Friday, November 24, 2006

RGBP Friday Five

Not only am I not shopping today, I'm still wearing pajamas at 2pm. And I'm not watching TV today either. I'm reading, memorizing my sermon (which you can read and comment on below), and playing with my cat. I'm also enjoying not having any leftovers to worry about--instead I am just eating whatever I feel like, and drinking lots of hot cocoa in spite of it being unseasonably warm for this area/time of year.

This FF comes from RM...

1. Would you ever/have you ever stood in line for something--tickets, good deals on electronics, Tickle Me Elmo?
Umm, I'm trying to remember standing in line to buy something (other than food at baseball games and the obvious: grocery store, etc). I don't really recall having done that, though I have stood in lines to get in places: concerts, baseball games, museums, rides at Six Flags.

2. Do you enjoy shopping as a recreational activity?
hahahahahahah!
no.
unless it's for shoes or books.
but I don't have the money to buy the shoes or books I want all the time, so no.
My preferred recreational activities, in no particular order: sleeping, reading, watching Buffy, hanging out with my friends, blogging, going to church somewhere else, singing, going to the Art Institute, eating pizza. notice most of those are free.
When I go shopping, it's because I need something. Then I go to a store where I will pay for the fact that it is all nicely organized and I can plainly see whether they have what I want. If they have it, I pick it up, buy it, and get out. If they don't, I just do the getting out part and move on to the next place.

3. Your favorite place to browse without necessarily buying anything.
Oh, how I wish I could say Borders, but who are we kidding. I buy something every time I walk in that store. So, we'll say Williams-Sonoma. I love the things in there, but can afford nothing, so it's totally safe and kind of fun.

4. Gift cards: handy gifts for the loved one who has everything, or cold impersonal symbol of all that is wrong in our culture?
wow, no middle ground here! I personally prefer gift cards in many instances when the alternative is something I don't like/doesn't fit/isn't my style/comes from a person who remembers me when I was 10 and desperately into clarinets and my little ponies and rainbow brite. From those who live faraway (all of my family and many of my friends!), gift cards are also much more practical, since they don't require shipping fees over 39 cents. However, from those who are close to me, either emotionally or geographically, it can be a little bit of a cop-out. Unless they pick the right store for the card.
This year I'm giving a lot of Heifer gifts--I think my friends and some family members will, all together, receive the gift of having given a water buffalo to a hungry family.
I do rather pine for the days when people spent time thinking about what another person would enjoy, then chose that as the perfect gift. But the stress of choosing the perfect gift for everyone on the list (when the list is constantly expanding) is not exactly in the spirit of giving. Enter the gift card.

5. Discuss the spiritual and theological issues inherent in people coming to blows over a Playstation 3.
oh dear.
what was that about not storing up treasures on earth, about worshipping either God or mammon, about nonviolence, about love?
I'm so disturbed that people fight over toys.
as I write this, I'm watching a video about the Heifer project in Tibet. And thinking about goats vs. playstations and wondering if anyone has ever fought over the last gift of beehives or the last available llama. and also watching the holiday video:

aww, kitty!

A story from my day:

I'm reading on my couch, a blanket tossed over my legs, and I feel the blanket pulling off the couch.
I look down and see Ollie, curled up under the end of the blanket that's on the floor, and rolling up in it more.
I love my kitty.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

snippets of thanksgivings past

* making a cream-based butternut squash soup with mom...
* creating a cornucopia. mom made the horn out of bread, i filled it with fruit and squash and whatnot.
* sneaking bites of noe's mom's cheese grits, all the while maintaining that I don't like grits. Half the dish just disappeared.
* smelling turkey, thinking about giving up the vegetarian thing for just one night, then watching Chicken Run and changing my mind. I ate wonderful butternut squash risotto and other sides that night--no turkey. (I've not been tempted since, and that was 7 years ago.)
* having a feast with about 35 other American/Canadian missionaries in Cairo. Turkeys, potatoes, dressing made by the Egyptian chef at the school, the rest potluck. I made green bean casserole with fresh green beans, imported Campbell's soup (at about $2 per can), and fried onions from the koshary place. yum. we ended the eating with singing from the old red Presbyterian Hymnal--the only thing we could find with that many copies in the house.
* gobbling up butterscotch "blondies" (like brownies only somehow better) and rice krispy treats with chocolate on top at grandma's house.
* making mushroom gravy for the first time at jason's grandparents' house.
* being thankful for somewhere to go, food to eat, and friends to be with.
* hanging out with people I've never met before (with two church-member exceptions), talking about the world, eating food I didn't cook, and watching other people clean up.
* going home from said dinner to memorize a sermon. (you can find it two posts down...feel free to read and comment anytime! I'm still soliciting suggestions.)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

