Sunday, October 18, 2009

Trying on the dog collar . . .

I just realized that I forgot to tell my loyal blog fans--all three of you, I think--that I have been accepted as a candidate for the diaconate. That's the last official milestone before ordination. Next I finish my formation (book larnin'), then apply for ordination.

This weekend at Diocesan Convention, in celebration of my candidacy, I decided to try on the dog collar. Well, not THE dog collar . . .

That would be inappropriate. Instead, I experimented with an actual dog collar embroidered with the Episcopal shield (for those liturgically minded canines who have chosen the Episcopal Church as their faith community--episcopooches) . . .

and then, of course, someone has to hold the leash. After consultation with the CoM (Commission on Ministry) it was determined that since I'm a candidate for the diaconate, the bishop should hold the leash since I will be ordained to a "ministry of servanthood directly under [my] bishop."

To the church ladies who were perturbed: This has nothing to do with gender! It's a play on words--"dog collar," get it?--and a hyperbolic interpretation of the historic relationship between deacons and their bishop. In other words, it was a joke! Thanks to Bishop Waggoner for being such a good sport!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

All the birds of the air . . .

I know all the birds of the air, and all that moves in the field is mine. -- Psalm 50:11

This afternoon I made an unplanned trip to Holy Trinity. I'd forgotten to drop off my electric roaster for use at the weekly dinner party we throw for the neighborhood. I also needed to have an extra parish hall key made, so I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone. I didn't plan on rescuing one.

I'd dropped off the roaster in the parish hall--a separate building from the church--and was about to leave when I realized we might have an extra key kicking around in the sacristy. It would save me a trip to the hardware store then back to the church to test a new key. I unlocked the church and stepped in when a flutter of wings erupted in the cool, dim light.

Our vicar likes to have the doors open in the summer. This one must have flown in earlier that day, or the day before. No one would have noticed him perched high in the beams of the sanctuary.

The bird was tiny, grayish brown with a pale yellow belly and the kind of long slender beak that would make him adept at picking insects from the bark of a Ponderosa pine. Inside the church--where the crumbs of sacred bread had all been swept, where the holy water had dried up months ago--he didn't stand much of a chance.

Except chance--or a nudge--had brought me here, prompted me to unlock the door. Now I propped both front doors wide, and fetched a broom from the sacristy. He was easy to spook. All I had to do was raise the broom in his general direction, and the poor thing fluttered back down the nave coming to rest on a light fixture near the door. I tried to coax him down and out the door, but instead he shot into Lady's Chapel and clung to the chain of a lamp that hung from the high ceiling.

We went up and down the chapel a couple of times before I saw the problem. As long as I was there, he wasn't going to fly down low enough to pass under the door's lintel and back into the sanctuary where the wide-open doors awaited.

I stepped outside the chapel, out of sight and waited. He flew from the light fixture into a bundle of twigs in a vase on the altar.

What to do? A net? It probably wouldn't work. Even if I could get close enough, I'd probably just end up hurting him. I prayed for a little St. Francis mojo. This wasn't working. I could wait. But could I wait all day? It never occurred to me that perhaps this bird did not need to be micromanaged, that he didn't even need me to save him.

Out of ideas, I pulled out my cell phone to call for help. There must be a way.

I had no idea I'd already done all that was required of me: I'd opened the door, and now--distracted by my cell phone and my mission of mercy--I'd gotten out of the way. A flutter of gray wings swooped into the sunlight, pulling hard in the safe and open air.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Do you now in the presence of the Church commit yourself to this trust and responsibility?

Today, looking for a place to record random musings, I dusted off an old journal. Well, from 2007--a month or two after I decided to give church another chance.

At the suggestion of a cathedral matriarch, I had just begun preparing for confirmation by journaling about the Articles of Religion. Ever so thorough, Episcopalians have 39 of them first formally established in 1801. They mostly consist of doctrinal statements ("Of Faith in the Holy Trinity") but extend to ordination ("Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers") and the relationship between church and state ("Of the Power of the Civil Magistrates).

Right now, my friends are laughing. They know my attention span for rules and regs. I made it to Article III before I abandoned the project in favor of quotes from Eugene O'Neill and Anne Lamott and reflections on John Donne's poetry. (Yes, that's a fair-sized chunk of my spiritual discipline).

