Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Just sent this email.....

Dear Ones,

After spending a couple of hours on the road today, and experiencing first hand the VERY SNOWY church parking lot, I called The President of the Congregation and we agreed that for the safety of everyone, it would be best to cancel the Christmas Eve worship service tomorrow night at 8:00. Please get the word out to your friends who dont have email.

Although we wont be worshipping in the same building, we can be joined in prayer and worship with our church family. I have prepared a couple of short devotions - one with song and scripture and another with candle lighting - that you can find at: http://hillsdaleucc.blogspot.com/ There is a place there to leave comments. If you choose to use one of the suggested devotionals, or to celebrate Christmas Eve in a different way, please tell everyone about it in the comments section. I look forward to hearing from you!

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to call. In the meantime, I will pray that you each enjoy abundant blessings and joy in the next couple of days, and I will look forward to seeing you all at worship on Sunday, December 28 at 10:30 am!

In the Light,

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snowy Day

On our way home from sledding hill visit #2....

ETA: Many more great snow pix with grumpy captions over at Jeff's Flickr account.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


When I tell someone here in Portland that I am from Northern Minnesota, about 1 out of 3 times, they chuckle like this, "Well, I bet you don't miss those snowy winters, ho ho ho..." I usually deflect this conversation by saying something like "You know, the winters never bothered me, but I really don't miss those big mosquitoes we used to get in the spring..." Then we can be off and running on some conversation about Gigantic Insects We Have Known and I don't have to bore some well meaning stranger with my ambivalent feelings about snow.

Knocking around the woods of northern Wisconsin and Minnesota as a kid, I couldn't imagine life without snow - like you cant imagine life without bread until you develop a wheat allergy, or life without an electric mixer until yours breaks, or life without both eyes until you knock one out. Snow was just a fact of life like food or appliances or body parts. When I moved to the pacific northwest 10 years ago, I did not do what some of my pals from snowy climes do and head for the mountains every weekend for the white. I borrowed rain pants and bought some waterproof boots and just went out into winter like I always had. It was like eating rice bread, or using your grandma's old egg beater that you dig out of the bottom drawer, or figuring out how to walk around without hitting walls even though you have no depth perception. It takes some adjustment, and then after awhile it seems like this is way you've always done things.

We've had a few inches of snow all week and I've been grumbling openly about it. I resent that we have to keep canceling all the fun and meaningful church experiences we've been planning all year. I cannot believe that my son, who loves learning so much, had to miss a whole week of school. I hate the absurdity of getting dressed to go outside when it's cold. And shoveling is just so Sisyphusian. I've mostly carried on, taken Eli to his godmother's house and worked from home or driven 12 miles an hour the 10 miles to my office or visited a few people. But I've been complaining a lot. It's just that everything takes so LONG in the snow, what with all the getting dressed and shoveling a path out to the car and brushing the car off and scraping the windows and trying not to slide into anyone.

We got a lot more snow today. Inches and inches and inches. I refuse to actually buy a sled for E, since "it doesn't snow here," but we found a few pieces of someone's discarded sled at the hill this morning. It was steep and icy enough to work ok, but a nice mom loaned us her extra sled and then when it was time for us to go, she told us to keep it. "I just LOVE the snow! It's so fun! It's so beautiful!" she cried. I grumbled some more, but the kindness of the gift from a stranger did open my heart just a little crack.

It slammed shut this afternoon when it became clear that for everyone's safety we'd really have to cancel church tomorrow. Sunday morning is one thing, but The Longest Night service! It is so magic and now we will have to wait a whole nother year to experience it again!

Well, I cried a little but I got over it, like you do. Then tonight, I took the dog for a walk. It was supposed to be a short one, around the block, but when I got out in it I couldn't stop going. It was like I've been looking past the snow this whole week, not really once actually looking AT it. It was like I forgot how the snow isn't like other weather, how it really changes the whole shape of the landscape. It was like I forgot how luminous it is, so that even on the darkest night of the year, it is so bright out. It was like I forgot the shush shush shush of boot kicking through snow. How could I forget?

Suddenly, out walking with the dog I remembered how I used to meet Katie Lawson sometimes at the lighted cross country ski loop at Lester Park in Duluth. How Katie would pull up in her old station wagon, Do You Hear What I Hear? blaring on her am radio. How we would click into our skis. (I sold those skis to help finance my move to Seattle years ago. How could I forget them? They were so cool - red and white.) I remembered how even with the lights, you could still see the stars so bright and clear overhead. Katie would pull ahead because she is actually an athlete and I would struggle along behind but occasionally get a little feeling like I knew what I was doing, occasionally almost fly.

You know, snow. I don't miss it really. And when I got the dog home, and I watched her pick the ice out from between her toes, I was glad again that we don't live in a snowy climate all the time. But I'm grateful that I really saw it, really saw snow tonight - finally.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A First Time for Everything

Well, I can cross "present for the first grade teacher" off my list. School is out today - for a dusting of snow and ice - for the FIFTH day in a row. I cant ever remember 5 snow days before. Can you?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Friday Five

Songbird, over at RevGals invites us to think of 5 things we need to do before Christmas.
Ok, here goes.....

1. Send the Christmas letter to the other half of the list, the one that I didn't have enough stamps for. Which means I need to go get stamps somewhere. (isn't that really 2 things?)

2. Lots of worship odds and ends. Call around to recruit the rest of the readers for Christmas Eve. Make a sign up sheet for the 28th, which will be the spontaneous Christmas pageant, which is only sort of spontaneous in that some of the parts are pre-decided. Have a practice for Christmas Eve. Set up a gajillion candles for the Longest Night. Get some treats and cider for that service, too. Oh, and I should probably put together something like a sermon for worship this coming Sunday.

3. Other church stuff, mostly unbloggable. Put out a fire. Or else start one. Actually, now that I think about it, there are 2 fires to either start or put out. Make a few visits. Be charming at a party and a concert, or else help the organizers decide to cancel them if the weather is too bad. Be firm but compassionate in either case. Think about an upcoming memorial and make some phone calls re that.

4. Do that thing I told my brothers I'd take care of re a present for Dad. (Psst, Dad, if you're reading this, you're getting what you asked for.)

5. Do the shopping for my son. Also, shopping for the staff. Also for the first grade teacher.

6. Stop making lists, because doing this is making me freak out just a little tiny bit.

Preachers Kid

Mom: (upon seeing him holding a copy of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever) Oh, would you like to read that book? It's a good one to read at Christmas time.

E: You mean ADVENT.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's Advent, time for a post about Santa.....

Janell and Peacebang both are writing good stuff about Santa.

Which reminds me that I accidentally fired a shot in the so-called War On Christmas when I picked up my copy of Run Shepherds Run and the clerk said "Happy Holidays," and I joked "Oh, hey, it's a Christmas book, you can just say Merry Christmas." I thought I was being so funny, until I remembered that this is actually an Extremely Serious Situation (ESS) for some of my brethren and sistern (or is it cistern?). Anyway, I was reminded that Santa used to be an ESS for me, too.

Like Janell, I've been pretty anti-Santa, for all the reasons that she puts so much better than I can. Go on, click over there. And make sure to read the comments, too. Mostly, I simply cannot understand how it could be fun and magical to try to make my kids believe in something I know is fake, when there is so much fun and magic to be had from the things I DO believe in.

But, lately, I kind of get the Santa thing just a little more. Or at least, there's been an easing up on the no-Santa doctrine at Casa Juniper. We tell our six year old that Santa is just for fun, by which we mean not real. But my kid doesnt really understand not-real.

If he can imagine it, it's real to him, whether he's seen it or not. Are all kids this way? Maybe yours is different, but mine believes in fairies, Jesus, Wall-E, evaporation, the rings of Saturn and Santa with equal fervor.

Once, in the middle of summer when Christmas was the furthest thing from my mind he came to me with those worried little wrinkles on his forehead like the weight of the world has just landed on him. "Do you think Santa can even get in here?" he asked all trembly voiced, "That chimley is so skinny!"

I guess I believe less than I used to that I can MAKE him believe (or not believe) anything. Eventually, some of his beliefs will fall away and some will get stronger, and I'm pretty sure that all I can do about that is keep modeling my own beliefs, keep talking to him about why we do the things we do, keep teaching him the old songs. So, this week we light 3 advent candles at the dinner table, put together a creche, watch my favorite Christmas movie, hang my childhood angel ornaments on that ancient pagan symbol, tack up a stocking or two and have this conversation:
"Santa's not really real. But it's fun to play Santa."
"Well, _I_ believe in Santa."

Who knows what he makes of it all? His beliefs and practices will most certainly be just such a mishmash as mine, maybe more. Maybe I'm just getting lazy. Or maybe the older I get, the more I think that mishmash might not be such a bad thing.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Maybe this could be the Cute Things My Son Says Blog

Still trying to figure out what to do with this space, now that there's so much more action over at Facebook these days. But, maybe it can jsut be cute things E says. Like today, after ONE snow day, upon hearing that tomorrow there is no school either:

"Well I sure hope that there's school on Wednesday. I'm getting bored from not learning anything."

