Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Yet Another Funeral -
I am ready for a couple of months with no funeral.
The one Thursday is an elderly man whom I visited once last month and was planning to visit again this week. Only he died before I could visit again.
It was unexpected. He was a gruff, salty kinda guy with fuzzy memories that Alzheimer's brings. I didn't even know about him 'til middle to late January, when his SIL called and mentioned he could use a visit. I've been visiting that nursing home for over a year and nobody told me. Course, he hasn't darkened the church probably for 30 or more years. His daughter remembers coming to church when she "was little."
I'm beginning to feel like an angel of death. Most everyone I've visited in the nursing homes have died and some I visited at home.
I'm beginning to feel scared to visit to visit the homebound and the last remaining one in the nursing home, for fear it won't be long until they too, pass away and join the church triumphant.
I'll be known as the interim who brought death to members rather than life. I've lost more members than have been gained during this interim.
That's probably happened in most every church I've served.
It's not that I haven't reached out and spent time ministering to non-members. They just haven't joined. It also seemed that every visitor to whom I sent a note thanking them for worshipping with us and an invitation to call me, should they have a need, was never met by someone joining the church. All the members who have joined did so, by the invitation of a member of the church.
In my 26 years of ministry, that's not much of a track record. But, I know, that in some ways, I have brought Christ a little closer to them in their time of need. The rest, of course, is in God's hands. I am not an evangelist by any stretch of the imagination, although, I do tell the good news of Jesus Christ in my preaching, in my praying, in my visiting the lonely and the homebound and the sick, in the confirmation class, etc.
I just don't appreciate this mantle of the harbringer of death I seem to be wearing lately. It is unsettling, unnerving.
Just a couple months more and I pray onto a new place to serve...May I bring life and the promise of new life into this week, into the funeral, into wherever I will be blessed to serve next.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


For today's Friday Five, please share with us five spiritual practices or disciplines from your experience. They can be ones that you have tried and kept up with, tried and NOT kept up with, ones that you flirt with at various times, or even practices that you have tried and found are definitely NOT your cup of tea. Let us know what's worked for you...and not.

1. Lectio Divina -
although I don't engage in lectio every time I study the Bible, it
has been a most helpful spiritual practice. I find that I read the
Bible text slower on Sunday mornings in the pulpit as well which I
believe congregations have appreciated. When done in a group, it is
even more meaningful for me as the passages expand in greater depth,
significance and meaning.

2. Daily Examen - opps, it should be daily, but I admit that it isn't
always daily. I find it helps me to know where I was close to God that
day, to thank God, and to confess where I missed the mark, and what
lead me away from God.

3. The Jesus Prayer - this is one I engage with from time to time. It was
a great struggle for me to pray this prayer as I was too focused on
getting the phrasing correct. However, when I heard the prayer set to
music, it opened up for me. Now, when I pray the Jesus prayer, I put to
the music I heard it set to in my head. That works for me.

4. Labyrinth - this has been a wonderful way for me to pray with my body
and has centered me. I don't often get the chance to walk it any more.
I have had some incredible prayer experiences when I walked the
labyrinth. It never ceases to totally amaze me.

5. Spontaneous Prayer - my most active practice. More times a day than
sometimes I can count. A quick prayer of intercession for someone, a
thank-you for something I have noticed, felt, or was given, or a word of
adoration. From the mundane to the sacred in the moment, I speak them
to God. And as Meister Eckhart has pointed out, if giving thanks is
all we do, than that is prayer enough.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is anyone else somewhat disturbed by this new trend of church ladies pole dancing to Christian music?
Quite frankly, there's something really disgusting about it and I can't help but ponder what our Lord must be thinking, shaking his head side-to-side, his heart aching, thinking this is NOT bringing me any glory whatsoever.
Why do you need a pole to dance your faith any way? Isn't it more freeing not to be "tied" to a pole and let your spirit and body move freely?
Wouldn't it please Jesus more if you danced your way through life, sharing his love, feeding the hungry, visiting the imprisoned, comforting the sick, clothing the naked, etc.?
There is a difference between something sensual and something sexual. Pole dancing falls in the latter. Prayer and images, meditation and dancing can be sensual without being sexual.
Pole dance for your husband, if you must or will. But, please, don't do it for Jesus.
Just wondering if I'm the only one who finds it sullying, and just plain, out-of-place or have I turned into a I just-don-t get-it, middle-aged frump?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Seven years last fall, I planted hope one afternoon. In the dirt of the front flowerbeds, I put in crocus, tulip and daffodil bulbs. Today, with the crocuses blooming which have every year multiplied, I am the first in the neighborhood to have something blooming and a splash of color. Such a simple thing and now, all who pass by can see them and I enjoy and delight in them.
This spring, I am looking for hope. For something new to spring up for LH and I. I suppose it would mean moving and I will have to leave my beloved meadow with the open view of the sky behind. I will have to leave my gingko, my perenials - grape hyacinths, coneflowers, siberian iris, brown-eyed susans, bee balm, baby's breath and butterfly bush behind. I hope the next owners will enjoy them.
I hope that something will come forth for us; new life, a place to serve, a place to call home and live together, a backyard for our greys. I hope it is not too much to ask or to hope for.
Will the hope I planted in my heart from the Word of God, take root and bloom this year? May it be so. May it be so.

