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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

Advent

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

Games

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

Notes

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

Return

[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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