Monday, December 31, 2007
OK, Everyone, we have a lot of new guests at the party, let's show 'em some real revgals hospitality! Bring a beverage of your choice and enjoy!
Georgia girl, moved to the City. Episcopal priest, sometimes writer,and, of course, motivated coffee drinker. Meet: sarah.
I am a graduate student of counseling psychology & theology. Almost done with this dual master's program, only to seek out a chance to master the divine. Ok, so maybe that's not possible...but I am entering the discernment process for ordination in The Episcopal Church this winter. Meet: Eliza.
I am a 52 year old grandmother back in college, so I can go to seminary. Graduation is in sight: May 2008. I received a positive entrance decision for candidacy in the ELCA. We will explore various aspects of faith that I am passionate about, causes I care about etc. I will post devotional items as well as interesting articles I find. I have a particular concern for the Holy Land and the Arab people living there. I lived there for 6 1/2 years in the 80s. Meet: Ivy.
Second career pastor...Cat lover...Passionately Purple...Walking, sometimes slower sometimes faster, with the Spirit... I quietly, live on the edge...the edge of new possibilites in worship, in spirituality, in biblical studies. Meet: PS.
I am a thirty-something ordained minister of the Christian Church(Disciples of Christ). I grew up in Corpus Christi, TX and attended Texas Christian Univeristy and Brite Divinity School in Ft. Worth, TX. My family and I are recent transplants to Washington State. Meet: Rochelle.
Follower of the Way, Husband, Father, Pastor, Blogger. I am Joe Tiedemann. A United Methodist pastor who currently resides in Central New Jersey and is the pastor of an old church and a new church. Trinity United Methodist Church in Spotswood has been around for over 125 years and is a small church in a small town with a big ministry. Monroe Community Church is a church that was planted in 2003 and (more or less) launched at Easter in 2006. You can read more about the ministries at their respective websites or come for a visit. Meet: Joe.
There is a t-shirt that says "Born in Maine, Living in Exile." I lived in "exile" (actually a very nice place) for 32 years, and returned to Maine in 2005. That's not necessarily what all this is about, just the only title I could think of at the time. Meet: AuntieKnickers.
I'm a Midwest Scandinavian gal (yah sure, ya betcha!) who answered God's crazy call to be a pastor. Currently I am the pastor of a small Lutheran parish centered in a small town in North Dakota. I'm married to a great guy who has joined me in this wild and wooly calling of ordained ministry, and together we are the parents of a little girl, our miracle baby. Meet: P.S..
Sunday, December 30, 2007
What did your congregation sing on this 6th day of Christmas?
Did you place a hymn video on your blog of what you sang or heard today that was inspiring? If so, post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation:
<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.
We pray for all those whom we have named aloud in this place today, and those whose needs are tucked away in the recesses of the human spirit. God, we are skilled at ignoring our own needs, but sometimes those are the ones most in demand of our time and attention.
Help us as we balance the needs of a hurting world with the ache that hides in the corners of our own souls. Both need your Light. Both are worthy of your blessing. Your grace is more than enough to reach any hurt, any wound, any pain. We give you thanks and praise, O God.
God, we pray that this Christmas will be a time of searching and finding…
…that the baby in the manger will allow us to move from reason to wonder, from intellect to spirit, from doctrine to Mystery – in all its liberating power.
As we observe the child Jesus, remind us God that he has been born again for more than adoration. He comes also to confront and challenge.
May the child in the manger guide us to a greater understanding of our call to be your Light in the world – pointing the way toward freedom from oppression, poverty and fear. May your light shine in us as it shone through Jesus, who taught us to pray together saying…
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
It is hard to believe, but 2007 is about to be history, and this is our last Friday Five of the year.
With that in mind, share five memorable moments of 2007. These can be happy or sad, profound or silly, good or bad but things that you will remember.
Bonus points for telling us of a "God sighting"-- a moment when the light came through the darkness, a word was spoken, a song sung, laughter rang out, a sermon spoke to you in a new way--whatever you choose, but a moment in 2007 when you sensed Emmanuel, God with us. Or more particularly, you.
Let us know in comments if you play. Post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation:
<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>
For a complete how-to, click here.
Happy New Year!
Thursday, December 27, 2007
We have an older woman who has bounced 4 or 5 offering cheques this year—two of them this month. What is the best way to approach her?
Directly—but with the attitude that you are concerned about the charges she is incurring by bouncing checks. Try to open the door to a conversation about the stewardship of her personal resources.
Perhaps she could use a non-profit service that helps people with budgeting (not one of those debt consolidation businesses who end up with the money + interest). Bouncing checks is a sign that she is in over her head—and may not know how to get out of it. Giving to the church as much as she is giving may be too much.
2008 is almost here!
We have a few loose-end questions that I hope to run in January, but in the meantime, we invite your questions about things you're experiencing in your ministry! Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. All queries are kept confidential.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
And since we are an extended family, I'll use this Boxing Day to ask you to type in the little BOX and tell us about your Advent and Christmas celebrations, thoughts, and writings. It will be ever so easy for us to visit your blogs for these if you will use the following formulation:
<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here.
Kicking off our Boxing Day posts...Songbird shares her traditional recipe for Baked Cheese Grits. Yum! What are you eating, doing, thinking, praying today? Let us hear from you!
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
I’d always known the story of the massacre of the innocents, but I don’t think I had ever given it much thought, until. Until I was in Italy some18 years ago and saw painting after painting depicting the horror.
And so here it is, in the lectionary, right where it should be, after the birth of Jesus.
I am struck by just how much Jesus’ people sacrificed, without their consent, for him. For this messiah who did not turn out to be the one they expected.