See, that was totally worth clicking over here for.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Oregon Boy Snow Day Haiku

Look! An icicle!
I have seen a picture but
never a real one.

I will take it home.
and put it in a glass of
water. Then, I will

always remember
this day. What? Even in some
very cold water?

Okay, well, I will show
it to dad. And then I will
freeze it. It's shrinking.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Not sure what this blog is about these days....

but while the editorial staff at Juniper Inc considers format and content questions, feel free to check out my column in the neighborhood newspaper.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Advent Retreat Today

The RevGals blogring is sponsoring an advent retreat today.

I'll be posting over there later in the day, but in the meantime I'm thinking about Kathryn's post from England. "God is speaking," she says, "in the situation of your greatest anxiety." For goodness sake. Talk about the mountains being knocked down...

What IS my greatest anxiety, anyway? My pat answer for many years has been "that someone wont like me." I dont know whether it's approaching 40 (I mean REALLY approaching - in less than 2 weeks now!) or whether it's working full time in ministry, but I seem to have given that one up. I mean, it's pretty clear most days that there are at least a few people who dont like me, and I cant really do anything about that.

Anyway, I still dont know what my greatest anxiety is now. I think it has something to do with competence, with making sure that I can get done everything that needs doing. The reason it's an anxiety, of course, is -like the being likeable thing - that it's totally impossible. There's never any way to get everything done that needs doing, and I just have to get to a place of being ok with that.

That said, on this long-scheduled advent retreat day, I also have dentist appointments for me and E, and will be leading a morning Bible study that I havent EXACTLY prepared for. Someone has to do a load of laundry or two, and there are still dirty dishes in the sink from yesterday and I should walk the dog, read this book on leadership someone recommended, give some more careful thought to the worship services that are upcoming, and make some soup with the ham I got this weekend, and call the VA about a guy, and make time to pray and.....

...And I really cant do everything that needs to do. In some ways, this is still an astonishing revelation. But I can do some practices to makes the knowledge of this easier. One time, Sue over at Inner Dorothy talked about beginning each work day by sitting at her desk, saying a prayer and then making a list for the day. I try to do that, and then I try to let that list go when it becomes clear that the day is headed in a different direction.

What's happening with you today?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

last Sunday's sermon

This sort of seems like one of those "you had to be there" type sermons. I'm not sure it comes out at all well in print. But since Otis the public was casually asking clamoring, here it is:

When Eli was first learning to talk, he asked me, in one of those lucid moments little kids get some time, “Mommy, what makes sumpfin funny?” Well, I answered slowly, I think things that are funny are usually unexpected. The guy who expects to just be walking down the sidewalk steps on a banana peel. The guy who asks a reasonable question (who’s on first?) gets an unreasonable, unexpected answer. Just yesterday, we took our dog for a walk to the small lake near out home, and as she stretched her neck out to try to get a really good look at a duck, she lost her footing and fell right into 3 feet of water. We helped her out and then laughed and laughed. What is unexpected is funny. Which is not to say that everything that is unexpected is funny, ha-ha. Sometimes unexpected things are more like funny, peculiar. Take the gospel story today, for example.

This story, which only appears in Mt, keeps being told – through the generations – and in each generation it’s peculiar in a different way.

First it was told by Jesus. Although, he probably did what he did well and often, which was take a familiar story or image and repeat it. As Jesus told it, it would have been in the oral tradition – a story told and repeated over and over. Here’s Jesus, and his mostly male listeners are sitting around, and Jesus would have begun a story that would be familiar to them as a comic story, maybe even a little bit of a raunchy one. Sort of the first century Palestine version of “ a guy walks into a bar” – and the men in that first audience would be identifying, no doubt, with the male bridegroom. But then Jesus, who always wants his listeners to identify with the outsider, remember, twists the story, so we’re identifying instead with 5 girls stuck on the wrong side of a closed door. That’s the first generation understanding of the story, Jesus asking us usual to identify with those who are outside.

The kingdom of heaven will be like this: like a reversal of who’s in and who’s out.

So the first telling of the story. And then, there was a second telling and that was by the gospel writers, who wrote down the stories of Jesus that were important to them, or furthered his message in some way. As Mt retold the of the bridesmaids, his emphasis was on the end of days and being prepared to enter the kingdom. As Mt tells it, the bridegroom is not so much the guy we are to identify with, the bridegroom is is JESUS. He’s also interested in who is in, and who is out – the twist is that those who seem to be insiders in the final judgment are really outsiders. The final judgment may mean many things to many different people, but for all it is a new order of things, the end of business as usual. (These paragraphs owe much to Seasons of the Spirit curriculum.)

The kingdom of heaven will be like this... the reversal of who’s in and who’s out, the end of business as usual.

The story was told again and again, and in each new generation is meant something new. in the 1700’s, John Wesley (who founded the Methodist church and was a great lover of humanity) wrote a commentary on the bible and to him the story was, typically, about love. “Love in their hearts,” he scrawled in the margin next to the 5 wise virgins, “and they daily sought a fresh supply of spiritual strength until their love was made perfect.”

The kingdom of heaven will be like this…like the reversal of who’s in and who’s out, like the end of business as usual, like love made perfect.

A century ago, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an American social activist and leading figure of the early woman's movement, wrote that this story is really about how, as women, we cant rely on men to help us or give us what we need in life. “The sin of neglecting and burying one’s talents, capacities and powers,” she writes in her introduction to this story, “and the penalties which such a course involve, are here strikingly portrayed”

The kingdom of heaven will be like this…like the reversal of who’s in and who’s out, like the end of business as usual, like love made perfect, like a talent unburied…

For us, 21st century believers and seekers, this is this story seems to raise more questions than answers. Wait a minute, we think, Jesus is always teaching us to SHARE, and now it’s the wise virgins who are not sharing? Also, the door is shut to those who don’t prepare? While we understand that our god is a god is god of judgment as well as mercy, that seems a little harsh.

What about that closed door? That word for door, is the same word used by Mt later for the covering of the tomb where Jesus is laid after the crucifixion and before he rises again. It’s not a door that stays closed. In fact, in other places in scripture, Jesus refers to himself as a gate. And what about the sharing? Well, there are some things that cannot be shared, some things that we cannot do for others, but can only give to others by example. As Anthony Robinson says, “One of these is faith, another is spiritual growth and maturity. Oil here is a metaphor for both. Sure the faith of others can help and inspire us, but when push comes to shove, we can't borrow faith from someone else or substitute another's faith for our lack. Neither can we, at the last minute, gain wisdom of heart or spiritual maturity. These are the product of a life of integrity, responsibility, and doing one's own work.”

The kingdom of heaven will be like this…like the reversal of who’s in and who’s out, like the end of business as usual, like love made perfect, like talents unburied, like a door that seems closed, but really opens, like integrity and responsibility. The great thing is, in our generation, it can be all those things for us, and more.

The kingdom of heaven will be like this. How will tomorrow’s generation tell that story? I don’t know for sure, but for the children of my son’s generation, it is my prayer that it will always be one of their “I was there”s - the events of this week, as we elected the first African American, a son of an immigrant (and a 20 year UCC member) to the White House.

It’s important to pause on this “pinnacle” of history and remember the sacrifice and hard work that has led to this moment, , Leonard Pitts an African-American writer, explained in his column earlier this week, because “For most of the years of the American experiment, “we the people” did not include African-Americans. We were not included in “we” We were not even included in “people.” What made it galling was all the flowery words to the contrary, all the perfumed lies about equality and opportunity. This was, people, kept saying, a nation where any boy might grow up and become president. Which was only true, we knew, as long as it was indeed a boy and as long as the boy was white. But as of today, we don’t know that any more.”

The kingdom of heaven will be like this…like the reversal of who’s in and who’s out, like the end of business as usual, like love made perfect, like a talent unburied, like a door that seems closed, but really opens, it’s like “integrity, responsibility, it’s like looking back with gratitude at sacrifice and hardship, and looking ahead with what President-Elect Obama called in his acceptance speech “unyielding hope” -- hope that does not flicker and die out, but that keeps burning all through the long night.

DC resident Wayne Floyd told this story on Tuesday afternoon. Brothers and sisters, the kingdom of heaven will be like this:

“Voting for the first time in a new neighborhood, I arrived at my polling place this morning at 6:30 a.m. to find a line down one side of the block and halfway up another. Just in front of me was an octogenarian African American matriarch, dressed to the nines, and proudly refusing all offers to move up in line or to sit down in someone’s folding chair.

I took my place in line at the same time as a twenty-something young man, who with the air of entitlement that only youth can fully muster, loudly complained: “How long ago did this line start, anyway?!”

