Saturday, January 31, 2009

getting excited - part 2

Well, it is Saturday night and I am doing that last bit of laundry and putting that last items in the suitcase and getting ready to go to New Orleans - tomorrow!

We are celebrating my birthday 2 months early by going on a cruise - with the girls, my brothers and sister and other friends. There will be 24 of us in all!

And I am excited - almost beyond words. Almost.

I look forward to all of it.
It was a couple of years ago that I realized that nothing makes me happier than watching people be happy. And so - with all of us together on this ship - I think we are going to have a great time.

This is what I like about going on a cruise

1. You unpack your clothes and move in to your own (little) room.

2. You never have to think about what to eat and what it will cost. You have paid and there are lots of choises

3. I never have to worry about Chuck finding something to do - there is always something going on.

4. I like the casinos - for a while until I get frustrated (you know what that means)

5. I love just wandering around the boat - maybe stopping for a cup of coffee or a glass of wine

6. I like to sit on the deck and play cards and listen to music and watch people

7. I love coming back to the room and the bed is made

8. I love the calendar of events - even though I don't do half of what you can do

9. I love finding a place on the ship that is "my place" where I can sit and read

10. I love looking at the ocean!

Getting Excited - Part One

The last two days I was at Wellstreams in a little retreat as we are beginning our new term in school. And it gets me very excited.

We are a class of 19 and we are going to be together probably for 2 and a half year. The program ends in May of 2011! Wow! It seems daunting, but I bet when it is done I will be sorry it is over.

Now I am talking two course -
The first one is in prayer is it is going to be mainly experiential. We are going to have prayer journals where we record when and where we prayed and what happened when we prayed on a daily basis. Should be interesting and a great discipline for me.

Today we spent time talking about all the names of God that are found just in the Psalms and our assignment for the next two weeks it to pray with different names for God.

The other course is in human, personality, and faith development. It too is going to stretch me and teach me some new ways to look at myself and the journey that I have been on. We are reading four books - the first one is "Healing the Eight Stages of Life" about Erikson's developmental stages. I truly can't wait to get started on it all. As we were learning about the class today, I found myself leaning forward and not wanting to miss anything. This is all the stuff that I love to learn about.

So, happy to be learning something new. Happy to be in a place where I am being forced to have a real discipline about my prayer life. And curious about what will come out of this term.

We spent quite a bit of time Friday night talking about what happened to us in the first term - and all I can say is that I do feel like I am experiencing an internal shift. I feel like I trust God more and more, feel greater peace and really feel - for lack of a better word - Happy.

God is Good, All the time

Friday, January 30, 2009

Facebook Confession

I am on facebook.
My sister Ellen set me up on facebook at least a year ago and I did nothing with it. I would occassionally get notifications that someone wanted to be my "friend" and I found it irritating.
And I just let it go.

Marnie has now come back to facebook and so I thought I would too and I find that I am getting hooked.
It really is another way to connect to people from my present and my past. And I love it.

I love reading about kids from Bowling Green who are now adults and I see these statements (sometimes 25 random statements) about what they are doing and it is just so interesting to me and satisfying.

I love reading about my own kids and what they are doing and getting a little window into their lives.

I love reading about other people from different parts of my life and my family. This year I celebrate 60 years of life - and that is a lot of people over the years.

And facebook gives me a snapshot - literally -in what some of them may be doing at any time.
It is great! But can kind of hook me into spending more time than I originally planned.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day

It is a snow day here in Columbus Ohio - although I am thinking about walking to church this afternoon to clean my office up. Why not?

A snow day means that Marnie, Addie, Reagan, Chuck and Margot (Ogram) are Home together.
We have had snow, ice and now snow again. It is level 2 and that means that driving is discouraged. Chuck is not going to be discouraged however, he is out feeding the Merlyn's dogs in her absence. And I bet he drives around just to see what is happening. He loves that.

