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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

what I did on my Christmas vacation

We made it! Welcome to Christmas!

I had a really amazing Christmas Eve/Day, and I'm still trying to figure out what to talk about and how much. Let's just say that I screwed myself once by over-blogging something and I'm really hesitant to make that mistake twice. I have exciting new mistakes to make and need to focus on those.

I'm still dealing with a lot of fear, sometimes bordering on panic, but fortunately I have a lot of really great people in my life who are ready with a listening ear, a bottle of wine, or a gentle cluesticking, as needed. These are not gifts to be taken lightly.

My projects that got finished turned out well. My favorite was what I did for Dennis. I kidnapped a pair of his well-loved jeans and did some functional patching of the buttular area, followed by some interesting patching and embroidery to produce what I consider to be a fine pair of hippie pants. I know, there's something kind of odd about giving him back his own pants, but they were cooler! better! stronger! and weren't a couple threads away from revealing his underwear anymore, so that's something. I was so happy with them, I put my This American Life flaming squirrel patch on the back.

I tried to get some photos the day after Christmas but they don't really get the detail, so I need to give it another try. I'll put them on sewgeeky.com and post a link here when I do. I'm especially pleased with the fact that I managed to cover the coin pocket with Chinese brocade. I really want to work over a pair of my own pants at some point, but I'm currently vacillating between jeans in 3 different sizes and I don't know which ones have the most longevity power. Since all the cookie-bombing that went on here over Christmas didn't send me back to the Fat Jeans, I think I can say those are out of consideration, though. Yay. Seriously, working in a church - highest calorie job ever.

Interesting...the spell-checker on Blogger wants to replace the word 'blogging' with 'flogging' - what do they know that I don't?
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Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Lord, Help Me To Avoid Being Too Busy For You

Dear Lord, all you ask of me is a simple "yes," a simple act of trust, so that your choices for me can bear fruit in my life. I do not want you to pass me by. I do not want to be so busy with my way of living, my plans and projects, my relatives, friends, and acquaintances, that I do not even notice that you are with me, closer to me than anyone else. I do not want to be blind to the living gestures that come from your hands, not deaf to the caring words that come from your mouth. I want to see you as you walk with me and hear you as you speak to me. Amen. (Henri Nouwen)
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The Onion | Jesus 'Really Dreading' This Next Birthday

Heh. New from a fine Christmas edition of The Onion: Jesus 'Really Dreading' This Next Birthday

"I remember when I turned 1,000, I was really excited," said Christ. "A bunch of the apostles threw a big surprise party for me at the Sea of Galilee, and it was such a great timeI don't even want to tell you how much water we turned into wine that night. But once I turned 1,000, each birthday sort of became less and less of a big deal. It's like, once you're a thousandsomething, you don't even get so excited about birthdays anymore. The past few hundred birthdays, I've generally celebrated by just going out to dinner with a good friend or something mellow like that."
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Sunday, December 21, 2003

stop drop and roll

I subbed in the 5 & 6s Godly Play classroom this morning. I managed to tell the big huge Advent story, although it was sort of a Readers Digest Condensed Version and I know I left some things out. I felt really lousy this morning. After much buildup and anticipation, I am finally getting sick. Everyone is sick at St. Ned's, so it was only a matter of time.

All the kids really wanted was for me to light the Advent candles so they could fight over the candle snuffer and put them all out ('change the light' in the vernacular - the light isn't gone, it's just spread out more). There were five candles today (the four Advent ones plus the Christ candle, since the kids won't be back until January) and I really thought we were going to have at least one child flambé, but it all worked out.

I've been working on my Christmas projects, but, seriously, a lot of people are getting Epiphany presents, because being sick isn't going to help me get things done. I had a major freakout on Friday because it turns out my sewing machine software won't run on XP, which means I can't write embroidery designs from my computer onto the little card that sticks in my sewing machine. I have an ancient version of the insanely expensive Husqvarna Viking software that I use for writing designs to the cards, and I use a really good, cheaper third party program for editing them. This has been fine until now, but of course I had to upgrade to XP to make Larry the iPod happy, and now the sewing machine hates me. I know, this is such a first-world problem.

