Friday, December 18, 2009

Adopting the gifts of winter

Matthew 1:18-25

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us." When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Anthonis van Dyck - Die Ausgie├čung des Heilige...Image via Wikipedia

Someone asked today what is one of gifts of this season. I was in a class of mature women doing group physical therapy and most had little positive to say about this cold, dark time period. After reading this passage, I am struck with how the authors of the Bible go to great lengths to show Jesus lineage and then this passage conveys a great mystery and reality. Jesus is the son of God, not Joseph and God inspires Joseph to parent Jesus as if Jesus was born of him.


We can take bad news, or challenging news such as an unexpected pregnancy, or cold weather or snow storms or darkness as unwanted news, or we can look for the gifts within these and adopt the gifts rather than the burdens.

Gifts of the season..briskness, the smell of fires in fireplaces, music, snowflakes, mittens, hot cocoa, sharing hearts, friends, most relatives.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

While Planning for Thanksgiving

I am not the most organized grocery shopper. That is why it seems like I have to go the local grocery store several times a week. Now part of the joy of the frequency comes down to seeing my neighbors. I see all sorts of folks when I am at HRD food store. Since I grew up in this town, I find I see retired teachers, parents of old friends, neighbors who I don't normally see when it is too cold to stroll around the neighborhood. So what I am saying, is that shopping can be as social as getting my groceries, and so I guess that is why I haven't spent much time over the past few months or years organizing to get down to one trip per week.

Now that it is Thanksgiving week, I have noticed that the pace of shoppers at HRD food store is more frantic, and people are more cranky. I decided, I am not returning again accept with a list so that I wont have to make several trips during the week or even in one day for the duration of this busy week.

One of the traditions of my home Church is to have the parishioners buy an additional item each week for the food pantry. If I forget to pick up the tuna, I will make a special trip to get it and then to drop it off in the basket at home Church so I can see people there. As I prepare for Thanksgiving, I am thinking about how lucky I am to be able to make these trips and put extra things in my basket, as I am aware that many are without jobs, or means of income and many are hungry, right around me.

It gets me thinking about how do we expect folks to create "go-bags" for emergencies, when many can't even access basic necessities. Perhaps congregational planning for emergencies or disaster will help people also make this connection within their own congregations. Perhaps while helping folks to prepare a communication plan and a "go-bag" they will become mindful of the disparity in their midst and start to understand the disparities in a more personal and profound way. If we start thinking of our C/church more collectively, perhaps we will start to break through our culture's bent of individualistic thinking.

While we collectively think about how we prepare ourselves in case of emergency, we will put an extra flashlight or communication plan on our to do list to help another person plan. Maybe we can have 4-5 families go in on a generator so that when the next ice storm hits, there is a collective group of folks who look after each other and make sure they are warm enough. Perhaps our churches could be warming shelters or emergency shelters for seniors who lose their power or for folks who have nowhere to go when emergency hits. Planning adequately for the inevitable...yes there will snow and ice and subzero temperatures this winter, of that I am certain...helps us to take inventory of what we have, what we need and who our neighbors are and what they need. It is not just a "keeping up with the Jones' inventory", it is a "how are we going to get through this together inventory".

A new colleague of mine who works for fire and rescue mentioned that hypothermia and dehydration are rampant within the senior community in winter and especially during ice storms. Folks who dont have heat stop moving around and hunker down. They drink tea rather than water and within a day many get confused and become hypothermic or dehydrated. Knowing this, if we looked at collective solutions in the towns that we have churches, we may find a new and helpful use for our underutilized old church buildings that would create reason and resources to renovate them and revitalize them. People may not be there on Sunday, but they will be there to get warm on a few other days during the cold weeks, and they will make friends and connections there and may look for other activities to do within those walls, like give thanks. If these activities bare fruit, there are other ways to obtain renovations to make buildings handicap accessible and to provide showers and washers/dryers where we dont already have them.

Sometimes we need a purpose other than just being. Sometimes we have to plan for emergency or disaster to force us to take inventory of the treasures that we have and decide how best to share those treasures. If our Church's treasure (or dis-ease) is our buildings, then we need to plan for how to best use them for the benefit of our parishioners and those yet churched. When we think outside our walls for how we serve our communities and therefore ourselves, we open the doors to a host of possibilities that we could not even imagine before!

While planning for Thanksgiving, I was thinking that there is still more light to break through regarding God's truth....a quote from John Robinson of our Pilgrim days. May we pause to reflect on how the gifts we have and the gifts some take for granted, may be used to help others.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Five


Friday Five: Thanksgiving Thoughts

The Cure

Lying around all day
with some strange new deep blue
weekend funk, I'm not really asleep
when my sister calls
to say she's just hung up
from talking with Aunt Bertha
who is 89 and ill but managing
to take care of Uncle Frank
who is completely bed ridden.
Aunt Bert says
it's snowing there in Arkansas,
on Catfish Lane, and she hasn't been
able to walk out to their mailbox.
She's been suffering
from a bad case of the mulleygrubs.
The cure for the mulleygrubs,
she tells my sister,
is to get up and bake a cake.
If that doesn't do it, put on a red dress.

--Ginger Andrews (from Hurricane Sisters)

So this Friday before Thanksgiving, think about Aunt Bert and how she'll celebrate Thanksgiving! And how about YOU?

