Saturday, December 11, 2010

Rizpah, my new heroine

Below is a presentation I gave about Rizpah. There are a few different ways to read the passage, but I chose to read it according to the "little tradition" -- the tradition that roots for the little guys and that seeks after justice. I chose that reading of it because it was both the most compelling reading, and also the one that made the most sense to me in light of the exegesis (background-digging) I did. Rizpah's story is in 2 Samuel, chapters 3 and 21. And this was used as a part of a "ritual" for my Old Testament class that centered around silenced women in 2 Samuel and silenced people in today's world.

My name is Rizpah, which means ‘glowing coal’. It is an apt name, for my passion runs hot but it is subtle. And my passion is persistent. I do not speak in your scriptures, but you can see my slowly burning passion in my actions.

Early in my life I was passed around. I was Saul’s concubine before Abner took me as a pawn in his bid for kingship. I had two sons by Saul, whom I loved dearly.

I loved my sons.

And then one day David said that God told him to give my sons to be killed to pay a debt of blood. David said this sacrifice would save the people and end the 3 year famine. He said God told him this. Kings are fond of saying that God tells them things. And this time, it was suspiciously convenient for David – my sons and the five other boys that David took away to be killed were nearly the last of the male relatives of Saul.

I loved my sons.

They were taken against their will. They were humiliated and violently sacrificed. And their bodies were left to rot and be eaten by animals. I didn’t say anything. I just sat with the bodies. In silence. I would not allow the birds to pick at my sons’ bodies. But my presence there… my silence… was intended to let the birds of compassion pick at the conscience of the King. I said nothing. He could not write me off as a lunatic because I said nothing. He could not defend against me because I asked nothing. I just sat. In silence. For six months. I sat. In silence. Watching my boys be received by the earth.

You see, silence is powerful if it is chosen. I was forced into silence, yes. But even though my voice was taken away, I chose the power of silence to bring to light that which is hidden.

David, the high and mighty king, was ashamed. My persistent, strong, silent presence would not allow him to hide from that shame. He had humiliated and killed my sons, Saul’s family, for his own gain. I would remind him of that by my silence until he finally relented and buried the boys, Saul, and all of Saul’s sons, giving them the dignity in death that he took from them in life. My powerful, chosen silence brought him to that.

And the famine stopped – not when the boys were killed, as David had said would happen – but when David repented and buried their bones.

My name is Rizpah, and God heard my silence.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sermon, Peter raising Tabitha

Acts 9:36-43
Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request, “Please come to us without delay.” So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

GOD OF THE BIBLE (FRESH AS THE MORNING) (song)
(1., 2., 3. -- readers)

Fear of mortality underlies so much of our life and so many of our actions. I was watching an episode of Dr. Who the other day in which a genius of a man, a dying genius of a man, invents a way to keep human brains alive within human-shaped metal shells. He creates an army of these beings that he calls “superior” and creates a shell for himself to enter. But it becomes quickly evident that these beings are amoral and unfeeling – that they are not living beings in any but the most mechanical sense of the word. It’s interesting imagery to me, mostly, perhaps because it is not all that far off of our own human experience. We fear death, we fear pain, so we create a shell for ourselves – we arm ourselves in whatever ways we can.

1. We amass money and belongings to help us feel more secure. But can we, by our wealth, avoid death?

2. We stay close to home and keep our belongings and family safe. But can we, by our isolation, avoid death?

3. We consume indiscriminately because we fear scarcity and hunger. But can we, by our eating and consumption, avoid death?

1. We serve others out of the sense that if we are somehow good enough, we will be spared. But can we, with our virtue, avoid death?

2. We try not to offend, lest we be attacked. Or we quickly go on the offensive to be the first to hurt, to prevent the first blow from striking us. But can we, with our fighting or fleeing, avoid death?

3. We look to technology to connect us, to create a legacy for ourselves, to fill us with knowledge. But can we, with all our science, avoid death?

1. We grasp for control in interactions, we seek obsessively for precision and power. But can we, with all our perfectionism, avoid death?

Put that bluntly, it’s almost a silly question. And the answer, as I think we all would agree, is no. We cannot avoid death no matter what we do. There is no armor strong enough to protect us. And this goes for organizations and groups, as well. No amount of consultants and vision statements and fundraisers can keep away death when the time comes. No amount of money, control, or virtue can make us immortal.

So then, we are right to fear, yes?

GOODNESS IS STRONGER THAN EVIL (song)

2. Jesus says “Do not be afraid.”
3. Jesus says “Do not worry about what you will eat or drink or what you will wear.”
1. Jesus says “I have come that you might have life and have it in all its fullness.”
2. Jesus says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”
3. Haven’t you heard?
1. Jesus is risen!

There is no shame in death, and there need be no fear in it, either. For we, are a resurrection people. Death need never have the last word. Brokenness need never be our ultimate reality. New life is springing up all around us.

I wonder what life would look like if we lived less out of our fear of death and more out of celebration of resurrection. We as Christians gather every Sunday for this purpose. We gather to remind ourselves of resurrection – to commemorate Jesus’ resurrection and also to celebrate the daily resurrections happening all around us. Brothers and sisters, we are here today to discover again how to live out the reality of our participation in resurrection.

We are a resurrection people. What would life look like if we lived less out of our fear of death and more out of our celebration of new life?

GOODNESS IS STRONGER THAN EVIL (song)

Perhaps to find an example of a resurrection life-style, we can look to the early church. Specifically, this morning, we heard a story about Peter and Tabitha. Early in the book of Acts, the disciples are living with a lot of power. I wonder if Peter ever looked at himself and thought “how did I get here?” Peter in the Gospels was always a bit of a foot-in-the-mouth kind of guy. He, with all his good intentions, tried to protect Jesus from death, and then to protect himself from death, putting on the same kinds of armor we don.

Jesus foretells his own death, and Peter wants to prevent it (incidentally, earning him the oft-quoted “get behind me, Satan”).

Jesus is arrested in the garden, and Peter tries again to prevent it by drawing the sword. Jesus responds by healing the wound Peter wrought and being led away.

Peter is asked at a dangerous time, on the morning of Jesus’ death, if he is a disciple of Jesus. He denies his connection with this outlaw, probably to save his own skin.

In the Gospels, Peter is often like us – a mortal all too aware of and all too afraid of death.

Peter of the early church, Peter after the resurrection is not an entirely different person – he is still brash and bold in his speech and action. But this much has changed – he knows with certainty that death will not have the final word. He is a child of the resurrection. And you know – you can’t stop children of the resurrection.

This new Peter acts with power, with confidence. And this Peter is not afraid to ask much and proclaim much. This Peter lives not under fear of mortality but in celebration of new life – new life seeping up in improbable places and bursting into the story when we are about to close the book.

GOODNESS IS STRONGER THAN EVIL (song)

When I first read this scripture for my sermon preparation, honest to goodness, my first thought was “oh, it’s just another resurrection story.” And then I listened to myself… “another resurrection story” I’ve never seen a physical resurrection. I’ve never even prayed for a physical resurrection. Resurrection is no small thing.

If we really put ourselves in Peter’s shoes, how many of us would have the confidence to pray over Tabitha as he did? How many of us would live powerfully enough to say to Tabitha “get up”?

And yet we know, with the wisdom of faith, that nothing, nothing, indeed, nothing is impossible for God.

We, beloved, are people of the resurrection. We have the assurance that life is stronger than death and that victory is ours through the God who loves us. But more than that, we have the calling to actively live as people of the resurrection in our daily lives. We, like Peter, are called not only to notice resurrection around us, but also to create resurrection around us, through the power of the God for whom death is a small obstacle.

