flunking lent

I flunked Lent entirely this year. Too busy. Papers to write. Kids to tend to. Holy week to help plan and organize. Life! (And maybe I didn’t have the heart. Maybe I let things get in the way. Maybe I never made a strong enough plan or put a priority on it. Maybe.)

Now it’s Eastertide, a new season, a new day, a new opportunity. I am trying to practice creativity this Easter. I am following Christine Valters Paintner’s book The Artist’s Rule, and seeing what I can do over this season to be contemplative and creative. So far I am at a brilliant so-so.

Cars in shops mess with schedules. And so it goes.

A new season. A new day. A new opportunity.

Posted in About Me | 3 Comments

holy (birth)days

My aunt died during Lent. Our family relationships in English are vague. My dad’s brother’s wife (the aunt to whom I refer) has the same relational title as my mother’s sister. And so she should–she has been my aunt as long as I have been alive–but it becomes peculiar when people try to determine the relationship. “Was she your mother’s sister?” “No she was my dad’s brother’s wife, my cousins’ mother.”

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The house in Indiana, Spring Break 2004. Photo, l to r, Me, CG, my aunt, my mom, my dad, my uncle.

Because I grew up a nomad, their home in Indiana was one of the stable places in my life, next only to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Iowa. When we visited, we knew what we would find. Mostly, I was fascinated with my boy cousin’s bedroom in the basement, decorated with his beer can collection.

My cousin's basement room 20 years after he moved out.

My cousin’s basement room 20 years after he moved out.

I shared my closest-in-age cousin’s room when we were children and teenagers and 30-something (when Computerguy visited and met them during Spring Break while I was still in Indiana. He slept in the basement.)

Since they moved to Arizona full time, we have seen them often. Almost any time we visit my parents, we also see my aunt and uncle. On the family tree, we connect I suppose through my cousins, but what does that really mean?

On Ash Wednesday I wondered about my cousin getting ashes on her birthday, and doing so when her mother was critically ill in the hospital halfway across the country. Her older sister’s birthday is the day the family has chosen for the memorial service. That day is also my dad’s birthday, and my son’s. My uncle’s birthday is Easter 2 this year, the week before the memorial.  The third cousin’s birthday is Mother’s Day week (as is mine, 2 days apart). So. They may have quiet birthdays this year. Can they be significant birthdays? Will it add a depth to the quality of the day to be thinking of their mother, the maker of birthdays, or will it just be too sad. I suppose that will depend on the person, the context, what is going on around them.

We are a resurrection people, and we will celebrate Easter in the midst of it all. He is risen! (almost and always.)

For the boy child, we will celebrate quietly with family on his birthday and have his party the next weekend.

So. Today is Maundy Thursday, another friend’s birthday. That got me thinking about birthdays. Happy birthday, friend! Come have dinner with us. Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday next week. Pick a day (and a menu if you like or I’ll make something up).

Posted in Family | 3 Comments

palms and passion and pageant costumes???

We began with an all-congregation processional. Call to Worship outside; everyone processing in to a version of the Sanctus ending in Hosannas composed by the pastor emeritus. The procession was led by a 4th grade girl as crucifer.

Then we had Time with Children and the kids brought up their One Great Hour of Sharing Fat Fish Offering

Then we moved directly into the Passion Reading from Mark as suggested by Carolyn C. Brown at Worshiping with Children. Brown splits the reading (Mark chapters 14 and 15) into parts for 9 readers and suggests props that can be carried in at appropriate moments (e.g. a burning scented candle when the woman anoints Jesus; a money bag when Judas agrees to betray Jesus). I added Taize refrains at other appropriate moments to further break up the reading and allow the congregation to enter the story through song.

This is what I said in the Order of Worship:

As we move from Palms to Passion, we enter the story of the last days of Christ through scripture, image, and song.

As the readers read the scripture, we will pause to join into the story by singing the following refrains. Listen for the music and join in the song.

There were a thousand moving parts. 2 kids to carry props except we needed a grown-up to help with the cross we added to the original script. 9 readers**. I corralled readers; a worship committee member (and mom of one of the boys) worked with the “worship assistants.”*

Last night I dreamt that I showed up in my nightshirt and all the kids in the congregation were on the chancel wearing animal costumes from the Christmas pageant. In my mind in my dream, I thought, “well, this isn’t what I had planned, but we can make it work.” Now I’m wondering about stable animals on Palm Sunday some year, but I was pretty grateful this morning that it was only a dream. Driving to church, I wondered why every time I was in charge of a service it had to be so complex and have so many moving parts. The pastor reminded me when I said that to her, that that is what intergenerational, interactive, experiential worship (the things I love) means. That’s just how it is. (And, as always, I couldn’t do these experiential, experimental services without her complete support and help, both in thinking and creating and in the actual, practical doing of it.)

