Friday, September 28, 2007

RevGalBlogPals Friday Five

Friday Five: Reverendmother's Swan Song

(as posted by Reverendmother)

Well friends, as I prepare for the birth of Bonus Baby, it's time to simplify life, step back from the Friday Five, and let one of the other capable and creative RevGals take the helm. It's been a great almost 17 months of co-hosting the F5, but it's time to say goodbye... so here's my swan song.

On Endings and Goodbyes:

1. Best ending of a movie/book/TV show

I love the end of Secondhand Lions. There is a sense of fitting completeness.

2. Worst ending of a movie/book/TV show

Hamlet (specifically, the movie version with Mel Gibson). Truthfully, I had never read Hamlet. I had never seen any version of Hamlet prior to seeing the movie version with Mel Gibson. I did not know what was coming for any of it. I was completely surprised and could not believe the story unfolded that way.

3. Tell about a memorable goodbye you've experienced.

We had some treasured church members who were vegetarian move away due to a new job opportunity. Our meat loving congregation sent them off with a vegetarian potluck goodbye luncheon.

4. Is it true that "all good things must come to an end"?

No. God doesn't.

5. "Everything I ever let go of has claw marks on it." --Anne Lamott

This does not hold true for me with "stuff." For my marriage, it was very true. I hung on well past the point when it was clear that the children and I were not the benefactors of the primary time commitment and that the behavior that took the time, energy, money, and other resources would not change.

Bonus: "It isn't over until the fat lady sings." I've never loved this expression. So propose an alternative: "It isn't over until ____________________"

It isn't over until the last Amen.
It isn't over until the offering is counted.
It isn't over until the parking lot is empty.
It isn't over until the paper work is done.
It isn't over until the kitchen is clean.
It isn't over until the last kid is picked up.
It isn't over until the lights are off, the alarm is set, and the doors are locked.
It isn't over until the last episode has aired.
It isn't over until the last piece of chocolate is gone.
It isn't over until the last box is on the truck.
It isn't over until you run out of gas.
It isn't over until you fall asleep trying to think of ...

Monday, September 24, 2007

RevGalBlogPals Book of the Month- Good Fences

Let me say that overall, I found myself wanting more. I kept waiting for more to develop but it didn't. I liked the stories and followed her premise but felt that something was missing.

The questions as posted by Songbird with my answers follow.

1. My own church is currently seeking ways to live into four areas identified in a visioning process. The first two happened to be Identity and Hospitality. When church members asked for help with Hospitality, I suggested that they needed to be clear about Identity first, and this is Westerhoff's supposition. What is your response to the Boundaries First/Hospitality Second paradigm? Is there more to Identity than Boundaries? Or is there another metaphor that might feel more helpful?

The metaphor is helpful to begin the conversation. I don’t think I have a better one.

I think it is important to know your identity but I'm not sure that knowing your boundaries necessarily leads to the extension of hospitality. It seems to me that most of us (individually and collectively) like to think of ourselves as more open, tolerant, accepting, etc. than we are when it comes to actually interacting with people who test our stated boundaries. Perhaps, that interaction is a refining of our boundaries but I'm not sure how well defined we can be about our communal boundaries when the community is often in flux according to the participants in the community and the context in which that community is located.

2. How important is the distinction between essentials and non-essentials in your understanding of boundaries?

If boundaries are the first step, then understanding the distinction between essentials and non-essentials is necessary. If there is not clarification between essentials and non-essentials within the community, the risk is that the non-essentials become barriers to hospitality or defuse the boundaries by including those who do not value the community's essentials.

3. On page 87 of the paperback edition, Westerhoff describes the participation of a group of visiting Buddhist monks who came to the rail for Communion at her church. What was your response to this story and the discussion that took place after? Do we control the eucharist? Are there "levels" of hospitality?

I find this an interesting question. John Wesley (Anglican priest, founder of Methodism), at one point, required communion cards for those in the societies (spiritual formation groups) and, yet, at the same time, argued that communion was a means of grace in which a person could meet Christ for the first time. So, even while intentionality and baptism were vitally important, he would not refuse someone communion because he did not want to keep them from the experience of Christ that could bring salvation.