deturkey...no, wait, de-LURKey! :-)

okay, my vegetarian self couldn't help it. spare a turkey! And bring me some comment love! I know you're out there, I can see you on my tracker. so I want to know where you are, if you're willing to say, because the little things on there always make me curious. Yes, I like to know things...why do you ask? :-)



One of the RGBPs made Thanksgiving week the de-lurking week. If you've been lurking around, show yourself. Or at least admit it in a smokin' kind of way like Angel did on Buffy in What's My Line, part 1 (season 1). "I lurk" he says. dang. Just sayin. Admit it now. :-)

this weekend's sermon, final ed.

(to be preached without benefit of paper at all, due to the pulpit being excessively large for me.)

Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
So, are you a King or not?
2 Samuel 23.1-4
John 18.33-38
25/26 November 2006

Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, son of Jesse, the oracle of the man whom God exalted, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the favorite of the Strong One of Israel:
The Spirit of the LORD speaks through me, his word us upon my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken, the Rock of Israel has said to me:
One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning,
like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.

(NRSV)
Then Pilate entered the headquarters again, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you ask this on your own, or did others tell you about me?” Pilate replied, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests have handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.” Pilate asked him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate asked him, “What is truth?”

(Message)
Pilate went back into the palace and called for Jesus. He said, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own, or did others tell you this about me?” Pilate said, “Do I look like a Jew? Your people and your high priests turned you over to me. What did you do?” “My kingdom,” said Jesus, “Doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.” Then Pilate said, “So, are you a king or not?” Jesus answered, “You tell me. Because I am King, I was born and entered the world so that I could witness to the truth. Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice.” Pilate said, “What is truth?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kings are kind of a foreign thing to us Americans…we haven’t had direct kingly experience since…well, the time of the first Thanksgiving, really. And that wasn’t what you’d call a good experience—if it had been, there would have been no need to toss all our tea into Boston Harbor a few years later. No, kings are decidedly un-American. But we all know what kings are like, right? We know that kings have lots of money, a big army, several palaces, maybe some castles…mmm, castles made of big stones, with tapestries and paintings and candles and torches and rugs and very antique furniture. The great hall has long tables with benches and chairs, and a big gold-plated throne at the head of the table, up on a platform. The king, who is probably overweight, sits in the throne, covered in furs and velvet, with a golden crown encrusted with rubies and diamonds and emeralds and sapphires. The court sits around the table, looking on adoringly. There’s more food than we can imagine, even more food than any of our Thanksgiving tables—whole roasted boars, baskets of bread, huge roasted turkey legs, mounds of potatoes, piles of sweets, and lots of wine. The king’s plate is never empty, his cup is refilled after every sip, and he’s fanned, preferably with fresh palm leaves, by two or three gorgeous young women, who also occasionally pop peeled grapes into his mouth. The king sits around on his piles of money, eating off his golden dishes with his silver spoons, is bathed and dressed and groomed by attendants, goes hunting, gives orders, and generally just enjoys himself all day, every day. Sure, maybe there are wars to be fought, territory to be gained, business to be attended to, and daughters to be married off, but that’s what advisors are for.

The king also has supreme control over everything in his kingdom—from the dinner to the dancers to the jesters to the farmers. When he hears that someone is saying bad things about him, he can just say “off with his head!” and it will be done. He can demand any amount in taxes from his vassals. The farmers, the hunters, the merchants, the local village mayors, the priests—they all pay homage to the king with their words and with their money. And as soon as they don’t, or they do something the king finds displeasing, they end up in the dungeon or on the gallows. What the king says goes. His word is law. His word is the same as God’s. That’s how kings are. Everybody knows that.

