Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Matt is away for an hour so I am steeling the chance to use a keyboard that will allow me to use 'i', 'k', 'm' and some other interesting letters. I am able to read email on my little long suffering laptop and that's about it. BUT help is on the way. Patience is all that is required of me.

In light of that, I just wanted to wish you all a Happy New Year.
Last year I resolved this:
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.

I think I did pretty well. My prayer life was so amazing I blew through a journal in a year and two months. I lost some weight (down to that last hardest five pounds) and I read six books except that it was really the same book over and over.

I'm sitting here thinking of what to resolve for, well, that would be tomorrow wouldn't it. But my son has just put his new battery powered train in his hair and tangled it all up. So I'll do that and go to a tutor meeting in a few hours and clean my kitchen and consider What Would Make Me a Better Person in 2009. Some of you probably have some very clear ideas already. Also forthcoming as time and a keyboard allow, an immense list of thanksgiving.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Merry Christmas

We're all wandering around in a food laden stupor, covered in fabulous toys and, how shall I put it, snot. Either Everyone has a cold or Everyone has allergies. The effect is the same, no one can breathe.

The thing I am Most Grateful for, as I sit here, is that we put all the toys away a week ago and so in the children's rooms there sit cool clean empty shelves in which to stuff all these toys. So far Elphine (see some previous post or other) has only been able to remember two toys that were put away. Plus, they were So Grateful yesterday, breathless even, to receive such beautiful things to play with.

We are about to waddle out to walk off some of the pounds we gained yesterday, but I wanted to tell you what we ate before we go. Matt completely out did himself, and remember, he didn't cook at all five years ago, except Ramen Noodles.

Here's what he cooked
Roast Goose
Roast Duck
Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Here's what I cooked

Yorkshire Pudding
Nigella's Perfect Roast Potatoes
Persimmon Pudding

The Duck was also according to Nigella, boiled for 40 minutes, roasted an hour at top temperature. The Persimmon Pudding was from my dad who got it from his mother.

Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Women are so funny. Men are too but I wasn't talking to a man. I was talking to another woman, whose name I don't even know, and this is roughly how it shook out:

her: what are you knitting?
me: a little dolly scarf. I'm really behind. There's no way I'll have this done by Christmas (notice the self deprecation, the subtle put down of myself, doubtless based on my own insecurity and anxiety that CHRISTMAS IS COMING)
her: Oh, I'm totally on top of things. I do everything way in advance. I mailed everything out last Tuesday and my cards out today and I'm baking 10 dozen cookies tomorrow out of this book (shows me the book).
me: Oh, that's very nice. I'd love to be on top of things but it just didn't happen for me this year.
her: Well, I'm a very organized person.

At which point I began to knit furiously and try to examine what about Her would make her feel so insecure a to want to put me down. I so enjoy these little moments of self awareness.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Jesus and maybe Santa are Coming: Get Ready

In light of this, and the fact that we have now reached a moment where the clutter, crumbs, toys and laundry have become too much, my children are carrying ALL THEIR TOYS, except two each, down and we're packing them away until after Christmas.

It has come to the point where all we do is clean. We wake up and clean, clean all morning, eat lunch and keep cleaning, clean well into the evening. And its not fun any more. So, extreme as it is, we're putting as many of our worldly belongings into the basement as we can fit there, and then maybe there'll be room for a Christmas tree.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Sermon for this Morning-Psalm 126

I don't have time to put it in a better reading format. Here's how I preach. Enjoy!

For the last several weeks, well,
lets be honest, months,
I've been gearing up in anxiety and worry towards this last Friday
which, was the first,
hopefully not the only, hearing in court
regarding who owns this property.
I have moved around a lot in my life.
The last six years in the rectory here in Binghamton
is the longest I have lived anywhere in one place
in one house.
Indulge me, for a minute,
while I describe to you the most beautiful house in the world.

Its way off the beaten path,
a kilometer or more off of the only paved road in the whole land,
over a stream with a dubious bridge,
a stream that floods in the rainy season
and dries up in the dry season,
a road that is really only a foot path.
The house itself is now a series of mounds.
If you didn't know what you were looking for,
you would miss it.
In its glory,
it was a string of six mud huts with thatch roof—
a kitchen, office, living room, bath hut, two sleeping huts,
joined in a semicircle
around a dusty courtyard
shaded by a glorious mango tree covered in red ants.
This is my first house,
the home I long for.

