Monday, December 31, 2012


Several weeks ago Matt and I asked Elphine and Alouicious what they planned to resolve in the New Year, or, to put it another way, what resolutions they might like to make.

"For my New Year's Revolutions" Elphine said, relishing each word, "I will listen to all five volumes of The Story of the World, listen to the Whole Bible, talk less about myself, and be nicer to everyone."
Alouicious was less pious. "I" he said, "resolve to be more awesome."

No matter how often I try to get Elphine to say 'resolution' she persists with 'revolution', partly, I am sure, to spite me, and partly because it is cooler to plan a revolution than a resolution. Who are we kidding? Wouldn't we all like the whole world to be quickly, even if bloodily, better, not slowly and painstakingly improved in tiny ways that the stranger walking by wouldn't even know about? Last year I quietly settled myself to the loosing of lots and lots of weight--to get down to where I was before all the children, imagine--and to read through the Bible in the year, both of which I've basically, though not perfectly, accomplished. But the nose upturned young lady at the jewelry counter to whom I was trying to explain that the earring she'd sold me three days before broke the moment it came out of the tissue paper didn't know that I am much more awesome now than I was last year. I couldn't say out loud, "You shouldn't think I don't deserve to wear these earrings because, in fact, they will look fine on me and I know I'm not looking as fancy as you with all your necklaces and hair, but last year you would have despised me as much, if not more."

So this year, apart from resolving not to hate that young lady, but instead to pray for her or something (does it date me that I keep calling her young?), I am also resolving to
-finally read The Lord of the Rings even if it kills me
-read through the Bible again but in a different order
-post at least 200 times on this blog over the year
and of course
-be more awesome.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

the first decade

Am sitting here holding a couple of kids who feel better but who are pokey and puny after a long night and day of sick, and watching Elf. Vomit and a movie where Will Farrell eats spaghetti covered in syrup--its a fitting way to mark ten years of ordination. Ten years ago on this day, which must have been a Friday or a Monday or a Sunday or something, I had dressed Elphine up in a beautiful little velvet green dress and stuffed myself and my awesome haircut into something black and spent the evening with Matt and Good Shepherd and lots of other people from around Binghamton. That old church was never so full as that night.

And now I'm still wearing black and I finally have an awesome haircut again--took ten years to get it right. But now the kids dress themselves and tell me what to wear and run over by themselves to church, this big huge new church, that is filling up. And now, to counterbalance all this nostalgia and Memorial Sitting Around, I'm going to do a bunch of disgusting laundry. Because that's what the cross is about, probably.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

a cord that ought not be broken

Very very grateful to have finally received the grace and mercy of The Post Office in the matter of Receiving A New Computer Cord. Well, of course, we ordered the cord and paid for the cord and expedited the cord, but it ultimately rested with the gods of the post as to whether they would let us have it in the end. And I think you know what I mean by 'let us have it'.

Also very grateful to have only had to stand in line for an hour and a half to mail a few flat packages and purchase some stamps. Expected it to be, perhaps, the whole day of standing there. And then paid Less than Fifty dollars for this enterprise. Like Whole Dollars Less. The people standing on either side of me, in this line, were trying to smile cheerfully but one was twitching weirdly and another looked to have actual tears in her eyes. I was saying quietly to myself, ', blast it all,'

So here I am, veritably plugged in to the inter web superhighway and ready to catch desperately up on a few things like email, wasting all that lost time on facebook and doing a little tiny bulletin for the Christmas Pageant. In spite of my great loss the Lord was merciful to me. I sat around freaking out for a whole half a day but then, surely inspired by the Holy Spirit, the alien thought struck me that I could, perhaps, rearrange the order of my week. In the absence of a computer I forced myself to catch up on laundry,  complete all my Christmas shopping, wrap piles of stocking presents and get a proper haircut.

And while I have been rushing about, you might wonder, what has everyone else been doing?

Matt has been sitting under a pile of books all week muttering to himself about the Magnificat. I saw a look in his eye two weeks ago and realized that he was planning to carry on with Mark through the Christmas season (where are we in Mark? In the section about corban?) and had the presence of mind to throw a temper tantrum. After a measured amount of shouting and hand waving, he saw things from my view.

The children have been playing wildly, on one end of the spectrum, and on the other (Elphine and Alouicious) writing long chapter stories about Christmas. I haven't had time to read them yet but seeing that they've been carefully written and stapled together and given title pages I feel perhaps this would not be the moment to come out with my red pencil and my clever and critical eye, but rather to put a bow around them and leave them out for "Santa".

Along with a little glass of sherry. And not cookies. Blech. "Santa" wants a large pork pie.

Friday, December 14, 2012

unlinked, unhinged 7 quick takes

My computer cord seems to be taking its last dying breath and I am in the last ten minutes of the battery charge. So it may be that this will by my last blog gasp before Christmas. WHAT A HORRIBLE THOUGHT.
The children are supposed to be running around picking up "quickly" so as to be able to go hear a friend in a concert tonight. But instead of that, it seems they are cleaning up a massive spill of water on the kitchen floor. No one can explain to me how there is so much water.
I haven't been able to post pictures on this, my tiny stupid blog, and I have been so enraged I have not been able to bring myself even to look at my own page. Rage. Anger. Don't know whether to pay money to stupid blogger so as to be able to post pictures or chuck it all and start a new blog on a new platform. Advice? Counsel? Opinions?
shock. I'm not ready for Christmas. I thought I was, but then I looked around and realized I'm Not At All. So am sitting here in my bed thinking of maybe going on a holiday from reality.
Am more and more a proponent of quick public just execution. Who's with me? Or at least with me to pray for these families. Lord Have Mercy. And mercy for Mali, where its just getting worse and worse and worse.
In light of the maybe no picture no blogging thing, Follow me on Instagram! and friend me on Facebook. I would find the links but I'm seriously on my last minutes.
I guess God wants me to go look at the massive puddle of water. There goes my charge! pip pip, sob