With that in mind, I carefully considered what I would do regarding communion when I was in a position to preside. I will serve those who present themselves for communion, trusting in the grace of God when I serve those that might be considered "undeserving."

4. If you have had a chance to do a unit or more of Clinical Pastoral Education, you have heard a story like the one of page 98. A student feels distressed after baptizing a baby who had already died, conflicted about what baptism means and whether it was appropriate in this case, but also certain that the parents needed pastoral care in this form. How do you respond to this case study? What might you have done in the student's position?

Sometimes the best theological understanding is not helpful in communicating the everpresent grace of God. I have a high regard for solid theology. I have little tolerance for mindless following without question. That being the case, I will set my well formed, deeply considered theological understanding aside, in the service of re-presenting God to the best of my ability. For me, pastoral care always has the potential to trump theology. That decision is based on my understanding of Jesus healing on the Sabbath and the grace imparted to folks who were in need when the logic of the Law might have led to a perfectly reasonable conclusion that one should not heal on the Sabbath.

5. The epilogue of the book contains a lengthy story about a church's process in choosing to fence in its property. Please share your reactions.

I think the story furthers the metaphor of the book and makes a good ending story. However, it seems to me that the issue of the actual fence became a focus on non-essentials for a community that supposedly had a clear identity in relation to their context as a church that was a sanctuary for hundreds of homeless. In the end of the story, it is clear that the fence enables the community to continue living their identity providing a boundary that also creates the space for hospitality.

6. Westerhoff calls on Jesus' self-description as a "narrow gate" in support of her thesis that our boundaries must be clear. Where do you think Jesus would draw his lines?

I think Jesus' boundaries are probably wider than most of ours. I do not think most of us are comfortable with the extravagant hospitality of God's grace. I'm not sure how to put that up against the metaphor of the narrow gate. I have heard the "narrow gate" used in ways that mean "you have to believe like we do in order to get in" but that doesn't match Jesus healing on the Sabbath.

7. In Chapter 5, Westerhoff refers us to the baptismal covenant as a means to test our boundaries. Does this feel like a helpful tool?

I appreciated the way she used the liturgy of baptism to frame the issue of boundaries. But I see as it helpful only for those with liturgical foundations. I grew up in a church that did not use set liturgy. The questions she addresses would have been considered irrelevant in that tradition.

8. Westerhoff admits that others are better-suited than she to certain practices of hospitality. How do you strive to *be* a neighbor in your own neighborhood? What are the challenges of being a neighbor?

I pastor an urban church. We struggle with the boundaries of being a good neighbor. Sometimes we are more motivated by fear and self-preservation than by hospitality in the name of Christ. I think this book could be a helpful entry point for some of my church members in considering what hospitality and welcoming the stranger could be.

a chaplain?

I'm am so with it concerning entertainment news that I learned from Songbird about the new season of ER having a chaplain. I think I'll set ER up for recording now.

I quit watching ER when my kids quit going to their dad's on Thursday night. I would have them in bed, turn on ER, and they would wander out of bed. Of course, that only happened on Thursday nights when I wanted to watch ER and had not prepared any means for recording the show. ER also seemed to get more and more incredible stretching my willing suspension of disbelief past the breaking point. So, at some point after the knife attacker got Lucy and Carter, my faithful watching turned into "Oh, is it ER night?"

I started watching ER when it first premiered with the Sportsqueen, only months old, in my arms as I waited for then husband to come home after his weekly late night of work. I was captured by ER. I loved how Greene talked to Carter about when one of the cases "gets to you" and how if you really cared you took the chance that someone would "get to you" or how you could detach and no one would ever "get to you." I loved the nurse Haleh.
One of my favorite sermons (submitted for ordination requirements, no less) included the scene from "Blizzard" where Haleh stands in the midst of the chaotic ER holding a child as tenderly as if she were her own singing "His Eye is On the Sparrow." I cry just thinking about it.

I pray that if (God forbid) my child experiences trauma there is someone who will stand in the chaos, hold them as tenderly as if she were hers, and sing with quite assurance about God's love and presence with the calm, soothing sounds of a lullaby.