Matt, when he visited Farakala for the first time,
walked out to it with me
and we managed to find it,
and the ruins of the original village.
In a horrible desire to modernize,
the whole village of Farakala elected to pack up and move
to the paved road.
Now they have a store and a telephone
four butchers and a mosque.

I remember the night I went into exile from my home.
We sat around eating supper under the mango tree,
candles lit,
ants falling onto the tablecloth.
I was going to have to go to boarding school.
The house itself wasn't going to last.
My parents were going to move nearer the road
with the rest of the village.

It is the same grief, all these years later,
that I encounter as I wander around the rectory,
filthy as it is.
If you came over after church
you would walk in to an enormous pile of laundry that needs folding. And R and G took a bag of sugar
and carefully sprinkled it all over the living room,
dining room
and kitchen.
My children are facing exile from the home of their little hearts.
They eat their meals by candle light
and pray that if we have to move,
God will 'not make it a struggle'.
Those are E's words.

So, these two griefs have wound themselves together
and finally this week I kept thinking,
'When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
then we were like those in a dream... of the Negev...
shouldering their sheaves...
what is that verse,
where is that verse?'
It kept breaking in
and playing over and over
like a cool refreshing breeze.
So when Matt needed a break from the grueling work hours of this week, I clicked open the lectionary page and there it was,
Psalm 126,
you can find it in your bulletin, or in your Bible,
one of the 15 poignant Psalms of Ascent—
the songs pilgrims, ultimately,
would sing on their way up to visit the Temple in Jerusalem.
But this is really the song of the one returning from exile.

When the Lord restored the Fortunes of Zion,
then we were like those in a dream.
We couldn't believe it.
We had lost everything,
they are saying to themselves.
Because that's what happened to the people of Judah and Israel,
after they had sinned so much,
they had rejected God so much
and they weren't going to repent.
God had called them to over and over and over and over
and it just wasn't going to happen.
And he,
had promised that if they didn't obey him
and worship him alone,
he wouldn't let them stay in the land he had given them.
So finally,
after several hundred years of being patient,
he carried through
and the Babylonians came in
and carried the people off
to a horrible strange place
with with a horrible strange language.
And they could only remember their beautiful comfortable houses,
the lush land,
their fields which they had worked with their own hands.
And finally they were sorry
and they turned back to the Lord.
They repented.
They turned around and grieved and were sorry.

We have,
over the last five years
undertaken a similar grief on behalf of the Episcopal Church.
A church that has been stubborn in its going away from the Lord,
from God's word.
And we've undertaken a corporate repentance,
even as we daily confess our own personal sin.
Part of that corporate repentance
has been to stand firm on the unchanging truth of Scripture.
That decision has had consequences,
in this case,
very probable exile from this building
and the loss of the things in it that we have come to love.
And if you are grieved,
its a reasonable place to be.
The people of Israel,
walking their sorrowful way to Babylon said this
“By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept, yea we wept
when we remembered Zion.” Psalm 137.

For all the difficulties of daily life,
the places where we live matter to God.
For one thing, he put us each where we are.
He has provided food, shelter,
usually a vast deal more than we need.
Compared to my dream huts,
the house I live in now is a palace
even though the layout isn't,
how shall I say,
and the basement leaks.
God gave it to us
and we have made our home there
and have been content.
Even more so with this building
where we worship that same God.
Its a quirky building.
Its not big enough.
We could sure use a bigger parking lot.
But God gave it to us
and we've been content for 130 years.
It is heartening and fascinating to read back over the minutes
from the original vestry,
how they called their first few pastors,
the miraculous work God did to build this church,
and then build it again when it burnt down.
People have faithfully worshiped God here all these years.

But all that time,
like an errant and unrepentant Israel,
the larger church,
indeed, much of the church in the West,
stopped paying careful attention to the Word of God,
started devising clever ways around it,
began catering to a culture that wasn't interested in God or his will.
And, as part of a larger body that began to go astray
and then refused to repent,
we are living with the consequences of that greater sin.