It’s easy to choose another passage for this week, but in my congregation that’s the text we’ll be hearing. And I have mixed feelings about that. On the one hand, there is enough horror in our world. On the other hand, this is the cycle of the church year, and if we edit out the unpleasant parts, what does that say about us?
What will you be preaching this Sunday?
Translated from the Polish
While the innocents were being massacred who says
that flowers didn’t bloom, that the air didn’t breather bewildering scents
that birds didn’t rise to the heights of their most accomplished songs
that young lovers didn’t twine in love’s embraces
But would it have been fitting if a scribe of the time had shown this
and not the monstrous uproar on a street drenched with blood
the wild screams of mothers with infants torn from their arms
the scuffling, the senseless laughter of soldiers
aroused by the touch of women’s bodies and young breast warm with milk
Flaming torches tumbled down stone steps
there seemed no hope of rescue
and violent horror soon gave way to the still more awful numbness of despair
At that moment covered by the southern night’s light shadow
a bearded man leaning on a staff and a girl with a child in her arms
were fleeing lands ruled by the cruel tyrant
carrying the world’s hope to a safer place
beneath silent stars in which these events had been recorded centuries ago
Monday, December 24, 2007
...a Christmas prayer.
When the world was dark
and the city was quiet,
You crept in beside us.
And no one knew.
Only the few
who dared to believe
that God might do something different.
Will you do the same this Christmas, Lord?
Will you come into the darkness of tonight/today's world;
not the friendly darkness
as when sleep rescues us from tiredness,
but the fearful darkness,
in which people have stopped believing
that war will end
or that food will come
or that a government will change
or that the Church cares?
Will you come into that darkness
and do something different
to save your people from death and despair?
Will you come into the quietness of this city/town,
not the friendly quietness
as when lovers hold hands,
but the fearful silence when
the phone has not rung,
the letter has not come,
the friendly voice no longer speaks,
the doctor's face says it all?
Will you come into that darkness,
and do something different,
not to distract, but to embrace your people?
And will you come into the dark corners
and the quiet places of our lives?
We ask this not because we are guilt-ridden
or want to be,
but because the fullness of our lives long for
depends on us being as open and vulnerable to you
as you were to us
when you came,
wearing no more than diapers,
and trusting human hands
to hold their maker.
Will you come into our lives,
if we open them to you
and do something different?
When the world was dark
and the city was quiet
You crept in beside us.
Do the same this Christmas, Lord.
Do the same this Christmas.
What are your prayers, hopes, and dreams this Christmas? In what way might Christ creep in beside you? However that may be, whatever your pain, sorrow, or joys this day, may the light of Christ warm your heart.
Michelle: Whenever I finish a new book that's deeply engaged me, there is always a moment of sadness. As my youngest is fond of saying when a book is done, "It's empty, Mom!" Music never empties itself out in quite the same way for me. Listening to Handel's Messiah the other day, I realized I was still making new discoveries after 45 years! Here is some music I'm still enjoying discovering:
For hope in all seasons, listen to Esperanto (on Kaleidoscope by Sean Jones) I love the litany of Holies at the end of this song. Holy vision, holy mission....
Tripp at Conjectural Navel Gazing led me to discover Gaelic Storm this year. Their modern take on Celtic music has given me the energy to drive many miles this fall! Try Herding Cats or Special Reserve. My favorite, with songs in Gaelic, is How Are We Getting Home?
Relaxing with a mug of cocoa between the children's Christmas Eve service and the 9 pm service? All caroled out? Listen to the Mediaeval Baebes' Mistletoe & Wine - seasonal, relaxing but still sounds like Christmas.
For classical buffs, consider Jennifer Higdon's Piano Trio, Voices and Impressions. The pieces Grace and Quiet Art are soft, gentle but carefully layered. Lay on the floor and listen with your eyes closed! Higdon began as a flutist, but moved into composing, and I can hear this in some of her sparer compositions. Her compositions, though modern in their sound, are not atonal, but keep to the traditional tonalities. A chemistry colleague who organizes a chamber music society on my campus pointed me to these contemporaries of Brahms and Mahler: Walter Rabl and Josef Labor. Rabl composed in the style of Brahms and Schumann, and though considered by Brahms to be a talented composer, early on moved onto choral directing and ceased to compose. Hear Rabl's prize winning chamber composition for clarinet, cello, violin and piano on Twilight of the Romantics. Ecuadorian composer Diego Luzuriaga brings Central American rythyms to classical music. The vocals on El Munda da Vueltas are haunting. (Full disclosure, the composer is a fellow parent soccer player!).
For the younger set, try Rhinoceros Tap - with lyrics by children's book author Sandra Boynton. I have a fond spot in my heart for Boynton; when I was writing my doctoral thesis, one of her cards was a perfect illustration - and when I wrote to ask to use it, she kindly granted me permission. If you haven't discovered Trout Fishing in America, now might be the moment. My family's favorite song is Six - where even the math phobic can get it right. The answer's always six, no matter how hard the problem. Six is on My World.
Cathy: One of the investments I made this year is an inexpensive docking station for my Ipod and oh my goodness, it has opened up the possibilities for me and making my music more available. I can put all my music in one place and hit the shuffle button and be along my merry way!
This download is an easy listening CD of Celtic Harp music - the beauty of it to me is the diversity of their origin - music throughout the world and ages all played on a harp. Light a candle, sit by the fire and chill, Celtic Christmas Harp will offer you the opportunity to relax.
Many of you know and share my love for the sounds of Anonymous 4 - how come I missed this one? Christmas Music From Medieval Hungary If you like Christmas music you can play all year round and no one knows it is Christmas music, then this may be right up your alley. As for me, the mere fact it is Anonymous 4 makes it a winner for me.