Annie Dillard is often quoted as writing that if people knew what kind of power they were calling down every time they prayed, they would wear crash helmets to church.

We are called to live with that kind of power. We are called to believe that God asks us to participate in resurrection.
1. We can look beyond modest goals and aims.
2. We can strive for more than just hedging our bets.
3. We can ask beyond our expectations.
1. We can hope beyond what is rational,
2. and act in ways that would be foolish except in light of the resurrection.
3. We no longer have to arm ourselves to prevent death
1. We now are called to embrace life.

We are called, not to protect life through human graspings, but to create life through the power of the risen Christ. We can live powerfully in the assurance that nothing is impossible with God. Indeed, brothers and sisters, we must.

And it is a choice. Each and every day we choose between fear and love. Each and every moment we choose whether to foster death or to be co-creators of new life.

So I ask again, what would the world look like if we lived day-by-day as resurrection people?

GOODNESS IS STRONGER THAN EVIL (song)

Affirmation:
Let us affirm our faith:
WE BELIEVE THAT GOD IS PRESENT
IN THE DARKNESS BEFORE DAWN;
IN THE WAITING AND UNCERTAINTY
WHERE FEAR AND COURAGE JOIN HANDS,
CONFLICT AND CARING LINK ARMS,
AND THE SUN RISES OVER BARBED WIRE.
WE BELIEVE IN A WITH-US GOD
WHO SITS DOWN IN OUR MIDST
TO SHARE OUR HUMANITY.
WE AFFIRM A FAITH
THAT TAKES US BEYOND THE SAFE PLACE:
INTO ACTION, INTO VULNERABILITY,
AND INTO THE STREETS.
WE COMMIT OURSELVES TO WORK FOR CHANGE
AND PUT OURSELVES ON THE LINE;
TO BEAR RESPONSIBILITY, TAKE RISKS,
LIVE POWERFULLY AND FACE HUMILIATION;
TO STAND WITH THOSE ON THE EDGE;
TO CHOOSE LIFE
AND BE USED BY THE SPIRIT
FOR GOD’S NEW COMMUNITY OF HOPE.
AMEN.

Let us pray (adapted from Walter Bruggeman):

1. Holy God who moves this day toward peaceableness,
2. God of Jew and Greek
3. God of male and female
2. God of slave and free,
3. God of haves and have nots
2. God of the buoyant and the frightened
3. God of the tax collector and the Pharisee
1. You God who makes all things new!

2. We come to you this day in dazzled thanksgiving for the resurrection you have wrought in our midst,
3. Some we all know
1. Some we know secretly, so close to home
3. of transformations and healings and reconciliations
1. and the defeat of anger and hate and hurt.
2. We are dazzled and grateful, more than we can say.

3. God of all newness, we come to you this day in daring hope for healings we want yet to receive,
1. believing in them,
2. while the world says “not possible”
3. We dare imagine
1. Healings in Darfur
2. and peaceableness in Palestine
1. and trustfulness close between conservatives and liberals,
2. and caring between those who have so little and those who have too much
3. healings that can happen only by your good office.

1. Dear God of our waxing and our waning, we risk uttering the groanings of our hearts for reconciliation, sighs too deep for uttering.
2. we so deeply yearn for, but do not think possible,
3. not possible for the homeless and the homed to live together, but we groan
2. not possible for homosexuals and heterosexuals of all sorts to commune together, but we anguish,
3. not possible to move past our burdens of fear and brokenness, of abuse and weariness, not possible, but we imagine it,
2. not possible to be innocently alive with all the burdens we must keep hidden,
3. not possible, but we pray for your impossibility.

1. God of Exodus and Easter,
2. God of homecoming and forgiveness,
3. God of fierceness and peaceableness,
1. We are finally driven to your miracles.

2. This day, hear our urgency and do among us what none of us can do alone.
3. Do your Friday to Sunday act yet again and make us new.
2. We pray out of the shattering death
3. and the shimmering new life
1. of Jesus, whose name we bear.

And we pray in the words Jesus taught us: OUR FATHER…

Sunday, October 04, 2009

I love Garrison Keillor!!

http://www.salon.com/opinion/keillor/2009/09/02/healthcare/
Really funny, really true article about healthcare. Seriously, America, what are you doing?
(sorry I can't figure out how to get the link to work right... take the time to paste it in, though... it's worth it.)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Syrophoenecian Woman Sermon

**Preached at the Abbey not too long ago. Again, if you use it or any part of it, please just let me know. =) And I'm always happy for feedback.

Mark 7:24-37
From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenecian origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go – the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

MAY THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH AND THE MEDITATIONS OF ALL OUR HEARTS BE ACCEPTABLE IN YOUR SIGHT, O LORD, OUR STRENGTH AND OUR REDEEMER. AMEN
We all know tiredness, times when physically we are exhausted, times when mentally or emotionally we feel as though we cannot take one more thing, times when we would like to hide from the world, rest and recover. It’s part of being human that our energies are limited, and part of living with others that sometimes the demand on our energies exceeds (sometimes far exceeds) our reserves.

It seems Jesus felt it, too. All throughout Mark, Jesus is trying to get away, trying to keep his miracles quiet. I’ve always been puzzled by that one – what good is it saying to a blind man, “don’t tell anyone that you can see” or a leper, “you are healed of your sores, but don’t let any of your friends know”? But Jesus does it. Those he heals he tells to be quiet about the source of their healing. And several times he tries to go away to pray and be by himself and he cannot – he sails across the Sea of Galilee hoping to lose the crowd, only to find that people have gotten to the other side ahead of him. The demands on his time and energy are enormous, at times larger than his reserves. His humanity seems to show in his tiredness. He needs a vacation.

So he goes away to Tyre. This is the farthest away from his hometown he is recorded to have gone so far in Mark. And his reason for going is not obvious. We know, though, that he entered a house not wanting anyone to know he was there. Maybe he had booked a room in a B&B or maybe a room in a rebuilt abbey. And maybe he sighed in relief when he put his bags down in the entrance hall and looked around him.

And what about the woman? We don’t know her name, but we do know that she was a local (Tyre was a town in the Syria / Phoenecia area). And we know she was a gentile who had a sick daughter. We can surmise a few other things: For her to have come to Jesus, she probably either knew and believed Jesus’ reputation as a healer, or she was at her wit’s end and reaching for a last piece of desperate hope. Also, if her daughter had been sick, possessed by a demon, she was probably tired, herself – the physical and emotional tiredness of the caretaker, the mental tiredness of the protective woman who cannot make her loved-one well.

Can you identify with either of these situations? Both of them? I have to say that at different times in my life I have identified more strongly with one or the other, but I can remember clearly a time when I identified with Jesus. I used to work in a therapeutic community for adults with mental illnesses like bipolar, depression, schizophrenia. I was essentially a house parent, so I spent evenings and mornings with these amazing, creative, compassionate, and often struggling folk. And because we were a community where everyone lived in the same neighborhood, lines between work and play often blurred (as they often do here). I remember one work shift in which I had split up two different arguments, fixed a toilet that was leaking through the ceiling, listened to a young man who was contemplating running away, and been awakened three times in the night by a woman who was having nightmares. I was tired anyway and after breakfast I was relieved to be going home for the day. And you know the walk… perhaps you’ve done it yourself… head straight forward, not making eye contact with anyone lest someone ask something of me, thinking “just gotta get home, just gotta get home”. I was nearly out of the parking lot when I heard the sound of a frame (walker for those of us American folk) rolling towards me and heard our oldest guest, Georgia's honeysuckle voice calling my name. “Laura”. I’m ashamed to say, I kept walking, hoping I had misheard her and knowing I hadn’t. She was persistent and got louder the second time. She needed my attention.