“Honey,” the elder in front of me replied, “…This line began a looooong time ago … way, way, way before even your mama was born!” “Speak it, Sister” somebody further in front of us chimed in, in response to which the sage of Farragut Street added her parting shot to all who would listen: “You need to know that I can remember when we couldn’t even be in line to vote! So don’t you mouth off about the line being sooo looong! All you had to do was show up!” (http://www.blogging-thomas.org/?p=85)

The kingdom of heaven will be like this…like the reversal of who’s in and who’s out, like the end of business as usual, like love made perfect, like a talent unburied, it’s like a door that seems closed, but really opens, it’s like integrity and responsibility, it’s like gratitude, sacrifice, unyielding hope. It’s like showing up, just showing up.

I don’t really know what the kingdom is like, but I do know that everything we here at this church do day by day and week by week is practice for creating the kingdom. As we bless and dedicate our time and talent sheets today, as we pray about our private promises to God, and what we might give back in the year to come, as we worship, as we eat together, as we argue and make up, as we sing, as we maintain our beautiful building, as we sit in meetings, as we serve a meal at a homeless shelter, as we teach children. In all those ways and in countless more, we are living a new and old story, a story that begins “the kingdom of heaven will be like this…”

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Finally a picture of Ms. Rainy Day Dog that does her justice

We've taken quite a few snaps of the dog we adopted in August,
but none quite capture her dear spirit like this one.

MDA Lockup

Some of you got this by email already.....

Dear Family and Friends,

I'm proud to tell you that I'm being locked up...that's right, one week from today on Thursday, November 6, I'm going behind bars to help the MDA. To be released on good behavior I have to raise bail and I need your help!

As you know, our family is directly affected by muscular dystrophy every day. We are blessed to have resources available to us that many do not. For instance, this year we will purchase a new wheelchair with the help of our insurance company. If we did not have money in savings (for half) or insurance (for the other half), that purchase would not be possible. The MDA, in part, assists people in purchasing adaptive equipment that helps them enjoy a good high quality of life. The MDA also sponsors research, support groups and camps for children with muscular dystrophy.

All you have to do is click here to make a secure, online donation before 11/06/08. Your donation will help families like mine and help guarantee me an early release.

I have an ambitious goal to raise $2400 IN THE NEXT WEEK, because I want to raise enough to help a family that cant afford one buy a wheelchair for their loved one. Will you help?

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

P.S. I'm counting on you, click here to donate.

If the link above does not work, please cut and paste the address below into the address bar of your Internet browser.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


All the Literature tells pastors that we are to be A Non-Anxious Presence, a designation I tend to disparage because I wonder if it really means to be a boring and passive presence. (Is it any wonder, I snicker to myself, that the acronym is NAP? Yes, that's me,the 4th grader, cracking myself up by giving things funny nicknames.) We had a good conversation about it today in an ecumenical clergy group I am blessed to be part of, which inspired me to go and order Edwin Freidman's new book on leadership, and then, as sometimes happens when you think of something and suddenly it's everywhere, I read this fascinating article.

How about you? Are you a NAP? If not, do you want to be?

Tuesday Prayer

crossposted (incredibly late) at the Rev Gals Prayer Pals site:

God of Grace,
of unexpected openings in the afternoon,
of green lights,
of kindness from strangers,
of home-created gifts in wrinkled wrapping paper,
of sunshine in autumn,
of soft words over telephone wires,
of reassurance typed on a keyboard somewhere out there
and received on a screen just right here,
of the laughter of old people,
of a yes when a no was expected,
of relief was pain was expected,
of love sustained over years and years and years in spite of it all.
God of all these things.
Thank you.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Here's the sermon I was procrastinating from the other night.

This Is The Body
a sermon on Matthew 22:34-40 and 1 Cor 12:12-26
Preached at Corvallis Congregational United Church of Christ
Central Pacific Conference Fall Gathering
On the occasion of the
Installation of the Rev. Dr. Walter John Boris as Conference Minister

Walter John, you are a collector of children’s books, so I had this great plan to write a sermon in the style of Dr. Seuss:

Jesus says to love each other
Love your sister, Love your brother.
Love with all your heart and soul
Love others, as you love the hole-
y. Later, old Paul, in a letter
Tried to do the Lord one better
“Recognize we’re all one thing,
That’s the song we should be sing-
ing. Top and middle and even bottom,
Good parts, bad parts, all have got ‘em….”

See, it was such a good idea but it kind of breaks down there in the second verse, so I gave up rhyming, and instead got to wondering. And what I wondered was this: do you think Jesus would be part of the emergent church movement?

You’ve probably heard of the emergent church – maybe you even consider yourself emergent. The word “emergent” means a lot of things to a lot of people, but for our purposes tonight let’s say this about the emerging church movement: That it is a gathering of people, mostly young, often disaffected evangelicals who use “provocative language of reform,” in regards to institutional churches, who often live their faith radically, even to the point of cohabitating in faith communities or cells. Many emerging churches meet in homes or coffee shops, outside the walls of those institutional churches that they feel have let them down or have diluted Jesus’ message. Those of you who were around in the 70’s are now saying, “hey, aren’t those the Jesus freaks?” Yes, every generation has them, and this generation they are called emergent.

So when you read today’s scripture from Matthew or hear it read, you kind of have to wonder, don’t you, would Jesus have been one of those guys? (And interestingly, many leaders of the modern emergent movement are guys).

First of all, where is Jesus? He’s in Jerusalem. This text takes place after what we know as the celebratory Palm Sunday entrance into the city. So, Jesus is in the place that is the center of Jewish faith, on the biggest Jewish holiday of the year - Passover. And he’s not just in the city. He’s in the temple (which he entered back in 21:12 to clear out the money changers). What’s he doing in the temple? He’s engaged in debate and conversation about scripture – he’s quoting both Duet (you shall love the lord your god with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind) and Leviticus (and your neighbor as yourself) here. Quoting scripture and debating about its meaning was a common and expected practice of the time.

All this “doing what’s expected” makes me think that maybe Jesus wouldn’t be emergent after all. He didn’t flee the church. He’s right there. He’s that pest in your board meeting who keeps asking if what you are doing is really scriptural. He’s that familiar child of the church, who has suddenly grown up and now wants to know why you aren’t living up to your ideals. He’s that guy in the back who keeps interrupting your sermon and demanding you get to the point. He’s that guy.

Look, Jesus was, as the bumper sticker says, a community organizer not a church planter. But religious structures and institutions MEANT something to him, or he wouldn’t have bothered with the temple. He’s more Martin Luther nailing his theses to the door of the church (that was still -- in spite of it all -- dear to him), than an earnest kid with a guitar and bible outside Starbucks.

What did he say about how to be the church, then, this child of the temple? Jesus’ term paper on “Essentials of Ecclesiology” somehow didn’t make it into the canon, but we know that God’s-people-gathered was critically important to Jesus, which is why we who claim him right in our name and follow him, keep trying to figure it out. It matters to us to too, and matters to the dear people who come to our places of worship each Sunday. Evidently, THEY aren’t paying attention to so-called prophets who say the days of the mainline church is over. So how do we do it? How do we be the church?

We look to Paul, who even only a generation after Jesus was trying it figure it out, too. This passage from Corinthians, a favorite of Walter John, describes the church as a body. Sarah Dylan, in her on-line lectionary blog, says that his metaphor of the body, “previously used to tell striking dock workers to accept their poor treatment and get back to work (the argument went along the lines of "a body has many parts that must all work together for the health of the body, on which the health of the members depend; y'all are the feet, so you belong in the muck, while others belong in more honored places higher up") instead in a wonderfully subversive manner to argue the reverse -- that the health and honor of all of us hinges upon honoring and caring for the weakest.” (http://www.sarahlaughed.blogspot.com)

The health and honor of all of us hinges upon honoring and caring for the weakest. It’s right up there with loving God with everything we’ve got and others as much as ourselves. Can we really DO that? Can we even imagine it?

It might take the imagination of an artist, or a poet to guide the way. I was driving to a meeting the other day, half paying attention to OPB, when I heard an interview with Lake Oswego poet Kim Stafford. Did you hear it? You may know more about Stafford than I do. All I know of him, I learned from a little interview, which he ended by reading this poem, or “exercise in intellectual love” as he called it. It’s called “Mediation.”

At the dinner table
before the thrown plate but after the bitter clang
in the one beat of silence and glare
Before the parents declare war
their child, who had been invisible, speaks:
“Would you like me to help solve the conflict?”


They cant look at each other,
such a glance would sear the soul
They can’t say no. They can’t say yes.
So the child speaks
“Three rules, then:
One. You have to let the other finish.
Two. You have to tell the truth.
Three. You have to want to solve the conflict.

If you say yes to all three,
we will solve the conflict
I love you.
What do you say? (Found and transcribed at www.opb.org)

Maybe what Walter John believed about us when he wrote his doctoral thesis on creating congregational art, is true. Maybe we all really ARE artists, maybe we all really ARE poets. Maybe, then, we DO have enough poetic, artistic imagination to not only imagine a church, a structure, an institution built on love, honor, care, and making the invisible visible, but actually to LIVE such a church.

