Friday, December 29, 2006

1st Sunday of Christmas: a sermon

the first first draft of this weekend's be preached on Saturday and Sunday...comments invited!

“Need to Know”
Luke 2.41-52
Christmas 1: December 30/31 2006

Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, ‘Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.’ He said to them, ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.
And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.


Once upon a time, there was a young girl. She was considered too young to start school—she had not reached that magic age by the magic deadline, and so was sent to another year of preschool, despite the fact that she had already begun to read. The next year rolled around, as years are wont to do, and the girl went to the Kindergarten class with the other girls and boys. A few delightful days full of games, stories, and play passed. Then a note went home with the girl. Her mother read the note, laughed, and said “I told you so.” The next week, there were tests…all kinds of tests. Tests with shapes, words, stories, puzzles. At the end of the tests, a very serious woman said to the mother, “I think your little girl here ought to be in second grade.” The mother laughed again, said “I told you so” again, and then said “no way.” First grade it was…and the girl was back with the kids she tried to begin school with the year before.

Jesus was only 12. He wouldn’t be a man, a student, an apprentice…an anything, really, until the next year. He had a whole year to wait until he could study with the teachers, ask questions, or do any learning outside his home or local synagogue. He certainly couldn’t work, and anything he might say would probably be automatically discounted because he was nothing but a child—and children were not worth much until they became productive—at 13.

Have you ever noticed how children often say things very matter-of-factly, as though it should be plainly obvious to all of us what is going on? Like the girl who, when asked what she was drawing a picture of, said “God.” To which the teacher responded with a mixture of patronizing and confusion, “but no one knows what God looks like.” The girl did not even look up from her drawing as she answered, “they will when I’m done!” How obvious, of course! I suspect that teacher walked away not really understanding. I suspect that my own parents and teachers walked away from that first week of school not really understanding the things I said and did, how to handle a 5 year old so precocious she got notes sent home that said “Teri tried to teach the class today…again.” And we read just now how Jesus’ parents didn’t understand…well, much of anything. This whole passage is filled with “they did not understand.”

The thing about parenting, I’m told, is that there’s no really good comprehensive “how-to” book. No “parenting for dummies” that actually covers all the bases for every child and every parent. There are always surprises, plot twists, comic relief, tragic moments. There’s always something that just wasn’t in the book. Jesus’ parents are no different, though their son was pretty different. Joseph and Mary had no big yellow book with black letters on the cover: “How to Parent the Messiah!” They learned about parenting the way everyone else does—by doing it. And Jesus, of course, learned about growing up and being a normal kid the way everyone else does—by doing it.

So here we have this suddenly precocious almost-teenager where just a few days ago we had a sweet little boy. Last week, in the manger, he wasn’t even crying, and now he’s sassing his mom. Last week there were angels singing and shepherds running, and now he’s wandering off in a crowd, staying out after curfew, not calling home, and sitting around with the grown-ups talking about religion and politics. But he’s only 12! What happened to Mary’s little momma’s boy?

I suspect this is a familiar feeling for many of you, as you’ve watched children grow up. Even I have felt it, watching my brother grow up and learn about life the hard way. I’ve felt it watching kids in my youth groups grow up. And they aren’t even my own kids! Yesterday they were crawling and today they’re driving. I admit I can’t understand how you all feel as you think about your kids becoming teenagers. And I can’t understand how Mary and Joseph felt when Jesus talked back to them in front of all those people, after they’d been sick with worry for four days.

Funnily enough, Jesus couldn’t figure out why they were so worried. And Mary and Joseph couldn’t understand why he didn’t get it. It’s a classic parent-teen conversation, with attitude. And all the people around were amazed that a mere child could understand so much of what the teachers taught. All over this story people are amazed, astonished, assuming, not knowing, and not understanding—and no one fits more of these words than Mary and Joseph, newly minted parents of an adolescent. Can’t you just picture them? They’ve been down in the city for a festival. They’re walking the 65 miles home afterwards with a throng of travelers, many of whom traveled down together as well. Family and friends, neighbors and coworkers, they all walked together. In the evening, Joseph says to Mary, “where’s that boy of yours?” Mary says, “umm, I looked after him while you took the lamb to be slaughtered. He’s your responsibility today! Why don’t you check on him?” They start with the family tents…no sign of their darling son. Then the neighbor’s tents…no sign of the kid there. Then his friends’ parents’ tents…no sign of the Son of God there either. Soon they’re saying to each other “no, he’s God’s Son, and he’s not even that cute…” as their frustration and anxiety mounts. They ask around, they even look in the camps of people they don’t know…he’s not there. So, back they go—fighting the crowd, the flow of traffic, the throng. Probably a hundred people told them they were going the wrong way as they walked back to Jerusalem, which was already a whole day away. Perhaps they were thinking that at least the crowd would have cleared out of the city by now, so he’ll be easier to spot…and what does he think he’s doing anyway?...he’s never misbehaved like this before…why did they ever agree to have kids?...soon Mary’s going through all the things she’s going to say to him when they find him…if they find him…Oh, God, what if they can’t find him?...that little scoundrel….kids these days!

