Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's: A New Decade

Singing Owl posted a challenge to hope in today's Friday Five:

I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions, but it does seem a good time for some reflection and planning. For the last few days I keep thinking of Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Among other things, that seems to say that reflection is in order if we want to learn and grow.

For some of us, this has been an incredibly difficult year; for others it has been a year of many joys. For all of us, there have been challenges and questions and there have been blessings and--maybe even an answer or two! As we say our goodbyes to 2010 and look towards 2011, share with us five blessings from 2010 along with five hopes or dreams for 2011.

Blessings are usually hopes and hopes are usually blessings for me.  I am in my 6th decade and my hopes are high in my retirement.  At the same time there is a precariousness in life as my energies begin to not be as dependable as they once were. 

  1. Pension Fund
  2. a kitten
  3. the strides made in LGBT issues in the past year.
  4. leisure to enjoy the warm climate.
  5. being close to family and childhood friends

  1. I can find a part-time position to use the gifts I have.
  2. The rebuilding of the diocese here be one filled with caring and support
  3. Good health for J and me.
  4. To continue to respond to Christ's love through living a more Christian life each day.
  5. Get the house ready to have house guests and that the house will survive the kitten!!
May the New Year be a blessing for all.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Adventual Ponderings on Social Media

Over the past few weeks I have had more international contact regarding the Church than at any time in my life. The No Anglican Covenant Coalition has brought me into conversations on line about the state of constituent churches (Canada, Scotland, Guatemala, New Zealand, etc). Also I met a young woman lawyer from Uganda who attended my local parish. I have also, because of Facebook, read articles from Uganda, Kenya, and other places in which there is a significant Anglican presence.

My global involvement has flowered in just a matter of a few months and I think this is a good thing. After the missionary efforts of my youth, I was always frustrated that I could not get any news about international matters in my local newspapers. Even wars and coups were not reported and I would wonder about the welfare of my friends. Only the Christian Science Monitor provided any insight into the lives of people around the globe. Now social media does it in a flash.

In a matter of seconds from the floor of the Senate, Twitter reported the repeal of DADT today. Now in a matter of moments I can hear about things happening in South Africa or Bangladesh. Today I had comments in French on my blog—someone who had read my post through on-line translations. The ability to communicate now is absolutely astounding to someone who born during WWII and grew up during the Cold War.

And all of this makes me stop and think about what are my responsibilities as a blogger to a greater audience. When the woman from Uganda came, I sat down and talked with her. She was very much in favor of the legislation against LGBT people in her country. I identified myself as lesbian and she had to stop and think. Later she talked with her host who opened the Scriptures and discussed why the Leviticus passages do not apply to today. The following week I saw her again at a church function and we talked a bit more. She shared how corrupt the Church has become in her country. She knew that money that had been sent to support the Church never made it past the bishop’s discretionary account. It broke my heart to hear how she had faith but not in the Church and was being lured into more and more evangelical churches in her nations because the witness of the Anglican Church there was so abusive.

I have also listened to the politicking of those from the General Synod in England. I chuckle to myself to listen to the “niceties” of British ways and yet know that anything done in the C of E will have a momentous effect on how we understand our church in this country. I would hate to see us “put out” of the Anglican Communion simply because of the Anti-American sentiment or the desire to support the Archbishop of Canterbury with is “project”. I would also hate to see the Anglican Communion governed by a Covenant- especially this one that fails to see the integrity of individual churches. But I would also hate to see a few corrupt bishops be responsible for tearing down the familial ties that we have had for the past 100+ years.

So what is my responsibility in this global information society when I blog. Am I just promulgating Americanism, or am I promoting what I understand the Gospel of caring for my fellow human beings? Can I with integrity talk justice to a woman lawyer from Uganda who will be compelled to uphold a law that will oppress LGBT persons in her own country without it being just Americanism? I think so. But it requires my being able to listen to the needs of people in other nations. It means that I must log into the news papers in Uganda and Kenya and in Bangladesh. And even then I must listen to the voice of the people.

It is not simple to keep shalom. And yet that is what our Lord taught. I, from my recliner must reach out to people who are far away to welcome the Holy Family. The story does not get lost in the technological age. The story just calls for us to reach farther.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Incarnation—messin’ with Athanasius

I am preaching on Christmas Eve. A colleague is sick with the horrible flu that is going around and I am filling in. After 30 years of preaching on Christmas, I have numerous sermons for Christmas. I can do a sermon for Christmas Eve cold. But I am getting bolder and I am more rested in preparation for Christmas this year than at any other time in my life. I have also been reading and listening more to ideas that I would never have promulgated in my own parish in fear that I would upset people. So I am messing with the doctrine of the Incarnation as preparation for preaching next week.