But God is gracious, and clever.
for those of us who believe in him and love him,
is not sent for our destruction and despair.
Almost the moment the people of Judah arrived in Babylon,
they began to get back in gear.
They started paying attention.
They began to see God again and take him seriously.
They began to long for the temple in a way they never had
when it was right next door.
Their sin clouded minds and hearts were cleared out
and they were able to look back and see the amazing work
God had done on their behalf.
It is in the time of captivity
that we read the steadfast witnesses of people like
Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel and his friends.
And, many of the psalms.
When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
then we were like those in a dream.
When God let us go home,
when God gave us a true place to worship,
walking up these steps to the temple,
because thats where this would have been sung,
on the way up right up into the temple itself,
to be with God in true fellowship and love,
then we were like those in a dream.
We were so happy.
We couldn't believe it.
We laughed and sang.
And all the nations around us saw the amazing work of God,
who took a people out of the land
and brought them back safely.

That's what God is doing with this church.
He's bringing us out and bringing us back in,
He's restoring us,
In the middle of trouble and trial
we have begun to grow.
God isn't waiting for some perfect setting.
He has sowed the seeds of this current growth
day by day over the last six years.
He has made this congregation deeply curious about the Bible,
for its own sake,
he has brought many different kinds of people together to worship,
he has worked in us to grow and mature us
into real reasonable thinking Christians.
He obviously still has a lot of work to do,
but we're already seeing a harvest.

The work of these last days,
the sowing of the seed, the Gospel,
for many,
has been a work of weeping.
And there is still hard work before us
Some of it will be the work of grieving,
of sowing the Gospel in sorrow into the ground.
But look at verses six and seven, what is the promise?
They will reap with songs of joy.

Nothing is lost out of God's hand.
There isn't any work that we do,
or that he does, to build his kingdom
that disappears or isn't ultimately to his glory.
My mom and dad, this last week,
traveled back to the village,
to Farakala,
for the dedication of the New Testament into Supiyre,
the language they have on worked for the last 28 years.
The sacrifices of comfort, of home,
of sending themselves into exile to Africa for the sake of the gospel
have not been lost.
They are seeing a great harvest of those
who are hearing the Good News of Jesus Christ
for the first time in the language of their hearts.
Our sacrifice,
our exile will not be in vain.
Already our clinging to the gospel over everything else
has brought a small light to this neighborhood.
God doesn't plan to let any of that be lost.

Some of you are already sowing in joy.
But for those of us who weep as we carry out the seed of Christ,
this Advent and Christmas season,
the promise is clear
we will come in again with joy
not only into our heavenly home,
however you hope it will be
red ants or maybe a sprinkling of sugar,
but even now.
God is preparing a beautiful place for us
maybe even right here,
maybe down the road.
Where we worship matters to him.
But that we worship and obey him matters even more.
He has, in his hand, a harvest of joy for us.
We probably won't be able to believe it
We'll be wandering around in a dream, laughing because its so amazing. Amen.

Friday, December 12, 2008

How it Went

Matt has written pretty thoroughly how the hearing went this morning. We took the two oldest with us and they were golden and perfect even though we had to wait for a lot of other cases to be heard.

Now they are shouting and running laps and jumping off the furniture and I am googling, of all things, for a Magical Princess Talking Chair which my daughter unhelpfully saw somewhere and appears to have prayed to Santa for. It is interesting that Santa, apparently, can be contacted spiritually, in their hearts as it were, and not in person (they wouldn't talk to him in the mall, or go near him, sensibly).

Anyway, I have nothing to say about the hearing except that I think it is so funny, and a little weird, that the prosecuting lawyer seems to feel so persecuted by the long process we have put him through, as if it isn't his job to do the work he is doing, and he isn't being payed by the hour. I mean, I'm really sorry we didn't just sign everything over and give up. I think its sort of amazing that they expected us to. But I find it a little whiny that he would take it personally. Also, due to the razor like perception of the judge, it is ridiculous that so many of us (well, I was a baby so I don't count) sat quietly by while 1. women were ordained illegally, 2. the Prayer Book was "revised" and 3. the Dennis Cannon was 'passed'. But, God is patient, even with me, and even if it is 30 years late, better now than not at all. Not that we're trying to take it back, but certainly not to prosper it in all its weird and whiny works. As for me and my household, we look forward to our new life in a new church.
Here's the Video

Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Day of Preparation

In preparation for tomorrow's Court Hearing, Matt is fasting and praying. And I am praying and making Christmas sugar cookies, donuts, hedgehog buns, and winter vegetable soup and we're watching Miracle on 34th Street. I know its Advent, but I decided to throw all solemnity to the wind and party all day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

a sermon I preached today for a funeral

It is an honor to be with you here today, even in grief. I grieve with you and pray that the Word of God, God’s own word, which we will look at together now, will offer you the comfort and consolation that only God himself can bring.