Oh, well. I've never been good at following a party line. Which makes this vow a fascinating one for a "non-joiner" like me.

As a child, I was far more likely to create a club than join one. No surprise, my clubs were cause driven. There's a new movie out called "Hotel for Dogs." After reading the book almost 35 (gulp!) years ago, I hatched elaborate plans for creating a hotel in my treehouse for abandoned dogs. I recruited friends to the effort--a Hotel for Dogs Club. And I was young enough to think that my parents wouldn't have a clue what I was up to 100 feet from the house.

Well, that particular cause never came to fruition. It's kind of sad when the imagination of childhood fizzles against the reality of execution.

So how strange, all these years later, that I've joined this club called the Episcopal Church--a church very different than the pentecostal church of my youth (though if Roman Catholicism is genetic, that could explain a lot). And we're not talking about my local parish (Holy Trinity) here. I joined a big honkin' mainstream church, and by extension the Anglican communion (provided they don't boot us out). I mean, the Body of Christ is one thing, but this has gotten pretty damned specific.

I've not only joined the club, but I'm ready to commit the rest of my days to an ordered life in service to it. And if you really listen to the vow, this is not just about a promise to God, this is a commitment in the presence the Church (note the capital C) to serve God in the Church. Once ordained, I'll be a deacon for the rest of my life--good times and bad, regardless of how I feel about the Church at any particular moment. That is a trust and a responsibilty.

P.S. To create a groovy tapestry like the one I did (above) go to The Historic Tale Construction Cit (sic).

Saturday, August 1, 2009


So finally back to my blog after much distraction. Summertime gets in the way. So where did I leave off?

Oh yeah. The diaconal ordination vows. Something about "My sister, do you believe that you are truly called by God and his Church to the life and work of a deacon?"

So here's the thing . . .

A few years ago I would have said:

But now:

So I guess I have to say . . .

Friday, June 12, 2009

8. You can go to a movie like "The Hangover" . . .

with your priest.

Just because a movie is wrong, doesn't mean it's not funny.

That's #8 on my top ten reasons for being an Episcopalian.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Letters from Federal Way--Part 1

OK, so a former nunnery on Puget Sound is not exactly the breach . . .

But that's where this letter comes from. I'm here with Paul, Susan (another priest from the Diocese of Spokane), and a bunch of other Episco-folk to learn about congregational development. We're intending to learn how to help the congregations in the Diocese of Spokane (which includes Northern Idaho and all of Eastern Washington) become more vibrant and healthy.

I won't bore you with all the blah-blah details about congregational development. That's probably only interesting to organizational geeks like myself. But I will bore you with a little of what I've learned so far in our work together. This is hard work, especially someone who's good at faking extrovert, but really is an introvert. It's also a bit lonely being the headstrong deac-in-training in among a plethora of priests and a their lay associates, especially when the coursework tends to scrutinize the inward-tending functions of a congregation (how it cares for its members) more than its movement into the world. Next, add the intention that this is a program that not only imparts tons of information, but also involves a lot of group work and self-examination that stretches you--if you let it.

All that said, I'm particulary intrigued by a model that can be followed as a rule of life for individuals as well as congregations. Please pray for me as I spend this week asking for the Holy Spirit to rock my world through the rhythm and balance of the Benedictine life:

1) Find God in what is, right now.

2) Find God in listening in order to act.

3) Find God in the next new work of my life.

4) Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Something in the water?

So, Pig's last comment has me thinking about laughter. She writes: " . . . you look at pictures of those hats and think, oh my--stodgy, solemn, maybe even a little scary. You mean you are allowed to laugh in that Church??? snort."

To be fair, there is a certain stodge-factor in some places--which shall remain nameless. Certainly, there are those--like my dad--who have had bad experiences in those Episcopal churches who take themselves entirely too seriously. And while there are times of great reverence and poignancy at Trinity, we laugh a LOT.

Kids wander the aisles or sprawl on the floor. Sometimes our priest Paul's youngest boy, (Owen) will just run up and throw his arms around Paul's legs in the middle of it all. I've seen Paul preach with Owen on one hip. If we goof up the liturgy, we laugh and keep going.

This does have a fair amount to do with the context at Holy Trinity. I mean, when the congregation is salted with chemically-enhanced folks who assume every sermon is conversational, when at any moment a homeless guy might wander in through the sacristy and down past the high altar to join you in worship, when people strolling by with beer stuffed in their pockets are drawn in by the music . . . well, a natural flexibility develops.