It is in the spirit of the lived poetic imagination that has been the spark and soul of the United Church of Christ from our various beginnings, that we install Walter John tonight to be our new conference minister. Walter John loves the church. He knows that God is still speaking in and to and with it. Walter John, who arranged that one of his first acts among us would be to go on a mission trip to areas still devastated by Hurricane Katrina, knows that God is still speaking in imaginative acts of social justice. He and his congregation in Kirkland WA invited a community of homeless people to live with them for a time, camping in the church parking lot until they could find another place. That poetic, artistic imagination isn’t all serious – it has its playful side. I can tell you from experience that WJ can play ping pong with a small child without stopping for 37 hours. He believes about each of us that we are artists – not just individually but (as the scripture he loves so much that we read tonight reminds us) collectively.

Walter John knows and lives this : Love God. Love each other. The one who had been invisible, speaks. The health and honor of all us hinges on our honor and care for the weakest. And he knows that our honor and care of the weakest is not something we do for the weakest, for the invisible. We do it because it lifts us all.

We do it because the church in general and our United Church of Christ in particular has something important to say on the eve of an election and in the midst of an economic crisis which the culture clamors will divide us. What do we, a church with a poetic soul and an artistic imagination, have to contribute in a time like this?

Sisters and brothers, what we’ve got is not more or less important now than its ever been. It’s as important as it was 20 years ago, and 200 years ago and 2000 years ago. What we’ve got is the capacity to bring people together across racial and gender and economic and generational lines. What we’ve got is worship to remind us both that we are each individually important and that we are part of something much bigger. What we’ve got is safe and warm buildings. What we’ve got is people who are just yearning for ways to serve God and neighbor if only they knew how. What we’ve got is prayer. We’ve got all that. And, we’ve got a story. We’ve got words so old that they were old even in Jesus time, when he said them again. Words so new that each new generation discovers them again as if for the first time and wonders how to live them. Love God, love each other. (this paragraph inspired by Rev. Kathryn Zucker Johnson, Harrisburg PA)

Walter John, people of the CPC, there will certainly be days ahead of us when, like in Kim Stafford’s poem, we are ready to throw plates at each other. Listen, though, Jesus is right here – at the table with us, just as the crockery is about to go flying over our heads. Listen, can you hear? He’s saying: I love you. What do you say?

Maybe making church is just not all that complicated after all. Could be that the emergent church movement (or the Jesus freak movement, or whatever it is called in each generation) is a false title because really, aren’t we all emerging – in all our churches? Aren’t we all always becoming something new all the time? Aren’t we always crawling out of our cocoons, sticky and a little fragile but determined, beautiful, ready to take flight? Maybe being church really is just as simple as these old, old words, these words worth repeating, these words spoken in the temple or in the coffee shop or in your church this very Sunday. This is the body. You are the body. Love God, with everything you’ve got. And, love each other. Love each other

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hey, watcha been doin, Junie?

I've been on vacation for a week, and my brother Noah stayed with us for awhile. Dude, you know it's a great house guest who you are SORRY to see go at the end of ten days! We miss you, man, and your sweet family too. Come back any old time.

So besides walking on the beach, soaking at the spa, and basking the coolness of my bro, I've also been catching up on my reading and watching.

At the hotel room, watched J and E's new favorite TV show, Dirty Jobs. Including one episode which contained the line, "But we have to, otherwise the rats will take. over." Ok, I dont need to see any more of THAT.

Fortunately, also watched my perennial favorite, HGTV. Which is so 2007. Let's listen in, shall we? "We bought our house for 245,000, but after you help us fix it up, we're planning to sell it for 670,000. Which we have to do, because all our mortgage money is going to the new business we just bought on credit." Seriously, I love that show where the real estate mother and daughter team (Which I cant find a link to right now, but did you know that full HGTV episodes are available online? Oh, my life is so totally over.) come in and tell them what they have to do to sell the house, which is basically to take down or paint over all the stuff they did by following the other 23.5 hours/day of programming, such as getting rid of that brick red wall in the living room.

In old stuff, till working our way through Stargate SG1, and now about half way through season 2, and introduced brother Noah to Amelie, which he had never seen, and which is so good even the 14th time.

Saw two newish movies: Pineapple Express which you are NEVER going to get me to admit how much I secretly liked. Also, Ghost Town, (thanks for the rec, revmother) which I openly like because it has a real sweetness about it, and still manages to be hilarious and not too treacly. Tea Leoni kind of broke my heart, though, as the widow of a philanderer, a part which seemed like maybe a little too close to home, which I know all about because

I have totally read all the way through the most recent Us Weekly and People.

I also read some real books and listened to some on tape in the car. Listened to more Freddy The Pig. Really, will we never tire of Freddy? Evidently not. Am almost all the way through The Castle Corona, also on tape. Read it to your kids. It's lots of fun.
Also read His Illegal Self in one big gulp. I cant say I LIKED it exactly, but it sure was compelling. The man can really put a sentence together, but Peter Carey's descriptions of bodily functions and smells can be unsettling, even for someone as totally into the incarnation as I am. I remember that from Oscar and Lucinda, too, the only other Carey book I've read.
Also reading A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, which I'm enjoying in a shallow sort of way, and ditto with Portugese Irregular Verbs (shallow, enjoyable).
For churchy reading, I'm sort of skipping around in Sundays In America (which is interesting but doesnt hang together enough to be read all the way through) and I'm finishing Though the Fig Tree Does not Blossom: Toward a Responsible Theology of Christian Hope, which I bought one time on the recommendation of the KEWP and am just now getting to. Worth it, by the way, although (true confessions) I did skip that bit about Augustine.

But, Juniper, what about the ECONOMY? What about the ELECTION? Dont you care about the ISSUES?

Of course I do, which is why I cranked up youtube to watch both McCain's speech and Obama's at the Smith dinner.Awesome to see the cardinal in his dress up clothes. (Girls, are we agreed that our Catholic brethren have the best outfits?) And also, watched this other celebrity endorsement, which even though I was raised by wolves and had no TV growing up I can still appreciate the Cultural Significance of.

And really? This whole post is a gigantic procrastination project to distract me from the Big Sermon I'm preaching on Friday night and which is not totally done yet, about which more later if it goes ok. If it doesnt go ok, dont ask me about it. I wont know what you are talking about.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Juniper Recommends

The economy is tanking, but consumption at the Juniper household continues apace. Here is a short list of where the money in our little micro-economy is going.

1. The Power Protein Plate from Starbucks. Ok, I know we're supposed to hate Starbucks because they're all corporate and evil and stuff, but this little snack (mini bagel, pb, cheese, apples, hardboiled egg, grapes) has pulled me out of a few truly dire blood sugar swamps. So, thanks Starbucks. Even if you are evil. (Price: $4.95)

2. The Daily Show via internet. Because the not-comedy-central news is just. too. painful. (Price: Free, but you have to watch 3 commercials).

3. Sierra Trading Post. Even though you're not in school any more, dont you still like a new outfit in the fall? (Price: Well, less than $200, which is a total deal if you knew all that came for that.)

4. The Epley Manuever. I've been having these annoying dizzy spells, but I might be better as of Friday. I went to a PT who did this goofy tipping and tapping thing, which is supposed to get the little particles in your ear to go back into their right place. It sometimes takes a couple of days, and the first few days were hard to tell, but today I really did feel better. So, for a test, I read in a moving car for maybe the first time ever without getting queasy. No, I wasnt driving. (Price: $35 specialist visit co-pay)

5. Ibot. J had his second test drive today. Now the paperwork begins. So, it is still months off while physical therapists, insurance companies, J's HR dept and the IBot manufacturer wrangle, but eventually it will get paid for and eventually it IS GOING TO HAPPEN. (Price: $25,000. And isnt this where I say something like "J being able to manuever over curbs, bumps, grass, sand and STAIRS - Priceless"? Yeah, I thought so.)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Ego Surfing

Juniper: Hey, Susan B Anthony's middle name is the same as our last name. Did you know that?
Mr J: Yep.
Juniper: Do you think she's related to us?
Mr. J: Yes, she is. It's in that book about how the family goes back to the Mayflower or whatever.
Juniper: I cant believe we've been married all this time and I never knew that! Susan B Anthony is one of my heroes! That is so cool!
Mr. J: Everytime you think that's cool, just remember that we're also related to Richard Nixon.
Mr. J: Just trying to keep it in perspective.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Open Letter to Bill Maher

Dear Bill,

I've never seen your show (in this respect we are kind of even, since I'm guessing you've never caught my gig either) but I did see you last night on the Daily Show. Your interview just made me so sad. I mean, I get that you're a comedian. So you are, of course, funny. And smart, so smart.

Again, I really dont know anything about you, but I'm a progressive, as you say you are, so we should be headed in the same direction. If by "the progressive European nation that a lot of us live in, or would like to live in," you mean universal health care, a strong commitment to education, openness about many expressions of sexuality, and a viable energy policy, I'm all for it. Here's the thing, though. I'm also a person of of faith, so instead of trying to build a coalition with me, or other people of progressive faith, you've effectively consigned us to the outer darkness, where all the other "stupid rednecks" live.

