Friday, January 22, 2010


I had hoped it would be a bit warmer, but at 37 degrees and dry, I decided to go ahead and burn the aging palm branches that have been in the garage for 1-2 years.
It took abit to burn serveral branches (still have a lot of palms left). I let the metal can cool for a while, which at this temperature wasn't all that long. Then I used a wood stick with flat end and stomped them (not unlike a mortar and pestal). I brought the can in, took a small glass bowl and my small mesh sifter (the kind with a half bowl screen mesh and a handle) and put ash in and tapped it against my hand. I filled the sifter about 4-5 times (it's a really small one with finer mesh)and dumped the larger slivered pieces into the garbage. What ended up in the bowl, was a fine dark, black ash. The best I have ever made. I put them in a ziplock bag for storage.
And while the ash burned I said a prayer of blessing for all who will receive these ashes on Ash Wednesday.
They turned out so well, that I plan to burn the rest of the palm branches tomorrow when the temps should be in the 40's and dry. We will have enough ashes to last us the rest of our preaching careers. (And just as fine and great as the ones you buy.) Finally, I was able to do something well and right. I didn't muck it up in any way and they turned out beautifully.
And so, slowly, the preparation for Lent is taking shape and I am wearing the pungent odor of burned palms which have a singular smell that is staying with me and reminding me of my mortality and causing me to reflect more on what is dying and needs to die in my life, in order for rebirth and something new to take shape. Perhaps, with the burning of the palms there has been a burning of my sins as well. Out of the ashes arises new hope.

1. What was the mode of transit for your last trip?
LH's car to the Lake House on Lake Michigan in Wisconsin. Or my minivan,
Mystic, in which I travel home every week and use near every day.

2. Have you ever traveled by train?
Yes, I rode Amtrak from college (Springfield, IL area) to home (Chicago).
I've ridden the train from Frankfort to Basel, and all over Switzerland, main
SBB and regional.
I've also spent many hours on the "EL" in Chicago.

3. Do you live in a place with public transit and if so, do you ever use it?
Not really. And so I don't use it.

4. What's the most unusual vehicle in which you ever traveled?
Let's see...a cable car (gondola) up mountains in Switz. and Table Mountain,
South Africa.
Cog wheel trains in Switzerland and Cape of Good Hope, South Africa.
An amphibious Duck in the Wisconsin Dells.
A Degot - a french made, cheap "duck" car. You folded the back window up
halfway to open it!!
A Citroen - with hydraulic back suspension, what a soft, smooth ride (in the
'60's and '70's)
A CAT bulldozer - my Dad would take me for a "spin" at the dealership where
he worked or one out at a construction site.

5. What's the next trip you're planning to take?
Well, hopefully, Sunday afternoon I'll trek back home for the night.
In June, we'll fly across the Pond to merry old England to celebrate my
nephew's wedding to his British wife. Then a quick trip to Switzerland to
vist a couple relatives. We'll be flying and driving ourselves around.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

350th POST!

I hope I am not overstepping any etiquette boundaries of RGBP, but as an on-line community of clergywomen, I am wondering what happens when one of us drops out? How can we encourage and support them? So, I send out this plea -
Cheesehead, we miss you. I know that you are taking time to heal, refocus, and be renewed. Know that there are so many of us who care for you, and are surrounding you with prayer. We miss your voice, your wisdom, your humor, your faithful obsersvations and hope it will return one day. Truly you are missed. I know this is a difficult time for you - it has been for me as well and for others. Maybe we can walk through this together and find our faith, our joy, restored.
Just wanted to let you know this and put it out there for our members to consider how we can be there for one another.
Come back when you feel you are ready, but know that you are missed and loved.

