Monday, December 31, 2007

A wedding, A Movie A Book

A busy, busy time.
First the wedding: on Friday of Harv and Lisa. We went back to NW Ohio and to my old church where I officiated at the wedding. I had not been in the sanctuary for at least two years and it was familiar and strange at the same time to be there. I had pastored at that church for 13 years. It was the place where I was married, Marnie was married, Audrey was ordained.
It was also where we did Sue Truex's memorial service. It seemed good to be there for Lisa's wedding.

It was a second marriage for both Lisa and Harv. And simple. The only different part of it was that Lisa had selected the song "At Last" for the walk down the aisle. Harv did not know about it. So the music started with the words: "At last my love has come along, my loneliness is ended and life is like a song." The tears started immediately with Harv. It all seemed so right. A second marriage always has pain in the background - as the couple has lived through the end of the first marriage. But it is love in the foreground and the hope of new beginnings as this commitment is made. I am so glad they are now married. And blessed to get the front rowseat to all of it!!

The movie: Yesterday Chuck and I saw "No Country for Old Men" Wow! What a movie. I have been a Coen brothers fan ever since "Raising Arizone" - one of the few movies that I actually own. I have liked their style, humor, story telling and messages in the midst of the story. This movie is spare and tense and violent and profound. It is basically about three men whose lives have intersected when the Llewellyn (what a name!) stumbles on a death scene of drug dealers and comes away with $2 million in cash. Then he is pursued by a sociopath who will do anything to get the money and the near retirement sheriff (old man) Tommy Lee Jones
who on the path of truth and justice. The story itself is powerful but the themes behind it stay with me.

I preached Sunday on the last chapter of revelation - which was basically about LIVING in the waiting time before the second coming. And part of that is living in the awareness that we are not in paradise yet - we live in the midst of evil - anti God - powers and principalities. We need to recognize that always. And this movie had an embodiment of that - the relentlessness and the many faces of evil. What really spoke to me was the character of the Sheriff and his weariness with it all. He sees it and works against it - and finally gives up and retires because it is no country for old men. I could identify with that. Maybe it is because I need a vacation after the busyness of Christmas? (in 2 weeks!!)

A Book: Last night I finally started reading "Eat, Pray, Love." Susan sent it to me for Christmas and I have heard from many women how wonderful it is. And it is ....and I love that Liz has a best friend Susan - just like me. I am only now in the part about Italy.

But what has already struck me is when she writes about the first time she desperately prayed to God and "heard the voice." I loved it. I have heard the voice over the years and it is just as she said. When you hear the voice you always wonder whether it is you speaking to you or God or your authentic self. Blah! Blah Blah. But I will say I have learned to trust the voice. I remember hearing the voice speak to me when I was pregnant with Audrey and wondering what I was supposed to do with my life. And the voice told me for now it was to take care of my kids. I remember being in a sanctuary in Zanesvile and hearing the voice tell me to slow down. And lately I have been hearing the voice say to me - unmistakeably - "Trust me"

the question I have about me - is why I don't spend more time listening for the voice.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


It is over and it went to fast this year!
I had Sunday worship and the next day Christmas eve service and the next day Christmas itself with all the girls, grandkids, Dawn and Jason and Melanie over.
And now, we are getting ready to go to NW Ohio for one more Christmas with Lisa and kids and then Friday the wedding between Lisa and Harve.

The highlights -
Christmas Eve service that was packed. It made me feel so good to see so many people coming together to worship and to be together. We had cookies and punch afterward and people were just happy to be there.

Christmas day Chuck and I cleaned the house getting ready for everyone to come in the afternoon. And even that was pleasant for just the 2 of us. We also watched the movie "The Namesake". Wonderful. About an Indian couple and their marriage and life in America and their son Gogol. Gogol did not seem to understand or appreciate his family and their sacrifice for him until his father died suddenly. There was so much in the movie and this morning I watched some of the background and just marvel at the creativity of the director and everyone who put it together.

Christmas afternoon everyone came and it was bedlam but also wonderful. When everyone comes I think of my house as "shrinking." The kids were more interested in playing together than in opening gifts. They had done that in the morning and last night. Enough already.
Jax was very happy whopping people with wrapping paper tubes. But it was great. I would have moments of seeing conversations between adults and kids and feel blessed by the whole thing.

We snacked all afternoon and ate dinner and afterwards, of course, played games. Audrey got a game "chuzzle" in which you make something with modeling clay. That is the kind of thing I think I hate, but I actually liked it. And after that we played trivial pursuit, which I have not done in years - but with Dawn and Kacey on one team and Audrey and I on the other (and Jason helping everybody) it was a good and fun game and I think we actually won. (not that I am competitive :)

Altogether a great holiday and a blessing to me to be able to get everyone in one space with a minimal amount of tension.