I have just read a portion from the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. You may have heard some of these words before. ‘I am the resurrection and the life’, Jesus said. Or you may have heard of Jesus’ friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

Jesus did not have many friends in his lifetime. He had plenty of people who were sort of interested in him, and people who wanted to be healed, and people who wanted him to save the world, but not many who were truly his friends, who loved him for himself. He had his 12 disciples, and Mary, Martha and Lazarus, and maybe a few more.

Lazarus was not very old when he got sick, suddenly, and Mary and Martha sent immediately for Jesus, knowing that he had the power to heal. In the same way that we, when we fall sick, do the best thing, the thing that is most likely to work—go to the hospital, go to the doctor—they sent for Jesus because he was their best bet. But Jesus does something very strange when he hears that Lazarus is sick. John, in verse 5, writes, ‘Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.’ What a strange and incomprehensible thing for Jesus to do. We don’t immediately understand, just reading these verses. Martha, Lazarus’ sister, didn’t understand. ‘Lord,’ she says, ‘if you have been here, my brother would not have died.’

Well, let us try to discover why Jesus might have done such a thing. We know some things about Jesus which will help us.

First, we know that Jesus is God. He always existed. There was never a time when he wasn’t. He was the means by which God created the earth. He is the Word of God. He is God. He has all power and all authority in his hands. He is God and he can do anything he wants.

Second, we know that Jesus is a man. He is human. He isn’t a little bit God and a little bit human, he is completely God and completely human. And because he is a man, he has felt everything that we feel. He has known all that we know. He has experienced everything that we experience, even death itself.

These two things that we know about Jesus are very important for us today, because you, in the grief and loss of this moment are feeling, in your minds, bodies and hearts, you are experiencing an old and ancient and timeless truth—the truth and knowledge that Death is Not a Good Thing.

How many of you here have heard the idea that death is good? That death is natural, it is part of life? It is part of the Cycle of Life. Death and life go hand in hand. That death is good because it relieves suffering and it happens to all of us, and so we need to accept it and celebrate the person we have lost.

But that word, ‘lost’, causes a big problem for the notion that Death is good. That word, ‘lost’, is like a little neon sign flashing what we all feel and know in our hearts—that death is Not good.

Death is not good, first and foremost, because it was not created by God, it was not designed by God. Death was not built into the fabric of creation. Death came to the world after everything, including human beings, had already been created. After God had perfected and made beautiful the earth, and put man and woman on the earth to care for all he had made, that same man and woman took matters into their own hands and decided that they were as wise as God. They rebelled against him. They didn’t do what he asked them and from that moment on, they were bound to die, and all their children were bound to die, and each of us are bound to die. It was a tragic moment, that first sin, and we are living that tragedy today—every death is a part of that first death, every sin a part of that first sin.

Now, I know that most all of us don’t wake up in the morning and say to each other or to ourselves, ‘you know, I’m going to sin against God and that sin is going to lead me to death’. No, I mean that death is the natural consequence of that fact that all of us have sinned, all of us have not done what God asked of us—which was to love him more than anything, to be perfect, to devote ourselves to him, body, soul and mind. I don’t do that, every day I don’t love God more than everything. I love myself, I love my kids and then, when I remember, sometimes I love God.

The trouble is, I was created to love God. I was created by God to live with him forever and love him and do what he asks of me. And so every moment that I don’t do that, I am not living in his life and love, I am separating myself from him, I am living in death, not life, even though my body is alive.

From our end of things, it’s a hopeless place to be. We sin against God, we can’t help sinning against him, and the consequences of that sin is death. Those we love die, and we loose them, and then we ourselves die.