But I'd like to think Trinity is not alone in our appreciation of humor. Once I was a lector at a service composed solely of the mucky-mucks of the diocese. I was reading that bit where the guy falls asleep and tumbles out the window because Paul (the apostle) won't shut up. Everyone about rolled on the floor laughing through the whole reading--all at Holy Trinity Paul's expense. Come to think of it, that service was at Holy Trinity when we hosted diocesan council. Hmm, maybe there's something in the water . . .

On Maundy Thursday, I was one of the foot-washers. Paul had just given a brief sermon on foot-washing, how it forces us to reveal our most vulnerable selves, a part of us we'd prefer to hide. Paul's son, Owen, had already had his feet washed by his father, but he came to my station and hopped up in the chair ready for round two. And as I washed his little feet, he laughed. Nonstop. And pretty soon I was laughing, and it spread like a ripple. I thought: This is IT! Stripped down to our most human, no hiding in shoes and socks, being vulnerable enough to be served, and LAUGHING!

Episcopalians (and other liturgical denominations) have this thing called an aspergillium. It picks up holy water from a bucket called the aspersory and allows the flinger to fling it. Here, Pope Benedict wields the aspergillium (a.k.a. "the stick of doom").

What has this to do with laughter? It started with a toddler who dissolved into a wave of uncontrollable giggles every time a drop of holy water hit her. Now, everytime we use the thing people start laughing. We can't help it. And when Paul passes the stick of doom around and we bless each other it nearly dissolves into joyous chaos--a holy water fight. And to me, that's golden. To remember our baptism and respond with pure delight--well, that's something.

Monday, May 18, 2009

9. How many Episcopalians DOES it take to change a light bulb?


One to mix the drinks, one to call the electrician, and one to talk about how much better the old light bulb really was.

Which brings me to No. 9 in my "Top Ten Things I Love about the Episcopal Church":


On the whole, Episcopalians are pretty good at laughing at themselves. Granted, part of this is contextual. At Holy Trinity, our particular spiritual gifts seem to involve goofing off, popping off, and making fun. We love to banter, and we throw an excellent party. But the plethora of Episcopalian jokes suggests many of us are pretty good at using humor to undercut ourselves, deflate our self-importance, and remind ourselves to "keep the main thing the main thing." Can I get an amen?

And the icon? The caption for this photo on the St. George Melkite-Greek Catholic Church website reads: "The image of St. Symeon--perhaps the Church's first environmentalist--gazing upon an energy efficient light bulb." Look at his hands! I think he's blessing it! Rock on, Melkite-Greek Catholics! Good on ya!!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Introducing my top ten . . .

Pig writes: "What I'm really curious about is why you have chosen the Episcopal Church. What do you love about it? Do they have a particular set of beliefs that ring true to you? What are the basic tenents of the Episcopal Church and what makes it different from other churches? Is it that you just like your particular Episcopal Church and its work, or is it the whole Episcopalian experience that works for you, because (and I really am not intending to be rude) with all its tradition, it just seems kind of an odd fit considering your wonderful but rather . . . ahem . . . irreverent sense of humor, and seemingly no nonsese type of personality."

Bethany writes: "Yes, all that she said! Tell us about the greenhouse of your faith."

First, a caveat: there's no way I'd presume to speak for all Episcopalians. What follows is based in my understanding and experience and certainly subject to factual error and theological weakmindedness. You'll notice I use the words "tendency" and "often" a great deal. That's because it's impossible to pin down any one idea to which all Episcopalians would agree.

Second, a bit of history and polity to frame the discussion: The Episcopal Church is the American child of the Church of England which broke from Rome around the same time as the Reformation. Neither Catholic, nor Protestant, the Episcopal Church is something in between. The Church of England has other "kids" spread far and wide around the globe. These churches are loosely affiliated through the Anglican Communion. (Thus, the Episcopal Church is an American expression of Anglicanism, and to some degree the words "Episcopal" and "Anglican" can be used interchangeably.) The Archibishop of Canterbury is the figurehead and spiritual leader for the Anglican Communion, but there is no central governing authority for the worldwide communion. That's part what gets us headlines; there's no consensus right now about how much authority the Communion should have over its member churches.

