Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Closing up shop

A couple days ago, I was looking back in the archives to find something. Reading those posts from made me realize that the desperate loneliness, desire for connection and search for purpose that got me started does not apply anymore. Possible Water is all about searching, and whatever I was looking for back then, I seem to have found it. So, I'm shutting down here. Might start something again in the new year, or not. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you IRL.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thursday Eight

1. Just saw one shooting star. I guess suburban America is not the best place to catch the meteor shower. Made plans with DH, as we do every year, that NEXT year we will be in the desert for SURE for the shower. We'll see.

2. Speaking of making plans: Heard Pete Seeger on TOTN today - did you catch it? He's still busy changing the world even though he's like ninetygazillion years old. Also singing and playing banjo. And, everyone who called seemed to know him personally and addressed him like he was their favorite uncle or something. I love that guy.

3. Speaking of things we love, even though I'm a little annoyed I cant copy it here (dude! it's the INTERNET! everything is SUPPOSED to be free!): today's bizarro cartoon. Darnation! Snort!

4. Speaking of things that are a little annoying, in a very first world sort of way: Got a new handsfree device thingy that goes in my ear so I can talk on the phone and swerve all over the road trying to make sure it's far enough in my ear to hear, rather than swerving all the over the road trying to hold on to the real phone one handed. Annoying part: it's just another thing to plug in, and truthfully, I dont think I have time to charge one more thing.

5. Speaking of driving, annoying problems thereof: My car battery died the other day.

6. Speaking of things that you thought would be annoying, but werent: it died in the parking of Oaks Park, so that just meant an extra hour of goofing around while we waited for the Hyundai roadside assistance guy to show up.

7. Speaking of Oaks Park: First! Ferris! Wheel! Ride! Ever!

8. Speaking of things that make our palms sweaty, but actually turn out pretty awesome: I thought I was leading a meeting tonight but the technology I was fiddling with for half an hour didnt really work out so the Holy Spirit stepped in or swept in or something and took over. She is so cool that way.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Five I can Actually Do...

...given my short attention span.

SONGBIRD WRITES: Since I've been in the midst of a discernment process, I've done a lot of reflecting on how we make decisions. But don't worry, I'm not going to ask you to reveal a dark story about a poor decision, or a self-flagellating story about an embarrassing one. Let's keep it simple and go with five word pairs. Tell us which word in the pair appeals to you most, and after you've done all five, give us the reason why for one of them.

Here they are:

1) Cake or Pie - Pie
2) Train or Airplane - Train
3) Mac or PC - Mac
4) Univocal or Equivocal - I dont even know what these words mean...
5) Peter or Paul - Peter

LOVE riding the train, and since I just came off an airplane ride, that love was reconfirmed again. Too bad is so expensive now....

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Message in a bottle

"It was nice to have you in church today," he says, "There you were, just grinning away..."

"Oh, well," I respond lamely, "I really enjoyed your sermon, so thanks." I do not out myself as a pastor, but I am not lying. I did enjoy the sermon. There is a slight chance that I went to church on vacation (visiting J's side of our Minnesota family) in order to take notes and make comparisons. But, as an example of how God can use even our worst intentions for good, I actually had a kind of great time.

Maybe it was because we started out with this translation of "You Have Come to the Lakeshore" which I'd never heard which contained the lines
You need the caring of my hands
Through my tiredness, may others find resting
You need a love that just goes on loving.
I cant remember the words I actually know and I'm too lazy to look them up now, but after two nights (well three really if you count the night before and our day-before-flight jitters) anyway after several nights of interrupted sleep, I was thinking my tiredness wasn't good for anything much. So it was better than good to think that it might have a purpose, you know?

And the sermon was local in a good way. Yes, I am in Minnesota and I do expect the sermon to mention Kirby Puckett, so thank you for that. And it was thoughtful, too. My dad's best sermon prep advice is "pray. and get out of the way." It was a smart sermon, and had moments of lightness, but it felt like the preacher had followed my dad's advice, so we could connect with God in Christ, instead of his cleverness or funny-ness.

So, I guess I was grinning with gratitude for these things, but also because during the offering, when I opened the little green pew envelope to put my money in, I found a small piece of paper folded into four and carefully sealed in there. On one side, under "prayer joys/concerns and reasons to give thanks" a rainbow picture. And then, on the other side, a phone number, address, name and in a child's careful printing "Send me this Please look at the adres."

So naturally, I saved it so I could send it back to her. And I was grinning, because isnt that why we come to church, all of us? Because we want to create something beautiful? Because we want to know we are part of something bigger than we are? Because we want to reach out, and we are praying all the time that someone will reach back?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Should have behaved better

We have noticed that our kindly and congenial next door neighbor hasn't been around much. Saw his wife tonight, and learned that he's moved out.

After 42 years of marriage.

And turns out, as sometimes is revealed in the suburbs, that more was happening over there than met the eye.

Remember when I asked a writer I know about writing about other people? And she said "If grown ups are ashamed of what you write about them, they should have behaved better." ?

There are things I am ashamed of, and I have to say if people wrote about them, I would have wished they wouldn't. But they are mostly private and really not all that interesting. Like, being pleased that my new (so-called) sophisticated hair-do was noticed, and right after that having to pick a big smear of dried banana off my purse. Or blah blah blah spending so much time on facebook. Or making a child cry for the seven hundred and twenty eighth time by saying, "no, we are not stopping for ice cream on the way home." Or maybe for being the kind of mother who has a child who cries over a thing like that.

