Saturday, December 05, 2009

packaged delights

There was this guy who hung out on my floor in our dorm, Freshman year. He didn't live there, but afflicted us with his presence regularly. I remember him going on and on about the goodness of It's-Its, a strange frozen treat. (This may well have been in reactionary defense of the west coast, in the face of yet another person from New Jersey going on and on about their Fribbles from Friendly's...) I sometimes wonder why this is so much easier to remember than my French vocabulary.

I'm pretty sure I had my first It's-It this summer, when I found them in the cooler at the little store in Tuolomne Meadows, where we stopped for indulgences on our 20-day hike. It was pretty good. I mean, really: how can it not be, with ice cream, oatmeal cookies and dark chocolate? But I was really taken by it's packaging--charming and nostalgic, taking me back to an imagined era way before Freshman year.

Then, today, as my dear husband was hunting down strawberry Mochi from the freezer aisle, I spotted this gem: old-fashioned cardboard packaging of a 3 It's-It treat. Perhaps I was set up by the appallingly nostalgic Christmas music our country station plays this time of year. It won me over immediately.
Kind-of like the child who ends up playing with the box their Christmas present came it, I think I enjoyed this package more than it's treat.


I found this old Army wool blanket at a thrift store much earlier this year; it's been lying in my closet, waiting for a new life. This Christmas, it decided it would become stockings for some little ones I love.

I'm also excited that the bright orangey-red ric-rac I bought on a whim this summer has found it's place to shine.

Now I just get to imagine what Santa will add to these... That is, assuming my young friends are nice.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

more later

This is enough for now: a Cretan feast, where I got to stand next to Polychronis Polychronidis, Mayor of Kolymbari. (With Enoch and Keelan, too.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

vacation logistics

Even when you’re on vacation (as it turns out), it’s important to check details. Like, for example, which airport you’re supposed to pick at. On Wednesday, I woke fairly early, wanting to say goodbye to folks leaving the meeting (like my dear roommate, Aimee). And wanting to enjoy a last dip in the bowl of honey.

And, perhaps most importantly, wanting to get my rental car and begin the next portion of Cretan fun with Krista. Since she lives in Germany, we see each (by means other than Skype) far too infrequently. Her flight, however, wasn’t to arrive until 2:20 in the afternoon, so I was grateful to find a friend to do a bit of touring (and coffee drinking) in Hania with, while I (impatiently) passed the time until her arrival.

Negotiating old Cretan cities alone, by rental car, is not my specialty, so it took me a bit longer to get to the airport than I’d hoped—I was already nearly 20 minutes late. And, rushing into the lobby, I didn’t see Krista. I looked around a bit, retrieved my computer to confirm her arrival time, and wondered. The little Hania airport has no “arrivals” board posted, so, eventually, I asked about the 2:20 flight; “there’s no such flight,” they told me. I considered the options, and decided that perhaps I had the flights departure time—and that she’d arrive at 3:15 on the next flight in from Athens.

Then I ran into some folks from my meeting—Zachary from Chicago and Enoch from Uganda, and we had a nice visit. (I had been feeling bad that I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to them.)

After 3:15 passed, I began to get more suspicious. So I logged on to Facebook, to see if there might be any update there. Sure enough, she’d made it to Athens (a relief). But a new discovery: she was waiting for me in the Heraklion airport, on the other side of Crete, not in the Hania airport!

The drive along the coast is lovely—the new national highway skirts the coastline for much of the journey. Greek driving is a bit of a trip—lanes seem more like suggestions than regulations, and people are bold in passing. But then, the cars are all like tiny, toy cars, so there’s space.

Then came the best gift ever: Krista, waiting watchfully outside the airport as dusk was falling on eastern Crete, ready to hop into my car. It’s possible that I’ve never been more thrilled to see her.

Time with Krista, exploring rural Crete, is well worth airport confusion.


Here are a few snapshots of adventures yesterday:

The beautiful south Crete countryside, a patchwork of olive groves.

A tiny church tucked in the bottom of a dramatic gorge. There was a well-built path down to the church, which is just above a set of waterfalls (on the Megalopotamus River, according to my guide. Second coolest name I’ve encountered on Crete). The icon inside showed the saint it’s named for, Saint Nicholas of Somewhere, standing near these falls.