Before anybody got up this morning I had worked on my sermon for when I get back from the cruise, written a letter for the newsletter and exercised! A great beginning

We - the girls - have done some shoveling, fed the birds and had some hot chocolate.
Reagan has been in time out once for rolling her eyes at me. (You would think she is 13!)
Addie has gotten in trouble once for telling on her sister for calling her a dork.
But other than that the girls are wonderful. Really. It is great to watch them play together. Later on I know I am going to get to play Sorry and Rummikub with Reagan.
And we may watch a movie together.

I feel blessed to have a day like this. And a house big enough that I can be with my family and get away from them!
And to know that next week - at this time - I am going to be on a cruise ship!

Monday, January 26, 2009

sermon - follow me

I don't usually post sermons - but I got a lot of very positive feedback on this one and I mentioned my Dad in it. So - here it is

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
16As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen.

17And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.”
18And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.
20Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

I will make you fishers of men
Fishers of men
Fishers of me
I will make you fishers of men
If you follow me

How many of you sang this a child in Sunday school?
Do you remember what it meant to you?
For me it meant you were supposed to bring a friend to Sunday School

We use this image as adults too
Our denominational evangelism bulletin used to be called “Net results” – which is about catching Christians, growing churches, more people in the pew

Or we use this text to talk about our "call"
Maybe the minister might talk about their call that led them out of their old life into ministry

Or let me tell you about someone I read about in a book – like Mother Teresa – who got called into working overseas

But what does this have to do with us who don’t change their careers
And don’t go to serve God in foreign countries

You who are sitting here live in a world where you have responsibilities Most of you will not leave what you do
- still live in an environment where you are wondering if you will be laid off and you are watching people you care about get laid off
- still live with health problems – depression, chronic pain,
- still live with demanding children or parents
- still live with financial instability

So what is this text saying to us – we have become Christians already…….What is the message

, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

Key word – Repentance
Which does not mean being sorry for the sins that you have committed…
But to turn around and to change -
It is to change the source of your security
From being self sufficient - To God dependent
Symbolized here as the disciples drop their nets
Leaving jobs and family relationships and Follow Jesus

This is about moving from one Life to Another –
Talk first about self sufficiency
When we live the self sufficient, self reliant life - it’s all up to us
We see our selves in control and in charge
It affects our relationships with other people
Frequently competitive – checking out each other – who is in control, who has more, who is smarted
We grew up in a system of comparison and competition –
- reading groups – bluebirds, and robins and red birds – every body knew who was smartest and not so smart
- Bell shaped curve – you know what that means – only so many A’s and B’s and somebody has to get the C’s and D;s
When it is up to us – we also operate in the premise that there may only be so much. If I don’t watch out and protect myself there may not be enough for me
Media of course encourages this – look what happens to us at Christmas!
Starting with Christmas toys – cabbage patch dolls, beanie babies –
To today when now wonder whether there will be enough social security when I retire – for ME!

And it is it is all up to me I become, of course, self centered. And it isn’t just selfishness – because that is part of it
It is what we have learned in life – if I don’t do it no one will
Maybe did not have a family to rely –
Learned behavior –You have asked people to do something for you and they drop the ball
And over time you develop this understanding about life: if you don’t take care of your self no one else will

And so – we live in this world – we breathe the air – that we need to be self reliant – and we can be.

Fundamental problem with that – which many people have and are and will experience……The problem is that it doesn’t work
People die, there are job layoffs beyond our control, retirement and investments fund disappears, and now what
We can’t even count on ourselves ! We face the weaknesses inside ourselves – it can be an addiction that is destructive; it can be cancer, or diabetes – and we cannot control it
And we face the truth that we don’t always know what is best for us. Our perspective can be limited and we are wrong.

Many of you know exactly what I am talking about.
And when those moments happen when we that which was our security is gone we are left with the big questions:
Who am I going to be now – without my husband? Without my job? What is going to happen in the future?

As a woman of faith – nearing the age of 60 – you learn that all that you thought was secure in your 20’s is not very secure
And so where does that leave us?