This was the first time in years that I was with the girls on 'christmas - usually we do it on another day. And usually I go to a movie on Christmas day. But this year I went to the movie the next day - (today!) and saw JUNO - it was so good. I was touched by so much in it that I found myself in tears or near tears several times. The ads for this movie make you think that it is a sit com kind of thing - but actually the jokes cover a lot of hurt within this young pregnant teenage. I also like the music behind the story. It all was very true to life - and the dfficulty of being a teenager and being married and just living.
I recommend it !

Friday, December 21, 2007

God Grew Tired of Us

God Grew Tired of Us is a documentary following some of the lost boys of the Sudan as they came into America to make a new life.
We showed the Lost Boys of the Sudan in our "Reel Faith" a couple of months ago - and this was a similar documentary. It is powerful as we see the ordeal of their life in Africa - having parents killed and walking literally a thousand miles to a refugee camp in Kenya. They were absolutely
emaciated when they got to the refugee camp. They made a life there for years but there was no future but there was a family of men and boys that had been created over the years.

You saw their amazement of moving from third world into the first world as they learned about refrigerators and toilets and frozen foods. And you could see the loneliness and disconnection for them as they came into this completely different culture.

And I sit and watch all of this in wonder .....wondering about the disproportionate life on this earth. How is it that I sit comfortably in my family room wrting this on a laptop computer and others are born into poverty, oppression, warfare? I cannot ever make sense of this. We have this mythology of the "self made person" in our country - but it is so simplistic. I have always like the line that Ann Richards said about George Bush - he was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. But the truth is that this world is so out of balance that there are people who are born miles away from the game itself.

I worship and have experienced the presence of the God of love in my life. And like religious and non religious people, I cannot understand how we have become a world of such stark contrasts. And what is my role and my responsibility to others.

And ....I am writing this at Christmas as I am buying stuff for people who don't need it as they are buying stuff for me. And.....I am writing this right after our church had a rummage sale....and we get o see all the material things that are usable but not wanted because they are outdated or outgrown. Or we just get tired of it all. And....I am writing this after booking a cruise this next month.l

But what can be more irritating than a person who lives in this materialistic world and says "I am so conflicted" but keeps buying into the values and buying the products. That is me and I imagine that is most of us. (Well, I know there are people who don't buy presents for each other - they make donations to causes in their name - which I also find irritating. Maybe I should talk to my spiritual director about that!) Does God grow tired of us?

But make no mistake - I love Christmas but I struggle. With all of it. Watching a movie like this forces me into self examination, which I know is needed. We live in a city of immigrants - and this movie gave a face to those who are trying to make a life here. And my faith tells me that God wants me to do something more. May I recognize the call in whatever form it takes.

Saturday, December 15, 2007


My friend Mary came to Columbus yesterday. She is going to direct "Grandparents Camp" again this summer and I am going to help her.

She and I have been friends for over 15 years - really I always say ever since I stayed at her house when she had a concussion from walking her dogs on her bike! I have always felt like her big sis - we were ministers together serving hcurches 5 miles apart from each other. I am 10 years older than her. Mary has great musical gifts and is very creative and fun to be with. I can be as silly with her as with anyone else. We have been blessed to be together in Chautauque the last few years and it is fun, fun, fun for me.

Now I am in Columbus and she is serving a church part time in Oregon Ohio in NW Ohio. She has had a passion since she was a teenage to go to Burma and in the past few years has been able to go there. She has gone to a refugee camp in Thailand and taught at a seminary in the refugee camp with the Karin people. She has such a heart for this ministry. She has gone there at financial and physical risk to herself. She went back again this fall in September for 4 weeks.
I honestly don't know how she can afford to do this - but she does. And she raises money for the Karin people and sends it there in addition to her own trips.

As I listened to her talk so matter of factly about this I thought she is the big sister teaching me what it is to listen to God's call and to follow - regardless of the cost.

I admire her so much.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


I have just returned from the Library where I am helping kids with homework. And boy, do I feel like I am stupid - or something!
And I find myself like a kid wondering why kids need to learn the things they are being taught.
First there was a young man who was from Africa who has a paper to do on Dante's Inferno. I wasn't working with him but overheard the conversation about thesis statements and symbols and allegories. I remember doing papers like this in college and I was an English major. And find myself thinking about why we are teaching Dante's Inferno. In High school. But I guess that is part of being an educated person????

And then I worked with a young Muslim girl on genetics - about homozygous and heterozygous and I couldn't remember ever knowing this stuff? And then another girl asked me to check her homework - algebra and factors and I couldn't remember this stuff. And she is just in 7th grade.

It all seemed hard to me and I have a graduate degree.

I guess this is a worthwhile way for me to help - but I wonder if I am any help at all. I can just see these kids going to school with the wrong answers and saying....I am never going to go back there for help again!!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Day I Picked

I am now volunteering to help kids with homework once a week at the library.
Today, there was hardly anyone there so I did not stay long. But I did see something that stopped me in my tracks.