Anyway, those are all small and silly. But I think next door it started small too. And I wonder at what point the small things would start to add up, start to create a whole secret life that was so shameful that in the end all a guy could do was run away from it. At what point could "shouldnt" become "shouldnt have"?

Wish I had a snappy ending here, but dont. There are no answers, and this is not nearly the end. It's the middle of a sad mess and I'm watching, and wishing grownups would behave better.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Lately, I've noticed several times acquaintances or friends of a more evangelical frame of mind than I use the phrase "if the Lord tarries..." and then describing a future goal or activity.

Meaning, I am to suppose (although my tradition doesn't really linger over this kind of theology) that if the end time is not imminent, then we can get down to making some plans.


Where does this word come from? Is it from the Bible?


I chew over it. It just sounds wrong and funny (funny peculiar, not funny ha ha) to me, although at first I cant think why. I guess tarrying just sounds a little more lackadaisical or lazy or carefree than I imagine Our Lord and Savior to be. Too much, my husband opines, like dilly-dallying, tarrying is. Like, He was on his way, but got distracted by a really astonishing field of wild flowers and had to go lie down for awhile and watch the clouds float by.

Which, now that I think about it, is maybe just what the Risen and Returned Christ should be be doing after all.

All righty then. Tarry away, dear Jesus. We'll be ready when you are.

Thursday, July 08, 2010


I'm not much of a numbers rememberer. Ask my husband, for example, how after nearly 10 (see I DID remember that one!) years of marriage, I still have to pause for a moment to think when someone asks me his birth date.

But every now and then I hear a statistic or number that sticks.

For example, when the statue of liberty turned 200, they had 200 Elvis impersonators at the celebration, I remember hearing on the Morning Show (which, look! had its final broadcast on MY birthday! maybe I'll remember that one,too). Anyway, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted by my own train of thought, I remember hearing that number, and then hearing that if the number of people claiming "Elvis impersonation" as their first occupation continued to grow at the current rate, by the year 2015, one in twenty persons would be an Elvis impersonator. I probably remember it because it made me laugh hysterically every one of the approximately (to use another statistic) 659 times I repeated it.

This week, I met with a little group that gathers every couple of weeks, and we were talking about some numbers (Easter Island is only 14 miles long and 7 miles wide and there about 1000 people and 600 statues that live there!) it reminded me of a statistic that I heard last time we met which keeps coming back to me. We were talking about a city festival, how it didnt used to be so crowded, and one of the group, a woman in her upper 80's, remarked, "Well there were just less people then. I mean, when I was a kid, there were only a billion people in the whole world."

And, suddenly, it was like all the times I'd ever heard stats about population growth came right to life. Here is a person I actually KNOW who has seen the population of the world grow 6 TIMES in her LIFETIME! Since I heard it, I think about that number all the time - when I'm sitting in traffic, or on fourth of July trying to get home from a baseball game, or tonight at the park at a concert. There are SIX TIMES more of us than there were 80 years ago.

So, for those of you who remember numbers, does this level of grokking lead you to action of some kind? Of so, what should mine be?

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Sticking With It

I used to be a quitter. When things get too boring or hard or frustrating or notwhatIhadplanned, I used to bail. I've moved quite a few dozen times, had more than a few dozen jobs, and dont even get me started on exercise plans I've stopped and started.


On October 21, I will have been married 10 years.

On May 26, I will have been a mom for 8 years.

On September 1, I will have been living in the same house and employed in the same full time job for 3 years.

I know this doesnt seem like much in, you know, geological time (yes, I'm 41 years old, and with the exception of 1980-1987, I've never lived in the same house for more than three years,) but these are all records for me. I'm sticking with stuff now and really liking the way it feels.

When J and I have a little spat sometimes we say "Oh, well, marriage is long. We have time to try again and get this right" and I love leaning into that feeling of permanence and solidness. I mean, I dont think I'll ever get over the thing of slowing down for a house for sale (You know that one on the corner of Park and Huntington, Beavertonites? Doesnt it just looks so cozy? And it's on a hill! And it has sidewalks!), but I'm better at noticing that itchy, antsy feeling for what it is - a symptom of Something Else which will not be cured by the new house, job or relationship. Because wherever you go, there you are, you know?

Now, on May 22, I will have been doing Weight Watchers for 4 months. This is my third time through this program, and I'm at a familiar point at which I've always quit before. I've lost the weight I really wanted to lose, and I'm comfortable in my skin. It wasnt exactly easy, but I stuck with it and I did it. But. I am still 10 pounds from the WW recommended weight for me - which means I still have to lose almost as much again as I've lost already if I keep at it. Which means 4 more months of counting and tracking and eating that hateful nonfat cheese. And then, if I make it that far, then as far as the eye can see of being on The Maintenance Plan. I dont know if I care that much.

So, I'm on the horns of a dilemma - stick with it? Or drop out?

This doesnt really seem like that a big deal, but it represents something bigger for me. Because, I'm into sticking with things now, and I dont want to quit just because that's what I always do. On the other hand, I dont want to stick with something that really is not working for me anymore just because I'm trying to be that kind of person now.