This, I imagine, is something like Jesus’ situation when faced with the woman at his door. In Matthew’s version of the story, he does almost the same thing I did, even keeping walking as the woman follows him. She is persistent and he turns to hear her. “My daughter is ill.” Mark’s version says she begs. What Jesus said next is a matter of much discussion. Was it an insult? Some say it was. Some say it was simply an image. I wonder if it was somewhere in between. Regardless, what he says is “let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” I wonder if what he is trying to say, perhaps in unfortunate, I’m-too-tired-to-be-tactful imagery, is “My resources are limited. The time and energy I can offer to this world is restricted by my human form. And my purpose here is to serve the Israelites. I have people to minister to and because there are always more people to be healed than time and energy to heal, I need to be careful whom I give food to.” Or, in my story, “Georgia, please not now. I don’t have the energy, and you’re not on my case list, and what energy I have needs to go to the people I’m supposed to be serving.”

And yet the woman is persistent. She does not challenge Jesus’ sense of mission. She uses the imagery of the scarce food in her own reply, perhaps even in that acknowledging Jesus’ need for rest. “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” “Yes,” she says. “I get what you’re saying. But all I’m asking of you is something that is easy for you. I’m not asking for a feast, I’m just asking for crumbs. You’re not supposed to be serving me. I’m not part of your mission statement or long-range planning goals. But I’m here in front of you. And that’s important.”

Jesus responds by healing her daughter. He does not change what he does thereafter in his ministry. His mission is still primarily to the Israelites, his biggest target for rants is still the Jewish leaders, his travels are still primarily in the area of the Sea of Galilee and Judaeah. But he has set aside his mission for this one moment to minister to the person who is right in front of him.

And here’s the advice I hear in this story at this time: Be driven. Have a sense of purpose and mission and ministry. Let that guide you. And when you are tired, for heaven’s sake, take time out. Go away, maybe even far away, and maybe even hidden away, if you need to. But never forget that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. Never forget that sometimes the interruptions, the unlikely connections, the inconvenient demands and ill-timed requests are actually urgently important parts of your ministry.

And further, I hear this acknowledgment, in the form of a quote from a wise friend of mine:
“I see the story as a story about sticky life that I can relate to, which isn’t tied up in ideals or platitudes – it’s a story to say to me: it’s okay, we are all trying our best. Maybe it’s not about being right all the time, but about persisting in the journey, figuring out how to balance all these different forces, continuing to try, doing the best we can muster in that moment, having the grace to know that our efforts are enough, and eventually, at the end of it all, getting some sleep.

I did talk to Georgia that morning, not so much because I wanted to as because I didn’t think she would let me go until I had talked to her. She wanted to ask a question about music, and after we sat at her tiny keyboard and I told her my answer, we laughed together about stories of her childhood and sang songs together, and generally had a really good time. At the end of our conversation, I was very glad she had stopped me, even if I was still tired and in need of a good nap.

We each have come here to Iona for different purposes, for different lengths of time, and from different places (perhaps this is even the farthest away from home we have been). Some may be badly in need of rest and renewal, as Jesus. Some may be seeking healing, as the woman in the story. Some may be working here or elsewhere and finding their own resources to be limited and needing focus, as Jesus. Or maybe you identify with a different part of this story. Whatever your circumstance, there is good news for you in this story. We are reminded to rest and enjoy time away. We are reminded that God heals and that persistence is rewarded. We are reminded that limitations are okay and that life is messy but still beautiful. We are reminded that even when people are tired and less-than-tactful, grace and connection are possible. And most of all, beloved of God, we are reminded that, though it is good to focus our energies and our ministries, real living often happens in the interruptions. Sometimes the most important ministry happens when we aren’t looking for it and happens in ways and with people we hadn’t intended. May we be open to the needs of the people around us this day, this week, and always, and may we find the nourishment we need to keep living and giving in the fullness God intends.

IN THE NAME OF CREATOR, REDEEMER, AND SUSTAINER, AMEN.

Mark 14:3-9 Reflection, used at Iona Agape Service

**I realize I haven't posted for a while... I'll do more sometime soon, I hope. And I haven't yet actually used this reflection, so I don't have a sense of how it actually works in a congregation, but... for what it's worth. Please feel free to use it, if you find it helpful, but also please tell me if you use it. =)

Reader: While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard.

1: Who is she?
2: Where did she come from?
1: What’s the perfume for?
2: Why has she come here?
1: We’re just sitting down to dinner
2: She better not make a scene.

Woman: He acknowledged beauty in me, and I knew it was a risk, but I had to give something back. Where other people picked up quickly on my brokenness, he learned my name and saw me as whole. I gave what I had. It didn’t feel like enough. It couldn’t. But it was something.

Reader: She broke the jar and poured the perfume on Jesus’ head.

1: Yep, she did it. She made a scene.
2: Why did she break the jar?
1: Why did she waste the perfume?
2: Silly girl, you could have gotten a year’s wages for that.
1: It could have been used so much more practically.
2: You could buy a car for that.
1: You could have put it in savings.
2: You could have given it to us.
1: Or at the very least, you could have given it to the poor.
2: And now we’ve got to clean up the mess.
1: Silly, wasteful girl.

Woman: They scolded me, but how could they know? Who were they to judge? I gave as I knew how. Strong perfume, great beauty, from a broken vessel. It wasn’t about the money for me. It was about the gift. And it wasn’t about an effort of will. It was an outpouring of gratitude.

Reader: Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her?

1: We’ll tell you why we’re bothering her.
2: We’re practical.
1: We know the figures about the sinking economy.
2: Good money shouldn’t be wasted on pretty things.

Woman: Acknowledging beauty in the midst of brokenness is never a waste. Giving of oneself is never a waste. Beauty is always a risk, though. Giving is always a risk. Love is always a risk. I gave what I had. I knew the risks, but I had to give anyway.

Reader: She has done a beautiful thing for me.

1: Society sees numbers
W: God sees beauty

2: Society points out brokenness, spilled-ness, emptiness.
W: God points out wholeness, fullness, a cup overflowing with goodness

1: Society values achievement and security
W: God values generosity and love

2: Society says, “Be careful”
W: God says, “Live the life that truly is life”

Reader: She has done a beautiful thing for me.

1: Society says, “Take care of your own”
W: God says, “Love your enemies, and risk everything for the kingdom”

2: Society craves money and success.
W: God craves loving spirits and beautiful actions.

1: Society says, “be smart”
W: God says, “I will use the fools of the world to shame the wise”

2: In society’s eyes, we mustn’t make a scene, we mustn’t be extravagant
W: In God’s eyes, no generosity is to be ashamed of, and no love is too extravagant.

Reader: She has done a beautiful thing for me.

