Monday, March 12, 2012

some tropical delicious for a strange spring day

Today, thanks to Door to Door Organics, I had a little Egypt flashback. When I first went to Egypt, one of the stranger and more wonderful things I encountered was the ubiquitous juice stand. You can always recognize it by the bags of fruit hanging out front, which will usually give you a clue about what's in season (and therefore what you can get). In the summer and early fall, mangos are in season.
Apparently in Peru, mangos are in season right now. my Door to Door Organics box last week were two delicious looking mangos. Now, every other time I've had mangos in the US they have been beyond disappointing. In fact, when I went to Egypt, I thought I didn't like them! But one slice into one of these mangos (after removing the Peru sticker) told me this was the real deal.

So...I had one of my favorite things: mango juice! I popped the flesh of the two mangos into a cup, put in some water, and whipped out the immersion blender...soon I was transported to one of the best parts of that year (the food!). :-) 16 ounces of fresh mango juice...unfortunately sans the fun juice man and his jokes (which are probably much funnier if your Arabic is better than mine ever was!)
Definitely a good thing on a day filled with some of my least favorite things: lightning, thunder, and rain. It's like sun in a cup!

And healthy too!

fasting for Lent

Lent is a common time to practice fasting--abstaining from things in the hope that when we discipline ourselves, we are more likely to see God's presence around us. When we don't give in to every craving for a snack, or spend our time constantly consuming or distracting ourselves, we have more energy (spiritual, mental, and physical) to pay attention to what God is calling us to.

In that spirit, each week during Lent many in our church family are fasting from different things.

The first week we fasted from snacking between meals. I didn't find that too hard, until the end of the week--something about Friday made me crave all kinds of snacks I'd not cared about earlier in the week. But whenever I wanted a snack during the week, I spent a moment thinking of those who don't have enough to eat, and feeding my hunger for justice instead of my hunger for Girl Scout Cookies (of which I have many!).

Last week we fasted from text messaging and computer/video games. The fast runs Monday-Saturday, and by mid-morning on Monday I was already in withdrawal. I hadn't realized just how much I use texting as a way to convey and receive short bursts of information and to keep in touch with various friends throughout the day. I talked on the phone more than usual last week! It's interesting to think about the differences in types of communication. What's lost when relying so much on texting? How can we maintain connections and at the same time not be tied to that medium? And then the games...I was super afraid that I would end up losing (aka being force-resigned from) all my Words With Friends games--because if you don't play for a certain number of days in a row, you lose. :-( I was theoretically prepared for giving that up, but I confess it hurt my too-competitive soul just a bit. That doesn't seem to have happened, thanks to my friends being slow players too, so I didn't have to face those "consequences" (yes, I realize what a ridiculously tiny first world problem that is). And I really did have more time when I wasn't checking in on my games every few hours.

This coming week we're fasting from TV and movies. I don't have tv channels, and I rarely watch movies, so it shouldn't be hard, right? Well...yes and no. I mean, I do have Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming video, and I usually go to a friend's house to watch the Monday night musical extravaganza (The Voice and Smash). And, much bigger than that, when I work out each morning I watch some tv. It's my moment to just let my mind veg out while I work my muscles...I watch the previous night's Daily Show, or I watch streaming netflix tv shows. This week, no tv during workouts. I'm not entirely certain what that's going to mean, but I suspect it means that I'll be taking advantage of the nicer weather to get outside!

As I was contemplating this situation, a parent at church reminded me (via basically preaching back to me my sermon from 2 weeks ago) that multitasking is often the enemy of the deeper spiritual and creative life. She told me to keep the tv (and the ipod) off and just go workout, focusing on what I was doing and nothing else...and that might just turn out to be the time when problems would be solved, my brain would be free to do its thing, and I might even find that my spirit was more free too. It could help to "clear the clutter" (to use a phrase that's been in our Lenten liturgy each week) if I would just take advantage of this opportunity rather than seeing the fast as a burden.

Well, she told me! and of course she's right. So this week, no tv or movies. hopefully some clutter will clear and my own spiritual vision will come into focus. When it does...I can text you about it. ;-)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

See Clearly--a sermon for Heart and Seek 3 (Lent 2012)

Rev. Teri Peterson
See Clearly
Acts 9.1-22
11 March 2012, Lent 3B (off lectionary: Heart and Seek 3)

Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ All who heard him were amazed and said, ‘Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?’ Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.