Sunday, December 09, 2012

my sermon from this morning: mark 6

So last week, you might remember, we not only entered a New Church Year with the beginning of Advent, we spent it talking about the Beheading of John the Baptist. I myself came away feeling, and I know some of you concurred with me, that the idea of feeling honored by an ignoble and gruesome death was rather a stretch, and we, me, I long for no such honor. However, such a contemplation is well within the bounds of a Godly Advent Observance. Sure most of us under the height of three feet are really Waiting for Santa, and Waiting to Remember that Jesus was Born. But a true advent observance looks forward to the Second Coming of Christ. When Jesus first came into the world as the Light, he overcame the Darkness of Sin and Death. But he did not obliterate it. He calls us every day to push it back, to live in His Light. When he comes again in Glory His Light will be so great that there will no more be need of a sun or a moon, for we will look on him and be satisfied. It was that hope and trust and love that allowed John the Baptist to speak and then finally to die.
So today we pick up in the wake of that great murder and tragedy at another Feast, if you would open your Bibles to Mark 6. Whereas last week the feast was at night, celebrating a man working hard to attain and keep his own honor and glory, a feast of the high up and proud and mighty that Mary sang about in her Magnificat, a feast wherein there was at first a great deal of wine and then finally too much, a feast that debased a young girl and finally ended in murder, today we have its opposite.
Let’s begin in verse 30, the Disciples, having gone out two by two returned to Jesus to report on all that had happened. And they are exhausted. They’ve done a new kind of work, they’ve relied completely on God for everything, and they’ve seen results—the Word went out, signs and wonders were performed. And. They. Are. Tired. And Jesus plans to take them to a Desolate Place to Rest. The same kind of Desolate Place we have seen before, the wilderness where God forms his people, gives them an identity, draws them out to woo them and care for them and speak to them, the Wilderness where Jesus himself goes to commune with and to be fed by his Father. Jesus wants them to Rest and so they get in a boat, not, most likely as we will see from what happens, to go across the lake, but to go along the shore looking for a place to be alone, to regain strength and energy, to recuperate.
Often, when we are really tired and weary, it is easy to go on to the next thing, to go to the next busyness, or to go in heavily for “leisure” as in doing some kind of activity, without really resting, dwelling with God, lying on the couch, resting. If you never stop and rest, you’re saying to yourself and God, I’m stronger than You, You can’t handle any of this without me, this all has to be done My Way.
So Jesus takes them to rest. But, verse 33, as they are going, some, Mark says, “recognize them”. The Greek implies not recognized as in Who they were, but in what they were doing. The crowd knows they are trying to get away and instead of saying, Oh yeah, they’ve worked hard, they need to be alone, the crowd runs on ahead of them to purposefully intercept them. The run is a kind of frenzied run, not like a gentle trot but a crazy, running with all you’ve got run. This is all the crazier because, remember, Jewish men didn’t run. Children ran. Maybe, but I doubt it, a woman would run. But a Jewish man would walk in a dignified way wherever he had to go. But here people from all the towns and villages are running to meet Jesus on the beach when he lands. It might surprise you, but every time I read this, my response and Jesus’ response to these crowds is exactly opposite from each other. Jesus gets out of the boat and “has compassion”, this is a deep gut compassion that is only used about Jesus in the NT, not just feeling sorry for, but a physical reaction in the stomach, for, writes Mark, ‘they were like sheep without a shepherd.’
Sheep without a shepherd are dead sheep. Sheep, apparently, cannot survive without a shepherd. If they fall on their backs they can’t turn over. If they are not led in a group, or a flock, they scatter and get lost. If they are not led to the right kind of water, as in water that isn’t moving, they die of thirst. If they are not brought to grass, they are not intelligent enough to find it themselves. Sheep without a shepherd do not go on living for very long. The frenzied crazed running of the crowd to meet Jesus  are like sheep—they are helpless and sick and directionless and they will go on this way to death unless they have a shepherd. Don’t look at this crowd of sheep from the outside. You have just been running with everyone to meet Jesus. You know what he has done and can do and you are exhausted and harassed. You frequently fling your priorities into the wrong order and neglect what is most important. You have broken and ruined relationships that need healing and repair. You make poor decisions about your body and health. You neglect the word of God and choose to live in darkness and sin. And yet, you are here, seeking a shepherd, seeking the one who can give you life and direction and health. Praise God, praise God that Jesus doesn’t get out of the boat and say, ‘You jerks, leave me alone to rest. Haven’t I given you enough?’ NO, he gets out of the boat and he has compassion.
So, in his compassion, what does he do?
He begins to teach. Verse 34. Here, not turning all these sheep away, he gets out and begins to teach them. Luke tells us that he ‘Spoke to them about the kingdom of God.’ A frenzied crowd assembled on the beach to get close to Jesus and he begins to teach them and goes on teaching them about the kingdom of God. We know he goes on teaching because Mark finally says ‘the hour was late’, Matthew says it was evening. You know, the sun begins to wane, dusk is settling in. If you were at home you would be lighting lamps against the oncoming night and be well into your supper preparations. If you had little children they would definitely be crying by now. But here they are, in a desolate place. And the disciples, who haven’t had a rest, and who have had to listen to a long time of teaching, probably stuff they’ve all heard before and maybe even said themselves on their recent mission trip, have to interrupt the teaching to get Jesus to stop because everyone will be hungry. This is a kind of clash, a kind of collision that goes on every day in the church. On the one hand, the spiritual teaching and nourishment of the gospel is preeminent. And if we were all perfect and in our right minds we would always be strengthened by and attentive to the Word of Christ. And we would offer it freely and completely to anyone who comes in here and everyone we meet outside. But the body is frail, the mind dim. After a long morning of teaching and worship, we drink coffee and eat lunch. After a long day of study and work, you sit down and eat sensibly and chew each mouthful. God created the mind and heart AND the body, and so he taught AND healed the sick. How sensible of the disciples—it is a brief bright moment of sanity for them that vanishes quickly—to hear the murmuring of the crowd and go to Jesus and actually interrupt him. However, we can read their ongoing fatigue which manifests itself as irritation.