Finally they go back to the Temple, which is finally starting to smell less like blood, and they start looking in the circles of teachers and students who ring the courtyard. In Middle Eastern culture, this is how religious schools work. Teachers find spots in the shade in the courtyard of a major place—in this case the Temple, in today’s Middle East, the mosque or the church—and the students gather around them. Everyone sits on the floor together while the teacher lectures and asks questions, and the students memorize, recite, and answer. It seems that Jesus has taken up residence in one of these circles…and that he is the one asking the questions. Hmm….how can this be? No one understands, least of all his parents, who finally find him sitting cross-legged on the white marble floor.

Have you ever noticed how often we use the words “understand” and “know” and other words like that? We like to know things. Well, at least I like to know things! Plus, we’re Presbyterians—education, intellect, understanding…that’s our thing. We like to know with our minds, to learn, to get our heads wrapped around things. We like to have words for everything—lots of words. That way we can be in control, right? Knowledge is power, after all.

But Jesus is one of those people we just can’t get our heads all the way around. We can’t know everything there is to know about God, we can’t understand Jesus, we can’t control or have power over God’s Spirit with our knowledge. It just doesn’t work that way! And, contrary to popular belief, we can’t ever really, fully, understand another person either. Most of us have enough on our plates just understanding ourselves, let alone someone else!

But that doesn’t stop us from trying, in either case. We have a very human desire to know things. Jesus apparently did too—otherwise he wouldn’t have stayed behind questioning the teachers in the Temple. Jesus’ parents wanted to know where he was, they wanted to know why he would do this thing, they wanted to know who he was and what all of that meant. But they couldn’t know—they couldn’t understand.

The thing is, even though they couldn’t understand, the reality is that they didn’t need to know. It wasn’t a necessity. Yes, they wanted to know all these things and probably more. I suspect most parents want to know all kinds of things. Kids too want to know all kinds of things. And there are about a zillion things I would love to know about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the church and the world and the brain and creation and pandas and people and…and…and…but I don’t need to know all those things in order to be in a relationship with God or with my neighbor. I don’t need to understand God. I don’t need to know everything, I just want to. And Jesus’ parents decided they didn’t need to know everything either. Instead, they just gathered up their son with hugs and tears and mild admonishments, and took him home. They loved him. Mary treasured these and many other things in her heart, as all mothers do. They didn’t need to know or understand, they just needed to be in a relationship with him, to treasure these things. Staying in the relationship is what mattered.

We don’t actually need to know everything, though we might want to. We don’t need to understand God—we can’t understand God! We can use all the words we want, but we can’t contain the Word. What we need is to be understood—by the only One who can understand. The only person in this story who is described as “understanding” is Jesus. Staying in the relationship with Jesus is what matters for us too, just like Jesus’ parents. They didn’t get it, but they loved one another. Even we can do that! He understands all things, including us, and including our relationship with him. And that is what makes all the difference.

Thanks be to God.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

bread of life

Serving Communion is such an interesting thing.

When people arrive at the front of the line, usually they look into my eyes.
I say “the bread of life” and then they pull off the smallest possible piece of bread they can. If they accidentally get a piece that they might be able to taste, they look at me and make a surprised look and sometimes they even say “ooh! Sorry!”

They often say, “thank you.”

And then they move on to the juice or wine, and I always wonder whether they can even put their miniscule bit of bread in the cup without getting their fingers all sticky. But by then I’ve moved on to the “bread of life” line for the next person.

Last night I had one of the youth (a sophomore in high school) get to the front of the line and say to me “yeah, the bread of life. I got it!” He’d obviously heard the line about fifty times while waiting.