Woman: Have you seen it? Have you encountered beauty that silenced you in awe? Have you heard it? Have you heard someone calling your name and calling out the beauty in you? I did. And I had to respond. I had to give because God’s goodness is too wonderful to keep hidden. What risky beauty will you offer? What extravagant love will you pour into the world?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

God showing off

How do I describe it? It was a triple full rainbow... the main one had a second, fainter one just below it (touching it, one bow, two rows of colors). And then there was a smaller but still full rainbow a fair bit below it. You could see the "ends" of the main rainbow, and one end hit Iona just behind the abbey, and the other end hit Mull. It looked like it was spanning the sound, and from where we were standing, the abbey was nearly exactly centered underneath all three rainbows. Incredible. Breathtaking. That night was also the most spectacular sunset I've seen in a long time. It seemed God was saying, "look what I can do!"

And then there was the day when the service leader had planned a service all about rain -- about the love of God being like rain that falls on everyone, and about the ways we try to protect ourselves from the rain / love of God. So all the songs talked about water and rain, the scripture was about living water. It was shaping up to be a good service, but it really needed some atmospheric cooperation to be as effective as it could be. And all day it didn't rain. And it didn't look like it was going to rain. But then... for the 10 minutes before the service as people were walking to the church, the heavens opened and we all got absolutely soaked. The rain stopped sometime in the middle of the service. The service was fabulous, and I laughed at God for showing off again. ;)

My favorite memory from last time I was here was of us slogging through several very wet and miserable days before finally we got a morning that was entirely clear and sunny. The pianist played "Oh What a Beautiful Morning" at the end of the service for postlude, and as soon as we stepped out of the church to go back to work, it started raining again. Again, I chuckled at the object lesson that even rain can be beautiful.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

One more thing for tonight...

Yay Obama!
(Obama speaking about abortion at Notre Dame University in Indiana)
Respect, forthrightness, honesty, encouragement, empowering... all while talking about a hot button issue at a school that could have a very hard time with the issue...
So refreshing, especially coming from a representative of the government.
Clear honesty doesn't have to be confrontational... it can be life-giving. Thanks, Obama, for the example. And thanks, Meagan, for pointing this link out!

Pentecost Hymn

Can be sung to any 10 10 11 11 meter tune... like Hanover...
And it's a John Bell special -- copyright 1992, 2002 WGRG (yes, as musician at the Iona Community, I'm getting appropriately anal about copyright)

God's Spirit is Here

God's Spirit is here that never alone
the followers of Christ need face the unknown.
The fount of all living is leading the dance,
dismantling old systems that earth might advance.

She banishes sin, eradicates fear,
lets hesitant faith affirm God is here,
til, living like Jesus and blessed by his name,
we bind up the broken and lift up the lame.

She defuses hate and raises the dead,
becalming life's storms removing all dread.
So that we might serve God, confirmed from above,
she tests us with fire and aflames us with love.

So seek out the lost, and share out the pain,
and love at such cost that all rise again.
God's lamplighting spirit is dancing the way
through dark into dawning, from night into day.

May it be so.

Monday, May 25, 2009

"Where are you from?" sermon

This is the sermon I preached at Iona last Sunday... In case anyone would like to read it...

John 17:6-19
I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world.
They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;
for the words that you gave to me I have given to them,
and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you;
and they have believed that you sent me.
I am asking on their behalf;
I am not asking on behalf of the world,
but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.
All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them.
And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world,
and I am coming to you.
Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me,
so that they may be one, as we are one.
While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me.
I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost,
so that the scripture might be fulfilled.
But now I am coming to you,
and I speak these things in the world
so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.
I have given them your word,
and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world,
just as I do not belong to the world.
I am not asking you to take them out of the world,
but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
And for their sakes, I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.


Staff members here tend to get asked the same questions over and over again. “What do you do here?” “How did you come to Iona?” “What are you going to do after this?” And, most often “Where are you from?” And I can’t really blame people for asking those questions, as they are also the questions I find myself asking the most – they are good ways to begin conversation and to begin to get to know a person.

I have been reading the book Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach. The tractor-mechanic messiah of the story carries around a how-to handbook, and one of its instructions is this:
“The simplest questions are the most profound. Where were you born? Where is your home? Where are you going? What are you doing? Think about them once in a while, and watch your answers change.”

So, where are you from?

My answers to that question have been changing through my life and even as I’ve been here. When I was younger, I could answer that easily, as my whole world revolved around the place I’d lived all my life. But as I move and travel, I have more and more places that have shaped me, more and more places where I have left a bit of my heart and gained a bit of my soul, more and more places I could rightfully say I am “from.”

And as I answer that question repeatedly, I find that the sense of being “from” a place has more to do with roots than with geography. It has more to do with belonging than with amount of time spent in a place.

Also in answering that question repeatedly, I have realized how much of identity is shaped by where a person is from. Culture, values, and ways of relating are at least partially products of where we each are rooted.

Where are you from?

The human condition is such that we are all rooted in something beyond ourselves. We seem to know what is right and good even if we don’t see it around us. We struggle to find some reconciliation between our infinite souls and our limited bodies. We, as humans, have an innate yearning that draws us toward something more than we find ourselves able to grasp. We catch glimpses of the eternal even as we live in finiteness.

I think this is what this morning’s scripture is trying to get at. We as humans know that we are “from” somewhere else, rooted in something beyond us. And yet we are in this world. We are living in a culture that is ours and yet is not ours. And it can be a struggle to know what to do with that.

Where are you from?

In my growing-up denomination, I often heard the exhortation, “be in the world but not of the world.” It has taken a long time to find some comfort with that statement, as it can often be used as a cop out – you are not of the world, so you don’t need to take care of it. In fact, you can reject it or disdain it.

But John’s passage, convoluted though it is in parts, encourages us to be in the world as Christ was in the world. Christ came to heal and set right, to challenge and bewilder, to touch and comfort. Christ did not disdain the world nor detach himself from the world. Christ put himself fully in the middle of it. No, we need to take very seriously our task to be fully engaged in the world.

And the other part of the statement is equally true – we are not only of this world. We are rooted in something beyond this world. We are rooted in God and in God’s vision. We are from a different place. And we are called to live the values of that different place. We are called to live the upside down values that we know in our depths are true, even if they don’t seem to make sense in this world.

(Pause)

Since I’ve been here, living in a culture that is different from where I consider myself to be from, I have found myself having to make choices and ask questions of myself. What parts of my original culture are important to retain and what parts are important to change? Do I soften my accent so that people can understand me better? Or do I keep my accent and realize that sometimes communicating might be more difficult? Do I continue to put peanut butter on my bananas and face the stares and conversations that might come? Or do I give up that small enjoyment to fit in better? And in many other more significant ways, I have to ask myself “which values do I cling to, and which values do I conform to?”

This, but on a much larger scale, is what we face, brothers and sisters, as people who belong to a God who is bigger than this world. And these are rarely easy decisions, rarely black and white answers.

Do we support wars when they seem to be the only option? Or do we stand against all war?
How much do we buy into consumerism, when to buy in could make connection easier and when not buying in could set us apart?
How much do we participate in the model of “hard work and money equals success”?
In what ways do we use internet and other technology?
How much do we sacrifice and set ourselves apart, and how much do we join and conform?

What decisions have you made recently? What values did those decisions reflect? Can others tell, through your decisions, that you seek a world ordered by God’s values?

We cannot opt out of this world, because to do that would be unfaithful to the call of Christ to stand with the naked and the hungry, the poor and the neglected. We cannot opt out of this world because it is God’s world and God has called it good. But we also cannot forget that this world is not our only home.

We must take hope in God’s promise to be ever with us, to guide our decisions. We must draw strength from the encouragement and accountability that surrounds us in each other. And we know truth when we see it – it resonates in us, and it sanctifies what it touches. The same way we know a “home” when we find it, we know truth and Christ-like living, because we are from that larger reality.

