Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Morning Ruminations

It is 8:45 AM and we have opened our presents. i sit in front of the Christmas tree while Chuck is making an omelet. I feel a sense of peace and deep joy.

There is always with me some part that is bittersweet at Christmas remember other Christmas mornings that are gone.
As a child I can still remember how extremely exciting Christmas morning was. There was great anticipation and wonder in the Gersen household. My parents did not put most of the Christmas presents under the tree until we four were in bed. In the morning we were not allowed to see the tree until after breakfast. And so the waiting during breakfast for mom and dad to finish their coffee and clean the kitchen was excruciating. and then that first glimpse of the tree! Our family took turns - youngest to oldest and the opening of presents was always an event. It was followed by trying on clothes and then playing the games that we had been given. Every Christmas we always received clothes, books and games. Always.

as a mother I tried to give my girls that same sense of anticipation and wonder and abundance. I always gave each of the girls 5 gifts to open - which included clothes, books and games. Then there were the years when they were teenagers and everybody slept in but me. Christmas morning I would be up early listening to Christmas music, drinking coffee and wrapping the last minutes gifts. So wonderful.

and now it is me and Chuck. Me up first to read the paper, drink coffee and at peace. Waiting for opening a couple of gifts and then church and then the family together.

But now I am more than ever happy for this day. And not just for family memories which are rich - but for the whole meaning of the coming of the light into that darkness.

Jesus, my Jesus. My whole life has been a proclamation of the MORE of a life of faith.

I remember being a young teenager and even then wanting to know what the purpose of life was. Was it enough to replicate yourself with children? Or to achieve with a career and creativity? These are all good and meaningful pursuits and they have made my life full.

But it has been my faith - my relationship with God - which has provided a foundation for a deeper meaning to my life. The spiritual path of seeking and being sought by the divine has given me hope in dark times, peace in the midst of turbulence and guidance in confusion. I keep learning that the way of forgiveness, humility and awareness brings fruit and peace.

So today we say - YES - Jesus came and comes again and because of that we can survive the worst of life: the grief that comes with loss, the betrayal of friends, and facing of our own weaknesses and mistakes.

But more important - because of that we can ourselves be people who seek the light and love every day. I can trust that wherever I am - "Immanuel" God is with me. God is present.

With me, Loving. Giving. Calling. Me. and YOU

Merry Christmas! Christ is Born again

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Cards

I've been getting them and I love them.
But this year I am not sending them.

What I really love - besides the cards is the letters and the pictures. I spend quite a bit of time with the pictures looking people I love and seeing how they seem to be now. I love Christmas pictures.

This is my second year of not doing a Christmas letter and it just did not feel like something I wanted to do. But if I did this is what I would talk about.

The year beginning and ending with the deaths of some very special people. The year started with the passing of 32 year old Lisa from breast cancer. Her life touched mine (and many people's) and her dying did also. The year has ended with the death of 94 year old Paul who was truly a good and faithful servant of the Lord. I just returned from visiting with his widow and two daughters as we talked about his art, poetry, music and his faith. The service for him will be in April and I am sure it will be inspiring for all of us.

But of course that is hardly what this year has been for me. More life than death.

Life like finishing up the Wellstreams program and graduating in May. It has been a gift to me to have the time for reading and classes and spiritual direction. In the aftermath of the program I now meet with a professional peer group monthly of spiritual directors and that keeps me still in that world. I also team taught a short course on contemplative prayer and Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr which was really wonderful for me.
Life like watching Karl Road Christian Church become more diverse over the past year. We have had three great occasions this fall: our Acts of Faith concert, our "One World" Sunday and the Christmas family pageant this week which were exciting to me as I could see that we are really becoming a church family that welcomes and celebrates everybody - regardless of age, race, culture, sexual orientation. These services really gave ME life!
Life like the time I got to spend with Audrey - first at her church when she was installed in May, then going to General Assembly with her in July, Advance Conference with her in August and her coming to preach at Methesco in November. I was blessed to be with her as her proud mother but also as fellow ministers. What a gift.
Life like the wedding of Marnie and Erik this summer. I cannot overstate how much I appreciate Erik Schultz as a part of my family - he brings strength, humor and just plain goodness into our lives and the wedding day itself was just pure celebration. I love it all!
Life like watching my family grow up - seeing Shane get engaged! seeing Jackson on the soccer and football field! seeing Alyse and Reagan become more and more confident and even caring of their younger sisters! I could go on and on - but it all gives me life!
So, I probably should have put this and more into the Christmas letter I did not write. But what I see is that God is at work growing us all - throughout this life and then providing peace and promise when we leave to go to the next life with him.

I am, as always, grateful for my faith and my call to ministry. This is what gives my life purpose and meaning.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Everything of Christmas

The Everything of Christmas
Today is my day off and I am starting to get some energy back. I have had a cold for about 2 weeks and it has really sapped me. I think it all started with going to a concert and drinking caffeinated coffee at 7 PM and then not sleeping - and within 24 hours I was coughing.

And then for the last two weeks my goal has been to keep my work to only 8 hours per day - which is a challenge with evening meetings and a women's retreat and just church life. But now, today, I am beginning to feel like myself again.

What amazes me about this time of the year is how rich is usually is. And what that means is that there is so much sadness and pain and joy and celebration all mixed up together.
For example on Friday: one member went into hospice, another to a nursing home and another had a (thankfully slight!) stroke. I also had lunch with Trixie who lost her beloved daughter Lisa a year ago.

At the same time, Chuck was preparing and serving his annual Christmas Tea which is truly a delight for so many people. The next day our evangelism team handed out 300 plus rolls of wrapping paper (FREE with an advertisement for our church) and our youth had their Christmas service party.

Yesterday, I preached about Mary and the fact that God continues to call each of us into "giving birth to Jesus" in our own way. And then in the afternoon visited and/or called the people in hospice, hospital and nursing home. And then we worshiped again in the evening.

and now today - Christmas shopping and having Addie and Reagan over to make cookies and the young adults to play games in the evening.

The everything of Christmas.
And, of course, this is life - with its mixture of good and bad, blessing and struggle, life and death - but somehow with the overlay of the festive and Christmas celebration, it seems like a lot more.

I write this in awe and wonder as I continue to see and to trust that God is at work in all of this. Bringing meaning and purpose to our times of celebration and abundance and help and support through the times of trial.

God is Good. All the time.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday morning at camp

Am sitting here at Monroe Lodge at camp in front of the fire.
I got here last night before anyone else and really enjoyed the gift of solitude in front of a fire.
Al had put the logs on with lots of paper underneath and a lighter in front. Presumably, I light the paper and the fire is produced.

Unfortunately I lit the papers and they burned and the logs did not take hold. It took a while, more paper, more moving the logs around, more ignition to get it going.

And once I had it, I found myself reflecting on the whole fire thing. At Karl Road Christian Church we have a motivating statement: "Ignited by God, Changing the World" and I have learned that to get ignited is not always easy. It is important to have enough kindling and
Alers to get it going. I also found myself thinking about those people who become like the embers and the greying logs...whose warmth is such that anyone can "catch" the experience of Gods love by being near them. But then there are the folks who are like the logs that are "green" and resistant to the fire. Not new ideas, I know, but this is how zi think today.

Anyway, I woke up and the fire that was started last night was still going and I learned the most important "lesson" that I keep learning. That even though I may be one of the leaders of this retreat, it is not my sole responsibility to keepnthe fire burning, I am grateful for the women the middle of the up and put a log or two on the fire. It takes a community to keep a fire going.

It is good to be here today. Therenwill be women here from every church I have served. And we are all aging together and continuing our own feed the fire of our faith.

God is good. All the time.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Lever and a Place to Stand

This is a book that I am slowly reading in the mornings by Richard Rohr.

And this morning as I was reading the chapter on "A Contemplative Stance" it stopped me in my tracks and I had to sit with it in prayer and then write in my journal and now reflect a bit here.

He writes about the demon of fear that is "well hidden, denied and disguised." And how fear is behind our mean spirited ness, unkindness and hate. "Fear unites the disparate parts of your own false self very quickly. Remember the ego moves forward by contraction, self protection and refusal......the soul however, does not proceed by contraction but by expansion."

"When YES is asked of us, it will usually be resisted by an attack of anxiety, excuse, rationalization, or question. We must learn how to recognize our own patterns..."

He writes about the shadow work that we all need to do of pulling the demon out of its hiding places, naming it and looking at it nondefensively.

That is where I get messed up - I can see the demons at times and feel shamed by them and overwhelmed and allow them to go back into their hiding places. it is being able to look at myself consciously and non defensively that allows real peace and freedom within me.

I am not preaching this week but already looking ahead to next week when I preach about the "voice crying in the wilderness" And I feel like that voice is saying to me (us) don't be afraid - don't allow your fears to bind you and separate you.

So, for some reason this whole idea seems like Advent preparation to me. This is how we slowly prepare for the coming of the Lord - releasing the fears so that our souls can expand and we can receive and live in the joy.

The hope is the joy to come as we continue on this journey of spiritual growth.

Joy Joy Joy


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Advent preparation of a sort

We are at the beginning of Advent and I like it.
It feels like Advent - which is a time of preparation and waiting.

This is a gray and rainy Tuesday morning. It is certainly not Christmas yet - but I can sense that something is coming and I want to be ready for it.