In many churches the preacher leads a prayer right before the sermon—sometimes it’s called the “prayer for illumination”—praying for the Spirit to shed light on the word of God in our time and place. Several years ago I was in church when I heard the following prayer right before the sermon: “Lord, let something happen here this morning—something that isn’t in the bulletin.”

I’m pretty sure that wasn’t what Paul was praying that day as he traveled the road to Damascus!

Paul was working the plan—to get rid of this newfangled heresy called The Way by getting rid these people following Jesus and proclaiming that he was alive and the son of God. He knew what to do, and he was doing it…until something happened that wasn’t in the bulletin. Blinding flash of light, thrown to the ground, booming voice—the whole nine yards. The only thing missing was a burning bush, but he wouldn’t have been able to see it anyway.

Paul was literally knocked down, forcing a new perspective--things look different down in the dust than from on high, and they look different when your eyes are sealed than when you think you know what you're seeing. Even when he stood upright again, he couldn’t see with his eyes—he was forced to learn to see with his heart, to think about that voice rather than brush it off as an anomaly or something only crazy people would hear. And so he spent three days adjusting to this new reality—three days fasting and praying, seeking God with his whole heart. In order to do this work, preparing for God’s new perspective, he had to go without some things, had to remove any number of obstacles to his vision. Then when Ananias came, Paul was ready—ready to hear the good news, to see the world differently, to proclaim a new message. The last obstacles disappeared, and Paul could see more clearly than ever how God was present and working in the world.

I wonder what obstacles are in the way of our vision? What’s stopping us from looking with new perspective? What dark lenses need to fall away so we can see clearly?

Sometimes the obstacles may be literal objects—things we hold to so tightly, we can’t see around them to look for what God is doing. The ancient Israelites had more than their share of trouble with idols, and I think we do too. Most of us have something that we would be loathe to give up, even if it meant we were freer to seek God.

Sometimes the obstacles may be relationships—not all relationships are healthy or help us to seek and follow Jesus. Some of us are in relationships that suck our energy dry, or that are hurtful, or that make us into anxious or angry people rather than helping us build the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Ananias was afraid that was the kind of relationship he was about to get into with Paul, but he trusted his relationship with Jesus enough to go and be surprised.

Sometimes the obstacles are embedded in the ways we think about God—if we believe God has to be one way or another, it makes it hard to see when God is doing a new thing in our midst. Perhaps that’s why Paul had to be blinded, and why Ananias had to be reassured—because it’s hard to imagine God acting in ways we don’t think God should act, or God loving people we don’t think God should love, or God calling people we don’t think God should call.

Sometimes the obstacle is in how we see ourselves—Paul knew he was in the in-crowd, he was a Pharisee and a Roman citizen, he had followed the law and was just the kind of person everyone aspires to be. How often do our perceptions of ourselves—as the talented one, the popular one, the smart one, the one who made it, the black sheep, the loser, the slacker, the non-conformist, the self-made—or even our job titles…how often do they obscure our vision of what God might be doing in our lives, or asking us to do with our lives? I don’t know about you, but sometimes what I think I am is the biggest obstacle to doing God’s new thing.

Sometimes the obstacles are embedded in our language—when we choose to say something without thinking of its implications, or when we are violent with our word choices, we can end up stuck as well as creating obstacles for others.

Sometimes the obstacles may be the way we do things—If all we do is blindly follow the bulletin without thinking about how the pieces fit together or how they help us encounter God, or if we blindly go along with the culture or political discourse because it’s just easier that way, or blindly accept the status quo because, well, it’s just the way things are…then it’s time to pray more fervently that something not in the bulletin will happen this morning! Paul knew how things were to be done and what he had to do…the way things have always been done, or the structures in which we live, can easily become obstacles to seeing and following God’s way.

Sometimes the obstacles may be our expectations—if we expect that people will fail, they often will. If we expect people to rise to the occasion, they often will. If we expect too much or too little of ourselves, or of church, or of children or teens or parents or elders or anyone else at all, we’ll often find ourselves frustrated and blocked at every turn. If we expect that worship will be boring as usual, it will be. If we expect God to show up during worship or Sunday School or youth group or choir practice or staff meeting or on the morning commute, or during lunch at school or in the office, God will. Paul certainly knew what he expected to find in Damascus…thankfully, that expectation was shattered before he got there. The expectations we put up can be just as effective as walls, or they can open doors.