And Christmas With The Rat Pack will offer a nostalgic blast for those of us who remember them on television. Nothing but the classic standards with Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, and Frank Sinatra. I'll be Home for Christmas brings tears to my eyes every time.
I don't know how many of you have used Pandora to listen to an assortment of music from specific genres, but this is the way I have found many a CD in which I may have not been familiar - this particular CD kept up coming on my list and every time I heard the music I would want to know what is this? I like it! If I mention Seeger, it might pique your interest if you are a fan of Pete Seeger - and I believe these are family members who are featured on this Cd of American Folk Songs for Christmas. , this 2 CD set (again MP3 downloadable) has MANY American Christmas songs in which I was not familiar, but its simplicity brings a certain peace. Think of yourself on the porch with harmonica, banjo, concertina, dulcimer and jaw harp singing plain song - not a thing fancy or commercial sounding with this one.
What music accompanies your Christmas Eve - what's the background music? Are you making your own music around the piano? Share with us how music plays a part in your life during this most glorious time. You may share with us in the comments or post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation: <a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a> For a complete how-to, click here
From our homes to yours, have a a most Blessed Holiday.
For those of you who have not finished their shopping, please consider an Amazon Gift Certificate using the link on the sidebar. Revgalblogpals benefit from your purchases when you use the links both in the postings and the sidebar.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Not very far.
Can a preacher write a sermon
lit by a star?
Still writing for Christmas Eve? Join our discussion here. And have a piece of fudge. Especially if you like the kind with nuts. Because we have plenty of that. Also, a fruitcake.
I'll be back later after a family party to check in with you, and keep things going tomorrow, too.
These are two excerpts from Benjaming Brittens Carols, we didn't attempt these at my All Age Service this morning; we did sing plenty of carols though. How about you? What did you sing this morning? This evening I am leading a reflective service, with more gentle music, is anyone else doing an evening/ special service today? What type of music will you be using? Let us know in the comments.
Also remember to stay tuned for the special edition of the 11th hour preacher party for Christmas Eve!
God of the Manger, God of us all, we humbly gather our prayers before you as we prepare to celebrate Jesus’ birth. We give thanks for his life, his ministry, and the hope that his very being can represent for us.
God, we give thanks for all the goodness of the season – for families who gather in from far distances to share the holidays together… for families who cannot be together in the same physical place, but whose spirits are forever bound in the goodness of loving and happy memories of past Christmases.
We thank you for laughter, for friends, for the stories we share and the joy waiting to be unwrapped in this season of gifts and giving.
God we pray for those who are struggling today…
…for those who are walking the path of grieving and cannot bring the symbols of the season into focus. As their tears blur their vision of Christmas trees and angels in the night, we pray that your comforting presence will be known and that your Spirit will enfold all who grieve.
…we pray for all who are ill at this time of the year and whose greatest wish is for days of health and wholeness.
…we pray for those who are lonely, or struggling with addiction, and for those whose holiday memories are not happy ones. Bring a renewed sense of your love to those most in need this Christmas.
These and all of our prayers we offer at the holy place where hope is born again – the manger within each of us, where Jesus brings the light of hope to all of creation. And now we pray using the words that Jesus taught to his friends…
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
- Self 1: It should be deep and theological.
- Self 2: But it's almost Christmas, it should be fun and warm and sweet.
- Self 1: But your last Friday Five was sort of silly. You should show your more serious side.
- Self 2: You worry WAY too much!
- What was one of your favorite childhood gifts that you gave?
- What is one of your favorite Christmas recipes? Bonus points if you share the recipe with us.
- What is a tradition that your family can't do without? (And by family, I mean family of origin, family of adulthood, or that bunch of cool people that just feel like family.)
- Pastors and other church folk often have very strange traditions dictated by the "work" of the holidays. What happens at your place?
- If you could just ditch all the traditions and do something unexpected... what would it be?
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I have a parishioner who is so sensitive to scents, perfumes, fragrances, etc. that if anybody is wearing very much of a certain scent, she has to move to an entirely different part of the sanctuary before breathing becomes difficult for her.
And of course, there are two other women who tend to wear a heavy scent and/or wear it in mass quantities, usually because they have a decreased sense of smell due to past cancer treatments or simply advanced age. The sensitive parishioner has approached them both, explained her difficulty with scent, and asked them to not wear as much perfume--but it doesn't seem to be making any difference. She's now playing musical pews in order to find a place that will allow her to breathe properly. (This becomes more of a problem during church meetings, or when we are meeting in a smaller space like the chapel.)
I take perfume allergies seriously, to the point where I wear nothing stronger than deodorant on Sundays to avoid setting off someone's allergies. But I can't seem to think of a way to ask these women to back off on the perfume without causing offense. I've considered putting something about it in the bulletin as a way to enhancing hospitality to guests, but I'm sure these two women will realize that they are the primary targets of such a request. To complicate matters further, the allergic woman has a reputation for being a bit demanding, so everyone's tension levels are a bit elevated just because it's HER.
Any suggestions on how we might create an atmosphere of hospitality for all without targeting a few individuals?
We have lots of tips from the matriarchs. You can start by acting as a mediator of sorts.
Ann sympathizes with those who cringe at having to play mediator. "These situations call up all my conflict avoidance traits. The first line I would encourage is for the injured party to approach the others and say something like 'when you wear perfume, I have an allergic reaction' in a non-accusatory way." Offer to practice the "intervention," and encourage her to talk about her specific health issue (does it trigger daylong headaches? asthma?) with the offending party so that it doesn't come across as "griping."