(Pause)

This morning Christ comes to us in the things of this world, food and drink and people gathered, transforming the ordinary into the eternal – or perhaps drawing forward the eternal that is already present.
Through this meal we choose to recognize both our presence in this good world, as well as our participation in something beyond this world.
At this feast we once again commit ourselves to be in the world as Christ was in the world, living and breathing, loving and working.
At this feast we once again remind ourselves that we are not only of this world – we are children of God, rooted in upside-down kingdom values.
As we are nourished by a sense of where we are truly from, we are strengthened in our hard decisions and encouraged in our Christ-like living, even when it is not popular or easy.
Indeed, brothers and sisters, it is good that we are here.

Friday, April 10, 2009

God's sense of humor?

The Iona Community, one of the most well-known ecumenical communities in the world, is having huge celebrations for Holy Week and Easter. These include lots and lots of music, lots of choirs and sings, and no piano or other instruments on Friday and Saturday, so all singing is a cappella.
And the musician (yes, that's me) has completely lost her voice, for only the second time in her life.
IT'S NOT FAIR!!
But speaking of Lent as a time of stripping away, especially Good Friday and the Saturday... I throw up my hands, take stock of who I am and what makes my life tick, and realize that I can do essentially nothing but wait...
Sometimes God seems to like object lessons.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Buchanan Street in January, part one

I was walking down Buchanan Street in Glasgow on Saturday, one of the main commercial sections of the city, and found lots of people busking along the street. For nearly the whole walk up and back down the street, I was either in sight or earshot of a street performer.

A violinist / fiddler playing reels and jigs.

A group of 10 percussionists with various sizes and shapes, drumming and swaying together.

A man making the best balloon sculptures I've ever seen (Sarah... ever considered busking with balloons?).

An accordion and a violin playing Salley Gardens.

A guy playing guitar and singing.

And, the best of all, two bagpipers and a drummer, in full Scottish regalia, simultaneously playing and doing the motions to the Hokey Pokey.

Impressive. It made me want to learn an instrument that is a little easier to take on the streets than the piano... because all those performers almost had me dancing down the street. And if you watched people walk, many times their steps would change to fit the beat of the music, unintentionally but unavoidably. Music is like that. It gets into you when you're not looking and connects you to people you'd never even noticed before.

Posts and snow

It's been a while since I posted regularly. And suddenly, I have a stockpile of topics for posts and a bit of time and motivation to write them. However, since I don't want to bombard you, I'll set them to be posted at intervals... just warning you. =)

By the way -- it snowed today in Glasgow. White, huge, gorgeous flakes that melted immediately on the ground. But it was such an amazing sight to see, second only to the full rainbow over the abbey in the hail. Those of you who are up to your eyeballs in snow and sick of it, I'm not trying to rub it in, but I do miss snow. Send us some, okay?

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter is not as common here. Put peanut butter on bananas in Scotland, and you'll get comments, day after day, week after week. And when you don't get comments, you'll get "is she crazy? what's she doing?" looks.

But, oh, there's something much better than peanut butter here... it's hazelnut chocolate spread. And since it goes on toast, it's permissible to eat it for breakfast... peanut butter or chocolate... peanut butter or chocolate... it's quite the dilemma, but I say, if you can't have them together (another frowned-upon combination here)...

I like chocolate! =)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Bull Horkey

What a title for a post, eh?

So in a discussion the other day someone said to me "no one can make you feel anything", a phrase I've heard before in my work in mental health, and a phrase that I hate. And in the last few days I've been thinking about why I so vehemently dislike the phrase... Here's what I've come up with...

First, the things the phrase attempts to say that I do wholeheartedly agree with:

1. There's no sense in being a victim -- in many ways, for most of us, and in most day-to-day cases, victimhood is an attitude, and not a very effectual one. So blaming without taking responsibility for your own part in something (even if it is how one reacts to emotions) is bad strategy.

2. There are not always one-to-one causal relationships between one person's actions and another person's feelings. Lots of factors go into the creation of emotions, including past emotions and situations, personality types, learned meanings, etc.

3. A person does have an amount of choice in the messages that (s)he tells him/herself about emotions and situations, and thereby a choice in whether emotions get escalated or acted out or dealt with effectively. A person certainly has full responsibility over how he or she reacts to emotions through behaviors.

4. One person should not have to (and indeed cannot) protect another person completely from emotions. Emotions happen.

5. I'm all for "I statements", as they are usually the most effective way of coming to understanding about emotions -- all I can say with certainty is that which pertains to me and my point of view, and assumptions and blame assigning are dangerous.

Now for the reasons I think it's a bunch of bull horkey:

1. Emotions are not controllable, at least not in their pure forms. Emotions are primal, and usually pre-verbal to begin with. The statement "no one can make you feel anything" most often carries with it an idea that the person with the emotion can control his or her initial emotion, which I believe is quite incorrect. (controlling initial emotion is very different from controlling internal messages about the emotion and controlling reactions based on the emotion) Besides that, it puts too much pressure on a person to say that all emotions can be controlled -- it gives too little permission for emotions to come and go, as they inevitably do.

2. We live in a world in which there are not always direct causal relationships. However, we work on probabilities. If probability is 99% that if I go outside when it's raining then I'll get wet, then we know that to avoid getting wet, I should avoid going outside. To say, "but there's 1% chance that you won't get wet", doesn't negate the probable causal relationship. Therefore -- if I do something that I know has 85% chance of annoying you, it is reasonable to assume that, if I don't want to annoy you, I shouldn't do it. So, though it's not a one-to-one, action-causes-emotion relationship, it's often a probable causal relationship -- enough to be able to predict probable results. (Enough of the math side of it...)

3. It's a cop out. If we really believed that "no one can make anyone feel anything", we wouldn't care about compassion or justice. We wouldn't need to liberate the oppressed, because the oppressors "can't make the oppressed feel oppressed or shamed or any other negative emotion" -- the oppressed could just choose to feel something else. We wouldn't worry about the golden rule, if we truly believed that statement. To say "I can't make you feel anything" just lets me off the hook of taking responsibility for being part of the cause. (notice I say "part")

4. Most often this statement comes out when someone is feeling something and another person is not wanting to take responsibility -- not a good time to say this satement, as it is only going to be inflammatory. In relationships, this is simply not a helpful way to approach this subject, because the reality is much more complex than just a slogan.

K... enough of my ranting... I do like having this blog sometimes because I can get on my soap box when the people around me are not wanting to hear it, and it still allows me outlet... so thank you for indulging me in blowing off steam. =)

And tip -- don't ever say this to me. Say it, if you feel you must, but probability is 95% that I will get supremely annoyed with you if you do. ;)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I live next to Macbeth

Yes, supposedly it's true... Macbeth, along with most of the other old kings of Scotland, is buried across the road from my house. I get to walk past Macbeth every morning. I'm not sure if Lady Macbeth is there. I also get to walk past the effigies of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll every day on my way to work. And this morning I accidentally put a bunch of my papers on top of one of the old Abbot's faces (there are two abbots' effigies in the front of the church), without thinking, on my way to help put the Christmas tree up. No need to worry -- I did apologize... =) I am getting used to the thought of being around graves and gravestones, though. Ghosts, I'm not yet sure about.

There lots of ghost stories around here -- several have reported seeing monks, even having conversations with monks, when there aren't any monks on the island. One of our resident staff members says she saw a white-robed monk and thought "I saw the wrong monk ghost", but then realized that Columban monks wore white.