Friday, March 18, 2011

How do I know? The crocuses are busting out in beautiful purple blooms with orange centers. Just gorgeous amid a brown and empty landscape! Even the honeybees are out sampling the first blooms of spring. Vibrant, wonderful, glorious color!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Yikes, the computer modem went out at the church and I spent a long afternoon with two different tech support people, plus our local computer magician only to find out that our modem went bad. So, a new modem had to get shipped and then another 1 1/2 hours on the phone with tech support again to get the modem to register.
All this for a little box with a bunch of cables plugged into it.
Couldn't check my email all week or look up anything. Felt disconnected.
Nothing like a little black box with cables hooked up that makes the magic of the internet appear on your screen and connect you with the larger world.
I can't even begin to imagine how disconnected the people of Japan are feeling in the midst of such a horrific disaster and nuclear crisis. My prayers are with the grieving, suffering, anxious, fearful, overwhelmed people of Japan. The images were surreal and yet all too real. And one's heart aches at the enormity of it all.
I am slowly, ever gently having to disconnect from my time here as the PNC is close to finding a new pastor. My time is getting shorter and I will need to find another position, another place to serve. Sometimes, it seems my future is as bleak looking as some of the folks and areas of Japan. Yet, I press on, trusting that somehow, someway, God will provide and open something up for us.
This living on the edge of nonexistence, this teetering on-the-edge-of-a-plate life is wearing thin, has zapped my energy, my imagination, and has broken me. All I can do is bring the fragments to the Potter who can heal and make whole. All I can do is seek the wee flicker of light in this dark night of my soul. All I can do is pray to the Great Silence, and wait and trust.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Maybe it's just me, but I often remember how long ago someting occured or something about it by recalling the car we had at the time. For today's Friday Five, tell us about the cars in your life.Specifically, tell us about:

1. The earliest recollection you have of a family car -

It was a pinkish beige Chrysler, early 1960's with a bit of a fin and
slanted front headlights. It had a clear plastic covering over the
seats that had tiny raised triangles on it that left imprints on your
bare legs. Of course it was hot in the summer and you stuck to it and
cold in the winter. There weren't any seat belts as I recall nor did
we have car seats. The front and back were bench seats.

2. The first car you drove when you could (legally) get behind the wheel yourself. -

That would be when our family had two cars and our second car was a stripped down 1972/73 Ford Maverick, with plastic flooring, only an AM radio and my sister and Mom shared it.
Later I shared it with them. The family car was a Chrysler Newport -
brown, as long as the Queen Mary, which I had to wash and wax. I also
drove that one, but preferred the smaller, easier to park Maverick.
The last year we had the Maverick ($3,000.00 brand new)I drove it
commuting to our nearby community college. It had no heat any more
and I wrapped myself in a wool blanket. The backseat floor behind
the driver's seat was soft - rusted through and you couldn't put
anything heavy like grocery bags on it!

3. A memorable road trip -

Wow, there were so many. Perhaps, the most memorable were in my Dodge
Charger that my folks got me when I graduated from Seminary. Also,
a bare bones car that had AM/FM radio, but no A/C. It was grey 1984
model. I had a sunroof put in to help ventilate in summer. I drove
400 miles every other weekend from OH to IL to be with my husband
LH. That was during the summer of 1988. The summer of the hot drought.
I'd arrive in IL and hit the shower just to cool off and wash the
dusty road grime off of me. Two weeks before our first anniversary,
we actually moved in together in OH. I also vowed never again to own a
car without A/C!!!

4. The car you drive now. Love it? Hate it? -

I am on my third Dodge minivan and I do love it. Room enough to haul
all my stuff, especially living away from home again. Plus, it
accomodates our two greys. The middle bench is stored away in the
basement and so anyone sitting on the back bench has plenty of leg
room. I love my perch and view while driving. Just wish it had a

5. An interesting story that involves you and a vehicle. (No, I do not have a dirty mind!)-

We had Dad's old company car early 1980's Mercury Cougar, 4 door
sedan, Ivory cream color shipped to Switzerland and stored at my
Grandma's (who never learned to drive). Whenever we went over, we
had a car available to us. We went over quite often. During the
summer of 1983, when I interned at a church 2 towns over from my
Grandma's I had use of the car for the summer. When I went to see
the church for the first time on a Sat. there was a wedding. I was
told by some guest who pointed by church and said park down there.
I took them literally, and found myself driving down stairs toward
the church and found a little alley to turn into. I was mortified
as onlookers watched a crazy American driving a "big" American
car down the steps!!!! The car survived with nary a scratch. I was
very shaken!!!
When LH and I made our honeymoon to Switzerland 5 years later, we
drove the old Cougar and decided one day to take the most direct and
shortest route from a resort village to another bigger town. The road
on the map was a thin yellow line. OK, so it was a small road.
However, part way across the hill, we were stopped by the military
who said they were "shooting a little" that day. I said we were just
passing through to the one town. He radioed to suspend shooting til
we were through and waved us on. A little ways later, the road turned
to gravel and then just two dirt tracks through meadow. After 10-
15 minutes it became a narrow one lane road again. Needless to say,
we took the longer, wider road home that evening. I put that old
Cougar through a lot, and it survived, by the grace of God!!!

