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Stations of the Kitsch


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Sunday, November 30, 2003

trip followup

I'm back from Michigan. It's good to be home, such that home is for me. I'm spending my first day back enjoying some down time at Dennis' while he is visiting his mom. It's the closest place to home for me. And he's bringing back dragon's breath noodles for us.

I missed my life so much while I was gone. I missed St. Ned's, I missed Dennis (which was made even worse by the fact that MacKenzie named the stuffed dog he gave her last summer Dennis, and Dennis the Dog was very active during my visit), and I missed driving my little green car on familiar streets. There's something weird about getting lost in your hometown, but I did so a couple of times. Had no freaking idea where I was.

I was driving my dad's whale Buick with the bench seat and the gear shift in the wrong place (at least relative to my beetle) which was making me nuts. It has Tennessee plates so if I was driving too cautiously that first day while I was getting used to taking up more room on the (wet) road, at least people were bitching about the wrong state.

Mostly being with the family was exhausting. There's an old saying that your family knows how to push your buttons because they installed them, and that's certainly true. But just being around people, with two of them being small, noisy people, on a constant basis was something I didn't tolerate well on this trip. I did get off on my own, or with just one kid, a bit, but I just never felt like I fully decompressed. I had a tension headache most of the time I was there, and last night Dennis ran me a tub after he picked me up from the airport and I just cried for a while.

On the trip back, I finally got around to reading The Sparrow which has been recommended by many many people. I liked it a lot and I'm still thinking about it today. I'm looking forward to reading the followup, Children of God.
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Happy New Year!

Well, it's First Advent, the beginning of the new liturgical year. Get out the funny liturgical hats and the liturgical noisemakers and the liturgical champagne.

Ok, so it doesn't really work that way. But still, new year.

I'm going to try to post something new every day in Advent. Here's my favorite prayer for Advent, written by Henri J.M. Nouwen:

Lord Jesus,

Master of both the light and the darkness, send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking the light.
To you we say, "Come Lord Jesus!"
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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

greetings from the midwest

I made it to Michigan without incident. Dennis drove me to the airport at a ridiculously early hour today, and then I just let United Airlines run my life for 6 hours. I'm here until Saturday. I'm spending tomorrow with middle niece MacKenzie, and have plans with Sarah, the oldest, on Friday. The three-year-old seems rather unimpressed with me thus far and is not seeking one-on-one time.

My mom made sugar cookies with Hershey's kisses in the middle and I think I've eaten a dozen so far.

I brought a bunch of books with me, since I never know what my mood will be once I get on the plane. I ended up continuing my re-read of Return of the King (embarrassing movie tie-in cover version - I always feel dorky reading those, like I couldn't be trusted to pick up a book that isn't already a major motion picture). I also read a crappy mystery that was 480 pages and lasted me only 2 hours of the flight. I left it on a chair in O'Hare with a note that said FREE!, so maybe it's on to someone who will enjoy it more. I should have planned ahead and had a bookcrossing number for it.

I'll wish you all a happy Thanksgiving now in case I don't make it back here!
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Sunday, November 23, 2003

model magic saved me

Another good day in Godly Play. The thing that has made the class work is so silly - I've been giving each of the kids a little piece of Model Magic (best. clay. ever., made by Crayola) before I start telling the story. I say that I don't want to see their clay, which means no throwing it, no using it to distract other people, etc. so it doesn't turn into clay-based anarchy, and then I go into the story. I've had two classes in a row where I've been able to tell the whole story with no interruptions and no extra fingers in the desert box. They all sit quietly and work their clay while they listen. It's amazing!

The other thing that's cool is that now they're really fired up about using the clay. Today we decorated the temple pieces that they made last time. I had told the story of the temple in Jerusalem, and all the things inside it, and they decided to make all of the pieces out of clay and let them harden. They have a bunch of new ideas about things they want to make next. I need to find out what kind of markers and paints work the best on Model Magic, because they were using sharpies today and it was frustrating.

One of the things we always ask during wondering time is where the kids think they are in the story. It was sad today to hear some of the kids say that they're out in the desert in exile. It's hard to be reminded that being 10 can really suck.

And then there are the kids who have total faith and you just want to slip up to them and ask if you can get a little of that.
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hi ho hi ho

My friend whose husband is the organist at St. Ned's once told me that when their alarm goes off on Sunday morning, they yell, CHURCH and then hit the snooze. Over and over.