All the emphasis on the Baby Jesus  takes away from the real meaning of Christmas-or the Incarnation. I think that Athanasius got it wrong. He said ‘God became man so that man might become god.’ It is a great one-liner, but it is lousy theology. The Incarnation is about God becoming human so that the human race might become more fully human. Our destiny is not to become god or God-like. We are made to become as fully human that we can be.

Now this is not some lame-brained humanism. I believe that in creation we are not just created what we are—we are created in hope of what we might become. And human beings are called to be all we can be. Now, I am not an Aristotelian—I don’t believe that Jesus is the perfect man that we are to become. But I do believe that I have the possibility to become, with God’s help, the best ‘muthah+’ I can be, if I am willing to trust in God and live with charity and responsibility.

Now, this image of humanity and creation puts me at odds with a whole bunch of long-held doctrines in the Church. This should not be surprising, after all I AM an Episcopalian. But it also means that I have to look hard and long at these doctrines and then be very careful about how I explain this relationship I have with a God who would love me more than life. I don’t believe that the God who created the Grand Canyon, or Victoria Falls, or Mount Everest or the Japanese Trench has ever made things that are unchanging. It is contrary to the whole make up of Creation. All atoms are in motion, I believe. And consequentially, we do not have the right to sit on our backside and complain because the world leaves us behind.

Unlike Augustine, I do not believe that humanity is born in sin. I do not believe that humanity is most assuredly damned. I believe like Tutu that we are “made for good.” And I believe that the new reformation that is happening in the emergent church is going to develop new doctrines for a technological world that can claim a wholeness and a positive way of looking at God’s incarnation in Creation. Does God need a virgin birth to signal God’s presence in a technological age? Does God need a crucified Christ to save humanity from itself? Perhaps rather than claiming the ‘total depravity of man’ we need the positive message that Christian maturity calls for living peaceful, balanced lives without the need for vengeance or competition. Perhaps instead of the futile struggle to become divine, we as human beings might claim a doctrine that challenges us to become what Jesus was, the best of what it means to be human.

The birth of an infant in a manger 2000 years ago is an image of the hope of humanity. All children call from us that same hope. It is a hope that makes life a worthwhile endeavor. It says that we humans have a chance to enter into a life of continuous call to become more than we were the day before—not HAVE more—but to BE more. What a challenge this is and what a call to excitement each day of our lives!

Friday Five: Memories of Christmases Past

Jan at Revgals has posted a Friday Five for ‘Memories of Christmases Past’. Because I suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), it is sometimes difficult to pull up good memories of Christmas. But here goes:

1. In our family, Christmas Dinner was always roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Because my mother was not native to  Yorkshire pudding making, having learned how to make it from her mother-in-law during the Depression while living with her, the making of Yorkshire pudding was always a bit of an trauma. I love the savory egg, flour and milk breadiness of the dish slathered with gravy. I seldom ate the mashed potatoes that were also offered. It was such a treat. I finally made a more than credible version –not my mother’s recipe a week ago and found it easy to make. All the ‘sturm und drang’ have been removed. The Food Channel triumphed over my grandmother’s recipe and I am so psyched that I can make it without all the terror that my mother instilled in me. I am not making Christmas Dinner this year, but I will be ready when it comes my turn.

2. In 1969 I was invited by a nun friend to play a musical gig at her convent for Christmas Eve. I had been a professional French horn player for some years after college and supplemented my income at Christmas time doing musical performances. But this one was different. My nun friend was also a French horn player whom I had met playing in one of the local civic orchestras. It was just as the nuns were beginning to take part in the larger community following Vatican II. We became friends and talked about all kinds of things including religion as I was unchurched and really didn’t think I believed in God. Christmas Eve at the convent was wonderful and it was then that performance changed to worship. And ever since, Midnight Mass is a celebration of my rebirth in Christ. Baptism and confirmation came later but it was at that service that I knew God.

3. I remember the year that my maternal grandmother who nearly always bought me clothes, not toys, sent a package that had gotten quite smushed in transit from MO. I must have been about7 or 8. Everything she sent me was turquoise in color. It was the IN color that year. There was a dress and socks, underwear and crinolines, a bracelet and even a hat, I think. She even colored the candy she made, blue-green!

4. My cousins lived in Chicago and they were older than I. So at Christmas, I was often sent good hand-me-downs from them. The only problem was that they often sent wool items that were only wearable a few weeks of the year in TX where I lived. But for a few weeks each winter, I was very well dressed in clothes that we couldn’t get in Ft. Worth. But the next winter, I would, of course, have outgrown them.