Jesus comes and says follow me
And watch this – a life lived trusting in the security of God

Following him means we have a different relationship with each other – not in competition at all
Learning that we are each unique and valued
And each of is in our own way weak and suffering and we are all interconnected
And something happens and we learn or we become more compassionate. – interested in, concerned for and connected to one another

Following him means that we have a different relationship with stuff – holding it lightly, and learning that when we trust God there will be enough……More than enough
Abundance. As our expectations change and our eyes open to the blessings

And of course, we stop looking to ourselves to fix the problems and to stabilize the boat in the storm
We learn to LOOK for God in the midst of it all
And seek to be guided by God
Repentance – changing the security on which we base our lives.

How does that happen? Well, looking at the disciples - the changes in them did not happen right away.
It took years – as they competed with each other, tried to get back at enemies, didn’t trust that there would be enough food for a crowd, and denied Jesus at the end

But they kept with him. They followed him.
And slowly but surely something happened – God changed them.
And that is what we see in this text today.
It is about something more than bringing people to church
Or growing a church

It is about being willing to follow – to be with Jesus.
For us – it might mean to spend time with God’s word,
to sit in silence and solitude,
to be in the presence of the ones God loves – the poor,
to be involved in a Christian community.

We follow as a day by day, step by step enterprise.
As slowly over time we learn that God is real, can be trusted and his way can give us security – peace, purpose.
And he is the only security that we need

The text shows the beginning of the calling of the disciples
And you and I were called by Jesus a long time ago
It is in the living of our lives that over time we learn that this way of life – is the only true security in a very insecure world
And I have to say – in my own experience – the only way of life that makes sense and gives me peace and the strength to keep going at times. – But I have learned this through experiences of having that which seemed secure fall away. For example:

In 1994 the most important man in my life died. My father – of pancreatic cancer. He got sick in May and was dead by Labor Day. It happened fast. He was a big man – six foot three, two hundred twenty pounds and full of life. Always had a joke and filled the space with his personality.
He was – my foundation because he was my biggest supporter of my life. No matter what happened I always knew my dad was on my side.

But when he died I learned that beneath the foundation of his presence and his love was another. Another father, another support, another form of security. And that was God.

Sometimes we don’t know until we have to know how much we can trust God.
But the blessing of our lives is that we have followed so that when those moments come we know…..He is there
We are not alone and we can trust him

The message of this day for all of us – is keep on keeping on.
Follow Jesus – spend time with Jesus and know that he is making you one who becomes a fisherman of others.
God is making you into the person that others say – Watch HIM or Her – living a life depending on God
And that helps them to begin to learn what we keep learning
That this Way is the way of life
And peace and JOY

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Last night I finished my first semester of the Wellstreams program in spiritual direction.
I have now taken two courses: The dynamics of transformation and the historical traditions of spirituality.
I wrote about a half dozen papers and read five books.
I have attended class every other Saturday morning and every other Wednesday night.
It has been really wonderful.

Last night we had a closing ritual where we each shared what this first semester has meant to us. I resonated with so much of what people said.
One woman talked about feeling like she is giving up control a lot more. There is a shift within her that is enabling her to trust God more. I feel that.
We each picked up a bowl with a blessing and a rock inside of it and reflected on that. The rock in my bowl said "Peace" and I thought that was so appropriate. I do feel greater peace.

I watch people in my life going through some difficult times - whether it is Ellen who has cancer, or Marnie who is going through a divorce, or Audrey going through job search. Of course I am helpless with all of them. That is a given - there is little I can do.
The peace I have is the knowledge that God is really with them and not only supporting them but at work in these dark times and guiding them. The dark times are the times in which we are broken and then come back together in new ways.
Obviously there is pain in that....but there is also new life. Eventually.
My peace is in that understanding and trusting in the "eventually."

I also come away from this first semester with greater self awareness. I can see more and more the "inner child" issues that stem from my childhood as well as the ways that I have fallen into patterns of self rejection. I am learning to trust in the gentle and slow work of God in my own life.