If that doesn't work, says Peripatetic Polar Bear, you might want to delegate this to your vestry/session/board of deacons, etc. "I think when you have individual personalities involved in the situation, it's harder to be sensitive." No pun intended. "A scent-free zone could help ameliorate this—my childhood church had a scent-free zone in the balcony, due initially to a child that had a severe allergy," she continues. "If your congregational governing body agrees to try a scent-free zone, it may raise awareness as to how many people in the congregation have an issue with it."
It's important to note that this isn't a perfect solution, PPB adds. "Nobody wants to feel like they are relegated to a certain corner of the sanctuary, but it worked."
Ann also suggests bringing the governing body in, but goes a little bit further in terms of what guidelines you set. "Take the issue to your vestry or parish council. Have them talk over the issues and make a decision that will apply to all equally. Somewhere along the line smoking was probably banned from your church; how did that decision get made?"
Ann talked to her daughter, Kristin, who is also sensitive to scents, and got an interesting piece of feedback. "As someone who is allergic to most perfumes, I know that I feel very awkward asking someone directly not to wear perfume," Kristin writes. "I will stop going to an event rather than talk to someone about my needs."
PPB agrees that you don't know who else feels the same way that your squeaky wheel does. "I think you may be surprised how many people are allergic or sensitive, and just not able/willing to talk about it."
If you do create a rule that no perfume is allowed in a particular setting, be sure to explain why. "Create the rule, and make clear that the reason you have the rule is that scent allergies make people just as sick as food allergies," says Kristin. "It doesn't create a welcoming space if you make people sick."
Karen worked in a church where there was a sign in the narthex that said something along the lines of:
It didn't always work, but it at least cut down on the offending scents.
In order to welcome members of our community who have severe allergies to certain perfumes, we respectfully request that worshippers refrain from wearing heavy aftershave, cologne or scented lotions.
Have you had to handle this problem in your parish? If so, please share with us in the comments!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Just tell me what am I supposed to say
I can't change the world
But I can change the world in me
If I rejoice
Many of us celebrated last Sunday as Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete is Latin for Rejoice (the imperative form, as my house Latin scholar was pleased to note)! The first words of the old Latin entrance antiphon were "Gaudete in Domino semper " -- Rejoice in the Lord always!
Advent is a liturgical season with a long tradition. In the 6th century a 40 day fast paralleling the Lenten fast leading up to Easter was instituted. The season began on St. Martin's feast on the 11th of November, hence the old name for Advent: St. Martin's Lent. (Think of all the wonderful Advent music we could use if it were still that long.) Gregory the Great shortened the season to four weeks, but provided a liturgical richness that we still draw on.
Gaudete, gaudete! Christus est natus
Ex Maria virginæ, gaudete!
Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born
Of the Virgin Mary, rejoice!
refrain to Gaudete from the Piae CantionesIn the 16th century, the Piae Cantiones ecclesiasticae et scholasticae veterum episcoporum (Devout ecclesiastical and school songs of the old bishops) was published. This was a collection of medieval Latin songs (both sacred and secular) for the students of the Cathedral School. It's a true musical treasure, and was published in English about 100 years ago. One of the songs in the collection is Gaudete, Steeleye Span's cover of which made the pop charts in Britain in 1972 (along with Pie Jesu the only Latin song to do so).
As we await our own celebrations of the Nativity, let us rejoice, in many ways, with all these many voices, through all the long centuries:
Tempus adest gratiæThere are many versions of the original, here are few of my favorites:
Hoc quod optabamus,
It is now the time of grace
That we have desired;
Let us devoutly return
Songs of rejoicing.
- This may be as close to the original as you can get: a medley of another of my favorite Christmas motets, Personet Hodie, and Gaudete recorded using period instrumentation by a Finnish ensemble. Piae Cantiones
- I don't know if it's their name or their voices, but my favorite version is by Mediaeval Baebes
- Don't miss the Steeleye Span cover!
Ergo nostra cantio,If you want something a little less Papist, rejoice with these many splendored voices:
Psallat iam in lustro;
Salus Regi nostro.
Therefore let our choir
Now sing a hymn in purification
Let it give praise to the Lord:
greetings to our King.
- Rejoice /U2/October - yes, Bono!
- Rejoice/Chris Tomlin/See the Morning
- Rejoice/Richard Smallwood/Rejoice
- Rejoice (O Come, O Come Emmanuel)/Jim Brickman - very new age, very soothing
- Rejoice/Ladysmith Black Mambazo/Favourites - African music
- Rejoice/Danielle Rose/Mysteries
- Rejoice Greatly /Kathleen Battle and the Messiah, how can you miss?
- O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
- before you kings are silent,
- to you the nations will make their prayer:
- Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
My thanks to Mary Beth for the pointer to the IHM site reflecting on the O Antiphons. I created an iTunes iMix for the music if you want to listen to snippets that way!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19
This Sunday, we move closer to the Christmas Narratives.
What about Joseph? We don't talk about him very much, do we?
A friend of mine says, “When setting up our nativity scenes sometimes we put Joseph by the sheep until the process of elimination has us realize that the fourth shepherd over there by the pine cone is actually the father of the baby. Such a thing would NEVER happen to Mary. She is always carefully and immediately placed kneeling by the side of the manger. There are practically entire religions designed around Mary, the mother of the Christ Child, but there are not too many confessional standards based on the character of Joseph."
And so this week, I'm thinking about Joseph.
J. Barrie Shepherd, poet and preacher, writes:
“The hardest task
The most difficult role of all
That of just being there
And Joseph, dearest Joseph, stands for that.
Don’t you see?
It is important,
that he stand there by that manger,
as he does,
In all his silent misery
Of doubt concern and fear.
