Tuesday, December 18, 2012


 . . . I didn't do anything I was supposed to do.  I didn't go to the meeting in Effingham.  I didn't go to Faith in Place.  I didn't go to the Maynard Lake Ladies Christmas party.  I stayed home and prayed my way through a pile of work and the feeling that I was going to be sick if I kept going and going.  And I think it worked.  I feel different today.  As if maybe when Christmas comes I won't be cringing in the corner, but ready to sing and celebrate. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Children's Pageant Today

Working with the kids to put together the children's pageant has been no end of fun this year.  They've jumped right in, laughed at the jokes, worked hard, learned lines, come to practice, and . . . it's going to be another cute program.   And I've learned something:  Cute is as good as it gets, probably, for children's pageants.  Never thought I'd say that  . . .  
Love these kids, though.  My heart breaks for their little heart breaks.  And I wish they didn't have to struggle with the limits of the people, like me, who are trying to raise them well.  And I wish they could all be healthy and smart and have sunny dispositions and grow up in an easy and simple world.  They aren't, they don't and they can't.  But they go at living with such earnestness and enthusiasm.  So I am tremendously impressed by them. 
When I was a (much) younger woman, I didn't think I liked kids. And I still don't like "kids" as a big category any more than I like any other big category of people.  I'm not a big believer in any particular brand of human existence.  Age, religion, ethnicity, gender.  I haven't found a group that I think is made up of all great folks.  I don't know if you've noticed this, but some people stink.  There are stinky old folks, stinky believers of every persuasion, stinky people of every race, stinky women and men. Some kids stink, too, and it's just as hard to figure out who the stinkers are when they are three feet tall as when they shoot up to 6' or more.   But, with the short ones, there is more hope, I think, that they'll wise up and actually love something or someone other than themselves.  Taller humans - it takes a big shock to wise them up.  Kids are getting big shocks all the time.  Some adjust in the direction of being more beautiful and human.  I like to be around to see those shifts, when they happen. Maybe I do like kids, after all.  Nah.  I love every single one of these kids.  And I like them, too.   But I probably still don't like "kids".     

Friday, December 7, 2012

Talking to myself

Today I need to talk to myself about doing what needs to be done.
It's my own fault that I have no morning, afternoon or evening left.
I take responsibility for that.  I made the mistake(s).
And, judging from my inability to commit to blocking off some time,
I will probably make this sort of mistake again and again
until the consequences become too hard to bear.
At which point I'll stop.  Or die.  Either way.

But here is how it is going to work:
I'm going to stop by St. Matthews and see if I can get my stuff from Beit Jala.
This morning I am going to pick up Bob and take him for coffee.
I need to mail the Just Eating stuff to Bill Metcalf.
I am going to call the ink place and either get the cartridge I need or not.
Deal with it.
I'm having lunch with Keith at Fiesta.  That's at 12.
Wash windows.
Load the tables in the car and get them to DCPH by 4.
Put up the Christmas tree.
Cry a little bit.
You know what won't get done on this list?  The windows.  The Christmas tree.  The crying.  Oh.  And the vacuuming won't get done either.  And making a decent dinner didn't even get on the list. 
Time marches on.  Properly chastened, I begin my day.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

What's your sign?

Dec. 6

Makes me happy: Yesterday I bought images from John August Swanson and learned a little bit how to use Dropbox.  And I prepared a much nicer Advent Devotion. (But no one came.)  The kids (minus the little ones) are taking the play very seriously.  So rehearsal was fun.  And Michael was back, which helps a ton.  And the best news of all is I slept and slept last night.  Til 5:30 this morning.  (I am a little bit bone tired, and spent at least part of yesterday just wandering from here to there, in a sort of exhausted haze.)
Looking toward today (with hope) - I meet Connie in Homer at 9.  And Rachel is coming down at 3:30 to talk about women's retreat possibilities.  And I do NOT have a planning committee meeting tonight.  Maybe I'll go to sleep again.  Oh.  That would be great!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Another poem I want to remember

“My Name”
Once when the lawn was a golden green
and the marbled moonlit trees rose like fresh memorials
in the scented air, and the whole countryside pulsed
with the chirr and murmur of insects, I lay in the grass,
feeling the great distances open above me, and wondered
what I would become and where I would find myself,
and though I barely existed, I felt for an instant
that the vast star-clustered sky was mine, and I heard
my name as if for the first time, heard it the way
one hears the wind or the rain, but faint and far off
as though it belonged not to me but to the silence
from which it had come and to which it would go.
Mark Strand, “My Name,” from Man and Camel: Poems, 2008.