‘Send the crowds away into the towns and villages so that they can buy something to eat,’ they tell Jesus.
‘You give them something to eat’ reposts Jesus. This is the call, isn’t it? This is the critical moment in your life with Jesus. You’ve already given him yourself, you’ve given him your whole self, and then you see something that needs doing in the Kingdom of God, something comes to your attention, and you go to Jesus and pray about it, and he says ‘you do it’. And What do you do then? There’s work to be done, the call is there, what do you do? Because every time Jesus calls you to do something, you’re going to look at yourself, and look at Jesus, and look at the job and see plainly and clearly that you don’t have what it takes to do it. One option is to argue with Jesus about it, or even be sarcastic.
What! Shall we go and buy 200 denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat? That’s like a whole year’s wages for a day laborer, and maybe the amount of money they had on them collectively. Maybe Judas jangled the money bag and rolled his eyes. This is how I respond when I discover something else Jesus wants me to do. What! Shall I just Stop Everything I’m doing and go over and do that Even Though I have six children and a house and, for heaven’s sake, I’m HOME SCHOOLING. Or. I can’t possibly do that because it’s not HUMANLY possible. If you try to answer the call of Jesus without going through this step of discovering that if you try to do it yourself, you will fail, then you will miss the point of who Jesus is and why we all follow him. To make sure the disciples don’t miss it, Jesus tells them to go see how many loaves exist among the crowd.
So, there’s this huge crowd, out in the middle of nowhere, a crowd that is so needy, so desperate for help, that when they saw Jesus trying to get away from them And Rest, stopped everything they were doing to catch up with him. Stopped things, maybe, like working to make a living, cleaning the house, taking care of children, doing the regular things of life. Nobody stopped to grab some food. In the whole crowd there seems to be only one thoughtful mother who happened to send her child to see Jesus with five loaves and two fish. We learn from John that a small boy had this amount of food on him. The loaves aren’t big, they’re little flat breads, maybe the size of crackers, and the fish are preserved or pickled maybe the size of a sardine. This is the ordinary lunch of an ordinary little boy roaming over the Galilean countryside. And it’s all there is in the entire crowd. And then, this is so awesome, Jesus takes the kid’s lunch.
This is how poor we are. This is how desperate we are for Jesus. The little that we have is not nearly enough and sometimes even what we have, or think we have, Jesus takes away. My mom and dad live like this. I’d watch them, as a child, counting up what was needed and then counting up what they had, seeing the great gap, and then someone coming to the door in great great need and having to give away the little that there was. It happens to me now with my time and energy. I look at what Jesus has called me to do. I look at who I am. I count up the difference and see the great lack and then something I didn’t account for comes and takes the little I thought I had. I think, in this country, we have so much. None of us have ever been sitting in a big stretch of wilderness with absolutely nothing to eat and nowhere to get it. We do not know that we cannot sustain our own lives. That if God did not provide in a common way, grace—the rotation of seasons and the order of the universe, and did not also hold all of it together in himself, sustaining our lives, giving us our very breath—then we would fall to nothing. Here we are, all here in this crowd together—no lunch, no life.
So he takes the bread and then he, verse 39, commanded them to all sit down on, what Mark now reveals, is green grass, a green pasture. The Lord, the good shepherd, is standing in the midst of his flock, arranging the flock in the pasture into groups of hundreds and fifties. The Greek, might be better rendered in English, ‘He commanded them all to recline—as one reclines at table, with the feet spread out, forming three sides of a square, so as to be able to be served as guests would be at a feast—to recline in open squares upon the green grass. And they reclined in squares that looked like flower garden plots, by hundreds and fifties. The word ‘ranks’ literally means ‘a garden bed’. But the ranks also indicate the groupings of the people of Israel as they went through the Dessert on the way to the Promised Land, the wilderness where God sustained them with heavenly bread, with manna.
And then, taking the loaves, Jesus looked up to heaven and gave a blessing, probably the regular blessing, a thanksgiving for the fruit of the earth, except he looks up to his Father instead of looking down, and then, at once, Jesus broke the bread, and then kept on giving bread to the disciples who passed it and the fish to the people. These poor tired disciples having to pass and pass and pass out bread to the people so that everyone was satisfied—everyone ate and ate and ate and ate. And then gathering up what was left and filling 12 baskets full. And then Mark gives us the punch line—There were 5 thousand men. Matthew adds the line, ‘besides women and children’. Five thousand men, maybe another five thousand women, at least that of children--Scholars say a conservative estimation of the crowd that ate and were satisfied was between 15 and 20 thousand.
This is the last big public display of Jesus’ glorious divinity. Gazing out over the crowd, some wonder if the people knew what had happened. The disciples, laboring to distribute this perfect bread, brought forth by the Creator of All Things, saw what happened but we will discover next Sunday that they did not understand it. Some saw the sign and wanted to make Jesus king then and there. We know that the bread was delicious, that it was extraordinary. John writes that in the morning, discovering that Jesus and the disciples had gotten away, the crowd tracked them all the way back to Capernaum and demanded breakfast. Then, when Jesus offered  himself as the food that they needed, his own flesh and his own blood, they, and even the meager group of his 100 or so disciples were so repulsed and horrified that they all left. Only the twelve, one of whom is a traitor, stay with him.
The impoverished, frantic, dying sheep run to and fro, looking for hope and help but when that hope and help turns out to be Jesus himself and not free bread and free health, the sheep scatter.
Don’t run away from Jesus, this morning. Let him be your food. As you shop for Christmas, or worry about your bills, or consider that food that you need here and now, let Jesus be your Shepherd. When he calls you to a task, discover that you do not have what you need, that you need him. When he calls your name, go to him. Soon he will come again and gather his flock from all time and space, from all the corners of the world into a New Pasture, to a Perfect Heavenly Feast where the One Flock will live together under One Shepherd. Where there will be no more need for the sun nor moon because Christ will be our Light.