For me, there is always so much preparation before the time of preparation. We had to put together the Advent devotional and plan the preaching for the four weeks of Advent and write the candle lighting readings and find the candle lighters and decorate and on and on. Now - we get to be IN ADVENT.

Sunday I preached to myself as much as I preached to the congregation about the fact that the quality of our Christmas depends a good deal on our Advent preparation.
I talked about the different ways we prepare: solitude, silence, service, and spending time listening to God through God's word, creation and art. And my suggestions was that we give God a half hour a day. I intend to do that.

Yesterday I read a book and went to the movies and I think this was all Advent preparation.

The book was "Molokai" - a novel about a young woman Rachel who had leprosy and lived most of her life in a leper colony in Molokai (an island in Hawaii) It opened my eyes to the isolation of this terrible disease and also the reality that in the midst of sickness and rejection- there is life.

The movie was "The Descendents" which was about a land baron in Hawaii whose wife was in a coma following a boating accident. At the same time he was making a decision about selling a large parcel of paradise (Hawaii) that was in his family for over a hundred years. It was about family and connections and disconnections and life and death and pain and forgiveness. It was a wonderful movie - that expressed well the messiness of marriage and family life.

So I started Advent in Hawaii seeing the underside of paradise and the light in the darkest places and times.

Last week was a vacation in paradise for me - the Hocking Hills with my children and grandchildren. But I return always to life and to the needs all around us. Yesterday in the midst of my reading there was an interuption - a friend in a desperate situation asking for help with rent. And I am reminded that we are called to live - not in paradise but in the kingdom of heaven - open to being the light for those in dark places.

And so Advent begins.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanks for the memories

It has been too long since I have written last and I don't know where to start.
Tomorrow Chuck and I will pick up Caroline's brother Will at the airport and meet Audrey and Caroline at a cottage in Hocking Hills to spend three days.
Marnie and Kacey and families will join us on Thursday. Our thanksgiving will be on Friday. I look forward to all of it.

I want to just write for the record about the wonderful blessing of having Audrey come to Columbus a week ago. She was invited to speak at the chapel at Methodist Theolocal School in Ohio during their "Silent No More" series of conversations about LGBTI issues. Her sermon was entitled "Become You." She told her story of coming out - first to herself and then to the world.

We picked her up at the airport on Monday night and she was putting the finishing touches on her talk Tuesday morning and read it to me ahead of time. It was a good thing, because we both ended up in tears. I think back to how little I knew of the struggle that she was experiencing in high and college and have nothing but admiration for Audrey and her courage and her faith.

When we got to the seminary I was aware of the many emotions that I carry since this was "my" seminary. It truly was a time and place of transformation for me 25 years ago and to watch my daughter speak there was a rare and beautiful gift.

Audrey came out to me 7 years ago and I immediately went profound grief at the time. My fear was that her life as a pastor in the church was going to be very difficult and that has proved true. She has now served two churches on staff (one in which she was in the closet) and knows that finding a senior/ sole pastoral position will be challenging.

However, this summer when I was with her at General Assembly, I found that I was her sidekick as "Audrey's Mom" because she knows more people than I do in the denomination and some of it is because of her work as an activist in the LGBTI community. God is surely using her gifts in different ways than I imagined when she was ordained.

So, as I look forward to thanksgiving - I have nothing but gratitude for the events of this past month. And I keep learning that God truly is working in mysterious ways in my life and the life of my children and grandchildren.

One last blessing of her visit was going watching Marnie, Erik and Audrey run a half marathon. I am so proud of all of them for their grit and determination - but especially Marnie who did not give up! So often she is the one who makes things happen - finds the races and invites people to participate! It was great fun to support her!

God is good! All the Time!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Morning Ruminations

we got an extra hour today to sleep in or, in my case, to get up early and get things done!
Things meaning, for me, my sermon. And I actually have time to write and pray this morning.

Today we celebrate All Saints Day in worship which I really look forward to.
We will light candles in memory of the saints who have died in the past year and provide an opportunity for anyone to light a candle in memory of anyone.

What I know is that grief goes on well past the year our loved one has died.
Tom, my sister's husband, is visiting this weekend and it has been such a gift to me and to Chuck. But I really find myself missing Ellen. Friday night the girls came over for dinner and I remarked we would have drunk more wine if Ellen had been here!
But that is just a part of it. I miss her humor, her stories and the blessing of the shared history of sister. And I cannot imagine how hard these years have bee for Tom and Sam and Sarah and Sean.
So we light a candle this morning and I remember her and I know I miss her.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I am writing this from Camp Christian where I am on a silent retreat.

I came this morning and leave tomorrow....I will have been here for 23 hours...which sounds like a hospital visit. And it certainly has been a gift to me to have this time with God.
Here. In this very special place.

I cannot walk around here and not remember so many times and experiences in my life. I first came in the early 80's and was a chi rho counselor . And since that first week, I have served as counselor, assistant director, faculty member and co direct of Grandparents camp.
If I put all those days together I think it would be almost a year of my life. I have memories of when Audrey was on staff and learned so much about maintenance that has helped her to this day. I remember when Kacey was a chi rho camper and lit the cheesecloth. I remember stories told at vespers by Howard, Terry, Jim and Larry. And all kinds of worship experiences...especially by young adults at Advance Conference. I have attended so many meetings here and led a lot of retreats. Lives have been changed here and mine was one of them.

So I am grateful for my past here but also for this time today. I have walked and prayed and read and written and just been present.
And as the day has gone on, I feel the heaviness that sometimes I carry start to lift.
I have seen so many butterflies today and they seem to be reminding me that God is with me on this journey. Always with me.
I keep learning so many of the same things, but they continue to be true and easily forgotten ....
Like slow down and live In this moment
Like you really can trust God with your work, your family, your future
Like rest in the Lord...there is a time to receive the rest that is found in green pastures and beside still waters present to the mystery that is your life

Eugene Peterson writes that we sometimes need to be rescued from "a life in which the wonder has leaked out."

And so, a day in silence, in the beauty of Camp .Christian helps to restore my soul.

Melody Beattie writes
"Gratitude unlocks the fulness of life
It turns what we have into enough, and more
It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order,
Confusion into clarity
It can turn a meal into a feast,
A house into a home,
A stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today,
And creates a vision for tomorrow."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Contemplative seeing of the doctrine of the cross

This is from the book Everything Belongs by Richard Rohr.
Today is the final of 4 classes on the book and it was been a really interesting time for me.
We are giving this out as a handout - which is at the conclusion of the book.
Richard Rohr has truly become one of my mentors in this spiritual journey.

A Contemplative Seeing of the Doctrine of the Cross

• God is to be found in all things, even and most especially in the painful, tragic, and sinful things, exactly where we do not want to look for God
• Human existence is neither perfectly consistent, nor is it incoherent chaos. It is a “coincidence of opposites”, a collision of cross-purposes; we are all filled with contradictions needing to be reconciled.
• The price that we pay for holding together these opposites is always some form of crucifixion. Jesus himself was crucified between a good thief and a bad thief, between heaven and heart, holding on to both his humanity and his divinity;
• Christians call this pattern “the paschal mystery": true life comes only through the journeys of death and rebirth wherein we learn who God is for us.
• We should not be surprised or scandalized by the sinful and the tragic. Do what you can to be peace and to do justice, but never expect or demand perfection on this earth.
• We must resist all utopian ideologies and heroic idealisms that are not tempered by patience and taught by all that is broken, flawed, sinful, and poor.
• The following of Jesus is not a “salvation scheme” or a means of creating social order, as much as it is a vocation to share the fate of God for the life of the world.
• Those who agree to carry and love what God loves, which is both the good and the bad of human history., and to pay the price for its reconciliation within themselves - these are the followers of Jesus, - the leaven, the salt, the remnant, the mustard seed that God can use to transform the world.
• These few are enough to keep the world from its path toward greed, violence, and self destruction.
• Institutional religion is a humanly necessary but also immature manifestation of this “hidden mystery” by which God is saving the world.
• By God’s choice and grace, many seem to be living this mystery of the suffering and joy of God who do not formally belong to any church. Any many who have been formally baptized have the right words but not the transformative experience.
• The doctrine, folly, and image of the cross is the great clarifier and truth-speaker for all of human history. I personally do not believe that Jesus came to found a separate religion as much as he came to present a universal message of vulnerability and foundational unity that is necessary for all religions, the human soul, and history itself to survive.
• The contemplative mind is the only mind big enough to see this, and the only kind of seeing that is surrendered enough to trust it. The calculative mind will merely continue to create dualisms, win/lose scenarios, imperial egos and necessary victims.
• God has given us a new consciousness in what we call “prayer” and an utterly unexpected, maybe even unwanted, explanation or reality in what we call “the cross.”

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Contemplative prayer and a poem

I start this day with ten minutes of contemplative prayer. That is our homework assignment for this week in our class on "everything belongs" by Richard Rohr.
Last week it was 5 mints daily and now it is 10. And it is not easy this morning. Thoughts and plans and issues swirl around in my head. I can't get comfortable. How long so far? My mind wanders from here to there.
I try to concentrate on my breathing and find some sort of mantra. I am a mess and then
Suddenly I experience presence, a sense of love and everything else fades into the background.
Prayer is a gift and moves from burden to blessing. It is grace.

