Saturday, December 30, 2006

sort-of like walking on water

When Matt and I were back in Nebraska this week, celebrating Christmas, we went canoeing on Mom and Dad's lake. (Dad steered and egged on.) We thought it was less frozen than it really was. (Thin layers of melted water on top of ice can be deceiving.) There's a lesson in this somewhere, but I'm on vacation and I haven't figured it out yet.

It sure was pretty, though, watching the sunset colors reflect off the narrow channel the canoe cut through the ice...

In other news, Grand Island, Nebraska now, apparently, has a Starbucks. (We didn't visit.) And Wal-Mart's litter can be found even in out-of-town cornfields. There's a commentary in this somewhere, and I think you can figure it out yourself.

Now, we're leaving the ice and canoes behind for some pineapples and tropical breezes...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

the hokey pokey isn't what christmas is all about

With apologies to Karen for stealin' her idea, I wanted to share this with you:

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

a long night

And a confession: I thought that tonight is the longest night of the year. But, it turns out, tomorrow night is a smidgen longer.

At least, tomorrow's daylight is 2 seconds shorter than today's.

Tonight, at our Vespers worship, I said it was the longest night.

What I didn't notice, at all, is that there's a new moon tonight. (And, really, how's one to notice a new moon? Especially when there are so many giant inflatable snow creatures around, basking under palm trees?!?) A new moon makes things feel extra dark, and long. Maybe it's the "darkest night..."

However...I marvel at the information available online. Sunrises and sunsets, daylight hours, tides and moon phases.

Seems funny to me that we can measure the change in season--the solstice--in 2 second increments. I wonder if change happens that way in my life more often. If I've passed tipping points, but hardly noticed, because 2 seconds are so, well, small.

And I think that perhaps Christmas is that way. God's love is incarnate in a new, wonderful, full (if physically small) way, and it barely registers (other than for that group of shepherds, some angels and a small entourage of magi.)

This year, when I'm aware of so many broken, hurting, violence-filled places and lives, I'm hanging on to those 2 seconds.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

home for the holidays

Matt has this lovely salt water aquarium in our living room, and in it live two clown fish. They're actually our friend Ryan's fish, but they live at our house.

From "Finding Nemo," I know that clown fish are supposed to live in anemones. We don't have any anemones.

To my endless delight, our two clown fish are attempting to take up residence in two nearby corals.

Corals are not nearly as delightful to live in as anemones, I think; one has wavy arm things that might be fun to swim through, but no inner chamber in which to take refuge. The other coral... Well, it just seems to scream "sub-standard" housing to me. It's got nothin' much going for it, other than that it's pretty. No place to get inside, nothing to swim through.

But, day after day, Jackie and Nighty, the clown fish, loyally, hopefully stand by their homes. As if to guard them, and to show them off the world of our living room.

They give me hope that we can make "home" out of just about anything, if we have eyes to see.

(Not, of course, that this is any reason to stop working to make sure everyone has a decent place to live...)

Friday, December 08, 2006

ever since those angels sang "alleluia"...

Today's RevGalPals Friday Five has me singin'. And thinking: why don't we have much other "seasonal" music? I mean, sure, JCSuperstar comes out Holy Week...but I've got no other collection of music that I pull out for a month of the year. What fun!

1. A favorite 'secular' Christmas song.
"Baby, It's Cold Outside" charms me, though I worry when I stop to think about the lyrics much. (manipulative male convincing sweet, wanting-to-please-other-people woman into staying at his place?!?) It makes me think of that song, "To Make You Feel My Love;" when sung by Garth Brooks to accompany Harry Connick's love in "Hope Floats," it was sweet. In Bob Dylan's voice, it just sounded, well, predatory...

2. Christmas song that chokes you up (maybe even in spite of yourself--the cheesier the better)
My heart belongs to John Denver and those Muppets. I can't avoid getting choked up "When the River Meets the Sea," as little Robin's pure voice sings out a vision of God's kingdom.

3. Christmas song that makes you want to stuff your ears with chestnuts roasted on an open fire.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, especially the Mannheim Steamroller version. (Sorry, Mom; couldn't resist.)

4. The Twelve Days of Christmas: is there *any* redeeming value to that song? Discuss.
Again, with the Muppets, it's all beautiful. Piggy even makes appropriate mockery of greed with her "5 Golden Rings." Beautiful.