And now, here's the first installment of the top ten things I love about the Episcopal Church:

10. The Three-Legged Stool

Way back in the way back (around 1594), Richard Hooker an English theologian gave us a way of approaching our faith that we now call the three-legged stool. While some churches place their emphasis on a literal reading of Scripture, Episcopalians rely on a balance of Scripture, reason, and tradition. Alone, each of these three is vulnerable to distortion; together, they allow us to discern God's will.

We believe that God intends us to use reason when we approach Scripture. So, many Episcopalians tend to consider things like cultural context when interpretting scripture, and we often look for the overarching narrative to guide our lives rather than looking for a prescriptive do-and-don't list. The Anglican approach to Scripture tends to be wholistic rather than reductionistic--the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Metaphor matters. So we tend not to pluck out particular verses as proofs. That's why I'll never win a Biblical argument with someone of an evangelical persuasion.
Tradition also has value; the wisdom of those who have come before us can shed light on our present journey with God.

Note the order: Scripture comes first, then reason, and tradition comes last. The order implies the relative weight each "leg" should bear, but if any one is missing, the stool falls down.

What does this mean to me? It means that I can approach the Word of God with curiosity and a reverent playfulness that is reminiscent of Judaic midrash. The Word is not something to be merely decoded and parsed, but a living narrative that can inform and vivify my life. The contradictions in Scripture no longer cause anxiety, or need to be explained away, but like disparate elements in a good poem create a "rub" that reveals even more richness. Similarly, tradition is not a shackle, but something lovely and rare to bump up against my contemporary experience and see what sparks fly. I absolutely love the complexity and constant discovery that this three-pronged approach creates. And when this unfolds in community, the Holy Spirit gets a chance to really shake things up.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Q & A

While I ruminate on a couple of upcoming blog entries, here's your chance:

Ever wonder: What's with the incense? Why are Episcopalians always arguing (in public)? Why on earth would you Episcopalians call your leaders "primates"? Where can I get a cool hat like that one? How come are there so many drinking jokes about Episcopalians? Is Episcopal the same thing as Catholic? How many Episcopalians does it take to change a lightbulb?

Post your questions about the Episcopal Church, Episcopalians, and all things liturgical, and I'll do my best to provide or dig up (or make up) a plausible answer.


in the foyer of Holy Trinity's parish hall during HT Dinner Table:

Guest: So when are the AA meetings that happen here?
Volunteer: I think there's one tomorrow at 5 pm.
Guest: Oh, that'll never work for me. I'm always drunk by 5 pm.

(We think he was joking. And yes, the vintage beer ad is real.)


I think this falls under the diaconal call to "interpret to the church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world." Click here to read about one deacon's witness on Ormonde Plater's blog.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Sometimes you're the tether, sometimes you're the ball . . .

At all times, your life and teaching are to show Christ's people that in serving the helpless they are serving Christ himself.

On the surface, this part of the ordination vow seems like a no-brainer. The last part of Matthew 25 pretty much lays it out with the culling of the herd. No mincing of words there.

But lately I'm having some issues with the word "helpless." I could be wrong, but I don't recall this word placed in Jesus' mouth in the Gospels. "Least of these" is about as close as we get. Who are the helpless?

Well, word-nerd that I am, I looked it up. This from "unable to help oneself; weak or dependent; deprived of strength or power; powerless; incapacitated." So who are helpless? Well, babies, of course--except that they can cry to signal what they want, so they aren't totally helpless. People with extreme dementia? People in a coma? Hmm. Maybe.

But the people Jesus talks about in Matthew 25 are not, by this definition, helpless. They are hungry, thirsty, in prison. But that doesn't mean they are helpless. And most of the people I serve in my diaconal ministry are far from helpless. Poverty encourages it's own kind of power. When our survival instinct meets threat, helplessness becomes relative. Prey becomes predator, abused becomes abuser. Salt the situation with some alcohol or drugs and you'll have a master manipulator before you can say "God bless." We all do what we must to get by.

Do I sound jaded? Already? I hope not. I've spent the last couple of days failing to heed the giant sucking sound of a domestic-violence-alcohol clusterf*&k with some folks I pastor. How is it after three days of witnessing their chaos, I find myself engaging the drama? (Yeah, I know, the "three days" part should have been my first clue.)