Back in the day, when the Israelites wanted a king, Samuel told them what kings are like. His description was pretty similar to mine: a king will take your sons for the army and for hard labor. He’ll take your daughters to cook and bake in his palace. He’ll take the best produce from your fields and vineyards and orchards, he’ll take your grain, your best livestock, and your slaves, plus make you pay taxes, and you’ll be no better off for all of that (1). But they wanted a king anyway. So a king they got. And Samuel was right, of course. The kings took extravagantly in order to live extravagantly. Even David, the best of the kings, a king as wonderful as morning sunlight, murdered a man to take his wife. The palaces of Israel were the envy of neighboring powers, the place to go on holiday from as far away as Sheba and Assyria. Then along came the Romans, with their own brand of extravagance—with more white marble, more gold, fancy sculpture and art. By the time of Jesus, there were probably 4 palaces in Jerusalem, at least (2). Besides the Temple, which is like the ultimate palace, King Herod had a couple, the high priest had one, and the Roman governor had one for when he came to visit. The king must have appeared to have at least as much money as God. And Pilate…well, Pilate had the whole weight of the empire behind him. In fact, he would have said he had a god behind him too—the emperor, who was called the king of kings, being considered god.

I don’t know about you, but this is not exactly what I envision when I think of Jesus as King. To be honest, I’m not sure what I envision when I think of Jesus as king. All I know is that tyrant over an extravagant court of excess is not very Jesus-esque. But this is the understanding of kingship that he walks right into. People started talking about him as king…and since, in some instances, one can be made king by a coup that starts with lots of public acclamation, that’s pretty dangerous. It’s the kind of talk that gets you labeled a “pretender to the throne” or a “traitor,” and those are the kind of labels that get you tossed in a dungeon or headed to the guillotine. The thing is, Jesus doesn’t look much like a king. He’s not dressed in purple robes, carrying a scepter, wearing a crown, making decrees and doing whatever else it is kings do. So of course Pilate walks in and asks this pretender, “Are you the king of the Jews?” And Jesus, naturally, doesn’t answer the question. Instead he asks a question: “are you just repeating gossip, or do you actually know something?” Pilate is appropriately offended—as if he would gossip with Jews!

And then Jesus does it. He stops being a pretender and he takes his rightful place as king…but not in the way we, or Pilate, can recognize. He doesn’t draw himself up, puff out his chest, force Pilate to his knees, and come out with some grand display of power and might. He says, “I have a kingdom, but it’s not all this fluff you have around you, it’s not fur and velvet and gold and roasted boar. That’s not the kind of king I am. I’m not a king like Herod, not a governor like you, not an emperor like Caesar.”
And Pilate, all confused and a little exasperated, says, “so…..are you a king or not?????”

And that’s the question, isn’t it? Is Jesus a king or not? He certainly doesn’t look like one. He doesn’t act like one. He doesn’t sound like one. And, given the bathing customs of the day, he probably doesn’t smell like one either. Well…if it doesn’t look, act, sound, or smell like a king…is it a king? Pilate certainly doesn’t know the answer. Decades of church tradition say that we do know the answer, and it is unequivocally “yes.” Jesus is King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Ruler of all, Sovereign of the Universe, and all the other imperial titles we can possibly think of. But he’s not the world’s kind of king.

So…is he a king, or not?

Jesus is...well, he’s different. He did not worry, like Pilate, about associating with the wrong people. He did not order anyone around. He did not condemn anyone to death—even the bandit crucified next to him received a blessing. He did not look expectantly at the disciples, waiting for them to fill his wine glass at the Last Supper. He did not take money, demand honor, or raise an army.

He did have undesirable friends. He did talk to and learn from women. He did touch lepers. He did wash his disciples’ feet. He did prepare and serve them a dinner on an important festival. He did say, “love one another as I have loved you.” And he did talk about what it means to be great, what it means to have power. Jesus told his disciples, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve.” (3)

Jesus talks and walks a different kind of kingship, a different kind of power. His is not a controlling, coercive, tyrannical power, not a power based on fear. His is a power by empowering, a power that comes through serving, a power based on love. King Jesus, unlike any other king in history, doesn’t say “hey, pay attention to me, do what I say, look at me!!” Instead, King Jesus says, “it’s not about me, it’s about my world.” He came to serve, not to be served peeled grapes and never ending golden goblets of wine. He came to show us how to love and live and serve not a king, but a people and a world. How many kings do you remember like that?