I guess in your new movie, you interviewed religious people, but it doesn't seem to have taught you anything about religion as practiced by the many generally good and sane people of my acquaintance. Instead, you dragged out some really tiresome cliches, including holding religion responsible for "like almost every war in history and suicide bombers and oppression of women and minorities." You must know, don't you, that that is not the whole story? You must know wars are caused by power and scarcity and fear and hate, and sometimes all or any of those get wrapped up in religion, but not all the time. You must know that religious communities and leaders have also been in the forefront of movements for justice and healing and peace throughout history. And you must know that those stories are not always told. Yes, religion can amplify people's worst impulses. But it can also draw out their very best. Religions have, of course made lots of mistakes and hurt lots of people, and they will continue to do so, I am sure. But religious communities also give people a context in which to explore the mystery and wonder of their lives.

You also used my other least favorite argument about about why we don't need religion. We don't need religion, you say, because we know so much now. You say, "When these books were written like the Bible, they were at a time when man did not understand where the sun went at night...or like what made their women pregnant or what a germ or an atom was, so it was forgivable to make up myths and stories but now it's 2008, okay? It's not that forgivable."

Of course, we know more than we once did, and I'm grateful for all that science and technology makes possible. Personally, my family has benefited enormously from scientific discovery. But even though we're pretty plugged in around here, that doesn't mean that there's no room for spirituality.

In thinking about it, I probably just have a more unlimited view of human capability than you. It's like for you, the human mind is a cup that will only hold a certain amount, and once that cup is full, something has to spill out in order for more to fit in. But I believe that in the same lifetime, and sometimes even in the same moment, we can experience both unlimited wonder and unlimited knowledge.

I guess it's because of your limited view of human potential that you said, "I dont know if Barack Obama is a very religious person. He of course has to SAY he is, because he's running for president in the United Stupid of America. But I hope he's lying." I hope YOU'RE lying, or at least going for a cheap laugh there. The kind of nation that you said you wanted at the very beginning of the interview, a progressive one, is going to have to be built on authenticity. The current administration has divided our nation by amping our fears and divisions. We know where cynicism and lies get us. It's time for a new way, a new way that you say you want.
All I can say is, Put your money where your mouth is.

With great hope,
Rev. Juniper

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September is evidently the month Juniper blogs about gender

Lately, I cant read books about boys.
Or men.
I've really tried.

Remember that Leif Enger book we all loved so much, what was it called? Oh yeah, Peace Like a River. Loved it years ago, because the preacher turned out to be one of the good guys (THAT never happens). So, I waited and waited to get his new one at the library, which I suddenly cant remember the name of now either, and I just could not get into it at. all. I finally skipped to the end to make sure he makes it up to his wife for taking off like that, and then gave it up.

Then I tried Monkey Dancing, which is a travel book about a newly single dad taking his 2 pre-teen kids around the world. It reminds me of Anne Lamott's advice (which is not heeded) that if you're going to write about your kids, make sure to make it about the stuff that you, the parent, have messed up more than about them. I about died from embarrassment for the author's son, whose every youthful crush and experimentation is excrutiatingly detailed, before I gave that one up too.

A couple days ago I tried to read Everything Is Illuminated. Loved the movie, but sort of cant understand the book. I felt too old for it. Or something. So gave that one up, too.

I have a copy of Cold Mountain lying around that I havent read yet, but last time I started it I just couldnt get past the flies crawling around in the open wounds on the first page. It's not books BY men that are giving me this block (I just finished a very satisfyingly silly Alexander McCall Smith), only books about them. Maybe I should go back to Dickens. I remember reading David Copperfield with my heart in my throat the whole time.

Or, if you have any ideas, to help me bridge the literary gender gap, feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Women Are from Venus, Men are From a Different Universe: An Elijahlogue

Godsister: Hey, let's go play in MY universe.
E: No, because I'm from a whole different universe, and there's a pretended wall between my universe and your universe, and when I try to go to your universe, I hit that wall and go bonk! right back to my universe.

Monday, September 22, 2008

dreaming about the blogosphere

In my dream, I find new rooms in my house - a whole wing, really, with two bedrooms and a sort of solarium. It is crammed with stuff from the previous owners - musty couches, golf clubs, and a tea pot with animals painted on it among other things. Ladies from the church are helping me clean it out and I say to Christine, "Look! I'm dreaming about new rooms in my house. I LOVE it when this happens!" Then I go to Duluth to see a play starring this ballet dancer we all had a crush on in middle school, (whose brother I recently friended on Facebook) and he is still really adorable, but grown up now, and then I realize he is actually Songbird's #1 Son. He is dancing on the frozen lake and laughing.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Things that make you go "hmmm" OR "Oh, so it's NOT that simple."

En route to other things, I found a button for a site called "just be nice dot com." And I'm, you know, from Minnesota, so I clicked it. And got this message:

Our site is currently down for maintenance.
We are very sorry for any inconvenience.
Please try again soon.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Studying for his very first ever spelling test: an Elijahlogue

First Mommy quizzes E, then E quizzes Mommy. Let's peek in on them, as the child gives his mother a sentence to go with the word "man."

E: "Man. The man walked across the valley to, um, um, hug a sheep. Man."

Monday, September 08, 2008

Have you noticed.....

....a certain grumpiness around your place?

I'm thinking the combined vitriol and uncertainty of the election season are a pretty potent cocktail for some of our dear ones.

Or else, it's just that I've been here a year and the honeymoon is over, honey.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Putting the care in self care

So right after I wrote that thing about not having a day off for a while - I looked ahead to verify and sure enough, I didnt really have a day off for a while.

Then I got the worst headache I've had for awhile and went to bed for 12 hours. Then, I spent the next day taking naps on the couch and surfing the internet.

Then I got up and picked a day of each week that doesnt have something scheduled on it and wrote SABBATH on it in capital letters ( Saturdays, my preferred Sabbath day for this fall are sort of filled up - I'll miss you all at the preacher party, but I'm really trying to get 'er done by Friday....)

The headache is still grumbling, but I just keep saying "You can go away now, I promise I wont do that no-rest-day thing to you again..."

Livin and learnin.....

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

And speaking of values....

... I just saw a neighbor, who is no longer a minor, but lives across the street from the church with his mother, stow a bottle under our bushes.

Should I go throw it away?

Monday, September 01, 2008

V is for Values

I've been butting heads lately with people who value hard work. By this I mean people who say, "I value hard work," which I would never say. If you asked me what I value, depending on the day, I might say compassion, or the happiness of my son and husband, or justice, or Jesus or hot buttered toast but I would never, never, never say hard work.

Which is weird, because I work really hard. Sometimes, like this month coming up, days and days and days in a row - so many days in a row, in fact, that I'm not even counting. (Remember last year at this time when I was whinging about working 10 days without a day off? That was so cute of me.....). And it's not like when I'm not working at the job I do for pay, I'm just sitting around sniffing roses and getting my toenails painted. When I'm not WORKING working, I actually work pretty hard, too.

So, why do I spend so much time doing something that I would never say I value?

I'm not sure I have an answer, but I've been thinking about consistency between what we say we value and what we really value because it turns out that the little baby IS Sarah Palin's after all, and not Bristol's as some have said, which we know because you just cant have a 4 month old and also be 6 months pregnant no matter HOW cold it gets in Alaska.

Even though everyone's saying hands-off the kids in the election (which truly is admirable), the truth is, we're not going to be able to let it go, are we? Because nothing reveals our naked hypocrisy, nothing magnifies both our best selves, and our worst failures more than the way we parent our children. Which is why, when it comes to people we're trying to figure out, it's hard to look away from their kids.

I've slapped E two memorable times, and once was in front of a neighbor in Seattle who sort of kept her distance after that. I didnt blame her. I mean, I kept wanting to say to her "I'm not the kind of person who would hit a child! Ever!" and that's certainly what I had always said and thought. But even if I'd said it, who would have believed me? The evidence was still out there - that pushed to the not-all-that-far limit of a flower pot deliberately overturned on a freshly mopped floor (the other time had to do with another mess involving a broken light bulb and an open diaper pail) - I became just for one second a person whose values I did not recognize.

Since then, I've gone to Values Plan B. I am no longer A Person Who Would Never Hit. I know her, she's that woman who developed Values Plan A, and she means well, but she cant always live up to herself. Instead, I'm now A Person Who Walks Away. Walks away fast sometimes. Into a room with a door that locks, preferrably. And then I wait and eventually, even though I dont ever turn into APWWNH again, I can at least remember what it was like to believe that about myself.

So if you say one of your values is "no birth control" but you live in a little town with a lovely teenage daughter who has nothing to do but drive around in cars with boy, and it's dark 20 hours out of the day....well, you gotta figure on a Values Plan B. Which is: keep the baby and get married and hope that sticks. But what I'd say to Bristol, if she ever asked is, if it doesnt work out, dont knock yourself over the head if you have to go to Values Plan C.