Dec. 2

Sunday - the First Day of Advent.
Come, Lord Jesus. 

The sanctuary was full of nativity scenes, and the tree looked great.  Choir loft was full.  Communion, which I love.  Lighting the Advent candle.  (This might have been my favorite part of the service)

Speaker 1:       “The house lights go off and the footlights come on.
Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise.
In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised.
The conductor has raised his baton.”  (Frederick Buechner) 
Speaker 2:           Advent is the name of that moment.

I preached a first person sermon as Joseph, just for the record.
We had some excitement when a member who shall remain nameless locked her granddaughter in the car as she was leaving.  I called roadside assistance and they said call 911.  So the firetruck came and they got the toddler out.  And she never even cried.  She's as tough as her mom and her grandmom and her great grandmom.  That's a line of fantastically strong women there.  
After church I went to Good Shepherd and made a presentation about Just Eating.  Then to the Elks for their annual memorial day service.  Home to the Christmas thing-y.  It went fine. We had more visitors this year, I think.   The Unity Choir Girls were lovely.  By the time it was over I put on my jammies and went to bed.  And now I'm up too early.  I love to sleep.  Why do I not do it more? 

Dec. 1

Not a moment to catch my breath on the day before Advent.  I'm the textbook case of "Hurry up so you can wait." 
Picking up advent wreath makings for kids at hanging of the greens. 
Pageant practice. 
Loading/unloading/ sitting at the shop local event (which discouraged me about alternative Christmas.  Hardly anyone bought anything.) 
Hanging of the Greens. 
Presentation for FinP. 
I guess some people run around like that all the time.  I wonder how they do it. 

Gratitude Day #30

Grateful for Friday . . . Hmmmm.  Venison Stew at Dublin's Irish Pub was delicious.  And I didn't run out of gas on the way there.  Two things.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Gratitude Day #29

I got installed as Moderator at Presbytery today.  And I moderated a slightly contentious portion of the meeting.  I'll tell you what I'm grateful for, and I'm slightly surprised to say this:  I'm grateful that I finally feel a part of that group of Presbyterians.    It feels good to know them and be able to ask about their lives, or understand what they are saying and where they are "coming from".   It feels like a funky family  - always teetering, just this side of dysfunction. We're kept together by a stern but kind mother (Cindy Bean) and a smart and sweet older sister (Anne Jones) and with well meaning uncles, brothers and cousins providing a reassuring masculine presence.  We approved Amy Cornell as a candidate for ministry.  And she made us so proud, being so beautiful and articulate and young and pregnant.   Us old aunties teared up a little, remembering our younger days and hoping/fearing for her future, knowing what joys and calamities it will surely hold. 

Gratitude Day #28

I'm grateful that I had the time (20 minutes?) and the money to buy something new  to wear for my installation at Presbytery.  Sometimes when I start a new venture, I like something new to wear.  So I have a new shirt/jacket from the Wooden Hangar.  Made in the USA.  Thank you, garment workers of America.  Long may you be paid more than $2, like those poor people in the developing world.  Wearing fairly made clothes is like drinking fair trade coffee, to me.  They may not actually be any better quality (although I think they are) but I feel better wearing them.  Connected to what is right with the world, not wearing what is wrong rubbing right up against my skin.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gratitude Day #28

Hmmmmm.  Looking at yesterday's entry:  I DID have meetings yesterday.  Harumph.  10, 2 and 6:30.  How's that for breaking up the day into barely usable segments? 
Today I am grateful that I have Kids this afternoon, and we get to prepare the Christmas Pageant.  And that I get to finish the newsletter today.  And . . . that I don't have time to go get something new to wear to Presbytery tomorrow.  (This isn't working for me right now.  The needle on my whine-o-meter is approaching the red zone.  Better switch gears.)  I'm glad I can go get a cup of coffee, take the dogs out and try again later.   

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Gratitude Day #27

I'm grateful that the Southern Champaign Today newspaper took my Christmas Open House flyer this morning when I delivered it at 7:30 and is going to be able to put it in Philo's papers this week.  I'm grateful to have the printer working again (all inks installed!).  I'm grateful to be able to do office work, write letters and finish projects instead of running to a bunch of meetings.  And I'm grateful for my messy little house, which is full of love. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gratitude Day #26

I'm grateful for poetry.  Grateful to people who post it (David Lose.  RevGalBlogPals. Peacebang. Steve Shoemaker.  Liz.  etc.)

