hippies)

One hour before eating, get out a big pot.
Saute until soft in 1-2 T olive oil
1 carrot
1 stalk celery
half an onion
1.5 cup lentils
4 cups liquid (chicken broth is best but water works too)
Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover.

20 minutes before eating
1 small can diced tomato (or fresh if you got em)
small pinch each thyme and oregano
bigger pinch basil
salt and pepper

Just before eating
dollap each sherry and molasses
squirt of soy sauce
juice of half a lemon

J likes his over rice. Also good garnished with cheese (any kind) or parsley.

*I've never actually lived THAT close to the bone, but you know what I mean, right?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Question for Sunday

Let's say you want to demonstrate how God throws parties during the children's time. Let's say you give the choir a little bit of confetti to throw into the air at the right moment. Mindful of big messes, you do not give them very much. Bear in mind, this is not a small room. Is the result:

1. That it is a cute thing to do, if not particularly profound, and everyone understands God's fun-ness much better afterwards?

2. That no one even notices the confetti, since the choir is so far away and the confetti is so small?

3. That everyone spends the rest of the service worrying about who's going to vacuum it up later?

This seemed so simple yesterday. Today, it seems like it's going to send the whole service crashing into the mountains. Suggestions welcome.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Random Dots of Thursday Night

  • Today was my last day of working 10 days without a break. I know you hardcore pastor chicks do that all that time, but honey, I am tired. Note to self: Don't do that again anytime soon.

  • Ended this long day with a service of remembrance in acknowledgment of suicide prevention week which I attended at another church. There was a time for sharing. As usual, I was astonished at the depth to which people are willing to go after only a short time.

  • As usual, I was also reminded how for extroverts A Time For Sharing is. I sure would like to hear more from the introverts. Is there a way to set that up to make it possible?

  • And I was also reminded of how much I love the song "Just As I Am" even though "and that his blood was shed for me" is so not my theology. Probably worth exploring how much atonement theology is actually in there after all. Yeah. I'll put that on my list.

  • I was also reminded of a dear friend who answered the phone when I was feeling close to the bone coming off some bad medicine last summer. Since this was a Serious Event, I did not share during sharing time.
    Me: (wailing) I'm so overwhelmed I feel like I want to die! I've never felt like this and I'm so freaked out.
    Her: Do you have a plan?
    Me: Are you kidding me? If I had a plan, I wouldn't want to die!
    Her: (pause and then offstage, as if to the rest of her suicide hotline coworkers) Uh, we got a newbie on the line here.
    Aw C, I love you so much!

  • If you usually dont ingest any caffeine, a trick learned in Defense Against the Head Aches, and then you go have tea and giggles at a very sweet lady's house at 4:00 in the afternoon, you will still be kind of wired 4 hours later.

  • I was so wired, in fact, that came home from the church tonight using a different route, a thing that, had I done it in Seattle would have ended in tears for sure, even after we lived there all those years. Here, I just figured it out and drove right home. That reminds of what my friend who knows him says about Peter Sagal. Evidently his superpower is being able to find his way around any city, but Seattle is his kryptonite. So it's not just me.

  • While I've been working all the time, Jeff has been being super dad (Elijah will TALK to him. Me, not so much. Just a little bit of hostility there) and listening to those New Testament lectures by Bart Ehrman that I got for my commute time. Which has gotten him all psyched to study something but he has so many interests that there's no way he could decide what. What he wants to know is, can you apply to grad school with an undeclared major?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Too Much New

I had that end of my rope feeling with all the new stuff trying to find a post office tonight and missing the tough women I had crushes on at our local mail room in Seattle. Yeah, I was always looking for reasons to buy stamps there... Anyway, I thought I'd come over to the blog and write about all that and, crap. They've finally taken down the photos we stopped paying for at comcast. So now I guess I'll spend the evening renovating my website. Because I don't have enough other renovating to do.