I also had lots of kids come up and try to take big pieces, only to be reprimanded by their parents: “just take a little piece!” which is usually followed with them looking at me and apologizing as they take their own microscopic piece of bread.

Why do we have this compulsion to take the smallest piece of bread ever? I want to just break the pieces off for people so I can give them a large enough piece that they might get the “feast” idea rather than the “famine” they seem to operate out of. We are not going to run out of bread, I swear. And you know what? This is a feast, a party, a celebration—it’s okay to take a big piece. At least big enough to get it in the juice without getting your fingers in too. In fact, I think it’s GOOD, even BETTER to take a big piece. This is the bread of life, strength for the journey, food from heaven! Do you just want a little bit of life, a little bit of strength, a little bit of heavenly food? No! This is your chance to be fed with God’s own self. Take a big piece. And teach the kids to take big pieces too! I think I’m going to do a “worship workshop” for kids and teach them about communion…and I’ll tell them to take big pieces. :-)

As for “thank you”—well, I always want to say “you’re welcome” which I’m not sure is exactly right. Though perhaps it is—“you are welcome to this feast!” Or perhaps I should just say “thanks be to God.” Or perhaps I should just say nothing. I don’t know. I’m sure I’ve written about this before somewhere but I don’t know where…so I can’t remember how I’ve dealt with this before. Last night, though, I just smiled and looked to the next person.

Suggestions for communion:
Don’t change the bread for Christmas Eve. And don’t use rye bread. It’s kind of spicy, and mixes strangely with grape juice. Always use Welch’s. And that’s all.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas all!

I hope you had a wonderful holiday.

After spending all of Christmas Eve at church (one morning service and five evening services), I slept in like crazy this morning. Then we opened presents and now I am the proud owner of some highly cool stuff!
--The coolest multi-purpose pot EVER--the strainer is right in the pot! No more pouring of the potatoes all over the sink while draining. woohoo!
--Really awesome measuring cups that look like little pots! They are serious stainless steel, too. The one-cup one is nearly as heavy as some aluminum small skillets.
--A beautiful tea box that makes me like a restaurant!
--an "I heart Mr. Darcy" sweatshirt...

and candy, fudge, and some other stuff. woohoo!

My cats loved playing with the wrapping paper.
the dinner was excellent--I used bunches of my new stuff to make it.
the Mythbusters marathon is awesome.
my kitties are both sitting on the couch with us right sweet.

and that's all.
happy christmas!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday Five

From the RevGalBlogPals...

Festive Foods Friday Five

Well friends, we've covered advent, music, and movies/TV--but we here at F5 HQ would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that quintessential holiday topic... fooooooooood.

1. Favorite cookie/candy/baked good without which, it's just not Christmas.
hmm...I have to say those rice krispie things with peanut butter in them, with lots of chocolate on top. I don't know what those are called, but my grandma makes them and they are really good. Luckily last year while I was in Egypt one of the other missionaries made them. This year I am just suffering because I don't know how to make them and my grandmother is on vacation.

2. Do you do a fancy dinner on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, both, or neither? (Optional: with whom will you gather around the table this year?)
Am I a bad person for not even knowing our own traditions? I have no idea what usually happens. I think that we used to travel on Christmas Day and that at grandma's house (dad's side) there were snack foods and make-your-own-sandwich-on-a-croissant trays. So I suppose the dinner is usually on Christmas Eve. This year, though, it's me and my dad at my house, and the dinner will have to be on Christmas Day because we have 5, count-em, FIVE services on Christmas Eve, and someone is bringing dinner for the staff and their families. So...on Eve I'll be with church people and my Dad. On Day I'll be with my dad and my two cats.

3. Evaluate one or more of the holiday beverage trifecta: hot chocolate, wassail, egg nog.
What exactly is wassail? Isn't that something one does? As in, "here we go a'wassailing" or something? Is that really just a drinking song? Anyway, I don't actually like eggnog, so I guess I'll go with hot chocolate. Even better: Trader Joe's Natural Mint cocoa. yum.

4. Candy canes: do you like all the new-fangled flavors or are you a peppermint purist?
Candy Canes should be peppermint. And they should be red and white. Period. Also, I actually only like them to use as stirrers for hot cocoa--then you have peppermint hot cocoa!!

5. Have you ever actually had figgy pudding? And is it really so good that people will refuse to leave until they are served it?
I have had figgy pudding. I guess it's that good, but I didn't find it so exciting. I prefer something I had for the first time a few weeks ago: Old Peculier Christmas Pudding. Yum. I tried to find info about it, but no luck. sorry. All I know is that it looks like cake, is made with beer or something, and was made by an incredible woman from the church and served at a huge Christmas open house. and yum.