Here's one:

Twenty Questions
Did I forget to look at the sky this morning
when I first woke up? Did I miss the willow tree?
The white gravel road that goes up from the cemetery,
but to where? And the abandoned house on the hill, did it get
even a moment? Did I notice the small clouds so slowly
moving away? And did I think of the right hand
of God? What if it is a slow cloud descending
on earth as rain? As snow? As shade? Don’t you think
I should move on to the mop? How it just sits there, too often
unused? And the stolen rose on its stem?
Why would I write a poem without one?
Wouldn’t it be wrong not to mention joy? Sadness,
its sleepy-eyed twin? If I’d caught the boat
to Mykonos that time when I was nineteen
would the moon have risen out of the sea
and shone on my life so clearly
I would have loved it
just as it was? Is the boat
still in the harbor, pointing
in the direction of the open sea? Am I
still nineteen? Going in or going out,
can I let the tide make of me
what it must? Did I already ask that?
- Jim Moore

Gratitude Day #25

Oh my goodness!  SOOO grateful for the Spirit alive and at work in church today.  The crazy music service which I dreaded like a dentist turned out so much better than I thought it would.  AJ and Kirk and Sue were great readers.  And Mark and Hanah played together so beautifully.  And the ladies of the choir led every hymn.  People listened to the Bible like they cared about what it said.  It was just a marvelous morning.  And such a surprise.  I can't get over it.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gratitude Day #24

Thankful for an unhappy thing:  The Yoga Retreat I love so much was cancelled due to illness.  So I've had all morning to piddle.  I've been clearing my desk (again) and doing clerical chores.  I am such a bad secretary to myself.  Shhhh.  No complaining on Gratitude Days!  It is nice to have some time where I can do the things I know need doing, without a sense of not being able to get it all done.  This is found time.  Nice.

One thing I found was a beautiful poem by physician-poet, John Stone:

Everything is Going to Be All Right

How should I not be glad to contemplate
the clouds clearing beyond the dormer window
and a high tide reflected on the ceiling?
There will be dying, there will be dying,
but there is no need to go into that.
The poems flow from the hand unbidden
and the hidden source is the watchful heart.
The sun rises in spite of everything
and the far cities are beautiful and bright.
I lie here in a riot of sunlight
watching the day break and the clouds flying.
Everything is going to be all right.

Gratitude Day #23

Grateful for a day to do the bulletin and clean up the Thanksgiving, and eat leftovers, and survive Unity's championship football game. 
(They lost to Aurora Christian, which I didn't mind too much until I was walking through the parking lots on the way back to my car and saw a car all painted up with "Christ is Coming Soon. Let's get this one for Him!  Go Eagles!"  Then I was really sorry Unity didn't stomp some Eagle butt.)
Back to grateful:  Glad for warm clothes and a tiny bit of stamina for the cold.  Glad Caleb didn't freeze to death in his band uniform.  I'm glad it was cold enough he let me buy him hot chocolate and cheese fries.  I'm grateful that Tim's meeting in Edwardsville went well and that he made it back safely.
And I'm grateful to have found this quote, which I will forget if I don't post it somewhere:

Conflict is, to choose a simile, like sex. Victorians saw sex as something one must tolerate, learn to live with, but not enjoy. Most persons voice the same negative mindset toward conflict. Like sex, conflict should happen between persons committed to be present with continuity, occur with appropriate frequency, be mutually exciting to both, activate both parties equally to contribute their best selves, and be prolonged until mutually satisfactory climax is possible for each. When it is over, both should feel better as a result. And its energy should then empower other areas of life with vitality and creativity. Like sex, conflict is a source of joy, fulfillment, empowerment, and celebration.

David W. Augsburger. Conflict Mediation Across Cultures: Pathways and Patterns. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992, pp. 66-67.

