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Friday, February 29, 2008

Look Before You Leap, It's the Friday Five!

Hello from your Fifth Friday Five team, will smama and Songbird~

It's Leap Day!! Whether you're one of the special few who have a birthday only once every four years, or simply confused by the extra day on the calendar, everyone is welcome to join in and play our Leap Year Friday Five.

Tell us about a time you:

1. Leapt before looked

2. Leapt to a conclusion

3. Took a Leap of Faith

4. Took a literal Leap

5. And finally, what might you be faced with leaping in the coming year?

Feel free to leap over any of the questions if you don't feel like answering them, says will smama, while Songbird reminds you to let us know in the comments if you play. If you make a direct link to your post, you're almost sure to get more visitors: <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 Leaping!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ask the Matriarch - Preachers, Pulpits, and Politics

With election season just getting hotter all the time, the information we are inundated with about candidates just gets more and more confusing! As news emerges that the IRS is investigating the very church that Obama is a member of (its national body!), one ring member wonders:

Hi Wise Ones, I know you're not lawyers, but can you clarify what is allowed in political campaigning, if you are a parish pastor? And, do you have any stories or advice about things going well or badly that might help us out? Thanks!

Well, our matriarchs aren't lawyers and didn't have much to say on it, but a colleague of Ann's in the Episcopal Church is rector of a church in California that had its own run-in with the IRS as a result of a sermon that a priest gave a few days before the 2004 election, so she asked around a bit and got some information and some links:

As far as the IRS is concerned, you may not endorse candidates from the pulpit or you will lose your 501c3 status. This is your not-for-profit status which allows members to deduct their gifts from their taxes and your church to have tax-free status for its building.

You may discuss issues and give your opinion.

Personally, I don't preach on political issues except as they pertain to the Gospel or other readings. I prefer to hold forums with a variety of speakers. I will tell people in the church about my party affiliation if they ask but not who I vote for. I want people to respond out of their beliefs, not mine. I do encourage activism and voting and writing one's leaders. That can make a huge difference. The Episcopal Church has a Washington Office that makes it easy to contact our legislators.

Ann points us to the Interfaith Alliance, which publishes a guide for candidates and religious leaders:

The guide for religious leaders offers legal and ethical counsel on how religious leaders, congregations and religious institutions may appropriately participate in the electoral process. The guide for political candidates describes proper and improper ways to incorporate religious language and references into campaigns.

It's available here.

PBS's News and Religion Weekly did a piece on it in 2006, centered around a nondenominational megachurch in Ohio that garnered some attention for helping swing results in that state for President Bush. You can read it here.

If any of you have denomination-specific resources you'd like to share, or have had colleagues affected by that at-times hair's-breadth thread that divides religion and politics, please do so in the comments. In an election season where the choices are complex and nuanced (for a wonderful change), this may well prove to be very challenging!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wednesday Festival: Mid-Lent Edition

What I should have resolved to do for Lent: Read more RevGalBlogPal blogs. We are blessed to be connected to such a wonderful online group, as I am reminded whenever my turn at the Wednesday Festival rolls around.

This week's examples:

reverendmother wants to hear about your favorite children's books. She's working on a proposal for Denominational Magazine for a series of ten articles that will explore scriptural themes as illuminated in children’s literature. She has a few books in mind, namely Because of Winn-Dixie and one or more Madeleine L’Engle books, but she could use some other ideas, especially current books. Read more about it it here.

Christine has sent out invitations to another Poetry Party over at the Abbey of the Arts. The basic idea is that she selects an image, suggests a title, and invites your responses. You'll find all the details here.

Sally has been double busy at Eternal Echoes. She has a poem inspired by the story of the Woman at the Well here and some thoughts about the significance of Mary here.

Kathryn has shared the contents of her "Living Waters" prayer trail with her Good in Parts friends here. She suggests that it might be useful for anyone planning low-tech alternative worship; she used one small electric pump (from a bargain basement "Water feature" and one laptop and projector), and everything else was tech free and assimilable in a couple of hours. (She also talked a bit about the magpie tendency in alt worship in the post before.)

Rachel has been blogging at The Big Dunk about her family's amazing trip to Vietnam, where her husband is from, starting here with the opening details and continuing through their trip.

If reading this reminds you that you meant to send in a nomination for the Wednesday Festival, go ahead and add it in the comments. 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.

And don't forget to email your submissions for upcoming festivals to

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lectionary Leanings- Questions edition

1Samuel 16: 1 – 13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5:8-14
John 9:1-41

If you were/are blind, how do/would you hear the words from John?

If you were Saul, how would you feel about the actions of Samuel?

If you were/are a person of color, how do/would you hear the words from Ephesians?

How do you proclaim the Good News of scripture without allowing the understandings of another generation define the culture of today?

I want to find a good answer for this question, because if I could, I would focus on this amazing story of Jesus. And how Jesus is just a little part of the text- the main part is the way everyone reacts to Jesus and spins around in their understandings and knowledge of who Jesus is. Some of them learn, some of them deny, and some of them can’t even bring themselves to proclaim what they believe. How do we respond to something new? Something that changes the whole playing field?

Another angle I've been considering- mud. Jesus uses mud on the blind man's eyes. On Ash Wednesday, we declare that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. What is the role of dirt/ash/mud? There are so many stories of mud in mythology as well (Hindu, Mayan, Chinese, Greek), what is it about mud that is so powerful and fascinating?

I like the story of Samuel and David, too, but it is hard to pass up the chance to read such a large chunk of one of the gospels...

What are you thinking this week?

This lenting
Is a longing, looking,
Isolating and locating process,
A passing of the time between
What has to be, what may become,
A late, last, solitary lingering
Among the soiled and crusted snowbanks
Of deep-drifted hurt and disappointment
Seeking out those tender-tough new shoots
That pierce the calloused surface
Of all losing with the agony
Of life becoming green
~~J. Barrie Shepherd
(written for a Lenten devotion published by The First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York)

Monday, February 25, 2008

RevGalBookPals: Into Great Silence and An Infinity of Little Hours

The NY Times Home & Garden section is perhaps the last place I might expect to find a paean to hermitages in your backyard, but as I browsed the paper last Friday, there it was. A professor, facing the loss of his office with retirement, creates a retreat in his backyard, complete with Internet and cable TV access. As I was at that very moment trapped at home with 5 pre-teens alternately playing video-games inside and having huge snow ball fights outside, the very idea of a place removed from the chaos, to which only I had the key, had an incredible allure. Have you ever fantasized about having a hermitage?

This month the RGBP Book Pals peer into the lives of men who have chosen to wrap themselves in isolation, to live in place to which only they, or perhaps God, has the key. The Carthusian order was founded in the 11th century by Bruno and six companions. It is without a doubt the most austere and reclusive of the cloistered orders. Its monks and nuns (yes, there are Carthusian nuns) keep a silence deeper than that of the Benedictines or the Trappists (the order to which Thomas Merton belonged). Each monk has his own cell, in reality a small house with an enclosed garden – which no one may enter without his permission. Have you ever dreamed of a hermitage? What would it look like? Why would you go? What would you hope to find there? How long might you stay?