Edited to add: Well, I am APPALLED with myself that I forgot to include a question about the crown prince of holiday foods--the fruitcake.
Feel free to add your thoughts on this most polarizing holiday confection.

I really don't like fruitcake. The smell, the taste, the heaviness...ugh. The end.

Advent 4: "Prophets and Promises"

edited for length (it was too short!)....and for ease of speaking...and for too many references to rich people being sent away empty. LOL.

Prophets and Promises
Isaiah 9.2-7, Luke 1.46-55
Advent 4: 23/24 December 2006

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation, you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest, as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us, a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’


I don’t know about you all, but both of these readings make me want to sing. I mean, really—just listen to them! There’s the Messiah, the cantata from two weeks ago, several great hymns, some catchy songs from other places in the world…there’s so much singing going on here. I hear so much beautiful music in my head when I read or hear these poems of Scripture.

But when I start to look at the people and the context behind them…well, that’s a different story. In Isaiah’s case, we find a nation polluted by corruption, a people who have turned away from their God, impending exile, and a prophet bringing words of both judgment and hope. And in Mary’s case, we find a poor young woman, living in a land occupied by a foreign power…a young girl, really, who has just discovered that she is going to have a baby, in spite of the fact that she’s not married, in spite of the fact that her fiancĂ© had nothing to do with it, in spite of the fact that her village could stone her when they find out. Were I in either of those situations, I doubt I’d feel much like singing. And yet, sing they do—both Isaiah and Mary. In the midst of all the troubles, all the corruption, all the oppression, all the poverty, all the danger, they sing.

Have you ever known people like that? People who somehow manage to sing even in the midst of the difficulty, the tragedy, the anxiety? I know some of those people, and I am usually in awe of them. How can they do it? I often don’t understand. I don’t know if it’s that they just have such incredibly strong faith that they can sing of God’s mercy and promises even after an earthquake has left their house flattened, or if they are perhaps a bit…well, slow. I just want to say “can’t you see what’s happened? What’s happening? How can you be standing there talking about God’s great gifts and promises?”

And other times, I am that person. Sometimes I am the person who can sing of God’s grace and God’s promises in the midst of tragedy…but not all the time. I find it’s often a lot easier to look back on the situation and see God instead of trying to do that right in the thick of things. But here we have two people who are right in the middle of some pretty sticky situations, and right then and there they sing and write poetry about God’s promise. It’s pretty incredible.

There’s a word for these people, and it’s not “crazy” or “slow” or even necessarily “super faithful.” These are people who can see the world differently—but the word is not “idealistic” or “unrealistic” or “head in the clouds.” These are people who see the world the way God sees it, not the way we see it. The word for them is “prophet.”

Prophets are not people who gaze into a crystal ball or look at your palm and tell your fortune, not people who tell the future. You may have noticed, actually, that they have a disturbing way of speaking—they often speak in the past tense about things that haven’t even happened. Did you hear what Isaiah said? The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. A son has been born for us. And Mary: God has shown strength, filled the empty, fed the hungry, and sent the rich away empty. This past-tense talk can be really confusing when we start to think about how the world really is. I mean, our world seems pretty dark. The son we assume Isaiah is talking about won’t be born until (tomorrow night) tonight. There are lots and lots of hungry and homeless and empty people waiting to be filled, and lots of people who are so rich we can’t see them around the piles of money and paparazzi. Where is this world that these prophets sing?

That’s the trouble with prophets. They talk as though everyone can see what they see—but we can’t. Prophets see God’s world God’s way. It’s a seeing not done with eyes, but with an open and treasuring heart. It’s a way of seeing that makes them vulnerable to charges of idealism and charges of treason. That’s why prophets have such a rough life in the Bible—people wanting to stone them, imprison them, cut their heads off—any way to silence those people who show us what God sees.