Rounding the corner here into my 40th year - a hard-working, minivan-driving, meat-eating, non-composting, soccer-watching, wife and mom (still justice- and Jesus- and butter toast-loving, too!) - there's less I know for certain than I used to about what I used to consider my most core values. And the older I get, the more suspicious I am of people who claim to have their values all laid out like clean first-day-of-school clothes in neat little rows. Especially when their lives are just as messy as the rest of ours.

How about you? What are your core values - what's Plan A? And do you make the grade or do you settle for Plan B sometimes?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Thoughtful Political Commentary...

...can be found elsewhere.

Me, I'm having a hard time taking the whole thing seriously.

If I think of a beauty queen from Alaska, what comes to mind is

And if I think of Vice President Palin, what comes to mind is

I'll try to get more thoughtful about it and get back to you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Watching the DNC

Barack Obama just came out for some of what Lehrer (Who, btw, should totally be DONE with television, dont you think? He looks so tired. I want to give him a nice warm drink and help him over to the fire for a rest.) called "small remarks" and smooching after Joe Biden's speech.

I try to remember that politics is not, after all, what will save us, but my heart is still in my throat.

Back in February, E and I were looking at book on the civil rights movement he brought home from the school library. I tried to explain to him some pictures (which are so hard to understand, even for a big jaded grown up like me) and I started to cry, which always worries him. I kept trying to explain, because that's what I know how to to do. "I'm crying because I'm sad to think about a time when people hated other people because of the color of their skin...." And he said, "Oh." And then turned the page. "Tell me about THIS one, mom..."

Way back in February, I honestly could not imagine today.

Because a man with black skin is headed for the presidency. And beautiful Michelle Obama's children are going to school this fall, same as my little boy, without being stopped by troops, or firehoses or shouting crowds. That's how I know that although much is wrong with world, not everything is getting worse.

Some things are certainly getting better. Slow but sure, they are.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Emotional Intelligence

Thanks for the kind comments and emails re yesterday's post. In a funny way, being sad was relief - much better than the night before when I was scurrying around trying to get (say it through clenched teeth) THIS HOUSE CLEANED UP and eating my weight in triscuits. After I had that revealing dream and woke up and cried a little, I said

"Oh, this is sadness. I can do this." So I felt it for a while and then it went away. It did not lift me up and carry me away, which is what I'm always worried will happen.

Our current video watching (now that Lost and BSG are in a lull) is a Stargate 1, which is (first season, here, so correct me if I'm wrong) just sort of cheesy Star Trek . 2 minutes in, you might have this conversation about any random episode: "What's this episode about?" "Oh, remember this one? It's the one where they go to the strange planet with the beautiful half nekkid women and they..." "Oh, yeah, that one." Dont get me wrong by the use of the word "cheesy" here, I really am enjoying it.

So tonight we watched this sort of unusual one, where the Jack ONeill double from The Planet of Emotionally Intelligent Crystals comes to earth and tries to heal Jack by sharing all Jack's pent up feelings of grief and guilt with his ex-wife. It's such a great fantasy, that someone else would have and express all the feelings that we would rather not have to deal with. But I know how much work it is to resolutely not have any bad feelings and on the whole I've found the energy it takes to not have them is much much much greater than the energy it takes just to have them.

Probably good not to be taking emotion lessons from SG1, I guess.


Just about exactly one year ago, I sold what I thought was almost everything we had in a garage sale, and packed the rest into a moving truck, which turned out to be quite a bit, after all. I left Seattle, which had been our family's home for 8 years, pretty much without a backward glance. I mean, occasionally I'll miss the really great BLT you can get at the sandwich shop by our very first apartment, but mostly I've jumped wholeheartedly and joyfully into the deep end of the pool of our new life.

I'm kind of a weeper, but I really dont think I've shed a single tear over our old life.

There is so much good about our life in Portland, we are only 4 hours a way by car (so we've been able to visit Seattle a couple of times), we've been so taken up with things here (new jobs! new school!), and perhaps most importantly our really good friends moved here too soon after we arrived, so that we dont feel lonely.

This morning, though, I woke up from a dream in which I was dancing in a glade of woods with some other people.
We sang beautiful, melancholy songs and danced in a circle, with candles carefully balanced on our heads.
Garrison Keillor was there (In my waking life, dont get me STARTED on THAT guy - as R says "Such a good storyteller, such a toxic human being..."). Anyway, he was there and offering therapy to people -- but in 2 chairs facing away from each other and I thought how typical that was of him, to try to connect but in such a limited and false way.
And then I saw that CC, a dear friend and certainly E's best and most beloved caregiver, was leaving the woods and I began to cry like my heart would break.
"Tell me you wont go!" I cried.
"Honey, I have to go," she said so gently and firmly, just like she would in real life.
And then she turned and kept walking.

And then I woke up with tears in my throat, really aware now that one year has passed, of all the threads of connection and community that are broken now, that even email and phone calls and Facebook and a few visits a year cannot keep woven together.

And for the first time, 363 days later, I am crying.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It's the dog days

Oh, I was going to make a really long bulleted list of all the things we've done this summer, mostly good, but honestly it was too boring even for me. Because what I really want to tell you is:

*We got a good dog.

*She is a goldendoodle (but black), she's 6 years old and weighs 70 pounds for you numbers people, she went into heat the minute she moved in but that's taken care of now, her only bad behavior is asking for more petting when you think you are ready to be done with it.

*Have you ever had a dog you could leave alone with a cinnamon roll in a car (windows down, in the shade) for 10 minutes while you go in the store? Did you even know such dogs existed? Me either.

*Her name is Rainy.

*I know, you're wondering what happened to the cats, right? Turns out J is allergic, or something, so we took the kitties to other homes and instead we got a dog.

*We got a DOG.

*I used to think that dogs only happened to other people, people who had the secret Dog Code figured out. And then I read this post and then a little while later, we went right out and got a good dog.

*See how superb the blogosphere is?

*The Casa Juniper Official Photographer has been stricken with pneumonia but he's getting better every day, so I imagine photos will be forthcoming.

*In other news.

*Please pray (if that is your style) for the de-stupidifying of the person or persons who threw a rock through the church fellowship hall window last night. Not making a statement, if the beer bottles and cigs scattered around are any indication, just ending a party with a bang. Sigh.

* Sometimes I think all this church stuff doesnt really sink in with him, like it's just a place to duck old lady kisses and have cookies, but when I told him we were going to church today to sweep up broken glass, E's first words were: "So who did that? People who dont like God or what?"

*After I reassured him that they were more thoughtless than mean, we did have an excellent teachable moment about What Happens When People Are Not Careful About Where They Throw Things, a topic of about 493, 698 conversations in E's young life so far, and probably more to come. But this one did seem to hit the mark a little more than most, you know?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Can you hear me now?

So, when I jotted "oil change" to vitalist today, it came out "Boy, you'll change."

That's how God sneaks in everywhere, even your to-do list.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

We borrowed a TV for a couple weeks so we could watch the summmer Olympics: An Elijahlogue

Mom: Mmm, sure would be great to have a nice, cold beer right about now.
E: Mommy, that is a commercial. It is just trying to sell you something you don't need.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Summertime notes

Dear Guy who works the scoreboard at PGE field, who (as we walked past on our way into the 3rd inning today) tossed our son a ball:
Thanks. That was awesome.

Dear Multiple Guys who took off their shirts during the game because they were too hot:
Ew. Please dont do that.*

Dear Team
Even though you guys didnt end the game with the grand slam that seemed really possible, you are honestly turning me into a baseball fan. I actually said today, "Shhh, not now honey, mommy's watching the game." Who is THAT woman?

Dear Mr. Trader Joe
If you would like to, you may feel free to sample out your products using our new favorite recipe. I'm calling Saturday Sundae, although we dont save it for Saturday, natch:
Combine in a bowl:
1 scoop TJ's French Vanilla Ice Cream
11 (one serving) TJ's salted peanut-butter filled pretzels, crushed
1/2 organic banana, sliced (you'll probably get it at Trader Joes, right?)
1 TBS TJ's grade B Maple Syrup

Dear Madame Weight Watchers
I would figure these points as something between, say, an apple and a Big Mac with large fries.

Dear Mr. McMennamin
Your Grand Lodge is the total bomb, and having a couple study days there was almost the best idea I ever had. Do you think we could talk the Rev Gals into a BE there sometime?

Dear People of Yachats
Thank you for being so nice to us while we visited for a couple of days. Thanks also for arranging to have the lowest tide of the year while we there, and visits from both seals and whales.

Dear People in Charge of Google Maps Street View
Sheesh. If I'd known you were coming by, I would have pulled the garbage cans behind the house. Also, mowed the lawn....

Dear Parishioners
As we close in our first anniversary of time together, I am feeling so grateful I could burst. And although from this list it hardly seems possible, I am actually getting some work done this summer.

