Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More Prayer Required

Thank you to all of you who have been praying. Matt arrived at his destination safe and sound. We are coping here at home. I even got over to the church for a bit today to rearrange some furniture. Tomorrow I'm still intending to get into the kitchen and bake some various things.

But, I do covet your prayers for my parents who work at NEGST in Nairobi. Up to this point they have been fairly safe and out of the way. But the violence has been encroaching and security, though unarmed, has been 'beefed up'. There are more and more horrifying stories of the ethnic violence going on-people running desperately for their lives from gangs of people with machetes and so on. PLEASE PRAY.

Not too long ago my parents were evacuated from Ivory Coast when civil war broke out there. They are 'accustomed' to life in heated political climates but no amount of experience makes it easier (or safe). It is very difficult to be stuck and to be praying desperately every day for the safety of friends who have to travel through town, friends who live in the Kibera slum, and friends and faculty on the NEGST campus who are being threatened.

And of course, if you could continue to pray for Anglican and All Christian Leaders to be able to bring pressure to bear and help end the violence.
Thank You. Thank You.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Prayer Request

If you have a moment, pray for Matt who will be traveling tomorrow (by air, which makes me so nervous) and for the rest of us who will be without him for a week. Fortunately, my kiddos are wonderful and helpful (except for R, whose mission in life right now is to undo everything that has been done). But we will miss him very much. Also, he's taking my computer cord, so I may not be blogging much till Wednesday when my new one is supposed to arrive. Thanks so much.