Up in the mountains here, the village of Spili is a beautiful destination, with all the treats a tourist could ask for: cute shops with locally made things, fun restaurants (serving up tasty mountain snails), a fountain offering fresh spring water in abundance through 24 lion heads and striking church buildings (one, next to our lunch spot, with a funeral procession by foot to the local graveyard).

sweeter than the drippings of the honeycomb

I’m now on the “vacation” portion of my trip, but thought I would share a few more thoughts about my meeting:

Every morning in our hotel, the breakfast set out for us included a giant bowl of honey. The picture here doesn’t immediately give a clear sense—the spoon is a large serving spoon. I’ve always enjoyed honey, but this plentiful sharing seemed to take it to a new level. I cannot imagine ever needing that much honey—an overabundance, like grace. Sweet.

Closing worship at the Faith and Order Plenary was particularly meaningful. I’ve been wondering about what it was that made it so—a number of things were special. Here are my guesses of things that helped: the chairs were rearranged from a classroom style (with desks) to a circular setting (no desks). The music was rehearsed before worship began. We’d lived together for a week, and there was a sense (even in our meetings) that we’d come together significantly over the time. And, for me, the worship style was most familiar, with a thoughtful, beautiful and challenging sermon at the center, preached by just such a woman. Earlier in the gathering, worship felt like a weak part of our time together—strained and stifled by our differences. And our tiredness (as we worshiped all together in the evening, after long days…). It was lovely to end in worship that was life-giving.

Oh, and just as we sang “Come Holy Spirit,” the sound of rain falling on the rooftop added assurance of God’s rain-like grace.

Monday, October 12, 2009

eating together

The meetings continue, but with some significant breaks; yesterday (Sunday) we passed time in worship, some tourism and (most significantly, perhaps) eating together.

In the morning we worshiped at on Orthodox cathedral. Because so many priests (including Bishops and Metropolitans) are here, it was Divine Liturgy with an abundance of clergy support. The experience of the worship was powerful: the cathedral itself offered rich visual surroundings, with modern frescoes and beautiful, ornate icons. The chanting of the liturgy created an amazing auditory experience of the holy, and incense only added more rich, sensory depth.

It is, of course, lamentable that we could not share at the communion table; I did, however, enjoy the moments where all people were particularly involved in worship. As we said the Nicene Creed and Lord’s Prayer, each in our own home languages, I felt a taste of the wonderful, global and diverse richness of the Body of Christ.

After worship, we enjoyed our Greek Feast One. At a beautiful restaurant on the sea, wrapped in floor to ceiling windows with a view of the blue water and striking mountains, we feasted on course after course of rich Greek food. Stuffed, we then headed to hotels for a break. Then, we visited a women’s monastery, enjoying their warm hospitality (including a delicious yogurt snack). And, after a stop at a patriotic site, Greek Feast Two. Featuring the same, three-plate, multi-course feast as lunchtime, the bountiful meal seemed almost absurd in its abundance. I suppose that’s why so many talk of Greek hospitality… Like lunch, this Feast included folk dancers, but in the evening, they invited us into the dancing action. A delightful time.

And, it seems to me, it has made us all friendlier with one another in our meetings—funny how good table fellowship changes us.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

that's what I'm talking about

It is now time for afternoon coffee, and I'm attempting to upload a YouTube prayer to share at Water's Edge tomorrow; the internet slows considerably when we're on break, as many folks here get out their laptops and go online to connect to the world. I wonder how many of us are on FaceBook...

Today has been a bit more fun for me; I'm hopeful that's not just because I get to talk. We've been spending much of the day in our "working groups" of 12 or so people. My group includes (besides me) folks from Orthodox, Reform, Seventh-Day Adventist, Roman Catholic, and African-institued church traditions. We are from the US, Canada, Nigeria, Germany, Denmark, Russia, Albania, India and Cyprus. It's a trip to know how varied and rich the Body of Christ is, especially given that our small group is barely a beginning point.

We talked for part of the day on the "moral discernment" question I mentioned yesterday--after nearly an hour, I think we began to settle into the assignment, looking at the dynamics at play in a case study imagining a discussion taking place among Anglicans about homosexuality. I found it pretty interesting to look at a conversation not entirely unlike ones I shared in at General Conference, but with an eye to the larger dynamics at play.