I think this has something to do with an unhelpful stance implied in the words "serve the helpless" which implies an us (well-equipped saviors) and a them (incapacitated victims). We become fix-it junkies with those in need as our projects, and before you know it the Holy Spirit wanders off looking for something more interesting to do. In reality, even those who are a total disaster have more volition than we see in them. One of the worst things we can do is presume helplessness, assume the role of helper, and attempt to strip away any remaining agency they have. Or just as bad, we presume helplessness and suddenly discover they've have a surprising wherewithal to transform us from helper to enabler (which is a polite way to say "self-destruction facilitator").

Remember tetherball. Set aside, for a moment, those dark memories of getting beaned upside the head with the tetherball by that kid who couldn't keep his hands out of the classroom fish tank. The thing with a tetherball is that it's . . . well . . . tethered. No matter which way you hit it, it's going to wrap itself around that pole. By the laws of physics, it's helpless not to. That's what I'm finding in my diaconal work. Everybody has their pole--addiction, violence, overwork, codependence, compulsive whatever--and no matter which way life slaps you, you're bound to wrap yourself around that pole. Poles can also be less "in-your-face" but still destructive like one of my personal favorites: "Everyone must like me." But everytime the tetherball hits the end of its rope, there's that same damned pole again.

So . . . SURPRISE! Joke's on us: we're all helpless! Remember? It's a broken world. And we're included. We are all tethered to sin--or in the less loaded terms of a pastoral care text, to our "limitations" as well as "gifts."

A deacon helps no one by futhering the illusion of helper and helpless. In fact, she can pretty well muck it up even further if she fails to show "in [her] life and teaching" an understanding of her own helplessness and an awareness that service does not mean fixing. And because it's so ingrained to defend the mask of benevolent servant, so deeply tempting to make those we serve into projects, this could well be the deacon's most telling challenge.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Diaconal To-Do List - Week of April 20

. . . and you are to carry out other duties assigned to you from time to time.

come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace
9am - county courthouse - provide "no-contact" pastoral care silently & across courtroom
6pm - pick up N from geiger correctional
streams of mercy never ceasing call for songs of loudest praise

teach me some melodious sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above
8am - self-examination - sin of pride
praise the mount! oh, fix me on it, mount of God's unchanging love

here I find my greatest treasure; hither by thy help I've come
4:30 pm - arrive at parish hall - welcome volunteers
5:30pm - welcome 75 for dinner
5:45pm - respond to grief - murder victim's aunt
7pm - bus tables, bag dirty tableclothes, tuck notebook with guests' prayer list in bag
9:30pm - wash tablecloths
and I hope, by thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home

Jesus sought me when a stranger wandering from the fold of God
7am - pull what's left of prayer list notebook from washing machine
9:45am - pastoral care - am I doing it right?
10:15am - self-examination - living for others' approval vs. living for God?
12:00noon - don't forget you have a day job
he, to rescue me from danger, interposed his precious blood

oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be
9:00am - god-talk with spiritual friend
7:00pm - ministry weekend - topic: processing the process (of preparation for ordination)
let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee

prone to wander, lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love
8:15am - overwhelming gratitude for my call
8:30am - ministry weekend - topic: pastoral care
8:00pm - bake Jesus-bread for communion
here's my heart, oh, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above

come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace
9:00am - unlock parish hall - remind church lady of community norms: "failure to use at least 8 scoops of coffee may affect your worship experience"
9:01am- receive lecture about Great Depression
9:15am - prepare sanctuary
9:59am - prepare self
10:00am - welcome (congregation) guide (acolytes) hear (Word) chant (psalm) bid (prayers) receive (elements) prepare (table) turn (pages) receive (communion) offer (chalice) praise (God)
5:00pm - study scripture
streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise . . .

Vanity Check

Does this alb make me look fat?

And of course, that's beside the point. I keep thinking I'll finally get over myself, that my first thought won't go to trivialities. But that's the work of it, I guess: saying yes to God over and over--which necessitates a no to self.

Here I am, clearing the altar . . .

Thanks, Sally, for the pic.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beyond the Chancel

You are to assist the bishop and priests in public worship and in the ministration of God's Word and Sacraments . . .

On different occasions, two people on the Commission on Ministry (COM) asked me the same question in an attempt to help me discern whether I might be called to the priesthood or the diaconate:

"When you are serving at the altar, do you have the urge to shove the priest out of the way and take over?"