If Joseph were not there
There might be no place for us,
For those of us at least-
So many- who recognize and know-
That heartache, for our own,
Who share that helpless sense
Of lostness, of impotence
In our own lives, our families, our jobs
In our fearful threatened world this night.
Yes, in Joseph’s look of anguish
We find our place;
We discover that we too
Belong beside the manger:
This manger in which are met
God’s peace and all our wars and fears....
Simply be there just as Joseph was,
With nothing we can do now,
Nothing we can bring-
It’s far too late for that-
Nothing even to be said
Except, ‘Behold- be blessed,
Be silent, be at peace.’
Joseph, son of David,
‘Do not fear,’ the angel said.
And Jim and Alice, Fred and Sue,
Bob and Tom and Jean and Betty too,
The word to you, to all of us
Here at the manger side,
The word is also, ‘do not fear.’
Our God, the Lord and Sovereign,
Maker of heaven and earth,
Time and eternity,
Of life and death and all that is
And shall be,Has joined us in this moment…,”
So. I'm thinking about Joseph this week. What's on your mind?
And, if you are thinking ahead a bit, what are your plans for preaching on Christmas Eve?
Sunday, December 16, 2007
I was not familiar with this piece of music, but the images were, according to the Youtube site info on this video, acquired from Flickr. Interesting!
Today's worship was actually a day where the weather felt like it should. Many of you who live up in the Northeast had church canceled due to the storm. What might you have sung had you been there? For those of you who were there, what did you sing for hymns? Special music? For many churches this is the time of year that the choir pulls out all of their stops. Share with us what is going on musically in your congregation.
May the sharing begin!
God, hear our “yes” today, as we give thanks for the blessings you bring to our lives. Hear our collective “yes” as a faith community ready to share our joy with a world in need of your light and your love.
Holy One, we ask your blessing for all who are troubled or are struggling at this time...for those who are ill or lonely or desperate with poverty or hunger. God, bless all who have difficulty at this time of the year with the heartache of grief and loss.
Bring the joy and peace of your presence to all creation, and may your Spirit hover close wherever there is need of healing, strength or comfort in the coming week.
God of all goodness, be with us as we approach the manger this year. Remind us of the gifts that really matter – compassion, caring and love.
Bless us as we gather up our yearnings for joy, for justice and for peace in our time – and bring them to the place where hope is born. These and all of the prayers of our hearts we offer in the name of Jesus, who taught us to pray together saying...
Saturday, December 15, 2007
This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There'd have been no room for the child.
- Madeleine L'Engle
We set aside this season for hope, but what does that mean? How do we reflect the kingdom of God in our thoughts, words, and actions? In a world so full of violence, hatred, and despair, how do we find the coming of good news?
The coffee is set to brew early, and I have ham, cheese, eggs, and salsa for omelets if anyone wants them. How will you bring good news to your congregations this week? Where can we support you in doing so?
Friday, December 14, 2007
Rejoice in the nearness of Christ's coming, yes, but also in the many gifts of the pregnant waiting time when the world (in the northern hemisphere, at least) spins ever deeper into sweet, fertile darkness.
What makes you rejoice about:
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Not that I have a relationship with my internet connection. Honest. (Wry look.) Anyway, this week's question has to do with relationships falling apart, and comes from a seminarian.
I have a quick question for all my pastor colleagues out there. At my church lately there's been a rash of marriages falling apart. Maybe it's my preaching. If not, there are other factors at play and I'm seriously struggling to provide good counseling and pastoral care; I don't have much experience with troubled marriages. My spouse is easy to get along with. One of the couples is young (mid-20's, married at 18) with the husband initiating the separation, but the others are all middle aged. Some have kids, others do not. The only common thread between the middle-aged adults is that it's the wife who is initiating the split, and when spoken to they voice the same concerns but both spouses say the other partner is to blame for everything. I'm loving and supporting, but my counseling knowledge/experience in this area is nill.
Can anyone steer me towards a good resource or resources to help guide me? Has anyone else experienced this? I guess I'm looking for some support of my own. Tell me I'm normal, Jesus loves me through it all, and everything will turn out alright. Thanks.
Karen offers this important thing to know about pastoral care for couples:
Just some observations based on experience. About half the couples that have come to me annoucing "it's over" have eventually gotten back together, so I've learned to be careful about taking sides in a way that could backfire later.
Also, don't forget the kids. They tend to get lost in the pastoral care shuffle when a marriage is unraveling.
Ann agrees, noting that during this stressful time of year, partners have fewer emotional resources to deal with the strains of marriage:
There is also the idealized image of a relationship that is often in all the holiday programming that makes one's own seem even worse.
It seems like many women stay "for the children's sake." Once they see that the kids are on their own and they feel that they can support themselves, they think "why stay?"
Listening and being supportive without taking sides (unless there is abuse where a person needs to find safety) is the right track, as is encouraging friends to stay out of it.
If it all breaks down there is a good program called Beginning Experience for newly single, divorced, widowed, etc persons - helps them to learn how to grieve and how to have healthy relationships.
As to counseling - the Episcopal church discourages counseling sessions unless the priest has training in that field. A few sessions are okay but after that we are supposed to send them off to a professional. When moving to a new town it is good to check around for resource people for referrals. When I meet with a couple I use Appreciative Inquiry to try to get the couple to remember what it is that they love or loved about each other. A question like tell me about a time in your relationship when you felt very close to your partner and you thought "yes" this is what I love about being married to him/her. Each then tells that incident to their partner.
Another tool I use is Myer-Briggs, although it's not a perfect tool (they can take a short version of the test online - google Kiersey-Bates or Myers-Briggs or Personality Type for a quiz). But it can highlight areas where the most stress is likely to occur in a relationship. My husband and I cannot do wallpapering or read maps together for instance - we have totally different approaches to tasks. He is very linear and and I have a intuitive approach.