This afternoon, we've been talking about the early church fathers. I admit to having studied only the early church mothers in seminary...but am intrigued, admitting to my own interest in the life of the early church. When we're stuck in battles about "traditional" church, my experience has too often been that we mean, like, the 1950's traditional church. The vitality, depth and insight of the earliest church is helpful in giving a much longer view...

My roommate and I indulged this afternoon, during our rest time after lunch: we shared a Coke. Well, most of a Coke. Funny how strange and sugary it tastes when you've not had any for a while...

Friday, October 09, 2009

ecumenical listening

It's the morning of day three here in Crete--another beautiful day. And, I'm grateful for the beautiful location here on the seashore--the fresh breezes make it much easier to tolerate long days of listening.

Not that I think listening is a bad idea--it's just been that, in these early days, we have lots of presentations to us and little chance for talking about them together. Except, of course, at coffee breaks, which are (thankfully) regular. And outdoors.

Last night we had a caucus of the Methodists here--while I'm one of only two United Methodists, there are folks from Methodist churches in Ireland, southern Africa, Bolivia, Argentinia, Malaysia and more. It was good to meet each other, and to share some of the things we peculiar and Methodist people experience at gatherings like this. I treasure the openness of our communion table, for example--a theological practice that separates us from others. Never suffering from the illusion taht we've got a corner on what it means to be "true Church," we're happy to play with others. And, then, feel a bit rejected when they've got reasons they won't play with us...

Tomorrow, we launch into discussions of how the churches handle moral issues. We'll be using case studies, in an attempt to give us ways to analyze and discuss how we come to discern positions on divise issues. My group will look at a fictional case study of (real) division in the Anglican church over understanding of homosexuality. I'm interested to see if it's possible to talk about how we come to understandings of human sexuality without actually talking about those understandings--do you think we can do this analysis in some kind of removed perspective? My small group reflects the diversity here: young and old, from Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant perspectives, from Asia, the Middle East, Europe, the Americas and Africa. Should be wild.

And I confess that a good part of me just wants to start talking. Enough of this listening to speakers in big groups...

Oh, and the baklava is heavenly.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

getting there

Some highlights from day one in Greece:
-A visit from the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, including a generous speech that urged ecological faithfulness, justice and the work toward the Kingdom of God.
-The excited buzz around this visit, including accompanying police, red cross and other dignitaries.
-A local mayor named Polychronis Polychronidis (coolest mayor name ever!) who noted the area’s emphasis on sustainable development.
-That the Orthodox Academy uses the same plastic pitchers we have at my church, only, instead of ice water, they fill them with a slightly-sweet red wine that can be dangerously intoxicating (even in small quantities) after 24+ hours of travel.
-The way a nation of lots of islands and peninsulas makes being situated on the sea coast a possibility for whole lots of people.

Now that we’ve made it through all the very-important ceremonial beginnings to a formal meeting, I’m eager to see what discussion tomorrow may bring. Oh, and I’m eager for sleep. Good night!

jet lag?

It has been far too long since I updated you, dear blog. And so much has happened—almost so much that it feels like we’ve totally lost touch with each other. But I’m hopeful that you’ll welcome me back; I’ve just landed in Athens on an ecumenical adventure, and I think it just might be fun to share.

Since we’ve been apart, I confess to having a lot of fun without you. See, I had these grace-filled 8 weeks away from normal life this summer, on a Renewal Leave. Getting to be the officiant for my dear friend Sean’s wedding to Rosa in Tiburon was beautiful. Time in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park was amazing. Hiking the John Muir Trail in the California Sierras for 20 days was particularly fabulous: a wonderful immersion in the beauty of this crazy world and an escape from many of the things that demand my time most days. I took my watercolors and a lot of time on that hike.

Evolution Range, originally uploaded by Matthew San Diego.

Then I came back to work—and jumped right in. With my beloved senior pastor having a couple of minor heart attacks, I found myself awfully useful around the church. And that busy-ness has carried me right up to my current string of adventures: a trip to Lake Junaluska in North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains for a General Board of Church and Society board meeting and a visit to Waffle House, leading Clergy Convocation for our Annual Conference in Palm Springs, featuring Lauren Winner, whose writing I’ve enjoyed and admired.

WAFFLE HOUSE, originally uploaded by xrahy.

Also, I entered my Jesus Year: I’m now as old as he ever was. I’ve not yet fully reflected on what this means for me, but suspect it should mean something.

And, now, a trip to Greece.