Monday, December 03, 2012

a week in review

Took a week off blogging to have rather an unpleasant cold, and also, it was the second week of our school holiday in which we relished the few remaining days of Matt's parents being here and I generally Did Nothing except
Decorate the Tree (I know...I know...Its such a liturgical failure, but it might also be the Miracle of Advent)
Complete All My Christmas Shopping (except that stupid stupid Optimus Prime Remote Control, blast that thing)
Clean The House
Read Matt's Talk for IV Four or Five Times
Read An Actual Book (or start to anyway).

And so now I feel much better and am looking into a future I've never seen before: Advent With Maybe, Is It Possible, Time To Celebtrate It.

Sorry about all the Entitlements. Usually they're spread over a whole week and not gathered together in one tiny backward looking moment.

I just love advent, and I hate hate hate shopping. This time, however, the shopping was generally pleasurable because I had 1. the Internet (which I love of course) and 2. Matt's Mom (who is focused and creative). And because of God being gracious and us working hard at not spending any for a long time, we had, I'm so embarrassed to say it out loud, Money. So, for the first time ever, I have been unshackled from the exhausting and guilt ridden enterprise of trying to Make Things For People. I know when the apocalypse comes and the grid goes away we'll all be sitting in our cold hovels sewing and weaving again, but for one brief bright shiny moment, I've been able to fling down the false narrative that I Can Be Creative Too. Whatever. Going somewhere and buying something beautiful that someone else made was a thrilling experience and I will treasure it for a long time.

The other great gift that came with Getting It All Done is that I can concentrate on actually educating my precious, hemmm, children and remembering to light the candles at night and play the music and read the texts which we love so much but which usually I'm too stressed and angry to remember about. It may be, that in some far distant future, when the children can all put their own coats on, we will Hand Make.....bla bla bla. Why Am I Being Defensive About This? No more pinterest for me.

On that note, I'm going to go fight with blogger about whether or not I can upload pictures. Cheerio!

Friday, November 23, 2012

thanksgiving week part three: blow your nose and be grateful

Everyone has a cold. Well, not everyone, only enough people that it feels like it is taking over.
I, for instance, am well. But the feeling of sickness is creeping up on me with every sneeze of this ghastly child, who, though picturesque in her red dress and combed hair, keeps coming up near me to afflict me with that which ails her. She rubs her nose on my arm or touches my hand with her germ soaked fingers. She sits very near me and then coughs in my face, sometimes gently, sometimes robustly. When she eats she has to stop and breath heavily in and out. And when she sits still, the noise of her puffing fills the whole space. As Fatty Lumpkin would say, "Ewwww". 
It seemed an interminable wait for dinner, on the very day of Thanksgiving.  Everyone sat around exhausted and waiting, having to watch the weird dancing singing and dancing of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and then after that, Football.

We've lately noticed that there can't be anything on TV without some kind of song attached. All the local PBS cartoons (which we sometimes watch on holidays) now have songs in them. Even Arthur. Gak.  So you can imagine how irritating it was to try to watch the parade, when there was actually no parade, but only "brief" numbers from Broadway Musicals which ended up not being nearly brief enough. But we watched anyway, because it is our Civic Duty. And also we all wanted to see Santa Clause.

Matt's mom set the table and did the flowers. She made little individual arrangements for each place setting and then five down the middle, with votive candles all down the center of the table. It was so pretty.

Very sensibly, she did all the flowers on Wednesday, and Matt did all his chopping. I, on the other hand, had various little temper tantrums about the fact that I had to do any work at all--like laundry and pies and bread. By the end of the day it occurred to me that while I had been wandering around in sweatpants shouting at children and complaining in my own mind, everyone else had been cheerfully industrious and that they had all done their work and were allowed to go to bed after a relaxing glass of wine. Whereas I, after taking the baby to the doctor for her Well Baby, would either have to stay up very late, or get up very early. After more fussing, I opted to get up very early.