Also, a footnote that Ann wanted me to mention: Having recently undergone my own insanity with a friend of my spouse-to-be who really had absolutely no respect for our relationship, I would like to recommend a book for couples who are recovering from affairs or dealing with unwelcome attention from a party creating a triad dynamic in a relationship: NOT "Just Friends" by Shirley Glass.
Feel free to share your insights in comments, or reflect on this question in your own blog and share the link with us!
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Here I am where we are nearing 80+ degrees during the day and we are supposed to be feeling in the spirit of preparing for Christmas. I wish I could blow some of this weather the way of folks who are so very cold right now and vice versa - it's just plain strange to be turning the air conditioning on in December.
On to the topic of today. I don't have to tell you there is more music for the holiday season than can possibly be played and enjoyed. I have the music to prove it. However, I have a few I offer to you that you may not have as part of your collection that I enjoy. And... I hope you will also.
Back in May, I shared a Maddy Prior CD of hymns - she has a flavor all of her own and her Carols and Capers CD is no different. Think contra dancing. Think singing in a pub. Prior and her Carnival Band are entertaining. Those of you familiar with the group Steeleye Span will be familiar with Prior's music. I going to tell you the CD is pricey right now because it's an import - but head over to ITUNES and it is much more affordable.
A Feast of Songs: Holiday Music from the Middle Agesis a lively collection of familiar and unusual traditional songs and dances from the middle ages that celebrate the winter season and its associated festivals and holidays. Songs from the British Isles, Ireland, Germany, France, Poland and Sweden blend medieval and renaissance tonalities with a festive folk energy that awakens the spirits of past ages. Notice how they don't use the words Advent or Christmas? Well, they should - these should be mostly familiar to you if you have been around listening to lots of Christmas music. Shoot, we even sing some of these in church and you probably do too!
What I REALLY like is the variety of instruments they have accompanying the singers. These include lute, dulcimer, viola, violin, mandolin, guitar, sitar, flute, recorders, French horn, herald trumpet, doumbek, tar, bodhrán, tabor, tambourine, and cymbals, Moroccan and African drums, and many other percussion instruments.
Anonymous 4 have a beautiful Christmas CD Wolcum Yule: Celtic and British Songs and Carols - Anonymous 4 with Andrew Lawrence-King I don't think they will disappoint any listener. Their voices consistently sound as one and are as pure as I have heard.
And if you like Anonymous 4 and with music which throws in a New Age flavor and spice into it, you may like Mistletoe and Wine: A Seasonal Collection by Mediaeval Babes. Here is one of the selections on the Mistletoe and Wine CD:
And, in addition, Wednesday Festival is a part of the comment section here. If you would like to post and provide a link, use this to help you along:
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Remember, you can go to the Amazon links to listen to excerpts of the above CDs. Please remember, if you are shopping, you can use the search box and RGBP will benefit.
Ok, I have shared some of my collection of music for the season- won't you share some of your favorites?
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Psalm 146:5-10 or Luke 1:47-55
One of my favorite themes in preaching is that Christianity is an upside down religion. For example, when it comes election time, we're not supposed to ask ourselves if we are better off than we were four years ago, we're supposed to ask if our neighbor is better of than they were before. On Mothers Day, we remember that we need to consider those for whom Mother's Day is a day of sadness, and not of joy. For Independence Day, we are challenged to consider and care for those who are not independent.
Christmas is not for the victorious, it is for the struggling. This is the Christmas Spirit. Christmas is not a harvest festival, it is a proclamation of hope in a dry land. Christmas is not a celebration of victory, it is the shout of hurrah that we have finally gotten on our way.
Mary was not the triumphant mother of God, she was an unwed girl whose pregnancy gave her future husband and her family every reason to turn her out to fend for herself. She was poor, living in a nation that was controlled by a foreign country, and a young woman, the least of the least. She has been told that she will give birth to the child who will change all of that. Not just for her, but for the world.
And the first sign of that changes comes when she visits her cousin Elizabeth and confirms what the angel has told her, that her cousin who was thought to be beyond her childbearing years is indeed pregnant. Her cousin, who, because she was childless, was is in fact blessed by God. She goes from scorn to fertility. And so Mary sings this song that we call The Magnificat, and it is a song about justice for all people.
This message about Christmas being for the needy and not for the victors is good news. Because there isn't a single one of us who doesn't need it. There isn't a single one of us who is left out. We are called to give. We are called to receive. This isn't something else to do during Advent and Christmas. This is THE thing to do to honor Advent and keep Christmas holy.
Anyway, that's what I've been thinking about. What are your thoughts for this week?
And even though the annunciation isn’t included in this week’s readings, I’m going to use the Magnificat as my excuse to include this:
Annunciation, by Stephen Mitchell
He tiptoes into the room almost as if he were an intruder.
Then kneels, soundlessly.
His white robe arranges itself.
His breath slows.
His muscles relax.
The lily in his hand tilts gradually backward
and comes to rest against his right shoulder.
She is sitting near the window, doing nothing,
unaware of his presence.
How beautiful she is.
He gazes at her as a man might gaze at his beloved wife sleeping beside him, with all the concerns of the day gone and her face as pure and luminous as a child's a nothing now binding them together but the sound of her breathing.
Ah: wasn't there something he was supposed to say?
He feels the whisper far back in his mind, like a mild breeze.
Yes, yes, he will remember the message, in a little while.
In a few more minutes.
But not just now.
(The Gospels In Our Image: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century Poetry Based on Biblical Texts. David Curzon, Editor. Harcourt & Brace, 1995.)