My Sermon for This Morning

I had, before getting married, some unrealistic expectations about the state of marriage. And, like all expectations, I didn’t know that I had them until we got into our first married argument. I can’t even remember what it was about. But at some point, when we were shouting at each other, Matt said ‘why can’t you just tell me what you want?’ Can’t you just tell me what you need?’ I looked at him in horrified disbelief. ‘What do you mean?’ I said. ‘I can’t do that. I don’t know what I need or want. That’s why I married you. You’re supposed to figure out what it is that I want, and then give it to me.’ He was justifiably unimpressed. But I will say that over the course of being married, he has gotten to know me pretty well. He has studied me, a little bit. After a while of being married, maybe a few months, I was sitting on the couch in a stupor, and he walked in with a carefully built sandwich of tomato, mustard, and paper thin pancetta. I was shocked. ‘What is this for?’ I asked. ‘You get cranky when you’re blood sugar is low,’ he said, ‘and I can see that you’re starting to get hungry and tired. Eat it.’ Over time he’s more or less figured out what makes me tick, often better and before I myself have figured it out. Now, this really only serves to show you the appalling degree to which I lack awareness of myself, but it also illustrates, just a little that we may know a lot about ourselves, we may know a lot about other people, but there are depths to our own selves that even we can not plumb. As we’ve said over and over again and again, sin causes a brokenness on three levels—we are broken and divided from God, we are broken and divided from each other, and we experience also a brokenness and division within ourselves. When you repent of your sin and turn to God and accept his work on the cross and he comes to live inside you, that brokenness begins to be healed—we have a new whole relationship with God, with other people and also with ourselves. Turn with me, this morning, to Psalm 139. I want to apologize for making you slog through such a long psalm section this morning. There’s usually a choice of a long section of psalm, and a short section, and 99% of the time I pick the short section, but today is an exception because I want us to look at this together. Today we are talking about God knowing you. Next week we are going to take up You knowing God.
So, Psalm 139 The psalmist here is believed to have been King David. I don’t want to say a lot about him except that in the Old Testament, he shines out as one of a handful of people who really Knew God, who got the point of God, who understood who God was in himself and loved and followed him. But that knowledge of God did not happen by itself, or out of nothing. It began with God, and God’s knowledge of David. “Lord, you have searched me out and know me.” The word search, here, is liken to a night thief who searches carefully and diligently for the desired object. Someone who comes in and undoes, who disrupts to get to the guts of a room. When I walked up to the office this Thursday, the window had been shattered and glass was everywhere, but also, the drawers were empty and all the paper dumped out. You could see into the empty shelves that hold all the paper I use to copy the bulletin. The room was both wrecked and laid bear. God’s knowledge and searching of you, from your perspective, can have this same quality. First of all, you should know that God knows you whether you know him or not. He created you, every fiber, every molecule, every brain synapse. Even if you don’t know him, or you’re trying to hide from him, or you’re trying to ignore him, he knows you and knows the why and how and the wherefore of you. But if you at once turn to Jesus and ask him to come and live inside you, even as you are turning to him and he is turning your heart and opening your heart to himself, you will begin to experience God’s perfect knowledge of you—he searches you, he undoes you, he lays you bear. He pulls everything out of the inmost places of your heart into the light and shows you the knowledge that he has of you. David describes the substance and extent of God’s searching knowledge. He knows when you sit, whether it be difficultly and pain, whether it be in sorrow or joy, whether it be in hope and expectation. When you arise. When you get up in the morning and immediately argue with everyone you love, when you rise up exhausted having lain awake and troubled, when you wake up refreshed and happy. At rest, rising up, God knows where you are. David goes on, “You discern my thoughts from afar.” Not that God is afar off, distant from you, but that your thoughts, even before they have arisen in your mind, even before you yourself know them, even when they are confounded and tangled and confused, God knows them. He knows their meaning and purpose. He understands them. Wherever you go, wherever you stop and rest, if you are running crazy and purposeless, between soccer and dance and basketball and work, if you are stopped, quiet in your house without anywhere to go, wherever you are, God is acquainted with your ways, he has studied them, he knows what you are about. Verse 4. Before you speak, God knows what you are going to say, even before you know it yourself. He knows it completely—its meaning, its purpose, the intention, how the other person hears it, he knows. David sums up, He hems you in, behind and before. Where ever you go, his hand is upon you. You can’t even begin to understand this kind of knowledge. You can’t even fathom the depth and heighth and width of God’s knowledge of you, whether you know him or not, whether you want him or not. Should you consider running from him, to heaven, to hell, to the end of the earth, to the end of the universe, you won’t be able to. He is already there, ahead of you. In the depths of your soul, in the depths of earth, he is there. What then can you do? How then will you live? Turn to Matthew, chapter 4, beginning in verse 18. As Jesus was walking by the clear blue Sea of Galilee, the Lord of Heaven and Earth saw two brothers casting a net into the lake, because they were fishermen and he said to them, “Come, follow me. I will make you fishers of men,”. You’d think that Peter and Andrew would have wanted some more information, or a promise down in writing that everything would turn out well, or a sales pitch, or something. Jesus doesn’t give any more information. But looking at him Peter and Andrew and then James and John don’t require anything else. They get up At Once and follow him. At some point Jesus, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, God who has complete and perfect and astounding knowledge of you is going to walk through your life and say ‘Come, follow me.’ Most of you have already had this experience. If you haven’t, come to me on the side altar during communion and we’ll talk about it. But most of you have. Most of you were sitting quietly with your nets, handling things on your own, dealing with the complexity of life without too many hassles. And then Jesus came to you and said ‘I love you, follow me’ and you said yes. You got out of your boat, you left your net, you left your kitchen table, or your best idea of what to do with your day and you followed him. Some of you are settled in this new life with Jesus, with God. But some of you feel like all the cupboards and drawers and closets have been emptied out and you are laid bare, before God, and it’s uncomfortable, and maybe painful, and you don’t know what the next few steps are going to be like. Take comfort, even there, his hand will guide you, his right hand will hold you fast. The God who knows you, perfectly, and who has called you and saved you, this same God has a job for you, has plans to put your life together in a new and better way. This same God loves you and is prepared to provide for you, to make you a fisher of men. It begins, today, with his knowledge of you. It will spread to your knowledge and love of him. Next week we’ll pick there, with how to know Jesus. Amen.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Well, Isn't that Fine

In honor of getting 50,000 hits!!! I've done a little site redesign. As a little present to myself and A Big Thank You to all of you who have been reading here over the last year and a bit.

Saturday Evening Amy Carmichael

page 66

I refuse to allow one who is dear to
me to suffer for the sake of
if I do not see such suffering as the
greatest honor that can be
offered to any follower of the
then I know nothing of Calvary love.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Updates on Catechesis and Life Part Two

I was in the middle of long and elaborate posting here when I had to stop mid thought. Can't remember what that thought was any more, BUT, I do remember that I had intended to post some pictures of a project I got off track with. Instead of making materials, I spent a day and a half making these little boxes, one for each child in the atrium (and a few extras in case we had visitors that day)

which I gave out at Epiphany.

A Little More Being Off Track

Thank you for your prayers. The church was cleaned up in record time yesterday. Ladies with a lot more energy than me got in and got it done. I need to go over and help with the sorting of paper in the office but I haven't been able to light a fire under myself this morning. I've been wandering around the house aimlessly looking for a phone charger and trying to decide where to start in all the cleaning. Probably I'm going to chuck it, though, and go mess around in the atrium. Whoever it was came in throw the third floor/attic window and so things need to be righted up there.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Thrown off course today by the early news that the church had been broken into during the night. Matt chucked his morning routine and went over by 8 to find sections of the building ransacked-the offices, the votive/prayer candle stand, the coke machine, various closets, the safe. Amazingly, whoever it was didn't take Anything except the check book, and I'm pretty sure some few odd dollars of birthday money. But two windows were broken and all the paper and drawers dumped out in the office. Its going to take a while to clean up. I'm most sad about votive stand.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Updates on Catechesis and Life part One

Its been a long while since I've said anything about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the Sunday School Program we are using at Good Shepherd. For those of you who are not interested, you might as well not read on because I'm going to get technical and possibly a little whiny.