That, to me, is the Kingdom of God at hand.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals

Friday 5- de-cluttering edition.

Posted by Sally

With Jo, Jon and Chris all moving to college and University accommodation there has been a big clear up going on in the Coleman household. We have been sorting and trying hard not just to junk stuff, but actually to get it to where it can be useful. On a brighter note we have used Freecycle ( check it out) to provide the twins with pots and pans etc that other folk were clearing out.

Making the most of our resources is important, I have been challenged this week by the amount of stuff we accumulate, I'd love to live a simpler lifestyle, it would be good for me, and for the environment I think...

With that in mind I bring you this Friday 5;

1. Are you a hoarder or a minimalist? I have to admit I qualify as a hoarder with occasional showers of minimalist that dissipate fairly quickly.

2. Name one important object ( could be an heirloom) that you will never part with. How is an admitted hoarder supposed to pick ONE item??? My autographed copy of "The Bunnies and Beagles shall lie down together" by Charles Schultz (because I can't replace it).

3. What is the oldest item in your closet? Does it still fit??? Ironically, I took several suits, pants, and jeans to the resale store that supports a local ministry yesterday! However, I still have two t-shirts from the basketball camp I attended the summer after eighth grade. One of them was huge on me when I got it but was the only size of that shirt they had. I can still wear it. I also have the shirt with the name of the camp. I wore it a lot. I had it on when I found out my dad had died. So even though I can't wear it, it stays in the bottom of a dresser drawer. I also have two pairs of Wigwam tube socks that I wore for basketball. Amazingly, they have not worn out and while the elastic tops are loose enough to fall down when I walk, they are perfect for sleeping in when my feet are cold.

4.Yard sales- love 'em or hate 'em ? I hate going to them and I hate having them. Two years ago, it was apparent that a yard sale was a necessary evil. We made about $380 but more importantly did not pack or move the stuff that sold.

5. Name a recycling habit you really want to get into. We live in an area where recycling is a fairly easy curbside version. When we lived in the country, recycling was very hard so we didn't do it. One thing we don't do that we could do is use our own cloth bags for groceries instead of whatever the store uses.

And for a bonus- well anything you want to add.... I wish it was easier to recycle computer parts around here. And, I tried to join freecycle but they turned me down. I never got a response about why.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

O Christmas tree by The Entertainer

Two years ago, a boy in The Entertainer's homeroom told about the Christmas Tree at his house falling over on top of him. He wrote new words for the chorus of "O Christmas Tree" and proceeded to teach it to his class.

He finally sang it one too many times and ended up in the hall.

Two days later, on a field trip to see the Nutcracker, a Christmas tree fell over in front of the whole class as they waited for the bus to pick them up. The best 3rd grade teacher ever had the whole class sing the song on the spot.

After The Entertainer's piano lesson on Tuesday, we were looking at our collection of music for Christmas music at the level she needs. We came to "O Christmas Tree" and she sang the 3rd grade version of the chorus. She then made up verses on the fly.

Tonight, as she is not practicing her assignments but is being musical, she has sung her way through two collections of Christmas carols.

I now have stuck in my head "O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, you stupid thing, you fell on me."

that's entertainment

With the beginning of school, The Entertainer started playing violin for orchestra and also has a new piano teacher.
The plucked violin can produce recognizable tunes. The Entertainer has started having sore fingers leading toward the necessary calluses. That's good.

The new piano teacher seems to be a good match. That's good, too.

The Entertainer is currently sitting on the piano bench belting out Christmas Carols instead of actually playing any instrument. She has a nice voice and sings on pitch. That's good.

But CHRISTMAS, geez, we haven't even made it to October yet. The air conditioner is still on 'cause we're still in the nineties during the day. Shoot at 8:00 pm tonight the temp: 89 degrees.

Maybe I could hire her out for the Always Christmas store ...

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Billy was five years old and was so excited when his mother came home from the hospital with Billy's new brother. Billy had wanted a brother for a long time. Nothing could have been more wonderful. But things weren't working out quite like Billy had imagined. Everyone was fascinated with the new baby. This new arrival got all the attention, all the love, of the family. It seemed to Billy there was none left for him. The walls of his little world were beginning to crumble.