My short-term solution was to borrow an old computer which is running Win98 on its cute little P133 processor, and set that up with the software and the card reader/writer. So at least I can finish my projects.
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Friday, December 19, 2003

that's what I'm Tolkien about

I saw Return of the King last night. I'm still processing it, but the thing that kept popping into my brain was the question we ask every Sunday in Godly Play after the story.

So, for those of you who have seen the movie, I wonder...where are you in the story?
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Wednesday, December 17, 2003

on the first day of kitschmas my true love gave to me...


It's here! It's here! Ship of Fools presents the 2003 12 Days of Kitschmas
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I Seek Your Forgiveness, Dear Lord

Dear Lord, Judas betrayed you and Peter denied you. Judas despaired, but Peter sought forgiveness. May I follow Peter. Let me not be tempted to think that my sins are too great to be forgiven, too abominable to be touched by your mercy. Let me never run away from you but return to you again and again, asking you to be my Lord, my Shepherd, my Stronghold, and my Refuge. Take me under your wing, Lord, and let me know that you do not reject me as long as I keep asking you to forgive me. Perhaps my doubts in your forgiveness are a greater sin than the sins I consider too great to be forgiven. Perhaps I make myself too important, too great when I think that I cannot be embraced by you anymore. Lord, accept my prayer as you accepted Peter's prayer, and let me not run away from you as Judas did. Give me the grace to know your loving presence more intimately. Amen. (Henri Nouwen)
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Tuesday, December 16, 2003

buy dot NOW

Is the consumerist vibe more desperate this year, or is it just my imagination? Sometimes I wonder if I'm just noticing it more because it grates on me more, but there really seems to be an edge to it that is new.

It isn't even the usual DeBeers-style manipulation that people will love you more if you spend a chunk of money - I'm used to that. It's as though there's this huge cloud of anxiety floating around, and apparently the only way to kill it is by buying things. It's more of a spending for its own sake. Buy. Buy. Buy. And then this will all go away. Please, please make it go away.

I'm totally open to hearing that it's just me projecting some Sara weirdness onto the world, and everything is actually just fine. Something feels off to me, though.
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Moving Toward Full Incarnation

You can look at your life as a large cone that becomes narrower the deeper you go. There are many doors in the cone that give you chances to leave the journey. But you have been closing those doors one by one, making yourself go deeper and deeper into your center. You know that Jesus is waiting for you at the end, just as you know that he is guiding you as you move in that direction. Every time you close another door be it the door of immediate satisfaction, the door of distracting entertainment, the door of busyness, the door of guilt and worry, or the door of self-rejection you commit yourself to go deeper into your heart and therefore deeper into the heart of God. This is a movement toward full incarnation. It leads you to become what you already are a child of God; it lets you embody more and more of the truth of your being; it makes you claim the God within you. You are tempted to think that you are a nobody in the spiritual life and that your friends are far beyond you on the journey. But this is a mistake. You must trust the depth of God's presence in you and live from there. This is the way to keep moving toward full incarnation. (Henri Nouwen)
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Monday, December 15, 2003

Help Me To Live Joyfully in Your Service

Dear Lord, you say, "Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart." How often I complain about my yoke and hear others complain about theirs. So often I consider life and its many tasks burdensome, and I spend much time and energy expressing my annoyance and irritation. You did not say, "I will take your burden away," but "I invite you take on my burden!" Your burden is real. It is the burden of all human sins and failings. You carried that burden and died under its weight. So you made it into a light burden.

O Lord, let me carry your burden in union with you. I know that only then will I overcome the temptations of bitterness and resentfulness, and begin to live joyfully and gratefully in your service. Amen. (Henri Nouwen)

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flake

Sorry, I took off for a bit to have a really great weekend. Although I think I am getting sick, which certainly does blow. I have zero energy and my entire body hurts. I feel like someone picked me up and shook me really hard, and not in that good 'you shook me all night long' kind of way. More like all my bones and muscles are slightly loose and smashing around in my body. Blah.

Advent is a not-quite-there kind of time. And I sometimes feel like I'm living a not-quite-there kind of life, so I guess the timing is rather good. Seriously, aren't 33-year-olds supposed to be a lot more pulled-together than I am? The number just sounds so old and grown-up and then I look at myself and say...nuh-uh. Not even close.

