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?