Gratitude Day #22

How funny to get behind on Gratitude posts on Thanksgiving Day!  But I was up sooooo early, making rolls, and dressing, and pumpkin pie, and sweet potatoes . . . I'm thankful to report that the meal was delicious.  The company was dandy:  Tim, the two youngest boys, Bob K and Mom were here to share the day.  After Mom and Bob and Caleb left, Tim and Sean and I went to see Lincoln.  And I guess the movie reminded me I'm glad to live in a nation that (finally!) banned slavery. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gratitude Day #21A

So thankful to find that the BANK had made a mistake, and that's why I didn't have very much money in my account.  They forgot to automatically deposit my PAYCHECK!  Also thankful that because of Financial Peace University I had some savings, which I'd been transferring in bit by bit this month to avoid overdrafts.  (I can put it back now!)  But no wonder I was lower than I thought I should be.  I was missing a whole month's pay.  Good grief!  I have been berating myself, wondering where in the world all that money could have gone.  Worrying about the future.  Despairing of my decision making ability.  But I'm fine.  I just didn't get paid.  That's the whole problem, right there.  I'm right where I should be.  Good grief! 
I have to remember to call the bank on Friday (of course I didn't find this out until 5 o'clock on the day before Thanksgiving) to get it straightened out.  But then I'll be fine.  Fine and dandy.  Good grief!

Gratitude Day #21

Today I am grateful for a warm morning with the fog burned off.  One more day when it doesn't hurt to walk outside.  I'm going to go to work for awhile, then maybe rake some leaves out of the flower bed in front. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gratitude Day #20

Thankful that the manager at Zojo is selling my earrings.  I feel so . . . artsy. hehe

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gratitude Day #19

Grateful for this beautiful earth, and hopes for peace, even in the midst of war.

Gratitude Day #18

Today I'm grateful for a nice church family and especially for Elder Barbara Burlew, who spoke to us about mission and said things we need to hear.  And she also posted on FB that she was proud of her church.  Which makes my heart glad.  She's an amazing woman.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gratitude Day #17

I have so much to be grateful for today! 
The big kids and their partners are coming for Christmas.
I had a fun time listening to a ska band with mi esposo last night.
My mom is funnier than your mom.
The dogs sleep in their own beds, not mine.
I could go on and on.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gratitude Day #15

I spent the morning in the yard, cleaning up garden beds for the winter.  A little effort -  a visible difference.  Gratifying.  Which makes me grateful.  (It also made me too tired to write in complete sentences.) 

Gratitude Day #16

Today I am grateful for minister friends.  This article from BTM reminds me how blessed I am.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pick of the Litter

These are the earrings I made out of plastic bottles on their way to the recycling bin.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gratitude Day #14

I'm grateful that I don't get up and make cinnamon rolls every morning, cause I did yesterday and then I ate about a dozen of them.  It was like they were the best thing I'd ever eaten (which they definitely were not).   I spent the day alternating between pride at what a good baker I am - which I had to confirm by having another cinnamon roll every few minutes - and total disgust at my lack of self-control - which I demonstrated with the same behavior. 
So today? What makes me grateful? 
At least that's over.
Hey. It's a start.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gratitude #13

I'm thankful for talented women who give things away for charity.  The time and the trouble that goes into craft, sewing, cooking, crafting . . . it's really beautiful when all that is shared.  Yeah, sisters!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Gratitude Day #12

I am grateful that I was included in two social gatherings this weekend.  I'm not a party animal, but the pleasure of being included in a small part of other people's lives is always worth the discomfort caused by being shy.  Happy Birthday, Julie!  Congratulationsh, Kaitlyn and Kevin!

Jesus' Critique of Temple Life

This is *roughly* the sermon I preached on Stewardship Sunday.  It's based on Mark 12:38-44.

You’ve heard the phrase “the widow’s mite” and probably plenty sermons about the sanctity of gifts from those who have little to give, but give it all.  These sermons said, “No matter how small, God will value and use your gift.  Be like the widow.  Put in your two cents.”
I think I’ve preached that sermon, as a matter of fact.  But I’m not going to preach it this time.  Because I think it misses the point of what the Bible is telling us. 

So I guess the first thing I’d ask from you is that you listen for something new.  Not the virtue of the widow and her gift.  Because it seems that the text brings up a a far subject  that Jesus was trying to address. 

This set of stories is all about Jesus challenging the most powerful people in Jerusalem right in the center of that power:  the Temple.  It all happens the last week of Jesus’ earthly life.  He enters the city - that’s a Sunday.  He goes to the Temple and starts a small riot - that’s Monday.  And Tuesday he’s back, stirring things up again, criticizing the very folks who make the Temple system function:  The scribes.  The priests.  The big donors.  He has a cutting remark to make about each one.  And it is these remarks that culminate in his observation of the impoverished widow who throws her life in, gives everything that makes for life, in service to these big shot hypocrites and thieves. 