Nancy Maguire's An Infinity Of Little Hours follows the paths of five young men in their twenties as they enter the Carthusian Charterhouse St. Hugh’s at Parkminster. Into Great Silence is a film by Phillip Groning that chronicles a single liturgical year at the Carthusian motherhouse Grande Chartreuse. The two pieces complement each other in many ways. An Infinity Of Little Hours is linear, walking with the novices from entrance to solemn profession, while Into Great Silence ends where it began , at the start of another liturgical year. An Infinity Of Little Hours brings alive the personalities of the novices and the other monks who live in the Charterhouse, graces and warts alike; we never learn the names or stories of the monks we see in Into Great Silence. The self-effacing approach of Into Great Silence is Carthusian to the core: you will find no names on the crosses in a Carthusian cemetery, or as Pope Benedict XIV commented dryly: Non sanctos patefacere sed multo facere (they prefer to make saints, not make them known). If you both read the book and saw the movie, did you find the experiences very different? Did reading the book help you “read” the movie? What order would you recommend to someone else? Why?

We learn in An Infinity of Little Hours that each cell at Parkminster has a Scriptural text on the door, which the monks see each time they enter. Perhaps evoking these reminders, the film is punctuated with occasional verses from Scripture, particularly this verse from Jeremiah: You have seduced me, O Lord; and I let myself be seduced (Jer 20:7). What do you think seduced these young men to try the life? What would seduce you into that life? What quote would you wish to have over your cell door?

Of the five young men who enter, only two persist to make their solemn profession (Dom Leo – Paddy O’Connell from Dublin and Dom Malachi – Bernie Shea from New York). Dom Leo eventually becomes prior, Dom Malachi is ultimately not strong enough to endure the life and leaves three years after his profession. In An Infinity of Little Hours Nancy Maguire notes that the monks who remain find a balance, ultimately making certain compromises with the austerity of the life. Were you surprised by who left and who remained? What compromises do you think Dom Leo made that Dom Phillip could not?

The motto on the Carthusian coat of arms is Stat Crux dum Volvitur Orbis which translates as The cross stands firm while the world passes by, or more poetically, on the Parkminster website: Stands the cross, still point of the turning world. But apparently battles can happen even at the still point. Dom Phillip’s unspoken, yet heated, battle over the pitch of the Christmas chant reminded me that we are all human, even in the monastery where quies (peace) should reign. Were you surprised by the undercurrents at Parkminster? Do you think there are similar currents at Grand Chartreuse? What can you read in the faces of the monks that Groning shows us in Into Great Silence occasionally?

There are a few photos in the center of An Infinity of Little Hours , and when I saw the photo of the library, I had instant envy. As Maguire notes in An Infinity of Little Hours, “Carthusians cherish books.” Guido, a twelfth century Carthusian monk was more effusive, “books forsooth, we wish to be kept very carefully as the everlasting food of our souls.” He goes on to say that the writing of books should be equally valued as it is the Carthusian way of preaching – “with our hands” rather than with the spoken word. Many of the RGBP preach with both their hands (in their blogs) and with the spoken word in the pulpit, and many of us do so as the Carthusians generally do – anonymously. If you keep a blog, how does it connect to your preaching? Do you see your writing as two sides of the same coin? If you don’t have a pulpit, do you see your blog as a virtual pulpit?

My non-Catholic husband read the book and found the stories of the journeys to be compelling, even though without any monastic exposure, he found the life to be strange in the extreme. What else struck you in the film or the book that you'd like to share? Let's talk as the Carthusians preach, with our hands...I'll be in and out all day to see what you have to say.

Other resources you might wish to peruse include:
  • Nancy Maguire's interview with Philip Groning
  • In This House of Brede, a fictional account of a cloistered community of Benedictine nuns by Rumer Goden offers a similar portrayal of the challenges and joys of a contemplative life to An Infinity of Little Hours
  • Brother Cadfael, a creation of historian Ellis Peters, is a contemporary of St. Bruno, offers another look at the realities of life within and without the enclosure walls in the 11th century, try any of the 20 or so mysteries that Peters wrote about the (real) monastery of SS Peter and Paul in Shrewsbury (the first is A Morbid Taste for Bones)
  • Perfect Intimacy, a ethereal photo essay about two enclosed Carmelite communities of nuns
  • The Hermeneutic of Continuity blog has a series of entries about a priest who visits periodically, including some marvelous photographs of the library I dream about.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Music Video - Guide me O Thy Great Jehovah

I was on the road during worship today, after visiting family and celebrating a very special birthday party this weekend! I looked up the recommended hymns for this Sunday when we arrived homes and started my search for Sunday Music Videos and found this one to share. As I was looking at the hymn and following the "bouncing ball", I noticed that it appears that the second verse is song in a different language? Is it Welsh? Please help me with this!

I do know that I WANT to sing with as much enthusiasm as some of these folks are. This excerpts comes from BBC's Songs of praise

And what hymns did you sing today in worship? What organ selections? Share with us about your worship experience today.

Sunday Prayer

This is a beautiful prayer written by Victor Hoagland, CP. These words speak eloquently about the spiritual thirst of this Lenten season.

O Jesus,
Image of the invisible God,
Word made flesh,
tired stranger,
waiting in the noonday lull
at Jacob’s well.

Are we all
the woman with her waterjar,
bent on the chore of the moment,
angry memories in our bones,
our thirst for God
hidden in the business of the day?

Do you meet us gently too,
hardly recognized,
quietly leading our thoughts
towards the deeper waters,
where our souls find rest?

Probing too,
uncovering secrets
we would rather forget.
“Lord, you have probed me,
You know when I sit and when I stand,
You know my thoughts from afar.”

Is the woman,
sure and strong,
our reflection:
sure but unsure,
strong but so weak,
seeking but afraid to find
our Savior so close by?


Saturday, February 23, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: Snow, Snow Everywhere

Here is the view from my front door. Only four inches of that snow is new; the rest is what remains after rain on snow last week and a little melting this week.

It's hard to picture the desert from this vantage point, but I'm on that task this morning, along with shoveling.

But first, coffee. I'm drinking from my RevGalBlogPals mug and thinking of all of you.

How does your day look? What lies ahead? Any treats to share at the party today?

Let us know how we can help if you need a sounding board or a children's message or whatever else might arise. Leave a comment and let's get the party started!

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Heavenly Friday Five

I am in Seattle assisting with family stuff and preparing to attend a memorial service (Saturday) for my sister who died of complications of early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

I am not grieving much, since the shock and tears and goodbyes and losses have been many and have occurred for a long time now. I am mostly relieved that my wonderful sister and best friend is free from pain and confusion, and I am thinking of eternity. That sounds somber, but I don't mean it to be. I decided to have a little fun with the idea. So how about we share five "heavenly" things? These can me serious or funny or a combination of the two.

What is your idea of a heavenly (i.e. wonderful and perfect):

1. Family get-together

2. Song or musical piece
3. Gift

4. You choose whatever you like-food, pair of shoes, vacation, house, or something else. Just tell us what it is and what a heavenly version of it would be.

5. And for a serious moment, or what would you like your entrance into the next life to be like?
What, from your vantage point now, would make Heaven "heavenly?"