Strange as it may seem, this is the most helpful question I've been asked during my discernment. It seems a small thing, really--almost an aside. Do you have the impulse to consecrate the bread and wine? It takes a whopping ten minutes per service--hardly dominating the priest's schedule. And yet, it's one of the main things. This question cuts through the confusion around orders of ministry--the muddiness generated by our tendency to define the orders by task and role, not what I call "heart stance." What the question really asks is: on the sacramental level, are you a priest?

Some folks have suggested my answer should be "Yes." I tend to be a take-charge kinda girl. I'm comfortable leading worship, preaching, praying, and doing all the other stuff that wraps around the Eucharist. I'm a passable thurifer (incense swinger). Once, in a pinch, I even chanted the psalm--by myself, in front of everybody--and I didn't die and the congregation didn't run screaming from the pews. But when I'm at that table, I don't want to be the one to invoke God's blessing. I can't tell you why.

I want to be the quiet servant--the one who is always in the right place at the right time, who moves along with the priest anticipating her needs, always ready to hold a book, turn a page, lift a chalice. I want to be the one who smooths the liturgy so that it seems effortless, the one who mutes distractions so that the focus is on God.

I prepare the way for the priest, setting the table, pouring wine. And, a proper servant, I clean up afterwards, restoring chalice and paten to their places, covering the consecrated host. And in between, there's the moment where I enact the deacon's call. Receiving the chalice from the priest, I carry it beyond the chancel to the people, each step a sign of the breach I'm called to cross each day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Church Whisperer

You are to interpret to the church the needs, concerns, and hopes of the world.

The prophetic voice: a central part of the deacon's call. We're the breach-standers--a foot in the church, a foot in the world, translating between the two. When I first began my discernment two years ago, I thought, Prophetic voice? I'm your girl. Rattle the cage? You betcha. Unfortunately, this is not a call to be a troublemaker. So I began to pray that I could be a voice for the world in a helpful way.

It's a tribute to my inflated sense of self that at first I thought this meant church with a capital C--Church, the institution. As a deacon, I'd shift the system, rage against the machine. While Jesus was a kayak, light and maneuverable through the complexities of the world, the Church is more often like cruise ship. Railing against the Church, I'd be heading straight for the spiritual breakdown lane. Thankfully, God seems to enjoy messing with my delusions. He gave me a chance to reframe this aspect of the diaconal call, and His approach was surprisingly and unusually gentle.

During the recovery from my surgery, I missed two nights of HT's Dinner Table ministry. For those of you who don't know about Dinner Table, it's a weekly free meal for our neighbors--not a soup kitchen, but a sit-down family style meal complete with tablecloths, real dishes, and food you'd serve to guests in your own home. You can read more about it here. I've been heavily involved in the founding of the ministry, but lately I've been stepping back. The deacon is called to be a catalyst for new ministry, then turn it over, and move on to the next need God presents to us. These were the very first Dinner Table nights I missed, so the surgery was an invitation to step back and see what would happen without me.

Like the Federation in Star Trek, Dinner Table has a prime directive: We treat our guests as we would welcome our friends into our own homes. A simple standard in a complex context. We serve a motley mix of homeless men and women, single moms with their kids, struggling families, and lonely elders. Some of our guests arrive drunk, disorderly, unwashed, unwell, and unhinged. From this, we try to weave community. All the while, we are welcoming new volunteers, many of whom have never served anyone different from themselves.

My fellow ministers rose to the occasion. It's always humbling--and liberating--to realize how easily things go on without you. At the same time, as I began to surface from the pain medication, complaints appeared in my inbox. Nothing big. Just here and there, reports of volunteers who had been rude to our guests.

At our next Dinner Table leadership meeting we talked about the primary pitfall of ministry: our expectations. Too often, we serve with expectations that those served will respond in a particular way--the way we would respond. We enter a world marked with the fallout of addiction, poverty, and abuse, and we expect it to conform to our reality. Most dangerous of all, we expect those we serve to become like us. When our expectations are denied, we judge, reject, or punish. We talked about what it looks like for a church determined to move into the world, hell-bent, if you will, on sowing the seeds of the kingdom in some very rocky soil.