Despite the above stories, I am a very good driver and have miles and
miles to prove it!

Bonus: What's your idea of good "car music?"

Usually "oldies": Beach Boys, Styx, America, Supertramp, Carole King,
Manhattan Transfer, Gordon Lightfoot, Bare Naked
Ladies, Simon & Garfunkel, The Cars and a good
oldies station. Quite an ecclectic mix!!!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A Blessed Lent -
LH told me he heard the trill of the red-winged blackbird in the meadow behind our house. Although, he didn't see them, he heard them. They have a rather distinctive call. The first sign of spring around these here parts is not the robin, which often spends the winter here, but the red-winged blackbird.
The crocuses are pushing up as are the hyacinths, daffodils and tulips, but the crocuses will bloom first.
Lent begins this year not in the tight-fisted clasp of winter but in the opening hand of spring, ready to receive new life.
Most in our culture and society pay no attention to this sacred season of Lent. It comes and goes without much notice, except for the bunnies, baskets and bags of jelly beans and candy.
I find I need Lent, to offer up the deadness, finiteness of my life, to empty out the accumulated stuff I gather in a year within me and to be more intentional in prayer, in reading scripture, in time with my Lord. I need to be drawn into the passion of Christ and to be touched once again by a sacrifice of love so great, that I am here, alive, and counted as one who is loved and belongs to God, no matter how flawed I am or how grimed with sin I become. It was for me, my Lord suffered and died. It was for you he bore such pain and death. It was for the whole of creation, yes, even the ones who walk through these Lenten weeks oblivious, that the Beloved One emptied himself on the cross and endured the anguish he did, so that you would someday know how very beloved you are.
Wake up world! Wake up people! Leave your shallowness and superficial living behind and come, come and journey these Lenten to the ugly, awful cross and know a love so amazing and astounding that you will be made whole and all that you seek in the trivialities in life, but which never satisfy, will fill you to overflowing and you will want no more.
Blessed be this season of Lent to you.
I will eventually make it home to hear the trill of the red-winged blackbird and to crocuses blooming, and the cup of my being will overflow for the grace and gift of this blessed and glorious holy season.

Thursday, March 03, 2011


This was a dual personality week - working on Transfiguration Sunday and the mountain high of Jesus dazzling and sparkling and recalling all those wonderful holy moments and encounters with God in my life and then transitioning to the solemn and somber Ash Wednesday where we encounter our mortality and sinfulness. From mountaintop to valley in seconds and hours.
I want to stay on the mountain but know I am called to serve in the valley.
I have made my list of items to bring for Ash Wednesday. I had been mulling over the idea of having a paper shredder and slips of paper where folks could write down and pray their sins and then send the paper through the shredder. A visual reminder that are sins are swallowed up, shredded, destroyed, gone in the grace and saving death of Jesus Christ.
When I went to big office store #1, shredders began at $50.00 to nearly $300.00. Way out of my price range. So, I let the idea go and planned a very simple, traditional service.
During the week, I worked on Lenten bookmarks - hoping folks will use them as they spend more time in scripture reading, meditation and prayer. I had to go to Basic Office Store to run copies off on card stock. I also wanted to pick up three more pens made from recycled water bottles. (Did you know that gel ink doesn't freeze like ball point pen ink? I was able to write with the one stored in my van to record mileage without any problem all winter long! Consider this a free tip of the day!!!)
As I headed to the checkout, what should my eye behold? An entire display stack of shredders for $19.99. It was serendipitious! God was calling me to go ahead and work with it. So, I returned to church aglow with the shredder in the back of the van.
On the drive back, it occurred to me that I would need to have some scripture, directions, prayer and assurance of forgiveness, besides slips of paper and pens & pencils. So, I wagged my finger at God, and said, "You are a sly One! Just when I gave up the whole idea, You present it and tell me to run with it. Only I haven't worked it all out! Thanks, a bunch, Lord!"
I have learned to pay attention to such moments. They don't happen by mere chance and God and God's Holy Spirit have been behind them all, directing me, leading me, teaching me. They are wonderful grace-filled moments, mountaintop moments of a more mundane nature, but nonetheless, an ordinary thing made alive with possibility. Who would ever think a shredder could have such a holy use? God takes the simple, ordinary, mundane thing and transform it into something more and greater or a way to point to God's Own Self.
It humbles me every time. And amazes me every time.