I am not sure how much time I'll have on my BIL's computer, but will read as many responses as I can, and I'll look forward to reading others when I get home next week.

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,

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ask the Matriarch — A Shoe That Doesn't Fit

This week, we look at a very tough challenge for anyone:

I had to leave a congregation a couple of years ago because of a family move, due to my spouse's work. It took seven months for me to find a call in our new home. It is an associate pastor position, doing work I love with children and youth, women, social justice, evangelism. In the past, I have had really great experiences working with a senior pastor--in fact, they have been more co-pastorate positions. But this one is turning out to be more difficult in terms of co-ministry.

I don't have near the autonomy I have had in the past, even when fresh out of college. I constantly feel second-guessed, or questioned on decisions I make--or, at times, dismissed! My colleague is a wonderful pastor, someone I like and respect deeply. But the second-guessing has come back, usually in matters of opinion or theology.

In addition to speaking to the colleague directly, I have spoken also with my pastoral liaison; it is too early to start looking for another position, but I've realized I am not happy here.

So how long until it is ok for me to start looking at other opportunities? In my heart, I know I am being called to expand on my worship gifts and skills more, and leadership, and yet on the other hand, I want to honor the time and effort the people in the congregation put into the search and call process and the ministry with which I am engaged. How can a congregation be happy and not me? How much am I called to sacrifice for the greater good of the ministry at the expense of what I feel individually called to?

Ann says:
Sounds like you have been forthright in addressing this with the senior pastor and other appropriate people. He may be a great pastor for others but not for you. The first thing to recognize is you are not colleagues. He is the boss and you are not. I am not sure how much power he has to make your life difficult or fire you, so am sort of making assumptions from the information you've given.

If the congregation called you and is happy with your work and you are happy with your work for and with them, the question becomes how much can you let the relationship with the senior pastor just "be." It is not going to be collegial - and he will no doubt continue to behave as he has so far. You can't change him no matter how nice or strategic you are.

Have confidence in yourself and your work - get some other real colleagues outside the church to meet with regularly for check in about how much time you are spending on his issues. Do not waste yourself in trying to make him happy (something in the Bible about casting pearls before swine?) Be yourself and do the work you love.

Is it possible to let his comments go with a mental "thank you for sharing"? That might help you to move within the area where you have work to do.

As to leaving - definitely seek out information on what is available, and if something calls to you - go. God is happy when you are furthering the kingdom—not withering!

Jan says:
Dear Bad Fit,
If you are looking to (maybe) leave anyway, what's the harm in confronting head of staff with your concerns and reminding him/letting him know that healthy churches are permission-giving churches? Just so you are working within the core values of that congregation, you should be able to do your work as you see fit. For him to second guess you constantly is to discourage your ministry. Ask him if he can imagine someone (the elders?) doing that to him.

In the event that he's also second guessing every other volunteer/staffer, remind him that this kind of thing is harmful to the health and success of any congregation's ministry. But if he'sonly second guessing you, ask him if he is threatened by you for some reason. Okay, this is super difficult to do. But, if you're leaving eventually, this will actually help him discern his own issues and help the next associate pastor.

I'd talk with him as fairly and honestly as possible.It sounds like you appreciate his ministry.Maybe it's a generational thing?

Assuming it takes at least a year to be called to a new position, I'd start looking. A year would be the minimum stay, I'd think. Can you talk honestly about the seriousness of your concerns with your liaison? If you are so unhappy, you are ready to move on, someone needs to know this. They called you because they wanted you. I assume they'd make attempts to keep you.

Have you ever run across this in your ministry? Share your insights in the comments. And as always, we welcome your questions at

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wednesday Festival

What a wonderful week for submissions! Great work -- keep ‘em coming, gals and pals!

Sally offers a narrative sermon on Niccodemus and also gorgeous photographs from a walk in the woods.

Songbird has us thinking about eating meat: I'm glad she wrote
this great piece
but wish I didn't have to know about it. Can I just put my head back in the sand again? No? Thought not.

tripp has added a neat feature for us all to check out.

Don't get your panties in a wad about this! Mindy has been interviewed
about her underwear!!!!

Leah Sophia shares reflections on a pair of books written by Pastor David A. Anderson and centering on the concept of gracism .

Over at Melissa’s place, I’m reminded of St. Paul’s admonition to weep with those who weep.

Don’t forget to nominate the great posts you’re reading! Either email them in the upcoming week to, or leave us a note in the comments today!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lectionary Leanings- Water, Water, Nowhere Edition

Third Sunday in Lent:
Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95:1-11
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42
I think I’ve preached a million sermons on the lack of faith of those wandering Israelites.

One time, I even asked the congregation to “grumble, grumble” to see the kind of sound it created.

But lately, I’ve been wondering if maybe I was looking at this from the wrong direction.

They were thirsty. THIRSTY.

Like one-third of the world's population, living under what is called ‘water stress.’ With the rate of water consumption of water growing at twice the rate of population growth, two thirds of the world’s population could be living under ‘water stress’ by the year 2025. Two thirds.

What would you do (what have you done) if you needed to get water for your children to survive? Maybe they were right to quarrel with Moses.

Likewise, this woman. Maybe she deserves a new look, too. For so long I’ve seen her as the woman who was loose. A serial monogomist. Only the text doesn’t say that she was morally deficient. She lived in a world where she had little, if any, voice or vote over her life or her body. What if her husbands came as a result of the death of her husband, a family passing her around to find someone who would take her on and care for her?

She’s at the well in the most miserable part of the day because she has (either by choice or direction) avoided the well at the times the other women would have been there. She was dry for something traditional H2O could not touch.
And Jesus knew her. He did not judge her, but entered into conversation with her. He did not preach, he invited.

Where would we be without water? Where would we be without living water?

What are you thinking this week?

"The Peace of Wild Things"
by Wendell Berry
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethoughtof grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Monday Meet & Greet

It's time to meet some of the newest joiners to the RevGal ring! Please go by these blogs and leave a welcoming comment if you can (that'll be our greeting for the day!) New folks, comments at others' blogs are the way this community grows. Don't be shy!!

First, let's say hey to 23 Acres of Black Dirt (a.k.a. "Sharecropper" - what great blognames!) Her profile says, "From a 23 acre farm in Mississippi to a peaceful creekside retirement - a long trip with many ponderings and snags. My epitaph will be 'she lived, she loved'." She's a knitter, too, folks. I'm putting her on my list of new friends to visit!

Here's another blog from a friend we know well, Leah Sophia of Desert Spirit's Fire (where she keeps the more formal theology). This Far by Faith is her testimony blog, with "theological, graphic design and other outtakes on my current life.

Welcome to You're Not in Kansas Anymore (Godgurrl). She's a new pastor serving her first church, and says, "Ministry is full of joy and surprises. In seminary they barely scratched the surface on everything I needed to know to do ministry. I hope to process some of what I am learning through sharing my story on this blog." We are delighted to have you along for the journey, friend!

Susan De George writes at Noon on the Gaza Road, where she's "blogging about church, teaching, and life." According to her profile, she's a Presbyterian minister/college professor/lawyer, so I can't wait to read more!