I'm doing the same thing this morning, because I have to be there to teach Godly Play. It's my last time on this rotation, and then I'm off until January. I have mixed feelings about that, because I don't know if I can wait that long. I may have to find a way to worm my way into a classroom.

I'm teaching Exile and Return this week, which is good because it answers some questions the kids had last time. I learned that you shouldn't say "...and then the temple was destroyed later." unless you know who destroyed it, when, and why. Because they will ask. So I get to feel mildly competent this week and tell them what happened.

This was also the incident which made us realize that when we set up the classroom, we didn't put any Bibles in it. D'oh. So now there are Bibles and some other interesting books I think the kids will like, mostly about the historical period since they want to know what life was like then. I'm still looking for a really good Biblical atlas suitable for 5th graders. I keep checking at that place that I sold huge boxes of my old books to this summer, since I have a bunch of credit there I don't think I'll ever get through on my own.

Ranger Sara Laundry Tip: don't leave a spool of thread in your pants pocket. It's just not a good idea at all.
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Saturday, November 22, 2003

you're gonna have to serve somebody

So, it looks like there is a solution to my housing issues, and not one that I could have predicted or even brought about on my own. Yay for going hands-off on that one.

Earlier this week, I got into it with someone who said that Christians are pathetic because they can't handle being in charge of their lives and therefore need to lean on Jesus.

I was nice about it.

My main objection, though, is that it assumes that being in charge of my own life is the ultimate goal, and I'm failing if I can't do that.

As it is told 'round here, being in control looks like this: I am in total charge of my own destiny. I can re-invent myself every week if I want to. If I don't get what I want, then I just didn't want it enough. I can choose the diet soda that best expresses my individuality.

The lie says: If I'm in control of my life, then whatever happens to me is also under my control. I can take the right combination of vitamins and medical treatments so I will never ever die. I can make people love me through the correct selection of products and services. If I have enough money, I will never have to be uncomfortable. And if I don't have enough money, it's my own damn fault and my worth is negligible.

This is an ok belief system as long as things are going well, but throw in an unscheduled job loss, illness, death of someone important, and it pretty much falls apart.

Almost all of the really unpleasant 3 a.m. mindfucking that I do is directly related to thinking that I should be more in control of my life. And it leads to a good outcome, what...never? Exhibit A: Stupid second job I tried to take on last month. That was all about me trying to be more in control, to yank back whatever I had handed over to God, and it was a huge waste of energy.

So, I'm not in control of my life. I'm slowly becoming ok with this. I relapse a lot, because it's hard to avoid something that is so pervasive in the culture. But when I can maintain it, things just go better.

Advent is a great time to meditate on this, because it's a season about waiting and waiting is all about not being in control. Which is why you sometimes get to see people melt down in stores this time of year. Advent says, you are not ready to be with the incarnate God. Sit. Wait. He's coming. But there's nothing you can do to make it happen any faster. You've been given time to prepare. Use it wisely. [note: edited for clarity]
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Friday, November 21, 2003


I'm working late on a Friday so I can get the newsletter ready to go out before I leave for Michigan. Or not. It may have to wait until I get back. But here is something that TheRev wrote that I really like:

Advent whispers quietly in the rush of December a word of hope. Jesus is coming. The God who created us, has not abandoned us. A baby will be born who was promised before the foundations of the world and who points the way forward to a life of genuine meaning, significance and purpose. Follow him.

There's also the message from the Presiding Bishop:

Welcome The Morning StarÖ.

The piercing wail of a newborn child shatters the silence of the night, and the peace of God which passes all understanding is unleashed upon a broken world. May that same peace be born in us and show forth in our lives, giving hope to those without hope and overcoming the hostilities that divide us one from another. Let us rejoice and welcome Christ, who is the morning star rising in our hearts and giving to the world the light of his deathless and all embracing love.

I love Advent. Love love love it. Just one more week to go.
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blogworld and around the 'net

I think I'm really going to enjoy reading Matthias' blog:

Beth wrinked her brow at me. And I realized: no real pastor would suggest that CCR recording artists ought to be tortured to death. She was going to report this incident back to the district superintendant, and that would be it for me. There would be a mark on my file: "facetiously suggested violence against christian musicians."

Real Live Preacher got a book deal. Whoo hoo!

Pure randomness: cellphone rings inside coffin.

I am also seriously liking Craftster, whose slogan is No Tea Cozies Without Irony. I need to be creative this weekend.

Oh, and I have a copy of Fluxx on its way to Michigan. I'm sure I'll be revisiting the list of fabulous games as New Year's approaches.