A quote from the book: "Therapy heals our disconnections from this problem, from this person, from this difficult emotion.
Prayer heals our split from life itself. It heals our disconnectedness from the deepest stream itself."

Here is a poem by Mary Oliver


It doesn't have to be
The blue iris, it could be
Weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
Small stones; just
Pay attention, then patch

A few words together and don't try
To make them elaborate, this isn't
A contest but the doorway

Into thanks, and a silence in which
Another voice may speak


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Everything Belongs part 1

I am co leading a 4 part workshop on the book - "Everything Belongs" by Richard Rohr. We had our first session yesterday and I put together notes for it. (unfortunately I could not attend because of a church emergency - see previous post)

However, as I started to work on next week's notes, I thought it might be helpful to share what we are discussion. So, here are the notes from the first chapter as well as questions for reflection. I would appreciate any comments.

Notes on Chapter One – Center and Circumference

We are a circumference people, with little access to the center.
Our “skin” is not bad; it’s just not our soul or spirit.
The path of prayer and love and the path of suffering seem to be the two Great Paths of transformation
You do not resolve the God question in your head – or even in the perfection of moral response. It is resolved in you, when you agree to bear the mystery of God: God’s suffering for the world and God’s ecstasy in the world.

Journey to the Core…the most important way is to live and fully accept our reality.
We do not find our own center; it finds us. Our own mind will not be able to figure it out….. We do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.
We do not really know what it means to be human unless we know God. And in turn we do not really know God except through our own broken and rejoicing humanity.
It seems that we Christians have been worshiping Jesus’ journey instead of doing his journey.
What does “We do not find our own center, it finds us.” Mean to you?______

Calmly Held Boundaries
• Those who rush to artificially manufacture their own identity often end up with hardened and overly defended edges.
• Many others give up their boundaries before they have them, always seeking their identity in another group, experience, possession, or person.
• Others let go of their edges too easily in the name of being tolerant and open-minded
How have you struggled with boundaries?_______________________________

Traveling the road of healthy religion and true contemplation will lead to calmly held boundaries which need neither to be defended constantly nor abdicated in the name of “friendship.”

The Third Way – that emerges only when you hold the tension of opposites.
• People who have learned to live from their center in God know which boundaries are worth maintaining and which can be surrendered, although it is this very struggle that often constitutes their deepest “dark nights.”
• Only when we rest in God can we find the safety, the spaciousness, and the scary freedom to be who we are, all that we are, more than we are, and less than we are. Only when we live and see through God can “everything belong.”

How would you describe the “Tension of Opposites” in your own life?____________


I spent hours with a family yesterday.
During one of the hardest times in life. The matriarch of the family had a catastrophic event - her heart stopped twice at the retirement center where she lives. She was taken by ambulance to the hospital and slowly the family came and made the hard decisions that must be made at a time like this.

Unfortunately her children live other places than Columbus. With daughters in Oregon and a son in northwest Ohio, this is not easy. however, I watched how they communicated through cell phones and shared information and feelings and respected one another enough to wait for each child and grandchild to say goodbye.

These are the times that reveal our character as individuals and as families. I could only think that their mother and grandmother would have been pleased as they expressed their love for her and their consideration of one another.

There is more yet to come in these difficult and yet holy times that test us.
It is often unstated but I bear witness to the presence and the strength of god's presence during this time.
God is here in the pain and the waiting and the decisions.
God is here as we silently sit with a loved one as their life is ending.
God is here as we are family together.

Monday, October 3, 2011


I went to Penzones this morning to experience some outward transformation
To have my hair have some white hair colored
I sit and read two books on my IPad
The Untethered Soul and Richard Foster'sbook on the Old Testament
He writes about the Immanuel principal
That god is with me
Underneath everything 
And in the midst of everything
And I find myself meditating on and experiencing transformation - outer and inner
God is with me and us
with Sawyer, a young woman who changes my appearance
  with every man and woman who enters into this place of business and transformation
with me as I read a book and about your book
God is here 
You are here
And I say hello
And thank you 
And free me
And use me

Mumford and sons

Friday, September 30, 2011

God is in the Details

I am sitting in my office and waiting for Chuck to come and get me. Somehow or another, I am pretty sure my car keys are locked in the secretary's office and here I am. Waiting.

Which is okay because God is in the details and it is in these moments that give me a chance to breathe, to reflect and to write this blog which I have ignored for a while.

I have been busy with a lot of details which I tend to hate, ignore, avoid. Today our church newsletter got printed - and that involved lots of details on my part - writing articles, making sure I got the dates write, proof reading, calling people to double check what was going on. It goes on and on. And it feels to me like drudgery but it is all so necessary.

We are doing our BIG SUNDAY this Sunday - our "One World" Sunday and there have been lots of details for me to take care of. I am an idea person but unfortunately the follow through involves details to manage and - hardest of all - remember! We are changing the service a little and the bulletin needs to match the ideas in my head.
We are giving away a globe keychain with a prayer attached and all of that needs to be put together. It goes on and on and I am continually trying to remember what I thought had been planned.

But what I have learned over and over again is that the details can really trip me up and they can really make a difference. And maybe the attention to detail that is so important and difficult is also part of God's call to me to slow down and to be patient. My tendency to want to breeze through this stuff keeps me from seeing what is there for me to see - both problems and blessings.

There is a mantra - slow down, take it easy, take your time. God is here - in the details.

Tuesday I had a thought as I frequently do - about one of our long time members of the church and what a blessing she was in the way that she works so quietly behind the scenes. What brought her to mind was that our church was invited to join the community in a clean up of Tamarack Circle which is an area near the church. We publicized it alot. I was in North Carolina and could not go and only recently learned that only two women participated in this project. She was one of them. So, I took a moment - maybe 5 - a wrote a quick note to her thanking her for her servant's heart and the blessing that she was to me and to the church. Today she came up to may and was thrilled - saying what it meant to her that "somebody noticed."

Over and over I learn - God is in the details - the smallest moments if we just slow down and look.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Books, movies, music - Media

I have seen three movies in that last few weeks - "The Help" "Drive" and "The Conspirator."
All good in their own way and each spoke to a different part of me.
Like many people, I had read "The Help" when it first came out and was anxious to see the movie and it was good - but not as good as the book. What I found myself thinking about was that I had lived through this period - not in the south, but in the east - I was probably 14 at the time when the book/movie was set. Little did I realize that our country was going through a real transformation - as both civil rights and the feminist movement came shone a light on the racist and sexist world which was our norm. What I know is that we continue to struggle with both issues - some 40 years later - but it looks different now. But this movie was a really interesting and engaging depiction of a style of living that was in transition.

Chuck and I watched "The Conspirator" on TV (On Demand) This movie was directed by Robert Redford and came out to very little box office interest - but it was a really riveting and powerful film. It was about the trial of Mary Surratt who ran a boarding house in which John Wilkes Booth and her son lived and probably conspired together for the assasination of Lincoln. Her lawyer was reluctant to take the case but eventually came to see her humanity and want to provide a fair trial at a time that the government was more interested in results than justice. I won't give the end away, but it was very good. It made you think about how a country reacts after a crisis that has shaken the nation. Great acting!

The third movie was "Drive." Chuck wanted to see this because Chuck likes car races and the actor - Ryan Gosling was compared to Steve McQueen - one of Chuck's favorites. Chuck so rarely wants to go to the movies that I thought this was a good thing. And what was noteworthy about the "hero" was that he was a man of few words - always good since Chuck has so much trouble hearing dialogue! The film was interesting- very stylized, haunting music, a couple of car scene - not so much that as really graphic blood spurting violence. Both of us were unprepared for the amount of almost casual brutality and blood in this film. As one who LOVED Dirty Harry movies - this was over the top even for me. But more people will watch this movie than "The Conspirator" by far.

Other media that I love are books - not just written and read but also listened to. I just finished hearing another one of the "Cat Who" mysteries on audio and I just loved it. These are by Lillian Jackson Braun and featurfeature a reporter named James Qwilleran and his Siamese cats, Kao K'o-Kung (Koko for short) and Yum-Yum.
They are set "Up North" and in this fictitious environment I find a sense of comfort and there is always a nice little murder to be solved by the cats.

Finally, I want to write something about music. I just visited a 95 year old shut in of our church who wanted to remind me that she loves "The Old Rugged Cross" and every night as she goes to bed, she listens to Elvis sing it. And I just was touched by that picture.

So, media - affects the way we think and feel and sleep.
For sure.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Scattering of Ashes

'My mother died over ten years ago - November 2000 on a Monday morning in Baltimore Maryland and on Friday of that week we had a memorial service and by Saturday her belonging were dispersed and her home was vacated and we never went back to Baltimore again.
8 months later, in June of 2001 we had a committal service at the Outer Banks with her ashes. This was a very special place to her and her ashes were placed beside my Dad's in the cemetery at Southern Shores 2 blocks from their last home together.

What I learned from this was how helpful it is to have a service well after the death of a loved one. When we lose a loved one the grief goes on (and on) well past the time of the funeral. And what a gift it is to be able to Recognize the grief and to share our feelings and memories with each other.

When Lisa died last January she left instructions of what to do with her ashes and for her it was to "scatter" them in several p,aces that were sacred to her. ...Sedona, Disneyworld, her parents pond in the backyard and Hilton Head. And at Hilton Head, not just one but 2 places- a favorite lagoon and, of course, the beach.