Good Monday wishes to another longtime friend, Becky Ardell Downs, who has restarted her church blog, "Monday Morning Letters." She calls it "a quick note from me to the Session of Southminster Presbyterian Church, and whoever else might be interested in seeing news of the church and my daily activities."

Happy visiting!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Here I stand

This beautiful song from Iona is one of my favourites, it speaks of the coming of the Holy Spirit in the form of the Wild Goose, a wonderful picture from Celtic Chrisitanity. I hope you enjoy it (apologies for the text running across the bottom).

So what did you sing in worship today? We sang Blessed Assurance, and also Will you Come and Follow me. Did any of the music inspire or challenge you? Let us know in the comments.

Sunday Prayer

Gracious God, your promise rests on our hearts and brings comfort and strength for our Lenten walk together. We thank you for the stories of our ancestors of faith as they inform and inspire our own understanding of your Mystery and Presence.

We thank you for the courage of Nicodemus and the faithfulness of Abram and Sarai. They teach us that it is possible to believe in what we do not fully comprehend with our intellectual minds. They show us that trust in the matters of the Spirit bears tremendous fruit for the human path of faithfulness.

Guide us God, on that path, as we move through this season of Lent and make our way toward Holy Week and the celebration of Easter. Be with us and give us strength to move forward into uncertain times.

God, we ask for your blessing upon all who suffer today. This world we live in is crying out for a word of peace, justice and love. May each of us bring that word, and shine your light, wherever we go. These and all of our prayers, we lift up in the name of Jesus, who taught his friends to pray together, saying…

*Don't forget to nominate your own or another RevGal or Pal's posts for the Wednesday Festival! Just click on the Wednesday Festival address on the right sidebar and submit your post(s) by Monday night.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: Blowin' in the Wind Edition

Sing along with me this morning:

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it's washed to the sea?
Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

There, I hope that woke you up! It occurred to me yesterday, while struggling with a sermon outline, that the questions in Bob Dylan's song bore some slight resemblance to the questions Nicodemus had for Jesus: "How can this be?" And of course, Jesus' answer, "the spirit blows where it wills...." reminded me of the answer, that is "blowin' in the wind." So how is it going with your sermon preparation this morning? Are the answers blowin' in the wind? Does the light shine in the darkness? Are you born again or from above? Or are you on the road with Abraham, or cogitating with Paul? Or has your journey this Lent taken you someplace completely different? If you're not preaching, what are you doing tomorrow?

I have some coffee brewing (can you smell it?) and some banana chocolate chip muffins for anyone who wants one. If you are giving up chocolate for Lent, how about some, ummm rice crackers? Or anything else you would like to contribute to the party.

As for me, I'm with Nicodemus in the dark, and the answers that are blowin' in the wind. But, the light of the world is sitting right here with me, so I'll keep plugging along, even though it looks dark!

Keep me company?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Five: The Water and the Word

In this Sunday's gospel Nicodemus asks Jesus, "How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother's womb and be born?" Poor old Nicodemus! He was so confused about the whole "water and Spirit" business of baptism.

For today's five, tell us about your baptismal experiences.
  1. When and where were you baptized? Do you remember it? Know any interesting tidbits?
  2. What's the most unexpected thing you've ever witnessed at a baptism?
  3. Does your congregation have any special traditions surrounding baptisms?
  4. Are you a godparent or baptismal sponsor? Have a story to tell?
  5. Do you have a favorite baptismal song or hymn?
As always, let us know if you've played! The magic code is: <a href= "the url of your post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Ask the Matriarch — Building Libraries

We had a couple of book questions come in, and with many matriarchs busy with the beginning of Lent and winter storms and travel, we didn't get as much input this week. But that's OK, it's Valentine's Day, so instead of trading chocolates and stuffed animals, why don't we trade book recommendations? The matriarchs will get us started. Here are the two questions:

1. Recommended reading for Christianity 101

A man slightly connected to our church is married to a woman who grew up unchurched (not negative about Christianity, just totally unknowing except for what she has seen in the media). He would like to get more involved but it is not on her radar; are there any books or resources that you have found that are Christianity 101-- interesting and challenging and inviting? They have a toddler who received a
nativity book for Christmas and the dad would like the child to have some interaction with church.

2. Recommended reading for the newly ordained

What one book (besides the scriptures) should every new clergy read in the first year? Why?

Earthchick writes:

The only two that come to mind for Christianity are: Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis and Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. I'm sad to say that's all I've got; I'll be interested to see what others recommend.

For the second question: Hands-down my top pick would be Eugene Peterson's The Contemplative Pastor. I read this early in my first pastorate and found that it really helped ground me in what is most important for my ministry. All these years later, I am still aware of how much it shaped/shapes how I think of my ministry, and I find I refer to his concepts. I especially like to go back and read the chapter called "The Subversive Pastor." I think it ought to be required reading for all pastors - and maybe their congregations, too!

Peripatetic Polar Bear notes that reading just one book may fall well short:
The one book besides the scripture I recommend new clergy read is.............I can't. I cannot recommend one book. Here's what I recommend: read some novels, some poetry. Dip into a memoir. Read some blogs, and some magazines. Roll around with words that are beautiful and funny and joyful and sad. Wrap yourself into books that will entertain you, that will challenge you, and that will feed all the other parts of your brain that have been STARVING during those 3 (or more) years of seminary. I mean, Barth is great and all, but my guess is you've been reading the theology and ethics and haven't had a lot of time for everything else.

You have plenty going on in your first year of ministry: lots of adjustments, lots to learn on the job. Cut yourself a break, read for joy. Take the first year out to formulate the questions: and once you know what it is that you don't know, then go in search of books (or better yet--continuing education opportunities) to address those questions.

Want another reason? The best writers are insatiable readers. The more time you spend with words,conventional wisdom goes, the greater your skill in using them to create prose that is lively and fluid. Wouldn't the same advice apply to preachers?

Do you have any books you would recommend for these two groups of people? Share them in the comments! And feel free to submit your questions about your ministry to

And happy St. Valentine's Day to everyone!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Wednesday Festival

On with the festival!

The Virtual Vicar is facing and experiencing (so far) a very Lent-y Lent. Stop by and offer your words of encouragement and support.

Looking for a twist on a Lenten discipline? Coffeepastor has one that we can all enjoy the fruits of on his blog. Also, check out his reflections or self-proclaimed freak-out about becoming a father.

And, just when you think you've seen it all, here's something special for all the Wesley fans. You really have to go see this to believe it!

Send in the top posts that you read or write so that the rest of us can enjoy them, too! Or, given that this week's festival is already posted, let us know what you're reading and writing about in the comments.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings- Trust me, that's what this is edition

February 17, 2008

Genesis 12:1-4a
Psalm 121:1-8
Romans 4:1-5, 13-17
John 3:1-17
The scriptures for this Sunday seem to have a strong, common theme. Faith. Trust.

Abram and Sarai have to go without knowing what is ahead.
Nicodemus can’t seem to let go of his logic-based mind to grasp what Jesus is saying. Belief in God isn’t something we can “do.” It is a spiritual gift or discipline which must be received and cultivated.