Way back when, I started this blog as a complaining space because I was in school to earn a second MA in theology specializing in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. I did, I recall, two and a half full courses and then, finding myself pregnant with baby #4 and not terribly happy with the program, I dropped out. My unhappiness came largely from having been to seminary for an MDiv. The program turned out to be a review of everything I'd already done. So it was boring, and a lot of work, and not up to date, and not really about Catechesis of the Good Shepherd so it seemed good to me to drop out.

Also, it was hard to be in school and pregnant and trying to start Kindergarten with baby #1, who wasn't a baby any more. (I was pregnant with baby #1 my last semester of seminary, and I don't think I actually learned anything, I was so unwell and throwing up). Those of you early readers of this blog saw on the side bit the word 'homeschooling' which is no longer there. Baby #1 ended up going to school this year to a very nice private Christian Baptist school where she is really learning to read, instead of me going out of my mind while she explained to me, carefully, every morning, that she already knew how to read and so we didn't need to be doing what I thought we were going to do that day.

In the process of dropping out of school and dropping out of homeschooling and having another baby, I also dropped the ball on Catechesis. Not entirely. I had enough ground work laid that I have been able to get through almost a whole year of Level Two without making any new materials or doing any new presenations. But I had other hiccups this year.

First, I lost my excellent Level One helper (she moved away)
Then I lost my Junior High school teacher (she got married),
Then we hired a real live youth minister who needed space to teach Sr. High, i.e. the Library where the Jr. High had been meeting.

We basically only have 4 spaces for Christian Ed on Sunday morning (the parish hall where Matt does Adult Ed, the Library, and the attic with its small room and big room).

So I was faced with Level Two and Junior High in the same space.
My first move (in the heat of summer and 3rd Trimester) was to flip my atriums. I moved Level One into the tiny postage stamp Attic room and Level Two into the big room. And then to divide the space visually, though not in reality. I have all the Level Two materials in one half, and a plain table and posters in the other half with the prayer table in the middle. I've already posted pictures here and here. Trouble was, it was loud, and everyone was consistently really late, and I was handing off an album page to my helper for level two and then trying to handle the Jr. high without any curriculum (I thought we would do some Old Testament, and I thought they could paint some stuff).

I struggled along unhappily through the fall. But then, the first Sunday of Advent, for whatever reason (it went so well it must have been the Holy Spirit) I combined the groups at my big table, lit the first candle and asked if they knew what Advent was. They didn't. They didn't have a clue. And so, in the course of an hour, I shared the gospel straight out. We talked about Jesus coming the first time, and the second time, and what that might mean for them personally, and how then we ought to live. Of course, the second Sunday of Advent there was bad weather (or maybe it was good) and nobody came. And then they were back the third Sunday and we did Synthesis of the Prophecies, all together, and then the fourth week I had Jesus be born. In other words, since then, I've had the groups together and I always go in with an Album Page and most often a material to go with it, BUT usually I end up chucking the whole thing and trying to keep their attention for the hour.

And I haven't had any time to make materials, much to my unhappiness. to feed the baby, but don't want to loose this so will just post it, agh, more in a few minutes...

Trifle, in all its glory

It was delicious. And long gone. Wish y'all could have been here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Weekend In Review

Slow Cooking Saturday
black beans, chopped tomato, corn, 1 can Ortega green chilies, green pepper, stock, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon chili powder, salt, pepper
low for 4 hours
sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, warm tortillas

Slow Cooking Sunday
left over roast chicken, shredded (actually, I dumped it in frozen), frozen stock, frozen gravy, carrots, potatoes, a handful of thyme
low for 6 hours. Came home from church, stirred it, added cream, flour, sour cream, frozen green beans and cream

Good Reading
one of my favorite blogs: good thoughts on feminism

An Excellent Sermon
Matt's been on a roll of good preaching. This week was particularly excellent. More and more he lays the scriptures bare.