I'm sort-of good at a lot of things, I sort-of know what I want to do with what I think is left of my life, and I sort-of think I'm getting maybe a bit better at this faith business. But there's not much I can point to and say, there, that, see, I did something and it is finished, or its outcome is assured. Not much that my parents could write about in their Christmas newsletter, if they had such a thing. Someone observing the major plot points of my life story this year would conclude that I am a total loser.

Of course, I can look at times in my life when I have made monumentally stupid decisions just to get out of feeling not-quite-there - times when I've picked stability because it was the easy thing to do, or because instability was more than I thought I could handle. Also times when I've given up on something which might have been good just because I couldn't handle the awkward part between starting and being good at it. Ask me how many times I've learned to knit.

I fear that I am, in fact, a gigantic flake, and not the cute snow kind.

Ignore me. I am whining today. I am freaking out.
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Thursday, December 11, 2003

me vs. the copier

After noticing that I've been feeling really down, Dennis rearranged his schedule so that I could see him last night, which is reason #41,295 why he completely rocks. We stayed in and relaxed and I got the first really good night's sleep I've had in a long time. So I'm feeling a lot better today.

Larry the iPod and I are getting along well. I'm not sure that I'm in love with the FM transmitter for my car; I think I need to mess with it a bit more. But Larry himself is nifty.

To make up for my overall-better frame of mind, the machines are rebelling. We had a brief power outage earlier today and ever since then, I can't get my computer to print to the digital copier. So I'm going to have to do the bulletins the old fashioned way, and duplicate them from hard copies. Tomorrow I will spend the day tracking down this little gremlin. I love the digital copier; it replaced the Evil Bad Horrible No-Good Copier last year, and we've had an excellent relationship, but the network part of it is a little flaky and voodoo-ish. And definitely something I want to deal with tomorrow, when I don't have an audience and I'm not up against a deadline. In the meantime, I will just glare at it and make disparaging remarks about its parentage.
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Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Keep Me Open To Your Holy Spirit

Dear Lord, forgive me for projecting my present condition into the future. If I feel dark, the future looks dark; if I feel bright, the future looks bright. But who am I to know what life will be like for me tomorrow, next week, next year, or ten years from now? Who am I to know who you will be for me in the year ahead? Lord, I will not bind you with my limited ideas and feelings. You can do many things with me, things that might seem impossible to me. I want to remain open to the free movement of your Spirit in my life. Why do I keep saying to myself: "I will never be a saint. I will never be able to overcome my impulses and desires." If I keep saying that, I might prevent you from healing me. Help me to be free to let you enter my heart however you desire. Amen. (Henri Nouwen)
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yay!

My iPod is here! I bought it on ebay and it has the original owner's name engraved on the back, so my iPod is now officially to be known as Larry. Larry the iPod. To be sung to the tune of Frosty the Snowman

Now I need a firewire port. Pronto.
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Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Help Me Hang Onto You in Faith

Dear Lord, amid my turmoil, my mind is not able to concentrate on you, my heart is not able to remain centered, and it seems as if you are absent and have left me alone. But in faith I cling to you. I believe that your spirit reaches deeper and further than my mind or heart, and that profound movements are not the first to be noticed. I promise I will not run away, not give up, not stop praying, even when it all seems useless. I love you even though I do not always feel loved by you, and I hope in you even though I may sometimes feel despair. (Henri Nouwen)
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well I've been stepping in this river seems like most my life

Crap. I've suspected for days that there was a nice bout of depression following me around, and now here it is. Hello, little black dog. Will you be staying long?
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Monday, December 08, 2003

new embroidery designs

Sublime Stitching has new embroidery designs. Yay!

I am so far behind on my Christmas projects it isn't even funny. Ok, it's a little funny, especially since one project involves a bunch of balsam, which I buy in bulk from San Francisco Herb Co., and my room now smells like a Christmas tree farm.
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Sunday, December 07, 2003

I know not where the road will lead

I'm laughing now because after Tracy's comment on this post I think every meditation is about the iPod.