Billy couldn't do anything right. If he left the door open, it was, "Billy close the door, the draft will give the baby a cold." When he closed the door, it was "Billy, don't slam the door - you will wake the baby." So, he did the only thing a five year old can do when no one loves him, when there was no room left for him at home. He ran away. Not far, of course, just into the pine trees behind his house. In the cold and dark he began to cry at how alone he was, not unlike the bleating of a lost sheep.

After a while he heard noises moving in the brush. An animal! Must be a bear or a lion or worse, heaven knows! Scared to death, he tried to hide himself under the branches, but the noisy footsteps got closer and closer. And then there was the voice. "Billy...Billy." The voice was familiar - it belonged to his grandmother. She had missed him and realized he was gone. She alone knew exactly where he had gone. Drawing back the branches, she pulled him into her embrace and held him. Finally she spoke: "Billy, it's time for dinner. It's time to come home."

According to Jesus, this is the good news, that God is like that. God searches for us in all our hiding places whether we have just wandered off or are intentionally trying to hide. God's search is risky and relentless, well, because supper can't be served until all the family is there, until everyone the child at the zoo or the one named Billy has been found and brought home. And there is joy before the angels of God.

I have no idea where this came from originally. Even so, it will end my sermon tomorrow.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals

Friday Five: Meetings, Meetings

posted by Reverendmother

In honor of a couple of marathon meetings I attended this week:

1. What's your view of meetings? Choose one or more, or make up your own:
a) When they're good, they're good. I love the feeling of people working well together on a common goal.
b) I don't seek them out, but I recognize them as a necessary part of life.
c) The only good meeting is a canceled meeting.

The only part of a meeting I really like is the part where I get to talk to people I haven't seen in awhile or getting to know them better. The best meeting is the one that gets canceled after several people are already there and we go out for lunch instead.

2. Do you like some amount of community building or conversation, or are you all business?
Most of the time, I like the community building and/or conversation part. However, I don't want to be in a meeting that needs to accomplish something and nothing happens because there's too much visiting.

3. How do you feel about leading meetings? Share any particular strengths or weaknesses you have in this area. I would rather lead than attend a meeting. I'm pretty good with using an agenda to accomplish what needs to be done while having conversation along the way.

4. Have you ever participated in a virtual meeting? (conference call, IM, chat, etc.) What do you think of this format? I have participated in many virtual meetings. I am very comfortable with virtual meetings. Each medium for group communication has pluses and minuses. I especially like the part where I don't have to drive 2 hours for a 30 minute meeting.

5. Share a story of a memorable meeting you attended. I think I'll skip this one because other than this question my answers are so positive. Every meeting that comes readily to mind is ugly.

Bonus: Do you know what a camel is? A horse put together by committee

Friday, September 07, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle

One of my favorite authors, Madeleine L'Engle, died yesterday. I just found out. It makes me sad.

The New York Times article ends:

“Why does anybody tell a story?” Ms. L’Engle once asked, even though she knew the answer.

“It does indeed have something to do with faith,” she said, “faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.”

With a free subscription, you can read the article here.

An article published by Episcopal Life has a quote from her about suffering and grief. You can read it here.

Several years ago, I was one of the adults on a youth camping trip. Most of the group were out on a hike. I was at the campsite reading "Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art." Another adult who came back just ahead of the group saw the title and said, "Oh, that's how you do it-- a how to book -- walking on water."

Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals

Friday 5 - on overcoming

posted by Sallay

I am preparing this Friday 5 just before I take Chris into hospital for a cardioversion, right now we are all a little apprehensive. But this whole thing has got me thinking, so many of us are overcomers in one way or anoither, so many have amazing stories to tell of God's faithfulness in adversity. And so I bring you this Friday 5;

1.Have you experienced God's faithfulness at a difficult time? Tell as much or as little as you like...
I experienced God's faithfulness several times in helping me deal with situations where I was not allowed to be "the minister" by the church I served.