Also there's the story of the sacristan who came into the abbey late one night to find a young sailor with a trench coat kneeling by the communion table. Out of respect, the sacristan didn't disturb him, but came back the next morning to find a puddle of water and some seaweed that comes only from the deep part of the ocean. Puzzled, he went about his business. Two days later, the body of a young sailor, wearing a trench coat, and with the same kind of seaweed, washed up on the shore of the island and was buried in the cemetery across from my house.

And then the story of St. Oran... which I can't remember at the moment, but it involves St. Oran dying, being buried, years later being dug back up by his followers. When he was dug up, he was still alive but was blaspheming and speaking vilely, so they promptly buried him again. Yes -- he too is buried across the road from my house supposedly.

So last night, when I was walking home alone in the dark and nearly out of power in my torch (aka flashlight), and I heard a yowling... I was quite relieved to find it was just Lily our abbey cat. As much as I think monks are lovely people, especially Columban and Benedictine ones, I'm not terribly keen to see one. ;)

And it's one thing to say you don't believe any of this malarky, and entirely another to not be occasionally flustered at the thought of ghosts, on a dark and windy night, in a place with centuries upon centuries of history.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Yesterday was weird...

You ever have those days where everything's just a bit off?

Yesterday was weird.

I remembered I had a phone call to make, an hour after I was suppose to make it.

I remembered I had a song to lead in a workshop, 15 minutes after it was supposed to have started.

I remembered that dinner was 15 minutes earlier than usual, 15 minutes late for the meal.

I remembered that I was supposed to put some Christmas cards in the mail, a half hour after the post office closed for the day.

Yesterday was weird.

Thankfully nothing was too terribly messed up. I did have some apologies to make... and was thankful that everyone was gracious about it.

Here's hoping for a better day today...

Monday, December 08, 2008

My Favorite Season

When people say "What's your favorite season", I usually come up with something traditional like "spring" or "fall"... the trouble with that, though, is that those answers are constantly changing. I don't know what my favorite natural season is.

However, what I really have to bite my tongue to keep from saying when asked that question is "ADVENT!!" I usually save that answer for when I am surrounded by other church nerds like me...

Really, though, I love advent. Actually, I love advent more than Christmas (though I love Christmas, too). This year, especially, as the days get very noticeably shorter and shorter and don't start getting longer until -- you guessed it -- Christmas(ish), I could hardly wait for the time of preparation that means that Christmas is coming. Gee, whoever thought of the image of Christ as the light coming into the darkness must have lived in Scotland.

Also here where I don't have radio or TV or shopping malls or even decorated stores to bombard me with commercialization around Christmas, here where the signs of Christmas come first in the Isaiah readings for morning worships and in the lighting of advent candles on the table in the chapel, here where the supply of good Advent songs nearly outstrips the supply of good Christmas songs, I am having a field day. I love advent.

I think it's the journey that I love. I think it's the waiting, the practice of patience that is providing an exciting challenge. I think it's my English major's love of symbolism that has me wide-eyed, noticing so much more. It's like being on a train ride across the States -- so much to see on the journey that the destination becomes only part (albeit a wonderful part) of the whole.

And this time around, I get to help prepare worships and help other people think through what advent means. And I get to dig around in music, and when I find gems, I get to share them and sing them with other people.

(By the way, check out Sing the Journey if you get a chance -- a Mennonite Hymnal Supplement -- look for My Soul Cries Out, which is the Magnificat to the Star of the County Down tune, and look for Helpless and Hungry, which is a splendid countermelody to What Child is This.)

So if I've inspired excitement for advent in you, go out and get yourself an advent wreath and play with fire a bit and read good things and sing good songs... (but if you do, make sure your candles are 3 purple and 1 pink... not 4 red like over here...) and think of me. =)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Worship at the Iona Community

We have worship twice a day here -- at 9am before work and at 9pm at the very end of the day (things change in winter, but that's the routine for most of the year). I'm finding it very important to me to have the day framed by worship and prayer, even on the days when I'm not particularly paying attention or feeling prayerful. It reminds me that God is here no matter my experience, that my day is filled with God and goodness, whether I notice it or not -- indeed, whether I want it or not. I'm reminded of Psalm 139:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there.
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there, your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say "Surely the darkness will hide me
And the light become night around me,"
Even the darkness will not be dark to you,
The night will shine like the day,
For darkness is as light to you.

Now add to that the fact that, as I sit writing this at 4:05pm, the sun has set, and it won't return until 8:30 tomorrow morning... it's nice to know that even the darkness is as light to God. =)

For all of this -- God's presence everywhere, the days framed by worship, the light in the midst of the dark -- I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Language Casualties (warning! adult content and language...)

1. Yesterday in the grocery store: "unsmoked joints"

2. A week ago in staff conversation: "where can I get some rubbers?" "There are lots of them in the cabinet in the front office. Help yourself."

3. Last time I was here in my words... oops: "Wait just a moment. I need to go get my fanny pack."

4. I've been trying to be really good at this one, but slipped up in talking about my murder mystery costume: "I think I'm just going to wear some black pants tonight. Does that sound okay?" (insert here shocked and then bemused faces of my housemates)

5. Last time I was here, in the words of a vollie: "I'm dying to suck a fag." (insert my shocked and confused face and a quick sputtering of explanation on his part...)

6. Last week at Dunsmeorach, conversation between my housemates: "We're going out. You coming?" "Yeah! I'm just going to get my glad rags on first, though."

And now the keys to those conversations, in case you need them... rubber = eraser, fanny does not equal bum, joint = a cut of meat, fag = cigarette, glad rags = dressy clothes, and, of course, pants = underwear.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Babies and choirs...

I've been thinking lots about babies lately... One of my friends is struggling with having lost a baby and all the grief that means, another of my friends is newly pregnant, another of my friends is very much wanting a baby but being able to have one seems unlikely. And there is a cute little kiddo that's part of the community here...

I've also been thinking lots about choirs lately... I lead about three or four different choirs a week, now, most of them full of people I've never met before...

And I have to say that there are some uncanny similarities between the two. (Didn't see that one coming, did you?) =)

I'll let you make most of the connections, but the biggest one I was learning last night was how much of a mirror babies and choirs are. I was directing a choir and realizing that they sounded very proper and were hitting all the right notes and making good sounds, but that they were very rigid and horizontal in their singing. As I tried to think of why, I realized that this is something that I, myself, struggle with, and I further realized that I had been teaching in a very horizontal manner. They were simply imitating something I was unconsciously demonstrating. It was amazing the way my choir mirrored to me something to improve in my own self and way of being.

Kids do that too, don't they? They have such a knack at making us notice things in ourselves, simply by their imitation of us. It is indeed a frightfully wonderful thing to be a part of a child's learning.

And choirs... perhaps a bit less frightful, but still quite wonderful. =)

Friday, October 31, 2008

So, what does the musician do in the winter, exactly?

Funny you should ask... another good question that I seem to be getting a lot lately...

The answer is, I'm not sure. I am the first musician they've ever had stay through the winter, so no one is quite sure. I do know that one possibility that I'm trying to work out is for me to go to Glasgow and work with the Wild Goose Resource Group / John Bell / Graeme Maule during January.

We also have guests for at least 3 weeks in the winter, including Christmas, at which time there is a big celebration leading up to Christmas and including a Christmas eve service, Christmas morning service, etc.

Resident staff also often take their vacation during that time.