Finally, learning again and again to slow down - to make sure my life has some time of silence and solitude.

I am so glad that I am in this class. It was what I needed. I look forward to the next two courses which begin next week.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The National Prayer Service

As I sit here I am watching the National Prayer Service that our president is attending.

I thought I would have to stream it on the computer, but it turns out that I have choices -

I started with MSNBC - but Chris Matthew keeps giving commentary and I want to watch and not listen to him!
Then I tried C Span and at first their cameras were only on the Obamas, Bidens and Clintons.
Finally I end up at Fox and it is the service, with no commentary.

I am struck by the variety of voices. Cynthia Hale read the Old Testamen scripture from Isaiah and it was so powerful. She has a rich voice and a wonderfully dramatic and read authentic reading. I have heard her preach and she is someone I can learn from.

Then a Rabbi read and a Hispanic Priest. Familiar texts with unfamiliar voices.

Right now I am hearing an African American chorus sing a jazzy chorus of "He's got the whole world in his hands" Wonderful. Before this there was a chorus of young people singing "My shepherd provides my every need." Sweet but not soulful. But always, you know that different music affects different people. The people clap after these kids though!

What a switch - now the Archbishop Demetrios from the Greek Orthodox church speaks. He looks like he comes from another world and another century - and yet the words are the words I live be.

As the kids file out, the congregation sings - "Great is thy Faithfulness" ONe of my favorite hymns - one I want sung at my funeral. (my kids should take note!) This is my favorite part: "morning by morning new mercies I see. all I have needed, thy hand has provided!"

Sharon Watkins - who is the general minsiter of our denomination is preaching. That is why I am watching. Her sermon is okay and people applaud.

But I hate to say it - the rendition of Amazing Grace - following this is more meaningful.

I guess this is all a lesson to me who thinks that sermons are the most important part of a service (!)

There are closing prayers by a diverse group of clergy and soon our new president will go back to work.

It is good to begin with worship!

Day after the Inaugeration

There was so much that I loved about what happened yesterday.

1, Crowds and their excitement !

2, Hearing the commentators talking about the peaceful transfer of power that happens in America. Yes!

3. Hearing Aretha sing "America the Beautiful." And I like her hat!

4. Hearing and watching Yo Yo Ma and Itzak Perlman play "Simple Gifts"

5. The gracious relationship between the Obama's and the Bush's. Classy.

6. The speech - serious and smart and making us face what is ahead.

7. The Benediction - full of wisdom and soul and faith.

8. The parade - and seeing them walking and waving.

9. The Obama family - interacting - all of them and Michelle's mom. A family.

10. Watching Barak and Michelle dance to"At Last" sung by Beyonce. Lovely.

There is no question that Barak Obama has a heck of a job ahead. I pray for him and his family and our country. May we continue with this beginning - ready to work hard, work together and hope!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Travels with Chuck

Chuck left this morning for a little road trip. And I hope he has a good time. He is surely excited to be going.

He is going to visit Audrey in Knoxville, then the two of them will visit my Uncle Jim in Ashville, NC overnight, return back to Knoxville and then he will also visit Elena and Kosta in Bowling Green Kentucky.

This may be his last trip to Knoxville as Audrey is searching for the next place in her life. Chuck was there in Knoxville in the beginning. He took a road trip down there and helped her find her first apartment and then he and I drove his van pulling a trailer full of furniture for her. He has been a real blessing to her. I am sure he will yet introduce her to new places as he finds them out everywhere he goes.

The visit to Uncle Jim will be interesting of course. My uncle Jim is my father's brother (actually foster brother) and he is a transgender man who is 87 years old. He lives as a man but he is a woman at heart - which is particularly interesting because he was a prisoner of war in World War 2 and an engineer who worked for IBM in corporate America. When we were younger, we always thought of him as pretty talkative and opinionated. Now, at his age and with this amazing story, I find him to be wise and compassionate. Chuck likes Jim - we have seen him a couple of times and he appreciates him - even though usually when the three of us are together it is Jim and I talking the most. But Chuck is making the trip and bringing Audrey. I wish I could be there for it all.