I’m sure there are dozens more examples of obstacles, and while some will be common human experience, others will be so individual that we all have to spend time searching them out on our own.

There will always be obstacles in our lives, of course. We’ll never be completely free of them—we’ll always see through a dark glass, until the kingdom of God is fully realized. Even in the song, the obstacles didn’t disappear, it’s just that “I can see all obstacles in my way.” Once we learn to recognize them, then we can also learn to look past and move around them at least some of the time. In fact, there was a Mythbusters episode about this very idea. An obstacle course was constructed, and then people who’d never seen it went in to try to navigate it—in the dark. Not surprisingly, the change from light to dark and their inability to see the obstacles in front of them made it very slow going. But after they’d seen the course in the light for just a few moments, they were able to navigate it in the dark again much more quickly. Isn’t that kind of like what the Christian journey is about—learning to follow Jesus even through and around the obstacles of life, learning to adjust our lenses or our perspective so we can discern what God is doing in our midst even when it’s hard to see?

So may something unexpected happen here this morning, bringing us new vision—something unexpectedly beautiful, unexpectedly hopeful, and unexpectedly perspective-changing…and may we see it clearly.


Friday, March 09, 2012

Friday Five: superwomen!

Karla is over at RGBP getting ready for the church women's retreat..."This Friday-Saturday is our annual Women's Retreat at my church. It's one of my favorite 24 hours of the year, because we enjoy each other, we laugh, we cry, we support each other..and all of that good stuff!
So, since I am in the WR mode, let's talk about women in your life!"

1. Name a woman author you very much love to read.
Ooh, just one? I have several I really enjoy. I like Margaret George's historical fiction. I like Julia Spencer Fleming's clergy-sleuth mysteries. I like basically every book ever written about a princess, Tudor or otherwise, and many of those are written by women--notably Phillippa Gregory. I loved the Margaret of Ashbury series by Judith Merkle Riley.
2. Name a woman from the Bible with whom you would like to enjoy a nice long coffee talk.
hmm...Miriam. Or Rebeka. Or the woman at the well.
3. Name a famous woman from history with whom you would like to have lunch.
Catherine de Medici.
4. Name a living famous or infamous woman with whom you would like to go out to dinner.
like probably every other woman in the country...Michelle Obama. Such grace, and such a wonderful laugh, and so so smart!
5. If you could be SuperWoman (o.k., I know you already ARE) what three special powers would you like to have?
I definitely want to be able to apparate/disapparate (fastest way to travel!). To slow or speed up time would be handy (especially for naptimes!), though I have no idea how that would actually work--just repeating time (a la a timeturner) would be fine. :-) And the power to eat whatever I want...aka, a faster metabolism.

And you?

Thursday, March 08, 2012

International Women's Day

March 8 is International Women's Day...a day to celebrate the contributions of women (all women, from the rural subsistence farmer to the CEO) and to raise awareness of the issues of women around the globe. Issues like equal pay (even in the US, we don't have this), education (2/3 of the children who can't go to school are girls), healthcare (in many parts of the world, and even in some places in the US, healthcare for women is nonexistent), safety, etc. We know that educating women and ensuring they have healthcare are the keys, often, to bringing whole communities out of poverty...and yet.

Just this week I've had more than one conversation that included the words "I'm not a feminist." There's also the national conversation going on about how we talk about women, and the use of the word "feminazi" ...(not to mention "slut.")
And then I started reading this book, a biography of Gertrude Bell, and in the prologue--only a few pages in--came across this quote:
"she was not a feminist; she had no wish for special treatment.....this was the 1880s when women were hardly educated or allowed to prove themselves outside the home....she got a First at Oxford, was a spy and a major in the British army, was a poet, scholar, historian, mountaineer, photographer, archaeologist, gardener, cartographer, linguist, and distinguished servant of the state."

Now, let's be clear: feminism is not about special treatment. It's about equality. It's not special for me to want to be treated the same as a man. It's not special for girls to have the same educational opportunities, to get paid the same for the same work, or to have access to healthcare. That's human.
Gertrude Bell had plenty of opportunities other women in the 1880s didn't have....which I'm pretty sure qualifies as special treatment because of her socio-economic status, but let's leave that issue aside for a moment. She did all those things--including creating the maps of the middle east that were used by everyone up until the second world war. She went on adventures, shaped nations, had amazing access to politicians, served in the military, and published under her own name. In her time and place, it would have been perfectly normal and acceptable for the men in her life to refuse her these opportunities for schooling, travel, work, speaking to powerful men. But they didn't. She broke the norm for women of her culture, her class, her time, so that she could do whatever the men could do.