Monday, December 10, 2007
Madeleine L'Engle is one of my all time favorite writers. When she died this past September, I found myself blogging and googling and wishing there could be just one more book. How nice that SongBird shared the gift of WinterSong, a book that I had somehow missed over the years.
For many, L'Engle is the author of the children's classic A Wrinkle in Time. For others, she is the writer of wonderful journals such as The Summer of the Great-Grandmother and Two Part Invention. For me, she is a kindred spirit, able to voice spiritual joys and sorrows in language I truly aspire to create.
Reading a book like WinterSong is a lot like sitting down with a box of fine chocolates. One is good. Two is great. Three, woo! But to do the whole thing in one sitting? Maybe not. And really, the English major in me says that a book like this should be savored over a period of time, not consumed in one fell swoop. With that in mind, I've picked a few bits and pieces for conversation. If you don't have a copy of the book, follow this link. If I've neglected your favorites, please don't be shy!
- After Annunciation: This poem by L'Engle has stayed with me for weeks. What has filled you up this Advent season? Is it the reason and the busy-ness? Is there room for the joy and wonder? How do we make room to receive the gift of the child?
- Winter Nights: Shaw's words to her daughter poignantly tell of the winter of life. You can almost feel the stitches of the "head thing." I don't have a question to ask about this poem, other than, tell us what you think/feel?
- That Tiny Flame: It is the spirit reflected in this piece by L'Engle that makes me love her so. At a time when I needed to know that other folks struggle, there she was! Whose words have strengthened you in your journey? Who has opened their life to you in a way that has helped you to feel more up for the challenge that is the life of faith?
- That'll preach! There are at least 15 good December sermons in this book. What inspires you from the pages of WinterSong?
That's it for the questions, pals. If you have a favorite poem, essay or even turn of phrase from this book, please share with us. If you have not picked up this book, I heartily commend it to you. It makes a wonderful devotional resource and there are lovely bits for Advent and Christmas sermons.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
This month (in fact this very Monday, December 10) we will be discussing Madeleine L'Engle's Wintersong: Christmas Readings - we hope you will take the opportunity to participate in the discussion, even if you haven't read the book, drop in and say hello! Join us!
Upcoming books include:
January 28 - LISTENING FOR GOD: A Minister's Journey Through Silence and Doubt by Renita Weems
February 25 - We have a book AND a DVD - you may choose one or both for the discussion. The book selected it An Infinity of Little Hours: Five Young Men and Their Trial of Faith in the Western World's Most Austere Monastic Order by Nancy Klein McClure
The DVD is Into Great Silence (Two-Disc Set) - if you have not seen this DVD - it's like nothing you have ever seen, I promise! I can't promise it is available at your local video rental store, but you might be able to locate it on an online rental program if you don't wish to purchase it.
And don't forget, if you are doing any shopping through Amazon, please consider using the link on the sidebar - no matter what you order, we will benefit from your purchase.
People, look East, the time is near
of the crowning of the year
Make your house fair as you are able,
trim the hearth and set the table.
People look East and sing today,
Love, the Guest, is on the way!
Yesterday morning I was atop a ridge near the Delaware water gap, near the Appalachian Trail. The trees were stripped of their leaves, and even as noon approached, the sun was low in the sky. A bare, almost lifeless scene - broken only by some brilliant red berries on a bush down the hill. I stood outside for 5 minutes, then suddenly realized that the few leaves clinging doggedly to the tree in front of me were moving. No breeze? Why were they stirring? Tiny warblers, faintly green and brown and almost indistinguishable from the leaves were flitting from branch to branch. One chirped and suddenly I could hear dozens of them, calling to each other across the mountainside.
For the rest of the day, Eleanor Farjeon's carol, "People, Look East!" kept popping up on my mental playlist. "Furrows be glad, though earth is bare..." soars up a full octave in two measures, evoking for me the carols of those playful warblers.
So as you make your house fair for the coming of Christ, enjoy this choir's rendition and tell us how you are "prepared the way" in song today!
For those who have food, shelter and love in abundance, may there be gratitude and sharing. For those whose struggle in life is too deep for words, may there be unexpected blessings and a sign of hope for the future.
God, we pray for all we have named here today and all we know to have need of your healing presence. We pray especially for those who are grieving at this time of the year, for those who are ill, or any who will be traveling.
We pray for all who are seeking a sense of purpose in this life, that their thirsty souls will be filled with a deep sense of your goodness and grace. God of our Advent searching, be with all who venture into the wilderness of the heart’s tenderness. May we find you wherever we go, and may we have strength to prepare the way for the One who came to show us your Way, Jesus Christ, who taught his friends to pray together saying…
Saturday, December 08, 2007
I discovered this morning that Renaissance artists conflated John with imagery related to Dionysus! What will they think of next? I guess that is one kind of wild, but not the kind I associated with John.
Where are you headed today? Who is the John you seek to portray, or are you going there at all?
Let us know what you're up to, and have a cup of coffee, too. I'll get the water started for tea.
(The two-dimensional work of art by James Tissot depicted in this image is in the public domain in the United States and in those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years. )
Friday, December 07, 2007
Here then is this weeks Friday 5:
1. You have a busy week, pushing out all time for preparing worship/ Sunday School lessons/ being ready for an important meeting ( or whatever equivalent your profession demands)- how do you cope?
2. You have unexpected visitors, and need to provide them with a meal- what do you do?
Three discussion topics:
3. Thinking along the lines of this weeks advent theme; repentance is an important but often neglected aspect of advent preparations.....
4. Some of the best experiences in life occur when you simply go with the flow.....
5. Details are everything, attention to the small things enables a plan to roll forward smoothly...
Bonus if you dare- how well prepared are you for Christmas this year?