Yesterday, we fulfilled her wishes with a ceremony of scattering the ashes. And Lisa truly gave us a gift in all of this. At the Lagoon we began with listening to a song, Followed by a reading from Lamentations and then we lit 4 candles - for grief, for courage, for memory and for love. Followed by a reading we shared memories of Lisa. What I had learned from my own life was that as time goes by different memories emerge and the loss can seem harder over time and not easier. It was good to have this time of sharing.

We had 6 sand dollars which had been bleached and represented Lisa and her faith for us. There was one for each of us and one for Lisa.
When I opened my purse, one was broken and this was Lisa 's. We placed it in the tree by the lagoon as a marker and there was the spot that Trixie and Fred scattered ashes into the lagoon.

As I stood there in that beautiful and very green setting, seeing a little gator in the water, an egret in the distance and families riding bicycles
Nearby, I felt that we were doing exactly what Lisa would have wanted. We ended this ceremony with a poem by Emily Dickinson followed by a benediction.

Then we walked to the ocean. it was there that I shared a reading that used the imagery of a bird flying into the heavens. Fred and Trixie went into the water scattered the remaining ashes up and in the ocean. After that we took time by ourselves for reflection, walking or just sitting at the beach. I found myself watching the birds soar and thinking about freedom and how God wants us to find freedom as we turn ourselves over to God. Of course, we are all "works in progress," "on the journey," "in process
What I believe and trust is that something does happen within us and among us through a morning like this. We are freed a little bit more as we share our grief, tell the stories of the ones that we love and miss, allow God to speak to us in creation and pray.
We ended our time forming a circle and praying. God blessed all of us as we scattered the ashes of our beloved Lisa.

God is good. All the time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I am with you

Sitting on the balcony overlooking the harbor at Hilton Head listening to Kim's I Pad play "I am with you on the journey."

I am watching people slowly old man in a striped shirt, a young mom in gym clothes, a worker in a light blue shirt and a black head scarf. And I they know that God is with them on their journey? How often do I KNOW God is with me?

What first struck me about Hilton Head was the money...did I mention the yachts in the harbor? There is something daunting about these large, white, pristine and seemingly empty boats in the harbor. Do the people who inhabit the yachts know that God is them on their journeys?

Last evening we got to go out of the harbor on the " Mystique " an boat trip that is available to members of the Harbor Club. We drank wine and talked and looked at the sound, the homes and condos and the pelicans. A beautiful evening.

In the midst of it sharing about our lives...Fred and Trixie and their recent loss, but other grief and struggles came up. Because of course, even in the times of recreation and relaxation, of yachts and evening cruises there is all the stuff of life.

After this we went to a restaurant on the dock sitting outside and listening to the local musician. At one point he was playing "By by miss American pie and we all joined in the chorus. We seemed to be led by s group of about a half dozen women of my age or older who were feeling no pain, so to speak. Anyway, it all felt fun and free.

Now I don't know how it happened but one of the women came over with a glass of champagne for Fred. Then Fred shared why they were here for Lisa. Then two women came over and shared their stories of the loss of daughters....tears and grief shared among strangers in a most unlikely place.

And I sit there in awe of God's presence in our midst. "I am with you on your journey" and rich or poor, old or is hard but God is good.
And with us.

Remembering Lisa

I write this from the balcony of our condo at The Harbor at Hilton Head. This is the last daym of a short and wonderful time down here.

I had not been to Hilton Head before and it is different from the Outer Banks in many ways - the trees, the bicycling, the yachts, the hidden streets - but it still is a beach and a vacation place.

One of the reasons we are here is because it was a special place for Lisa Baluk and one of her last wishes was that some of her ashes would be scattered here. And that will happen this morning. We will have a little worship service at one of her favorite spots - a lagoon and remember her and leave some ashes on the site.
The we who have been here are Kim and Pat and me who are part of the healing team ( and " team Lisa ") from our church...and Trixie, Lisa's mom. And yesterday morning Fred, her Dad joined us

I have found myself remembering her quite a bit since I have come here.
Yesterday we biked to the beach and I had an image of her biking beside us wearing a little pink cap.
I could not get over the number of monarch butterflies I saw at the beach and literally every time, I would think of Lisa who loved butterflies.
She would talk about taking walks and having butterflies greet her and accompany her. That is what yesterday felt like to me.

Kim and I were on the water together and she told me that sometimes she found sand dollars as she stood in the water. And we both started to get some - feeling them with our toes and bringing them up to the surface. We thought they would be a good addition to our service today. They could have a symbolic significance. We ended up with 6 of them - one for each of us and one for Lisa.

When we got back to the room and googled "sand dollar" we read about the "legend" of the sand dollar which says that you can see images of the poinsettia, the star and the lily on it. Lisa died on January 2 which was in the season we call Christmastide with a clinging cross in her hand. And so these sand dollars DO seem so appropriate for today. We have washed them and bleached them and soon when it is daylight will lay them out on the balcony to dry them.

This time away has been very renewing for me and a time to be away from my regular responsibilities at church. But I am never away from God and this amazing gift of life. The abundant life that is found through loving and remembering and honoring important people in our lives.

Lisa Baluk was only 32 when she left this earth, but she touched my life and others in more ways than she knew. She brought me into relationship with Fred and trixie which has greatly blessed me. But most of all, her life and death has shown me clearly that life is more than what we experience on earth..
We are truly spiritual people having an earthly experience.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It isn't Funny

This is what a woman said to me.....over and over again.
She was lying in the hospital bed, having trouble remembering why she was there.
She would start sentences with ...."the doctor said" and then she would pause and try to put her words together.

Her frustration and confusion are hard to watch.
But she was very clear about this: the doctor would come and make jokes and "it isn't funny" "it isn't funny". "it isn't funny"

It isn't funny to be recovering from surgery and confused,
It isn't funny to have your children deciding where you are going to live
It isn't funny to not be able to even sit up on your own.
It isn't funny
What it is is sad, and hard, and maybe even tragic. This is not what she or any of us expect but it often happens as we get older and weaker. We can have money and loving family, but we still may end up frail, dependent and waiting for someone else to make the decisions about our future.
I think of the scripture from John where Jesus says that "when you were young you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.". John 21:18 Just today when I learned that one of our church members was moved to a different nursing home because her children thought it was better for her than Oakleaf which is next to the church. and they might be right....these are all tough decisions.

I think of the scripture from Paul : Rejoice in the Lord, always, again I say rejoice.".
I sit by her bed, hold her hand and pray. I give thanks for this moment of communion between two women of faith. Her mantra "It isn't funny" ceases and she looks peaceful with her eyes closed. It is time for me to leave.
I may not be laughing or rejoicing, but I am present.
To bear witness to her story today.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


One of my ministries is visiting people - in their homes, in the hospital, in nursing homes.

I have just returned from a 5 minutes visit to one of our shut ins. Fortunately she is at the nursing home up the street and when I went to see her she was asleep. I touched her and softly said her name. And then waited. I touched her again - actually several times - on the hand and the arm. And again spoke her name louder and she slept on.
Sleep is so precious to me - I know I need more sleep and have trouble getting to sleep and then wake up too early and cannot get back to sleep. So, to wake this precious woman out of a sleep seems really wrong, so I leave a card and leave.

I said a prayer in the room and wonder if it matters to her that I was there. Or if she will be disappointed that I did not speak louder or touch harder. It is always a difficult call. But I will be back.

Over the years I have learned that the visit I do is very important - to both of us. I have learned to talk less and listen more. Part of the visit is to create a space for her (or him) to share their story. And it is always a gift to hear a part of a person's story. Sometimes it is the same story - but often I hear different parts. Sometimes I think about taking notes so that I will remember for later (like a funeral???) but actually I have given up on that. My memory is getting worse and I have decided that the visit is enough. The moment of my presence with the person which is actually the three of us - me and them and God. That is enough.

My remembering for later is not necessary. It is this moment of sharing the stuff of life that is enough. I have cried with widows over the loss of a son during world war 2, heard stories about their childhood during the depression, learned about long ago divorces or babies who died. And of course, I hear about the present difficulties which may include parthritis, incontinence, and fears about memory and their future. My dad used to say "Old age ain't for sissies" and my visits remind me of that. There are folks that keep going and keep caring about their families and the world. Of course, I wonder how it will be for me when it is my turn to be the one visited.

The other part to the visit is the prayer - which is usually at the end of my visits and often signifies the end. The prayer can surprise me as the words that come to me are often not my words but God's words. The prayer can bring tears to our eyes as I am able to call upon God's healing and life giving presence. God is "in this very room" and we know it.

What I have learned over the years is that the visit is usually not an intrusion. (that was always my fear in the beginning years of my ministry) - it is usually a gift to them. When I visit shut ins in their homes I call ahead to make an appointment and then they have the gift of anticipation - because sometimes I am the only visitor a person may have all week. Sometimes people actually prepare cookies for the visit - and I like it, regardless of my diet - I like it.

I have heard colleagues in ministry complain about these visits to the homebound, but I have to say, that they really one of the best parts of ministry.

So, she is asleep and I will be back. Because in our visiting, we really do share the blessing of God's presence with us.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Family Fun Day

Saturday was our 4th annual family fun day - and it was the best one yet - a great success and I just want to write about what all happens at a time like this.