I started crying like a big goober during the closing hymn today.

I know not where the road will lead
I follow day by day,
Or where it ends: I only know
I walk the King's highway.

I know not if the way is long,
And no one else can say;
But rough or smooth, up hill or down,
I walk the King's highway.

And some I love have reached the end,
But some with me may stay,
Their faith and hope still guiding me:
I walk the King's highway.

The way is truth, the way is love,
For light and strength I pray,
And through the years of life, to God,
I walk the King's highway.

The countless hosts lead on before,
I must not fear nor stray;
With them, the pilgrims of the faith,
I walk the King's highway.

Through light and dark the road leads on
Till dawns the endless day,
When I shall know why in this life
I walk the King's highway
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Saturday, December 06, 2003

Jesus, You Fill All Our Deepest Desires

Your Father's love was so unlimited that he wanted us to know that love and to find in it the fulfillment of our deepest desires. So he sent us to you, with a human heart big enough to hold all human loneliness and all human anguish. Your heart is as wide and deep as divine love itself. Your heart does not distinguish between rich and poor, friend and enemy, female and male, slave and free, sinner and saint. Your heart is open to receiving anyone with total, unrestricted love. For anyone who wants to come to you, there is room. You want to draw all people to yourself, and offer them a home where every human desire is met, every human longing comes to rest and every human need is satisfied.

But your heart is gentle and humble. You do not force; you do not pull or push; you do not coerce. You want us to come freely to your heart and trust that we will find there the peace and joy we most desire. You do not put any requirement on us; you do not expect any great act of generosity; you do not hope for heroic gestures or dramatic signs. The first thing you want is trust. You can only give your heart to those who come to it in trust. Help me today to give you that trust. Amen. (Henri Nouwen)
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Friday, December 05, 2003

Lord, Be The Center of My Prayer

O Lord, let me praise you, bless you, worship you. So often my prayer turns to introspection of my own confused feelings and emotions, or my attention wanders to people and events that swirl in my restless mind. Why do I keep focusing so much on what separates me from you? You are the source of all goodness, beauty, and love. You have shown me your mercy by coming to me and lifting me into your own life through the life of your Church. And still I keep living as if the thousand other things that crowd my mind need more attention than you.

Help me to make you the center of my inner life. Give me the grace of prayer. Show me how I am fooling myself when I fail to make you the center of my life and my prayer. Let me understand that in and through you all my little concerns will be taken care of. You do not despise my worries, but you ask me to trust that you will deal with them when I simply keep my eye on you and your kingdom. Teach me your way, O Lord. Amen. (Henri Nouwen)
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Thursday, December 04, 2003

the gift of the church year

Ok, it's probably like being dragged up in front of the class to have your comment responded to in the blog, and for that I apologize, but I was starting to write a comments-novel and decided to just do a post instead.

In response to this post, mattie writes:

Actually, I never *got* Advent. What's with the waiting for a single day? Time will pass, usually more slowly or more quickly than I'd like at any given time, but it's going to pass whether or not I do anything about it. My mom describes Advent as preparing - but why only prepare four weeks out of 52? The world's a pretty hairy place, and it could use some preparing year 'round. I'm very happy that you seem to get something out of it, but Advent - like a lot of other religious holidays - I never got very excited about. (So wouldn't you know it, I became a Quaker).


I like the liturgical calendar, with its different seasons and days to focus on different aspects of faith because...I'm really freaking lazy. Seriously. If I left it up to my own whims, I would never do things like preparing, celebrating, and repenting. They would slip down to the bottom of my to-do list, like swiffering under the bed.

Having seasons or days set aside to focus on those things makes me remember why they're important, and it increases the likelihood that they'll be done the rest of the year. It's not that I only do my preparing four weeks a year - it's that I spend those four weeks trying to get better at it. It's a time for unpacking what it means to prepare for God's presence here on earth, taking it apart and putting it back together and seeing all the places where I'm not exactly singing O Come Emmanuel as the season of Christmas approaches. The work I do during these four weeks will bear fruit in my life the rest of the year.