Monday, April 26, 2010

I was only gone for a week, but it seems like a lot longer

Most of my blog posts these days are lists or random dots of things, a symptom, I think of the synapses in my brain that are firing out 25 word status updates all the time. I wanted to write something usefully coherent, but I dont have it in me tonight. So here's another list of randomness.

*The dog is moping around the house, wishing she could be with her dear friend, Uncle Bob, at whose apartment of abundance she gets to stay when we are gone.

*If you are the kind of preacher who delivers a eulogy from time to time, does the writing of them leak out into other interactions? Tonight we were having a perfectly usual interaction and unbidden into my head flew this thought, "How well we remember Jeff's helpful assertion about the importance of periodically draining batteries all the way before recharging them."

*We're watching a NOVA episode on dreams right now. In the dream group I was in years ago, I asked the facilitator, "But how do you KNOW if a dream is an important one?" and she replied, "How do you know if a thought is an important one? You just know." I've been wondering about that alot, because I do have a lot of thoughts that really arent that important, and I do alot of things that arent all that important, either. But knowing they are not important doesnt stop me from wondering, for example, how you tell the Olson twins apart, or from goofing around on Facebook for two hours of an evening. But I'm trying to develop more edifying hobbies.

*For example. Polyvore! Have you been over there? I go through collage periods sometimes (make sure to put Brownell's Collage Period in MY eulogy). I still do have that big box of magazines, scissors and glue stick gathering dust in my closet, more as a momento of times past than as the actual tools of an actual current craft. But collage on the computer, now, maybe I could get into that. The New Yorker says, "It’s the rare Internet pastime that feels productive—even if the product is just an online collage that you e-mail to a friend, with the message “Look, I made this outfit for you!” I've only goofed around on Polyvore a little, but it DOES feel productive, even if I'm doing much less than making outfits for friends (I would not PRESUME), but instead making outfits for Glee characters. What do you think of the collision of low (glee) and high (the new yorker) brow in that sentence?

* I got to do this incredible wedding last week. It was so beautiful how it all came together, and I got blown a way like you do sometimes about this amazing work.

*And, I was at this fantastic preaching conference last week. I wish I would have facebooked it or blogged it or something, but I was just soaking it in, you know? Anyway, I loved the worship and the singing, and the not having to really DO anything, just be. And I loved connecting with some seminary friends and finding we could just pick right up where we left off, and I LOVED being there with my dad. As he introduced himself to people, I heard things about him I'd never heard before. It was really cool. I ordered a CD of the lectures and sermons, so after I hear them again, I might be able to tell you more about the, you know, content.

*But with all this amazingness, the stuff that must be dealt with in the office, still must be dealt with.

*No worries, though. I can handle anything because in a couple of weeks, we will have our new sleeping apparatus, which has some other boring name, but which we are calling the iBed. Truly, it's a bed that adjusts the head and legs and has a massager. It's really for jeff , but I am going to benefit also. And! Truly! You can program it with your iphone to automatically adjust the head up if you start snoring!

*We live in incredible times, dont you think?

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Unconscious Mutterings for today

  1. Philanthropy :: Bill Gates (you can take the girl out of Seattle, but not Seattle out of the girl, I guess)

  2. Said :: he said, she said

  3. Blanks :: Fire!

  4. Tapas :: Oooo! The first time I had tapas was with with Rachel at a very cool little dark place in Portland. That was years ago now, I wonder if that place is still here. Anyway, we were living in Seattle then, and we were eating Tapas to kill time because we'd come down to Portland just for the day, and heading back we wanted to miss the traffic. But it took us 6 hours to make the 3 hour drive anyway. Something about a jackknifed semi if I remember correctly.

  5. Orgasm :: Geez. No WAY am I answering that one. My MOM reads this blog. .

  6. Movement :: Easier in the water with these old knees.

  7. Detention :: I got nothing for this one. I was always a prissy goody two shoes as a child.

  8. Restaurant :: As I type this, I am in the Village Inn eating a piece of coconut pie. True. Evdiently WW-free weekend has been extended.

  9. Weird :: Weird? Who you calling weird?

  10. Sniffle :: So glad that the spring flowers dont affect me much.

Unconscious Mutterings found here.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Today's Sermon


Easter Sunday Sermon 2010

For the last month or so, every Wednesday night, a group of us have gathered here to hear a member of another faith talk about their belief system. And from each one, we’ve taken a little something – like going with the flow (Taoism), taking a day each week to rest and renew (Judaism), appreciating the many aspects of God (Hinduism), looking more for our commonalities than our differences (Islam), reaching inside to find the compassion and love that resides within each one of us (Buddhism).

It sometimes happens when you learn about other things; you gain a new appreciation for your own thing, whatever that is. During Lent, I’ve come to appreciate more the particular way in which we as Christians experience the Divine. Because, in no other religion that we studied does God come directly to people. No other wisdom figures – not Confucius, not Mohammed, not Buddha – claim (as Jesus claimed, and as his followers continue to claim) that they actually ARE God. They might offer a path toward a more loving, more compassionate, more thoughtful, more just or more grounded way of being. But as Christians, we are unique because our God comes right toward us to live among us in the person of Jesus.