It is quite possible that Jesus was not saying “What a good and faithful woman” but “What a perfect shame - that what passes for faith in God has come to this.”  And after this story, he predicts the destruction of the Temple, which actually occurred just a few years after his death and resurrection.

It’s all about Jesus challenging the corruption of the religious system of his day.
The Temple  - the primary religious institution of Jesus’ day - had become a sham.  And Jesus called them to something different and better by pointing out what was wrong. 

So, if that’s so, it behooves us to know something about what the Temple was supposed to be about and why it failed so spectacularly. 

The Temple was supposed to be a place where God met His people.
It was the house, the home of God.  That’s why the Temple was so beautiful and so big.  This church isn’t big - but it is beautiful.  And every year in planning our budget, maintaining the building is a part of what we consider.  There’s a built in tension there.  There are a lot of church buildings that eat up the lion’s share of the church budget.  Maintaining the building becomes the focus of concern and energy for congregations.  As moderator of the Committee on Ministry for our Presbytery, I encountered more than a few churches like that right in Central Illinois.  “What do you want your church to accomplish in the future?” We just want to be able to pay the bills and stay in our building until a few more of us die.  Then we’ll close.  Honestly.  I heard that. 
I love this sanctuary and this building.  But if preserving it as some sort of shrine ever becomes the focus of our life together, you should seek another, better place to give your money.

The Temple was supposed to be the meeting place for all of God’s people. 
It was the focus of community.  Every good Jew was supposed to be welcomed to the Temple several times a year where they would see themselves as part of God’s gathered people.  It was a way to give perspective to their individual and family lives. 
But in Jesus’ day, coming to the Temple was a hardship for the poor and the outcast.  They were expected to buy their way in with sacrifices that were marked up at an absurd rate.  And the rules for getting in were tightened up.  The Temple officials pronounced judgement on who was and who wasn’t allowed to participate.  It became more like a fraternal organization than a welcoming place. 
If this church starts to feel like a country club, where everyone shares the same lifestyle, political views and economic circumstance, a group that excludes those who don’t quite measure up, you should find a different and better place to invest the time and the treasure that God has entrusted to you.

The Temples was supposed to be a resource for poor people.
The Temple was referred to in the Old Testament as God’s storehouse.  People were instructed to bring a tithe - a tenth - of their wealth, which was mostly agricultural produce in that economy.  The Temple treasury then used that money and those agricultural commodities to provide for the poor.  Widows were the poorest folks in that society and God was very specific in saying that they should be protected and provided for from the Temple treasury. 
But in Jesus’ day, the whole structure had gotten so perverse.  Temple officials had themselves appointed trustees of widow’s estates.  Women couldn’t be trusted to make good decisions, you know.  And as the trustees, the Temple officials enriched themselves.  The poor were left with a pittance, and without any place to go to get assistance. 
If you ever see that someone is getting rich off the church, or that the church doesn’t use the offerings you bring to help the poorest and most vulnerable people in the community and the world, you should not support that church.  There are churches that say, “We just don’t have the money to do mission this year.”  Honestly.  A church that doesn’t give out of the storehouse of God is not a true Temple anymore than the one Jesus challenged.

The Temple was supposed to be a place where people were reconciled and brought into right relationship with God.  That’s what the system of sacrifice was supposed to be about.  When a person needed to repent of sin and begin a new relationship with God and the community, or when children were born or initiated into the community, the Temple was the place for that to happen.  Lives were transformed there.  God made people holy, and forgave sin there.
But in Jesus day, the focus was all on askew.  It became more about preserving the traditions and rituals than about the new life that those rituals were supposed to symbolize.  It is here that Jesus made the biggest change in Temple theology.  Because he declared that in his death, sacrifice religion was ended forever.  It is through a relationship with Jesus - in following Him and living in the Jesus Way - that lives are renewed and transformed. 
If a church isn’t a place where lives are transformed and where the separation between God and humanity is dealt with by Jesus Christ, then it is not worth your support.  You should keep your offering, whether it is two cents or something much bigger. 

Jesus’ critique of the corrupt Temple is not usually the focus of Stewardship Sunday.  But it does provide a framework for you to decide about what and where you will invest the money that God has put in your care, money that you’ve inherited, money that you’ve earned by the sweat of your brow, money that comes to you through ingenuity and invention.  The Biblical view of money is that God provides it in different measures to different people and that each of us should spend all of it in way that is pleasing to God.  Giving a tenth of it to a religious institution is the Biblical standard for living a joyous and generous life. 