1. What is your cure for the "mulleygrubs"?
calling an old friend, planning an adventure, getting my hair cut

2. Where will you be for Thanksgiving?
At home with both sets of parents

3. What foods will be served? Which are traditional for your family?
turkey cooked in a paper bag, 2 kinds of stuffing, dutch treats mashed potatos and peas, mom's pies and English Parsnip Soup

4. How do you feel about Thanksgiving as a holiday?
I like it ...very little baggage and lots of great smells
5. In this season of Thanksgiving, what are you grateful for?
For another Thanksgiving with everyone in the immediate family alive and reasonably healthy

BONUS: Describe Aunt Bert's Thanksgiving.
Her church brings her and uncle Frank a Turkey dinner. A few of the folks stay to help serve it and eat it with them. Aunt Bert is grateful but sad that her life has gotten to this that others have to wait on them. She wonders if they will do this again for Christmas. She is happy to have some company besides Frank, even though she loves him. They stay to help with dishes and wrap up the leftovers. She wonders if she will have any time to knit mittens for the Christmas fair. She wonders what next year will bring. Still she is thankful that some folks thought of her and Frank and came to dinner. She couldn't fix Frank's favorate stuffing but dinner was better than what they had most nights and the company was lovely.

As always, let us know in comments if you play and visit each other if you can. Post a direct link to your blog entry in your comment using the following formulation in the comment box: what you want the link to say goes here For a complete how-to,click here. (Somehow my computer never lets me post the correct formulations, so you can always go to another Friday Five to discover it.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What would it take?

Every family should have an emergency plan or a contingency plan of some sort, right? What if a house burnt down, or there is a snow storm that that closes schools while mom and dad are at work, or a bad storm where aunt or uncle live 6 hours away and you need to get in touch to check in on them? There are so many tools that exist for planning now, it is wrong not to take advantage of them. Every family should have at least:

a card with all contact numbers, medications,doctors and nearest relatives numbers
a go bag for each family member and pet
a list of local resources to contact in the event of an emergency

If you had these you would be ready for any emergency, disaster or life event....and of course being a woman of faith, I would also say all these and a prayer, because that is the most effective source of help, I have ever found!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rapture, what rapture????

Luke 17:20-25

Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, "The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There it is!' For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you." Then he said to the disciples, "The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. They will say to you, 'Look there!' or 'Look here!' Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation."

I just looked at lectionary for the 29th and began to talk about my next preaching gig at wonderfully warm urban church. First gig after thinking about taking on Disaster Ministry for my vocation. Of course cart is before horse, as so far it is just between me and my town. And I haven't accepted yet. I suppose I need to seek guidance. Okay so all of that is the backdrop personally. Meantime, pianist has gotten her first punctuation mark, we are busy declutterizing to have our house on the market, the home inspector for the dream house called to say he is on page 36 of his report and still has more to go...... Life feels overwhelming and yet, there is H1N1 looming, global warming, 2012, financial crises for many, basically, I have heard it said recently, what other signs do we need.

Well Luke reminds us that indeed all these are empty signs. Of course he was speaking of when Jesus was alive and present with them. We are living in the post resurrection when we live with the spirit and the Word being with us always. What else do we need. Times are tough. But God is right here with us and God is still speaking!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

an H1N1 scare

I have had way too many moments of clarity lately. Yesterday was a case and point. Dutch treat and I arrived home after doing an inspection of our new dream home to find pianists eyes swollen shut. She told me she had the H1N1 vaccine and had developed a bad headache, and couldn't hear that well and her eyes were scratchy and swollen. She looked like she had been in a prize fight and she was having tics, which is to say her face was twitching. I called the school nurse, and then her doctor who advised me to call 911, especially after she started talking funny and saying her throat was getting scratchy.

As the coordinator for Dirigo State Disaster Response Team, I was hoping that I could assist others when they had emergencies or disasters, not be prepared to manage my own so much. We kept her calm, the rescue came, they started and IV and pumped her full of benadryl. The ER, which was full of people gaining access to basic healthcare, took a few hours to navigate, but the upshot (pardon the pun) was that Pianist was observed for an hour, given steroids for the neurologic happenings and will be part of the state CDC database.

It is a good thing too as both parents have neurologic issues, I with MS and Dutch Treat having had guilliam barre's syndrome as a young adult and who suffers with UC now. Basically both parents having autoimmune diseases. I can't help but wonder if there are connections with flu and epstein barr virus (I had mono before I got MS) and chicken pox and other virus' that recombine to create a more pronounced disease. Anyways, I am not a doctor and I dont play one on tv, so today, I am just thankful that all is somewhat returned to normal and I will pray that nothing further develops. I am greatful that we were close by and came home and she wasn't left on her own, although I believe she would have done the right thing and called for help. I reflect on a doctor that once told me I would never have kids because of the MS, and I am thankful I was in a rebellious stage and didn't listen.

With everyone safe and where they are supposed to be, after praying and shuffling around, I still believe God has a plan for me to be an ordained minister. Given my limitations and the gifts that come with those, I have faith that God will show me in God's time. God is still speaking........A wise professor once said, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you strange." I am feeling like things are pretty strange right now. I have come to the conclusion that the truth is way stranger than any fiction I have ever read.