It’s unique to us, and so we have reason to treasure this, but it’s also hard to understand, hard even for those who knew him best to understand it. This is why Mary, when she sees Jesus, tries to grab him. But she cannot. This because Jesus is fully divine – fully a god-person. That’s why she calls him a new name. When she sees Jesus and thinks she knows him, she calls him “Teacher” but later she tells the disciples “I have seen the Lord.” With those words she says she recognizes he is more than teacher, healer, friend. He is a godperson.

Of course, he did have an earthly life, and these are some of the facts we have about that life: he was born into poverty and danger, at the age of 30 he became a wandering preacher and healer, whose radical message of love and inclusivity was so threatening to the powers that be that church and state worked together to have him killed. Which, they did in the most horrible possible way.

And then, what happened next? The details are sketchy and difficult to corrobatorate from gospel to gospel. In every gospel, people are always running back and forth from the tomb, trying breathlessly to explain something that cannot be explained to people who cant or wont believe them. I guess there’s a reason we don’t have Easter pageants, the way we do Christmas pageants. (hat tip Frederick Buechner) How would you act out all that confusion?

In spite of the chaos of the narratives, we do know this. The disciples (who had known Jesus as their friend, their companion on the road and around the dinner table, as a healer and teller of parables they only half understood) those disciples saw Jesus again after he died and understood something for the first time. He was not just a man. He was God, too. He was not just God, he was a man, too. And they saw him, this Godperson, even after they thought he had died.

Now. You know what your grandmother looked like, even if she died before you born, because you have a picture of her. A photo feels like a kind of immortality. Don’t they (whoever “they” are) always warn us that the picture our college roommate posts on Facebook will live forever? The science fiction show Caprica, takes that idea to the extreme, and characters do live after death when all the computer images and information about them is collected and collated in a parallel, virtual reality and those computer characters – called avatars - are now people brought to life.

So we can imagine, perhaps, that we know things about immortality that Jesus’ friends did not. After all, we have the pictures. But Facebook is just a snapshot of your life; in Caprica there is something very wrong – hollow and cold – about the computer avatars; and even that photo of grandma has got an expression on her face that no one ever saw on her in real life. Jesus, when he rose, was real. Real and alive.

Which is even more amazing, more mindblowing and incredible when you consider how he died. Rita Nakashima Brock says that “the Roman Empire used crucifixion against non-citizens, the under-classes, and slaves, and it was regarded as so shameful that even families of victims would not speak of it. The victim was left hanging naked and exposed to the elements. Bodies were left to rot and be eaten as carrion until nothing was left to bury, with no place for a memorial to preserve a person’s identity.

Crucifixion was designed to destroy an entire existence, so that even the names of the crucified were erased from memory. But the early Christians broke the silence about the shame and terror that crucifixion instilled. They spoke explicitly about Jesus crucifixion, the torture that preceded it, and his death.”

But that’s not all. Jesus died quickly and with dignity, speaking words of forgiveness and promise even from the cross. His friends removed him intact and buried him properly. They encountered the risen Christ in a garden, along the shore, breaking bread, and telling them to go home to Galilee. These loving details proclaim that those who thought they were in control had no power to erase Jesus from memory, to deny his humanity, or to end his work for justice, healing, love and peace. (previous 3 paragraphs adapted from this article)

The last words of today’s gospel have a potency that far exceeds simple declaration. When “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” she was really saying, “The empire has tried to destroy Jesus and our memories of him, they have not; Rome has tried to frighten us into silence, they cannot; those in power want to end this movement and think that they have done so by eradicating its leader and they will not.”

He’s more than our teacher. God came to us and met us where we are and as we are. God suffered like we do and loved like we do. And the most powerful thing we can do is to speak of it, as Mary did, to say “I have seen the Lord.”

Those words can never be taken from us, no power on earth or in heaven -- not political authorities or church authorities or even death -- can destroy them. Wherever Jesus’ words of truth, healing, love and justice are spoken, the risen Christ is there. Christ is there whenever we speak against violence done in his name. Christ is there when grown children, abused long ago by priests and denied justice by a corrupt church system, refuse to be silenced. Christ is there in you, with you whenever you say those simple, those incredible words: “I have seen the Lord.”

When might you say them? When have you experienced the risen Christ in your life? When have you experienced a moment of truth, of healing, of love or of justice that spoke so loudly that it could not be silenced? Maybe in nature, with friends, listening to music, or in another time when your mind and all within you was quiet. Might even have been in church. When you feel that, hear the voice of the angel in your ear whisper, don’t be afraid. And then, proclaim it: I have seen the Lord!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Unconscious Mutterings

  1. Bow out :: Really, what comes to mind is that picture at the end of that Frog and Toad, when Toad is on stage all by himself in a hat with a giant floppy feather in it at the end. Remember, the creepy one with the strange voice? I always thought, "Toad, you should just bow out now."

  2. Relationships :: Some good ones come to mind. Today I'm grateful for a boy who wants to snuggle while I'm typing this.

  3. Facebook :: Time spent, mostly unwisely.

  4. Items :: E just found the tiny teaspoon I got him to eat his icecream with, and he's grinning ear to ear. I love inexpensive items from the thrift store.

  5. Ours :: ...yours and mine. But mostly, ours.

  6. Sting :: There's a moon over Bourbon Street.

  7. Hangover :: Been there, done that, didnt get the tshirt.

  8. Contacts :: Lenses or people? Or else multiple copies of that really great movie? (Previous sentence irony free. I really did like that movie.)