So, I guess that's the best part about the liturgical calendar - it tells me what my work is for a certain period of time. See above note re: laziness. I can only focus on a few things at a time spiritually, and the rhythm of the liturgical year makes sure that I'm hitting all the major points, and not just skipping over the rough stuff that makes me uncomfortable.

For example, Lent is a good time to think about death. As in, my death, my small, personal death when I return to the dust from whence I came. I don't think it's really in my nature to set aside a little over a month to ponder that one every year. But in the context of Lent, with Easter right ahead reminding me that God is with me even in the darkness, I can deal with it.

One of the reasons I can look at my death with a little less fear during Lent is that everyone else at St. Ned's is doing the same thing, thinking about their own deaths (I hope not everyone is thinking about my death, anyway). It's in the liturgy and the lectionary and there's a chance to work it out through worship and hashing it out with others. The rhythm of the church year creates safe spaces for deep work to happen.

Small point - Christmas is actually a season, lasting 12 days (I think there's a song about that...) and leading into Epiphany. Advent is the preparation for the season of Christmas, so it's not about the one day. We don't really have a lot of 'one day' holidays. Easter is a season that lasts 6 Sundays. Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday are points in Holy Week, but they're part of the greater whole as well, and are sometimes best approached as a group. I think the message there is that it takes time to really immerse our small selves in what each season is trying to teach us.
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because what the world needs now is more Christmas crap

The I believe in Santa Claus ...and I vote! shop.



It's not wtfwjd? but, hey, you can give it to grandma.

All proceeds go to support the Sara Feels Guilty About Buying Herself An iPod foundation.
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Help Me to Choose the Narrow Road

Dear Lord Jesus, I remain so torn and divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, human respect, pleasure, power, and influence. Help me be attentive instead to your voice, the voice which calls me to choose the narrow road to life. The choice for your way has to be made every moment in my life. I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are no times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you. Be with me every moment and in every place so that I may recognize your way and choose to walk it. Amen. (Henri Nouwen)
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Wednesday, December 03, 2003

We Are Called to Be People of Hope

We are called to be a community. We are called to be together, in a fellowship of the weak, to proclaim Jesus as Lord. We must not romanticize this. It is a humble task. Quite simply, we must call our brothers and sisters together -- there may be only three, or ten, or fifty -- and say, "We want to come together as people in prayer in our common anguish."

We are called to be people of hope. Together, we can face our despairs - personal, global, or ecclesiastic. Together, too, can we find the risen Lord, emerged from his tomb of despair, ready once again to love us first. In embracing us, Jesus gives us the hope we need to find and live the life he has hidden in us and in the world. (Henri Nouwen)
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Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Stay With Me When Im Sinking in Doubt

I trust in you, Lord, but keep helping me in my many moments of distrust and doubt. They are there and will be there every time I turn my eyes, ears, or hands away from you. Please, Lord, keep calling me back to you, by day and by night, in joy and in sadness, during moments of success and moments of failure. Never let me leave you. I know you walk with me. Help me walk with you today, tomorrow, and always. Amen. (Henri Nouwen)

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Monday, December 01, 2003

stealth Advent

One of the cool things about Advent is that there isn't a secular side to it, unless you count the Bart Simpson chocolate Advent calendars, which I totally meant to buy on ebay last month and didn't.

Advent is this stealth thing that happens while everyone else is shopping. Meanwhile, we're lighting candles and waiting for God to show up, as a baby of all things.

I know there are some people who get hung up on the fact that Christmas is pretty much an ancient pagan celebration that we've thrown a bunch of Jesus on top of. That it isn't based on historical data, that the manger may not have happened, that maybe there wasn't a star and if it was it can be explained away. It can all be explained away.

Except that God showed up, here, among us, and nothing else matters. It doesn't matter when or where or how that baby was born, only that he was.

The cycle of the church year follows Christ's birth, ministry on Earth, death, resurrection, and what came afterward. We relive the whole thing every twelve months. So, even though the historical dates don't line up, the rhythm works. I'm glad that we celebrate this moment in the darkness of December, when we can really use a little new life among us.

And we get to sit and wait for it to happen, knowing that it's going to happen and that there's nothing we can do to make it come any faster. We just mark the time with the candles.

Isaiah 60
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
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