The baby, by the way, is Very Well. She is fat (for us) and Very Tall (for us). She is in the 53rd percentile for height which makes her our Khloe Kardashian.She whined and moaned and eventually threw herself down on the floor screaming about having to be weighed and take off her shoes and socks and wait in the room and then, when it finally came about for her to have two terrifying (I thought they looked scary) injections, she didn't cry at all. She gazed narrow-eyed at the nurse and then picked in a desultory way at her Angry Bird Band-aid and shouted, "Mayiee, Baouwou", or, as it could be translated, "Mommy, Bottle."
Here she is with Marigold waiting and waiting and waiting for food. It seemed very hard to leave anything ON the table, like the water or the flatware. The water had to be poured on the floor six or seven times and then wiped up.
And also, the dollies had to be put on the table, even though they were supposed to be left to sit carefully against the wall. It was very hard to decide who should have the pink dolly and who should have the purple one.
For a short time, though, Marigold and Fatty Lumpkin felt that they would like to say "Cheese" very loudly and be photographed. And Elinor liked to grin in an awkwardly strange way, saying "cheese" for a long time. In the end, everyone over the age of 8 was glad not to have to eat with them, what with all the pouring of water and shouting and crumbling of food.
But Romulus and Gladys didn't mind. They sat to be photographed for a moment and then went back to lying around in the living room watching the excessive TV singing.
 The boys agreed to wear vests but not ties. Elphine really wanted them to wear their Sunday jackets and lobbied both me and them for a good 35 minutes before giving up and deciding that it didn't matter that much. I was just grateful that they sorted it out themselves.

And that's what the whole day is about, isn't it? Gratitude. Gratitude that we have so much more than enough. Gratitude that God has given us work to do that is fruitful and satisfying. Gratitude that Good Shepherd is thriving and deepening in faith and knowledge and love of God. Gratitude that our children are So healthy and curious and interesting. Gratitude that the table is so pretty and the food is so perfectly cooked. Gratitude that I can be married to a man who cooks the whole dinner while I whine about having to make A Whole Pie. Gratitude that his parents come all this way and do really lovely things like buy lots and lots of paper towels (what a luxury!) and wine and then tickle the babies and encourage Elphine to be the young lady longs to be.
And then finally, after a long day of eating and drinking and talking, I was grateful to sit down.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

thanksgiving week part two: my sermon last night

1 Chronicles 16:34
Oh Give thanks to the Lord for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

We memorized this verse this year, I and my kids, in a little ring of verses. The whole ring starts with 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth'  and goes through for 74 verses. We get to this one as we're flipping along and I say 'OH' and wait for everyone to fill in the rest. 
to the LORD for he is GOOD
and that's where I always stop and say to myself, 'well, that's the crux of the matter, isn't it'.
We have to say out loud, God is Good, because deep in our immortal souls, we don't really believe it. As my kids are whining through the ring, 
why do we have to memorize these verses right now?
can I have an apple?
when are we going to do something fun?
when are we going to have lunch and candy?
as I whine my way through my own day
why can't my kids do what I say the first time?
I don't feel like doing seven loads of laundry.
I don't know why so and so had to ask me to do such and such.
Oh man, I wish I didn't have to put six kids in the car and go to the bank.
we're no better than Eve on that day so long ago, that cool green beautiful day, in that cool garden where all was rest and light and God was there. There, in that place of joy and comfort and beauty, as Satan's breath curled its way around the corners of her mind, Eve doubted that God was good. Eve looked around at everything she had been given, everything she had, she looked at Adam, she looked at her garden and she said to herself, God must not be good, God has held something back from me, God hasn't given me everything that I need, he doesn't want me to have this thing over here, this fruit. He is not Good. I'm not going to trust him.

But that is a lie. 
Eve traded the beauty and goodness of God's provision for a lie.
And we, every day, sometimes every moment of some days, trade the Goodness of God for the lie that he is not enough, that we do not have enough, that what he has given us is not enough, that the beauty that surrounds us is not good, that the lovely people that surround us are not lovely, that the unlovely people can be trusted to God, that the work that comes to our hands is outside the providence of God, that the things that we do need, God will not provide for, that by anxious toil and fretting we might gain something better than God and his love for us. We, not seeing a beautiful cool garden all around us, but sin and destruction and eventually death, very easily trade in the truth of God's goodness, for the lie that we are good, that our own way and our own provision is better.

But even this is accounted for and prepared for by God, who is, whatever we happen to believe or feel about him, good. 
He says, not just in 1st Chronicles 16:34, but all over the psalms and in many and varied ways throughout the entirety of Scripture, 
he says, 'OH Give Thanks to the Lord'
Say thank you to the Lord.
When you rise up, and when you lay down.
When you get in your car and when you find a parking space.
When you cook your dinner and when you eat it.
When you make preparation for Christmas and when you forget and loose your list. 
When things go well, and when things go badly.
When someone hurts you and offends you and when they love and care for you.
When you are sick and well.
Give thanks to the Lord
For he is good.
And then we have some proof. How do we know that he is good. In what way is he primarily good?
For his steadfast love endures forever.
Nothing that we know and see and touch and taste and look at lasts forever. I have six children and so some of the things I love last even less time than a day, certainly not a life time. My inheritance, from my grandmother, comprises some lovely carved giraffes from East Africa. In my mind, they should last forever. But every day, as my children and pets careen through the living room, shouting and banging into everything, and they teeter on the top shelf, I await anxiously the day of their destruction. 
God's steadfast love isn't like that. It can't be shattered.
It can't be injured by your cold and indifferent attitude.
It can't be made to be sometimes steadfast but other times wavering by you forgetting to pray or choosing not to attend to the scriptures. It IS steadfast, and it does endure forever. It will go on after you have died. It will go on whether or not your dinner comes out the way you intended. It will go on if you loose your job or take a pay cut or have your house flooded or get sick.
In the face of all these bad things that both happen to us and that sometimes we choose, God is good, his steadfast love endures forever.
And this steadfast love came to a perfect culmination, a perfect conclusion, a true, most haunting, most beautiful answer to Eve in the garden, to us in our sin, to us in our complaining and lack, in the face of Jesus, on the cross, who looked at his father, in the place of death and suffering and pain, and did not say, You are not enough. I choose my own way. No, not in a beautiful garden where everything is lovely and peaceful, but on a hard and splintery and agonizing cross, Jesus looked at his father and said, You are good, your steadfast love endures forever, I will do your will.
If ever we have a moment to say Thank you, to bless God, to praise him, it is at this moment on the cross where he gathered up everything and accounted for it, provided for it. His steadfast love endures, it comes through trial, it can take it. 
So, Give thanks to the Lord for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.