  9. Lonely :: Really? Do I have to keep writing about this? Truly, I think if you've spent any time on this blog, you've heard plenty about loneliness. In a nutshelll, just let me say that this a curable condition.

  10. Seven days :: Til Easter is over. I love Easter and everything, but I'll be glad when I'm done herding chainsaws and juggling cats, or whatever that saying is.

As found via Katherine at Unconscious Mutterings. Now, you try!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Today's Sermon

Always With You

Sermon Preached on John 12:1-8 and Isaiah 43

March 21, 2010

One of the things we asked the speakers of many faiths who have visited us during this years Lenten series was “what is the most important story of your faith?” In this scripture from Isaiah, we hear one of the most important story of the Israelite people – the story of freedom from slavery. Slaves under Egypt, the Israelites escaped across the red sea on a path created by god – leaving the pharaohs armies to, in the poetic words of the prophet: lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:”

That exodus story, is the story of a whole people’s life, the way they always start talking about…whatever they are talking about. Remembering and honoring the past is important. Knowing the stories that formed them are important.

Just this week, I got a reminder of this when I was handed this little church history booklet.What do you know the history of this church?

It was formed by dairy famers in 1919, who wanted to base their church on the faith of their Swiss-German homeland. The church was served by a series of pioneer pastors – including a Rev. Stucki who was here for two years before “he left, taking with him whatever he’d managed to save from his $100/month salary and, as a bonus, our organist whom he had married…” The church services were half in german until 1941. The congregation built a new building – this one – in the 1960’s and experienced good times – increased fellowship and many small groups, and some difficult times too, including a couple of splits.

An addendum to this little booklet quotes a church history from 1969:

“The debt we owe is large when we see what others have done for us. Who can ignore what he owes to the pioneers of his state, or the builders of his city, or the founders of his church? Those who move into the community with roads built, utilities established, fire and police protection provided take such things without much thought. But others made them possible, and we reap the fruits of their labors. There is little room for complaint and much room for thankfulness when we consider our life and its gifts.

Our heritage is a gift from God, which we carry on not with ungrateful hearts. The future promises much. (We) anticipate it with expectancy and hope…”

We have much to be grateful for from the past, and much to look forward to in the future. We have feet in both worlds – the past and future. The question is, how do we both honor the past and still live hopefully for the future? Using the scripture as a guide, we can at the same time tell our story, and remember our past but as the prophet Isiaah says “do not consider” it. In other words, recognize it, but do not dwell on it – the past is a door to walk thru, not a house to live in.

That is difficult for us to do because with stories we tell over decades or even generations, the details can get fuzzy, and their importance either diminished or increased artificially. We do tend to look to the past and judge it either for good or for bad. We do tend to look back and say “oh that was terrible” or “oh that was so much better”

But God does not look to the past with regret (“Oh, that thing with the Red Sea? I wish I could have done that differently!”) And God also does glorify the past either at the expense of the future. (“Hey! Remember that great thing I did with the Red Sea? Man, those the were the days! It’ll never be THAT good again!”)

God shows us a new way says in effect, “anything I can do, I can do better…”

We can see the on-going-ness of god’s work in the verbs.

God is saying, “see I am DOING a new thing,” not “I DID a new thing” or “someday I WILL DO a new thing.” The verb is doing, which means god’s new thing is “doing” all the time – in the world, in this church and in your own life.

Ok, got it. God is always doing a new thing, so let’s embrace each moment and the change it brings and be happy with that. Right?

Or not. Sometimes doing a new thing can be scary, can make us uncomfortable or even seem dangerous.

Isaiah knew that, that’s why he tells us that this new things God is doing, always doing, will include jackals and ostriches. There’s a reason he did not include little fuzzy kittens and baby chicks here. Jackals are spooky, lurking, wild laughers of the night, scavengers – they were to the folk of Isaiah’s time as they are to us. And ostriches (to us funny animals who buried their head in the sand) to the Israelites were actually unclean – maybe because they bury not their heads, but their eggs and left them unattended all day, maybe because their newly hatched young would eat the nest’s unincubated eggs.

In God's new thing, even weird, scary, and unclean beings will be swept up in the kingdom story. It can be frightening to consider, but also exciting, like those words from 1969:

“Our heritage is a gift from God, which we carry on not with ungrateful hearts. The future promises much. We anticipate it with expectancy and hope…”

Tell us a story of your faith, we asked our guests. Can we do it? What if we picked the story from John we heard today.

Here is Jesus, at home with his best friends, Mary and Martha and Lazarus. He is at Bethany, at the closest thing to home that we see for him in the scriptures. In our story, they are having a quiet dinner.

Then Mary takes a vial of nard. Nard, by the way, is imported from India - not a hop, skip and jump from Palestine even via today’s transportation methods. In the first century it might as well have been the moon. This week someone brought by this vial of nard he bought for more than 30$. Now imagine a pound of it, or what one translation says is a liter. Mary takes this and pours it on christ’s feet. The fragrance, the scripture says, fills the house – but Robert says the fragrance of that much nard would not just fill the house, it would spill out down the street.

Judas (and others) are uncomfortable with the waste, as perhaps we would be.