*Seriously, what ARE the rules for male shirtless-ness? E wanted to take HIS off but I told him shirt-off is for the pool and the beach. Otherwise, he has to wear one.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Remember back in the days before teh Headache, how Sue (our dear Inner Dorothy) used to paint a room every time she went on vacation? I was thinking about that when I painted E's room this weekend (Yellow and green, the colors of his somehow-mysteriously-selected Favorite Team. It turned out alright.)

But, anyway, as I was painting, I was thinking of Sue and of another very dear friend who's carrying a heavy load this week, and I remembered monks who dedicate their work, like it's prayer, which is something I've never done since work is a thing to get over quick, in my way of thinking. But since you cant really rush room painting, I tried it.

Every brush stroke, roller stroke, for my dear friend, and then for Sue, who is just struggling so badly right now and needs our fervent prayers, every one we can spare. Then for other things and people came to mind, and I prayed as thoughts rolled into my head. For Barack Obama that he not mess it up and get it messed up for him. For grandparents and aunties gathering at the lake. For all the far flung dear ones from many times and places who are being rediscovered on Facebook (including the husband of my college roomate in Chicago, who somehow knows a blog friend in Boston). For the all the children I know and love - my son, his cousins (including one on the way) and friends. For animals who need homes and for the people who love them. For the people of my church, one by one. For the ones who push my buttons and the ones who delight me without ceasing. For the medical professional whose response was "be careful" when I told her I would be painting this weekend. For (as I listened to the radio) the people of Knoxville. For more rain some places, for less other places. For peace. For healing and then back for Sue, and then for my dear dear friend.

It was a relief to find the wandering mind does not always have to wander into pitfalls of self loathing or irritation. Maybe the monks were on to something.

Also, unrelated, perhaps. We got 3/4 of a gallon of yellow paint for free, since is EXPLODED in the mixer at the hardware store! Maybe I could have prayed for the guy who had to clean all that up. So when we went to buy a ladder, I got the most expensive one - the super sturdy one that shows a picture of a 75 year old man changing light bulbs on the wrapper. Love the new ladder. I am now adding it to my list of

Things It's Not Worth Buying The Cheapest One Of:
1. band-aids
2. croissants
3. undergarments
4. ladders

What's on your list?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Why the Good Lord gave us the internet

Because the world needs a video of The Making of The Baby Cake.

(File under: Ew. Yuck.)

Confidential to Sarah. Thanks. I think.

Monday, July 21, 2008

God, gender, and next Sunday's sermon illustration

Check out this AWESOME interview with Rabbi Mark Sameth.

"Who is He? He is She: The Secret Four-Letter Name of God" will appear in the summer issue of the CCAR Journal, published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, an association of Reform rabbis.

Sameth's theory is not as outlandish as it might seem to the uninitiated. For one thing, Jewish mystical traditions have long found levels of meaning in the Hebrew Bible beyond those that come from a literal or metaphorical reading. For another, there is a deep tradition in Jewish prayer and thinking, particularly among the so-called mystics, of seeking to reconcile the male and female elements in the universe.

Sameth's article includes this: "What the mystics called 'the secret of one' is the inner unification of the sometimes competing, sometimes complementing masculine and feminine energies that reside within each of us, regardless whether we are male or female."

And, they really have nothing to do with each other, but you might also want to check out this video from some fed-up pastor's wives from Florida. Cant decide if it's funny or, well, not. You decide.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ecumenism: An Elijalogue

(while biking past a Catholic cemetary)

"Look! Those people must be UCC, also! They have crosses on their rocks!"

Friday, July 18, 2008

500th Post!!

Happy blogoversary to me.

It's summer, so too busy having a life outside where the sun is shining to report much.

If you want to look at some beautiful things, go and check out Jeff's photos on jpgmag.com. They are a cool photo site, organized by theme. Check out (and vote yeah for!) Jeff's submission to Geometry.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thursday Thirteen

on the way out the door to a meeting....

1. Who schedules meetings on The Most Beautiful Summer Night of the Year? I'm just saying
2. Well, hopefully we can make it short one at least.
3. I'm reading more Haven Kimmel - She got up off the couch this time. 17 pages in. I've already laughed until I peed once. I mean, not really, but it's really really funny.
4. There is no way that everything that is supposed to happen is going to happen this weekend. And that includes getting the house sssssppppooooottttllllessss for the dear church people who are coming for an inspection, er, party on Saturday afternoon.
5. I do have a wedding in a park tomorrow, which should be lovely.
6. Although they suddenly asked for No God If Possible.
7. Not possible.
8. I thought we talked about this. What part of Rev dont you understand, pal?
9. Not like I'm hostile about that or anything.
10. Turns out I'm so tired because I have an infection, for which I have to take TWO antibiotics.
11. For Pete's sake. That's 5 pills a day. All at different times.
12. Because I evidently have nothing else to do.
13. I cant take time for anything else, because I'm watching the UCC steeples ad on youtube all day. I've watched it probably 4573 times in my life and it still gets me every day time.
14. Pass me a hankie, will ya? Wait, that's 14.

Ok, gotta go to my meeting now.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Independence Day

After an evilly grumpy morning, solved by
1. eating some carbs (sometimes I can get A LITTLE CARRIED AWAY in my zeal to acheive something in ww and looking back, I realized it had been Too Long) and then
2. sleeping 2 hours, followed by
3. saying the prayer "OK Jesus, I need some help not being so grouchy right now."
...we had an amazing evening at PGE Stadium.

Perfect weather. And I mean PERFECT.
Relaxing with some neighbors and friends.
Not catching the foul ball that bounced right past us, but not getting smacked by it either.
A beer, peanuts and nachos (mmmm, more carbs).
An appearance by the Zooperstars.
Fireworks, just the right size to be impressive without, as St C would say, blowing your eyebrows up. Or is it "off?" Or "out?" Well, anyway.
Wondering out loud why it's offensive to carry an American flag into an anti-war protest, but ok to wear it as a shirt into a ball game.
A grand slam in the 8th by the home team.
A 6 year old boy who could not believe the incredible awesomeness of doing the wave for the first time. Ditto the awesomeness of a first singing of Take Me Out the Ballgame.
A boy who was, in fact, enthralled for three hours and only really lost it at the very very very end, when he realized he would not be getting a Beavers tshirt but quickly recovered in time to fall immediately into a deep sleep once we got to the van.
And the great night was not over yet. Although we parked incredibly illegally, our van was still there when we got back. And no ticket on it!

Do you think as part of the mid life crisis where I'm suddenly into pop music, and thinking about getting a tattoo (and by thinking about, I mean ALL THE TIME), I could also get into baseball? That would be so funny, wouldnt it?

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Major Award

(and no, it is not a lamp.)

Here is a column I wrote for the little local paper.

And I've been waiting for notice to be posted before I told the internets about it, but I dont know when that will be, so here is the link to the award that's mentioned in the little bio.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Things I'm thinking about: Tuesday night edition

-We had a visit tonight from one of my first mentors, a person who has been very important to me in many stages of my life. She gave me my first job, putting labels on envelopes, which was a job I HATED at the time, but have been grateful for ever since, as bulk mailing is a skill I have used at every single job since then. She also directed a little pick-up bell choir I was in as a teenager, hired me as her assistant in a library, and then pulled me out of there and into publishing, where I had the coolest, hardest job I'll ever have.

-I keep wanting to make a sentence about how very great it was to see her, how when I am with her I realize how much of my style I've borrowed from her, and also how invigorating it is to be with someone who wants to never stop learning. But I cant quite get what I'm trying to say right. Well, you'll have to take my word for it.

"Church is the most demanding volunteer activity I've ever been involved in."
"More demanding than Rotary? Don't they fine you and stuff if you miss a week?"
"Well, there are ways around that. Yes, more demanding than Rotary but not as demanding as being a business owner."
There you have it, you church planters. A tag line for a new generation:
Church: harder than Rotary, but not as hard as owning your own business.

-We are going to the beach tomorrow - just for the day. Yes, I AM taking a day off to do that. But it's been a while, if you count camp. And considering the amount of sleep I got, and how very nice I mostly was the whole time, I most certainly am counting it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Speaking of music

I'm probably the last person on the planet to have heard of Duffy. Do you think I'm too old to like this music?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Saturday Midnight Observations

-Went on an actual date to an actual concert tonight.
-Which was stunning.
-The Cowboy Junkies still got it going on.
-I'm sure the Indigo Girls do, too, only I'm too far away from the old days when I knew all those lyrics by heart to get it in the same way.
-I was half floating on the music, and half wondering how, after so many years doing basically the same thing, you keep it fresh.
-Although, it sort of doesnt matter what's going on with the music, since a concert outdoors in a lovely meadow surrounded by wind-tossed trees, on a day that hit a hundred is just inherently a good thing.
-I said something tactless today. Which, considering my junior high nickname was The Queen of Tact, I dont do all that often anymore.
-I felt sorry about it, and I apologized, but I dont think I'm going to spend the rest of the week chewing on it and feeling sick to my stomach, which in another era I would have.
-This feels like growth to me.
-I DO wish I wouldnt have done it, though. And I'm really hoping I didnt totally screw up what I was hoping was becoming a nice new friendship.
-Speaking of friendship, we just got back from three days at family camp.
-A mixed bag, but definately more good than bad.
-But getting used to a new camp is tricky, isnt it? Because you want camp to be your camp, and each camp definately has its own culture.
-Songs, schedules, how to have fun, physical layout, what the staff do -- it's all different here than at our old place, where we spent many beloved family camps. So there was about 24 hours of transitioning that had to happen.
-For the grownups, I mean. The child was happy to run around the woods and stay up late eating smores without any angst or nostalgia.
-There are a lot of really great things about being six, and I think this is one of them.
-Wow. Sure is hot here. We're not really set up for 100 degrees here in Oregon -- I guess I'll preach short tomorrow and punctuate a sermon about cool glasses of water by actually passing some out.
-Because talking about water (metaphorically) without delivering any (actually) on a day like tomorrow is gonna be would be more like a torture session than church.
-And speaking of chruch, it is officially after midnight, so I need to go to bed now.
-I have some real posts rattling around, hopefully they will make it here sometime.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Meme from Janell

Janell tags me to list "Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog, some random, some weird."