Monday, November 19, 2012

thanksgiving week part one: the DOG has landed

Matt's parents are here for Thanksgiving (So Exciting!) and they have brought with them their dog, Levee, who was long ago rescued after Hurricane Katrina and who has recently been discovered to be an American Foxhound.

Before I go on, I would like to officially note, in writing, that I have permission to blog about The Dog and that I have been looking forward to and intend to relish the next two weeks and all the delights that await us. Also, if anyone would like to come and be with this dog, in the next two weeks, and earn a mite, facebook me and I'll hook you up. Levee, poor thing, cannot be left alone for any reason because of various anxiety issues (and who among us doesn't have an anxiety issue here or there, tucked away) which will make our movement around the great metropolis of Binghamton a touch restricted.

Anyway, where was I. Oh yes. Levee arrived with Matt's Parents yesterday around noon and was brought in and introduced to Ashy and all the children. Ash, in a fit of true bravery, barked at Levee, but also wagged his tale a lot and twirled round and round like we were all in the circus. And then we all went into the backyard and stood around admiring our gorgeous new fence. Matt's Dad, while saying lovely things about the fence, happened to look over to the large gaping hole between the house and the hedge and said, "Levee can't get out over there, can he?" And as I said, "Uh, maybe" Levee shot through the gap with boundless joy. And ran up the walk past the church and was lost from view. And so people still coming out of church were treated to the theatrical display of me running back and forth up the walk in my slippers, Matt running back and forth up the walk, Romulus...Elphine....Alouicious....Marigold....Gladys...Alouicious' friend from church....Ashy...all of us, back and forth, calling and freaking out. Finally Matt's dad got in his car and prepared to drive around, as did Matt (after yelling at me to 'Put The Dog And Babies In The House For Heaven's Sake') at which point Aloucious' friend retrieved the dog from the community garden and We All Calmed Way Down.

As I write this Levee is going to and fro and up and down doing his best to keep watch over the cat food both by day and night, hoping with a great great Hope that a cat will appear to be bayed at, as one bays and bays in the hunt, as it were. And here I am, blogging even though I need to go stop a child from banging on the piano, and get some of them dressed, and gather some cereal off the floor because We're Going Out, all of us, With The Dog. As I said at first, So Exciting!

Friday, November 16, 2012

quick takes

Matt just sent me this and I thought, 'what a gem'. So here it is.

We go in for baptismal cake at COGS so its nice it features so prominently here. Cough.
This is funny, of course, because Matt happened to fly out to Colorado to baptize an extraordinarily beautiful (his words) baby on Wednesday. And he came back with a lot of Real Tea and some Real Digestive Biscuits because the parents of the baby normally live in England.
So we were without Matt for a day. He had a calm time flying around the country writing his sermon whereas I played a lot of loud music so I couldn't hear the children and did mounds and piles of laundry and prayed that he would come back safely. The children pushed very hard to let me sleep first in my bed and then in the living room, both of which I strenuously resisted. I did finally sit down and watch Nanny McPhee with them, as Elphine had been only mentioning it three or four times a day since she borrowed it from her friend. On the whole funny in a tragic sort of way. Wish I could bang a stick on the ground and have the children fixed in their beds. And I felt for little Simon always having to get everyone out of whatever pickle. Still, I suppose its too much to expect to have more than one intelligent child in a big bunch like that. cough.
Yesterday for Shepherd's Bowl I made Kale Bean and Sausage Soup. I went rather heavy on the sausage which turned out to be a touch more "spicy" than I bargained for and so my one pot of soup turned into two as I tried to dilute it. Then I finally added a third smaller pot with a very bland sausage, hoping that children wouldn't scream about it being hot and scare their parents. One whole pot is left, so if you're in Binghamton and are you're starving around 12:30 on Sunday, come to COGS and have a bowl. IT'S NOT SPICY, I tell you, IT'S PERFECTLY FINE.
Fatty Lumpkin has taken it into her head to, as we so indelicately say, "use the potty", blech. She seems to have it figured out, warning us and everything, which is more than can be said for us remembering and having it in our minds that This Is Going On. Someone, a long time ago, asked me about Potty Training and I've thought about, at length, what Answer I might give for the hope that deep within me lies. And I think my answer is, "I have no idea." We go in heavily for panic and rage but I hear other people have systems and consistency and stuff.
Matt and I have been going back and forth about which direction to go for Thanksgiving, in terms of food, that is. I mean, we're not going anywhere. Where was I. Oh yes. Sundays have been a real pleasure this year with every week a vast cut of pork, a large salad, sometimes a loaf of bread, sometimes a pot of rice. That's it. No fuss. So easy. In Matt's mind this is how Thanksgiving will be. Easy. On the table. There it is. And yet, as we all know, that's not how it shakes out. There is the Turkey and the Bread and two kinds of Potato and Brussel Sprouts and Asparagus and Green Beans and Two Kinds of Pie...I feel like I've forgotten a few things. They all have to be prepped and cooked and on the table at the same time. And then all the dishes washed. Somehow, this year, I need to just give myself over to the whole enterprise. Just "live into the moment" as it were. Whatever.