Monday, January 18, 2010

So yesterday on my way to visit a parishioner, my left back tire just blew. I moved over to the wee little berm there was on the two lane road. I put on my flashers. When it was safe, I got out to look at the tire - it was blown, like non-repairable blown.
Got back in the car, called the National Emergency Car Service Club and was told help would be there within an hour. I called the parishioner and apologized, and rescheduled the visit for today. About 45 minutes later, the tow truck appears. The whole time I waited in the car, desperately praying that no semi-truck would hit me.
I backed the van into an extra wide driveway and the competent young fellow went straight to work - found the spare tire, jacked up the van and in almost no time had the spare tire on. He declared the tire unrepairable and cautioned me, "no hot rodding" on the spare tire. Since my tires were only a year and a half old, I had to drive into the Shopping Mecca of this area about 1/2 hour away. Took it bit longer as I had to keep under 55 miles per hour.
Arrived at the National Tire Store, where they were busy. So, I had to wait and then wait some more. I left there about 5:45 pm in time for some supper and a quick stop to a craft store to pick up some clay. I got home around 7:30 pm.
The whole time, I didn't panic, didn't rage, and just let it be as it was. I calmly called the Auto Club, and parishioner. I calmly drove to the Tire Store. I calmly waited until they replaced my tire and paid the $90.00 on the credit card. I called LH and let him know.
I don't know where or why I was so calm. Usually, I panic some, then I get angry at my day and time being totally trashed by such a thing. It didn't happen this time at all.
Is it my age? Is is that even in this dark night, I know that God is with me? Is it that because of the ennormity of the Haitian earthquake and the overwhelming suffering, that this seemed piddlysquat in comparison?
Perhaps, it is a combination of all these things. Whatever it was, I liked my response. Calm, cool, collected. Not shaken, panicked or raging. Just an acceptance of what is. Such things happen. What can you do? You go along with it, get it solved as quickly as possible and go on your way.
Now, if only this will translate to all other areas of my life - it would make things so much easier!!!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Certainly our prayers and grieving, anguished spirits are with the suffering in Haiti.
The scenes are horrific and devasting and the countless lives lost.
Many donation sites are cropping up.
As for me, I will stick with PDA (Presbyterian Disaster Assistance) - which never gets mentioned on news sites and Lutheran World Relief. Every penny of every dollar goes directly for aid for those impacted by the disaster.
People beware. Choose to give where your dollar will be best spent and not pocketed by those scheming to make a profit and quick buck off such a disater. Choose wisely and well. Our mainline denominations are honest and trustworthy with these funds and use every penny for aid.
Americans are such generous people, so willing to offer help and be of service, just choose wisely and well where to donate your money. At such times as this, I am thankful to be an American, to stand with others, to help, to pray, to grieve, to comfort, to offer some measure of hope and to jump in to offer aid.
God be with and hold in God's gracious, sorrowing love the victims, the nation, the relief and aid workers and the grieving families of all in Haiti.

Monday, January 11, 2010

As I do more reading and reflecting, it has become more and more obvious that I am experiencing a dark night - la noche oscura. It probably began two years ago when some energy and spirit left me. It really came out this past year and now, I am in the thick of it. Struggling with it. Living with it. Wrestling with it.
I have been through a dark night before and it lasted quite some time. This one seems to have settled in for the long haul. I don't want to grope around in dark obscureness, searching for God, longing so desperately to feel God's presence. I know that I can never be beyond the realm of God's care or presence (that came out of my last dark night) but it still feels that way at times in my heart and in my soul.
A colleague's dark night lasted seven years. God knows that I can't function with such a protracted dark night. At least I hope God knows me well enough for that.
Of course, Mother Terese struggled for years as well. What makes me think I should be spared?
Trusting God, trusting the darkness in which God is so mysteriously at work, takes all that I am. There is preparation for something in this time and I have to let it unfold in all its mystery, unknownness, and surprising wonder. As a seed sits in the cold dank dark ground all through the winter, as Jesus lay in the dark tomb on Saturday, God works in the dark as well as in the light. Jesus was born in the night, arrrested at night. When he died, darkness covered the land. Even Nicodemus came to Jesus in the dark of the night to ask his questions. God guided the Israelites through the wilderness with a pillar of fire by night. God created from nothing and darkness.
I don't know how long this dark night will last but I pray that I may endure it, learn from it, befriend it. But I am not there yet. Not quite ready to befriend it. But pray about that I shall to the Great Silence.
I feel more like I am mired in this dark night. I went into it to kicking and screaming and died or am still dying into it. Now that I know, that I am in this dark night and that God works in this dark night, that awareness brings me some measure of comfort and assurance and makes it a shade less painful.
How have your dark nights been for you? Have they been of long endurance or shorter times? How best have you dealt with your dark nights?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Not good. We're in line to get several inches of snow this afternoon, tonight and tomorrow.
I will leave earlier and try to get home in one piece with my van. Freezing rain has already iced over the windshield. It will be a challenging drive home, no doubt.
I should be at a meeting late this afternoon about an hour S of here - but I run the risk of not making it home. Torn between my duty and being able to see LH and the boys. It is not easy.
I also have my banking, oil change, laundry and grocery shopping to do, plus pick up the things I need for my children's sermon. Home is winning out. There will be another meeting next month.
I don't want to slide off the road or be stuck somewhere.
May God be merciful, gracious and forgiving.