And I plan on practicing as long as I can in the refrigerator-like abbey (last night as I was teaching the songs, I could see my breath... thank goodness for the portable electric heater by the piano and my housemate who is an expert at knitting fingerless gloves...), and I have a lot of investigating to do before I am familiar with what all is available to me in the loft in terms of resources. I also want to do some more organizing and planning of possible Big Sing and Wee Sing and workshop material before the season starts in earnest. It's been very easy so far to work 60 hour weeks, so any pre-planned stuff I can do during the season will be good.

And then, if all that happens and I'm still bored (doubtful, but...) there will only be two housekeepers, so I might just help them a bit...

Winter schedule starts in a week. Here we go! =)

By the way, I'm loving my job (in case you were wondering). I get paid to do all the stuff I love to do, especially the teaching about sacred music and the playing piano and directing choirs. More later. I'm off to take a nap.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

So what does the musician do, exactly?

Funny you should ask... I seem to be getting this question a lot... ;)

Here's what I've figured out so far:

1) Arrange music for all services each week -- 2 services a day, 13 a week that require music
1a) that means accompanying hymns myself and / or get someone to fill in for me (on my day and a half off each week)
1b) and that means getting people (resident staff, volunteers, and guests) to help me with music, adding instrumental or vocal solos or ensembles where appropriate.
1c) and that means that I rehearse those groups / solos
1d) and it also means that I arrange parts for instrumentalists when there are no appropriate parts for the songs

2) Lead a Big Sing every Sunday -- this is an overview of the music of the Iona Community (or some subset of that)

3) Lead one or two Wee Sings every week -- these are essentially choir rehearsals for guests, with the added adventure of never knowing how many people or how good of musicians I will have at any given rehearsal

4) Lead workshops on how to teach music / incorporate music into worships at home... or how to take Iona Community music with you.

5) Be available in the shop once a week to answer questions about Wild Goose Resources

6) Keep the music loft organized and continue to gather resources, keep all musical instruments in the loft in good working order

7) Collect and transcribe any music that people give me from other cultures (to pass along to the Resource Group)

8) Lead a Staff Choir every Saturday -- this is especially fun because (as opposed to all the rest of this) I generally know who's going to show up and what to plan for, and the staff this year are really quite good singers.

9) Be a good community member -- including doing dishes when needed, leading activities (ceilidhs, concerts, pilgrimages), chairing meals, leading meetings now and again, going to meetings, and going to at least 11 of 14 community lunches and dinners, etc.

And I probably am doing other things that I'm forgetting to list... and am probably not listing things that I'm supposed to be doing but haven't figured out yet... But that's the gist of it. =)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Winds of Change on a Small Island...

So you realize just how isolated island life can be when the power goes out...

The winds have been very strong -- 60-70 miles an hour (and fairly sustained... no wonder there are few / no trees) and they have been from the south. South winds are a problem because they mean that the ferries can't run to take people to the next island over (Mull). It also means no "post" (mail) or food deliveries... and this week it meant no guests for an extra day or two. Besides that, we were without power for 26 hours on Friday and Saturday because the wind knocked down one of the transformers on Mull.

During that time, with no ferries running, no phones working, no e-mail or skype, no mail, I wondered how people lived on an island like this in weather like this without electricity... Incidentally, by the time the power outage was over we had burnt most of our candles and no ferries also meant no candle deliveries... And then I realized that people do it / did it by living in community -- people really band together during those times because no one has any other choice.

And at the end of the power outage, when the lights came on in the middle of a candlelit dinner with friends huddled in coats against the cold, people immediately groaned in disappointment and rushed to the light switch to turn the lights back off... We were, however, quite thankful that the power outage didn't last much longer than it did.

Today the winds have changed. We now have regular ferries and more guests arriving (a tad grumpy at first but glad to be here at long last). Today's wind is from the north, which is the cold but dry wind. Perhaps tomorrow we'll get the wet east wind... It certainly is another way of living close to the land -- again, without much choice in the matter, but certainly with much blessing.

The saying "my rock of refuge, my stronghold in times of storm" has grown in meaning for me over the last couple of weeks. The temperature is not that cold -- we are supposed to have snow tomorrow, but I think this is the first time in many many years that snow has been in the forecast. Generally the temperature is in the 40s. It's the winds that make it feel cold. I haven't been knocked completely over yet, though I came close once. And when the wind is from the south, on my way to the abbey to work, I come to a place where I can't breathe when the wind is whipping around the side of the abbey. But five struggling steps later, there is no wind at all because of the shelter of the giant stone building. It's an amazing feeling. Rock of refuge, indeed.

PS -- Have you ever thought of what a strange word "outage" is? I never had until some Brits pointed it out... leave it to the Americans to make a noun out of an adverb by tacking on a suffix...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Update long in coming

Lots has happened this summer... and lots is yet to happen.

I got a job in Scotland with the Iona Community, an ecumenical Christian community focusing on teaching and living Celtic Christianity. My job is to be the musician on the island, and so to provide music for 11 worships a week, to teach the songs of the Iona Community to the people who come on pilgrimage, and to foster the pilgrims' musical talents, finding ways to use those talents in worship. I look forward to being there again (I was a housekeeper there about 4 years ago and visited again this summer), and I look forward to being paid to do music full time. I love the music of the Iona Community (it is widely known internationally as some of the best worship music in the world), so it will be an honor to teach it and to be in the middle of it. I love living in community as a lifestyle and I was wondering if I would get a chance to do it again after Gould Farm. I am also quite ready to leave Gould Farm, as I am getting slightly too big for the community and slightly tired.

However, after having gotten the job, I then applied for a visa and have not heard back from the British Embassy in NY. So I have trained my replacement in my current job (they hired her shortly after I announced I would be leaving), and my last day of work is today. I have two-ish weeks to get out of my apartment and one month before my health insurance runs out. Thankfully, I haven't sold my car yet... All of this, and I have no visa to actually go to Scotland.

So my backup plan is to go to seminary at Andover Newton Theological School in Boston for a year -- I got accepted and have been trying to delay my commitment there until as late as possible. The catch there is that classes started at the beginning of this week and the add-drop day is this coming Monday.

In the mean time, I can't really pack and store my stuff away, as I don't know where I'm going -- Scotland and Boston require entirely different sets of clothes, supplies, etc. So my apartment is in shambles at the moment. Also, Iona is trying to be patient without a musician, but they are having to stretch really far to cover it. So they are re-advertising the position and will start interviews again on Sept 23. They didn't say it, but the implication is that I have until then to hear something about my visa before they hire someone else.

So here's my plan -- I have a US Representative willing to help me who will call the Embassy on Friday for me. I plan to go sit in on classes next week and, if I don't hear about the visa (I will continue to get any Senator / Representative possible to come to my aid), I will either go to Boston to begin classes or find another job in the area (depending on financial stuff). Any of these choices seem okay to me, especially as I have a support network here and elsewhere that is not going to allow me to fall flat on my face. But I really really really still want to go to Iona... so I'm praying that all of that works out. If you have prayers to offer in that direction, please do. And if you have advice about how to deal with the British Embassy, I'm totally game for that, as well.

Also, as I am moving to who-knows-where, I hope to keep up a bit more on this blog -- hopefully twice a month or perhaps more. So keep checking it, all you who have given up on my ever writing again...