Because the thing is, what God sees is often not what we’d like to see. Sometimes we would prefer to stay in our darkness—it’s comfortable, we know what to expect, we know how to act and how to respond and how to think and feel. Light can be blinding and disorienting and is not comfortable. We like being filled with good things, we like our comfortable lives, and frankly we probably do not want to give them up, we don’t want to hear that all our hard work only gets us sent away empty while the hungry and poor are lifted up and filled. The way God sees the world is pretty different from the way the world actually is—in fact, it’s opposite in many ways. The world order is upside down. That’s what prophets tell us: they tell us that, according to God, things are not right but they will be made right…indeed, in God’s vision, they are already made right. There is a revolution involved here, a turning, a new thing. This Advent message is not all cheer, not all stockings and fuzzy slippers and cookies and presents, not all gentle cattle lowing, strangely clean shepherds singing, and wise men looking adoringly at a sleeping baby that never cries. This baby we will welcome mere hours from now is one who turns the world around, who brings God’s vision for creation to life, who doesn’t just tell us what God sees but IS what God sees. It’s a different kind of cheer, a different kind of good news than what the world usually thinks of as “good.” This is news that God is alive, that God cares about the world and about us, that God is here in the midst of it all with us, and that things don’t have to be this way. This is news that God works great things even in the smallest of servants, that justice is coming, the mercy of God is deeper than we ever thought it could be, that life and love really are stronger than hate and death. This is news that the light, while blinding, is so much better than stumbling around in the dark and hurting ourselves.

And yet….and yet, the world still doesn’t seem right. It still seems pretty dark. The light does not seem to shine very well. The hungry are still hungry, wars still rage, the yoke of oppression still weighs heavily on many. The promises often seem far away…they were, after all, promises made to our ancestors, to Abraham. Perhaps they are so far back in history that they don’t count, that they don’t matter, that too many people have forgotten…even that God has forgotten?

But no…Mary says…no. God does not forget. God remembers. God keeps God’s promises, every time. That’s why the prophets, prophets like Isaiah, yes, even young girl prophets like Mary, can speak of this world they see using the past tense—because it has happened and will happen. Isaiah assures us: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this! There can be no doubt—the zealous Lord makes promises and keeps promises. Too bad it’s so hard to see them in our upside down world. Too bad it’s so hard for us to speak this way, without sounding trite and clichĂ©. It’s hard to sound like Mary, like Isaiah—to be so sure, even in the midst of turmoil, war, and fear, or even in the midst of Christmas cheer, family and shopping.

But here, in the deepest moment of Advent—literally the last hours before we celebrate Christmas Eve, the darkest moment of the year, the shortest days, we do it too. We read these words and we proclaim that they are the truth—that light has shined, that a son has been given, that God has turned the world upside down, filled the hungry, showed powerful mercy, and brought rejoicing where there once was fear and grief. We sing of the promises these two unlikely prophets remind us of, and we too, for a moment, have this kind of sight, this kind of vision—God’s promise, God’s future, God’s new thing, is coming and has come and will come. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


the president just said, in the midst of his final press conference of the year, "i encourage you all to go shopping more." Oh dear. He really does think that shopping will defeat the terrorists. I mean, I know we joke about that, but he seems to actually think that.
Also, he's repetitive in an annoying way. "sustain itself, govern itself, and protect itself." over and over and over. oh my.

in other news, which is probably news to no one:

Until I moved here, Christmas lights on people's houses were things we went out looking for. In seminary we used to go driving around the neighborhoods looking for decorated houses to look at. In Egypt, of course, no decorated houses. But here, man, DANG! There are lights on almost every house. If you drive around at night, many of the houses look like gingerbread houses--with lights around the eaves on all levels (even on three story houses!), lights on everything. And there are some things I haven't really seen before. Like light-up animals. Did you know that you can buy reindeer made of Christmas lights at Home Depot? I thought these people were making these things--it's good to know that's not the case, but wow. There are a lot of these. And then there are the big inflatable things. On my way to church there is one house that has FOUR of these humongous inflatable decorations on their lawn, including a motorcycle-riding Santa and a snow-globe with snow blowing around inside. What is the deal with these things? I do not approve.

that's all. back to the sermon, the bulletins, the drama, the confirmation mentors, the senior high sunday school teacher recruiting, the reading, and the finishing up getting my house ready for people now.

Monday, December 18, 2006

confessions of a "church professional"

I know that confession is not a popular thing in our culture. I've never been one of the popular kids, so oh well.
I have some confessions to make.

