Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Day!

Sure it's a Monday holiday, and sure it means something. There's even a parade, but it's not on TV. If I were to make my kids go to the parade, then MAKE is the right word. We would stick out in a Nordic kind of way. So why do we care? and what does this day mean to us?

As an adult, I know what Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King meant when he said that he had a dream for his children that they would be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I imagine that somewhere in a father's heart he even meant that they would be loved- not judged- by the content of their hearts and minds. Don't you? When I see my children work through problems, I want that for them. I want time for them to grow and solve the difficulties of their lives, and not be judged by a single moment or mistake. I hear their voices learning to speak their minds and find their voices- whispers of reconciliation and shouts of rebellion. They rejoice in the future. Isn't that what Dr. King might have wanted for his children, an opportunity to rejoice in what might be around the corner?

After the moniker doctor is reverend, MLK was a minister famous for saying I may not get there with you, more famous for being right about that. Believing that God had called him to lead people into the land of bounty. Isn't that also what we want? Isn't that why we remember a man who changed history? All of us remember. So what are we doing? I rented some movies, so that our children could at least- maybe- grasp some of what the world was like before MLK. We'll be we watching "To Kill A Mockingbird", "Mississippi Burning", and "Lilies of the Field". So maybe that is an attempt to recreate something for children that is impossible, but the history books don't capture it either. "Milk" may not get it right either, but the history books don't even try to remember Stonewall. What do I want for my children? The opportunity to rejoice in their talents and not be remembered for their mothers' memories, or mistakes. Perhaps I am not courageous, but I hope to watch my children make their mistakes and pick them up. Success might require more, but I wwant to be in their futures, and teavh them about the children who lost their parents and the Monday holidays we have for it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Nine Days In...

Nine days in and I have strep throat, okay so maybe they aren't kidding. Maybe those doctors with their unflattering lab coats are right, so I have a compromised immune system. Fine, so then what do I do? I already have a pharmacy with a drive-thru, a doctor with 24 hour on call pharmacy, a monthly appointment for a transfusion. What else do I do?

I think I am cutting back to one job, if I really let myself think about the truth- the church isn't really making it. I am a failure. How do I wear that? How do I balance that with God's call to bring good news to the people. Can you be a failure in the fulfillment of God's call? Can you break a church? I think my joy and job is to help them find what they need from God's guidance and the church.

How then do I know if I have failed? How can I have a servant's heart and find a different way to serve? What happens when our income changes?

When you are my age and in my profession, you are called on for answers. Where is God in the midst of this mess? How can God be good, if... ? Is there a God? How can you be sure? No matter what I have always been sure. Sometimes I am called on for answers to impossible questions. I have had the difficulty of being too busy, and more recently of being too sick and then too quiet, but what if I am too worried about making the bills? How then to let go? How then to do the best thing with grace and even joy? So many question and only I am asking...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Back to Work With a Vengeance...

Oh Yeah, the weather was awful. Rain and ice with howling winds, but truth be told I would have gone to work if it had been raining frogs. I'm pleased to say that we narrowly avoided a plague this past Monday. I arrived at 7:20, a full hour early, just to be anywhere but home.

That's the thing. Everybody wants to spend a couple of months at home. It sounds great. TV, books, peace and quiet, but then there's a catch- maybe there's always a catch like someone in front in line at the WalMart of you using coupons- you can't leave the house. Then multiply peace and quiet by like a zillion, then like The Real Housewives Marathons by infinity and suddenly work sounds great. Shoot, even a trip to WalMart sounds great, and P.S. I don't shop at the Devil's Playground, but I could hear it calling to me while I was at home, like the sirens calling to sailors to their watery, rocky doom.

But like I said, school started, and I am back, and I noticed right away what we all know. You can't want to win The Quiet Game too much and get picked- right. If you really want or are so insecure that you need to know that the the "Chooser"is your friend, then you most certainly will not be chosen. Something about wanting it too much makes it all the more fleeting. Love is like that and prayer, but I don't think the kids killing time waiting to go to the bathroom had either of those things in mind. Some of them were shocked to be chosen; some of them were craven with wanting to be chosen, and some of them were just waiting. You really can tell what a child's needs are by merely going back to work. Maybe you can just come out of a medically imposed "Quiet Game" and recognize all of its challenges.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Inside or Out?

For the first time in all my years studying for Christmas sermons, I ran across something I had never heard before. A professor of Greek , a subject I never studied officially in seminary, asserted in a notation that I can no longer find that the word that we have used to indicate that Mary and Joseph were turned out into the cold by the much maligned innkeeper may not have been exactly correct. This guy from a renown seminary, which I can't claim to recall, said that the word we have translated as stable or barn or basically not in the house is in a word- wrong. This guy, who we will call Achilles, just because it's the only Greek name I can think of and I like it better than "this guy"- well, Achilles, the professor of Greek said that the word that was used to indicate that there was no room in the inn really meant that there was not the best room in the inn available at the time.