5. The first year I moved to Syracuse, NY we had ‘snow upon snow’. On Christmas morning it was minus 22 degrees. I was to fly to TX to be with my family for Christmas evening. I remember the sound of the snow ‘singing’ under my boots. We even had had to ‘plug’ in our car –we had a heating device in the dip stick of the car so that the oil was viscous enough to turn over. I got off the plane and it was 76 degrees when I got to TX! I think my body revolted because I came down with a tremendous sinus infection.

Thanks, Jan. I remembered many more good memories than bad---Have a Holy and Happy Christmas to all.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Friday Five: What brings us up when we are down

Mary Beth has put up this Friday Five.  She has been wondering what picks us up when we are down.:

So, for today's Friday Five: What lifts you up when you are low or troubled? Who helps you remember that you are not alone, it's getting better all the time, etc.?

Your five responses can be people you know, people you DON'T know, music, places, foods, scripture, surprises, something you do for someone else. It could be a pair of slippers. It could be a glass of water.

Bonus: Do you like the song "Jingle Bell Rock?" If you do, who do you prefer to hear sing it? Bobby Helms, Brenda Lee, Mean Girls, Stephanie Smith, Chubby Checker, Billy Gilman, Brian Setzer, Hilary Duff, Thousand Foot Krutch (I am not making this up), oh, there are so many more! I am currently partial to my friend Marco.

1.  As on who has had to deal with depression and "recession" in my emotional life, I have developed lots of ways to deal with this disease.  Drugs is one--but most of all it has been having people I can call or have lunch with, or email when I am low.  They are the ones who send me silly, irreverent or ribald emails and pictures.  We generally don't talk about my problems, we talk about anything that can keep our interest. 

2.  I love classical music, especially the great choral works.  The Mozart, Faure or Deutches requiems can fill my soul.  I sometimes sing along since I know much of those compositions from singing them.  I can sing the alto part of the  Halleluia Chorus by heart.  There are a couple of alto licks that I have forgotten, but hey....

3.  At the moment we have an 8-9 week old kitten in the house.  She is so cute and absolutely terrorizes our 9 yr old tom who has become rather grumpy.  He is not a morning cat, but little bit is full of it.  The two of them can raise the spirits of anyone during Advent.  Come on down, Mary Beth!

4.  Usually preparing for Church Christmas helps me with the SAD or the Christmas blues. But since I don't have a parish to prepare for this year I was wondering what I was going to do.  But the parish I am attending needs altos in the choir so I have pitched in for Advent Lessons and Carols which has been fun.  Also, the pastor has asked for help on Christmas Eve so at least will have something to 'suit up' for on Christmas Eve.

5.  This is the first Advent/Christmas that I have entered RESTED since I was ordained.  Hmmmm.  I have not had the usual dumpiness that I usually have.  Part of this is because I have had more light since moving South.  I have also been working with young adults at the University chaplaincy which is uplifting because they are so full of hope.

BONUS:  I LOATH Jingle Bell Rock!!! It is like fingernails on the chalkboard.  I don't like it by anyone.  I hated it when Brenda Lee brought it out when I was young and I still hate it still.  And when I hear it, it gets into my head and I can't get rid of it.  Dang it! Mary Beth, I am gong to be hearing it in my brain all day.  Guess I am going to have to get out my Messiah disks!  Happy Advent, all!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Friday Five: For this Friday Five: T'is the Season

I've been a follower of Revgals for some years and have played the Friday Five.  Today's from Katherinzj asks

For this Friday Five please let us know five of the things that mark the season for you

My tradition celebrates Advent and I get a little churlish when I have to do Christmas things too early.  When we lived in NY Black Friday did bring craziness, but here in TX it is over the top. Christmas lights were on when we came home from Thanksgiving Dinner!   Even the classical music station was pumping out the First Noel on Nov. 29th.  Add to this, all our household tradtions are in flux because we have moved.  We haven't the foggiest what we are going to do to decorate, celebrate with family, attend church.  For over the past 30 years Christmas was celebrated in the parish.  Now we haven't got one yet.  All our usual markers are gone and we will have to invent new ones.  So here are somethings we MAY do to begin new traditions.

  1. Sunday a big parish in Dallas is having a tradtional Lessons and Carols with choir and orchestra.  We may take that in.
  2. Look for a wreath for our front door that we can change from purple trimming to red and green the week of Christmas.
  3. We already have our tree--a 2 1/2 rosemary bush that is still on the patio--so far we haven't had a freeze yet.  And we will use its branches to fix our Christmas roast.
  4. I am meeting with a rector on Tues. to see if he can use me for Christmas Eve services.  If not, I will sing in the choir for Christmas.  It has been a long time since I have done that.
  5. And for the first time in many years, I will be able to celebrate Christmas Day afternoon with my family.