It seems that the trick with preaching on these passages is presenting greater faith as an opportunity, not a missed exit. How do you help people see that they can be like Abram and Sarai rather than feeling like they are destined to be Nicodemus?

Pastor Richard Fairchild writes this about trusting God:
“When we trust God for our daily bread, in the back of our minds we already know how God will feed us, we know that if we go to work we will be able to bring home a cheque, just as we know that if we ask God to help us forgive someone, that it will most likely come to pass if we call up that person and try to talk to them.

But food for Africa - we don't see how it is possible, just as the disciples couldn't see how it was possible to feed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish; nor can we see how war might cease between the nations, just as many of the Pharisees could not see how it was possible for God to love sinners, and so we do not ask God to do the impossible, or if we do, we do not really expect God to do it, instead we look for God to do those things and to bless those things which already lie within our comprehension.”
Richard Fairchild

Here is one of my favorite interpretations of God’s call, from Rabbi Marc Gellman.

Gellman, Rabbi Marc. Does God Have a Big Toe. Harper Collins, 1989, pages 47 – 51.

“Most people do not realize it, but God put in calls to other people before finally putting in a call to Abram.

First God called Eber and said, “Eber, leave your country and your neighbors and your family and go to a land I will show to you, and I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great and you will be a blessing; all who bless you will be blessed and all who curse you will be cursed and through you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
And Eber said, “Who are you?” And God said, “God.” And Eber said, “The God of what?” And God said, “The God of everything.” And Eber said, “Don’t be ridiculous, there is no god of everything. There is a god of the night and a god of the day, a god of the mountains and a god of the valleys, a god of the forests and a god of the deserts. If you ask me, you are a little late. Everything already has a god, and there is no god of everything. Maybe if you look hard, you can find something that doesn’t already have a god. As a matter of fact, I think there is no god of frogs at the moment. Why don’t you go check that out and then we can talk, because there just is no god of everything.”

But Eber and God never talked again.

The next person God called was Peleg. God said, ““Peleg, leave your country and your neighbors and your family and go to a land I will show to you, and I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great and you will be a blessing; all who bless you will be blessed and all who curse you will be cursed and through you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
And Peleg said, “Who are you?” And God said, “God.” And Peleg said, “Where are you?” And God said, “I am everywhere.” And Peleg said, “If you are everywhere where do they put your statue so that people can bow down to you?” And God said, “I am invisible and no one may make a statue of me.” Peleg rolled on the ground with laughter. “Now let me get this straight! You are the invisible god of everything with no state, and you want me to leave my home and follow you to a place you will show me? Do you think I am crazy? Now look, why don’t you go to a good idol maker and have a nice sculpture made of your image, and then we can find a nice place to put it down where people can bow to it, and then we can talk.”

But God and Peleg never talked again.

Then God went to Serug and said, “Serug, leave your country and your neighbors and your family and go to a land I will show to you, and I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great and you will be a blessing; all who bless you will be blessed and all who curse you will be cursed and through you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.
And Serug said, “Who are you?” And God said, “God.” And Serug said, “What will you give me?” And God said, “I just told you.” And Serug said, “You don’t understand. I am not interested in moving anywhere or doing anything just so that my great-great-great-grandchildren will be a great nation. I want to know what is in this deal for me right now. Maybe if you showered me with some of those blessing up front I might be convinced. How about given me all the money in the world and the kingship of the lands? What do you say?”
But God said nothing. Then Serug said, “All right, let’s be reasonable. I will go wherever you want for most of the money in the world and the kingship of the five largest countries. How about that?” But God said nothing.

That was the last time Serug ever heard from God.

By that time, God was not sure about finding the right man. But God went to Abram and said, “Abram, leave your country and your neighbors and your family and go to a land I will show to you, and I will make of you a great nation and I will bless you and make your name great and you will be a blessing; all who bless you will be blessed and all who curse you will be cursed and through you all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
And Abram said, “I will go, but there is just one thing I want.” God asked what that one thing was, and Abram answered, “I want to take my family with me.” God asked him, “that’s it? You just want your family to come with you? Don’t you want to see me?” And Abram said, “no.” And God asked, “Don’t you want to bow to a statue of me?” And Abram said, “No.” And God asked, “Abram, don’t you want anything for yourself?” And Abram said, “No.”

Right then God decided not to ask any more questions, and God let Abram gather his family and pack their things for the journey to the place that God would show them.
Right then God knew that the right man was going to the right place at the right time for the right reasons. God also knew that such things hardly ever happen.”

So. What are you thinking for this week?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Monday's Book Musings

Usually we have Musical Musings on the second Monday, but we are having a book musings instead!

Over the upcoming months we have a line up of books for our Revgalbookpals monthly discussions which are led by our members and offer us an opportunity to share our thoughts and ideas over a common book. We thought it would be a good idea to go over the line up PLUS get some input from you for our summer selections. First, let's look at the monthly line up:

February 25
February is unique in that we are discussing both a book and a video. An Infinity of Little Hours by Nancy Klein Macguire, is an exploration of the monastic community of Carthusians, who live their lives similarly to their 11th century founder. Macguire interviews five men who entered into the the most ascetic of the monastics in the 1960s. What has transpired over the 40+ years? Do they all stay? All leave? Find out by reading the book.

For those of you who would like to be a "fly on the wall" into a Carthusian monastery, Into Great Silence is a movie which documents the life of the monastics in the French Alps at Grande Chartreuse, one of the most ascetic of the world's monasteries. The director of the film inquired about documenting it in 1984. They told him they would get back with him when they were ready. Sixteen years later...... they were ready and hence the film. I had the opportunity to watch this in a movie theater last summer. There were five of us in there, with no one sitting beside each other. It was the quietest 2+ hours I had experienced in a long time. However, with the silence come the sounds that we DO hear when there is silence. It's like no other movie I have seen. Oh, and if you subscribe to Netflix, you can watch it online through Instant Movies.
Here is a brief excerpt from the movie:

Michelle from Quantum Theology will lead in the discussion.

March 24
March's book discussion will be the day after Easter Sunday and as clergy from all over will be collapsing in their chairs from the Holy Week services the week before, Songbird (where does she get that energy?) will lead us in a discussion of the book Bread and Wine, an anthology of readings for each of the days of Lent and Easter. These are from writers and theologians across the world and centuries. I do know this - in the month of January, 62! of this particular book were ordered through Amazon through our links, so you all must have thought this book was a keeper! They probably even had to order more!