1. It's weird that I can't think of anything weird about myself all of a sudden, because usually I think of myself as very weird.

2. I just found out today from a self-described pagan that pagan and wiccan are different. She says it's like Catholic and Christian - "All wiccans are pagan, but not all pagans are wiccan." Did you know that? I didnt. (This one definitely falls more under the "random" than "weird" category, dont you think?)

3. Right before I lead worship, I stand in front of the full length mirror in my office, close my eyes and say my prayer three times "Make me worthy, make me worthy, make me worthy." Then I open my eyes and put on lipstick. If I skip either one of these steps, I sort of falter. I also guess I would falter if I did them the other way around and prayed with eyes open and applied lipstick with eyes closed. (Is it weird that I think that last bit is funny? Yeah, I guess so....)

4. The last few days, I think about getting home all the time, so I can see our new foster-kittens, who we have now named, after our favorite book series: Freddy, Jinx and Mrs. Wiggins. (Is it weird that when you let your 6 year old name the cats, he chooses names from children's books written in the 1940's? It is weird, isnt it, but in kind of a cool way? Personally, I'm stunned he didnt name them R2D2, Luke and DarthVader'sRedLightSaber.)

5. I confessed at a dinner party tonight that I just cannot like Pink Floyd. Or Led Zeppelin either.

6. But when someone, joking, said "Oh, well, maybe you like the KINGSTON TRIO instead?" I sang Hang Down your Head Tom Dooley all the way through. And I could have done Charlie on the MTA, too, if the subject hadnt inexplicabley changed from Our Favorite Folk Music of the 1960's to another topic.

7. Speaking of dinner, I have a new weigh-in day for weight watchers, which is Monday instead of Friday. This new schedule does not help with my previous problem of sticking with it for about 4 or 5 days and then slacking off for the last 2 or 3 of the week. Dont know why I do it this way. Every week I tell myself I could actually Lose Weight if I did it every day, but every weeek I drop off. And I seem ot keep lingering right around 173-ish. Although, I referred to myself as "svelte" today, which is maybe the reason I"m not working it that hard.

8. It's after 9, but it's still light out, so I'm going for a walk. And that's 8, so I'm done.

According to the meme, I could tag 7 of you, but I would love it if you would tag yourself and let me know in the comments.

Yes, they really ARE this cute.

These are the two little girls - still unnamed. There's a little boy, too, just as heartbreaking.

(If you are in PDX area, these will be ready to adopt in about 4 weeks, btw. You know you want one.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Weds night

I dont know what I've been doing on the computer, but I only have 11% power on my computer, so I'm doing a quick check in, in the form of a list.
-Summer seems to have arrived.
-I did not plant any veggies, though.
-But I have the seeds. Do you think I am too late?
-I dont have time for planting anyway, I'm too busy getting an ass-whupping in therapy.
-Yikes, is that previous sentence going to attract a weird crowd?
-Like, is there some kind of whupping subculture of which I am not aware?
-Well, if it has, you are them, go away, please. This is the most boring blog no the planet.
-I'm in therapy about feeling overwhelmed, which it turns out is sort of a pattern for me.
-So. It, you know, brings a lot of that bottom-feeding sludge to the surface.
-Hmm, yet another pleasant therapy metaphor. Good thing my therapist doesnt read this blog, or his feelings would certainly be hurt.
-See, spending time worrying about stuff like whether I'm hurting my therapists feelings is what got me this one way ticket to Overwhelmed Island.
-I've never recovered from vacation. I'm still treading water. To continue the Island metaphor. Which is nicer than the others I've been working, but probably not as descriptive.
-I missed the newsletter deadline and I keep forgetting to call people back.
-It's not going to get better any time soon, either, since next week we go to family camp.
-Which was a beloved tradition in our former UCC conference, and one I hope we like here, too.
-So, it takes time away, but it's great, so it's worth it.
-But the real reason I'm so distracted is because there are three cute kittens in my extra bathroom right now.
-Which I picked up today at the shelter, as our first assignment as Foster Care Kitten Family.
-We will keep them for about 4 weeks, until they're ready to be spayed and adopted out.
-Shhh, dont tell my mom. Or my dad. They think I have too much going on already.
-But 4 hours in, it's working out pretty well.
-Except they dont seem to be eating yet.
-I'm hoping that's just the excitement, and doesnt mean they'll have to be bottlefed, which is a possibility.
-They seem pretty spunky and clever. I'm sure they'll figure out the eating thing.
-Dont have any pictures yet.
-Just find a picture of the 3 cutest grey or greyish kittehs you can imagine, curled up asleep together.
-And that will be them.
-(Contented sighs all around.)

And just in time, as I am down to 4% juice, which means I could conk at any minute.
No, that's not the computer I'm talking about.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Announcements, announcements, aNOUUUUNNNNCEments

To everyone who was formerly my friend on Facebook, especially the extremely cool Chicagans who I just friended pretty much hours before the spam situation:
Sorry about sending you that incredibly annoying spam by accident. I am a doorknob at Facebook.

To people who want to be more organized, but who, like me, hate more gadgets: Check out this awesome article (and a hat tip to Seattle Rachel for the link).

To whoever swapped back that guy living in our house yesterday with our real son, who seems to have returned: Thank you.

It's 8:11 pm. You know what that means.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Addiction Experiment

I threw myself into a mild panic earlier this week by suggesting to myself (after spending the wee hours with Dooce and the Gofugyourself girls - the shadow side of the internet) that I might have little bit of a Problem handling my internet use and what would it be like if I just didnt use the computer after 8 pm for a week or so and see what happened?

See how it is in my head?

Well, I did it last night, and during that time wrote a Big List of all the things I could be doing if I WERE on the computer, which included:
buying books,
sending email (Rachel! Try Vitalist with your Jott - you will LOVE it!),
writing some stuff for work and fun,
and looking up when the bus would go by our house this morning.

So now it's 7:55. And instead of telling you about the amazing way the Philip Yancy has been foisted into my consciousness suddenly, or a 6 year olds awesome one mile race and terrible tantrum today (Preacher Mom, I know you are really busy, but when you have a minute, can we talk about parenting a boy this age? I think we are having the same problem right now), or my review of Akeelah and the Bee (oh by GOD bring me a hankie, honey) or the way that the vegetable garden is all turned over and ready for some seeds to go in there,
I'm going to turn off the computer now and

See? I'm doing it right now.


Right now.

Really. Now.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Summer Meme

(thanks for the tag, Diane!)

1.) What first tells you that summer is here?
Even after 10 years in the PNW, we are still all Norman Vincent Peale about the weather. Once it gets warm and sunny, we expect it to every day and every way to keep getting better and better. Alas, that is not how it works here. Weather is pretty unpredictable, but there are more blustery days than not, until mid June at least.

2.) Name five of your favorite distinctively summer habits or customs.
Eating outside, wearing pretty clothes and sandals, walking around at 6 am or 9 pm and having it be light out, wading in water, bike rides with E.

3.) What is your favorite smell of summer?
New mown grass. Double favorite if I've done the mowing and can feel smugly hard working at the same time.

4.) What is your favorite taste of summer?
Hmm, summer fruit, I think. Extra yummy with good vanilla ice cream.

5.) Favorite summer memory?
The first thing that comes to mind is sleeping in a tent, which is odd because I dont consider myself much of a camper now. But at one time, (maybe when someone else took care of all the logistics) I think did enjoy it more.

6.) Extreme heat or extreme cold? Which would you choose and why?
Yikes. Are these the only two choices? Neither, please.

7.) What books do you plan to read for the season?
Well, for work I'm looking for a few good books on the psalms for a sermon series I'm planning for August. For fun, well, I guess dont know yet. Any suggestions?

8.) How does the summer affect your faith? Is it a hindrance?
Any time that I feel rested and cheerful and in love with God's creation, that has to be good for faith, doesnt it?

Feel free to tag yourself and let me know in the comments if you play.