A: The blue ones are good and the white ones are bad and the blue ones are going to win.
Matt: No they're not. The blue ones are not good.
A: But I don't like white. I like blue. The blue ones are good and the white ones are bad.
Matt: You can like the blue, but they're not good.
A: They are good. I like them.
Matt: Ok

stale whole wheat cinnamon buns shredded(from Thursday-left them open over the heater, stupidly, and they dried up), custard made of three eggs, 1/2 cup half and half, 1/2 cup whole mild, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1/2 cup sour cream
baked at 350 until all puffy and golden

Vulgar but Funny
Not going to link it, because that would make it easier for you to go there and I don't want to encourage that sort of thing, but if you do go to Mad Priest, he makes fun of Matt (Matt Kennedy sees image of Jesus in Da Vinci painting). Mad Priest seems to be unhappy about Matt calling his site 'vile' on Stand Firm, you'd have to scroll down further. Mad Priest is feeling insecure. Heh.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Rolling a Stone Up a Hill

Yesterday, having intended to do something else (like plan for Sunday School and clean the house) I dragged all the children's clothes out of their cupboards for the seasonal sort. With four kids, slightly off season, I have bins and bins and bins of clothes. A and R are 2 years apart so that I haven't had time to put that much away. Basically R is just shoved into A's big clothes (he's short, but pudgy, so we just roll up the pants and let him go, he's always taking everything off anyway right now). But there's five years between E and G and so that requires serious digging through the attic for unmarked boxes of clothes I was stupid enough to through up there. It took me the whole day, basically, to get through everything and reorder it. But this time, instead of sending it all back up to the attic, I've socked away, in cupboards both this winter, this summer and actually next fall as well for the littles. So now really all that remains of my serious house sorting are the toys, Matt's clothes and my memorabilia/nostalgia cupboard wherein I throw things without sorting them (always a bad idea). I've given myself through February to get all this done, but its weighing on my mind. I'd just like to get it over with.

I'm sure its a little nuts, all this sorting and purging. Matt would just like me to ignore it and go on with general house upkeep. But if I don't handle it now it will only get worse. So that's what I was doing Friday. For an accounting of what I did Thursday, check back later for pictures.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Praise Be

Alright Grandpa, they're in the mail! At your very fine suggestion I sent Micah to the post office (Matt is way over taxed for such an endeavor).

Because endeavor it is. The Binghamton Post Office (not the main one downtown, but the southside one, here on Vestal, the nice little block of a box, with that good old hometown feeling) is no small undertaking. Even suppose you don't take four children, or even one R, with you. You have to prepare your body, mind and soul to go in. Or at least I do. I'm not looking for that good old hometown feeling. I'm looking to mail my stuff and get out. However, once in, and in line, you can depend upon waiting many many many minutes while B- and M- ask you extensively about how you are, how your family is, if you would like stamps, what kind of stamps, if you want insurance, if you really want to send the package, all the available rates and speeds, in short, every possible question, not only of you but of every person ahead of you, so that, after standing and listening for 45 minutes, you want to run screaming from the building. It means seriously gearing up, for me, to event think about going in. I feel so strongly about not going to the post office, unfortunately, that I frequently fight with people on Sunday morning about it. Everybody here on the South Side pretty well loves B- and M- and feels dread about the long off day when the retire.

Anyway, it hadn't occurred to me to muscle someone else into going. I can't send Matt, like I mentioned before, because life is too short. And he gets combative and ends up bringing home notes about the proper way to collect or send mail. But then, just after posting, Micah presented himself and asked (undoubtedly foolishly-he called twice from the post office to make sure about what I was sending and some other wretched little forms he had to filled out) if there was anything I needed. Micah is a soothing and calm person, the kind of person who can calm the shattered postal worker and postal customer. So, I'm so grateful. It only took three months. Heaven preserve me when I have to mail something else.

Excuses, Excuses

Ok, so I just posted a bunch. Should have spread it out over several days, but who knows if I'll have time the rest of the week. I am now going to put this nice warm computer down, and do some serious cleaning and letter writing and phone call making and try to catch up a little, just a very very little. And I'm going to try and play with A. He has put on a Bob the Builder outfit with a knight in shining armor tunic over that and then a breast plate over that, plus helmet, shield and sword. And he's scowling at me and asking for chocolate. So, enough blogging.

AND, because I know I've been a huge disappointment to those who profess to love me and therefore require pictures (Grandma and Grandpa) I'm Trying, I really really am. I've been wildy taking pictures and putting them on cd's and things and I have them sitting here to mail. Thing is, I haven't been able to face the idea of the post office with 4 kids, or even 3 or even just R, or R and the baby. Every time I start to get everyone dressed to go out, I start to moan gently to myself and feel very sad and 3 or 4 excuses leap to mind of other things to do. So, today I'm checking out Snap Fish, Flickr and Shutterfly and trying to see if that will be a doable option. Not to say that I won't get to the post office, its just, well, gasp, maybe tomorrow. In the meantime, hopefully pictures tonight.


I think someone asked about stock. Here's what I do.