April 28
The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson will be the book we will discuss in April, with Quotidian Grace and Presbyterian Gal leading in the discussion. For those of you who like fiction, this book is for you. I provide you with the summary provided on Amazon's web site by Publisher's Weekly:

Robertson offers in his absorbing American debut (two novels have been published in the U.K.) the cleverly framed autobiography of a Scottish minister who confronts the devil. A brief foreword claims the book is an autobiography penned by Gideon Mack, a Church of Scotland minister who, after allegedly encountering the devil, becomes a pariah and madman before disappearing. Raised by a harsh minister father, Gideon abandons faith at an early age, but later discovers it's possible to "be a Christian without involving Christ very much" and secures the pulpit at a small coastal church where he proves to be a gifted preacher. After his wife dies in a traffic accident, Gideon consummates a long-held obsession with old friend Elsie, whose husband, John, is also a longtime friend. A conflicted Gideon, while walking with another minister, falls into a gorge and is presumed dead. But he appears downstream, only slightly injured, three days later. His survival is miraculous, but his account of what happened is scandalous: he was saved by the devil. Gideon's struggle to find meaning in his experience leads to his undoing. Gideon's sly unreliability is cloaked by Robertson's mastery of language and command of the elements of fiction; the combination is addictive and captivating. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


May 19 (please note this is the 3rd Monday in May)
May brings the book Take This Bread: A Radical Conversion by Sara Miles. From the author's web site she shares this about her memoir:

The story of an unexpected and terribly inconvenient Christian conversion, told by a very unlikely convert, TAKE THIS BREAD is not only a spiritual memoir but a call to action. Raised as an atheist, Sara Miles lived an enthusiastically secular life as a restaurant cook and writer. Then early one morning, for no earthly reason, she wandered into a church. “I was certainly not interested in becoming a Christian,” she writes. “Or, as I thought of it rather less politely, a religious nut.” But she ate a piece of bread, took a sip of wine, and found herself radically transformed....


The book selections for the months of June, July, and August are going to be reads which reflect the time which most of us associate with the summer months, those where we relax and read books for joy, escaping, and who knows, maybe even whimsy! However, we haven't decided on these books yet. We would like YOUR input.

Have a favorite children's book that you think adults need to read? Suggest it!
Been wanting to read a book but haven't found the time to read it and you think summer is the perfect time? Suggest it!

Here is what we ask for these books - we would like them to be in paperback and be readily available through Amazon, both here in the US and overseas.

Remember these are the months which many of us have a little extra time and get to read what we've been wanting to read, but just haven't gotten around to it!

So..... what book would YOU recommend for the summer?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Afternoon Music Video: The Forbidden Psalm

My first encounter with the Latin version of Psalm 51, the Miserere, was in in Rumer Goden's In This House of Brede. Novice Phillipa is advised to use its recitation to keep the time for her weekly penance, with the admonition that it "may not be drawn out!" Earlier this week Kathryn of Good in Parts exulted in this ancient setting of the Miserere. Allegri's version of the classic psalm of penitence is not only drawn out, but quite thoroughly embellished!

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness; In your compassion, blot out my offense.
This psalm certainly evokes a deep sense of our own sinfulness, and longing for forgiveness. It is a "dangerous mirror of grace,"
for my offenses truly I know them, and my sin is always before me
Yet for years I have found profound healing and great hope in this psalm. The day after my first husband's death was Good Friday, and I begged my mother to let me go into my office at the college, with the unspoken hope that my breviary - which had been in the briefcase I'd abandoned in the initial chaos two nights before would be there. It was, and I opened it to let the Miserere give voice to my plea for healing, that the bones you have crushed may revive.

This setting is truly a capella ("in the chapel"), it dates to the early 1500s, when it was used at Matins of Holy Week in the Sistine Chapel. Eventually it was forbidden under pain of excommunication to release the score (an early attempt at stemming music piracy?). Apparently, the music's beauty was enough to tempt many to help it escape Vatican confines. A teen-aged Mozart, visiting Rome during Holy Week, transcribed the piece and brought it back to Vienna, and not long thereafter it was widely available. The original 1514 composition is lost to time, but Allegri's ornamented version from 1638 still draws us into the mystery of God's compassion.

May you be sustained this week against all temptations...
Restore my joy in your salvation; sustain in me a willing spirit.

Read more about mirrors of sin and grace in Walter Wangerin's "In Mirrors" in the March RGBP book selection, Bread and Wine.

In two weeks I will be leading a discussion on RGBP's February's book - An Infinity of Little Hours - and DVD - Into Great Silence . What do the attempts of five young men to live the difficult life of Carthusian monks - a life of utter simplicity, steeped in medieval traditions - have to teach us, women and men, living in the noise and plenty of the modern world? What can we hear in their silence? Watch the movie or read the book and join us on February 25 as we weave words around silence.

Sunday Prayer

Gracious God, we give you thanks this day for your presence with us in every wilderness we encounter. We thank you that in Jesus you know just how challenging life can be at times. He knew our thirst for your love, our hunger for your peace and our deep sadness at the pain of the world around us.

As we enter this season of Lent, dear God, stay with us we pray. Help us to lean on the faith we have nurtured – whether the faith of a lifetime or a new and emerging faith – may it bring us the assurance of your promise that in life, in death and in life beyond death – we are not alone. You are with us.

In these days and weeks ahead, our faith will be challenged. We will pushed out of all our spiritual comfort zones, and we will need to trust in you God. Grant us faith in abundance.

Bless all who are in need of your grace this day. Bless these and all of your children with the comfort of your presence and give us all the strength we need to navigate this wilderness way. Stay with us God, for we ask it in the name of the One who calls us forward in faith, Jesus Christ, who taught his friends to pray together saying….

Saturday, February 09, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: Temptations, I've Had a Few Edition

Preachers, if you could turn a stone into a donut, would you be tempted?

Yes, it's the first temptation of Christ, or the failure of Adam and Eve to resist temptation, or a long and complex set of explanations from Paul that might actually tempt you to donuts...or whatever your "donut" might be.

Let's get each other through this day of wilderness sermon writing, gals and pals. Tell us what lies ahead for you, what you're preaching about, whether you need help with a children's message and what the weather is like in your part of the world.

And remember, virtual pink donuts with sprinkles? Have no calories. So eat as many as you like.

Coffee is on, and I am pouring it generously, because that virtual half and half? Same deal.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Friday Five: What Are You Doing For Lent?

Ready or not, Lent is upon us! To get you in the mood for this week's Friday Five here is a pretty setting of one of my favorite pieces of Lenten music: Hosea, written by the monks of Weston Priory.

1. Did you celebrate Mardi Gras and/or Ash Wednesday this week? How?

2. What was your most memorable Mardi Gras/Ash Wednesday/Lent?

3. Did you/your church/your family celebrate Lent as a child? If not, when and how did you discover it?

4. Are you more in the give-up camp, or the take-on camp, or somewhere in between?

5. How do you plan to keep Lent this year?

As always, 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.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ask the Matriarch — When Spirits Wander

We had two questions that had similar directions this week. In one, a postulant muses upon how during her journey to ordination, she finds herself heeding a call that transcends denominational boundaries and wonders how to handle that. In another, one of our readers muses about the possibility that deep involvement in the church can lead to deep disillusionment with the church. Here are the questions, and what our matriarchs had to say. We hope for your wisdom on these topics as well, so feel free to share them in comments:

Question 1:
Has anyone out there started the ordination process in one faith tradition, and ended in another? I feel like a traitor for even asking the question, and I'm positive that if discernment leads that way, it will include a stage of grieving. I don't believe in quitting when a relationship is hard, and I love to be part of growth and change. Ultimately, though, faithfulness to God is far more important than fidelity to one denomination. I want to stay in this beautiful church that I love. I also need to take God's call seriously, even when it isn't in the correct prepackaged box.