It takes a certain fortitude. When we serve as Christ did, we risk true intimacy. We will love them. We will lose some of them. We must trust our own strength in the face of disappointment, and strip ourselves of our defense mechanisms--the guise of charity, our insistence on assimilation. And so the deacon not only invites, encourages, exhorts others to respond to the world's needs. She also accompanies those who would serve, calming fear and deflating expectation. Her voice is a mere whisper as she travels in a broken world.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Lenten discipline: wrestling with the sin of productivity.

It goes like this:
  1. build an entire identity and sense of self-worth based on what you can produce/accomplish;
  2. arrange to have a major organ shredded and sucked out through a straw;
  3. watch the fun as you try to figure out what "be-ing" looks like.
Call it the Blue Collar Curse, or imagine something deeper, hard-wired. Either way, it's hereditary. My parents were both do-ers. My brothers, too, gauge success and worth each by their own kind of productivity. It's projects for one, financial security for the other--the outcomes look totally different, but the compulsion is the same.

So I do too much. Then hurt for days. Then do it all over again. Even stranded on the couch "resting" and too tired to think, I've crocheted and cross-stitched more in three weeks than I have in the last ten years. Idle hands are the devil's workshop, my grandma used to say.

Did you know you can watch dust accumulate, day to day? Dishes pile up. Cat hair gathers like weather. A month ago, I was too busy to care very much. Now housework is the axis on which my world tilts and spins.

The recliner is both paradise and storm-swept island, rain forest and sagey desert.

Sometimes, I have no choice; I let the phone ring.

Being feels ethereal. At least Doing casts a shadow, implying substance. And it's that craving--to have substance--that has something to do with what happened in the Garden.

And yet, Jesus was both actor and experiencer. The gospel writers cite his acts--healings, signs, wonders--as proof of divinity. But Jesus said, "Tell no one . . ." The do-ing arose naturally from his be-ing. And vice versa. And oh, the God-shaped shadow!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Top ten things I learned from my hysterectomy . . .

10. Vicodin is proof of a loving God.

9. Warm prune juice works eventually--and comprehensively.

8. Your friend will tell you that coconut (in macaroon form) works too--after the prune juice has kicked in.

7. Nothing in one's closet adequately camoflauges swelly belly.

6. When the only way you get a "vacation" is by having a major organ shredded and sucked out through a straw . . . maybe your life is out of balance.

5. Women have a higher pain tolerance than men, but men have a higher dirt tolerance; it's genetic.

4. When you have a ten-pound lifting restriction, you discover everything in your house weighs ten pounds.

3. Cats make better post-surgery companions than dogs.

2. A visit from a friend brings the best kind of healing.

1. Laugh--even when it hurts.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

25 Things I Promise Never to Crochet

For fear that this newfound interest in crochet may be a symptom of perimenopause, I hereby give my friends permission to perform an intervention should they ever find a poodle toilet paper cozy in my bathroom. I depending on all of you to tell me the truth if my house ever begins to look like a church bazaar exploded.

As further insurance and in the spirit of Facebook, instead of 25 random things about me, I offer you 25 things I promise never to crochet . . .

I *heart* my broom


Or you could name your kid BeatMeUpAndStealMyLunchMoney . . .

Unable to afford a thyroid test,
Agnes tried to disguise her thinning hair.

Turkey Hat: Because everyone wants a turkey on her head . . .

They seemed so cute
until they elected a leader . . .

Without the navel ring,
I'm not sure this would work.

Kitty says: Me will wait until she's asleep,
then lay on her face until twitching stops.

Who doesn't love a mushroom in a jar?

The perfect outfit for meeting his parents:

Coke & Red Bull:
Because beer can hats are just tacky.

Granny Squares:
There's a time and a place . . .

. . . this is not it.

I know granny squares remind you of your Grandma--I get it. But it's just not right!

The Look-At-Me Dress:
When Bad Attention Is Better Than No Attention.

Funky is as funky does.

She'll need therapy anyway.
Might as well make sure she gets her money's worth.

Coulrophobia (fear of clowns): irrational fear or self-preservation?

Because snuggling with a real dead fox just isn't weird enough . . .

Presenting: A Clusterf*&$ of Cozies

Tampon Cozies: uterus with ovaries (left) & banana (right).

Gun Cozy

Motorcycle Cozy?

Infidelity Prevention System:

Wrong on so many levels . . .

Because after the last sweater you made him,
the dog finally ran away.