That’s where Jesus comes in, to this hopeless mess. When we are sick, dying in our sin, we send for Jesus, Jesus, come help me. He can help because he’s God, and because he’s man. As God, he has all power in his hands, not one thing happens to us without his knowledge and understanding. As man, the only human person who has been perfect, who did not rebel against God, did not unplug himself from God’s life, he was able to pay the full penalty for sin, he, in his own perfect will, was able to die the death required of each of us. A little bit after going to Mary and Martha, after weeping over his friend Lazarus, he calls Lazarus out of the grave and raises him in his body, to life. Not as a ghost, or an apparition, but as a whole person. The raising of Lazarus was a picture, ahead of time, of Jesus himself. Jesus, of his own choosing, went all the way to the place where everyone hated him most, Jerusalem, and he put himself in the hands of his enemies, and he was killed. He died. And those who loved him mourned and wept, thinking that they had lost him forever.

But Jesus didn’t just die, it wasn’t just something he did, the way all of us will die. He died to a purpose. He died to destroy death r. He died in order to rise again, in his body. And in dying, and rising, he has opened a door for us. For us who were in the dark and hopeless and in sorrow. Jesus died and rose and opened the door to everlasting life.

What is everlasting life? It is something all of us know about instinctively. You may have said to yourself in this difficult time, ‘I’m going to see Mike again.’ Or ‘I know he’s watching over us.’ Or ‘I can feel him here with us.’ And you’re right. Mike is in everlasting glory. His body lies here, but he is not dead. Death was destroyed forever by Jesus on the cross. For each of us, our souls will live forever.

But that is not all. The news gets better and better, that’s why its called Good News. Jesus, who right now, in his body, sits on the right hand of God his Father in heaven, Jesus is coming again. And when he comes again to the earth, we each get our bodies back. Mike will get his body back. His soul and body will be united again and he will walk around, the way Lazarus and Jesus did, and each of us will.

There’s something you can do, this afternoon, to begin to live now the everlasting life of Jesus, to live for life and not in fear and sorrow of death. And that is walk through the door that Jesus has opened for you. You can pray here and now, and ask Jesus to come and make his home inside of you, to heal you and comfort you and make you whole. You can begin to devote yourself to him, body, mind and soul.

Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.’ Death no longer has power. It has been destroyed. And though you grieve for a moment, for a time, the time for weeping will come to an end when Jesus shall reign on the earth in power and great glory.
Pray with me.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Smatterings of Explanation

I have intimated, once or twice (I think, not wanting this moment to bother to look back) that blogging has lately been difficult due mainly to busyness. But it hasn't really been busyness. I've been too raw, spiritually and emotionally, to write about anything-the mundane details of life which are the bedrock of this blog, food, announcements about the new communion, the funny and ridiculously difficult trip home from Chicago involving a snow storm and three flu ridden and vomiting children-anything. Its a bit like living in the end times, I would say, these dreadful days of Advent. The day of the Lord, that is, our day in court, is fast approaching and we're trying to Get Ready mostly by praying a great deal, lingering over the Bible in the morning, trying to enjoy every second we have in this house and in the church and mentally packing up the house and working out virtual school plans that include packing in short amounts of time verses long amounts of time.

As I implore your prayers for the remainder of this week, but also for the days after while we wait for the judge to make up his mind (I believe he has 90 days) I offer you the following links and hope that you will check them out.

Matt has written here about our long walk towards the court house and our communications with the diocese.

At a Hen's Pace has written beautifully here about the service beginning the New Anglican Church in America.

Ten O'Clock Scholar has hosted (many days ago, SORRY!!!) a second annual Advent Carnival which is well worth the time.

I'm really grieved to find it so difficult to write. I hope, soon, that the flood gates will opened and I will be back daily writing and wasting all of your valuable time.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Where We Are

So we're all here with Matt, in St. Charles, just outside of Chicago. Well, when I say 'with Matt' I really mean 'in the general vicinity of Matt doing completely different things'. He has been working very hard doing something or other, and the children and I have been living in the lap of luxury. Well, when I say 'lap of luxury' I really mean 'creating mayhem and chaos everywhere we go'. I exaggerate. Its probably somewhere between the two. This morning we found a Denny's, that bastion of fine dining and elegance, and ate enough eggs and pancakes to feed a small hungry town somewhere in the world. And then we went to the teeny tiny St. Charles History Museum to look at all the stuff. And then to a grocery store for milk because to buy milk in this hotel practically means selling away our souls.

We're so lucky, I mean blessed, to be able to come. Tomorrow is the launch of the new province and then Thursday we drive home, hopefully in one straight shot.