Then she washes his feet with her hair. In paintings of first century Palestine, we often see women with a cover over their hair. This is no accident. Hair was so potent in the first century, as it still is for some cultures, it was to be covered at all times. Even for us, for whom hair is mostly is just hair, would feel embarrassed if we saw someone brush someone else with it. I’m guessing Judas and and maybe others are uncomfortable with the intimacy of this act, as uncomfortable as we are.

So, let’s imagine this is it – the story we are going to tell of our faith. What does this act of profligacy, of intimacy tell us about who we are?

How is this part of: “Our heritage, a gift from God, which we carry on not with ungrateful hearts…”

Of course, when we read these scriptures on Sunday morning, we pull a little piece out of context. But still, it is interesting to read them for last lines. The last line in the Isaiah? God created us for praise – created us to declare God’s praise.

What if Mary is living out her purpose, right here and now? God created her for praise, and that is what she doing. She does not worry about the future, regret the past. Mary pours out her act of worship, of sacrifice completely, alive to the present moment, to God’s doing here and now – unselfconscious of even the most basic rules of conduct or modesty, without counting the cost, she gives everything she has. She looks neither to the miracles and teachings of the past, nor to the cetain difficulties of the future.

Brothers and sisters, God created you for praise. What is your act of worship? Sometimes, we to look to the past and we sigh, “that was so great, back then.” We do it as individuals and sometimes we do it as a church, too - thinking back and remembering the groups belonged to, the mission trips taken, the friends and families who’ve come and gone (surprisingly hardly ever the incredible sermons we heard…). Somehow, sometimes, we want our congregational life to be solid, we want our programs and projects to be lasting, to want our acts of worship (and yes, even our sermons) to be remembered, to be considered. But Isaiah tells us not to consider those things, not to dwell on them.

Mary’s act of worship is the costly nard she pours out at Jesus’ feet. She poured it out, and except for the fragrance that lingered in the room, in her hair, she poured it out and it was gone. In spite of the comments in this book, building a church is actually nothing like building a road or a police force or something concrete, something you can point to and say “I built that.” Building a chuch is more like spilling a bottle of costly perfume.

We spend hours, maybe days, planning and preparing a pot of soup that 50 people devour in 45 minutes. Hours of rehearsal are dedicated to a single anthem and then in 3 minutes, poof, it is gone. We vacuum the narthex carpet or pull weeds from around the roses or paint a wall – knowing that tomorrow or next week or next year it will need vacuuming or pulling or painting again. We raise money for a project, and then the money is gone and we start over with a new project. We study for a Sunday School lesson that is over in fewer minutes than a sitcom. We say a prayer at a hospital bedside, and the words are gone as soon as they are spoken.

Fleeting acts, yes. But like a wonderful fragrance, they linger long after. They stay with us – not solid like houses to live in, but as doors we’ve passed through – as times for which we feel grateful, because they’ve helped create what we are. But we can never confuse those past times, acts, people for WHAT we are now. God is doing doing doing – a NEW thing.

All of the years that have gone by, all that has been done to build this church, each act of worship, service, sacrifice – all that has been part of God’s doing. The fleeting nature of so much of our work here does not make it any less appreciated by God -- if anything, it makes it more. It shows a willingness, as Isaiah counseled, to do the new thing – to sing the new song. It shows a willingness to embrace a new thing might be weird or even dangerous seeming. Like Mary, it shows that we are willing to pour out all we have, here and now, not regretful or longing the past, not wishing for an as-yet-unknown future – but completely in the present moment.

God created us for praise, those are Isaiah’s last words. And Jesus? These are not the very last words, but his time and drawing near, and they are close to the last. You’ll always have the poor with you, Christ says, acts of service, of worship – however fleeting, you will always have with you. You will not always have me, as you know me know me now, in this body. And yet through those acts of service, of worship , you will know, through all that is to come – sorrow and joy, death and resurrection – that you will always have Christ’s spirit and presence with you too. Amen.

With help from:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wednesday Night Random

Started to write a long, rambly post, bored myself, decided not to bore you, too. Deleted it. But really, there's a lot going on and my heart is sort of bursting with gratitude, so let's just try it as a list, shall we?

A Very Partial List of Things I'm Grateful For (in no particular order)
Muslim Educational Trust, and the good folks from there who I heard speak at HCCUCC (also on my list of things I'm grateful for, btw) tonight about Islam. They. are. incredible.

Laughing children, who announce they are second-best-friends after one meeting.

Looking forward to August, and a new baby* and a wedding.

A bible study class that included a discussion about the nesting habits of ostriches.

Sunny days in March, and The Mountain out my window.

Healthy husband. Funny son.

Facebook friends. Phone friends. IRL friends.

Freddy the Pig (Always, always, always, grateful for Freddy. I feel like we've listened to about 100 of those books on tape, but we always seem to find one at the library we havent heard yet.).

Weight Watchers (No, the word pig did NOT make me think of that, why did you ask? And yes, I HAVE lost 10 pounds since January thankyouverymuch.)

A potentially difficult communication that turned out OK.

That sign I drive past every day that says "Ocean Beaches This Way."

My dad, who is meeting me at a preaching conference in Seattle in April. Also, hey, it's a preaching conference in Seattle in April! Seattle peeps, will I see you there?

Vacation plans.

*No, not mine. No rumor-mongering now you internets.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Night Random

-Just back from seeing Rob Bell. Which was great. Here's a link from a previous tour, which doesnt capture his charisma at all. It's just so inspiring to be in the presence of someone so obviously in control of their craft.