A la Nigella Lawson, I freeze all my bone scraps. When I roast a chicken, I freeze the carcass (sometimes including bones off people's plates). Same with turkey and, from Christmas, the goose and duck carcassas. I also save lamb bones and any other kind of bone we happen to have eaten. I sock them away in the freezer, and basically, over the course of a few months, I gather enough bones/carcassas to fill my large stock pot. The morning of stock day, I take them all out and dump them in (frozen) adding carrots, celery, onions (whole), italian parsley, whole pepper corns, a little salt (not much at all), fresh tyhme, whole garlic and sometimes whole cloves. I fill the pot with water (to the very top-it will bubble over a little, but it's worth it) and turn it on high. Sometimes I remember to run back and scoop off the muck as it comes a boil, but mostly I forget. When I can hear it spilling over the sides I run back and turn it on low, as low as low, and let it simmer for the rest of the day. Around 5pm or so I try to remember to turn it off and push it off the burner (by this time its reduced down by an inch or two). I let it sit through supper and into the evening, and then between 10 and 11pm, when everything else is done and cleaned up, I strain it (I don't bother to strain through a cheese cloth, although that would be a sensible and worthwhile thing to do) and portion it out into 3 or 4 cup, 1 cup and 1/2 cup tupperware containers. Then I jam it all in the freezer. Then I have to seriously scrub the stove, pick the remaining meat off the bones for soup, and soak the stock pot over night. If I had my wits about me, after the stock froze I'd take it out of the tupperwares and bag it, but I never bother. When the freezer is empty of stock, and all the containers are back in the cupboard, and I have carcasses piling up, I know its time to make stock again. This probably sounds like a lot of work, but actually, it takes three minutes to shove everything in the pot in the morning, and maybe a half hour/45 minutes at night (depending on interruptions) every 3 to 6 months. And it so rich and golden and better than anything I've picked up in the store. It adds depth and dimension to soup/sauce/gravy/everything. And its restful, like most all my full day cooking projects.

Repost Per Request

White Bread
1 T yeast, 2 T brown sugar, ¼ cup warm water,
1 ¾ cup milk, an egg, 2 t salt, 6 T salted butter, 4-6 cups white flour, or to feel.

Fancy Bread
1 T yeast, 2 T brown sugar, ¼ cup warm water, 1 ¾ cup milk, an egg, 2 t salt, 6 T salted butter, 1 T poppy seeds, 2 T flax seed, 2 T finely chopped walnut, 3-4 T millet (cooked in about as much water just until the water evaporates and the millet begins to split open), ½ cup rye flour, ½ cup wheat flour, ½ cup oatmeal (cooked or raw), 2 to 3 cups white flour, any other flours or anything you like but at least half the flour should be white foreby to have enough gluten.

Mix it all together (I in my kitchen aid) making sure that the salt doesn’t hit the yeast directly. Kneed for roughly ten minutes. Let it rise till doubled in size, punch it down, form rolls and loaves, rise again, bake at 350 degrees until golden and satisfying.

Another Anglican Carnival

Hosted by A Ten O'Clock Scholar and At a Hen's Pace.

The Ten Commandments

A long while back, At a Hen's Pace requested that I post our ten commandments song. So finally, here it is (though not the podcast. We got the kids to sing it, but they were shy and whispering into the little recorder thing. We'll try again at some point but it will take some practice).

To the old 70's tune 'I'd like to buy the world a home' or better known 'I'd like to buy the world a coke' or, as I originally learned it 'Amazing Grace'

Here's our words (don't go to the chorus until the very end).

The Lord your God the Lord is One
And you shall have no others
You shall not make any idols
Or misuse God's name.
You shall keep the sabbath holy
And honor your mommy and daddy
You shall not ever kill
And you shall always be faithful
You shall not ever steal
Or tell a lie
You shall not be envious of your neighbors Stuff!

It's the real thing.
If you're looking for love.
God's gift from above.
It's the real thing.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

kitchen day

I have been making weekly batches of bread in my trusty and beloved Kitchen Aid for the last 5 years. Thing is, I've been overloading the poor thing such that bits are falling off and the motor is running very hot. And then on top of that I lost the dough hook on Thanksgiving. So in the spirit of charity and good will, and because he hasn't gotten me a birthday or Christmas present in the last few years, Matt agreed to a beautiful 6 quart cinnamon red professional grade standing kitchen aid mixer.

So, A and I made cookies this morning in the old one in honor and memorium. And I will probably make bread in it one more time before the new one comes, just for nostalgia's sake.

And I also have soup going in my fine new Christmas slow cooker-white beans, green beans, fresh thyme, ham, stock and finely chopped potato. I'm having a hard time not standing eating it right out of the cooker. And I'm going to make whole wheat biscuits to go with it.