I had never heard this before- that perhaps "Away In A Manger" should have been "Away on the Roll Away." Maybe this is de rigeur in seminary and a part of contemporary understandings of scripture, and frankly I'm not certain it makes a difference to my faith or my understandings of the birth of the Messiah and the difficulties of the Holy Family. Still the understandings that all of christendom share about the birth of the Christ child involves shivering in the cold. Even though scholars have argued for centuries about the timing of the birth of the child, it couldn't be in the winter because lambs are born in the spring. It couldn't be in the reign of Quirinius because a census wasn't taken until 8 A.D. According to the scholars, the time has never been right for the Messiah to be born. All of those points of debate have kind of rolled off of me, so perhaps I've forgotten all of Achilles' information on purpose because something about Jesus not getting the best bedroom seems so flippant, so diffident, so... so... Arghhhhh!

A couple of years ago, I was reading through the Advent and Christmas scriptures and was suddenly struck by the question- "Who delivered the Christ Child?" If the point of a real incarnation, flesh and blood, tooth and toenail type of Messiah, flesh and blood and yet divine, incarnation- carne- meat/flesh, then who was the midwife? The scriptures seemed to say that Joseph and Mary had been turned away from the house, but a place had been made for them in the barn. If they were out there in the hay, then who helped Mary give birth? Joseph, a Hebrew man, someone well-acquainted with the holiness codes in Leviticus? How does a man who acts as a midwife seek ablution from the priests in the temple? Or by that point when you have left Bethlehem for Egypt, do you just disregard the holiness codes and come home, raise your son, wait and watch for more angel messages?

Achilles may totally wreck some of our favorite carols, but he may give Joseph some much needed help. If Mary and Joseph were merely shuttled to the smallest bedroom, then there were almost certainly some women in the house who could help Mary up onto the bricks to deliver her firstborn, while Joseph waited with the other men. Undoubtedly, each could receive his or her own comfort by those more experienced in the delivery of children. Surely an innkeeper would have a wife to help either with the midwifery or with going to fetch a midwife, which come to think of she might have been able to do even if the Holy Family were back outside in the stable. However, there's something so lonesome-sounding to the thought of two young people out in the dark that authors over the course of centuries have remembered them solitary, without benefit of midwife save for cattle looking on encouragingly.

There is something equally disquieting about considering anything about the tiny savior's birth other than the weather and the barnyard acquaintances. Artist's renderings of the crucifixion almost all reveal a belly button, so something happened between mother and child besides tender murmurings, but a certain squeamishness sets in with much more consideration, which is why I have had a great deal of respect for Joseph.Here's a guy who takes a woman with an ever expanding waistline for his betrothed and refuses to call her out, but tries to deal with "the situation" quietly. To his amazement, I imagine, he is assured by an angel that she is still a good catch, and when they are called to go and pay their taxes he becomes a midwife. Until I read Achilles... now he may be in the living room with the rest of the fathers. Don't get me wrong; I guess I'm glad that Jesus might have been born inside, but then again.... maybe not. "The First Noel" is my favorite Christmas carol, but I like "Away in a Manger. I don't know how I feel about "Away in a Back Bedroom."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

So, I've been sick...again...

But I'm back... If parts of you don't look like you've been attacked by a fryolator, then you're not as sick as I am. So there... But I'm back and on the up side and a sure sign that Christmas is coming- my living room looks like exploded.

That part of the Grinch (The Green Guy Who Is Becoming My Hero!)when it talks about tumtuzzlers and barfloofles. You know... well all of that stuff is stacked eight feet deep in front of my bedroom door. To make matters worse, Li'l Darlin' says we can't go to bed until everything is wrapped. What was I thinking, when I ordered that third tumtuzzler? God help me... Plus, I have to write worship. Did I mention it will be Christmas Eve in a couple of hours?

Every year about this time, preachers, liturgists, and those who only hope to speak a good word for the Holy Family- something other than your usual call from the tee box- Jesus, Mary and Joseph. We know that it is our only shot at some folks annually. Well, there might be a second shot at Easter, but that could hinge on how well tomorrow goes. Throw in a couple of trips to both grocery store and airport and well- that's it. If I'm not careful, I could sign up for something from a telemarketer- just for the chance to sit down and take a survey.

Ohm gotta go, Li'l Darlin says there must be more candy made before the congregation gets here tomorrow. Did I forget to mention that? Yeah, in a fit of insanity I decided that we should have worship at my house. I've been sick- like I said, but if I don't start wrapping, making candy or writing something about the story of baby Jesus- my name is well- not Gloria Excelcis for sure!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Grandmother in any other language

I don't know about where you come from, but around here if you are fortunate enough to have a grandbaby, then you will have some sort of moniker to go with the precious bundle. When my daughter was born, my mother told me that she wanted to be called Gami. This statement was made while I was still peering at a black and white blurry image of my darling and trying to imagine that somewhere in my ever-expanding waistline a tiny human being was manifesting herself. Gami, huh? Yes, and Poppy she added for this tiny lima bean sized being to call my stepfather. Okay, sure. I guess somewhere people call grandparents "Grandmother and Grandfather," but not here.