We dreamed up this idea a couple of years ago as a way for our church to BE BOLD in reaching out to the community. (After reading the book - "I refuse to lead a dying church"!) Actually, our first thought was that it would be a fund raiser for the church.

As we planned over the course of 6 months, we came to the conclusion that it needed to be a gift to the community and so we solicited funds to do the day and we were successful. Every year, we have some things the same:
- 3 large inflatables in the front yard
- six carnival type games where kids can earn prizes
-- an inexpensive lunch in the kitchen
- free school supplies
- free prizes
- items for raffle
We have also added over the years: crafts, free coats, and bingo. The entire building is used for this event and it has become bigger every year.

My favorite thing to do is to watch what is happening. This is what I saw on Saturday:
1. The church working together - we had over 50 people work on Saturday and countless more donating school supplies, coats, prizes, etc
2. Watching children - of the church, the community and my own grandchildren having so much fun! They love the games, they love the prizes and they really seem to enjoy the freedom to "shop" with the tickets they earned.
3. The interaction of our church members with people in the community. It is fun for me to see how friendly and caring we are to others.
4. The way people have really stepped up and invested in this day - we have a great committee and they were there all day - from beginning to end and seemed to have (like me) a great sense of satisfaction about it
5. Watching the intergenerational interaction of people - not just working together, but playing together. It really was fun.

I have to say that I was pretty exhausted at the end of the day. But, Sunday morning rolled around, I got some sleep, and I felt inspired and ready to go.

so, we will have a meeting sometime in the next few weeks to review and to look for ways to improve - but I have to say, that I feel blessed that it just gets better every year.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday morning at Advance

The week is almost over. I leave today and return home to prepare a sermon and go back into the rest of my life. I wake up earlyvto savor the blessing of this week.

It was over 25 years ago that I first heard of Camp Christian. I was a member of Northwest Christian Church and beards my ministers talk so about this place that was like heaven on earth. That really was the way they described it! And the 1st time I counseled there - for Chi Rho camp, grades6 to 8 - I wondered. At that time the cabins were old and literally covered with the names of campers from floor to wall to ceiling! But as that first week progressed I saw the beauty and holiness of this place. And this is what happened that week: I saw lives changed. I watched kids at the most trying, vulnerable age change from sel absorbed to a real caring community. It was a community that was bathed in prayer but in a way that was not obvious...but literally from morning to night. That may have been part of it. The counselors came and gave of themselves. It was a beautiful setting away from "the world.". I don't know how the change happened within us, but it did.

I have been back to camp every summer for the rest of my life for at least one week and frequently two. I counseled at chi Rho camp for about 15 years, the high school camp for 1 year and advance conference for at least 12 years. And for the past 4 years I have co led GrandparentsCamp. I have been at camp with all of my daughters and 4 grandchildren, and 3 nieces and nephews. I guess you could say that it has been important to my life.

So I Right now lie on my bunk writing this on my I Pad. Audrey is sleeping beside me. We are almost finished this week on faculty at advance. We have each done a keynote address which took hours of preparation, we led a small group together which met twice a day.
Camp has greatly changed over these years...a beautiful lodge, an air conditioned dining hall, and modern cabins.

But it remains a place where people come and are accepted. We give time and space for deep spiritual reflection, we have more fun and laughter than I can describe and lives are changed.

I am tired this morning, but so blessed to have experienced one more week here at this holy place.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Full and Rich

That is what i often say about my life and it is so true.

I am home from Advance Conference right now for a quick 6 hours - in which i have visited with Josh and Zak, the sons of Shirley Kendall. Shirley passed away on Sunday afternoon and her funeral is going to be on Thursday morning and after I finish this blog I will start to write it. Shirley was a saint of the church and it is because of people like Shirley that pastors know they are just blessed.

It was two years ago - during Advance Conference - that I also had to make a quick trip home from camp. Shirley had some complications and had to have her leg amputated. I got there just before surgery and it seemed to all of us a time of grace. I prayed with her and she went through the surgery without any problems. And then she lived for two more years in gratitude. That was Shirley - always grateful. During those two years her son Josh took care of Shirley. In the past, she had women helpers but her physical needs really required someone stronger and Josh was blessedly able to be that someone. Also, Josh became a father for the second time and had a beautiful baby girl. To visit Shirley this year was pure pleasure as she just loved that baby and her sons and was always happy to see me (or anyone.) I cannot say enough about what a wonderful woman she was - but I also am blessed that Thursday I have much to say. :)

My time at Advance Conference is always good and this year is no exception. Audrey and Jim Bane are doing a keynote together on what the Bible says about sex - that will be tomorrow. Too bad I can't film it - but I am grateful that I get to go to it. I may write about it - all I know is that it is fun to watch their preparation together.

Also, my keynote is now on Friday and it looks like it is going to be really interesting. I thought I was doing a talk on "Dysfunctional Families in the Bible" but what it is turning into is going to be about how we can use the Bible to help us to find healing from our dysfunctional families. I am about two thirds done - and look forward to what more I am learning and finding in this process.

When I stopped at home I found that i had my new blog in the mail. That is I put together a second book of writings from "Margot Ruminates" that covers me from 2009 in April (my birthday month) to 2011 of this year. It is awesome to have a tangible record of what I have done, thought and written during these two year.

And yes, it is a full and rich life. I feel blessed to be able to pastor, to preach, to learn, to mother, grandmother, and befriend.

And write about it

Monday, August 8, 2011


I am still recovering from the weekend and the wonderful wedding of Marnie And Erik.
It was unadulterated joy for me.

This is what I liked about it

1. Audrey and Caroline came to be part of the day. Audrey drove up from a mission trip in Tennessee and Caroline flew in from Raleigh. It was good to be together.

2. It was a simple wedding. Marnie bought a dress off the rack and had two people standing with her - Addie and Reagan who were the ring bearer and flower girl. Erik's Dad, Howard stood with him.

3. We had only family and very close friends so it did not seem like a "ceremony" as much as a family occasion with those who knew and loved Marnie and Erik

4. Marnie, Erik, Addie and Reagan participated in a "sand ceremony" where each one put different colored sand in a heart shaped jar to signify the creation of a new family of 4 different personalities. It was a meaningful process and a beautiful symbol.

5. Audrey and Dawn played "Groovy kind of love" during the sand ceremony on flute and guitar respectively and it was perfect!

6. Our family joining together is always a wonderful example of God's love and grace as it includes wives and ex wives, step sisters and half brothers. etc. etc.
And we all are not only civil but gracious.

7. The Wedding dinner at the "Spaghetti Warehouse" was delicious and simple. And fun. I was happy to get to spend time with my old sister in law Patti and her daughter Jenna.

8. The wedding cake was great - strawberry cake from a baker in Bethel. Different and delicious

9. The party continued after the dinner for many but Chuck and I got to go home with the grandkids - my preference.

10. Saturday we "hung out at the pool" and just were able to kick back and enjoy the new family that we are as the Shultz and Connors combine. I really enjoy being with Erik's mom and dad and aunt and uncle and his 92 year old grandpa.

What a joy.

We live in a world where there is a lot to be concerned about - like debt ceilings, wars, recessions. There are several people at KRCC who are going through some real health issues. And I guess it is all the more reason for us to make sure that we celebrate the big moments.

And when two people - who have been married before - are ready to try again. To love and cherish and make a life time commitment - to each other and to a new is good to celebrate!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wheat and the Weeds

I preached this Sunday a sermon on the Wheat and the Weeds. And it was the culmination of my week at General Assembly.

By the time the Assembly ended I really felt energized for ministry. Between hearing a sermon reminding me that people do not come to church just to hear "Joel Osteen" and conversations about immigration, and learning about LGBTI people being welcomed and accepted into the church, I felt inspired and ready to come back to Karl Road Christian Church to preach, to pastor and to lead.

Here is the sermon I preached on Sunday which speaks to some of my experiences of the week and the way that I believe that God is leading us. To become people of "Radical hospitality and love"

Matthew 13:24-30
24He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field;
25but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away.
26So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. 27And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’
28He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’
29But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them.
30Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’

This is a parable. A parable by definition is open to interpretation. It does not have one meaning, but it can speak to us in many ways.
It all depends on what you hear
Like the story of the three little old ladies walking down the street
One turns to the other and says: It’s windy, isn’t it?
The second one said - No, It’s Thursday
And the third one said - “So, am I, lets stop for some tea.”

It all depends on what you hear.
This morning I will share three statements that I hear that I believe to be true- but in the midst of this there is a lot of mystery and questions for us to reflect on.

The first statement: The wheat and the weeds grow together. And I want to follow this with: GET OVER IT.
We like to wonder why that is –There is an explanation in the text that is no explanation really - “an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat” Who is the enemy? How are they sown? Don’t know
There is another mystery within this truth. - what is the field ?
Is it the church- which welcomes the outsider - but continues to be nationwide the most segregated hour in the country. The church which can be a place of unconditional love and also long held resentments.
The church - wheat and weeds
Is is the world or our country – with a history of freedom for all people except the people who were already living here, or the slaves that were brought here,
Our nation which cares about people in need through a variety of welfare programs and support for those on disability but a nation where 1 in 6 children live in poverty
Is it a person- Jim Tressel? Barak Obama? Arnold Schwartzenegger ? Margot Connor?- you look deeply within and you will find wheat and weeds
The combination of generosity in some areas and greed in others
The ways in which we reach out and love some and have prejudice and judgment for others.
Paul writes eloquently that I do the thing that I don’t want to do and don’t do the thing I want. That is US and the wheat and the weeds within

The Greek word for weeds is “zizania” which is a very particular type of weed that looks just like wheat as it is growing up. You can hardly tell the difference.
Today it is called “darnel” wheat. It looks like wheat, it appears like wheat but it is not wheat – and don’t know the difference until it is grown
The wheat and the weeds grow together - and the questions - the mystery - which is which.