But the character and the viability of the religious institution matters.  That’s why Session sent you an outline of how the money that you give here is spent.  Because you  need to ask yourself, as you decide your level of support for this church:

Does this institution maintain a building where people can meet God?

Does this institution welcome all of God’s people to participate in the community?

Is this institution a resource for the economically and socially vulnerable?

Does this institution transform lives and help people begin a new relationship with God though Jesus Christ?

If you believe it is like the Temple in Jesus’ day, then you should watch your head and clear the area, because like the Temple, this place will fall.
If you believe it needs some work, which all human institutions do, then I encourage you to become more actively involved in repairing its faults.
And if you believe it does what the Temple was intended to do, then it is worthy of generous support.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Days of Gratitude #10 & 11

I am thankful for a sunny day in November and a good visit with Tim's son, Colin.

I am thankful for the generous stewards of Philo Presbyterian.  I am thankful for Teri Patton and Fay Rouseff-Baker, who talked about why they give.  And I am thankful that Stewardship Sunday I is over.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Chick chick chick chick chicken

Jim Evans and I have a fantasy chicken operation.  At least it is a fantasy so far. 

Today's daily Gospel reading includes Jesus saying "O, that I might gather you under my wings, as a hen gathers her brood."  It is one of the most poignant verses of all Scripture for me.  How much longing and love and hurt and fear is is God's own voice.  It makes me want to run and nestle into the warm, soft heart of God. 

I was actually at the place, a hill overlooking Jerusalem, where Jesus said those words.  This is the picture of the communion table there. 

Gratitude Day #9

Today I'm grateful for the beautiful gift of sleep, and for dreams that remind me that there is lots I don't know, even about myself.  The feeling of falling asleep - letting go of thinking and sinking into another realm - is delicious.  I could make a meal of it. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Gratitude Day #8

Thank you, God,  for Terry Pratt.  That's all I'm going to say about that.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gratitude - Day #7

I'm grateful to God for my sister, who has always brought beauty and drama and fun to my life.   She pushes past boring with every step.  Love that Liz.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gratitude - Day #6

This is a small but important one:  After a trepidation filled pause, in which a blank screen and a slight "click and whir" were all she wrote, I was able to power up my beloved (I know it's silly, but I do love her a little) laptop. 

But what I was really being grateful today for is my mother's spirit and strength.  I'm grateful that she has powered through various health issues that would have crippled a lesser woman (like me!) and keeps living life to the fullest.  I love her a lot.  And in a different way than my computer. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Gratitude Day 5

Tim.  He makes the world a better place.  Especially for me.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fall back Sunday sermon

I haven't had a sermon I wanted to post in a while.  I think this one is good.

Mark 12:28-34
(The Greatest Commandment)
Nov. 4, 2012

Daylight Savings Time is over.   Did you enjoy your extra hour of time?  I spent most of mine trying to figure out how to set the clock in my car.  Poof.  Gone. 

Switching between daylight savings and regular old Central Standard Time is kind of a great thing - in that it reminds us that how we measure time is something that we can decide.

I got to thinking about how humans measure time and found out some pretty great stuff:

Treating time as malleable - something we can stretch or shorten or shift around to suit us - is not new by any means.  Daylight Savings Time is relatively new.  Some people say that Benjamin Franklin “invented” it.  That turns out not to be true.  He did  write an article about getting up earlier - as you might expect from a man who said “Early to bed, Early to Rise, Makes a Man Healthy, Wealthy and Wise”  According to Wikipedia (how did I live before Wikipedia?) Franklin was living in Paris, and was kinda disgusted to notice that Parisians wasted what he considered a good part of the morning by staying in bed.  He published a satirical letter, anonymously, suggesting that they economize on candle wax if they got up early and suggesting that shutters (to keep the morning light out) be taxed.  I don’t know why he gets the credit. 