I’m here as a delegate to the World Council of Churches Faith and Order Plenary, which meets this week at the Orthodox Academy outside of Chania on Crete. I’m not entirely clear how I came to be an official part of this gathering of 120 theologians from various church bodies around the world, but suspect it has something to do with my participation in our US National Council of Churches Faith and Order work a few years back. On my way to this meeting, I confess to holding skepticism and enthusiasm in balance. I retired (at age 28) from F&O work in the US because I didn’t feel like it was where God was calling me—the official discussions seemed pretty far removed from things that mattered in local contexts, and the vibe in the meetings wasn’t particularly welcoming to young people or new ideas. I think formal ecumenical work is important—our unity in Christ’s body is pretty fundamental—but wish for it to connect more to where I feel God calling me to be at work.

So here I am: a delegate to this gathering. And, from the preparatory paperwork, this looks to be a darn fine meeting. There are significant numbers of younger people coming to participate, and the scheduled presentations and discussions look darn interesting. And, really: how cool is it to have time and space to talk theology with church leaders from so many Christian traditions and places around the world?

I admit a bit of insecurity, given that I’m not as steeped in the language of ecumenism as might be helpful. But, I suppose, that’s a good reason to remember humility and to rest on the Spirit!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

sabbatical craftiness

It's been lovely to have extra time for making things (including, Matt will certainly tell you, a crafty mess of our house...). Having decided a while ago that I like imagining projects almost as much as actually making them, I have also realized that I respond well to deadlines.

So, these past weeks have included some crafting of decor and supplies for my dear neighbor, Marian's expected twins, and some preserving of the cucumbers that just keep growing in the front yard.

Marian brought me the fun challenge of a tattered old family quilt, material for upcycling into new things for the babies.
I also finally acted on my schemes of clever diaper bags, making this one out of some beautiful fabric her husband brought from travels in Asia, and from a thrifted pair of orange pants.

And, though it's 'cause I left them on the vine a little long, I think the yellow colors in these cucumbers look awfully lovely in their dilly brine. (Props to Lea and Marian for pickle assistance.)

my (very) brief career as a wedding florist

When Matt's sister was married earlier this summer, I convinced her and myself that it would be fun to be her florist.
I learned that I had no real idea what kind of work it is to get flowers together for a wedding. Especially one with 7 bridesmaids and 9 groomsmen... It's a lot of work.
But, thanks to training, advice and tireless help from my friend Jay, who is a real florist, it all worked. And, with flowers from a Vista grower (through the Farmer's Market), greens from my yard and the Parker family home, and many helpers, we made it a local, homegrown affair. (And all that's not to mention the tasty, homemade cupcakes and custom-drilled cupcake carriers others provided...)
While it's delightful to play with beautiful things, I can't quite imagine that busy-ness every weekend.
So, now I can add another item to the list of cool-sounding jobs I don't really want. And I have some new skills at arranging flowers for around the house. :)
Anyone need a boutonniere?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

little and unexpected

I'm currently enjoying the blessing of an 8-week Renewal Leave. It's lovely to have some time of sabbath. Perhaps I'll even take time to fill in some of the lovely things since my last blog post.

For today, though, I have just this little, unexpected thing to share: a wild orchid found this past week in Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park.(Fingers included for scale.)
I'd hoped this would be the rare Calpyso Orchid, namesake for the Calypso Cascades near which I found this beauty. The internet tells me it is not; it is a Spotted Coralroot Orchid, lovely in its own right.

I'm still marveling at the realization that orchids grow wild in the Rockies. And that something so small can be so intricate, that something so lovely can thrive out of decaying wood, and at what worlds become visible to me when I take time to look.

Friday, June 05, 2009

like school

I just realized, with great delight, that my life once again has some of the things I most miss from school: friends that live nearby and come over often. When I left seminary, I grieved the passing of the time when I lived in the same complex as many loved ones (who even had been known to come into my apartment and make coffee before I was awake. Gee, I still miss Colleen). College was very cool that way, too.

So, leaving school, I assumed it was a quality of living that belonged to those times and places.

Sometimes I wonder how different my dear husband's school experience is, never having lived on campus.

In any case, now the two of us find ourselves in a lovely place, grateful for good friends who come by regularly. Or who let us come over to their houses (especially to play RockBand). Ah, the good life.

Thanks, friends.