Over the weekend, my Beloved informed me that we had been invited to a distantly related cousin to see her new baby, and we would be leaving late on Sunday afternoon. That's fine. We arrive in an area of our community where decorating your house for Christmas has the competitive feel of reality television. Although it is dark as - well, night- headlights are not necessary because Santas, snowmen, reindeer, chimneys, and one random dreidel light our way to this cousin's home. The two-year old big brother of this brand new baby opens the door, then runs away screaming, "Gigi, GIGI!" Suddenly, a long-lost cousin that I believe I have met at a funeral before pokes her head around the doorframe. With jerky flipping of her wrist, she motions for us to follow her inside. A tiny baby girl is sleeping on one of her shoulders, while on the other a cell phone is perched under her chin.

She is bending down to the shouting child and yell whispering, "Ty, Gigi is talking to Mumu!" Somewhere inside my soul a mental reckoning that in other parts of the country and probably in other parts of the world, other people did not say things like what I had just heard. Gigi is talking to Mumu. It could just as easiliy have been- Memaw is talking to Nini or Mimi is talking to Nanie or Mams is talking to MawMaw. I just know that Queen Elizabeth probably didn't have to whisper to the young princes, "William, ssshhh, NayNay is talking to Mumsy." You just know that didn't happen. The rest of our visit was pretty much uneventful. The baby was beautiful. her big brother is brilliant. Their home is lovely, etc... Nothing struck me quite like Gigi is talking to Mumu, which translates to your grandmother is talking t oyour great-grandmother.

I am blessed in any number of ways, not the least of which is that I am 45 years old and both of my grandmothers are still alive. My maternal grandmother is 85-years-old and my paternal grandmother is 93. We just celebrated her birthday on Pearl Harbor Day. She was in her late twenties when the Hawaiian Islands were attacked and when she remembers that day she says that she was cutting out pictures from magazines to make Christmas cards with when the news began to come on over the radio. She ran down to her mother's home to listen with family to this dreadful news. The next day, my grandfather went to enlist, but he was a bus driver, which wasconsidered an essential position. So... much to my grandmother's relief, he was rejected and told to stay home to continue to drive.

My maternal grandmother is 85. After a somewhat frustrating shopping experience at the mall, I introduced her to the joys of internet shopping. She is completely converted to this new delight. Together, we finished all of her Christmas shopping in a two day visit in front of my computer screen. For the first time in the last few years she is totally satisfied with the gifts she is giving. How could I not love someone so easily pleased?

As you can see I am destined to live a really long time, and probably have a spine the shape of a shepherd's crook. Perhaps, I will be a Nini or a Memaw or whatever. All I know is I am 45 years old and I have a Mimi and a Grandmommy and I don't care who hears me say it. they are adorable and I am just about the luckiest person I know because of them, and because of the children that made them great grandmothers.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Peace, Be still!

Peace, be still! I realize that this is a two part instruction. Sadly, I can only do one at a time, and frankly I am a little overwhelmed that they come as a package deal. Sort of like when angels appear throughout scripture, and the first thing they must say is "Don't be afraid." I can't help but think that some days they might have just wanted to get on with it. Yes, God's love for humanity is large, beautiful, and probably really shiny. Pull yourself together. Undoubtedly, angels enjoy talking with one another, so that such a preliminary admonishment isn't necessary.

But back to peace and be still. Okay, I don't know which one is harder- the peace part or the be still part. Now, as for the peace part. Peace is a real problem. My darlin has been known to comment that I almost always have the TV on. This is an absolute bald-faced exaggeration. I do usually have the TV on, but I'm not watching it. This may sound crazy, but I have to have something to ignore. My children both read, do their homework, and work on the computer with the TV running incessantly. The television is like the wallpaper noise of our house. So yeah, peace is like a river or a fountain or like something that I have a real problem finding.

Be still is worse. Over the past two months, while I have been convalescing (that doesn't look like it is spelled right?!) being still has been mandatory, but that just means that my mind would fly around like BBs in a Japanese Pachenko machine. 'Cause I still think that God doesn't exactly care that your body is still. The rest of the story is be still and know that I am God.

All my life I have known that there is a God. For those who search and wonder, I pray, but for me- I know that I am not alone on this journey. For this moment, while wounds heal and angels prepare to hide some of their magnificence and costumes for the Christmas pageant are found and fluffed, I am challenged. Peace, be still. Both together. Perhaps, I will learn to let the whisperings of a still small voice be the music of my day.

Surely this time away from people, away from work isn't merely an interruption, but a kind of death. To merely start the same craziness- two jobs, constantly running to meetings, visits, meals in a drive-thru, and love as a promise not an action, would be to miss the monumental pain of this time. This time has hurt- pain and loneliness and fear. Listen, listen, listen...God is calling me to something new.