And now we are going to race around and get ready for Matt's Parents who are on their way as I type. All of us are so excited its hard to concentrate and remember how to do anything.
Go check out Jen!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Part of the kitchen is clean. Isn't that a marvel.

Finally getting the rest of the apples cooked up into something. 
Who knows what. Apple butter? Apple Sauce? 
Not sure what this was about. 
I mean, I was there, I took the picture, but that's all I know. 
Don't blame me. 
And it looks as though I've finally killed off The True Vine. 
I'm praying for resurrection and life, but its looking pretty bad. Still, it lasted nearly five years. 
That's no small length of life for a plant in my neglectful care. 
Go check out Like Mother Like Daughter. I'm off to cook for Shepherd's Bowl. Cheerio.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Alouicious has discovered Calvin and Hobbes. He keeps coming and showing me the gross snowmen Calvin makes and chuckling to himself. In fact, the other day, he came to explain it to me in case I had never read it before.
"I know," I said, "And, when you're done with that one, we have all of them."
Honestly, its the FIRST thing he's reading without being able to put it down. So, even though I was rather hoping that first thing would be, you know, like, The Bible or Ivanhoe or something, I'm not really complaining. If you know and love Calvin and Hobbes, your life will probably turn out all right in the end.

Which brings me to my submission for the 2013 Lander Motto (gleaned from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel which, as a movie was ok but not amazing). Ready?

It will all come out all right in the end. And if it isn't alright, then it isn't the end.

Past Lander Mottoes have been:

This too shall pass.
Let me be your morning cup of coffee.
Where are we going and why are we in this hand basket?
Cheer Up, Things could be worse. So I cheered up and sure enough, Things Got Worse.

I'm sure I've forgotten some. 
Pip pip!

Monday, November 12, 2012

stupidest movie ever?

Or maybe it doesn't even deserve that distinction.

It is a well known fact that Matt and I can't watch anything together except meaningless time destroying NatGeo reality shows and sometimes The Cooking Channel. And, not surprisingly, now that we have children the problem is weekly exacerbated by having to sift through the endless ghastly "Children and Family" sections of Netflix and Amazon. Sometimes we land on a true gift, like Terry Pratchett's Hogfather. (What a gem! How funny! Death as the HogFather--really a delight!) And then other times we land on things like the awful awful awful awful awful Happy Feet.

What can I even say about this "film" without further irritating myself? Let's see, Male Penguin A "sings his heart song" and "meets his one true love" (that is Female Penguin B) or whatever but then, while Female Penguin B is off fishing for the long winter, Male Penguin A drops their Egg which causes said Egg to be unable to discover his own Heart Song and find his own One True Love. Instead of having a "Heart Song" he has "Happy Feet", that is, he tap dances instead of singing. Other little extras in this Boring Cliche That is Nearly Every Movie Produced For The Betterment of American Children include the Evil Scottish Puritanical Penguin who Hates Science and is An Idiot, the Bad Father (Male Penguin A) who Doesn't See His Egg's True Potential, Love Interest Penguin whose Heart Song is from American Idol (I guess) and whose entitled and snappy attitude made me feel really tired. And finally, the whole mess is driven forward by the Evil Environment Destroying Human Being Finally Able To Save All The Dancing Penguins By Offering Up True Repentance In The Form Of A UN Enacted Antarctic Fishing Ban.

The intellectual incoherence of telling the child that, on the one hand, he needs to discover his true self and look deep within himself to discover true happiness, and on the other hand, that his presence on this earth is evil and will eventually Destroy Everything boils my onion every time.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

praying with children

Its so important to pray with children, just like it is to do other hard things with them like Cook and Eat Dinner, Carry on a Conversation, Fold a Single Solitary Basket of Laundry, Pick Up the Blocks, Remember What It Was You Came Into This Room For Will You Stop Screaming So I Can Think For A Minute. And so on and so forth. Prayer, as many of us might remember, is a foundational part of the Christian Life and children should be included in it, even if it kills you.

My children's real prayer life begins in the Atrium with Catechists of the Good Shepherd. There, at the age of three or so, as they learn to pour beans, line the sheep up behind the Shepherd, paste construction paper cutouts of the chalice and the paten over the cutout of the altar, roll up their mats and speak nicely to one another, they learn to speak to and hear God. Its not difficult and basically lovely (on the days when Gladys doesn't have her lip out and a hard look in her eye that says 'I'll have everything my way'). You turn the lights off, light the candle, gather in a "half circle" at the prayer table, sing "The Lord is my Shepherd" and then the many things little people are thankful for or concerned about spill readily forth. Marigold, every day finding the pleasure of more speech, clutches her fists together, screws her eyes half shut and says "Jesus.....(stuff we don't usually understand)....Amen" and the looks around, extremely pleased with herself. Gladys, strangely, speaks to a Person, we know not who, and asks for the information to be relayed on to God. Something like, "Please help God to give us a lovely day and a lovely dinner and a lovely going to bed. And please help God to help us have a lovely time."
"Who is she talking to?" a child will inevitably whisper very loudly.
"Shsh" I whisper back, "don't worry about it".