Let us know in comments if you play. And for even more visits to your blog, post a direct link in your comment using the following formulation:
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Thursday, December 06, 2007
My community is very strong on using the C word, but it turns out 'the community' is quite selective on certain people belonging. For example, when I attend 'a belonging activity,' I more often than not find myself repeating month-old conversations with people who obviously don't care, or who only seem to know one thing about you and as such take it upon themselves to ask a whole lot of questions about the one thing with little interest in anything else happening in the persons life. Even worse are the polite surface questions that show so much lack of interest that you want to run away (you can see it in their eyes that they are not wanting to connect). And when you do reach out to enter a member of the community's life, you are slapped (metaphorically) in the face for trying, with snide remarks and/or insults or—even worse—ignored.
What annoys me most is that I feel like I am left looking after people in a similar situation to me while the connected people all go and have their connected conversations and invite each other out.
God knows I have tried to stick with it (5 years) and change things from both the bottom up and the top down (I am a member of the youth leadership and worship teams) but there is only a certain amount one person can do before their soul starts to be destroyed and they realize that the image and the reality don't meet up. In short, I feel more like a machine that is required to perform certain tasks than a person who has feelings, problems, trials and triumphs.
Don't get me wrong; there are moments of incredible beauty, brilliance and connection among some of the community especially among the younger youth and the older groups that are amazing to observe and be a part of, but you can't live on someone else's manna.
A toughie, to be sure. Jacquie's insights are wonderful:
I know that congregations that want to be welcoming and truly believe they are, can have a very difficult time including new people. Established groups of friends can have a hard time functioning in a way that is not clique-ish. The issue that concerns me about your story is that you are not new. Five years is not new. I'm reminded of a young couple who recently moved to our congregation because they had been in another congregation for 7 years, she worked with the youth group, and they were still frequently asked if they were visitors. They decided the congregation was too large for them, and that the people were not interested in getting to know them.
If you choose to stay in that community, it sounds like you have been living into one of the options -- which is to build other small groups within the congregation. You describe doing this with others who seem to be having the same difficulty. The positive to this option is certainly
that you and others could choose to function in a different way in relation to newcomers or those who are different. Over time, you could change the culture of the congregation.
When I have seen cliques excluding others (in congregations I have served), I have named what I am seeing and challenged the congregation to see themselves as they are and to learn to function in a different way. I think this can be most effective when a third party is doing the naming. It can be helpful to talk about having room in our lives for others. And the difference between relationships in the covenant community and 'my best friend' relationships. (I maintain that every relationship in the church cannot and should not be like a best friend.) We have to make
decisions about relating based on the context.
Another approach is to facilitate more in depth sharing of faith and life issues within small groups in the congregation. We had an amazing experience several years ago using a process called "Talking Faith" by Heather Kirk-Davidoff and Nancy Wood-Lyczak. I am convinced that this can help a congregation deepen in relationship with each other as well as to learn how to share our faith.
Most recently we have started "Soul Care" groups, which is a process we are developing. The groups every two weeks are structured to nurture our sharing of what God is doing in our lives.
As for the personal aspect of this, Ann gently suggests that it might be worth investing some time in making new friends, which is often easier said than done (particularly in a small, exclusive community).
As the Cher song says "sooner or later we all sleep alone." There is an existential aloneness in humans, seeking connection. I find that until I come to terms with my own sense of alone, it is hard for me to connect. Plus I think it is hard to have more than a couple of people that are close; everyone else has the potential to be a close friend but it may never be realized. Even those who seem to be "in" have the feeling of being "out," at least that's my experience of hearing from them later.
The put downs are how some act in order to know that they are "in." It all seems so Junior High, in my opinion. And then there is the "it's all about me" self-centered types: run don't walk. Rejoice in the connections you do find and the others? Their loss.
What say you? Have you had any experiences with encouraging inclusivity with diverse groups that don't always want to be open?
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
This week's theme is simple: Advent/Christmas music that isn't happy-clappy. Not that there is anything wrong with rockin' around the Christmas tree; it's just that we all need to contemplate around the Christmas tree, too. These two albums are my soundtrack for quiet nights. They are best paired with a hot drink and a cozy blanket.
#1: Holiday Songs and Lullabies by Shawn Colvin
This is an old family favorite. Ever since it came out in 1998, my immediate family has been moderately obsessed with this album; at one point there might have been a kerfluffle because "someone" (who, me?) had taken off with my Dad's copy, but we've all given in and invested in our own. It's simple, understated, folksy, beautiful. Aesthetically speaking, it is the polar opposite of my neighbors' new 10 foot inflatable nativity decorations. "Love Came Down at Christmas" and "In the Bleak Midwinter" are standouts, but really, the whole album is a classic.
#2 Snow Angels by Over the Rhine(MP3 link here)
Anyone who has happened upon my blog or spoken to me for longer than, oh, four-and-a-half minutes knows that I am a raving fan of this little band from Cincinnati, so you can't be TOO surprised that I'd take another opportunity to hail my beloved OtR. I'm telling you - this one is amazing. Nearly all of the songs are original, but somehow come off sounding every bit as classic as the classics. "North Pole Man" will make you blush it's so saucy, and then "Little Town" will make you weep it's so prophetic. They start out with the original lyrics to "O Little Town of Bethlehem," but break into a contemporary prayer for peace. "The lamplit streets of Bethlehem/ We walk now through the night/ There is no peace in Bethlehem/ There is no peace in sight." It's music that searches for light in the darkness, love in the loneliness, Christ in the shadows - and somehow finds everything it's looking for. Because they're so cool and all, you can actually listen to the whole album on their website - just click on the record player.
I hope this music brings you the quiet, lasting joy it has brought me.