friday five: favorite places

Marie at RevGals has visited her seminary and reminisced over some favorite places there. She invites us to “tell us about five of your favorite places. Have fun with it, and make sure to link in the comments if you play at your blog. Pictures always appreciated!”

IMG_13081) The coffee house office. I spent a lot of hours sitting in the back of a coffee house writing my dissertation. It didn’t really matter which one. I don’t do it so often anymore since the kids are in school during the day and I have a perfectly good office at the church with tea and coffee facilities, but today I find myself between appointments and picking up kids and I found my way to Panera for a bagel and a coffee and some computer work. (I just wish they didn’t cut off the wi-fi at lunchtime here. Starbucks is better for that.)

2) The Chapel. I love the little chapel across form our sanctuary. I love services conducted in there. I love small groups in there. I have had meaningful conversations in there. It is an intimate space, and feels like a thin space to me.

IMG_8937 (1)3) The Beach/Ocean. Any beach. If I had to choose one, I’d say Corona Del Mar because it is family friendly and has sand and shore and reasonable waves, and also rocks to walk to and climb on. It’s the one I know best and am most likely to head toward if it’s up to me. But really any beach. Warm beaches filled with people and cold, windy beaches with gulls and cliffs. The photo was on an east coast trip for my cousin’s wedding.

V&T4) New York City. Partly it’s from all the Madeleine L’Engle books, and partly it’s just the energy of the city itself. I love New York City. The energy, the plays, the food, the park. Maybe it was the magical visit with my mom when we lost our luggage and saw two plays and explored the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and discovered the pizzeria described in A Severed Wasp and ordered wine (in the Baptist days) and had bagels and blintzes in the mornings. It was such a great trip, and I have loved NYC since.

lww5) Narnia. The girl child and I have just finished The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Prince Caspian. 35 years after discovering it, I remain enchanted by the world C.S. Lewis created, and am happy to return any time. It’s fun introducing my daughter to one of my favorite places.

Posted in About Me, Friday Five | 2 Comments

the sacred in the everyday

Do I see the sacred in the everyday?

IMG_1275When I awaken early in the morning
and heat the water to make my single cup french press coffee,
it’s easy to see the sacred in the water
the grounds
the coffee…
ahhh… the coffee.
But do I see the sacred in the lunches I assemble while the water heats
and the grounds steep?
Or do I resent the quotidian task
that pulls me from my prayer?

It’s easy to see the sacred in a walk through the neighborhood
the shrubs and trees and flowers
the walkers with earphones or sticks or dogs
the sun rising higher into the sky
the air still cool in the morning.
But do I see the sacred on the drive to work:
The stoplights and the other drivers,
the needy people and the rough roads?

It’s easy to see the sacred in the bedtime routine
cuddles and books and conversation and prayers
Hugs and kisses goodnight
“I love you more”
But do I see the sacred in the trips out for water or tummy-aches
or the hurry of the morning, getting dressed and ready for school
or the more leisurely mornings when they awaken early
and eat my sacred space?
Is that sacred, too?

May I find the sacred in the dishes
and the homework
and the endless games of battle (Star Wars or Pokémon).

May I see the sacred in
Every day.

Posted in About Me | 3 Comments

throwing a pokémon / star wars party


Last year it was a Star Wars party. There was an “Epic Battle” and then cake and presents. The “goody bags” were Darth Vader heads with m&m’s inside.

This year was going to be a basic repeat of last year, but the boy child had been talking about going to the Party Store since the girl child’s birthday in February. When we got there, he saw the Pokémon display and immediately changed his theme. Mostly. He got Pokémon invitations and party hats and goody bag supplies and Star Wars plates (“Mom, It’s not Star Wars. They’re Clone Wars.” “Sorry, Son. Clone Wars.”)

We gave invitations to the 3 older boys who do carpool and playdates, 1 slightly younger boy from church, and the boy’s 2 pre-school teacher friends. We allowed as how siblings could come, too.

We began to talk about games. Shyguy really wanted to play Pokémon during the party. I suggested he save it until the end for anyone who was interested. He agreed on an “Epic Battle” and the Wii game “Active Life Explorer” Party Mode. And Pokémon. Wordgirl wanted to make up games, and Shyguy really did not want her to. There may have been some tears.

The day before the party I ran into the grocery store to buy a Big Cookie–Shyguy’s choice for “cake.” There were no plain ones available, so I called Computerguy who decorates the cakes with the kids, and we decided the one with balloons around the edge would be okay. I also picked up strawberries and grapes and chocolate and yogurt covered pretzels.

The Pokémon goody bag stuffers contained 8 of each item (tops and rulers and whistles and so on). There were 4 official kid party guests + the birthday boy. There were 3 younger brothers and 3 sisters. We decided to make goody bags for the younger brothers (with the Pokémon stuff + goldfish and cereal bars instead of candy, also for his young church friend). We made “Helper” badges for the sisters–including Wordgirl–since they weren’t getting goody bags. My kids decided that the sisters could help by setting up a final “Treasure Hunt” for Goody Bags at the end of the party. It worked out pretty well.

When we celebrated his birthday as a family, I got Shyguy a Pikachu mylar balloon. He was careful with him so he would last until his party a week and a half later.

On the morning of his birthday, we hung out for awhile and then kicked into high gear about 9:30. I worked on cleaning in the house while Computerguy took care of the yard.

About 11:45, as I was putting out as a simple lunch for the family, I was cursing myself for saying 1-3 instead of 2-4 on the invitations, but we kept pushing through. After finishing the floors (swept and vacuumed–no time to mop) I made a pitcher of lemonade and a pitcher of water and labeled them with masking tape: Pikachu Lemonade (it’s yellow) and Squirtle Water (it shoots water). Since it was a rare cold and sprinkly day, I also made coffee for the grown-ups. I labeled it Charmander Coffee (a lizard that shoots fire). We put the “Prize Candy” in a Yoda basket from last year’s party.

As the first guests came, I was putting out the fruit and pretzels. Not bad.

As the kids arrived, we made Wii Miis (individual characters) for the kids who did not already have them on our system.  As more kids came, they grabbed weapons and ran outside. They fought with weapons and played on swings and ran up the hill and did all the stuff they do in our yard. It was raining a little, but the tree cover kept them mostly dry, and they didn’t care.

Eventually (after about 45 minutes), they started wandering back inside, so I suggested we start the Wii game. It was a huge hit. The party mode allows 8 kids to play at once, matching them up randomly and giving them specific directions. We started 8 kids playing, and then 2 more wanted to play, so my kids subbed out. One family gave the boy child a deck of Pokémon cards early, so they were as interested in those as they were in the game.

It was loud, but organized and fun. The toughest moment was the boy who came in last in the game. The game shows every place from 1st to 8th. I should have stopped it at 3rd place. It was kind of random who won. We had never played through part mode so I didn’t know it did that. He ran out of the room frustrated. A few minutes later, I took the Yoda prize head in to him and asked if he would like to offer prize candies. He was amenable and seemed to mostly come out of his funk.

By this point, time had gotten short (2 hour parties: leave them wanting more), so we went to Big Cookie (big hit) and then gifts. Then people started heading out, and by 3:30 everyone was gone.

It was a good party and the boy seemed awfully satisfied and I started putting it together for real yesterday. Yep. that’s the way we roll.

Posted in The Kids | 3 Comments

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.

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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.”

DSC01096 copy

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