2. Have you experienced a dark night of the soul, if so what brought you through?
There have been more than one dark nights and it was the community of faith sometimes as individuals and sometimes as a group that brought me through. There were "God with skin on" for me.

3. Share a Bible verse, song, poem that has brought you comfort?

When there were problems with my pregnancies, it was Psalm 139. When it was the church limiting my ministry, it was "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you." Isaiah 43:1-3

And Ginny Owens song "If you want me to." The version on "A Night in Rocketown " is the best. You can hear the first minute here Here's all of the lyrics:

The pathway is broken
And the signs are unclear
And I don't know the reason why You brought me here
But just because You love me the way that You do

I'm gonna walk through the valley
If You want me to

No I'm not who I was
When I took my first step
And I'm clinging to the promise You're not through with me yet
So if all of these trials bring me closer to You
Then I will go through the fire
If You want me to

It may not be the way I would have chosen
When You lead me through a world that's not my home
But You never said it would be easy
You only said I'll never go alone

So when the whole world turns against me
And I'm all by myself
And I can't hear You answer my cries for help
I'll remember the suffering Your love put You through
And I will go through the darkness
If You want me to

When I cross over Jordan, I'm gonna sing, gonna shout
Gonna look into your eyes and see you never let me down
So take me on the pathway that leads me home to you
And I will walk through the valley if you want me to

Yes, I will walk through the valley if you want me to

4. Is "why suffering" a valid question?
Absolutely. God can handle it. And we can have a deeper relationship with God when we are free to express everything. If we can't tell God or if there are certain "forbidden" questions, we lose out on the richness of having a God who loves every part of us -- even (maybe particularly) the parts we think aren't good enough for God.

5. And on a lighter note- you have reached the end of a dark and difficult time- how are you going to celebrate?
This is probably the hardest question for me. All too often the end of hard times is such a relief that, even though I love people and I love to celebrate, I don't have the energy to celebrate until much later. It usually becomes a celebration after there is enough distance from it for there to be scars instead of scabs. As I'm thinking about this, the celebration is probably in a better ability to "be there" with others.

Bonus- anything you wish to add....
The God who brings you to it will bring you through it.

"Coming to the End" a sermon on Psalm 139

I asked and received permission from Frank to post this sermon. I read it after I had read the Friday Five for today and I thought it was fitting.

The title is "Coming to the End"

Frank Fisher
Interim Pastor
First Presbyterian of Bushnell, IL


Brother Oscar Romero
Oblate of St. Benedict's Abbey
Bartonville, IL

Lowell Striker tells a story
about a monastery in Europe
It was located in splendid isolation,
perched high on a cliff
several hundred feet in the air.
The only way to reach the monastery
was to be suspended in a basket
which was pulled to the top by several monks
who pulled and tugged
with all their strength.

the ride up the steep cliff in that basket
was terrifying.
One tourist
got exceedingly nervous about half-way up
as he noticed that the rope
by which he was suspended
was old and frayed.
With a trembling voice he asked the monk
who was riding with him in the basket
how often they changed the rope.
The monk thought for a moment
and answered brusquely,
"Whenever it breaks."

Each of us experiences times
when we feel
our rope is about to break.
They're times
when the various parts of our lives
pull at us
until we feel stretched to the snapping point.
There are also times,
of course,
when we feel we actually have snapped.
In those times
we feel overwhelmed and abandoned.
At those times
we may especially feel
we've been abandoned by God.

For me,
this last week
was one of those times
when I felt stretched;
stretched to way beyond
the snapping point.
I arrived back home on Sunday evening
to find Joan busily cleaning in the basement.
Now cleaning
is not one of our favorite things.
So I was a bit perplexed
by the idea of spending a three day weekend
in such a task.
the reason became all too apparent
when Joan showed me
the marks on our basement walls;
marks which showed how the Chicago sewers
had backed up
and filled our basement
with over a half foot of rain water
mixed with sewage.