On another subject (which connects in my mind, but may seem less obvious to you), I confess that I was checking out the statistics of who's been on this blog and learned that someone visited it after a google search for "how to make an invisibility cloak." How rad is that?!?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Normal Heights Community Meal

Free dinner is exciting, no?

I'm feeling pretty grateful to good folks from my church and from the Normal Heights UMC, for providing gracious hospitality and good food in our third free neighborhood family meal tonight.

And, I'm especially grateful to my dear husband who caught the excitement in pixels.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I've been having fun playing with flowers lately; I'm getting ready to be florist (and preacher) for Emily's wedding next month. Which gives me more lovely excuses for arranging beautiful things I find in local gardens.
Molly's Flowers
Molly's Flowers

Saturday, May 02, 2009

new toys

What a weekend it's been--two exciting new toys for craft adventure.  :)

Matt tried the chainsaw jig we ordered to make it possible to mill the trees we've had to cut down on the property.  The potential uses of this gorgeous oak could fill my imagination for hours...  The first goal, though, is turning it into useful things.  Like balusters for the balcony railing.
And (I have no idea why it took me this long) I finally tried my hand at free-motion quilting.  With my new $5 darning foot, I've now reaching something like quilting perfection in finding a quilting technique that's fast, fun and doesn't require precision.  Oh, the joy!  Here's me in my pajamas, playing away this morning.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

making the weekend fun

I had fun being crafty this past weekend.  Folks brought some beautiful garden flowers to church on Sunday.  It was Karen's birthday, too, which gave me a lovely excuse to put them into a bouquet for her.
And, her birthday provided the push I needed to follow through with a long-planned craft adventure: reclaiming an old book by tearing its pages out and making it into a journal.
I'm still amused at the idea of a journal called "Think before you write."  ;)

I finally planted the front yard with summer crops, too, but I didn't take any pictures of that yet.  I'm growing baby corns, which has me pretty excited...

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

in print

Yesterday and today, I've been having a bit of fun with some little printmaking projects.

One was impromptu, cooked up to salvage a sheet that was oddly stained with navy blue residue in a bunch of places.  It's going to become a wrap-around skirt.
I'm feeling good about the double fortune of using a near-rotten yam to make some stained fabric useful.  I hope Marian doesn't mind about the state of the yam used on her skirt.

I also finally made the seat covers I planned last fall, for our backyard chairs.  (My procrastination was augmented by my need to wait for some nice, big, fresh fig leaves to use as stamps.)

Sometimes I wonder why I wait until Holy Week, when I have plenty of extra and special church projects to be working on, to finally get around to craft projects.  (It's nothing new, but I still wonder.)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

open trails and hidden treasure

This past week, Matt has been on spring break, so we decided to take a bit of  adventure.  Having begun plans for an epic summer backpacking adventure on the John Muir Trail, we thought it would be good to get a little practice 'packing in.  Mostly for my benefit.

So, within the space of a week, I hiked a bit on both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.  Pretty wild.  (Some bits wilder than others.)  And, I got different blisters on each.

I also got to try something new that had been intriguing me: geocaching.  Using the GPS coordinates, we found 3 hidden caches on our  hike.  (We tried a fourth, but failed; geocaching near turkey hunters makes me nervous.)  Here are two pics of our happy finds.

Then, yesterday, when one of Matt's friends came to town, we decided to try a bit of geocaching adventure in La Jolla.  I'm thinking this is a really splendid way to spend time outdoors, explore new areas, and learn some stuff about them, too.  Plus, we learned that there's a cave in La Jolla accessible by a long tunnel dug through the rock, with an entrance in a little antique store.  Who knew?!?

I'm looking forward to trying some of the caches that come with riddles.  

How did I not realize there were magical treasure hunts all over the place?!?