Daylight Savings Time actually was seriously proposed by a guy from New Zealand whose very serious hobby was collecting and studying insect specimens.  His day job kept him from enjoying his hobby as much as he’d like - and he thought it would be great to have a few more bug collecting hours in the evening before the sun went down.  That was in 1895.  In 1905, in England, another serious proposal was made by a prominent business man who hated how sunset so often ruined his rounds of golf.  He had a friend in Parliament who introduced a law and all of England changed its time so that this guy could play more golf.  (Maybe you thought lobbyists pushing rich guys agendas was new.  Not so!)  The United States adopted DST for the first time during WWI - to help improve production for the war effort.  And after the war was over, Congress repealed it, but Woodrow Wilson, a great Presbyterian and an avid golfer, vetoed the bill twice.  Congress overrode him the second time. 

But way before Daylight Savings Time, the ancients had ways of measuring time that made it sort of elastic, too.  One was that the hours themselves were shortened or lengthened according to the season.  Daylight was always divided into 12 hours, so they were longer in summer, shorter in winter.  They even made clocks, which had different size weights or springs or something on them.  One Roman clock that archeologists have found measured hours that ranged from 44 minutes to 75 minutes in length.  Apparently, from my reading, there are still monasteries which use this flexible length of hour schedule to order their lives (and life in a monastery is ordered around regular, around the clock prayer times - so that makes some sense.)

All in all, it seems rather marvelous to ponder how time, which we think of as so regular and immutable - atomic clocks measure it to the accuracy of a second every 1000000 years or so - can be measured and thought of in quite different ways.  And human beings can and do decide how we are going to measure time.

Let’s “zoom out” from thinking of the possibilities for measuring time, and think about how we measure the times of our lives.

What units of measurement do we use to mark and measure our lives?  
Some people measure good days and bad days by how much money they made or spent. 
For others, the day’s measurement is what they see on the bathroom scale. 
People in recovery measure how many days since they quit using.  And they celebrate milestones like 30 days of sobriety.  1 year of sobriety.  I think that’s cool.
There was a guy on the radio last week who measures his days and years out in books he reads.  His best year he read 220 books. 
And there was an article in the paper not long ago about a sheriff’s deputy who had an incredible number of arrests for DUI.  He said, “I don’t keep track.”  But somebody did!

How do you measure the hours, the days, the years of your life?

Well - this is where I’m finally going to talk about the Bible, in case you were wondering - this little conversation between Jesus and the scribe is all about that.  You see, the scribe quizzes Jesus on the Jewish law.  And that law was a way to measure, a way to mark, a way to evaluate - people’s lives.  It gave them a way to mark and measure the rightness of each moment of the day and night.  Waking up, did I fulfill this law about what to say and how to wash?  Eating?  Clothing?  Washing clothes or dishes?  Each of these laws - and there were 613 of them - were a tiny tick of the life clock, moving in the right direction.  The right-ness of life was measured in this way.  People kept track of their lives in terms of the laws they managed to obey.  Some folks did very well and they were honored.  Some did not so well and they were shamed.  But everyone had their clock set on Law Standard Time. 

Jesus’ answer to the scribe resets the clock.  That’s why it is important.  Because it resets for us and forever how we understand the measure of our days.  Jesus said, I probably don’t need to remind you - that there were two laws which mattered.  On these two, he said, all the rest were dependent.  The way to measure the right- ness - the goodness, the worth, or a person’s life - the Way God measures life - is by love.

It is love of God and love of neighbor and love of self that Jesus says is to be the way we measure our days.  This is God Standard Time.  No other measure tells the truth about whether a human life is worth hydrogen and oxygen and carbon and nitrogen that make up our bodies. 
It isn’t our fame, it isn’t our popularity, it isn’t our grade point average, it isn’t our I.Q, it isn’t our shoe size or our hat size or our pants size.  It isn’t our bank account, or our acreage, or our portfolio.  It isn’t the number of marriages we have, or the number of kids we have, or the number of friends we have on Facebook. 

You can measure your life that way if you want.  Lots of folks do.  But Jesus says that the true measure of a life is how much LOVE that life shows and shares with God and with others. 

How did love for God figure into your last week?  Were your days filled with thoughts of his Grace and Love for you or appreciation of the majesty of His creation?  Were you aware that every day began and ended with you in God’s presence?  God was there.  Did you think of it?  Did you acknowledge it?  Did the week contain a moment or more when you grasped something that made you pray, “Thanks.” or even “Wow”?  Did the challenges that you face - I know so many of us are facing challenges - did they cause you to turn for mercy to your divine counselor and friend?  How would you measure your last week in Love with God? 