At the Library there are a whole wall of computers for kids to come and work on their homework. When I got there there were only two children, a boy and a girl - working. They were African American, about 8 years old, the girl with two pigtails and typing slowly from her notebook.

I only read the beginning - "when I was 4 and my sister was 2 my parents split up. They told me that I could pick who I would live with." Then I saw the title over the notebook - "The day I picked."

I did not say anything to her. Just watched her type and thought about how terrible it is that parents split and children have to pick. And then write about it.

My prayer is that my grandchildren will not have to tell a story about the day they had to "pick" between their parents.

The Year of Magical Thinking

I just finished reading The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. It is such a good book.
It ias about the year following the sudden death of her husband John Gregory Dunne.

First of all, I remember reading "Play it as it Lays" by Joan Didion 30 years ago and just loving her very spare writing style. Still do - she has an eye for the small incident that speaks represents so much more.

What struck me about this book was her repulsion of self pity, but the complete compassion that this book evokes in the reader for her as the stunned and wounded widow. This reminded me of the truth of grief - that we may look functional in our grieving - but inside have literally fallen apart.

Yesterday I spent an hour with a woman whose husband died Sunday. Whenever I do a funeral I routinely spend time with the family literally reconstructing the person's life. It is helpful for them in their grieving and for me in preparing the funeral address. It is easy to become detached and forget about the enormity of the grief of the one who is left behind.

This book reminded me that the funeral is really just a cocoon for the grieving person. They are literally in shock and it is in the months and years to come that they come to terms with the loss and begin to reconstruct their life.

This was not written from a faith perspective although I saw glimpses of the divine in the story - even in her writing. I have lost parents and believe that my relationship with God has somehow softened the hardest parts of grieving. Certainly the belief that the ones that I love are with our Lord gives me peace. And I trust that somehow we will be in each other's presence again is a hopeful thought.

But the death of a loved person is the most painful part of this life. And this book describes that pain beautifully.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Giving Birth

This past weekend Kay McGlinchey and I lead a retreat for women at Camp Christian. In the summer we came up with our theme - "O Come, O Come Emmanuel, Be Born in Us Today."

I have done Advent retreats for women for at least 10 years and I am always blessed by doing them personally. I used to do morning retreats - often at a friends home. Since I have been in Columbus we have done a day away at Camp - from 9 to 3. This time we added an optional evening before at camp. Eight of us came early and it was very nice. We were able t
o set up the retreat and spend time in front of the fire relaxing and play games. We will continue to offer this for the next retreat (in Lent - March 8th) and advertise it as a "slumber party." I was really happy that Kacey came for the first time. I wanted her to be part of something that I have been doing and I wanted to see this kind of thing through her eyes.

Our retreat about "Giving Birth" was a Birth! We shared the birth narratives from Luke - Chapter 1 and talked about the stages of giving birth that Mary went through and that we all went through - anxiety, pain, loss, surprise, joy, God sightings, and companions. And all of that happened during this process. Both Kay and I bring different gifts and resources to doing something like thi together and we both plan and both are open to changing plans at the moment, so it is really wonderful for me to work with a partner like this. She had this idea for a craft that I wondered about - but it really worked well. In the afternoon each woman (and we had 40 of all ages!) took a piece of crayola modeling clay and in silence (!) formed whatever God directed us to form. Afterwards we placed them on tables around the altar and then some women shared during worship. It was awesome - more than I could imagine.

She also gave us some prayers to share with the women.
I love this one:

O Blessing God,
I am immersed in your story
I am Mary and Elizabeth
I am prophet and singer
Old mother, fetus and angel,
And I know you,
You enter a woman and through her
You enter the human hearts
of all who eat the fruit of her womb.
You come to those who cannot trust
their own strength to live
You find your way to me
through my most vulnerable need

O Blessing God,
May the sound of greeting this day
Cause the child within me
To leap with expectation,
And, as I ponder why I should be so honored by your gift,
Leap forth with joy from the ocean of joy within
Incarnate me to be your improbably gift of blessing
To another
For you have believed in me
That I might bring to completion
Your promise of radical love
to the whole world.

I read this aloud to the group and we shared what spoke to us and I realized how powerful this was. Speaking about our God who comes to us through our most vulnerable need and promises us radical love.

I am still in awe of what happened that day. BUT it is Monday and since then I experienced 2 other "birth experiences" - Sunday worship and an awesome Holiday Praise Concert last night.
I have trouble sleeping when I am anxious about events like this and THEN I have trouble sleeping afterwards as I ponder in true amazement how it all comes together and was more than I could have ever imagined.

So, thanks be to God who works through me and through us to help create experiences that give renewal and change lives.