And of course, the prayer continues at home. We pray before meals, enforcing a strict Keep It Short And Simple or the person whose turn it is to pray is liable to go rambling through the avenues of forgetful repetition, "Thank You for Mommy and Daddy and Everyone Else". The Prayer becomes flustered, and starts again and again. And we pray before bed. And we say Morning Prayer three times a week in the course of doing school.

Ah, Morning Prayer. Its so Anglican. It would be so pious were not for the screaming of me to BE QUIET and SIT DOWN and STOP KICKING YOUR SISTER. Basically we get through the Opening Sentence (Rite Two, BCP pg. 79) and start the Confession three or four times before settling in. Sometimes we name aloud what we feel sorry about, trying to steer away from things like "I feel weally sowy that Womulous was mean to me" and more towards "I am weally sowy that I was unkind to Marigold". After the Confession is singing. Right now we're learning "New Every Morning is the Love" and "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus". Then we recite whatever we're memorizing and work on the Catechism. And finally we leap over everything remaining to say the Lord's Prayer, Suffrages A, and then our own free praying. And I must say that every day I'm amazed by how passionate and heartfelt each little child's prayers are that God would make sure and give us all "A Good Time", or, to vary it, "A Fun Time". As if their little lives are one long miserable rotten sorrowful existence. As if they don't play solidly from the moment their eyes open until they close at night. As if they don't have a constant stream of lovely friends parading through their house and the church. As if they don't have lovely stories and lovely lovely coloring. As if they don't watch all kinds of too much TV. As if they don't eat massive bowls of porridge covered in real cream and drink real mugs of tea. What is this passionate anxious calling out to God for A Good Time? As they cry out to God I ask myself, "Are you kidding me?"

But, of course, they're not kidding. And neither are any of the rest of us when we worry deeply about all the things that threaten our comfort and Arrangement of Life. Long ago, when I was small child in the far off dry unrelenting heat of the Malian Savanna, my mother sat by my bed and prayed "Dear Jesus, Thank you for this Day. Please help us to have a Good Time at the beach tomorrow." And then she opened her eyes, as I did mine, and we laughed and laughed until we cried. And one day, much much later, we did go to the beach, and we seriously thanked God for it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

in the clear light of day

We're going to the pancake barn in a minute as a peace offering to our poor children. They have suffered much in these tempestuous political times, having been made to watch the news and  listen to us chatter and generally be sucked into a morasse of Idiocy. They deserve a pancake.

As for me, I am extraordinary relieved that the whole wretched thing is over. As I finally voted on my third try yesterday (First Time: Doddering Old Ladies couldn't cope with not finding my name in the book and sent me somewhere else. Second Time: Man with enormous mustache tells me "There's no way in hell you're voting here today." Third Time: "Doddering Old Ladies let me cast a paper ballot that probably won't be counted.) rather than feeling a flood of gratitude for our Great Democracy I was filled with a profound sense of Doom. And, of course, that carried itself well into the night.

Apart from the ongoing horror of abortion and my great great worries about the "foriegn policy" of the last few months, my biggest sense of grief is first hand, on the ground knowledge, that the more a government "gives away", the more it takes of the person. The more a government meagerly and miserly doles out to us poor wretches, the less room in the human heart for the majesty, risk, terror and love of God. The more we look to Man, the less we need God. This has real life applications for the local church as we struggle to spread the gospel. The State has won in a real and pracitcal sense the battle for the human soul. Our work here in Upstate NY, already an upward climb, I expect to become darker and more difficult.

And yet, as many have noted, God is soveriegn, Jesus sits gloriously on his throne, and he will bring everything about for his own glory. And so, we are going out for pancakes. And we're turning off the news in repentance for having turned it on in the first place. And we're going to set our eyes toward the high hills, the narrow way, the cool mountain air, going deeper in and further up to know the One in whom, one day, All will be All in All.

Monday, November 05, 2012

election eating

For Breakfast: Cinnamon Rolls that feel healthy because of being whole wheat but not really healthy because of all the butter and sugar. The children will eat them. Matt will eat a carefully measured cup of Fiber One (blech) and I will eat an egg.

For Lunch: Whatever. Who cares about lunch on election day.

For Dinner: Fondue as a nod backwards to Reformation Day. This year, the Swiss Reformation. Last year was the German Reformation (Sausages and Beer). Next year oughta be the English Reformation. What would that be? Steak and Kidney Pie? Trifle? I have a year to consider.

Anyway, Fondue. Really easy. Two pounds of cheese (Emmental, Gruyere, etc. etc.) grated and dusted with flour. Fondue pot rubbed with a garlic. A bunch of white wine. A bay leaf. Heat the wine and add the cheese in handfuls and attentively stir it as it melts. Don't let it clump together on the bottom and burn. Gather in Lots of Bread to dip in the cheese. But, a la Asterix, if you drop your bread in the pot, you have to be thrown into Lake Geneva with a millstone around your feet. Am I remembering that correctly?

And then Nigella's Chocolate Pots. Times 4: 3 bags Godiva dark chocolate chips, 2 cups heavy cream, 1 1/3 cups whole milk, splash vanilla, brandy or something, melted together and then blended and then 4 eggs tempered and added to the hot milk chocolate. Don't burn it like I did tonight! Pour it all into little cups and stuff them in the fridge to wait for the moment you realize, as you're watching the returns, that what you really needed was not more cheese, nor more wine, but a serious amount of chocolate to see you through the difficult times.