It did work. The readers all arrived and had practiced their readings. The organist hit the cues. The worship assistants were solemn and deliberate and intentional. I told everyone that we had plenty of time, to let each moment be it’s own thing. We didn’t have to overlap lines and props and props and songs. Those 2 boys, a 4th grader and a 5th grader, walked in silence from the back of the church to the front without ever hurrying their pace or getting antsy or anything. When they carried bread and cup, they walked in step. They placed things with deliberation: making noise with the money bag, placing the bread and cup as sacred objects, leaving the sword leaning against the communion table where it could be seen, but was not on the table (a touch from the woman helping them. She was brilliant. She really got what we were looking for visually.) The final prop was the cross, and my final moment of inspiration was to ask one of the boy’s dads to carry the cross with the boys, so the reader read “Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus” and a father and 2 boys came in with the cross. Stunning.

The props, the songs, and the changing up of readers really helped keep the long passage alive. Kudos to Carolyn Brown. It was solemn and stunning and lovely. I wondered afterword about the other kind of Passion Reading one could do, giving the congregation the parts of the crowd, and being noisy and chaotic. That, too, would work, but for a season where we have been talking about lament and working toward prayer and contemplation, this was the right service.

Finally, we had 5 baskets of items that are invoked by the story. We previewed them at the Time with Children and told the kids to listen for them to come up, and then we offered them for people to take with them into the week. The readers picked up baskets on the way out, and offered them as people came by. And people took them. And many people were very deliberate in what they chose. “I want the Rosemary. Where’s the rosemary? Can I get a coin? It’s easy to carry. I need the feather. It’s the rooster.” Etc.

Following the benediction response, as you leave, you are invited to take a token representing the story we heard this morning: a sprig of rosemary (the garden, watch and pray), a coin (betrayal, the coinage of our lives), a nail (the cross, the pain), a feather (the sunrise), or a gray square (carrying your lament).

What part of the story will you carry in your heart this week?

I don’t know that anyone took photos. Which is okay. It was not really a photo opportunity. I wish I had thought to take one of the prop-laden table afterward, though.

*Carolyn Brown calls them acolytes, a better term which technically means… wait for it… one who assists in worship, bit if we say acolyte, the immediate thought is “Candle Lighter.”

**The pastor read Reader 3, the parts about the crucifixion. A lawyer read the Jewish Authorities. A man of Jewish heritage read “Nicodemus.” A latino educator and retired dean of education at the local university read “Pilate.” His grandson read one of the soldiers. They were really well distributed. I was way too pleased at having 3 Marks reading the Passion narrative from Mark. It’s the little things… The line I gave myself? Just one. The Penultimate line. Reader 8: There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

Posted in About Me, Church | 2 Comments

on designing women


I sat on the chancel yesterday in the first chair. As we sang “How Great Thou Art” I remembered an old episode of Designing Women that begins with a vote on women in ministry, moves through a brilliant conversation about it, and ends with a heartbroken Charlene leaving a church that cannot support it and Julia singing “How Great Thou Art.” I nearly lost it as I dove right back to 1988 and endless debates on women in ministry. I’ve written about this before. I didn’t even want to be a full-time minister the way I understood the position, but, like Charlene in the episode, I wanted to be able to if that was what I chose. And, in college and shortly after, when there were opportunities for the boys to “preach,” I would have liked to have had a turn.

There’s also the part where I was thinking of the late Dixie Carter, whom my mom (Hi Mom!) and I got to see in an intimate theater on Broadway as Maria Callas in Master Class with Maria Callas. Amazing.

So this morning, resting and recovering from an intense week (I went to Work. Every. Day!). I found the episode on YouTube* and watched it. It holds up. And Dixie Carter is amazing. I went from there to the episode where Mary Jo dates Julia and Charlene’s minister (after Charlene changes churches, this guy voted for women as ministers). And then the episode where they “design” a funeral for their young friend who is dying of AIDS.