Friday, March 27, 2009

spring in three frames

Washington, DC was beginning to break into spring.  This saucer magnolia blew me away.  It was just a block or so from our hotel.  
I admit, though, great joy in returning to San Diego, where the early evening still was warm enough to be coatless as I waited for Matt to pick me up at the airport.
And, I love being back in my crazy little neighborhood, where I can catch a Chinese dragon rehearsal on a Saturday afternoon if I'm lucky.  They didn't have the costume on, but it's still a good time.

wonderings and wanderings

I hiked a piece of the AT with my brother. It wasn’t at all like I’d imagined: flat and in the company of humans. The piece closest to his home runs across a valley between the edge ridges of the Appalachian Mountains and the end of the Blue Ridge. There, in central Pennsylvania, the trail makes its way across farms, above marshy lowlands on a wooden walkway, across an interstate highway on the shoulder of 4-lane overpass, and above the Pennsylvania Turnpike on a concrete walkway.
My brother maintains this is the most “honest” section of the AT: it keeps us from romantic ideas of wildness, separated from human life and development. It also reminds him of the footpaths he enjoyed while living in England—public ways maintained by foot, opening up pathways through farmlands and private property. There, as in the other bits of Europe I’ve experienced, nature’s beauty doesn’t depend on our strange American notions of wilderness landscapes requiring the editing out of human interventions. But our wild lands, at least in my imagination, are only truly wild when I can cut development out of the frame.
The hike seemed even more honest, coming the day after he showed me a film he’d planned to use in the classroom, teaching about sustainability in a global context: Manufactured Landscapes. An exploration of Edward Burtinsky’s strikingly beautiful and unsettling photographs of landscapes created by modern human industry. Red rivers of copper mining trailings, monstrous and oddly squared-off canyons carved in granite mines, the endless stretch of a Chinese factory and its masses of their employees, the geometric patterns of masses of e-waste piled in a dump—the images capture an unmistakable beauty in a landscape that embarrasses.

I finished Michael Pollan’s Second Nature on this trip, too, and have been considering my own framework for care for the earth. I like the clarity with which he suggests a way past the dominant message of nature conservation, which seems to believe that a pristine environment, free of the taint of human interaction, could be preserved. (And, hiking through a state park made of second-growth pines replanted after 19th-century cast-iron factories burned the earlier trees to fuel their furnaces, I see a certain short-sightedness and forgetfulness in the idea, too.) A garden, he suggests, might be a better metaphor for nature: a realm to be tended for its beauty as well as its usefulness, and from which to gratefully draw things that will sustain our lives.

In the creation-care class at my church, someone raised the idea of the goodness and beauty of creation, at its beginning—suggesting a call to work at restoring Eden. While I like most things circular (restoration, recreation and renewal, for example), I also want to give resistance to the idea that we need to get back to the good old days, to repair things the way they used to be. I feel God drawing us forward—not to replacing what was, but to reimagining what could be. A spiral, perhaps, demanding our full engagement in cultivating ways to care for each other and the earth.

In Washington, with church folks charged to help implement the social principles we say we stand for as a United Methodist Church, we talked some about the impact of our present environmental crises on the world’s poor—on people already made vulnerable by economic systems that keep them out of power. In the present climate of economic crisis, it’s far too tempting to forget the poor, and just focus on protecting ourselves, or the people we know who are like us. If there are going to be bail-outs, we know we don’t want them to go to AIG executives, but we are skeptical that there will really be enough for everyone, so we’d just as soon protect our pension plans and investments.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve lost sleep over the mess I’m in, having taken out a mortgage I worry about being able to keep up with, on a house now worth half of what I owe. For now, though, I’m trying to remain grateful that I can pay that mortgage, that I have a decent place to live, and some space to grow some of my own food.

I’m glad for this church meeting, for helping lift my gaze beyond my own yard, to reconnect to my belonging in a global body of Christ, unbounded by national borders or economic systems. We advocate for serious climate control legislation, eager to find a way of living on this planet that won’t put us all—and, particularly, the poorest among us—in eminent danger.

Conversation among our politicians seems to have settled on carbon trading as the “feasible” solution for our time. And, yet, it leaves me unsettled: as our international economy proves itself insecure, do we really want to rely on the market to shape our solution to carbon emissions? And, what kind of strange values are embodied in the creation of a market for the trade of the right to destroy our environment in measurable increments?

As the global poor suffer disproportionately the effects of our industry’s carbon emissions, what recourse or remediation to they have in such a market?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

broken things

I’m flying home from a meeting of our General Board of Church and Society (more about this later), in Washington, DC. The flight has been long enough to read a book I’d been wanting to read, and it moved me.

Sara Miles’ Take This Bread honors the mysterious, transformative power of sharing in the body of Christ—communion, wherever it can be found, meeting the hungers of our world. Our faith us bodily—at the center of our worship is Christ’s broken body, giving us life. Church is real when we become the bread.