That Labor Day
Joan and I spent laboring in the basement
was the high point of the week.
>From there on
it was all downhill.
Our washing machine went out.
We learned our ten year old Dodge
needed a new transmission
that would cost
approximately twice as much
as the car itself was worth.
My blood sugar
began an unexplained roller coaster ride
which left me feeling sick and exhausted.
And to top off the week
I had to suspend
one of my fire department subordinates
for two weeks.
This action
was followed by another of my subordinates
loudly declaring
that she shouldn't have to do the work
I'd assigned her.
By Wednesday evening
I was coming to the end of my rope.
I was depressed and exhausted.
it seemed,
that could possibly go wrong
was doing just that!
And despite the loving presence
of my family.
I was feeling completely alone
and abandoned.
On Wednesday evening
I retreated to our bedroom
to read the mail.
Among the normal piles
of bills and junk mail,
I found the latest issue
of Weavings magazine.
Weavings is a journal
of Christian spirituality.
Each issue
is built around a particular theme.
The latest theme
was entitled,
"The Mountain."

"Now this was really wonderful,"
I thought.
"In the midst feeling abandoned and alone
I've just received an account
of the high points
in the lives of other Christians!"
Quite honestly,
I wasn't too interested
in others high points at that moment.
And the magazine quickly found its way
to the bottom of the pile.

But for some reason,
it kept finding its way to the top.
or perhaps Someone
seemed to be pulling me
toward opening its covers.
After a short time of resistance
I found myself
sitting back,
and opening the magazine
only to find that the accounts of spiritual mountain tops
was accompanied by a single article
"Seeing God
in the Valley."

The article was the story of a pastor's encounter
with the story of Jeanne Guyon.
Madame Guyon
was a pre-reformation mystic
whose life
made my bad week
seem a delight by comparison.
At fifteen
she was forcibly married
to an invalid more than twice her age.
Her new husband
and her new mother-in-law,
made plain the fact
that they despised her.
They also hired a maid
who routinely beat her young mistress
with a hair brush.
The church
to which she turned for the faith to endure
eventually declared her a heretic
and imprisoned her
for twenty years.
Her brother
who was a priest,
tried to extort money from her.

In the face of all this
and more
Jeanne Guyon simply
and constantly,
opened her life to God.
She advised others to do what she did,
"abandon your whole existence,
giving it to God."
she declared,
was the way to connect to God.
She decided that everything
that happened to her
was from God,
and since it was from God,
it was exactly what she needed.
The pastor who wrote the article
she at first believed
Madame Guyon
to be
"a religious crackpot
who should have put her hands on her hips
and demanded justice."
But despite this,
she felt drawn to Guyon's works.
She decided to play
a game with herself.
In every situation,
she would pretend
that Guyon was right
and that even in the worst of things,
God was there.

I found myself more than a bit appalled
at Madame Guyon's calm acceptance of victim hood.
But I too
was intrigued
and I decided to play
the same game as the article's author.
In a matter of minutes
my entire attitude was transformed
and I became once again
fully aware of God's presence.
The place were I was at
still really smelled.
In the case of the basement
it even literally smelled.
But God was there
in the midst of the bad.
And I realized Madame Guyon's point.
If God is there
in the midst of the worst
then I would be ok.
For where God is,
life is;
even if one was at the point in life
that resembled a cross.

I was also drawn back once again
to today's psalter.
"Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven,
you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol,
you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,"
even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you."

The psalmist knew
that no matter
where we are in our lives
God relentlessly pursues us.
Even if we feel separated
from God
and lost and alone,
God is there.
And perhaps
in the times we are most alone,
all we have to do
is to listen to the advice
Madame Guyon received from her first spiritual director
as he addressed her frantic search
for God's presence in her life.
he told her,
"you seek without
what you have within.
Accustom yourself
to seek God in your heart.
There you will find Him."

Another issue of Weavings
contains a story by David Griebner.
It's a story,
I think,
best describes how our God is there
even in the times of greatest pain,
simply waiting for us to recognize Her presence.
It's a story
"Between the Nails."

"He could hardly remember a day
when there wasn't at least some pain;
and this should come as no surprise.
For you see,
this man
and all his people
lived on a bed of nails.
As you might guess,
it was a rather prickly existence.
they had all gotten used to
the particular limitations of their world.
They accepted a certain amount of pain
and discomfort
as normal,
and they had developed clothing and footwear
that insulated them from largely the effect of the nails -
although some were better at ignoring the pain
than others.