We became acquainted with Kosta and Elena at least 12 years ago when she came to Bowling Green Ohio as part of a study group from Russia and the Ukraine. She stayed almost a year and a few months into her visit, her husband Kosta and daughter Nadya joined her. That year there were close to 20 people - men and women and children - from Russia and the Ukraine who became part of our lives. Chuck was the one who took them places, helped them find apartments and cars and even hired some of them to work with him. It was a memorable year. Kosta and Elena wanted to stay in America - so much that they even contemplated divorce in order to stay. What happened was that they returned to the Ukraine and saved money. Two years later they emigrated to Windsor Canada. Chuck and Mary Ann and Bill drove to Toronto in a blizzard and picked them up and brought them to their fully furnished apartment (furnished by First Christian Church BG, Chuck and MaryAnn)

Anyway, Kosta and Elena over the years worked hard, bought a house in Windsor, bought another house in Windsor, he learned English really well and then they got an opportunity to move to the US - to Bowling Green Kentucky. So, Chuck stopped today to buy bread for Kosta and will be with them on Saturday and Sunday. I am sure they will feed him well and they will all enjoy being together.

Chuck is like nobody in the world. This trip is just an example of his big heart, his love of travel, and his wanting to give and to help everybody.

I am a blessed woman - to be married to this man. I will miss him this week.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Reflections on the Week

I am sitting in my family room with candles lit and doing my sermon avoidance thing that I do on Saturdays and thought I could at least reflect back on this week and what has been happening.

1. Monday night the Buckeyes lost but we sure had a good time watching them. Kerry from our church invited us to the "Ozone Bar" to watch the game and we really really enjoyed it. The evening started with the young adults from the Monday night Bible study being there and Kerry's inviting them over to the party in her corner of the bar. She had snacks for everyone and it was just great. I love watching people get so excited about the game - but alas they did lose.

2. Thursday night I had my first Bible study of the year and it was so good. We are going to be reading the same scriptures every week and then talking about them and then on Sunday I preach on it. The love and interest was so apparent in the room and we have a lot of really wise people. It was wonderful.

3. The cruise for my 60th birthday celebration is going to be in 23 days and we have been looking ahead - at possible side trips and findign out out where our room is and just talking about it. I love looking forward to this and I know it will be memorable. We have 24 people going together and I really look forward to watching everyone on the ship interacting. I just hope that Susan will sign up - it is not too late!

4. We got some news that concerns us about Ellen. After her last blood test, she immediately went back on chemo. She will have chemo for the next two weeks and then she and Tom will be going on the cruise with us. That is such a blessing to know that we will be together and enjoy warm weather, good food and just being taken care of .

5. Today is Marnie's birthday - she is 34 years old!! I can't believe it when I feel like I am about 40 years old myself. She is in a transitional time - but I know will have a wonderful day today and that this year is going to bring joy and growth for her.

So, lots of stuff going on as always. God is Good - God is here in the midst of it all.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

East of the Web

My family is crazy.
We are all playing the same game - this word game on East of the Web.

I went to get on the site and sure enough there was Kacey and her name on the site was "Kacey Brett" so I knew it was her

Then I signed in as "Margot Hi Kacey"
And then suddenly I realized that Marnie was on signed in as "Marniebeatkcando"
then Kacey signed off and on as "Kaceybeatall"

Unfortunately - for them - they did not beat Ogram.
The crazy part is that Marnie is down in the basement and I am in the family room. We are not talking - just playing each other in this game.

As an aside, I watched the last Boston Legal show when one of the characters talked about the fact that they have "dumbed down" TV shows because people are multitasking when they are watching TV these days - that is what we are all doing

"Watching" Desperate Housewives and Brothers and Sisters and still playing these games.
What a family!