Tuesday, August 30, 2005

breaking news?

You know what's great? On cnn.com when there is 'breaking news' it gets put in a red box at the top of the page in big, bold letters. What was today's breaking news? George Bush is coming home early (two days, mind you) from his vacation to respond to Hurricane Katrina!!!!! This is breaking news? The hurricane, and the people devastated by it - that's important stuff. But is an early end to vacation breaking news?

Sorry, I know it's not a big thing, but sometimes it's just that little thing that crosses you over the line...

Sunday, August 28, 2005

community animal project: veg fest

Today I went to Community Animal Project's first Veg Fest in Syracuse. Walked around a bit, and heard Howard Lyman speak, the 'mad cowboy' you may remember from his appearance on Oprah in the 90s, when he and Oprah ended up being sued by the cattle industry in Texas for comments about beef and mad cow disesase.

If found him to be interesting and sometimes funny, for the part I got to hear (had to leave early for a Bible Study) - the thing he said that stuck in my head, which he said in reference to being vegan/vegetarian - he said that we are "billboards" and that our actions should draw people to ask us questions. Then, when people ask us questions, we have to be ready, prepared with answers that they will actually listen to.

I actually used a similar idea once for a children's sermon that I found on a website (sorry, I don't remember which, just know the idea was a borrowed one!) Talking to the kids about how they are walking billboards for Christianity.

If you were a billboard, what would you say? Is what you think it would say the same thing others would say your billboard said?

Saturday, August 27, 2005

children's sermon: Exodus 3:1-15

I keep meaning to post my children's sermons, but forgetting, or (gasp) figuring them out so late I think it is not worth posting!

This Sunday I'm preaching on the Exodus 3:1-15 passage, about Moses, God, and the burning bush.
I'm going to ask the children what it means to be grounded, and if they've been grounded before. Then I'm going to ask if the know what grounded means in the other sense: 'sensible', 'firmly planted on earth' etc.
Then we are going to talk about holy ground, and where holy ground might be. How all ground can be holy because God is everywhere, if we are ready to see God.

That's the basic plan, anyway...
Plus I think I'll go barefoot, since I've got a good excuse to!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Holy Ground: Exodus 3:1-15

On the heels of my visit to our church camp last week comes this lectionary text from Exodus 3, where Moses meets God in the burning bush, and God declares, "remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."

For me, camp has been a holy-ground place for as long as I can remember. Not for the setting or the worship or the music, though I love these things. But it has been holy for the experiences I've had where God seemed close enough to touch, know what I mean?

I've been to other holy places in my life. I spent a summer doing CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) which in many ways was one of my least favorite experiences ever. But one of my floor assignments was to the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), and I felt that the NICU was a place of holy ground, all of those tiny lives striving to be.

What are places and situations where you've experienced holy ground?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

TIME.com: Is This The Race For 2008?

Perhaps a little early, but check out this article from Time about the 2008 elections, which I found interesting: "Is This the Race for 2008?"

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

CNN.com - Nun rapped for wild dancing - Aug 23, 2005

I just had to post this article from CNN: "Nun rapped for wild dancing":

"-- A Belgian nun's acrobatic and indecorous dancing with a missionary during the Catholic World Youth Day in Germany over the weekend earned her a reprimand from her mother superior, a Belgian paper said on Tuesday.
Daily Het Laatste Nieuws showed pictures of a dancing Johanne Vertommen being held up in the air by the missionary, and then clinging to him with her legs wrapped around his body.
'I wouldn't do this at home but at such occasions I get carried away by the enthusiasm of the group,' the 29-year-old told the paper later.
'My mother superior raised the issue today: she thinks I should watch out a bit and bear in mind that I represent our community,' Vertommen said."

Friday, August 19, 2005

heading home from camp

Today I am heading home from Camp Aldersgate, where I've spent a good week partly counseling, partly being a non-equipped office worker.

I've been coming to this camp since I was old enough to register - before that I went every year when my parents dropped my big brother off, and waited impatiently for the day when I would be old enough to come along too. Over the years I have been a camper, a staff member, a volunteer - I have had good and bad experiences here, 'life changing' experiences, and mostly, I have loved this place. I'm sure many of you have a similar place in your experiences.