Question 2:
How does your faith survive close contact with the church?

From our Matriarchs, first--Ann:
With regard to the first question, I do not have that experience—but along those lines, I
intentionally attended an interfaith divinity school to test my call to be ordained in my denomination. I wanted to be sure I was a Christian and satisfied in my denomination before I became a priest.

The issues with change are:
1. A call comes both from God and a community so one needs to be embedded in a community for discernment.
2. If you grew up in a denomination, it can be quite tribal; a lot of things are a part of it that you don't recognize consciously. So if you change, how will you be a sacramental leader in a new tribe?
3. Every denomination has things one won't like, and when you discover them, will you go looking for a more perfect union?
4. Only you know your heart, and only the community you want to serve can respond to you. Testing before you are ordained is good. If your denomination is not a good fit, or you cannot commit to what it is asking with your whole heart, now is the time to find out.

Prayers for the journey.

For the second question, the truth is, with great difficulty. It can be hard to see the clay feet of the alleged leaders of one's church and maintain one's faith. Sorting out what is of God and what is of "man" in an institution can be a full-time job when in close contact with it. I try to find that which feeds my spirit and renews my strength, looking to those who seem to embody faith whether they are in leadership or not. For my close relationships in the institution, I try to stay away from those who suck the life out of church. Good personal boundaries are important as well as personal practice of faith. When I run across people and things that take away my faith, I try to learn what might be "hooked" in me—that part of me that does the same things. Since I am a priest, I have to work closely with the institution— or quit. I still see more that builds my faith than not, so I am staying. The institution can do things that one person cannot accomplish alone, but if it does not work for you, find what does.

Jacque says:
I have served for 14 years of my ministry on the Commission on Ministry overseeing seminary students and ordination candidates in two different regions of our denomination. In that time, I have followed the process of many students who have changed denominations. I hear your desire to be faithful to your home denomination and not to run when the relationship is hard. I have great respect for that approach, and have taken it myself. I will always be a bit pulled between love for my own denomination and my yearning for a higher liturgical expression in worship. On the other hand, I have chosen a non-hierarchical structure that has been very freeing and life-giving for ministry. I cannot say what the "right" choice was. I can only say that I made a choice to stay and there have been positives and negatives.

As I have watched students in the process, I admire the courage of some who have discerned that their core values for church and ministry are reflected more profoundly in another denomination than the one they have known. Very often students come to seminary with limited experience of the different denominations. When we look at it from that perspective, it makes sense and is quite right that we finally experience a call to ministry in the tradition that best fits for us. When we as a Commission on MInistry see that a person has truly "come home" in the change they make, we celebrate it.

On the other hand, we are concerned that students seek a change for the right reasons: That they are not running from conflict, that they are not simply seeking a polity that will make their search for a congregation easier, that their theology and ecclesiology truly connects with the overall theology and ecclesiology of the denomination they want to join. For these reasons, we do not allow "quick" transfers.

As for how my faith survives in "close contact with the church"—I used to feel that my denomination defined what parts of "the tradition" were "mine." When I was growing up, I would hear people say "we do this" or "we don't do that." I finally came to realize that all the tradition—whatever nurtures my relationship with God—is mine. Therefore I can be a relatively "high church" pastor of the Disciples of Christ. I can be a co-member of a Roman Catholic order. I can nurture a Celtic spirit. I can do what is needed to nurture a whole faith that is not restricted to or by my experience in a particular congregation or denomination. The result is that I feel more at home in my congregation and denomination, because I see it as part of the Church of Jesus Christ and certainly not all of it.

[PS--Be sure to send a hearty thank you to all our Matriarchs for their continuing participation in this column! And send your questions about ministry to us at]

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Wednesday Fast-ival: Ashes

Photo from Journey with Jesus

I learned in a recent sermon that the opposite of a Feast day in the church is a Fast day. Those of us observing Ash Wednesday as the beginning of Lent today are definitely in the Fasting mode, but in the spirit of "Rend your hearts, and not your garments," the Wednesday round-up proceeds!

First of all - please keep Lorna and her family in your prayers. They are having a crisis and need our support.

On the thankstivings front, Katherine (KEWP) at Any Day a Beautiful Change is a mamma of a week old baby girl! Go over and greet the beauteous little Juliette!

Gallycat is back, hooray! She has a new blog home, so update your friend lists! She is now at And check out her recent post on change, and redeeming it!

Leah Sophia ("in Rainland," as she says) submits two new graphic designs based on passages from Isaiah: sing, heavens; shout earth from Isaiah 44:23
and streams in the desert from Isaiah 35:6-7

Christine at the Abbey of the Arts invites us to another Poetry Party! I'm on my way!

Jeff at POC has a Big Serious Lenten Blogging Experiment going on. Add this to your Favorites!

Sally has a YouTube video to share: What would you say to the Grey Man? She is also tired of defending her call on the basis of gender...can we get a witness? (And the people said, AMEN!)

Reverendmother (with another beauteous little one in arms) wants to know your tips for organizing your life and ministry! Check her out here.

And you, what are you doing, praying, writing today? What is your Lenten observance, or is there one? Share in the comments, and if you link to your post we will be sure to come and visit you!

To do so, use the following formulation:
<a href="the url of your blog post goes here">what you want the link to say goes here</a>

Don't forget you can email your submissions for upcoming festivals to

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lectionary Leanings- Fat Tuesday Edition

First Sunday In Lent
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32:1-11
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

It's Fat Tuesday today, Ash Wednesday Eve. Do you have your Mardi Gras inflatable in your yard? Pancake batter ready? Fasnachts on your table? King Cake ready to cut?

We're heading into the wilderness once again. Just this past Saturday we remembered Jesus' presentation in the Temple, and already he's off into the wilderness. Kids grow up so fast these days....

As the years have gone by, there are some things I have realized about these temptations. I
Wilderness. I want Jesus to be tempted. Sometmes I wonder what it might have been like if he had done some of the things satan had suggested- he could of if he had wanted, without a deal.

Ending hunger?
These things sound good to me.

Jesus could have done any and all of these things. It was within his ability. It was within his right. He chose not to do so for the same reason God chose not to use plague or flood this time to make His will known. God had tried those things, and they had not worked. They had not brought everlasting peace or justice. And so God did the only thing left. The greatest thing. God became fully human, submitting to the limitations of humanity and the limitations of the human heart. God sought to conquer us not with power but with mercy, generosity, honesty, and complete vulnerability. The human heart reciprocated this gift with crucifixion, and even that God defeated- not through removing Jesus from the cross but through the power of resurrection. But I'm getting ahead of myself. This week, the wilderness journey begins.

Or maybe, this is a week to talk about satan. I don't think of satan as a being. I think of satan as a way people, faithful people, have tried to answer the question that sooner or later, and usually more than once, comes to call in all of our lives.

Why do bad things happen? How can a world with a loving God allow concentration camps. Tsunamis. Starvation. Cancer. How can this happen?

