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.” (

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

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