This week I've been thinking a lot about the theology that is shared at camps. When I was young, I didn't think a lot about the words I was singing - I just sang and enjoyed it. As an adult, I worry more about the messages that are being sent. Today, the songs are a bit more complicated musically than the ones I learned - there is a full 'praise band' and overheads and projections and power point. But one song that is new to me this week I really like:

Your Love is Amazing
by Brenton Brown, Brian Doerksen
Your love is amazing, steady and unchanging
Your love is a mountain, firm beneath my feet
Your love is a mystery, how you gently lift me
When I am surrounded, your love carries me

Hallelujah, hallelujah Hallelujah, your love makes me sing
Hallelujah, hallelujah Hallelujah, your love makes me sing

Your love is surprising, I can feel it rising
All the joy that's growing deep inside of me
Every time I see you, all your goodness shines through
And I can feel this God song, rising up in me

(repeat chorus)

This week I've tried to remember that what is most important about camp is the foundations that are laid here. I certainly can't imagine having become a pastor without my camping experience. For a long time, I thought I would be in camping ministires - eventually I discerned my call more clearly - but I don't think I would have been as open to pastoral minsitry had it not been for camp. So, I enjoy hearing these young expressions of faith, and wondering where these campers and staff members will find themselves ten years from now.

john is at it again...

john of locusts and honey is at it again - check out his latest post here. (vote for shane, ok? he has closet-britney-supporter written all over him.)

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

how do you take communion?

Sorry for the posting absence. I'm currently enjoying a week of volunteering at Camp Aldersgate, and internet connections are tricky at best!

This past Sunday we celebrated communion in my church, and I was mulling over how people take communion - and I don't mean whether at the rail or in pew or in lines. I mean this: we most often have communion by intinction at St. Paul's, and I've notice people have a 'way' they take their bread. Some take a tiny piece so small that they can barely find any to dip in the cup. Others mean to take a small piece, but accidentally get a big piece, and then are embarrassed. Others take a big soft piece from the center, and seem to enjoy it. And still others always go for a piece of crust, with gusto. Do you have a favorite way?

I think that there must be a great metaphor somewhere in this - a metaphor for how we receive God's grace, or something. Do we receive grace timidly? Boldly? Fearful we've accidentally taken to much? With gusto? Joy?

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What should I read?

I usually read one fiction book and one non-fiction book at the same time (ok, not the same time, but you know what I mean.) My 'to read' pile of non-fiction is neverending. But I'm out of ideas for fiction books. Suggestions? I listen to lighter fare as books-on-tape when I'm driving, so I prefer the more thought-provoking for before-bed reading. Any genre is fine. Help me out!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Reflections: A Wedding

This weekend I had the great joy to be part of the wedding celebration of my dear friend from college, Julie (who I mentioned in my Locusts and Honey profile as one of the people I most admire)

Julie is an awesome young woman with a huge heart for justice issues, and she fell in love with a great person - Ramesh, a doctor with an equal activist-minded soul, who has worked, for example, with Doctors without Borders. Ramesh is Indian and raised in a Hindu family, and so I got to experience my first interfaith wedding celebration - and what a celebration! In the Bible we read about wedding feasts that lasted for days or weeks. The traditional Hindu wedding is about 3 days of ceremonies. Julie and Ramesh celebrated a somewhat condensed version of the traditional, and incorporated a Christian ceremony as well, but the end result was still something closer to what I would call a feast than what I have usually experienced in today's Christian weddings. A feast, not because of the food (though there was certainly enough of that to qualify) but a feast because of the whole feeling - the gathering of friends and family, the home filled to overflowing with people celebrating this union, the music, the dancing, the food, the ceremony and ritual - it was a feast.

I loved being part of it. I even got to join in the henna or mehndi party with the other women and the bride, where we were decorated by a fantastic artist for the wedding. (Check out a picture of one of my henna-decorated hands here.)

The Hindu ceremony itself was great fun to watch, even if it wasn't always easy to follow what exactly was happening - the service is conducted by a priest in Sanskrit. Highlights: the bride and groom shower each other with rice as a symbol of abundance and blessings, and the congregation gets to shower the couple with rice as well, and also, the vows that the couple take, walking together around the fire - seven vows:

Together we take the First Step to respect and honor each other
Together we take the Second Step to commit to care for each other
Together we take the Third Step to commit to be patient with each other
Together we take the Fourth Step to be honest and faithful to each other
Together we take the Fifth Step to stay together in happiness and sorrow
Together we take the Sixth Step to travel this journey of life with love and harmony
Together we take the Seventh Step to cultivate a strong and happy family

A great weekend...