Late addition - I'm not sure what the photo has to do with this article.

Lifetime Television Movie Generator: Tiffani-Amber Thiessen and George Hamilton star in "Fire My Agent: The Jaclyn Smith Story", the true story of a woman who battles the PTA. Despite her small town's racist attitudes, with the help of recovered-memory hypnosis she eventually finds the courage to rebuild her life. (via bookablog, which is cracking me up)
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Wednesday, November 19, 2003


Hey, everyone - what is your favorite game? Board, card, or otherwise. Adults and kids. I have two objectives - first, I want to get some cool games to take to Michigan with me next week to play with my nieces (some combination of 3, 8, and 13), and then we're having Mellow New Year's Game Night chez Jon & Ryan and it would be fun to have new games for that.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2003

small re-group

At our first small-group discussion on the retreat, the question was, "name three things about you that create your identity." It's one of those questions where you can either go deep or keep it really surface and talk about your cat, so I suppose it was a good first question.

I have to admit, I always look for the "right" answer to things like this. I suppose by default it's usually Jesus, like in the joke where the Sunday School teacher asks who invented the light bulb and one of the kids sighs, "I guess the answer must be Jesus again."

What I eventually came up with was something about ministry, that I get a lot of my identity from the ministry that I do. Which is pretty true; I mean, my job is ministry. What I do with a lot of my free time is ministry. I managed to expand on that enough that no one mentioned that I skipped the second and third things. Ha.

I've been thinking about the ministries I'm involved in a lot lately, especially the weekly small group that I'm now leading. I've only been leading it for a month or so, after being in it for a year. Leading has been a good stretching kind of thing for me, since I've never done this before. It's a weird thing being in a leadership position, though. I have to admit that my mind is more on doing all the nice facilitator things and watching the clock to be sure we have enough time for each segment than it is on really being present to the group. Maybe that will dissipate as I get more comfortable doing it. I am thinking about joining another small group that meets on another day because I really miss the feeling of being a participant.

I'm also suspecting that after over a year of meeting every week, my current group has perhaps pushed me as far as they're going to spiritually. There's a lethargy that has set in. We're comfortable together, we have fun, I genuinely like these people...but that's not really the point. We're too comfortable, and I'm in a mood to make myself a little less comfortable these days. Maybe the problem is just that comfort is way different from covenant. It's like a squishy soft blanky that doesn't ask anything of you.
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how can you remain blind to His Command?

I'm on a maillist which sends me a new Rumi poem every day. Sometimes I read them, sometimes I just throw them out with the morning spam. But I stay on because every so often something like this shows up and I notice it:

You make a hundred resolutions to journey somewhere:
He draws you somewhere else.
He turns the horse's bridle in every direction
that the untrained horse may gain knowledge of the rider.
The clever horse is well-paced
because it knows a rider is mounted upon it.
He fixed your heart on a hundred passionate desires,
disappointed you, and then broke your heart.
Since He broke the wings of your first intention,
how do you doubt the existence of the Wing-breaker?
Since His ordainment snapped the cord of contrivance,
how can you remain blind to His Command?

-- Mathnawi III: 4456-4461
Version by Camille and Kabir Helminski

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Monday, November 17, 2003


A few more notes from the weekend -

It's fun to drive with a bag of tambourines and maracas in your car. Every speed bump is a fiesta!

The bottle of wine came out Saturday night when we were making banana boats in the fireplace, so I didn't have to pair it with a Zone bar. I also need to bring more wine next year, since that bottle went fast.

If you're charging up the digital camera before you leave on retreat, check to see that the other end of the charger cord is plugged into an actual wall. It works better that way, and will not leave you looking confused as you try to turn on a camera with a dead, uncharged battery.

People who don't walk uphill and downhill on a regular basis, but still choose to take long hikes while on retreat should not expect their legs to be happy about this. My calf muscles seized right up last night and I'm still walking like a toddler, sort of tilting from side to side.

The labyrinth we walked at the retreat was the Prayer Path version. I have to admit to being a bit skeptical going in, just because I'm a fan of the Chartres-style labyrinth at Grace Cathedral, and I've been to labyrinth retreats there, and I've driven up to Grace for a quick spin around the labyrinth on more than one occasion when my mind just wouldn't shut up. So I have big giant biases.

The Prayer Path seemed like it had vast potential to be hokey or trite. It has little "stations" set up at points along the path where you do a symbolic thingy or look at images, and you either read a booklet as you walk through or else listen to someone who sounds like Elizabeth Hurley read to you on a walkman over a background of new age music.