I remember those episodes. Granted, those were the days when I would record TV shows and re-watch them, so I probably watched them a few times, but they gave me a glimpse of a different world than our provincial Southern Baptist Church was capable of (my parents, for the record, always pushed the edges, and questioned the status quo. Even as I do that now in a different time and place, on the “other side” if there is one, wondering about “traditions” and why we do things certain ways and so on, I know whence I learned it.)

*It’s not on Netflix streaming or Amazon Prime streaming. Search for Designing Women “How Great Thou Art” on YouTube. The better recording is the one in two parts. The way the debate happens with the minister throwing Bible verses back and forth with batty Bernice (Alice Ghostly), who is suddenly completely with it and coherent and eloquent, is genius. It’s not the expected and easily dismissible-because-she-always-rants Julia who is making the argument. Charlene makes the plea from the heart, but it is the completely unexpected Bernice who bests the Man in the debate.

Posted in About Me, Church | 6 Comments

oghs aka fat fish

fishOur church kids got their fat fish to fill today for the One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS) offering. Wordgirl was lectoring with me this morning, and the pastor asked if she would like to present the fish. This is what she wrote to say:


Today we will drink clean water
Eat nutritious food

Not be harmed by disasters
And we will be able to make our own ways.
We want everyone in the world to be able to do this.
Therefore, we make FAT fish to give to others through
One Great Hour of Sharing.

And so we do.

Posted in Church, The Kids | 2 Comments

science fair

Project day!

Project day!

The science fair does not become mandatory until 3rd or 4th grade, but the younger kids are allowed to do a project if they wish. Wordgirl and Computerguy decided she wanted to do a project. I pretty much stayed out of the way (I’m on regular homework duty; he does the projects).

The school emphasizes in all the projects the kids do (they have a project of one kind or another about every month, but Science Fair is a bigger deal) that they need to be the kid’s work. It spelled out clearly in the science fair packet that parents may “consult,” but the work needs to be the kids’. These projects are clearly the kids’ work. They are not fancy, but they do experiments and they follow directions and they write them up.

We walked through and looked at projects and waited until the judging was done. Finally, they began bringing the winning projects out to the quad.

They brought out the winning projects.

They brought out the winning projects.

Wordgirl’s was among them. I texted Computerguy, who was probably going to come from work at the 3:30 prize-giving time, to come for sure. She followed directions; she wrote up her findings; she did a fine job. She told me, “I didn’t finish writing everything in my notebook.” I didn’t tell her than I hadn’t seen any other 2nd grade project WITH  notebook (though I did tell her later). We waited, and at 3:30 they began announcing the winners. Kinder, first, and then Second: 3rd, 2nd, and finally, 1st Place: Wordgirl! Yay for her.

So it was a successful foray into the world of science fairs. She learned a lot from doing it. We have ideas for what to do differently next time. She says she would have been glad to have done it even if she hadn’t won. And, Yay for Wordgirl! 1st place for second grade!

The Winners!

The Winners!

Posted in Church, The Kids | 1 Comment

ash wednesday riding onward

It’s Ash Wednesday
I should change the color of my blog
Purple for Lent
Tomorrow I’ll change it

It’s Ash Wednesday
February 18
My cousin’s birthday
I asked on Facebook
“Will you get ashes on your birthday
and write about it?”
But is it too much this year
a reflection on mortality on a birthday
with a mother ill on the other side of the country?
Is that asking too much?

It’s Ash Wednesday
a time to stop and reflect
But there was a birthday
(The girl child is 8)
and Valentine’s Day
(We watched A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a 14-year-old)
and boys with fevers
(staying home from school
on days when there are lectures to watch and chapters to read and “discussions” awaiting participation)
and piano lessons
and today a talent show rehearsal
and a birthday treat to bring to class
(fortune cookies because it’s almost Chinese New Year
because the school discourages the cupcakes
so carefully made and brought
a rule they don’t enforce
but my kids never eat them anyway)
and a science fair project due tomorrow
and dinner to be made for the youth group
breaking bread together before the service
(and what do I serve teenagers + advisors + small children + staff who will be there all day, can they eat, too?)
and who is serving at the stations?
Did I get that text? Not yet?
Will I serve or am I the expendable one?

It’s Ash Wednesday
How will I proceed?
Will I write more?
Will I walk more?
Will I eat less
(and drink less?)

Or will I get caught up in Science Fairs
and birthday parties
and talent shows
and watch it ebb away

It’s Ash Wednesday
and today I wrote this
It’s something.

Posted in About Me, Church, Family | 5 Comments