The slow cooker has been fabulous-ESPECIALLY for Sundays. For the last 5 years we've come back from church and eaten cereal if we've eaten anything. Or I think once I made guacamole. But basically its cereal after church. Except for the last three Sundays when I've put, at 6 in the morning, stock, garbanzo beans, sweet potato, canned tomato, curry powder, frozen corn, carrots, and green pepper all together, oh, and lightly sauteed onion and garlic, in the slow cooker and let it go all morning, so that when we got back from church there it was. So delicious. So much better than cereal. We've actually sat down at the table together, before all collapsing for naps.

So now I'm going to reorganize the freezer. Merry Christmas.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sunday Sound Bits

Early in the Morning, getting dressed for church:
E: She looks gorgeous! Gorgeous!
Me: Doesn't she.
E: She looks like you in that dress.
Me: Really? Wow. Thank you.
E and I gaze lovingly at G who is dressed in a frilly white and pink dress with tights and fancy shoes. I am dressed all in black with no fancy shoes, no frills and no tights. I appreciate the compliment.

Later in the Car:
E: This is the day, this is the day, this is the day, this is the day, this is the day.
A: Weeping. I can't find my spider man.
R: Daddy! Daddy! Mommy! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!

Later in the evening, after eating the top layer of the trifle:
E: I'm really good at reading this book. I'm really good at this.
A: The red knight in shining armor is bad and the blue knight in shining armor is good. And they are fighting and the good knight in shining armor is going to win.
E: Dear Jesus, thank you for this day. Please help the good knight in shining armor to win. Amen.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


I have lots of things to do, like photograph and post a lot of little pictures, and figure out how to use Shutterfly or whatever its called, and paint a backdrop for the Flight into Egypt, and finish the bulletin, and put all the laundry away and vacuum the house, BUT, I am also busily making a trifle, and one of my own invention based on what I have in my pantry. Basically, upon completion, it will be

yellow/lemony birthday cake cut in thick strips
ginger and rum sauce
whipped cream
all layered together in my fancy and extremely cheep new trifle bowl from the Christmas Tree Shop (bought on the last day with employee discount)

and I've invited the whole world over to see and admire it on Sunday after church. I'll also take pictures, because its so thrilling.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

On the Occassion of Reading 'The Emperor's New Clothes'

Ea: Is this a real story or a fake one?
Me: It's a real story but it didn't happen for real.
E: It seems like a real story.
Me: That's because it has such a good lesson at the end.
E: Yeah. The lesson is that we should always wear clothes, except when we're getting dressed.
Me: Yes, that is an important lesson.
A: Yeah, like when I'm getting dressed and I have to get my clothes and get dressed.
Me: Yeah, just like that.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

My Sermon for This Morning

So yesterday was my last day at the Christmas Tree Shop. And it just so happens that yesterday everyone was buying these cute little mugs. They’re white, with various little words and pictures all over them. As I picked one up to scan it I thought, ‘oh, that’s nice’, and then my eye fell on the writing and pictures. They were little astrological mugs—you could get your sign on a mug, with all the characteristics that go with it. Now, I’ll admit to being ignorant. I don’t even know what my ‘sign’ is or what its supposed to mean and what kind of person it makes me. I don’t look in the paper or online to find out what’s supposed to happen to me that day, and when people ask me, ‘what’s your sign’, I’m usually baffled and don’t ever have a good answer, like, Jesus is my sign, or something.

Now of course, sensible people read and look at horoscopes and go on through the day, probably not being materially affected by them in the short term, but others really do cast their fate upon the stars, and look and read and hope for a sign from somewhere to tell them what to do next and what’s going to happen. Because, this is a lost and seeking generation, a land full of people who don’t know where to go or who will look after them or what to believe in, a nation of people who look at the stars, or break open a cookie, or measure out coincidences, looking for some direction or sign that there’s a way to go. This seeking and hunting for a sign is not Necessarily a wise way to live, a life of wisdom and understanding. But it’s not new either.

At the time of Jesus, astrology was alive and well. People interested in creation, in the vastness of the earth and the infinite scope of heaven, looked at the stars and mapped them out and watched, and waited for something to happen. These people sought wisdom, wanted understanding, they saw the dark night sky and looked for light. Some translations of the Bible call them ‘Wisemen’, but the Greek word really means something more like ‘magician’.