So, yeah, the Prayer Path was better than I expected. Part of that has to do with the fact that I slipped in the room where it was set up late at night and walked it by candlelight, by myself, with the headphones on, and I'm sure part of it is just that I was in a really receptive state. There's a station that's much like the seashell confession we use at the children's service, only with rocks. You name your worries and your fears, put them on the stone, and drop them into a bucket of water, giving them to God. Ok, who had to keep backing up the CD because she couldn't drop the stupid rock? That would be me. Thank you. I did a little better with that one the second night. Sort of. Not especially.

There's some talk of getting the kit and building one at St. Ned's, which may or may not happen. I still like the Chartres one better, but I think the Prayer Path is more accessible to most people, since it comes with nice instructions. People like instructions.

This week, I have to do everything that I usually do, twice, since I'll be gone for most of next week and need to have bulletins and such for the Sunday after Thanksgiving ready, and the December newsletter. It doesn't feel horrible and overwhelming, though, which is a nice change.
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Sunday, November 16, 2003


[I somehow managed to de-publish this for a few hours. Sorry!]

I'm back from the retreat which, like so many things, I entered kicking and screaming, and ended up not wanting to leave. Shrug. I don't learn.

I'm on my way across the bay to see Dennis so he can watch me fall asleep on his couch while insisting that no, I really am watching the Simpsons. I didn't sleep much this weekend, thanks to my affinity for post-midnight labyrinth walks and breakfast being served at 8:00.

A snippet of a Paul Simon song I was listening to on the way to work Friday morning kept sneaking up on me in the labyrinth.

And here I am, Lord
Iím knocking at your place of business
I know I ainít got no business here
But you said if I ever got so low
I was busted,
You could be trusted

Prayed about trust this weekend, prayed about fear. I cried a lot. I always cry a lot. One of my friends who doesn't cry finally figured out how to do it this weekend...I told her I was happy to share my Crying Superpower with her, and now we can fight crime as the Kleenex Krusaders.

I read A Year to Live: How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last by Stephen Levine, Can You Drink the Cup?, and Creative Ministry, both by (surprise) Henri Nouwen. The Levine book didn't do much for me; the two Nouwen books were interesting in that they were written at two vastly different times in his life, and in the earlier one you can start to see the man who wrote the other book a couple of decades later peeking through. Nouwen couldn't have written the brilliant Cup at the time he wrote Creative Ministry, because he hadn't yet lived the life that broke him open and created that book.

There's something there for me to notice, that growth happens slowly and it isn't a crime to be in a growth stage. I so often try to propel myself ahead to places I'm not ready to go. And then I get pissed off and decide that what I am experiencing right now isn't valid or isn't interesting or isn't worth examining, because it's not Where I'm Going. Not that I know where I'm going, but it isn't here so what good is here? Very hard to be present to what's happening when that idea takes over my brain. It's using the future to poison the present.

Off to that comfy couch and the moose pants and some nice kisses.
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Friday, November 14, 2003

See ya later, alligator

I'm off for a weekend retreat.

My plan is to carve out my own mini-retreat, away from all the programming and speakers and noise. I have books, in both paper and audio form. I have handwork to do (embroidered towels for Christmas gifts). I have Zone bars to get me through the weekend if I don't want to go to the dining hall. I have a bottle of wine which Ryan gave me, to use as needed. And, yes, a corkscrew. Learned my lesson on that one. I wonder if Merlot goes better with the apple cinnamon bar or the lemon yogurt one. Hmmmm.

I'm going to have to journal on paper this weekend. Bah! Might as well have a stone tablet and a chisel. I'm so used to thinking at a keyboard, it's going to be a huge shift to have a pen again. We'll see how that works out.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2003


I've been spending so much energy working myself into stupid knots because I don't know what to DO in order to get back on track spiritually. I've just felt so empty and none of the obvious answers seemed good enough.

I've been doing a lot of shower prayer - you know, where you're in the shower and you just start praying and it's sort of messy and angry and the next thing you know, the hot water is gone and you still have glop in your hair and you're late for work. Basically, the prayer comes down to, what do you want me to DO now? I don't know what to DO!

People who read my earlier post re: maybe not having to mindfuck everything to death to get results are already jumping up on their desks, waving their hands in the air so I'll call on them, because they have figured it out. I'm going about this all wrong. Surprise! Well, ok, not surprise. Why is it that I can maintain an epiphany for maybe 10 minutes and I completely lack the ability to re-apply it in other areas?