Hi, my name is Teri, and I have what we like to call "boundary issues."
I have difficulty keeping time for myself. I have difficulty keeping Sabbath, in spite of the fact that I have no difficulty being Sabbath-police for my friends.
I have difficulty saying no, especially to things I really would like to do, things I feel I ought to be able to do, or to people I like (or want to like me).
I feel some guilt about trying to keep time-boundaries because I don't have a family to "attend to" and most of the other people here do. It's like I have no excuse to not work a bajillion hours a week and do everything and be what everyone wants. (This is how I think, okay?)
I am what would be called a "workaholic" in most other jobs but in this vocation is praised as "dedicated."

I know that this is dangerous. I know this leads to burnout. I know, intellectually, all the things that can happen if I am like this. I also know that I like things to be done well, I like to get things done, and that I LOVE what I am doing. And I knew about the hours when I got into it.
What I don't know is how long it will take (or what buttons will have to be pushed) for me to set those boundaries and keep them in a healthy way. Because I need to do that, and soon.

but for now, all I can do is confess. Lord, have mercy.

(ps/edit/clarification: my issue is not taking a whole day off. I do that pretty well by scheduling time with friends in the city on Fridays. My larger issue is day-to-day hours. I don't go in until 10 (I am not a morning person, so I go to the gym in the morning, then head to church) and a lot of people don't really understand that--so I tend to work later and later in an effort to justify that timing of my day. Except, of course, that leaves me with 10-12-14 hour days 5-6 days a week. But Friday, man--no work happens. I go to the Art Institute.)

random stuff

I have many things about which to blog. However, I am not feeling very well today and therefore am going to do some random dots instead of anything terribly worthwhile.

* I can't believe I didn't know about bloglines before. Suddenly I am saving all kinds of time. Dang.

* I love the Art Institute. This was one of my great "finds" of this week's visit. Raffaello Botticini's Adoration of the Magi, painted around the turn of the 15/16th century. Crazy.
That's quite a "stable." One of the cool things about this is that it's round (duh). Also cool is that painters of this period often, apparently, make the point that people have traveled a long way by putting things in their "procession"--so there's a giraffe hanging out, an African, a peacock, and all kinds of exotic stuff. And, of course, everyone (Mary included) is wearing middle class medieval european dress. funny! But cool. it's a beautiful painting.

I noticed on Friday that the Medieval Christian stuff like reliquaries and mass-ware (like communion-ware, only Catholic!) and devotional statues and stuff are in a big hall that also houses all the armor and armaments from the same time period. How funny and sadly accurate a picture of the medieval church that is. John the Baptist's finger on one side, spears and armor on the other.

* The Devil Wears Prada was a better movie than I expected.

* Wicked the Musical has a happy ending where the book does not.

* There's a strange wildlife phenomenon here. I live in a suburb (big box stores, traffic, and all), but work in a rural area (which is a grand total of four miles from my house...funny, but again, more on that in a different post). Every day I drive past cows and sometimes chickens. There are deer too, apparently. I saw one from the train yesterday morning--standing in the woods, staring at the commuter train as it flew by. It was beautiful. Last week I went to dinner at someone's house and had to drive through serious back-country-roads to get there (it's about 25 minutes from my house). I saw both deer crossing signs AND equestrian-crossing signs, which was quite funny. I didn't see any deer, though. And, of course, there are Canada Geese. Now, I thought these geese migrated south to a warmer place. There was a huge flock hanging out in one of the fields for about a week back in November. Then, one day, they were gone. This past week I drove a different way to church (past some different fields) and discovered the big flock of geese had migrated about half a mile southwest. Silly birds--there's ice covering that field! They did not manage to get somewhere warmer. In fact, they left the company of the cows, so they are probably colder (but less smelly) now.
(Monday update: the geese have moved about a half mile further south, to a little pond near a subdivision. funny geese.)

* down in the city (a whole hour away on the train), people are crowding the sidewalks with their big shopping bags from Macy's. I miss Marshall Fields. Also, do people not notice when they are blocking a whole sidewalk? Three people, hand in hand, walking slower than the average pedestrian traffic, oblivious to the fact that there's a pileup behind them...this does not make me happy. Especially when it's cold and windy outside.

* There was so much pedestrian traffic on Madison Ave near State Street on Friday afternoon that I saw a woman literally darting in and out of people trying to cross the sidewalk from a store to the road (to get a taxi). It was like watching someone cross traffic in Manhattan (or Cairo). Except she just had to dodge people walking very fast (too bad for her, she wasn't in the same stretch of sidewalk where I was stuck behind those three above).

* Andrew still has a cold--he sneezes a lot. Hopefully the amoxicillin will make him feel better soon. kitty snot is totally gross.