I’m looking forward to our congregation’s planned community family meals at the Normal Heights church just after Easter. I’m eager and hopeful that they will be communion, too. I’ve been frustrated and disappointed with myself that it’s taken us long to get to this place where we will host them.

But, I remind myself again, that mystery is really, quite completely, beyond our control. This past week, I was playfully and seriously advocating attempts at relinquishing control. (Really, that’s already a given; I just need help remembering not to waste my time seeking after the illusion of control…)

I struggle, though, at knowing what it looks like to press on and to organize, without ever believing I’m in control. I still remember deep frustration with a then-boyfriend who refused to work on things: “It’ll work out if it’s meant to be,” he said, shrugging off my attempts to negotiate real obstacles in our relationship. I don’t ever mean to abdicate responsibility, but I do mean to tap into a confidence, power and hope that doesn’t depend on abilities alone.

At the heart of the difference is my recognition that I’m a part of God’s mystery, and a part of an unfolding story of the Church that is better than I could think up on my own.

Which, it will not surprise some of you to hear, brings me to my frustration with strategic plans, measurable outcomes and annual assessments.

My UM church is anxious about its decline, and aware of the growing burden of maintaining the structures and commitments we have in place. “Ineffective” clergy are often blamed for our problems, as we continue to lose numbers of members, and struggle to employ those we have ordained. We all know folks who we judge to be ineffective, who seem to be doing just enough to get by and wish they could afford to retire. But, really, they’re not the folks around me. The clergy I know well are dedicated, hard-working, imaginative, often-frustrated innovators, doing the best of what they can to be in faithful ministry in a compliated world.

I have this sense that we’ve created a good part of the problem. And, I think our efforts to help clarify the problem have made it worse: I blame our systems of assessment.

Periodic evaluation of our effectiveness is a good thing—self-reflection and conversation with others to talk through the ways we’ve failed and succeeded helps us grow in ministry, and remain faithful to God’s call.

Mostly, though, I think we reduce our serious evaluation to things that are easier to count and further from the heart of what gives us life. We chart changes in attendance and membership, count hours spent in continuing education opportunities, and ask what measurable objectives we have pursued.

Ministry has never seemed to me to be something I could measure in a quantitative sense: the most wondrous, transformative bits defy objective analysis. Like the oft-celebrated heart-warming experience of John Wesley, the best stuff exists just beyond our reach. Sometimes, it takes years to take root. Other times, I get to step into someone’s life just in time to see a dramatic conversion that was years and many earlier communities in the making.

To be asked to reflect on those interactions and then to fill in rather trivial, fact-like details makes me feel like the church doesn’t trust me, and also like the body of Christ has missed the point.

In the end, we have to trust each other—that what we’re doing is a part of something impossible to measure, made real in relationships and lives that cannot be quantified in objective terms. The pressure to “factify”—to reduce the unquantifiable into something that can be carefully and seemingly objectively measured—is constraining us by keeping us focused on things that don’t really matter.

Besides, I’m still on my soapbox about our distraction with anxiety over death of the United Methodist Church, all while we’re preaching freedom from our slavery to sin and death in our communion liturgy and in Christ’s resurrection.  

It's almost Holy Week.  As good a time as I know to think about brokenness, to reflect on what is at the core of our faith and practice and to make a change.  Thoughts?

Sunday, March 15, 2009


How did you celebrate Pi Day?

I attempted what I believe to be my first totally-whole-wheat pie crust.  With apricots inside.  Clearly, my crust-making skills could use some perfection...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

flowers in the yard

Spring has come to San Diego, and I'm enjoying the chance to play with flowers from the yard.  I've been enjoying the delightful distraction of learning more about flower arranging, occasioned by my plans to be the florist for a family wedding this summer.  It's nice to have excuses for spending time with beautiful things.  This past week, the poppies and irises started blooming, and they're lovely.
And, this week, we finally finished the giant head of cauliflower we picked out of the front yard.  That's a whole lotta cauliflower.  
And now it's time to dream of summer gardens.  The tomato seeds are germinating away in their starter trays...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

deep thoughts after a friday afternoon trip to the beach

There are so many incredible particularities about our world.  

Like the beautiful way the waves tenderly drape bright green seaweed on water-smoothed rocks.
In stopping to enjoy this beauty, though, one risks getting wet, as the waves don't pause in the same way.

There are worse things that squishy socks on a beautiful beach.