We don’t know very much about them. Traditionally, the church has fixed on three, from different places, but there could have been many more, and more likely all from one place, most likely from Persia. You remember Judah was taken captive, to Babylon, and amongst those taken were Daniel and his friends—the cream of the crop of Jerusalem. After being captured, they weren’t sent to work in the fields, they were sent to the palace and their wisdom was renowned. Daniel, having lived an exemplary life And having had many visions of future times, wrote them all down and left them, and other works, for the Babylonians and later the Persians who conquered the Babylonians to peruse at their leisure. In other words, if you were sitting around in Mesopotamia at the time of Jesus, looking at the stars and wondering where is the meaning in it all, you could roll open a scroll and learn about God, the Lord of Heaven and Earth and all the amazing things he had coming up.

So, when one such wise man walks out onto his roof in the evening, as the stars are beginning to pierce through the blue night sky, and sees something so bright its insane, and closes his eyes and looks again, and finds its still there, hanging suspended, and so bright, well, what is a wise man to do? But go and find his friends. They climb on the roof again and look at it and are stirred. It’s that bright. Other people see it too, but they don’t know where all the stars normally are. They’ve got washing to do, and a baby crying, and the neighbor won’t stop complaining about their loud donkey. The wise men dig in the royal archives looking for anything to tell them about this star, and they land on some stuff left by the foreign Daniel including the prophet Isaiah, ‘Arise, shine, for your light has come…Nations will stream to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawning’. The star is so bright they can’t even help it. They pack up their stuff and head for Israel.

Meanwhile, Mary and Joseph are quietly living in Bethlehem, remember, only about 7 miles from Jerusalem. That’s like, what, driving to Endicott? That’s a long way. They have a little house now, by no means rich. They’re enjoying their baby Jesus. He’s starting to get to the really cute baby walking stage—between one and two years, before the awful teeth and the awful attitude, well, Jesus didn’t have the attitude. He’s running around the little house and yard with his chest out and his arms back, the King of all Creation.

The wise men travel and travel and arrive, worn and weary, in Jerusalem. They figure if something big is happening, they should go to the center of Israel, to Jerusalem, because probably everybody will be talking about it. They’ll be sure to get their answers there. But basically nobody knows what they’re talking about. In the market people are short and irritated. There hasn’t been a star. What’s your problem? Look, go ask King Herod, old King Herod, who’s corrupt and good at playing various sides against each other. That’s what you have to do if you want to be king a long time, manipulate everybody, be everybody’s friend and enemy. Herod, no surprise, hasn’t been reading his Bible, he hasn’t been looking at the sky or the page. When the wise men get in to see him, he is greatly troubled. You bet he’s troubled. These guys are looking for a King, but it’s clearly not him they’re looking for. They don’t lay out their gifts, they don’t settle in to congratulate him on all his fine kingly accomplishments. They’re looking for the ‘king of the Jews’. You’d be unsettled too if you thought you were the king of the Jews, sitting in your own living room, on your own fine chair, with all your own fine people, and someone came in looking for the king of the Jews but not for you. Troubled is right. Herod gets his ‘wise men’ to dig around in the archives.

The magicians are right, they say, the Messiah is due to arrive about now, in Bethlehem. Amazingly, Herod doesn’t order a comfy little chariot to drive him the 7 miles to Bethlehem to check things out himself. He tries to double cross the foreigners. ‘You go’ he says, ‘go see how it is, but then come back and tell me because I’m definitely going to get up and make the astonishing effort to go worship him myself.’ No wonder the wise men, being warned to go home a different way, don’t object or question the dream. Herod isn’t the picture of someone full of curiosity, wonder and longing for the truth about God. It doesn’t take magic to see that.

They pack up their stuff and head out, wondering how they’re going to find this king, probably discouraged. They’ve come all this way to see something amazing, and worn their feet out in a town of people who couldn’t care less. What a let down. But, as they head out of town, in the dark cold breathless quiet of early early early morning, the star appears. The sky is pierced by its brightness. They pick up their feet and go, the miles slip by and before they even can breathe, they are there, the house, plainer than plain, the door, the baby.

They go into the house and lay down their gifts—gold, tribute owed a king; frankincense, the sweet smell of prayer wending up to heaven; myrrh, embalming spice, the shadow of death—and they worship him. They lay themselves down before him. They put their whole bodies, souls, minds and hearts into submission, honor, respect, adoration, love, obedience—they worship him.

Who knows where they stayed that night. Maybe Mary made up extra beds and they all got to hold Jesus and play that really great fun pounding game where everyone knows how to bang on the table, and they ate dinner and sat around talking way into the night. Or maybe they stayed in an inn. Who knows? But while they were sleeping, the shadow of death and warning was given to them. They didn’t go back to Herod. When they set off they took the opposite road out of town, away from Jerusalem, quietly, without a fuss. A lot of people didn’t even know they had been. And later, but not much later, Joseph also gets a warning dream and within hours he and Mary have packed up the small plain house, closed the door, and are crossing the boarder quietly into Egypt before anyone has noticed.