-He did great, even with a creeping bronchitis and the funny sort of crowd - not sure what they expected, but I think some of the folk around me, at least, were not getting what they came for. Unless what they came for was, as a brief survey of youtube suggests, more evidence of so-called ungodly behavior.

-Speaking of Rob Bell, I am currently reading Donald Miller's new book, so I wondered out of the corner of my mind if I would see him there tonight. ("Perhaps you know my friend Don. He is also a Christian...") Got to the Roseland a little early, so to pass the time, looked on twitter to see if anyone was tweeting the evening, and the only search result for "rob bell pdx" on twitter was a photo of Bell with Donald Miller. Evidently there ARE only two cool Christian guys in the world, and they take pictures of each other at breakfast.

-Speaking of books we're reading that make us feel all swoony, stayed up late into the night (or really early into the morning) finishing Dorothy Sayers' Gaudy Night. Careful readers of this blog (insert derisive snort here) may remember that this winter I wanted to read the Wimsey series and each one is not merely a little bit better, but incredibly, leaps-and-bounds better than the last. I already want to re-read it, but I think I get to read Busman's Honeymoon next, so I'm gonna do that one instead.

-Speaking of cul-chah, went to see Cosi Fan Tutte last night. Neither J nor I know anything about opera really, but still like to see one from time to time - it's so, you know, big. And really, any evening that begins with dinner at Mothers, it sort of doesnt matter what else you do. Fun people watching too. It's Portland, so everything from jeans to gold gowns with furs.

-Speaking of fancy outfits. A friend who divides her time between Portland and Seattle brought her son to church today. He's a couple of years older than E, knew him when he was small, and wanted to make sure that E got his sport coat, that he's outgrown. Also, he gave me his cell phone number (!! he's not THAT much older than my boy!) so I could text him E's response.

-Speaking of cool and unexpected things that happened at church. A young man came by totally out the blue this a.m. who said he provides "captioning" for deaf and hard of hearing and can he practice in our service? So he set up his little laptop and something that looked like a court reporter machine. He will not charge, and he emailed me what he did, so now we have a transcript of our service. Which is awesome for me, because I dont always write my sermons, so now I have a printed copy of the extemporaneous ones for free!

-Speaking of...well, I guess nothing goes with this, so I'll just end here.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Today's Sermon

The Greatest of These

Sermon on 1 Corin 13 and Luke 4:21-30

Recently, I passed a billboard I had never seen before, I think it was for an insurance company: “Family is always there for you” it said.

Instantly, I finished it in my head, “except when it’s not…”

And I thought about how all of us -- no matter how happy or contented our family circumstances -- have had moments when it felt that our family, whatever that means for us, were NOT there for us:

-perhaps it was your parents who were not there for you, distracted by worries and work you could not understand.

-or was it your children who made choices guided by values you could not fathom.

-or the friendship that faded away

-or maybe it was your spouse, who made promises to love and to cherish, only to break those promises.

We don’t have statistics on absentee parents or disappeared friends or difficult to understand children, but we do have stats on marriages. We know that slightly more than one half of marriages in our culture will end in divorce. And yet, people do still keep getting married. And people keep planning weddings that have a lot to do with romantic ideas of what a wedding should be – sort of pasted together from movies and childhood hopes and storybooks. And, people keep choosing the passage we heard from Corin to be read at those weddings.

In a way, it’s ironic that the Corin passage we heard earlier is so often read at weddings. It wasn’t intended for the storybook wedding at all – it was written by Paul to his chaotic and cranky congregation in Corinth. But it’s not hard to see why these words are so often read at weddings “Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends.”

Because, what a beautiful ideal – what great hopes are expressed on that day in which two people look into each others eyes and say “always.”

But, knowing what you know about marriage, your own or others, it might be easy to hear these words a little cynically, because with a statistic like “half of all marriages end in divorce,” it is pretty much certain that your own life has been touched by it in some way – a family member, a friend, or you yourself. The pain of these separations is very real, and the shame and embarrassment of making vows that cant be kept for a myriad of reasons is very real. This is your community of faith, a place of healing for amny kinds of wounds including those of shame – how?

In our denomination we have 2 sacraments – baptism and communion. Other denominations have more - as many as 7. A sacrament is an outward and visible sign of god’s invisible grace – a very special moment and situation in which god breaks into our lives to make the holy known in a unique way.

Now, in churches that celebrate more than 2 sacraments, marriage itself is often considered one of the sacraments. Not so in our tradition – the UCC. I think that is because we understand that while marriage is very important to many people, and can be a blessing to many, marriage between a man and woman, with children to follow, is only one way to make a family. In this very room are people whose most significant family relationships are between two men, or two women, or grandparents and grandchildren, or siblings, or importantly connected groups of very good friends.

In the UCC, we believe that God, and the Bible, has put blessing on these and many other kinds of relationships. In this letter to the Corin, Paul wasn’t talking about marriage, he was talking about building community. So if you’ve heard these words at a wedding, or a lot of weddings, or even your wedding, And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”

I would like to invite you today to start seeing it as a scripture less about the institution of marriage and more about building community thru all kinds of diverse relationships – grandparents and grandchildren, siblings, co-workers, cousins, neighbors, friends, children, parents, nieces and nephews and the guy who sits behind you in the pew every Sunday.