Now for a long time our friend
accepted things as they were.
But then something in him began to grow restless,
and he became convinced that life
had to be more than just managed discomfort.
One day he decided something had to change
or he was going to take all his clothes off,
jump into the air,
and end it all.
As he pondered this choice,
he thought he heard something.

"Get small"
"What?" he said.
The words were out his mouth
before he had time to remember
he was alone.

"Get small."
There it was again.
A voice.
He was sure of it.
Sort of.
Something or someone
was talking to him.
And since he was out of other options at the moment
he decided to talk back.
"Who are you?"
"Get small."
"What do you want?"
"Get small."

Obviously he wasn't asking the right question.
He decided to address the advice directly.
"What do you mean,
'Get small'?"

"Get small."
Apparently this was all he was going to get,
and his next response
came mostly out of a sense of frustration.
"I can't get small," he said
through clenched teeth
used to gritting it out.
"I can make you small,"
the Voice said.

Well there it was then.
If he accepted that the Voice was real,
the only thing left to do
was to trust what the Voice had to say.
"All right," he said, "Make me small."

The first thing he noticed
was that his clothes got big.
Then the nails got big.
Then the space between the nails got big
and he found himself between the nails.
Then the space between the nails
got so big
that there was more space than nails.
Then there was so much space
that it seemed as if there were no nails at all.
Then he was surrounded by people.
They brought him clothes to wear
that were light and airy,
and wonderful food
that was as rich as the ground was smooth.
It was a strange feeling,
but it seemed like he had finally
come home.

Once a week
he and all the people between the nails
gathered together to sing.
They lifted their voices to the heavens
and sang with all their heart
the two words the Voice had taught them all.
"Get small,"
they sang."

"How weighty to me are your thoughts,
O God,"
the Psalmist wrote.
"How vast is the sum of them!
I try to count them
--they are more than the sand;

I come to the end
--I am still with you."

At the very worst of times,
when we've come the end of our rope,
God is there.
God is there
in the very midst of our pain.
God is there
even when we can't feel God's presence.
God is there
screaming with us
when the nails of our life
become too much to bear.
And in the understanding of God's presence,
we find God is offering us
a life line.

To God alone be glory.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Cracked Pot

I don't have any information about the author of this story. If I get the information, I'll post it. I'll be using it for my sermon from Jeremiah 18:1-11.

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the master’s house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his master’s house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream. “I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.” “Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?” “I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master’s house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts,” the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the master’s house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot’s side?

That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them.

For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my master’s table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Late, Late edition of Friday Five from RevGalBlogPals

Friday Five: Seasons change posted by Reverendmother

It's Labor Day weekend here in the United States, also known as Summer's Last Hurrah. So let's say goodbye to summer and hello to the autumn. (People in other climes, feel free to adapt as needed.)

1. Share a highlight from this summer. (If you please, don't just say "our vacation to the Canadian Rockies." Give us a little detail or image. Help us live vicariously through you!)
The Harry Potter party for the book release was terrific. The local coffee shop became the Leaky Cauldron. A former bank, now museum, became Gringotts. There were costume contests, trivia games, wands for sale, and butterbeer to drink. Too much fun!

2. Are you glad to see this summer end? Why or why not?
There's a rhythm to the school year that I kinda like but this summer seemed to fly by. How did it become September and Labor Day already?

3. Name one or two things you're looking forward to this fall.
This fall my nephew will be born. He'll be the first boy since my step-dad on our side of the family. I handed down a bunch of girly stuff that was used for my niece. Now I get to buy for a boy!

4. Do you have any special preparations or activities to mark the transition from one season to another? (Cleaning of house, putting away summer clothes, one last trip to the beach) Usually the transition is marked by: "Mom, where's my jacket?!?" "What do you mean you don't have any long sleeve shirts? I out grew them."

5. I'll know that fall is really here when _The Seattle Seahawks are playing real games ('cause the weather change happens much later).
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