Where are you this morning? Are you on your rooftop, gazing at the stars, looking at the wonder of creation and seeking for a sign? Do you need direction and hope and love?

Are you on the streets of Jerusalem, busy, unconcerned, not curious about where God is or what he is doing? Have you become distracted by many things and lost your focus?

Or are you here, before the king, having given the gift of your whole self to him in worship, putting your whole body, soul, mind, heart down at his feet in obedience and wonder?

Where ever you are, the signs are in your favor.

You don’t have to look in the paper to find out what is going to happen next. You don’t have to crack open that next cookie looking for advice and encouragement. You don’t have to despair that there is no direction, no place to go, nothing to hope in. God, the Lord of heaven and earth came all the way down here, took on flesh, a body, the fat baby legs of life, put a star in the sky to show you where he is, gave you this book to help you know what’s going on and who’s organizing everything, picked you to bring you here this morning to hear about him, to meet him, to grow in him and to worship him.

But now the ball is in your court. If you’re looking for God, he is here this morning looking for you. Open the door of your heart and ask Jesus to come in and forgive your sins and make you whole. Trust in him. If you aren’t looking, if you’ve closed the door and are piling stuff in front of it, don’t be hard this morning. Push all that stuff away and seek after God. Don’t let many things be more important to you than Jesus. And if you’re here this morning to worship, then lay your whole self down, don’t hold anything back.

Arise up, this morning, and shine, for your light has come, Jesus, to love you, save you, and guide you. Worship him. Worship Jesus Christ the King. Amen.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Addendum to Previous Resolusions

Felt bad, on Wednesday and Thursday after posting Tuesday, and after reading a lot of other people's blogs, about not making any spiritual resolutions for the new year. Then wondered why 1. I hadn't thought of it and 2. why I felt bad. I mean the new year, while a nice clean slate in many respects, is only the interim time between Advent and Lent, a limbo-ous time where I spin my wheels between liturgical events (the Christmas Pageant and the Great Vigil of Easter). Resolutions are immediately broken when the liturgical season changes (for me anyway) and I try to take on new resolutions. And, sadly, my expectations for spiritual growth have taken a beating this year. I know I will grow spiritually, but I don't want to think about it in advance, because God is so organized and I am not, and I once prayed for humility, and received it. And a few years ago prayed for faithfulness, and received it (ie General Convention 2003). And at the beginning of last year, when I had all kinds of hopes and plans, I prayed for God's will, and received it. So this year, I'm Not resolving, and I'm not asking. I know God will give me what I need anyway, I don't want to make it worse than it needs to be.

I shouldn't be so numb and vague. I've been trying for several days to put into words what this past year has been, and I've been coming up short every time. The best I can say, I guess, is that the last six months have been like God deep cleaning a room. When I deep clean, it looks awful in the process (I am actually deep cleaning the whole house, and everyone is complaining because of all the junk everywhere-I have everything out of cupboards, in no particular order, so that I can get to the back of the cupboard to dust and find junk to throw away). I'd say parts of this last year were awful, or awfully difficult. And all the time as I was plodding through, not paying much attention tripping over piles of junk and muck, God was throwing and dusting and purging and shaping and reorganizing. Such that come January 1st (miraculously in fact) many things had been put in order, including my time, my attitude, my work, my priorities and my expectations. I'm starting this new year humbler, quieter, more focused (I think) and more dependent on God. I don't know what he's planning to do with me. I haven't made many plans, except to clean the house and be in church, and pay attention to my children. As the communion unravels, it gets closer and closer to home, this house, our own quiet lives. It looks bleaker to me. We are worn by this long unresolved division. But sustained. And epxectent. I am only, then, resolved to watch and wait and see what happens, and be ready when it does.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Snow Lay on the Ground

We're going to try to venture out this morning and spend some small portion of our Christmas money on storage. My hope is to put all the nice things the children got for Christmas into boxes that are very difficult for them to open so they can never mess up the house. Just kidding, sort of. We do seriously have to weed through what they already have to make way for all the new stuff. So that's my project for the week.

And I also intend a serious materials making day. I actually want to paint a lot of little boxes for my Sunday School kids for Epiphany, with a verse or something inside. We'll see how it goes.

And I'm also settling on my new years resolutions. I think I've settled on three that are achievable.

1. I'm going to loose the weight of 2 babies plus.
2. I'm going to pray and read the bible 5 days out of 7 (of course, 7 would be better, but if I make it to 5, then I can aim for 7)
3. I'm going to read 6 books. And I welcome suggestions on the books.

And now I'm going to go stand at the window and watch Matt and E and A shovel snow and thank God for men and children.