* This is totally awesome. I mean really. Watch the whole thing--it's cool. They have so much fun, it's impossible not to smile. :-)

* how is it even possible that it's Christmas already in one week? I am not ready. I have no idea what my Advent 4 sermon is going to be about. I have no idea what the order of worship for the two family services on Christmas Eve is going to look like. I have people now saying that their kids may not be able to stay for both services, which may mean cutting the drama (entire cast is elementary kids) from the 5-o-clock service...which means I will have to do something there instead. I have no time to figure all this out. Worse, however, I have no time to be sick. My tummy needs to get its act together. And my brain needs to stop me from eating eggs at places like the Corner Bakery. I should know better. I still made it through two services, the Happy Birthday Jesus party, and a christmas eve play rehearsal. Stirred-down coke is the best remedy for an upset tummy. I had two today and really did feel better for a while. Now I can't tell if I'm hungry or sick, so i'm holding out on eating. I suspect I'm hungry.

* I just want to spend a week doing nothing but watching Buffy and taking naps. Is that so bad?

* that's all for today I think.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

thursday photo posting...

okay,'s thursday. I have photos to share with you all. Therefore, thursday photo blogging. good times.

First, last week's winterwonderland. This is "my" church--RCLPC--right after the big snowstorm. How postcard is this?

This is one of the fields I drive by every day. I mean, really....I work in a strange, strange place. More about that later.

Next up, newkitty, whose newname is Andrew. Here he is in the kitchen--his favorite place. He seriously eats like 23 hours a day.

And here he is with Ollie--both of them are eating treats (one of the only ways to get them to stand still far enough away from me to take a photo!!)

For ReverendMother and the other RGBPs...

This was in my inbox this morning, and of course made me think of RM's Friday Five last week! hehehe...

Advent Devotions: Thursday, December 14, 2006

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 52:7–10

How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
who brings good news,
who announces salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
Listen! Your sentinels lift up their voices,
together they sing for joy;
for in plain sight they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you ruins of Jerusalem;
for the Lord has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations;
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God. (nrsv)


Bob Carlisle wrote the lyrics to a beautiful, powerful song that is played often on the radio at this time of year. “The Christmas Shoes” illustrates the message of the Isaiah 52:7-10 passage. It tells of a young boy, in worn-out clothes, waiting in line to purchase a pair of shoes on Christmas Eve. The shoes are for his mother, who has been sick for quite a while. “I know these shoes would make her smile,” he tells the person in line behind him. “And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight.”

But the young boy doesn’t have enough money in his pocket to pay for the shoes. Could anyone help him? he asks. The gentleman behind him reaches into his own pockets and makes up the difference, reflecting, “I'll never forget the look on his face when he said,
‘Mama’s gonna look so great.’”

I knew I’d caught a glimpse of heaven’s love
As he thanked me and ran out.
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about

It is in taking the time to share our love and kindness with others, especially those in need, that the Christ child is born anew in our world, in our hearts, in our lives at Christmas and throughout the year. It is in sharing our love and kindness in small, practical ways like the man in the story that we point others to Christ’s eternal peace. It is in walking in his way of peace that our feet, like his, become beautiful as we share the good news message of Christmas that God loves us and comes in the person of Jesus to save us all.


Loving God of the Christ child, guide me and help me walk in the paths of righteousness, and help me to be a messenger to a world falling apart, pointing the way to love, hope, and peace eternal. Amen.

Written by Keith Harris, Associate Pastor, Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago

new puter!

My beautiful new computer has arrived.
It's white and has a pretty little apple on the front.
The apple lights up when I turn it on and off.
It's cool.
Also, everything works.

Tomorrow: pictures of Andrew.
Also tomorrow: a post that has a point of some kind.
For now: leaving church so I can finally eat dinner. I'm very hungry.

Monday, December 11, 2006


my archives are gone now that i've switched to the blogger beta. does anyone know how to bring them back? please?

Sunday, December 10, 2006

new kitty and other stuff

okay, new kitty has a name.
Much like the Buffy character of the same name, he's kind of a spaz and he likes to be the center of attention.

I think the post office commercial with the package and the plastic deer is hilarious. "that's okay. My place is here, with the snow people."

I really had something else I wanted to say, but I completely forgot while Blogger was busy switching me over to the Beta. grr. Perhaps I will remember later. Perhaps not.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Material Girl

Okay, so I'm not a big materialistic girl, but my family is always asking AND there are some things I need and some things I want, so I've made some lists. Feel free to peruse. If you have way more money than I know about, check out the Williams-Sonoma list first! LOL.