Monday, January 04, 2010


The snow continues to flake from the grey skies in this freshly born new year.
The year has just begun and already I'm tired, or rather fatigued. Probably, from the stress and the fact that I have yet another funeral this week. It is another one who was baptized in the church and never lived into that baptism through a connection with a faith community. Fortunately, it will all take place at the funeral home and graveside and there will be no luncheon at the church giving the church ladies a week off!
I tend to stress greatly over funerals, praying that somehow, the words I speak will offer some measure of comfort, impart the hope of faith in Christ, ease the heartache. I am always questioning, what will I say this time? Somehow, the Spirit inspires and helps provide words and God reminds me of God's endless supply of grace.
I think back to when LH's Mom passed away from a massive stroke back in 1999.
She lived with her second husband in a small rural town in central Illinois. When she died, the far-flung and out of touch family gathered in this very small town on the day after John Kennedy Jr.'s plane went down.
One estranged brother, who journeyed to town, simply couldn't face the family and stayed in the motel room. The other came from across the border from Canada, the daughters, and the other estranged brother were present as well as LH and myself.
The funeral home was a page out of a turn-of-the-century novel with flocked wall paper in one room and in the parlor - hunting scene wall of red coated hunters on horses leaping over fences, following foxhounds on the scent of a fox, no doubt. Oddly curious for a funeral home parlor!
The poor pastor was not even from this small town, that one was out of town on vacation, and he was the interim pastor of a congregation from yet another small town with no connection to the family. ( I understand that, being an interim and often not having much connection with a family - like the funeral I'll be officiating tomorrow.) Apparently, he was told by the Aunt (LH's Mom's sister) that the one son was a Lutheran pastor also and his wife was a Presbyterian pastor. I suppose that could unnerve even the most self-confident of us, clergy.
I couldn't even remember the passage he preached on. It was a long, overly long message (20-30 minutes in length) that seemed unending and probed the Kennedy tragedy playing out on CNN that day. Why such focus on the Kennedy's and so little on this family's grief and loss?
I was hard-pressed to hear words of comfort, hope and grace in this rambling, rather irrelevant sermon. I was convinced that the one brother, an adherent of an eastern religion who grew up Lutheran, after this funeral sermon, would never, ever return to his Christian faith. (He hasn't). How badly I felt for LH and his family, who needed to hear a word of grace, hope and comfort and somehow never received it.
In the car ride to the cemetery, the daughters came up with words to describe the funeral sermon for their mother: "horrendous, awful, etc." Not what one would ever expect to hear but all too true.
My sister and I were blessed with two good funeral sermons and services by two different Presbyterian pastors in two different states, one of which was a woman interim pastor. We left our respective services, ministered too, assured, comforted, hopeful, soothed, and blessed, amid our deep grief and sorrow. When my Dad was diagnosed, my sister brought him to the Windy City, back from the Sunshine state, where he and Mom had retired to several years earlier. So, the interim pastor there had no knowledge of my Dad, even though it was the church of which my sister was a member.
I pray that whenever I officiate at a funeral, that God's grace would flow through me and the words I speak, that no family will go away scratching their heads, feeling worse than before, and left in the pit of their grief.
Here it is, the first week of a new year, and already a funeral! I've been doing a funeral nearly every week since mid December. I pray this is the last one for a good long while. But I had hoped that since the last one.
It will be a long week, this first week of the new year. There will be two meetings, I won't be home til near 7:30 pm on Thursday, and Presbyery meets Sat. morning meaning I lose my other day off. My hair is turning greyer as I write with barely the hope of being colored, my van is due for an oil change, laundry and grocery shopping will need to be done, the shower stall is screaming for a scrubbing, the van needs an e-check before I can renew my plates! My husband and greys will barely see me as I run around doing errands on Friday and off again on Sat. morning. Simply not enough time to be together, to be home. It is exhausting just thinking about it all.
I will live it day by day, in the present moment with which God has gifted and graced me. And I am thankful- for a home to go to, for my greys who await my coming, and for LH who I miss so much. May the snow fall lightly upon the roadways in the next day or two and by Thursday abate, so that I may travel swiftly and well, back to the ones I love.