In the meantime, some questions for you to ponder:
--Is a five year old too young to hear Harry Potter read aloud?
--Isn't it the polite thing to empty your desk before you leave your job so the new pastor will not not have to clean out drawers full of subway napkins -- unused, thankfully-- and dried up glue stick? (No, I am not kidding. Although I did find a stamp that, when pressed on paper, says IMPORTANT. I'm going to stamp everything now.)
--How do you work full time and also (fill in the blank with everything and anything else you used to do)________________?

ETA: Photos are back. Links may or may not be working - too tired to fix them all now.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


Do people ever fill the washing machine with water and then bathe their muddy pets in there? Because I cant think of anything else that would make that particularly doggy smelling, sticky, brown ring around the inside of the washer tub. It's still kind of rank even after scrubbing the yucky looking stuffy away. Weirdly, you can wash clothes in there and they come out kind of clean. But ew.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Behold! A New Thing!

First day of telecommuting (after 7 years in the actual office, minus the last two weeks off for foot ouchies) at MIRE (Major Internet Retail Establishment) for Mr. Juniper. Report: Not as productive as one might hope, but not a total loss.

First day new job for Juniper. Report: This is such a cool place, I cannot even get over it. I keep wanting to jump up and down and woohoo. I'm all professional, though, so I dont do that, but I'm pretty sure I'm grinning like a maniac most of the time.

First day of kindergarten for Juniper Jr. Report: Something happened that had to do with gingerbread cookies. That's all I know.

First day of Mr. Juniper picking up Jr at kindergarten. Report: Total and complete chaos.

First day of new morning daycare for Jr. Report. Oops, guess not. The school bus doesnt stop near there after all. Tomorrow we are trying again at the more expensive, further away place that does, however, take the kids to school in a van. (Muttered under breath: "Curse you Oregonians and your no taxes and your ridiculous two hour instead of full day kindergarten program...")

First day of guys tearing down walls to make our new place all perfect for Mr. Juniper and his big wheelchair. Report: Dusty.

First day of a blog with all comments erased from past entries due to acting without thinking. Report: Not as tragic as you might think, even though there were many treasures there. I think maybe with all these other firsts it's not really making a ripple. Feel free to post a comment now, though. I think they're working again.

Geeks only need apply

I seem to have made a bad decision and now all my comments are gone.
Anyone know how to move Haloscan comments over to Blogger? Are the comments even held at Haloscan still? Or if I forgot what I was doing and finally upgraded to the new template, thus erasing the comments as far as I can tell, am I just out of luck?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

What I did on My Summer Vacation

So much to say about moving to a new city, unpacking with the unbelievable amount of help we've gotten from new church folk and my Vermont brother, visiting the school where Eli will be in the afternoons (awesome!) and the Y where he'll be in the mornings (ok. but we have another option if we need it), discovering the cool park near our house with a lake the perfect distance for a five year old and his mom to bike around, and figuring out the exact configuration of lights to be turned on at night to minimize nightmares for everyone.

But here's what I'm really thinking about on this Sunday afternoon. I'm thinking about technology in churches. Out of three churches that I've visited at random in the last four weeks, two of them used a screen with power point for the words to the songs and for other things too. Is this a typical ratio now? One handled it a little better than the other (is this because in the first one, the pastor was looking at a screen, too? Maybe.) I've come away feeling a little on the stodgy side about it. I mean, at my previous church the senior pastor would sometimes project art images on wall using a computer, so I'm not a total novice at this idea. And, based on current usages, you'd have to guess that I am a big fan of technology in general and computers in particular.

But re having the words projected: it just does not create a worshipful environment for me. I can believe that it's better for the pastor to have everyone looking "up" instead of into the bulletins, but I wonder if it really creates a better community feel to have everyone gazing at a big screen during hymns and (at today's service) for sermon points. For me, if there's ever a screen anywhere, i'm always mesmerized by that, and find it hard to look at other things (people, the cross, the elements or whatever.) Do the rest of you have this problem?

I know this is an old conversation, but I sure would appreciate having your opinion about screens in general and your experience in particular.