This is a different kind of king, not the world’s kind of king. This is a king who demands not tribute, not taxes, not homage, but service to others. This is a king who says not “give me all your livelihood” but “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly,” a king who is as life-giving as rain on a grassy land. This is a king who says “you are my body, you are a royal nation, you are heirs with me”—a king who makes us a part of the royal family. And this royal family is here to testify to this truth: that whoever would be great must be servant of all, that love and service are greater than fear and violence, that our power comes from empowering and loving and serving others in the name of Christ, not from palaces and wealth and coercive control.

Martin Luther King Junior once preached about Jesus and greatness and service, and in that sermon he said:

“Every now and then somebody says, "He's King of Kings." And again I can hear somebody saying, "He's Lord of Lords." Somewhere else I can hear somebody saying, "In Christ there is no East nor West." And then they go on and talk about, "In Him there's no North and South, but one great Fellowship of Love throughout the whole wide world." He didn't have anything. He just went around serving and doing good.

"And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness.

"And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.” (4)

Thanks be to God.

Amen

~~~~~~~
(1) 1 Samuel 8.11-18
(2) for a photo and “tour” of the scale model of 1st century Jerusalem, click here
(3) Mark 10.42-44a
(4) “the Drum Major Instinct,” preached at Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta on February 4, 1968.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

that time of year

it's that time of year already--
the trees are barren and dead-looking, the sky is grey, and the village near mine (the one i pass through on my way to the gym) has put up the christmas decorations on the light poles. santas, candles, trees, and who knows what else, all made of tinsel and neon, adorning every single lightpost on major streets of the village. crazy. Also, a house near the church has all their Christmas lights up already. dang.
but seriously, the trees. elsewhere people still have beautiful colors on their trees. elsewhere people still have bright sunny warm days. but not here. Here every leaf has dropped and we just have sticks, sticking off trunks, jaggedly cutting into the grey with brown. these are the colors of winter in the upper midwest. these are the colors we'll see from now until at least March, probably April, and possibly even until May.
After days like this, driving through town and seeing brown and grey, i almost WANT snow. at least snow is sparkly and white and reflects light and can be made into snowpeople.
almost. (not quite.)

it's also possible that this feeling of nature's november ugliness is related to the extreme amount of paint fumes i've inhaled in the last two days. I painted my kitchen, but it's too cold outside to have a door or window open so I've just been sucking them in. good times. At least the kitchen is done. Tape comes off tomorrow and then my house will be mostly ready. Luckily my house has burnt/brick orange, sage green, teal, blue, and purple paint so I can offset the grey and brown outdoors.

Friday, November 17, 2006

hmm

The to-do list is still unreasonably long, but my kitchen is mostly painted. it needs a second coat, of course, but the first is done. yay! Also, I've successfully been certified at the indoor-rock-climbing place in preparation for this weekend. woohoo!

now for the hanging of pictures in various rooms...

i've also watched 7 episodes of Buffy while painting and eating. I love buffy. but the whole willow/oz thing in season four makes me so sad.

my kitty just stretched out her paw to me...it was sweet.

i have nothing really to say today.

i like skinny cow mint ice cream sandwiches.

that's all.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

One-Woman Variety Show

That's a little what being a pastor is like....and I'm not even a solo pastor.

This week I have already:
~met with all the youth group leaders to plan the winter/spring/summer
~met with the worship planning team to talk about December 31st
~been to a Presbytery meeting where the Secretary General of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa preached and spoke, and where I learned that the Presbyterian church in Kenya has grown so rapidly that there are now 4 million people in churches and only 500 trained pastors--that's one pastor for every 8,000 people!
~talked to my new insurance company
~planned the texts I will preach on until Lent
~talked with the Children's Choir director about the Christmas Eve family services and the play/choir "event"
~bought about 15 new books
~picked up my diploma in its beee-yuu-tee-ful new frame, and my papyri too (also framed beautifully)
~got confirmation on the Senior High Mission Trip for next summer in New Orleans
~planned the confirmation class curriculum outline
~read "The Heart of Christianity" by Marcus Borg--the book the adult SS class is working on
~talked with the fellowship team about the "Drop-n-Shop" event in December, planning everything from games to crafts to snacks to movies
~planned worship with the NewWay team for next week
~had good talks with both Jason and my therapist (not at the same time)
~took pictures of my Arabic bracelet from Egypt for someone who wants a similar one
~wondered why the Pilot V5 pen doesn't come in packs of all blue the way the V7 does