I have just returned from the General Assembly of our church and an interesting discussion about immigration – which loaded and complicated issue!
We had a process in which each person entering the assembly hall was given a different role to play.
• I was a poorly educated and unemployed family man whose resented people who came into this country and took jobs

• Someone else was a woman in El Salvador who was separate from her husband who was living in America and sending home money
• Another person was a young man wanting to go to college, having been brought into our country as a child from Mexico.
And you think - I think - is this the wheat or the weeds. We live in that mystery all the time. What is the wheat and what is the weeds?

Second statement I hear in this text: we really want to weed the field. And some of that may be our perfectionism . our need to action .our impatience.

This image is meaningful on so many levels. however, it is helpful to look at the text and see that the audience for Jesus was the Pharisees..
who in their holiness pounced on the unholy in their ranks and developed strict boundaries with which to define holiness - insiders and outsider. They weeded out the unholy people.

We all know that there are some churches that are overtly in the business of weeding today. There are churches weed out women in leaders, gays and lesbians, people who are divorced. We have other ways of weeding that are not obvious but effective

And still today - we may be doing the same thing and not know it. First thing I hear when I invite people to church is this question: what should I wear? Will I look like a wheat or a weed?

I spent time in Chautauqua last week with my friend Mary Wood, a Baptist and Disciple pastor who has done a lot of trips to Thailand working with Burmese refugees who are now emigrating to American These faithful Christians, the Karen people, are either starting their own churches or joining others. The only problem is that their cultural expectation of children’s behavior is so different from ours. The children move around throughout the service. They are not sent to children’s church or the nursery as we do. They are not “seen but not heard.” Maybe we kind of like to weed out the children on Sunday!

And maybe this is talking about the sin of weeding - when we don’t even know what is a weed and what is not .

And the third truth of this text: God is God and we are not - God is in control

There is a word here about Judgment - our judgment.
One of the phrases that has stuck with me for years as a pastor is this:
We are in the loving business and it is God who is in the changing business It is love that is our call to one another - nothing else

Last year at Chautauqua I went to a workshop on shame and learned about how many of us live in shame –(self hatred at ME)
Modern nemesis
Learned Can start in the womb and comes roaring back after 60 –
Shame happens because the external world has given us the message that we have been a disappointment (we are the weeds!)
,Shame because we were unwanted, shame because we were not perfect,
Shame because we make mistakes
Shame because we are too old, or too young, or too poor
And the antidote to shame – is love – simple as that, hard as that
So, for us as church and as Christians, our task is not to judge, is not to weed, is not to presume that we are God. It is to love trusting that God will do whatever weeding needs to be done

I saw an old friend, Linda Mervine, who was in seminary with me, She now pastors an open and affirming church in Las Cruces NM
She told me about a woman coming to her church for the first time - and experiencing the love and openness and grace of her church and she heard words of invitation at the table that included her.After the service she just stayed in the sanctuary..

Finally Linda went over to her - and learned that she was a new Christian.
She was also a lesbian and a boxer.
And her coach had told her essentially that she was a sinner because of her lifestyle and was not worthy.
Linda told me that she said to her
I am going to say this to you three times so that maybe you will hear me
You are a precious child of God and loved just as you are
You are a precious child of God and loved just as you are
You are a precious child of God and loved just as you are
And your sexuality is a gift to you and will be a gift to our church.

Linda and that church love her as God loves her. We are not in the weeding business - but the loving business.This parable is a word of judgment about judgment

And it is a word of consolation - at least it is for me. Because I live in so much confusion about myself, about the church and the world. And the confusion is that I don’t know what is a weed and what is the wheat …..often

Whether we are talking about issues like immigration or just the daily challenge of living with the complexity of walking in my own skin.

There is consolation here - that I am not in charge and don’t have to be. And that this ambiguity, this mystery, this holy living is about trusting in God
I have always love the prayer by Merton - which begins like this

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.

I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end.

Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you and I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing

As well as the prayer by Bonhoeffer (“Who am I?”)that ends like this (written a month before his execution)

Who am I? This or the other? Am I one person today, and tomorrow another? Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others, and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling? Or is something within me still like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

There is consolation in knowing God is the creator, sustainer, the seed planter and the weed remover and I can trust God

And finally it is a word of challenge. To people who are well-meaning, who have the best of intentions, but want to be in control. That would include me. It has been my experience and I believe that it is a message from this parable, that God's worst enemies often assume that they are God's friends -- doing God's work
We need to remember that we are not the ones who will bring in the harvest. So we need to
to invest time in prayer and reflection – and wait . For God to do what God is going to do.
Looking back at 60 plus years of age do develop humility because we see now that what seemed to be a weed 20 years ago grew into wheat

What I have also learned is this - if I am not close to God - I find myself either weeding or wanting to weed…..To weed people and To weed parts of myself…
What I have learned is that I cannot fix you and I cannot fix me, but I have been called to be in a relationship with the Holy One who can do more than any of us can imagine….and we can trust his love, power, presence and purpose
In the message Eugene Peterson writes vs. 43
43"The picture of thistles pulled up and burned is a scene from the final act. The Son of Man will send his angels, weed out the thistles from his kingdom, pitch them in the trash, and be done with them. They are going to complain to high heaven, but nobody is going to listen. At the same time, ripe, holy lives will mature and adorn the kingdom of their Father.
"Are you listening to this? Really listening?

Here is the good news and the hard news - God is in control, god is God and we are not
We need to live ripe holy lives - focusing on our God as we do - and trust that God will do the weeding - within us, within our church and our world
That God’s holy people - open and loving to all people - will be part of the growth of the world

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday at GA

It is only 1pm and I have already had so many interesting experiences

1. Audrey led the early morning worship for GLAD this morning at 7:30 am and it was such a good way to start the day. She used the same text from last night's sermon by Brian McClaren....Luke 10. She basically read it slowly and asked questions of it for us to ponder. There was a phrase about how we are lcalled to go as "sheep among the wolves" and Even though that is a human experience for everyone, it is certainly especially true of the LBGTI community. And using that thought I know that sometimes I am living as a vulnerable sheep, but often I can be a predatory wolf. Hard truth..Most important is the fact that we are all called to go out in love and when we do and when we are received....there is peace and theKingdom of God is near.

2. I went to the business session this morning which contained a video and a conversation on immigration. Every person who entered the convention center was given a role to play of a person in then immigration controversy. I was a poorly educated middle aged Italian American man seeking employment and feeling that illegal immigrants were taking jobs away. Another man was an undocumented young person who could not getnhelp for college because he could not prove his birth in America. Another man was a Mexican woman who was separated from her husband who lived in America and sent money home. I could go on and on about this, but basically the exercise made me think about all the varied dimensions of the discussion. That isncertainly one of the blessings of this makes me wrestle as a pastor (and privileged woman) about this

3. I heard professor SoonChan Rah speak on the North American church and it's captivity to Western cultural trappings. I learned that while some churches are in decline in the US, not all are. The ones in decline are the white European church, the ones in ascendancy are the multi-cultural churches. He quoted a book by Walter Brueggemann about churches of celebration and churches of suffering and how we need to be both. One of the big issues for us is about learning how to share power. There was much for me to think about as I look at my own life and ministry.

4. I had lunch with Audrey and the speaker for the GLAD banquet tonight - Mel White. I knew him as a gay activist from Lynchburg who spoke at the coming out service Audrey organized last October. I did not know he had been in the Amazing Race (twice!) or that he had ghostwritten 25 books, or how charming he was. It was a great blessing for me just to be at the lunch. He had nothing but praise for Audrey and, as always, I am proud to be her Mom.

Great day so

Monday, July 11, 2011

General Assembly

I have a few minutes to write a bit about this amazingly busy and interesting time.

I am at the General Assembly for the Christian Church (Disciles of Christ) in Nashville
Tennessee. Our church does these every other year all around the country and this is the first one that I have attended and stayed for the whole time. Audrey and I are rooming together at the Doubletree Hotel downtown and it is really wonderful to be within walking distance of everything and, of course, with her.

I have been hanging with her and her friends and it has been fun, but I really have found it different to always be known as "Audrey's Mom" now. It is always a time of reunion with other people from my past and I am often surprised to see how old they But enough of that old song about how strange it is to be over 60 and watching the young ones come in and be so accomplished in new and different ways.

The Assembly has had some great preaching, inspired singing and thought provoking messages about the church. The Disciples are a church in decline numerically as are most (all?) of the mainline churches. I went to a workshop on the "missional church" which is the direction we are on in Karl Road and heard many stories in the sharing time that sounded like us. I come away from this thinking that we are on the right track. And that I don't really like these workshops!