So yes, she was a feminist.

It's time to take that word back. There is no reason for "feminist" to be a dirty word, a slur, a put-down. It's a badge to wear proudly--yes, I'm a feminist, because I believe women are human beings with all the same rights as any other human being, with capabilities and liabilities like any other human being, and women deserve to be treated equally, with respect. period.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

cat crazy

Today my cats are going crazy. It can't be just the wind (which is also crazy) because it was insanely windy yesterday and they weren't like this...something is up. Not sure what, but holy weird cats, batman!

Ollie has just raced through the house several times, followed by Andrew...and then Ollie hopped up onto the kitchen counter, top of the fridge, and onto the top of the cabinets, where she raced back and forth from wall to wall up at ceiling level. Meanwhile, Andrew is pacing the kitchen floor at about the same speed, because he can't jump that high. (heehee).

To top it off, Ollie is still slowly recovering from a sinus infection, which means that when she runs around you can hear her breathing through her still-kind-of-congested nose.

And now they are simultaneously stalking something on the balcony and each other.


And what does this mean? Are they sensing something coming? What is it??

Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday Five: winter essentials

Over at RGBP Kathryn writes:
I'm heading from unseasonably warm temperatures and no snow to a place of GREAT SNOW. Sadly, for reasons that don't need to be boringly laid out here, I am sans decent winter boots at the moment so I need to find some... NOW! In the meantime I am shaking my head at myself. How could I possibly be without one of the key essentials for living in my environment?
Every area is different. What are the 5 key essentials needed for where you live?

Well, I'm extrapolating that we mean winter essentials, because of course spring and summer require different essentials, at least around here.

For winter...

Scarves. Plenty of them. I may have been seen wearing more than one scarf at a time on occasion. You know, one that matches my outfit, and then one that's on the outside of my coat too, for extra warmth. (I may also be in possession of more scarves than outfits. so?)

Coat(s). I know Jesus says that anyone with two coats should give one away, but here you really do need different levels of coats. There's the windbreaker, the fleece, the rain coat, the jacket, the wool pea coat, and the serious puffy coat. Sometimes it is possible to wear these in combination.

Good Tires. Do not let your tires wear out and think "oh, I'll just get new ones in March."

Plenty of hot cocoa. I actually ran out of cocoa earlier this winter, and wondered how I had let this happen. It was exceedingly strange, because normally I stock up so I'm never stranded in my house without the opportunity to have a warm delicious beverage in the evening...

earmuffs. Yes, I pick earmuffs even over gloves. I don't wear hats very often (I have hair issues), but my ears get cold...and particularly if one is going into the city, where the wind whips around like crazy, earmuffs are fantastic because they keep your ears from freezing off AND they act like a headband keeping your hair from blowing in your face! I have earmuffs next to my door and on the shifter in my car, so I'm always prepared. :-)

and a sixth: car emergency kit. Okay, you need this in every season. But in winter dead batteries are more likely, and the importance of flares increases with snow or fog. My emergency kit is a black case that contains jumper cables, flares, flashlight, a bottle of water, some snacks, and a bunch of things you need to fix cars (tools and stuff). I also have a super warm blanket back there.

Now, to be clear, this winter has been so mild that I've only worn my earmuffs a few times, and have yet to double up the scarves. And though I stocked up on hot chocolate, I haven't needed it as often--I haven't once been stranded at home due to weather. Yet. Since winter here lasts practically until Memorial Day, there's still time.

A few non-essentials that really make winter a lot better?
Scraper and brush, for the car windows. or, if you have a van, a push broom in the back for getting the snow off. Though if you can't find yours, letting the car run until the windows defrost is also an option. It won't help your headlights being covered in snow though--you'll still have to brush those off, possibly with your bare hand if you can't find your gloves either. (what voice of experience???)
Heated mattress pad. This may be just about the best thing I've ever spent money on. I pre-heat my bed, then turn it off when I get it's all warm and cozy when I slip between the covers. mmmm.....
Cat trained to sit on your feet. If you can make this happen, you're amazing. I have about a 20% success rate, between two cats. But when it does happen, omg awesome.