This lovely scripture, this elegant and poetical writing, what does it have to say to us of the many and varied relationships in our lives? “If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

We certainly, many of us, know how relationships DON’T work. Even for the relationships we don’t have those statistics for, we have experienced abuse, alienation, or just plain irritation. Even Jesus knew about that. Remember just last week, how Jesus was wowing all who heard him in his home town temple as he read and taught from scripture? Nazareth, Jesus’ tiny home town was made up of not much more than a couple of hundred people and those who weren’t related certainly knew each other very well.

But Jesus, hometown favorite, speaks the most dangerous words you can say at a family gathering “I’m going to tell you the truth.” In the blink of an eye, the warmth and regard that his hometown buddies – Jesus’ cousins and siblings and childhood friends -- turns to dangerous disdain. “We know you,” the crowd sneers “We know all about you. We don’t have anything new to learn from you.” And then, they take him out, those pals of Jesus, to heft him over a cliff.

And Jesus, who knows about death, who in a very short time will bravely face the most horrible death anyone can imagine, doesn’t stick around to be tossed over the cliff. He slips away and before you know it, he is gone. Jesus doesn’t stay in a relationship that is about to kill him.

It is good to remember this, the way Jesus slips away from this dangerous crowd of those who are supposed to love him, because it is one of the darker parts of Christian history that, having interpreted the Corinthians words about love (as well as a few other passages) in a very narrow way as about “marriage between a man and a woman with children to follow,” we have explicitly or implicitly blessed relationships based on sacrifice, especially for women. “To endure all things” has been a one-way ticket into an abusive relationship for countless women, while clergy have either looked away, or actively encouraged them to stay, to “endure.”

But today we are freeing this scripture from its rigid interpretation, and in so doing, freeing ourselves from the violence that it has tacitly encouraged all these years. Where to start? With the word love itself?

The thing is, in English we have only one word for “love,” and so we use the same word for our first born grandchild, our favorite sweater and the team we’ll be rooting for next week in the superbowl. It was not so with the ancients – there were different words of love to express the different kinds of love we feel in different situations. The kind of love expressed in this passage is agape love, God love. Since we have only one word for love, we might read this word and think of grandchild love or sweater love or Colts love. But the ones to whom Paul wrote knew differently. They knew he meant God Love. So, for them, this passage would read: “God’s love is patient; GOD’s love is kind; God’s love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. God’s love does not insist on its own way; God’s love is not irritable or resentful; God’s love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. God’s love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God’s Love never ends.”

GOD’s love is always here and God’s love endures, believes, doesn’t resent, even when our love falters. When our relationships break, any relationships – we tend to feel so embarrassed, so ashamed. But that’s not what God wants for us, because through all of it - the silence or the shouting that marks that brokenness - God’s love has not ended, God’s love has believed in the best in you, God’s love has endured.

If every time we feel impatient, unkind, or resentful in our relationships – whether those are partnerships, friendships, marriages, relationships between parents and children - if whenever we feel those things, we berate ourselves, beat ourselves up for not trying harder, it’s like we are doing the opposite of the hope that God has expressed for us in this passage. God looks on us, all of us, with kindness, with patience, with faith and hope and LOVE, in spite of, or maybe because of, all the ways we cant begin to live up to the wonderful words of this passage.

Look, this is a passage about creating community. But you don’t create community by loving everyone, all at once. You create community one by one by one. As you do, let these words guide you. And as you do, sometimes you’ll stumble into impatience, resentfulness, or unkindness. Then, remember these words and remember that it’s not just the 2 of you, or the 4 of you, or the 90 of us trying to figure it out – God’s love is moving in and around, upholding and supporting, enduring, neverending.

Speaking of love, Valentines Day is coming – this was an important holiday in my family growing up - my mom made my brothers and me homemade cards and heart shaped toast on that day. So it was always a sort of sweet day for me, but when I grew up I learned that Valentines day was the day that many people loved to hate – a day of unfettered commercialism, of unmet expectations, of imperfect romance. Listen, remember this passage from Corinth, God love isn’t about a fantasy world in which you or someone else will be perfect. This kind of love is about god looking at you, seeing you clearly, and loving you anyway, loving you fully, eternally.

(In case you’re the kind of person who needs reminders of this there’s a Valentine on the wall for you to take on the way out today, each one with a message on it from this passage. Feel free to take the one you most know need to hear and to remember.)

Because God’s faith, God’s hope and God’s love abide. And the greatest of these is God’s love. Amen

Thursday, January 21, 2010


...this is actually delicious

Snap Pea Frittata

CascadianFarm Recipe by CascadianFarm

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  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sliced onion
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 package (8 ounces) Cascadian farm® frozen organic sugar snap peas, thawed
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese (1/2 ounce)


  1. 1

    Set oven control to broil. Heat oil in 10-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Cook onions in oil 2 minutes. Stir in tarragon and peas; cook uncovered, stirring frequently, 3 minutes or until peas are tender. Stir in lettuce.

  2. 2

    Whisk eggs with salt and pepper; pour over vegetables in skillet. Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until eggs just begin to set.

  3. 3

    Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese; broil 5 inches from heat 1 to 2 minutes or until frittata is golden brown and puffs up. Serve immediately.