5. A favorite Christmas album
Has to be "A Christmas Together." John Denver AND the Muppets! What could be better?!?!?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

sacraments AND advent light

I know we're not to "joy" Sunday yet (and, don't worry: the pink candle remains unlit) BUT I'm grateful for the joy of the Lord tonight. Tonight, I got to serve Communion to a whole bunch of families, including a lot of little kids. I'm not quite sure how to explain how it is that the body and blood of Christ can be so good to share, but it sure felt good to share this sacrament of our church, up at the altar in our dramatic sanctuary, with lots of little people. With big eyes, and tenuous hands, they reached out for those wafers, and got a taste of this sign of God's grace. Watching mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers (and many assorted honorary aunties and uncles) share in this holy meal was incredible. The sense of expectation, the joy, the tangible, mysterious holiness--this is why I love communion.

And, I kept thinking about the little girl whose funeral I'm to lead tomorrow. The life of each of those children seemed so precious and wonderful. I'm intensely grateful to get to share this sign of God with all those kids tonight. Not that I think communion is necessary for salvation. It's just awfully beautiful.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

advent light

So, in an odd side-bar comment during our staff meeting today, I became intrigued with how the pink candle got to be in our Advent wreaths. (And, I have to say, my curiosity was encouraged by the RevGalPals Friday Five contest last week, to give a new reason for the odd pink candle. I didn't post, but my best idea, I think, was that it stands as a sort of "minority report," insisting that we don't all think/look/believe the same. There's no expectation that the lone pink candle will become purple, but it still has a clear place in the wreath. But I digress...)

From a bit of internet searching, I found 2 possibilities intriguing:

-The whole Advent wreath thing has its roots in pre-Christian (read: pagan) Germany. A getting-ready-of-the-solstice ritual of lighting more candles, to get us through this darkness until that day when the night will begin to grow shorter.

-The pink color probably snuck in through Lent and the Pope. Several sites claim this. Apparently, purple went with Lent before it went with Advent (back in the day, when Lent was the only real liturgical "season." And, during that long season of penitence, folks still wanted to remember that even the suffering of crucifixion isn't horrible. (After all, it led to resurrection!) So, on the third (or fourth) Sunday, folks were supposed to give up the fast for a day of feasting. And, the Pope would give a rose to a citizen on that day. The rose inspired priests to start wearing pink. Then, when purple was applied to Advent (which used to have a lot more penitenece and considerably less shopping), the pink came along, too, on Sunday 3.

Now, we just get the joy (without too much penitence). But as far as I've experienced, we don't get so much feasting during Lent...

In other advent news, I've been thinking about the lights on trees in the middle of El Cajon Boulevard near our house. Someone too the care to wrap the lower limbs of a whole bunch of trees in strings of white lights. Trouble is, at least 3/4 of the bulbs are not working. Which makes the effort my current favorite Advent display. Finally, someone got it right--just a few twinkling lights, holding out what may seem like futile hope that God will come to the world and it will mean everything.


I spent part of this afternoon with a young mother at a funeral home, as she spent time with her would-be six-year-old daughter, who was killed in a car accident last week.

She had questions for me about baptism: her daughter hadn't been baptized, and she was concerned.

I told her that we didn't baptize people after death, but that we believe God's grace is present even without baptism. Not being baptized is not going to keep her daughter away from being received into God's eternal love.

Then, her family showed up, and it was clear that they were much more worried about her unbaptized state. (They had not been, however, worried enough to show up much while she was alive.)

All of which made me think that our sacrament of baptism has become so enmeshed with doctrines and policies that we've missed at least part of the point of what God's Spirit and water are able to accomplish. This Sunday, as we read about John the Baptist in our Advent preparations, we're invited to be repent, and be baptized. But I don't think he was talking about the same thing that worried those family members. I think he was inviting us to something much more radical.

The child's mother, however, continued to share the kind of love that is lived out in a million, tiny details. She painted her daughter's fingernails a shade of a shiny pink that would have delighted her.

Which seemed, somehow, to convey the amazing and beautiful qualities of God's love in a richly sacramental way.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


So, yesterday, while working in my garden, attempting to keep the deeply-rooted bermuda grass out of my fence, I was musing on just how tough grass roots can be.

They're impossible to get rid of entirely.

I guess I hadn't really contemplated the stubborn, resilient, impossible-to-kill nature of grass roots. "Grassroots" meant something more like "from the common people" in my mind, rather than "uncontrollable." I like the idea of grassroots organizing even better today.

I still, however, wish the bermuda grass weren't in my fence.

In other hopeful news, I planted a root-y stick in my garden today. The man at the City Farmer nursery tells me it will grow into an unruly raspberry plant before I know it. And I planted some odd-looking asparagus roots, and a meek rhubarb plant. It was a day of rooting. Here's hoping these tasty things are as resilient as grass roots!