Williams-Sonoma registry. The "event date" is October 2006.

Amazon Wishlist.

I also need gloves and winter clothes--but I'm not about to give out my clothing size. So...I suppose I'll just say that gift cards to places where I can buy clothes (Limited, Gap, major department stores like Macy's, Victoria's Secret...) are good things.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


* new kitty arrived yesterday. silver furball, 7 months old, male, name pending. Ollie is cautious and, frankly, a little mad at me for hanging out with other cats. She also refuses to head back into my bedroom because it would mean passing the guest room, behind which closed door there is a new unnamed furball who cries at being alone, then goes to sleep.

* computer sick. very sick. runs only in safe mode--trying to start in normal-computer way = continuous rebooting from Windows loading page. new computer (bought by church) only just ordered today. computer mommy sad.

* 18 kids in confirmation class--dang!

* new kitty is super cute and lovey-dovey, but kind of a spaz too.

* Ollie has started licking the sliding glass doors...i'm hoping it's because she enjoys the cold (there's snow on the other side).

Beautiful moments of the past week:
* 9 high school kids walking a labyrinth, really participating in the stations: including touching water, putting it on their heads.
* sparkly snow on evergreen trees and also on bare branched trees lining the street down to our little white country-church, also covered in snow.
* talking until almost 2am with a new friend.
* people volunteering at a shelter that houses about 100 cats, most of whom are waiting for adoption.
* 36 people coming to my confirmation kick-off dinner. Parents playing the "make a pair" mixer (you know, name tags on their backs, they have to make pairs, ie "Nacho" and "cheese.") and actually having fun.
* me realizing that I had double booked myself for an hour on a Saturday three weeks from now....that hour being the worship service at which I am supposed to be PREACHING. ha!
* 10 small children so excited to be in the Christmas Eve play that I have to write some new parts for a few of them.
* new kitty curling up in his little bed and actually sleeping in it--something Ollie would never do.
* Ollie curling up inside my computer case and sleeping in it...again.
* Discovering that the personal-trainer-mandated 3x/week workout isn't as hard this week as last week.
* sleeping in.

Monday, December 04, 2006

you know it's cold when....

you are sitting at a stoplight and the temperature gauge on your car moves down even after your car was warmed up.

Friday, December 01, 2006


It snowed.
A lot.
There are probably 2 feet of snow on my balcony right now.
Now the sun has come out and it's all sparkly outside!
Is it weird that I want to go out and make a snow angel on my own balcony? I think that would be so fun.

Ollie is not at all sure what to do with all the stuff outside her windows. heehee!

Too bad I have to go to church in a few hours...I suspect driving will not be the most fun I've ever had. But in the meantime---

Friday Five: Advent is here!

From the RevGalBlogPals: Adventually!

Although it comes as late as it can this year, Advent is upon us.
Here are five questions about Advent for this first of December:

1) Do you observe Advent in your church?

yep. This week the church got all decorated with purple and with greenery, the wreath set up, and we are not singing a single Christmas carol until Christmas Eve (at least as far as I'm aware). We have kids acolyting to light the wreath for basically the first time ever, and a theme about new things (or something).

2) How about at home?

well...I don't spend much time at home. ;-) I have this year's PCUSA advent calendar (laid out like a newspaper, which is clever and kinda cute). I have a book I'll read at home during's called Manger and Mystery: an Advent Adventure.

3) Do you have a favorite Advent text or hymn?

ooh, so many. Of course, like everyone else, I love O Come O Come Emanuel...but I also really love "Comfort, Comfort, Ye My People" when the genevan psalter tune is sung well (not too slow). And, of course, Isaiah being my fave book of the whole Bible means that Advent is pretty much the best time of year for me, reading-wise! Though normally Lent is my favorite season, I have to admit that the music in Advent is about as good as it gets.

4) Why is one of the candles in the Advent wreath pink? (You may tell the truth, but I'll like your answer better if it's funny.)

I suspect it's to remind you of the Pepto-Bismol you'll need to recover from the children's sermons that try to explain why the candle is pink.

5) What's the funniest/kitschiest Advent calendar you've ever seen?

There's one at the grocery store right now that has santas all over it and counts down by opening doors shaped like presents. That's pretty bad...not funny, more sad.