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Niger - What to do?

I keep reading news about Niger, thanks to the reminders of my mother - the famine has really captured her attention - that and watching the baby panda (this is in lieu of grandchildren, which she'd rather have, but she'll take the panda for now). I feel quite helpless, and frustrated. I've read several news stories which said: "We knew this was coming. No one responded. Now it will be too little too late." I've seen the terrible, terrible images of starving children. And I think, what can I do? What can we do? What should we be doing?

What do you think?

I don't have many ideas, but here's a couple thoughts.

1) UMCOR, our United Methodist relief agency, could use our donations. Find information, worship resources, and bulletin inserts here. They don't have an online donation set up for this as they did for tsunami relief, which is frustrating, but there are still several methods available to use.
2) Be thankful for every day you are not hungry. I am not thankful enough for what I have.
3) Be less wasteful. Shamefully, I sometimes throw away food that I've purchased and then not used because I was never in the mood for it, or I forgot about it, or I was too lazy to prepare it. Or, I choose fast food and restaurants instead of cooking at home, which uses more money and makes more garbage (and hurts the environment too).
4) Redirect resources. Spending less on ourselves is good, and healthy, but even more effective when we redirect what we have to others. (see #1)

I know that's not much of a list. Add to it! It is baffling that there is a famine going on, isn't it? We have so much power, and so little interest in using it in the amazing ways we could.

Hugh Blumenfeld

My brother introduced me (musically, not personally) to folk musician Hugh Blumenfeld, and I want to pass along the recommendation to you.

Lyrics to a favorite called "long-haired radical socialist Jew":
Well Jesus was a homeless lad
With an unwed mother and an absent dad
And I really don't think he would have gotten that far
If Newt, Pat and Jesse had followed that star

Refrain: So let's all sing out praises to
That long-haired radical socialist Jew

When Jesus taught the people he
Would never charge a tuition fee
He just took some fishes and some bread
And made up free school lunches instead
So let's all sing out praises to....

He healed the blind and made them see
He brought the lame folks to their feet
Rich and poor, any time, anywhere
Just pioneering that free health care
So let's all sing out praises to....

Jesus hung with a low-life crowd
But those working stiffs sure did him proud
Some were murderers, thieves and whores
But at least they didn't do it as legislators
So let's all sing out praises to....

Jesus lived in troubled times

the religious right was on the rise
Oh what could have saved him from his terrible fate?
Separation of church and state.
So let's all sing out praises to....

Sometimes I fall into deep despair
When I hear those hypocrites on the air
But every Sunday
gives me hope
When pastor, deacon, priest, and pope
Are all singing out their praises to
Some long-haired radical socialist Jew.
They're singing out their praises to..oooo..oooo..Some long-haired radical socialist Jew.

Monday, August 01, 2005

A Baransu Blessing and a Baransu Prayer for Guidance and Strength

Tom Davison, a friend of my mother's, is quite the writer, and he's written A Baransu Blessing and Prayer for Guidance and Strength. It is too lengthy to post it all here, so you can find it posted on my main site here. But I really enjoyed it, and want to share it with you. Here's an excerpt from the prayer:

"When life seems to be sinking, may God help me as often as possible to go for a walk instead of crashing on the couch, and not only exercise my literal legs (literal exercise is said to alleviate depression), but also my figurative legs, helping me to see how to stand up for my rights in a mild mannered way (like Clark Kent, mild mannered reporter), when I am in danger of being unjustly intimidated, or else may God enable me to use my legs to do the heavy lifting in an effort to rebuild after an emotional “disaster.” This may mean learning to appreciate that the “autumn” of life is better than the coming “winter,” knowing that eventually hope will “spring” anew, and that life’s problems usually have enough compensations and silver linings to make life “good enough,” in the long run. Also may God help me realize that later in life, and in afterlife, perhaps, I will be stronger for the efforts that I make in the here and now to do heavy lifting in the present.
Yes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”"