I continue to know that I am very happy to be part of this denomination which is (to quote Sharon Watkins) "Anti hierarchical, radically flat"
I have more to write later but for now I will say that the good news is not the church but always...the mysterious work of God's Holy Spirit in our midst.

Again to quote Sharon "It is an amazing time to be church."

I also have great faith in the work...the ongoing, mysterious, life changing work....of the holy spirit.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chautauqua on a Wednesday Evening

Chautauqua on a wednesday evening

I see a boat motoring across Chautauqua lake
two bird kites that are blowing in the wind
the lake itself which is blue and rippling
2 empty sailboats tied to the dock
the green trees that encircle the lake

A little girl on a bike with her helmet on, in a turquoise top and pink shorts rides in my view
She stops, takes off her helmet and rings the bell on the bike
She walks away, leaving the bike

I see Melanie beside me reading a book
I see a butterfly
I see trees between me and the lake ....maple and pine, some large and some small

I see a mom riding her bike
two people in their 70s or 80s on an evening walk
a young man and a young woman talking earnestly at a picnic table

A seagull flies above and past me.

A mom is calling "come home right now!"
Little boys on bikes are yelling:
..." stay on the road"
"how many gears do you have on your bike?"
. "you guys should get a pair of sensible ears!".
"come on let's go!"

The bell tower chimes. It is seven o clock

I am here,
God is here.
We are here together

Can I sit in this peace and beauty and just appreciate it?
A time of enormous blessing and I know it

But always with the awareness of the privilege that is mine.

I find here a place of such serenity, intellectual depth and challenge, spiritual growth, artistic beauty and wish
everyone could have just an evening like this

I thank God for this day and this time and this abundant life.

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July

Today is the 4th of July and I am at Chautauqua. If I were at home right now I would be getting ready to march in the Northland 4 th of July parade And then we are hmaving a picnic on the lawn At the church.

But I am here and have started the day as I always do here....taking a walk around the grounds and buying a newspaper. Then breakfast at the Baptist house with my friend Mary Wood,doing the sudoko, then a shower and worship.

The preacher this week is Bishop Gene Robinson, from the Episcopalian church and so far so good. His sermon was called "God Bless America -Be Careful What You Ask For" and his text was the Beatitudes.
The reminder is that God blesses the humble, the merciful, the peacemakers. Gives you something to think about. his message was that we are to practice "Prophetic Patriotism" and he said the speaking truth to power is the cross that we bear as Christians.
His three examples of what we do whe we practice "Prophetic Patriotism"
1. Practice Ambivalence ..."maturity is measured by the ability to hold 2 truths intentionally.
Ex we can respect the president and still hold him accountable
We can support the troops and still question the war
2. Practice Hospitality. ...embrace those who are different and don't just tolerate.He mentioned democrats, republicans, gays and lesbians, illegal immigrants, welfare queens
3. Practice Eucharist as a pattern of life---gathering in shalom, knowing our need of God, confessing our sin, passing the peace, and celebrating God's goodness anyway.

I don't know whether I have done it justice, but it was a good sermon for the 4th of July

This afternoon there is a band concert at the plaza and tonight there is a Pops concert in the amphitheater and another concert and fireworks at 10 PM. -A great day

Plus I get to go to a lecture by James Carroll this afternoon which I may write about
Busy, busy, busy,
Stretching my mind and heart and soul

Friday, June 24, 2011

Geo caching

Have you heard of this?

This is a fascinating treasure hunt that many people are engaging in.
My daughter Kacey has become almost addicted to this and took me out on Nonday to see what it is all about. And here is the scoop.

You can put an App on your Iphone or Ipad and it will show you the where there are "caches" that are hidden near you. It has been called a " real-world outdoor treasure hunting game." Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using GPS-enabled devices and then share their experiences online. You use the App and your GPS to find the treasures that are hidden. And like everything else in life - the treasure is much less important than the journey of finding it.

So, Monday night I went with Kacey and Marnie and 4 grandkids geo caching. We found our first one in a parking lot - at the base of a street lamp. Until Monday I did not know that there were places where something could be hidden like that. And the something was a very small plastic case and in it were some toys and a piece of paper. The paper had the names of the people who had found the "cache" and we took some of the toys and left our own. When you "geocache" you bring your own treasures to substitute. We found another one in a different parking lot. And our third treasure was found in a graveyard stuck to a fence. That took some time and Kacey was very persistent in looking for it.

It is very interesting how the technology makes this kind of a treasure hunt possible. I don't have the I phone - although I downloaded the app to my I Pad. i think this is something I will only do in partnership with others - but a fun kind of game. And we do love our games in our family.

It seemed actually - that the adults were more into this than the kids. The kids liked to run first to the goal - not so interested in the work of finding it.

One other thing I want to mention.....the muggles. I used to be a muggle because I did not know about the geocache world. So, I might have seen someone looking for a treasure and not understood. And maybe gotten in the way.

Now I am part of the not so secret world of Geo Caching. I am no longer a muggle.

It seems to me that there is something in this that will preach.....I will figure that out later.

Pride Parade

Last Saturday I marched in the pride parade and it was thrilling for me.

Two years ago Marnie and I went to the parade for the first time and I noticed that there were - at that time - 17 churches that marched in the parade. And I thought there were people in our church who might be interested in walking in the parade in the future and I was right. Last year we had a team of 5 that marched in the parade holding our church banner. I was on sabbatical and missed it.

So, this year I was part of our group of 11 (more than doubled!) We had special T Shirts made and a great camaraderie among us. The walkers included my daughter Marnie, Reagan, Addie and Marnie's sister Eileen and brother Christopher. In many ways we march in solidarity to Audrey - my daughter, their sister, who lives in Lynchburg Va. But we also march as part of a church that is accepting of people who are non-heterosexual. I am happy to serve that church.

What was thrilling was the sense of joy and celebration in the walk itself. I have been in parades before and people often are just waiting for the bands or the candy to be thrown. But this one had a sense of freedom as people were allowed to be themselves - in every way. As Seth Stout aptly said - some people made poor clothing choices - but even that was fun in its own way.

There were some protesters who were Christians whose interpretation of the Bible essentially exclude LGBTQ community from the kingdom of God. Their signs sometimes quoted scripture as their authority. So, for us to be an alternate Christian representation in the parade was important. We had been instructed to ignore them, and so we did. Unfortunately the press concentrated on the protesters without mentioning tha other Christians who supported gay rights.

But mostly it was just a blessing to walk with family and church members in support of not only my daughter but others whose lives have so challenged because of their sexual orientation. I could not help but think of my uncle - who is transgender and 89 years old. He has had a life of living "in the shadows" and he might have really appreciated the freedom found in a festival like this.

Anyway, it was a wonderful day for me and I look forward to walking again next year.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Morning

I sat on my front porch this Saturday morning and marvelled at the view.

It has rained and the grass and the trees look very green and alive to me.
As I sat in wonder I saw 6 squirrels jump off the roof of the house and onto a fruit tree in the front yard
They scrambled down and seemed to chase each other to a large elm tree in the front yard and just fly all over the branches of the tree.

I found myself thinking about life - and how life is all around me and I so often do not see what is there.

Then a beautiful cardinal lands on the fruit tree and then a chickadee and then more birds.

Of course, I don't know all their names - I don't need to know the names of trees and birds in order to see their beauty - their ordinary beauty.

It begins a day which will include a hospital visit, a graduation party and a wedding. And then tomorrow is worship and Monday a funeral.

Life all around me - in its beauty and mystery and wonder.

May I be present to it all.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Last week in worship we had "ministry Sunday" when we lifted up the various ways in which people have done ministry on Sunday mornings in the past year.

It is always interesting as we recognize our musicians, Sunday School teachers, those who have done our children's sermons, our commissioned ministers. By the time we are done - probably half to two thirds of the worshiping congregation has been recognized. All of this points to the fact that we don't come to worship to go to a show that is put on by the minister and staff - but we are TOGETHER worshipping God.

What I have learned over the years to do less and to allow and encourage the members of the church to do more. It has taken me a while to let go and trust that I don't have to do everything. And so, I do a children's sermon every other month, a pastoral prayer once a month and an invitation to communion occasionally now.

In addition to that I no longer put together the power point and run it throughout the service. Instead, those tasks are done by others.

This summer when I went on Sabbatical I attended one church where the minister did everything I used to do - the sermon, the pastoral prayer, the children's sermon, even the worship leader's role. It seemed so strange to me now and it felt like the service itself had less energy.

I write this as I prepare my sermon for Pentecost in which we are going to look at the whole idea of "Spiritual Gifts" which every person has been given. I have a dream that people will take this seriously and try to discern and develop more of their gifts. AND used them in different ways in ministry.

I always describe myself as a "holy spirit" person who believes that the spirit is doing something new all the time. If we allow the spirit to "activate" us - there is no telling what a powerful witness we could be to our community. (and to each other!)

Doing the ministry we were created to do is what gives our life meaning.(and energy!)

Thursday, May 26, 2011


My "spiritual discipline" this year has been to be home at 4 PM to watch Oprah because I knew that this was her last year. Actually, what i would do is check who the guest or topic was and make sure that I could see the shows I wanted to see.

This week I faithfully watched the LAST 3 SHOWS

And I remain awed by what she has accomplished through her 25 years of hosting her television show. On the last show she shared that she always wanted to be a teacher and she certainly was that - but she was also a confidant, comforter and truthteller.