Maybe that’s not the right thing to even ask.  Because if last week didn’t measure up, by God’s grace we have a new week ahead.  So think about how Love with God might mark those days.  Can you put him on your calendar?  Your schedule?  Can you plan to spend the minutes it takes to strengthen your relationship to God?  The hours when we need him most, God is always there.  How will your heart and soul and mind and strength reflect a loving relationship with God this week?

Ask yourself the same questions about other people.  And yourself.  Will your days include loving thoughts and actions toward those you know?  And, will your love stretch to those who need your acceptance, your help, your advocacy - even if you don’t know them?

Here's the big musical finish - which I will be merciful and not sing.  It is from the musical "Rent" and works on the idea that there are 525,600 minutes in every year.  It is called "Seasons of Love":

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes!
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life
Of a woman or a man?

You know that love is a gift from up above
Share love, give love spread love
Measure measure your life in love.

Our call as followers of Jesus Christ is to reset our clocks, our days, our minutes our lives to God Standard Time.  May it be so. 

Day #4

I'm grateful for Philo Presbyterian - for all the saints and sinners that I belong to there.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Day #3

I'm very thankful for my three unique and beautiful children.

Friday, November 2, 2012

30 days of gratitude - Days 1 & 2

Day 1 - Thankful for Jesus.  Beautiful, compassionate Jesus.
Day 2 - Thankful for the sky - the best part of the Illinois "landscape".

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A poem by Dawna Markova - I Will Not Die an Unlived Life

I will not die an unlived life
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart 
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
Dawna Markova, author of I Will Not Die an Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion.

The Measure of the Preacher's Life

Sunday comes,
and then Sunday comes again,
and the next Sunday will come in the same measure of time.

Sometimes I hear the promise in this.
Not today. 
Today it sounds like the curses
Hurled at the backs of Adam and Eve
as they fled Eden.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

From an article by William Easum "When People Would Rather Be Nice than Be Christian"  -
People who would rather be nice than Christian do not love enough. 
They do not have enough compassion. 
Instead, they are afraid of hurting someone or of being hurt. 
But fear is the opposite of love: "Perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4:18).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Split leaf philadendrom

My neighbor told me it was time to bring the plants in.  So I finally re-potted the split leaf philadendrom that loves being outside in the summer.  It gets so big and happy all summer long, sitting in the garden.  It had completely outgrown its pot.  So I put it in a bigger one and brought it in.  Winter is hard on it.  It loses leaves.  It shrinks.  It hates winter, just like I do.
This is my grandmother's plant.  It lived on the back porch in Texas.  My mother took it when grandmother died.  And gave it to me.  It is about the only plant I try to keep alive.  And so far, I have succeeded.  But when it is sitting in my living room, sometimes it whispers to me, "Why can't we live in Nicaragua?  I would fit right in there, under a lemon tree in your courtyard.  I don't belong here at all."  Yeah, I whisper back.  Me neither.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

now the eyes of my eyes are opened

Yesterday, I visited a woman
who was too busy dying to talk to me. 
Beside her bed was a book of poetry. 
I riffed the pages' edge to find a place
where the book opened easily,
and so I came upon this poem,
which spoke most clearly:

i thank You God for most this amazing day
By e e cummings
i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginably You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

Overheard on FaceBook

Part of a conversation:

I open my mouth and sometimes it makes people hate me.
I keep my mouth shut and sometimes it makes me hate myself.

Maybe that would make a good prayer of confession.

It makes me think about what I say and fail to say.  There are lots of times I keep my mouth shut when I have an opinion or observation that I know would not be welcomed.  And if I thought it was just cowardice over what others would think, I couldn't live with myself.  But I tell myself that my concern - the thing that stops me from speaking my mind - is that I care about the other person, and the possibility of a relationship with them, and the peace of the community we both share.   My opinion is rarely as valuable as any of that.  And, to be honest, I don't have a very good track record of knowing when speaking up is and is not helpful.  If I err (which I do) I'd rather err on the side of silence. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Before I forget - a poem I like.

By Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue
or even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall

well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted  
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Billy Collins, “Forgetfulness” from Questions About Angels. Copyright © 1999 by Billy Collins. Reprinted with the permission of University of Pittsburgh Press

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sweet tangle

John Calvin - ProtoPresbyterian - in his commentary on John 15:
The love of the Father towards the Son, and of the Son
     towards us, and of us toward God and our neighbour, are
     joined together with an inseparable knot: and there is
     nothing more sweet and pleasant than it is.