Satan, tempting people, pulling people away from God helps many people provide an explanation for horror. For injustice. For many people, satan is the answer to that question, it explains the wrongs without indicting God. The problem with this solution can be summed up in a quote someone shared with me. "To personify Satan is to exonerate ourselves." The theological problem with a being satan who incites evil is that it means that we are not culpable or responsible. And we are. Not for tsunamis, but for hunger. For injustice. Even for institutional evils like systematic racism. Individually, collectively.If we personify satan, we eliminate any responsibility we have to confess our sin and doing the work of repentance that only God can make possible.

So. That's what I'm thinking. What's in your wilderness? What's the Holy Spirit doing with your sermon?

Is different from a desert
More cut off
More arid
Closer at hand.

Nothing else is there
Except our doubts
And our wants
And our desire to leave.

There’s only one way out,
To admit that we are there
To be prepared to stay
To lose all fear of being alone.

After we laugh at the liars,
Resist temptation,
Reject earthly power
We are allowed to leave.

~~Elizabeth H. Theofan

Monday, February 04, 2008

Meet and Greet: the Mardi Gras Edition


Come on everybody, let's party! It's the Mardi Gras Edition of Meet and Greet - so don your beaded necklaces and dancing shoes and parade on over and Greet these new blogs:

Fringe Dweller:
I am an Icon Writer, Wife, Artist, Ordinand in the Anglican Church in New Zealand. I am fascinated by the faith journey, entranced by the Desert Mothers and love seeing how faith is played out in popular culture.

I'm always working with words: sermons and fiction, mainly, and sometimes just trying to process life on a page. I'm a Presbyterian clergywoman with a husband, two almost-grown daughters, and an urge to travel. So how do I end up with my seat in a chair most mornings, typing? I've completed two novels about a clergywoman, and now she's looking for a home, while I branch off into writing some non-fiction about recent pilgrimages to Israel and Jordan.

Then dance on over and Greet CPClergymamma:

Where to you blog?
Can a Texas Bluebonnet bloom in Tennessee.

What are your favorite non-revgal blog pal blogs?
I don't read any non-revgal pal blogs. I know I should, but the revgal pals are just too interesting!

What gives you joy?
Hearing babygirl (my 3yrd old daughter) say I love you and say her prayers. Feeling the littleone-to-be move around. Praying with others. and of course, West Texas!

What is your favorite sound?
babygirl's laughter.

What do you hope to hear once you enter the pearly gates?
perhaps a version of p!nk's "Let's get this party started."

You have up to 15 words, what would you put on your tombstone?
"Life's like a box of chocolates; and cpclergymama was allergic to chocolate!"

Write the first sentence of your own great American novel.
"A girl can really breathe out hear." she thought as she looked out over the rim of the yellow house canyons..

What color do you prefer your pen?
Black on notebook paper, blue on checks

What magazines do you subscribe too?
denominational mag and Parents (I've been meaning to subscribe to REV or some other minister's mag, but have not yet.)

What is something you want to achieve this decade?
get my PhD, of course that requires deciding what I want my PhD in and where to go in the next decade!

Why are you cool?
no, not even a little bit sadly, but I am married to a Jazz guitarist, so perhaps a little cool by association?

What is one of your favorite memories?
One of my favorite memories is perhaps not the "nicest" memory. I was 13 and my grandmother had just married a "southern gentleman" who thought women were possessions. He was not a fan of the idea of getting a granddaughter who wanted to be a pastor. We were on a trip to Vicksburg and we stopped at a tourist spot to get a map. He was flirting with the women behind the counter, offering to swim the mighty Mississippi for them, etc. and I was really mad that he would do that in front of his new wife. So I told him that I didn't think he was very respectful of his wife or to those women. He hurried me out the door, then he grabbed my arm and lead me towards the van saying "Watch yourself girl, your still young enough to be pinched." I turned, looked him in the eyes and said "Try it , old man, and you'll draw back a bloody stump!"

As you can guess our relationship over the past 16 years has been strained at best. I'm not really proud of the rudeness, but I am proud that I stood up for myself to a man, something I still have a hard time doing.

Any other question you've always wanted to be asked?
Well, I've always wanted to be asked if I would like a million dollars (yes please); If I would like to go on a mission trip to some exotic, mosquito free area (double yes); and if I would move back to Texas (in a heartbeat!)

So, let's get THIS party started! Thanks CPclergymamma!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sunday Video: Plainchant

Last night we had our first Sung Compline at my church. A lovely gift and a prayerful way to close the day, with plainchant in our ears.

This morning we sang many of my favorites, including "When Morning Gilds the Skies," and "Alleluia, Sing to Jesus."

What have you been singing, listening to, praying today and as you prepare for Lent (if you will be observing Lent)?

Thank you

Dear All,

thank you to everyone who commented on my Friday 5. I will be sending £45.00 to the MRDF


Sunday Prayer

This prayer comes with a confession: I just didn't have it in me tonight to write a prayer, so this is a reprint from one year ago. I hope it's helpful anyway.

Wondrous God, Source of Life, Holy Mystery, hear our prayers. In praise and thanksgiving we gather now in mind, heart and spirit to offer up the blessings and concerns of this day.

God, we thank you for ways in which we encounter you day to day. We thank you when we see your love shining in the smile of a friend, or the sweetness of a baby’s laugh. We praise you when an embrace from a loved one reflects your love for us.

In prayer, in quiet moments captured in the midst of busy days, and in the most unexpected ways – you meet us as we are. We thank you God for these glimpses of holiness and for the sustaining power they bring to the nurture of our faith.

Strengthen us as we seek to live the faith we proclaim, and help us to bring the light of your love into the lives of everyone we meet.

Bless those for whom we have prayed aloud this morning, and those whose cares and trials are close to our hearts.

Be with all who are ill in body, mind and spirit….with the grieving and the dying. Bring strength and peace to those who are struggling with life’s troubles. Grant them the peace and courage that only you can bring, for we ask it in Jesus’ name, who taught us to pray together, singing…

Saturday, February 02, 2008

11th Hour Preacher Party: A Lamp Shining in a Dark Place Edition

And now, only (let's see, counting) 27 days after Epiphany, we turn to another bright day, Transfiguration Sunday! Is the light blinding your eyes? Or can you finally see clearly the way of life? Where are you this morning? Are you on the mountain with Moses? Or on the mountain with Jesus, Moses and Elijah? Or are you turning to 2 Peter, who is staying faithful to apostolic teaching while waiting for the day to dawn and the morning star to dawn in our hearts? Or are you off Lectionary tomorrow, doing something completely different?

Me? I'm preaching on the Gospel tomorrow, having exhausted, these last few years, every possible example for a children's sermon using flashlights, candles, lampshades and other lights hidden or revealed. I'm especially focusing on the instructions of the Voice: "Listen to Him." Not "look at him." "Listen to him."

And as we prepare for Lent in just a few days, what kind of feasts are in front of you? Tomorrow is our congregation's annual Mardi Gras brunch. We are serving egg bake, and featuring cake walks and face painting. Today however, there is (as always) Fair Trade coffee brewing (today it's French Vanilla) and tea. In honor of Fat Tuesday, have some blueberry pancakes as well, and please, bring some of your own leftovers to share as we prepare for the Lenten fast. Then, pull up a virtual chair, and let's feast and share our own visions and voices.

Image from the St. John's Bible.