I read a blog by Stiffelman about the last show and she wrote this:
"There was no ugly cry. No over the top sentimentality calculated to tug at our heartstrings. It was simple. It was clean. And she was elegant."

This is so true. It was her final "class" in this venue and here are some of my notes from watching

1. Be responsible for the energy you bring into this space.

2. You are responsible for your life

3. There is a common thread through our lives of a feeling of unworthiness. There is a difference between thinking you deserve to be happy and knowing you are worthy

4. We often block our blessing because we don't feel worthy enough

5. You are worthy because you were born - you alone are enough

6. Everyone wants to know - do you see me? do you hear me?

7. I wait and listen for the guidance that is greater than my meager mind

8. God is always speaking to you - first in whispers and then louder

9. Gratitude is everything

10. To God be the glory

I end with the words Susan Shiffelman used in her blog
Thank you, Oprah, for not just offering inspirational words, but for living them out loud, in front of us all. Your willingness to share your gifts motivates me to step further into sharing my own. Your willingness to stand in your light inspires me to stand more fully in mine.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

About Books

I am reading my very first book on my I Pad and I am not sure whether I like it or not. I am reading "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" for my book group. When I was reminded today that we have to read it for Tuesday, I immediately went online and checked it's availability at the library. I am #76 which is problematical. So for $10 I downloaded it onto my I Pad and started reading. So far, so good. I even found out how I can highlight an interesting or memorable phrase. And now, 70 pages in, I am still not sure whether this is the beginning of a new way of reading for me. We will see.

I am not preaching for 2 whole weeks which gives me time to read. And I like to read several books at once.
Monday I read the novel "Faith" by Jennifer Haigh which I could not put down. It is about a priest accused of molesting a child. The characters were so well drawn and the plot was layered and really thoughtful. I totally recommend.

Last week I read a guilty pleasure book "The Politician" about John Edwards which again was engrossing - not because of the writing, but the subject. t the same time I preached about how we are like sheep and vulnerable to "thieves and bandits.". This book was written by the man he got to pretend to father Edwards love child. Which sounds crazy - but i really do understand how a charismatic person (and your own greed and grandiosity) can get you into a place where you lose all common sense. Certainly have I seen people make some really poor personal choices trying to win the affection and esteem of unscrupulous people. Anyway, it made me think about a lot of things as I was reading it. (Like Maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger)

I am also reading "The Prodigal God" by Timothy Keller which is a meditation on the prodigal son story and basically says that we have been thinking that the youngest son was the subject - when it is really the resentful older son that is the main point. Certainly food for thought - since churches are full of "older sons."

Two more books I want to mention that I "read" in the last 2 weeks first person accounts of people who work with the public. The one was called "Malled" (can't remember who wrote it) written by a journalist who needed some steady employment as she was laid off and worked for about 16 months in a store in a mall in NY. And the second, "The Waiter" Chuck and I listened to on tape as we drove to and fro Lynchburg. It was written by a waiter at a high end restaurant in NYC who also has a blog "WaiterRant." Both of these were fascinating to me in helping me to see how easy it is to not see servers or clerks as people. Too many of us live so unconsciously and with a certain sense of entitlement. They are both jobs that require hard work and a lot of tact and patience.

Last book I am "reading" is actually another book on tape - "The Tin Roof Blowdown", A Dave Robicheux novel by James Lee Burke. Set in Louisiana immediately following Katrina and so well read. I keep bringing the tapes in and listen when I am in the house and then in the car. It is great.

So, fiction, non fiction, mysteries, crime, theology, people stories. When I became a minister my father said that "I got paid to read." And he said that in a very positive way. That was his model as a Presbyterian elder in the church. He had had a minister who asked people if they were reading John Updike and he told them - that they were reading theology.

And that really is it - all kinds of books - telling us about the human condition and the meaning of life and sometimes (directly and indirectly) the presence of the holy one in the midst of the ordinary and the mundane.

Reading - A blessing in my life.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Abundant Life

"I came that they might have life and have it abundantly."
John 10:10b

That quote is on a wall in the dining room at Our Lady of the Pines retreat in Fremont and that is what i am preaching on this week.

And that is what I am experiencing.

Last night was the my graduation from the wellstreams program and now I am officially a licensed spiritual director. And I have very mixed emotions about it.

There is certainly a sense of satisfaction and amazement that the program is over and that we have accomplished what we set out to do. I have read many books, prayed, sat with people in direction, processed with my supervisor, been part of peer groups and triads. And written reflection papers and evaluations. And now it is over. Completed. And I know that i have been changed by this experience.

At the same time, it is over and I would do this all over again in a heartbeat. I loved going to class and sitting with other spiritual seekers and having wise teachers and mentors teach me and care about me. And it is over. And there is certainly a sense of loss.

But this is all part of that abundant life. To take a risk, to learn, to love, to grow and also to leave, to grieve and wait for the next thing.

This verse from John has been an important one for me for over 15 years - I came that you might have the ABUNDANT life. And because the abundant life spiritually is so different from abundance materially it is hard to capture in a sermon.

It is all of what i mentioned above - risking, trusting, learning, growing, loving, leaving, grieving and waiting.
full and rich

My life.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

2 Colleges

I am visiting Audrey in Lynchburg Va and yesterday we went to 2 very different colleges.

The first was Randolph College where CaroLine, Audrey's partner is a professor of psychology. It is the former Randolph Bacon least 100 years old, beautiful red brick buildings and a liberal arts curriculum for the most part. We visited their art museum which housed some beautiful older and new paintings. What was interesting was it's value on contemporary art which after a hundred years from purchase is no longer contemporary but literally (some paintings, at least) almost priceless. I was interested in reading some students poetry on the paintings which brought them to life and made me want to appreciate art more and enjoy creativity. A beautiful campus and a real sense of history, tradition and learning. MThere were large signs throughout the campus that said "Be an Original.". There are about 800 students enrolled in this college.

And then we went to Liberty College which is exactly 40 years old and was founded by Dr Jerry Falwell ( honorary doctorate) and has 15,000 students.Obviously newer buildings and very modern and clean. We went first to the church and the school. There was a coffee shop in this place where we purchased blueberry flavored coffee and some delicious chocolate chip cookies. Then we went to another museum....the Jerry Falwell Museum which was very interesting. on the one hand, his career is pretty impressive as he built it all....the mega church, schools, college, law school. The had videos of his life through the decades and I have distinct memories of seeing him interviewed by people like Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Phil Donahue and Larry King.

On the other hand his theology is radically different from mine. There is a big article about the day in which he was saved. Audrey tells me a story about when someone of his acquaintance joined her liberal open and affirming church (First Christian Church) and he called them and told them they were going to go to he'll. We see advertisements for courses on creationism. Different from my theology of a loving and inclusive God.

Audrey lent mea fascinating book "The Unliklely Disciple" by Kevin Roosevelt, a description of his semester as a student at Liberty College. It is fascinating because iit tells about the good parts to this place as well as the rules and regs for these students,

Anyway, I am still pondering much of this. It is a great trip and time to be with Audrey and Caroline.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Working Together

Last night was our annual Nehemiah Action Team meeting for BREAD. BREAD is an organization of faith communities (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) who are "building power to do justice."
This is from their website:

"Millons of dollars are being wasted every year in avoidable hospitalizations, misdirected treatment of ex-offenders, and the sell-off of tax liens to private investors.

Adding to the shame of wasting tax payer dollars is that dollars are being spent on programs that are counter productive. Using dollars wisely will not only save money but improve lives."

At this meeting every one of the 52 organizations brought as many people together as possible so that the elected officials who were invited might understand that there is a real concern about these issues.

So last night 37 members of Karl Road Christian Church drove down in the rain and joined about 2800 other people. We learned about the latest research on crime and violence, health care, and neighborhood blight and saw some elected representatives promise to work with us. It is always - ultimately - a very meaningful time for me.
I learn about issues that in my own self involvement I am so prone to ignore or just not see. I may not care about crime and violence until I am affected, about neighborhood blight until there is a house on my street that is empty, about health insurance until it is me or my family. That really is the human condition - but BREAD forces me to think about these things and then be part of a group that works together to do something. This is all good.

Some of the invited participants could not quite say YES to everything that BREAD wanted them to do - but they were for the most part willing to work with the organization. Throughout the meeting the crowd was encouraged to repeat together:
Stop Wasting Money!
Stop Wasting Live!
Bread Rises!

Not everybody likes this kind of thing - but I do. It is good to learn, to work, and to witness TOGETHER

After that Chuck and I joined Nicki at the Crest Tavern for jazz. The Crest Tavern is a pretty nondescript place - there is a bar on one side and a larger room with a pool table and couple of tables for sitting and then folding chairs for the musicians. There are white Christmas lights all around to make it festive I suppose. But also dart boards and beer signs. Not exactly homy place like Cheers - BUT the jazz is pretty cool.

Apparantly anybody can come and play. This was my second time - there were three trumpets, one keyboard, three guys on percussion, 2 guitars, a flute. They came in and out and passed the melody around and kept the beat and played together. Jazz - working together.If there is any regret to my life - as one who loves all kidns of music - I wish I could play jazz - play loose and free. I can only play the notes on the page.

But that is not the point - the point is the music that is made when people work together. Much more interesting. But less control.

You never quite know what is going to happen.