And, some of you have asked how I am going to run the marathon if I am in Scotland... well, if I don't get a visa in time, I'll try to still run the Cape Cod Marathon, but if I do get a visa, depending on when I hear about it and when I go to Scotland, I will run the Loch Ness Marathon that runs the length of Loch Ness. If that doesn't work out, I'll try to just run 26.2 on my own in solidarity with the Gould Farm marathoners. Our blog is run4gouldfarm.blogspot.com , and from there you can donate on our firstgiving secure online donation website. So far so good on fundraising -- thank you to all who have supported our efforts already!

That's enough for now. Let me know if you have questions or wonderings or such...
Much love!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Not my pictures, but good ones nonetheless...

The following are pictures of some things I'm seeing around me here in Scotland...
be envious... be very envious. ;)

Puffins, cute puffins.

The village on Iona

The nunnery ruins

The abbey (where I'm staying and where we worship twice a day)

The inside of the abbey church

St. John's cross

The cloisters of the abbey

The island of Staffa (where you find puffins and Fingal's cave -- the Fingal's Cave of Mendelssohn's music)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Scotland, here I come!

My father's seminary class is going to the Iona Community, the intentional Christian community I worked in for a summer as a housekeeper... and Dad is paying my way to go along... Holy cow!

So off I go, back to the 3 mile by 1 mile island that is a ferry-bus-ferry transit from the mainland of Scotland; back to the island where work and worship intermingle in tangible and enriching ways; back to the island where the ancient and the current are constantly in creative dialogue, where faith is both contemplative and dynamic, practical and transcendent.

Och, aye, it will be a trip to remember. Perhaps I will love it so much again that I will simply not come home...

Monday, May 05, 2008

Running for Gould Farm!

Finally, we've gotten around to starting to be official with a new adventure... so I don't have to keep biting my tongue quite so hard. ;)

Another GFer and I are training for a marathon (all 26.2 miles of it) in Cape Cod in October. At least five other GFers are also running the marathon as a relay. As added incentive and sense of purpose, we're all raising money to support Gould Farm and to raise awareness of the farm and mental illness.

So you'll hear more about this along the line, but for now, know that, though our blog is just a baby and our fundraising hasn't quite started, we'd greatly appreciate any support you want to give us and the farm -- commenting on our blog or checking out the Gould Farm website or educating yourself and your friends about mental illness are all great. And, of course, if your support comes in the form of money or powerbars or yelling encouragement along the route, we'll be thrilled.

Here's the Gould Farm website, the Cape Cod Marathon site, and our "Running for Gould Farm!" blog (The link to our blog will also be perpetually on the sidebar, should you want to look at it again later.)

Monday, March 31, 2008

Marcel who?


So I keep hearing the name "Marcel Proust" -- twice recently in episodes of Gilmore Girls, twice in episodes of LOST, a few times in the movie Little Miss Sunshine, once this morning on NPR, and two weekends ago in the musical South Pacific -- and I'm finally curious enough to actually look it up... Does anyone know anything about Proust? Is he someone all educated people are supposed to know about or something? Here's what wikipedia has to say about him.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Running Meme

Part one -- top five reasons I run:
1) To keep in shape -- my weight doesn't always go down, but I love the way my body looks and feels when I'm doing well with running.
2) To de-stress -- nothing like pounding the pavement and running until my heart hurts and I am too exhausted to punch anything even if I still wanted to, to get stress out of my body.
3) Because it looks cool -- I have to admit that I like it when other people see me run because I feel proud of the fact that, just by running at all, I'm doing something most people don't / won't / can't do.
4) To develop discipline -- I am constantly using positive self-talk when I run, and I find that the more I practice there, the easier it gets to do in other parts of life.
5) It doesn't take a lot to run -- just shoes and either a treadmill or a road (as MummyDearest said) -- which means that, unlike other modes of exercise, I have much less excuse not to just get out there and do it.

Part two -- top five running lessons:
1) Pay attention to your body -- it's important to know what kinds of discomfort are growing edges and what kinds are warning signs.
2) Stretch even if it seems boring and takes what feels like a really long time.
3) Having concrete goals is important to me, as is having people who know of my goals and can help keep me enthused / honest about them.
4) There's a really cool website that helps figure out running routes -- so you don't have to drive all the roads in the area fifty million times to find just the right length routes. In Indiana, it was much easier... yay for roads perpendicular and exactly a mile apart.
5) Yay for iPods on long runs (as MummyDearest said) -- no explanation necessary.

I'm supposed to tap fellow bloggers to do this, too, but I don't know many bloggers who also run... so, sarahesperanza, if you still run every now and again, you're my first... and, uh, how about eruditelitite -- have your hubby post on your blog?... And anyone who reads this and wants to post on their blog, just include a link to your blog in the comments section...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Christ is risen!


He is risen, indeed!

My favorite Emily Dickinson poem was used in church this morning, and I include it here as my "thing to ponder on Easter Sunday":

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth's superb surprise;

As lightning to the children eased
With explanation kind,
The truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.

(ps, the above is probably not the correct punctuation / capitalization... I'll get the correct version up soon)

Indeed, it is through coming round and round and round to this time of year, through the seasons and the sermons, the experiences and the exhortations, that we begin to see / experience / know Truth bit by bit. Blessings in living this Easter. Blessings in the gradual dazzling of Truth.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Enough of you have asked...

This...

is a "hairy coo", aka a highland cow. (coo, because that's what it sounds like when a scottsperson says it)
I used to wander around Mull and Iona saying "hi, coo" and thinking myself very clever... get it? ;)

Saturday, February 09, 2008

cat breath

I had one of Gould Farm's famous feta / pesto / tomato pizza pieces last night, and it had two whole cloves of garlic on it. I'm a garlic fan, but 2 whole cloves is still a lot to consume straight up. So I picked them off and left them on a plate on (what I thought was) a non-cat-reachable place in my apartment. Later I looked and they were gone, as I had feared, into one of my cats' stomachs.

Later enough for me to forget about that, I smelled something really pretty potent. At first I was afraid it was me or something outside my window or something stuck in my wall... I kept smelling and it seemed to come and go... I soon noticed that it coincided with the appearance and disappearance of Gabby... I smelled my cat, and the mystery of which cat had eaten the garlic cloves was instantly solved.

Now the only mystery left is how to get a cat to eat a breath mint... A full twenty-four hours later, she still smells awful.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

MLK, Jr Day

All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.

Faith is taking the first step, even when you don't see the whole staircase.

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.

Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.

~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thank God for that man.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Fun Stuff

Notice the new links on the sidebar --

Free Rice is a website that supposedly donates 20 grains of rice to feed the hungry for every vocabulary word you get right... I mostly do it for the vocab practice. Sometimes I think most of the world's wrongs could be set aright if enough people knew enough vocabulary to express themselves and generally communicate well... But then I notice in the mirror that I look a little too Orwellian, and I back away from my soap box. Ah the life of displaced English majors.

The program tailors the difficulty of the words it gives you, based on which words you get right or wrong -- very cool. Thanks to my Latin knowledge, my highest level so far is level 43... yes, I'm bragging. Thank you, Miss Hardebeck (my Latin teacher who told us she had had half her brain taken out... true? I don't know. It seemed feasible.)

I also added the link to the seminary I took a class from last semester (Andover Newton in Boston). It's one of my top three picks of seminaries at the moment, though, I find that my ranking seems to change every year or so.

och, aye!

I miss puffins
and sea kayaking
and hairy coos
and sheep
and Dun I
and excellent mead
and duvet covers
and ceilidhs
and jetty seals
and all around good craic...

A gold star for you if you can guess what/where I'm talking about...
I had a puffin on my back once.
And the traveling bug has officially bitten me.
What's keeping me here, again?