See, I'm still trying to run the show, still trying to control everything, still trying to have my relationship with The Jeez be tied to something I'm doing or not doing or only doing partly right. Because wouldn't it be so much more comfortable that way? It's so much scarier to say, God, here I am, put me to use and I'll hang on for the ride.

I couldn't stop laughing when my spiritual director finally made the connection for me yesterday morning. At the end of a session, she always prays for me. This was the prayer yesterday:

Dear Lord, here is Sara. Amen.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Just One More Hour, and Then We Go Home

I love McSweeny's. Enjoy Rejected Titles for Hymns.
Via a nerd in cute clothes.
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Monday, November 10, 2003

I'm a junkyard full of false starts

Words aren't really working for me right now. Most of my entries on Going Jesus are distilled from my personal journal, and there just hasn't been much to work with lately. Maybe I should do what the Preacher does and just say that I'll be gone for a while when this happens, but I still keep the hope that something will pop together.

As I said last week, my life is more spacious right now. Some things which were obstacles in October have been cleared away. And it turns out that I don't really know what to do with the space.

My spiritual practice has fallen to shit. Tonight will be the first time I say compline in over a month. As I mentioned, my journal is a bit barren. God is sort of this remembered thing instead of an active presence.

There is dust on my Bible. I've missed enough sessions of the Sunday night Bible Study I wanted to attend that I think I'm just going to start one of the new sessions in the Spring.

I have a spiritual direction appointment tomorrow and I have no idea what I'll talk about. Last month's session turned into pastoral care because of my general feeling of overwhelm. Now I'm returning with...emptiness. Which is maybe not such a bad place to start.
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Sunday, November 09, 2003

shocked. shocked, I tell you.

Remember that Beanie Baby auction I linked to a while ago? Turns out it was a fraud. There is no ex-wife. Some Beanies were fake.
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Thursday, November 06, 2003

pointless pixels

Ok, this is fun: Church Sign Generator

St. Ned's doesn't have that kind of sign. Probably a good thing.
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if your cup is full may it be again

My life just feels so much more spacious this week. Could be the lack of a second job, could be the fact that St. Ned's Operation Keep Sara Sane seems to be working. Having more help in the office is making a huge difference. A lot of that tight, panicked feeling that was in my chest for most of October is gone.

Leigh is flying back to the east coast next week. The amazing thing is that she is leaving her newish pickup truck behind until next spring, and is letting Dennis drive it while she's gone. The reason this is amazing is not just that it's a wonderful thing to do, but that his lack of a car was really getting to be a Thing a month or so ago. Since he and I live 50 miles apart, with inadequate public transportation options, especially on the weekend (no one rides CalTrain on the weekend, we'll just shut it down on Saturday and Sunday for two years, no biggie), getting my car to him so that he could use it when he needed to was a significant burden on both of us. Now, that problem is gone, and we have plenty of time to work on a longer-term solution.

So that makes, what, three incredibly huge, seemingly overwhelming issues solved? Second job - check. Feeling overwhelmed at St. Ned's - check. Friction over car issues - check. Number of these Problems which were solved by worrying about them incessantly...um, can we talk about something else now?

Seriously, I need to be taking notes here. Hey, Sara, things work out. Shit gets better. God's got your back. Get your head out of your tiny little world and look up once in a while, darlin - there's good stuff happening all around.

I'm taking Friday off; Dennis has the day off, too, and it's just been so long since we've had a full day to spend together doing very little. We're going to see the new Matrix at some point in the afternoon, but other than that, the time is just open. Much lazing about will happen. The moose pants will be making an appearance. I promise not to wear them to the movie.
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Monday, November 03, 2003

sugar high

On Sunday we did our annual Candy Tithe - all the kids at St. Ned's are asked to bring in 10% of their trick-or-treat proceeds to mark the end of Stewardship Month. They get to bring it up and put it on the altar.

I guess they really do get the concept, since they don't just bring in all the candy no one likes. Tithing only Bit-o-Honeys and Almond Joys would kind of miss the point.

No, the staff doesn't get to eat it. We send it to the diocese's mission in San Jose, which has a food bank and lots of programs for kids. Of course, people who forgot to bring their candy on Sunday will be dropping it off at the office all week, and my standard line is, if there are SweeTarts in there, I don't want to know about it. I freakin' love SweeTarts.
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