~chose/ordered cork strips for mounting Sunday School artwork on the wall outside the sanctuary (may end up mounting them too, we'll see!)
~sang a new song for the choir director
~played smiley games with a one-year-old
~played with my "moo-cow" (a stuffed cow that says "moooooo, I'm a cow!" when you squeeze it) for a 7 year old
~petted my cat a LOT
~read half of "Ella Minnow Pea" which is turning out to be a cool book so far

Right now I am listening to the choir practicing above my head in the sanctuary.

This week I still need to:
~finish the confirmation plan
~get belay-certified at the indoor rock-climbing place before Sunday's youth group event there
~get started on next weekend's sermon, since Thanksgiving falls inconveniently on my writing day
~learn how this church makes bulletins
~plan a lock-in
~finalize the number of tickets we need for the senior highs to go see Wicked (cool!)
~Read "the Secret Message of Jesus"
~get started on a child protection policy
~get the covenants for both confirmation and the mission trip ready
~find advent wreaths and calendars for the sunday school classrooms
~call some people in the hospital
~sleep
~come up with a children's sermon and some prayers of the people

Except for the rock-climbing thing, all of that will supposedly get done on Thursday. ha.

I'm going home now. :-)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

"a change"

it seems that the voters have spoken. I'm excited by the change in our representation. I'm realistic enough to recognize that things don't change overnight and also that politicians are politicians, regardless of party. And I'm cynical enough to think that soon-to-be-speaker Pelosi should not have said in her speech last night "we will run the most ethical congress in history" because she only sets herself and the entire party up for embarrassing hypocrisy, as we've seen in other public figures in recent days. It seems to me that it would be better to simply acknowledge the sketchiness of politicians, to say we'll try to be different, but not to out-and-out claim that everything's going to be better, cleaner, more honest, more ethical, more moral, or whatever. I mean, really--that's just falling into the same trap of the hyper-moral-religious-right, it seems. Anyway...

I think this country needs a change--possibly a lot of changes. But you know what? Change is painful. It isn't easy. It takes time. And voters can be impatient and fickle. So I'm excited by the possibilities offered by yesterday's election, and I'm hopeful that true change is coming, and I'm hopeful that people in this country will be willing to do the hard work, the psychological and economic and cultural work, that change might require. And I hope we won't blame the newly-ruling-party when the change is hard and painful and more than we want to deal with. Instead I hope we'll look to a future with hope and willingness to work for that future. I hope we'll give these winds of change a chance that extends beyone 2008.

And that's the end of my political thoughts of the day. Here's praying for my country...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

insha'allah

Since coming back from Egypt, I have been feeling very strange about speaking English sometimes. It's frustrating when you've gotten used to speaking another language and then, all of a sudden, no one around you knows it but instead expects you to just speak your own language all the time. I know that sounds bizarre, but sometimes there are things that would just be so much easier in Arabic.

Also, in English (at least in America), we have this habit of using the future tense with great abandon. In Egypt, anytime you use the future tense you tack on "insha'allah," which means "God willing." It used to annoy me because it's an easy way to get out of doing things--you say "well, I'll be there...God willing" and when you forget, it was not God's will that you show up for the meeting. But here it seems that we use the future tense with a serious sense of entitlement. We just assume that we'll still be here to attend something next week or next summer. We agree to do things without really recognizing that it's only by God's grace that we'll have an earthly future. It feels weird to say "oh, yes, I'll be there next Tuesday" without adding "insha'allah." Or to say "next summer we WILL go on a mission trip" as though God has nothing to do with our getting to next summer.

Perhaps this all sounds very morbid. But that's not what I mean...I just mean that I think we need more awareness of the fact that we aren't really in control of the world, circumstances, our "fate" (you might say). We don't know the future, we don't know God's plans (besides to give us a future with hope), we don't know how things will go five minutes from now--much less five months from now.

I don't mean to say that we shouldn't plan ahead, that we shouldn't make commitments, that we shouldn't think about the future. I do mean to say that God has a funny way of getting in the midst of our plans and hopes and ideas. I do mean to say that God has plans and hopes and ideas. And I do mean to say that our plans/hopes/ideas are not always the same as God's plans/hopes/ideas. So I just think we should be less flippant with our future tense. Because we don't know. God does know, or at least suspects.

So there...insha'allah is a word that's coming back to my vocabulary, even if no one else understands me. And I plan to find someone I can talk to in Arabic, a tutor who can teach me more Arabic, so I can continue to learn. Insha'allah.